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March 23, 2006

Alex Reid - Basque Conflict Only Solved Through Negotiations

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News About Ireland & The Irish

EI 03/23/06 Basque Conflict Only Solved Through Negotiations - Reid
SF 03/23/06 DUP Challenged To Respond To Drug Threat
SF 03/23/06 SF Confronts Brit Edu Mnstr & Support Other Parties
IM 03/23/06 Ógra SF Call On Edu Mnstr Angela Smith To Resign
BT 03/23/06 Blair 'Bigot' Controversy Rumbles On
BT 03/23/06 Police Failed To Protect Order Members, Ombudsman Rules
BT 03/23/06 Distinctive Voices On A Changing Policing Board
IT 03/23/06 Man Shot In Legs In Carrickfergus Attack
BB 03/23/06 Army Deals With Suspicious Object
IN 03/23/06 Opin: Get Yer Hands Dirty In Norn Irn Politics
IN 03/23/06 Opin: All Things Irish Cause Difference Of Opinion
IN 03/23/06 Opin: Easy To Criticise Community-Based Projects
IC 03/23/06 Opin: The Right People
BT 03/23/06 Opin: McCann- Who Gets Their Thrills On Capitol Hill?
BT 03/23/06 Opin: Protestant Bigots? Leave It Out, Please, Tony


ETA's cease fire

Basque Conflict Can Only Be Solved Through Negotiations -
Alec Reid


Alec Reid´s message to ETA members and supporters was that
"the only way you can solve a conflict like the Irish one
or Basque one is through negotiations. There are no
military solutions."

Alec Reid, roman catholic priest from BelfastA Roman
Catholic priest from Belfast who prodded the Irish
Republican Army toward peace said Thursday he also has been
advising leaders of ETA, the armed Basque group, to commit
to a permanent cease-fire and diplomatic compromise.

"I explained the lessons we learned in Ireland,'' the Rev.
Alec Reid said in a telephone interview from Bilbao, in the
heart of the Basque country, where he has spent weeks
discussing the way forward with activists from ETA and the
Basque nationalist left-wing political party, Batasuna.

Reid, a confidante of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for the
past two decades, helped oversee the IRA's disarmament last
year. He said a Bilbao priest had invited him to encourage
similar peace moves from ETA. "This is the end of the
physical-force tradition in Basque politics," Reid said.
"It's what happened last year with the IRA. It's the
beginning of a whole new era.''

He said his message to ETA members and supporters was that
``the only way you can solve a conflict like the Irish one
or Basque one is through negotiations. There are no
military solutions.'' "The first thing you have to do is
take the conflict away from the streets, you can't solve it
while it's on the streets. Then you have to bring it to the
conference table, the table for dialogue. And there, in a
dialogue between all the political parties that represent
the people, you will certainly resolve the conflict,'' he

Completely united

When asked if he thought ETA would split into factions
because of the cease-fire, Reid said, "No. My information
is that ETA has been completely united heading into this.''

Last September, the IRA invited Reid and a Methodist
minister to witness the group's secret handover of its
hidden weapons dumps to disarmament officials, an act that
was a decade of diplomacy in the making. Such peace
commitments, he said, happened because Britain negotiated
respectfully with Sinn Fein.

He said Spain would need to adopt the same policy with ETA
and Batasuna. He was optimistic this would happen, despite
substantial public opposition. "The Spanish Socialist Party
deserves great credit, because when they came to power they
said they were prepared to negotiate, to work for a
settlement to the conflict,'' Reid said.

Break up

"Among the Spanish people it's not very popular to talk to
nationalists, because the Spanish people are scared that
Spain will break up.'' Reid has been traveling frequently
to the Basque country in recent years, and sometimes stays
in monasteries on both the French and Spanish sides of the

He entered the public eye in Northern Ireland in March
1988, when two plainclothes British soldiers were beaten,
stripped and shot to death at an IRA funeral. Photographs
of a despairing Reid attempting mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation on one of the men, then giving the Last Rites
to them both, were reprinted worldwide.

As a priest of the Redemptorist Order in Belfast's Clonard
Monastery, Reid regularly heard the confessions of Adams,
who according to histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement
joined the IRA's seven-man command in the mid-1970s. Reid
says during his many discussions with Adams they debated
the morality of warfare and, specifically, the IRA's
``armed struggle,'' which claimed 1,775 lives before the
group's 1997 cease-fire.


Reid said he hadn't advised ETA officials to use the word
"permanent," or the Basque or Spanish equivalents, in their
cease-fire statements this week. But he noted that when the
IRA failed to use this word in its first cease-fire
announcement in 1994, instead declaring a "complete
cessation," this helped delay the start of meaningful
negotiations, and led to the IRA's abandonment of that
truce with a two-ton truck bomb in London in 1996.

He said he thought ETA leaders "probably were aware" of the
difficulties experienced by the words used by the IRA and
didn't want to risk the same problems.


