Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Unemployment figures static for last 30 years in the north of Ireland

Jarlath Kearney:

Catholic women are three and a half times more likely to be unemployed than Protestant women in the North.

We can also reveal, in general, Catholics remain precisely twice as likely to be on the dole queue as Protestants.

The shocking figures are drawn from official British government Labour Force Survey statistics which have been obtained by our sister paper Daily Ireland. The survey was conducted on a quarterly basis for the 12 months between Winter 03/04 and Autumn 2004.

Margins of sampling error – which are consistently greater for the Catholic aggregate – mean that the real disparity could be even worse.

For over 30 years the unemployment differential between Catholics and Protestants has been regarded as a crucial indicator of inequality across the North.

In April 2003 the British government pledged in the Joint Declaration with the Irish government to take effective action which would tackle the unemployment differential "by targeting objective need".

This assurance followed successive fair employment laws introduced in 1976, 1989, 1991 and 1998. Throughout that entire period, the unemployment differential has remained virtually static, with Catholics consistently at least twice as likely to be unemployed.

However when the positive political, social and economic developments of the last decade are taken into account alongside the overall fall in unemployment, the lack of any significant change in the ratio is arguably even more serious. The figures demonstrate that, for Catholic women in particular, the prospects are not improving.

In recent years, British government sponsored researchers have claimed that social factors other than discrimination are responsible for the disparity in the unemployment differential.

However, the startling precision with which such inequality has been maintained remains a source of considerable concern for anti-discrimination campaigners.

The latest figures come just days after the official 2005 deprivation statistics for the North were published.

According to the deprivation statistics, the predominantly nationalist parliamentary constituencies of West Belfast, Foyle and West Tyrone are among the four areas of the North where the highest proportion of deprived people live.

Strongly unionist constituencies of North Down, Strangford, Lagan Valley and South Antrim have the least number of people living in deprived conditions.

A major conference on equality which is taking place tomorrow in Belfast will be addressed by one of North America's most powerful elected politicians, Alan Hevesi.

Mr Hevesi is the financial comptroller for New York state and his office administers the second largest pension fund in America.

In spite of bitter opposition from the British government, Mr Hevesi has remained a determined campaigner for fair employment initiatives in the North, such as the MacBride Principles, throughout his political career.

At a press conference tomorrow morning, Mr Hevesi is expected to make a major investment announcement.

Last Friday Daily Ireland revealed that the British government ban which prevents Irish citizens gaining employment in the North's senior Civil Service will remain in place for at least another 12 months.

An analysis by the Andersonstown News last year concluded that, based on recruitment trends over 30 years, the senior Civil Service could not achieve fair representativeness until at least 2057. At present just one out of every four senior civil servants is Catholic.

In March, Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern caused considerable disquiet in Northern nationalist political circles when he alleged in a newspaper interview that "the type of discrimination that took place (in the North) in previous decades, all of that has disappeared."

So much for equality in the north of Ireland.

North’s Catholics twice as likely to be jobless as Protestants

Friday, May 27, 2005

SDLP help DUP candidate become Belfast mayor


Democratic Unionist councillor Wallace Browne was last night elected Belfast's new Lord Mayor, becoming the party's first person on the council to hold the post in four years.

Mr Browne defeated Sinn Fein`s Caral Ni Chuilin in a straight vote, securing the backing of the Ulster Unionist, the nationalist SDLP and cross community Alliance Party.

The last DUP councillor to hold the position of Lord Mayor was Sammy Wilson between 2000 and 2001.

Interesting to see that now that the elections are over the SDLP has gone back to being a bunch of lackeys for British colonialism. I don't know how the SDLP can claim to be a Nationalist party when they have helped a member of Ian Paisley's political party to become Belfast's mayor.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Good Friday Agreement is all there is

Brian Feeney:

In 2003 the message voters gave the DUP was that they didn't like the party to be negative and destructive. They should have some proposals to offer to resolve the political stalemate.

This time the message unionist voters sent was that they do not want to share power in resumed institutions and certainly not institutions where Sinn Féin is the dominant partner. As a consequence, the DUP is going to make the most of its newly-strengthened role in Westminster where its MPs will dominate the Northern Ireland Committee. They will not enter negotiations with SF until a year after the IRA issues its anticipated statement and then only after the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission has given the IRA a clean sheet.

In the meantime the DUP will push for a minimalist role for the assembly, 'scrutinising' our tanned and lovely proconsul and his district commissioners.

Here lies the elephant trap for nationalists. A 'scrutinising role' for the assembly is nonsense. It's no role at all. It's not in the agreement. It gives assembly members no power at all. They can prevent nothing. Worse, it is a ploy to avoid the operation of all-Ireland bodies. Remember, the agreement was carefully crafted so that no all-Ireland bodies, no assembly and vice versa.

The only proposal more stupid than a 'scrutinising role' is the SDLP's plan for appointing 10 of the great and the good to run the assembly departments. They complain English MPs sent over here have no votes in Ireland and are undemocratic, so they want people appointed who have no votes anywhere and would be even more undemocratic. Ridiculous. It gives assembly members no power at all and it's not in the agreement. Again of course it's selling the pass on all-Ireland bodies. Please let's hear no more of this embarrassment of an idea.

The danger is however that the pro-union NIO will advise that there should be some accommodation between the SDLP's ridiculous plan and the DUP's nonsensical plan. It is absolutely vital that Sinn Féin and the SDLP stand firm against any sort of the rolling devolution beloved of NIO officials. Anything to give an elected assembly the semblance of legitimacy. Why?

Simple. A gimcrack assembly is exactly what unionists want because it guarantees minimum change.

Nationalists have always wanted maximum change and that's why they always argue for a comprehensive deal. Since unionists want the opposite that's why they always argue against an all-embracing deal. Well, there is an all-embracing deal and it's called the Good Friday Agreement. Thankfully the Taoiseach has stepped in to say the agreement is all there is. It's been reviewed and the task is to get back to it. Now it's up to nationalist politicians to get together to prevent any tinkering with the dormant assembly because that's the DUP plan to avoid getting back to the agreement.

Unfortunately, the SDLP game plan usually involves capitulating to the British at the first opportunity which is why Blair and the DUP want to freeze out Sinn Fein since they know it is the only Nationalist party that has a backbone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A mother asks why the RUC did not properly investigate her son’s death

Ciaran Barnes:

Patrick McMahon was murdered by the Ulster Defence Association on the day he was moving into a new home with his girlfriend and young son.

The 23-year-old painter and decorator had spent two years renovating the property on Manor Street in north Belfast.

Mr McMahon would spend virtually all of his free time making his new home perfect for his family.

Collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security services meant he never got the chance to start his new life.

The gunmen who murdered Mr McMahon on October 23, 1993 lay in wait on the top floor of a derelict building on Newington Street for hours before killing their victim.

The nationalist Newington Avenue backs onto the loyalist Tigers Bay area, where the McMahon killers came from.

The UDA hit team propped up a ladder against the back of the house during the day and waited for hours until they had a random target in their sights.

Mr McMahon, his partner Mandy and two-year-old son Patrick Jr were visiting friends on Newington Avenue to show off a new German shepherd dog they had bought that week.

As they were getting out of the van which Mr McMahon had rented earlier that day to move furniture to his new home, the family heard a series of high-pitched cracks.

It was close to Halloween, so everyone assumed the noise was being made by fireworks being set off.

When Mr McMahon slumped to the ground and said he thought he had been shot, his family realised the noise had in fact been gunfire.

The north Belfast man had been hit in the chest, behind the ear and through the knees.

An ambulance was called but he died an hour later in the Mater Hospital.

The UDA men who had killed Mr McMahon escaped from the rear of the derelict house, running down an entry past a number of Protestant homes on the Hallidays Road into the Tigers Bay area.

In the weeks after her son’s murder, Emily McMahon, unhappy at the RUC investigation into the killing, started making her own inquiries.

She discovered that the RUC had never asked anyone living on Hallidays Road whether they had witnessed the fleeing gunmen.

After speaking to Newington Avenue residents who had seen the murder, Mrs McMahon also found out that an RUC patrol had arrived on the street shortly after the incident but claimed not to have heard any shots being fired.

At an inquest into her son’s death in 1994, it emerged that the weapon used to kill Patrick McMahon had been reported stolen from the RUC.

