News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

May 27, 2005

Irish Govt Obligation To Implement GFA

News about Ireland & the Irish

SF 05/27/05 Irish Government Obligation Is To Implement Agreement
DJ 05/27/05 Martin McGuinness Begins US Trip
DJ 05/27/05 Loyalist Feud Murder Accused Refused Bail
DJ 05/27/05 Creggan Quiet After Shootings Row
GU 05/27/05 Bug That Bugged Sinn Féin For Sale
DI 05/27/05 'Agent' Killers
DJ 05/27/05 Limavady Unionist Councillors Walk Out In Protest
IT 05/28/05 Ahern Calls For Shared Trading Strategy
BB 05/27/05 What Does Paisley Really Want?
DJ 05/27/05 DUP Success Doesn't Indicate Hardening Of Attitudes
FA 05/27/05 Minority Rule In Northern Ireland
OD 05/27/05 Thinking Straight About Ireland
GU 05/27/05 Angry Man In The Van
AD 05/27/05 Works From The Irish Museum Of Modern Art's Collection
IT 05/28/05 Visitor Centre For Giant's Causeway


Irish Government Commitment Welcome But Obligation Is To Implement

Published: 27 May, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today welcomed the comment from the
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that the Irish Government commitment to the
Good Friday Agreement was 'rock solid'. However Mr. Adams said that
the two governments have an obligation to implement the Agreement
which went beyond a commitment to it.

Mr. Adams said:

"Today's unambiguous commitment to the Good Friday Agreement by the
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is obviously welcome. However both governments
have an obligation to implement the Agreement which goes beyond simply
committing to it.

"It is obvious to all that we need to make political progress in the
time ahead. Any progress made will be bedded in the core principles
and fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement.

"However the governments need to be moving ahead. There is absolutely
no reason why many outstanding aspects of the Agreement which have to
do with people's rights and entitlements should be made conditional on
what the IRA does or upon the attitude of unionist parties. These are
after all modest entitlements and are part of an international treaty.

"Sinn Fein are committed to seeing progress made. But all other
parties and especially the two governments also need to display the
necessary political will to see forward movement in the time ahead."


Martin McGuinness Begins US Trip

Friday 27th May 2005

Speaking from Washington where he is engaged in a series of meetings
with senior US politicians and influential Irish American figures,
Sinn Fein Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said that there is a firm
view in the US that any future progress within the political process
must be based on the principles set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr. McGuinness said: "Over the next few days I will be meeting with
senior US politicians and influential Irish American figures to update
them on the peace process and on what is required to move the process
forward. I will also be raising the refusal to grant a visa waiver to
our representative to the US., Rita O'Hare.

"The White House, US politicians and Irish America have played a
crucial role in the peace process, particularly at times when courage
and imagination was needed to move the process forward. I am confident
that they will play such a role in the coming months."

He continued: "There is a widespread acceptance in the US that
political progress is possible in the coming period if the necessary
political will is displayed by all of the parties and in particular by
the two governments. However, there is also a firm view, which I
share, that any future progress must be based on the principles set
out in the Good Friday Agreement.

"There has to be an acceptance of these core principles by the DUP.

"In the negotiations late last year Sinn Fein ensured that the core
principles of the Agreement were defended and protected to the point
that the DUP were forced reluctantly to move onto the ground of the
Good Friday Agreement. This reality is obvious in the content of the
Comprehensive Agreement published by the two governments in December

Martin McGuinness went on: "However as we all now know for electoral
or whatever reason the DUP chose to back away at the last minute from
a comprehensive deal. Of course the DUP can choose to do this again
and ignore the reality, which faces them and once again shy away from
the political and democratic process.

"If that happens the two governments must move swiftly to ensure that
the DUP are not allowed a continuing veto on future progress."


Loyalist Feud Murder Accused Refused Bail

Friday 27th May 2005

A man was being questioned about a loyalist feud shooting in Derry
when he was charged with a murder arising out of the same dispute, the
High Court heard this week.

Graham Harkness, 26, from Baranailt Road, Claudy, was in police
custody in relation to a gun attack last September at the Cosy Inn, in
the Waterside, when he was charged with the murder 11 days later of
Darren Thompson, said a Crown lawyer.

He was opposing a third bail application by Harkness, who denies
murdering Mr. Thompson, 22, as he walked to work along Woodburn Park.

The Crown lawyer said: "The International Monitoring Commission
attributed the murder to the UDA/UFF feud with the UVF and this is a
view supported by police.

"However, the Crown do not believe that Mr. Thompson was in any way
involved in that feud or the organisations. He was an innocent

The lawyer said tension between the factions had simmered down but it
was feared that, if Harkness was released, the situation could change.

There were also concerns about the safety of witnesses and fears that
Harkness would abscond.

Defence counsel Gavyn Cairns said that not a trace of cartridge
discharge residue was found on Harkness's clothes.

Neither was there any identification evidence linking him to the
murder scene and no DNA evidence relating to blood.

Mr. Cairns said Harkness could stay in the Coleraine area and his
parents were prepared to stand bail.

Mr. Justice Weir said there was a risk that Harkness would take action
to interfere with witnesses and he refused bail.


Creggan Quiet After Shootings Row

Friday 27th May 2005

The streets of Derry's Creggan estate remained quiet this week
following two shooting incidents linked to a row in the city last

A seven-year-old girl and her grandparents narrowly escaped injury
when shots were fired through the bedroom window of a house in Melmore

Three gunmen also fired shots when they walked into Jackie Mullan's
Bar in the city centre on Friday night. No one was hurt in the
incident which was branded reckless by local politicians.

Detectives investigating the pub shooting, in which three shots were
fired into the ceiling, believe it was linked to the incident earlier
in the week in Creggan.

The attacks were blamed on a fallout between a group of young people
from the area and the Real IRA.

It is understood a number of people have fled the city in connection
with the violence.

Kevin Campbell, a Creggan Sinn Fein councillor, said things have
remained quiet in the area this week.

