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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
August 27, 2006
McCord Loyalist Murder Suspect Freed at UVF Request
News About Ireland & The Irish
GU 08/26/06 Mo Freed McCord Loyalist Murder Suspect At Request Of UVF
SL 08/27/06 Sir Reg Calls On UVF To Lift McCord Threat
UT 08/26/06 SDLP: 'We Must Not Betray Voters'
SL 08/27/06 Peer Is Tipped To Be New Ornage Order Leader
TO 08/27/06 Informant Offers To Testify At Omagh Murder Trial
TO 08/27/06 Ministers Plan Blitz On Criminal Gangs Behind Puppy Abuse
TO 08/27/06 Sinn Fein Link 'Hit Bid For Oil Rights'
TO 08/27/06 IRA Split Adds To Violence Worries
BB 08/26/06 Celtic Rangers: Rivalry Tied Up In Religion
IT 08/26/06 Cab Recovered €16m From Criminals Last Year
BB 08/24/06 NI Population UK's Fastest Rising
SL 08/27/06 Sectarian Fire Attack Victims Blast Compo Body
SL 08/27/06 Belfast’s Terrible Image Problem
IA 08/27/06 Opin: The Old Lady And The Treaty
IT 08/26/06 Opin: Ahern Needs SF Votes To Be Next Taoiseach
TS 08/27/06 Opin: Dialogue Is The Quintessential Canadian Measured Response
IT 08/26/06 Opin: Officer Who Exposed Pacifist's Murder
SL 08/27/06 Opin: We Must Learn To LIVE TOGETHER...
IT 08/26/06 Deadly Horn-Nosed Viper Slips Into Ireland Under Cover
IT 08/26/06 Morrison Set To Acquire Windmill Lane Studios
IT 08/26/06 Windmill Lane: A Brief History
CC 08/26/06 Travellers Rediscover Northern Ireland As Troubles Subside
GT 08/27/06 Boom On Belfast Streets As City Starts To Flourish
HC 08/27/06 San Patricios: Driven To Desertion
TO 08/27/06 Review: Smelling Of Roses
DR 08/27/06 Nace Named Parade Grand Marshal
IT 08/26/06 An End To Farming As We Know It
IT 08/26/06 Dublin Suburbs Full Of Empty Promise
IT 08/26/06 Is Our Education System Putting Out Yeats's Fire?
Mowlam 'Freed Loyalist Murder Suspect At Request Of The UVF'
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday August 27, 2006
Mo Mowlam hampered an investigation into a controversial
murder that linked loyalist killers to senior police
officers, according to a police watchdog report to be
published next month. The Observer can reveal that Nuala
O'Loan, the Police Ombudsman, will conclude that, as then
Secretary of State, Mowlam secured the release of a key
murder suspect because she was told his arrest could
destabilise the peace process.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is so concerned
about the fallout from the report into the 1997 killing of
Raymond McCord that it has set up a team of officers to
deal with its recommendations on the handling of
informants, who have been told to treat the report as if it
were a 'critical incident'.
McCord, 22, was beaten to death at a quarry on the
outskirts of Belfast on 9 November, 1997. He had been
facing charges for possession of cannabis - which the
police believe was provided by a UVF commander in the Mount
Vernon area. Knowing the recriminations should his
organisation discover he had been involved with drugs, the
commander is thought to have blamed McCord for importing
the cannabis and sent a UVF 'punishment unit' to kill him.
The victim's father has fought an eight-year campaign to
prove that the unit was not only responsible for at least
13 other murders but was also being monitored by Special
Branch 'handlers' who did nothing to intervene.
'I believe Nuala O'Loan's report will name at least three
Special Branch officers as the handlers of the gang,' said
Raymond McCord Sr. 'I am also confident the report will
conclude that a cabinet minister, shortly after Raymond's
murder, secured the release of a suspect.'
McCord and his solicitor, Paul Farrell, claim the Ombudsman
will back up accounts they heard from disgruntled CID
officers that at the beginning of 1998 Mowlam intervened
directly in the case, ordering the release from prison of a
key suspect initially arrested over the McCord murder.
At the time the UVF and its political wing, the Progressive
Unionist Party, were engaged in all-party peace talks
leading up to the Good Friday agreement and the UVF wanted
the arrested man involved, so asked Mowlam to secure his
release. According to McCord and Farrell, one of the
Mowlam's senior officials telephoned Gough police barracks
in Armagh and ordered CID officers to free the murder
suspect. Sources close to O'Loan's investigation confirmed
that Mowlam intervened to secure the loyalist suspect's
'This man was the Provost Marshal of the UVF; he would have
known what happened to young Raymond and who did it,'
McCord Sr said. 'Yet he was hardly in Gough barracks before
he was released thanks to that call.'
O'Loan has declined to comment, but her office confirmed
that an interim report on the McCord murder investigation
has been sent to Sir Alastair Frazer, the DPP for Northern
Sir Reg Calls On UVF To Lift McCord Threat
By Alan Murray
27 August 2006
Sir Reg Empey has urged the leadership of the UVF to issue
a statement saying it offers no threat to campaigning north
Belfast man Raymond McCord.
The UUP leader has come under fire over his party's tie-up
with the UVF-linked PUP.
Mr McCord's home was visited three times last week by
police to convey warnings of death threats.
Neighbours also reported suspicious activity around his
The UUP leader said: "I think it would be helpful for the
UVF's leadership to clearly outline in public that it has
no intention of attacking Raymond McCord and wouldn't
authorise an attack of any nature on him."
But Mr McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was murdered by the
UVF in 1997, said he still believed the UVF leadership
would support an attack on him, even if it can't control
the Mount Vernon UVF unit suspected of being behind the
"I know from UVF contacts in the Shankill that the
leadership is furious with me because my actions have
exposed their incompetence over the infiltration of the
organisation by police informers," he said.
"I think the Mount Vernon element is out of control and
beyond the reach of the Shankill leadership now. So,
overall, I don't expect them to make a statement, and if
they did, I wouldn't accept it at face value."
Since the murder of his son by the Mount Vernon UVF unit
led by police informer Mark Haddock, the north Belfast man
has had to move to south Belfast, where police patrols keep
a regular observation on his home.
SDLP: 'We Must Not Betray Voters'
Northern Ireland's politicians will betray their voters if
they fail to form a power sharing government by November
That was the warning from SDLP negotiator Sean Farren who
told the Glencree summer school in Co Wicklow that after a
bad start the Stormont committee, tasked with preparing for
government, had set about its work in a business-like
manner and with less bitterness than before.
However the former Stormont Finance Minister said it was
too early to predict whether the Democratic Unionists and
Sinn Fein would be able to set aside their differences and
form a devolved government.
"If we`re not to go down in history as the politicians who
spurned the best means ever to build a new Ireland, to
create harmonious relations between Orange and Green within
the North and across Ireland as a whole, we need to openly
and honestly grasp the opportunity we now have to restore
the Good Friday Agreement - an opportunity which will only
last until November 24," he said.
"Current discussions in the Preparation for Government
committee have - after a bad start - got down to work at
least in a business-like way and with less of the acrimony
between SF and the DUP that characterised that start.
"But whether or not all the issues will be resolved in a
manner that will make restoration possible is difficult to
"Even if all of the practical issues to do with how the
Assembly, the North South Ministerial Council, the British
Irish Council etc. are to work, and what the arrangements
should be for the administration of policing and justice,
the Bill of Rights etc., the key issue is whether the DUP
will see it to be in their interest to agree to enter and
lead an administration with Sinn Fein.
"It is part of the challenge we face that we must convince
the DUP that it is in their interest and indeed in the
interest of all of the people of Northern Ireland that they
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
have given the Assembly parties until November 24 to strike
a deal which will enable the province`s politicians to
exercise power through a devolved government.
However the obstacles to power sharing remain considerable.
The Rev Ian Paisley`s Democratic Unionists, Northern
Ireland`s largest party, insist they will not be bounced
into a government in November featuring Sinn Fein if there
is no proof that the Provisional IRA has ended all
criminality and paramilitary activity.
In the opening address to the summer school, senior DUP MP
Gregory Campbell insisted yesterday Sinn Fein would also
have to endorse the current system of policing in Northern
Ireland and encourage its supporters to co-operate with the
police if it was to be a credible partner in government.
Mr Farren said the involvement of all parties in the
Preparation for Government Committee was a welcome
departure from the British and Irish Government`s tendency
in recent years to focus exclusively on talks with the
province`s `problem parties`.
However the North Antrim Assembly member said if there was
to be a successful outcome in their bid to restore power
sharing, all parties must honour their obligations together
instead of taking part in a series of choreographed moves.
He also urged them to pledge themselves to:
:: A genuine spirit of co-operation in government, with no
party trying to constrain developments within Northern
Ireland, between both parts of the border or East and West.
:: Clearly abandoning all paramilitarism and ensuring all
sides use exclusively democratic means to promote political
:: Fully endorsing policing and justice systems
Mr Farren said: "In the North the challenge is to develop a
more dynamic economy that moves us to a better balance
between wealth creation and wealth consumption (we consume
much more wealth than we produce by a factor of
approximately 50 per cent); to fast forward infrastructural
investment; to develop programmes to more effectively
tackle social disadvantage.
"And above all to tackle the sectarianism that continues to
poison relationships in our society, that takes the lives
of young teenagers like Michael McIlveen and many, many
others and that constructs so-called peace walls and
creates no-go areas in our cities, towns and villages.
"Those who would be responsible for us not being able to
move to this position would rightly earn the very strong
condemnation of this and succeeding generations.
"They would have betrayed the tremendous efforts that have
been made by friends and supporters of a peaceful and
democratic way forward.
"Such friends are here today, they have been with us
throughout the past 10 years, and they have come from here
at home and from abroad.
"But above all it will be our own people whose hopes and
expectations from what we could do together will have been
Laird and Master?
Peer Is Tipped To Be New Ornage Order Leader
By Joe Oliver
27 August 2006
An outspoken Ulster peer who wants to transform the Twelfth
into a cultural and cross-community carnival is being
tipped as the next leader of the Orange Order.
Lord Laird of Artigarvan is seen by many within the
institution as a natural successor if Robert Saulters
decides to step down as Grand Master later this year.
Mr Saulters has held the post for 10 years and in that time
has guided the order through the most difficult chapter in
But he recently indicated to colleagues that he believes
the time is right to hand over the reins.
There is a growing belief among Grand Lodge of Ireland
members that public relations expert Lord Laird would be
the ideal candidate to drive through a programme of reform.
The order has been on a charm offensive for some time
following meetings with Catholic leaders, the SDLP, the
Human Rights Commission and Irish President Mary McAleese.
It has also accepted the need for major parading
concessions, and was controversially grant-aided by the
Government - to the tune of £100,000 - to help turn this
year's Twelfth into a 'Notting Hill-style' carnival.
Lord Laird, a member of the Royal York Loyal Orange Lodge
No 145, helped organise floats with an Ulster-Scots
The former Stormont MP also stated: "We are turning the
situation around and making the Twelfth even more family-
friendly, and, most important, an event open to everyone,
regardless of their background or religion."
One senior member of the Grand Lodge told Sunday Life:
"It's now accepted that Robert will stand down this year,
and probably before our AGM in December. Naturally, there
has been talk about his successor and it would be fair to
say that Lord Laird's name frequently crops up.
"Whether he would have the time is another matter, because
he is a very effective cross-bencher in the House of Lords
and a tireless advocate of the Ulster-Scots language.
"There would, of course, also be those opposed to Belfast
having a second Grand Master in succession.
"But I don't think anyone would question Lord Laird's
ability to put forward the order's case to an international
audience and also press ahead with the necessary reforms to
bring the institution in from the cold."
As well as reducing the number of annual parades, the order
has accepted that many will in future be restricted to
arterial routes. There is also support for a root and
branch review of its disciplinary code.
"There's no doubt the order is facing many major challenges
in the days ahead and it's vital we have the right man at
the helm," the source added.
Informant Offers To Testify At Omagh Murder Trial
A FORMER police informant, who claims that security forces
ignored advance warnings of the Omagh bombing, is prepared
to appear as a defence witness in the trial of a man
accused of the atrocity.
Evidence from Kevin Fulton, a former IRA bombmaker, could
be used to cast doubt on prosecution claims that Sean Hoey
was the only person capable of making that bomb. The
prosecution of Hoey, which is due to open on September 6 in
Belfast, could be the biggest murder trial in British legal
Fulton said yesterday that he would be happy to appear as a
witness at the trial, if he was subpoenaed.
He is said to have met Peter Corrigan, the Belfast lawyer
acting for Hoey, at the London offices of British Irish
Rights Watch, a human rights group.
Hoey, 36, from Jonesborough, south Armagh, has been
committed for trial for the murders of 29 people killed in
the 1998 Real IRA atrocity. He faces 61 terrorist and
explosive charges, all of which he denies.
At committal proceedings the prosecution alleged that the
detonation system of the Omagh no-warning car bomb, which
was contained in a lunchbox, was manufactured using methods
distinctive to Hoey. They also produced a voice recognition
expert who testified that she believed Hoey had telephoned
in the bomb warning.
