From Irish Political Review: August 2008

Editorial Commentary

British troops …

in Afghanistan were visited in May by the now First Minister, Peter Robinson, and DUP MP, Jeffrey Donaldson. The Belfast News Letter is conducting a campaign for public parades by the Northern regiments of the British Army in the province on their return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Robinson told the Belfast News: "It is right and proper, regardless of any political arguments, that the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in defence of our country should be recognised." Nigel Dodds said regarding the practice in America: "Regardless of political debates or arguments about the causes of the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, people rightly recognise the valuable work of the armed forces… That is exactly how it should be in the United Kingdom."

The McCartney Not Guilty verdicts … were dismissed as at best technical reverses by the Irish News over four pages on June 28th. Its editorial added: "Despite the fact that this dreadful killing took place outside a crowded bar, the involvement of republicans ensured witnesses remained silent. There were also allegations that potentially vital forensic evidence was removed from the scene." Mr. McCartney's sisters "have been subjected to unwarranted abuse, vilification and intimidation." In fact their Short Strand community was less than happy about the divisive campaign launched by the family in the course of which they were feted all the way to the White House and back. Their case suited the State's anti-Sinn Fein agenda and was promoted all day, every day. But only while there was an election pending in which Sinn Fein could be damaged. After that the British State and its media lost interest. It was always going to be difficult prove exactly what happened in the affray in court. The State failed to make a case against the single defendant who was charged with murder, as was obvious to anyone who followed the evidence. Susan McKay wrote an article in the Irish News saying that the McCartneys had failed to get Justice (1.7.08). But she should know that Court proceedings are not about justice, but about the law. The IRA made an investigation in 2005 and privately offered the McCartney family to mete out justice but were refused (though the family has recently denied that this was so).
Tom Hartley…

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast, laid a wreath at the City Hall War Memorial in memory of Irishmen who died at the Battle of the Somme, on 1st July. Former head of the local civil service, and leading light of the great and the good, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, has launched a fund to hire former West Belfast teacher, Derek Smyth, to write a Book Of Honour, giving details of Northerners who died in the Great War. The fund is being supported by the Irish News. On the nationalist side, the proposition that men should kill Germans and Turks, who never did them any harm, in exchange for Home Rule, has yet to be defended by those who continue to glorify them.

