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January 02, 2006

Legal Cases Possible In Spy Saga

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 01/02/06 Legal Cases Possible In Spy Saga
IO 01/02/06 Sinn Féin Challenge SDLP Over OBE Decision
BT 01/02/06 Lisa Website Gets Five Million Hits In A Week
EX 01/02/06 Taoiseach Backs Call For UN Shake-Up
IT 01/02/06 US Intellectual Stirs Up Debate Over Shannon
BT 01/02/06 Police Probe Drugs Link To Loyalist Death
BT 01/02/06 The Rise And Fall Of A Gun Smuggler
TH 01/02/06 A 'Man Who Lived On The Edge'
BT 01/02/06 Opin: Quantum Leap Needed To Cut A Deal
EX 01/02/06 Opin: Women Have Right To Life After Politics
IT 01/02/06 Opin: 1975 - Fraught Yr For Anglo-Irish Affairs
IT 01/02/06 Opin: Subversion Of Connolly Affair
IO 01/02/06 Met Eireann: 2005 One Of Warmest Years


Legal Cases Possible In Spy Saga

By Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

Sinn Féin has warned that a number of prominent
republicans who have been named in the speculation about
British agents may take legal action to clear their names.

The party issued its warning as republicans continued to
feel the aftershocks of the exposure of former senior Sinn
Féin figure Denis Donaldson as a British agent. This has
been exacerbated by a stream of rumours circulating in west
Belfast and other republican areas about more senior
republicans who are in danger of being "outed" as

Well-placed sources said that over the Christmas period the
PSNI had warned a number of Belfast republicans that the
IRA suspected that they had acted as British agents.

Recently, a number of leading republican figures were named
as being included in the speculation surrounding those who
might be British agents, which led to Sinn Féin issuing a
statement warning of possible defamation actions being

A Sinn Féin spokesman said yesterday that three republicans
were currently consulting their solicitors about such

Sinn Féin has portrayed the continuing rumours as "black
propaganda" and an attempt by British intelligence to sow
confusion and suspicion within Provisional republicanism.

The Sinn Féin-supporting Daily Ireland newspaper last week
carried a report of "several senior and respected
republicans in Belfast" being warned by the PSNI that they
were about to be exposed as informers.

The report added: "The advice from republicans to all those
who have received these messages is 'get out on the road,
hold your head high, this is designed to confuse and cause
panic, don't let it'."

When contacted yesterday, a Belfast Sinn Féin spokesman
said he could not comment on the whereabouts of Denis
Donaldson, the former Sinn Féin administrator at Stormont,
who before Christmas said he had operated as a British
agent for 20 years.

The same Daily Ireland story indicated that self-confessed
British agent Mr Donaldson was co-operating with Sinn Féin
at a de-briefing session somewhere in Ireland. It said that
Mr Donaldson reportedly had been "candid" in his accounts
of his role as an informer over two decades but was
"downplaying the effect his spying activities had on his
former colleagues".

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin Challenge SDLP Over OBE Decision

02/01/2006 - 08:27:34

The SDLP has been challenged to clarify its position on the
British Honours system.

It follows the decision of senior party member Tom Kelly to
accept an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours list.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd has said it's inconceivable how any
"so-called" nationalist or republican could become
embroiled in a system that has colonialism at its core.

He claims the decision appears to suggest a u-turn on party
policy and a serious insult to the millions of Irish who
have suffered at the hands of British Imperialism.


Lisa Website Gets Five Million Hits In A Week

Family still hope for clue to fate

By Maureen Coleman
02 January 2006

A website set up by the family of missing Bangor woman Lisa
Dorrian has taken five million hits in just over a week.

The Lisa Dorrian site was launched shortly before Christmas
in a bid to help locate the remains of the missing 25-year-

Since the launch, thousands have logged onto the site to
learn more about Lisa's disappearance and the family's
campaign to find her remains.

At one stage last week the site was taking so many hits, it
crashed every hour.

Lisa has not been seen since she disappeared from a caravan
park at Ballyhalbert in Co Down in Febraury last year.

Her family and police believe she was murdered and that her
body was dumped.

Several individuals with links to paramilitary groups are
suspected of being involved in her disappearance.

