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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)
February 23, 2006
Brits Spying On GAA Raises Serious Issues
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News About Ireland & The Irish
SF 02/23/06 British Army Spying On GAA Raises Very Serious Issues
DI 02/23/06 Loyalists May Carry Dublin Bomber Pictures
IT 02/24/06 Bush To Meet Relatives Of Joeseph Rafferty
IT 02/24/06 Amnesty Criticises Government Over Renditions
BN 02/23/06 Protest Over Use Of Shannon Airport
SF 02/23/06 MEP Addresses Oireachtas On Stalls Northern Representation
IN 02/23/06 Bloody Sunday Families Will Get Prior Notification
SF 02/23/06 McGuinness Challenges Adv Of Selection At 11
DI 02/23/06 Judge Cory Accuses Brits Of Moving Goal Posts On Inquiry
IM 02/23/06 Rossport 5 Sentencing, Shell To Sea Protest At Four Courts
CB 02/23/06 Ulster Unionists To Back McCord Inquiry
TK 02/23/06 Mayor’s Great Escape In No Confidence Vote
LT 02/23/06 Proposed Presidential Visit Provokes Storm In Council
IN 02/23/06 Opin: Vision Of Freedom Deserves To Be Honoured
IN 02/23/06 Opin: SF Won’t Make The Same Mistake Twice
IT 02/24/06 Opin: Big Ian Is SF's Best Weapon
SS 02/23/06 Opin: Gaffe-Making President Divorced From Reality?
IN 02/23/06 Opin: Illegals Pin Hopes On Three-Leafed Summit
DI 02/23/06 Opin: Sinn Féin Moving To Tipping Point Of Change
DI 02/23/06 Opin: Hiss Of Hypocrisy Heard Even Louder
GG 02/23/06 Fr Troy’s: Seminar On Suicide
IM 02/23/06 Woman Strips Naked To Protest Arrival Of Duffy's Circus
IM 02/23/06 1st Irish Language Battle Of Bands A Great Success
OD 02/23/06 A Long March: Ireland’s Peace Process
IM 02/23/06 The 1916 Insurrection In The Liberties
IT 02/24/06 O'Dea Open To Suggestions Over 1916 Celebrations
IT 02/24/06 Pope Surprised At Fall In Irish Going To Mass
IN 02/24/06 Sister Michele O’Leary To Be Remembered
British Army Spying On GAA Raises Very Serious Issues
Published: 23 February, 2006
Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy was today
joined by party colleagues Davy Hyland MLA and Cllr. Packie
McDonald along with a representative of Dromintee GAC,
Declan Fearon, for a press conference in Belfast. The Press
Conference revealed a document recently found by a local
farmer detailing which sites cameras on a British Army spy
post in the area where fixed upon. Amongst those targeted
was the clubrooms of Dromintee GAC and the homes of nine
Mr Murphy said:
"This document was found by a local farmer. It shows which
sites cameras on a British Army spy post in the area where
fixed upon. There are over 30 cameras on the post, this
document lists 12 of them. One of the cameras was
permanently fixed upon the local GAA clubrooms, a facility
used by the entire community. The other cameras were fixed
on local family homes including the home of local Sinn Féin
Councillor Packie McDonald. All of the families targeted
are members of the Dromintee GAA club.
"It is quite clear that the British state have taken a
conscious decision to spy on the local GAA club and its
members. Local people are outraged at this exposure and
this operation raises very serious matters for the GAA at
"The spying on the local GAA club of course also raises
very serious questions for Tony Blair and the British
Why are they spying on local people 10 years into a peace
How long has the operation against the GAA being ongoing
and what other clubs are involved?
Why are they specifically targeting the GAA and this club?
Who authorised the spying operation on Dromintee Club and
what was the motivation behind it?
"These are the sort of questions local people are asking
and demanding answers to. Sinn Féin will be raising this
matter with both the British Prime Minister and Taoiseach
in discussions next week. The local club is seeking
meetings with the GAA President to discuss this very
"It has long since past the time for Tony Blair to commit
his system to peaceful and democratic activity. They must
end their war against ordinary nationalists and republicans
if progress is to be made in the coming months." ENDS
Loyalists May Carry Dublin Bomber Pictures
by Ciarán Barnes
Organisers of a loyalist march through Dublin have said
they cannot guarantee that images of a man accused of
murdering 26 people in the city will not not be displayed
during the demonstration.
Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Love Ulster organiser
Willie Frazer said: “I can’t give a guarantee a photograph
of Robert McConnell will not be carried because I wouldn’t
be against anyone carrying Robert’s photograph.”
Robert McConnell was a dual member of the Ulster Defence
Regiment and Ulster Volunteer Force. He murdered scores of
Catholics in the 1970s.
He played a part in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings
in which 33 people died. Twenty-six died in the Dublin
Speaking in 1999, John Weir, a former member of the RUC
with whom Robert McConnell went on murder missions,
implicated him in a further eight killings.
The mass murderer was shot dead by the IRA in 1976. Images
of him have been carried at previous rallies organised by
Mr Frazer’s victims group Families Acting for Innocent
Despite the weight of evidence linking McConnell to at
least 41 sectarian murders, Mr Frazer defended the killer’s
“Anybody I know who knew Robert would say there is no way
he was involved in anything. He was involved with the
security forces and he helped the SAS and stuff like that
but a lot of people would say that was just part of his
job,” said Mr Frazer.
Relatives of those murdered in the Dublin and Monaghan
bombings criticised Mr Frazer. Margaret Irwin of the
Justice for the Forgotten group said his defence of
McConnell was “very insensitive”.
She said: “We have very good information that McConnell was
involved with the gang who we are convinced carried out the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
“We believe McConnell was involved in up to 55 murders.
There can be no doubt he was heavily involved with loyalist
Up to 1,000 loyalists and six bands are expected to take
part in Saturday’s Love Ulster parade along O’Connell
Street. The march is to start at 12.30pm and is expected to
last one hour.
Orange Order members will take part but will not wear
sashes or collarettes.
Yesterday morning, Republican Sinn Féin held a press
conference in Dublin at which the party unveiled plans to
protest against the march. The Continuity IRA has also
vowed to disrupt the parade.
Love Ulster held a victims rally in Belfast last October.
The event was widely criticised because it failed to give
any mention to those who had suffered at the hands of
loyalists and the state.
Loyalists paramilitaries such as Ulster Defence Association
leader Jackie McDonald helped launch the Love Ulster
campaign last September.
Bush To Meet Relatives Of Victim Of Dublin Shooting
The family of Joseph Rafferty, who the family say was shot
dead by a former member of the IRA in Dublin last year, is
to meet President George W Bush in the White House on St
Patrick's Day, write Conor Lally and Mark Brennock.
It is the second year in succession that the families of
people recently murdered by members or former members of
the IRA have been invited to the White House on St
Last year the sisters of Belfast man Robert McCartney
visited as part of their campaign to bring their brother's
killers to justice. Mr Rafferty's sisters, Esther Uzell and
Sandra Little, his brother-in-law Bart Little and Fianna
Fáil councillor Gary Keegan visited the US earlier this
month. They held meetings with prominent US politicians,
including Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
While on the visit, the Bush administration indicated to
the family that they would be welcome to visit the White
House on St Patrick's Day, when Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will
once more present the traditional bowl of shamrock to
Government sources last night confirmed that since the
return of Ms Uzell and her family to Ireland on February
11th, the US administration had been in touch with the
Taoiseach's office to ask if the Government had any
objections to the family being invited to the White House.
The Government has no objections.
Informed sources last night told The Irish Times that the
US administration would soon contact Ms Uzell and her
family to invite them formally to Washington.
Mr Rafferty (29), a father of one, was shot dead last April
in the Ongar housing estate in west Dublin. He had become
embroiled in a dispute with a family from the south inner
city with strong links to a former member of the IRA.
Ms Uzell and her family believe Sinn Féin can put pressure
on the man, who is the only suspect in the case, to give
himself up. They believe their visit to the US has
increased pressure on the party in that regard.
Sinn Féin leaders were not invited to the White House on St
Patrick's Day last year. It is still not known whether they
will be invited this year.
© The Irish Times
Amnesty Criticises Government Over Renditions
Last updated: 23-02-06, 18:55
Amnesty International has attacked the Government over its
response to US assurances that Shannon Airport is not being
used for "extraordinary renditions" of prisoners.
The human rights group said Ireland's failure to thoroughly
investigate claims that the US is bringing prisoners
through the airport, relying instead on US assurances that
it is not the case, shows the Government is not taking the
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern told the Dail
yesterday that Shannon had not been used in any way for
extraordinary rendition flights. He said recent assurances
given by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other
US officials, were absolutely categoric and were accepted
as true by the Government.
Mr Ahern has said he had no reason not to believe the
assurances, coming as they did from a "friendly" state.
But Seán Love, Executive Director of Amnesty Ireland said
today these assurances were "utterly and demonstrably
He said there are real concerns the prisoners are at risk
of being "disappeared", tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
He insisted the Government has an obligation to exercise
due diligence in investigating allegations that human
rights abuses are being carried out on Irish soil or in
As a result of its failure to do so, the Government "runs a
very real risk of undermining its hard-won ability to speak
with credibility on grave human rights situations around
the world, as is now the reality for the US and UK
governments," said Mr Love.
Meanwhile, protesters have gathered outside Minister for
Justice Michael McDowell's constituency office in Ranelagh,
South Dublin demanding the Government take action over the
use of Shannon airport by CIA aircraft.
The group, Cosantoiri Na Siochana called on the minister to
authorise searches of jets.
There should be an immediate investigation to find out
whether or not there have been grave breaches of human
rights at Shannon," Mark Price, a spokesman for the group,
"There is significant evidence that planes which have been
involved in the rendition process in other countries have
passed through Ireland," he said.
Mr Price noted evidence published by Amnesty International
that six CIA chartered planes landed at Shannon Airport 50
times between September 2001 and September 2005. He claimed
this was a conservative figure.
© 2006 ireland.com
Protest Over Use Of Shannon Airport
23/02/2006 - 18:43:45
Protesters tonight gathered outside Minister for Justice
Michael McDowell’s constituency office in south Dublin
demanding the Government take action over the use of
Shannon Airport by CIA aircraft.
Alleging that military planes are smuggling suspected
terrorists though Ireland, Cosantóirí na Síochána called on
the minister to authorise searches of jets.
Mark Price, spokesman for the group, said: “There should be
an immediate investigation to find out whether or not there
have been grave breaches of human rights at Shannon.
“There is significant evidence that planes which have been
involved in the rendition process in other countries have
passed through Ireland,” he said.
“We want an inquiry about them, finding out when these
planes came into Ireland, where they were going, and what
they were doing.”
Around a dozen protesters with placards and banners
gathered outside Mr Dowell’s constituency office in
Mr Price noted evidence published by Amnesty International
that six CIA chartered planes landed at Shannon Airport 50
times between September 2001 and September 2005.
He claimed this was a conservative figure.
Mr Price called on Mr McDowell to live up to the comments
he made in the Seanad in June 2004.
Addressing the upper house, Mr McDowell said: “It would
cause me grave concern if I thought people were being
smuggled through Irish territory in circumstances that
amounted to unlawful detention in Irish law or in
international law for that matter”.
Mr Price added that political excuses were being rolled out
in a bid to block any investigation into the CIA jets.
He said there was a feeling that by calling for an
investigation or demanding searches that it would damage
relations with the US, in particular economic ties.
“We can’t afford in this country to stand by while our
human rights and obligations are being ignored.”
MEP Addresses Oireachtas As Government Stalls On Northern
Published: 23 February, 2006
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today urged the Taoiseach
to press ahead with proposals for Northern Representation
in the Oireachtas.
Ms de Brún made her comments before she attended an
Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs at Leinster
House today, where she will encourage the Irish Government
to reject the European Services Directive.
Speaking today Ms de Brún said:
“Sinn Féin is committed to the principle and practice of
Northern MPs participating in the work of the Houses of the
Oireachtas. Foot dragging by the Taoiseach has ensured that
Irish citizens in the six counties remain disenfranchised
and excluded from much of the political life of the nation.
