From Irish Political Review: March 2008
|Northern Bank Robbery Revisited:||
On Saturday 9th February it was announced that the Cunningham company
Phil Flynn was associated with in Farran, Co. Cork had been given
a tax clearance certificate. This absolved them of any wrong-doing
and showed they were certainly not recipients of money from the Great
Northern Bank Raid. The self-proclaimed journal of record, the Irish
Times, did not report on it for a couple of days and then in a way
that kept suspicions as alive as possible. Remember the wheely bins
of millions of pounds, pounds being burned in back gardens and notes
flying out of chimneys all over Passage West? It was international
news with all the dramatic spin that was possible to extract. What
was not so well reported was the number of small businesses who were
practically ruined by having had dealings with the suspect Cunningham.
And all for what? It was but another journalistic feeding-frenzy
orchestrated by the Government as part of the peace process! The
fact now remains that the only Northern Bank money ever found was
in an RUC leisure centre.
|Unionist Joins FF:||Harvey Bicker, former Ulster Unionist Councillor and British army officer has joined Fianna Fail (Irish News 23.2.08). Mr. Bicker is a member of the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust which helped set up the national museum in Collins Barracks, Dublin. The Irish News says that he is the first Unionist to join a republican party, but Fianna Fail said that there have been several. Fianna Fail also says that its youth movement, Ogra Fianna Fail, now has more the 150 members in the North. Ulster Unionist Party leader, Sir Reg Empey, said: "He is a member of President McAleese's Council of State and has been for a number of years so he was always obviously interested in that sort of thing." That sort of thing!!! Interestingly, Mr. Bicker was opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.|
|Ian Paisley Jnr…||resigned on February 18th
as a Stormont Minister (but not as an MLA) amid controversy over his
dealings with businessman Seymour Sweeney and others (see IPR passim).
Paisley had lobbied Tony Blair and the Assembly when Sweeney wanted
to build a private visitors' centre at the Giant's Causeway. It emerged
that Sweeney was a member of the DUP. Paisley says that he lobbied
on behalf of many people because they were constituents. He added: "Personal
criticism, unfounded allegations, innuendo and attacks on me personally—followed
by ombudsman's reports that have cleared me—this relentless period
of criticism by those who have decided on this path has been unrelenting." Indeed,
the whole thing seems to have been much ado about very little. An Phoblacht
only says "his business affairs had the whiff of unreliability
about them…!" There seems to be a campaign to undermine
the DUP from diehard Unionists, and resentful OUP supporters allied
with elements of the SDLP. But even a Whiff can cause a problem with
the DUP members. It is probably the straightest party around. As some
wit said—if members want to get up to serious skullduggery they
should go across the water and join New Labour!
Gregory Campbell, the DUP MLA and MP, was slated for claiming rent for his office which was in a house owned by his wife. What was seldom mentioned was that the "house" was a proper shop-front type office. The OUP and the SDLP have been having great fun over these matters. It is noticeable that most press and TV stories about Ian Og are tied to speculation about the future of his father. Perhaps it should be remembered that it is second nature to the British State to destabilize everything it touches and there are hundreds of British secret policemen in the Six Counties with little else to do.
|Brendan Hughes…||former OC IRA prisoners in Long Kesh, died in Belfast 16th February 2008. Though he disagreed with recent Sinn Fein policies, he remained on good terms with all Republicans. Gerry Adams and Fra McCann helped carry his coffin. Members D Coy, 2nd Battalion, Belfast Brigade formed a guard of honour. In 1973 he escaped from Long Kesh in a rolled up mattress but was caught in May 1974 and sentenced to 15 years. While inside he was sentenced to another 5 years and, as this was done after 1st March 1976, the British were able to transfer him to the H blocks where he lost his POW status. He organized the "dirty protest" in 1978 and was on hunger strike for 56 days in 1980. His health never properly recovered from this and he was just 59 when he died. On Saturday 23rd November some of his ashes were scattered at the IRA war memorial on the Falls Road and a firing party (or what the Irish News choose to call 'gunmen') fired in tribute.|
is due to be commemorated
at Stormont's Long Gallery on March 8th, International Women's Day.
She was assassinated, along with Sean Savage and Danny McCann, by
British soldiers at the Spain-Gibraltar crossing point on March 6th
1988. The three were unarmed and attempted to surrender at the time.
It was at their funeral that Michael Stone shot dead three mourners,
possibly with the support of the RUC and certainly with their help
after the shooting. Danny Kennedy, Deputy Leader of the UUP said: "It
would be the equivalent of hosting a reception in Drogheda for Oliver
Cromwell" (News Letter 23.2.08). Jennifer McCann, Sinn Fein
MLA in West Belfast said: "I believe that in the constituency
I represent Mairead Farrell is an icon, particularly for young women,
and basically I'm not asking people to agree with that but I'm asking
people to respect that." Nelson McCausland of the DUP said: "People
like Farrell and her fellow terrorists in the IRA killed hundreds
of innocent women throughout the course of their campaign of terror.