The same gun had been used in four previous murders and six attempted murders. No details on who the victims were or when the incidents had occurred were revealed to the relatives.

Emily McMahon said not an hour would go by when she does not think about her son.

She told Daily Ireland that, because the RUC had never investigated his death properly, she finds it almost impossible to grieve.

Mrs McMahon said: “Everything we have discovered about Patrick’s murder has been found out by ourselves.

“In the 12 years since his death, the RUC or PSNI have never been at my door.

“They don’t and never have cared about catching Patrick’s killers.

“He was a Catholic in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The Newington/Tigers Bay area is one of Belfast’s most dangerous interfaces but this did not stop Mrs McMahon contacting loyalists to unearth details about her son’s murder.

She explained: “I met with Protestants from the area and they swore to me that the RUC never got in touch with the people who lived on the Hallidays Road who may have seen the gunmen running away.

“That proves to me that there was collusion in Patrick’s murder. He was killed with an RUC gun and detectives never investigated his death properly.”

Patrick McMahon was a keen amateur boxer with the famous Star Amateur Boxing Club in the New Lodge district.

He travelled all over the North representing the club and, in the process, visited many Protestant boxing clubs.

He had friends on both sides of the sectarian divide. According to his mother, he “did not have a sectarian bone in his body”.

“Patrick lived for his family and friends,” said Mrs McMahon.

Victims of Collusion


Wave of sectarian attacks by British loyalists raise marching season tension

Colm Heatley:

Loyalist paramilitaries have been accused of stoking up sectarian tensions in the run-up to the marching season after a wave of weekend attacks on Catholic homes and property in Belfast.

The attacks took place in mixed areas in the north of the city and the PSNI has said they believe they are sectarian and connected.

On Friday night a car in Cliftondene Crescent was destroyed by a petrol bomb and paint was thrown at three houses in the street.

The owner of the car and her 11-year-old son narrowly escaped injury when the windows of their house were smashed.

Later, a short distance away at Abbeydale Park, a car was damaged and paint thrown at two houses.

Two properties at Ligoniel Road and one in Somerdale Park were also attacked with paint.

In the early hours of Saturday morning a petrol bomb attack in the Farmley area of Glengormley destroyed one car and damaged another.

Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly blamed loyalist paramilitaries for the attacks.

“These were clearly well-planned and co-ordinated attacks and I have no doubt that they were carried out by one of the unionist paramilitary gangs,” he said.

“These sorts of attacks at this time of the year on the eve of the marching season follow a well-worn path.

“It is clear that this latest wave of unionist intimidation has been timed to try and influence policy around forthcoming controversial parades in this area.”

Loyalists are blamed over attacks

World to flag but Ireland steady - OECD

RTE News:

The OECD has predicted that the Irish economy will continue to grow steadily at a rate of around 5% a year.

In its latest twice-yearly economic survey, the organisation forecasts that gross domestic product will expand by 5.3% this year and 5% next year, boosted by rapid growth in domestic demand as incomes grow strongly.

The Paris-based think tank says inflation should remain muted, moving up to 2.7% next year from 2.5% this year, but it warns that increasing labour costs are affecting competitiveness.

It says further competition in utilities, retail and professional services would help to curb the risk of renewed wage and price inflation.

The OECD's World Economic Outlook says growth in major industrialised countries is set to flag this year, dragged down by continued sluggishness in the euro zone.

It predicted that growth in its 30 member nations would slip to 2.6% in 2005, after 3.4% in 2004, before edging up to 2.8% next year.

'The smooth scenario where the recovery was expected to spread more evenly across the OECD has not materialized,' chief economist Jean-Philippe Cotis said.

OECD slashes euro zone growth forecasts

OECD forecasts Irish economic growth of 5%

OECD calls for cut in ECB interest rate as growth falls to 1¼%

Analysts Grapple With Long-Term Growth

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dr No in cloud cuckoo land

Daily Ireland:

Famously, nationalists in the old Stormont managed to pass just one piece of legislation in 50 years — an act to protect wild birds. Under the new political institutions envisaged by Ian Paisley, nationalists could not guarantee that they would reach those dizzy legislative heights again in the next half-century.

That is not only bad news for our feathered friends but for everyone who thought that, with a strengthened mandate, Mr Paisley might be the man to make a deal for unionism — and keep his word.

Instead, after yesterday’s tête-à-tête with Mr Blair, the DUP leader spelt out his vision of a one-party state that would bring the North back at least to 1969 and, if the Paisleyites could swing it, to 1690.

Dr No says he cannot share power with Sinn Féin because he does not trust them. But then he proceeds to set out a series of hurdles that Sinn Féin and the IRA must clear before Gerry Adams and Co get to occupy the cheap seats in his revamped Protestant parliament for a Protestant people.

The Good Friday Agreement, says Mr Paisley, is dead. Strangely, just six months ago, he was poised to go into a new executive with Sinn Féin within the very model established by the 1998 Belfast deal. That initiative was scuppered over calls for the IRA to be humiliated and republican reservations over the photographing of decommissioning. But the fact remains that the DUP was signing up for a power-sharing agreement.

The Irish and British governments should call the Democratic Unionist Party’s bluff by insisting that the power sharing with Sinn Féin is the only way forward. Anything else is strictly for the birds.

Paisley represents British colonialism in its purest form and colonists never make compromises with indigenous peoples. The only way to bring peace to the north of Ireland is to repatriate Paisley and his fellow British colonists to Britain as soon as possible.

LVF shift blame on Lisa Dorrian murder

Colm Heatley:

The Loyalist Volunteer Force has issued a statement naming six people they believe are connected to the murder of missing Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian, it was revealed yesterday.

The organisation sent the statement to Mervyn Gibson, a spokesman for the Loyalist Commission, who said he has passed on the information to the PSNI.

However, the statement is likely to be treated with extreme scepticism.

On Thursday, Lisa’s mother, Pat Dorrian, said she could not believe an LVF statement claiming that the organisation was not involved in her murder.

Lisa (25) went missing after attending a party at a caravan site in Ballyhalbert, Co Down, on February 28.

“I received the letter and passed it on to the PSNI in connection with their investigation into the murder,” said Mr Gibson.

“I wouldn’t want to get the family’s hopes up with this.

“Just because the people are named that doesn’t mean anything.”

Mr Gibson also offered to pass the information on to the Dorrian family.

Mrs Dorrian said her family would contact Mr Gibson.

“We will be interested to see what new names have been added to the ones already mentioned,” she said.

A PSNI spokesperson yesterday confirmed the existence of the letter.

""We can confirm that police have received a letter today through an intermediary which purports to name those involved in the murder of Lisa Dorian," said the spokesperson.

It is understood that members of a family of LVF drug-dealers in east Belfast, who have been implicated in the murder, are not named on the list.

PUP leader David Ervine refused to comment on the LVF statement but said that the PSNI should be given full support in finding the killers.

Meanwhile, Mrs Dorrian has called on the British and Irish governments to do more to help her family.

She said both governments should take a more proactive role in highlighting the family’s plight.

When the campaign for the ‘Disappeared’ - nine people who were killed and secretly buried by the IRA - was at its height in the late 1990s, the Irish government paid for adverts asking the public for help.

“We need all the help we can get and we need this whole tragedy to be brought to an end," she said.

“If the governments would pay for those type of adverts it would be a great help, it would let people know what is going on and what needs to be done.

“It is now nearly three months since Lisa went missing and we have been going through a living hell.

“We want Lisa’s body back so that we can grieve for her properly,” said Mrs Dorrian. An appeal fund has been set up by the Dorrian family to raise awareness of the murder.

Three people have been questioned by the PSNI in connection with the murder but were released without charge.

Unionist politicians have so far refused to blame the LVF for the murder, while the PSNI described speculation that the group was involved as ‘unhelpful’.

Isn't it amazing how silent the Unionists and British and Irish governments are when loyalists are involved in murder in contrast to how vocal they are when republicans are involved in such crimes?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

PUP chief says LVF killed Lisa

Colm Heatley:

Lisa Dorrian's family making a fresh appeal for someone to give information about the whateabouts of her body. She went missing over two months ago pictured is her mother Patrisha

The leader of the PUP says he “can’t work out” why the PSNI was prepared to indulge in speculation about IRA involvement in Robert McCartney’s murder but dismissed speculation that the LVF killed Lisa Dorrian.

