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February 18, 2006

Trust IRA - Mad Dog Adair Tells Loyalists

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News About Ireland & The Irish

GU 02/19/06 Trust IRA, Mad Dog Adair Tells Loyalists
GU 02/19/06 I'm No Threat. Why War Is Over For Adair
SB 02/19/06 Sinn Fein Aims To Broaden Appeal
BN 02/18/06 Ahern: 'FF Can Be True Heirs Of 1916 Rising'
SB 02/19/06 No Parties Report On ‘Rip-Off’ Bank Charges
SB 02/19/06 Opin: North Remains Awash With Legal Firearms
SB 02/19/06 Opin: McAleese Speech Sold Out Majrty Of Public
ST 02/19/06 Opin: Focus: Mary, Mary
ST 02/19/06 Opin: Blair Gambles On Spin Of Assembly's Wheel
BC 02/19/06 CD Review: The Corrs - Home
ST 02/19/06 Ireland's Field Of Dreams Is An Emerald Diamond

(Poster’s Note: I did not include many of the stories that
contained only summaries or verbatim quotes of Gerry Adams
address which was previously posted here. Jay)


Trust IRA, Mad Dog Adair Tells Loyalists

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday February 19, 2006
The Observer

The former Ulster Defence Association paramilitary leader,
Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair, has made an unprecedented, and at
one time utterly unthinkable, call for all loyalists to
trust the IRA.

Adair, who spent his terrorist career targeting republicans
for assassination, said the unionist community should
accept the IRA's statement last July that its 'war' is
finished for good.

Speaking in exile from Scotland, he said he believed the
IRA was sincere and had decommissioned almost all of its
weapons. 'I believe the IRA and their statement last July,'
he said. 'Their armed struggle is over. I hate them, but I
believe them when they say they are sincere. I believe them
when they said they decommissioned their arms... they are
sincere about the war being over.'

In an exclusive interview with The Observer, Adair was
asked if unionists should share power with Sinn Fein at
Stormont. 'Absolutely. Why not? It's time for politics,
although our politicians have let the people down. I
believe the war is over and the loyalist people should take
what the IRA did very seriously. I fought the war against
them, there's nobody like myself and C company that had
them on the run. But the IRA decommissioned, something they
said they would never do. So the Protestant people should
accept that,' he replied. On his former UDA comrades, Adair
said that he did not think they had the capability to hunt
down and kill him.

However, the former head of the Lower Shankill terrorist
unit added: 'I'm not afraid of death, after all I've had
that many brushes with death. The IRA, the INLA, and
latterly so-called loyalists have tried to kill me, so why
would I be afraid of death? While I don't underestimate my
enemies in the UDA, the real people I worry about are the
UVF because they are more professional.'

Adair also claimed that the jailed UDA killer Ken Barrett,
whom the BBC programme Panorama named as the gunman who
murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989, had
nothing to do with it. 'I had nothing to do with that, but
I can tell you for definite that Ken Barrett did not shoot
Finucane,' he said. 'Barrett is a bastard informer and I
hate him, but he did not pull the trigger.'

Pressed on whether he would speak to the forthcoming public
inquiry into the Finucane murder, Adair said: 'I would
attend only if I was forced to, but I wouldn't have much to
say, except that Ken Barrett wasn't the gunman. But, unlike
Barrett, I wouldn't inform on anyone.'

Now based in Troon on the western Scottish coast, Adair
said he was 'just relaxing' after years in prison and
running the most feared loyalist terror group in Northern
Ireland. He denounced the present UDA leadership as
'bullies, cowards and thugs' and said he had no regrets
that rivals such as UDA assassin John 'Grug' Gregg had lost
their lives during the 2002-2003 feud.

Adair's C company faction of the UDA's West Belfast Brigade
was routed during a power struggle within the loyalist
movement. In February 2003 several dozen of his allies fled
the Lower Shankill estate in Belfast after it was 'invaded'
by hundreds of UDA men loyal to the organisation's
leadership. At the time Adair was in prison after the
Secretary of State ruled he had broken the terms of his
early release from the Maze, where he was serving 16 years
for directing terrorism. 'If I hadn't been in prison at the
time, in early 2003, it wouldn't have happened,' he said.
'I'd have rallied the troops.'

Initially Adair settled in Bolton, where his wife, Gina,
and their children went after C company was forced out of
Belfast. He claimed that while there he was under constant
surveillance and harassment from Greater Manchester police.


'I'm No Threat To Anyone.' Why The War Is Over For Mad Dog Adair

Loyalism's former hard man is in Troon to enjoy a quiet
life, he tells Henry McDonald in his first UK newspaper
interview since fleeing Belfast

Sunday February 19, 2006
The Observer

Elegant ladies-who-lunch glare at him across the floor of
their favourite restaurant, and respectable widows walking
their Scottie dogs on the beach quicken their step as he
walks by. Landlords have barred him from their pubs even
though he has never crossed their thresholds. Johnny 'Mad
Dog' Adair has moved to Troon - and, by his own account,
he's not welcome.

Ulster loyalism's most infamous terrorist has left his
temporary home in Bolton for the western Scottish coastal
town after splitting from his wife Gina and becoming tired
of being under constant surveillance by the Greater
Manchester Police.

In his first newspaper interview since he and his
supporters fled from Belfast three years ago following an
internal loyalist feud, Adair, 42, explained his decision
to move. 'It's the next best thing to home,' he said,
looking towards the Irish Sea, his windcheater flapping in
the fierce wind blowing across the stretch of water that
separates the north of Ireland from Scotland. 'This is my
launching pad. I have supporters in Scotland, I have
friends here. I have always said I shall return to Ulster,
maybe not in a few weeks, maybe a few months or even

It appears, however, that Adair has few friends in Troon
itself, where police have circulated his picture to bar
owners and businesses. 'I can't understand what their
problem is with me. I'm no threat to anyone here. All I do
is sleep here. Most of my time is spent in other parts of

Nor, he insists, is he any longer a threat to the peace
process in Northern Ireland. 'The Johnny Adairs of this
world don't need to be playing the role they used to before
the peace process. Because the war in Ulster is over.' The
loyalist commander, whose C company terror unit hunted down
and killed republicans as well as ordinary Catholics in the
late Eighties and early Nineties, made an extraordinary
appeal to the unionist community.

'I believe the IRA and their statement last July. Their
armed struggle is over. I hate them, but I believe them
when they say they are sincere. I believe them when they
said they decommissioned their arms... well, obviously not
all the guns, this is the IRA we are talking about and they
will need some weapons to defend themselves. But they are
sincere about the war being over.'