DUP Challenged To Respond To Drug Threat

Published: 23 March, 2006

Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has issued a
challenge to the DUP to respond to the biggest threat
facing modern society, the threat of drugs.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Drugs pose possibly the biggest threat to our society
today. They poison the future of our youth and they create
huge wealth for drug dealers.

"When DUP spokesperson pontificate about crime, the issue
they continually fail to deal with is the issue of drugs
and the crime associated with it. Yet Ballymena has a huge
problem with drugs, particularly heroin. Similarly parts of
the Shankill and East Belfast, South Antrim and North Down
have become synonymous with drugs and drug dealers.

"The common thread running through all of this is that in
areas where crime and drugs threaten communities there is
violent organised loyalism and considerable DUP

"The DUP are now publicly moving to address the threats
posed by loyalism. It is time that they also got to grips
with drugs and crime in these areas." ENDS


Sinn Féin Will Confront British Education Minister And
Support Other Political Parties

Published: 23 March, 2006

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson will
lobby the SEELB Meeting this morning at 10am to show
support for those who are prepared to refuse to implement
cuts to education services and to lobby those who remain

Michael Ferguson said:

"I and others will on one hand be lobbying undecided SEELB
members who may feel intimidated or threatened by the
British Secretary of State‚s bullying yesterday and on the
other hand demonstrating support for those committed to
defending our education system.

"This Direct Rule Minister is not worried about the
education of our children or he would not be threatening us
to make cuts and he does not care about staff not being
paid wages because he wants us to force staff into

"We have political unity on the BELB and the SEELB should
be joining in the opposition. Sinn Féin will be telling
Direct Rule Education Minister Angela Smith at the
scheduled 12.30pm meeting today at Castle Buildings that we
will not be doing her government's dirty work because we
would be in breech of our civic and our statutory duty."


Ógra Shinn Féin Call On Angela Smith To Resign

National Rights And Freedoms News Report Tuesday
March 21, 2006 15:53 by Shauna - Ógra Shinn Féin

Ógra Shinn Féin has called on the British Minister Angela
Smith to resign for failing to budget to meet the education
entitlement of children across the five Education and
Library Board areas. Pierce Gormley, Ógra Shinn Fein
Education spokesperson went on to praise the BELB members
lead by Sinn Fein who refused to support further cuts to
schools services.

Commenting Pierce Gormley said,

“ Sinn Fein took a policy decision following last year’s
Local Government elections that they would not police
British Government budget cuts to education and all our
activists have stood firm and rallied behind this issue.”

“ Yesterday Sinn Fein was joined by Youth Leaders and young
people whose services were to be cut as well as Union
representatives on a protest outside the Board Offices to
reinforce the need to stand firm against cuts and 20 out of
the 25 Board members refused to sign off on the cuts.”

Showing his support, Michael Ferguson MLA said,

“Sinn Fein has lobbied all other parties to adopt a similar
position and to refuse to do the British Government’s dirty
work on the grounds that it would be irresponsible to cut
services to Special Needs Children, patrol crossings to
schools, maintenance to buildings, psychology and speech
therapy support”

“I want to commend my colleagues from other Parties for
standing with us in opposition and also the non elected
Board members for demonstrating good common sense. I also
want to challenge any attempt to sack the Board members for
taking the responsible action they took and instead call
for the British Direct Rule Minister to stand down for
failing to provide the budget necessary to support
education and learning and take this opportunity to call on
SEELB members to also refuse to introduce cuts recommended
to them.”

Related Link:


Blair 'Bigot' Controversy Rumbles On

By Michael McHugh
23 March 2006

The row over the Prime Minister's attack on extremist
Protestants deepened yesterday correct with unionists and
nationalists at loggerheads.

A member of the Ulster Unionist Council and former
Conservative Party vice-president, John Lund, said Tony
Blair's remarks were "alarmist and sensational".

The comments have been contradicted by Relatives for
Justice, a largely nationalist victims' group, which has
accused unionism of turning a blind eye to sectarianism.

The controversy follows comments made during a major speech
on foreign policy this week when Blair sought to clarify
the connection between religion and violence.

Blair compared Islamic extremists to Protestant bigots who
murder Catholics.

Mr Lund said: "I think Blair's reference is alarmist and
sensational, this prime minister is an actor.

"Blair has got it so wrong. We are being ruled by 600
gunmen, 300 from each side, and he should be attacking this
miniscule proportion of the population instead of making
moronic statements like the one he has made."

Blair said Muslim terrorists were no more proper Muslims
than "the Protestant bigot who murders a Catholic in
Northern Ireland is a proper Christian. But unfortunately
he is still a Protestant bigot."

Relatives for Justice spokesman Mark Thompson dubbed the
reaction of unionists to the statement a "knee jerk"

"These same commentators want to ignore and deny that this
violence was sectarian and want to present a revisionist
view of the conflict where the only actors were
republican," he said.

"Their continued silence on ongoing loyalist violence and
loyalist racism stands in stark contrast to their swift
condemnation of Mr Blair's comments last night and today."