Irish Passports… new and renewed, have been issued to 402,658 people in the North since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (Irish News, 2nd July). The SDLP's Patsy McGlone MLA has admitted that Unionists find travelling on an Irish Passport safer. He doesn't tell us why!
The Tricolour… is often burned on the top of Orange Bonefires (sic). Nobody dies. Everyone knows that the 11th night provides a field-day for bigots (whilst also being a popular event). The Union Jack shop in Newtownards Road, Belfast, has been enterprising this year and displayed the Irish flags for £5 each, for burning. Some sorry soul has reported the shop for action by the police. Earlier, another offended person got the peelers to start an investigation into Iris Robinson MLA's religious beliefs, insofar as they concern homosexuals. Meanwhile most people are far more offended by weekend brawls in Great Victoria Street and Botanic Avenue, which the police do nothing to stop. Nor do they seem bothered by the fact that traffic signals are often completely ignored in Belfast city centre.
British Buggers: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the British Government broke international conventions by monitoring emails and phone calls between the Republic and Britain & Northern Ireland. The interceptions concerned continued from 1990 to 1997. Sinn Fein TD, Aengus O Snodaigh has demanded that Brian Cowen seeks legally enforceable assurances from Gordon Brown about the ending of this bugging (Irish News, 3rd July).
McGurks bar… in North Queen Street, Belfast, was bombed by the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1971 killing 15 people. The British Government and its Army concocted a story that said that the bombers were IRA and were inside the bar at the time. An own goal, as they used to say. Now that the truth about the UVF responsibility has been proven, Paul Goggins, Northern Ireland Security Minister, has apologised in the London House of Commons. He said on July 15th: "We are deeply sorry, not just for the appalling suffering and loss of life that occurred at McGurk's bar, but also for the extraordinary additional pain caused to both the immediate families and the wider community by the erroneous suggestions made in the immediate aftermath of the explosion as to who was responsible." Erroneous?
Gerry Fitt… compounded the slur on the IRA after the Bombing at McGurk's bar. He publicly supported the British account of the matter. Until his death, the Baron Fitt regularly "wondered" why he felt he had to leave his home. This could have been one of many reasons.
Armed INLA members… patrolled the Ardoyne area of Belfast on the 11th Night. Their actions were publicly condemned by local community workers—aka the Provisional IRA.
The Village/Sandy Row… area of Belfast is being 'redeveloped' with the help of £100m from the Assembly. Several rows of houses in this loyalist area are to be demolished. Development in such areas has not always been for the better. Here it is expected that the demolished homes will be replaced by flats for the better off, something that is already proposed for the Lower Shankill. The Village is more or less in the city centre and near the University. Already property has been bought up by landlords who want to rent to students. Soon much of the area could become an extension of the middle class Lisburn Road. No promises have been made about the new homes being for local people. Redevelopment already carried out in Sandy Row has brought privately-owned apartments, offices, car parks, and the enormous Days Hotel—probably the most hideous building in Belfast. The Sandy Row area is being nibbled away on three sides. Social engineering by Margaret Ritchie's Ministry for Social Development is now to be extended into the Village area, with mixed middle-class housing providing a bonanza for developers.
Radio Eireann… provided fascinating on and off listening on July 14th. Every presenter seemed to feel a need to interview one or more French residents in Ireland and listen to their views on Bastille Day. Without exception they spoke with great pride about their Republican history and ethos. One presenter asked a woman at what point in life she learned about the French Revolution. She clearly thought he was mad. She always knew about it. A favourite childhood memory was seeing the famous image of the barefoot peasant carrying the fat priest who was in turn carrying the even fatter nobleman. A presenter, for reasons best known to himself, said he didn't like the Irish National Anthem. This embarrassed his guests. Where does RTE find these sleeveens?
Ian Paisley Jnr (DUP)… "has lodged an official complaint against the SDLP's John Dallat over the investigation that led to his resignation earlier this year. Mr Paisley resigned as a junior minister in January after Mr Dallat reported him and his father to the ethics watchdogs at Stormont and Westminster. The Stormont Deputy Speaker had complained about the DUP man's links to a property developer and his appointment as his father's Westminster researcher. He was later cleared of wrongdoing by the House of Commons' Commissioner for Standards and the Northern Ireland Ombudsman. Mr Paisley Jnr is now calling for Mr Dallat to be removed as Deputy Speaker due to a lack of impartiality" (Belfast Telegraph, 3rd July).
John Dallat… is the SDLP's loony right when it comes to Zimbabwe. In a Stormont debate on Zimbabwe on May 23rd he said: "Can anyone explain to me why a tyrant in a long line of tyrants has been allowed to commit genocide among his own people while no one cares? Is it because there is no oil in Zimbabwe? More than likely it is but surely Britain has a moral duty to come to the aid of its former colony once called Southern Rhodesia. While it is difficult to say with certainty where Cecil Rhodes' soul is today surely someone in Britain must accept that he as a British citizen laid the foundation stone for what is one of the sorriest stories in this century." Margaret Ritchie, on the other hand, regretted the decision by Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of elections four days before the poll—a view shared by other leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change.
The Irish News… runs a daily column—It Happened On This Day. It is written with British preconceptions. For example, on 21st July the report from This Day last year was: "Burdens in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the Army with almost no spare troops to deal with unexpected missions, the head of the Army warned."
New Northern Ireland… seems to be the latest British description for the Six Counties. The Irish News, 21st July, found the term used in four recent statements by the Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward. His Northern Ireland Office said: "The Secretary of State is very proud of the New Northern Ireland because it is one of New Labour's greatest achievements." You couldn't make it up!
France and Ireland… have much in common: Republicanism and before that the Jacobite connection; The Wild Geese; the training of Irish priests and hedge school teachers during the Penal Laws. The United Irishmen and Young Ireland looked to France. The list is endless and continues to this day. But all Brian Cowen could come up with in his press conference with President Sarkozy was that Irish troops were serving in Chad, where their main role in practice, though peacekeeping under UN auspices, is to support the French efforts to prop up the Chad Government. No wonder Sarkozy patronised Cowen so much!
President Sarkozy… was reported in most papers and TV news programmes as denying that he was meddling in Irish affairs. It is hard to know how that can be sustained. Here is what he actually said: "Coming to Ireland would be to meddle, not to come would be indifference. What would you prefer, meddling or indifference? To come here shows a spirit of friendship."
Barak Obama's… press conference, at the end of his visit to Iraq, was noticeable for the absence of the usual nonsense about Democracy. Rather he talked about political processes and the tribal leaders. But, having emphasised that American troops could not stay in Iraq indefinitely, he implied the very opposite as far as Afghanistan was concerned.
Sean Whelan… is RTE's Europe Editor, the man who comes on and gives the line. His report on the capture of Radovan Karadzic in Serbia was the usual rehash of US-UK propaganda about the conflicts in Yugoslavia. One would not have known that there had been wars at all, never mind that the US- and German-backed Croatia had won, the Bosnian Muslims had come second, and the Serbs had lost. He made it seem that only the Serbs had committed crimes. His 'analysis' of what happened at Srebrenica was the usual 8,000 massacred. But nothing like this number of bodies has been discovered—about 3,000 at most. Most of these are unidentified and include both Bosnians and Serbs killed in the battles and Bosnian troops killed retreating. Most Bosnian soldiers managed to get to their own lines but this fact did not suit the Bosnian political leadership and they were added to the total. 'Remembering Srebrenica' is not meant to avoid future slaughter. Its purpose is to give the Western powers the excuse to carry out future massacres in the name of preventing them. And this they have done.
The Srebrenica report on RTE… also included pictures from the infamous Market Massacre in Sarajevo—at the time attributed by the BBC to the Serbs. But General Rose, the British Army Commander in Bosnia, told John Simpson live on the BBC that the Serbs were not responsible and that the attack was carried out by the Bosnian Muslim side, possibly by Chechen fighters, to blacken the Serbs. The BBC dropped the allegation—for all of about two weeks. Whelan has spent time in the Balkans and knows all this. But he finds it easier to toe the line. After all he may one day fancy a job with the BBC. Someone at RTE suggested that he is just a weak and lazy individual. That is still no excuse for deceiving the public. A thorough analysis of the Srebrenica affair has been carried out by the American journalist, Diana Johnstone, who works for Counterpunch. This can be read on

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