Asked if that meant unionists should share power with Sinn
Fein again at Stormont, Adair replied: 'Absolutely. Why
not? It's time for politics, although our politicians have
let the people down. I believe the war is over and the
loyalist people should take what the IRA did very
seriously. I fought the war against them, there's nobody
like myself and C company that had them on the run. But the
IRA decommissioned, something they said they would never
do. So the Protestant people should accept that.'

Adair reserved most of his venom for the Ulster Defence
Association leadership, describing them as 'cowards,
bullies and thugs'. On the collapse of his notorious unit
under pressure from the UDA mainstream, Adair boasted: 'If
I hadn't been in prison at the time, in early 2003, it
wouldn't have happened. I'd have rallied the troops.'

He has no regrets about rivals that lost their lives in the
2002-2003 internal feud including John 'Grug' Gregg, a UDA
assassin who almost killed the Sinn Fein president Gerry
Adams in the Eighties. 'John Gregg boasted that he had four
graves dug for all the leaders of C company, including
myself. But it's John Gregg who is in the grave today. Talk
is cheap, and Gregg shouldn't have threatened C company,
because they were dangerous men and women.'

Despite his personal loathing for UDA commanders such as
Jackie McDonald, Adair said he backed their recent
overtures to the Irish Republic. 'If I was in charge of the
UDA, we would still be talking to the Irish President and
others if it advanced peace. In fact, there is no need for
a UDA any more, the days of organisations taking the war to
republican enemies is over.'

Adair dismissed the possibility of a UDA hit team tracking
him down and killing him in Scotland. He is wary about
returning to Northern Ireland in the foreseeable future.
'It will probably be years, and while I don't underestimate
my enemies in the UDA, the real people I worry about are
the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). Because they are more

Having served 12 years of a 16-year sentence for directing
acts of terrorism and having lived life on the edge since
he was a teenager, Adair claimed he was enjoying the quiet
life in Troon.

'I'm just relaxing now. Life is less complicated. A few
weeks ago I went up to Glasgow to see UB40, they're my
favourite band of all time. The last time I saw UB40 in
Belfast I got shot in the head at an open-air concert. This
time in Glasgow no one bothered me or said a word to me. I
was anonymous in the crowd.'

He still commands a following, not just among young
working-class Protestants in Scotland's central belt. Adair
is a friend of so-called 'lotto lout' Michael Carroll. 'He
wrote to me when I was in jail and he's stayed in touch
ever since. When he comes up to Scotland for Rangers
matches, he might call in and see me.'

He also said he is going to Dresden in eastern Germany for
a meeting next week with a skinhead gang who wrote to him
while he was in the Maze prison. 'The Germans loved C
company so much they even got tattoos of our unit on their
bodies. But they're not neo-Nazis. In fact, one of them
wrote to me apologising for the war.'

Living on benefit, he is touting around his autobiography
and has plans for a drama based on his life as one of the
most recognisable faces of Nineties terrorism. 'I even have
an agent who is negotiating for me,' he said. Asked how his
agent could be contacted, he said: 'You can't at the
minute, as he's in prison for assault.'

A hotel in town is one of the few places Adair is welcomed.
He was perplexed as to why Troon seemed to have turned
against him. 'I'm not doing any harm here. I just want to
get on with my life.' Sipping a Smirnoff Ice, the bald,
tattooed former terrorist leader contemplated a future
beyond loyalist paramilitarism. 'Do you think I could get a
job as a private security officer or guard in Iraq?'


Sinn Fein Aims To Broaden Appeal

19 February 2006 By Pat Leahy

Sinn Fein delegates gathered this weekend in the RDS in
Dublin, anxious to put some difficult times of the past
year behind them, and concentrate on the twin task of
resurrecting the Northern peace process and becoming an
unignorable force in southern politics. Both goals are
within the party’s grasp within the next year or so. It
will be an important year for Sinn Fe¤ in.

This time last year, Sinn Fe¤ in met under the cloud of the
killing of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank robbery.
Those two events presaged a difficult year for the party
and probably pre-empted the August declaration and
disarmament by the IRA.

A year on, the fingers pointing at the party leadership are
from within the party. The outing of Denis Donaldson, and
the leadership’s explicit warnings that more informers were
likely to be exposed, raised the fear among party activists
that something was rotten at the top - some said the very
top - of the organisation.

The leadership has been putting significant efforts into
reassuring party members and the fruits of that labour can
be seen as more than 2,000 delegates and observers
assembled at the RDS, the largest gathering ever.

Almost 500 motions are tabled for discussion and, while
these mean little in real political terms, they are often
interesting as an insight into where the activists are.

In Sinn Fein’s case, that’s a curious mix of revolutionary
and redistributionist socialism, aspirational campus
legalist liberalism and old-style nationalism.

Occasionally, these rub against one another: one motion
calls for the removal of the Catholic Church ethos from all
schools and hospitals.

Another would mandate that a decade of the rosary be said
at republican commemorations which are held on consecrated

More seriously, several motions are critical of the
leadership and many also express the fear that a deal on
policing will be done.

Suggestions that the leadership are out of touch with the
grassroots probably just show that the party is evolving
into a normal political organisation, but policing is one
issue on which there is genuine and widespread opposition
throughout the party.

Nonetheless, despite the nervousness on these issues,
spirits are high.

‘‘Sinn Fein is buoyant, no question about that,” said the
party’s leader in the Dail, Caoimhghin O Caolain.

‘‘There was a time when you’d know all the members at a
Sinn Fein ard fheis. Now you’d be struggling to know all
the elected representatives.”

The party approaches the next election almost certain to
make substantial seat gains. It currently holds five seats,
attained with 7 per cent of the vote in the 2002 general

In the local elections of 2004, the party took 8 per cent
of the vote; opinion polls throughout last year put its
support at 9 to 10 per cent.

Three weeks ago, the most recent Sunday Business Post/Red C
poll put the party at 9 per cent.

There are two things to be said about Sinn Fein’s poll

The first is that it represents steady gains from election
to election.

The other is that its support appears to have levelled out
in the last 12-18 months from which it isn’t moving. This
suggests that Adams and Co have a lock on about 10 per cent
of the voters, but they’re finding it hard to break out of
that neighbourhood.

It makes the party a player in southern politics certainly
but, at this stage, a minor one, and not one likely to
feature in government for at least the immediate future.

Pulling in 9 to 10 per cent of the vote should certainly
bring the party extra seats, and it’s entitled to feel
confident about challenging strongly in Donegal South West,
Mayo, and several constituencies on the northside of

Wexford and/or Waterford would be a bonus. Sinn Fe¤ in may
have missed the boat in Meath where one five-seater has
become two three-seaters.