He said the focus today should have been on Blair's failure
to mention the role of British intelligence in recruiting,
arming and controlling loyalist paramilitaries.

Sinn Fein North Antrim Assemblyman Philip McGuigan said
unionists needed to face up to reality.

"Given the fact that loyalist murder gangs killed over
1,000 people during a campaign motivated by sectarianism
and anti-Catholic hatred it is hardly surprising that those
involved have been described as bigoted.

"Instead of continually lashing out at the messenger
political unionism should use opportunities like this to
reflect upon their past in order to move forward on the
basis of equality and respect with the rest of us."

The unionist outcry follows similar angst displayed after
comments by Irish President Mary McAleese and west Belfast
priest Fr Alec Reid, when they both made comparisons
between Nazi hatred of Jews and anti-Catholic sectarianism.


Police Failed To Protect Order Members, Ombudsman Rules

By Emily Moulton
23 March 2006

The Police Ombudsman has found that police failed to
protect Royal Black Preceptory members from sectarian
attacks as they travelled by train during July celebrations
in 2004.

The train was passing through the Kilwilkie Estate on its
way to Bangor on July 13 2004 when it was attacked by a
crowd of between 20 and 30 youths.

The group threw bricks, stones and petrol bombs at the
train causing severe damage.

A total of 46 complaints were made to the Ombudsman's
office regarding the incident.

All centred on two main allegations: that police failed to
protect their members of the Preceptory who were on the
train and that police failed to secure the train's return

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said because the train had
been attacked, she had to conclude that police failed to
protect it and those on board.

However she dismissed claims the senior police officer
involved did not make efforts to ensure the safety of

Police reports show records of the officer meeting with
members of the Preceptory to discuss other travel options
in case of an attack.

Members declined the suggestion of travelling by bus.


Distinctive Voices On A Changing Policing Board

In the first of a two-part series, security expert Brian
Rowan speaks to new Policing Board members Brendan Duddy
and Dawn Purvis - both respectively known for their insight
into republican and loyalist communities - about their new

23 March 2006

For years, he lived quietly, anonymously, in a world of
secret contacts.

It was pre-ceasefire, pre-peace process, pre-anything that
held out the kind of hope and possibilities that now exist
in today's new situation.

Brendan Duddy, recently appointed to the new Policing
Board, knows the story of the contacts that took place
between the British Government and the republican
leadership long before any cessation of military operations
was declared by the IRA.

He knows it because he was a central part of it - the go-
between in a process of exploration that involved Martin
McGuinness and Gerry Kelly at the top level of the
republican leadership.

Brendan Duddy - a successful businessman in Derry - will
know the facts about the alleged February 1993 message
suggesting republicans needed British advice on how to end
the conflict.

We now know that message was wrongly attributed to Martin

But Brendan Duddy knows so much more of the nitty-gritty,
the fine detail, of those secret contacts.

He knows, but he is not telling, not now, and maybe not

As he emerges into his public role as a member of the new
Policing Board, he would much rather speak on that issue.

He told me what was important to him was his "independence
of mind" and his Christianity.

He is, in his own words, "utterly, totally, absolutely and
completely a pacifist".

"I believe in one God," Brendan Duddy told me, "and that
does not leave space for people in Northern Ireland to kill
each other. My involvement in the process has always been
from a Christian point of view".

He has been involved in that process long enough to
recognise the importance of full community support and
involvement in policing, and he wants republicans to be
part of that.

Yes, "every sector of policing has to be accountable", but
Sinn Fein "can't keep looking permanently for a different
reason" to stay outside the process.

When republicans do come onboard, that will not be an
endpoint. It will, in Brendan Duddy's words, be the moment
when "the work is only beginning".

He has spoken publicly about his support for community
restorative justice, but he is also very clear about the
frame within which it must operate.

"There are obvious areas that are absolutely outside the
control or right of restorative justice," he told the
Belfast Telegraph.

"The law is the law and they must operate within the
boundaries of the law. They understand that…At all times
you cannot have two separate laws …It (community
restorative justice) has to be part and parcel of operating
within the law," he insists.

He is also very clear that restorative justice cannot be a
cover or an excuse for paramilitary policing: "The days of
vigilantism in any shape, form, fashion are gone and can't
be brought into it," he told me.

"But it is a system of working within society, and an
agreed policing society in which community people work on
matters which are more with the community than they are
with criminality and the law."

With Brendan Duddy's arrival on the Policing Board and with
the appointment of Dawn Purvis – chair of the Progressive
Unionist Party – that Board is beginning to become more
representative of the entire community. It is beginning to
be what it is supposed to be.

Yes, Dawn Purvis has been a controversial choice because of
her party's political links to the UVF.

But the Secretary of State has not given a seat to a member
of the "Shankill Butchers" gang. What he has done is
appoint one of the most progressive and able voices within
political loyalism at a time when the UVF and the
associated Red Hand Commando are close to making big
decisions on the future of those organisations.

