Thursday, March 31, 2005

Irish population growth second fastest in the European Union

Business World:

The Irish population increased by 12.3% to over 4 million between 1995-2004, new figures show.

The figures, contained in a report released today by the Central Statistics Office entitled Measuring Ireland's Progress 2004, show that the population surge is the second highest increase in the EU.

The report outlines the progress made in Ireland in important economic, social and environmental areas and also benchmarks the situation in Ireland against the other EU Member States.

According to the report, the fertility rate in Ireland remained the highest in the EU 25 in 2003.

Life expectancy at birth 80.3 years for Irish woman and 75.1 years for Irish men between 2001 and 2003. The proportion of persons aged 25-34 in Ireland with 3rd level education rose from 27.1% in 1999 to 39.4% in 2004. The corresponding EU 25 rate in 2004 was 24.8%.

In 2003, Ireland had the second highest GDP per capita within the enlarged EU which was almost one-third higher than the EU 25 average.

Ireland seems to be growing both in wealth and population.

Irish economy grew by 5.5% in 2004

Business World:

Ireland's economy grew by 5.5% last year, according to preliminary figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO said the figure was based on GNP, which is regarded as the most accurate measurement of economic performance as it excludes profits made by foreign companies.

The corresponding increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 4.9% over the same period.

More great news!

Sectarian and racist attacks in the Six Counties

Graeme Neill:

A Catholic woman has insisted she will not be forced out of her home following a sectarian attack apparently sparked by her grandchildren playing hurling.

Loyalists targeted Kathleen McCaughey's house in the Brookfield area of Ahoghill, Co Antrim in the early hours of Easter Sunday.

The grandmother shares her home with daughter Michillo (30) and her two children Nathan (11) Thomas (7), who has epilepsy.

They spoke of their ordeal as loyalists were blamed for an attack on a Catholic man in north Belfast and a racist assault on an Asian man in the south of the city.

Ms McCaughey (50) and her daughter were awakened at around 2.30am by banging on the front door.

Frightened, they got up and were confronted by a man standing on the stairs.

"He shouted at us 'Get out you fenian bastards, get out or I'll be back'," Michillo said.

The man fled, but his accomplice then came to the house, banged on the windows and shouted sectarian abuse.

"He shouted in again that we had to get out and called us fenian bastards," Michillo said.

She believes their home was attacked because her two sons were playing hurling in the street the previous day. However, she stressed the neighbours had been very supportive.

"They [the attackers] are all drunken thugs – they like to think they have [paramilitary] connections but they are just showing off," she said.

"How would they like somebody coming into their house and scaring their children?"

She said son Thomas has had trouble sleeping since the attack.

"His nerves have been shattered since this happened – he was so scared."

Her mother Kathleen insisted she will not be driven out of her home.

"I was one of the first into Brookfield. I have been here all my life and have never moved.

I won't be shifting for them," she said.

When police arrived at the house, they were attacked by a mob hurling stones, bricks and fireworks.

SDLP councillor Seamus Laverty said it was "very sad" that sectarianism was still a problem.

"I know lots of Catholics who have had to leave Ahoghill because of the sheer amount of attacks on them and they get no peace," he said.

DUP councillor Tommy Nicholl denied that there was a problem with sectarianism in the village.

"I abhor any attack regardless of who they are and I would condemn this attack unreservedly," he said.

Progressive Unionist Party representative Billy McCaughey said he "absolutely condemned" the attack.

"There is nothing that justifies the attack on that family," he said.

In 1980 the loyalist, a former RUC officer, was convicted of the 1977 sectarian murder of Catholic William Strathearn in Ahoghill as well as the kidnapping of a Catholic priest from the village in 1978.

And people wonder why so many indigenous Irish Catholics support the Provisional IRA?

SDLP and the independents

Brian Feeney:

The SDLP is "considering standing aside" in west Tyrone to give the so-called hospital candidate a free run. We have it from Mark Durkan. What a gaffe. It doesn't matter now how long the 'consideration' lasts because the very fact of that consideration means the SDLP has given up the ghost in west Tyrone. They've admitted they can't win the Westminster seat and they're not even going to try.

Even worse, the reasons being offered for 'standing aside' are completely dishonest and will damage anyone else the SDLP finds to stand as a candidate west of the Bann never mind west Tyrone.

If the SDLP leader thinks it's so important to have an acute hospital in Omagh that he might support an independent candidate, then what does that say to SDLP supporters in Fermanagh? Why should they support an SDLP candidate when the party clearly believes Enniskillen shouldn't have a hospital and attaches so much importance to that belief they will 'stand aside' in West Tyrone? Maybe the word 'clearly' should be scrubbed from that sentence?

What does it say to SDLP supporters in Mid-Ulster about the need for a hospital in Dungannon? By the way, it being Easter time when religious people think of the Paschal lamb, who is the SDLP candidate in Mid-Ulster?

The true motive behind Durkan's 'consideration' is of course nothing whatever to do with a hospital at Omagh. The motive is to avoid the humiliation of the SDLP in the constituency. There's a load of rubbish talked about the 'hospital candidate' topping the poll in November 2003. The phrase is meaningless in a PR election.

The hospital man got 6,158 votes or 14.8%. The total for the three Sinn Féin candidates was 16,111 votes or 38.6%, two and a half times the Independent's figure. Now here's the telling figure. The total SDLP vote was 6,110 or 14.6%. The SDLP's vote had collapsed from 13,942 in May 2001. The cause of that collapse was the 6,000 odd voters who switched to the hospital candidate and destroyed the SDLP's Omagh-based candidate.

The truth is the SDLP are thinking of standing aside not because they can't beat Pat Doherty, which is self-evidently true as Durkan has publicly conceded, but because they're terrified they can't even beat the hospital candidate.

The SDLP are considering abasing themselves before the man who wrecked their man in Omagh.

All of which exposes the desperate plight of the SDLP, now bereft of any distinctive policy or electoral strategy. Think about it.

Last time you had the hapless Mark Durkan carrying a lollipop board which said 'Stop the DUP'.

Like SDLP voters had some influence on DUP voters?

This time his lollipop board looks like it's going to say 'Stop Sinn Féin' because he claims, on no evidence at all, that people are fed up with abstentionist MPs.

No, he doesn't mean SDLP ones.

So, since his party can't beat any Shinners he prefers to consider supporting someone who might not beat one but at least with the help of unionists could stop one being elected. That's a policy?

On the wider scene, 'standing aside' automatically means the SDLP vote total falls as does its share of the vote across the north. Furthermore the damage will be permanent. The SDLP will never get those votes back. The party's finished in west Tyrone. If the SDLP do manage to find a sacrificial candidate in west Tyrone, and time is running out because Blair is going to dissolve parliament on April 7, it will be too late to repair the damage.

Finally, to contemplate supporting an independent defies the very basis on which the SDLP was established, which was to create a single, strong, coherent northern political party to replace the raggle-taggle of nationalist oddities who had achieved nothing after 50 years of partition.

The one lesson of all those years was that independents achieve nothing. Remember, out of 40,000 votes in west Tyrone the independent polled 6,158 and what?

Besides, a general election is not about a hospital in Omagh. It's about how to implement the Good Friday Agreement and that's a matter for political parties, the units around which the Agreement is constructed.

Just goes to show that 30 or so years of pandering to the British and the unionists have achieved nothing for the SDLP but an ignominious decline.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ireland and Israel


In our collective dream, Israel is a world wonder, a tiny country surrounded by enemies that has reached astonishing achievements, that has high-tech, sunshine, Jewish genius, beaches and what an army, what an army!

Yet the truth is that economically, Israel is one of the few countries that has been marching in place for years upon years.

Comparing us with Ireland is highly educational. Ten years ago, Israel and Ireland were in roughly the same place, with GDP per capita of about $14,000. Back then Ireland was formulating drastic reforms to transform it from one of Europe's backward nations to one of its most advanced, while Israel was enthralled by its peace process and the tremendous wave of immigration from Russia.

Next week the Bank of Israel will be publishing its annual report. For the first time, the central bankers will be analyzing the economy from a ten-year perspective, not just one year. The results will be sobering.

GDP per capita inched up by less than 20 percent, while Ireland's almost doubled. Ireland, a tiny country with just 4 million residents, is today one of the richest nations around, while Israel lags behind.

Usually, the security situation is blamed, but that excuse is a feeble one. First of all, foreign investors couldn't care less about it when examining potential investments in Israel. And spending on security is a matter of national priorities, as is spending on education and healthcare, especially given how bloated and flabby the defense establishment has become.

Second of all, Israel has received aid and loan guarantees amounting to $30 billion over the last ten years. No other country in the world has received infusions of such a scale. Certainly Ireland didn't.

Thirdly, Israel was swamped by immigrants in the last decade, much of it high quality people, and there was the high-tech bubble that brought in billions of dollars.

In the last ten years, Ireland, aka the Celtic Tiger, achieved what has been called an economic miracle. It never sat back whimpering about its own security problems, quite the contrary: it took advantage of its economic boom to improve its security situation. Its economic growth played a key role in bringing the Irish and British governments to reach an agreement on northern Ireland.

Not bad, huh?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Racism in Scotland

All is not well in bonny Scotland:

TWO years of anti-racism campaigning by the Scottish Executive have failed to make any impact on disturbingly high levels of prejudice.