But despite numerous appeals, including on Crimewatch, the
family and police have still been unable to find her

Lisa's sister Joanne said the family was pleased that so
many people were logging onto the site.

"People even took the time on Christmas Day to visit this
site and leave messages of support for our family," she

"It is very touching that they would take the time to think
about us at this time.

"We have been contacted by people from all over the world,
places as far apart as Tokyo and Oklahoma."

Joanne said there had been a number of confidential
messages left on the website from people close to suspects
and that she was hopeful something would develop from that.

"I would hope that the people involved would find it in
their hearts to come forward," she said.

Visit the website:


Taoiseach Backs Call For UN Shake-Up

By Michael O'Farrell, Political Reporter

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern yesterday backed a call from the
Pope for the institutions of the UN to be renewed to enable
it respond better to an adapting world.

Responding to Pope Benedict's World Day of Peace message
yesterday, Mr Ahern also said he shared the Pope's concern
about terrorism.

"As we know from our own experience on the island of
Ireland, no cause can ever justify terrorism and there are
no circumstances in which it can be tolerated. In working
against terrorism, we must also endeavour to address the
conditions in which it flourishes," he said.

But Mr Ahern said he was now hopeful that, in Ireland at
least, "the use of violence for political ends has been
consigned forever to history" after last year's IRA

In the international sphere, Mr Ahern pledged Ireland would
continue to work towards the advancement of fundamental
human rights alongside the UN.

"We cannot hope to realise the benefits of peace where the
integral development of the person and the protection of
his or her fundamental rights are hindered or denied, or
where people are forced to endure intolerable injustices
and inequalities.

"The connection between the promotion of fundamental rights
and the promotion of peace is one that Ireland would
equally stress. We have worked consistently to achieve this
connection, particularly through our membership of the
United Nations over the last 50 years," he said.

Mr Ahern also pledged to continue to work towards ending
the proliferation of nuclear weapons and recommitted
Ireland to achieving the UN's Millennium Goals.

"Ireland is firmly committed to these objectives, as it is
to all the Millennium Development Goals, and has provided
increased financial support both for combating preventable
diseases and for the relief of the debt of the poorest
countries," he said.

Meanwhile Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin John Neill
used his New Year message to call for an amnesty for
immigrants who have been in Ireland for more than five

"Many of these people, here for several years, who
certainly now see this as their home, face into the new
year with a deep sense of fear in relation to possible

"Among these are a small number of unaccompanied minors,
most with little or nothing to which to return.

"Our thoughts go out to these teenagers who may have been
here for three or four years assimilating to Irish society,
gaining from our educational system, and now, on reaching
18, facing into yet another upheaval, being forced to
return to something from which they once fled," he said.

In a Mass for world peace in Dublin yesterday, attended by
President Mary McAleese, members of the Government and
diplomatic corps, the congregation was told it was the
desire of every Irish person to leave political violence
behind forever.

Father Enda Lloyd, Episcopal Vicar of the Dublin Diocese
said: it was "heartening to see people here in Ireland and
on the world stage dedicated to peace, despite setbacks and

In his New Year address Church of Ireland primate of all
Ireland Robin Eames said the forthcoming year was one of
hope for the whole community.


US Intellectual Set To Stir Up Debate Over Use Of Shannon

By Deaglán de Bréadún

Rendition is a crime, pure and simple, argues Noam
Chomsky, who explained some of his views to Deaglán de

before his visit to Ireland

Noam Chomsky is a figure who has inspired both adulation
and annoyance for many years.

He was recently voted the world's leading public
intellectual in a poll conducted jointly by two weighty
journals, British-based publication Prospect and the US
magazine Foreign Policy. He is one of the most outspoken
critics of the Bush administration, particularly the war in

He is coming to Dublin to give a series of talks on January
17th to 19th.

His profile is high and his fame widespread, so when the
linguistics professor from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology comes to town, he gets a hearing. It's a
sensitive time in the Irish debate about Iraq. The use of
Shannon Airport as a transit-point by US forces has been
the subject of controversy since the war began three years

But more recent suggestions that the Central Intelligence
Agency may be transporting prisoners via Shannon, in a
process known as "extraordinary rendition", and that these
detainees are headed for Guantanamo Bay or some secret
location in eastern Europe where they might be subject to
torture or inhuman treatment, has brought still sharper
criticism on the Government.