Both these constituencies have become three-seaters which
are a much more difficult proposition for small parties.

Television viewers will be able to judge which candidates
the party believes have the best chance of a seat by their
proximity to Gerry Adams this weekend.

Success in individual constituencies depends on two things:
strong candidates and their ability to attract transfers.
For smaller parties, the challenge is always to find strong
candidates which outperform the party - few candidates
would be elected with just 10 per cent of the vote in their

Sinn Fe¤ in has strong challengers. Although - with the
exception of O Caolain - its TDs have had little or no
impact on the national stage, they are big presences in
their constituencies.

Candidates such as Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty
will be serious players.

Transfers are a different business.

Research conducted by The Sunday Business Post last year
showed that, while events in the North didn’t affect Sinn
Fein’s top-line or first preference support (the 9 to 10
per cent figure), those events did have an effect on the
attitudes of other parties’ voters to the party.

It is these second-tier or lower preference voters to whom
Sinn Fein seeks to appeal this weekend.


Ahern: 'FF Can Be True Heirs Of 1916 Rising'

18/02/2006 - 21:08:03

The Fianna Fáil party can become the true heirs to the 1916
Rising, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said tonight.

Mr Ahern told 600 delegates at the Ogra Fianna Fáil
conference in Ennis that his party can build a new republic
that the Easter rebellion leaders had dreamed of.

“Ireland’s future lies in building, in a new century, the
Republic proclaimed four score and ten years ago,” he said.

He added: “In a different world, Fianna Fáil remains true
to the same radical and republican values that inspired our
patriots that are the foundation of our party and that
sustain our State today.

“Ireland enjoys a proud inheritance of political freedom
and institutional stability. It is our challenge today to
build on this inheritance and to remain the radical and
republican heirs of Padraic Pearse, of Thomas MacDonagh and
of Joseph Plunkett.”

The Taoiseach said Fianna Fáil had political responsibility
to manage the country’s economic success, build more
infrastructure, expand public services and protect the

Mr Ahern said the party had the largest youth organisation
in the country but it was continuing to renew its
membership and revise its ideas in the light of a rapidly
changing world.

“With these republican values, we can take courage, we can
chart change and we can leave a lasting legacy to our
country,” he concluded.


Northern Parties Report On ‘Rip-Off’ Bank Charges

19 February 2006 By Louise McBride

The North’s main political parties met the British
Competition Commission last Thursday to provide the
regulator with some feedback on its investigation into bank
charges in the North.

The commission, which investigates mergers and markets,
held meetings with community groups, political parties and
local authorities to gather evidence for its report into
the big four banks in the North.

The commission began its investigation into Bank of
Ireland, First Trust, Northern Bank and Ulster Bank last
summer, after it received a complaint that bank customers
in the North were charged 21 times more than their
counterparts in Britain.

Sinn Fein, the DUP, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party
were among the parties that met commission officials.

‘‘Sinn Fein has been concerned at the high costs for bank
customers and the low rate of return that they get in the
North,” said Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein’s economic

‘‘Parallel pricing arrangements appear to be going on
between the big four banks.

“These banks do not compete with each other and costs have
been continually rising.”

McLaughlin said it was unacceptable that people in the
North were ‘‘being ripped off by higher banking costs’’.

The meetings examined why customers open current accounts
with particular banks, what prompted customers to switch
banks, how well customers understood the conditions of
their bank accounts and the importance of bank branches.

A spokesman for the commission said the meetings were

‘‘We found that people often join banks for traditional
reasons, such as they know someone working there,” he said.
‘‘It seems current accounts aren’t subject to the same
range of consumer choice as you’d see with other products.”

If the commission decides that the banks have adversely
affected competition to the detriment of consumers, it
could force them to offer free banking.

The commission’s report will be published in April.


Opin: North Remains Awash With Legal Firearms

19 February 2006 By Moya St Leger

A few years ago, former taoiseach Albert Reynolds remarked
in a radio interview: ‘‘The North is awash with weapons.”

Reynolds was not referring only to IRA weapons - and his
observation is still more accurate today, even after IRA

The recriminations triggered by the claim in the eighth IMC
report that some IRA weapons might have been retained,
diverted public attention from an other arsenal building up
in the North – licensed weapons.

The number of weapons, including shotguns, held on licence
in the North last May was 144,554 - up by 5,634 (almost 4
per cent) on the 2001 figure. It’s undisputed that the
majority of licence holders are Protestants, a community
which is declining in numbers.

In 2004, the population of the North was estimated at
1,710,300, which means that there is an average of one gun
for every nine adults. That is a higher ratio than in
Brazil, the most heavily armed population in the world.

By comparison, in 2004, the estimated population in England
and Wales was 53 million, of whom almost 10.5 million were
over 16.The last recorded figure for licensed weapons was
1.7 million, that is one weapon for every 25 adults.

Asked to explain the steadily increasing number of licensed
weapons in homes, sheds, gun cabinets and at over 160 gun
clubs across the North, licence holders generally give the
same reasons: vermin control and clay pigeon shooting.

On September 10 last year, loyalist violence erupted on the
streets of Belfast. One thousand PSNI officers, backed by
1,000 British soldiers, came under attack from loyalists
using blast bombs and firing all types of guns, including
automatic weapons.

Seven weapons were recovered afterwards, yet media reports
did not state whether any was licensed. Nothing appeared to
undermine the assumption that all loyalist guns are illegal

While IRA weapons attract more media exposure than David
Beckham, a blanket of silence is firmly thrown over the
issue of licensed weapons.

The Firearms (NI) Order 2004, which came into effect in
February 2005, updated the law in the North. It introduced
the concept of referees and a re-grant process requiring
firearms licence renewals to be treated as first time

In the year since the order came into effect, fewer
firearms holders appeared to have renewed their
certificates, possibly because of the more stringent
procedures, so the rise in licensed weapons is all the more

The North’s gun culture remains intact, even after IRA
decommissioning. The presence of thousands of easily-
accessible licensed weapons across the North would suggest
that the issue should be treated as a matter of urgency.

The provisional appointment of vermin control officers,
suspension of clay pigeon shooting and a temporary
requirement to hand in the 89,626 shotguns, 16,573 rifles,
14,218 handguns, 23,070 air guns and 1,067 miscellaneous
weapons, would stabilise security across the North.

Asked by BBC correspondent Hugh Sykes on September 26, 2005
- the day the IRA announced it was decommissioning - how
diehard opponents of the Good Friday Agreement would react
if the democratic process led to a united Ireland, loyalist
Sam Duddy was unequivocal. ‘‘I envisage loyalists and
unionists taking up arms,” he said.

