The Trib reverts to type

Lots of silliness in this week's edition of the Sunday Tribune, starting with the suggestion that it may have been fans of Celtic ("the republicans' favourite club") and not Shamrock Rovers who attacked Linfield fans on their visit to Dublin last week: perhaps, says the Trib, witnesses were confused by the similarity of the two clubs' jerseys. Well firstly I doubt the attackers were wearing jerseys at all. Football hooligans these days are nearly always "casuals", who believe that fights should only be conducted in expensive designer wear. (I'll save the post on the silliness of casual culture for another day.) They were probably recognised as Rovers fans because everyone who closely follows the League of Ireland knows exactly who the Rovers casuals are. Secondly, the jerseys aren't that hard to distinguish. And finally the attempt to link republicans to this attack is pathetic, and Sindo-esque.

Onto the travel section, which has a breakdown of Irish airports showing all the direct flights abroad - well, no it doesn't. Although titled "Routes from a small island", the article's listing is limited to 26 County airports. You wouldn't have to be a republican to think this is stupid - there are parts of the south where the nearest (or next nearest) airport is across the border. I've checked out prices for flights from Belfast a few times myself.

And I really, really wish their food writers would stop referring to "fish-eating vegetarians". There ain't no such thing.

The headline story is, once again, the McCartney sisters - this time concerning an alleged threat which was posted on a message board. I say "alleged" because, reading the excerpts that were printed, I'm not convinced the poster actually was making a threat, more like simply confirming that such a threat exists, which I thought we already knew (no small thanks to the Trib for that, of course).

The article cites, unsurprisingly without comment, the poster's reference to anger in the Short Strand over the sisters' "lies". This is the story that the media won't touch: the belief of many within the community that the sisters have gone beyond persistent and into the realms of reckless in their pursuit of justice. I have no idea whether this is a majority or minority view in the Strand; it is at the very least a significant minority view and one which merits investigation, but so far this article in the Sunday Business Post almost three months ago is the only one I've seen address it (the print edition added a number of salient quotes from local residents which unfortunately didn't make it online).

I believe there would be a reluctance to question the sisters' version of events even if it wasn't republicans involved. Of course, nobody wants to add to the hurt of victims' families by suggesting that they're manipulating the facts, especially when they don't have any obvious reason to. But victims' families sometimes do exactly that; recall the case highlighted in the acclaimed documentary Murder On A Sunday Morning. It's not necessarily deliberate dishonesty - sometimes people are overwhelmed by events and convince themselves that something is true when it isn't. But false is false, and it doesn't help the search for justice. If the McCartneys are propagating a version of events that isn't accurate - and I'm obviously not in a position to know for sure that they are - the media are really not doing them any favours covering it up.

No time to post in full about Prime Time tonight, but briefly...

... did Tommy Gorman think to ask Brendan Devine why he hasn't identified his attackers?

Has anyone thought to ask Brendan Devine why he hasn't identified his attackers?

Surely to Jaysus this must have occurred to someone by now. Why doesn't anyone mention it?
I've just had a glance through the newest IMC report. It's the usual mishmash and most of it is not even worth commenting on, but this part really annoyed me:

There are a number of questions in people’s minds about Sinn Féin’s long term aims and the nature of the leadership it may give to PIRA now or in the future. These include the following. How does Sinn Féin now view the claim made by PIRA to be the lawful government and representative of the people in Ireland North and South?

For the love of all that is holy, how many times do we have to answer this question? Off the top of my head, within the past six months Gerry Adams, Gerry Kelly, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Seán Crowe have all stated publicly that we don't view the IRA as the legitimate government. I'm not sure the IRA even view themselves as the legitimate government anymore.

Along similar lines I heard today, for the second time recently, the accusation that republicans allowed the Guildford Four to rot in prison rather than identify the real bombers. Of course this is nonsense - the Guildford Four rotted in prison because the English courts refused to accept the Balcombe Street Gang's admission of responsibility for these attacks. But nonetheless people continue to make this accusation and others who certainly know better (such as Henry McDonald, in a radio interview on, I think, Today FM a couple months ago) allow them to get away with it.

