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 18, 2006

McDowell Says SF Likely To Be In Next Govt

To Index of Monthly Archives
To February 2006 Index
To receive this news via email, click HERE.
No Message is necessary.
To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)

News About Ireland & The Irish

DI 02/18/06 McDowell Says SF Likely To Be In Next Govt
BN 02/18/06 Ferris Accuses PDs Of Undermining Agreement
BB 02/18/06 SF 'Will Not Join Policing Board'
BN 02/18/06 SF: 'Offences Against The State Act Must Go'
BN 02/18/06 Gerry Adams Lays Out His Stall
SF 02/18/06 Keynote Address To Ard Fheis 2006
DI 02/18/06 Myth Of Cash Investment Bias Exploded
BB 02/18/06 Order To Meet Over Parades Policy
BT 02/18/06 Name MI5 Officers: Durkan
IM 02/18/06 Candle-Lit Procession From McDowell's Off
DI 02/18/06 Father Seeks Meeting With Sinn Féin President
BN 02/18/06 Shell To Sea Group To Mount Protests Today
BN 02/18/06 Protesters Block Pub Near Stardust Site
SS 02/18/06 Black Watch Musicians To Perform
BT 02/18/06 Opin: Orangemen Should Now Step Forward
BT 02/18/06 Opin: SDLP To Continue With Apartheid Politics
DI 02/18/06 Opin: Kitchens And Glass Ceilings
BT 02/18/06 Republic's Plan To Honour The Somme
IT 02/18/06 Mother Kills Children & Herself: Beyond Reason
IT 02/18/06 Ireland Without Hinde Sight
BT 02/18/06 Belfast Universities To Host St Pat's Bash
IT 02/18/06 Late Late Viewers Pick IRL’s Eurovision Song
GM 02/18/06 Book: ‘The Big Fella' Go Bragh!
BT 02/18/06 Auctions: £550-£800k Estimate For Irish Anthem
GM 02/18/06 The Bloody Red Hand
NY 02/18/06 The Love And Rage Of An Irish Childhood

(Poster’s Note: Podcast of Gerry Adams Speech : Gerry
Adams' Presidential Address to the Ard Fheis will be
available as a Podcast just after 6:30PM GMT. You can
access this at Jay)



Justice Minister Michael Mcdowell Says SF Likely To Be
Coalition Partner In Next Government


Sinn Féin could end up as “kingmaker” in the formation of
the next Irish government, Irish justice minister Michael
McDowell said yesterday.

As thousands of Sinn Féin members gathered in Dublin for
the beginning of the party’s Ard Fheis, Mr McDowell, whose
Progressive Democrats party is the junior coalition partner
in the current government, said he agreed Sinn Féin could
be kingmakers, but said that it would not be a good thing.

“Recent opinion polls show that neither Fianna Fáil nor
Fine Gael are likely to win an overall majority at the next
election. To govern, they will require coalition partners,”
he said.

“Based on past experience it will be the smaller partner
that will define the government’s essential political
direction. The smaller partner will be the defining

“At the next election, when considering what direction they
want for their government, the Irish people will have a
simple choice.

“They can choose between the doctrinaire leftists of
Labour, Sinn Féin and the Greens on the one hand or they
can choose the economically liberal Progressive Democrats
on the other.

He said the involvement of Gerry Adams’ party, the Irish
Labour Party or the Greens in any future government would
not be good for the country.

Martin McGuinness yesterday noted political pundits were
predicting his party could double its representation in the
Dáil, where they currently have five seats.

While this could put Sinn Féin in a position to decide who
would form the next government, the Mid Ulster MP urged
colleagues not to get distracted by the speculation. He
said the party must focus instead on getting more TDs

Mr McGuinness said: “Pundits are saying Sinn Féin is going
to double its representation in the Dáil and if that’s the
case, then that could conceivably cast the party in the
role of kingmaker.”


Ferris Accuses Pds Of Undermining Agreement

18/02/2006 - 13:29:07

The Progressive Democrats are trying to topple the Good
Friday Agreement, it was claimed today.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris told his party’s Ard Fheis that
the PDs share the same agenda as the Democratic Unionist
Party or British ‘spooks’ opposed to the 1998 accord.

Speaking on the All-Ireland Agenda motions of the
conference, Mr Ferris said: “The PDs have continually
attempted to subvert the Good Friday Agreement and to
sabotage political progress.

“In that, they are no different in any way to the DUP or
the anti-Agreement elements within the British security
services. They share the same agenda and the same

The North Kerry TD also claimed that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
caved in to pressure from Opposition parties on his plans
to grant a forum for Northern MPs in the Dáil.

“I am also aware that the current Taoiseach is under
pressure from the right wing, pro-British rump within his
government which is opposed to allowing other
representatives (to participate),” he said.

Mr Ferris also accused Justice Minister Michael McDowell of
"McCarthyite" tactics and his PDs party of being a "’Fifth

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will use today’s Ard Fheis
address to declare power-sharing and party advancement as
his main priorities for 2006.

More than 2,000 delegates have gathered at the event, which
is focusing on the themes of Irish unity and equality.

Mr Ferris accused Mr Ahern of breaking his promise to allow
Northern Ireland MPs to participate in all-party debates in
the Dáil in Dublin.

He said republicans are expected to keep their word on all
issues while others are free to renege on commitments.

“We ought to be used to a situation now whereby the only
people who are expected to adhere to every word and nuance
of past agreements, and indeed to continually go beyond
them, are republicans.

“It seems that everyone else is free to renege on whatever
suits them or which is no longer expedient.”

Mr Ferris added that TDs within Fianna Fáil were unhappy
with the Progressive Democrats’ veto on progress.

“The best way to frustrate these enemies of progress is to
press ahead despite them,” he continued.


SF 'Will Not Join Policing Board'

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said his party will not
join a new Policing Board due to be in place by 1 April.

Sinn Fein is debating policing at its annual conference in
Dublin this weekend.

It comes a few days after the publication of a new bill on
the devolution of policing and justice.

Speaking on BBC NI's Inside Politics
ide_politics.shtml) Mr Adams said the bill was not
sufficient for his party to drop its opposition to the
PSNI, in time for the new board.

"Can we get an extraordinary ard fheis (conference) before
that, can we get legislation before that, can we get the
DUP on board before that - that all appears to be unlikely.

"If we do all of that of course I'm quite prepared to go
before ard chomhairle (party officers) whether it's April
fool's day or not," Mr Adams said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/18 11:09:07 GMT


SF: 'Offences Against The State Act Must Go'

18/02/2006 - 15:59:23

The Offences Against the State Act must be wiped from the
Irish statute books before Sinn Féin goes in government in
the Republic, the party decided today.

Ard Fheis delegates voted narrowly in favour of a electoral
strategy motion insisting that the anti-terrorist
legislation be repealed as a pre-condition before any
coalition talks.

This decision effectively ties the hands of the party
leadership in advance of next year’s general election.

The 1939 Act led to the establishment of the non-jury
Special Criminal Court which tries terrorist cases.

Dublin South-West TD Sean Crowe earlier urged the party not
to limit its options in advance of the general election.

He said: “I do not know if government is ready for me, but
I am ready for government.”

The party’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness drew
laughter from delegtes when he remarked that he had
experience of coalition government, and with unionists.

But he warned that voters would make the decision whether
the party entered government or not.

He said: “I don’t think we can afford to be presumptuous.
The people who will decide the next election with be the


Gerry Adams Lays Out His Stall

18/02/2006 - 08:48:05

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will use today’s Ard Fheis
address to declare power-sharing and party advancement as
his main priorities for 2006.

More than 2,000 delegates will gather at the Dublin event,
which is focusing on the themes of Irish unity and

Party supporters are also buoyed by the 90th and 25th
respective anniversaries of 1916 Rising and the 1981 Hunger
Strikes in coming months.

Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness last night
insisted that political talks were still working and threw
down the gauntlet to the Rev Ian Paisley to sign up to

Mr Adams is expected to expand on this theme in this
keynote speech today, and call for more political
engagement from the Democratic Unionist Party.

He will also outline plans to maximise party support in the
run-up to next year’s general election.

Mr McGuinness has said that Sinn Féin could be cast in the
role of kingmaker when it comes to forming a government in
Leinster House.

Motions banning coalition with Fianna Fáil and others
appear on the programme for today’s discussion on electoral

Delegates last night called for a special conference to
debate the viability of the Agreement “as a vehicle to
advance the struggle for a 32-county democratic socialist

Guest speakers on today’s programme include Micheal O
Seighin of the Rossport Five group and Dunnes Stores worker
Joanne Delaney, who says she was sacked from her job in
Crumlin because she wore a union badge.

Other invited delegates include members of the NUE-NGL
political group in the European parliament and visitors
from Portugal, the Basque country, Cyprus and Sweden.

Jim Monaghan, a member of the so-called Colombia Three on
the run from Bogota authorities, made a surprise appearance
on the opening night of the Ard Fheis.

Sinn Féin said the wide-ranging motions reflected the high
level of debate that is ongoing through the party.


Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin Keynote Address To The
Party's Ard Fheis 2006

Friends and comrades, we are gathered here this weekend on
the eve of the 90th anniversary of Easter Rising and on the
eve of the 25 anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. These
two events have in their own time been defining periods in
the history of this island, in the development of the
struggle for Irish freedom and in the politics of Irish

On both occasions the heroism and self-sacrifice of a small
number of Irish republicans, pitting their own lives
against the might of the British war machine transformed
the politics of the nation. The men and women of 1916
inspired and energised the modern struggle for Irish
freedom which has continued through to this day. In 1981,
the men and women prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh
and Armagh Gaol, through their endurance and perseverance
broke Thatcher's attempts to crush this struggle for full
freedom and independence.

The British government and their apologists in Ireland, and
there are many of them, failed to defeat our struggle.
Today we are stronger than ever before. There are more
Irish republicans on the island of Ireland and beyond than
at any time since partition. Irish unity is on the
political agenda as a real issue despite the efforts of the
revisionists and the partitionists north and south. The
failure, politically and economically, of the 6 county
state is widely accepted, its abnormality is recognised in
the unique provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and its
existence is increasingly regarded as an anomaly that will
be resolved through Irish unity in the near future. Much of
this progress is the result of the Sinn Fein peace strategy
which we developed in the late 1980s. Through our central
role in the peace process Irish republicans have opened up
many new arenas of struggle.