The defence team is expected to make a number of
applications for disclosure when the trial opens and will
seek to establish whether British or Irish intelligence
agents or informants were involved in any way in the
planning or execution of the bombing.
Fulton has told Nuala O’Loan, the Northern Ireland police
ombudsman, that he warned his police handler that he had
seen another bombmaker, referred to as Man A, mixing
explosives shortly before the Omagh bombing.
There have been repeated suggestions that Man A, who now
lives in Newry, was also an informant and was protected by
the authorities. Similar suspicions surround another Real
IRA bombmaker who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Paddy Dixon, the man who supplied the car used in the Omagh
attack, was working for the gardai and is now living in
England after being resettled. Dixon has been interviewed
by the PSNI team who investigated the bombing but Fulton
Dave Rupert, an American who infiltrated Real IRA on behalf
of the FBI and MI5, is yet another agent on the periphery
of the attack. Hoey’s defence team is expected to probe
this complex intelligence background to establish whether
any relevant facts have been withheld from them.
Such probing resulted in the acquittal of Denis Donaldson,
another police agent, and others accused of taking part in
the so-called Stormontgate IRA spy ring. When disclosures
threatened to identify a police agent, a decision was taken
to offer no evidence against the accused.
Fulton may insist on being subpoenaed in order to appear as
a witness, fearing that he might endanger his good
relations with the families of the Omagh bereaved if he is
seen to co-operate willingly with a man accused of the
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the blast,
said he would have no objection. "I would like Hoey to have
the best possible defence, because if he is convicted the
verdict will be all the safer for that," Gallagher said. "I
don’t want a verdict where there is doubt. So if there are
any doors that his defence team want to kick open, I
certainly have no objection.
"Fulton is free to do whatever he thinks fit and I will not
fall out with him. He was the first to open the door on
Omagh; he let us know a lot more than we would otherwise
Corrigan said: "I have consulted senior counsel and we have
no comment to make."
Ministers Plan Blitz On Criminal Gangs Behind Puppy Abuse
MINISTERS are to introduce legislation to help combat a
lucrative trade in pedigree puppies, writes Kathleen Nutt.
Crime gangs with links to loyalists in Northern Ireland are
transporting hundreds of young dogs a week into Scotland on
ferries from Belfast to Stranraer and Cairnryan.
The animals, which sell for hundreds of pounds each, are
often bred and transported in appalling conditions. Many of
them die a few weeks after being sold.
Under new regulations expected to come into force next year
all dog dealers in Scotland, including those buying dogs
from puppy farms in Northern Ireland and the Irish
republic, will be required to have a licence.
The licences, which are expected to cost several hundred
pounds, will mean the dealers must be registered with a
local authority and have their premises inspected by animal
The pups will also have to be at least eight weeks old and
fully weaned, unless they are sold with their mothers. They
will also have to be checked by a vet and the dealers must
have documents to say the dog is in full health.
Animal rights campaigners have welcomed the legislation,
based on a private member’s bill drawn up by Christine
Grahame MSP, an SNP member for the south of Scotland, with
support from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals, which believes a full ban on pups
coming into Scotland from across the Irish Sea is
Ross Minett, the director of Advocates for Animals, said:
"While we welcome moves that will help to tackle and reduce
the import of farmed puppies into Scotland, we believe an
outright ban is the only acceptable solution.
"This will be much simpler to enforce than complicated new
regulations and send a clear message to breeders and
importers that Scotland will not tolerate this kind of
unnecessary suffering in the name of profit."
The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
(USPCA) has recently uncovered puppy farms in Northern
Ireland and suspects that paramilitaries have become
involved in the trade because of the sums involved, with
dealers often making between £50,000 and £100,000 a year.
Breeders in Northern Ireland and the Irish republic often
own up to 60 bitches, each producing 15-20 puppies a year.
A bull mastiff puppy can fetch £800, a St Bernard £600 and
a West Highland terrier £300.
David Wilson, a spokesman for the USPCA, welcomed the
legislation, but added that people needed to be vigilant
when they bought pups.
"Criminal elements are becoming involved in setting up
puppy farms in Northern Ireland. We and the police suspect
some have links to loyalist paramilitaries," he said.
"People buying a dog need to be patient, find a proper
recognised dealer and see the pup with its mother."
Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club, said: "We
welcome these regulations in Scotland, which we hope will
push up welfare standards among dog breeders and dealers.
We don’t think they will lead to an increase in the price
of puppies, as normally there is an agreed cost for each
"The Kennel Club runs an accredited breeders scheme, which
is our response to puppy farms."
Sinn Fein Link 'Hit Bid For Oil Rights'
AN oil company says it was refused a licence to drill off
the coast of Donegal because the government suspected it
had ties to Sinn Fein.
Mark Turner, operations director of Grianan Energy, said
Sinn Fein’s support for the company’s licence application
had resulted in it being branded "Shinners" in the
Grianan was the only one of five applicants to the
Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
(DCMNR) to be refused a 15-year licence to drill in the
Slyne, Erris and Donegal basins. The department has said
the Grianan application was not valid for a number of
reasons, including its failure to provide a work programme,
insufficient offshore experience, and an application for
all 73 blocks and 31 part-blocks on offer instead of a
maximum of three as stipulated.
Turner said Grianan will now apply for a legal review of
the decision. It also wants a meeting with Noel Dempsey,
the minister for communications, marine and natural
resources, because its "forensic analysis" of the
department’s ruling led the company to believe the decision
was politically motivated.
At the last meeting of Donegal county council in July,
Pearse Doherty, a Sinn Fein councillor, tabled a motion
calling on the authority to back the Grianan bid as being
good for the economy. Grianan had promised to invest 10% of
its profits into the Donegal community and to create jobs
in a gas-fired power station in Burtonport. The council
passed the motion unanimously.
"There was a perception that ‘Ah, these guys are a front
for Sinn Fein profits’," said Turner. "Pearse Doherty is a
sound guy and I know him socially, but I am not a Shinner.
My politics is between me and the ballot box.
"Pearse and Martin Ferris were two of the few guys who were
helpful. The reason I think Ferris was helpful (is that he)
would have offshore experience. We had equally large
support from Labour and the independents, but some elements
in government pick out the Shinners and go after us on
Ferris, who is on the Oireachtas natural resources
committee, served a 10-year sentence in Portlaoise prison
for his part in the Marita Ann gun-running affair. The TD
is now Sinn Fein’s marine spokesman.
Ken Cleary, a DCMNR official, said the licensing decision
was "absolutely not" political. "Assessments were made on
the basis of applications made and Grianan’s didn’t meet
the terms and conditions in a number of areas," he said.
The fact that only five applications were received showed
companies "were not exactly beating down our doors" for
what are regarded as frontier licences, Cleary said.
Ireland’s exploration drilling has a one in 20 success rate
compared to one in 10 for Norway.
Under 1992 legislation introduced by Bertie Ahern to entice
multinational companies to Ireland, oil companies now pay
25% tax and can write off their exploration costs. The
state does not receive any royalties. Turner said Grianan’s
application would have proved the government’s strategy was
"We have proved a social-business model could work and that
makes Fianna Fail look bad," he said. "Speaking to Pearse,
we both feel that just because Sinn Fein was helpful, the
decision is a sideways swipe before the election."
The Grianan board contains members of the McBrearty and
Shortt families who have received nearly €4m compensation
from the state after miscarriages of justice. Turner
believes their presence on the board further soured Fianna
Fail against Grianan.
But license awards are decided by civil servants in the
petroleum affairs division (Pad) of the DCMNR. Dempsey has
now called in external experts to review the licensing
process after awarding the Donegal, Slyne and Erris
licenses to four multinational consortiums including a
partnership between Shell and Statoil, which are involved
in the controversial Corrib gas field. Dempsey said the
review, due to be completed next month, would take into
account increased energy prices and " particularly the
improved understanding of Ireland’s prospectivity".
Ireland currently imports 85% of its gas, but rising fuel
prices mean companies are increasingly willing to pay the
huge costs associated with oil exploration in Irish waters.
Doherty said last week there was "no special relationship"
between Sinn Fein and Grianan, just that its application
was a good example of how oil exploration could benefit
"I don’t think Grianan went far enough in promising 10% of
its profits to the community," said Doherty. "We need a
review of the 1992 legislation. With Corrib and Donegal we
have sold off the crown jewels to multinationals. The terms
and conditions are too favourable to oil companies."
At a presentation of Grianan’s plans to a recent Oireachtas
committee, Ferris said: "It is a tremendous gesture that
this company is prepared to put 10% of its profits back
into the local economy. I wish it well."
IRA Split Adds To Violence Worries
THE IRA and Sinn Fein in South Derry have split, with up to
40 members and supporters offering to co-operate with
dissidents, writes Liam Clarke.
Security forces fear the possibility of an escalation in
violence as various militant groups start to work together
to build a "left republican alternative".
There have been signs over the summer that dissident groups
are better organised and learning to counter infiltration
by the security forces. The defection of what amounts to an
entire IRA brigade would considerably strengthen them, and
could transform the security situation.
Details of the new organisation will be given at a public
meeting in Toomebridge, Co Antrim on Tuesday night. Paddy
Murray, a dissident republican and former IRA bombmaker
from Co Antrim, is one of the organisers of the meeting.
"We are trying to get as many people as possible genuinely
thinking of an alternative to the Provos," he said.
"People are looking for an alternative that is both
political and military. There is no difference between the
two." Murray is currently on bail awaiting kidnapping
Not all those who attend the meeting will endorse violence,
but some will be trying to gauge support for a radical
alternative to the IRA which could provide the cover and
support base for a renewed terrorist campaign.
"There will be other, less public, meetings later where
serious business will be done," predicted one Real IRA
member. "The South Derry people say they can provide 40 men
who are well-trained and not informers."
Michael McDowell, the minister for justice, has estimated
that the Continuity IRA and Real IRA have about 200 active
Some of those planning to attend the meeting are hoping
that Dominic McGlinchey, whose father of the same name was
a notorious INLA leader, will give a lead and act as a
rallying point for dissident republicans. McGlinchey
previously opposed dissidents and supported the republican
leadership but now says he will wait until after the
meeting before making his current position clear.
Dissidents say that his decision could swing a large
section of republican support in South Derry.
Both Real IRA and security sources say there is already co-
operation between republican splinter groups and the South
Derry IRA. They cite the discovery of a nail bomb and
command wire in Bellaghy, Co Derry, at the beginning of
July. Security forces described the device as "sinister"
and evacuated several houses while they dealt with it.
Security forces have warned of a possible escalation of
dissident republican activity in the autumn as attempts are
made to restore devolved government. Eleven days ago, a
partially detonated 70lb bomb was defused by the Irish army
at a house being built for Lord Ballyedmond, the Unionist
peer formerly known as Eddie Haughey, at Hackballscross in
These attacks occurred in Provisional IRA areas of
strength. They are seen both as a challenge to its
leadership and as a sign of growing support for dissidents
among IRA members disgruntled at decommissioning and the
IRA’s declaration that the war is over.
A Rivalry Tied Up In Religion
The caution given to Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who
crossed himself during a match against Rangers, has brought
the issue of sectarianism in Scotland back into sharp
The rivalry between Glasgow clubs Rangers and Celtic -
known collectively as the Old Firm - is historically tied
up in religion.
Celtic were formed in 1888 by Irish Catholic immigrants who
began emigrating to the West of Scotland in the 1840s and
Rangers, who were formed in 1873, have always been
perceived as "the Protestant club" and Celtic "the Catholic
Up until 1989, when Mo Johnston signed for them, Rangers
had never fielded a high-profile Catholic player.
Yet a range of people support the clubs, including those
without religion and those who belong to other religions.
The majority of Rangers and Celtic supporters do not get
involved in sectarianism.
But it is the minority who tend to grab the headlines.
Old Firm matches have always been tense affairs and the
mutual antipathy between the supporters has often been
stirred up by sectarian songs and chants on both sides.
In the 1970s the chants became increasingly influenced by
The Troubles in Northern Ireland, with some Celtic fans
supporting the Provisional IRA and some Rangers fans
applauding the actions of loyalist groups.
The tribal nature of Old Firm clashes is underlined by
Rangers fans flying Union flags and Celtic followers waving
the Irish tricolour.
The mutual animosity was outlined four years ago when some
Celtic fans began flying Palestinian flags and some Rangers
supporters responded by fluttering Israeli flags.
In 1999 leading QC Donald Findlay resigned his position as
vice chairman of Rangers after he was caught on video
singing a sectarian song, The Billy Boys, after the Rangers
v Celtic Scottish Cup final.
He was also fined £3,500 by the Faculty of Advocates.
In 1995 Paul Gascoigne, playing for Rangers, landed himself
in trouble in a pre-season Old Firm friendly as he mimicked
playing the flute, infuriating many Celtic supporters who
saw the act as a loyalist symbol.
Gascoigne, who was unaware of the significance, was
disciplined by the Scottish FA.
