From Irish Political Review: February 2007

Editorial Commentary

Sinn Fein 'Threatens' Objectors To Policing:

…so read the front-page lead of the Irish News on 3rd January 2007. The story was manufactured out of a Letter to the Editor sent in by John Kelly (the Arms Trial defendant, and former SF MLA) and Brendan Hughes (the Hunger Striker and former SF member). The 'threats' alleged appear to be twofold: that SF members are discouraged from attending meetings to discuss policing; and that bogus threats to the life of SF leaders are being made the excuse for counter-threats: "They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to these voices [of dissident republicans]". There seems to be no substance to these allegations, though there can be no doubt that there is serious disagreement within Sinn Fein, amongst its Assembly members and its rank and file, about policing policy. Gerry Adams' position is to appeal to opponents to remain within the Party, though disagreeing with any decision it may make to support policing.

Fifth Sinn Fein MLA Not To Stand For Assembly: Thomas O'Reilly (MLA, Fermanagh/S. Tyrone) did not put his name forward for re-selection on 3rd Jan. Philip McGuigan (MLA N. Antrim, SF spokesman on Truth Recovery & Victims) has yet to say whether he will stand, though denying that Policing was an issue. About a quarter of the Assembly team are not standing or have been deselected for the March elections. These include: Geraldine Dougan (Mid-Ulster), Davy Hyland (deselected, Newry & Armagh, and former Mayor of Newry; deselection not ratified by the leadership as of 21.12.06), Kathy Stanton (N. Belfast) and Pat O'Rawe (deselected, Newry & Armagh, and former leader of Armagh Council; deselection not ratified by the leadership as of 21.12.06). (IN 5.1.07). There are likely to be dissident Republicans standing against Sinn Fein in the March elections.
British Labour Party member

…Andy McGivern, is returning to Court after the leadership failed to sign an agreement struck in the Autumn. This would have seen Northern Ireland members of the LP able to form their own Forum, which would send delegates to Conference, to the National Policy Forum etc. The deadline for signature was Christmas. Mr. McGivern's case is financed by his Union, the GMB, and supported by Kate Hoey, Labour MP, and the Conservative Party (Northern Ireland) (IT 23.12.06).

Kate Hoey …we have been told, turned up to support Arlene Foster at her original adoption meeting for the DUP, held in Fermanagh in 2005.
Northern Ireland Grand Committee …of the House of Commons held its first-ever meeting in Belfast, at the City Hall in meetings over a couple of days in early December 2006, where it questioned the Direct Rule Ministers about poverty alleviation and social exclusion. Hugh Orde, Chief Constable, also gave evidence about Community Restorative Justice schemes It comprises all 18 Northern MPs in the Commons, along with up to 25 other MPs. The DUP welcomed the exercise as "underpinning of Westminster's sovereignty in Northern Ireland". The Irish Times report says of the Committee: "It has traditionally been opposed by the SDLP". However, Mark Durkan said:
"The SDLP does not have a problem with the grand committee meeting in Belfast—provided that nobody is trying to use it as an alternative to devolution like the UUP once wanted to…" (IT, 6 & 13.12.06).
Conor Brady

…wrote an article in the Irish Times (6.1.07), SF Policing Stance Has Parallels With Establishment Of Garda, suggesting that Fianna Fail too had to adapt to policing in 1932. But the way FF adapted was to get rid the Free State-appointed Police Commissioner and replace him with their own man, Eamonn Broy and recruiting some hundreds of FF supporters who were allocated to the S-Branch. There is no possibility of Sinn Fein doing anything like that in NI: its modest demand is that the power to appoint the Chief Constable be devolved to the elected members of the NI Assembly.

