From Irish Political Review: May 2008

Editorial Commentary


There hasn't been any according to the Irish News (18.3.08). Though there has been legislation begun by the previous direct rule arrangements. Many of us would describe this situation as near perfect. But not, it seems, the Irish News. There is, however, the promise to legislate for a reduction in quangos. A quango has been set up to look at this! Actually quangos in Northern Ireland are often a form of Outdoor Relief Work—or in this case Indoor Relief. They keep people in employment and, for the most part, don't go around annoying too many people as they are wont to do in England.

EASTER COMMEMORATIONS: This year the Sinn Fein march to Milltown Cemetery in Belfast took the form of a pageant. Marchers carrying pikes and muskets were dressed in the costumes of 1798. Others wore uniforms and carried "weapons" representing the volunteers of 1916 and the IRA of 1920. Some Sinn Fein members expressed annoyance that things ended there. But mostly, as usual, it was a mixture of a fun day out for Republican families combined with individual tributes by relatives of fallen Volunteers and the speeches and ceremonies at the Republican Plot. The IRA Army Council statement was read out and said nothing about disbanding itself! Earlier, a very respectable size of a march was held by the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the INLA. At its start there was a quite large police presence on the Falls Road. All of the policemen (though not the policewomen) seemed to be in their 50s. Some said that these were more likely to keep their heads. Others said that they were from the old guard, old enough to know who was who. The Official IRA also marched. Heavens, they are getting old!

Most of the media reported a serious riot in the Creggan area of Derry following a commemoration by "dissident" Republicans on Easter Monday. Local people told the Irish News that police had confronted march organisers and had photographed and questioned children as young as seven. But it was the PSNI handout that was mostly reported, and this was believed by the local SDLP which immediately condemned the "rioters". Sinn Fein said that they would wait until they knew what had happened. Next day, Sinn Fein MLA, Martina Anderson made a statement: "The community is able to identify what happened on their streets on Monday afternoon and they are saying quite clearly that this was not a full scale riot. Reports need to be accurate and there is a duty to ensure that they do not become sensationalised. I can recall past reports where we were told of a full scale riot at Shipquay Street only for eyewitness to tell a totally different story. We have also had reports of sectarian incidents which later turned out not to be sectarian " (Derry Journal. 25.3.08)