“Only last week the Taoiseach back tracked on his
commitment to move on this important issue.
“It is deeply ironic that as an MEP for the people of the
six counties I am entitled to address the Oireachtas, yet
my 18 Westminster colleagues are not. As Irish Republicans
we strive to see our electorate treated with equality and
"It is unacceptable that they continue to be seen as
strangers in their own land.
“It is time for people to think outside of the box.
Partition has failed and Sinn Féin is working to bring
about new political realities on the island and to advance
the dynamics of all-Ireland politics.” ENDS
Bloody Sunday Families Will Get Prior Notification
By Seamus McKinney
THE Bloody Sunday inquiry has confirmed that it will notify
“interested parties” in advance of submitting its final
report to the secretary of state.
The announcement is the first indication that the
publication of the report – expected some time this year –
is drawing close.
Lord Saville’s team completed the main body of evidence
gathering in November 2004 and it was initially hoped the
tribunal would publish its report last year.
But due to the huge quantity of evidence, the inquiry was
unable to do so and was also unable to state a date for
As the Saville Inquiry was established by parliament, the
final report will be handed over to the Northern Ireland
secretary who is then expected to publish it.
Earlier this year, John Kelly, whose brother Michael (17)
was shot dead, complained that the Bloody Sunday families
were not being given any information about the progress of
A spokeswoman for the inquiry yesterday confirmed that the
families and other interested parties (former soldiers etc)
would be given substantial notification before the report
was handed over to the secretary of state.
Martin McGuinness Challenges Advocates Of Selection At 11
During Youth Parliament Address
Published: 23 February, 2006
Sinn Féin MP and former Education Minister Martin
McGuinness this morning addressed a session of the Youth
parliament in the City Hall in Belfast. Mr McGuinness spoke
on the plans for post primary reform in a session also
addressed by leading advocate of selection Ken Bloomfield.
In the course of a wide ranging address Mr McGuinness
challenged head on the arguments being put forward by those
supporting academic selection at 11. He used international
examples of good practice to put forward his vision of an
education system which delivers for all children.
"The changes proposed in our education system will, with
proper planning and effective implementation, have an
immediate and positive effect. Of course one of the
greatest obstacles to the delivery of a first class
education system is the availability of adequate resources
and money. That is a difficulty which every department and
aspect of the public sector faces. But setting that aside
for the minute, if we look at the inherent flaws in the
system itself, rather than the impact of outside factors,
we cannot but conclude that academic selection, its
negative impact at every level of our education system and
the consequent inequality and additional segregation it
generates is the single greatest flaw in our current
arrangements and I welcome its long over due demise.
"The mush disliked 11+ and academic selection are
inextricably linked. The sole reason for the 11+ is to
provide a means of academic selection for grammar schools.
The reason why parents, teachers and pupils feel under such
pressure and children feel failures has little to do with
the 11+ and everything to do with getting a place in a
grammar school. The issue is not simply about the injustice
of the test thought in my view that is in itself a massive
issue. Branding any child a failure at the age of 11 is an
indictment of any modern society. Branding the majority of
our children as failures at age 11 is entirely unacceptable
as is the creation of an academic elite. The reality is
that academic selection for the minority means academic
rejection for the majority. Academic selection crates an
education system based on academic apartheid.
"The supporters of the current system, or some less
offensive version of it, have peddled three key myths to
support their position. I want to tackle those myths
directly. The cold facts do not support the myths that we
have a world-class education system, or that academic
selection is a ladder to success for working class
children, or that grammar schools are an essential route
for entry to higher education and university. The first
myth is that we have a world-class education system. Yes we
do have a high proportion of pupils achieving good
examination results, but Scotland has as many pupils as we
do achieving 5+ GCSEs at A*-C and markedly more young
people entering higher education. England has more pupils
achieving 5 GCSE passes and we still have the highest
proportion of children with low qualifications in these
"In the key areas of reading, maths and science we perform
on a par with England and Scotland but we perform
substantially worse than the top performers - Finland,
Korea, New Zealand and Canada - all of which have non-
selective education systems. And critically, the variation
between our best and worst scores is among the widest in
the world, highlighting again the recurring theme of an
education system with high achievement and substantial low
achievement - a system that does well for some and does not
deliver for the rest.
"The second myth holds that academic selection provides a
ladder for "more able" children - and I take issue with
that very offensive term - from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Recent statistic show that only 8% of pupils in grammar
schools are from low-income families and the proportion has
been falling over recent years. If this is a ladder it is
an extremely narrow one!
"More advantaged pupils are over 4 times as likely to
achieve a grade A in the 11+ as the most disadvantaged
pupils. This hardly supports the case for academic
selection as an escape route from poverty through
"The poorest results in the 11+ are seen in controlled
schools with high levels of free school meals serving
working class Protestant areas. In some working class
Protestant areas a grammar school place is beyond the reach
of almost all pupils - in the Shankill for example, less
than 2% of pupils achieved a grammar school place.
"The system is not serving the working classes and it is
certainly not serving children from working class
Protestant families. It is hardly surprising that some
community activists have questioned the position of
Unionist Assembly Members representing Protestant areas who
appear to be content with a system of academic selection
that denies educational opportunities to their own
constituents. And I would ask the question - by taking this
position are they really representing the best interests of
the children in their constituencies?
"The third myth that we hear so often is that a grammar
school education is necessary to get to university and get
a good job. Traditionally grammar schools have indeed been
the main providers of university entrants. More recently,
however only about 50% of students at the University of
Ulster have traditional A-levels and the rest come from a
variety of routes. Significantly, the university found no
difference in academic outcome irrespective of the route
students have taken to reach university. Queen's University
has many students who do not come via the traditional A-
level route and they include some of the universities best
"The reality is that academic segregation, like other forms
of social segregation is not something any modern society
should tolerate, much less encourage. The entire concept of
academic selection is based on notions of intelligence
measurement, which have been largely discounted and
discredited. Indeed Cyril Burt, the primary architect of
the Butler Education Act of 1944, which created the 11+,
has recently been exposed as a fraud and a charlatan. The
flaw in his attitude to children and their education should
have been obvious in the title of his seminal work
published in 1937 - "The Backward Child". IN my view, the
only thing backward in our education system is not the
children but a system which brands the majority of 11 year
olds as failures. That is wrong and the sooner we replace
it the better.‰" ENDS
Judge Cory Accuses British Of ‘Moving The Goal Posts’ On
Cory renews public inquiry call
By Jarlath Kearney
Canadian Judge Peter Cory last night labelled the British
government’s approach to the Pat Finucane case as “Alice in
Judge Cory also said he would “be inclined to agree” with
the murdered Belfast solicitor’s family over their
objections to the British government’s controversial
Mr Finucane was murdered by the UDA in front of his family
17 years ago. RUC Special Branch and MI5 repeatedly failed
to warn Mr Finucane about serious threats to his life.
Since the 1989 murder it has emerged that five loyalists
directly involved in the killing were British agents.
As a result of the 2001 Weston Park multi-party agreement,
Judge Cory conducted an independent review of Mr Finucane’s
Judge Cory’s report – which was published in edited form in
2004 – recommended an independent, public inquiry to
investigate prima facie evidence of state collusion in Mr
However after the Cory report, the British government
tabled controversial new legislation entitled the Inquiries
Act which would vest a minister – rather than an
independent tribunal – with control over any inquiry.
Despite the strong objections of the Finucane family, the
British government is attempting to establish an inquiry
under the new law.
Judge Cory told reporters in Belfast last night that he
would “be inclined to agree” with the Finucane family’s
objections to the British government’s approach.
“I would be inclined to agree with the position that they
[the Finucanes] took,” Judge Cory said.
“My goodness, when you look at it, in the middle of
everything, you move the goal posts and you change the
rules of the game. I just don’t think its the way to run a
railroad, but I’m not running the railroad, and its the
prime responsibility of any government to protect their
“I recommended a public inquiry, but I cannot tell you and
it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to tell you if the
government is acting appropriately or not because I don’t
know what their basis is.
“I was asked to do it. I did it to the best of my ability.
I made the recommendations I did. I stand behind those
“If you told me at the beginning, ‘no matter what you do
we’re going to change the rules’, then any self-respecting
person would say, ‘thank you, no, I’d just as soon not,
this is Mickey Mouse – it’s Alice in Wonderland’. But you
don’t know that at the time,” Judge Cory said.
Describing the British government’s reliance on national
security to avoid an independent inquiry as “sad”, Judge
Cory said he had hoped that his recommendations could help
the process of healing and truth recovery in the North.
“I got access to everything that I think was warranted for
me to come to a conclusion that, without any doubt, there
was evidence that should be explored at a public inquiry,”
Judge Cory said.
“There were differences of opinion obviously and only that
can be taken care of at a public inquiry where evidence is
tested by cross-examination ... and until that is done you
cannot say if there is collusion.
“But there is evidence, such that I thought there should
have been a public inquiry with regard to it – public
inquiry as was understood at the time of the [Weston Park]
“I haven’t got the facts from the government side as to why
it would be necessary to say that this now involves matters
of state security. I do not know because I cannot get
behind it at this stage and say why is it a matter of state
security,” Judge Cory said.
Final Sentencing Of The Rossport 5, Shell To Sea Protest At
The Four Courts
Dublin Rights And Freedoms Event Notice Thursday
February 23, 2006 17:44 by Tadhg - Dublin Shell to Sea
Protest at the Four Courts- 9.45AM
On Monday the Rossport 5 are scheduled to appear in the
High Court for their final sentencing. They could be fined
or sent back to prison for refusing to agree to end their
protest against Shell's plans to install a dangerous,
experimental gas pipeline through their neighbourhood.
Shell to Sea activists from all over Ireland will gather at
the entrance to the Four Courts from 9.30 on.
There is always a chance that the court date will be
postponed again. To receive up to date information, send
your details to firstname.lastname@example.org . If you give us
a mobile number we'll text updates to you.
Related Link: http://www.shelltosea.com/
Ulster Unionists To Back Inquiry
Published on 24/02/2006
The Ulster Unionists are to consider backing demands for a
Party leader Sir Reg Empey insisted the claims were strong
enough to warrant close scrutiny after meeting the father
of an Ulster Volunteer Force murder victim.
He heard allegations that state elements colluded with
terrorist killers from Belfast man Raymond McCord, who is
also now pressing for talks with Sinn Fein President Gerry
The UUP chief said: "It wasn't pleasant listening.
"Mr McCord made a case that is sufficient to justify
"He had a catalogue of material that was quite
"He was linking it to a series of murders since 1994,
around 30, for which nobody has ever been charged."
Sir Reg pledged to consult senior party colleagues,
including his victims spokesman Derek Hussey, after Mr
McCord urged him to support his bid for an independent
inquiry into his son's murder and the wider allegations.
Former RAF operator Raymond McCord Jr, 22, was beaten to
death and dumped in a north Belfast quarry in 1997.
Mr McCord claims a UVF man involved in the murder has been
protected because he is a police special branch agent.
A major investigation into the allegations undertaken by
Nuala O'Loan, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, has
been widened to examine whether the informer was involved
in a series of other killings.
Her findings are due to be published later this year.
Mr McCord has intensified his campaign by seeking cross-
party political support.
As well as speaking to Sir Reg earlier talks were held with
SDLP and Alliance leaders Mark Durkan and David Ford. It is
understood DUP chief Ian Paisley is also prepared to sit
down with him.
And he has asked Sinn Fein to set up a meeting with Mr
Mr McCord, a Protestant, said: "People voted for him
whether you like his politics or not.
"Sinn Fein talk about collusion, and I'm giving them the
opportunity to do something about it.
"What I want is for representatives from each party to sit
in a room with me and say I support you in your call for an
independent inquiry into your son's murder."
A Sinn Fein spokesman confirmed the party president was
prepared to discuss the case with Mr McCord.