Research commissioned by the Scottish Executive into the effectiveness of its £1m anti-discrimination drive has revealed that racism is just as much of a problem now as in 2001, before the scheme got off the ground.

One Scot in 10 believes there is nothing racist about attacking people from another cultural or ethnic background, and almost half think that words such as ‘Chinky’ and ‘Paki’ are acceptable.

The study shows that a significant number of Scots believe asylum seekers actually deserve verbal abuse and that almost 40% of Scots believe there is a real danger of race riots "occurring soon" in parts of Scotland.

Race equality campaigners said they found the figures "chilling" and claimed the anti-racism message had been drowned out by ministers’ warnings over the possibility of Islamic terrorism.

The concerns come amid warnings of a backlash from the Asian community in the wake of the trial and conviction of Dr Raj Jandoo, Scotland’s first Asian advocate and a temporary sheriff.

Jandoo was fined £2,500 after being found guilty of endangering an aircraft and of making bomb references during a journey from Edinburgh to Stornoway last March. Leading Scottish Asians have claimed he was unjustly treated.

The report, which was prepared for the Executive by System Three last year to analyse the impact of anti-racist campaigns, questioned 1,022 adults across Scotland.

It compared attitudes in 2004 with a study in 2002, shortly after the campaign had started, and with an earlier study in 2001, before the campaign had even been devised.

It found that although the campaign had initially changed attitudes for the better, it was losing its effect and that attitudes were no different than they had been prior to the advertising blitz.

Its disturbing findings include the fact that 43% of Scots do not think terms ‘Paki’ and ‘Chinky’ are racist and 9% do not believe it is racist to attack a person from an ethnic minority. These figures have not changed since 2001.

In addition, 28% thought it was not racist to speak negatively about people from other ethnic or cultural backgrounds as long as they were speaking in private to friends or family, and 13% believed there was nothing racist about being impolite or offensive toward people from other backgrounds. Again there had been no change since three years previously.

More than half of Scots (51%) admitted they would be worried if more people from other ethnic or cultural backgrounds came to live in Scotland. That compared with 52% who felt the same way in 2001.

A quarter of people (25%) believed that verbally abusing asylum seekers was justified, compared with 26% three years previously.

And 38% of Scots believe there is a real danger of race riots in Scotland.

This is why Scotland should encourage unionists from the north of Ireland to move to Scotland to help alleviate the problems created by Scotland's population decline. Since most unionists have Scottish ancestors this means that they will be more easily accepted in Scotland than immigrants from Asia and other parts of the world.

Irish economic growth will be the fastest in the developed world

Good news for the Irish economy:

THE Irish economy will have the fastest growth rate in the developed world over the next 15 years, a major study from Deutsche Bank reveals.

Out of 34 countries survey by the bank, Ireland will surge pass every economy in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) area and will have the sixth fastest-growing economy overall.

It predicts that gross domestic product will expand by at least 3.8% every year, faster than the rate in the US, Britain and other Eurozone bloc members.

However, because much of the economy depends on foreign investment, with many companies sending their profits out of the country, the average income per head will still lag behind the US. We will, though, have the second-highest income in the world at just under $50,000 each.

"The opening of the economy has been decisive: from being one of the most closed economies in the mid-1970s, Ireland had become one of the most open in the world by 2002 according to our measure thanks to low tax rates and EU aid programmes surpassed only by four countries from the centre of the EU.

"We expect the opening to continue at a similar pace in the coming years," the report said.

"The new investment opportunities in the healthcare sector will establish a broader basis for growth in Ireland. Together with the highest expected population growth of the OECD countries of 1%, this allows GDP growth overall of nearly 4% per annum remaining the highest of any OECD country."

A little something to make the unionists cringe.

Bush the hypocrite

A letter from Ireland on Bush's hypocrisy:

Sir - I find most hypocritical President George Bush's invitation to the McCartney sisters to the White House and his declaration of support for the family's quest for justice for their dead brother.

This is a man who launched a criminal and illegal war against Iraq in which over 100,000 people have been killed, including innocent men, women and children (even whole families have been wiped out).

Alas, we shall never hear of their names being mentioned in the White House or by the Western media, never mind receiving justice. The carnage in Iraq continues on a daily basis, with seemingly no end in sight.

It is also ironic that George Bush's preferred method of punishment while Governor of Texas isn't that far removed from the IRA's offer to shoot the people that murdered Robert McCartney. He presided over the execution of about 90 people in the electric chair while governor.

John O'Shea,
Bishopstown Drive,

Unfortunately, the global media were so focused on attacking the IRA that they didn't seem to be that concerned about Bush's own use of violence to further a political objective.

Asian man targeted in south Belfast racist attack

More loyalist racism:

An Asian man is recovering this morning after he was beaten by a three-man gang during a racist attack in south Belfast last night.

The victim was attacked at a house in Donegall Avenue shortly before midnight.

He suffered cuts to his face and eye and bruising to the rest of his body after being kicked, punched and hit with a broken bottle.

The PSNI said it was treating the attack as racist and has appealed for witnesses to come forward.

South Belfast and a number of other towns in the North experienced a spate of racist attacks last year blamed on loyalist paramilitaries, but such attacks had subsided in recent months.

Looks like the loyalists have gone back to their old tricks. I wonder if the global media will make as much fuss about this act of violence as they did about the killing of Robert McCartney?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Remember Rosemary Nelson?

Angelique Chrisafis:

The inquiry into the murder of the Northern Ireland solicitor Rosemary Nelson has been widened to consider whether the army or intelligence agencies were involved in her killing.

The inquiry, which begins next month led by the retired high court judge Sir Michael Morland, will now consider whether the government, police, army and other state agencies were in any way to blame for the car bomb attack which killed Ms Nelson or whether they facilitated her death or obstructed the investigation.

The solicitor, who had represented nationalist residents in Portadown's Garvaghy Road during the contentious Drumcree marching dispute, was killed outside her home in Lurgan, county Armagh, in March 1999 by a booby trap car bomb for which loyalists claimed responsibility.

Before her death it was alleged that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary had threatened her life.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Paul Murphy, yesterday widened the scope of the inquiry after submissions by human rights campaigners. Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch said she had given Mr Murphy evidence suggesting that soldiers may have been involved in the murder.

The inquiry into Mrs Nelson's death is one of four tribunals recommended by the Canadian judge Peter Cory on controversial murders in Northern Ireland.

But the government came under renewed pressure this week over its attempts to pass a bill which would allow ministers to decide what can be heard in public in future inquiries. The inquiries bill will enable any inquiry to meet in large part in secret and will give government ministers powers to direct aspects of it.

Judge Cory's recommended inquiry into alleged collusion between security forces and loyalists in the murder of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 will not be set up until after the bill is passed, sparking criticism from the Finucane family of a "government controlled charade".

The judge told a Washington committee that the new legislation "would make a meaningful inquiry impossible", creating "impossible terms for any international judge asked to chair the inquiry". He described it as "an intolerable, Alice in Wonderland situation".

Lord Saville, who chairs the Bloody Sunday inquiry, has said he would not be prepared to serve on a tribunal under the new terms.

The Law Society, Amnesty International and eight other human rights groups this week issued a statement warning that any inquiry held under the proposed legislation "would not be effective, independent, impartial or thorough, nor would the evidence presented to it be subject to sufficient public scrutiny".

In order to command the trust of the public, the inquiry system must allow "close public scrutiny" and allow the relevant victims to actively participate. "The inquiries bill does not do this," they warned.

Let us not forget Rosemary Nelson, Pat Finucane and all the other victims of British terrorism in the current media frenzy about Robert McCartney.

The greatest threat to unionism

Jude Collins:

Anthony McIntyre deserves to be heard when he speaks of politics. As he explains in some detail in an article in the LA Times recently (‘The IRA is Morphing into the “Rafia” ‘ LA Times, March 10) he was a member of the IRA, was imprisoned for killing a unionist paramilitary and took part in the prison protest against criminalisation of political prisoners.

Mr McIntyre, it could be said, has paid his republican dues and his claims in the article merit a hearing. Unfortunately, most of the claims appear to be built on air.

Claim 1. Gerry Adams smothers internal discussion in his party and surrounds himself with head-nodding lackeys. Evidence for this charge: none. How could there be? Like most political parties, Sinn Féin presumably doesn’t invite its most vocal opponents to sit in on internal discussions.

Claim 2: By signing the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin committed themselves to ‘celebrating’ the defeat of republicanism. Evidence: some. Gerry Adams’s party did indeed sign the GFA in 1998. Since then, support for that party has grown with every election. Two weeks ago, amid the media firestorm, the Sinn Féin candidate in the Meath by-election increased his vote share by 25 per cent. Over 300,000 people now vote for Sinn Féin, making it the third biggest political party on the island. Irish republicanism hasn’t been this strong since the 1920s.

Claim 3: Republicans have no strategic framework for securing the withdrawal of the British state from Ireland. Evidence: none. On the contrary, when the IRA called its ceasefire in the early 1990s, the Ulster Unionist leader James Molyneaux declared that the union with Britain was now faced with its biggest threat since the foundation of the state. Ian Paisley has repeatedly said words to the same effect, pointing to the GFA as evidence. Mr McIntyre may see no strategy for reunification, but Jim Molyneaux then and Ian Paisley today clearly do.