This appointment should be seen in that context. It is
about telling loyalism that its voice can and will be heard
within the political, peace and policing processes.

"I certainly think it's critical that loyalism does have
some representation on the Board," Dawn Purvis said.

"If you look at relationships within loyalist working class
areas and policing over this last number of years, it's
obvious that their voices aren't being heard. People feel
frustrated and there's an alienation there…I do believe
that relationships need to be built upon, they need to be
maintained and they need to be nurtured, and I think it's
important that loyalism can articulate what needs to be
said and that needs to be done at every level including the

Dawn Purvis agrees that her appointment has some wider
significance, that this is the Government sending a message
to the loyalist community:

"For too long there has been a policy of criminalisation,
demonisation and marginalisation against the loyalist
community, and I think it's a good indication to people
within loyalism that they are being taken seriously, that
they are being listened to…Republicanism has always been
shown the path to democracy. All loyalism ever wanted was a
path out of the jungle, and I think this is the Government
saying 'well, we can help you. We can show you that way'."

Loyalism also needs to help itself. Yes, there are those -
such as Dawn Purvis - who are for participation within the
policing and peace processes. But there are others who fear
those processes because they threaten their criminal

The loyalist paramilitary leadership needs to decide soon
who is walking down that "path out of the jungle" and who
is being left behind.

Dawn Purvis believes that will be made easier "once people
start to realise that they are being recognised…that they
are being offered a path out of the jungle, that people are
encouraging the whole process of conflict transformation,
and there are rewards along the way for that".

So, political loyalism has arrived at the centre of
policing before political republicanism.

But there is an inevitability about where Sinn Fein is
going to end up in this process.

Slowly the Patten vision of full community participation in
policing is being achieved.

Brendan Duddy and Dawn Purvis will bring credible and
confident voices to the debate.


Man Shot In Legs In Carrickfergus Attack

A man (32) has been shot in the legs in what police
described as a paramilitary-style attack in Co Antrim.

The man was attacked in the Carnhill Walk area of
Carrickfergus at around 9.00pm. (Poster’s Note: A loyalist

There were no arrests.

© The Irish Times/


Army Deals With Suspicious Object

The security forces have carried out a controlled explosion
in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

It followed the discovery of a suspicious object at Fahan
Street at about 1040 GMT.

Many elderly residents of nearby Joseph's Place were
advised to stay at the front of their houses.

There has been minimal disruption to traffic at the
Rossville Street end of Fahan Street, which links the
Diamond to the Bogside.

The road has been closed since just before 1000 GMT on

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/03/23 11:49:16 GMT


Opin: Get Yer Hands Dirty In Norn Irn Politics

The Wednesday Column
By Brian Feeney

There’s no corruption in the British administration in the
north of Ireland. There can’t be, can there?

After all, it’s not like the Republic, with all those
tribunals sending politicians to jail and fining them for
trousering bribes to make the ‘right’ planning decisions.

Then there’s the gardai inventing tales of derring-do
against the IRA in Donegal to get themselves promoted.

So we have the Mahon, Moriarty (formerly Flood), Morris and
Barr tribunals, at least two of which have sat for well
over 3,000 days, all costing a mint. Isn’t it lucky
everything is so clean and above board here?

Do you believe that? Do you believe it when the British
government won’t even allow an independent inquiry into the
murder of Pat Finucane because the whole world knows the
result would expose the intimate involvement of British
security services and RUC Special Branch?

Do you believe there has been no jiggery-pokery about
planning in the north? Isn’t it remarkable that the only
scandal that has come to light in recent years is the
incompetence of local assembly politicians flouting EU
rules about waste disposal?

Doubly remarkable when hardly a week goes by without
allegations of racketeering and money-laundering by
paramilitaries. Does anyone believe they restrict their
activities to the owners of corner shops?

Isn’t it extraordinary that, for example, no-one has called
for an inquiry into UVF involvement in intimidation and
extortion to corrupt planning in parts of Belfast since the
late 1970s? Could you build anything in a location the UVF
dominates? What do you think?

Again, the public accounts committee (PAC), the National
Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Audit Office
regularly publish reports sharply critical of local civil

Most recently a report complained that the Department of
Social Development here had given ‘irregular payments’ to a
loyalist white elephant: £98,000 just like that.

A couple of months ago a permanent secretary apologised for
the mess at Invest NI, formerly Ledu. The PAC told him
there had been “a serious dereliction of responsibilities”
and that Ledu had been operating “outside the public code
of conduct”.

In due course the PAC will issue a harsh report. So heads
will roll? Don’t be daft. That’s not the way the north

There were similar nasty reports about other government
departments in the 1990s and most of those concerned slid
away unscathed into luxurious retirement.

Mentioning quangos raises another type of corruption.
Nothing to do with cash or incompetence. More to do with
arrogance and contempt. Contempt for the public that is.

Our present proconsul is one of the worst examples of this

He couldn’t care less what people here think about him.

No votes you see.

