The fallout continues

While the primary responsibility for the riots obviously lies with the rioters, it's clear that Saturday was a fuck-up of massive proportions on the part of the Gardaí. Why didn't their intelligence pick up what the dogs in the street knew?

It seems they were talking to the wrong dogs.

Think about it for a minute. In any other European country, whenever there's the potential for crowd trouble, who are the first people the police look out for? The football hooligans, that's who. And in fact, those of us who regularly attend League of Ireland matches have recognised a number of familiar faces in Saturday's crowd shots. But the gardaí seem not to have pursued this angle at all. Why in God's name didn't they?

The fact is that the justice system here, all the way up to the Minister, are so obsessed with what they deem "subversives" that it often blinds them to what nonpolitical offenders are up to. This is how gangland criminals have been able to build up a huge arsenal under the Gardaí's noses, while Special Branch have occupied their time following around Sinn Féin election workers and beating up members of RSF's youth wing.

We in Sinn Féin complain a lot, and rightly so, about political policing in the north. But in some respects the south really isn't much better.

And another thing

I can clearly remember the PDs condemning the Make Partition History rally on the grounds it was divisive, sectarian, etc. Now they're getting on their high horse about the loyalists' right to march being denied.

On the riots

I can't say that I'm bothered by the loyalists being prevented from marching, although I remain of the opinion that Sinn Féin had no choice but to ignore them. However, what's going on down on Nassau Street is sheer lunacy. We're destroying our own city, FFS. Willie Frazer & co. are probably laughing all the way back up the M1.

More cracks in the rainbow

Last night, Sinn Féin TDs used their Private Members Time to call for a Department of Labour Affairs separate from the department that oversees enterprise, as the present system has worked to the detriment of workers whose needs have been subordinated by the government to those of their bosses.

The Labour Party, as you'd expect, supported the motion. Fine Gael didn't. They didn't even turn up for the vote.

How on earth are these two supposed to be an alternative government when they can't even agree on what sort of government they want?

Ard Fheis Highs and Lows

* Winning the motion to make repeal of the Offences Against the State Act a condition to entering coalition government in the south. I really didn't think we would win it, because not only the Ard Chomhairle but a couple ordinary punters I spoke to had indicated they would oppose it on the grounds it would "tie our hands". But, my God, if ever there was anything we should tie our hands on, surely imprisoning people just for being republicans is it? The membership did absolutely the right thing here, and I'm delighted.
* Dessie Ellis's speech on migrant workers. He set out our stall clearly, unambiguously, and live on RTÉ that we will not succumb to populist race-baiting. I can honestly say that I haven't been as proud to be a Shinner in ages as I was listening to that speech. The left-wing Labourites watching must have been sick.
* The appearances by Joanne Delaney and Mícheál Ó Seighin, especially when the latter confirmed that yes, Sinn Féin have been raising the Corrib Gas issue for many years (take that, Enda Kenny).
* Barry McElduff. The man is a national treasure.
* All three of the motions/amendments I wrote speeches on were passed. Clearly, my powers of persuasion are greater than I ever imagined :)

* Failure not only to rule out policing and coalition, but even to adopt the motions requiring a two-thirds majority to take part in either. Especially in the case of policing, I think it will be a huge mistake not to ensure we have widespread and not just majority support for such a step.
* Losing the pro-choice motion, although I hadn't really expected otherwise. It still depresses me to think that a revolutionary party like Sinn Féin could hold such a reactionary position on women's reproductive rights.
* The Ard Chomhairle elections - a "southern massacre" as someone put it.
* The stupid catering set-up in which you couldn't get a cup of coffee without queuing behind the people ordering hot food.
* Being skint, again. Why is it that Ard Fheis weekend always falls during a week when I have half a dozen bills to pay?

A pretty good weekend all in all, but we still have much work to do.
The Guardian reports today that a new study has shown that chemical abortions can be safely taken at home before the twelfth week of pregnancy.

This is good news for British women. Unfortunately, because of the draconian laws in this country, many Irish women will be unable to avail of it: the tablets have to be administered over the course of a couple days, making it impossible for women to travel over and back on a weekend.

Of course the lack of availability of these medicines won't prevent Irish women having abortions. Over 6,000 of them will continue to go to Britain, and an unknown (because no statistics are kept) number on top of that to Amsterdam, every year. But unless they can take a few days off they will have to make do with the surgical rather than chemical procedure, which I imagine must be quite a bit more unpleasant.

It is not acceptable for women in Ireland to be denied the benefit of medical advances simply on the basis of a moral belief which not all of us share.

Those who oppose the right to abortion, I ask you this: if women are not being prevented from having abortions (which, clearly, they aren't), but are simply having them later - because they have to make travel arrangements, maybe raise a bit of extra money, etc. - what has your side achieved? If a woman is planning to end her pregnancy anyway, isn't it preferable for all concerned (including the foetus if you insist) that she do it as early as possible?

How long do you suppose it will be before mifepristone and misoprostol are available over the internet, or on Moore Street (if they aren't already) and women are administering them themselves, with all the danger that will entail?

At this weekend's Ard Fheis Sinn Féin will be debating a motion calling for us to support the Irish Family Planning Association's Safe and Legal Campaign. I do not hold high hopes that it will be passed - there are still too many moral conservatives in this party, and too much fear (even among those who themselves are pro-choice) of division. But we are gaining ground. I have seen this in internal debates, and I have seen it in the wider society, and I know we will win this battle someday.
The Taoiseach has just rubbished the last IMC report on the grounds that they only reported what they were told; they didn't do any investigation themselves. Hello, what have we been saying about the IMC since its inception?

How much money is your Government spending on these ridiculous reports Bertie?
The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was on the Dunphy show this morning talking about the IMC Report. It was like listening to one of us! "The IICD is the body charged with monitoring decommissioning." "We have to recognise the huge steps the IRA have taken." "The IRA leadership are absolutely committed to the peace strategy." Wonder if the Irish government is starting to have second thoughts about the Frankenstein's Monster they helped to create?
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