He said: "These incidents were unwelcome and wrong and should not have
happen. There has been nothing since the incident in Jackie Mullans
and let's hope things remain quiet and that is the end of it."


Bug That Bugged Sinn Féin For Sale

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Saturday May 28, 2005
The Guardian

Sinn Féin fundraising has often been the subject of political debate.
But after allegations of republican bank robberies and money
laundering, a novel money-making initiative has bemused commentators.

The online auction of part of an alleged MI5 bugging device found
hidden in Sinn Féin's Belfast offices yesterday reached the $5,000
(£2,740) mark.

The bug had been removed from the website eBay after moderators said
they could not auction spy devices, which might be illegal in some
countries. Sinn Féin denounced this as a "clumsy effort at
censorship", moving its auction to, where it will
close next week.

The party's general secretary, Mitchel McLaughlin, blamed eBay's
decision on efforts by the "same shadowy individuals" who planted the
bug. "There was widespread interest in the auction in Ireland and in
many countries across the world, something which obviously made MI5
deeply uncomfortable," he said.

In September last year, Sinn Féin announced the discovery of the 5ft-
long device disguised as a floor joist and hidden under carpet tiles
in a west Belfast office.

The party leader, Gerry Adams, took the unwieldy contraption, with its
dozens of longlife batteries, to the political talks at Leeds Castle
in Kent and handed part of it to the prime minister, Tony Blair.

The section now up for sale is accompanied by a framed handwritten
letter from Mr Adams saying MI5 had admitted to planting it. The bug
no longer works and cannot be modified to work.

Sinn Féin said the sale was a "serious attempt to shine a light on the
ongoing activities of British security agencies in Ireland". All
proceeds would go to the campaign for a united Ireland, it said.


'Agent' Killers

By Ciarán Barnes

The three chief suspects in the murder of Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian
are being protected from prosecution by the PSNI's Special Branch,
loyalist sources claimed yesterday.

Detectives have so far arrested three people in connection with the
murder but released them all unconditionally.

The main suspects in the Dorrian disappearance are two Loyalist
Volunteer Force drug-dealing brothers from east Belfast who are
related to a murdered loyalist leader.

A cousin of the pair from north Down, who has LVF connections and was
close to Johnny Adair's old Ulster Defence Association C Company, is
another prime suspect.

Also in the frame is a young man from the Rathcoole estate on the edge
of north Belfast who is linked to the small Red Hand Commando
paramilitary group.

It was his involvement with Ms Dorrian that prompted the group to
investigate her killing.

According to a number of loyalist sources, three of these four
suspects work for Special Branch.

The sources insist that these links are hampering the investigation
into Ms Dorrian's death.

One senior loyalist said: "The [PSNI] drug squad can't do a raid in
east Belfast without consulting these people first. It is the view of
many people, particularly those close to loyalism in east Belfast,
that the investigation into Lisa Dorrian's death is being held up
because of the suspects' links to Special Branch."

Speaking last week, Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine
said he "cannot work out why" the PSNI was prepared to speculate about
IRA involvement in the murder of Robert McCartney but would not be
drawn on speculation that the LVF had killed Ms Dorrian.

Mr Ervine said it was "beyond doubt" the LVF killed the 25-year-old.
Since its formation eight years ago, the LVF has been riddled with

Ms Dorrian went missing on February 28 from a caravan park on the
outskirts of Bangor, Co Down.

It is believed she was murdered after being caught taking drugs from
an LVF stash.

Despite constant appeals, the Dorrians are no wiser about the
circumstances surrounding their loved one's death.

The shop assistant's mother, Pat Dorrian, said the family was no
nearer to finding Lisa's body or those responsible for her death. She
said: "In all truth, we don't have a clue what has happened.

"It's just as if she has disappeared off the face of the earth. All we
have got left is memories, photographs."


Limavady Unionist Councillors Walk Out In Protest

Friday 27th May 2005

The entire Unionist block stormed out of a Limavady Council meeting on
Monday night in protest at the introduction of the D'Hondt system.

The meeting also saw the SDLP's Michael Coyle being elected Mayor.

For the past 12 years Limavady Council used a power sharing system
which saw the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor rotated yearly
between Nationalists and Unionists, with committee chairmanship
rotated monthly.

However the D'Hondt system shares power on the basis of party strength
in the council.

DUP councillor, and former Mayor of the Borough, George Robinson said
the decision had left Unionists feeling demoralised, isolated and

Councillor Robinson said: "Our previous system saw power being shared
year about between Nationalists and Unionists and saw it being rotated
monthly when it came to chairmanship of the various committees.

"The new system means that over a four year period the position of
Mayor will go to nationalists three times and Unionists once. This
wouldn't have been too bad but they also changed the rotation for the
committee chairs as well. "It seems that Limavady Council has become a
cold house for Unionists and that is why all six of the Unionist
councillors (three DUP, two UUP and one independent Unionist) walked
out of the council meeting on Monday night.

"Unionists have been left feeling isolated and demoralised. We were
under the impression that the system wouldn't change, then there
seemed to be a change of heart in the SDLP with Michael Coyle
seconding Sinn Fein's proposal to introduce the D'Hondt system -
Unionists are feeling very much betrayed at this point in time.

"It's all a bit raw and we haven't discussed where to go from here
yet, but Unionists are very aggrieved by what has happened."

However the new Mayor, Councillor Coyle said he was shocked and
disappointed by the Unionist walk out.

He added: "The old system was introduced by a party colleague of mine,
the late Arthur Doherty, and there wasn't much enthusiasm from
Unionists at the time.

'Now, 12 years later, they are supporting power sharing, perhaps 12
years from now they'll support the D'Hondt system.

"As a councillor and an MLA, George Robinson should know that the SDLP
advocate the use of the D'Hondt system.

"The old system was the foundation to look at both sides of the
community sharing power, but the D'Hondt system, which is widely used,
means that smaller parties can become involved as well.