Claim 4: The IRA exists to enhance the power and prosperity of republican leaders. Evidence: none. Few political parties anywhere in the world have their accounts scrutinised with the rigour those of Sinn Féin receive, yet no accounting irregularity or figure manipulation has been detected.

Much sound and fury from Mr McIntyre, then, signifying not a lot. Of course his voice is not alone in attacking Mr Adams’ party. For months now, a blitzkrieg of criticism has been unloaded on Irish republicans.

In the pre-Christmas weeks, the outcry focused on the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast. In the absence of any evidence then or since that the IRA had conducted the robbery, the British government has docked some £180,000-worth of Sinn Féin parliamentary allowances. Voices in the media, normally quick to detect injustice and cry ‘Foul!’, were silent.

Since the end of January, attention has switched from the bank robbery to the murder of Robert McCartney. Sympathy among Irish nationalists for the sisters of the dead man was and is strong. But there is a growing suspicion, in some cases hardened into certainty, that many in politics and the media expressing compassion for the sisters are in fact using the family as a club with which to beat republicans.

As many nationalists see it, international sympathy for the McCartneys is selective. They ask why the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 or of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson in 1999 or of the dozens of Catholics killed by loyalist paramilitaries down the years did not provoke the sustained outrage elicited by the death of Robert McCartney. They wonder why the McCartney sisters received acclaim throughout the US while Geraldine Finucane, also visiting over the same period, was virtually forgotten. Resentment deepens each time they see another politician appear on television to applaud the sisters, denounce republicans and call for the IRA to decommission and disband.

Of course IRA decommissioning and disbandment could have been secured months ago. Some weeks before Christmas, that organisation offered to destroy all its weaponry in the presence of General John de Chastelain plus two clergymen representing the Catholic and Protestant churches, and to stand down all IRA volunteers. Faced with the prospect of an IRA-free Sinn Féin, Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party hastily demanded more: there must be photographs, there must be ‘sackcloth and ashes’, there must be public repentance. The British and Irish governments pandered to Paisley’s fresh demands and the deal fell apart.

So yes, nationalist Ireland is united in sympathy with the rest of the world for the McCartney sisters and does hunger for an end to violence. But it is getting increasingly fed up with those like Mr McIntyre who stand on the coffin of Robert McCartney and indulge in finger-pointing unsupported by evidence.

Of course, McIntyre has to engage in Sinn Fein-bashing since it is the only way that he can mask the fact that he and his fellow dissidents have absolutely nothing to offer the Irish people.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ted Kennedy, Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick

Danny Morrison:

Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy refused to meet Gerry Adams on St Patrick’s Day in Washington last week.

He gave Irish republicans’ ‘contempt for the rule of law’ and the failure to cooperate with the police in the murder of Robert McCartney as his reason.

Now, that set me thinking about an incident where there was a celebration, where drink was taken and, at the end of the night a young person died, and where one of those involved asked people to lie about what happened. I know it was a long time ago – 18 July 1969 - and that since then Kennedy has done much good, political work, but it was certainly rich of him to boycott meeting Gerry Adams on the grounds of Adams’ alleged contempt for the rule of law.

In July 1969 Ted Kennedy organised a party for himself and his pals to coincide with the Edgartown Regatta - a weekend of festivities around yacht races. His cousin Joseph Gargan rented Lawrence Cottage on the nearby island of Chappaquiddick near the beach.

There were six married men and six single women at the party, crowded into a small living room. Ted Kennedy’s wife Joan, who was pregnant, was at home.

Besides having drank during the day, the supply of drink for the party was three half gallons of vodka, four bottles of scotch, two bottles of rum and two cases of beer.

Kennedy left the party with 29-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign worker for his assassinated brother, Robert. He later claimed he was driving her back to catch the last ferry. He also claimed that he took a wrong turn - despite having been on the road twice that day. This road led to Dyke Bridge.

Kennedy, who had a record of serious traffic violations, had no current driving licence. He took the narrow bridge too quickly and the car crashed through the bridge and plunged into Poucha Pond, landing upside down under the water.

Kennedy escaped and says that he repeatedly dived under to rescue Kopechne. He said he was confused and in a state of shock. He walked past four occupied houses yet asked no one for help. He walked back to the party, climbed into the back seat of a car and asked one of the men to get him Joseph Gargan, who was also a lawyer. He didn’t tell the girls what had happened.

Kennedy, Gargan and Paul Markham, another lawyer, left the party and drove to the bridge. His two friends stripped and dived repeatedly. They fought a strong current but could not locate Kopechne. They came out, got changed and then drove to the ferry landing at Edgartown. Kennedy told them:

“Why couldn’t Mary Jo have been driving the car? Why couldn’t she have let me off, and driven to the ferry herself and made a wrong turn?”

His lawyer told him that he had to report the accident. Kennedy asked to be brought back to the cottage to establish the story that he had lent Kopechne the car. After a while he would leave, then when he got back to his hotel Gargan could ‘discover’ the accident and report to police that Mary Jo had been alone in the car.

His two friends insisted he inform the police. Kennedy said that he would and that they should go back and take care of the women at the party. Kennedy suddenly jumped into the water and swam across to the other side. It was 2.30am. Instead of informing the police he went to his hotel. His two friends didn’t tell the women what had happened – in case they went to the police before Kennedy. It wasn’t until the next morning that Gargan broke the news. He ordered that the place be tidied up to disguise evidence of a party. He then got them off the island and back to the mainland before Edgartown police even knew they were there.

At eight o’clock the following morning two fishermen noticed the submerged car and alerted the authorities. A diver gave the registration number to the police. They radioed through the details and were informed that it belonged to Edward Kennedy. On closer inspection the diver saw Mary Jo Kopechne and later testified that she was in a position that suggested she had survived the crash, and that she could have been saved if rescue personnel had been promptly called to the scene.

It wasn’t until 10am, nine hours after the accident, that Kennedy linked in with the police. During the night he had made numerous phone calls including one to Mary Jo Kopechne’s parents. The Senator, however, neglected to mention that he was the driver of the accident car when he called to report their daughter’s death. Instead, they learned that information later from a wire service story.

Kennedy gave the police a short written statement in which he made no mention of the party, the women and the drinking, nor that he and his two lawyers had gone back to the scene of the accident in the early hours of the morning, nor that they had urged him to report the accident immediately. Furthermore, they sat with him in the station when the written statement was taken.

An inspector read over the statement and thought there was something wrong with it. He said:

“I would like to know about something.”

“I have nothing more to say!” Kennedy answered brusquely. “I have no comment.” Markham said, “The Senator will make a further statement after he has contacted his [New York] lawyer,” but he never did.

Kennedy was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after causing personal injury. The hearing, eight days after Kopechne’s drowning, lasted seven minutes and smacked of a deal worked out in advance. His guilty plea precluded cross-examination and the taking of evidence. He was given a two-month suspended sentence. The police didn’t hear about the party until after the trial. Nor was there an autopsy carried out to find the exact cause of death.

So, with that example of a cover-up, the destruction of evidence, contempt for the law and failure to fully cooperate with police, I think it ill-behoves Senator Ted Kennedy to be lecturing anyone.

If the media were less pro-British in their bias they might have commented on how hypocritical it was for Ted Kennedy to attack Gerry Adams when Kennedy himself had previously been involved in criminal activity.

More on SDLP fundraising for the McCartneys

Daily Ireland:

Senior SDLP members played a key role in organising the McCartney family’s trip to Washington last week, Daily Ireland can reveal.

The party helped book the flight through a travel agency that is part-owned by Alasdair McDonnell, the SDLP deputy leader and assembly member for south Belfast.

The SDLP also used a former member of its youth wing to act as a press officer for the family during their St Patrick’s Day trip.

Until now, the SDLP had denied helping with the arrangements for the family’s trip.

However, when contacted by Daily Ireland yesterday, senior party adviser Tim Attwood admitted to having helped organise their flight by liaising with Arrow Travel, a west Belfast travel agency.

Mr Attwood, who will stand for the SDLP in the forthcoming council elections, insisted he had not paid for the flight to the United States.

“I rang up Arrow Travel and told them that the McCartneys wanted to book their flight there but I didn’t pay for the flight. I just helped them get it and I helped with the logistics of the trip.

“They were able to go on the flight and pay for it when they came back,” said Mr Attwood.

In recent weeks, the SDLP has repeatedly denied playing a role in the McCartney sisters’ meeting with US President George Bush.

Dr McDonnell, a partner in Arrow Travel, admitted he had given the McCartneys credit approval for the trip.

“I was contacted by the manager and asked if I would give the credit approval and I made a decision to do that.

“But I did not tell the McCartney family what to do. I didn’t know that Tim Attwood had anything to do with it,” he said.

Dr McDonnell said he could not remember if he had offered the McCartney family the chance to book their trip through his travel agency.

He added that he would not waive the cost of the flights for the family.

Daily Ireland has also learned that Ruarai McKenna, who acted as the McCartneys’ media officer during their stay in Washington, is a former SDLP activist.

Mr McKenna (24), a corporate fundraiser who now lives in Washington, said Dr McDonnell had asked him to help the family.

“I have known Alasdair McDonnell for a long time and he rang me and asked me to lend the McCartneys some phones.

“I did that and ended up fielding the press inquiries because the sisters were inundated.

“I used to be involved with the SDLP in Queen’s University but left it because there was more life in a cemetery,” he said.