I know these are hardly the worst things republicans have been accused of, but still, it gets on my nerves.
Anyone know what the story is with Haven't been able to load the page for days.
More threats reported against the McCartney sisters, this time from "republican elements". They're saying the McCartneys will be hurt if they persist in "discrediting the republican movement".

Assuming for the moment this is true, I don't believe the IRA are involved in it. If for no other reason than they surely have a sharper sense of irony than that (at least, I hope they do, although after P. O'Neill's last statement about the McCartney murder I suppose you would have to wonder a little bit). It needs to be remembered that "republican elements" includes people other than Sinn Féin and the IRA - and while republican dissidents initially were as keen to latch on to the McCartneys as the SDLP and southern establishment were, many of them were alienated when the sisters went to the US and began rubbishing republicanism in general to the politicians and media over there. And it certainly wouldn't be beyond some of them to threaten the McCartneys in the full and deliberate knowledge that mainstream republicanism would take the criticism for it.

Perhaps I'm being paranoid here, but I wonder if the fact that the reports refer only to generic "republican elements" is telling. When Fergal Toal was arrested on drugs charges last month many of the reports referred to him as "a former republican prisoner", his membership of the INLA rather than the IRA going conveniently unmentioned although most journalists would surely be aware of it. But when the IRA are (alleged to be) involved in something they rarely hesitate to say "the IRA"!

On a final note, I've just heard on the radio that tomorrow's Sunday Tribune will be carrying a column by Nuala O'Faolain wondering why the southern media have gone soft on Paisley and suggesting that it's just "not PC" to blame anyone other than Sinn Féin for the impasse. Should be interesting; perhaps I'll at last get my money's worth on the €2 that I inexplicably continue to shell out on that stupid paper every week.
I've just seen on RTÉ that the US State Department has denied a visa to Rita O'Hare, Sinn Féin's representative in Washington.

I'm struggling to comprehend the logic of this decision. Rita's in and out of the US all the time. If the Bush administration has decided it wants to start playing hardball with Sinn Féin (and why start now?), it seems odd that they would pick on her and not Martin McGuinness, who was to accompany her on her next visit.

And not merely odd but incredibly short-sighted. Because of the amount of time she spends in the US, and the fact that she is, essentially, the key liaison person between Sinn Féin and America, she'd be a lot more sensitive and sympathetic than most republicans are to US sentiment on the issues we're involved with. Some would call her too sensitive and sympathetic, in fact. She has a much keener sense than most of us have of how and why to keep the Yanks onside - and consequently, it's in their interest to keep her onside. This isn't really the best way to do it.

Irish Minister in racist comment shock

In the Dáil chamber today, on live television, Minister for State Conor Lenihan told Socialist TD Joe Higgins that he should "stick with the kebabs" - an obvious reference to the mistreated Turkish construction workers whose plight Deputy Higgins has publicised.

Conor Lenihan is a Minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs. I'm sure this will go over swimmingly with the Diplomatic Corps.

It's not the first time he's made such a gaffe. Shortly after his appointment last year, he responded to criticisms about the Government's failure to honour its commitment to Overseas Development Aid by saying that the aid agencies were squandering the money anyway. His honeymoon period was over pretty quickly after that.

In truth, the Government only has itself to blame. Lenihan should never have been appointed anyway - he's way out of his depth at this level, and it shows every time he speaks in a Ministerial role. The reality of the situation is that he was chosen not on his own merits but for geographical reasons: his constituency, Dublin South West, will be very tightly fought in the next election and Fianna Fáil have real fears about retaining their two seats.

Lenihan's comments are unlikely in and of themselves to do him much electoral damage, but removing him from his post would, so I suspect the Government is unlikely to take action - this time. But surely they won't let him get away with it forever.

30 years

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the single worst atrocity of the Troubles, in which 33 people (one a pregnant woman) died. Despite the fact that police had identified the key suspects within 48 hours, to this day not a single suspect has been charged, arrested or even questioned over the attacks. Important files pertaining to the case have 'disappeared'.

Last year, Justice Barron's report into the bombings was published. I read the whole thing (you wouldn't want to drop it on your toes). A number of people were disappointed, and no doubt another number were relieved, that the report found no solid evidence of British collusion. But it did find that those witnesses who testified that collusion took place were credible and should be taken seriously, and moreover, that it wasn't possible to obtain all the evidence anyway because the Brits refused to hand over crucial files. Why wouldn't they? Well, I can only think of one reason.