Mayor’s Great Escape In No Confidence Vote
By: Alan Healy
THE political career of controversial Kerry Mayor Toireasa
Ferris remains on track this week after she survived a
dramatic vote of no confidence following her failure to
condemn the killing of Ballylongford-born Detective Garda
Fine Gael members on Kerry County Council brought the
emergency vote before Monday’s monthly meeting in Tralee
after Mayor Ferris and her Sinn Fein colleague, Robert
Beasley, refused to support a separate motion unreservedly
condemning the murder of Garda McCabe and condemning bank
robbery as a form of political party fundraising.
However the Fine Gael no confidence vote was rejected on a
12-8 majority with the Fianna Fail members and independent
councillors Michael and Danny Healy-Rae siding with Cllr
Ferris. The Labour councillors as well as Cllr Brendan
Cronin and Cllr Michael Gleeson all abstained.
Fianna Fail opted to move a motion of censure on the mayor,
severely criticising her stance during and after her
contentious interview on RT...’s Late Late Show during
which she said she did not have the authority to condemn
Garda McCabe’s killers.
A separate motion, brought by Sinn Fein, offering sympathy
for all those killed during the troubles was passed
unanimously at Monday’s meeting.
Mayor Ferris said she believed the no confidence motion,
proposed by Cllr Bobby O’Connell and seconded by Cllr
Johnny O’Connor, was nothing short of a publicity stunt.
“It is exploiting the grief and suffering of Ann McCabe,”
Watched from the public gallery by her parents, Martin and
Marie Ferris, the mayor said the vote of no confidence was
a cosmetic act which carried no weight as a special meeting
had to be convened in order to remove a mayor from office.
She quoted the Local Government Act which stated that a
resolution requiring the signatures of one third of the
council was needed to convene such a meeting and that
three-quarters of the members needed to vote in favour of
the resolution for it to be passed.
Commenting on the unprecedented step of censuring the
mayor, Fianna Fail whip Paul O’Donoghue said Mayor Ferris
and many other members of Sinn Fein were prisoners of a
“You and many other young members of Sinn Fein should be
able to cast off the shackles of history, cast off the
shackles of failed politics and come into the new
democratic Ireland,” he said.
He said Fianna Fail would not support the no confidence
motion because the party believed in the politics of
inclusion rather than exclusion.
“Whilst I abhor the views of the mayor and her party, the
position is if we say exclude then where is the peace
process? How do we go forward?” he asked.
Proposed Presidential Visit Provokes Storm In Council
THE prospect of a visit to Larne by Irish President Mary
McAleese prompted bitter exchanges in the council chamber
Despite the fall-out, Alliance Mayor John Mathews insists
he will continue to canvas the views of colleagues, before
making a decision.
Though a majority on the council appeared willing to extend
an olive branch on Monday night, DUP representatives Jack
McKee and Winston Fulton and the SDLP's Danny O'Connor
engaged in increasingly acrimonious exchanges that had
possible consequences for the council's much-heralded
power-sharing agreement brokered by all parties in Bangor
The argument centred on Mrs. McAleese's infamous 'Nazi'
remark just over a year ago and DUP leader Ian Paisley's
protest at the visit of the late Pope John Pail II to the
European Parliament, in 1988.
Councillor Mathews was informed, "through diplomatic
circles", of the potential for a state visit to both Larne
and Ballymena by the Ardoyne-born President, who incurred
unionist outrage in January 2005 when, in Germany for the
60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz
concentration camp, she said children in Northern Ireland
had been 'taught to hate Catholics in the same way that
Nazis despised the Jews'.
Though she apologised for the remark, Mrs. McAleese had to
cancel a high-profile visit to Belfast's loyalist
Shankhill. Only this week, Dr. Paisley accused Mrs.
McAleese of harbouring 'a deep hatred of Northern Ireland'.
Any visit to Larne had the potential to cause further
controversy and Councillor Mathews said his response to the
offer of a visit was that he would consult, privately, with
council colleagues. However, one of the consultees, DUP
Councillor Bobby McKee, felt strongly that the council as a
body should be informed and, at a meeting of the policy and
resources committee, on Monday night, he asked the Mayor to
raise the issue in public.
Councillor Mathews confirmed that diplomatic approaches had
been made. He had ascertained that any visit by Mrs.
McAleese would be as 'the head of a foreign state' and that
she would be welcomed officially by the Queen's
representative, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Antrim.
Most members of council acknowledged that proper protocol
was being observed and unionist representatives, including
Alderman McKee, considered that it was a matter for the
Mayor himself whether or not to issue an invitation.
Alderman McKee stressed, however, that given the offence he
still felt at Mrs. McAleese's comments, he would protest if
she was to visit council premises.
"Who the Mayor brings is the Mayor's business, as long as
he is not asking me to be involved", said Alderman McKee.
"I couldn't go along, for the reason that Mrs. McAleese
insulted the Protestant community", he added.
"He can't bring her here to Larne on behalf of Larne
Borough Council because I object to that and if he brings
her to the council chamber, I will be protesting", the
veteran DUP alderman declared.
Alderman O'Connor had not been informed of the possible
visit and made it clear he was unhappy, despite the Mayor's
protestations that he had had tried to telephone both
Alderman O'Connor and his SDLP colleague, Councillor Martin
Alderman O'Connor commented, "I believe there is a genuine
opportunity for some sort of reconciliation to take place".
He was aware that the office of the President in Dublin had
already "met with organisations within the borough and some
progress has been made".
Addressing Alderman McKee's comments concerning Mrs.
McAleese's 'insulting' remarks, Alderman O'Connor claimed
that the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, had made "insulting
remarked about Catholics".
Alderman McKee contended that his leader, as an evangelical
minister, was critical of the Catholic Church, but
insisted, "He did not insult Roman Catholic people".
The SDLP man argued, "Yes he did. The leader of the DUP was
put out of the European Parliament for shouting insults at
the leader of my faith. If people are talking about being
insulted, then perhaps they understand what it's like to be
insulted and insulted again over 30 years".
At this point, Councillor Fulton weighed in, saying, "We
will remember that for next year". There followed a dispute
between three men regarding the inter-party accord struck
in Bangor last year, when it was agreed that each of the
four parties represented on the council would share the
mayorship and other key posts in the last four years of the
The row raged on - despite the Ulster Unionist committee
chairman Brian Dunn's threats to adjourn - until Councillor
Bobby McKee spoke again to clarify his own position.
"I am making no comment on whether I support her (Mrs.
McAleese) coming or not", said the former DUP Mayor, though
he reminded colleagues, later, that he had travelled to
Dublin during his time in office.
He believed the topic was of sufficient import that it
should be discussed by the council, adding, "This is a
problem I have had for some considerable time: that some
people have … made decisions without full council knowledge
– significant decisions with a wide-ranging effect for the
borough as a whole".
Councillor McKee added, "We have come a long way in terms
of community relations and I sincerely hope that it does
not go down the road of affecting the good work that has
Addressing the meeting, rather than Alderman O'Connor on
this occasion, Councillor Fulton said, "I am disappointed
that my colleague (Councillor McKee) had to raise this
point because the Mayor did not feel fit to put it on the
"Was this going to be hidden and the President of the
Republic brought in to this town without the council being
told about it and the council being used?" he asked.
"I will not be happy and I will not be supporting the
President of the Republic to come to this council and I
will be protesting, because of what she said. She has
apologised, but the apology was very hollow indeed",
Councillor Fulton stated.
He accused Alderman O'Connor of making "damaging remarks",
but insisted that in the council, "We do work as a team and
I am glad of it".
Alliance Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna commented, "I would
welcome anyone in to this borough as part of the networking
process, if it brings benefits to the people of the
In doing so, she added, "We can demonstrate how we value
and respect others".
Alderman Roy Beggs spoke for the Ulster Unionist bloc when
he commented, "The debate would indicate that we in Larne
still have some distance to travel".
It was the Mayor's prerogative to issue invitations and
Alderman Beggs was satisfied that protocol would be
He continued, "There are no members of the unionist
community who were not deeply hurt and offended by the
remarks that were made, not only by the President, but on
another occasion by a reverend gentleman".
Apologies had been extended and Alderman Beggs felt there
was a need "to be more forgiving".
"Larne", he said, "has always had a great tradition of
welcoming visitors, irrespective of where they came from
and regardless of colour, religion or whatever. I agree
that the Mayor is entitled to welcome whomever seeks to
visit our area".
SDLP Councillor Martin Wilson was obviously affected by the
tone of some of the preceding debate. When he was invited
to speak, he paused and then told colleagues, "I have
listened carefully over the past 20 minutes and I am a bit
disconcerted by it all.
"There has been good work going on on the ground, but I
just feel that at this time we, as a corporate body, are
not ready to extend a welcome to the President of Ireland".
Councillor Wilson said he understood that Protestant people
had felt insulted. "It is sincere and I believe the apology
was sincere, but I don't think that a visit that would
initiate any kind of protest would help the people of Larne
at this time. It is unfortunate, but that is the reality",
"I would sincerely hope", Councillor Wilson concluded,
"that there would come a time when no one should feel
threatened by a visit from the President of Ireland".
Concluding the debate, Councillor Brian Dunn commented,
from the chair, that many old enmities had been laid to
rest. There had been state visits between Britain and Japan
despite a history of millions of casualties. By comparison,
he reflected, "We can't get over someone insulting us".
On Tuesday, Councillor Mathews maintained he felt it had
been right to consult privately with council colleagues and
said he intended to continue with the process.
"I am aware of the sensitivities involved and the effect
that careless words can have, as we saw last night, whereas
in private, people can express their feelings without any
embarrassment", he said.
The Mayor was convinced that a presidential visit would
have the backing of a majority in the council.
"What I must do now is to weigh up the potential for
positive coverage for Larne if President McAleese was to be
received in the borough with dignity and sincerity, against
the knowledge that it would not be to anybody's benefit if
she was to be met with protest", Councillor Mathews
23 February 2006
Opin: Vision Of Freedom Deserves To Be Honoured
The Thursday Column
By Jim Gibney
“No one should harbour the notion that the republican
struggle can be advanced any further by an armed campaign.
This leadership is firmly opposed to such a departure… I
have made it clear from the republican perspective – the
war is over.”
Thus spoke Gerry Adams in a wide ranging presidential
address to more than 2,000 delegates at Sinn Fein’s Ard
Fheis last weekend. He also called on other armed
republican organisations to “look objectively at the
current political situation... to carefully consider your
options… to debate these matters.”
The clear implication in this remark for those republicans
still using armed force is they should desist from doing so
and put their energies into campaigning for a united
This was a confident forward-looking speech from the leader
of a party which has been at the centre of massive changes
in Irish politics for a decade and more.
A speech representing the views of the leadership of a
struggle who were daring enough to challenge themselves and
others who thought that politics in this country was
forever locked in a cycle of armed conflict.
The success of this challenge is now evident in the new era
opened up by the IRA’s decision to end its armed campaign.
Gerry Adams’s speech blended epoch-making events like the
1916 Rising and the hunger strike of 1981 with the politics
of today; casting an eye forward to shape tomorrow’s
Central to what he said was the republican conviction that
partition had failed all the people of this island,
nationalist and unionist.
Failed them politically and economically.
Gerry Adams’s unequivocal support for and defence of the
peace process is significant because at the minute the
peace process is being squeezed. Caution and conservatism
would be expected.
But such a stance would only encourage the wreckers.
Sensible, considered risk-taking is more productive
especially when developing a peace process beset by malign
influences inside the British and Irish governments.
The leaderships of the IRA and Sinn Fein took huge risks in
initiating and sustaining the peace process.
Risk taking is familiar terrain for republicans because
they are about challenging complacency.
They are about pushing out the boundaries in search of a
new inclusive society based on equality.
In this and earlier periods of conflict republicans risked
all for freedom.
In his speech Gerry Adams referred to a number of heroic
deeds which left behind a legacy, a reference point for
politicians of this era to draw off.