In 2002 Celtic made an unprecedented appeal to a "vocal
minority" of its supporters to stop chanting IRA slogans
Many Old Firm matches have been marred by crowd trouble
over the years, and there has also been violence away from
the football grounds.
In 1995 Mark Scott, who was wearing a Celtic shirt, was
stabbed to death as he walked past a pub full of Rangers
Five years later several of his friends helped set up an
organisation, Nil By Mouth, which campaigns against
Both clubs have made considerable efforts to end
sectarianism among their fans.
Last month Rangers chairman David Murray said the
consequences for the club of fans continuing to sing
sectarian songs would be grave.
That followed a Uefa fine for the Ibrox club for
Last year Celtic and Rangers jointly launched a project to
tackle bigotry and sectarianism in the west of Scotland.
The two clubs have ploughed tens of thousands of pounds
into the Old Firm Alliance initiative, which aims to
educate youngsters and the wider community about the ills
of sectarianism through a series of football courses.
Later this year Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell -
who describes the issue as "Scotland's secret shame" - will
host a second summit on sectarianism in an effort to
A similar event was held in Glasgow in 2005, bringing
together about 30 organisations.
Celtic and Rangers football clubs, the Catholic Church,
Church of Scotland and the Orange Order are all involved in
It is against this background that Artur Boruc's actions
have to be judged.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/26 15:58:06 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Cab Recovered €16m From Criminals Last Year
The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) collected over €16 million
in taxes and interest from criminals last year, according
to its annual report for 2005 released yesterday.
The report also shows that the Cab secured temporary or
final High Court orders freezing assets worth €7.3 million.
It says that five houses and seven cars were sold,
generating around €2 million for the Exchequer. Cab
operations generated savings on social welfare payments of
over €216,000 last year. Minister for Justice Michael
McDowell yesterday commended the Cab on its achievements
last year and said it was "an integral element in the
armoury of the State to ensure crime doesn't pay".
The Minister said that since its statutory inception in
October 1996 and up to December 31st, 2005, the Cab had
obtained interim and final restraint orders, freezing
assets shown to be the proceeds of crime, amounting to €58
million and €25 million respectively. "In the same period,
taxes and interest demanded was almost €87 million, with
almost €89 million collected. Regarding social welfare
payments, savings amount to almost €2 million and recovery
of overpayments amounted to over €1 million," Mr McDowell
The Minister also praised the Cab for forging links with
similar agencies abroad "to help ensure that proceeds of
crime will be tracked down, regardless of location".
The head of the Cab, Det Chief Supt Felix McKenna, said in
the report that the bureau had forwarded more than €18.5
million to the Exchequer last year. He said that for
operational effectiveness and reasons of statutory
confidentiality the Cab could not provide specific details
on many of its actions.
Over €5.2 million was spent on running the Cab last year.
Nearly €4 million of this went on pay.
According to the report five gardaí were provided to the
Cab on a temporary basis last year to assist in
investigations arising from the Northern Bank robbery.
The report says that under legislation a receiver may be
appointed to preserve or dispose of property frozen by
order of the courts. It says that last year the Cab
obtained 13 such orders.
The report maintains that in two cases the High Court
ordered the receiver to make payments of £926,204
(€1,370,415) and $754,406 (€591,397) to persons
(representing victims of a fraud in the US) who claimed
ownership of property frozen.
Under legislation, the Cab is also empowered to apply taxes
to the profits derived from criminal conduct. The report
says that the Cab officers raised tax assessments on 20
individuals and two companies as a result of
investigations. Of the €16 million in taxes collected last
year, €12 million related to income tax, €2.4 million to
capital gains tax and €1.7 to VAT. Following investigations
by the Cab into criminal activity, a number of social
welfare payments were terminated. This generated savings
for the State of €159,632 in one-parent family payments,
€35,945 in disability allowance and €20,477 in unemployment
The Cab also identified overpayment of benefits and more
than €293,000 was recovered.
© The Irish Times
NI Population UK's Fastest Rising
Northern Ireland's population is the fastest growing in the
UK, new Office of National Statistics figures show.
The 0.8% rise in the last year was 0.2% ahead of the rest
of the UK, with 1.7m people now living in Northern Ireland.
The figures also show the number of births was up while
deaths fell. The ONS expects NI's population to increase by
12% over the next generation.
The UK's overall population has topped 60m for the first
time, fuelled by migration from new EU countries.
Another key factor in the increase is the ageing
population, which the ONS attributes to declines both in
fertility rates and in the mortality rate.
Northern Ireland's population of 1,724,400 makes up 2.9% of
the overall UK population, the ONS said.
In June, a government report on population growth said a
record number of people came to live in Northern Ireland
The Statistics and Research Agency said the population
increased by 15,000, which was double the average for the
last 10 years.
It said there were 8,000 more births than deaths, while
more people came to live in Northern Ireland than
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/24 17:16:52 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Stop arson about!
14 Months In Limbo As Victims Of Sectarian Fire Attack Blast Compo Body
By Stehpen Breen
27 August 2006
These are the angry north Belfast women who say they have
not received any compensation - 14 months after their homes
were gutted in a sectarian arson attack.
Outraged Joan McManus and Mandy McCall, from Old Throne
Park, off the Whitewell Road, hit out at the NIO's
Compensations Agency for failing to issue them with
criminal damage claims.
Extensive damage was caused to the two women's properties
and a neighbour's home when their oil tanks were set ablaze
in June, 2005.
Almost £180,000 worth of damage was caused to Mrs McCall's
home, with £110,000 worth of damage caused to Mrs McManus'
The homes are just a few yards from where dad-of-one
Michael Magennis had his home destroyed in a similar
attack, last Sunday.
Mrs McCall told how her family had been in "financial
meltdown" over the last year.
She added: "It has been delay after delay and we have just
had enough. We have been left in limbo over the last year
"We just want this issue resolved so we can attempt to
rebuild our lives again. We still haven't been able to
properly return to our home.
"We have the evidence which shows that there was more than
just scorch damage caused to our homes and it's about time
someone realises the trauma we have been through."
Mrs McManus claims her life has been left in "tatters"
following the attack.
Said the mum-of-four: "We lost everything after this
attempt at mass murder and we want to know why there has
been a delay in the allocation of our criminal damage
"They haven't given us a clear answer about liability and
we just hope they are treating the attack as sectarian. The
last year or so has been a nightmare because we have lost
everything. I could have lost my kids that night and the
NIO should recognise this once and for all."
A spokesman for the Compensations Agency said the matter is
still being investigated.
The two women have also lodged complaints with Police
Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan over the police investigation into
The pair have also alleged police failed to probe loyalist
threats against them.
Residents held a meeting with police last Wednesday and
have called for security fencing to be installed to stop
the arsonists from gaining access to their homes.
Locals have also called for CCTV cameras to be installed at
the rear of their homes in a bid to prevent attacks.
A police spokesman refused to comment on the claims because
the matter is now being investigated by Mrs O'Loan.
City's Terrible Image Problem
Lord Mayor demanding that Belfast's 'dilapidated' CCTV
system be replaced
By Stephen Breen
27 August 2006
Belfast Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy last night called on police
to dump the city centre's "dilapidated" CCTV system.
The SDLP first citizen made the plea following a spate of
burglaries and vicious assaults in the city over the last
Mr McCarthy (pictured) - who will also raise the issue with
the Belfast City Centre Management Team - believes the
current anti-crime devices are on the verge of breaking
The Lord Mayor said "state-of-the-art" cameras were
urgently needed to combat growing crime levels.
Added Mr McCarthy: "I've been told the current batch of
cameras are ready to pack in - this is an issue that needs
addressed. We need modern cameras which can rotate at 360
degrees because they are better equipped to record crime.
It's no good having outdated devices.
"If we have these cameras then people, including many
visitors to Belfast, will feel a lot safer. I've been told
that devices have been pointing the wrong way when crimes
have been committed - this isn't good enough.
"I also think it would be important for the police to
allocate more space to the cameras' monitors, because they
are just crammed into a small room at Musgrave Street
Mr McCarthy also wants a camera to be installed at Ormeau
Avenue to help combat prostitution.
"I am trying to secure funding for a camera because local
residents are fed up with this problem," he said.
"If we have cameras recording the people who are involved
in prostitution then maybe we can see more of them in
Belfast UUP councillor Jim Rodgers has offered his backing
to the Lord Mayor in his cameras campaign.
Opin: The Old Lady And The Treaty
Looking every bit her age, former British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher made her way to Senator Frist’s Office
recently to urge the U. S. Senate to ratify a
"modernized" Extradition Treaty with the United Kingdom.
Lobbying and legislator buttonholing appears unseemly work
for someone who now goes by the handle Baroness Scotland.
But there she was not nearly as intimidating looking as she
was when she led Britain from 1979 to 1995. Once called
the "original case of Mad Cow Disease" by Labor Party
apparatchiks, the Baroness was on a mission to kick some
butt in the U. S. Senate over an extradition treaty that
has been languishing there since it was inked by Attorney
General John Ashcroft in 2003.
The treaty governs the removal of individuals from either
country in the event one of the governments wants to
arrest a person in the other’s jurisdiction for
questioning or for a crime. Now why should the Iron Lady
in her twilight years be hustling such a trifle as the
ratification of a treaty? Well there is the little matter
of revenge and, of course, her legacy.
First, lets speak to revenge. It is one of the oldest
motives in the world and guided her every policy
decision in Ulster from the assassination of her
colleague Airey Neave by the INLA in London in 1979.
With all the powers of the State, she corrupted law,
justice and democracy in ways that inspired others around
the globe. When it suited her she clothed her law and
remarks about the "threat to the life of the nation" and
then unleashed the Army SAS units in N. I. The "close
collaboration between police, Army and Intelligence units"
(now being called for in the U. S. to fight terrorism,)
then facilitated British sponsored civilian killing sprees
and the assassination of 5 elected Sinn Fein officials and
15 party workers committing the crime of canvassing for
Legal novelties unknown in America up until now were
perfected by Thatcher. They included instructing a jury
that they could infer guilt from the silence of the
accused; juryless courts; special rules for the testimony
of paid informers and the political police; arrest without
charge; immunity certificates for government killers;
rules of censorship for the BBC; Coroner inquest rules
changed only for N. I. and many others. The Baroness is
quite proud of this record even though many believe the
measures merely perpetuated the conflict. This is the road
Ms Thatcher would have Americans travel. America, she
argues, needs this Treaty to fight terrorism! She
claimed in a letter to Senator Lugar that fears of Irish-
Americans are "…entirely groundless." It is of little
consequence to her, of course, if it removes judicial
review from extradition proceedings and denies
Americans their right to a trial that is free of the
anomalies perfected during the political prosecutions of
the Thatcher era. The swift adoption of this Treaty would
assure her revenge by giving British justice to
troublesome Americans , the Irish here who escaped
garrison Ulster and intimidate those who would speak out.
Now as to her legacy. In the decade she has been out of
office she has done much to promote her view of the world,
her relationship with President Reagan and how she made
Britain "great" again. Virtually nothing is revealed about
the Irish conflict and the policies and actions she
adopted. It was a conflict which she did little to
resolve and much to inflame during her Governments term.
Even the useless Anglo-Irish Treaty would not likely to
have come to past were it not for U. S. Speaker ‘Tip’
O’Neill belching that she was making a political football
of the Irish issue. Almost from the day she left office,
the Blair administration has been faced with one demand
after another to investigate government responsibility for
numerous killings of civilians in N. I. These have
included the murders of lawyers Rosemary Nelson and
Patrick Finucane, the cover up of the British Army role in
the largest atrocity of the conflict, the Dublin Monaghan
bombings which killed 33 civilians, British agents
collusion with police and paramilitary death squads to
intimidate, injure or kill fellow subjects of the Crown
whose principal crime was being Catholic and/or a
Nationalist. In order to preserve her place in history,
the Baroness must associate herself with the fight against
terrorism . Her position must be that she crushed
terrorism not a civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.
Historians must understand that the destruction of
democracy in N. I. was made necessary for her to fight
terrorists and not, as some might claim, to stem the
rising electoral success of Sinn Fein.
In her missive to the Senators, Baroness Scotland suggested
that "our trusted partnership" would falter if the treaty
fails. The woman who former President Reagan once called
"the best man in England" even had the temerity to tell U.
S. Senators that the perception of the British people is
at stake. By this it is now clear that what Ms Thatcher
really is concerned about is the perception by the
British people of her stewardship as Prime Minister.
Few Americans will know of or see this treaty drama unfold.
That suits both the Baroness and Senator Frist just fine.
He is anxious that the vote for the treaty be viewed as
standing up to terrorists as opposed to a compromise of
American rights and liberties. The record of the Senate is
devoid of any principled stand on the conflict in Ireland
or British misrule and most Senators feel now is not the
time for a dose of courage. As for the dowager Baroness,
she will settle back with her trademark glass of Scotch and
in a toast to the "special relationship" once again make a
mockery of our elective democracy.