David Ervine said it was “beyond doubt” that the LVF killed Lisa Dorrian, who disappeared from a party in a caravan park in Ballyhalbert, Co Down, on February 28.

Since her disappearance the PSNI have described speculation that the LVF was behind the killing as “unhelpful”.

“I can’t work out why police said speculation about Lisa’s killers was bad.

“It didn’t seem to be too unhelpful with the McCartney murder,” he said.

Mr Ervine also said that there had been a lack of media focus on Lisa’s murder.

“There has been a lack of focus on Lisa Dorrian while there was focus on other happenings at the time.

“That is sad if you are a member of the Dorrian family.”

Meanwhile, the mother of the murdered woman dismissed earlier press reports that she wanted to meet with loyalist paramilitaries.

“That is untrue. I never said that and I would never meet with loyalist paramilitaries.

“I would meet with the Loyalist Commission because they are removed from the paramilitaries,” said Pat Dorrian.

She also said that despite this week’s renewed media interest in her daughter’s murder she felt as though Lisa’s plight had disappeared from “the face of the earth”.

“The media could have done more".

“There was a good few weeks that nobody bothered about us at all".

“It was as if Lisa had disappeared off the face of the earth, that’s why we set up an appeal fund".

“I would call on the media to do much more to help".

“Even in England, where Lisa was born, there has been hardly a shred of coverage about her murder,” she said.

The family have offered a £10,000 (€14,500) reward for information leading to the recovery of the body.

Local DUP MLA, Peter Weir, said that, while he condemned the murder, he wouldn’t speculate on whether or not the LVF is responsible.

“I would appeal for anyone with any information to come forward and give that information.

“I don’t want to prejudge these matters,” he said.

Newly elected South Belfast SDLP MP, Alisdair McDonnell, who helped organise the McCartney family’s trip to Washington on St Patrick’s Day, refused to comment on the Dorrian case.

Of course going after the murderers of Lisa Dorrian doesn't help the cause of British colonialism in the north of Ireland. This is why both the SDLP and the McCartney sisters should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the British to use them as lackeys.

Voters never vote for pale imitations

Brian Feeney:

After Michael Foot led the British Labour party in 1983 to their biggest electoral defeat for generations, everyone in the party vowed "Never again".

In 1992, after the third consecutive defeat they were still saying it. For more than a decade the Labour party had torn itself apart arguing how to restore its electoral fortunes.

In the wake of the disastrous 1983 election, the left wing argued blindly that the party lost because it was not left-wing enough.

Nothing could convince Tony Benn and the closet Trotskyists who supported him that Labour lost the 1983 election precisely because it was too left wing – 'loony left' in the words of The Sun.

That reaction to defeat is far from a Labour monopoly.

When the Conservatives were slaughtered in 1997, the right wingers argued the defeat was because the party had abandoned Thatcherism.

The warnings of the party's most high-profile victim, Michael Portillo, fell on deaf ears. No-one could persuade the men in the No Turning Back group that the Conservatives lost in 1997 because they were too right wing and nasty.

You're going to hear exactly the same arguments as the Ulster Unionist Party rends itself asunder in the coming months.

Already you've heard from the political genius David Burnside, a man who lost his seat, attacking Lady Hermon, a woman who kept her seat. How would she know what to do? After all, she was the only successful UUP MP.

What does Burnside want to do? You guessed it. Push the party further towards the DUP, who already control the market. It seems to remain eternally beyond the grasp of failed politicians like Burnside that voters vote for the real thing, not pale imitations.

One sign that the UUP may have realised the folly of trying to out-Paisley, Paisley is the choice of its interim committee to run the party – Lord Rogan, Sir Reg Empey and Lady Hermon, all people who resolutely support the Good Friday Agreement and who would like to lead unionism towards genuine accommodation.

Unfortunately the omens are not good. They have to deal with the legacy of their awful leader Trimble, who bequeathed an unreformed, ill-disciplined rabble rather than a modern political party.

They will have to contend with the dreaded 860-strong Ulster Unionist Council, first thrown up as an ethnic umbrella to shelter all Ulster Protestants 100 years ago.

Some of its members look as if they were present at that first meeting. The UUC still retains its Orange bloc as of right. Many members will have voted DUP in the election on May 5. Many will believe that the party needs to move to the right to compete with the DUP.

Watch for the bizarre sight of former leader Lord Molyneaux and former MP Martin Smyth arguing for policies indistinguishable from the DUP.

Didn't they endorse the DUP candidate in South Belfast and support only those MPs who opposed the official UUP line in May? Yet they're still UUP members.

So anyone who imagines a new leader will emerge on June 23 and point the way for the UUP to recover its dominance in unionism is living in cloud-cuckoo land.

The UUP is finished. There's no way back.

You're probably too young to remember the UPNI, the party which emerged in 1974 after the UUC rejected the Sunningdale agreement. It staggered on until 1981 but it was a headless chicken by 1976.

That's the option that faces Lady Hermon and those in the UUP who hold liberal views, too few to be called a 'liberal wing'. When the UUP splits later this year, she will stay on as an MP, a voice in the wilderness. For the others, their political career is over. In the next election, assembly or general, the DUP will gobble up those who haven't already switched sides.

Why should this be? Two reasons.

First, unionists have yet again voted overwhelmingly not to share power with their fellow citizens. There's no political mileage in any unionist leader going against that.

That's the message from the election, dress it up as you will.

Secondly, the DUP succeeded in persuading the majority of unionists that Sinn Féin could become the largest party in the north if the UUP managed a large vote.

For unionists it would be unthinkable that a party which aims for the abolition of Northern Ireland should outvote both unionist parties in the place Britain gave to unionists. How could they explain that to the world?

Of course the big question here is now that the British colonists have realized that they can no longer afford the luxury of two Unionist political parties, will the indigenous Irish accept the fact that they can no longer afford the luxury of two Nationalist ones?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Celtic Tiger purring along as Irish economy copes with competition

Tom Still:

The signs of prosperity are unmistakable in and around this western Irish city. Construction crews are at work everywhere, even in the picturesque countryside of County Galway and County Mayo.

The stores are full of shoppers. Real-estate prices are booming – almost too much so, according to some. And the streets are filled with young people, many of them students at Galway’s universities.

The “Celtic Tiger” of the late 1990s is still hunting new prey in 2005. While there are signs of trouble ahead, due in part to continued sluggishness in the rest of the European Union, the Irish economy remains an example for the world.

Recent visitors to Ireland cannot help but notice the abundance of new housing stock, the high living standards and the robust nature of cities such as Dublin and Galway.

Statistics tell much of the story: Irish productivity rates are among the highest in the world, and the economy continues to grow at a rate exceeding 5 percent per year.

More than one-third (39 percent) of the Irish population is under 25 years old – and they’re well educated. Unemployment, an Irish curse for generations, has fallen to 4.3 percent. Corporate taxes in Ireland are the lowest in the EU, the government provides financial incentives to expand there, and significant de-regulation has boosted key sectors of the economy.

Since 1996, Ireland’s economy has outperformed all others in the 25-nation EU. Technology and other “knowledge-based” businesses have helped to lead the way. Ireland is now the world’s largest software exporter and a hub of “outsourcing” for U.S. firms, many of which have opened branch offices here.

Viridian boosted by buoyant Irish economy

Monday, May 16, 2005

Irish Nationalism is now faced with a strong and united British Unionism

Jude Collins:

Well, that’s the pact headache eased for unionism. Before the election the UUP and the DUP had a small war of words about who should run in areas where there was, omigod, the danger of a nationalist taking the seat. South Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone in particular were identified, with shouts of ‘It’s our seat!’ and ‘Shut up, we’re the only credible unionist contender!’ being slung around. That’s all academic now. The UUP is finished. Its head, the never-terribly-convincing David Trimble, has been removed. You realise how totally out of ideas UUPers are when you hear them talking about Reg Empey as a possible new leader - only a party on its deathbed would go in for such crazy talk. So next time out, the DUP won’t have to worry about coming to an arrangement with the UUP. A corpse can’t sign an electoral pact.

All of which is very bad news for nationalism. Next Westminster election, Alasdair McDonnell in South Belfast won’t squeeze to victory through the middle because there’ll be no middle. Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh/South Tyrone won’t win on 18,000+ votes because the unionist vote won’t be nicely divided into DUP: 14,000 and UUP : 9,000. If there’s a single unionist candidate in these and perhaps other constituencies, nationalism won’t stand a chance.