Anyway, he has a neck of solid brass. Has to have, after
swinging from being a Young Liberal to the radical side of
the Labour Party making anti-unionist statements, then over
to the Blairite wing of the party.

He’s made a number of questionable appointments to quangos,
perhaps the worst being Orangeman Donald MacKay to the
Parades Commission at a fee of more than £30,000 a year.

Incredibly, our proconsul announced that he believed he had
“the best people for the job”. Okay, not incredibly.

Last week he appointed a member of the PUP to the Policing
Board. Media outlets coyly said the PUP has links to the

In fact the PUP represents the UVF. The UVF is up to its
neck in violence and gangsterism. The police have failed to
make any inroads into it. Now we know why: the UVF has
replaced the UDA as the NIO’s favourite terrorist

You see our proconsul wouldn’t appoint any of these people
to quangos if he wasn’t so advised by NIO officials. How
could he?

Do you think he would know the name of a suitable Orangeman
or PUP member or DUP supporter to appoint to quangos? Nope.
It’s NIO civil servants who recommend them. He just signs.

Sure Norn Irn’s a great wee place. Clean as a whistle.


Opin: All Things Irish Cause Difference Of Opinion

By Ray O'Hanlon Letter from America

Nothing like a peace process to cause a ‘rift’ between

The ‘r’ word might be the best way of explaining the
existence of two Friends of Ireland statements floating
around Capitol Hill at the end of last week.

St Patrick used the shamrock to explain the nature of the
Divine Trinity. He would have been harder put to explain
these two statements on one mortal process.

But two there were, each resting on its own stem. One came
out of the House of Representatives and one emerged from

the Senate.

Congressman James Walsh, the chairman of the Friends of
Ireland, was the prime author of the House version. Senator
Edward Kennedy was the guiding hand behind the slightly
longer and more detailed Senate version.

Had the House-based Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs
pitched in with one of its own we would have had a trinity.

Two, however, was enough.

Irish-American politicians, of course, have never been
quite of one voice when it comes to solving the political
issues on the island they all hold dear.

Peace is a common objective for sure but they have long
tended to see different devils in the details.

Those differences have been most highlighted by the
sometimes uneasy co-existence of the Friends and the Ad Hoc

The Ad Hoc Committee came into being in the late 1970s
under the chairmanship of then Congressman Mario Biaggi of
New York. A prime reason for its birth was to swing members
of Congress behind Irish-American activist groups and
counter the suspicions and often opposing influences of the
Irish government of the day through its diplomats in

The Ad Hoc grouping was successful to the point that the
embassy, several years later, found the need to encourage
formation of a counter group, the Friends of Ireland.

The two groups soldiered through the 1980s often taking
differing and sometimes starkly opposing positions on what
to do to makes things better in Northern Ireland.

There was never any doubt that the Ad Hoc guys were the
darker shade of green.

But the shades began to blend with the IRA ceasefires and
after the Good Friday Agreement the two were virtually
singing off the same sheet.

Not infrequently, in the years that immediately followed
the agreement, an Ad Hoc missive to the British government
would include the signature of its four co-chairs plus that
of Friends’ chairman Walsh.

It reached the point that the main distinction between the
two groups was that the Ad Hoc committee was drawn purely
from the House while the Friends spanned both House and

The concordat began to unravel last year with Ted Kennedy’s
refusal to meet with Gerry Adams as the imbroglio over the
Northern Bank heist and the McCartney murder collided with
St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

It has now reached a new pitch with the two Friends

The rule of thumb over the years was for the House Friends
to craft a statement and for Kennedy to put together a
senate version. The two were then blended into one, with
Kennedy generally allowed the last word.

Not so this year. While much in the two versions signaled
broad agreement – to the point that rift might be a better
explanation of events than ‘split’ – the Kennedy version
held Sinn Fein’s feet to the fire over policing and also
mentioned the McCartney case. The House/Walsh version gave
both of these a pass.

Walsh, a Republican legislator from upstate New York, has
lately been critical of the Bush administration’s denial of
fundraising rights for Adams when he visits the US.

It’s probably true that taking issue with the Bush people
over anything right now is no harm for a congressman of any
stripe facing a November election. But, in fairness to the
man, Walsh’s has been a consistent voice for some years

The rift actually places Democrats and Republicans together
in both camps and members of each party facing off from
within their perimeters.

Kennedy’s statement was not just co-signed at the top by
fellow Democrats Chris Dodd and Nancy Pelosi, the
Democratic leader in the House, but also by Susan Collins,
a senator from Maine who, like Walsh, is a Republican.

Walsh’s statement, in turn, has drawn support from
Democrats and Republicans.

One well-placed Washington source said differences between
Friends of Ireland in the House and Senate was nothing new
but this time around the rift might be wide enough to
result in separate statements becoming the norm on St
Patrick’s Day in the years ahead.

Now that, arguably, would be a split in the Irish-American
body politic.