IRA EX-PRISONER… Frank McGreevy was beaten to death in his home in the Lower Falls area of Belfast on 15th March. Gerry Adams condemned the PSNI for not investigating the killing properly and for not listening to local people. 24 yours afterwards a man handed himself in to the police and has been charged. It is understood that he was given a lift to the barracks.
PARTNERSHIP AND MIGRANT RIGHTS: Following the dispute over the employment of cheap immigrant labour by Irish Ferries, the Trade Unions gave notice that further progress in the Social Partnership process would not be possible until the matter had been addressed by law. This is now happening with a new piece of Government legislation.
"The Government has promised that under a second Bill, due shortly, agency workers will have to receive at least the minimum wage or the basic terms and conditions set out in registered agreements for specific sectors, where they apply. The Bill, published yesterday, will give legal effect to the commitments for improved employment rights compliance measures agreed by the Government and the social partners in the Towards 2016 national agreement. However, there is widescale disagreement between the social partners over how, or if, such measures should apply". (Irish Times 19.3.08)
The law will also exempt inspectors from the laws of defamation so that they can report their findings in full.
COUNTESS MARKIEVICZ'S HUSBAND… Casimir, was born in Poland but brought up in the Ukraine. The Countess, who came from Lissadell, Co. Sligo, is now to have a museum opened in her honour in that country. "The Ukrainian ambassador, along with other embassy officials, met with Lissadell owners Constance Cassidy and Eddie Walsh yesterday afternoon and viewed oil paintings by the count and countess, many of which feature scenes from his native country. He revealed that he was establishing a Markievicz Museum in Zywotowka in the Ukraine dedicated to Countess Markievicz and Casimir, which will feature copies of material from Lissadell". (Irish Independent 10.3.08)
THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND… visited Armagh and Hillsborough in the days leading up to Easter. She met up with President McAleese who then went on to speak at Queen's University. There McAleese intimated that any visit by the Queen to Dublin was linked to DUP agreement to the transfer of policing powers from Westminster to Stormont. Some Unionists thought that this was completely out of order. And probably they were right. But the most curious reaction came on Good Friday from the nationalist Irish News. Its editorial stated: "Not every nationalist will agree with the link suggested by the president between a possible visit by the Queen to Dublin and the devolution of policing and justice to the Northern Ireland assembly… The president has been working diligently to prepare the way for the arrival of the Queen in Dublin throughout her term of office and a successful conclusion is now within sight." Confirmation once again that traditional Northern nationalism, as represented by the Irish News and most of what is left of the SDLP, has nothing to do with carving out a separate space in the world for Ireland; but wishes, like the Hibernianism that it is, to see Catholic Ireland as a recognised part of whatever England is in the world. This "nationalism" is merely sectarianism—getting one over on the Prods.
NORMALITY: UTV Live (10/4/08) asked a mother on the Falls Road how she thought the changes in the 10 years since the Good Friday Agreement would benefit her children. She answered that people were more normal now and that soon they would be just like people on television!
COWEN'S SELECTION: Someone from the North remarked on the speed of Brian Cowen's selection as Fianna Fail leader. Nominations closed on April 5th and he was selected four days later by the Fianna Fail TDs. The only reason for anyone finding this odd is if they compare it with the carry-on that recently took place in Britain. Gordon Brown was also unopposed for leader of the British Labour Party. Nevertheless he raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for his "election campaign". For Deputy Leader there actually was an election. But here the contenders also raised hundreds of thousands of pounds—much of it through very dodgy means. One candidate—Peter Hain—had to leave the government and there is much speculation about the winner—Harriet Harman—possibly being investigated by the police. Since then there has been the 'employing relatives' news: MPs using their allowances to pay members of their own families. It is one thing if a job of work is being done, but it is reported that Hain was employing his 82-year old mother. The media in Ireland never stops going on about corruption and wants us to be more like the British. Funny old world!
PARKING PROTESTS IN BELFAST… were reported last month and have increased. The problem is commuters parking for free in inner city estates and blocking the streets and the parking facilities for residents. The protesters in the Markets have now been joined by residents from Sandy Row and Donegal Pass. Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein Minister, says that he is willing to impose parking restrictions if the residents pay £40 each. The result of that is that the residents have switched from protest, and appealing to commuters, to blocking off their streets. Catholic and Protestant working class areas do have something in common!
BLACK PROPAGANDA… is a favourite tool of the British. Both Republicans and Loyalists have been the subjects of it. The latest to protest about it is Iris Robinson MLA, wife of First Minister Designate, Peter Robinson. She says that the British put it around that her husband was beating her up. "This malicious rumour was started by the [British] government in an attempt to blacken Peter's name when he was protesting at the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It took root because I was in hospital 17 times during that period with gynaecological problems" (Irish Examiner 21.4.08)
SINN FÉIN ON CHAD: Aengus O Snodaigh Made the following statement to the Dail:
"Despite the contribution that the French have made to the EU in recent times we would be concerned that France is playing such an important role in an EU Force to a former French colony. The regime of Idress Deby is questionable in terms of its Human Rights record and levels of corruption. It is no secret that the regime is supported politically and militarily by France. Ireland has earned international respect and credibility within the UN for its support for the process of decolonisation, to be perceived to be doing the bidding of one of the major colonial powers is just unacceptable. From participation in the EU Rapid Reaction Force to NATO's Partnership for Peace, and now the EU Battle Groups, Ireland is increasingly becoming associated with the concept of a fledgling EU army and military intervention, as well as committing ever increasing amounts of money on acquiring weapons of war. For these reasons Sinn Fein continues to be opposed to Irish participation in this force. We would urge a rethink and would support the putting together of a genuinely neutral UN peace-keeping force."
SELLING OUR HERITAGE: Following on from the profiteering from the files of Tom Clarke and others, there has been another auction of our history. The BBC, on 15th April, reported the sale of 700 items relating to 1916 and the War of 1919-21. These include a letter from Michael Collins to Austin Stack expected to fetch 40,000 euros and a copy of the Proclamation going for 350,000 euros. Adam's Auctioners spokesman, one Stuart Cole, said his company was going to make this type of thing an annual event!

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