On the nationalist side this time out, there was less pre-election talk of a voting pact between Sinn Féin and the SDLP, largely because Sinn Féin figured it could do a DUP on the SDLP. It didn’t. Unlike the UUP, the SDLP kept its head and, to its own astonishment as much as everyone else’s, it collected three Westminster seats. No wonder Alasdair McDonnell looked as if he’d been hit with a hurley as the results were declared: who’s going to look after all those patients?

So given that nationalism is faced with a strong and united unionism, what should it do? There are three obvious possibilities.

It can stay as it is – two competing parties, running against a united unionism, dividing the nationalist vote in constituency after constituency. Not a pretty prospect.

The SDLP can get on with its rumoured Fianna Fáil merger. The result of that would probably be to deepen the nationalist divide in the north, making DUP victories even more likely.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP can get some voting pacts in place - field one agreed candidate in key constituencies. That might work.

A fourth alternative, in some ways less obvious and other ways more obvious, would be a merger between Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

The reasons for two nationalist parties in the north are long and complex, but in essence they amount to a difference of view on aims and means. The SDLP, coming out of the civil rights movement, had as its central aim full civil rights; the means it chose to achieve that aim was non-violence. Sinn Féin, in a continuing republican tradition, had as its central aim national unity and independence, and the means it chose to achieve that aim included violence as well as political action.

That was yesterday. More recently the SDLP has committed itself unambiguously to the goal of national unity. Its website declares the party is “100 per cent for a United Ireland”. Mark Durkan repeatedly describes himself as a republican. So now the SDLP has as its goal a united Ireland; its means to achieve that goal remain peaceful and political. Sinn Féin, the other nationalist party, still has as its goal – that’s right – a united Ireland. “We stand for the independence of our country” its website tells us. As to means, Sinn Féin’s commitment to winning elections north and south, alongside the IRA’s eleven-year-ceasefire and imminent disbandment, evidence a party that sees peaceful politics as the most effective means to achieving its aim.

There are differences in the economic and social policies advocated by the two parties, but I bet you can’t mention a major one off the top of your head.

Education, health, housing, water charges: the overlap is consistently more striking than any difference. Policing is a point on which they part, but the goal of a fully accountable police service is a shared one.

When you think of it, the reasons for one united nationalist party are more obvious than the reasons for two rival entities. That’s not to say there aren’t people in both parties who would consider use of the m-word heresy.

But then there are people on our numerous health boards and education boards and district councils who react the same way when merger is even mentioned. Some of them are appalled because they truly believe that separate existence is the best way to achieve the goals to which they are committed. Others are appalled because they fear a diminution in personal status and influence.

So would the emergence of a single nationalist party alongside a single unionist party be bad for us? Seamus Mallon thinks so – it would balkanise us to bits, he says. An odd comment to come from a former history teacher, since balkanisation suggests fragmentation rather than coming together.

But whether Mallon or anyone likes it or hates it, unionism has now officially flocked to the banner of the DUP. Starting this week, a single unionist party is a reality. If nationalism doesn’t respond, starting with a level-headed look at all the options, it will pay the price.

In this new political climate, Nationalists can no longer afford the luxury of two Nationalist parties. For the sake of the indigenous Irish population of the Six Counties, Nationalist voters must realize that a vote for the SDLP is, in effect, a vote for the British colonists of Unionism.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Is that your best shot?

Robin Livingstone:

The real question is not how come the SDLP losses were so small this time round – rather it is, how come the Shinners can keep forging ahead in the face of such overwhelming odds?

Let's be honest about this – the past four months have seen the most sustained and hostile onslaught ever launched against a political party in Ireland. It was the media equivalent of global thermo-nuclear war. It started off with the battle of the Northern Bank – a factless free-fire zone in which every legal and moral principle that supposedly governs the orderly running of society disappeared in a cloud of acrid, black smoke. Standing today amid the deafening silence, the smoke of battle long since cleared, we can only look back in awe at the ferocity of the attack – and at its total and utter lack of substance.

Where now the Co Cork banknotes that Bertie told us he was convinced came from the Northern Bank raid? Where's the white van, where are the Bulgarian bank accounts, the Cheltenham megabets, the Moscow mafia, the West Belfast builder's yard, the Black Mountain subterranean vaults, the false walls, the £100 in Northern notes for a tenner, the South Armagh hand-outs, the holiday development in the Maldives, the mystery Lithuanian money men?

The answer is that we're now just supposed to forget about them, in the same way that we're supposed to forget about 'Stormontgate' and Castlereagh. Because all of these have one thing in common – they are incapable of being proved or disproved and they existed only to make political capital. And wasn't it wonderful to see that when the UUP and DUP got themselves into embarrassing scrapes in the final days of the election campaign, they were able to kill the debate by claiming that they were limited in what they could say because of legal considerations. Clearly, they hoped that we would fail to recall that, for them, legal considerations don't come into it when the subject under discussion is republicans.

Then came the murder of Robert McCartney which, if we believe the current consensus, cost Sinn Féin its Mountpottinger seat. I happen to agree with that one – I think that a number of people did refuse to come out and vote for Sinn Féin because they were appalled at the part members of the republican movement played in the McCartney murder. But I also believe that as many, if not more, refused to come out and vote for Sinn Féin because of the way that certain long-standing members of the republican movement were treated in the wake of the killing.

The McCartney campaign is gently running out of steam now, not because the need to find the killer is any less urgent, but simply because the elections are over and the media is getting bored with it. The vote by the European Parliament to give the family money to fight a civil case threw the issue briefly back in the spotlight this week, but how many journalists accompanied the family abroad this time? Had that Euro funding vote taken place six weeks ago newsrooms all over Ireland and Britain would have emptied in the rush to catch a flight to Brussels. Now they're happy to take 50 words from a stringer and a five-second clip from a freelance cameraman. And I wonder if the McCartney sisters asked themselves on the flight home where all their friends had gone. Probably not, just as they probably didn't ask themselves a while back as they stood in front of a vast bank of reporters and cameras, why us? What makes a knifing outside a pub more newsworthy than, say, a pretty young woman abducted and murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in Co Down?

I'm glad, if the truth be told. If the McCartney family wants to battle away in the same way that countless other families do, then good luck to them and the Andytown News pages are open to them not just for a few weeks or months, but for as long as it takes. They know now that fighting for truth is a hard station, but I can tell them from personal experience, and so can countless others, that it's a million times harder when the media's attitude to the victims is 'slap it up them'.

But I'm sick of decent people having their names dragged through the mud, people who fought and suffered for their principles in whatever way their conscience directed them. I'm sick of the way good and honourable people became collateral damage in a war of black propaganda waged by dark and powerful forces whose footsoldiers are money-grubbing, word-counting hacks who wouldn't know a scruple if it jumped up and bit them on the arse.

If the upshot of the Northern Bank and the McCartney onslaught is that this time round a teacher in South Belfast feels incapable of giving a Shinner a number 5 or 6 on the ballot paper, then so be it. But when the next politically convenient 'break-in' or 'bank robbery' takes place – and, believe me, one will – or when next the media gets into a lather about one killing and not another, then perhaps more people will stop and think. About the law of diminishing returns, perhaps, or about the boy who cried wolf.

Couldn't agree more.

Durkan succeeds with class-based voting

Jarlath Kearney:

Prior to last week’s Westminster election in Derry, veteran activist Eamonn McCann was lobbying strongly in favour of cross-community, class-based voting. Ironically, despite his failure to get elected, analysis suggests that Mr McCann’s political goal was effectively achieved — by Mark Durkan.

Among those milling around Templemore Sports Complex after last Friday evening's count were figures such as Ian Doherty, a leading Derry businessman and long-time associate of Mark Durkan’s well-heeled clan. Mr Doherty was one of those who signed Mr Durkan’s nomination papers.

Nearby stood Ivan Cooper, another prominent figure in Derry’s business and political circles. Mr Cooper, a founding member of the SDLP, is well known for his background as a rural Waterside Protestant.

In symbolic terms, the supportive presence of both men points to the real success of the SDLP in getting Mark Durkan elected. It was the middle classes of Culmore and the Protestant punters of Waterside who made the numerical difference in Mr Durkan’s 6,000 majority last Thursday.