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising,
the 30th anniversary of the death on hunger strike in
Wakefield Prison of Frank Stagg and the 25th anniversary of
the 1981 hunger strike when 10 men died in the
H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Gerry also talked about Michael
Gaughan who died on hunger strike in 1974 in Parkhurst
The cause which drove them inspired them so much it
conquered the fear of death.
That cause was the freedom of this small nation.
Ninety years ago with a small band of men and women behind
him Padraig Pearse proclaimed an Irish Republic.
The proclamation guaranteed civil and religious liberty to
all; the right to vote for women and men; a just and
equitable society. A beacon of light, a freedom charter for
then and now.
“Great words, great ideas” – is how Gerry Adams described
Words and ideas which motivate democrats on this island to
The rising was a risky enterprise, a bold blow for national
freedom, a David versus Goliath contest.
Pearse’s men and women took on an empire which imposed its
rule on 500 million people.
After 30 years denying their history and this very event
that gave them their freedom the Irish government will this
Easter formally honour men and women, described by the
establishment at the time as criminals – the Rebels of
A long overdue but nonetheless welcome ceremony.
Those rebels said Gerry Adams “had big hearts, boundless
So too the rebels who died on hunger strike alone in prison
cells like Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg or together in
All were motivated by a vision of freedom.
Let us this year have big-hearted popular celebrations in
Opin: SF Won’t Make The Same Mistake Twice
The Wednesday Column
By Brian Feeney
So Sinn Fein won’t be endorsing the PSNI or joining the
Policing Board any time soon. As Gerry Adams pointed out on
Saturday, there’s not much likelihood of the legislation
being passed and the DUP agreeing to accept the democratic
decision of the vast majority of people on this island
before the new Policing Board is up and running in April.
Adams is quite right to tie this all into a package because
self-evidently that’s what it is.
Joining the Policing Board before the legislation is
through Westminster would be like going to the bookies to
collect your winnings with your horse in the final furlong
of a steeplechase. Sinn Fein have been badly burnt by the
double-dealing of the British administration here on the on
the run legislation. They’re not going to make the same
mistake twice in six months. Anyway, the DUP’s not even
talking to Sinn Fein.
That aside, there are many other considerations which
prevent Sinn Fein from endorsing the PSNI. Our visiting
British rulers conveniently forget SF stood for election
last May and received an increased vote and an extra MP on
a manifesto committing them to withhold support from
policing until there is new legislation allowing devolution
of justice and police powers to a northern executive.
Perhaps just as important, those same transient British
politicians have not picked up the growing anger and
frustration among nationalists at the refusal of the PSNI
or anyone else in authority to deal with loyalist terrorism
and the evidence of continuing collusion between the police
and loyalists who have murdered both Catholics and
Protestants since the Good Friday Agreement.
Just as disquieting is the
revolving-door policy operated by the courts here when
loyalists are arraigned. There is a manifest imbalance in
giving bail to loyalists compared to republicans. Even
worse is the failure of the prosecution service and the
Assets Recovery Agency to act against prominent loyalists
except when one of their rivals kills them.
It is well known that one of the reasons for this failure
is that the self-proclaimed shiny new police are still
protecting loyalist informers taken on the payroll, in some
cases more than a decade ago. Everyone knows the fruitless
efforts of Mr McCord to get the UVF killers of his son, men
personally known to him, prosecuted. Equally well known is
that the police are protecting a UVF man in Mount Vernon
who has killed maybe as many as a dozen people in his
murderous career. How many other informers?
We now hear that the police took back on the payroll their
agent, the notorious Greysteel and Castlerock killer,
Torrens Knight, after he was released early from multiple
life sentences under the terms of the GFA. Is it true? Who
authorised payments to him, said to total £50,000 a year?
Certainly not some sergeant. That kind of disgraceful
misuse of public money can only have been sanctioned by a
very senior official. Do you think this is the only
instance of such corruption of the administration of
How many more are there?
Now the hopeless consequence of this state of affairs is
that John Dallat, the SDLP’s Lone Ranger in East Derry, is
left complaining bitterly about police inaction in the case
of Knight. His very indignation shows that the PSNI is not
accountable through the Policing Board and thereby makes
Sinn Fein’s case.
Oh yeah, sure, the quick answer is that the Ombudsman is
inquiring into this mess, so wait until her report comes
out later this year. Not good enough.
Why couldn’t the Policing Board get anything done on its
own initiative? Just wait until that Ombudsman’s report is
published. What a stinker that will be.
Wouldn’t Sinn Fein have looked sick sitting on the Policing
Board demonstrating their own impotence?
Finally and perhaps most serious of all, is the incredibly
stupid decision to hand control of intelligence over to
MI5. As if they ever lost it?
This plan will reduce the PSNI to the arresting arm of MI5
just as RUC Special Branch was. MI5 are completely
unaccountable to anyone in the north and have precious
little accountability to anyone in Britain. Now, why would
Sinn Fein endorse policing here any time soon? They’re not
Opin: Big Ian Is SF's Best Weapon
Not for the first time, Ian Paisley has helped northern
nationalists - and northern republicans - to boost their
own self-image, and perhaps even their arguments. The
primary effect of the DUP leader's attacks on President
McAleese is to remind the Republic, if any reminder is
needed, of how little the present leader of unionism thinks
himself in need of reconstruction, much less repentance,
writes Fionnuala O Connor
But it is also a marker of the distance travelled in a
process sometimes depicted as entirely fraudulent and
cosmetic. For those who remember how the now-respected,
second-term President was once reviled as a republican
fellow-traveller, there is a nice symmetry in the fact that
unionist criticism of her may be of assistance to semi-
It comes as republicans steel themselves for a prolonged
stalemate, largely dictated by Ian Paisley. Sinn Féin must
expect increasing pressure from the Dublin political
establishment to sign up for policing in Northern Ireland
and to work harder at ridding themselves of the taint of
paramilitarism and criminality, North and South. But the
pressure that would count most may never develop.
The SF leaders are more concerned about internal management
than they are about holding their northern vote - stiffened
with each Paisley decibel - and not nearly as anxious about
potential damage to their vote in the Republic as the other
parties would like them to be.
Chit-chat in the margins of SF ardfheiseanna rarely
produces searing insights, but it can certainly illuminate
the mindset of the moment.
Last weekend's procession of electoral hopefuls to the
microphone didn't just provide media training and showcase
the party's appeal to youth. Off-platform, the newest
recruits sounded convincing about their doorstep
experiences. If they face accusations and criticism about
money-laundering and continued IRA activity, they conceal
"You only ever get that from members of other parties," was
how one summed it up.
After decades of defending murder, republicans are
connoisseurs of condemnation. In the post-decommissioning
age and from unpopular sources, it is no hardship.
Indeed, being lambasted by the right people can rally
existing supporters and attract new ones. Better yet if you
can swing in behind popular indignation at criticism of
The Paisley eloquence is heedless: counting the cost is for
Northern observers judge that his McAleese diatribes are
classics: much like this week's refusal to talk to
representatives of a Dublin Government he has already met
repeatedly; exercise for his wilful tongue and distraction
for his own supporters.
Attacking Mrs McAleese was something of a unionist habit in
the phase of her varied career immediately before the Park.
At that point the hostility came not from the DUP but from
Ulster Unionists offended by her as frontrunner for newly-
ascendant Catholics in Queen's University, most prominent
beneficiary, in their eyes, of the abominated "fair
Nearly two decades later, the McAleese name is an all-
Ireland brand, and reactions to the woman who once pipped
David Trimble to a senior Queen's post are heavily coloured
by the role she has filled so distinctively since 1997.
It is hard to imagine anyone close to Ian Paisley pointing
out the downside of having a go at the northerner in the
Park, when her origins have long been absorbed into the
modern Republic's picture of itself. It is also a principle
of hardline unionism to deny legitimacy and status to the
"foreign country" which begins at the Border, and which,
some still profess to believe, harbours plans to march on
Belfast. For the most part this is no more than pretence.
After their trips to Dublin and negotiation in England, the
latest DUP tack of withdrawing from talks with Dublin
ministers fools nobody but their most innocent supporters.
There remains a market for anti-Irish, anti-nationalist and
anti-Catholic abuse, and the revived, resurgent leader of
the DUP and the Free Presbyterian church is the man to dish
it out. Most Paisley fiats on Sinn Féin's lack of
democratic credentials brings the retort of "who does he
think he is?" to the lips of all kinds of northern
nationalists. It must by now be popping into the heads of
more than a few on the other side of the Border.
There are nationalist doubts about the contacts between the
couple in Áras an Uachtaráin and loyalist paramilitary
figures, even among those proud of the northerner in the
South's highest office. But these are in-house doubts.
A demagogue who spouts wild charges against a popular head
of State is always going to lack conviction as a judge of
Sinn Féin's fitness for government. He may be the best
weapon republicans retain. And the more the IRA fades while
loyalist violence continues, the more unlikely his
strictures will sound.
© The Irish Times
Opin: Gaffe-Making President Divorced From Reality?
IF President Mary McAleese, over years, has displayed a
disturbing penchant for metaphorically ‘putting her foot in
it’, she has, lately, embarked almost on a gaffe-making
roller-coaster, whether as regards the Nazi comparison up
North or the recent 1916 myth-making, called ‘breathtaking
in its revisionism’, but now comes the Middle East jaunt
where she took it on herself to pronounce for Irish public
opinion on the Muslim jihad over the so-called ‘cartoon
‘It is only in an enslaved State’, proclaimed Samuel
Coleridge, that ‘the Rulers form and supply the opinions of
the People’ because, as he also said, this is ‘the mark by
which Despotism is distinguished’ but, from all the
subsequent furore and press reaction, etc., Mrs. McAleese
will surely know, by now, that Irish public opinion is not
at one with her regarding this supposed ‘abhorrence’.
‘How President McAleese let us all down’ was the banner
headline to an Irish Independent tranche of such letters,
with one writer describing her denunciations in the name of
Ireland as ‘high-handed in the extreme and an usurpation of
the democratic process’. She is not, another said,
‘empowered to speak on behalf of the Irish people’ and this
writer hazarded a guess that the majority of Irish people
were ‘far more disgusted by the over-reaction of Muslims to
these cartoons than by the actual printing of them’.
Most people will regret deliberate offence given to
particular religious denominations, but given that satire,
as in cartoons, is a time-honoured vehicle of expression,
whereby public opinion organs mock or highlight particular
anomalies or absurdities, the mature citizens of any free
and democratic State will not suddenly take offence by
resorting to violence, issuing death threats or burning
down embassies. We, on this island, have the champion
disseminator of sectarian hatred in DUP leader Ian Paisley
who, for decades, lampooned the Pope and all things
Catholic but does anybody take notice? This ‘reverend’,
unfortunately, knows no better, as he must need ‘kowtow’ to
a presumed constituency of like minds.
The Danish cartoons were actually published on September
30th 2005, and until now, hardly anybody outside that
country was aware of them and, consequently, it is clear
that the recent spate of riots, burnings and death threats
resulted from a concerted jihad fomented by Muslim mullahs
or other fundamentalists in advancement of their own
special agendas. The inflammatory language used has
appeared to heighten concern everywhere about the so-called
‘clash of cultures and civilisations’ and this is why there
is more anger about the protests than about the cartoons.
A recent Sunday Times poll interviewed 1,600 people and no
fewer than 86 per cent described the cartoon protests as a
‘gross overreaction’ while 76 per cent said that Muslim
protesters in Britain who carried placards urging violence
and death should have been arrested by police. Furthermore,
80 per cent of responders said that the authorities show
too much tolerance of Muslims who urge extreme acts and the
Sunday Times itself, in an editorial, said that its
‘Insight’ investigation showed that the ‘preachers of hate
are still at work in the areas from which the London
bombers were recruited’.
Irish public opinion, judging by published evidence, as by
a letter on this page, seems to be along similar lines and
where Saudi Arabia, for example, is concerned and where
President McAleese made her remarks, it is significant that
this country does not allow religious freedom, permitting
no other churches to exist, with Jews not even allowed
enter the country. This is rightly described as ‘the
ultimate in religious intolerance’ and the Kingdom itself
is, in effect, a totalitarian dictatorship, with
effectively no free speech, and, as in other Muslim
countries, women being treated as third class citizens, not
allowed to drive, not have bank accounts or insurance and
forbidden to wear clothes of their own choice.
