From Irish Political Review: March 2007

Editorial Commentary

SF Ard Fheis:

The SF leadership won over 90% support from an Ard Fheis held in Dublin's RDS on 28th January for its resolution of conditional support for policing (see elsewhere in this magazine for the resolution). The Ard Fheis had been prepared for by a series of meetings in which leaders engaged with the republican constituency and explained their strategy.

John Kelly: The former Arms Trial defendant, continues to campaign against SF's conditional acceptance of policing. In a letter to the Irish News, he accuses SF of "political expediency" and "narrow and selfish interest in a self-advancement that feeds on the cult of personality". He suggests that the Provos did a deal at St. Andrew's, giving MI5 "political and security control to MI5 over the PSNI… without accountability" (IN 5.2.07).
Royal Irish Regiment:

a letter from 'Newryman' in the Irish News gives SF the credit for negotiating the end of the domestic NI role of the RIR (successor to UVF, B Specials and UDR)—which could not have been achieved by simply joining the SDLP on the Policing Board. As for MI5: "The only way to end the overt involvement of MI5 here is to end British rule. Even then the organisation would probably continue to have a covert presence" (17.2.07).

Martin Connolly …Deputy Major of Newry, regretfully resigned from the Party after the Ard Fheis decision (IN 30.1.07).
Republican Sinn Fein …is to put up six candidates against SF in the March 7th election. Joe O'Neill (v. Pat Doherty, W. Tyrone), Brendan McLaughlin (a Hunger striker, v. Martin McGuinness in Mid-Ulster), Geraldine Taylor (a former internee, v. Gerry Adams in W. Belfast); Michael McManus (ex-IRA prisoner, Fermanagh/S. Tyrone, where independent republican Gerry McGeough is also running against SF's Michele Gildernew); Michael McGonigle (E. Derry); and Barry Toman (Upper Bann).
Paisley Then

…Power-sharing With SF 'Over Our Dead Bodies', Paisley Declares: "No unionist who is a unionist will go into partnership with IRA-Sinn Fein. They are not fit to be in partnership with decent people. They are not fit to be in the government of Northern Ireland. And it will be over our dead bodies that they will ever get there." (To Independent Orange Lodge on 12th July 2006, IT 13.7.07).