Opin: Easy To Criticise Community-Based Projects

The Tuesday Column
By Breidge Gadd

Our capacity for double think in this country continually
surprises me. On the one hand we bemoan the lack of really
good ommunity-based projects in deprived Protestant areas.
On the other hand when we do have some good ones we refuse
to fund them.

On the one hand we agonise over the failure of paramilitary
organisations to turn away from paramilitary criminality
and towards normal living and working practices. On the
other hand when there is impressive evidence to show that
some ex-loyalist prisoners have done this; when they are
working tirelessly to prevent young disillusioned
Protestants ‘joining up’; when they are working to
introduce them to an alternative to UDA or UVF thuggery, we
respond by exposing these workers to negative and sustained
criticism – criticism seldom backed by hard evidence.

In fact if those who criticise made it their business to
visit these projects, they would soon become enthusiastic

I am referring particularly to restorative justice schemes
operating in Protestant areas.

Some of these schemes, like the Greater Shankill
Alternatives, have been operating for more than

10 years.

They have been unlucky enough to have been caught up in the
political furore surrounding restorative justice projects
in republican areas, where the big issue is whether or not,
or when, republicans will support the PSNI.

There are other contentious issues in republican areas –
for example, whether community restorative justice schemes
overstep their legitimate authority by undertaking a
‘policing’ role within the community in which they operate,
given the qualified acceptance of the police by some in
those areas.

Such complex issues do not impinge on restorative projects
in Protestant areas. They have no difficulty in working
closely with police – indeed police and other relevant
statutory agencies are represented on all their management

In fact, these community-based projects are models of what
a community project should be.

Debbie Watters, the director of the Shankill project, is
probably the leading Northern Ireland expert on restorative
justice, having spent several years in America working at
the forefront in restorative justice practices.

They (as do their republican counterparts) spend time and
energy on training and quality improvements and are more
than prepared to be independently monitored and inspected
and reported on.

It is hard to see what more they can do. Yet in spite of
repeated requests for funding and a willingness to change
practice in the light of any criticism, these projects have
had to rely on private donors.

Now, in the light of the sustained negative media
attention, some of these donors have – through nervousness
– withdrawn funding. Unless new funding is found these
projects will collapse within months.

In fact the Bangor project, doing good work in a very needy
estate and with the enthusiastic support of MP Sylvia
Hermon – who has made it her business to become familiar
with the work of this project – will close within weeks
when funding runs out.

Government ministers have publicly committed support,
including finance to helping poor Protestant areas develop
both their economic capacity and community self-esteem.

Here is an organisation with a proven track record in good
community work and, most importantly, an organisation that
can bring young, socially-excluded, anti-social Protestants
back into education and productive activity – an
organisation that rekindles pride in locality, an
organisation that shows that ex-paramilitaries can reform
and contribute positively.

If we are to have hope for the future and if ministers are
serious about improving previously neglected Protestant
areas, it is organisations like these that must be
supported with the funding they need to survive and

On a completely different matter, still on the subject of
hope, Concern has introduced the ‘Gift of Hope’ for
Mother’s Day.

Instead of the usual unneeded gift or overpriced flowers,
they suggest your present for your mother might be a much-
needed gift for the developing world – and make the
difference between life and death for some other mother’s

What a great idea, that enables everyone to feel that they
have done good on Mother’s Day and by such a donation
triumphed over the appalling commercialism of the event. or telephone
0800 0324001.


Opin: The Right People

Another reason why there is anger against republicanism –
and even fear of it: Republicans want people to be ruled by

The words Sinn Féin are misrepresented as meaning
‘Ourselves Alone’ or ‘ourselves without anybody else’. An
expression of selfishness. This is propaganda by people who
know perfectly well that Sinn Féin means simply Ourselves.
The idea that everyone else is to be excluded from either
government or the good things of life does not come into
it. That is a worn-out propaganda statement by those who
dislike the idea of people running their own affairs.

To put it bluntly, some people are afraid that
republicanism means you have government and business and
literature and theatre and everything managed by ‘The Wrong

We found that with Conway Mill, a brilliant project which
has been, and still is, opposed by the local British
administration. That project and other community ventures,
they believed, was being run by The Wrong People. Those
Wrong People might be party member republicans or people of
no party at all who believed in democracy rather than
monarchism etc, but they could all be lumped together as
The Wrong People.

In the early days of the education work in Conway Mill, one
public representative who was, broadly speaking,
nationalist, said the government should set up a college of
adult education of its own because of “the dubious
alternatives" which Other People (The Wrong People) were
inventing. Many of us are proud to belong to The Wrong
People, provided The Wrong People are doing The Right
Thing, as they often are.

So some are afraid that if we are in charge of our own
affairs we may select The Wrong People to act on our
behalf. And think how awful that would be. They believe in
the existence of a number of classes of people, an upper
class, a lower class, a middle class, all arranged
according to nature, income or other factors. There is also
a business class (you pay extra to travel with this on
airways) and a criminal class (who may not pay at all).
There is, or was, a leisured class, a labouring class, and
so on and so forth.