There can be no freedom and liberty in a society based on a
dogmatic pursuit of compliance with the letter of its
religious encyclicals and such protests more often
represent acts of desperation about self-inflicted wounds.
The real anger in the Middle East and the rest of the
Muslim world is over the problems of poverty, restrictions
on personal freedom, massive corruption, ripping off by
sheiks, torture and mass murder by governments and, within
families, the so-called ‘honour killing’ of women.
Such societies are medieval and antediluvian and have no
place in an era that purports to honour internationally the
UN Declaration of Human Rights. The more oppressive the
regimes, it is often contended, the more likely will their
subjects focus on perceived external threats away from the
more pressing needs of their own societies and such
‘outrages’ about happenings in distant lands are believed
to be orchestrated in a collective fashion. It is just to
divert attention from infinitely more serious internal
dissent deriving from the rape of their own economies and
people by the sheiks and mullahs of these repressed lands.
The implications for freedom of expression and press
freedom, because of these ‘terrorist’ style Muslim attacks,
have rightly been described as a ‘profound question for
Europe’. Our Constitution, in Article 40, enshrines the
right of free expression, in line with other national
constitutions of the free world, and in 1974 the US Supreme
Court, for example, made a judgement that ‘Congress shall
make no law abridging the freedom of the press’. Free
expression is a cornerstone of democracy and its negation
invariably signals the existence of, as Coleridge said, an
There is, however, no absolute right to free expression as
this entitlement is constrained by the laws of libel and
those relating to incitement to hatred and, to an extent,
privacy, but these provisos aside, any credible democracy
must carefully protect this cornerstone of a civilised
society. Some spokespersons, as on the RTÉ programme
Questions and Answers, exhibited very woolly thinking about
this vital right and appeared to succumb to the dangerous
liberalism that makes excuses for fascist and despotic
Is it good enough, just for trade relations, as in the case
of President McAleese, to, in effect, downplay these
fundamental principles and issue virtual apologies to
undemocratic and despotic regimes for what were largely
harmless cartoons, if indeed somewhat insulting?
Politicians, for example, are insulted by cartoons on a
daily basis, but, being in the public eye and in the public
service, they must expect such treatment for any misdeeds
or misdemeanours. Religion is in a different case but
Popes, too, are lampooned as by the likes of Ian Paisley or
Sinead O’Connor, and these insults never spark off
international riots and death threats.
Liberalism and excessive tolerance of despotic regimes is
being taken too far and Britain, for example, is now paying
the price. Militant Islam, says the eminent Iranian writer
Amir Taheri, is, in practice, ‘a political movement
masquerading as a faith’ and the world had better recognise
this threat to all our liberties. Multiculturalism, it is
recognised, breeds racism and, as columnist John Waters
recently asked, do European liberals have the right to
‘sell out the principles over which they have claimed
ownership and so deliver our children into the clutches of
a fundamentalist tyranny beyond their wildest nightmares’?
Muslim victimhood, he also stated, is a virus ‘threatening
to collapse European civilisation because liberals cannot
resist a victim, even one seeking to destroy them’, and if
persons like the President of Ireland or, for that matter,
some ministers, appearing on television, do not stop to
think about such a threat, one must wonder, yet again,
about the quality of our ‘leadership’.
Opin: Illegals Pin Hopes On Three-Leafed Summit
By Ray O'Hanlon Letter from America
Where have all the shamrocks gone?
More’s the point, where are all the bowls?
St Patricks’s Day in Washington has been marked for years
by a ceremony in which a visiting taoiseach hands over a
crystal bowl full of tiny green plants to the American
It is one of the more unusual occasions on the White House
calendar. And the fact that it is on the calendar,
seemingly fixed and immovable, is no small wonder in
The meeting of taoiseach and president is a standout, a
Corrections are welcome here but virtually the only other
entity that has such a guaranteed encounter in the White
House is the turkey that gets a presidential pardon just
before Thanksgiving in November.
The taoiseach and the turkey should get together some day.
They belong to a most
The arrival of sprouting shamrock on America’s shores in
the unlikely month of March dates back to the days when Aer
Lingus first procured transatlantic jets.
Over time, the ceremony that pays homage to a tiny three-
leafed plant has rooted itself in the political firmament.
Back in the Reagan years it reached a kind of zenith.
Reagan was proud of his Irish roots and not shy about
touting them. He would hang St Patrick’s Day photos in the
hallway outside the Oval Office.
During the Clinton administration, especially once the
peace process had been born, the shamrock ceremony was the
precursor to a fairly lively party in the executive
The Bush years have been more muted.
But even with all the larger global issues on his plate,
President Bush has kept up his country’s side of the
And so, with such tradition in mind, Bertie Ahern will make
his way to the White House a little over three weeks from
now clutching the bowl and its fabled contents.
The Oval Office chat over the shamrock will be much the
same as last year. The peace process and its various
problems will likely come tops. Iraq might get a look-in.
Bush might thank Ahern for the use of Shannon as a military
rest stop and make approving note of the recent decision by
the Republic’s government to take part in European Union
But edging in from the corners of the room this year will
be another issue.
Many on this side of the ocean have noted that the shamrock
ceremony this time around will occur just as the now
expected immigration debate on nearby Capitol Hill gets
If predictions come true, the Senate Judiciary Committee
will take up the reform argument early in the month. The
full Senate could well have something to vote on by the end
And right in the middle will be the Ahern/Bush meeting.
Irish politicians from all parties have been raising a
ruckus in recent months over the plight of an estimated
40,000 undocumented Irish living within America’s borders.
This has become a cross-border phenomenon now that the SDLP
has started to agitate on the issue.
In the US itself there is a loud and growing campaign on
behalf of the undocumented being carried out by groups such
as the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
So there is an expectation this year that the shamrock
summit should be used by Ahern as an opportunity to raise
the plight of the illegal Irish, some of whom have been
living in the shadows since Ronald Reagan was in office.
It’s unlikely that Bush has been particularly aware of the
Irish aspect to the immigration conundrum thus far. And, in
truth, the Irish don’t really rate in terms of their
Even 40,000 – and that might be a bit of a stretch anyway –
doesn’t catch the eye against estimates of a total illegal
population of perhaps 11 million.
But behind the 40,000 are 40 million or so Irish-Americans.
Even the fraction of this bloc that is really focused on
the illegal Irish can’t be completely ignored.
Irish-America is a primary reason as to why the shamrock
presentation happens in the first place.
So Ahern will be expected to raise immigration over the
Waterford bowl this year.
And he will be expected to bring some preferably
encouraging news from the meeting with a president who does
seem aware of the importance of getting it right on
immigration, sooner rather than later.
As for those bowls of old?
Tucked in a corner of the White House basement perhaps –
along with Dick Cheney’s hunting trophies.
Opin: Sinn Féin moving to tipping point of change
During Gerry Adams’ speech on Saturday night, I found
myself thinking of Malcolm Gladwell. He is the man who
wrote a book called The Tipping Point a few years ago. In
it, he considers why certain things — everything from
diseases to sartorial habits to ideas — suddenly flood into
society and saturate it.
Gladwell’s conclusion was that three main types of people
are responsible for moving things to this tipping point.
There are Connectors, who know a lot of other people in
different worlds and subcultures; Mavens, who have
information that helps solve other people’s problems; and
Salespeople, who are good at persuading the dubious, using
non-verbal as well as verbal messages.
So what sort of message was the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis sending
out to the general population last weekend? How effective
were they as Salespeople?
To inspire confidence in others, you must first display
confidence in yourself and the Sinn Féin president was
showing that. The shirt sleeves, the occasional jokey
exchanges with his RDS audience, the hand movements, the
well-crafted one-liner — Adams said nothing unexpected but
he did it with complete self-assurance. If you exclude Ian
Paisley in his prime, it’s hard to think of another Irish
political leader so much at home in front of a camera.
The content of speeches on these occasions is largely
determined by who is the intended audience. When Gerry
Adams reiterated a constant theme of his — the need for
republicans to engage with unionists — he was addressing
three audiences: republicans, unionists and (perhaps most
importantly) non-republican nationalists. Some political
commentators make a living out of portraying Sinn Féin as
an extremist party. Gerry Adams’ words and the platform of
stylish young women and well-groomed men behind him aimed
to counter that with a clear message for non-republican
nationalists: “We are reasonable. We are responsible.”
Sinn Fein’s voting base is in the North, where the party is
firmly established as the voice of a majority of
nationalists. It is a different matter in the South, where
it records around ten per cent in opinion polls, and some
commentators maintain that is Sinn Féin’s ceiling.
Maybe those who make these judgments should have another
read through The Tipping Point. Because Gerry Adams looks
very like a classic Gladwell Connector. People may or may
not believe Adams when he denies membership of the IRA but
it is self-evident that he links the republican movement’s
present-day politics with yesterday’s paramilitarism. He
comes from and represents working-class west Belfast while
being equally at ease in the company of middle-class
professionals. He is revered by those who endure social and
economic deprivation and welcomed into the protected world
of people such as Nelson Mandela, Teddy Kennedy and Tony
Blair. Like him or loathe him, the Sinn Féin president’s
links to all these worlds makes him a man of outstanding
As for Gladwell’s Mavens, Sinn Féin is full of them. The
party has built its political reputation on its ability to
listen to people’s problems at a local level and work hard
at solving them. Many of those living hard-pressed lives in
neglected areas have neither the know-how nor the energy to
cope with the world of officialdom. Classic Mavens, Sinn
Féin knows the things that need to be known to make the
system respond to the needs of such people. The party’s
vote in such areas in Belfast, Dublin and Derry is a direct
result of Sinn Féin Maven activity.
Now there are signs that this informed grafting at grass-
roots level is beginning to show in more middle-class areas
as well. The emergence of younger candidates with a middle-
class/professional background and, more strikingly, the
near hysteria their appearance has provoked suggests the
process is well under way. Of course, the kind of media
criticism that Bairbre de Brún, then Mary Lou McDonald and
now Toireasa Ní Fhearaíosa attracted could come from sexual
insecurity — there are political commentators who get edgy
in the presence of women and shrill to the point of
incontinence at the sight of an attractive woman. But it
seems more likely that the overreaction to Sinn Féin’s
emergence in middle-class form comes from a fear that the
ideas of republicanism, for a long time contained within
working-class areas of Ireland, may be beginning to break
While political commentators are still resisting the
notion, Irish political parties have begun to accept that
major concepts in Irish republican thinking — national
unity and social equality — have already escaped into the
body politic. It’s too late to try confining them again.
The only hope is to claim that these are ideas that they,
the political opponents, have been thinking and using all
That’s why the cry of “Us too — we’re republicans!” has
gone echoing throughout the island in recent months. Fianna
Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, the SDLP, even the PDs — all are
yelling that they’ve been misunderstood. Of course they’ve
been republicans all along. It’s just that nobody quite
noticed because they don’t like to brag about it.
As for equality, well, you probably saw the South’s
minister for health, Mary Harney, on television on Monday
night, saying how perturbed she would be if she thought
immigrant nurses were being treated in any way inferior to
Irish nurses. You’d never guess from listening to her that
the man who wants her job as party leader has been loud in
warning against the dangers of immigration and has been
known to sign orders allowing the occasional immigrant
child to be deported while still dressed in his school
This week too, Séamus Brennan, the Fianna Fáil minister for
social and family affairs, was telling anyone who’d listen
that he had just changed things so that 34,000 more people
than hitherto would be able to get higher or full non-
contributory pensions. “That’s a very significant benefit
for those people,” Mr Brennan explains to the public whose
money he is giving back to them.