Sinn Féin’s biggest target for potential electoral growth over recent years has been the increasingly numerous Catholic middle class.

This was recognised as the point of attack by the republican party’s opponents, particularly in a traditionally Catholic and nationalist city such as Derry.

All the evidence indicates that Mr Durkan’s victory was not down to a sudden surge of personal support but rather the application of electoral tactics that he and others garnered from political training in North America over the last two decades. A central element of Mr Durkan’s political development has been his association with the Washington-based National Democratic Institute.

A long-term relationship between the institute and the SDLP began precisely because of the electoral threat that Sinn Féin began to pose in the mid-1980s. The institute’s modern political communication and marketing techniques were starkly evident in the latest SDLP campaign.

In presentational terms, Mr Durkan got a complete overhaul. His off-putting habit of stuttering through difficult interviews was corrected. His spectacles were consigned to the dustbin, and his hair was restyled to give it a bit more lift. There is no doubt that the SDLP leader has visibly increased in self-confidence.

This tough(er)-guy image was obvious in Mr Durkan’s calculated decision to break the confidence of apparently private discussions between himself and Sinn Féin leaders during pre-election media appearances.

On at least two occasions, Mr Durkan gave his version of private conversations with Gerry Adams at Leeds Castle in Kent last year and with Martin McGuinness before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

This conscious tactic of self-disclosure is designed to show one politician as inherently more honest than another. However, the potential problem for the SDLP is that disclosure could now become a two-way street.

In media terms, the SDLP leader applied the US tactic of talking in messages rather than dealing with issues.

On controversial issues such as policing, this meant Mr Durkan could largely avoid the onslaught of challenging discourse.

For example, when questioned at one doorstep in Shantallow a fortnight ago about the number of PSNI members who come from the west bank of the Foyle, Mr Durkan reportedly said that he was not certain but could get the figures. The voter retorted, accurately, that the number was in single figures.

In the media coverage of the election, Mr Durkan’s concentration on messages helped to develop a climate where debate on such issues was minimised.

On one occasion, Gerry Adams tried to raise the issue of the SDLP position on the Policing Board vis-à-vis plastic bullets but he was cut short by a BBC interviewer, who claimed it was too much detail for viewers to digest.

A key message developed by the SDLP leader was to compare this electoral battle with the 1992 election in which, with the aid of thousands of unionist votes, Dr Joe Hendron won west Belfast from Gerry Adams.

In terms of paid-for media, the SDLP’s use of generic billboards carrying Mr Durkan’s image across the North meant that saturation coverage was achieved in key areas of Derry city centre that have the greatest cross-community “footfall” and the most commercial spending — for example, around Foyleside shopping centre.

The US concept of telephone canvassing, which the SDLP has practised for the last decade, was on this occasion targeted vigorously on key voting groups — the middle classes and unionists. One unionist claimed he had received three different calls from SDLP canvassers asking for his vote.

In another very focused tactic, the SDLP used a private postal delivery service to ensure that election literature arrived through the letter boxes in predominantly unionist areas of the Waterside on Tuesday, May 3 — two days before the election.

Controversy had surrounded the issue of local Royal Mail workers delivering election material in a dispute over conditions. Consequently, the SDLP, Sinn Féin and the Socialist Environmental Alliance removed all their literature from the Derry sorting office.

Royal Mail confirmed to Daily Ireland yesterday that — in addition to the SDLP decision to opt for targeted private deliveries — some of Mark Durkan’s election leaflets were “already in the [Royal Mail] system” and so had been delivered by Derry postal workers.

Retrospectively, it is apparent that the SDLP ran a tightly controlled election campaign along the lines of a well-managed business plan, with substantial resourses focused on one objective — preventing a Sinn Féin win, the corollary of which was an SDLP victory.

The endorsement tactic of Irish government ministers day-tripping to Derry, and also South Down and south Belfast, was indicative of the value that the SDLP (and others) bestowed on reclaiming John Hume’s title.

SDLP party strategists were claiming on Friday night that they had successfully targeted SDLP non-voters in Shantallow, Pennyburn and Culmore on the west bank, as well as Prehen and Good Shepherd on the Waterside.

Certainly, there was no sign of major resources being expended in republican heartlands such as the Bogside and Brandywell. Subsequent informed estimates of tactical unionist voting range between 2,000 and 4,000 votes.

Despite the SDLP’s best efforts, the party’s vote share still fell by 3.9 percentage points compared to 2001, while Sinn Féin’s rose by 6.6 points.

Were that trend to continue, in a different political context and with SDLP resources spread more thinly across the North, Mark Durkan’s seat would be up for grabs.

The lesson for the SDLP is that, to sustain success, it must maintain capacity throughout Derry at current levels — a tall order by any standards.

The important thing here is that even in Foyle the SDLP are finding it increasingly difficult to win elections without the help of tactical voting from British colonists (i.e. Protestant Unionists). This means that the SDLP can not fully represent the needs of the indigenous Irish Catholic population without running the risk of alienating the British colonists on whose votes they have become increasingly dependent.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tunnel vision was Trimble's downfall

Brian Feeney:

Trimble's gone and a lot of people who should know better are falling over themselves to pay tribute to him. The record shows that, contrary to the myth, some observers are striving to establish Trimble as a courageous, far-sighted leader. He was in reality an inept political leader who never attempted any serious reform of his decrepit party and never whole-heartedly embraced change.

Nor did he ever gain the full support of his party, for he won the leadership on a bogus prospectus in 1995. A substantial number of the party's ruling council could never accept that the hardliner they voted for to stonewall seemed to have sold the pass.

Trimble was also a hopeless election campaigner.

Voters could not warm to him. He was awkward, prickly, ill-tempered, condescending and unpredictable. In almost every election he fought as UUP leader the party's vote and share of the vote fell. He inherited a party with ten MPs and resigned with one. Enough said.

He failed to reform the UUP. He did not make any effort to break the link with the Orange Order which testified to bigotry, supremacy and sectarianism as fundamental tenets of the party he led. In the understandably self-serving speech he gave on Monday Trimble claimed credit for many achievements including the fact that, compared to ten years ago the north has a 'darned good balance sheet'. Really? Well perhaps, because we don't have David Trimble prancing about in Portadown hand in hand with Ian Paisley, a man whose convictions for disturbing the peace began thirty years earlier.

Meanwhile society has become more polarised in every respect, accelerated by the expulsion from their homes in the mid-1990s of hundreds of people, mainly Catholics, as a result of the Drumcree protests which Trimble at first encouraged and then characteristically shied away from. And to think the people of Garvaghy Road were Trimble's constituents.

In that same speech which will become a classic example of looking through the wrong end of the telescope Trimble also claimed he had 'unambiguously endeavoured' to implement the Good Friday Agreement. Nationalists will be amazed at that assertion. He gave a good impression of someone not implementing it. Nationalists will look back to 1999 and remember that Trimble refused to establish an executive because republicans were not abiding by his interpretation of the GFA.

The truth is that Trimble lost out in the last hours of the negotiations in 1998 and tried to behave as if Tony Blair's letter of comfort somehow superseded the agreed terms of the GFA.

An executive should have been established before decommissioning of weapons began but he refused to implement that. He also refused to accept the procedures of de Chastelain's commission and insisted on trying to impose his own conditions. He repudiated the Patten commission's findings, a commission he had agreed to being established. And so on and so on.

By the middle of 1999 Trimble was such a vocal critic of the operation of the agreement that it is a mystery why any unionist would ever want to support it. Then, as the DUP describe it, Trimble first turned purple, then turned turtle, succumbed to Blair's blandishments and at last went into an executive with people he'd spent nearly two years denigrating. If it was so bad and Sinn Féin were so dreadful and untrustworthy how could any unionist understand Trimble going into an administration with them? He'd painted himself into a corner. On the evidence of Trimble's very own words criticising his executive partners, Jeffrey Donaldson was right to oppose him for selling out. Trimble had barricaded himself into a nonsensical position.

Essentially what Trimble is now telling us is that his political demise is everyone else's fault. It was republicans' fault for not adhering to his demands, it was Tony Blair's fault for leading him up the garden path, and compelling him to set up an executive, it was the DUP's fault for not coming into the executive, it was the Irish government's fault for side-lining him in 2003. As always, everyone else is out of step but David Trimble.

And whoever replaces Trimble as leader of the UUP will probably be just as bad.