Their munitions are already in place, legal and illegal.
Licensed weapons constitute an issue, which can no longer
be ignored.

Moya St Leger is president of the Connolly Association
which campaigns in Britain for a united Ireland. Statistics
were provided by the British Office for National Statistics
and the North’s Statistics and Research Agency.


Opin: Gutless Government Lets Carnage Continue

19 February 2006 By David McWilliams

If an Aer Lingus jumbo was blown out of the sky in the
morning, how would you react? How would we expect the
government to react? We would expect leadership of the
Rudolph Giuliani kind, as seen in the days after 9/11,
wouldn’t we? We would expect to see all the powers of the
state come down on the terrorists, both for justice and to
prevent it happening again.

Even civil libertarians would probably not flinch at
emergency legislation being pushed through the Dail to
combat such a threat to our citizens.

Last year 399 people, the equivalent of a packed Jumbo,
died on the roads. So far this year, 55 of our sisters,
brothers, children, infants and parents have perished.

Apart from a carefully-constructed PR exercise - centred on
more penalty points - nothing has been done. No emergency
has been declared. There has been no leadership.

Why do we tolerate this? Why do we never think ‘‘it could
be me next’’? Why do we allow people – who we deem not fit
to drive - to speed away from driving tests, having failed?
This is bonkers. What is the point of the test in the first
place? And yet, this happens here every day.

Why do we allow roadworks to start without any proper
signage, creating death-traps? Why do we allow huge, deadly
craters to be dug and then signalled by a few askew plastic
cones without any warning? Anyone who has travelled down
the Naas Road in the past few months will know what I am
talking about.

Why do we allow drunken killers off with lenient sentences?
Why do we re-elect politicians who have been convicted of
drunken driving? Why do the gardai not wait outside the
jammed car parks of our suburban pubs at closing time and
nick everyone?

Why, when a National Roads Authority (NRA) survey tells us
that 94 per cent of all HGVs break the speed limit, do we
do nothing?

Why, when it is the ambition of most teenagers to drive as
soon as they are old enough, do we have no driving
education in school? Is it because the state does not care
about the security of its citizens?

That’s not what it says in the Constitution - the document
that so many of our politicians feign to hold dear, when it
suits them.

The government does not care a jot about road deaths
because we, not they, are the killers and we don’t seem to
care either. We all think we are great drivers. A Waterford
Institute of Technology (WIT) survey last year suggested
that 86 per cent of us think we are competent.

Yet Garda stats reveal that 88 per cent of crashes are
caused by driver error. Over one third of fatalities
involve single car collision, suggesting that speeding and
boozing are to blame. On top of this, 35 per cent of all
fatalities happen between 9pm and 6am, when only a tiny
proportion of traffic is on the roads. Over one in four
deaths are on Saturday and Sunday, and 70 per cent of these
are on country roads.

In addition, 21 per cent of casualties are under 25, but
they only account for 9 per cent of drivers.

Now do we get the picture?

If we focus on weekend nights, on younger drivers and on
areas that are not built up, we could begin to reduce road
deaths. In Canada, New Zealand, America and Australia, the
statistics are remarkably similar. So, logically, these
countries have put a curfew on young and learner drivers
driving between 9pm and 6am.

These drivers are also restricted from carrying other

According to an Irish motor insurance company, XSdirect,
these moves have reduced road deaths by up to 30 per cent
among the under-25s.The system is very simple – the
Americans and others have concluded that, as well as
speeding and drink, peer pressure is forcing normally
sensible young people to take risks they otherwise would

XSdirect argue that we should bring in a graduated licence
approach whereby young drivers have their driving licences
delayed until they get sufficient driving hours under their
belt in less pressurised situations (these ideas are
presented in more detail on

Other countries have figured out that the crucial
attributes for safe driving are driving skill and social
maturity, and have changed the law accordingly. Why don’t

Because, it appears that the government is afraid of
ruffling feathers. The reaction to the XSdirect suggestion
last week was very illuminating. A member of the National
Safety Council responded by saying more or less ‘‘yes, very
interesting, but it would be politically impossible’’. He
indicated that young drivers voted and this change would be
unpopular, so it would not be done.

This reaction echoes Sean Haughey’s observation in the past
few days when he said that ‘‘there is sometimes more to
politics than electoral advantage’’. But the reality is
that this government is not prepared to do anything to jolt
us out of our misguided complacency.

So the carnage will go unchecked because, first, we do not
want to blame ourselves and, second, the government is
petrified of being accused of presiding over a nanny state.
It will limit itself to only the gentlest of nudges in the
direction of changing our behaviour.

The second issue - the idea that the government is afraid
to govern - is well worth exploring a little more. In the
years ahead, mainstream politics is likely to focus on the
politics of behaviour. In the past, the state felt it could
dictate the economy, reduce social inequalities and
engineer ideological solutions by using taxation and
spending. This was the period of hydraulic governance and
it was about pulling this lever and that to make things
happen. That era is over.

At some stage in the 1980s, all over the western world, the
levers stopped working.

From Moscow to Macroom, the ability of the government to
wave a magic wand and cure the ills of society diminished,
and with it the electorates’ faith. Electoral campaigns are
now more Friar Tuck than Robin Hood. They are less about
taking from the rich and giving to the poor and more about
trying to persuade the fat, lazy, badly behaved and
unhealthy to change their ways. Politics today is more
centred on heightening individual responsibility to achieve
the common good than about communal initiatives aimed at
creating a better life for the individual. Therefore, the
distinction in governance is not between left and right in
economic terms, but between those who interfere and try to
regulate behaviour, and those who believe in individual
sovereignty and self-control.

Governments want to be seen as responsible but not
controlling. We see this in every area of behaviour, from
the smoking ban, to penalty points and information
campaigns about obesity and diabetes.

Anti-social behaviour banning orders (ASBOs) are the
exemplar of such policies.

But the question is how far can any government push the
behaviour agenda without being accused of treating adults
like children?

To find answers to this, our politicians rely on polls and
surveys. They consult the electorate every week via a
myriad of straw polls, the results of which are fed back to
cabinet. Policy is framed on the basis of what is most
popular or least problematic.

This creates inertia.

On the issue of road deaths, for example, the curfew idea
is worthy of consideration but will not be touched because
it might not be popular, although eminently sensible.

Nothing is done and the carnage continues.

This government is particularly weak and appears to find it
impossible to make any decisions that contain even the
slightest risk of unpopularity.

In short, this government is afraid to govern. It is an
enormous abdication of responsibility. It leaves the rest
of us living in a false paradise, driving around oblivious
in dangerous machines, on lethal roads until two uniformed
guards knock on the door in the middle of the night bearing
horrific news.