In order to be able to think in an orderly fashion they
docket us all into one or other of these classes. And treat
us accordingly. For instance a judge in court may say, This
person, since he or she belongs to the professional class,
will suffer enough through disgrace and loss of status and
therefore need not go to prison – in the other part of
Ireland (since it is run by The Right People) such a person
need not go to Mountjoy but can be accommodated elsewhere.
More suitably.

And if the lower class – bless us and save us – are
harassed by soldiers and police and other government
agents, then since they belong to the lower class, they do
not feel it as much as the upper or even the middle class
would do. Also, it has been said, the lower classes do not
think in intellectual terms, they think in terms only of
“immediate satisfaction of their needs”. Which, of course,
are modest and do not include, say, frequent visits to the
opera, or secure employment.

Sorry for saying all this, because it is great nonsense,
but you can actually get evidence both written and spoken
that this is the way some imaginative people think and
speak about their neighbours. So, they pray that The Lord
may preserve us from government and business and literature
by The Wrong People. And from republicans who may be all
right in a way but are not really a proper Ruling Class.

Oh, yes, that's another one, The Ruling Class, more
accepted in Britain than in Ireland fortunately, but always
there in delicate minds, even in Ireland. Against
republicanism there is also the acute fear people have of
running their own affairs. Strange but true. They want to
get somebody to do it, to accept responsibility, to bring
salvation, and when things go wrong, to blame.

Possibly the greatest dificulty about British unionism in
Ireland is not just the way it made a mess of government
and business but the way it makes permanent the fear of
people taking control of their own affairs.

Unionist adminstrations never made decisions, they begged
London to do it for them. London was The Right People, even
they themselves were not, they were just shadows of The
Right People, willing subjects who hoped to live in comfort
without accepting real responsibility for providing it.

The republican ideal would change all this. It would ask
people to be responsible and not dependent, to recognise
their own dignity as well as other people's, to be
cooperative without being a slave to anybody, to make their
own decisions and take responsibility for them.

This is the most reasonable thing for intelligent human
beings to do and a republican form of government with full
responsibility for governing ourselves is the normal modern
step forward in democracy.

Monarchism is outdated and wasteful, partly because it
tries to concentrate the dignity of a whole people into a
few members of one rich family. Once you create a
republican form of government, though, you have to be
forever on the alert that it is not taken over and
corrupted by people who want to use everything, including
republican ideas, for their own profit.

Turning monarchical ‘upper class’, ‘ruling class’, ‘special
people’, ‘elite’ government into republican management by
people for people is not just a matter of one revolution,
it is a matter of everlasting evolution.


Opin: Eamonn McCann: Who Gets Their Thrills On Capitol Hill?

23 March 2006

Everybody loves the Irish on St. Patrick's Day, especially,
this year, George W. Bush. Ingrates and outlaws of one sort
and another may refuse to come within a barge-pole's length
of the US President these days but leprechaun politicians
over from Ireland stand ever ready to do a Paddy's Day
dance for the darlin' man.

There are times you almost feel thankful for the grace and
restraint of the Rev Dr Paisley.

Almost, I said.

Even Jessica Simpson dissed Dubya this year. Telegraph
readers with a grip on the zeitgeist will remember Jessica
as the sweet and ditzy Daisy Dukes in Dukes of Hazzard.
More recently, she's starred with ex-husband Nick Lachey in
the reality TV show Newlyweds, which ran for four years of
sensational ratings on MTV, has released her own line of
fashion and beauty products, started a career as an actress
and made a string of hit records. Like, she's huge.

She's also an International Ambassador for Operation Smile,
a seriously worthy outfit which arranges plastic surgery
for children, mostly in poor countries, with deformities
arising from disease.

Last week, she was scheduled to host a fund-raiser for the
charity in Washington, and Bush proposed to attend. But
Jessica said no. His presence would politicise the event.
She'd rather he stayed away. So he did.

What a contrast. Bush may have smiled wanly and sighed,
with the glowing arc of upturned faces he was able to
contemplate at the White House on St Patrick's Day.

The previous day, only five congressmen, and a single
senator, all Republicans, had attended his big set-piece
speech in Washington, designed to rally a worried nation
behind the occupation of Iraq. There's mid-term elections
coming up, and few now want to be associated with Bush or
his imperialist adventure in Iraq. The President has become
poll-rating poison.

Four opinion surveys published last week gave Bush an
average approval of 34%. Among voters not committed to
either of the big parties - the decisive demographic,
apparently - he stands, or falls, at 23%. In what may be
accounted the understatement of the epoch, Republican
Senator Norm Coleman observed at the weekend that, "We're
not operating at the highest level of political

But even as Americans with working political antennae
shuffled sideways to avoid any fleeting appearance of
association with the President, a travelling troupe of
performing paddies arrived on cue, to engage in a
competitive mass choreographic exercise, striving to
manoeuvre themselves within range of his smile.

