From Irish Political Review: September 2006

Editorial Commentary

May 1976: British Government Threatens Republic With Loyalist Violence.

Recently-released official papers show that within a short time of unexplained murders, and two years after the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974, eight heavily-armed SAS men were arrested on the Irish side of the Border. They were in civilian clothes and heavily armed. They were travelling in three cars and there was a 2-hour gap between the first and second capture. The two groups had different cover stories. They had machine-guns, a sawn-off, pump-action shotgun, and a dagger. Police questioned them about the murder of Seamus Ludlow, an elderly bachelor with no political affiliations whose body was found near Dundalk just 4 days earlier. They were also quizzed about the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. They were charged with possessing firearms with intent to endanger life and brought before the Special Criminal Court, where they bailed. The Irish News, relying on archive research, revealed the lengths to which the British Government was willing to go to obtain the exoneration of these men. A number of different forms of pressure, which could be brought to bear on the Irish, were suggested by civil servants. Of particular interest, in view of persistent allegations of security force/loyalist paramilitary collusion, is the threat that, if the SAS men were imprisoned, "There could be a strong and violent reaction by loyalist paramilitaries" (IN 13.7.06). Another threat was that British forces would be withdrawn 10 miles inside the NI Border, creating "a non-man's land in which the terrorists could do what they would". Other possible sanctions considered by the Cabinet Office were:
"an embargo on trade, a ban on remittances, withdrawal of social security benefits from Irish citizens, prohibition or limitation of Irish immigration and the ending of the voting rights of Irish citizens in this country" (Letter of G.W. Harding of FCO to T.F. Benchley in Cabinet Office, 18.5.1976).
Milder measures could be a sustained propaganda campaign, "a suspension of… contacts with the Irish on Northern Ireland matters and a refusal of training and other facilities to the Irish security services". Behind the scenes contacts on Northern Ireland was the only form of involvement granted to the Irish Government in those days.
An official predicted that, if imprisoned, the SAS men could receive the same sort of violence as "prison officers" had meted out to those accused of the Birmingham pub bombings the previous year.
Merlyn Rees was the NI Secretary of State at the time, Garret FitzGerald was the Irish External Affairs Minister, while Paddy Cooney was Minister for Justice. In the event, the Coalition Government bowed to British pressure. The men were cleared of the more serious charge and fined £100 each on a lesser charge. Whether this denouement resulted from fear of British official displeasure or of unofficial retaliation via a Loyalist onslaught it is not possible to say. (Needless to say the Irish Times ignored these revelations.)

Bruce Arnold warned the Irish Government against sending troops to the Lebanon, when it appeared that the French would be leading the UN deployment. He wrote: "can we trust the French? As former colonists in Lebanon—fortunately for us, not tarred by the British-in-Cork brush—their position has been a difficult one to accept by any potential UN participant" (Irish Independent 19.8.06). What does that convoluted wording mean? That the French did not behave as badly in Lebanon as the British did in Cork. Nevertheless, as the former colonial power, they cannot be trusted. Bruce Arnold is hardly a convert to anti-colonialism! His objections to France are not spelled out clearly, but he obviously feels that Hezbollah should be disarmed and fears the French would not do his. (And, by the way, who is the "we" this Englishman speaks of?)

"must prove that it has no military applications in mind for its enrichment" of nuclear fuel, says the Irish Times. How do you prove what you have not got in your mind? But the Irish public can rest secure: "the regime in Tehran knows well that most western nations are determined to do whatever is necessary to prevent it building a nuclear arsenal… Israel cannot be expected to entertain the fact of a nuclear-armed Iran…" (Iran's Diplomatic Two-Step. 23.8.06).

Northern Bank Raid. Despite the best efforts of the security forces of two States, no link has been proved between the IRA and this robbery. The only money recovered so far, which can be definitively linked to the raid, has been found in an RUC social club. Yet journalist Conor Lally listed authoritatively the particular investments that the money was robbed for in IRA Bank Money Was For Investment In Bulgaria (IT 26.6.06). His evidence amounts to the statement that "The Irish Times has learned" this. It seems that the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau is investigating 5 individuals, that the PSNI Chief Constable "has said he believes that the IRA carried out the robbery", and that "His views have been echoed by Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell". Such is journalism in the alleged paper of record. Faith in God has transmuted itself into unquestioning belief in Gospel of Power!
Loyalists did their best to provoke the Catholic community with their 11th Night Bonfire Decorations. The Ahoghill Bonfire was decorated with a Tricolour bearing the words, Fuck Mickey Bo'—alluding to Michael McIlveen, the schoolboy beaten to death by a gang in Ballymena. An elaborate bonfire in Belfast, bore the names of 10 IRA men who died on Hunger-Strike 25 years ago.

is said to have hired consultants to advise on reversing its electoral decline, and to have been told to stress crime issues. Its spokesmen also seem to believe they can gain by making an equivalence between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Thus Deputy Leader Dr. Alasdair McDonnell demands: "The DUP has got to stop messing around on power-sharing and Sinn Féin has got to stop messing around on its commitment to a lawful society…" (22.7.06 IT).