Immigration, inclusion and the clash of cultures will be
the theme of a discussion between Neil Kinnock, chairman of
the British Council and former EU commissioner, and David
McWilliams at 6.30pm on Friday in the Exam Hall in Trinity
College Dublin. If you want to attend, you must register
online for free tickets at

The event is organised by the Royal Irish Academy and the
British Council, and is sponsored by Depfa Bank and The
Sunday Business Post.


Opin: McAleese Speech Sold Out The Majority Of The Irish

19 February 2006 By Tom McGurk

I suspect I am not the only Irish citizen who found
President Mary McAleese’s performance in Saudi Arabia last
week bizarre.

Perhaps it was the way the media reported McAleese’s
comments, but when she said at a press conference that she
‘‘represented Ireland, a country which abhorred the
publication of the cartoons’’, she was not speaking for me.
Nor, I suspect, for thousands of others.

I will return to what the president said in a moment, but
the context in which she was speaking deserves some comment
too. As a society, Saudi Arabia is dedicated to the
enslavement of women. Saudi law enshrines this practice.

It is a society where women are without any democratic
franchise, are forbidden to own property or divorce, are
forbidden freely to wear clothes of their own choice, or
even walk on certain streets. Without their husband’s
permission, they cannot have bank accounts or insurance,
travel abroad or even obtain driving licences.

It is also a society where the expression of any religion
other than the state religion is forbidden by law. A
Filipino couple was recently sentenced to death for
organising a secret Christian prayer group in their own

It is also a society where barbarism is an integral part of
judicial practice. Public executions continue and the
chopping off of hands and feet remain as legal options.

So what was McAleese doing in Saudi Arabia in the first

In short, she was attending a Saudi economic forum, but it
was hardly out of admiration for the country’s economic
expertise. Hers was an expedition in the hope and
expectation that Irish business will be able to get its
hands on some of Saudi Arabia’s vast wealth.

This is the sort of shopping expedition that heads of state
are often sent on. So let’s be clear about the moral
crusade business – from the outset, all involved in the
Saudi economic forum are obliged to close their eyes to the
reality of Saudi society, while joining the investment

It’s about picking up your shopping basket with one hand
and tightly holding your nose with the other. McAleese
would have been fully aware of the workings of Saudi
society, given the presence of a group of headscarved women
corraled off in the room where she was speaking.

Nor, I suspect, was the protocol of the occasion any easier
for the hosts, given that a special arrangement had to be
made whereby women like McAleese were not required to wear
veils. Presumably, the Saudi regime is well aware of where
its laws end and international publicity begins for
visiting female VIPs.

So there we were, with everybody in a bizarre diplomatic
pantomime using a variety of stratagems to pretend
everything was normal. That is why McAleese’s condemnation
of the publication of the Danish cartoons was particularly

Afterwards, she complained that she was doing no more than
advancing both the government and the EU’s official

But is that enough from a head of state who apparently
wears the woes of the world on her shoulders?

What came across in the world media was the president of
Ireland on a stage in one of the most barbarous and
repressive regimes in the world, adding fuel to the
worldwide Muslim protests against the European tradition of
freedom of speech.

Neither was the spectacle helped by the sight of McAleese’s
Saudi hosts generously applauding her sentiments.

Stung by the criticism she received, she countered by
saying that, ‘‘going to Saudi Arabia was standing with the
women in Saudi, and the men who support them, who were
being courageous in trying to bring about the kind of
change that people in Ireland claim to want for Saudi

I’m afraid this is happy-clappy bunkum from the familiar
politically-correct bunker McAleese is quick to leap into
when she is criticised.

What does she mean by ‘‘standing with the women in Saudi’’?
Making a speech at a conference while they were sanitised
off in their women-only area? Did McAleese, for example,
make reference to them in her speech?

Did she speak to them from the platform?

Did she, after the conference was over, make an effort to
go and speak to them? I’m afraid ‘no’ is the answer to all
these questions. McAleese should have had the courage to
answer her critics, and say that she was put in this
position - where no civilised human being ought to be - and
asked to walk a moral tightrope.

And that, furthermore, she was only there in the first
place to satisfy those who put trade and business before
any other considerations of society. Had she said that, we
would have understood and applauded, and even sympathised.

But can she really have it both ways, pretending to be
doing one thing, ‘‘standing with Saudi women’’, while she
was quite clearly standing in the marketplace with Saudi

At that moment, McAleese actually had an opportunity to lay
down a memorable marker.

She might have said that we value freedom of speech more
than anything else because, in the last instance, it is the
ultimate weapon in society against tyranny.

She might also have said that, while we recognise the
offence caused to Muslims, in the bigger picture it is a
tiny price to pay for the greater prize of a free society.


Opin: Focus: Mary, Mary

She is known for her common touch and fluent handling of
the media, so why has the president become embroiled in
controversy over recent 'gaffes', wonders Stephen O'Brien

President Mary McAleese was barely nine months in office
when dissident republicans blew up Omagh, killing 31 people
on a busy Saturday afternoon in August 1998. Afterwards
politicians queued up to voice their horror at the outrage
and their resolve to press on with the peace process; there
was Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Bertie Ahern and David
Trimble. But nobody’s words made as much impact as

“Whoever planted the bomb yesterday in that maze of streets
had to have walked through children and mammies and daddies
to get away and they could only have seen people going
about the humblest of chores,” she said, branding them
“serial killers” and showing a common touch that would
become a hallmark of her first term of office.

Almost eight years on it is a very different story. Last
week, and not for the first time, the Irish president’s
words got her into trouble. Visiting Jeddah in Saudi
Arabia, McAleese said Ireland “abhorred the publication” of
the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The president said
the cartoons “were designed to provoke, to hurt, to
inflame”. There appeared to be just a backhanded
condemnation of the violence that followed their
publication. “What we do not take pride in — could not take
pride in — is the use of violence to express anger,” she
said. The comments appeared designed to ingratiate herself
with her Saudi hosts. Back home they appeared to have the
opposite effect.

It is not that the Irish president never commits gaffes,
but as a former RTE presenter, she has great experience of
the media. So why, after nine years in office, has the
president in a series of speeches and interviews suddenly
made herself a divisive and controversial figure? Is she
suffering second-term syndrome?

THE cartoon comments were bad enough, some thought, but
making the row worse was the president’s decision to attend
the Jeddah Economic Summit last Sunday. While she wore
long-skirted cerise, 600 women delegates were in head-to-
toe black, had to use a separate entrance to the conference
hall and were then screened off from view of male delegates
by an opaque head-high glass wall.