Catherine McCartney, a sister of Robert McCartney, said yesterday that the SDLP had helped with the organisation of the trip. She said the family had been desperate for any help they could get.

“We would have taken help from Osama bin Laden if he had offered. We are desperate to get justice for Robert. That is all we are about.

“Sinn Féin and the SDLP are both fighting for the same nationalist votes but we aren’t interested in that. For us, it is about the campaign for Robert’s killers to be brought to justice.”

Ms McCartney also denied weekend media reports that the family were “skint”. She said money given to the family from relatives and supporters would be used to pay for the trip once the four-week credit period arranged with the travel agency had expired.

“We are not skint. I didn’t say that,’ said Ms McCartney. “The money we have been given will be used to pay for the trip. No one else but us is paying for it.”

Labour Party TD Liz McManus said at the weekend that a legal figure who wished to remain anonymous had pledged to cover the cost of the US visit.

In a Sunday Telegraph ‘diary’ of their US visit last weekend, Gemma McCartney said, “we're skint here. Nobody's paying for us and we don't want anybody to pay for us.”

This probably explains Kennedy's attacks on Gerry Adams since Kennedy has been a long-time supporter of the SDLP.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Orange Order and murder

There is a killer in the Orange Order:

The father of a UVF murder victim has accused the Orange Order of refusing to take action against one of its members who he claims murdered his son.

John Allen, whose son, also John, was shot dead by the UVF in Ballyclare, Co Antrim in November 2003, says the identity of the murderers are well known in the local community.

Mr Allen also passed on details of his son’s killers to Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in February 2004, but says they have never responded to him.

He claims that the UVF’s leader in Ballyclare is a member of the Orange Order, but has not been suspended despite the allegations.

He accused the Orange Order of not being concerned with justice for Protestant victims of loyalist paramilitaries.

“I was a member of the Orange Order for 30 years but I left after this,” Mr Allen said.

“Everyone in the town knows that John’s killer is a member of the Order. I told them this but he is still marching around as brazen as ever.

“I want to know why he is still in the Orange Order when I have passed on this information to them. It is a disgrace.

“When I gave them the information they didn’t want to know. I ended up leaving because of it.

“It is completely hypocritical of them to claim to want justice for certain murders when they are allowing the man who ordered the killing of my son to remain in their movement,” he said.

John Allen Jr (31) was shot twice in the head at the flat he shared with his brother in Ballyclare.

No one has ever been charged in connection with the murder.

A spokeswoman for the Orange Order confirmed the allegation had been investigated but the man in question had not been suspended and was still a member.

“We investigated the matter and passed our information on to the PSNI but we are still awaiting the results of that and the person in the allegations has not been suspended,” she said.

John Allen says his son was murdered for standing up to the UVF who, he says, terrorise anyone who crosses them.

“The UVF run Ballyclare. They are involved in all sorts of criminality and have murdered other people besides my son. But no one has ever been charged with any of the murders.

“If my family had got the same support as the McCartney family maybe we could have got justice for our son’s killers.”

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed that no one has been charged in connection with the murder.

More evidence of how the murder of Robert McCartney is being used to serve a pro-British political agenda. I doubt very much that Mr. Allen will be invited to the White House anytime soon unlike the McCartney sisters.

SDLP helped McCartney sisters

Now we can see who is funding the McCartney sisters:

A company part-owned by a senior SDLP figure reportedly helped arrange the McCartney family's visit to the United States last week.

The sisters and fiancee of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney undertook the visit as part of their campaign to have the 33-year-old's killers brought to justice.

Reports this morning claimed that the McCartneys' flights were booked by a travel agency part-owned by SDLP deputy leader Alisdair McDonnell, who authorised credit approval to pay for the flights.

The reports said another SDLP man also acted as an ad hoc press officer for the McCartneys while they were in Washington.

Until now, the SDLP had denied any involvement in the McCartney's campaign, which has led to a backlash against the party's main rival, Sinn Féin.

Finally the truth starts to come out.

Related news:

SDLP man's travel agency helped arrange McCartneys’ US visit

SDLP members helped McCartney sisters

ESRI optimistic about Irish economy

Things are looking good for the Irish economy:

The Government's Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has issued an optimistic assessment of the Irish economy in its latest quarterly bulletin.

The body said it expected economic growth of 5.7% this year and a similar figure next year, with unemployment and inflation both expected to remain low.

Related news:

Economy to grow 5.7pc this year - ESRI

Stronger spending to spur growth - IBEC

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Kennedy and criminality

Interesting letter from Ireland:

Sir - I see US senator Ted Kennedy has asked Sinn Fein to co-operate with the PSNI on the McCartney killing - it's a pity he was not more forthcoming over 'his accident' at Chappaquidick in 1969.

He may even have made the presidency if he had been more honest then. Life's a funny old circle.

T Donnelly,
Gandon Close,
Dublin 6

It is interesting that all the people who are praising Kennedy for standing up to "IRA criminality" apparently have no problems with his own past obstructions of justice.

No firm proof that seized cash came from bank heist

Bank heist:
NONE of the Northern Irish currency seized in cross border raids on an IRA money laundering operation has yet been positively confirmed as coming from the multi-million pound Northern Bank heist, security sources have said.

Nearly £3m (€4.3m) was confiscated last month by gardai in swoops on Dublin and Cork.

The operation formed part of an offensive against a massive cash racket being run by the Provisionals.

Since then pressure has been on police on both sides of the border to confirm whether the money formed part of the £26.5m (€38m) haul stolen from the Northern's Belfast HQ.

Although senior officers have stated they were investigating links between the robbery and the money laundering scam, security sources close to the inquiry said last night that detectives have yet to prove beyond doubt the notes seized in the Republic came from the Northern Bank robbery.

It is amazing that Orde, Blair and Ahern have the nerve to blame the Provisional IRA for the Northern Bank robbery when they can't produce any hard evidence to prove it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Swiss cuckoo?

Damien Kiberd attacks Swiss central banker, Ulrich Kohli, who has criticized Ireland's economic success:

Ireland’s reliance on multinational capitalism is seen by our Swiss friend as a weakness. But is this really the case? We have no say in the final decisions that determine whether a foreign-owned plant will continue in existence or not, but the experience so far suggests that multinational companies are here for the long haul. Companies such as Intel, Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories and others now have deep roots in the community.

We have had defections by multinationals in the past (remember when Digital quit Galway?) but they have been well flagged and in general the local communities affected have taken them in their stride and gone on to achieve greater things.

In a global economy in which the rate of change is constantly accelerating, it is inevitable that there will be some loss of jobs in overseas-owned industry each year. Arguably, Ireland has rolled with the punches and adapted to necessary change.

Ways in which Ireland and Switzerland are similar:

In some ways, Ireland is similar to Switzerland in that it has a small number of world-beating companies, such as Kerry plc (food ingredients), Ryanair (airlines), CRH (building materials) and, of course, the bloodstock sector, which will continue to prosper, provided that envy and jealousy both here and in Europe do not overwhelm it.

Ireland has also developed a huge niche in financial services: the untold story of the Celtic tiger is the so-called brass-plate operations at the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in central Dublin that have indirectly provided highly paid employment for a vast array of accountants, tax planners and corporate lawyers across the city, in turn giving those people the appetite and capacity to put together huge M&A deals and property ventures.

The fact that Ireland now ranks among the biggest cross-border property investors in the world is due in no small measure to the foresight shown by those who created the IFSC in the late 1980s.

Kohli might not like to admit it, but in this, Ireland is similar to Switzerland, with its historically large and secretive banking sector. The Swiss do not go in for disclosure.

I have visited the equivalent of the Irish Bankers’ Federation in Switzerland, the so-called representative body for Swiss banks that deals with unpalatable queries. It is a very small back office with a handful of staff that affects to know little or nothing about the manner in which banking is conducted in Switzerland.

If anything, Ireland is far more open about the sort of operations that exist here than the Swiss are about their banking sector.

The key driver of the Celtic tiger economy is the services sector. We have in the period since 1990 developed service-sector employment from 500,000 jobs to about 1.35m. Anybody who wants to attack the Irish economic miracle, even disgruntled Swiss bankers, should perhaps focus in on this issue.

Maybe the Swiss would be better off trying to fix what is wrong with their own economy rather than waste time criticizing the success of the Irish one.

IRA should keep its guns

A letter from Ireland explains why the IRA should keep its weapons:

Sir - The populist political bandwagoners in Dublin, London and Washington are demanding disarmament of the IRA. Conveniently, they neglect to mention Loyalist weaponry. If the IRA were to hand in/destroy their stockpiles, to whom could the nationalist people turn in the face of State-sponsored violence, courtesy of the PSNI who are really old RUC wine in a new bottle? Surely, not to Dublin? Lip service is what they would get from that quarter.

Whatever police force in the North of Ireland eventually emerges from the current wrangle will have to demonstrate its commitment to full impartiality to the whole population, by word and deed. Respect for the police will not come automatically; it will have to be earned.

Sinn Fein is absolutely right not to join the Police Board for a long time to come, if ever. A first step towards encouraging them to do so would be an apology from Hugh Orde for the years of one-sided justice dispensed by the RUC, together with its collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of nationalists.

Brian Mac a' Bhaird,
Carraig Mhachaire Rois,
Co Mhuineachain

Which of course raises the question as to why so few people in Washington, Dublin and London are concerned about the loyalist potential for violence.