The US embassy has denied that any prisoners are being
taken through Shannon but the recent call from the Human
Rights Commission for these planes to be inspected has made
this the most controversial foreign policy issue in a long

Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan said in a TV
discussion there would be "huge consequences" if it turned
out that prisoners were, in fact, on those planes.

During his visit Chomsky will doubtless repeat his
forthright views on this issue. Responding by e-mail to a
question from The Irish Times last week, he wrote:
"Rendition is a shameful and cowardly crime. Any
association with it is deplorable."

He declined to comment at this stage on the military use of
Shannon because he "didn't have time for an essay, and
that's a complex matter, unlike rendition, which is simply
a scandal".

Defenders of the Government's policy on Shannon say it is
vital not to offend the US which has directed so much
investment towards this country.

Even in advance of his visit, Chomsky has been taken to
task in the Irish media for something that, as he points
out, he never actually said.

Reported as calling Bertie Ahern a "shoeshine boy" for
President Bush, he was condemned for using "typical Chomsky
insulting language towards the Taoiseach". This arose out
of a report by the Press Association, a leading news
agency, which he also disputes, where the actual quote
attributed to him is as follows: "Western politicians
despise democracy and prefer to shine the shoes of the
power(i.e. the US)".

Chomsky's reputation has acquired a new lease of life among
the young protesters against globalisation and its excesses
who have taken his critique of the multinationals on board
and adopted him as their icon and sage.

Avram Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and has
been teaching at MIT since 1955. He has achieved a position
of eminence in the academic world and his theory of
transformational grammar is credited with revolutionising
the study of language and communication. His fundamental
thesis is that children are born with an innate knowledge
of the basic universal grammar underlying all languages and
his theories have been adapted to the study of computer
science, mathematics and evolutionary psychology.

Chomsky's first major intervention in the political arena
was in 1967 when his essay, "The Responsibility of
Intellectuals" in the New York Review of Books, condemned
the failure of liberal academics and writers to oppose the
development of US war policies. He gave a reluctant
endorsement to Senator John Kerry in the last US
presidential election, although he described the Democratic
candidate as Bush-lite.

A critic of totalitarianism, whether generated by the right
or the left, Chomsky has aligned himself with the anarchist
tradition of workers' control and opposition to hierarchy,
as practised in Barcelona during the early days of the
Spanish Civil War.

His Jewish background has not prevented him from making
sharp criticisms of Israeli policy in the Palestinian
territories. Although he condemned the 9/11 attacks
outright, his insistence on pinning the ultimate blame on
US foreign policy aroused considerable controversy.

Chomsky has strong views on the role of multinationals in
today's world. He is opposed to what he sees as the efforts
of global corporations to dominate world institutions and

Chomsky is also a sharp critic of the role of the mass
media, which he regards as systematically biased towards
big business and government interests and has claimed that
"propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a
totalitarian state". He has argued that news coverage is
distorted by "five filters" - ownership, advertising and
the profit motive, dependence on establishment sources for
information, "flak" from pressure groups and the
conservative bent of many journalists themselves.

Tickets for the various Chomsky events, taking place under
the auspices of Amnesty International or UCD, are already
becoming as scarce as gold dust.

Agree with him or not, his visit is unlikely to be dull.


Police Probe Drugs Link To Loyalist Death

Bloodied body found outside Glasgow shops

By Ashleigh Wallace
02 January 2006

Police in Scotland investigating the murder of a loyalist
from Lurgan were last night trying to establish a motive
for the weekend killing.

Lindsay Robb (38), who was jailed for his part in a gun-
smuggling plot for the UVF, died in what police have
described as a "frenzied assault" on a tough housing estate
in Glasgow's east end.

One line of enquiry is that the killing may be linked to
the local drugs trade. A source said Robb's murder bore all
the hallmarks of a drugs-related killing, adding: "This
looks likely to be connected to the drugs trade in the city
- especially when you consider where the killing took

Robb's bloodied body was discovered outside shops in the
Ruchazie area of the city around 5.30pm on New Year's Eve.

He was attacked in his Ford Fiesta after dropping friends
off outside an off-licence.