The president’s formal speech to the summit, also attended
by Cherie Blair, linked Ireland’s success as the fastest-
growing economy in the EU to the enhancement of rights for
women and the influx of 300,000 women into the workplace.
“We are now flying on two wings, where before it was one,”
she said.

The cartoon comments were made at a press conference later.
From the next day the letters page of The Irish Times, a
good barometer of middle-class opinion, devoted significant
space to a largely negative response to McAleese’s
expressions on behalf of Ireland.

The Labour party avoided direct criticism of the president,
but attacked the government for allowing McAleese to
address a hall in which women were hidden behind a screen.
Liz McManus, the party’s deputy leader, said: “What if the
people behind the screen were black and the majority of the
hall white? What if they were Catholic and the majority
Protestant? Would that be acceptable?

“Overall the president is a very good ambassador for
Ireland, but the ‘abhorrence’ comment at the press
conference did not stand up. Who knows what the Irish
people’s view of the cartoons was?”

McManus says there will always be a certain “crossing of
the line unless there’s a complete automaton” in the
presidency, but when the line is crossed there will be
public criticism, and the president is “well able to take

A member of the Council of State, the president’s advisory
body, said McAleese was within her rights to outline
Ireland’s position, even if the people did not like that

“She has to be neutral between the different parties of the
state, but it is a misinterpretation of the political
neutrality of her office to say she is not meant to express
the ethos of the state,” he said.

But Diarmaid Ferriter, a history lecturer at St Patrick’s
College, Dublin City University, was struck by the “sheer
bloody arrogance” of the president’s cartoon remarks. It
harked back to Eamon de Valera’s claim that he need only
look into his own heart to determine the wishes of the
Irish people, said Ferriter.

You don’t canvass public opinion as a president, so you
have to be a bit careful about making a statement like
that,” he said.

Later in the week, McAleese defended her comments, saying
they had been quoted out of context.

Asked what she had to say to Irish people who felt she
didn’t speak for them, she replied: “First of all, I am the
president of Ireland and that speaks for itself.”

Not fully. McAleese got a strong mandate in the 1997
presidential election, when she comfortably beat three
other candidates. But seven years later there was no
challenger, and no election, and she has no direct mandate
for her second term.

Her recent speech in Cork glorifying the 1916 rising has
been equally controversial. Ferriter says it was “an awful
speech”. He added: “I agree with putting the violence they
used in the context of the time, which she did, but then
she linked it to the present saying it was responsible for
the liberation of women and the Celtic tiger. I think there
was an element of co-ordination with Fianna Fail’s attempt
to reclaim the green flag.”

Few in the Oireachtas are willing to go public with similar
sentiments. Senator David Norris alone criticised the 1916
speech, saying it looked as if the president had allowed
herself to be co-opted onto Fianna Fail’s agenda for the
next election.

The Council of State member again comes to the president’s
defence. “Whether people like it or don’t, the state is
founded from the 1916-21 period,” he said.

It’s not as if McAleese is moving ahead of her supply
lines. While the widely held notion that she has to clear
speeches with government in advance is incorrect, there is
contact between the Aras and Government Buildings,
including monthly meetings.

The 1916 speech is likely to have been seen in advance by
Dermot McCarthy, secretary general at the Department of the
Taoiseach, and he is likely to have briefed Ahern on its
tone and contents. But officials are loath to discuss the
mysterious osmosis that seems to exist between the
presidency and government.

Presumably, the government is kept fully abreast of the
contacts that the president’s husband, Martin, has had with
loyalist leaders. The McAleeses’ links with working-class
loyalist community organisations began at the start of her
presidency, after she chose “building bridges” as the theme
of her inaugural address at Dublin Castle.

In August 1998, she held a Twelfth of July celebration in
Aras an Uachtarain. More than 10,000 Northern Protestants
and unionists have attended functions at the Aras in the
past eight years.

The bridge-building was jeopardised by McAleese’s most
damaging faux pas, however, when she likened some
Protestants to Nazis during a radio interview last year.

Some days later, she apologised. But a year on, she is
still not forgiven. At the DUP annual conference earlier
this month, Ian Paisley said he did not like the president
and she did not like Northern Ireland. McAleese had such a
hang-up about the north, Paisley thundered, that she would
not accept a police escort nor set foot inside a PSNI

These charges were untrue. But the roars of approval from
Paisley’s home crowd showed that much of the good work done
by the McAleeses may have been permanently damaged by her

“THE theme of her presidency was to build bridges, but she
seems to be burning an awful lot of them recently,” said
Ferriter. “Mary Robinson had a much more co-ordinated
approach in terms of the audience she was trying to reach.
Mary McAleese seems to have a scatter-gun approach.

“People remember Robinson for her trip to Somalia during
the famine. When she went to the United Nations, she
emphasised the theme of victims. McAleese does not really
do that. She is a 21st-century president selling Ireland as
a business destination.”

Barry Andrews, a Fianna Fail TD, believes that the reaction
of people to McAleese’s comments reveals “more about their
own prejudices and inclinations”.

He said: “When she spoke on the Nice treaty, you had the
Greens and so on giving out about her. When she speaks
about 1916, you have all the anti-republican elements
coming out against her. People hide behind this mask that
the president should be seen and not heard. She should be
cutting ribbons, planting trees and opening scout halls. I
don’t think so.”

McAleese’s term two has been a much rockier ride than her
more symbolic, ambassadorial first term. But the president
is unfazed, and is as capable of robust defence when she
feels she’s right as she is of genuine remorse when she
gets it wrong.

The debate about opening up the presidency really began in
1990, when Robinson defied the opinion of constitutional
lawyers who insisted that the head of state was a narrow
role with few powers or possibilities.

“McAleese, in many ways, has proven Robinson right; you can
be edgy in the presidency,” said Ferriter. “But there may
yet be a backlash. I can see those things being cyclical.
The political establishment may go for a safer option the
next time.”

McAleese may be storing up problems for her successor. If
her turbulent style damages the political consensus about
the presidency formed around Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the
Progressive Democrats, all of whom backed McAleese for a
second term, Ireland may end up with another ribbon cutter,
or scratch golfer, in the Aras. Whether it wants it or not.


Opin: Liam Clarke: Blair Will Gamble On Last Spin Of
Assembly's Wheel

The latest rumour sweeping Northern Ireland is that the
eighth anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in April
will be the occasion on which Tony Blair will finally
resurrect the Stormont assembly. And if you believe that,
you probably agree with Mary McAleese that the people of
Ireland were appalled when a Danish paper they had never
heard of published a series of cartoons depicting the
prophet Muhammad.