Myth of ‘totalitarian militarism’ in republican areas needs challenging

Danny Morrison:

To comment: columnists@dailyireland.com

Liam Kennedy, a professor of economic history at Queens University, is no doubt a nice guy. But neither he nor his supporters understand the nationalist psyche or care little for the nationalist experience of state repression. Indeed, he and his supporters do appear to have come from out of space and speak a strange language. He ran on a ticket to protest publicly against “the vicious beatings, shootings and intimidation meted out by the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries to people in their own communities.”

He got 147 votes. So why waste time on him?

He got 147 votes but his campaign, and the perpetuation of a myth about life in nationalist areas, despite being roundly repudiated by the massive support for Sinn Féin in secret ballot, is the fodder for attacks on the republican community by British and Irish newspapers and their columnists. Their work, poor and pitiful journalism that it is, creates a culture which complements political parties and republican opponents in their continued demonisation of Sinn Féin.

In the past two weeks, nationalists in republican areas have been described as living under “totalitarian militarism”. In these areas Sinn Féin “practises the most extreme forms of coercion” [Sunday Telegraph] and Sinn Féin “practises terror and engages in heinous acts” [Sunday Times]. On the other hand, nationalists who vote for Sinn Féin are “politically and morally delinquent… and they are responsible for any horrors that may follow as much as the Germans who voted for Hitler were responsible for the horrors that followed” [Sunday Independent].

Dismiss this nonsense though we may, people read it, in the South, Britain and abroad.

It might well reassure or buttress the prejudices of some loonies but it influences others, particularly the naïve, to form wrong opinions.

Often, one is tempted just to let it go, but occasionally it needs challenged.

For decades there has been a policing vacuum in nationalist areas. That was hardly surprising given the RUC’s sectarian history; that the RUC led mobs of loyalists at the time of the pogroms in 1969; that the RUC tortured prisoners; shot protestors; executed republicans; and has a long history of collusion in the deaths of nationalists and political activists.

The nationalist community turned to the Republican Movement and put pressure on the IRA to fill the policing vacuum. The bulk of policing was done through mediation between those in dispute, unreported and away from the media spotlight. But republican vigilantism (a propaganda gift to republican critics) was rough and imperfect, especially when the IRA was fighting an armed struggle and had little time for niceties.

The IRA viewed community policing as a major distraction from its chief purpose and suspected that the RUC indulged criminals in order to tie down IRA resources and demoralise the nationalist community which might, just might, out of desperation, look favourably to the return of a ‘reformed RUC’ as a possible solution.

Republican policing was at its most exertive in those areas where the IRA was strongest. Despite being ‘popular’ and expected by communities it had major downsides. It could alienate the extended families of those individuals the IRA took physical action against or could rebound more broadly when the IRA made mistakes, as it inevitably did.

However, republican policing could not go on forever, especially when republicans were taking part in a peace process and negotiations, which were to lead to power-sharing institutions, and all-Ireland bodies, in which they were investing legitimacy.

Underpinning the political security and rights of the nationalist community has been fraught and would still involve “a battle a day” within an assembly and executive. Underpinning that community’s physical security involves, ironically, the complete demobilisation of the IRA (which was reorganised initially to defend nationalists from attack) and its replacement with a truly representative and just policing service, operating professionally, impartially and with high standards. In the past such a service was unattainable and could not exist anyway in an unjust society.

The SDLP argued that the PSNI was the answer, jumped on the bandwagon and reduced the pressure on the British government to deliver a proper policing service. Sinn Féin disagreed and has had its analysis powerfully endorsed by the nationalist community.

Clearly, the policing issue cannot be resolved without further legislative changes. Unionists will resist such change because they are terrified of a police force not in their image and at the prospects of republicans joining the PSNI in large numbers.

Currently, we are ruled directly from London by day trippers. It remains to be seen if the new British secretary of state, Peter Hain, can inject new momentum into the stalled negotiations.

The unionist community has overwhelmingly voted for Ian Paisley’s DUP, a party of intransigence.

His campaign was the old campaign of ‘No’ and playing on people’s fears about Sinn Féin emerging as the largest party. The only motive that will drive the DUP to share power with Sinn Féin and the SDLP is self-interest. That is, that it would prefer to run the North on behalf of its people and avoid the neglect they suffer under direct rule ministries – though the price of devolution is sharing power with Sinn Féin. Whether it can do that under Paisley is another matter. Whatever, it is only postponing the inevitable.

Another great analysis from Mr. Morrison.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Shyam Bhatia:

Subhas Chandra Bose -- or 'Netaji' as he is known to millions of Indians -- was one of the most charismatic and dynamic leaders of India's independence movement, and the issue of how the country would have fared with him at the helm is one that tantalises historians to this day.

In truth by 1939 when Netaji was elected president of the Indian National Congress party for the second time, over the objections of M K Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru was being groomed as the Mahatma's chosen successor.

Had Netaji lived, his Forward Bloc party may have posed a continuing challenge to the Congress party under Nehru and after independence the two rivals would almost certainly have gone their ways.

At the very least with Netaji alive, India's experience of multi-party politics, in which the Congress party was the only dominant political force for the first 30 years after Independence, would have started much earlier.

In the pre-Independence era both Netaji and Nehru were identified with the Left wing of the Congress party, well to the Left of other respected freedom fighters as Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad.

But where Netaji parted company with Nehru and Gandhi was his strongly held conviction, which he voiced from 1939 onwards, that armed resistance was a perfectly legitimate tactic for India to use in the struggle for its independence.

It was this belief -- the British would only yield to force -- that led him to seek help from the Axis powers during World War II. He met Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and was befriended by their Japanese allies in the lead-up to the formation of the Provisional Government of Free India that was recognised by the Axis powers and their Southeast Asian allies on October 21, 1943.

During his stay in Berlin in 1943, Netaji founded the Free India Center and the Azad Hind Radio station. It was also in Berlin that the foundation was laid for what later became known as the Indian National Army or INA.

Indian prisoners of war captured in North Africa by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps were released into Netaji's custody and went on to form the India Legion that fought against Allied forces on the Western front.

The idea taken up by the Japanese high command led to the release of some 30,000 Indian prisoners of war in South-east Asia. The resulting INA force traveled as far as Kohima, now in Nagaland in northeast India, in 1944. Then, as the tide started to turn against the Axis forces, the INA was forced to retreat into the jungles of Burma.

Netaji was born on January 23, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa, one of the 14 children of a successful lawyer, Janakinath Bose, and his wife, Prabhavati Devi. A graduate of Kolkata's Presidency College, he was subsequently sent by his father to England to prepare for entry into the prestigious Indian Civil Service.

Although he passed his ICS exam with flying colors, Netaji's heart was in politics. Strongly influenced by Gandhi, Chittaranjan Das and the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, he joined the Indian National Congress and was jailed 11 times by the British between 1920 and 1941.

Like many Indians of his generation the turning point in Netaji's political education was the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of April 1919 when hundreds of unarmed Indian civilians were shot dead at point blank range on the orders of a British general.

Unlike Gandhi who formulated his peaceful non co-operation movement as the preferred strategy for evicting the British from India, Netaji was increasingly of the view that a more direct and militant approach was required before India could gain its freedom.

Convinced that his enemy's enemy was India's natural ally, he escaped from house arrest in 1941 and made his way to the Afghan capital of Kabul. From there, assisted by German diplomats he traveled under an assumed name, Signor Orlando Mazzitto, to Samarkand, Moscow and eventually Berlin.

British analysts have vilified his subsequent meetings with Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese government as evidence of Netaji's so-called fascist leanings. Quite the opposite was true. A Left wing activist to the end of his days, he held no brief for Hitler and Mussolini's racist and fascist ideologies and viewed his relationship with them purely in the context of India's freedom struggle.

Although he failed to win Hitler's unqualified endorsement for a free and independent Indian state, Netaji secured the freedom of Indian prisoners of war in German custody. The story of how some Germans and Indians subsequently fought side by side in the India Legion against British forces on the Western front has remained one of the best kept secrets of the Second World War.

Netaji died in a plane crash on the island of Taiwan in August 1945. At the time US troops were only two days away from occupying Japan and Netaji, on his way from Saigon to Tokyo, was trying to make contact with remnants of the Imperial Japanese government. What remained of the INA had started to disintegrate after Germany's surrender in April 1945, followed soon after by Japan's. Netaji's death accelerated the process.