Up to 20 officers from Strathclyde Police have been
assigned to investigate the Ulster man's killing and
witnesses to the attack are being sought.

Police have said the area where he was killed was busy with
people preparing for New Year's Eve.

Originally from Lurgan, Robb was handed a ten-year jail
term for conspiracy to smuggle arms to the UVF.

Prior to his arrest, he was a member of a Progressive
Unionist Party delegation who held discussions with the
British Government in the lead-up to the loyalist ceasefire
in 1994.

Following an 11-day trial in Glasgow, Robb was found guilty
of conspiring to smuggle weapons from Liverpool to the UVF
in Northern Ireland via Scotland.

He and others were arrested by police in July, 1995, during
a four-day MI5 undercover operation spanning from Scotland
to Liverpool.

He was jailed for ten years in Scotland and in 1997 was
transferred to Maghaberry jail, moving to the LVF wing.

Robb walked free from prison in January, 1999, as the first
LVF prisoner to be released under the terms of the Good
Friday Agreement, having served four of his ten-year term.

He settled in Scotland after his release and, according to
police, has been living with his wife in Airdrie and had
been working as a gardener.

Detective chief inspector Alan Buchanan, from the
Strathclyde murder investigation team, said he was keeping
an open mind about the motive.

The senior officer said: "We certainly have no indication
that the reason he was attacked is anything to do with his
past activities.

"We're keeping an open mind as to what he was murdered but
just now we're appealing for information from any

DCI Buchanan added: "These attacks tend not to be random
but we don't have any indication that he did know his


The Rise And Fall Of A Gun Smuggler

By Ashleigh Wallace
02 January 2006

Lurgan loyalist Lindsay Robb first came to the public's
attention as part of a PUP talks team in 1994.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with David Ervine and Billy
Hutchinson and other party members, Robb was part of a
peace talks team which held negotiations with the British
Government in the run-up to the loyalist ceasefire in 1994.

But just months later, he was to grace the headlines again
for his role in a plot to smuggle weapons and ammunition to
the UVF from Liverpool to Northern Ireland via Scotland.

He and five other men were arrested in July 1995 following
a four-day undercover operation involving M15 which spanned
from Scotland to Liverpool.

During an 11-day trial which was held in December of that
year, the High Court in Glasgow heard about attempts to
organise the transfer of the guns from a pub in Liverpool
and into the hands of loyalist paramilitaries.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to smuggle arms and was
handed a 10-year sentence. At the time of sentencing, Lord
Sutherland told the Lurgan loyalist: "For someone who is
purporting to take part in the peace process on the one
hand and indulge in conspiracy to acquire arms on the
other, it is particularly disgraceful."

Following an unsuccessful appeal, he was transferred from
Scotland to Maghaberry jail in April 1997 and 10 months
later he was moved to the LVF wing.

In January 1999 he became the first LVF prisoner to be
released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,
having served less than four years of his 10-year sentence.

When released he moved back to Scotland - where he moved to
after giving evidence at an IRA murder trial.

In 1993, while still living in Lurgan, Robb gave evidence
at the trial of Lurgan republican Colin Duffy, who was
accused of murdering UDR man John Lyness.

Robb's evidence was crucial to the Crown as he identified
Duffy as a cyclist he saw fleeing the scene of the murder.

Days after Duffy was sentenced and jailed for life, Robb
was arrested on suspicion of gun smuggling in Scotland.

The Crown in the Duffy case subsequently dropped Robb when
he was convicted of gun smuggling. The conviction against
Duffy was later quashed after the republican spent three
years in jail.


A 'Man Who Lived On The Edge'

Alan MacDermid And Damien Henderson
January 02 2006

Loyalist gun-runner Lindsay Robb was a man who lived on the

Whether he was stringing along two fiancees simultaneously,
fingering a suspected IRA gunner, or blowing the lid on a
plot between the security forces and the UVF, he was never
likely to be short of enemies.

In 1999 he was the first Ulster Volunteer Force prisoner to
be released from the Maze prison under the Good Friday

The agreement ended a 10-year sentence imposed in 1995 when
he was jailed with five others over a plot hatched in
Scotland to smuggle arms to the UVF.

Robb, a member of the central executive of the Progressive
Unionist Party, had taken part in peace talks in Stormont
earlier that year.