Michael J. Cumming, Member, National Board
Irish American Unity Conference
Opin: Ahern Needs SF Votes To Be Next Taoiseach
The 166 TDs chosen at the next election will not directly
vote for a government. Instead, having first elected a
ceann comhairle, the remaining 165 will, in the light of
post-election consultations about the composition of a new
administration, vote for one or other of the leaders of the
two largest parties, writes Garret FitzGerald
Unless a very big shift takes place in public opinion in
the intervening months before the election, the composition
of the alternative administrations and the broad pattern of
their respective support is already clear.
On the one hand, if Fianna Fáil losses can be contained, in
the first vote for the office of taoiseach, Bertie Ahern
might be re-elected by 83 or more TDs to lead a Fianna Fáil
minority government - supported by the votes of his own
party together with those of what will probably be a
somewhat increased number of Sinn Féin TDs, and perhaps
also some Independents.
Alternatively, if Mr Ahern is defeated in that vote, Enda
Kenny would then be elected by the votes of his own party,
of Labour, of the Greens (following post-election
discussions with Fine Gael and Labour), and perhaps of some
others, to lead what would probably be a three-party
For any other alternative to emerge at this stage there
would have to be a much larger shift in the votes of the
electorate in the months ahead than have emerged from the
polls for a long time past.
But what about a possible Fianna Fáil/Labour government?
That would become a possibility only if not just one of the
two alternatives put before the electorate but both of them
were to be rejected by the Dáil.
For that to happen though it would be necessary for some TD
or TDs to oppose both of the initial nominations, or
perhaps to oppose one and abstain on the other.
In principle this could happen: after the last election,
four Independent TDs abstained in the vote that elected Mr
Ahern as Taoiseach by 93 votes to 68. However on that
occasion they could afford to abstain because their votes
were not needed. After the next election the margin between
the two alternative leaders is clearly likely to be much
closer and the outcome is likely to be dependent on the
votes of Independent TDs.
It is highly unlikely that in those circumstances, any
Independent TD would choose to cause a stalemate by voting
against both candidates, thus creating a deadlock out of
which a majority Fianna Fáil/ Labour government might
By so doing that TD would risk depriving themselves of
possible leverage exercisable through support for one or
other of the alternative government formations between
which the election will have been fought.
The same is true of the Sinn Féin TDs, because by voting
against Mr Ahern as well as Mr Kenny, they would also be
depriving themselves of the leverage they would enjoy by
supporting a minority Fianna Fáil government.
Those media commentators who have chosen to play up the
possibility of a Fianna Fáil/Labour combination as an
alternative to the two administrations being put before the
voters seem to me to ignore these political realities.
What of the Progressive Democrats? The chances of the
present Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government being
re-elected are now minimal, and they will certainly not
want to vote for Mr Ahern as leader of a Fianna Fáil
government put into and kept in office by Sinn Féin.
They might not be readily acceptable as members of a Fine
Gael/ Labour/Green government. Although, I suppose they
might conceivably try to force their way into such a
government by threatening to vote against both candidates
for taoiseach if they were to be excluded from such a
Whether they would be likely to push that to the point of
creating the conditions required for the emergence of a
Fianna Fáil/Labour government is quite another matter, for
that would be the quickest way to lose their right-wing
For two reasons, the clear-cut choice between the two
alternative administrations outlined above has not yet
emerged clearly into the public view. Why is this?
First of all, the media has been preoccupied with trying to
divide Labour by boosting the will-of-the-wisp idea of a
Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition, and this has tended to
distract attention from the actual choice that will face
TDs in the aftermath of the election.
Second, the media also fell for the clever move made by Mr
Ahern some months ago to distract attention from the fact
that his return to power now almost certainly depends upon
Sinn Féin support for his nomination as taoiseach.
He successfully confused all of the media earlier this year
by giving an exclusive interview on this issue to the
Sunday Independent, in which he said that he would not
enter a coalition with Sinn Féin or make an agreement with
it to support a Fianna Fáil government.
Outside of this column, that statement seems to have been
accepted as excluding a Fianna Fáil government elected with
Sinn Féin support, volunteered without prior agreement
between the two parties.
By giving his statement exclusively to the Sunday
Independent, the Taoiseach ensured that the paper that
would have been most likely to expose this ploy would be
silenced, at least temporarily, on this issue.
When we come nearer to the election, though, and when
Fianna Fáil's difficulty in returning to office without
Sinn Féin support becomes increasingly evident, the
Opposition parties will certainly hammer home the fact that
the only practicable alternative to a new rainbow coalition
would be a Fianna Fáil government put into office and kept
there by Sinn Féin votes in the Dáil.
This issue of Fianna Fáil dependence on Sinn Féin support
is likely to have a significant effect on the way an
important segment of the electorate will vote in the
When combined with the likely disappearance of Fine Gael's
flukish negative seat bonus, which in the last election
cost it an unprecedented 12 more seats than was warranted
by the actual drop in its vote, this seems to me to
increase significantly the chance of a change of government
in the forthcoming election.
© The Irish Times
Opin: Dialogue Is The Quintessential Canadian Measured Response
argues Raja George Khouri
Aug. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM
RAJA GEORGE KHOURI
There are many reasons why Canada should talk with
Most of the world outside North America and Israel does not
consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization — the Canadian
government only agreed to list the group as terrorist after
intense pressure by the U.S. and the Israeli lobby. It
would serve our interests in the Arab world where Hezbollah
is widely seen as a heroic resistance movement. In Lebanon,
Hezbollah's constituency comprises a third of the
population and the party is represented in that country's
parliament and cabinet.
But the real question we should be asking is, what kind of
a country do we want Canada to be? One that sees the world
in stark contrasts — us vs. them; good vs. evil; peace-
loving vs. terrorist — or a Canada that sees the world and
its complexities through a nuanced, learned lens?
Are we a country that subscribes to George W. Bush's
"You're either with us or with the terrorists" logic? Or a
Canada that realizes there is terror in every war, wrong on
every side, and innocents everywhere? Are we a country that
believes history started on Sept. 11, 2001, or a Canada
that acknowledges the conflicts and tragedies of past
decades and centuries that have given us the world we live
Increasingly, this country is populated by people from all
over the world. It should therefore not define itself in a
dual tone. Most Canadians are not obsessed with the threat
of terrorism the way their political elite are.
Many are aware that 600 children die every day of conflict
and malnutrition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
that 2.8 million worldwide died of AIDS last year; that
global warming is a looming danger to our existence; that
tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes kill tens of thousands
of vulnerable people every year. And that, increasingly,
the threat of terrorism is being used to provide cover for
civil rights violations at home and to invade countries
That is why this country refused take part in the war on
Iraq that Stephen Harper, in opposition, was so eager to
join. It is why we subscribe to multilateralism,
peacemaking, development aid and middle-of-the-road
politics. It is why the world respects us and Americans
abroad wear our flag on their backpacks.
We should talk to Hezbollah because it is party to a
conflict we care to have resolved, in a war that has
devastated thousands, including Canadians. We should talk
to it because we believe in dialogue and care about using
our goodwill in the service of bringing peace to a troubled
region. We should talk to it because it is part of the
world that is becoming part of us.
We should talk to it as we did with the African National
Congress and Irish Republican Army and helped bring peace
to their worlds. We should talk to it because dialogue
represents the quintessentially Canadian "measured
Raja George Khouri is former president of the Canadian Arab
Federation and author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11.
Opin: Officer Who Exposed Pacifist's Murder
The British soldiers who murdered the pacifist Francis
Sheehy-Skeffington might have got away with it but for the
courage of a fellow officer, Sir Francis Fletcher Vane, who
paid for his efforts with his career, writes Dara Redmond
In this year, the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising, I
believe it is important to pay special tribute to Sir
Francis Fletcher Vane, an Irish-born major in the Royal
Munster Fusiliers who, despite robust resistance from his
superior officers, played a significant role in exposing
some of the most atrocious murders of innocent Irish
civilians during the course of that dramatic week.
Francis Vane was born in Dublin in 1861 and entered Oxford
Military College at the age of 15. Described by
contemporaries as "fearless in the field of battle", he was
admired by the soldiers under his command for his relaxed,
if somewhat eccentric nature.
In 1899 he was sent to South Africa to serve in the British
army under Lord Kitchener and in 1902 was appointed to the
position of military magistrate, a post from which he was
dismissed shortly thereafter for being pro-Boer.
At the outbreak of the first World War, he re-enlisted in
the British army and, probably because of his Anglo-Irish
background, was sent to Ireland to promote the recruitment
of soldiers to fight in Europe.
In April 1916 he was organising such a campaign in Longford
and, on Easter Monday, was having lunch with a friend in
Bray when a message arrived ordering him to return
immediately to Dublin. Later that day, he reported to
News of the Rising had spread rapidly throughout the city.
Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was relaxing at home in
Rathmines with his wife, Hanna, and their seven-year old
son, Owen, when he first heard that volunteers had taken
over key buildings in the capital and proclaimed a
Republic. He was a well-known writer and pacifist leader,
totally opposed to violence in any form, and was briefly
imprisoned by the British authorities in 1915 for
campaigning against conscription.
Sheehy-Skeffington was particularly alarmed by eyewitness
reports of a breakdown in law and order. Without delay, he
made his way into town and, in the words of his wife,
"actively interested himself in preventing looting by
British sympathisers". He talked to the crowds and enlisted
the help of priests and other willing parties to post civic
guards in front of specific premises.
At about 7.30pm on Tuesday, Lieut Morris was guarding a
checkpoint leading to Portobello Bridge when he noticed a
frail, somewhat comical-looking character marching along
the middle of the road, swinging his walking stick.
"Skeffy", as the public knew him, was returning home from a
poorly attended anti-looting meeting, and was followed by a
group of hecklers shouting out his name. When he reached
the checkpoint, he was taken into custody, with several of
his followers, and brought to Portobello Barracks. "Skeffy"
was then brought to the cells and placed in detention under
the supervision of Lieut Dobbin. When he learned that he
was to be held overnight, he asked that his wife be
informed - but this request was denied.
About 10.30pm, Capt JC Bowen-Colthurst, an officer with the
3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, went to Dobbin and
ordered him to hand over his prisoner. He told him that he
was going out of the barracks with a raiding party and
needed to take a hostage for the protection of his troops.
With his hands tied behind his back, Sheehy-Skeffington was
installed in an army vehicle, and orders were given to
shoot him dead if the party was fired upon. The convoy
drove to Rathmines and entered the premises of Alderman Tom
Kelly who, according to Colthurst, was a nationalist
When they reached the Church of Our Lady of Refuge, they
noticed three youths, Coade, Keogh and Byrne, who had been
attending a meeting that evening. As Coade turned to leave,
Colthurst ordered an officer to "bash him". The soldier
knocked him unconscious with the butt-end of his rifle, and
Colthurst then shot him dead on the ground.
The soldiers then moved on to the premises of Alderman
James Kelly, which they promptly bombed, and arrested two
journalists - Thomas Dickson, editor of The Eye-Opener and
Patrick McIntyre, editor of The Searchlight - both of whom
had taken refuge in Kelly's shop. As it later transpired,
Colthurst and his group had confused Alderman James Kelly
with Alderman Tom Kelly. James Kelly had in fact been
actively engaged in helping to recruit soldiers for the
British army, and Dickson and McIntyre were the editors of
papers with strong unionist sympathies.
When the party returned to Portobello Barracks, Sheehy
Skeffington and his two companions of misfortune were
placed in cells. About 10am, on Wednesday, April 26th, the
writer Monk Gibbon, a 20-year-old lieutenant attached to
the Army Service Corps, went to see "Skeffy" in his cell.
When they met, Sheehy-Skeffington requested that a sum of
£8, confiscated from him the previous evening, be given to
his wife - and that she be informed immediately of his
Conscious of his obvious distress, Gibbon kindly told him
he would try to do his best, and promised to return
shortly. Not long after Gibbon had departed, Colthurst
entered the guardroom and ordered Dobbin to remove the
three prisoners from their locked cells, telling him: "I am
taking these prisoners out and I am going to shoot them as
I think it is the right thing to do."
Skeffington, McIntyre and Dickson were then led out to an
adjoining courtyard. As they walked towards one of the
surrounding walls, Colthurst ordered a firing squad of
seven soldiers to shoot them in the back. Dobbin noticed
that Skeffy was not yet dead. He pointed this out to
Colthurst who simply told the soldiers to "finish him off".
Later that morning, when Vane returned from a mission
outside the compound, Gibbon described what had happened
during his absence. Vane was horrified and went immediately
to see Maj Rosborough, deputy commander of the garrison.
When Rosborough telephoned Dublin Castle, he was told by
senior officers to bury the bodies and to forget about the
entire matter. He was also given instructions to leave
Colthurst in charge of the men under his command.
Vane went to Dublin Castle on Monday May 1st to confront
Gen Friend, Col Kennard and Maj Price. But he was treated
with contempt, and told by Price:, "Some of us think it was
a good thing Sheehy-Skeffington was put out of the way,
Vane applied for a leave of absence and made arrangements
to travel to London that evening. The following morning, he
went to the War Office to see his old friend Harold
Tennant, then serving as under-secretary of state for war
in prime minister Asquith's government. Tennant arranged
for Vane to see Lord Kitchener in Downing Street on May
3rd.Kitchener sent a telegram to Sir John Maxwell,
commander-in-chief of the British forces in Ireland,
instructing him to place Colthurst under arrest. Maxwell
ignored the order and decided instead that Vane should be
dismissed from the army. There was uproar in the House of
Commons on May 11th when John Dillon, the nationalist MP,
criticised the army's violent repression of the Easter
Rising. He focused on the Sheehy-Skeffington murder case,
and the fact that Maxwell had refused to place the main
culprit under arrest.