The peace process is the way forward.

Republicans have delivered big time. The IRA have ended
their armed campaign. And its time for people to deal with
this fact and get real.

The time has come for the British government to commit
themselves to purely peaceful and democratic methods.

This means:

Ending their spy rings

Ending direct rule

Taking British troops out of Ireland

Republicans have been the driving force behind the peace
process and this strategy is delivering for all the people
of Ireland. The peace process has transformed this country.
It's a better place to live for the majority of people.

There are those who would do anything to stop our agenda.
In fact they would reverse it if they could. But that
shouldn't surprise us. These are the people who profited
from inequality, injustice and partition.

Theirs is the politics of the past. Ours is the politics of
the future.

I want to send out a clear message from this Ard Fheis that
Sinn Féin mean business. We are up for the challenges
ahead. Dublin and London need to show that they can meet
those same challenges.

We are serious about engaging with unionism. But the DUP
have to come to terms with the new realities. They have a
huge decision to make. I hope that they make the right

If he makes the wrong decision there is a huge
responsibility on Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair to make it
clear that the DUP are not going to be allowed to prevent

If that means stopping the Assembly salaries so be it. If
that means abolishing the Assembly so be it.

We want to see is Ian Paisley sharing power. We want t o
see Ian Paisley on the North South Ministerial Council. We
are for Plan A If that doesn't work then the two
governments need to come in and make it clear that joint
decision making is the only way forward.

But whatever approach they take, whether or not the
Assembly and the Executive are restored, and that remains
our objective, We in Sinn Féin will continue with the
essential work of building towards the Irish republic until
we have the freedom to which the men and women of 1916
committed their lives. We will succeed. This peace process
despite all the difficulties is working. The political
landscape of the north is transformed. The political
landscape in the south is changing as we speak. We are
going to bring about the change.. We are going to bring
about the re-unification of out country. ENDS


Myth Of Cash Investment Bias Exploded

Ciarán Barnes

Unionist areas are almost 33 per cent more likely to
benefit from inward investment than nationalist areas,
statistics released by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO)

A breakdown of the North’s 26 council districts show that
the 14 with unionist majorities have had £491 million (€717
million) invested in them since 2000. This figure
represents an average of £37 million (€54 million) per

During the same period the ten council areas with
nationalist majorities benefited from an investment outlay
of £288 million (€420 million). This represents an average
of £28 million (€42 million) per constituency – £9 million
(€13 million) less than unionist constituencies.

The Belfast and Armagh council areas, which are evenly
split between unionist and nationalist, had an investment
total of £242 million (€353 million).

The SDLP’s John Dallat said the statistics blow a hole in
the argument that unionist communities are underfunded.

He said: “The argument put forward by unionists on this
matter is non-existent.

“They have developed a persecution complex to justify their
failure to join a power-sharing government with their
nationalist neighbours.

“In my own East Derry constituency and on Coleraine borough
council it is nationalist communities that are underfunded
in comparison to unionist areas. This is reflected in the
majority of areas throughout the North.”

Following a week of intense loyalist rioting in Belfast
last September, unionist political leaders claimed the
violence was partly down to a lack of investment in their

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Assemblyman William Hay
supports this view, insisting unionist communities are
seriously underfunded.

He said: “I would challenge these investment figures. Come
into any working-class unionist community in Northern
Ireland and you will see serious poverty and deprivation.

“I’ve spoken to government ministers on this issue and made
a case for more funding.

“When it comes to funding applications and investment there
is no doubt that the nationalist community is better at
getting it. The unionist community has arrived at this
issue late, but this is no excuse for the British
government’s years of underfunding.”


Order To Meet Over Parades Policy

The Grand Lodge of the Orange Order is due to hold a
meeting in Belfast to reconsider its policy on parades.

Despite unofficial contacts, and one meeting of individual
members with the Parades Commission, the policy of the
Order is not to engage with the body.

Many would like to change this, but that may depend on a
government commitment to review the framework on which the
commission works.

However, the last review three years ago changed little.

If a commitment to change the commission was forthcoming,
there could be some engagement prior to this summer's
marching season.

Views at Grand Lodge are known to be diverse and any vote
could easily go either way.


But it is understood there is a recognition that the make-
up and approach of the new commission - which now includes
two Orangemen - is very different from any that went

The Orange Order members of the commission are David
Burrows and Don MacKay, who are members of the Portadown
lodge which wants to parade along the Garvaghy Road - a
mainly nationalist area.

Orangemen last walked down the Garvaghy Road from a church
service at Drumcree Parish Church in July 1997.

However, the Parades Commission has since banned them from
parading down the road following objections by nationalist

The commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on
whether or not restrictions should be imposed on
controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching

New appointments, including Mr Burrows and Mr MacKay, were
made to it in November 2005.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/18 09:30:39 GMT


Name MI5 Officers: Durkan

By Chris Thornton
18 February 2006

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has asked Home Secretary Charles
Clarke to name the top MI5 officers in Northern Ireland.

Mr Durkan tabled a series of written questions at
Parliament in Westminster yesterday relating to the
Government's plans to give MI5 an extended role in Northern

The agency, officially known as the Security Service, will
take over the lead role in intelligence gathering about
national security issues from the PSNI next year.

Mr Durkan tabled eleven questions about MI5 and its
operations in Northern Ireland, including the names of its
senior officers and how many former RUC members are serving
in its ranks.

Many of the questions highlight the difference between
police reform in Northern Ireland in recent years and a
lack of information about MI5.

"I'm trying to show we really know nothing about MI5, so
how can we be expected to have confidence in them," said Mr

He has also asked whether external cultural diversity
training is given to MI5 recruits in Northern Ireland and
whether they must register membership of either the loyal
order and Freemasons - measures that currently apply to
PSNI officers.

He also wants to know whether 50/50 recruitment applies to
MI5, what is the religious breakdown of MI5's Ulster
recruits over the past 10 years, and the agency's current
religious composition.

"The PSNI has had the Patten report. The reforms are not
perfect and complete but they are well under way," Mr
Durkan said.

"MI5, by contrast, is unreformed and largely unregulated
and unaccountable.

"I have asked these questions to highlight this fact."

Mr Clarke is due to answer the questions soon. "We'll see
what his answers tell us and his non-answers tell us," Mr
Durkan said.


Candle-Lit Procession From Minister Mc Dowell's
Constituency Office

dublin crime and justice event notice Saturday
February 18, 2006 15:51 by Cosantoiri Siochana (group
authorship) - Cosantoiri Siochana - the peace network

Join in the candle-lit procession next Thurs, 23 February
at 5.30pm!

Concerned citizens and activists are planning to hold a
vigil next Thursday, 23 February at 5.30pm at The Diamond,
Ranelagh, Dublin (and, if possible, also outside Justice
Minister McDowell's constituency office) in a bid to force
him to implement the law regarding aircraft landing at
Shannon Airport. Those planes MUST be searched for
suspected torture victims and radioactive weapons.
Furthermore, there will be a call to stop the harassment of
peace activists who monitor Shannon.

Cosantoiri Siochana invite people to join them for this
candle-lit vigil which will terminate by walking in single-
file procession to Rathmines Garda Station to hand in a
signed letter to the Superintendent commemorating the

Candles will be supplied but please, if possible, bring a
along a jamjar or other suitable receptacle in case of
breezy weather!

A group of concerned citizens, irate constituents and peace
activists are planning to hold a candle-lit vigil next
Thursday, 23 February at 5.30pm at The Diamond, Ranelagh,
Dublin in a bid to force Justice Minister, Michael McDowell
to implement the law regarding the searching of all
aircraft landing at Shannon Airport. If possible, the group
will also congregate outside McDowell's constituency office
before marching in single file to Rathmines Garda Station,
where they will hand in a signed letter to the
Superintendent commemorating both their concern and their
peaceful action.

Despite substantial grounds for suspecting that aircraft
landing at Shannon are involved in torture, Minister
McDowell insists that the gardai have no right to
mandatorially search aircraft. As citizens of Ireland, we
wish to complain o f suspected grave breaches of Irish
human rights law. Section 4 (1) of the Criminal Justice (UN
Convention against Torture) Act 2000 states:

'A person shall not be expelled or returned from the State
to another state if the Minister is of the opinion that
there are substantial grounds for believing that the person
would be subjected to torture'.

Furthermore, the Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Dail
in November 2005:

'A state is obliged (under the European Convention on
Human Rights) to take measures when it knows that there are
substantial grounds for believing that a person faces a
real risk of being subjected to torture'.

Flight records for CIA-chartered planes from September
2001-September 2005 shows that six of these planes have
landed at Shannon more than thirty-five times. These
include a Gulfstream jet, N379P, involved in the abduction
of two men from Sweden in 2001, from where they were
'rendered' to Egypt and allegedly tortured; a 737
registered as N4476S, which had been spotted at Shannon,
and which took part in the kidnapping of the German,
Khaled-el-Masri, who was taken to Afghanistan and tortured;
and the plane involved in the abduction of Abu Omar from
Italy to Egypt in January 2003, which Minister Martin
Cullen admitted made a 'technical stop' at Shannon during
that mission.

Minister Dermot Ahern said in November 2005: 'If anyone has
any evidence of any of these flights, please give me a call
and I will have it immediately investigated.' Additionally,
Minister McDowell told the Seanad in June 2004: '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
international law for that matter.'

A complaint has already been issued by the Spanish Supreme
Court for similar illegal acts perpetrated by the US in
Spain. Germany and Italy have launched investigations, and
the Council of Europe is conducting a continent-wide
inquiry into alleged complicity by European states in
illegal detention and torture. In these circumstances, why
has a recent attempt to launch a Seanad investigation been
blocked? Not only are the Irish authorities preventing the
Gardai from doing their duty, they are also effectively
criminalizing Irish citizens who have played a key role in
documenting the extent of Irish complicity in the 'War on

There are substantial and urgent grounds for suspecting
that grave breaches of human rights law are taking place at
Shannon and we call on Justice Minister, Michael McDowell
to order an immediate investigtion.

Please join us at The Diamond, Ranelagh, next Thursday, 23
February at 5.30pm in an effort to force McDowell to act!
Candles will be supplied but it's advisable to bring along
a jamjar or other suitable receptacle in case the weather's


Father Of RAF Airman Killed By Loyalists Seeks Meeting With
Sinn Féin President


The father of a member of the British army murdered by
loyalists wants to meet with Gerry Adams to discuss his
son’s death.