During the trial, the High Court in Glasgow heard that he
had two fiancees. One was a divorcee in Airdrie whose
marriage to him had been cancelled because of problems over
his birth certificate. The other was the Scots-born mother
of his three children, then living in Lurgan.

His conviction discredited the evidence Robb had given in
the trial earlier that year of alleged IRA gunner Colin
Duffy, who was jailed for killing a former UDR officer.
Robb gave evidence anonymously, implicating Duffy, and was
given £2000 to start a new life in Scotland, and a gun for
his own protection.

After Robb's own conviction, Duffy was cleared by the
Northern Ireland Court of Appeal and was freed from his
life sentence.

In 2000, a year after his own release, Robb was playing
with fire again when he claimed in an interview with the
Sunday Herald that his testimony against Duffy was part of
a plot hatched between the RUC and the UVF to provide a
witness who would put Duffy away, fuelling the political
row over alleged collusion by the RUC in the murder of
nationalist lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, who
was Duffy's solicitor.

Robb was in court again two years later – for shouting
sectarian remarks during a Rangers match at Ibrox.

Robb was a key member of Billy Wright's notorious Mid-
Ulster UVF unit and is suspected of having in-depth
knowledge of the murders of several nationalists living in
the North in the 1980s and 90s, including operational
details of several multiple murders carried out by the

When he was transferred from prison in Scotland to Long
Kesh, he joined a wing controlled by Wright's newly-formed

He was one of several LVF members suspected of working
covertly for the RUC. Wright, who went on to found the
Loyalist Volunteer Force and was killed in Long Kesh prison
in 1998, is suspected of working as a British agent when he
orchestrated a string of sectarian murders in the 1990s.

Mark Fulton, Wright's right-hand man, also died in
mysterious circumstances in Long Kesh in 2002. Robin
Jackson, a prolific UVF killer, died in 1998 from cancer
while RJ Kerr, a close ally of Jackson and Wright, was
killed instantly in 1997 when an explosion occurred as he
stood beside a boat being towed on a trailer outside Newry,
County Down.


Met Eireann: 2005 One Of Warmest Years On Record

02/01/2006 - 08:59:50

Ireland is officially getting warmer.

The annual report from Met Eireann showed that 2005 was one
of the warmest years on record.

Mean air temperatures for last year were one degree above
the average for the period between 1961 and 1990.

Vincent O'Shea of Met Eireann said Ireland, like other
countries, is feeling the effects of global warming


Opin: Quantum Leap Needed To Cut A Deal

02 January 2006

Every New Year is launched on a tide of optimism, and 2006
is no exception. In Northern Ireland the hope is that this
will be the year in which a political accommodation can
finally be reached between unionism and republicanism - and
a lasting peace firmly established.

Much hinges on the report of the International Monitoring
Commission, which is due to be published within the next
few weeks. If the IMC gives the IRA a clean bill of health,
the pressure will mount on the DUP to engage meaningfully
with Sinn Fein.

While the parties have many points of difference, one
common thread is that Northern Ireland would be better
served by an accountable, devolved administration than by
direct rule.

The shortcomings of direct rule are well documented and
widely acknowledged by all parties. Last year, as Peter
Hain observed, the absence of an Assembly meant that major
decisions on education, health, infrastructure and public
administration had to be taken by Ministers from Britain.

But before local politicians can take charge, several
missing pieces have to be fitted into the jigsaw. In
particular, Sinn Fein must support the Police Service while
the DUP needs to give reassurances that it is prepared to
embrace partnership and back north-south co-operation.

In light of events last year the DUP is entitled to be
exercise caution in its approach to Sinn Fein, but the
party cannot afford to keep republicans at arm's length for
ever if it genuinely wants to cut a deal. At some stage,
all parties will have to take political risks.

In such notoriously difficult areas timing is crucial as
parties come to term with new realities. Firm deadlines are
not being set but the fact that the next Assembly election
is due in 2007 is already concentrating minds.

If the Assembly is to be revived, the terms will have to be
agreed this year. Time needs to be allowed for the parties
to gear up for elections and for the administrative wheels
to be set in motion.