"The Unionist block abdicated their responsibility to their electorate
by walking out of council but we have left positions open for
Unionists to fill. I hope that we can sort these issues out and get on
with the day to day business of council."


Ahern Calls For Shared Trading Strategy

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Northern Ireland and the Republic must co-operate economically to
face global challenges, the Taoiseach has said.

"This is not a political statement. This is common sense," Mr Ahern
told a conference on North-South bodies organised by the Institute for
British-Irish Studies.

"Europe, and Ireland within Europe, must work even more closely
together if we are to keep our peoples at work and our economies

"The greatest competition that we face comes not from within the
borders of the EU, or this island. It comes from further afield - from
China, from India and Asia generally," he said.

It was "hugely regrettable" that North-South bodies set up under the
Good Friday agreement had not been able to operate fully because of
the suspension of the NI Assembly and Executive, Mr Ahern said.

"I look forward to the day when representatives of the NI parties are
back again around the North-South Ministerial Council table with us,"
he said.

The Government's support for the Belfast Agreement was "rock solid",
he went on.

"We will work in every way that we can to ensure its full
implementation and restore all of its institutions to operating
capacity. This is not just political mantra.

"I am saying it because I am entirely convinced of the inescapable
logic of the agreement," the Taoiseach told the conference at
University College Dublin.

However, he said he would not be able to go back to encourage the DUP
to re-engage unless the IRA ended all activity and decommissioned. "I
will not be going back to Ian Paisley to ask him to become involved if
I cannot answer the questions about decommissioning, about
criminality," he said.

Questioned about the timing of the IRA's response to the call on it
made by the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, to follow a political path,
Mr Ahern said: "I can't put a timescale on 'soon', but, yes, I do
think we will get that answer over the summer.

"I have no idea what that answer will be, but I am certain that the
internal debate on an all-Ireland basis is comprehensively under way,
and that is a good thing.

"That engagement, involving all of the members of the republican
movement, the activists of the republican movement, is what can at
least help us to come to finality if the answer is positive.

"If it is negative we have a different issue to deal with. But I am an
optimist on these matters. I hope that it is positive, I hope that it
is conclusive.

"I hope that there is no ambiguity about it, that there are no fudges
in it.

"If that is the case then I believe we deserve a response from
unionism to move back within the framework of the agreement.

"I think it is helpful if we get it this summer. If it feeds into the
marching season in a positive way that is even better."

© The Irish Times


What Does Paisley Really Want?

By Martina Purdy
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

Seven years ago this week, the pro-Agreement parties were celebrating.

Northern Ireland had said "yes" to the Good Friday Agreement,
signalling a new marriage between unionists and nationalists.

In May 2005, the Good Friday Agreement is suffering more than the
seven-year itch.

That's how long it has been since since the 22 May 1998 referendum.

The politicians who negotiated that deal are no longer the main
players. While some say the deal is dead, others insist that reports
of its demise have been exaggerated.

In Dublin this week, Bill Clinton claimed the deal lives on, but Ian
Paisley declared it did not.

He also said Mr Clinton was a "has-been president" and a "fellow
traveller with Sinn Fein/IRA".

Mr Paisley then went on to attack the SDLP leader, accusing him of
being an "apologist for terrorism" and "blotched with fascism".

A spokesman for Mark Durkan wondered why on earth Mr Paisley was still
asking for a voluntary coalition with the SDLP if that was his view of
the leader?

Which begs the same old question: what does Ian Paisley really want?

The DUP leader, after all, spurned other chances in the past to deal
with nationalism.

The question was put to his deputy, Peter Robinson, on Radio Ulster's
Inside Politics programme this week.

He insisted the DUP did want to deal with the SDLP.

"Dr Paisley made his position very clear, and if you want to look at
who has been insulting whom, I think you could look at some of the
statements made by the SDLP over the last number of months," he said.

Mr Robinson was giving little away on the radio programme: no
specifics about what the IRA needed to do, nor how long a period would
be required before a deal could be done with republicans.

He said people would know it when the time was right.

Asked if he meant it was still up to Ian Paisley, he insisted it would
be for Mr Paisley and others to decide.


While the IRA's P O'Neill proves his bureaucratic credentials with the
setting up of internal structures to debate the future of the IRA, the
process remains in limbo.

The DUP is spurning Sinn Fein and wants to move ahead with a role for
the assembly, scrutinising direct rule.

However, no nationalist has shown any enthusiasm for this.

Why would Sinn Fein or even the SDLP settle for less than the Good
Friday Agreement? The answer, of course, is that they wouldn't.

Peter Robinson is shrewd enough to know this.

So despite his protestations, he knows he is in the waiting room like
everyone else. Not just waiting for P O'Neill, but also Ian Paisley to

There was one thing that Mr Robinson was very firm about: if the IRA
makes the governments an offer the DUP cannot refuse, there will be no
crisis for the DUP - his party will not be exposed, nor will it

That's easier said than done. Keeping unity in the ranks may mean
doing nothing, but this is not something the government or republicans
have in mind.

Consequently, the real problems may begin for unionism and the new
unionist leadership when the IRA goes away.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/27 16:15:03 GMT


DUP Success Doesn't Indicate Hardening Of Attitudes - Says Derry

Friday 27th May 2005

The DUPs recent electoral successes are a result of growing
disenchantment with politics in Northern Ireland and not a hardening
of attitudes, a Derry academic argued this week.

University of Ulster sociology lecturer Chris Gilligan claimed the DUP
had profited from disillusionment with the peace process.

The Derry-based academic also suggested the results indicated the
growth in recent elections of Sinn Fein was running out of steam.

He argued: "The DUP vote doesn't indicate that Protestant voters have
hardened in their attitudes towards Catholics, since the DUP position
does not differ radically from that of the Ulster Unionist Party.

"The DUP has not ruled out going into government with Sinn Fein; it
has only said that it will not do so before IRA disarmament.