Raymond McCord told Daily Ireland he is seeking a meeting
with the Sinn Féin president in the coming weeks. The
campaigning father met with senior officials from Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern’s office in Dublin yesterday.

Next week he will hold discussions with Ulster Unionist
leader Reg Empey, and Alliance party chief David Ford.

During the meetings, Mr McCord outlined the circumstances
surrounding the murder of his son, Raymond McCord Junior,
and the alleged police cover-up that followed.

The 22-year-old Royal Air Force member was beaten to death
in a quarry on the outskirts of north Belfast in November
1997 by an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang. Three of
those involved were high-level paramilitary informers.

They escaped prosecution in return for continuing to
provide police with information on UVF gangs in north
Belfast and south Antrim.

Mr McCord Junior was killed because he had threatened to
expose the double agents’ drug-dealing activities.

After his meeting in Dublin yesterday, Mr McCord said face-
to-face discussions with Mr Ahern are now only weeks away.

He also revealed he wants to discuss his son’s death with
the Sinn Féin leadership.

“I’m a Protestant from a unionist background and my son was
a member of the RAF, but that shouldn’t stop me meeting
with political parties who could take up my case,” said Mr

“Asking for a meeting with Gerry Adams will raise a few
eyebrows, but the fact of the matter remains, my son’s
murder is one of the greatest examples of collusion in the
last 30 years.”

Mr McCord said he asked Irish government officials to call
on the British government to explain why there has only
been two prosecutions in relation to 30 UVF murders since

He added: “Politicians like to use the word equality, well,
what about equality for the victims of the UVF.

“The group has killed 30 people in the last 12 years, the
majority of whom are Protestants. Only two people have been
prosecuted for involvement in two of these murders. Why is
this? I believe it is because the PSNI is still protecting
its UVF informants.”

Meanwhile, speculation was mounting last night that the UVF
is preparing to make a statement announcing the disbandment
of its unit in the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast.

The unit, which is riddled with police informers, has been
responsible for more than a dozen deaths in the past
decade, including that of Raymond McCord Junior.

More recently its members stabbed to death 15-year-old
schoolboy Thomas Devlin as he walked home after buying
sweets at a shop.

The Mount Vernon gang has been a source of embarrassment to
UVF in recent months, with its members featuring regularly
in sensational Sunday tabloid newspaper articles.


'Shell To Sea' Group To Mount Multiple Protests Today

18/02/2006 - 09:47:05

Protests against Shell Ireland are due to take place at
locations across the country today.

Members of the 'Shell to Sea' group will be mounting
pickets in Cork, Ennis and Belfast.

Shell's European headquarters in the Netherlands is also
expected to face pickets.

The protestors want crude oil to be processed at an off-
shore facility, instead of current plans which involve
bringing it ashore with a pipeline for processing in Co

Spokesperson Bob Kavanagh said that today's action is aimed
at putting the issue back on the political agenda.


Protesters Block Re-Opening Of Pub Near Stardust Site

18/02/2006 - 12:23:10

A protest is taking place in the Dublin suburb of Artane
this morning against the opening of a pub adjacent to the
site of the Stardust nightclub fire.

About 100 people are protesting against the re-opening of
the Sliver Swan pub which was destroyed in the blaze that
killed 48 young people on Valentine’s Day 25 years ago.

The pub was originally due to open on Wednesday but was
postponed by angry protests from the families of Stardust


Britain's Military Musicians To Perform

(Poster’s Note: To see how many Irish feel about the Black
Watch see Irish Freedom Committee Opposes Black Watch US
Tour Jan-Mar 2006
freedom_committee_opposes_.htm Jay)

By Pat Sherman
Union-Tribune Community News Writer
February 18, 2006

ESCONDIDO – For centuries, as British troops headed into
battle, somewhere in their midst could be heard the
melancholy wail of the bagpipes, instilling fear in the
enemy and fortitude among comrades.

The pipers were part of the Black Watch, the oldest
Highland regiment in the British Army. The musical combat
soldiers were named for their dark green and blue kilts,
which appear black from a distance.

Southern Californians will get a taste of the music and
pageantry when the Black Watch performs with the band of
Welsh Guards at 8 p.m. March 4 at California Center for the
Arts, Escondido.

“When one hears the pipes being played, it goes straight to
the heart,” said Maj. David Kemmis Betty, tour commander
and pipe president. “It makes you think of who you are,
where you come from, what regiment you're in, and it
definitely is good for morale and pride.”

What: Black Watch and the Welsh Guards
When: 8 p.m. March 4
Where: California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 340 N.
Escondido Blvd., Escondido
Cost: $45 to $55 general admission; $37 to $52 seniors
Information: (800) 988-4253 or

The show consists of about 90 performers, who will play the
traditional music of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland,
including songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “The Irish
Washerwoman” and “Black Bear.”

The Welsh Guards usually play for the Queen of England,
during ceremonies such as the changing of the guard at
Buckingham Palace. This is the first time they have
accompanied the Black Watch on a U.S. tour.

Capt. Will Colquhoun, an officer in the Black Watch, said
the regiment was originally organized to keep peace among
the clans of the Scottish Highlands in the early 1700s.

“Different officers had their own personal pipers, and his
role would have been to pipe the company forward, wake up
the company in the morning or pipe at the day's end, to
signify the working day,” Colquhoun said. “As that
progressed, the pipers were amassed or grouped into pipe

Black Watch members are primarily trained as soldiers.
Through the years, the role of bagpipe music has diminished
on the battlefield, though the pipes are always brought
along to rally troops or entertain locals during calmer
periods – often leaving a lasting impression.

“I remember playing the pipes in Basra, and a very old man
came up and said he could remember the boys of the Black
Watch playing in Mesopotamia back in the first World War,”
Kemmis Betty said.

The Black Watch has a long history of military service in
other countries, including the United States, where they
helped fight against the French in the Battle of

“We fought very closely alongside Americans in both World
Wars ... and then in Korea in the 60s,” Kemmis Betty said.

Most recently, the Black Watch served in Iraq, going into
Basra in 2003 and then north to Fallujah to help fight the
Shiite uprising alongside the U.S. Marine Corps.

“The pipes and drums particularly took the brunt of the
pain (in Fallujah),” Kemmis Betty said. “We suffered quite
a few casualties with suicide bombers.”

In homage to their long history fighting alongside U.S.
soldiers, the Black Watch will perform service marches of
the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with the Welsh

“We always get the Marines standing up and shouting,”
Kemmis Betty said.

The performance will also include footwork by the Highland
Dancers of the Black Watch.

Dancers will perform the intricate Highland fling to a tune
called the “Black Watch at al-Basra,” composed in 2003 by a
pipe major serving in Iraq. They also will demonstrate the
historical sword dance.

“The sword and the scabbard are laid on the ground in a
crossed formation, and they start by dancing around the
edge of the sword and then dancing over the top of the
sword,” Kemmis Betty said. “It's very fast and very

The dance was once used as a demonstration of spirit and
strength within the regiment.

“Allegedly, after battle, it was danced-over swords that
running in the blood of the enemy,” Kemmis Betty said.

“We haven't done that for a long time.”


Opin: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me...

BY Robin Livingstone

Let me see if I’ve got this Denis Donaldson thing right.

:: Denis was recruited by the British some 20 years ago, at
a very vulnerable time in his life. Check.

:: He worked for the Special Branch as a tout. Check.

:: He took money for telling the Brits things about his
chums. Check.

:: He didn’t bother telling his Branch handlers that he had
a shitload of stolen documents in his bedroom. Now hold on
a cotton-pickin’ minute.

I don’t mind having my intelligence insulted. I watch
Newsnight and I listen to Five-Seven Live, so when it comes
to having your intelligence insulted, I know that of which
I speak. But, come on...

Last week on the BBC the Pravince’s flagship current
affairs programme, Spotlight, did a piece on the Donaldson
affair which accepted without demur the Special

Branch contention that while Denis did indeed have a
standing invite to their Christmas parties, never once had
he mentioned the fact that the epicentre of the IRA’s
spying empire was situated under his bed between a biscuit
tin of old family photos and a pair of carpet slippers.

Now I’m not your typical Northern journalist, but I am a
journalist. True, I don’t travel up to Thiepval barracks
for drinks with blokes named Nigel wearing green jumpers
with patches on the elbows and shoulders. But I’m still a

True, I don’t go to soirees at Stormont, guzzle free booze
with blokes in suits with plummy accents and then fall
asleep with my face in the canapés. But I’m still a
journalist. Which means that I’d have been a little bit
sceptical at that briefing when the Branch tried to explain
away that little Stormontgate difficulty.

– So, Donaldson worked for you at the Branch.

– Yes.

– And he got paid for it?

– Plenty. You want to see his condo in Miami.

– What kind of things did he tell you about?

– Oooh, all sorts. The colour of the tiles in the bathroom
at Adams’ house in Donegal. Fra McCann’s favourite karaoke
bar in Santa Ponsa.

– What about the stolen documents under his bed?

– Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Rien du tout.

– Why was that then?

– No idea. Perhaps he was crushed by guilt and wanted to
doublecross us in some kind of crazy act of redemption or
defiance, I don’t know.

– You been watching Spooks on TV? How much would he have
got if he’d told you about the spy ring?

– Hard to say, really.

– What did he get for the Fra McCann info?

– A conservatory.

– So this would have been a nice little earner, right?

– We’re talking tax exile.

So, no. I don’t buy this Denis-never-told-us baloney and
neither, I suspect, does anybody else.

UNDER surveillance

You have to think that if they can recruit blokes like
Denis and get huge bugs into Connolly House they can do
just about anything.

Sinn Féin party stalwarts are said to be singularly
unconcerned by the fact that they’ve been infiltrated and
bugged for God knows how long, as one told me from Rio de
Janeiro and another said from a coal bunker on the
outskirts of Drogheda.

I think they’re right to be unconcerned. Some months ago I
discovered that every room in my house had been bugged over
a period of some 18 months. I confronted my old pal, Chief
Constable Hugh Orde, about the matter. Sadly, Hugh refused
to hand over the entire transcripts, but he was good enough
to slip me an A4 summary which was discussed recently at a
staff meeting of the Joint Irish Section of the Joint
Intelligence Committee chaired by the director and co-
ordinator of intelligence at the NIO.