Already Bertie Ahern has indicated that if the IMC issues a
positive report, he and Tony Blair will make a joint
attempt to get talks going again. If the opportunity is
squandered, Northern Ireland will be consigned to several
more years of direct rule.

Hope springs eternal but despite the exhortations of Messrs
Hain and Ahern, there is little evidence that the going in
2006 will be any easier than before.

Transforming parties which are not even on speaking terms
into potential partners in government - and all in the
space of 12 months - presents an enormous challenge.


Opin: Irish Women Have The Same Right As Men To Enjoy A
Life After Politics

By Terry Prone

IT'S a curious thing. If someone rises through the ranks of
the Garda Siochána to become commissioner, they're not
expected, when their term ends, to go back to being a rank-
and-file garda.

They're expected to resign and become a director of a
security company.

Similarly, when someone in the civil service achieves top
ranking, nobody feels they should, once their seven years
are complete, revert to clerical officer grade to show
commitment. They become consultants.

Yet, in politics, reaching the dizzy heights of
spokesperson, minister or party leader carries with it an
implicit life-sentence: when the glory days are over, you
return to the ranks and serve out the rest of your days in
humble loyalty.

When politicians get out of serving the life sentence, it
drives party apparatchiks nuts. Hence the bad-mouthing and
near- ostracisation of Gemma Hussey when, having been a
Minister for Several Things, she failed to accompany her
party into opposition but fecked off into retirement

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn escaped this fate, largely because
the Taoiseach not only appointed her to the European Court
of Auditors, but re-appointed her last year, thus removing
the rug from under those party faithful who think that
having become a minister and then leaving is the political
equivalent of eating the good chocolates from the big
Christmas box and going home when only the woodeners are

It's perfectly OK to find other employment as long as the
politician comes by the employment honestly, by a) being
male, and b) failing to be re-elected. So it's all right
for Alan Dukes to work in WHPR: hey, brilliant man,
charming with it, and let's not even start on how tall he

But to be female, to be still a TD (short or tall) and to
decide to forgo another go in the liquidiser - sorry -
roundabout, ooh, that's women for you, isn't it? Never know
what they want. Or want starring roles, without any of the
back-stage grind. Always bleating on about family-friendly
working hours, but none of them have any problem working
late when they're ministers, do they?

And did you hear that Liz McManus from Labour going on
about it taking 400 years before we'll have equal
representation of women and men in Dáil Éireann? They've
only themselves to blame. Sure, look at that other Liz, the
O'Donnell one. She got a mini-ministry and was always on
the telly talking about the North and then when that dried
up she sulked in silence for aeons.

The attitude just outlined, widespread in politics, is best
summed up, oddly, by Daniel O'Donnell, who recently said he
got into music, not because he wanted to be in show-
business, but "because I liked the sort of feeling that
singing gives you."

Same thing with politics. People get into it because they
like the sort of feeling it gives them. The problem is that
for many of them, that feeling excludes all other
possibilities, and they therefore resent anybody,
particularly any woman, who, having surmounted all the
obstacles and achieved high office, then says: "You know
what? I've got other possibilities and I'm going to go and
do something completely different."

In literary terms, the exemplar of this outrageous
behaviour is JD Salinger, who, having transfixed a
generation with The Catcher in the Rye, stopped writing and
went into homeopathy instead. The nerve of him.

NOT much rage was expressed towards Sile de Valera when she
announced, towards the end of last year, that she won't be
running again at the next election.

Timing was one factor in the relatively benign acceptance.
The fact that she's suffered serious illnesses in recent
years, not to mention the humiliation of being moved from
Cabinet minister status to a position as Minister of State,
also contributed to the almost shrugging acceptance of her

Although she will stay in role for the duration of the
current Dáil, Ms de Valera will already be experiencing
that centrifugal force in politics which subtly moves to
the margins anybody unlikely to be of use in the future.
Unlike those of her colleagues who find themselves in a
parallel situation unexpectedly and without intending it,
(like Ivor Callelly,) Sile Dev will be an amused and
tolerant observer of this process.