"If expecting the IRA to disarm before Sinn Fein can be considered a
democratic party is an extremist position, then many of those who
voted 'Yes' in the referendum on the 1998 peace agreement are

"The DUP vote is an expression of discontent, alienation and a feeling
of marginalisation among unionists in Northern Ireland. It is not a
sign of growing sectarian hostility to Catholics.

"People voted for the DUP not because their policies differ radically
from the UUP's, but because the DUP have articulated a sense of
discontent and dissatisfaction."

The DUP emerged as Northern Ireland's biggest party in the 2003
Assembly Elections and underlined that success with an emphatic poll-
topping performance by Jim Allister in the European Elections a year

However, this year's elections saw the party take even greater
strides, capturing nine seats in the House of Commons - three of them
from the Ulster Unionists.

Upper Bann MP David Simpson also claimed the scalp of former Northern
Ireland First Minister David Trimble, who quit as the leader of the
UUP afterwards.

In addition, the DUP gained 52 local government seats and overall
control of Castlereagh, Ards and Ballymena councils.

Mr. Gilligan said the DUP's electoral gains hid the problems the party
would face in the future motivating voters.

Despite many of the constituencies being closely fought contests, he
noted the turnout in Northern Ireland was down by 5.5% on the 2001
General Election.

In Britain, voter turnout in the elections increased by 2%.

However, Northern Ireland was the only region where the number of
people who cast their ballots was actually lower than in 2001. "The
DUP has been able to make bigger electoral gains than Sinn Fein
because they have not taken the power that they have earned through
the ballot box," he said.

"This has allowed them to stave off the problem of how to inspire the
electorate. Instead they have sought to gain from the disillusionment
with the peace process.

"Once they take power, they will, like the other main parties, have to
face the difficult problem of how to inspire the electorate.

"The onus is on politicians of all political parties to engage with
the electorate and to deal with the issues that are important to them.

"To blame the low turnout at the polls on electorate apathy suggests
that the fault lies with the electorate but it is the politicians who
are failing the electorate."

Sinn Fein gained just one extra House of Commons seat, in Newry and
Armagh, in the General Election, but were comfortably beaten by SDLP
leader Mark Durkan in the target constituency of Foyle, and by Eddie
McGrady in South Down.

Mr. Gilligan claimed Sinn Fein's modest gains suggested the party was
"running out of steam." "It is not really the case that Sinn Fein has
come up against the limits of the bedrock of SDLP support," he

"Rather, Sinn Fein has become so established that it is increasingly
difficult for it to gather up votes from disgruntled and disaffected
nationalists, and in some cases voters are even turning away from the


Minority Rule In Northern Ireland

Press and politicians let rejectionists set debate

Extra! September/October 1999
By Laura Flanders

Establishment media claim to believe in democracy or "majority rule."
Not in Northern Ireland, it seems. There, a minority of conservatives
has been able to stymie progress and practically scuttle an
international agreement and a popular vote, because politicians and
the press permit an intransigent few to misrepresent the facts and
call the shots.

A year ago last May, voters in both Northern Ireland and the Irish
Republic approved the so-called "Good Friday agreement." The
agreement, long in coming, had been drafted by politicians who
represented just about every constituency with a stake in Anglo-Irish
peace. In the North, voters turned out in record numbers, and a 71
percent endorsement swamped a 29 percent "no" vote. The majority
comprised both Protestants (whose community tends to be pro-British
loyalists) and Catholics, including Irish nationalists. In the Irish
Republic, nearly 95 percent voted for the agreement, which among other
things requires Ireland to revise its constitutional claim to the six
counties that make up the North.

Fast forward to July 1999: Mainstream media are reporting that the
Belfast accord is "stalled," "deadlocked," "mired." On July 15, the
accord "Hits Roadblock" (New York Times , 7/15/99). The language of
traffic congestion obscures the actors who might be at fault. One
thing's for sure, the media want you to know: The British prime
minister is doing his best.

The way the New York Times' Warren Hoge (4/4/99) cast events was
typical: Despite "extraordinary full-time personal involvement," Prime
Minister Blair (and Ireland's Bertie Ahern) have been "unable to wrest
willing compromise from the naysaying political leaders." The
naysayers are unidentified "warring factions"--that is, Northern Irish
politicians. The issue, as described earlier by the Washington Post
(4/20/99): "a seemingly intractable dispute over when guerrilla
disarmament should begin."

Follow the facts on the ground and it becomes clear: That "intractable
dispute" is actually a wrecking ball thrown at the peace process by
loyalist leader David Trimble in an attempt to pacify one faction--
pro-British opponents of the accord. The standstill has come thanks to
that minority's ability to hold up the proceedings at the expense of
the majority's will.

The decommissioning ploy

Loyalists made paramilitary disarmament or "decommissioning" critical
in the wake of last year's election for a new Northern Ireland
Assembly established under the Good Friday Accord. The June 1998
Assembly election was the first the nationalist Sinn Fein party could
contest in the broadcast media for more than a decade (their
spokespeople having been banned from U.K. and Irish airwaves). The
party received some 145,000 votes (12 percent), winning two seats in
the assembly's 12-member cabinet—twice as many as observers had
expected them to earn. Almost immediately, loyalist politicians
demanded Sinn Fein's allies in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) disarm
before Sinn Fein's representatives could take their places. (The media
rarely point out that the lack of disarmament by loyalist paramilitary
groups has not called the loyalist parties' participation into

As George Mitchell, U.S. negotiator for the Good Friday agreement,
told Ray Suarez (NPR's Talk of the Nation, 4/1/99), the maneuver came
as no surprise. Decommissioning, he said, "was the principle obstacle
to the beginning of the negotiations as far back as 1995. It was a
principle obstacle in reaching agreement at the end of negotiations in
1998 and here it's the principle obstacle to implementing the

What former Senator Mitchell didn't answer clearly was Suarez's next
question, which was simply put: "In the black and white of the
agreement," is decommissioning "make or break?"