Anxious to reassert their control over India the British attempted to try Netaji's senior commanding officers for treason. But the trial of commanders like Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon and Prem Sehgal in Delhi's Red Fort soon collapsed and a general amnesty for all INA soldiers was declared.

In life as in death Netaji acquired a cult following among millions of Indians who saw him as an authentic hero and the only political leader with the necessary legitimacy to lead India following the departure of the British. For years after his death stories continued to circulate about how he had gone into hiding and was only biding his time before he reappeared to claim his rightful place as head of a free Indian state.

Critics have questioned his belief in a more authoritarian system of government for the sake of India's development, but even they concede that his views on workers and women's rights and population control were considered far ahead of their time and are still relevant today. How India would have developed with Netaji in charge remains one of the great 'What Ifs' of 20th century history and politics.


Netaji Chandra Bose

David Trimble and unionism

Susan McKay:

No, said the Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley. He didn't feel sorry for David Trimble. The Ulster Unionist leader had nobody to blame but himself for his downfall.

"I held him by the hand in Portadown...

I was the kingmaker," said the triumphant DUP leader, who travelled to Banbridge on Friday night to witness Trimble's humiliation. Outside, Paisley's people roared and battered their Lambeg drums while Trimble quietly acknowledged defeat.

The university law lecturer – with a taste for classical music – yielded to the hymn singing meat plant owner. (To call David Simpson and Willie McCrea gospel singers is to insult Sam Cooke).

This is how it is in unionism now.

Paisley's reference was, of course, to the notorious moment in 1995 when he and Trimble held hands and punched the air after the RUC chief constable allowed the Orange Order to march along the Garvaghy Road.

A grinning Trimble insisted that there had been "no compromise" with nationalists, while Paisley described it as a great victory for Protestantism.

It was this hardline, triumphalist Trimble who went on to win the leadership of the UUP. The stance he and Paisley took over Drumcree in 1995 inevitably raised the stakes for the following years.

Unionism was determined to triumph again – nationalism was equally determined not to be humiliated.

Unionism won after loyalist paramilitaries murdered a Catholic to show nationalists what would happen if they tried to stop the Orange Order. At least a dozen more Catholics were to die during the Drumcree years to prove the same point.

Trimble went on to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, which, undeniably, represented a compromise with nationalism but the jig at Drumcree haunted him. With Paisley on the outside and Donaldson on the inside shouting that he was a Lundy, Trimble spent much of his leadership trying to prove that he wasn't.

After one of those bruising Ulster Unionist Council showdowns between Donaldson and his cohorts and Trimble, the leader, despite having seen off his attackers, declared that the difference between them was merely tactical.

These people were explicitly and fundamentally opposed to the Good Friday Agreement. They showed contempt for democracy even within their own party. Trimble became their prisoner. In recent weeks he was humiliated again by the likes of James Molyneaux and Martin Smyth, UUP men who backed the DUP.

Now that he is gone commentators are blaming Sinn Féin, the Irish government, the British prime minister, the media and the woman in makeup who didn't apply green foundation to counter his redness of face. True, Sinn Féin has failed to deal with the IRA. True, the two governments dropped the SDLP, the UUP and the smaller parties once Sinn Féin and the DUP became the dominant forces. True, some in the media were harsh. True, the red face was not concealed.

But, in the end, it was unionism which defeated Trimble.

His own, as well as Paisley's. Unionism didn't like the agreement.

Trimble didn't like it and made that clear. He didn't sell it as a victory, though in many ways it was. Many unionists would never have voted for it only for Tony Blair's notorious Coleraine promise about IRA arms, a promise that couldn't be kept.

Nor could Trimble keep the support of those who felt they'd been duped – that unfortunate word.

He shared their obsession with IRA guns. Getting Sinn Féin on to the policing board would have been a better goal.

A significant number of unionists voted for the agreement to be shot of politics. They were at best 'agreement-acquiescent' and were appalled to find they'd signed up for a long drawn out and acrimonious process. Republicans, on the other hand, claimed they'd won the war and kept fighting.

Unionism wasn't ready to share power with nationalism – let alone republicanism – in 1998.

It isn't ready yet. The DUP will get its comeuppance in time.

Unionism has shown that while it knows what it is against, it doesn't know what it is for. What will become of God and Ulster when the IRA goes away?

Nationalism will still be on the rise.

For now, though, the DUP's hunger to humiliate Sinn Féin is unabated.

Stuffed with UUP defectors, and waiting for more, it will want to savour its victory over Trimble's "pushover unionism" and consolidate it with new assembly elections, before returning to the deal it abandoned in December.

Whatever about photographs of IRA weapons, it certainly isn't ready – yet – to be photographed with Sinn Féin on the steps of Stormont.

Of course the real reason why the DUP will not deal with Sinn Fein has nothing to do with the IRA and everything to do with British colonialism. The only time colonists want to talk to members of an indigenous population is when they are giving orders to the natives.

Monday, May 09, 2005

SDLP failures hid by relative success

Brian Feeney:

At first sight it would appear that the SDLP has pulled the fat out of the fire. Against all expectations they have managed to emerge from the British general election with their number of seats unchanged.

In a titanic struggle with Sinn Féin Mark Durkan saved the seat carved out for John Hume. As everyone expected, Eddie McGrady won in South Down and the internecine in war in unionism gifted Alasdair McDonnell South Belfast.

The SDLP lives to fight another day. This election was do or die for them, especially for Durkan whose victory will give his reputation as party leader a much-needed boost after failures in 2003 assembly and 2004 European elections. Winning South Belfast would not have compensated for the loss of Foyle and the totemic role the SDLP gains from being the dominant party in the north's largest nationalist urban area.

The immediate euphoria of the victories, and Foyle was a tremendous win because Sinn Féin threw everything at it including the kitchen sink, will conceal the demise of the party's fortunes elsewhere, most obviously the loss of Seamus Mallon's Newry/Armagh seat. The three Westminster seats will also distract attention from the swing from the SDLP to Sinn Féin of about 4.5% across the north.

We still can't answer for the council election results, but if the same pattern reads across from the Westminster votes, Monday and Tuesday will see huge SDLP losses, with north and west Belfast and Newry and Mourne particularly bad, though the SDLP will do better than their raw first preferences would suggest because they benefit from transfers as Sinn Féin does not.

The council figures will also allow people to calculate how many unionists voted tactically for the SDLP in Foyle and South Down, though indications are neither Durkan nor McGrady needed them.

So the general election changed nothing on the nationalist side. Yesterday's (Friday) results alter nothing about the shape of the negotiations which will inevitably restart in the autumn between the DUP, SF and the two governments. The assembly elections of 2003 established those two parties as the ones which control parallel consent in the assembly and without whom there can be no executive. Dublin and London have no choice but to proceed on that basis.

Looking further to the future however, it is clear that neither SF, dominant in votes and seats in Westminster, assembly and councils nor the powerfully reinforced DUP, will go back into the assembly elected in 2003. Why would they? To do so would mean giving a leg-up to the political opponents they defeated yesterday. Why give ministerial positions to defeated rivals? What is likely to happen instead is a new assembly election, perhaps in 2006, to ratify any deal struck between SF and the DUP. That election will confirm the new status quo and will give SF and the DUP a clean sweep.

However there is a new reality in the north. The big news is not the survival of the SDLP as a parliamentary party. The UUP has imploded. Their council election results will be a blood bath. As a result, you'll see a lot of UUP councillors who do survive next week jumping ship and joining the DUP. They'll be followed by sitting assembly members. There's no future in the UUP. It's literally history. Consequently any new assembly will see Sinn Féin with a small minority of ministers, perhaps three, and the SDLP with none.

The Westminster seats the SDLP won yesterday do nothing to provide a solution to the dilemma the SDLP has been unable to solve in recent years, namely what the SDLP is for once the republican movement had ended its military struggle and Sinn Féin had adopted peaceful and democratic means as the way forward. Only SF could complete the peace process and deliver the IRA.

Any attacks the SDLP launched on republicans only made them sound more like unionists and certainly could not shift the IRA one millimetre.

With the Irish government telling everyone there will be no progress until the IRA stands down and decommissions its weapons, what can the SDLP do to advance politics in the north if devolution is the name of the game?

The sooner that Nationalists realize that they can no longer afford the luxury of two political parties and get behind Sinn Fein the better.