Sile de Valera knows that plotting, betraying, lying,
flattering, rumour-mongering, informing, funeral-going,
name-dropping, grasping, gutting and abandoning is what
people in politics do. In one of the periods when de Valera
was out of Dáil Éireann, she went off and did a degree in

This made her arguably the only expert in Leinster House on
Asperger's Syndrome, but also, undoubtedly, gave her an
escape route: a sense that her speculative intellect might
be more at home in academia or at a writer's desk than as a
TD. Social yet solitary, her journey out of politics will
be greatly helped, a year or so down the line, by her
media-selectivity as a minister.

Comfortable and competent on radio, she never appeared on
television if she could avoid it, and so is less
identifiable, on sight, than the majority of her peers.
Anonymity will be easy to establish.

Muted reaction to de Valera's planned retirement reflects
recent history in Ireland. Only in her 50s, nonetheless
some of the most dramatic moments in her public life belong
in a half-remembered past. One such moment was when she was
present at the death-bed of IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands.
Another member of the tiny group of TDs who visited Sands
days before his demise later pointed out that death by
self-starvation is not a quiet fading, but a torturous
sustained agony.

De Valera was reportedly distraught at being unable to help
or comfort the republican martyr, blind and pain-racked as
he then was. For someone who brought a can-do, will-do
attitude to politics, this helplessness may have been a
grim reality-check.

She may, of course, write a memoir, explaining her role in
Jack Lynch's resignation from the leadership of Fianna
Fáil, telling how a volatile firebrand became a steady-as-
she-goes minister, and discussing how formative -
negatively or positively - were her family and her name. Or
she may have other projects of more immediate interest to

Because what's important about Sile de Valera's departure
from politics is not her past, but her future, and her
clear belief that she has one. It illustrates that
politics, like most other jobs, is now an option on a long
career path, not a life-long commitment to something
halfway between a tribe and a religion.

It may be exciting, fulfilling and well-paid, but it's not
the end. There is life outside - and after - politics.


Opin: 1975 - A Fraught Year For Anglo-Irish Affairs

Eamon de Valera died in 1975, leaving behind an Ireland,
North and South, about as far removed from his idyllic
vision of maidens dancing at the crossroads as could be
imagined. As the State papers for 1975, released under the
30-year rule, graphically show it was in many ways an annus
horribilis for the Fine Gael/Labour coalition of the time.

While trying to fend off economic disaster at home, the
government was also on high alert over signs that the
British government was contemplating the option of
withdrawal from Northern Ireland. The jitters in Dublin
were reinforced by suspicions that the British were
secretly negotiating a withdrawal with the IRA under the
cover of a ceasefire. Confidential reports which have
become available show a Department of Foreign Affairs
deeply pessimistic about the future of Northern Ireland and
even predicting "civil war" or at best a "re-partition".
The short-lived Constitutional Convention of the political
parties north of the Border resulted in failure, making
British intentions even more worrying and deepening the
split inside the SDLP between party leader Gerry Fitt and
John Hume.

The British had their own concerns about the "fragility" of
the Irish State and the embassy in Dublin wondered if
Britain would soon be having a "Portugal on our doorstep".
There was some irritation with the then minister for
foreign affairs, Dr Garret FitzGerald, for "increasingly
frantic" behaviour over the possibility of another workers'
strike like the one which brought down the power-sharing
executive in Belfast in 1974. By the end of the year,
Britain was resigned to the long-haul strategy of direct

Notwithstanding the IRA ceasefire, there were 247 violent
deaths in Northern Ireland and the kidnapping of Dr Tiede
Herrema in the Republic. One official in Belfast suggested
a morale-boosting campaign which might bring Morecambe and
Wise and Frank Sinatra to perform free, perhaps at
Stormont. It is easy today to smile at such naivety, but
eventually pop stars did come together to celebrate the
Belfast Agreement.

The death of de Valera led to days of mourning in the
Republic. The tributes were widespread. It was not really
the end of an era, because the Ireland of de Valera had
ended when he left government for Áras an Uachtaráin 16
years earlier. Other historical figures, such as Daniel
O'Connell and Archbishop Oliver Plunkett, still had
relevance in 1975. Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave was advised to
keep the bicentennial celebrations for the "Liberator" low
key, as he was still a "bogeyman" for Protestants on the
island. The Department of Foreign Affairs feared that the
attendance of both Mr Cosgrave and President Cearbhall Ó
Dálaigh at the canonisation of Oliver Plunkett in Rome
would send the wrong signal about "Catholic sympathies"
northwards. The president was left at home. This crop of
State papers indicates just how much the Anglo-Irish
relationship has changed.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Subversion Of Connolly Affair

John Waters

Is the Frank Connolly affair over? If so, what did it
signify? Who won? Who lost? Who should celebrate and who
lament? These questions go deeper than they appear to,
touching on the health of the culture of our public life.