Target: Robin Livingstone. Male journalist. Extreme
republican thought to be on the point of compromising
and/or exposing our network of informers and agents
provocateurs in west Belfast referred to hereinafter by the
codename CIRA. Also believed to be an IRA quartermaster.

Room no 1 (reception/TV area)

Subject has clearly been trained in sophisticated anti-
surveillance techniques as he continually lies vertically
on the settee out of the scan of our pinhead camera and
places the television remote control on his chest to run
electronic interference on the sonar wave microphone.

Subject is in habit of listening to music, especially at
night and at weekends when regular and unidentified pops
and cracks can be heard.

Please disregard our initial assessment which identified
the noises as experiments in improvised explosive devices
(IEDs). Acoustics experts have since told us they are wine
bottles and beer tins being opened.

Room no 2 (kitchen/dining room area)

Subject has secreted a two-way radio in this quadrant in
which he carries on one-way, sometimes exasperated and
frequently hostile conversations with a number of his
superiors with RoI accents who we have identified as 1)
Marian Finucane; 2) Pat Kenny; 3) Des Cahill; 4) Vincent
Browne. Suggest all four are terminated with extreme

Penchant for international cuisine suggests that subject
has travelled widely to training camps or on fund-raising
missions: Old El Paso fajitas; Goodfellas pizza; chilli
Pringles; Birds Eye chicken tikka.

Also, the presence of HP sauce suggests he may have been
involved at some stage with the England Department.

Room no 3 (bathroom and toilet)

Subject is in habit of singing in the bath/shower –
particularly favours The Broad Black Brimmer and Sniper’s
Promise. When exiting bath/shower sucks belly in and makes
muscleman poses in front of mirror.

Voracious reader of seditious material while performing
evacuations. Experiments frequently with facial disguises
while shaving possibly in preparation for resumption of
hostilities – left goatee beard on, for instance, but
quickly removed it when children burst out laughing; tried
three-inch sideboards and bandido moustache, but quickly
removed them when children burst out crying.

Room no 4 (bedroom)

Subject is clearly an experienced and considerate lover
whose lengthy nocturnal activities often necessitate a
shift change for exhausted monitoring teams.

Three female agents removed from operational duties after
trying to contact subject without authorisation and on
their own time.

‘Pillow talk’ information is unfortunately limited because
heavy bass tones of Barry White songs on CD make
satisfactory audio recording difficult; video images
similarly unsatisfactory because bedroom is usually lit
only by candles. Possible link with Tokyo branch of the Red
Army Faction as subject favours mid-thigh-length silk
Japanese dressing gown with bell sleeves and a dragon on
the back. Subject is extremely ___ - ___ ___ and often ___
his _____ with –––––– or ––––different ––––– in a typical
night. Frequently _____ his ______ exotic massage
techniques are _____by his _______ who ________ amazed and
eternally grateful (Transcription incomplete – message


Opin: Orangemen Should Now Step Forward

18 February 2006

Although sources close to the Orange Order were playing
down the chances of a major shift in policy, the fact that
the ruling body of the organisation was meeting today to
review its parades strategy must be an encouraging sign.

As is widely recognised, the Order has got itself on a hook
over its boycott of the Parades Commission, and it is time
for a fresh approach to be taken. The fact that the
Commission has changed, and now includes two Orangemen in
its line-up, provides a golden opportunity.

For too many years, the Order has let its case - often
containing a valid argument - go by default because it
refused to get involved in dialogue and negotiation.
Residents' groups, which suffered no such inhibitions, were
free to attempt to win hearts and minds of those making key

The Order's traditional parades are part of Northern
Ireland's diverse cultural heritage, but Orange leaders
have too often regarded their right to march as being the
only pertinent consideration. The mayhem which engulfed
Belfast following the confrontations at the Whiterock
parade in September is a grim reminder of what can happen
when things go wrong.

Such ugly scenes exacerbate community tensions and do
untold harm both to the image of Northern Ireland and to
the Orange cause. Far better to follow the example of the
Apprentice Boys and seek consensus with other interested

Despite the Order's attempts to enforce its policy
rigorously, cracks are already appearing. Several Orangemen
have sidestepped the ban to meet the Commission, albeit on
an individual basis.

The fruits of such contact, though, were clear for all to
see in Londonderry last July when negotiations enabled the
main parade to take place in the city centre for the first
time in many years.

The Order has everything to gain and nothing to lose by
rescinding its ban and engaging not just with the
Commission but - under its auspices- with local residents'
groups as well.

Such a strategy might not resolve every problem but it
would increase the prospect of agreement being reached on
the handful of contentious parades which do such damage to
the Order's image. No point of principle would be

Another major step forward would be to give the parades a
more carnival-style atmosphere, as is already starting to
happen at certain demonstrations. This would give them much
more appeal to locals and to tourists.

The Order may be rooted in history but it cannot ignore the
challenges of the 21st century. Today, the Grand Lodge
should not miss the opportunity to vote for pragmatism and


Opin: SDLP's Charter To Continue With Apartheid Politics

By Barry White
18 February 2006

SAMUEL BECKETT, in his play Endgame, said it all about
Irish politics. "I love all the old questions," says Hamm.
"Ah, the old questions, the old answers, there's nothing
like them."

Round and round the not-so merry-go-round we go, looking
for solutions and chewing over the old questions and
answers. We know them so well, because they're trotted out
at every crisis, but each generation of British politicians
has to learn that we have no intention of doing anything
about them.

If only unionists could be more nationalist and less
attached to Britain, they think. And if only nationalists
would bide their time, going for what is possible here and
now, to make it a gentle transition if they reach the 50%
plus one vote.

I don't really blame our direct rulers for getting things
wrong. Thanks to the intervention of Clinton, Blair and
Ahern (not to mention Bono) and the unrepeatable unionist
leadership of Trimble, we forgot our fears and took a leap
in the dark with the Belfast Agreement.

We did it again (or at least Paisley did, for a while) in
the comprehensive agreement of December, 2004, but those
days are long past. Trust evaporated, after the Northern
Bank hoo-haa and it will have to be reconstituted, over a
long period, before the two extremes are ready to inch

The nationalists are ready for anything, of course, because
they feel they've got friends everywhere. They've nothing
to lose, by entering a coalition executive and pushing
their all-Ireland agenda, whereas unionists feel they've
not much to gain.

They might be able to exercise a little power, shared with
Sinn Fein and the SDLP, but they'd always be looking over
their shoulders and wondering if they were getting too
close to Dublin or too far from London. Would it be worth
it, they are thinking, when the risk of stumbling into a
virtual united Ireland is so great?

Just look at what the latest greener than green paper of
the SDLP says about the development of all-Ireland
institutions. They want the cross-border bodies expanded
left, right and centre, until there'd be more integration
between north and south than between Northern Ireland and
Great Britain. Unity by osmosis, you might call it.

It may help the SDLP win back some votes from Sinn Fein,
though they have the same job as Reg Empey, trying to dent
the DUP, but it won't convert many unionists. It's a
charter to continue with apartheid politics, green
nationalist versus orange unionist, whereas the only hope
of restoring power-sharing must be through the dilution of
both traditions and an acceptance of reality.

Reality doesn't win elections, of course, and that's why
it's wrong to blame the politicians for peddling dreams.
We've all had too much encouragement for them, from outside
Northern Ireland, and then people like Tony Blair wonder
why we vote for parties who can never agree.

Now the word is that he's going to force the pace of
change, by giving us a straight choice between a revamped
Assembly and greater joint authority rule. He may save the
annual £30m cost of the Assembly, but he'll pay out a lot
more to keep the apartheid society, looking to London and
Dublin, cosseted from real life.

The crunch could come if Gordon Brown finally achieves his
ambition. If he has any opinion about this place, other
than wishing it would disappear, no one has heard it. Tony
may be getting a little distant, in his despair, but Gordon
could be a lot colder and miserly, when it comes to bailing
us out of our perpetual crises.

Postmen beware. When a friend in Dublin was having her car
tested, she was surprised that the inspector was so
meticulous and so careful to explain what was wrong. He was


Opin: Kitchens And Glass Ceilings

Laurence McKeown

I don’t know if Carál Ní Chuilín, Sinn Féin councillor on
Belfast City Council, will be the party’s nominee for mayor
in the forthcoming elections. They have still to choose
their candidate. What I do know is that she would be an
excellent choice. Female, young, articulate and with a
capacity to deal with all people from all walks of life.

It was Carál who founded Tar Anall, the republican ex-
prisoner centre now based in a very modern, bright,
spacious section of a renovated Conway Mill off the Falls

Prior to that the centre was located on the Andersonstown

It was the first centre of its type – established before
any of the European monies arrived following the first IRA
cessation of August 1994. Carál went on to help establish
many of the other ex-prisoner centres around the north,
building on her experience of Tar Anall.

The latter itself is now a bustling centre of activity with
classes and programmes available for the very young to the
much more mature.

And while carrying out all this activity Carál was still
able to rear two children as a single parent. An excellent
choice for mayor you would think. Experience of life, of
poverty and hardship, but with a capacity to rise above the
material conditions of deprivation and create the

Unionists are apparently aghast however, because Carál is
also a former political prisoner. How could such a person
represent their beloved city. Well, firstly, it’s not
‘their’ city; it’s our city and ‘our’ in this instance does
not mean Sinn Féin but all who reside in the Belfast
Council area.

The other thing is that in case they haven’t noticed,
republican ex-prisoners are everywhere, involved in all
sorts of professions and areas of work whether as
academics; in community and economic development, in arts
and commerce and anywhere else you expect to find active,
creative people. They are elected to councils, to the
Assembly, Westminster and Dáil Éireann.

As a former prisoner it would not be historic these days to
be elected Mayor of Belfast.

Alex Maskey, interned several times, has already filled
that position and generally regarded, even by large
sections of the unionist community, as having performed his
duties in a very progressive and egalitarian manner.

Which makes you wonder. Is it because Carál is a woman? A
young woman. A young, articulate, confident republican
woman. Now, isn’t that a frightening prospect.

Laurence McKeown was a republican prisoner for 16 years in
Long Kesh and spent 70 days on the 1981 hunger strike. He
is the author of a doctoral thesis, co-author of the
feature film H3 and plays The Laughter of Our Children and
A Cold House.


Republic's Plan To Honour The Somme

Order says war stamp is first class

By Dan McGinn
18 February 2006

ORANGE Order chiefs yesterday gave their stamp of approval
to plans by the Republic's postal service to mark the 90th
anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

However, the organisation criticised Royal Mail's failure
to do the same in the UK.