SDLP now wants an united Ireland

The SDLP must really be scared of the strength of the Irish republican vote:

The SDLP's vision for a united Ireland has been launched with a new policy document by party leader Mark Durkan.

The Better Way document was launched in Belfast and Dublin on Monday.

The party is hosting an event at Dublin's Mansion House with political parties from the Irish Republic and the foreign minister Dermot Ahern is due to attend a public seminar in Newry later.

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds has called on the Irish government to produce a green paper on the issue.

The SDLP policy states the party's support for "the will of the people".

"That is why we are 100% for the Good Friday Agreement, just as we are 100% for a united Ireland.

"And it is why, in our strategy for a united Ireland, we believe the Agreement must endure," it says.

Sinn Fein recently launched its own policy document on Irish unity.

The only time that the SDLP ever talks about an united Ireland is when they are afraid that they are going to face major losses in an election with Sinn Fein.

McCartneys fail in their anti-republican efforts

It looks like the McCartney sisters have failed in their efforts to destroy the Irish republican movement:

HERE’s the national consensus, post St Patrick’s week: the McCartney sisters’ visit to the US has changed everything. Kept Adams out of the White House, ruined Sinn Féin credibility, dried up the money from Irish-American wannabes and fellow-travellers.

Here's the reality, post St Patrick's week: None of the above. Sinn Féin is still sitting pretty in the USA, its fundraising pipelines as full as ever, and Gerry Adams still has his visa.

Exclusion from the White House did keep Adams off the front page of American newspapers. The more interesting result was that NOBODY from Ireland was on the front page of those newspapers on St Patrick's Day, even though those papers were awash in full page ads inviting readers to celebrate the day that was in it.

One of the ads had a handsome green man beaming away, over the slogan "Happy St Patrick's Day from the world's most prescribed ED treatment*."

If, like me, you drew a blank on what ED signified, you could find the asterisk attached to an explanation lower down (no joke intended): ED means erectile dysfunction. The product being pushed was Viagra, with the rhetorical question "Who needs luck?" The implication seemed to be that you didn't need the luck of the Irish to develop the wherewithal to have sex on St Patrick's night. You just needed a prescription. Like the beaming man pictured. The green man. Green for Go.

The Viagra ad required that those of us outside the ED circle do an awful lot of work in order to understand it. Sadly, the same process operated when American media encountered the McCartney story. The conferences to select the following day's stories were easy to imagine:

"Photocall at the White House. Another photocall with Ted Kennedy. Irish women. Peace campaigners? No. Who, then? Sisters and partner of a guy who got murdered? When did he get murdered? Oh, that many weeks ago. Murdered by IRA guys? Right, so they're Protestants? No? They're traditional Sinn Féin voters? Sinn Féin is the acceptable face of the IRA, right? So was this guy a traitor? No, he was just in a pub? Y'know sumpn' guys, this don't grab me. Too complicated. WAY too complicated. Run it small, inside, someplace. OK?"

The visit of the McCartney sisters to the White House, accordingly, while it garnered enormous coverage back home, absolutely failed to reach the American public. For two reasons. First of all, because St Patrick's Day in the US has morphed (no doubt some wag would say 'murphied') into St Patti's day.

Cross a national saint with a female country and western singer and what you get is not an opportunity for a consciousness-raising tutorial. What you get is an excuse to wear green top hats with buckles on the front and say "Top of the mornin'" to inoffensive strangers. (The gear Americans wear to show solidarity with the Irish is gruesomely evocative of Punch cartoons from the mid-nineteenth century, where all the natives of the Emerald Isle were portrayed as bandy-legged drunken Neanderthals. It's a miserable thought that a bunch of racist pen-and-ink sketchers managed to create such an abiding visual summary of a nation.)

The second reason for the failure of the McCartney sisters' visit to have the effect wishful thinking assumes it to have had is that, at the moment in the US, court television has taken over from news and current affairs TV.

People who used to watch all-day news stations like CNN and FOX News are glued to Court TV, where they can watch murder trials live, or, in the Michael Jackson trial, because the judge has banned cameras, watch reenactments by actors of the best bits of each day's judicial process.

This drift to Court TV may be temporary, driven by recent high profile cases, notably that of actor Robert Blake, acquitted of wife-killing last week. Or it may be the inevitable and permanent conclusion of the process by which tabloid TV news destroys itself. Tabloid TV demands blood and guts: "If it bleeds, it leads."

It sees pictures as more important than words. It avoids anything that can't be personalised around one victim, one villain, one guardian angel. It prefers the local to the foreign, the simple to the subtle, the emotional to the conceptual.

Following these rules has dragged even the big networks into broadcasting drivel in their news bulletins in a demented and ultimately unproductive effort to keep their viewer numbers high. They failed to stop CNN and FOX News, the all-day news stations, eating into their market. Now, the cannibalism continues, with the all-day news stations losing ground to Court TV, which, in the past few months, made a household name out of one Scott Peterson, eventually convicted of murdering his heavily pregnant wife. Peterson's sentencing happened during St Patrick's week.

Cameras in the courtroom showed the murderer's parents behaving disgracefully and being ejected from the court. The cameras were also there when Peterson received the death penalty.

A GROUP of unknown women from Ireland talking about their unknown brother and linking the political wing of the IRA to criminality were never going to compete with Court TV's coverage of Peterson. Even if they had, it's doubtful that the McCartney sisters could have dammed the sentimental stream of money donated to republicanism.

Just how deeply rooted is that pattern of donation is shown in an account by writer Brian McDonald of his Irish American family where father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all New York cops. About his great-grandfather, he wrote that "it was his wife's strong Irish will that drew him to her. He supported Julia when she began to collect nickels and dimes, kept in a coffee can in the cabinet over the stove, for Irish Freedom, an organisation that funded the Irish struggles against the English, and he never tired of Julia telling the story of her father being jailed by the English for harbouring Fenian rebels."

That coffee can, dating back to 1910, is replicated in the homes of millions of Irish Americans, and one confusing story of a murder in a pub was never going to shift it.

The reality is that people and particularly media people who admired Sinn Féin to the degree that it was beginning to resemble themselves, are now getting a great kick out of condemning it and are convincing themselves that their condemnation matters. It doesn't.

What actually matters to Sinn Féin's onward march is that people who admired Sinn Féin because it smelled of sulphur and gave the finger to everything the Establishment stood for, admire it even more with every condemning column inch.

A texter to a radio programme during the recent Meath by-election underlined this vividly when he told the listeners that "If Michael McDowell told me NOT to jump off a cliff, I'd go and jump off a cliff straight away."

Media approbation of the McCartney sisters should not distract us from the reality demonstrated by a substantial chunk of Meath voters and by continuing US donations to the cause: you can never move people by using reason from a position to which reason has not brought them.

As you can see the writer, Terry Prone, is no friend of Sinn Fein or the Provisional IRA but is forced to admit that the efforts of the McCartney sisters to destroy Irish-American support for the fight for Irish freedom has largely been a failure.

Friday, March 18, 2005

St. Patrick and the Alliance Party

Brian Feeney on the biased Alliance Party:

There'll be a St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast today (Thursday). It will be different from almost anywhere else in the world because it will not have the blessing of the municipality in which it takes place. The north of Ireland is unique. Here unionists withhold finance, or in many towns make it too dangerous to exhibit any sign of Irishness.

Even in English cities, icons of unionist loyalty, it's a different story. Sunday saw the biggest parade in Britain from Hyde Park to Whitehall with bands from England and Ireland and contingents from the GAA and the Metropolitan Police. Daylight proceedings ended with a party in Trafalgar Square entertained by Ronnie Drew, Frances Black and the Saw Doctors, among others.

It's the fourth year of St Patrick's Day parades in London subsidised by the mayor's office.

Belfast's parade will cost its voluntary organisers more than £50,000. Belfast City Council will contribute nothing. Belfast's mayor will ignore it. True, most of Belfast also ignores him.

Usually you could say it's not his fault that Belfast City Council won't fund a St Patrick's Day parade. You could, if he wasn't a member of the totally unrepresentative Alliance party which used its tiny vote to allow the unionists to get their way.

The absurd pretext given for refusing money is that the parade is not 'inclusive'. Parade organisers over the years have bent over backwards trying to comply with this undefined, trumped-up requirement, including proposing slogans in Chinese and involving Indian performers. This year they even suggested a multi-coloured shamrock logo in case a green one offended unionists.

Yet these same unionists are happy to reward organisers of Eleventh night bonfires. Now those are really inclusive events.

After the funding refusal we had the spectacle of unionist councillors who are prominent Orangemen giving lectures about the need to be inclusive. Obviously membership of their sectarian secret society makes them experts in inclusivity. The unionists' hypocrisy was exposed by Billy Hutchinson, who voted to fund the parade to encourage the efforts of the organisers.

Still, such attitudes are par for the course from Belfast unionist councillors. The fact remains, however, that the parade was denied £30,000 only because of the actions of the Alliance party councillors. Why did they vote against funding? Do they really believe the pretext the unionists hide their bigotry behind? Or is the truth that the three Alliance councillors – yeah, three – delude themselves that if they deny funding to a Fenian-inspired parade some unionists in east Belfast will slip them a preference in the local government elections in May so they can save their political skins?