No more than the cartoons, the assembly is hardly on the
radar on the streets of Belfast or Dublin. Everybody may
have an opinion about it, but it is nowhere near the top of
their concerns. When Peter Hain said in the Commons last
week that unless the assembly was restored, “public
resentment” would continue to build at the payment of MLAs’
salaries, the secretary of state didn’t strike much of a
chord with voters.

The only person who really cares about the absence of the
assembly is Blair, who is now said to have a “fairly firm
idea” about how to proceed. Like a gambler intent on
retrieving his fortunes on one more spin of the wheel, the
prime minister is preparing to come back to Northern
Ireland and set yet another deadline for the local parties,
who are even now rubbing their hands and finalising their
lists of demands.

Money will be top of their agendas. Since it was put in
cold storage in 2002, the assembly has brought £78m (€114m)
of central government funds into Northern Ireland, and most
of it is being spent on local goods and services. Each of
its 108 members earns about £85,000 a year in pay and
allowances. Not since the closure of the Bloody Sunday
inquiry have we had a cash cow to compare with it.

The assembly has funded political parties, paid for 10
ministries (when there is no logical case for more than
six), and sustained a top-heavy civil service who spend
their salaries in the local shops.

So when Blair arrives he can be sure of everybody’s
attention. Negotiating about the assembly, and producing
papers that Blair can present as some sort of progress, is
how politicians extract concessions from an increasingly
cash-strapped and tight-fisted British treasury. Rates are
soaring, subsidies are being cut, gas prices have increased
by 53% since last October, but like a pampered favourite
the assembly gets as much funding as it likes.

The attitude of Democratic Unionist party voters, now
mainstream unionist opinion, can be seen from a Sunday
Times survey of delegates at the party’s annual conference
earlier this month. A majority (65%) believe assembly
members’ pay and allowances should continue to be paid, but
only a minority (39%) would support power sharing with Sinn
Fein over direct rule by British ministers, even if they
were satisfied that there has been an end to IRA
criminality and the complete decommissioning of weapons.

One party figure I surveyed asked if a decontamination
period would be available, and if there would be “sackcloth
and ashes” from the IRA. When I said there would, he smiled
and said: “In those circumstances I think I’d go for direct

The reason for this intransigence isn’t hard to find. It
reflects the views of the unionist electorate, who ditched
David Trimble and made the DUP the largest party in the
province precisely because they no longer wanted a deal
with Sinn Fein. The DUP knows it will not be electorally
rewarded if it softens its line. The mandate it got at the
last election was not to go into government under the terms
of the Good Friday agreement, so it won’t.

Unionists may have voted by a narrow majority for the
agreement in 1998, but that is now a long time ago and
generally speaking they don’t feel they got what they voted
for. They expected complete IRA decommissioning within the
two years that it took to release all paramilitary
prisoners, and they expected the IRA to wind up once Sinn
Fein got into government. That didn’t happen. Instead there
has been a series of nasty surprises including robberies,
spy rings, arms buying and training missions in Colombia.

Most unionists distrust intensely the Sinn Fein leaders
who, like Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, were active in
the IRA during the Troubles and have not come clean about
their pasts. A significant minority of unionists goes
further, and detests the older generation of republicans to
the point of demonisation. Things may change as new Sinn
Fein faces come forward, but that looks unlikely within
Blair’s time frame.

The IRA played their cards too slowly and too fitfully to
build unionist trust — perhaps they did so deliberately.
Certainly the slowness of their progress and the unionist
howls of protest helped sell the Adams/McGuinness reform
package to the republican grassroots.

Unionists blame republican duplicity for the failure of the
assembly; republicans blame unionist intransigence. Those
attitudes, deep in the psyche of the two communities, is
what keeps Sinn Fein and the DUP the largest parties and
ensures that their failure to restore the assembly costs
neither of them votes.

On the nationalist side, there is lip service to the full
implementation of the Good Friday agreement, but it is no
longer a make-or-break issue and it is certainly not
something that Sinn Fein is being blamed for.

The current issue of An Phoblacht, Sinn Fein’s weekly
newspaper, makes the point neatly. As Blair and his
ministers try to pump up the pressure for devolution, the
topic barely rates a mention. The main story lambasts
Bertie Ahern for refusing northern parties speaking rights
in the Dail, and there is scene setting for this weekend’s
ard fheis focusing on economics, health and the
environment. These are the areas on which Sinn Fein is
trying to build credibility with southern voters in time
for the next general election.

The restoration of the assembly seems to have been
relegated to the status of a long-term aspiration.

It is in this context that David Hanson, the north’s
political development minister, speaks of growing momentum
for devolution. He is about as convincing as his colleague
Shaun Woodward when he announced that the Independent
Monitoring Commission had given the IRA a clean bill of

The prime minister will have to try something, but he knows
that power sharing on the same ambitious scale as outlined
in the Good Friday agreement would collapse. We may instead
get a shadow assembly of some sort. Such an institution
could provide the politicians with a legislative and
scrutiny role that will keep them in pay and which Blair
can present as progress in his memoirs.

It is not what nationalists want, and the currency in which
Blair will need to pay them is increased cross-border co-
operation and a more Irish feel to the north. The SDLP,
which provided most of the ideas that fuelled the peace
process, has already drawn up a list of proposals for
things that could be handled on a cross-border basis. Sinn
Fein has reacted by saying that it thought of it first. It
is clear both parties see this as acceptable and the two
governments have weighed in with a commitment to spend €100
billion on a cross-border basis in the next few years.

So much money will be spent on a cross-border basis that
unionists won’t be able to ignore it. They will also have
to get in on the cross-border act, and it will provide them
with an incentive to enter an administration of some kind.

In a profound piece of social engineering, cuts in
education and falling school-rolls will be used to provide
incentives for many existing schools to move towards
religious integration and the pooling of specialist
resources, or face closure.

Other dollops of patronage have been dispensed to
nationalists alone, in order to sweeten the fact that the
sort of assembly the DUP and the unionist electorate may
consider won’t be what was promised in the Good Friday
agreement. Sinn Fein has recently had its Westminster
allowance restored and a special new one added to help fund
the party. Last week a special dispensation from British
legislation was introduced to allow Irish citizens living
abroad to contribute to Northern Ireland parties.

Blair is hoping it will work while he is still prime
minister; the local parties know that their ability to
extract concessions from him is growing daily. They will
play hardball, and the prime minister shouldn’t expect them
to move to his timetable unless he pays them well to do so.

It’s his legacy, but it’s their pressure point.