It's an easy enough question, but in all the column-inches dedicated
to decommissioning since last Good Friday, the answer has been hard to
find. A Los Angeles Times story (3/21/99) is typical: "Sinn Fein
leaders say the accord does not make IRA disarmament a condition of
its entry to government." The paper doesn't tell its readers if what
Sinn Fein says is correct. The New York Times report on last-ditch
negotiations this July (7/15/99) was outright misleading: "The 1998
agreement contained a general commitment to disarmament but did not
spell out the timing."

In fact, the Good Friday document commits "all participants" to "use
any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all
paramilitary arms within two the context of the
implementation of the overall settlement." Abandoning Conservative
Prime Minister John Major's insistence that the IRA had to
decommission before its political allies could be at the talks was
what made Sinn Fein's participation in the Good Friday discussions
possible. Labour's Tony Blair opted for voluntary decommissioning by
all sides, with nothing written into the agreement that could block
Sinn Fein from taking part. When reporters talk of "Sinn Fein's
refusal to promise disarmament" (New York Times, 7/1/99), they ignore
that the loyalists' demand is in direct opposition to the plan the
majority endorsed.

The rest of the package

Unfortunately, the U.S. media, which were fast to hail the Good Friday
agreement as "historic," have just as quickly consigned the text to
the archives. Quoting the actual document is something reporters fail
to do. (It can be read in full at The
press has done a poor job of even mentioning the provisions in the
pact that do not deal with national constitutional and border
questions. When Sinn Fein leaders say decommissioning depends on
"implementation of the overall settlement," U.S. readers don't have
the information to know what that means.

Of the 11 topics the agreement dealt with, five addressed justice,
equality and human rights. "Major U.S. outlets have been entirely
negligent in their attention to the human rights provisions," says
Julia Hall of Human Rights Watch. Of major papers, only the Boston
Globe has regularly reminded its readers (including many Irish) that
for the majority of Northern Irish voters, "decommissioning" was just
part of a package of reforms (e.g. "In West Belfast, Disarmament Is
Not Key," 12/4/98).

The Good Friday agreement proposed setting up commissions, intended to
proceed on a parallel track to the constitutional changes, that would
oversee the surrender of illegally held weapons and the early release
of paramilitary prisoners. But the framers dedicated at least as much
attention to setting up an independent commission to recommend changes
in policing in Northern Ireland, the creation of a Northern Ireland
Human Rights Commission (and, for the first time, a Bill of Rights),
and committees to look at economic, social and cultural issues
(including language, education and media). The accord committed the
U.K. government to make "rapid progress" to address inequalities in
employment. Copies of the entire 67-page agreement were mailed to
every home on the island before the May referendum.

In short, the voters of Ireland a year ago approved a package of
proposals the U.S. press rarely tried to understand. And key parts of
the Good Friday agreement that deal with the province's tradition of
discrimination remain unimplemented and unreported, while the media
have amplified loyalist intransigence over the largely symbolic, if
incendiary, question of IRA arms.

Take the question of policing. "Decommissioning's covered as a
question of political jockeying only, of horse-trading," says Human
Rights Watch's Julia Hall, but reluctance to disarm has everything to
do with the history of discrimination and abuse by the British armed
forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the province's police.
The Los Angeles Times (4/3/99) did quote West Belfast resident Marion
O'Neill: "It would be different if there was an unbiased police force
to enforce the laws...but the IRA is the only protection the Catholic
people have."

A quote from a representative of any of a number of international
human rights groups could have added independent corroboration to
O'Neill's charge that the 93 percent Protestant RUC is biased. Indeed,
in the last year, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a
United Nations special rapporteur have all called for investigations
into charges that the RUC has colluded with killers targeting
nationalist communities like O'Neill's. Just this June, a man charged
with the 1989 murder of civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane admitted he
had been a RUC informant at the time (BBC, 6/24/99).

Eclipsing the British role

Refusing to cover the context behind the decommissioning debate, it's
easy to cast IRA supporters as bad-faith negotiators, and loyalists as
justified in their demand that the IRA disarm. Moreover, the failure
to look closely at the many provisions in the accord that aim to
correct official past (and continuing) bias exacerbates an already
chronic media tendency to focus on local "warring factions" and
eclipse the region's most powerful player: the British state.

The Good Friday accord lays out specific tasks for the U.K., among
them "the removal of emergency powers in Northern Ireland" as "soon as
possible." This past September, the British government actually moved
in the opposite direction. Ostensibly in response to a nationalist
splinter group's bombing in Omagh (which killed 28), the government
rushed through tough new anti-terror legislation that inscribes into
the domestic legal code some of the worst provisions of the U.K.'s
infamous "Emergency Provisions Act" (normalizing, for example, the
denial of the right to remain silent during interrogation). The Los
Angeles Times noted the legislation in "Anti-Terrorism Laws on Fast
Track" (9/3/98), but never mentioned the U.K.'s responsibilities as a
signatory to the Good Friday accord.

"There's something about the U.S./U.K. relationship," says Human
Rights Watch's Hall, "perhaps especially this spring, during Blair and
Clinton's bombing war on Belgrade.… You're not going to hear anything
about human rights abuses by the U.K. government." Yet those are
precisely the issues that IRA-supporting communities in Ireland need
to see addressed before they are likely to disarm. Media scrutiny of
the progress on the human rights front could be decisive. "They could
figure out decommissioning and the agreement could still fail because
the human rights provisions aren't implemented," says Hall.

Rather than scrutinizing the British record, the media describe U.K.
authorities primarily as "rescuers" of a faltering peace. When Prime
Minister Blair caved in to loyalist threats to pull out of the
agreement unless Sinn Fein set a date for IRA disarmament, the
Washington Post (7/6/99) applauded: "Britain's agile new leader
launched a new strategy." Ignoring the facts of the referendum, the
New York Times headline-writers declared (7/4/99): "Roadblock to a
Peace Pact: Irish Mostly Say 'No.'"