By this time, details were also starting to emerge about
the murder of 13 innocent civilians in North King Street in
Dublin who had taken refuge in what they believed to be the
safety of their own homes.
Colthurst was arrested, charged with murder and court-
martialled on June 6th. Commenting later on the legal
proceedings, Tim Healy, a well-known lawyer and politician,
said: "Never since the trial of Christ was there a greater
travesty of justice."
Every detail of the case was carefully orchestrated by the
military, with prosecutors and defence counsel playing into
each other's hands. Colthurst was found guilty but insane,
and condemned to be detained indefinitely at Broadmoor
criminal asylum. Twenty months later, he was deemed cured
and released. On April 26th, 1921, exactly five years to
the day after the murders, he emigrated to Canada on a
military pension aged 40.
By the summer of 1916, Vane had, in the words of a document
released by the British Public Record Office, been
"relegated to unemployment owing to his action in the
Skeffington murder case". Senior military officers,
politicians and the king all turned down appeals for his
reinstatement. When the final chapter of this sad story was
written, the military must surely have felt they had won a
victory. It may have been so. But it was Sir Francis
Fletcher Vane, an officer and a gentleman, who won our
Dara Redmond is a grandson of Thomas MacDonagh, a signatory
of the 1916 Proclamation. He has lived in France for most
of his life
© The Irish Times
Opin: We Must Learn To LIVE TOGETHER...
The clock is ticking towards the November 24 deadline for
the restoration of a devolved government in Northern
Ireland. In part two of our series giving key local opinon
shapers their say, DR DAVID CLARKE, Moderator of the
Presbyterian Church in Ireland, warns apathetic 'garden
centre Prods and Catholics' that decisions by direct rule
ministers could shake their cosy worlds...
27 August 2006
In approaching the discussions of this autumn, politicians
will understandably seek to secure that which they deem
will best serve their own constituency.
They would also do well to bear in mind the wisdom of US
President Theodore Roosevelt when he said: "This land will
not be a good place for any of us to live in, until it is a
good place for all of us to live in."
As well as being consistent with Christ's 'golden rule' -
"Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew
7:12) - that statement is the basis of a sound political
Those of a unionist persuasion ought to ensure that their
opponents have no reason to regard Northern Ireland as a
'cold house', while those who aspire by peaceful means for
a united Ireland should strive to win the hearts and minds
of those who will be a minority in any such dispensation.
There are both theoretical and practical reasons why the
return of devolution is important.
Democracy, as Abraham Lincoln famously defined it, is
"government of the people, by the people and for the
people". Currently, one part of that definition is not
being satisfied, since those who presently exercise
ministerial powers are not answerable to the Northern
Direct rule ministers have not been able to protect the
interests of our farmers and fishermen as well as locally
elected representatives might have done. Ministers who are
invariably posted here for a short period lack the
reservoir of local knowledge available to an Ulsterman.
Does Peter Hain know where Crockatanty is? Are we to be the
only part of these islands where local-elected politicians
are incapable of exercising authority?
One disturbing feature of the present landscape is the
indifference of many to political developments - witness
the decline in turn-out at elections and the habit of well-
educated professionals to attend to their own comfort,
rather than engage in political service.
If I may adapt Professor Paul Bew's line, 'the Prods (and
the Catholics) in the garden centre' have failed to address
their civic responsibilities.
They might discover that a raft of administrative,
educational and ethical decisions imposed without proper
local debate could radically change the 'comfort zone' they
Many in the majority community face a real moral dilemma,
in being asked to accept in government those who in the
past may have supported and defended terrorism. Yet, those
who have chosen to turn from the path of violence cannot be
denied the legitimate rewards of the way of peaceful
politics. Since they have turned away from the obnoxious
policy of 'ballot-box and Armalite', we must then respect
the results the ballot-box yields.
In my address at the opening of our Presbyterian General
Assembly, when speaking on the theme of service, I observed
that service can often be messy and unpalatable. Feelings
of personal animosity or suspicion ought not to prevent us
working with one another for the common good.
The question of continuing republican criminality - and
that of so-called loyalists - is a matter of ongoing
concern. So, too, is the reluctance of Sinn Fein to support
the new policing arrangements, although statistics indicate
that the Roman Catholic community is taking its place in
shouldering responsibility for law and order.
Other issues ought to be concerning the leadership of
majority unionism. The expressed intention of both
governments to introduce a 'Plan B' is unlikely to advance
A perusal of the columns of the book Lost Lives ought to
convince us that we must learn to live at peace with one
It is for our generation to show with what vision and
magnanimity we can build a peace, which all can support and
which God can own and bless.
Deadly Horn-Nosed Viper Slips Into Ireland Under Cover
A nine-inch snake described as "highly lethal" by the Kerry
branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (SPCA) has been found in a box of house tiles
imported from Greece. Olivia Kelly reports
The discovery was made on Thursday by workers at a building
site in Ballyduff, Co Kerry. The snake, a horn-nosed viper,
is highly poisonous and its venom can kill within two
Workers were about to lay tiles in a new house when they
discovered the snake curled up at the top of the box.
Although they were not aware it was poisonous, they removed
it to an empty box using sticks and immediately contacted
the local SPCA.
Kerry SPCA chief inspector Harry McDaid, who attended the
scene, said it was unlikely any of the workers would have
survived had they been bitten.
"If the snake bit any of the men," he said, "they would
have had about two hours to get to hospital to get the
antidote, but it is doubtful that any of the hospitals
nearby would have the antidote because there are none of
these snakes in Ireland. So I'm certain it would have been
The horn-nosed viper, which can grow up to three feet and
has a distinctive horn on its head, is native to Greece,
Romania and some Balkan states. It is a protected species
and so rare that Mr McDaid had to call in a herpetologist -
a reptile expert - to confirm the find before the snake
could be removed.
"He gave us the shock of the century when he told us. In my
25 years with the SPCA, this is the first horn-nosed viper
I have seen, and I think it's the first one recorded in the
history of our organisation."
© The Irish Times
Morrison Set To Acquire Windmill Lane Studios
Rock musician Van Morrison is set to become the new owner
of Windmill Lane Recording Studios in Dublin.
Industry sources confirmed to The Irish Times yesterday
that reports stating that Morrison had bought the studios
were correct. It was not possible to establish the price at
which the business was sold.
One of the company's directors and biggest shareholders,
Andrew Boland, said he was not in a position to comment on
The current issue of music fortnightly, Hot Press, quotes
Mr Boland as saying that the story is true, but he told The
Irish Times yesterday that he made "no such comment" to the
It was not possible to contact his fellow shareholder and
director, Brian Masterson, as he is currently away on
Windmill Lane is the country's best-known recording studio,
and its clients have included U2, Van Morrison and REM.
It has also done business with RTÉ, and Michael Flatley's
Lord of the Dance company and show.
Businessman James Morris, who recently sold his interest in
TV3, and his brother, Tim Morris, originally established
In the 1990s they sold it to Mr Masterson, then its chief
engineer and Mr Boland. They then moved the studio to its
current base on Ringsend Road in Dublin.
The Morris brothers continue to run Windmill Lane Pictures,
but the two companies are in no way connected.
A trading company called Ringlet Ltd owns Windmill Lane
Recording Studio. According to returns made to the
Companies' Registration Office, Mr Masterson directly owns
just over 66 per cent of this, while Mr Boland owns 25 per
Both men own a further 8 per cent through a holding company
called Ringsend Road Music Group. Mr Masterson owns 52 per
cent of this and Mr Boland holds 48 per cent.
A number of small shareholders own remaining shares in the
company, but their total stake amounts to less than 1 per
The company's balance sheet indicates that it was
profitable in 2004. Retained profits on the 31st of October
that year increased by over €92,000 to €480,984 from
€388,183 a year earlier.
Shareholders' funds - the value of the company's assets
minus liabilities - stood at €1.15 million on the same
This figure does not necessarily indicate what the sale
price could have been, as that would be determined by the
company's turnover, profitability, ongoing and future
contracts, as well as a range of other factors.
The figures also show that in 2004, the company contributed
€31,993 to the directors' pension scheme. There are no
other directors besides Mr Boland and Mr Masterson.
© The Irish Times
Windmill Lane: A Brief History
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic
Windmill Lane Studios has been the setting for some of the
seminal recordings in Irish music over the past 25 years.
Since it opened in 1978, the studio - whose original art
deco building in previous incarnations housed a generating
system for Dublin's first tram system, a Bovril factory and
an amusement club - has played host to luminaries from near
and far: Elvis Costello, REM, Van Morrison, Sinéad
O'Connor, Nanci Griffith, Tom Jones, David Bowie, Christy
Moore and Art Garfunkel have all produced albums in the
But Windmill Lane is synonymous with one band more than any
other. The first three U2 albums were recorded there in
their entirety, and the band continued to use the studios
throughout the 1980s.
It was U2 fans who gave Windmill Lane its most striking
visual image, too. They were the first to inscribe their
unintelligible homage on "The Wall", Dublin's most famous
piece of graffiti, and for years visiting acolytes
continued to take their pens, markers, chalk and paint to
the outer wall of the old building. "Windmill Studios"
relocated to their present site in Ringsend in the mid-
© The Irish Times
Saturday » August 26 » 2006
Emerald Isle a gem again
Travellers Rediscover Northern Ireland As Troubles Subside
Special to the Times Colonist
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Mention Northern Ireland, and two images likely come to
mind: rolling green hills and violent skirmishes dressed up
as religious unrest. While the first is very much in
evidence, the latter is becoming less so. In fact, the
Irish themselves are optimistic enough about the future
that they are doing their damndest to attract tourists once
more. And tourists will find much to be attracted to.
Over the next 12 months, British military posts will be
dismantled throughout the region including the one in Derry
(a.k.a. Londonderry), site of some of the worst conflict.
There are other signs that Derry is moving beyond its
troubled history. The completion of one of the Bogside
Artists' best known murals is seen by many locals as a
strong symbol of approaching peace in the region.
"Death of Innocence" is a memorial to Annette McGavigan, a
14-year-old school girl who became the 100th civilian to
die since the start of The Troubles when she was killed by
a British security officer in 1971. The mural was among 10
painted by the Bogside Artists on the walls of buildings in
the Bogside, a Catholic enclave just outside of the walls
of Derry. The area was the site of the infamous Bloody
Sunday Protest and numerous other scenes of violence over
"Death of Innocence" was originally painted in 1998, after
the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. McGavigan's
family (including her cousin, Kevin Hasson, one of the
artists) wouldn't allow the mural to be completed until
peace was achieved in the North. On June 10, 2006, the
mural was completed.
The Bogside murals have become a tourist attraction, but
there are other things to see in the city, too. After all,
the city has a large proportion of young people who have
little memory of the Troubles and they are growing up with
different priorities. For one thing, they helped bring the
nightlife back to the city (especially along Waterloo
Street), but there's much for visitors to see in the
A walk around Derry's famous walls is a great way to get
oriented. Sites such as St. Columb's Cathedral (whose
bishop later became archbishop of Ireland -- his wife
composed some of Christendom's most popular hymns including
All Things Bright and Beautiful), the Tower Museum (which
boasts an excellent exhibit about the Armada in Ireland),
and the Guildhall (with its amazing stained glass windows)
are also worth some time.
Refresh yourself at one of the many pubs about town, or hit
the fancier restaurants like Brown's Restaurant. Derry also
forms a convenient base for exploring other parts of
Northern Ireland -- most locations are within a few hours
drive of each other. Accommodations run the gambit from
quaint B&Bs to four-star hotels.
One downside to the Derry experience: there aren't a lot of
tourist-focused shopping opportunities. Two linked malls
provide lots of day-to-day stuff (thanks to a sizable Marks
& Spencer's and Boots Drug Store), but quality souvenir
shops are in short supply. The Craft Village is something
of a misnomer as the only real craft outlets located there
are an excellent Irish crystal shop and a glass cutter
across the way. The Donegal Shop on Shipquay Street does
offer a surprising array of fine finds like pottery,
jewelry and knitwear, for a very small shop.
Outside of Derry, there is more evidence that tourism is
again a welcome commodity. For example, the Giant's
Causeway World Heritage Site, arguably the top attraction
in Northern Ireland, is constructing a new visitors'
centre. The biggest changes, however, are happening in
Belfast. Sure, some remnants of the security wall can still
be seen near the Lanark Way Security Gates on the west side
of the city (which is still a very polarized area of town).