With an election on its way inside the next year and a
half, the PDs and FF are struggling to escape the
capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw tag and get themselves
identified with this republican notion of fairer sharing of
Does all this mean that republicanism has reached the
tipping point in the South, that it looks as if it is about
to be embraced by the majority of the people there? No. Ten
per cent is a long way from majority thinking. There are
signs that republican thinking has begun to infect the
claims and policies of all the other Southern parties but
fewer signs that Sinn Féin is about to become a major
political player in the South.
On the other hand, a major characteristic of the tipping
point phenomenon is the way major change goes from trickle
to deluge with startling suddenness.
Jude Collins is an academic, writer and broadcaster. His
latest novel is Leave of Absence (TownHouse, £6.99; €9.99).
Opin: Hiss Of Hypocrisy Heard Even Louder
Editor: Colin O’Carroll
The family of Lisa Dorrian have made an impassioned plea
for anyone with information about her murder to come
forward and help ease the family’s agony. Most people in
the North will have heard the name Lisa Dorrian although
many will be unaware of the circumstances surrounding her
death; most people South of the border will have little
idea of who Lisa Dorrian was or why she was killed.
It is one of the depressing political realities of the
peace process that even dead people can be collateral
damage in the battle for hearts and minds. While the case
of Robert McCartney, a man killed in a pub brawl in the
early hours of the morning, became an international cause
celebre, the case of Lisa Dorrian was largely ignored and
has only resurfaced now because of the grim determination
of her family to persist and because it happens to be the
first anniversary of her disappearance. It’s widely
accepted that 25-year-old Lisa was murdered by drug-addled
members of the bloodthirsty gang of cutthroats that is the
LVF and her body dumped at sea. Because it was loyalist
paramilitaries behind the murder, and because in the
hierarchy of victims that exists here, victims of loyalist
paramilitaries are way down the list, Lisa’s disappearance
was reported and then forgotten about. This despite the
fact that it was the kind of story that the media generally
loves – a pretty young woman, a missing body, land and sea
searches, a distraught family.
Contrast that with the McCartney case which involved a
street fight among hard men of the kind that we see every
weekend in every provincial town the length and breadth of
this country. That the man who wielded the knife was
alleged to have been a republican was enough to spark a
political frenzy, the primary aim of which was not to
finger a killer, but to damage republicanism. Those who
championed the cause of Robert McCartney – in Ireland and
Britain – are perfectly entitled to have done just that,
but their abject silence as the Dorrian family scraped
about in vain for help is something that’s between them and
their own conscience.
The sight of the DUP mouthing off again about IRA weapons
after a meeting with General John de Chastelain is equally
hard to swallow. While loyalist paramilitaries continue to
murder, maim, threaten and intimidate in defence of their
drug-based financial empires, the largest unionist party
continues to wail about guns that are not only silent, but
which can never be fired again. A man dies a gruesome death
in a loyalist stronghold not long after he has been exiled
by loyalist paramilitaries and the DUP prefers to impugn
the integrity of a man who has been trying in his own way
to take the gun out of Irish politics.
The good news is that when the sound of republican guns and
bombs is no longer heard, the hiss of hypocrisy comes
across all the louder. That’s a lesson that some people
would do well to learn.
Seminar On Suicide
Those concerned with the issue of suicide and its causes
are invited to attend a Suicide and Sudden Death seminar
which takes place tomorrow, Thursday, in the Riverside Park
Hotel. Two speakers have been lined up to discuss issues
like living with the aftermath and restoring hope for this
bereaved by suicide / sudden death.
Fr Aidan Troy, parish priest of Ardoyne (Belfast) and Jean
Casey, a suicide bereavement counsellor, will speak at the
While there is no cover charge on the door donations are
welcome and refreshments will be served.
Woman Strips Naked To Protest Arrival Of Duffy's Circus
Limerick Animal Rights Press Release Thursday
February 23, 2006 16:00 by John Carmody - Animal Rights
Action Network (ARAN) email@example.com ARAN
Po Box 722 Kildare, Ireland 087-6275579
ARAN Beauty Bares All, Including Truth Behind Irish Circus
For Immediate Release
March 3, 2006
John Carmody 087-6275579
Limerick — Confined to a cage with her nude body painted
like a tiger and a banner above her reading, "Wild Animals
Don’t Belong Behind Bars," a woman will protest the use of
exotic animals by Duffy’s Circus. The protest will
highlight the dangers that animal acts pose to humans and
Date: Friday, March, 3
Time: 12 noon sharp
Place: Start of Cruises Street (Opposite HMV Music Store)
Recently animal protection group Animal Defenders
International revealed for the first time ever their
findings of an undercover investigation into several Irish
circuses in Ireland including Duffy’s Circus. The campaign
report on Ireland's circuses is based on undercover
investigations by ADI Field Officers into seven circuses
touring Ireland in 2000 and 2003. ADI Field Officers
obtained employment with two Irish circuses, and observed
many more. Examples of the violence used to control the
animals were captured in the Irish launch video:
* a camel slapped in the face and then hit in the face with
a broom and finally jabbed with a broom handle
* an elephant kicked in the leg and then punched in the
* a hippo whipped to hurry it along when it was already
walking in the desired direction
* a keeper whipping an elephant in order to get her to move
* a baby camel being roughly handled to force him to move
* a pregnant camel performing just days before giving birth
"This cruelty, these beatings are what the circus is
desperate to hide from the public," says ARAN’s Campaigns
Coordinator John Carmody. "These animals are not
volunteers. They have been deprived of their precious
freedom and beaten for a lifetime of cheap tricks."
ARAN wants the public to know that circuses can in no way
provide for the animals the use and abuse. In order to
force wild animals to perform stressful and often painful
acts, trainers use metal bullhooks, whips, muzzles and
electric prods. These horribly cruel training methods are
commonly used in Irish circuses all over the country.
Animals in circuses have being taken from the wild at some
stage in their life for a lifetime of boredom, misery,
cheap tricks and cruelty. Animals in circuses really are
not volunteers; they are slaves, confined to their ‘beast’
wagons for some 23 hours a day with no room to exercise
compared to that of their homes in the wild and regardless
of them being ‘born’ in the circus, still have the
instincts of their fellow companions in the wild, they like
to roam for miles, go foraging for food and vegetation and
raise their young. ARAN will also be distributing DVD’s of
the undercover investigation into Irish Circuses by Animal
Defenders International that show’s cruelty, neglect,
abuse, beatings and horrid conditions.
Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) will also be
distributing copies of the DVD, leaflets and posters to the
public along and will begin contacting local councilors on
introducing a ‘motion’ to ban circuses with animals coming
into Limerick. These initiatives are already underway in
Galway and Cork city where local councilors are working to
get similar bans.
Copies of the DVD investigation are available upon request.
For full report and pictures of the investigation please
Related Link: http://www.ad-international.org/
First Ever Irish Language Battle Of The Bands A Great
Dublin Arts And Media Opinion/Analysis Thursday
February 23, 2006 19:44 by An Feirsteach - Feachtas
firstname.lastname@example.org 10 Sráid na Mainistreach
Íochtarach 01 8786424
The first ever Battle of the Bands ‘as Gaeilge’ or Cath na
mBannaí as it was entitled, was held on Wednesday night, 22
February @ St. Finbar’s GAA Club in Cabra. Heavy Metal Band
Pariah from Coláiste Eoin in Stillorgan were up against
rival Indie Band, EBO from Coláiste Mhuire in Cabra. After
a hard fought battle it was EBO who came out the other
side, the triumphant victors. However, in true
sportsmanship they applauded their rivals, Pariah and
wished them well in the future.
The event which was organised by the Irish language youth
organisation Feachtas, in conjunction with Na Gaeil Óga,
who organised the protest outside Fine Gael Headquarters
against Enda Kenny’s statement on the Irish language in the
The first prize for the winning band included a trophy and
an opportunity to play at CRAICFEST in the POD , on the
28th February. The event is organised by Na Gaeil Óga and
CRAICFEST will consist of a Kick-Ass County Colours Céilí
(county & club GAA jerseys recommended), the winners of
Cath na mBannaí and the legendary, Belfast based Irish-
language Reggae band, Bréag, followed by a funky DJ set.
Seán Ó hAdhmaill, Development Officer for Feachtas said
that “We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the
performances and the avid interest shown by local young
people, to the mainly Irish Bands. On the phenomenal
success of Wednesday’s event we plan to organise another
bigger and, if possible, better Battle of the Bands before
the end of the school year, with more bands and young
people involved. We are planning on making this an annual
event that will give young Irish musicians an opportunity
and a platform to show off their talent”.
“I’d like to thank the Feachtas clubs in Coláiste Mhuire
and Coláiste Eoin, the staff in both schools, Na Gaeil Óga,
St. Finbar’s GAA Club for making this event possible.”
Feachtas, Óg-Ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge is a voluntary youth
organisation, and is funded by the Youth Affairs Section of
the Dept. of Education. Feachtas organises a wide range of
recreational activities for young people through the medium
of Irish throughout the year, including debates, table
quizzes, trips, and arts and drama workshops through a
national network of youth clubs and after-school groups.
1ú Chath na mBannaí Feachtas 2006
Bhí an chéad Chath na mBannaí de chuid Feachtas ar siúl ar
an gCéadaoin, 22 Feabhra 2006 i CLG Naomh Fhionnbharr i
gCabrach i mBaile Átha Cliath. Bhí an ghrúpa ceoil mhiotal
throim, Pariah ó Choláiste Eoin i Stigh Lorgan i gcoinne an
grúpa ceoil Indie, EBO, ó Choláiste Mhuire i gCabrach. Tar
éis an chath throim throidte b’iad EBO a tháinig amach mar
bhuaiteoirí sa deireadh. I léiriú an-aibí d’iarr phríomh-
amhránaí EBO ar an tslua bualadh bos mhór a thabhairt do
Phariah as a n-iarracht iontach.
Eagraíodh an imeacht seo ag an óg-eagras Gaeilge, Feachtas,
i gcomhair leis Na Gaeil Óga, a d’eagraigh Comhdháil Óige
in Ollscoil na Tríonóide le déanaí.
Ba í chéad duais an “chaith” ná deis seinm ag gig sa POD,
dar teideal CRAICFEST atá á eagrú ag Na Gaeil Óga agus i
gcomhair le USI, ar an Máirt an 28 Feabhra 2006.
Ar chlár na hoíche sin beidh Cic-Ass Céilí na gContaetha
(le geansaithe CLG, idir chontae & chlub), ansin seinnfidh
buaiteoirí Chath na mBannaí agus an sár-bhanna ceoil reggae
Gaelach as Béal Feirste, Bréag. Críochnóidh an oíche le
seit DJ Func.
Dar le Seán Ó hAdhmaill, Oifigeach Forbartha de chuid
Feachtas, “Bhí an-áthas orainn le ard-chaighdeán na mbannaí
agus an tacaíocht a léirigh muintir na háite agus scoláirí
Choláiste Mhuire agus Eoin. Ar dhroim rathúlacht na hoíche
tá sé de phlean againn cath na mbannaí eile níos mó agus
níos fearr (más féidir) a reáchtáil le grúpaí as go leor
scoileanna eile. Tá I gceist againn imeacht bliantúil a
dhéanamh as seo, ag a dtabharfar deis agus ardán do
cheoltóirí Gaelacha a dtallann a léiriú.
“Go pearsanta, ba mhian liom buíochas a ghabháil le
clubanna Feachtas i gColáiste Mhuire agus i gColáiste Eoin,
an fhoireann sa dhá scoil, Na Gaeil Óga, CLG Naomh
Fhionnbharr as cinntiú go mbeadh rath ar an imeacht seo.”
Related Link: http://www.nuacht.com/
A Long March: Ireland’s Peace Process
23 - 2 - 2006
A march by the Orange Order through Ireland's capital is
more than an exercise in the politics of memory, says Conn
Corrigan; it is an opportunity to take the measure of the
country's post-1998 peace process.
On 25 February 2006, members of the Orange Order of Ulster
will march down O'Connell Street, Dublin's main
thoroughfare, and pass one of the Republic of Ireland
capital's most famous buildings, the General Post Office
(GPO). This site, a kind of Irish republican Bastille, is
where Padraig Pearse read out the proclamation of the Irish
Republic to inaugurate the 1916 Easter rebellion.