The BBC reported Congressman Peter King dismissing
suggestions that Bush had intended a remark about Gerry
Adams "keeping bad company" as admonishment. Not at all,
scoffed the fervent supporter of the occupation of Iraq and
Sinn Fein, the jovial Dubya had merely been engaging in
light-hearted banter - teasing Adams about arriving at the
White House with King, the sort of amiable repartee which
revealed the two men as friends, chums, at ease with one

Standing alongside, the Sinn Fein chief was clearly chuffed
at confirmation that George W still saw him as a good
buddy. The SF party will have been especially relieved a
day after the unfortunate spat with Bush's point-man on
Ireland, Mitchel Reiss, which had provoked the Sinn Fein
leader into plaintive recall of the days when a previous US
President had taken time off from bombing an Arab country
to hail him as an "indispensable" friend.

In fairness to the Shinners, they may feel under compulsion
to compete with their political rivals, all of whom appear
to have entered an annual Irish nationalist race to the
bottom. The winner this year was surely Martin Cullen of
the Progressive Democrats, Minister for Transport in the
South/Free State/26-county area (call it what you will, we
try to insult nobody in this column), who, at a wreath-
laying ceremony in New York on March 16, welcomed US troops
back from occupation duties in Iraq, assuring them that
Ireland was "especially proud" of what they'd been up to.

On the following day, the same unit, the 69th Infantry
Division, the "Fighting Irish," fresh from their efforts at
subduing rebellious Baghdad, led the shamrock-strewn parade
along Fifth Avenue, cheered by "huge, hilarious crowds,
some waving Irish flags or wearing green hats or green
carnations, green shamrocks painted on their faces, as
scores of bagpipers, bands and Irish societies streamed
past." (That's from the official Chinese news agency,
Xinhua, an impeccable source in these matters, I find.)

The New York parade once again excluded gays, chief
marshall John Dunleavy of the Ancient Order of Homophobes
likening the notion of gays marching under their own banner
to Nazis wanting to march in a Jewish parade or the Ku Klux
Klan insisting on joining a black demonstration.

If the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation (ILGO) was
included, he reasoned, "Is it the Irish Prostitute
Association next?" (Actually, the Irish prostitutes I have
known wouldn't want to be dragged down to Mr Dunleavy's

Any word of any Irish nationalist party, from Sinn Fein to
the PDs, refusing to march in a parade which won't
acknowledge gays as part of the Irish nation? Need you ask?

I bet Jessica would take a tougher line.

Commenting on Daisy's (that's how I still think of her)
refusal to have Bush alongside her, a White House spokesman
said, "This has never been a problem for Bono."

Of course not. Bono's a bit of an Irish politician himself
these days.

The embarrassment.

Oh, the embarrassment.


Opin: Protestant Bigots? Leave It Out, Please, Tony

23 March 2006

Like President Bush, Tony Blair is in deep trouble over the
war in Iraq and its effect on global terrorism, but he
should know better than to compare Islamic extremists with
Protestant extremists in Northern Ireland. Both have
extreme views, which they use to justify murder, but one is
based on a twisted form of religion while the other has far
more to do with the delusion that terror is the best means
of defending a political position.

For the Prime Minister to say that Muslims who committed
acts of terrorism were no more true to their faith than the
"Protestant bigot" who murdered Catholics merely dragged
Northern Ireland into a debate in which it has no part.
Both sets of terrorists are described in terms of religion,
but in the case of Protestants it is merely shorthand,
since no Protestant church would begin to condone their

They are, or were - because thankfully most loyalist
terrorism directed at Catholics has ended - deluded
criminals who thought that terrorism was the most effective
means of stopping the rise of Irish nationalism. It was a
disaster, both for themselves and their community, and the
organisations who led them are in retreat, most people
having learned that politics is the only way forward.

That is the picture in Northern Ireland today, where
communities are divided by politics based on the
constitution, much more than on religion. Yet Tony Blair
was unwise enough to use one set of terrorists to
illustrate his point that religious extremism has to be
opposed by democracies, by force if necessary.

If he knew his Irish history, he would know that religious
or political extremists have always fed off each other. For
every "Protestant" or unionist bigot there has been a
"Catholic" or nationalist bigot, some of whom have been
involved in horrific acts of murder and violence. One
should not be mentioned without the other.

The Prime Minister went on to show his ignorance of the
true constitutional nature of the quarrel by emphasising
the importance of the religion of the bigoted Protestant
murderer. "To say his religion is irrelevant is both
completely to misunderstand his motive and to refuse to
face up to the strain of extremism within his religion that
has given rise to it," he said.

Does he imagine that there are churches here, as there are
mosques elsewhere, where extremists are told to wage holy
war? He has a right to defend his policy in Iraq and
Afghanistan, though many now doubt that war is the best
means of defeating Islamic extremism, but he should leave
Northern Ireland out of it. Comparing one side of the
problem here with extremism in Islam or Nazi Germany, as
President McAleese and Father Alex Reid have done, only
compounds it.

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