Actually, a solid majority has said yes to a program for broad change.
And it's that majority's hope for progress that the decommissioning
zealots are shattering. As freed IRA prisoner Joe Doherty told
Pacifica radio's Democracy Now (12/30/98): "It's not guns that kill
people. It's the situation on the ground."


Thinking Straight About Ireland

Fred Halliday
27 - 5 - 2005

On a return visit to his hometown of Dundalk, Republic of Ireland,
Fred Halliday reflects on a country whose political future is shadowed
by the strategic ambitions of Sinn Fein's brand of nationalism.

The British general election may have confirmed Tony Blair and his
Labour Party in their continued, mildly reformist, hold on power in
the United Kingdom, but in Ireland it has marked a watershed – welcome
for some, ominous for many others. The result delivered on 5 May by
Northern Ireland's voters confirmed the dominance of intransigent
parties within both major communities in the UK province: Sinn Fein
(political wing of the Irish Republican Army) on the
Catholic/nationalist side, the Democratic Unionist Party on the
Protestant/loyalist side.

The veteran DUP leader Ian Paisley has called for the 1998 Belfast
peace agreement, which promised to bring a definitive end to the
thirty-year "troubles" – the benign term for the armed struggle
between the IRA and the British army – to be "buried". Some would
suggest that, with the IRA refusing for seven years to disarm and the
persistence of violence and intimidation within the Catholic
community, the funeral has long taken place (if, as has happened
before in these parts, in secret).

Much of the real Irish story of recent decades remains to be
discovered. But if one holds to the dictum that those who cannot think
straight about Ireland cannot think straight about anything, there is
no better place to take up the challenge than Dundalk. This border
town of 40,000 people, on the east coast of Ireland, halfway between
the two Irish capitals of Belfast and Dublin has a vaguely menacing
reputation (the Rough Guide to Ireland warns tourists to avoid it) and
in any case it is easy enough to bypass by car or speed through by
train. In my case this is somewhat harder to do, as Dundalk is my
hometown, the place where I grew up and which has been, for some five
decades or more, the source of many political emotions and insights.

A frontier town

Dundalk offers a reference-point against which to match tensions in
Ireland that are often viewed through a nationwide lens: over nation
and religion, state and society, politics and economics, peace and
violence – and change and stasis. (When I recently asked a wise, long-
term resident of the town if, over the past thirty years, anyone there
had changed their mind about anything, he looked at me slightly
askance and replied curtly: "Of course not!")

This is quintessentially a frontier town, diverse in composition
(including a district named after its Huguenot settlers) and present
in many chapters of the Irish dimension of European history. Ireland's
mythic hero Cuchullain fought in the neighbouring mountains, the
Vikings tried to settle here, in the 17th century Oliver Cromwell made
it the outer limit of his stockaded colonial zone ("the Pale"), and in
the 19th and early 20th centuries it became integrated into the
industrialising economies of northern Ireland and north-west England.

Modern Irish politics, in the form of the island's partition in 1922,
severed Dundalk from its economic links to the industrial north.
People here have long memories, encompassing the war for independence
and civil war of the early 1920s, the brief IRA campaign after 1956,
and of the long war from 1969. For decades Dundalk has been notorious
as the political centre of activities of the Irish republican
movement, and as the rear base of the IRA (and, more recently, the
breakway "Real IRA"). Ian Paisley denounces it as "Gundalk" or "El
Paso", and Margaret Thatcher famously told Ronald Reagan in 1982 that
if the Israelis were justified in invading southern Lebanon, she too
would be in sending her airforce to bomb the town.

There is a far more progressive side to Dundalk: in European Union and
some United States, investment, in improved transport links, and in a
successful technical college (effectively a university) whose 7,000
students have just celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. In 2000,
Bill Clinton addressed a huge crowd in the main square and proclaimed
his friendship with local pop group The Corrs.

The local museum and the college, attempting to break the image of
sectarian hostility associated with the town, recently held a festival
of Protestant culture, replete with a pipe band, drums and a visit
from senior members of the Orange Order (one of whom was photographed
shaking hands with the Sinn Fein chair of the local council).

Sinn Fein's ambitions

It will take more than such initiatives, welcome as they are, to
dissolve the sectarian certainties and polarised politics that still
affect this part of Ireland. As ever, the conflict in northern Ireland
has implications for the future of Ireland as a whole. In particular,
for Sinn Fein, which is developing a pan-Ireland strategy designed to
secure its place in a future ruling coalition in the south.

This strategy has been accompanied by a largely successful publicity
campaign carried out by Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams, Martin
McGuinness and their associates over a decade and more. Adams presents
himself as a man of peace, even a statesman, offering advice to the
Basques about peace in Spain and producing mawkish autobiographies.
His policy of weakening and overtaking the more moderate, anti-
violence, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has been greatly
helped by the political amnesia that forgets the years of IRA
killings, disappearances and tortures.

Adams trades on the pretence of a difference between the IRA and Sinn
Fein, but as the gangsterish murder of the Belfast man Robert
McCartney in January 2005 showed, the "republican movement" operates
on the ground as a criminal organisation, contemptuous of democracy
and determined to keep its weapons and powers of intimidation. In the
south there is growing awareness of the IRA's sustained, clandestine,
campaign to infiltrate the middle ranks of the Irish Republic's
administrative and security services.

This is not purely an Irish affair. The polarisation in the north is
one manifestation of the persistence of particularist, identity-based,
nationalist politics elsewhere in Europe, and indeed across the world.
Like all nationalisms, Irish republicanism celebrates its "uniqueness"
(except when it suits some of its leaders to parade themselves as
Mandela or Martin Luther King), but beneath the posturing is a tale of
broader significance. One of its neglected aspects lies in the dark
side of Ireland's much-vaunted economic boom: the critical study by
Dublin social scientist Peadar Kirby (The Celtic Tiger in Distress)
documents the increased social polarisation and widespread poverty for
which nationalist braggardry offers no solution.