Review: The Corrs - Home

February 18, 2006
Written by Fumo Verde

From the Green Isle comes a foursome where talent and
harmonies abound. The Corrs latest album, Home, is a blend
of music and story, as all good Irish songs are. Here
Andrea, Sharon, Caroline, and Jim combine instrumental path
with traditional storytelling in what comes out to being
the new way of Irish folk rock. Home is an array of images
described in song and melody that forms vivid daydreams of
plush green valleys and white rolling hills with friendly
people to meet you at every pub.

The Irish language itself has a rhythm all its own, and
here the Corrs have taken that element one step further.
"My Lagan Love" is the first breeze to blow off the album
with its marching-drum beat and lone piano. "Like a
lovesick lenanshee/She hath my heart in thrall/No life have
I, no liberty/With love is lord of all". Here the Celtic
rhythms of speech, along with the drum, joins with the
gentle sounds of the string instruments to form a choir
that echoes the sorrows of the past, yet brings about the
hopes of today.

"Black Is The Colour" is the fourth song on the disc. It
has a less traditional sound in the melody, yet the words
of the song keep the old rhythm. "I write him letters just
a few shor' lines/And I suffer death ten thousand times".
Here the wordsmithing brings the sorrows of the old Ireland
to the realm of the new Ireland. Haunting and sadness is at
the root of this song and Andrea's voice holds strong the
whole way through. Just as it is on "Heart like a Wheel,"
another song of Irish sorrow, that can only be told by
Andrea's sweet voice. As the piano plays gently with a few
violins backing them up, "Heart Like a Wheel" touches
anyone who's been in love.

"Buachaill On Eirne" and "Brid Og Ni Mhaille" are two
tracks sung entirely in Gaelic; don't worry, the liner
notes have the translations, but why bother. Both these
songs have a beauty all their own. "Bucachaill On Eirne" is
about a cocky Irish lad who would likes to charm the
ladies, while "Brid Og Ni Mhaille" tells once again the sad
Irish tale of love. These lyrics have no chorus, they
simply tell a tale as the music sweetly rolls along. "Old
Hag" is the only instrumental on the CD, and it is rooted
in the old Gaelic style with whistles, drums, violins,
guitars, and what sounds like a banjo. It reminds me of the
fight scene in John Wayne's movie The Quiet Man. "Old Town"
is the only non-traditional sounding song on the whole CD.
It's up-tempo beat gives it a pop sound. It's a nice song
with words in the "storytelling style" but it lacks the
roots of the "old Irish" sound that is throughout the rest
of the disc.

The Corrs have intertwined their pop-rock sound with ideas
and images of their homeland, and that is why Home is a
perfect name for this album. At home we know the hills and
the valleys, the dirt roads and the busy streets, and like
the Corrs our hearts yearn to be there. Home brings not
only the Corrs back, but it takes us along for the ride.

This is Fumo saying..."Erin Go Bragh"


Ireland's Field Of Dreams Turns Out To Be An Emerald

Richard Oakley

IT HAS been described as an Irish take on Cool Runnings,
but without the Jamaicans or the bobsleighs. A film on the
history of Ireland’s unlikely attempts to develop a
national baseball team is to begin a tour of cinemas in
America this week.

The Emerald Diamond, a feature-length documentary, charts
the haphazard history of America’s national sport in
Ireland and the sometimes comical efforts of a group of
fanatics to put together an Irish team capable of playing
in international events.

Few people are aware that Ireland even has a baseball team,
but the movie, which will open in 20 cinemas across
America, may change this.

The New York Times has described the film as “a charming
look” at how the game “captivated some dedicated Irishmen”
in a country where GAA, soccer and rugby dominate.

The film, it said, shows the development of the Irish team
from “bumbling weekend warriors into respected

John Fitzgerald, an American film-maker from Valhalla, New
York state, made the film after his attempt to play for
Ireland, under the so-called “granny rule” was

“I played baseball in college in New Jersey, but gave it up
when I started working in television and films,” said

“I then heard about the Irish team and thought it would be
great to play for it. My grandmother was an Irish passport
holder and so I thought I would qualify.

“I made contact and started training again, but wasn’t
eligible as my grandmother, despite her passport, was born
in New York. I was really disappointed, but decided I would
make a film about the story of how the sport had grown in
Ireland and how the players had managed to overcome serious
obstacles to put a national team together.”

The history of baseball in Ireland may be a short one, but
it still took Fitzgerald almost two years and five trips to
Ireland get it on film.

Fitzgerald’s documentary details this progress, using both
archive material supplied by players and his own film and

The film shows how Peter O’Malley, a wealthy Irish-American
and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, pledged
$140,000 (€117,000) towards building the first ever Irish
baseball diamond in Clondalkin, now known as the “Field of

According to the documentary, there are now 300 Irish
children playing the sport in Little League competitions
and 10 adult teams competing against each other, including
two in Belfast.

The sport started in Ireland in the early 1990s, when
recreational softball players, including some Americans
living in Ireland, decided they wanted to try something
more challenging and competitive.

The idea of establishing an Irish team was mooted, although
there were some teething problems.

The players had no diamond to play on, very little funding,
no uniforms and most of the people who wanted to play had
only a beginner’s understanding of what was involved.

One by one these problems were surmounted and with the help
of some American-born players, Ireland’s team made it to
the European Championships in 1996 for the first time.

“In the beginning we were brutal, but it was all a bit of
fun,” said John Dillon, 35, Ireland’s captain.

“Very few people knew the rules, some couldn’t hit the ball
and we didn’t even know where we were supposed to stand.
But with help from the American guys we worked it out.”

When the team went to the European Championships in Britain
that year, they were beaten 23 to 2 by the Czech Republic
in the first game.

They then lost the next three successive games to Norway,
Poland and Lithuania before marking up their first success
with an 8 to 6 victory against Serbia-Montenegro.

Chris Foy, 32, from New York, who works for JP Morgan,
moved to Ireland in 1998 by which time the team had already
played in two other competitions, both European “B-Pool”

“I went along just to help out, but when I saw it was up
and running I decided to play instead,” he said.

In 2002, Ireland finished fourth in the European B-Pool
Championships in Stockholm and two years later, in Germany,
the Irish team finished third, beating Serbia-Montenegro to
win its first ever medal. Now the team is among the
favourites for this year’s competition.

Dillon’s dream is for Ireland to qualify for the European
A-Pool Championships and even the World Baseball Classic, a
competition for the top 16 countries in the world.

American Mike Kindle, a former Irish team player and one of
the pioneers of Baseball Ireland, wants to see a young
Irish player drafted to play professionally in America.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but the sport is growing
here and it’s something that might just happen,” he said.

The film, meanwhile, opens in Pleasantville in New York
next Saturday and after its tour of America, Fitzgerald
wants to bring the Emerald Diamond home to Ireland.

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