An Post revealed plans to mark the anniversary of the First
World War battle in a letter to the Order's Grand Lodge.

Orange Order director of services Dr David Hume praised the
Republic's postal authorities.

"The Battle of the Somme is remembered with honour across
Northern Ireland and in parts of the Irish Republic such as
Donegal and elsewhere, which helped fill the ranks of the
36th Ulster Division," he said.

"We all know the tragic consequences of that summer day in
1916 for individuals and families, and in the small
Protestant communities of the border counties of Ulster the
impact was even greater.

"It is entirely fitting that the Irish Republic should mark
this anniversary, and I have no doubt this gesture will be
appreciated within the unionist community," he said.

Between July 1 and November 13, 1916, the Somme witnessed
one of the First World War's bloodiest battles.

By the end of the battle, the British suffered around
420,000 casualties, the French 195,000 and the Germans
around 650,000.

The 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought in the

The Orange Order today expressed disappointment that the
Royal Mail had no plans to issue a commemorative stamp like
its counterpart in the Irish Republic.

A spokesman said the Order was told by Royal Mail it only
marked anniversaries in multiples of 50 or if it was a
Royal occasion.

However he noted a special set of stamps was issued in
October to mark the England cricket squad's victory in the

"We were led to the conclusion that Royal Mail considered
winning the Ashes a royal occasion," he said.

"This response from Royal Mail was rather disappointing and
contrasts with the response from An Post in the Republic of


Beyond Reason

This week, a Dublin mother is believed to have killed her
two young sons and then killed herself. Though shocking,
it's not an isolated incident. Why do such tragedies
occur, asks Shane Hegarty

The killing of a child by a parent shocks society like no
other death. It seems to society the most irrational of
acts, a warping of the natural order in which a parent is
supposed to give life, not take it away; is expected to
nurture, not destroy.

When a parent takes both their own life and their child's
life it especially challenges our notions of victimhood.
Such an event often becomes a "tragedy" rather than a
murder. There will be mourning not only for the victims but
for the perpetrator. It is difficult to imagine any other
circumstances in which the murdered person would share both
a funeral service and burial plot with their murderer.

The killing of a child by a parent - filicide - also poses
considerable challenges to psychologists, governments and
the law, and they are only recently attempting to
understand what drives a parent to this most terrible of
acts, and how it might be prevented in future.

Research suggests that it is difficult to generalise.
Parents kill their children for a variety of reasons, and a
subsequent suicide might not necessarily have been planned.
But what emerges clearly through the statistics and case
studies is that a parent is often driven to kill by the
very nurturing instinct they seem to have abandoned.
Experts call it "altruistic filicide". At the moment of the
killing, they are often acting out of a sense of love and
protection, though this is distorted to a horrific extreme.

When Mary Keegan and her sons Glen (10) and Andrew (six)
were found dead in their Firhouse home in Dublin this week
it once again put the issue in the spotlight. Other than in
cases of infanticide - in which the child is under one year
old and killed by its mother - Garda statistics make no
distinction between filicide and any other homicide.
However, it would appear that before this week's events at
least 16 children have been killed by their parents in the
State since 2000. In many of these cases, the parent then
took their own life.

Most of these deaths occurred in a cluster during 2000 and
2001, when deaths such as those of six-year-old Deirdre
Crowley (shot by her father) and of two-year-old Robyn
Leahy (stabbed by her father) led the Government to
commission research into the phenomenon. The then minister
for social, community and family affairs, Dermot Ahern,
asked the Family Support Agency to examine whether there
was a broader trend behind the cases in which fathers had
killed their children after marital breakdown, and whether
the State might be able to put better supports in place to
prevent further deaths.

SUCCESSIVE MINISTERS FINALLY got the project moving last
year, when an expert group was assembled and included
representatives of Barnardo's, the National Children's
Office and the Central Mental Hospital. However, it quickly
ran into the problem posed by having such a small research
sample. Its remit was broadened to include cases other than
post-separation deaths, but even then it was felt that it
would be difficult to investigate cases without
compromising the families' privacy or even gaining their
co-operation. The project has now stalled. And when the
attempt fizzled out last year it became clear that Ireland
needed to look at other countries in seeking to recognise
and prevent such potential deaths.

Research into filicide in Sweden, Finland, South Korea,
China, Canada and the US has offered some insight.

Motives identified include: mercy killings (in the case of
ill children); a psychotic reaction in which the parent
might believe they are being commanded to kill the child;
an altruistic belief that the murder is in some way saving
the child from a greater harm; accidental death from
maltreatment; or killing a child as revenge against a

While there is little evidence as to whether men or women
are more likely to kill, there seem to be certain gender

Fathers are less likely to kill for perceived "altruistic"
motives, and more likely to do so during abusive emotional
outbursts. Killings are often triggered by the breakdown of
a relationship (something that seems discernible in a
handful of Irish cases). Men are also more likely to take
their own lives after the event, possibly because suicide
is more prevalent among the male population generally. They
also have a greater tendency towards familicide, the
killing of the entire family.

Women, according to the studies, are more likely to use a
"hands-on" method, such as drowning, suffocation or
strangulation, while men are more likely to use a weapon.
Mothers also seem more liable to kill younger children than
fathers. Globally, the killing of teenage offspring is
extremely rare.

While severe post-natal depression does occasionally lead
to a psychosis in which a mother can become delusional, the
very low numbers of children killed before the age of one
suggest that longer-term mental illness plays a part. In
many countries, the courts tend to be sympathetic in this
regard, with women more likely to be found guilty but
insane than in other murder cases.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, STUDIES have found that in most cases of
filicide-suicide the parent has a previous history of
mental illness. Filicidal women have often become socially
isolated to the extent that the relationship with their
partner and children may be their only major social
interaction. And while these mothers generally express how
much they love their children, they tend to have a sense of
personal inadequacy and a lack of parenting skills. It is
the parent's belief that he or she is killing their
children as an act of kindness - how the irrational becomes
rational - that is most disturbing.

"The core of this is the delusional system," explains Dr
John Bogue, a forensic psychologist at NUI Galway. "And
these delusions can be very powerful. The whole basis of
delusion is that it's a firmly held belief, it's absolutely
the reality for the individual, and so rationality goes out
the window. So in the case of 'altruistic homicide', the
love of the parent gets diverted into protecting the
children against something like, for example, imminent
thermonuclear war, or disease. The maternal or protective
influences are enmeshed within the delusional system."

Dr Bogue recalls a case in Scotland in which a man killed
his children because he believed events in the Middle East
were about to trigger a nuclear war. "To us, looking from
the outside, it's an extremely violent and tragic act. But
for that person at that moment, it might be agonising and
they may be very distressed, but they would be absolutely
convinced that this is the correct course of action to

In the case of filicide-suicides, the child might be seen
as an extension of the parent. "If somebody's in such a
severe depressive state that they have a feeling their
circumstances are hopeless, and by extension their loved
one's circumstances are hopeless, the suicidal motivation
can extend to significant others," says Dr Bogue.

REGARDING POSSIBLE PREVENTION, research has concluded that
doctors should be alert for cases in which the child might
be "over-loved", considered an extended part of the self or
is the focus of paranoid delusions. The problem for
psychologists is that it is often very difficult to
identify a potential problem. It is not uncommon, after
such deaths, for neighbours and family to comment on how
the parent seemed perfectly normal. They may have even
continued everyday chores - going to a match or booking a
holiday - right up until the terrible act.

Identifying those at risk, says Dr Bogue, can be very
difficult, because even extreme mental illness might not be
outwardly obvious. "More often than not, the risks have
been successfully managed and we don't hear anything about
it, but on those occasions when an individual is outwardly
presenting themselves quite normally they could well be
operating in a delusional system."

It is extremely difficult to prevent murders, even when we
have a good idea of who is likely to commit them, explains
Dr Ian O'Donnell, of University College Dublin's Institute
of Criminology. "With gangland killings, we know these are
young, urban men, with poor levels of education, probably
with criminal records. Even with that kind of information,
which narrows it down significantly, it's going to be
virtually impossible to predict which of these individuals
is going to end up taking a life or being a victim. And
when you're talking about filicide, an even rarer event,
it's very difficult to talk about risk factors."

Because such a large number of people share
characteristics, such as post-natal depression, it is very
difficult to identify everyone at risk. Even after an
event, especially when there are no survivors, it can be
difficult to get any clear answer as to why someone acted
the way they did.

In suicide cases, even notes that are left behind seldom
reveal many answers, says Dr O'Donnell. "It's extremely
difficult to come up with a tool that's accurate to an
acceptable level. And what I mean by that is that if you
included everybody who satisfied the risk criteria, there
would be so many people you could do nothing." The
phenomenon might initially seem like a modern one, but Dr
O'Donnell observes that a sub-strand - the killing of
babies by their parents - is not new to Ireland. "In the
1950s, one in six homicides involved the killing of a baby.
In 1952, for example, the majority of recorded homicides
involved babies. People have short memories.

"And the other thing is that we thought differently of
children then. They weren't invested with the same amount
of care and attention as they are now. So it was partly the
shame side of it and the stigma, and also the economic
consequences of another mouth to feed."

In modern Ireland, however, each time a parent kills a
child it raises questions. The Government recognised that
the numbers of separated fathers killing their children
needed to be examined. Other cases have queried the way in
which we treat mental illness.

Answers, though, have not come easily. It is thankfully
rare, but it is a terrible fact that children are more
likely to be killed by their parents than by anyone else.
It would appear that the only certainty is that this week's
tragedy will not be the last.

© The Irish Times


Ireland Without Hinde Sight

A Chinese film-maker shows Ireland to an audience of 500
million, writes Zak Murtagh

Linfeng Xue suggests we meet in the Good World restaurant
on Dublin's George's Street, where she promises they'll
serve tea until it's time for the dim sum evening menu. Xue
should know. The 42-year-old documentary film-maker has
spent seven years in Ireland working with the Chinese
community for her series, Root in the East.

The documentaries have been broadcast by the state-owned
China Central Television network, a global Chinese channel
called Phoenix and by at least 10 other provincial
channels. A conservative estimate would indicate that each
of her documentaries has an audience of more than 500
million. Xue's Root in the East was also the first series
on Chinese television to focus directly on Ireland.