But Belfast has virtually transformed itself in the last 10
years, and there's more to come. This is, after all, a city
that elected its first Sinn Fein lord mayor, Alex Maskey,
in 2002-03. The capital city is currently undergoing a
building boom unlike anything it has seen in years. New
hotels are opening on a regular basis with The Merchant
(ultra luxe), The Malmasion (uber chic), and Ten Square
(Asian fusion mod) ranking among the most notable. Posh
eateries are also cropping up, especially around the
Cathedral District where hip clubs are opening. Some, such
as the Kremlin (arguably the best gay club in town), are
evidence of the power of the "pink pound" in today's
economy. Tony shops are lining the Lisburn Road, while
Victoria Square -- one of Europe's largest urban
regeneration projects -- will feature a mixed-use downtown
venue (retail, residential and leisure facilities) that
will have plenty to offer both locals and tourists. The
waterfront is also booming, thanks to the development of a
high-tech campus that shares its neighbourhood with the
newly completed Waterfront Centre concert hall.
The most extensive changes will be happening in the Titanic
Quarter, however, as the city rushes to complete massive
upgrades and renovations to mark the 100th anniversary of
the launch/sinking of the famous Titanic. A new multi-
building museum will be the focus of the new development,
with a "skeleton" of the great ship mounted in the dry dock
like a dinosaur in a museum.
It's safe to say that no matter what your interest --
history, culture or the latest trends -- the new Northern
Ireland is a welcome tourist destination. Finding ways to
enjoy yourself is no trouble at all.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: ZOOM Airlines has just launched direct
service from Vancouver to Belfast. Most other airlines
connect via London.
Currency: As part of the UK, Northern Ireland uses the
sterling currency. A few shops will accept Euro currency,
but this is by no means common practice.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006
Boom On Belfast Streets As City Starts To Flourish
Publish Date: Sunday,27 August, 2006, at 10:23 AM Doha Time
A mural showing fighters of the Protestant underground
Ulster Volunteer Force in the Shankill Road in Belfast.
Today murals such as these have become tourist attractions
By Thomas Burmeister
ARMOURED vehicles are back on Belfast streets at night.
However, now nobody flinches at the sight of the once-
dreaded "Humber Pigs". Instead of automatic weapons, the
vehicles have state-of-the-art sound systems blasting out
music. Revellers, not soldiers, look from the viewing
slits. Welcome to the party city of Belfast.
"We would never even have dared dream of this," says
Fearghal O’Connor, the businessman whose idea it was take
armoured vehicles used during the Troubles, as the conflict
was called, and use them for a Belfast party tour.
Where once there was tension, nightlife flourishes. Foreign
tourists gawk at the militaristic murals which stoked the
fury of Protestant and Catholics in their still separate
Almost 4,000 people died in the Northern Ireland conflict
since Catholics and Protestants took to the barricades in
Derry in 1969.
In 1998, with the Good Friday Agreement, hopes of a lasting
peace emerged. These hopes were boosted a year ago when the
Irish Republican Army (IRA) declared a "final" cessation to
The IRA announced that it would pursue its goal of unity
with the Republic of Ireland through political means only.
Leader of the international body overseeing the
disarmament, retired Canadian General John de Chastelain
attested to the IRA having decommissioned its arms.
However, the most important foundation for peace in
Northern Ireland has been the enormous economic development
that has taken place since 1998.
Companies are taking advantage of the ceasefire and British
and European Union investment aid.
Through the opening of the border, Northern Ireland has
been in a position to benefit greatly from the economic
upturn in the Republic of Ireland, which since entering the
EU in 1973 has moved from the poorhouse to being one of the
EU’s most prosperous countries.
As with its neighbour, Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate
has been considerably reduced – from close to 18% to the
"Despite economic success, we reget that there is a
political vacuum," says British Northern Ireland Secretary
At Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a
church-like stillness prevails. Four years after the Good
Friday breakthrough, the self-rule made possible by the
agreement has been suspended owing to disputes between the
Gerry Adams’s nationalist Sinn Fein party and the
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Ian Paisley.
Now the governments in London and Dublin are calling on the
108 Stormont assembly members to agree on renewing self-
rule to Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein and its military wing, the IRA, have pledged to
do this. However, 80-year-old Presbyterian minister
Paisley, who sees the link between Britain and Northern
Ireland as being threatened, rules out power-sharing with
Nonetheless, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his
Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern have issued an ultimatum
along with the challenge.
The Stormont assembly members have until November 24 to
form a government that represents all the parties, or lose
their annual salary of £85,000.
Northern Ireland would then be ruled from London again,
with Dublin having a say.
"If the politicians want to avoid this happening," Hain
says, "then they should go to Stormont and form a
government together." – DPA
Driven To Desertion
Novel lauds Irish-American troops who fought for Mexico
By CLAY REYNOLDS
In 1846 Gen. Zachary Taylor was dispatched to the Rio
Grande with an army that included an uncommon lot of
recently recruited Irish immigrants, most straight off the
boat. Taylor's junior officers were green, many fresh from
West Point and eager to strut their newly commissioned
authority. The Irish privates bore the brunt of the young
officers' inexperience. Inhumanely punished for the
slightest infractions by these martinets — many of whom
would go on to distinguished careers — they were victims of
a national intolerance for the Irish.
The Mexicans, camped across the river and anticipating war,
sent enticements to the Irish to desert, promising them
good treatment in the Mexican army. Pointing out that
Mexico, like Ireland, was a Catholic country, the
propaganda played well among the suffering recruits, and
about 800 swam the river and joined the Mexican forces.
The most prominent of these was John Riley, a lieutenant of
artillery. Embraced by the Mexicans because of his gunnery
expertise, he was given the rank of major and command of
the "St. Patrick's Brigade," or, to the Mexicans, Los San
Patricios. They were involved in several major battles
until forced to surrender. Most were court-martialed and
hanged, but some who deserted before the war's official
declaration, including Riley (aka Reley), had their
sentences commuted to 50 lashes and a brand on the cheek of
"D" for deserter.
James Alexander Thom has taken this little-known incident
and made it the centerpiece of a historical novel told from
two points of view, that of Augustin Juvero, a maimed
veteran of the Mexican army whose mother became Riley's
lover, and that of Padriac Quinn, a camp boy with Taylor's,
then Winfield Scott's command, who idolizes Riley for his
handsome features and glib tongue. Unfortunately, neither
narrator is directly involved with Riley or his unit, and
most all of what they report is hearsay.
Quinn, American-born son of a camp-following prostitute and
a veteran of the Seminole War, has, in spite of tender
years, acquired remarkable levels of erudition and
literacy, mostly, he claims, from reading cast-off
magazines and newspapers. He keeps a journal composed with
a precision of detail Samuel Pepys would have envied but
with an affected devotion to Irish idiom.
Juvero, who is discovered in 1861 walking on the stumps of
his amputated legs on a pilgrimage, carries conveniently on
his person a veritable library of letters, documents, old
propaganda leaflets, proclamations and assorted
memorabilia. These, along with liberal doses of criticism
of America, he shares with a journalist dispatched to
Both characters have an utter and somewhat inexplicable
devotion to Riley and a thorough contempt for Americans,
especially for Southerners, and particularly for Texans.
Both repeatedly express the generally incorrect view that
the U.S. invasion of Mexico was solely designed to promote
The unbalanced narratives offer distressingly similar
perspectives. Quinn finds his American comrades to be
largely a collection of ignorant brutes bent on forcing
their will on the inferior Mexicans. He soon discovers only
a few men — Lew Wallace (future author of Ben Hur) and
"Sam" Grant, future general of the Union army, to be
anywhere near reasonable. Similarly, Juvero extols the
virtues of Santa Anna, particularly his humane negotiations
with Scott, one American both seem to admire.
The two narrators agree on almost everything, particularly
the waste of war for political gain. They repeatedly
determine, though, that the Irish who defected to Mexico
fought more courageously than anyone on both sides, and
that Riley was the fiercest fighter and possibly the only
honorable man to emerge from the war. Riley's stoic
acceptance of his whipping and branding makes their
devotion that much more poignant, or possibly piquant.
Without a doubt, it's entirely too precious.
Thom's subtext is to draw parallels between this antique
war and the contemporary conflict in Iraq. This is
transparent and, in the main, overdone. By vilifying Texans
as wild rapists and murderers eager for personal vengeance,
he caricatures via synecdoche George W. Bush, and by
substituting land for oil he defines geopolitical parallels
between past and present.
Unfortunately, his historical research is perfunctory and,
in places, inaccurate. Many details seem tacked on as
clumsy afterthoughts to ensure authenticity. Characters are
drawn with broad strokes; even the narrators remain flat,
undeveloped, largely unsympathetic.
Through all of this runs the consistent paean to John
Riley, hero extraordinaire, who appears only in cameo and
almost always at a distance. No plausible justification is
given for the narrators' devotion to him, except that he is
Irish. No insight is offered into the Irish deserters'
characters or deeper motivations.
The result is a plodding, repetitive elegy to all things
Irish and most things Mexican. Most of the battle sequences
are summarized, secondhand reports, and the narrators'
knowledge of the larger political, diplomatic and military
maneuvering is far greater than two youngsters in such
subordinate positions would be privy to or able to fathom.
This could have been a fascinating and well-balanced story
with a previously untouched cast of characters. Whether the
fighters of the St. Patrick's Brigade were heroes, as the
Mexicans saw them (and continue to see them), or whether
they were villains who turned their traitorous arms on
their former comrades is a matter of point of view. The
dual narrators could have debated that issue, but they
don't. Clearly, to Thom, Riley and his men were peerless
soldiers, unjustly punished, and in spite of their harsh
fate as traitors to their flag and fellows, should be
celebrated as martyrs.
Clay Reynolds is associate professor of aesthetics at the
University of Texas at Dallas. His recent novels include
Threading the Needle and Monuments.
Review: Smelling Of Roses
Maybe a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but
names can have a strange potency. Ever since we borrowed
the term "diaspora", the far-flung Irish have acquired a
new sense of identity. Obviously there are other factors at
work: from our new-found prosperity to the links provided
by television and the internet. But the renaming of the
Irish diaspora has boosted its collective sense of self.
The Rose of Tralee (RTE1, Mon/Tue) is Diaspora Central, the
place where the globalised version of Irish identity comes
home to play.
Freud would have called it a psychic Urheimat: a homeland
of the mind. Not so long ago it was a blatant anachronism,
a weird cross between a beauty pageant and an amateur
talent contest. Audiences were unsure whether to laugh or
cry as a succession of Colleens from emigrant hot spots
performed mutant versions of Irish culture.
Now, though, everything has changed. The show — with 30
aspiring roses spread out across two successive evenings —
still has its longueurs, but it makes up for them in sheer
fascination. Ray D’Arcy has proven himself to be an
excellent host and has established a distinctive style,
breaking free of Gay Byrne’s long shadow.
Crucially he has twigged that the 21st-century rose is no
longer a shy, demure little thing who needs an avuncular
male to coax her out of her shell. These young women are
bursting with confidence and seasoned with just enough
reserve to avoid the excesses of brashness. Whether they
come from Abu Dhabi or Abbeydorney, they seem to have an
instinctive understanding of television.
Several spoke confidently about their plans for a media
career. Some had already started, like the English girl who
had featured in a reality TV show. With the Texan rose Erin
Barnard, a newscaster in Huntsville, D’Arcy performed a
jokey routine as an American-style anchorman. The fact that
it was heavily scripted somehow only made it more
In the past, authenticity was the trademark of the Irish-
born rose. It contrasted with the heavily romanticised
vision of Ireland held by roses from Boston or Birmingham,
the second- or third-generation offspring of emigrants. But
a great levelling has taken place.
Now many of the most far-flung entries are most at ease
with Irish reality.
There remain some intriguing differences. In general, roses
from Northern Ireland tend to be more conservative than
those from the republic — more likely to be committed
churchgoers and drawn to traditional caring professions
such as nursing. The Americans retain a strong sense of
Irish-American identity; Australians, including the winner,
Kathryn Anne Feeney from Queensland, tend not to see
themselves in this hyphenated way. They are Aussies first
and celebrate this with songs such as Tie Me Kangaroo Down
rather than nostalgic Oirish ballads.
Media savvy without being cynical, traditional-minded but
free of old-fashioned innocence, the modern rose is a
fascinating creature. On the night it seemed as if any of
the 30 could have won. The competition has become a sign of
the times, and these young women are the future.
If RTE’s presentation of the event still has a problem, it
lies in the area of sponsorship. The screen logo replete
with sponsors’ names looked tacky, like something glued to
the fire curtain at a small-town pantomime. The trouble is,
some sponsors expect rather too much bang for their buck,
even when this is counterproductive.
On the other hand, some people in the arts world still have
a vague prejudice about the notion of sponsorship.
This issue also raised its head in last week’s Ernst &
Young Entrepreneur Challenge: From Marmalade to Malawi
(RTE1, Thu) in which Michael Carey, an Irish businessman,
took a close look at the problems of life in a Third World
country. One recoils, almost instinctively, from a
programme whose sponsors have bought their way into the
title. This reaction may be a knee-jerk prejudice, but it
is a widespread one and in this case would have deterred
one from viewing an excellent programme.