Yet the combination of northern polarisation and southern economic and
social tensions provide a fertile recruiting-ground for the republican
movement. Sinn Fein is aiming for a long-term partnership with the
governing party in the south, Fianna Fail. The Fianna Fail leadership
under Bertie Ahern is critical of the IRA, but a resurgent nationalist
mood in Ireland and the apparent "domestication" of Sinn Fein has made
such a historic compromise no longer unthinkable. Mid-ranking Fianna
Fail officials now talk quite openly of entering with Sinn Fein into a
strategic alliance with Sinn Fein.

Civil war legacies

A lesson from these Irish convolutions is that the consequences of
European civil wars take many years to overcome. In a marked reversal
of the normal (and deeply ideological) allocations of "civilisation"
and "barbarism", it is noteworthy that countries in the global south
are often better able to overcome civil wars, and integrate the
supporters of victor and defeated alike, than the supposedly more
sophisticated states of Europe.

The civil war in Nigeria in the 1960s, in Yemen and Oman then and in
later decades, the wars in Vietnam, and the wars in central America in
the 1980s all produced "winners" and "losers", but in large part these
countries have moved on. Yet in the European countries that had civil
wars in the last century – Ireland, Spain, Finland, Greece (not to
mention the United States after 1865) endemic political differences
have endured. Irish politics is still split between the factions that
contested the conflicts of the 1920s. If many in Ireland seem to have
forgotten this, it is certain that the leadership of Sinn Fein, their
eyes set on power in a reunited Ireland, have not.


Angry Man In The Van

Johnny Rogan supplies everything you wanted to know about Van Morrison
- and even more that you didn't. David Sinclair digests an almost
comically unflattering profile

Saturday May 28, 2005
The Guardian

Van Morrison: No Surrender
by Johnny Rogan
628pp, Secker & Warburg, £17.99

During an illustrious career as a pop biographer Johnny Rogan has
tackled some thorny subjects, in particular the famously fractious
partnership at the heart of the Smiths, which he dissected in his book
Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance. But for sheer awkwardness
none of his previous subjects comes close to that most intractable and
contradictory of musicians, Van Morrison. Throughout a career spanning
more than 40 years, Morrison's policy has been to let his music do the
talking and failing that, his lawyers. Indeed, as Rogan ruefully
admits, the fact that many details of this emphatically unauthorised
narrative cannot be featured in print for legal reasons, produces a
"lopsided effect" in the telling of the tale, such that while the
author might feel that the overall impression he has given is too
forgiving, the reader may be led to think, at times, that his
portrayal of Morrison is needlessly unsympathetic.

Putting such matters of nuance aside, no one could accuse Rogan of
stinting in his efforts to uncover the facts surrounding Morrison's
background. No Surrender is an epic, which the author began
researching 20 years ago. In reporting on Morrison's family history in
the heart of the Protestant community of East Belfast, and documenting
his early years as a musician struggling to make his mark in local
showbands, Rogan leaves no stone unturned. As well as providing mini-
biographies and thumbnail sketches of virtually every supporting
character in the cast, and interviewing a substantial proportion of
them, he also provides a parallel socio-political history of the
Troubles in Northern Ireland, which is further amplified in nearly 100
pages of densely detailed notes appended at the end of the book. While
the all-encompassing rigour of the approach is impressive, the
narrative in the early stages tends to be swamped by an almost
neurotic attention to detail.

It is also at this point that Rogan introduces the notion that
Morrison bears an uncanny resemblance in his cultural heritage and
social attitudes to the firebrand politician, the Reverend Ian
Paisley, a faintly bizarre theme to which the author returns with
dogged insistence right through to the very last sentence of the book.
Even a picture of Morrison wearing a cossack fur hat is juxtaposed
with one of Paisley in a similar hat, as if this had some mysterious
significance. While the comparison is of passing interest, and may
partly explain Morrison's entrenched approach to his dealings with the
world - which Rogan argues are informed by the same "No Surrender"
siege mentality that underpins the creed of Ulster Unionism - the
device begins to seem contrived and a little banal whenever Morrison's
own, strictly apolitical utterances are brought into the equation.

"So what did Morrison really think about the Troubles?" Rogan ponders.
"Pressed for a political viewpoint, [Morrison] concluded: 'All I can
say is that I'm neutral'."

His undoubted talents as a musician aside, Morrison is not a great
communicator, and while Rogan draws on all the resources at his
disposal, there is a predictable paucity of quotes from Morrison
himself, none of them original. There is however a long queue of
people winding through the pages of the book eager to report on their
first-hand experiences of Morrison's foibles, and it is their
contributions which bring Rogan's story to life. To judge from their
stories, it would seem that every relationship Morrison has embarked
on has ended - and quite often started - on a note of dour incivility
or worse, and a picture gradually emerges of the artist as a
cantankerous and socially maladroit buffoon.

Old "friends" and musical associates from the Belfast days provide an
entertaining, if sometimes rather cruel commentary on everything from
his physical shortcomings to his various peculiar habits. Jackie
McAuley, organist in Them, the group with which Morrison first tasted
fame in the 1960s, recalled the air of "general weirdness" that
surrounded being on the road with Morrison: "There was one time Van
didn't say a word for three days. He wouldn't even mumble. That would
just drive everybody mad."

The singer's mood was little improved in later years, after he had
moved to New York and laid the foundations of his solo career. "There
were points when he seemed certifiable," says Joe Smith, an executive
at Morrison's record company, Warner Bros. "He was so angry at
everybody and everything with no grace or charm." At the end of one
particularly stormy meeting, Smith had become so incensed with
Morrison's behaviour that he threw his pen set at him as he was
heading towards the door.

As the book progresses, so this litany of complaints about Morrison's
surly manner continues from a seemingly endless succession of
disgruntled musicians, agents, managers, press officers and spiritual
guides. The mystery of just how such an unprepossessing individual
should nevertheless have been able to make music of such
transcendental beauty over so long a period of time remains unsolved.