The rebellion (or "rising" as it became known in Irish
national historiography and popular memory) ended in
military defeat and the execution of its leaders, including
Pearse himself, but – in large part precisely for that
reason – it became a crucial part of the convulsive
national struggle that culminated in the establishment of
the Irish state in 1922-23. Indeed, less than two months
after the Orange Order marches down O'Connell Street, the
republic's armed forces will themselves march in a full
military parade along the same street to mark the
rebellion's ninetieth anniversary.
The Orange Order parade – an early start to the
organisation's "marching season", which can involve as many
as 3,500 parades between Easter Monday and the end of
September – is thus part of a wider political reality
involving a range of commemorations of historical events
that in Ireland are still often deeply contested.
The Orange Order season centres on the 12 July celebration
of the 1690 battle of the Boyne, in which the Protestant
William of Orange was victorious over the Catholic James
II. To commemorate the 1916 rebellion, republicans
traditionally wear Easter lilies. When the Orange Order, an
organisation deeply ingrained in unionism, marches in
Dublin, they will wear orange lilies instead of their
traditional sashes and collarettes so as not to offend
The politics of memory, then, are alive in Ireland. In this
sense the 25 February march, like the Easter Rising
anniversary, is also about current Irish politics. Ten
years ago, when the Northern Ireland peace process was
still in its embryonic stage, the idea of the Orange Order
marching down the Irish republic's capital would have been
as unimaginable for the organisation's members as for
Dubliners. But the march on 25 February is not simply a
local event, nor a regional one; its implications and its
symbolism stretch beyond the streets of Dublin,
reverberating north and south of the island.
Northern Ireland's peace process can be roughly dated to
the first ceasefire declared by the Irish Republican Army
(IRA) in August 1994. This ultimately led to the signing of
the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday
Agreement) in 1998. This agreement meant devolution of
power from London to Belfast, and involved the main
political parties in Northern Ireland (with the notable
exception, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party [DUP]),
as well as the British and Irish governments.
The Northern Ireland Assembly set up as part of the Belfast
Agreement has been suspended since October 2002, after
allegations of an IRA spy-ring operating in the assembly
headquarters at Stormont, on the outskirts of Belfast. This
is only one of the reasons that have led a number of
politicians and political commentators – mainly, though not
all, from the unionist side of the political spectrum – to
view the entire Northern Ireland peace process with dismay.
Yet the very fact that the Orange Order march in Dublin is
taking place can be seen as an indication of how far the
island of Ireland has progressed in the peace-process era.
The marching season in Northern Ireland is synonymous with
tension, particularly when the Orange Order wishes to march
through Catholic neighbourhoods. Typically, they protest
that the Orange Order isn't welcome in their
neighbourhoods, while the Orange Order says that it's been
marching the same routes for generations and sees no reason
why it should stop now. In September 2005, Belfast saw some
of the worst rioting in years following the rerouting – by
100 metres – of an Orange Order parade.
Today, many Catholics in the south, and more particularly
in the north, still regard the Orange Order as an
inherently sectarian organisation, while many in the Orange
Order regard the Irish republic with suspicion and
hostility. As recently as 2000, a march in Dublin was
cancelled, after the then-Lord Mayor, Mary Freehill, faced
a barrage of criticism for inviting the Orange Order to the
Senator Mary Henry, one of the supporters of the march in
2000, said: "This march will say more about us than the
Orangemen … no matter what our views on the Orange marches,
the process of reconciliation and the development of a
tolerant Irish society has to take place here as well as in
Northern Ireland." Not everyone agreed. A statement
released by Sinn Fein, the second largest party in Northern
Ireland (after the DUP) and its leading nationalist party,
said: "For the Lord Mayor of Dublin to invite the Orange
Order to march in Dublin is like the state governor
inviting the Ku Klux Klan to march in Alabama."
An arena for all
Ireland has changed greatly since the peace process began.
Although the majority of the republic's citizens are still
nominally Catholic, it's now a truism that the Catholic
Church in Ireland is no longer the behemoth it once was.
Another great institution of Irish life, the Gaelic
Athletic Association (GAA), has also changed. It decided to
drop a ban on "foreign sports" in Croke Park, its
headquarters and the largest stadium in Ireland.
In effect, the opening up of Croke Park means that soccer
and rugby will be played there, in addition to the GAA's
sports of hurling and Gaelic football. On 10 February 2007,
as part of the six-nations rugby tournament, France will
play Ireland at GAA headquarters. England will follow.
For most Irish people, this will mean much more than being
able to watch their teams play in a nicer stadium than they
are used to. From its beginnings in 1884, the GAA has
always been firmly rooted in nationalism. Up until 1971,
any member found playing or watching "foreign sports" could
be banned or suspended from the organisation, and until
November 2001, no members of the British security services
were permitted to join. There was strong opposition to
allowing soccer and rugby into Croke Park, especially from
northern delegates, where five of the six counties voted
against the suspension of the ban.
A certain class of Irish republicans has long memories:
"800 years of oppression" is a favourite cliché. It is hard
for some of them to stomach the idea of "God Save the
Queen" being played in the same sacrosanct stadium where on
Bloody Sunday in 1920, during the war of independence, the
British Army indiscriminately opened fire, killing twelve
spectators and a player. However, most GAA supporters – in
other words, most Irish – won't have the same post-colonial
chips on their shoulders, and will welcome the English
teams and others to Croke Park. Not simply to forget the
past, but to move on.
Through the prism of "tolerance" and "multiculturalism" (a
particularly modish term in Ireland right now), the Orange
Order's march in Dublin could thus be seen as an important
milestone in the peace-process era, and a sign of the self-
confidence "Celtic Tiger" Ireland now has. This is a
country in which emigration, the bane of Irish life for
well over a century, has replaced immigration, and whose
younger generation is more familiar with "the peace
process" than with "the Troubles" their parents know only
The problems with peace
This last interpretation is optimistic. It's also possible
to see this march as symptomatic of all that is wrong with
the peace process. In 2000, it was the Orange Order's
lodges in Dublin and Wicklow that proposed a march. This
time round, the idea was conceived not primarily with some
goodwill gesture in mind, nor for "bridge-building"
(another modish phrase in today's Ireland, this one
belonging to the peace-process lexicon). It was born out of
The Orange Order has been unequivocal in its opposition to
the 1998 Belfast Agreement. When this agreement was put to
a referendum in 1998, it was passed in Northern Ireland by
a majority of 71%, despite the Orange Order and affiliated
organisations advising their members to reject it. Other
organisations taking part in the march in Dublin include
Love Ulster, set up last year to protest against republican
"concessions" and to prevent a united Ireland, and Families
Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair), who campaign against
the release of paramilitary prisoners and the
demilitarisation of Northern Ireland. These groups are
somewhat representative of sections of the unionist
community in Northern Ireland who feel disenfranchised by
the peace process, which they regard as being weighted in
favour of republicans.
Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, loyalist and
republican prisoners may be released from prison under
licence, provided they have already served at least two
years in jail. If it is found that a released prisoner has
returned to paramilitary activity, his licence may then be
revoked, and he will be returned to prison. Since 1998,
there have been 447 prisoners released, 241 republicans and
194 loyalists. Some of these prisoners are responsible for
torture and multiple killings.
The release of republican – not loyalist – prisoners is one
of the principal reasons the Orange Order and its
affiliated organisations are protesting in Dublin. Fair say
that the march in Dublin "will take a strong victim's voice
to the heart of Dublin where perhaps for the first time the
people of the Irish Republic will be shown the real cost of
Republican terrorism." It claims to be "a non-sectarian,
non-political organisation working for the interests of the
innocent relatives of terrorist victims."
In a way, Fair is indeed non-sectarian, in that it is only
interested in victims of republicans, regardless of their
religion. It's sometimes mistakenly referred to as a
"loyalist support group" which isn't strictly accurate, as
it pays no attention to loyalist victims of loyalists. On
its website, it gives a list, in chronological order, of
victims of terrorists in Armagh, including only those of
republicans. The list doesn't mention 59-year-old Elizabeth
O'Neil, a Protestant, who in 1999 was killed in a bomb
attack on her Catholic husband. Nor does it mention Philip
Allen, also a Protestant, who was killed during a gun
attack on a bar, as he drank with his best friend, a
Catholic, Damien Trainor. Neither is any reference made to
Protestants killed in intra-loyalist feuds.
One of the other issues the Orange Order and its affiliated
organisations intend to raise when they come to Dublin is
alleged Irish police-force collusion with the IRA. On its
website, Fair says that it will soon have information on
"collusion: weapons of genocide imported by the Irish
government and their comrades in the IRA." Fair says
nothing about the twenty-six victims of a loyalist bombing
in Dublin in 1974, some of whom were killed on a street the
Orange Order will walk past as they march to the Irish
parliament. No one has ever been jailed for this atrocity
and it is alleged that the loyalists who carried out the
bombings did so with the help of the British security
The protesters in Dublin will argue – with justification –
that the Irish government is guilty of its own double
standard. Although it tries to persuade the unionist
politicians in Northern Ireland that the release of
republican prisoners is a painful necessity, it also
insists that four IRA members who killed an Irish police
officer, Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, serve the remainders
of their sentences.
The reasons for this are not difficult to discern. It would
be politically damaging in the south for the ruling Fianna
Fail-led coalition to release the McCabe killers. Fine
Gael, the main opposition party, has been quick to pounce
on even the slightest suggestion that Fianna Fail might
release them, with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny repeatedly
warning that the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, has
done some "secret deal" with Sinn Fein to release the
killers. It seems a safe bet that they will serve the rest
of their sentences.
Double standards and hypocrisies
Accusing the Irish government of double standards over the
McCabe issue can be done by republicans as well as
loyalists. Why should the fact that McCabe was an Irish
policeman mean that his killers are not entitled to early
release, when 447 other prisoners, both loyalist and
republican, have already been set free? The response that
McCabe's killing was somehow exceptional because he was a
member of a police force doesn't wash, given that many of
the republicans released in the North were jailed for
killing British security servicemen.
Other terrorists have been released having committed more
heinous crimes and after serving less of a sentence than
the four McCabe killers, who were sentenced to up to
fourteen years in 1999.
In 1997, Norman Coopey, who was a member of the Orange
Order at the time, abducted James Morgan, a 16 year-old
Catholic, while he was hitchhiking. After torturing him,
Coopey bludgeoned Morgan to death with a hammer, before
hiding his body in a pit with animal carcasses. In 2000,
after serving three years, Coopey was released under the
Belfast Agreement's prisoner-release scheme, and returned
home, just six miles from the Morgan family home.
What was particularly striking about this case was that
Coopey only joined a paramilitary organisation while in
prison. He was under no orders to abduct Morgan, who
himself had no paramilitary ties. When Coopey was first put
in prison, he was placed in its non-paramilitary wing. He
then applied for a transfer to the Loyalist Volunteer Force
(LVF) wing of the prison, for his own safety, only then
becoming eligible for the early release scheme. Speaking
after Coopey's release, James Morgan's mother Philomena
said, "I voted for the Good Friday Agreement and I have to
accept that he has been released under it. And despite what
has happened to my family, I would vote yes again. I can
see no other chance for this country."
Perhaps a more egregious example of a double standard is
Sinn Fein's proposed amnesty for the IRA "on-the-runs".
This would include, among others, a member of the gang who
in 1979 murdered Lord Mountbatten, along with an 82-year-
old woman and two teenage boys. Sinn Fein wants the IRA on-
the-runs to be pardoned for their crimes, with no license,
and without ever having to serve a day in prison – while
they expect members of the British security services be
brought to book for their numerous abuses and demand
enquires into their alleged collusion with loyalist
paramilitaries. The British government wisely decided to
drop this proposed legislation, effectively saying to Sinn
Fein that it can't have it both ways.