John O’Shea, the energetic and outspoken director of the
charity Goal, had challenged the winners of last year’s
entrepreneurial competition to join him in Africa and see
what use could be made of their skills. Carey was one of
those who took him up on it and presented himself for duty
His initial reaction was a routine kind of poverty shock,
the sort of thing that often follows an encounter with the
realities of famine and subsistence. Carey said he finally
understood why O’Shea seemed so angry and driven.
For many people the next stage is guilt at the gulf between
western lifestyles and African poverty. Guilt can lead to
either denial or compassion fatigue, both equally useless.
But Carey was made of stronger stuff. After his initial
shock, he applied himself to Malawi’s economics and the
search for workable solutions.
By stepping clear of the usual charity-driven treatment of
the subject, the programme produced a slew of original
As Carey toured farms and food- production facilities — his
area of expertise — it was refreshing to see the issue
tackled in such a practical light. He wasn’t exactly
brimming with optimism — he rejected various local products
as being unsuitable for sale in Ireland — yet he exuded a
sense that solutions could be found. When he finally found
a viable commodity in the form of macadamia nuts, he didn’t
sit around. The product, attractively packaged, was on sale
in Ireland within months.
Like the roses, Carey offered a dynamic image of 21st-
century global Irishness. War Stories (RTE1, Fri), narrated
by Cathal O’Shannon, was a missed opportunity to right a
historical wrong. Focused on Irish veterans of the second
world war, the programme featured moving testimony from men
who fought at Dunkirk and Malta, only to get hate letters
on their return to Ireland.
Sixty years on their pain is still palpable. Ireland has
abandoned the reflex anti-Britishness that once made people
think it was treasonous to fight against Hitler, yet this
programme barely scraped the surface. O’Shannon’s voice-
over was too jaunty and the mixture of interviews with
stock footage was programming by numbers.
There is still much to be said about this subject. War
Stories, in its eagerness to show images of conflict,
seemed barely to be listening to what the veterans had to
say. Ironically these men are also part of the Irish
diaspora: their crime was emigrating at the wrong time for
reasons that were then politically suspect. If we really
have changed, we should be able to celebrate their fight
Nace Named Parade Grand Marshal
DAILY RECORD STAFF REPORT
MORRISTOWN -- Robert E. Nace, mayor of Morris Township, has
been named grand marshal of the 2007 Morris County Saint
Patrick's Day Parade.
Nace, a member of the parade's board of trustees for many
years, said it was an honor to be named honorary head of
New Jersey's largest St. Patrick's Day celebration.
"It's quite an honor, to think of all the distinguished
Irish residents we have in Morris County," Nace said. "It's
a distinguished honor to walk in the footsteps of those
gentlemen. There's no way I can express what an honor it
The Morris County St. Patrick's Day parade was founded in
Wharton in 1979 by the Irish American Association of
Northwest New Jersey. It came to Morristown in 1991 through
the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
Each year, the parade draws 50,000 to 75,000 people to the
curbs of South Street, along which the parade caravan of
marching bands, floats and local organizations travels from
the parking lot of town hall to Morristown High School.
Nace has been active in Morris County's Irish American
community since 1985.
He is a member and past president of the Friendly Sons of
Saint Patrick of Morris County, The Irish American
Association of Northwest Jersey, The Irish American
Cultural Institute, and a family member of the Morris
County Emerald Society.
He has been involved in the Morris County Saint Patrick's
Day Parade since 1994, serving as finance chair in 1996 and
1997 and parade chair in 2003 and 2004. He currently is
vice president of the board of trustees.
Currently mayor of Morris Township, Nace was deputy mayor
from 2004 to 2005 and has been elected to the Morris
Township committee since 1998.
Nace is employed as information systems manager for the
Morris County Park Commission. Previously, he was vice
president of technical operations for Storis Inc., vice
president of integration services for Summit Group,
district manager systems architecture for AT&T, regional
technical director for GE Consulting and Information
Services, and director of systems for the Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Resources.
Nace and his wife Judy were married in 1997 in Killarney,
Ireland. They belong to the Church of the Assumption in
Morristown. Bob is a member of the John H. Feenan Knights
of Columbus council at St. Thomas More parish in Morris
The Nace family's Irish ancestors, the Carls, emigrated
from County Dublin, Ireland in the 1840's.
Nace is a U.S. Army veteran, serving from 1966 to 1969. He
is a member of the Morristown Post 59 American Legion.
An End To Farming As We Know It
Farmers' moans are genuine this time - globalisation and EU
reform mean food production will change here forever,
writes Kathy Sheridan
As farm families strolled up to Kildalton College in the
village of Piltown in south Co Kilkenny for Teagasc's
agriculture and food show in the breezy June sunshine,
flyaway copies of an eight-page Irish Farmers' Journal
special fluttered around their ankles. The headline,
visible from 100 yards, reflected Irish farming's current
obsession: "Brazil Laid Bare: Brazilian beef fails to meet
The report, the result of a joint IFA/Irish Farmers Journal
research trip to South America, was damning, citing
"totally inadequate foot-and-mouth disease controls, non-
existent [animal] traceability, widespread environmental
degradation and social exploitation".
The authors' crowning achievement came when Asda, the UK
retail giant now owned by Wal-Mart, removed Brazilian beef
from its shelves after a briefing from the country's
National Farmers' Union.
For Irish farmers drowning in tags, tests, traceability
systems and a ratio of one "overpaid, arrogant, nit-
picking" civil servant to every 30 farmers (in the words of
one frustrated beef man), it was vindication. The "double
standards" and true price of "low-cost" Brazilian beef were
finally exposed,claimed the report. For the rest of the
population, however, the reporters could hardly be
described as neutral.
"When did the IFA develop its social conscience?" sneered
one urbandweller. BSE, foot and mouth, dodgy welfare
practices, beef tribunal revelations, the bottomless pit of
bovine TB eradication
and the "cheque in the post" subsidies still rankle.
The cumulative result is that consumers are less inclined
to make the distinction between producer-led scandals such
as BSE and processor-led outrages such as bovine DNA in
chicken meat (labelled "Irish" though sourced in south
Asia, to add insult to injury). They are also less inclined
to listen when farmers point out that supermarkets continue
to rake in huge profits on farm produce, demanding
multiples of the prices charged 10 years ago, while farmers
are being paid less per kilo or litre than a decade ago.
Farmers are told to supply for the market. But what market?
Try reconciling the apparent consumer obsession with
allergies, food intolerances and how fresh food is
produced, with the booming market
in fat-, salt-, sugar- and additives-rich "dashboard
dining" and processed "ready meals". Ask an urban consumer
about challenges for farmers and they might blithely
suggest that the "whingeing" farmers should "go organic".
But if consumers are indeed prepared to pay a premium for
organic produce, as is constantly suggested, then why are
the supermarkets not full of it, asks Fine Gael MEP,
"People go to a farmers' market for a day out on a Sunday -
but they'll go to Tesco for 95 per cent of their groceries.
And I'll guarantee you that those who do buy organic, are
not buying everything organic.
Are they being equally environmentally aware when they're
buying their washing powder?" she asks. "People think
farmers are stupid. Two or three might be able to do it
maybe but for the bulk of farmers, that's not where the
market is. People are shopping around for value and that
includes food. It's why Aldi and Lidl are surviving in
Aidan Larkin, a beef and dairy farmer and county chairman
of Offaly IFA, points out that Irish farmers have produced
the best quality beef precisely as various individual
European countries like it. "Yet we're importing it
ourselves. Even our home-grown produce is not used in our
own country as it should be.
You see people going into Lidl and getting it as cheap as
An estimated 240,000 people, including spouses and family
members, still work on Irish farms on a full- or parttime
basis. For about 113,000, it is the principal occupation.
But within 10 years, according to a recent Teagasc study,
the number of full-time dairy farmers will halve. Fewer
than 6 per cent of beef farms and only 17 per cent of
tillage farms will be viable. Full-time farming will become
concentrated in the east and south, and in about 20 years
time will involve fewer than 15,000 farmers.
The automatic handover from father to son or daughter no
longer applies, unless the offspring - in the words of one
such scion, who works in IT - "can afford to farm as a
hobby. And who needs that seven- day commitment and the sly
comments about cheques in the post?"
Aidan Larkin, whose eldest son is 15, sees little hope for
the next generation.
"I love farming," he says. "I love being a good farmer, I
love being an economical farmer. The most difficult thing
for me is that no young farmers are coming back in. My sons
are dead keen stockmen but I see no future in it for them.
The young are just going away and getting other jobs and
the commercial entity is going to be lost."
Does the survival of commercial Irish farmers matter? Will
anyone notice if in 10 years' time most beef on our shelves
is South American or the chicken is Asian?
The debate about food supply and its sources has become
skewed as a result of the Western focus on obesity, argues
McGuinness. "But there are a lot of hungry people in the
world. Here in the West, we've been able to move away from
considerations of hunger to worrying about obesity, but
that may not continue forever. The EU should be ensuring
that we are self-sufficient in food with a little bit over,
rather than have to rely on imported food."
But agriculture, for long the pampered pet of the EU, is
now being bartered for the benefit of other sectors. "The
EU wants to sell more goods and services to non-EU
countries like Brazil to promote growth, and those
countries in return want access to our agriculture
markets," says McGuinness. "But if we allow more access, it
would cause the price of beef, for example, to drop
disastrously, making it uneconomic to produce it here . . .
Agriculture is not widget production. It's a two-and-a-
half-year cycle . . . Do we ever stop and think what
environmental standards apply that allow outside countries
to be so cheap? You're talking about a different scale.
There's no minimum wage in Brazil; people don't expect
great things of employers there. The EU Commissioner says
we will never compete on price but on quality and niche
markets. But ultimately, if Brazil beef comes in at a
price, that sets the tone of the market."
BACK IN KILDALTON in June, where this year's theme was
"Options for the Future", the way forward seemed clear. In
the Rural Development marquee, 52 crisp, well-designed fact
sheets were on offer, ranging from apple, cheese, chutney,
chocolate, fruit, goose, honey, ice cream and lavender
production to ostrich, turkey and yoghurt. But according to
the programme manager, John Whiriskey, the most interest by
far was in non-food enterprises, concerned with maximising
the use of the farm home and renovating outbuildings for
use as self-catering units and B&Bs. Interest was also
strong in enterprises such as llama and alpaca wool
production, wind energy, the leisure horse business, and
For tillage farmers who once farmed large acreages of
wheat, beet and barley, the big new focus is on energy
crops, such as oilseed rape, willows and miscanthus. Aidan
Larkin is sceptical: "They're a longterm job. Also the
Government is getting its best tax take out of oil. Do you
think they're going to blow themselves out of the water by
supporting energy crops?"
No new food crops or produce are set to transform Irish
farming, although there is a growing market for some of the
established ones. The highly successful Coolfinn organic
goats' milk farm, run by Michael and Rose Shanahan in Co
Waterford, was a pioneer of its kind in 1983. The Cleary
family's Glenisk yoghurt brand in Co Offaly has been a huge
entrepreneurial success story.
Individual farmers seeking to turn their surplus milk into
ice cream, cheese or yoghurt businesses must contend with
the might of the "tough, predatory" conglomerates who will
under-cut or simply copy them. But one who has managed to
hang in there, dairy farmer Nicholas Dunne of Killowen
Yoghurt, says that "it has given us fantastic hope. We
would be very positive about the future".
JUST AS IN every other sector, however, not everyone can be
an entrepreneur. Even successful lines such as free-range
eggs (which now account for up to 30 per cent of the
market) remain a niche market
for farmers, says Nuala King, a poultry specialist with
Teagasc. Goose, considered a stylish - but extremely
expensive - alternative to turkey at Christmas, and
marketed as such, will "definitely remain a niche", with
around 100 producers in total, producing anything from 20
to a few 100 each. Ostrich, despite some very slick
marketing, "didn't really take off the ground in Ireland.
Some people just managed to sell on some very expensive
Deer farming, another star that rose and faded, is coming
back, but according to Co Wexford deer farmer Will Warham
it needs more marketing support. More and more, says King,
farmers will have to think in terms of convenience
products. "The day is gone when you could sell a live or
New York-dressed bird."
Meanwhile, the inexorable march of CAP reform continues. In
2013, the current cheque-in-the-post system will end, and
no one knows what will replace it.
"What you have to remember," says Mairéad McGuinness, "is
that you are dealing with people and families. We can't all
Suburbs Full Of Empty Promise
With no schools for their children to go to, families in
the sprawling suburbs of Co Meath are reaping the bitter
fruits of unbridled rezoning and bad planning, writes Kathy
The story from east Co Meath this week seemed to be about
98 small children hoping to start
school next week, only to find that there is no school.
Look closer, at what local activist AJ Cahill calls the
"Meath Gold[diggers'] Coast", and underneath is a neat
assemblage of everything that the Cassandras of the boom
years warned and railed against.
It is a tale of unbridled re-zoning coupled with a complete
absence of planning, followed by the inevitable population
explosion. With no previous or even parallel investment in
recreational or community facilities, the fall-out for the
children of Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington was
For east Meath, with its 10-mile coastline, the opening of
the M1 a few years ago was life-changing. An 85-minute
drive to the airport was reduced to 25 minutes. "So you had
a big road, near the sea, less than half an hour from the
airport . . .A builders' paradise," says Cahill.