One element is surely that along with the less desirable elements of
his Belfast background he has inherited a thoroughgoing dose of the
Protestant work ethic. The man's output, although variable, has been
nothing if not prolific and the devotion to his craft as a performer
and songwriter has been unwavering. Rogan's scrutiny of Morrison's
work is undertaken with no less care than that devoted to the details
of the singer's life story, and the analysis and appreciation of
Morrison's very real accomplishments as a musician provide some
welcome ballast to a personal portrayal that is otherwise almost
comically unflattering. Rogan's book certainly sheds new light on the
life and times of this puzzling and reclusive performer. But it may be
as well to get hold of a copy before Morrison's legal representatives
have had a chance to get out their fine-tooth combs.

· David Sinclair's book Wannabe: How The Spice Girls Reinvented Pop
Fame is published by Omnibus.


Works From The Irish Museum Of Modern Art's Collection

DUBLIN, IRELAND.- An exhibition of works from the Irish Museum of
Modern Art's Collection opens to the public on Saturday 28 May 2005 at
St Caimin's Church of Ireland, Mountshannon, Co Clare, as part of the
Iniscealtra Festival of the Arts. Uisce takes its theme from the
Festival, which this year focuses on water, and includes works by
well-known Irish and international artists, such as Hamish Fulton,
Laurence Weiner, Mary Lohan and Brian Maguire. A selection of
individual works from the Collection will also be placed in four
venues in Scariff, Co Clare.

The works in the exhibition, selected by the Iniscealtra Festival,
represent many diverse interpretations of the central theme in a wide
variety of media. Brian Maguire deals with ideas of alienation and
isolation within society and in personal relationships. His work has
been at the cutting edge of contemporary Irish art in spite of the
fact that he continued to use the medium of painting at a time when
many artists were turning to other media. As artist-in-residence in
State prisons, Maguire sees himself as much an outsider as the inmates
with whom he works. His Expressionistic painting brings the hidden
corners of the individual's experience to our attention with a raw
energy and psychological power. The artist states: "All my pictures
come from a need to accept reality as I find it. But they are
pictures. I spend a lot of time trying to make them coherent in a
formal sense, to make them beautiful - beautiful to me, maybe not to
others". Liffey Suicides effectively shows the artist's ability to
demonstrate the distances that separate us, by choosing to paint his
picture from the darkness of the water below the bridge from which the
living peer down.

Hamish Fulton's art takes the form of walks in the landscape. In the
past 20 years, he has covered more than 20,000 miles on five
continents. The photographs and texts produced as a result of these
walks are simply objects, intended to bring his own experience within
nature to the viewers of his art. Fulton's philosophy is "no walk, no
art." Thus each object is based directly on a specific journey, in
this case Seven Days Walking and Seven Nights Camping in a Wood,

The sea is a central element in Mary Lohan's landscape paintings, with
its constantly changing character reflecting both sky and the
surrounding land. Her work represents the restlessness of the seasons,
the changing play of light and shade; that constant flux that we
experience in front of nature. Yet the work on show, Donegal Bay, does
not evoke a sentimental or mythical reading of nature. As the artist
states: " I start from the realisation that it's impossible to paint a
landscape. You just can't do it, because you experience a place on so
many levels and in such a complex way. So you have to paint what you
see, which isn't the same thing. And you hope that something of the
feeling of the place will come across".

In tandem with the exhibition, artist Nicola Henley, a member of
IMMA's Artist Panel, will facilitate workshops with local national
school pupils from the East Clare area. The workshops are supported by
the Department of Education and Science.

Catherine Marshall, Head of Collection, IMMA, who will be speaking at
the launch of the Festival, said "IMMA has been proud to be associated
with the Iniscealtra Festival each year since its commencement in
1996. I am amazed at what a small but dedicated and imaginative team
can do with such limited material resources. The Iniscealtra Festival
is a model of excellence in terms of its artistic goals and its
outreach activities."

The National Programme's involvement with the Iniscealtra Festival of
the Arts is one of its most successful collaborations. The programme
is designed to create access opportunities to the visual arts in a
variety of situations and locations in Ireland. Using the collection
of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and exhibitions generated by the
Museum, the programme facilitates the creation of exhibitions and
other projects for display in a range of locations around the country.

Catherine Marshall will give a lecture on the exhibition on Saturday
28 May at 2.30pm.

Uisce continues until 6 June 2005 at St Caimin's Church, Mountshannon,
Co Clare, and at four venues in Scariff, Co Clare - the Medical
Centre, the Bank of Ireland, the Credit Union and Loughnane & Co. The
work produced by the national school pupils with Nicola Henley will be
exhibited at the Community Centre, Mountshannon, Co Clare, until 6


Visitor Centre For Giant's Causeway

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

More than 600 architects, including many from abroad, have expressed
interest in designing new visitor facilities at the Giant's Causeway
in Co Antrim.

The North's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has sought
design ideas for what Under Secretary of State Angela Smith described
yesterday as: "a world-class facility which will complement the
natural beauty of the causeway and which is in keeping with its status
as a world heritage site".

She added: "The completion of the new centre will not only add to the
visitor experience, but will boost the entire Northern Ireland

The former centre was destroyed by fire in 2000. A temporary facility
has been in place since. Its replacement will be about 1,800sq m
(19,375sq ft) and will accommodate about 400,000 visitors annually.

Designs must be submitted by August 5th and the competition will be
conducted under the rules of the Union of International Architects
with a judging panel chosen from across Europe.

The winner will be announced in the autumn. A prize of £10,000
(€14,700) will go the successful entry, £7,000 (€10,300) will go to
the runner-up and £4,000 (€5,880) will be given to the third-placed

The 600 architects who have expressed an interest in the competition
are to receive a copy of the brief which sets out the competition
rules, a description of the site, the size of the building and its
functions and the requirements for exhibitions, retailing, catering
and tourist information.

Ms Smith said she was delighted at the level of responses so far since
the competition was announced in March.

This is the first time the Union of International Architects, based in
Paris, has been engaged in an official capacity for a design
competition in Northern Ireland.

© The Irish Times
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?