MI5 Director General …Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, was a guest at the Irish Embassy Christmas Party on 5th December 2006. Ambassador Daithi O Ceallaigh also invited Sir Hugh Orde, writes Frank Millar, presumably another guest (IT 7.12.06).
Northern Bank Raid: just one person (Christopher Ward, a bank official) remains charged in Northern Ireland, now that two men (Dominick McEvoy and Martin McAliskey) had charges against them dropped. Fourteen months ago the prosecution opposed bail in all three cases, but was overruled by the Judge. The unsigned report in the Irish Times (4.1.07) goes on to say that some of the stolen notes "later turned up in the Republic", but that has yet to be established.
Michael Stone's escapade at Stormont …during a sitting of the NI Assembly has emerged to be a piece of "performance art". The gun he carried was a replica and the 'pipe-bombs' were made of kitchen-roll holder, candle wax, and fireworks powder. In his bail application the arthritic wrote that the object was to replicate
"a terrorist attack" and to illustrate "the futility of the politically motivated violence created in a political vacuum".
"The unfinished work, while extreme, had the desired effect in that it highlighted the need for political stability in Ulster and the obvious threat that without devolution and a sustained period of powersharing between democrats, the spectre of our troubled past may return to haunt us."
Stone is now back in jail, his licensed release from a 30-year sentence for Milltown Cemetery killings revoked. He is also charged with attempting to murder Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and two security guards on 24th November (20.12.06).
Parole Boards …are to replace the automatic 50% remission system currently in force in NI, says David Hanson, the Direct Rule Criminal Justice Minister.
Brendan Devine …has been given a five year term for armed robbery, and a further sentence for violent assault. He was the friend of, and chief witness to, the killing of Belfastman Robert McCartney, whose death was made a stick to beat the IRA in a high-profile media campaign in 2005. While charges have been laid, there are as yet no prosecutions in the McCartney case (IN 2.12.06).
Billy Wright's father …won an important ruling in Belfast High Court, when Mr. Justice Deeny ruled that an Inquiry into his son's killing by the INLA in 1997 had to be continued under the legislation under which it was started, the Prisons Act, rather than being transferred to legislation subsequently rushed through Westminster, the Inquiries Act 2005, which is much weaker and enables the State to keep evidence secret. NI Secretary Peter Hain's action in converting the inquiry into one under the later legislation was held to be unlawful (IN 22.12.06).
An ex-British Policeman …Paul Buschini (former Det. Supt, Lancashire Constabulary) has been appointed Director of Investigations by the newly-established Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission, which is replacing the Garda Complaints Board (IT 15.12.06). The Chairman of the Commission is Justice Kevin Haugh and its other two members are Carmel Foley (former Director of Consumer Affairs) and Conor Brady (former Editor, Irish Times).
British Honours: Bono's honorary knighthood has been widely commented on. Less widely publicised is the OBE for Major General David O'Morchoe, head of the Royal British Legion in the Republic, and an honour for James Michael Kelly "for services to British ex-servicemen and women in Europe". Sir Ronny Flanagan, ex-Chief Constable of RUC, is awarded a further award for his work with the policing inspectorate in Britain, while Andrew Sens, and Brig Tauno Nieminen, members of General de Chastelain's Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, have been given CBEs (the General himself has already had an honour). The head of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools in NI, Donal Flanagan, is honoured for services to education.
Justice Seán O'Leary …left a critique of how the Courts function in Ireland, to be published posthumously. One of his main criticisms was that the Courts are over-responsive to media pressure (which became very evident over a recent 'statutory rape' case). Strangely, his remarks were mostly welcomed by elements of the media well to the fore in stoking up the hysteria, notably the Irish Times. Vincent Browne welcomed his remarks in a Village editorial, and named Adrian Hardiman in particular:
"…Seán O'Leary was scathing of some of the younger members of the Supreme Court, the youngest of whom, Adrian Hardiman, is now perhaps the most influential member of the court. He wrote: “The background of these younger members, their identification with the media consensus, the power which they will wield over the careers of solicitors and barristers, make it vital that a spirit of independence from the populist consensus develops from within that powerful state institution" (4.1.07).
We wonder if the late Justice's remarks would have been treated with such respect if he had been from the Fianna Fail, rather than Fine Gael, stable?