Her original idea for the films was to concentrate on the
small but well-established group of Cantonese people who
came here mostly from Hong Kong; now she admits the 22-part
series has evolved into much more than that. "I began
making the series in 1999 and by 2001 more and more
mainland Chinese were coming to Dublin," Xue says. "I
realised that I couldn't tell the story of the Chinese here
without learning some of Ireland's cultural and social
history first - issues such as emigration, the role of
religion and the struggle for independence. I knew my films
were going to be the first thing that the majority of
Chinese viewers had ever seen about Ireland, so it's my
responsibility to give an accurate representation," she

"After the documentaries were aired, I received many e-
mails and phone calls from Chinese people asking my advice
about going to Ireland for work and study."

Xue studied literature in her native Beijing and claims the
discovery of translated works by Joyce and Beckett were
what initially attracted her to Ireland. "I was fascinated
that so many famous writers came from such a small
country," she says. However, Xue is aware young Chinese
have different role models and reasons for coming now.
"When a lot of young Chinese think of Ireland, they think
of Riverdance or Westlife. And the IT industry, of course,"
she adds.

Making the 22 documentaries that comprise Root in the East
has brought Xue all over Ireland. The themes of the
documentaries have varied considerably. One, about Irish
traditional music, was shot in Sligo; another filmed
President Mary McAleese on her visit to Beijing. But the
series concentrates on the mundane - and often difficult -
experiences Chinese people encounter when trying to find
accommodation and English-language schools.

"One part of the series was about a young Chinese student
in Dublin who moved 10 times in six months," Xue says. "A
mixture of pride and bad landlords meant he was forced to
live under a bridge at one point." Another of the
documentaries concerned a Chinese businessman whose car was
broken into in Limerick city. Xue filmed the reaction of
the Garda to the incident to reassure her viewers that the
Garda treat crimes against all nationalities in the same

Her determination not to show Ireland in the John Hinde
picture-postcard sense has won Xue acclaim in both Chinese
and Irish circles. "You have to show both sides. Overall,
Ireland is a very welcoming place for Chinese. But I have
come across rip-off accommodation and some bad English-
language schools where they promise a certificate so long
as the student pays the fees." Travelling frequently
between Ireland and China, during a period when both
economies have grown remarkably, has allowed Xue to compare
how the boom times have affected the societies. "Chinese
cities are becoming richer but the rural areas are still
very poor. Here the country is still green. In China it's
different. Lack of infrastructure in country villages means
most of the houses are without running water or
electricity. Even the great rivers are becoming polluted."

Xue says we could learn from the Chinese about protecting
our heritage, at least in the culinary sense. "Maybe
Ireland's prosperity is making people forget their past. In
China we are very careful to remember our traditions, such
as food recipes which are thousands of years old. Young
Irish people seem to prefer food from other countries." By
offering dim sum at teatime, perhaps Xue is partly to

Linfeng Xue's Exploring Ireland, a film reflecting on her
work in Ireland shows at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
Castle, as part of its Chinese Spring Festival programme on
Sat, Feb 25, at 4pm.

© The Irish Times


Belfast Universities To Host St Pat's Bash

18 February 2006

NORTHERN Ireland's two universities will stage a St
Patrick's Day Festival in a bid to prevent drink-fuelled
trouble on the streets of south Belfast, it emerged last

It is hoped the inaugural festival will provide a focal
point for celebrations and improve community relations.

Residents in the Holylands area of the city, close to
Queen's, have long expressed concerns over anti-social
behaviour among students.

But the problem is particularly acute on March 17 when
revellers fill pubs and clubs in and around the city

The event will feature social, cultural, sporting and
entertainment events aimed at both students and residents.

Queen's disclosed last month that over 150 students were
penalised and warned about conduct during the second half
of 2005. The figures were revealed as the university
announced community wardens were to patrol the streets in
the area.


Late Late Viewers Pick Ireland's Eurovision Song

Last updated: 18-02-06, 10:52

Brian Kennedy will represent Ireland in this year's
Eurovision with his own song, which was voted for last
night by viewers of the Late Late Show.

The winning song "Every Song Is A Cry for Love" was
performed by Kennedy last night, along with two other songs
which were also in contention.

He said after the result was announced: "I am so delighted
that the public have chosen this song but I would have been
proud to bring any of the three songs I performed tonight
to Athens. I'm really looking forward to representing
Ireland on the Eurovision stage. Roll on 18th May!"

Commissioning Editor of Entertainment programmes, Kevin
Linehan, said: "Brian did justice to all three songs
tonight. Any of them would have given us a great shot on
the Eurovision stage. We are sure that Brian will do
Ireland proud in Athens in May." The Eurovision Song
Contest Semi-Final takes place on Thursday 18th May, in
which twenty-four countries will compete for ten places in
the final. These ten will join the fourteen countries who
have already qualified for the final, which will be held on
Saturday 20th May. RTÉ Television will broadcast both shows
live on air.

© 2006



'The Big Fella' Go Bragh!

Mick: The Real Michael Collins
By Peter Hart
Viking, 485 pages, $39

In recent years, I've been half-expecting -- half-hoping,
half-dreading -- a management/leadership book based on
Michael Collins, a.k.a. "The Big Fella," a.k.a. "Mick."
Collins was the revolutionary leader in Ireland's War of
Independence, and later Ireland's first head of government
after the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Collins's death during the Irish Civil War set down the
fault lines of 20th-century political life in Ireland. He
died at the age of 32, at the hands of former comrades-in-
arms in an ambush in his home county of Cork, bringing
anguish to Ireland, and a bitterness that has only recently
softened. Béal na Bláth, the name of that bend on the quiet
country road where Collins died, only adds poignancy:
Literally, it means "mouth of flowers," but properly, it's
an open gate into the meadow.

Several years of civil war would pass before naïf or zealot
could call Ireland's Free State any kind of a promised
land. For decades after, Ireland was a somnolent,
threadbare, conservative country, chloroformed by the
Catholic hierarchy and run by a self-satisfied petit
bourgeoisie. But almost a century has passed since
Collins's time, and Ireland seems to be coming into its
own, a promised land, its capital's skyline filled with
cranes and its people intensely integrated into a continent
brought to its doorstep by Ryanair.

Picking a title for that self-help book would be a cinch.
Call it Mick's Way: The Big Fella's Guide to Achieving the
Impossible. On any given day, Collins's to-do list would
have included: a) Organize and raise the finance for
Ireland's War of Independence and then the government that
he led post-Treaty; b) contest and win parliamentary seats
four times; c) organize, train and arm the IRA before and
during the War of Independence; d) direct that guerrilla
war; e) wreck British intelligence -- oxymoron aside -- in
Ireland with his own hit squad; f) negotiate the Anglo-
Irish Treaty; g) lead the first independent government in
Ireland; h) command the Irish Army in defeating the anti-
Treaty forces (Eamonn de Valera et al.) in the Civil War;
i) leave plenty of time for boisterous sessions of drinking
and sing-songs, and Indiana Jones-style escapes from
military and police primed to shoot him on sight.

Daring, dangerous and handsome (until you got close enough
to see the teeth of a heavy smoker), Collins was the first
glamorous guerrilla in the communications media of the
time. Collins made his own luck, but while he was a
conventionally religious Catholic Irishman of his time, he
was no mystic follower of the likes of Patrick Pearse, who
led the 1916 Rising. That Rising, in which Collins played
his part, had been inspired by a potent combination of
Catholic devotional zeal and a cult of sacrifice wedded to
the ideals of Irish republicanism. All this from a farmer's
son whose modest education did not include finishing
secondary school.

To me and many of my generation and circumstances growing
up in Ireland, Collins seemed part of our lives. How often
I heard uncles take Collins's side in heated discussions.
Most were in good humour, and frequently larded with subtle
mischief, and with a witty, indulgent raillery I miss more
and more. Nonetheless, politics was serious business, and I
was walked carefully and expertly by my uncle Dan around
every square inch of Béal na Bláth. This pilgrimage was a
gentle effort, perhaps to give me some inoculation against
my own parents' politics. At the time they were Fianna
Fáil, the anti-Treaty, anti-Collins and IRA side. Mention
of Collins stilled any partisan wrangling, and the
conversation would ebb when his name came up. Often there'd
be quiet before the talk turned to something else. It was
acknowledgement that Collins's death was an insufferable
loss for all.

A lost leader then, a fallen hero. Material for a
leadership guide? If so, prospective writers had better
rush to Mick: The Real Michael Collins, Peter Hart's
enthralling study. Relying only on documents in the public
record -- a first for biographers of Collins -- Hart has
produced a meticulous, doggedly factual and minutely
detailed account. Quickly running up the flag of resolute
skepticism about charisma and the dark currents that swirl
around it, Hart -- Canada Chair of Irish Studies at
Memorial University of Newfoundland -- wisely and bluntly
declares his determination to get beyond the myths that
accrued around Collins, so much so that he does not
hesitate to describe Collins as ruthless and dictatorial.

Mick is so carefully considered, so detailed and so
nuanced, that a final delight will land on the reader only
after the book is finished. Hart is at pains to point out
that Collins was no "hero" in the mould of Martin Luther
King or Nelson Mandela. But what does that say? I am
reminded of Wallace Stevens's poem, Examination of the Hero
in a Time of War: "Each false thing ends . . ./ After the
hero, the familiar/ Man makes the hero artificial/ But was
the summer false? The hero?" In the end, it is still awe
that leaks through Hart's account.

In Hart's minutely detailed work, we meet Collins the
statesman, the diplomat, the man of public record. His face
is emblematic of the lightning mind working behind it, that
of an instinctive and hard-headed opportunist. We meet
Collins the instinctive autodidact, a man who went within a
few years from being ridiculed ("heaving his shoulders and
tossing his head," as one detractor said) to being admired
and, finally, idolized. Adaptable, vigorous and
unflinching, Collins takes shape as that rarest of people,
a revolutionary who made a good statesman.

Hart ascribes Collins's success to several key factors.
aside from timing and luck. Collins designed his own
apprenticeship. Making his way through Conradh na Gaeilge
(the Irish language and cultural organization), the Gaelic
Athletic Association and into the Irish Republican
Brotherhood, he readily attached himself to figures of
influence, making himself available to the point of
becoming indispensable. Collins had an instinct for
friendship and conciliation, a characteristic renowned
among his extended family. Crucially, he maintained those
connections lifelong. He was brave, not reckless. He
demonstrated level-headedness and nerve under terrible

Allied to this were a sheer vitality and work ethic, an
instinctive opportunism, and a capacity to learn and master
massive amounts of information. Hart depicts Collins as a
man temperamentally driven to win, to the extent of
parlaying mediocre skills in sport through sheer tenacity
and exertion into being regarded as "a useful hurler." More
than once, we are also judiciously reminded that Collins
consistently sided with militants in all the organizations
he joined or split from.