Shortly after the report's publication an article appeared in Phoenix magazine (health warning, I know, but the article did cite its source, which I've forgotten) stating that in 1972 or 1973 the Irish Government had discovered a British spy in the Justice Department. The spy was sacked, of course, but given events at the time the Brits would almost certainly have tried to replace him. Remember those missing files I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago?

It's long past time for the Dublin Government to stop fannying around and insist on seeing the evidence. They've threatened on several occasions to take the British Government to court over this. What is stopping them? In the 70s it was said that they were reluctant to take action for fear of handing republicans a propaganda victory, but surely by now they should have copped on that that's precisely what they do by hesitating and that firm, decisive action is not only the right thing to do, it's also the politically sensible thing to do.

Anybody reading this who has a Fianna Fáil TD (or is willing to pretend to), please drop them an email and ask them to begin European Court proceedings. While you're at it, tell them you support - no, demand - a full public inquiry into the handling of the case by Gardaí and other Irish officials. If you really want to make an impression, tell them that Sinn Féin are the only party who seems to care about this issue - I guarantee that that will get their attention, and will probably be reported at the next Parliamentary Party meeting.

In the meantime, drop a note of support to Justice For The Forgotten (you can view their website here). The amount of work this group has done over the years is truly inspiring and when justice finally is done, they will be the ones to deserve most of the credit.
Elsewhere, it's being reported that the Dublin Government will be setting up a watchdog to clamp down on retail price increases. This will be good news if it actually lives up to the hype - but frankly I have my doubts. Mary 'Shop Around' Harney is still the second most powerful person in Government, remember. And we've seen how well the likes of ComReg have done their job (I'm posting this via a 56k dialup, which is actually connecting at somewhere around 40k, because out here in the rural bogland that is Phibsboro, Dublin 7, I still can't get broadband).

My scepticism notwithstanding, I give a big thanks to all the foreign tourists who've complained about the prices here. They've ignored us for years, but they seem to be listening to you.

What passes for a cover story at the Sunday Tribune

On the front page of today's edition: "A petrol bomb attack terrifies me most - Paula McCartney".

Apparently Stephen Collins and Suzanne Breen are miffed at the fact that the alleged threat against the McCartneys (which of course is to be condemned, and come on, apart from the McCartneys themselves could there possibly be anyone who would less like to see it carried out than Sinn Féin? Think about it) took place during the week, making it old news by Sunday. Not to worry though, Stevie and Susie'll find an angle to put it back on the front page. Like, say, that the McCartneys are afraid of the threats. Well, duh. The newsworthiness of a little state-sponsored massacre in Uzbekistan absolutely pales in comparison!

Dear God, please give this paper a free online edition, so I'll cease having to waste €2 on it every week.

In which the Green Party make me puke

I see the Greens at their Ard Fheis this weekend talking about being a genuine alternative. What a joke. They had a chance this week to give the Government a major shock, and they blew it.

On Wednesday the Sinn Féin Dáil Leader, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, was thrown out of the chamber for insisting the Taoiseach answer questions about the disability legislation. Per Dáil Standing Orders, the vote on his suspension took place the following day. It was 50-48 in favour - the closest margin in any vote I can recall under this Government. And two of the Greens were missing from it.

Now, sometimes TDs have to be away during a vote. That's understandable. But the two missing Greens - Dan Boyle and Ciarán Cuffe - were on the premises. They just didn't vote, either because they had agreed to a 'pairing' arrangement with a Government TD (a scandal in itself) or because they simply couldn't bother their arse. And so an unprecedented chance to really embarrass the Government was lost.

Of course, the Greens aren't the only guilty party. There were other Opposition TDs who were also on the premises and didn't vote. But from Labour and Fine Gael, you expect that kind of sucking up to the Government, and the independents aren't really worth worrying about anyway. The Greens have generally had a credible case for presenting themselves as a true Opposition party. They want to watch they don't lose it.
This is just a test post. I haven't got anything particular to say at the moment.
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