Their pathetic posturing reveals the true desperation in the party as it goes down the tubes. For years the front party for the British administration here, in the last election Alliance got all of 25,000 votes across the north. In other words, in the whole of the known universe, Alliance couldn't muster enough supporters to fill Casement Park. Yet they have the self-righteousness to deny funding to the biggest popular parade organised in Belfast. Then again self-righteousness has always been that party's defining feature. They always adopted a 'holier than thou' position on critical issues since they see the problem here as purely sectarian.

If only people would stop acting like Ketholicks and Protestants and behave like people in 'the rest of the UK' everything would be rosy – balderdash the NIO endorsed for years.

As a result, every quango was stuffed with nayce Alliance figures to nod through NIO policies in return for nayce monthly cheques. Better than nasty nationalists and unionists on quangos eh?

In council elections Alliance has always put its sectarian view of politics into practice, trying to ensure that a nayce Ketholick and a Protestant are running mates in the same district to pick up transfers from both sides in the openly sectarian belief that Ketholicks transfer to Ketholicks and Protestants to Protestants. They're in big trouble now, thank goodness, because they've run out of nayce Ketholicks. With any luck they'll run out of voters in May.

For those who don't know, the Alliance Party is the unionist party that will not admit that it is unionist.

The futility of attacking Sinn Fein

Jim Gibney explains why attacking Sinn Fein will not stop the party in its rise to power:

Sinn Féin's result in the Meath by-election is nothing short of spectacular. Joe Reilly managed not only to hold onto the 6000 first preference votes he got in the Republic's last general election, he also increased his percentage share of the vote.

In the general election two years ago, Joe polled nine per cent of the vote, in the by-election he polled over 12%. This remarkable performance has to be assessed in terms of a 40% turn out by the electorate last Friday compared to a 65% turn out in the general election.

Even though the boundaries in Meath are set to change, Joe Reilly, on last week's performance, has a good chance of being elected to the Dail after the next general election, joining an ever increasing number of Sinn Féin TDs.

I don't think I am exaggerating when I describe the result for Sinn Féin as spectacular.

The electorate of Meath have been on the receiving end of a daily onslaught from the Irish government and the anti-republican media over the last three months.

Bertie Ahern and Michael McDowell tried to blame Sinn Féin for the events in the north.

They knew they were peddling a lie but they carried on nonetheless, feeding off each other and feeding the sycophantic media, who reported on, without question, their every anti-republican word.

Mr McDowell vilified Sinn Féin and the IRA, implying they were involved in criminal conspiracy and used language often used to describe a mafia-type organisation.

To scare people he brazenly claimed without a scintilla of proof, that "the IRA are a threat to the democratic institutions of the southern state".

The truth of the matter of course is well known to both men. Bertie Ahern has been working with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness daily since he became Taoiseach. He knows that Sinn Féin and the IRA are not a criminal conspiracy.

He knows that the IRA does not pose a threat to southern democracy and that Sinn Féin uses peaceful political persuasion only to achieve its objectives.

But that doesn't matter and hasn't mattered for quite some time. In Irish government circles the motto, "don't let the truth get in the way of a good story" is the order of the day.

And the underlying motivation is simple: Sinn Féin's united Ireland and progressive agenda, which puts unity and independence centre stage, is a threat to the political establishment in the south and the way they conduct their business.

In the best possible world Sinn Féin could, courtesy of the electorate, be simultaneously in coalition government in the south and in the northern executive – a scenario some very powerful people on this island and our neighbouring island are doing their worst to prevent.

There are many lessons for the southern parties out of the Meath and Kildare by-elections but I'm concerned to highlight only one of them: stop demonising Sinn Féin and get back to rebuilding the nationalist consensus which delivered so much progress in the early days of the peace process.

Those who voted for Sinn Féin in Meath, like the 342,000 others across Ireland who vote for the party, see through the smear campaign.

The result in Meath has rendered the vilification campaign next to useless.

Let us hope that the politicians and the media heed Mr. Gibney's sound advice.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ulster Unionist Council - still clueless after all these years

Brian Feeney on unionism's inability to deal with the modern world:

Who would have thought it? The once mighty Ulster Unionist Council conducted its centenary commemorations at the weekend in circumstances which resembled a wake. They staggered on their zimmers from Belfast City Hall, once northern protestants' Valhalla, visible symbol of their industrial wealth and prosperity, to the actual UUC meeting where they rattled about the Waterfront Hall, an over-ambitious venue for a party in much reduced circumstances: there might have been 400 people present, mostly geriatrics. From the fleeting camera shot it looked a pretty sparse turnout.

What a contrast with the glory days when millionaire industrialists presided. What a contrast with the Sinn Féin ard fheis the same weekend attended by over 2,000 delegates and covered by scores of journalists and camera crews from all over Europe and the US. Of course there was nothing happening at the UUC. No Jeffrey Donaldson trying to oust David Trimble. No knife-edge votes about the RUC or the Good Friday Agreement. Even if there had been it doesn't matter any more.

The old sectarian raison d'etre is still there though. Trimble berated the DUP and warned them against putting up a candidate in South Belfast in case, you've guessed it, they let in a nationalist. You see, that's all the Ulster Unionist Council has ever been about. It was founded in late 1904 and formalised in March 1905 as an ethnic umbrella for northern unionists. They were afraid the British government was going to give some devolution to Ireland, not a government mind you, not anything with power even to run the Post Office, just an arrangement which would give the political majority in the country some control over minor day-to-day matters.

Ulster Unionists couldn't face it, even though their comrades in arms in the south and west had long been used to Home Rule MPs and Home Rulers running county councils. This sectarianism of Ulster Unionists has been so powerful it took on the characteristics of racism. They have simply been unable to live on equal terms with the rest of the people on the island. Read the remarks reported from the Waterfront Hall at the weekend and you see that poison remains virulent.

Furthermore Ulster Unionists made it crystal clear to the Liberal government elected in 1906 that they would use violence to prevent any law passed by the Westminster Parliament being implemented which gave any power to Ireland's political majority. Here's the crunch. In case you imagine that they were thinking of taking on the British army, no, too much of a tall order. The violence would be visited on the Catholic minority in the north-east as it had been in 1886 and 1893 when Home Rule bills were introduced. In both instances unionist mobs fell on Catholic districts in predominantly Protestant urban centres, especially Belfast. In implementing any bill the British government would have to consider how many northern Catholics would die in the process and how to curtail the religious civil war Ulster Unionists would foment.

The body organising such violence and which stood ready to establish a provisional government in Ulster was the UUC out of which emerged the UVF in 1913. In 1920 the UUC got their way. The results we see today. Unionists created the most divided society in western Europe with Belfast the most divided city. The six counties they were given are now a backwater at the top or bottom of every socio-economic indicator, whichever is worse. The one-time industrial behemoth based on low wages and rotten housing is now completely dependant on Britain which denies any strategic or economic interest in the place. Who wouldn't?

Yet still, those people who straggled despondently around the commemorations last weekend are the same people who refused to extend the hand to nationalists in the SDLP who for 25 years offered to let bygones by bygones and share power with them. Now the UUC has been bypassed. It remains to be seen whether their successors as the majority unionist representatives, the DUP, are any more genuine in their stance or if it is simply a ploy to draw the IRA's teeth. No matter. The political undead commemorating a century of sectarianism, for that's exactly what the UUC inaugurated in 1905, can at least congratulate themselves on their consistency. Just as in 1905 they had no idea what their future was, so it is today. Worse, they don't even know what they want it to be. They do know no British government wants any part of it. What they can say is that they've avoided equality with Catholics and nationalists so they've maintained the authentic ethos of the UUC and earned the contempt of all outside observers.

It looks like unionism is as out of touch with the modern world as any other political system that tries to justify colonialism.

Robert McCartney and political football

Danny Morrison comments on events concerning the McCartney murder:

Despite the best intentions of the McCartney family and their appeals for their brother Robert’s murder not to be used as a political football, that is exactly what has happened. They went to extraordinary — and personally difficult — lengths to defuse it as a political issue with which to bash republicans by attending the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis, where the party president, Gerry Adams, identified with their desire for justice and encouraged all republicans to support the family.

He asked witnesses not to feel intimidated and to give evidence through an agency or lawyer if they felt unable to approach the PSNI. The PSNI itself acknowledged there was a serious lack of trust. Adams personally gave a lead by passing to the Police Ombudsman’s office the names of seven Sinn Féin members who had been suspended from the party and who had been in Magennis’s bar on the night in question.

There is no doubt that Robert McCartney’s killing has become a political football and is being exploited by the opponents and critics of republicans to attack Sinn Féin and the IRA. Moreover, this is counterproductive to the family’s objective of securing evidence for a conviction. There are growing signs of resentment — best exemplified by graffiti in the Short Strand accusing Gerry Adams of being an informer and murmurs about the wisdom of two of the McCartney sisters intimating that they might stand for election on the issue.

Women interviewed for a BBC vox pop said they had heard Adams’ appeal to witnesses but, had they personally seen anything, they would still not come forward because they didn’t trust the PSNI. Others are asking why the eyewitness statement of the man who was with Robert McCartney had not been used by the PSNI to secure arrests or at least led to suspects facing an identity parade.