Collins was no pocket Napoleon, however, no rabid ideologue
swollen by an atavistic urge to bloodletting and score-
settling. Hart offers us Collins the committeeman and
pragmatic democrat, Collins the commendably anti-clerical
Irishman, well immunized by a native intelligence from the
grip of the Catholic hierarchy. Here is Collins the
anglophile, a man who treasured his time reading Thomas
Carlyle and his years working in London before the 1916

Though Hart is cautious about charisma and committed to
studying Collins as a politician, he allows less weight
than he should to Collins's demonstrable care and empathy
for others. In his wrap-up, Hart charges that Collins did
not care for "the cause" (i.e. Irish independence) any more
than other figures in the nationalist camp. This is a
curious charge. It jangles as much as Hart's earlier reach
into the "ruthless," "dictatorial" territory. In dire
circumstances, isn't the latter decisive? Hard-headed,
unsentimental, rational?

Just as odd, even gratuitous, is the charge that Collins
was not a passionate, thinking nationalist, a man who
agonized over cause and consequence for ordinary people. It
is not simply partisan -- though I certainly am -- to say
that Collins cared deeply and obviously for the welfare of
those whom he saw to be his constituency, and to those whom
he did not.

It is a truism that revolutions are not the business of the
destitute, but of the petit bourgeoisie whose aspirations
are thwarted. Hart pointedly notes that Collins was not a
reflexively aggrieved Irishman wanting to "get back" at the
English/British. Rather, his years in London merely
amplified his Irishness, but at little or no cost to his
appreciation of English culture. Collins had no axe to
grind at that core of personality where resentment and
privation turns to grievance and hatred. He came from a
comfortable, striving family whose antecedents had survived
privations. It was there that Collins surely had imparted
to him that absolute, unquestioning acceptance, that
steady, loving regard that affords a child lifelong
resilience and tenacity.

It did not hurt that Collins was the youngest of eight
children, born to a father decades senior to his wife. "Oh,
the white-haired boy," as you'll hear said in Ireland yet,
he was doted on, and certainly cherished, educated and
championed, especially by his sister Hannah (a fabulous and
trenchantly Cork name, it should be noted) while in London.

It is compelling to speculate on the effect of Collins's
father's advanced age on his son. Here was a man born in
1815, and 75 when Michael was born, who spoke Irish and who
lived through the Famine as an adult, whose life paralleled
the tumultuous century of change and calamity in Ireland,
going back even to the bloody 1798 rebellion. Collins's
generation was not going to be pulverized or easily
exported, as had their antecedents. They were cresting the
wave of an Irish cultural renaissance, however bogus that
confection of Gaelicism that formed its foundations appears

Indeed, Collins's generation's resistance to that unique
mixture of cruelty and prejudice, of good intentions thrown
in with that arrant and often demonic stupidity on the part
of British administrations and occupiers, was greatly
strengthened, and financed by, Irish-American support,
perhaps the decisive factor in the arrival of the Treaty.
Ironically, it was also seeded by an excellent primary
school system instituted by the British administration.
That generation was charged even more by decades of
economic stagnation, and the threat of conscription during
the First World War.

Though sometimes numbing in recounting the machinations of
committees and procedures, Mick readily compensates with
delightful glimpses of Collins's character. Even those who
despised him -- Churchill's lifelong hostility was a blend
of racialism, snobbery, unconscious envy and fear in
matters Irish, personifying an incomprehension of the Irish
by the British -- could not but note Collins's innate
buoyancy, his "Corkness" (a delightfully apt term applied
by a British official who sensed the strength Collins
brought from his rearing).

As much as his aptitude for learning and leadership,
Collins's charm and magnetism made him a more ferocious
enemy to the British government. When he emerged from the
shadows of guerrilla war, rumour and legend, and showed up
in the glare of publicity surrounding the Treaty
negotiations in London, the task of demonizing him as a
cold-blooded fanatical killer in British public opinion was
all but impossible. Add to that his ebullience, his humour
and the boyish playfulness that marks the survival of a
true innocent. While he could read a situation, a weakness,
a secret aspiration or intention with startling clarity
from a mile off, Collins embodied that paradox of genius,
the impossible mixture of innocence that somehow goes with
a penetrating acuity. To his great credit, Hart allows us
to see that. His book will prompt another visit, a wiser
and perhaps a more melancholy one, to Béal na Bláth.

John Brady writes the Matt Minogue mystery series set in
Ireland. His most recent, Islandbridge, has just been
short-listed for the Hammett Prize for literary excellence
in crime writing.


Auctions: £550-£800k Estimate For Irish Anthem

By Michael Drake
18 February 2006

A SLICE of Ireland's turbulent history will come under the
hammer when Adams and Mealy's join forces in Dublin to
stage the Independence Sale.

A major event, scheduled to coincide with the 90th
anniversary of 1916 Easter Rising, it will feature numerous
significant historical artefacts including the original
words and music to Ireland's national anthem and poignant
handwritten last letters from Easter Rising revolutionaries
hours before execution.

When it is all over these two auction houses could be
enjoying the success of the most significant sale ever held
in Ireland.

It will comprise previously unseen documents of the utmost
historical importance charting Ireland's struggle for

Scheduled during Easter week, it will bring to public
attention a number of significant lots of historical,
political and national value.

The original words and music to Ireland's National Anthem
is estimated to fetch £550,000-£800,000.

Handwritten by Peadar Kearney in 1907 on two pieces of
paper, the Soldier's Song (Amhrán na Bhfiann) was
popularised by Irish revolutionaries during the Easter
Rising and formally adopted as Ireland's National Anthem in

Kearney, the uncle of the Irish playwright Brendan Beehan,
was interned in Ballykinlar camp for a year in the 1920s.

Stuart Cole, Director of James Adam & Sons tells me: "This
sale is unique in every respect. No sale of such national
importance has ever been held before, and we imagine it
won't be matched for a long time after.

"Many of the items consigned for auction are one-offs.
Previously unseen and entirely irreplaceable, they derive
from important Irish families directly involved in the
Easter Rising and the battle for Irish independence."

The National Anthem will be auctioned alongside items that
together track the history of the Irish revolution - from
the spark of 1798 right through to the British Government's
telegram announcing the declaration of the Irish Free

There are 400 lots catalogued for the sale, including Sean
McDermott's poignant handwritten letter on the eve of his
own execution, addressed to John Daly, Mayor of Limerick.

Michael Collins' typewriter and an essay he wrote on
Ancient and Modern Warfare when aged 14 will also draw
strong attention.

Around the sales

At Ross's a collection of fine Irish art drew strong
bidding and a 100% sale.

Among lots were: Blackshaw - Homage to Humbert Craig, oil
on canvas, signed, £4,500; Norman J McCaig ? Sailing
Dinghies on Lough Foyle, oil on board, signed, £2,500;

Terence P Flanagan ? Landscape, watercolour drawing,
signed, £2,400; Brian Ballard - Nude, oil on board, signed,
£2,300; Tom Carr - Ponies at Grass, £780.

In Ross's general sale, lots included: three piece leather
suite, £810; mahogany three door astral glazed bookcase,
£750; turnover leaf tea table, £430.

The affection for Ulster artist Geo. Gillespie is still
strong. This was well evidenced at Morgans, where one of
his fine works went at £2,100.

Other lots included brass ruby oil lamp, £240; mahogany
cased clock, £160; oak cased barometer, £155.


The Bloody Red Hand

A Journey Through Truth, Myth and Terror in Northern

Globe and Mail Update

Derek Lundy was born in Belfast. His family emigrated when
Derek was an infant, first to England, then to Canada. He
has made many trips back to Belfast over the years to visit

He is the bestselling author of The Way of a Ship and
Godforsaken Sea. Derek Lundy lives on Salt Spring Island,


The story has two versions. In the first, a Viking war
party in a lean, dragon-headed longboat closes with the
coast of northern Ireland. It is hunting priests' gold and
red-haired, smooth-skinned slaves. The leader of the fierce
Northmen urges on his warriors: the first man to touch the
sweet Gaelic strand with his hand or foot takes possession
of it. He gets to keep whatever is there — precious metal,
cattle, women, boys. There is a man aboard the longboat
called O'Neill. It is an Irish name and, perhaps, in the
style of slithery allegiances in Ireland, he is a turncoat.
He has abandoned his family and sept and gone over to the
Norse raiders, wilder even than the wild Irish. This man
desires plunder and the haven of his own piece of land. It
seems he craves those things more than reason, certainly
more than any Viking aboard. As the longboat approaches the
shore, the crew strains for the jump and its prize. Then
O'Neill, the man from Ireland, lays his arm along the
bulwark. He severs his hand with one swift sword blow and
throws it ashore onto the sand before anyone else can make
the leap. His Viking chief keeps his word. He gives that
part of Ulster to his mutilated mercenary, and O'Neill
takes the bloody hand as his crest and symbol.

In the second version of the story, two rival Scottish
clans race each other to Ireland across the twelve miles of
the wind-whipped North Channel. They have agreed that
whichever reaches the Ulster shore first will take the
land. The leader of the MacDonnells lusts for it just as
O'Neill did — like the intense desire some men have to keep
living when death comes to claim them. He'll do anything
for it. But his boat lags behind and he sees beautiful,
wild Ulster, rich in cattle and slaves, sliding away from
him. He severs his hand with one swift sword blow and
throws it ashore onto the sand. He claims the land for
himself and takes the red hand as the crest of the
MacDonnells of Antrim.

Ireland has a long and complicated history of conquest,
rebellion, endemic violence, and political tumult. The
Irish struggle against English invasion and occupation now
has the aspect of an old story—of history. The people of
the independent, and now prosperous, Republic of Ireland
see it more and more in that way, too. But the severed red
hand still seems to be a perfect symbol for the province of
the United Kingdom known officially as Northern Ireland.
Its six counties, with their Protestant majority, were
partitioned from the rest of Ireland in 1920 in the course
of the Irish war of independence against Britain. In the
North, the malignant motifs of the Irish past hung on:
sectarian hatred, oath-bound private armies, guerrilla war,
atrocity and outrage, riots, bombings, British soldiers on
Irish ground, political dysfunction, walls and barbed wire,
segregation of Protestants and Catholics, war drums and
triumphalist parades, forced population movements,
propaganda — the whole apparatus of civil war.