To hold such a person up as a role model demonstrates some of the
warped thinking which exists inside Sinn Fein." It has to wondered
what the Gibraltar Three themselves would have made of the location
for the memorial!
|The Dromore By-Election result…||has been
welcomed by the Unionist columnist, Roy Garland, in the Irish News,
as a victory for the Ulster Unionist Party. The Party Leader, Reg Empey
said on television that the result showed that his party can win elections
and the DUP can lose elections. The vote was on 13th February. Here's
how the Irish News reported it two days later: "A surprise Ulster
Unionist victory in the Dromore by-election has sent shockwaves through
the unionist community in what has been described as a 'Black day'
for the DUP". A 'Black day' for the DUP was what was hoped for
and predicted before the election. It was not what actually happened.
But the Irish News and the media in general are determined to promote
the UUP against the DUP as the 'moderates'. Facts are neither here
nor there. The UUP itself gives the impression that the power-sharing
Executive has nothing to do with it. Never mind that it and the SDLP
have Ministers on the Executive. 'Moderate' is a strange term for a
Party which seems determined to wreck the present set-up in the name
of traditional unionism and is delighted that MEP Jim Allister has
set up the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) against the DUP. (It is
said that the OUP would prefer to withdraw from the Executive if the
SDLP would join it, but that the SDLP is unwilling.)
The Irish News version of Dromore was the version peddled by the UUP and the SDLP. On the Internet there were several pages about the by-election, but none of them printed the actual results. And most said or implied that there was a UUP gain from the DUP. In fact the seat had been held in the last two local elections by Tyrone Howe for the UUP. Howe, a former Irish international rugby player, resigned in November 2007. The following are the figures for first preference votes which this column finally got from Banbridge District Council:
Paul Stewart DUP 1,069
Carol Black UUP 912
Keith Harbinson TUV 739
David Griffen Alliance 357
Paul Gribben Sinn Fein 350
John Drake SDLP 290
Helen Corry Green Party 59
With transfers, Carol Black of the UUP won the election. After the fifth count it was UUP 1,571 and DUP 1,505. But whose transfers? The TUV votes were split almost equally—377 to the UUP and 327 to the DUP, which gives as good a clue as anything else as to where the TUV votes came from in the first place. The crucial factor in the UUP retaining its seat was the transfer of 182 votes from the Alliance Party to the UUP. We have been able to find only one other even passably realistic assessment of the election—albeit from an anti-SF standpoint—that was in a letter to the Irish News on 22nd February from Sean Swan in Baltimore, Co. Cork. Here are extracts:
"It was sad to see Roy Garland celebrating the Dromore by-election results. It was only technically a victory for the Ulster Unionist Party - their share of the vote actually fell from 2005. What Dromore means is the rise of the Traditional Unionist Voice as an electoral force. If it is repeated in Westminster and European elections, Sinn Fein—whose share of the vote increased in Dromore—will emerge as the largest party in Northern Ireland by far. This is a strange outcome for a unionist like Roy to celebrate. In fact it's not something for anybody to celebrate as destabilizing Unionism means destabilizing the Good Friday Agreement—and nobody should pretend that they know where that would lead… We all know what the Paisleyites and the Provos were—it's what they are now that matters. Trimble and Mallon failed…"
|New SDLP History:||The SDLP has been referring
to itself as the Civil Rights Party in recent months as we head towards
the 40th anniversary of the famous Civil Rights march that was battoned
off the Streets of Derry on 5th October 1968. The notion is that things
would have been fine if the movement was left alone but the Provos
came along and spoiled it all. And this is a position given every publicity
by the Irish News. A flavour can be seen in a letter by SDLP MLA, Alban
McGuinness, in the Irish News on 9th February 2008, under the headline
Free At Last:
"Francie Molloy is right when he states that republicans were closely involved in setting up the Civil Rights movement. The involvement of the founders of the SDLP—John Hume, Ivan Cooper, Austin Currie, Paddy O'Hanlon, Paddy Devlin and others—is a matter of history, as is the party's subsequent record. Apart from Francie, who stewarded the Coalisland march in 1968, we find no other Sinn Feiner in the old news reels. The Civil Rights movement was a broad coalition seeking democratic reforms within Northern Ireland… The Provisional movement… was formed by a group violently opposed to any reform which they saw as 'propping up' Stormont… By Summer 1970 the main aims of the Civil Rights movement had been achieved or conceded… That was the point at which a number of leading people in that movement decided that a new party, the SDLP, should be formed to work politically in the new, more democratic conditions…. It was also the point at which the Provos, having deposed the progressive republican leadership, launched their bomb and bullet campaign."