The original accusation that the paucity of evidence was down to intimidation or a closing of ranks has had to be reviewed in light of IRA and Sinn Féin statements. There is only so much that the IRA and Sinn Féin can do. The IRA has dismissed three of its volunteers, allegedly physically involved in the incident. When it was discovered at the weekend that a former Sinn Féin election candidate, who had also been in Magennis’s bar when the fight started, had only recently filed a statement with her solicitor, one of the McCartney sisters — wrongly, in my opinion — criticised Sinn Féin in general.

Should the IRA have arrested the suspects at gunpoint and dropped them off at the nearest barracks? And if, in the barracks, the suspects had made no incriminating statements, how could it then be fair to blame the republican movement? When the IRA made public that it had given the family the offer of having the alleged killers of Robert shot, there was widespread condemnation. The statement was a throwback to earlier times, to a culture we want to leave behind us. But the statement did help focus on the opportunism of IRA critics who will not specify what it is the IRA should do that it has not done.

All nationalists want a responsible and accountable police service. During the conflict and because of a policing vacuum, the IRA was pressed to act against local criminals exploiting the situation. However, some of them, when they were eventually arrested by the RUC, became involved in a sinister and rewarding relationship with the force. They enjoyed either immunity from prosecution or were charged with more minor offences, were acquitted or given suspended sentences, in return for becoming small-time informers, reporting on the movements of republican activists.

Often they were allowed to continue with their activities on the basis that drug pushing, burgling and joy-riding were dispiriting for the nationalist community and creating the sentiment for a return to policing at any, or a lower, price than that to which the community was entitled. The RUC also appreciated that crime inside nationalist areas forced the IRA into administering a rough and imperfect form of summary justice that politically alienated the extended families of those punished by the IRA and distracted the IRA from its armed struggle against the British Crown forces.

At the time of the signing of the Belfast agreement, the controversial issue of policing could not be resolved and was referred to a commission. Chris Patten eventually presented his report but it was watered down during the legislative process. The old Special Branch moved into the PSNI uninhibited and without having to swear any allegiance to human rights — unlike elected representatives, who have to forswear the use of political violence.

More recently, it has been announced that, in two years, the PSNI is to come under the control of MI5. The SDLP, the Catholic hierarchy and The Irish News — representing between them the old nationalist establishment in the North — prematurely bought into the original template of the PSNI and have been attempting to justify their position ever since. In the interim, Sinn Féin’s overtaking of the SDLP has shown that nationalists endorse the republican analysis.

Not surprisingly, the SDLP has been to the fore in politicising the McCartney family’s search for justice and in demonising Sinn Féin generally, just as the DUP has encouraged one of the sisters to stand against Sinn Féin in the local election.
I understand the McCartney family’s call for those with evidence to go directly to the PSNI or make a statement to the ombudsman. This case has received such publicity and scrutiny — although prejudicial speculation could affect the rights of any accused — that the PSNI and the courts would have to behave in a fair and transparent way.

Throughout the conflict, republicans often had to be pragmatic in cases such as rape, child abuse, insurance claims, traffic accidents etc and co-operate directly or through a solicitor with the authorities and the RUC. So there are precedents for co-operating.

The McCartney family simply want justice for their murdered brother. Others will take advantage of them for their own political ends, just as the British government and unionists did with the Peace People in the 1970s. Everything that the McCartneys do in their campaign for justice must be aimed at securing the truth and securing justice by way of convicting those who took Robert’s life. The IRA and Sinn Féin have been willing but are unable to force his cowardly killers to own up.

If the McCartneys believe that standing for election will make his killers confess, then that is fine. If they believe that it will make his killers confess if the family criticise Sinn Féin and the IRA each time they try to help, then that is fine. If they believe that meeting George Bush — who is responsible for slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians — will make his killers confess, then that too is fine.

Many, however, who are both sympathetic to the McCartney cause and to the cause of Irish republicanism doubt how such an approach will bring Robert’s killers to justice.

I think we will know more about the motivations of the McCartney sisters once we find out who is financing their trip to the United States.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Who is paying for the McCartneys' American visit?

There are questions about who exactly is paying for the McCartneys' Sinn Fein-bashing visit to America:

The McCartney sisters from Belfast have embraced every party and no party since they launched their campaign on behalf of their murdered brother, Robert. But with evident limited financial resources, their arrival on U.S. soil this week was prompting questions as to who paid for their trans-Atlantic trip.

Speculation has focused mainly on the Irish, British and U.S. governments and the SDLP, a party that would have much to gain if Sinn Féin election prospects took a dive.

Information obtained by the Echo even pointed to the possible involvement of the CNN news network and/or Irish journalist Tommy Gorman, RTE's Northern Ireland correspondent.

"Baloney," was Gorman's immediate reaction when the question was posed to him shortly after he arrived in the U.S. to cover the McCartney visit.

It was Gorman's detailed reporting of the McCartney murder that raised coverage of the crime to its present level of intensity.

Gorman said that he himself had been trying to find out who might be funding the trip.

But beyond the view that it might be "some private donations" that are covering flights, ground transportation and hotels, Gorman said he could throw no further light on the mystery.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell denied that his party had given any money.

"The SDLP doesn't have any money to give, although I would personally give them money," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said he understood that an account had been opened in a Belfast bank for the McCartneys' campaign in recent days and that people might be sending money to it.

British Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy denied any British government financing when asked by the Echo in New York Monday.

Murphy said he did not believe any of the government, British, Irish or U.S., had given money to the family.

An Irish government source said "no" when asked if the government had provided any funds for the U.S. visit by the sisters, and Robert McCartney's fiancé, Bridgeen Hagans.

While the cost of the visit is certain to run into the thousands of dollars, the sisters are being invited to and hosted gratis at a number of events, including the American Ireland Fund dinner in Washington, the White House St. Patrick's Day party, and events hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Irish ambassador to the U.S., Noel Fahey.

So where is the money coming from and why have so few in the media asked about the financing of this trip?

Unionist hypocrisy

The father of a victim of loyalist violence accuses unionist politicians of hypocrisy:

Unionist political representatives have been outrageously hypocritical over the Robert McCartney affair, a loyalist paramilitary murder victim's father claimed today.

Raymond McCord launched a blistering attack on the two major unionist parties, accusing them of condemning the IRA killing yet ignoring the pain within their own community.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond Jr, 22, was beaten to death and his body dumped in a north Belfast quarry in 1997, believes Special Branch blocked the police inquiry into the murder to protect a high-ranking Ulster Volunteer Force informer.

An investigation into his allegations is being carried out by Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

But as Mr McCartney's five sisters and partner prepared for White House talks with President George Bush in their quest to bring the knife gang to justice, Mr McCord hit out at his own representatives.

He said: "Myself and other victims are absolutely disgusted over the stance the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists have taken on Robert McCartney. Why can't they look at things closer to home? They have failed the people who voted them in."

Mr McCord, who has spoken out against the UVF men he insists were behind the merciless attack, praised the McCartney family's tireless campaign.

"I totally support what the sisters are doing. I went to visit them at their house, I've been on the phone to them and I hope they get justice," he insisted.

"But why have people within unionism stayed silent on the murders of our sons? The UVF has murdered something like 30 Protestant people since their so-called ceasefire."

Even Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has publicly called for the McCartney killers to come forward and give statements to Mrs O'Loan's office, he added.

"It seems to me that nationalist MPs have no qualms about fighting for their community but within unionism it's the complete opposite. The stance they have taken, and their hypocrisy, is staggering."

Of course the media will not make a big deal out of Mr. McCord's loss because it doesn't suit their anti-Irish republican agenda to do so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Economic liabilities of unionism

The north of Ireland experiences lower growth than any other part of Ireland or Britain:

Northern Ireland is now one of the slowest growing UK regions, below both the UK and the Republic of Ireland averages, an economic report revealed yesterday.

According to the Ulster Bank PMI (Purchasing Manager's Index) the levels of output in the Northern Ireland private sector economy continued to increase in February. However, easing for the seventh successive month, the rate of growth was modest, and the weakest since May 2003.

Chief economist Pat McArdle said: "While the US marches on, activity in the 'old world' tended to decelerate in early 2005. PMI surveys indicate that UK growth is still over three per cent, but Northern Ireland is now one of the slowest growing UK regions, below both the UK and ROI averages. Respondents indicate that employment growth has effectively ceased in the face of slowing order books and rapidly rising costs. However, employment is holding up well, as NI was one of only three UK regions not to experience some job losses in February."

The Six Counties continue to be the Sick Man of Ireland.

Irish Catholic politician attacked by British loyalists

British loyalists once again show their opinion of Irish Catholics:

Loyalists stoned a Northern Ireland Assembly member at a bonfire site in Belfast, she revealed tonight.

Carmel Hanna, a nationalist SDLP MLA for the south of the city, was pelted as she arrived at the scene for a television interview on environmental concerns.

A shaken Mrs Hanna said: “I just heard the bricks hit the roof of my car, and one broke my wing mirror.

“There were heavy thuds and my car was the only thing that was hit. I had to drive out to get away.”

The attack happened at Shaw’s Bridge where loyalists have already begun gathering for the 11th night celebrations ahead of the annual July 12 bonfire celebrations.

I don't think the international news media will be making a big deal out of this event. They prefer to concentrate on Catholic acts of violence.