NI Gay Rights: Westminster has passed legislation to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals by various institutions, including adoption agencies, care homes, book stores, or bed and breakfasts—but in Northern Ireland only. Peter Hain rushed through the legislation, ahead of Britain where it is running into trouble, in order to present the NI Assembly, if it ever resurrects, with a fait accompli. On the other hand, the Irish Language Act, promised to republicans at St. Andrew's, is being delayed for Assembly decision, with the Secretary of State dangling it before Peter Robinson of the DUP as an inducement to cooperate in re-establishing the Assembly. The assumption is that it would be heavily diluted by Unionists. Peter Hain does not mind this happening with the Irish language, but is determined to impose social norms against the grain of society in the North.
Catholic Maintained Schools …could lose the power to employ teachers—a proposal opposed by the Church—when a new body, the Education And Skills Authority comes into being. Its role would be to run all schools in the North (IN 3.1.07).
Church of Ireland Bishops …have criticised the way "highly controversial legislation in the social and educational field" is being fast-tracked in NI "simply as a lever to force the restoration of a devolved Assembly" (IT 21.12.06).
Propertied Anglo-Irish (1): The Duke of Devonshire, who owns Clondulane Weir and fishing rights on one and three-quarter miles of the Blackwater River in Cork is bringing a legal action against the Southern Regional Fisheries Board authorities over their demand that he remove his weir. Acting for the Duke is his agent, Michael Penruddock. The move would threaten a hotel business owned by the Duke, which charges anglers Euro 3,000 a week. Department engineers reported that the weir obstructs salmon from reaching their spawning grounds in the upper Blackwater; there is a general policy to remove weirs (IT 10.1.07).
Propertied Anglo-Irish (2): Patrick Jephson (former Private Secretary to Lady Diana) and his brother, Michael (Head of Catering at Buckingham Palace) have written to Mallow Co. Council, seeking the return of a 34-acre park given to the people of Mallow for use as an amenity on a 99 year lease in 1907 by their ancestor Katherine Jephson Norreys. The land, zoned for community and amenity use, has sporting pitches for GAA, soccer and rugby, a children's playground, car park, and a major arterial road. The brothers have refused a Council offer of Euro 500,000 for the land which is thought to be worth Euro 1 million. Negotiations continue.
Irish Times Book Reviews: on 13th January there were three reviews of Irish-published books on a single page! Most weeks you would be lucky to see three reviews in a whole Weekend Review section. The books in question were Causes For Concern by Michael D. Higgins, Soul Of Ireland, edited by Joe Mulholland and "Re-imagining Ireland edited by Andrew Higgins Wyndham. The latter is reviewed by Ruairi Quinn, who writes:
"Ireland has benefited immensely from being amongst the most globalised countries in the world… A vibrant Irish identity requires a self-confident dialogue with itself and its diaspora. The presumption of a harmonious and peaceful process of globalisation to facilitate that is perhaps a bit self-indulgent. Sadly this book seems to fall into that trap."
Irish Ferries …will receive Euro 4.3 m from the State towards making 534 of its Irish staff redundant last year, in favour of lower-paid workers from Eastern Europe. Legislation allows companies to claim back 60% of such payments. New legislation is being drafted to prevent redundancy provisions being used when there is no true redundancy involved (IT 13.1.07).
Reynolds Case: The British House of Lords has overturned existing law on the 'public interest' defence. This was put forward by the Sunday Times—to justify its publication of incorrect allegations made by Dick Spring and others about Taoiseach Albert Reynolds at the time the Labour/Fianna Fail Government was being brought down—but failed, with Reynolds being awarded substantial damages in a British Court. Now British journalists will be able to publish material in the public interest, with fear of prosecution, even if the information turns out to be untrue (II 13.1.06).
Defamation In Ireland: It is very likely that Justice Minister Michael McDowell will carry through legislation launched in the Senate, easing libel law in Ireland without setting proper safeguards in place. Accompanying 'privacy' legislation is weak As Vincent Browne has pointed out in a Village editorial:
"The press council announced recently is laughable. It will have no powers, no sanctions available to it, no entitlement even to require the media to publish its decisions. Some newspapers have made it clear at the outset they will treat it with contempt—one editor has said that his newspaper's press council will be its readers…
"The only just outcome is for the Dáil and Senate to refuse to pass the libel reform bill until and unless there is attached to it another bill establishing a statutory press council with powers" (7.12.06).
The only useful corrective against wanton allegations in the media is to force the offender to give at least four-fold the space—each time with equal prominence—to a rebuttal as to a libel.
Spain has arrested …a former Argentine President Isabel (Maria Estala Martinez de) Peron, who is wanted in Argentina for a judicial investigation into dissident killings before the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, ie over events 30 years in the past (IT 13.1.07). Spain itself avoids prosecutions in respect of the Franco era
Holocaust Cartoons: The results of the Teheran Contest (launched in the wake of the Danish Cartoons about Mahommet controversy) can be viewed on the Internet at The winner was Derkaoui Abdellah of Morocco and other examples of his very interesting work can be seen on:

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