Paisley Now …is said to have been infuriated by an article in the Irish Times by Tony Blair (8.1.07), which said: "My assessment from the detailed conversations I have had with the DUP is that, provided there is delivery of the Sinn Féin commitment, they will enter into government with Sinn Féin on March 26th and they will accept devolution of policing and justice powers in the timeframe set out in the St Andrews agreement or even before that date".
DUP Has 'Gone Too Far' …says Cllr. Mark Russell of Craigavon, resigning from the Party for not adhering to its 2005 Manifesto pledge (IN 17.2.07).
Leslie Cubitt …a former DUP Deputy Mayor of Limavady, has defected to McCartney's UKUP and will be contesting Limavady (IN 14.2.07)
Robert McCartney …is to stand as the rejectionist Unionist candidate in five constituencies: with the list system under the GFA, he will be able to nominate alternates if he is elected in all five seats.
British? Sinn Fein's Councillor Michael Henry McIvor has suggested that, while SF is an all-Ireland Party, the DUP is not a British Party, since it stands no candidates in GB (IN letter 12.2.07).
Conservative And Unionist: James Leslie, a former MLA who defected from the UUP in September 2006 and joined the Conservative Party had Conservative leader David Cameron in North Down promoting his candidature. After UUP leader Reg Empey challenged Cameron about whether a Conservative MLA would sign up as 'Unionist' or 'Other' in the Assembly, Cameron said that the Conservative Party was strongly in favour of all parts of the UK remaining in the Union, adding: "Of course it is up to the candidates to decide what to do, and, having spoken to our candidates, I am sure if they have to designate they will designate themselves as unionist. But we ought to be getting away from this whole idea that you have to designate. One of the reasons we are standing is to say to people that politics does not have to be like this". Cameron thus knows very well that Conservative MLAs should designate as 'Other', but doesn't have the courage of his convictions.
Raymond McCord …whose campaigning brought about Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's report on Police Collusion with loyalists in N. Belfast after his RAF son was battered to death by loyalists, is to stand as an Independent in N. Belfast. He says collusion affects both communities and will also be presenting a report on collusion to Hilary Clinton and other US Presidential candidates around St. Patrick's Day (IN 24.1.07; IT 20.2.07).
UDA Leader Ihab Shoukri …was granted bail after Justice Weatherup refused to consider Intelligence documents in support of the prosecution claim that he is a leading loyalist paramilitary. The High Court Judge said he could not accept such evidence in "the climate of today" (IN 30.1.07).
Pat Finucane: Mark Barr, acquitted of killing the solicitor in 1990, has been found dead. PSNI do not regard the death as suspicious. William Stobie, another suspect, was gunned down in 1999 (IN 10.2.07).
Collusion Report: Commenting on Nuala O'Loan's report, Jim Gibbons of Sinn Fein asks in his Irish News column: "The perpetrators are in the spotlight but where are those who shaped and set the policy—MI5 and their paymasters in Downing Street?" Relatives of four people killed under the collusion policy (Sharon McKenna, Peter McTasney, Gerard Brady, John Harbinson) are to sue Sir Hugh Orde, with the assistance of Relatives for Justice (IN 8.2.07, IT 20.2.07).
North 'Cold House' For Protestants …so Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland, told a meeting in Newtownards (IN 2.2.07).
NI Justice Ministry: When responsibility for policing and justice is devolved, the new Ministry should be based in Derry, says Albert Reynolds, in order to build nationalist confidence. He also suggests that the planned new police college should be based in the North-West, admit Garda and PSNI students, and be financed by both Governments. Hain subsequently announced it would be based near Cookstown and British-funded (IN 6.2.07; IT 21.2.07).
Policing Devolution: "If nationalists are to share in running the northern state, they have to participate in running police so that they are seen to be their police and not just a restructured unionist police"—Brian Feeney (IN 13.12.06).
PSNI & GAA: Having pressurised the GAA to admit Crown forces, Unionism now demands that it be made a 'declarable' organisation for PSNI officers. Robert Saulters, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland wants it added to the present seven declarable organisations which are: AOH, Apprentice Boys of Derry; Freemasons; Independent Orange Order; Knights of Columbanus; Loyal Orange Institution; Royal Black Institution (IN 10.2.07).
Northern Bank Raid: last month we reported the dismissal of charges against two suspects, with Christopher Ward, a NB employee, now the only person on trial. Solicitor Niall Murphy described the case against him as "a loose interpretation of a series of coincidences. He is a victim of the crime. His home was taken over and he was told that his family would be damaged if he did not co-operate with the gang responsible" (Frank Connolly, Village 11.1.07). Ward also worked part-time for the GAA in Casement Park, Belfast (which the PSNI raided in search of evidence). Shortly after the robbery, Ward gave an extended interview on BBC NI, describing his ordeal and protesting his innocence.
MI5 'Unlawfully Held' Republican …reported the Irish News on 30th January. Bernard Fox, a former Hunger Striker, was held and questioned by two MI5 agents at Belfast Aldergrove Airport. His solicitor Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane has lodged a complaint with the Investigatory Powers tribunal, which investigates complaints about the Intelligence Services.
Community Restorative Justice: Mark Durkan, an RUC man's son, appears to have won out in his efforts to emasculate CRJ schemes. At present Community Restorative Justice Ireland (Director, Jim Auld), which operates in nationalist areas and is financed by charity, handles anti-social behaviour, assaults and domestic violence. Those involved are not criminalised, because there is no police involvement. New guidelines lay down that schemes in receipt of public money will only handle cases referred by the police, after fingerprint and DNA evidence is taken, and where defendants plead Guilty or there is prima facie evidence (IN 6.12.06; 6.2.07).
Oireachtas NI Committee: In the face of FG and Labour opposition to giving Sinn Fein MPs speaking rights in the Dail, Bertie Ahern has now proposed establishing an Oireachtas Northern Ireland Committee, which would include Westminster MPs but not MLAs. It would meet to discuss the implementation of the Belfast Agreement and N/S Cooperation. True to form, FG and Labour were cool about the proposal (IT 2.2.07).