Sinn Fein's attitude to policing, another key issue in
Northern Ireland, is also contradictory. To date, it
refuses to endorse the Police Service of Northern Ireland
(PSNI) and refuses to sit on any policing boards, which
were set up in 2001. The policing boards are one example of
how the British government has tried to make policing in
Northern Ireland more accountable and equitable; it also
changed the name from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
to the PSNI, something that wasn't easy for unionists,
given the number of RUC men who had been killed by the IRA.
Sinn Fein spokesman on policing and justice, Gerry Kelly,
recently told the party's conference: "The police force has
been a partisan, political, protestant and paramilitary
force." An obvious way to try to change this would be to
encourage nationalists to join, something that the PSNI
would be happy to facilitate, given its 50-50 recruitment
policy of Protestants and Catholics. At present, the ratio
of Protestants to Catholics is 80:20, although the number
of new Catholic recruits has risen from 22% in 1999 to 35%
in 2005. "Whilst the lack of full political and full
community support for policing has at times presented its
challenges", says Sinead Simpson, director of policy at the
Northern Ireland Policing Board, "those who have withheld
support for policing and stood outside the work of the
board and district policing partnerships, have not halted
An endorsement from Sinn Fein would make a huge difference,
however. It is possible that Sinn Fein will revise its
policy of non-endorsement, although it won't come easy for
them – at its recent party conference, 30% of delegates
actually voted for a motion calling on the party never to
endorse any Northern Ireland police force, unless Ireland
is reunified. A special Sinn Fein conference to discuss
policing is planned for later in 2006 – and those Sinn Fein
members who wish to support the PSNI will have a real
battle on their hands.
Old habits die hard
Despite the IRA's commitment of political ends to achieve a
united Ireland, a number of highly publicised incidents
shows that the IRA's old Mafia habits are dying hard. It is
alleged that the IRA were behind the £26 million robbery of
the Northern Bank in December 2004. It is further alleged
that IRA men killed Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub
brawl, and that an IRA member killed Joseph Rafferty in a
personal dispute in Dublin. The McCartney case became
particularly notorious, as details emerged of how the men
involved carried out a clean-up operation of the murder
scene and intimidated numerous witnesses, making the PSNI's
investigation very difficult.
This case also illustrates the double standards and
hypocrisies of republicans: the IRA men involved in the
killing had earlier that day been attending a commemoration
in Derry, for the innocent victims of Bloody Sunday in
January 1972, when British paratroopers shot dead fourteen
unarmed civilians during a civil-rights march. This irony
seemed to have been lost on the IRA and on Sinn Fein, who
for years called for a public inquiry into Bloody Sunday.
By November 2005, the British government had spent an
estimated £163 million on the Bloody Sunday inquiry; Sinn
Fein couldn't even bring themselves to encourage witnesses
to the McCartney killing to go directly to the PSNI, saying
instead that witnesses should contact their solicitors.
The McCartney killing and the Northern Bank robbery meant
that a huge amount of media attention has been focused on
republicans; in the midst of this, it seems to be forgotten
that loyalist paramilitaries have made no moves towards
decommissioning their arsenals – indeed one of them, the
Ulster Defence Association, has explicitly ruled it out.
Furthermore, the bulk of paramilitary killings in 2005
involved loyalists killing loyalists, and while Tony Blair,
Bertie Ahern and George W Bush are each familiar with the
Robert McCartney case, they are probably less familiar with
the murder of Lisa Dorian, who, it is alleged, was killed
by LVF members in February 2005.
Both republican and loyalist paramilitaries are still
heavily involved in criminality. Recently there have been a
number of well-publicised police raids in Dublin and
surrounding counties on businesses suspected of being part
of the IRA's multi-million pound criminal empire. The
latest report from the Independent Monitoring Commission
(established to monitor paramilitary activity) while
"generally positive", also says that the IRA is still
involved in intelligence gathering, and may have retained
some of its weapons, which were supposed to have been
decommissioned in September 2005. Yet another problem that
has been largely by-passed by the southern media is the
ongoing low-level intimidation of Catholics in certain
areas of Northern Ireland, such as the village of Ahoghill,
in Antrim, particularly where they are in the minority.
The wood from the trees?
Despite these many problems, it is undeniable that Northern
Ireland, while still a deeply divided society, has made
enormous progress enjoyed since the 1998 Belfast Agreement,
and has enjoyed a long period of relative peace. There were
at most five murders linked to paramilitaries in 2004; ten
years previously, there were sixty-four.
The Orange Order protesters in Dublin, while protesting
about what they see as wrong with the process, are
inadvertently demonstrating the great strides made in
reconciliation between the two traditions on the island of
Ireland. Even a Sinn Fein member of the Irish parliament
said that the marchers "should be accommodated."
It is well worth noting that in comparison with the other
peace processes birthed in the mid-1990s, such as in
Palestine/Israel, Sri Lanka, the Basque country, and
Colombia, the Northern Ireland peace process – as flawed,
and as painful, and as exasperating, and as stop-start as
it is – has been by far the most successful. The peace
process's detractors, who continually abhor the
"appeasement" and "pusillanimity" of the British and Irish
governments, ignore this.
One of Ireland's best-known journalists, Kevin Myers has
written, for example: "The melancholy truth is that this
State lacked the political will to strangle armed
republican terrorism in its heartland; instead, it
slithered into a policy of abject appeasement, now known as
'the peace process.'" The DUP's Ian Paisley, employing the
Biblical imagery he's so fond of, has said that he wants to
see the IRA humiliated in "sackcloth and ashes."
Though Kevin Myers and Ian Paisley may fantasise about a
total military defeat of the IRA, in a liberal democracy a
total military defeat of an organisation like the IRA
belongs in fantasyland – which is also where the IRA's
ultimate goal, a united Ireland, currently resides. The IRA
is neither defeated nor victorious. But the fact remains
that because of the peace process, today it is Northern
Ireland's politicians – and not its paramilitaries – doing
The 1916 Insurrection In The Liberties
Dublin History And Heritage Opinion/Analysis Thursday
February 23, 2006 14:46 by Andrew - WSM - 1st of May
The area in and around the Liberties and Portobello was the
site of several rebel outposts during the 1916 insurrection
and saw some of the fiercest fighting. The main rebel force
under Ceannt was based in the South Dublin Union (now
roughly St James Hospital) but there were also outposts in
the Mendicity Institute (Ushers quay), Jamesons distillary
(Marrowbone lane), Watkins brewery (Ardee st) and Jacobs
In the fierce fighting at South Dublin Richard O’Reilly was
one of first casualties on rebel side, another brother was
also in the SDU but two further brothers were in the
British army. His brother later observed, “That day there
were two of us fighting for England, two of us against”.
Heavy fighting also took place at the Mendicity Institute.
On the other hand the rebels in Marrowbone lane were
bypassed by the British and it is claimed they were even
able to stage a ceile.
A humorous side of the rising is found in the Citizen Army
group sent to seize a delaying position at Portobello
Bridge to allow fortifications to be constructed in the
centre. They were led a James Joyce who worked in Davys’
bar near Portobello bridge, the bar was to be used as the
outpost. When his unit burst in the bar owner gave Joyce
one weeks notice but Joyce then told Davy he had five
minutes to get out.
A discussion on 1916 and republicanism will be taking place
at the Anarchist bookfair in St Myras hall on March 4th as
part of a series of events the WSM is organising around the
90th anniversary of the rising. Contact us for more details
Related Link: http://struggle.ws/wsm/environment.html
O'Dea Open To Suggestions Over 1916 Celebrations
Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea said he was open to
suggestions to commemorate the principles of the 1916
Proclamation during the Easter Rising ceremonies. "We have
a window of opportunity in the afternoon after the military
parade and before the State reception."
He insisted that the State now cherished all the children
of the nation much more equally than in 1916. "We are a far
more equal and prosperous society, and an infinitely better
John Gormley (Green Party, Dublin South East) said he was
glad to hear that there would be a reading of the
"Does the Minister agree that a central part of the
preparations and celebrations should be to take the 1916
Proclamation as a yardstick of how we have progressed as a
"Does the Minister believe that this Government guarantees
the equal rights and equal opportunities of all of its
citizens? Does he believe the Government cherishes all of
the children of the nation equally?"
Mr Gormley asked how the Minister thought the men and women
of 1916 would feel about the Taoiseach spending €550 weekly
Mr O'Dea said that was not an appropriate question.
Tony Gregory (Independent, Dublin Central) said it would be
fitting if the principles and aspirations of equality of
opportunity, and cherishing all of the children of the
nation equally, would have a central and fitting role.
Finian McGrath (Independent, Dublin North Central) said all
political persuasions, inside and outside the House, all
religious traditions, including Catholic, Protestant and
dissenter, should be involved in the celebration. Part of
any celebration or commemoration, particularly in the light
of the teachings of James Connolly, should be programmes,
projects and investment targeted at the most disadvantaged
Catherine Murphy (Independent, Kildare North) said a
military parade would reflect only an element of 1916. "The
fundamental reason it should be celebrated is not the event
itself, but why it took place."
She said more should be done in the context of a solid
archive rather than a military history. Currently, those
interested must go to about six or seven different
locations, including the archives in Kew, outside London.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (SF, Dublin South Central) said a
military parade on its own would be inappropriate. "It is a
pity that civic society is not being encouraged to be
involved in the 90th anniversary."
Asked by Fine Gael defence spokesman Billy Timmins if any
of the people who were in the GPO in 1916 were still alive,
Mr O'Dea said he did not know.
Mr O'Dea said about 2,500 personnel, representing all
branches of the Defence Forces, together with
representatives of ex-service personnel and veterans of UN
service, would participate in the ceremonies on Sunday,
April 16th. Members of the Garda, representing their
service abroad, would also participate. As well as the
parade through Dublin, there would be a fly-past by the Air
© The Irish Times
Pope Surprised At Fall In Irish Going To Mass
Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Pope Benedict has expressed surprise at the sharp decline
in regular attendance at Mass in Ireland, particularly
among younger people.
Speaking to The Irish Times the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr
Diarmuid Martin, said the Pope was taken aback when he told
him about the situation.
The archbishop said that the most dramatic surprise for him
on his own return to Dublin three years ago was the degree
to which young people had drifted away from active church
"I can go to parishes on a Sunday where I find no person in
the congregations between the ages of 16 and 36. None at
He added: "This has to be looked at in a situation where,
anyhow, regular practice in a substantial number of
parishes in Dublin is below 5 per cent."
Such regular attendance as existed was more a feature of
middle-class Dublin, he said.
"Donnybrook is full compared to comparatively poor
parishes," he said. But where young people were concerned
it was "a huge challenge".
He remarked on the enthusiasm of so many Irish young people
at the World Youth Day events in Cologne last August, which
he attended as did Pope Benedict.
Yet, when they came back to Ireland, there was "little to
engage them" in parishes.
"It was not a case of hostility to the church on their
part, he said, just that they didn't socialise at parish
He addressed these issues in an interview in the March
edition of Intercom magazine and in his talk at the
"Question of Education" seminar in Dublin this week.
The seminar was organised by the Communion and Liberation
group and inspired by its founder Luigi Giussani's book The
Risk of Education.
At that seminar the archbishop asked: "Where is this
missing generation? The challenging message of Jesus Christ
has touched the hearts of generations over 20 centuries,
what are the factors which seem to alienate the current
generation of 15 to 35-year-olds from the church of Jesus
He continued: "I meet young people who have spent up to 10
years attending school-based catechetical programmes and
yet enter into life with only a very superficial religious
Emphasising that he was not criticising "the extraordinary
teachers that we have in our schools", he said "our system
of religious education has not produced results
proportionate to the investment that has been made".
© The Irish Times
Nun To Be Remembered
By Staff Reporter
A SPECIAL ecumenical service is due to be held at St
Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh city today in memory of an
Irish-American Sister of Mercy.
Sr Michele O’Leary, left, who died last year, was the
daughter of Irish immigrants. She founded the Ireland
Institute of Pittsburgh to promote understanding between
Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
The service at 2.30pm will mark the passing of “an
outstanding nun who worked tirelessly in pursuit of peace”.
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