So far, my hand yet undeclared, I could come down on either
side. But for how long can I proceed on the same basis,
without declaring for Connolly or McDowell, thus exposing
the colour of my shirt? With the public culture landmined
by 35 years of conflict, it seems impossible to make any
clear statement about all this without extending comfort to
one or other side on the basis of what will read as a

A dozen years into the "peace process", we have yet to
comprehend the full debilitating effects of the Troubles on
the culture of this Republic. The Connolly affair showed
that it is still not possible to discuss, in a neutral,
objective, even-handed way, issues relating to justice,
rule of law, due process or fairness, once there is any
hint of a republican dimension.

Immediately, the field breaks down into Provos and Others,
and the issue becomes not so much rights, wrongs or even
facts, but Where You Stand.

To speak of the Minister's actions as having implications
for civil liberties is to reveal the tail of one's green
shirt. To defend Michael McDowell's role in defending the
State from subversion is to expose one's anti-republican
sympathies and to appear willing to sacrifice the letter of
the law in the interests of discomfiting the IRA.

Minus the republican subtext, it seems obvious that what
Michael McDowell did was as dubious as it was
unprecedented. To hide behind Dáil privilege to attack an
individual was startling, but might have seemed legitimate
if the Minister had advanced a definitively persuasive case
against Connolly. To leak the content of a police file by
means of a mate in the media was the act of a political
bootboy. If the subject of such selective revelations had
been, for example, even an "ordinary decent criminal", the
Minister would surely have had to resign, not least because
the "evidence" on offer fell short of any standard of
proof, and because the leak had rendered a future
prosecution all but impossible.

But even to make such observations is, in this skewed
culture, to seem to take the side of Frank Connolly.
Because of the undertones of paramilitarism, Michael
McDowell has been able to don the cloak of the public
interest and rely on the widespread public repudiation of
the Provisionals to get himself off any hook he appeared to
be on. By now, I, too, appear to have shown my hand.

Well, no. As a matter of fact, I would welcome the closure
of the Centre for Public Inquiry. The idea of a foreign
"philanthropist" sticking his nose and his dollars into the
affairs of a sovereign nation, as Chuck Feeney has done in
funding the centre, is to my mind deeply unhealthy. If Mr
Feeney wished to fund Frank Connolly in his investigative
efforts, he might more properly have financed a newspaper
or magazine to take its place in the marketplace of ideas,
rather than instituting a watchdog body which could cloak
itself in an aura of objectivity and claim a higher ground
than the merely journalistic. But no matter which "side"
you take, there seems no escaping the feeling that some
form of subversion has already occurred here. Mr McDowell
has accused Frank Connolly of subverting the State, but has
not advanced any persuasive evidence of this.

Perhaps what has been subverted is the State; perhaps the
law; but certainly our public culture and the sense we have
of how the law and its officers and institutions should
work. The office of the Minister for Justice has been
subverted by virtue of the sense we are left with that at
least aspects of the motivation for Michael McDowell's
behaviour were more party-political than national-interest.

The standing of Michael McDowell as a political figure has
been subverted by virtue of his confusing personal and
political antagonisms with the interests of national
security, and his use of the rhetoric of the national
interest to cover actions clearly carried out in quite a
different guise. And the media has been subverted by virtue
of one newspaper being made a key player in the drama and
used as an extra-curricular conduit for a public

If Frank Connolly really represented a subversive threat to
the State, we, the citizens of that State, may never know
precisely the nature of this threat or ever feel reassured
that it has been dissipated.

A cloud of innuendo has been left hanging not merely over
Frank Connolly, but over the entire affair, and there now
seems no way for anyone except Frank Connolly to dispel

And the conscience of each one of us citizens has been
subverted by virtue of the impossibility of even expressing
an opinion without being seen to be either a Provo
sympathiser or whatever might be deemed the antithesis of

© The Irish Times

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