"Official IRA Said To Be Behind Beating". The Irish News states that the "Official IRA was last night blamed for a so-called 'punishment beating in west Belfast which left a teenager with serious head injuries… in Albert Street in the lower Falls area…" (14.8.06).

Fool's Gold. Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev has dismissed Irish prosperity, as merely based on a property boom and Multi National activity (Ireland Is Rich All Right—Rich In Fool's Gold, Daily Mail 11.7.06). He says quoted shares, and assets of financial institutions, depend on real estate for up to 70% of their value, while 82% of household savings are linked to property. In 2005 around two-thirds of new jobs were linked to housing. 75% of export earnings are Multi-National-generated, while c17% of Irish GDP was derived from the activities of such companies outside the country. Less than 30% of GDP was produced by the indigenous, non-construction-based private sector. He suggests real wealth is manifested by public structures of various kinds. Dr. Gurdgiev edits Business & Finance magazine and lectures in Economics at UCD.
Haughey. In Carve-Ups Since Foundation Of The State, Irish Times star reporter, Stephen Collins, recently described how constituencies have been manipulated for party-political advantage down the years. A large inset in the article read, "In 1988 the Haughey government attempted to manipulate the [electoral] commission by changing the terms of reference". Governments have every right to set the terms of reference of Commissions they establish. But, more to the point, as Collins himself admits, it was Jim Tully of Fine Gael who had earlier produced "a cynical constituency revision, dubbed the 'Tullymander', clearly designed to produce a seat bonus for Labour and Fine Gael" (9.8.06 IT). Jack Lynch then established an Electoral Commission in 1979 to cut out such malpractice. Haughey's 'offence' was to try to specify that the Commission could only set up 5-seat constituencies in order to avoid breaching County boundaries, but he failed to win sufficient support for his move. Now, which of those two events deserved the sensationalist inset caption? (Incidentally, Frank Dunlop's memoir is well worth reading on such matters.) The drive to denigrate Haughey is unremitting, even after death.
Break Up Of Yugoslavia. A Dublin subscriber writes (11 May 2006): "I'm reading with interest the May issue. A small correction—it's not true to say (page 4) that Serbs were the only people in Yugoslavia who had conducted a state—Montenegro had (unless you count them as Serbs). More substantially, I think you don't give enough emphasis to the contribution of the Serbs to the break up of Yugoslavia, eg. the collapse of the collective Presidency."
No Irish Died! Close readers of the Irish Times will wonder how it is that some weeks no Irish people died—or so it could be thought, if one relied on its Obituary pages for information. It merits a study of its own. Suffice it for present to say that no Irish people died in the week ending 12th August. The Irish Times obituaries that week were of James Van Allen, US space project pioneer; Vincent J. Fuller, US trial lawyer; Lt. Col. George Styles, a British bomb disposal expert; and Anthony Cave Brown, a British spy-journalist. There was another such week on 1st August. Featured were: Aaron Spelling, US producer; Lyle Stuart, US far-out publisher; and Sir Peter Smithers, a British spy. It is also noticeable that native Irish deceased consistently are rated lower and get smaller write-ups than others.
Smoking. That Irish anti-smoking regulations were introduced as a piece of social engineering, rather than as a Health & Safety measure for employees, as claimed by Minister Micheál Martin at the time, is shown by a curious court event, which was not strictly a legal case, as no prosecution or civil tort was involved. Malone Engineering Products Ltd. of Dublin sought a High Court declaration that its 'Freshwall' structure, designed to be erected beside pubs, was compliant with the Public Health Tobacco Act 2002. The Health and Safety Executive opposed endorsement. Justice Roderick Keane rejected 'Freshwall', not because it breaches the fresh air provisions of the legislation, but because it is too comfortable! The structure has a timber floor, radiators, a mirror at one end, and two TV sets, along with: "comfortable seating for 27 people" (IT 22.7.06). In a similar vein, the European Commission recently refused to outlaw as discrimination a denial of employment to someone who smokes outside working hours.

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