The builders proved more than equal to the task. According
to the Central Statistics Office, the population of the
Julianstown electoral district, which includes Laytown,
Bettystown and Mornington,
has more than doubled since 1996. Predictably, most of
these new arrivals were young couples, settling
down to have families and a decent quality of life.
25 years ago, Sharon Tolan's father moved his young family
from Kilbarrack to Balbriggan. "It meant that to get to
work in Tallaght every morning, my father had to get a
train at 6am and a bus from Amiens Street to Lever
Brothers, then drive a lorry around the country all day.
But he did it for us . . ." However, once the new roads
opened up access to Balbriggan, Tolan says, "anybody from
the north city who couldn't afford to buy a house there was
moving out to Balbriggan, to what has now become a concrete
jungle, with postage-stamp gardens, living on top of each
other, in order to be able to spend hours a day travelling
in and out of the city to work".
So, seven years ago, she and her Balbriggan- born husband
made the move further out, to Bettystown. "It was by
choice. Wewere able to afford a bigger house in a better
area and it meant that I could afford
to give up work to look after the children. It was still a
big financial sacrifice but that's what I wanted to do."
Back then, as one woman put it, young couples were "sold a
Now Bettystown and environs, in turn, have become a rash of
apartment developments and vast housing estates, several
with purpose-built creches on site, a seaside village
turned sprawling dormer suburb, a vast human assembly line
to feed the boom.
This week alone, the Drogheda Independent's planning
applications section carries applications or appeals
relating to well over 500 new houses in Bettystown, Laytown
and Mornington. At least that
many more are either planned or zoned.
"The estates are empty by 6.30am and everyone is trundling
into Dublin like lemmings, dropping off children on the
way, exhausted," says Cahill. Meanwhile, his wife Emilia
points to the row of two-storey
apartment blocks that overlook their back garden and block
off the sea view they were promised when they moved in.
The absence of planning is evident everywhere. The nearest
playground is in Drogheda. The existing, tiny parochial
hall/community centre is like a relic from the 1940s. There
are only three playing pitches of which one has been
designated for social housing. The bus service between the
villages is inadequate. The city rail system, when it gets
this far, is regarded as "inter-county", so the return fare
is more than double that paid by Balbriggan users down the
road. The library in Laytown is closed since May because of
ongoing health and safety issues, including break-ins - an
example, say locals, of an
entirely predictable increase in crime and vandalism among
the young. Some speak already of "ghettoisation".
This week, east Meath shot into public focus only because
its hopelessly inadequate primary school capacity finally
crashed. Despite a trebling of the population in the past
10 years, the last concrete
schoolroom was built 30 years ago.
"I didn't just find my child at the bottom of the garden,"
says Sharon Tolan, mother of five-yearold
Ross, due to start school next week. "I registered him at
the school four years ago - which is what
most parents do. You almost have to register them before
conception now. Who is responsible for this and why are
they not admitting it?"
Despite written assurances from the primary school patron,
Msgr Hanley, in April, it transpired that there was no
physical space for 100 junior infants due to start school
at Scoil Oilibhéir Naofa, the
"new" junior school (actually, a tiny old disused building
plus a temporary structure) sanctioned last year for pupils
from infants to second-class. This was designed to take the
pressure off the old school, Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (now
designated for third- to sixth-class children) in the same
SO WHY, DESPITE recognition in the local area council plan
six years ago that a new school was needed, is Scoil
Oilibhéir Naofa still a concept rather than a building? One
version of the story, as told
on the weblog of Labour councillor Dominic Hannigan, is
that in 2000 Meath County Council voted to zone a site for
a school beside the parochial hall in Laytown, across the
road from Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh.
The landowners (in this version, the Lyons family from
Laytown, represented by Jimmy Lyons) would then have to
agree to the designation and either sell or transfer
ownership of the land to the school authorities. They did
neither. Five years later, the council decided to offer a
"carrot" to the family in the form of 25 further acres
alongside the school site, to be rezoned for housing. In
effect, councillors were offering to zone land for 300
houses to get a school site. According to this version, the
owners had put in a submission for 35 rezoned acres. The
council held at 25.
When the plan was adopted last November, there was one
crucial stipulation: that not one house could be built on
the 25 acres until the school site was transferred.
With the now seriously valuable zoning in place, the owners
put the site up for sale in early summer. It sold for €27
million. It was only when the new owner, Tom Durkin, met
with the council to hand over the school site that another
twist in the tale was revealed. A portion of the 12 acres
zoned for educational purposes (a campus intended to
include a new secondary school) had been retained by the
Lyons family. The council, says Hannigan, "were a bit
bemused, to say the least". In short, Durkin was unable to
deliver the school site in its entirety since a significant
part of it was missing. Nor was he able to start building
houses. His offer of an alternative four-acre site is not
the preferred site of the planners.
Jimmy Lyons is also bemused, however. He points out that
within the 2000 East Meath Development Plan, the Bettystown
Area Action Plan earmarked a school site on the property of
another landowner and that the first approach made to him
about a site was in late 2004 or early 2005, when Msgr
Hanley called to ask if he could give one to the school.
"I am only one of five in the family, so I said we would
discuss it and make a submission to the East Meath Plan,"
The final submission made by the family stated that for a
further 13 and a half acres of residential rezoning (to be
built in a phased way), in addition to the 23 already given
in the draft plan, they would give four acres free of
charge for the primary school site, make eight acres
available for the secondary school and another 10 acres
free of charge for recreation fields immediately upon
rezoning. The residential element would also be contingent
on provision of a 20-acre green area. In other words, the
family would be handing over 42 acres of land in some form
or another in exchange for 36 and a half acres of
One source suggests that another landowner nearby had 28
acres rezoned in exchange for only 10.
Without any negotiation, the council rejected the Lyons
submission. Meanwhile, the council itself sold seven acres
of its own land (beside the original school site,
ironically) to a builder, for a figure believed to be
around €4 million.
The council's final plan for the Lyons family designated 23
acres for residential rezoning, 25 acres for a community
facility and 20 acres of green area.
As for the location of the school site, Jimmy Lyons says
that he stood in a 14-acre field around March 2005 with
Msgr Hanley, Maurice Daly (principal of Laytown School),
councillor Tom Kelly and aMeath County Council planner, and
it was agreed that this was the "perfect site" for the 12-
acre school campus. The 12-acre plot, however, was never
marked out precisely. Lyons insists that he did
not knowingly hold on to any land when the plot was sold to
Tom Durkin in May.
"It's only four weeks ago since I had heard it rumoured
that this small triangle-y bit of land - I'd say less than
an acre - was an issue. I went over to the planners and
said I would be talking to Tom Durkin about swapping the
land. And that's what I expect to happen," Lyons says.
Clearly negotiations are at a delicate point. But as one of
the fifth generation of a local family, with a four-year-
old child due to start in the local school next week, he is
as anxious about the outcome, he says, as anyone in the
community. "I am a minor shareholder of the land that was
sold. I've given a huge amount of time and effort to
getting this school up and running. I live here. I want the
best for the
community and I know that if the plans for community and
playing facilities are realised, it will be some
JIMMY LYONS IS not without his defenders locally.
"The councillors would just love the media to blame that
one guy. But they're the ones who didn't dot the Is and
cross their Ts when they were signing off on the rezoning.
They had the power and didn't use it. It wasn't Jimmy Lyons
who held up the East Meath Development Plan for five
years," says local resident Peter O'Hara, a parents'
representative on the school board of management. "He
wasn't going to hand over a lump of land to the parish
priest without knowing if he would be getting something
back. What about all the other landowners around here who
cashed in and gave nothing? None of them was asked to pony
up a football pitch or a school in exchange for rezoning."
In the steamy election cockpit that is East Meath, knives
are drawn. It is notable that all parties - including a
Fianna Fáil general election candidate Thomas Byrne - have
been vocal in their demands for changes to the planning
laws, with much mention of such anti-builder measures as
compulsory purchase and de-zoning proceedings.
Yesterday, Dominic Hannigan said he is confident that
ongoing talks between the owners will lead to a resolution
and a site for a permanent school "within a few months -
though it will take at least a year to build a permanent
So the temporary accommodation problem remains. Meanwhile,
various proposals have been unveiled to ensure that the 100
children get to school next week. These include siting
extra Portakabins on
the grounds of the existing school; busing the infants
several miles away to Mosney, currently the Republic's
largest asylumseeker accommodation centre; busing them off
to class in a jockeys' weigh-room in Bellewstown; or having
a split day which would entail sending children to school
for three hours in the morning, afternoon or evening.
Local objections that were thwarting the plan for extra
Portakabins seemed to be fading yesterday. Sharon Tolan was
sounding a little more upbeat: Ross will probably make it
to school - some kind of
school - next week. Whether the outcry over reform of the
planning laws continues is a matter for the politicians.
Is Our Education System Putting Out Yeats's Fire?
Connect: The points race is apparently finished for most
Leaving Certificate students. This has good and bad
implications for Irish education. It means that a memory
test will count for less in determining eligibility for
certain degree courses. But it also means that, for the
most part, competition will be less intense than before.
Overall standards are likely to slip still further.
Teachers will tell you that the various Leaving Cert
syllabuses have been steadily dumbed down. It's still not
an easy exam but all accounts say it's not as difficult as
it used to be. That's not the fault of students, of course;
they can answer only what they're asked. But the dumbing-
down reflects changes in society here, not least the rise
of PR and the "unacceptability" of "failure".
It's clear that Irish education is becoming more
Americanised. There are now third-level places for most
students - especially middle-class students - but this
means that a primary degree is increasingly the equivalent
of a Leaving Cert a generation ago, an Inter or Junior Cert
two generations ago and perhaps a Primary Cert three or
more generations ago.
Many college lecturers will tell you that a post-graduate
qualification is now necessary. A bachelor's degree has
become devalued because so many people have one and there's
a sense that "real" university work doesn't begin until
post-graduate standard. There is a clear link to affluence
in the current arrangement, which sees "education" as a
form of service industry.
But education, real education, is not like that.
"Education," said William Butler Yeats, "is not the filling
of a bucket but the start of a fire." So it should be.
There are, of course, tedious and boring aspects to any
course of study worth undertaking, but if the student
doesn't have - at least periodically - a sense of being
opened to a world transformed by the study, it is mere
That's always been the problem with State exams such as the
Junior and Leaving Certs: they measure bucket-filling. They
don't do this exclusively, but excessive bucket-filling is
required for students to
achieve high grades. In many respects, this is arguably as
fair a measure as any other - it does, at least, test
memory and the extent to which a student has applied him or
But is it real education? Students attend grind schools in
the hope of amassing extra points. This is full-blooded
bucket-filling but may not ever lead to Yeats's "fire".
Indeed, that "fire" is usually equated with securing the
desired place at third level. This is understandable, but
it cheapens education and makes it a mere test for
advancement rather than something to be valued in its own
Certainly, today's classes have career options undreamt of
by students in earlier years. That's good. Yet, with
deteriorating marks in maths and hard sciences such as
physics and chemistry, deteriorating performance in basic
grammar and punctuation and deteriorating foreign language
acquisition, all is not well. Standards have been steadily
eroded to facilitate grade inflation.
It's debatable as to whether knowledge of integral
calculus, of possessive apostrophes or of the ablative
absolute ever mattered beyond an exam paper. After all,
what practical use - except perhaps for professionals in
related areas - does such knowledge have? Very little, it
seems, but an aggregation of such "useless knowledge" casts
a mind in a particular way.
That is what's meant by stressing the importance of
"useless knowledge". By definition, it's not knowledge
readily applicable to solve everyday problems, but it can
give its possessor a more enlightened context for the
problem at hand. It assures people that there's little new
- that the world in 2006 is broadly similar to the world in
1956 or 1856 for that matter.
In that sense, "useless knowledge" stresses continuity.
It's no surprise that Yeats, for instance, thought in aeons
of time. In doing so, he was able to acknowledge continuity
and breaks in human evolution. Nowadays, a historical
"period" or an "era" appears to last about a decade or
less. Historical time seems to have accelerated not only in
the US but in Ireland too.
In future, Indian and Chinese people will become the
world's leading mathematicians. Their gene pools are so
huge that they will produce sufficiently competitive and
competent people. Here in the West, it's likely that
students will continue to avoid studying subjects perceived
to be particularly difficult. They do not see the rewards
for doing so.
So, the demands of the economy are not the same as the
demands of education. An economy requires "bucket-filling";
education requires a "fire". Both outlooks are needed. In
the past, there was a legitimate criticism that Irish
education placed too much emphasis on academic aspects. The
danger now is that excessive emphasis may be placed on
practical or "training" aspects.
The greatest danger, however, lies in becoming too like the
US. Americans are neither more intelligent nor more stupid
than Irish people. They have, however, become so isolated
under George Bush that
they're in difficulty.
It would be sad to see the same hubris occur here now that
the points race is largely finished.
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