Kennedy is all on his own in regards to Adams

Other US politicians don't share the views of Irish-America's most notorious alcoholic:

Rep. Richard Neal said Monday he will meet with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, splitting with the state's senior Democrat, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

"Since 1995, it has been U.S. Rep. Neal's policy to meet with the leaders of all the political parties in Northern Ireland," said Neal spokesman William Tranghese. "That policy will not change this year. He will meet with Gerry Adams and his message will be that all the guns should be taken out of Irish politics."

Kennedy's refusal to meet with Adams -- shunning him for the first time in seven years -- triggered criticism Monday from Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

"Ted Kennedy is wrong. Gerry Adams has proven himself over the last ten years as being committed to the peace process," said King, who plans to meet with Adams and Neal.

Kennedy should stick to what he is good at like getting drunk and letting women drown to save his own political career.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Irish warn Howard on Sinn Fein

The Irish community in Australia has sent the prime minister a warning:

AUSTRALIA'S Irish community will push ahead with plans for a fundraising visit by Gerry Adams or another senior Sinn Fein figure, despite a move by the US to ban fundraising by the IRA's political arm.

Irish community leaders have warned the Howard Government of a political backlash if it followed the US.

Sinn Fein sources estimated $250,000 had been raised for the party over the past five years in Australia.

Let us hope that Irish-Americans send an equally strong message to their elected representatives.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Is it only the IRA that kills?

Jude Collins adds a little historical perspective on the current crisis in the peace process:

The IRA offer to shoot the people responsible for the killing of Robert McCartney has set off a tidal wave of protest and has raised the question ‘What kind of world are these people living in?’ It’s a good question, and like many others here, rooted in history.

For decades, unionist leaders have been denouncing the IRA as a murderous conspiracy, intent on wiping out the Protestant population of the north of Ireland. When the British Army ambushed and killed IRA members, unionist leaders queued up to congratulate the forces of law and order on a job well done. Even judges got in on the act, congratulating the British armed forces for bringing these murderers to ‘the final court of justice’ by shooting them dead. So it’s safe to say that unionist politicians and members of the British and Irish establishment know the nature of the IRA (they kill people) and what should be done about such murderers (they should be killed).

‘But what’s proposed is real murder’ I hear you protest. ‘There’s a difference between the clashes that occur between armed groups or armies, and the intention, clearly stated, of the IRA to kill two civilians.’

Well actually, from the IRA’s point of view, these aren’t two civilians. They’re two members of their army – the Irish Republican Army. It’s that fact which has moved the IRA to make its offer in the first place. But let that go. Let’s consider the people in question civilians – and innocent civilians at that, since they have yet to be convicted of any crime. Had the IRA carried out their threat against these innocent civilians, they could have pointed to precedent in plenty.

They might have pointed to Bloody Sunday, when the British Army killed fourteen innocent civilians in Derry. Or they might have pointed to the case of Pat Finucane, killed by the British army in collusion with unionist paramilitaries. Or to the case of Rosemary Nelson, or the several hundred cases represented by An Fhirinne, which campaigns for victims of state collusion in a range of crimes, including murder. Had the IRA carried through on its offer to shoot these two men, it could with justification have spoken of sauce and geese and ganders.

But - and it’s possible to forget this in the present brouhaha – the IRA didn’t shoot those who murdered Robert McCartney. Instead they asked the McCartney family how they would respond to such an action and the McCartney family, quite rightly, said they wanted no such thing to happen. But you may be sure the offer didn’t shock or surprise the McCartneys. From an early stage in this affair the family made it clear they didn’t want IRA justice in this matter. What they wanted was that the IRA encourage or pressure those responsible to hand themselves in. (And yes, there is a note of ambiguity here. It’s safe to assume that the McCartneys, like most other people, didn’t expect the IRA to rely solely on the force of argument in persuading the killers to give themselves up. Armies do tend to be less than kid-glove in their handling of those who have brought disgrace on them. So maybe some violence, but not too much, to bring the killers before a court?)

OK - so what conclusions can we draw from this latest twist in the McCartney case? Well, two main ones.

First, that those loudest in their horror at the IRA offer to shoot the murderers - the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley were both early on the airwaves yesterday morning with their disgust – these same people could have prevented all this. Some weeks before Christmas, the DUP and everyone else was offered a one hundred per cent, no smoke and mirrors, official and full destruction of IRA weaponry and the standing down of that particular army, with the IICD officially witnessing, along with a brace of clergymen observers for those who like to think that God is on the decommissioning side. In short, an end to the IRA before Christmas was on offer. Unfortunately Nigel and Ian and the DUP once again said No. If we can’t have photographs and cameras and sackcloth and ashes, they said, we don’t want it. At which point the British and Irish governments should have come in and said ‘Nigel and Ian, take a running jump at yourself – this is too good to let go’ and grabbed the offer. But they didn’t, and so here we are with the IRA threatening to do what armies everywhere do best – kill. Who’s to blame? A lot of people.

And second, we can conclude that the question ‘What kind of world are these people living in?’ is indeed a good one. Except that ‘these people’ are not so much the IRA as those who appear to think that armies exist to be nice to people, and that it’s more important to please Ian Paisley than it is to secure a definitive end to republican violence.

And let us not forget that if Robert McCartney had been killed by a loyalist then this would have been a minor story for the world media.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Policing and collusion

Daily Ireland on police collusion with loyalists:

Relatives of people murdered as a result of police collusion with loyalist paramilitaries have slammed the PSNI after the publication of a report highlighting the service’s recent human rights record.

The report was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
It claimed that the PSNI had outperformed all British police forces as it struggled to comply with basic human-rights demands.

Last night, the families of people murdered as a result of RUC and British military collusion with loyalists branded the report “hypocritical”.

Despite praise for the PSNI from the report’s authors, Keir Starmer QC and Jane Gordon, the families of those murdered as a result of collusion are angry that the vexed issue was not raised once.

During a press conference to launch the report, a member of the relatives group An Fhírinne took to the podium to highlight their grievances.

Group spokesman Robert McClenaghan said the PSNI had failed to uphold the rights of victims’ families desperate to uncover the truth about the murder of their loved ones.

“Under the third Stevens report published in 2003, a recommendation was made to prepare files on 20 RUC Special Branch and military intelligence officers and forward it to the Department [Director] of Public Prosecutions,” he said.

“Many of those RUC Special Branch officers are now in the PSNI. A range of crimes were raised, right up to murder. To date, no proceedings have been brought against any of these people.

“We have had collusion down the decades and yet no suspensions or expulsions from the PSNI. The high-profile cases are well known but there are hundreds of other people affected.

“It is hypocritical of them to talk about human rights when they have promoted these Special Branch men within the ranks of the PSNI.

“Do our human rights not matter? Is there a hierarchy of victims? We represent over 250 families and each one of them matters.”

Policing Board chairman Sir Desmond Rea said the report was important in terms of identifying human-rights issues raised by the PSNI.

“Human rights is a fundamental element in policing, and achieving and maintaining these standards is a critical factor for community confidence in the delivery of the policing service,” he said. “The report published today will be used by the board as a benchmark for moving forward on the human-rights agenda, and we will be discussing with the chief constable how the recommendations made in the report will be progressed.”

North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin’s policing spokesman, said the report lacked credibility.

He said, “The so-called Policing Board ‘advisers’ who produced this report are the same people who vindicated the PSNI actions last July when the PSNI overturned a Parades Commission determination and forced a loyalist mob through nationalist Ardoyne.

“This is nothing less than self-congratulatory nonsense that will do nothing to generate confidence in the PSNI.”

No one from the PSNI was available for comment.

I wonder if the media will give these families the same attention that they have given to the family of Robert McCartney? I very much doubt it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Anti-Irish abuse in Britain

An Irish woman claims to have suffered anti-Irish harassment at her job in Britain:

An Irish woman was told to leave Britain if she could not speak "the Queen's English" by a colleague in an emergency services control room in Berkshire, a tribunal heard today.

Ann Neylan, 39, who is originally from Kilcolgan, Co Galway, said she was told to "f*** off home" because of the way she spoke by a colleague at the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, a tribunal in Reading was told today.

Ms Neylan, who is claiming victimisation under the Race Discrimination Act, told the panel that a string of incidents left her feeling humiliated.

She told a tribunal that on two occasions, in 2002 and 2003, a woman working directly under her had referred to gypsies being her "relatives" when dealing with 999 calls to Traveller sites.

On another occasion, the tribunal heard, she found that her computer log-in name had been changed to "Irish Ann" and some time later she picked up her telephone headset to find the word "Paddyy", (with two ys), written on it.

The tribunal heard that the incidents reached a head in January 2003 when she made a suggestion to her temporary watch commander Liz Mitchell. In her statement to the tribunal she said: "She was annoyed that I had expressed my opinion. I could see she was angry and I said: 'Sure Liz, we won't fall out over it. I just thought it was a bit daft'."

Ms Neylan claims that another colleague, Lisa Bell, had mimicked her accent echoing "Daft, daft, daft" - prompting some discussion of her pronunciation. Ms Neylan claims that the watch commander, Ms Mitchell, then responded: "I suggest that if you don't start speaking the Queen's English, f*** off home."

Ms Neylan told the panel that she had complained to her line manager, David Wright but said that he had not taken it seriously.

Two months later, on March 13, 2003 - Comic Relief Day - she had entered the control room to find a white board with a list of "sins" written for which people would have to make a donation to the fund. Among misdemeanours, such as swearing and coming in without a tie was, she says, "being Irish".

With "friends" like the British who needs enemies?