All-Ireland Economy: Hugh Logue, special adviser in the Office of First & Deputy First Minister, 1998-2002, has suggested that proposals for investment in the North, contained in the Irish Government's National Development Plan are being blocked because the British Government has not instructed NI civil servants to cooperate and has not promised a parallel financial commitment (see Blueprint Could Hasten All-Ireland Economy, IT 24.1.07).
James Downey …a former Deputy Editor of the Irish Times, who writes for the Irish Independent criticised Bertie Ahern for saying that coalition with Sinn Fein was not possible because of its economic policy, saying "The true objection to Sinn Fein… is that the party is not fully democratic, and is hopelessly untrustworthy" (10.11.07).
Tactical Targeting …was an article in the Irish Army's An Cosantóir (Dec-Jan 07), describing attendance by two artillerymen at a 3-week, multi-national, course mounted by the British Army. Along with technological training, the Irish soldiers were given a liberal dose of propaganda, eg, about Iraq: "the British and Americans have differing styles in dealing with the local population… The British style… led to troops wearing berets on patrol and, where the situation allowed, to sling weapons rather than carrying them in the alert position…" And, "The course was taught with the most up-to-date information available by professional and considerably experienced RSA staff, whose own experiences on recent operations and exercises gave great weight to their lessons. All overseas students were given great opportunities to learn the British targetting process…"
Flood/Mahon Tribunal …into Dublin Planning Corruption: has made 10 lawyers millionaires: nearly 34m Euros has been spent on legal costs so far. No end is in sight, though reduced payments to lawyers are now supposed to come into effect, but are being resisted by lawyers. PD Tanaiste Michael McDowell has called for the scrapping of the Tribunal, alleging it will cost 1 bn Euro, while Taoiseach Ahern wants it to continue, saying there are issues concerning himself to be sorted out. These include allegations made about him—and the publishing of leaked confidential information he gave to the Tribunal by the Irish Times.
Albert Reynolds …said he is "shocked" at Ahern accepting loans from friends during his Judicial Separation problems: as Taoiseach he should have been told of these moves by his Minister for Finance (15.1.07).
Hazel Lawlor …widow of former TD Liam Lawlor, is planning a High Court action restraining the Tribunal from making findings about herself and her husband, "unless supported by evidence proven beyond any reasonable doubt, not on the basis of balance of probabilities". She also complains that Tribunal staff have given tax avoidance advice to its star witness, Frank Dunlop (IT 30.1.07;) SI 4.2.07).
South Tipp Shenanigans: Senator Martin Mansergh has denied involvement in any campaign to oust Cllr. Mattie McGrath from the FF ticket for the next election: he'd topped the poll in the Selection Convention. McGrath, a Peace Commissioner, has been summonsed in connection with an incident in which he was trying to calm an argument between youths in his home town of Newcastle (II 28.1.07). It remains to be seen if he will be allowed to run for FF.
Martin Mansergh: An example of Irish Times disinformation is its brief report of Mansergh's remarks in the Senate (16.2.07), which it edited to make it appear that the Senator was criticising Bertie Ahern—who the Moriarty Report criticised for signing blank cheques to facilitate his Party leader, Charles Haughey. Here is what Mansergh said on 15th February, with square brackets indicating what the paper left out:
"[I would welcome a debate on the report of the Moriarty tribunal on which I would have plenty to say. A good number of the blank cheques filled out in the period from 1982 to 1987 were made payable to me for my salary and allowances as head of research for Fianna Fáil.] I often wish I had been sufficiently well-off to have left one uncashed and kept it as a souvenir of a cheque signed “Haughey, MacSharry and Ahern”. It would be a great exhibit for the debate."
Martin Mansergh did not correct the IT report.
State Kept Interest On Patients' Income Illegally …was the misleading front-page lead in the Irish Times on 25th January. To cover administrative costs, the State under all Governments, kept interest on money belonging to long-stay residents in homes who were unable to manage it for themselves. In September 2005, in response to a Dept. of Health inquiry, the Attorney General advised that this practice was probably not lawful—which is not the same as saying it was illegal. Since this legal advice was obtained, the State has made no charge for managing these monies.
PD Ethics: In a fund-raising letter, signed by leader Michael McDowell, the Party invites donors to contribute just below the declarable limit of 5,000 Euros (IT 12.2.07).
Blow To Partnership: A Supreme Court finding in favour of Ryanair appears to have undermined the 2001 Industrial Relations Act by laying down procedures favouring companies in negotiations over labour conditions. The legislation was part of a Partnership deal and provided for the Labour Court to negotiate with companies which refused to recognise Trade Unions to which their staff belong. It remains to be seen what the Trade Union response to this emasculation of the legislation will be. (See DCU Law Lecturer Michael Doherty's article, Ryanair Ruling Serious For Labour Court Role, IT 2.2.07).
Labour/FF Coalition: An IT reader has rebutted a claim by Garret FitzGerald that Labour's support crashed after it joined FF in coalition in January 1993. In fact, polls found Labour was down 3%, to 16% in March, but the Party again rose to 18% in both July & October, just 1% below its General Election rating (Ciaran O'Mara IT 13.2.07).
Piano Music Books: Frank McNally raised the book used for teaching the piano in Ireland in a jokey way on 14th February (Irishman's Column, IT), mentioning that Me And My Piano Part 2 features the British National Anthem, complete with picture of guard at Buckingham Palace.
Gaelic: Conradh na Gaeilge, the Union of Students of Ireland, the Union of Secondary Students and others have proposed that trainee primary teachers should spend at least one academic year being taught in a Gaeltacht College, and that a new Irish Syllabus should be developed (IT 6.2.07).
Northern Ireland:

Two-thirds of NI's Gaelic-medium schools could be closed under new Government rules on minimum sizes of 'rural' schools (IN 26.1.07). This is though Sinn Fein was promised an Irish Language Act under the St. Andrew's Agreement.

Rural Housing in NI …has been hit by 'one-off' planning rules: half of planning applications have been rejected while projects allowed were largely submitted before the changes came into effect. These rules were imposed by the NIO against the wishes of the majority of the electorate (IN 10.2.07).

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