Friday, May 06, 2005

SDLP's Durkan wins seat in Foyle

BBC News:

The SDLP leader Mark Durkan has won the Foyle seat. He took 21,119 votes compared to 15,162 for Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin.

The border seat was one of the last great prizes for republicans and it had been thought the contest might be much closer.

However, the figures do reveal a big reduction in the SDLP majority of 24,538 to Sinn Fein's 12,988 in 2001.

Much of that was a huge personal vote for the then SDLP leader John Hume.

This news piece may help explain why Durkan held onto Foyle:

Meanwhile in Foyle, DUP candidate William Hay has said some unionists voted tactically in an attempt to prevent Sinn Fein from winning that seat.

Mr Hay said he had been at several polling stations in the city and was in no doubt that tactical voting took place.

Apparently, "Nationalist" voters in Derry like politicians who pander to the British.

Trimble is beaten in Upper Bann

BBC News:

The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, has lost his seat in Upper Bann.

In a sensational victory DUP rival David Simpson topped the poll with 16,679 votes to Mr Trimble's 11,281.

With its leader unseated as an MP and four UUP seats now gone, the result has thrown the future of the party and Mr Trimble into disarray.

Earlier a close Trimble supporter, David McNarry, said his party had to prepare for its leader's resignation.

Let's hope that the SDLP will now follow Trimble into political oblivion.


Trimble loses seat to DUP

UUP leader loses Upper Bann seat

Ulster Unionists heading for meltdown in polls

Jenny Booth:

The Ulster Unionists were tonight heading for their worst ever General Election performance as results started to emerge in Northern Ireland.

With five seats declared, party sources feared that their leader David Trimble could be about to become the biggest casualty of the general election by losing his seat of Upper Bann.

"This is a Tsunami for the Ulster Unionist Party," one UUP Assembly source said. "Upper Bann has gone, South Belfast has gone. Our seats are being swept away."

Ulster Unionist hopes of having any representation at Westminster at all appeared to rest on Lady Sylvia Hermon holding on to her seat in North Down.

Hopefully, if the UUP disintegrates then this will hasten the end of the SDLP.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Goodbye and good riddance to the Ulster Unionist Party

Damian Corless:

Faced with the probable annihilation of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in today's UK General Election, David Trimble warned voters against being duped into supporting the "sectarian carve-up" of the North by hardline rivals. Coming from the leader of the party that engineered the sectarian carve-up of the North in the first place, Trimble's plea seems likely to succeed only in uniting the North's tribes behind a wry smile.

For ardent republicans, the UUP's relatively recent plantation of the high moral centre-ground signifies no more than a shower of scoundrels in search of a last refuge. For the loyal sons of Ulster marching towards the DUP laager, Trimble's caution against a "sectarian carve-up" translates as just another yellow-belly call to submit to the further "appeasement" of traitors and terrorists.

Even for those of us trying to play the fair-minded neutral, it's hard to whip up sympathy for a UUP that might soon be receiving the last rites, because the Ulster Unionists have done little to cultivate the sympathies of neutrals. An innate mean-spiritedness has made the party hard to warm to, even after its move towards a softer stance in recent years.

Accepting his Nobel Prize, Trimble conceded that Unionist rule had made NI "a cold house for Catholics". The words hit a sweet, magnanimous note. For a nanosecond. Then he went and spoiled it all by getting in the gratuitous dig that the Catholic ingrates were always shaping "to burn the house down".

It was a reversion to type not unknown from the leader of a party that, from the start, set itself firmly against democracy and inclusivity. The UUP grew out of the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) which pledged to oppose the rule of law wherever that law went against the interests of Unionism. When the democratic process threatened to impose Home Rule, the UUC mobilised the paramilitary UVF to overturn the democratic process.

When force secured partition, the UUP emerged to ensure that democracy in the North was smothered at birth. Or, as PM James Craig told Stormont: "I am an Orangeman first and a politician and member of this parliament afterwards. All I boast is that we are a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state."

The first act of the UUP was to abolish the PR system intended to safeguard minority voices north and south. With the electoral boundaries gerrymandered in parallel, many nationalist council majorities were wiped out. The UUP then fixed Stormont elections, ensuring that there were so many seats uncontested by nationalists in the 1933 General Election that the UUP won before a vote was cast.

The UUP's mean-spirited nature has come out in various ill-begotten attempts at humour over the years. That said, there was an undeniable wit to John Taylor's barbed response when asked if he feared a disaster at the Trawsfynydd nuclear plant in Wales. "There is a risk," he said, "and that could be disastrous for everyone in the Isle Of Man and Ulster".

Former party leader James Molyneaux could plead no such saving grace when he objected to the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the not very witty repartee of: "Why shouldn't the Pakistan Government look for an Anglo-Pakistan Agreement to look after the Pakis in Bradford?, If Ulster does say no to the UUP, will anyone miss them?

Things must be bad for the UUP when even the Irish Independent is turning on them.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Central Bank: Irish economy continues to do well

Business World:

The Irish economy continued to perform well into the early part of 2005, according to the Central Bank.

Releasing its second quarterly bulletin of 2005, the bank is forecasting GNP growth of about 5.25% and for this to continue at a broadly similar pace in 2006.

It also said that while consumer demand in Ireland has picked up only modestly, there has been stronger housing investment and a better export performance.

However, it warned that there are still risks aplenty, including high oil prices, continuing exchange rate uncertainties, and increasing signs of slower international growth.

"The global economy has been in generally good shape until recently, but more recent indicators suggest that growth is now likely to be less than earlier envisaged."

"The US dollar is susceptible to a potentially large correction, mainly because of the fiscal and external deficits. With a high proportion of our trade outside the euro area, the possibility of a rapid appreciation of the euro is one of the most significant risks facing the Irish economy."


Weak US dollar identified as greatest risk to Irish economy

Irish Central Bank forecasts growth of 5¼ per cent in 2005

Monday, May 02, 2005

The McCartneys and Sinn Fein

John Murray Brown:

Barely a month after the McCartney sisters were among President George W. Bush's guests at the White House for the St Patrick's day reception, their bid to bring their brother's IRA killers to justice is having surprisingly little impact on the general election campaign in Northern Ireland.

A small group last week confronted Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, the IRA's political wing, as he canvassed in the Markets area of Belfast, close to where Robert McCartney was murdered.

But the protest was not by supporters of the family but by relatives and friends of those party members suspended over the incident. The members include those allegedly involved in the murder and those who helped clean the bar of evidence to frustrate the police investigation.

Indeed, for all the international media attention and the universal revulsion at the killing, as well as cynicism at Sinn Féin's damage limitation exercise, it does not appear to be translating into votes for Sinn Féin's rivals.

Some observers believe the sisters' decision to take their campaign to the US was the moment many natural sympathisers lost interest.

"I haven't met anybody in Belfast who thought the trip to Washington was a good idea. The sight of the six of them going to the ball didn't play well in Belfast," says a local political scientist.

As I said previously, the McCartneys were foolish if they thought they could win any sympathy back home by hanging out with the likes of George W. Bush.

United Ireland inevitable?

Daily Ireland:

The former head of the RUC’s Special Branch has told Daily Ireland that a united Ireland is “inevitable”.

In an exclusive interview, Bill Lowry says that “when we come to a united Ireland there will have to be a new flag and a new anthem, whenever that happens, which I believe is inevitable”.

Deborah McAleese:

The DUP voiced amazement last night after a former RUC Special Branch chief said that what Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are trying to do is "great".

Bill Lowry, who headed the anti-terror Special Branch in Belfast, also stated that a united Ireland, is "inevitable".

The comments were made in an interview with the pro-republican Daily Ireland newspaper. The former senior officer claimed that what Adams and McGuinness are trying to do is "terrific, very positive, great" and said that he deeply mistrusts the British Government.

He was also quoted as saying: "I wouldn't trust the British Government as far as I could throw them, and that's after working very closely with them."

His comments have astonished DUP supporters, who invited him to a meeting last year at which Ian Paisley famously said that the IRA should wear sackcloth and ashes. At that meeting, Mr Lowry said that if unionists lie down with "dogs" they will "rise with fleas".

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after the newspaper interview, Mr Lowry confirmed that he had made the remarks.

Personally, I don't believe an united Ireland will come about until the British colonists are repatriated back to Britain.