All very neat. So the SDLP was never a nationalist Party. The 1969 pogroms never happened. But though this history may be false it gives a good insight into how the SDLP now sees itself—a peaceful sectarian Party wanting to run the Northern Ireland statelet just like its other side of the coin, the Ulster Unionist Party. It has devised a nice simple history for itself to support its present position.
|Informers:||Possibly having run out of Republicans to 'out' as informers, MI5 is now getting informers who the Republican Movement have themselves discovered but have let alone, to 'out' themselves. The latest is Roy McShane, a former associate of Freddie Scappaticci and one of the leadership's former drivers. MacShane's treachery was discovered almost 20 years ago, as was that of others. Neighbours of his suspected him. But on February 8th his old handlers took him into protective custody and details were in the press. Doubtless there are a few more who were internally exposed in the 80s and 90s to be re-exposed drip by drip to undermine Sinn Fein.|
|Flags & Emblems:||There are strong protests by the Orange Order and other Protestant bodies against the decision by Banbridge District Council to remove commemorative items from public display on Council property under its 'flags and emblems' policy. Final decisions will be taken after consultations. The items proposed for removal include: paintings of an Orange Lodge and an RAF checkpoint as well as plaques presented to the Council by: the RUC Male Voice Choir, the Royal British Legion, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Ulster Special Constabulary, the Royal Irish Rangers, the Royal Irish Rifles, the Royal Irish Fusilliers, The RAF Irish Guards and, for some reason, the Hampshire Constabulary. The present composition of Banbridge District Council is: DUP 6, UUP 5, SDLP 3, Sinn Fein 1, Alliance 1, and Traditional Ulster Voice 1. [Banbridge Leader, 25.2.08]|
|Price Of History:||There seems to be an absence of any guilt among the families of those who fought and died for Ireland when it comes to making money. Recently the papers of executed 1916 leader, Tom Clarke, were sold off for a small fortune. Others queued up to cash in on the sacrifices of their relatives. The latest is one Sid McAuley, a British Ministry of Defence instructor, who is selling his grandfather's 1916 medal for between £5,000 and £7,000. His grandfather was William Patrick Partridge, a captain in the Irish Citizen Army who fought alongside Countess Markievicz at the College of Surgeons. He was a Trade Union friend of James Connolly, a founder of the Labour Party and a Dublin City Councillor. [Irish News, 4.2.08]|
|Victims' Industry:||The North's Appointments Commissioner, Felicity Huston, has condemned the way that people have been appointed to public jobs dealing with the recent war; though she has nothing to say about the proliferation of such jobs. She was a member of the Lords Commission which rejected Several of Tony Blair's cronies for peerages. In particular, she criticises the way that Lord Robert Eames and Denis Bradley were appointed to head the Consultative Group on the Past. Eames and Bradley are being paid £680 a day for three days a week. According to the Irish News (26.2.08) their remit is to produce "recommendations… aimed at supporting Northern Ireland society in building a future that is not over shadowed by the events of the past". This attempt at removing history from the lives of the people should make for interesting reading! Both the Catholic Bishops and the IRA have refused to speak to the Group. Should their salaries not therefore be halved? Then there are the Victims' Commissioners. Objections to the appointment of Bertha McDougall as commissioner led to the appointment of the other three applicants, Brendan McAllister, Mike Nesbitt and Patricia McBride, as co-Commissioners. There are at least 15 victims' organisations on the Protestant side. God alone knows how many there are on the Catholic side.|
|David Burnside:||a fundamentalist in the SDLP's sister-party, recently questioned Paisley at Stormont about the past of the Deputy First Minister. Paisley brushed the question aside by remarking that somebody with a past like Burnside's would do well to live in the present.|
|Green Poppies?||The Roscommon Champion reports that a bunch of Roscommon Councillors have been to France to lay a wreath of poppies on the graves of fallen WW1 soldiers from Roscommon and to acknowledge their role in fighting for the freedoms we now enjoy! However the group's itinerary will differ from that of other such groups by taking in the German cemetery at Langemark (which visitors usually miss because it is not sign-posted). The delegation will stay at the Irish College at Louvain (founded in 1607 by a Roscommon Franciscan priest, Fr. Florence Conry). The first Irish dictionary was compiled at Louvain, as was the Annals of the Four Masters.|
…to Attend Israel Independence Celebration? It has been reported that the singer has been invited by President Shimon Peres to attend the Machar (tomorrow) conference which he has organized, scheduled to take place following Israel's 60th Independence Day, and the U2 front man might accept Peres' invitation. The Machar Conference will showcase Israel's various contributions to medicine, science, and conservation.
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