Low-level conflict went on inside Northern Ireland and
along its border from the time of its inception, but
chaotic and terrible open war began in 1969. It went on for
thirty years and is known, with quaint understatement, as
"the Troubles."* Now they're probably over — although
perhaps not. To the outsider, their longevity and intensity
are almost incomprehensible. It's as if O'Neill or
MacDonnell never stopped hacking off their own hands. They
saw away at their flesh, driven on by fear of losing the
thing they desire most. Through historical accident during
the seventeenth century, the red hand became the exclusive
totem of the Protestants of Northern Ireland. It fits them
well: Celtic in origin but denoting loyalty to Britain. Yet
to the British people it has no meaning. It is, therefore,
a near-perfect expression of the strange, ambiguous claim
by Ulster Protestants — whose roots in Ireland go back
three or four hundred years — that they are "British" and
not Irish.

Nevertheless, the bloody red hand is an apt symbol of what
both Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland have
done during the thirty years of the Troubles. Viewed from
outside the province, the hard-liners on both sides (who,
in Northern Ireland, constitute the majority) seemed to be
acting out a part in some bizarre and bloody anachronistic
pageant. Could this terrible hysteria really be taking
place in Europe in the late twentieth century, among people
who look just like us, in a region of Great Britain,
supposedly one of the most civil of societies?

The Protestants, in particular, have created an appalling
public image for themselves. They look like unreasonable
and unreasoning bullies and bigots who refuse to share
political power with Catholics, shout "No Surrender!" and
"What we have, we hold!" loud and often, and insist on
marching through Catholic neighbourhoods in peculiar
parades that mix bowler hats and rolled umbrellas with the
harsh, primitive rattle of the giant Lambeg battle drum.
Many of them follow the preacher Ian Paisley, who isn't
kidding when he calls the Pope the Antichrist. During the
Troubles, they tortured and killed Catholics and set off
bombs in Catholic pubs and sports clubs. On the gable ends
of their mean little row houses they painted murals
depicting a seventeenth-century Dutch prince called
William, whom they idolize. They sprayed graffiti on walls
that said "No Taigs on our streets!" ("Taig" is an abusive
term for a Roman Catholic and is the insulting equivalent
of "Prod" for a Protestant); "Fuck the Pope!" or just
"FTP!"; "Remember 1690!" (the long-ago year of a battle on
the River Boyne); and "Still Under Siege!" (referring to
the Catholic siege of Protestant Derry three hundred years
earlier). They formed numerous paramilitary militias—one of
which called itself the Red Hand Commandos. They swore
loyalty to Britain, a country whose people and government
detested them and who thought they were just another bunch
of violent paddies. For fifty years, until their sectarian
regime went under in 1972, they ran a government that kept
Catholics down, using a Protestant police force that looked
like an army, with its heavy weaponry, and auxiliaries who
were always ready with the truncheon and the gun.

The Catholics have always looked better. They appear to be
conducting a version of a political movement — and a
guerrilla military campaign — for civil rights and
equality, for "liberation," that resembles many such
struggles around the world. Their fight also looks like a
continuation of the ancient Irish striving for autonomy
from British control—or from domination by those British
stooges, the Ulster Prods. Catholic ideology and goals
appear rational and comprehensible in a way that those of
the Protestants do not. However, as we'll discover, that
rationality is more apparent than real. And, of course,
"there's bad bastards on both sides," as someone once said.
No one could outdo the Provisional Irish Republican Army
(the IRA) or the Irish National Liberation Army (or more
recently, the splinter groups, the Real IRA or the
Continuity IRA) for atrocity. The IRA acted at first as a
self-defence force to protect Catholics from Protestant
pogroms, but it soon branched out into sectarian outrages
of its own. It invented the car bomb, the mainstay weapon
for all contemporary terrorists. Its hard men, too, killed,
tortured, and bombed, often at random. Almost sixty per
cent of the military, police, and civilian dead of the
Troubles were killed by Catholic gunmen whose violence—
compared with the sporadic activity of Protestants—was
sustained and unrelenting. Their goal was to shoot and bomb
the Prods of the North into a united Ireland against their
will. The IRA and its offspring, like their Protestant
paramilitary equivalents, degenerated into criminal gangs
and mafias years ago.

The numbers involved look small (almost 4,000 dead, 40,000
wounded) compared with the casualties in other places — the
Balkans, some African countries, the Middle East. But there
aren't many Irish (or, if you like, British) in Northern
Ireland. If the numbers of casualties during the Troubles
were proportionately reckoned in the United States, they
would amount to almost 800,000 dead and more than eight
million wounded. The effect of such killing was intensified
by the small size of Northern Ireland — it's half the area
of the state of Maryland. And a majority of the casualties
were suffered within a segment of the population: among the
farms, villages, and little market towns near the border
with the Republic, and especially in the crowded, scummy
city precincts of the working class. In the narrow streets
of Belfast and Derry, the cramped sectarian territories
abut each other in close-by chunks and blocs. The slaying
was sometimes intimate—the killer and victim well
acquainted, perhaps neighbours. That fit into the ancient
Irish pattern; it was a sort of comfortable tradition. But
things were worse, went the old saying from some previous
insurrection or sectarian outrage, when the hard men began
killing people whose names they didn't even know. During
the Troubles, both forms of communal murder happened all
the time.


The Love And Rage Of An Irish Childhood


Published: February 18, 2006

John McGahern writes with pastoral passion and a painter's
eye about the fields, flowers, hedges, waters and gentle
sweep of hill in County Leitrim. He was born there, and 30
years later he came back to live.

Jerry Bauer
A Memoir
By John McGahern
289 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $25.
Forum: Nonfiction

Leitrim is relatively poor, and its stony inch or two of
soil lies on clay. The stony poorness, though, is the
condition for its unassuming beauty; saving it from both
factory farming and the locust swarm of tourists.

Stoniness and beauty. For half a century Mr. McGahern has
grappled his novels and short stories into an unflinching
hold upon two traditionally rooted aspects of Irish life
and character: the lilt and the grunt.

What has made the writer a master of contemporary Irish
fiction, second only to William Trevor, is that his lilt is
free of indulgence, his grunt is free of despair and
neither would accomplish what it does without the other.

The stony gets the edge in "All Will Be Well," a memoir Mr.
McGahern has written in his 70's. The assurance of the
title barely masks its white-knuckled grip on itself. There
was much darkness along with a measure of light in the
upbringing of the author and his younger siblings; he might
well have called his book "What We Came Through."

The darkness emanates through the writer's father, a
sergeant in the Garda, or national police; the light,
through his mother, a rural schoolteacher. I say "through"
rather than "from."

Sgt. Francis McGahern, portrayed in vivid and often
horrifying complexity, evidently stands for all that is
closed in his country's spirit; and Susan McGahern, deeply
devout, signifies what is spontaneous and open. "All Will
Be Well" is their son's memoir of a nation and not just a

Sergeant McGahern was the commander of a four-man police
barracks in Cootehall, a rural town on the Shannon River.
In the early 1940's there was little order to keep; a
bicycle stopped for having no light, a stray cow on the

The sergeant's subordinates spent much of their duty time
working their own gardens, while submitting reports on what
they called "patrols of the imagination." Young John,
precocious, was sometimes called on to help with the

"Paper never refuses ink, Sean," one of these easygoing
national guardians would counsel him. It was an ironic
motto for a future writer so painstaking that he tore up
his first novel, after a prominent publisher asked to see
it, because he deemed it unsatisfactory.

Sergeant McGahern was the opposite of easygoing. A former
Irish Republican Army fighter who was eased into the Garda
after the Irish state was set up, he prized his position,
stomping into Sunday Mass, boots and buttons agleam, and
taking his seat in front. Within, though, he was a
conflicted mess, with business deals on the side and not so
much painstaking as painsgiving; above all to his family.

Mostly he was absent. While he lived in the barracks, his
wife and children lived outside a village 20 miles away
where she worked as a teacher. Francis would appear every
few weeks, alternating rugged charm, a little work around
the house and bullying harassment of Susan and the

Absence, charm and violence: this was the man, in his son's
telling, and it was the first, in a way, who did the most
damage. When the children were still little, Susan fell ill
with cancer: through the weeks of her dying, with her
relatives attending her, Francis stayed away. Much later he
would stay away from all but one of his daughters'

He was unable to tolerate any situation that infringed on
his tiny kingdom of control, Mr. McGahern suggests; and he
would turn violent when it was threatened. With their
mother dead, he was obliged to take the children into his
barracks quarters.

Calling them his "troops" he worked them, grudged them
their food and, between spasms of affability, beat them,
sometimes so badly that his men threatened to report him.
But when, at 16 or 17, John fought back, the father
retreated in self-pity; still later, with the son's early
literary success, he turned creepily fawning.

Utterly opposite was Susan, the little boy's companion,
protector and refuge, and a high-spirited beacon against
her husband's erratic darkness. Their errands, their night
walks, were magical and are magically recalled. She was
passionately religious, and while she was alive the child
emulated her faith. Simply, religion meant mother, so he
was outraged when she promised that when she died they
would someday be together in Heaven.

"Our Heaven was here," Mr. McGahern writes, "With her our
world was without end." But it ended.

Is the contrast of father and mother too open and shut for
a memoir? Perhaps. The urge to do justice, even over petty
instances of the sergeant's cruelties and foolishness, does
partly constrain the novelist's gift for imaginative
sympathy and imaginative bleakness. A reckoning is not
quite the same as a recollection.

Yet it must be said that what the author wields is anger,
not bitterness. The anger is against the fetid shadow that
the sergeant cast upon his wife and children's inclination
and talent for taking pleasure in their lives.

And, beyond this, upon the pleasure that the rural Irish
world all around them had to offer. Between his anger, Mr.
McGahern writes of works, days, pathways and pastimes, and
the musical wit and hard-pressed generosity of country
neighbors; along with grudges, foibles and here and there a
flash of danger.

To receive this news via email, click HERE.
No Message is necessary.
To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)
To February 2006 Index
To Index of Monthly Archives
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

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