Refusal to accept second class citizenship is not a red line – Kearney

Writing in his latest blog, Sinn Féin Chairperson Declan Kearney has reiterated the words of Martin McGuinness that there will be “no return to the status quo”.

Reflecting on Martin’s decision to resign as Joint First Minister following the DUP leaders’ refusal to stand aside to allow the RHI scandal to be properly investigated, Mr Kearney has said:

“He was absolutely resolute about the need to resign.The political situation had become unsustainable. It was untenable for Martin and other Sinn Féin ministers to remain in the Executive with the DUP given the cumulative build-up of financial scandals; that party’s institutionalised bigotry and bad faith; and, the hallmark disrespect and sneering contempt shown by DUP members towards northern nationalists, the LGB&T community, ethnic minorities and women, which had come to define the political institutions.

“Martin was insistent, against the advice of others for health reasons, that he should travel to Belfast the next day to meet and personally inform Arlene Foster, before making himself available to do media.

“He wanted to tell the DUP leader himself because he believed that was the right thing to do. He was very clear about that even though similar courtesy and respect had rarely been afforded him by so many in the DUP.

“Martin travelled to Belfast on Monday 9th January. Afterwards he said privately that the journey from Derry to Belfast and home that day felt like climbing Everest, such was the physical toll it had on him.

“That particular day has now forever immortalised the phrase that ‘there would be no return to the status quo,’ which Martin used in his press conference.

“Those words have come to symbolise the deep-rooted nature of the unfolding political crisis at the heart of the institutions.

“Martin McGuinness’ resignation was not a stunt. Sinn Féin’s commitment not to return to the status quo is not superficial or expedient.

“When the Sinn Féin leadership repeats there will be no return to the status quo we mean every word of that. Our position carries the same meaning and determination one year on from when Martin immortalised the phrase.

“The denial of rights; disrespect for the Irish cultural tradition and republican and nationalist political identity; abuse of the political institutions; rejection of proper power sharing based upon a commitment to anti-sectarianism; and, refusal to implement past agreements, most notably on legacy; is all directly in conflict with sustainable institutions.

“The DUP leadership knows exactly what must be done.

“It knows that talk of red lines and humiliation is a smoke screen, and entirely bound up with the internal dynamics of that party.

“The reality is the DUP is not a monolith. There are decent pragmatic people in that party.  They know, as does the DUP leadership, that an Irish language act, marriage equality, a bill of rights, dealing with the past, and anti-sectarianism measures pose no threat to anyone in this society.

“When these issues are properly resolved the political institutions can be re-established.

“If there is to be a political breakthrough in 2018, both the DUP and British government must agree to full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and the formation of a rights-based power sharing Executive which is avowedly anti-sectarian.

“It is not a red line to state that the days of second class citizenship in the north are over.”

Gerry Adams TD welcomes Taoiseach’s remarks on Irish Unity

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s assertion that he aspires to a United Ireland but also said  “the Taoiseach should match his aspiration by devising and supporting strategies to promote the agreed reunification of Ireland.”

Teachta Adams said;

“The Irish government, and particularly the Taoiseach, should become active persuaders for Irish Unity.”

“If the Taoiseach is serious about a united Ireland he should help to build and present convincing and cogent arguments in favour of it.

“He should engage with Unionism on that basis.

“The potential for progress demands a new approach aimed at unlocking Unionist opposition to a new future by reminding them of the positive contribution they have made to society on this island.

“This is where the Irish government could play a critical role. Sinn Féin has sought the establishment of an Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity in which all these matters can be addressed and debated in a constructive and positive way. The Taoiseach should support this.”

Mr Adams concluded:

“Aspiration is good but it’s not enough. Irish Unity must be planned for and it must be worked for. Brexit has reenergised and reshaped the debate about a United Ireland. There are many more people talking positively about a United Ireland that at any time in recent years.

“Sinn Féin wants to see a Irish Unity referendum in the next five years. We believe that such a referendum is achievable in that timeframe and we also believe that it is winnable.”


Public want an Assembly which respects rights and diversity for all

The past 12 months has been an extraordinary time politically. We have witnessed incredible political developments, suffered the loss of a political giant but also the reawakening of the demand for fairness and equality at the heart of our political process.

And as we look forward to 2018, Sinn Féin is determined and optimistic that we will realise that demand. That we will restore power-sharing institutions based on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

There is no alternative, the status quo is not an option.

I am optimistic because I see the transformation that has taken place in this society since the people voted for the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago. I see the young people who will not tolerate their peers being treated as second-class citizens because of their sexuality.

I see civic society standing up to be counted and demanding their rights and entitlements are protected and enshrined on the same basis as they are elsewhere on these islands. They will not accept the denial of language rights, of marriage equality and the right to coroner’s inquests because the DUP dictate it.

People across Ireland have been shaken by the recklessness of the DUP-Tory Brexit agenda and the immense harm it will cause to communities and the economy throughout the island.

That is not the future they want for their children and grandchildren.

Most people want a positive future, an inclusive and welcoming future where everyone is treated fairly and cherished.

That is what Martin McGuinness wanted and that is the challenge he set for us in his resignation letter almost a year ago which set out in very clear terms what needs to happen to put the proper foundations in place.

We have lost Martin, and it is an incalculable loss for us all, but we remain determined to realise the vision he set out.

It is a vision that has already been endorsed by a majority of the people in both the Assembly and Westminster elections. The momentum for change is with us and the demand for a better society is a demand from a majority of voting citizens.

A majority of people in the North voted for parties who support a rights based society and the principles of mutual respect and parity of esteem.

And for the first time in the history of the northern state, designed to perpetuate an unfair and unequal status quo, unionism lost its majority.

Fifty years on from the Civil Rights campaign in 1968, the North is a very different place. A place where the denial of rights, equality and respect will no longer be accepted.

A majority want the restoration of genuine power sharing.

A majority want rights and equality.

A majority reject the frustration of their achievement; the erection of a barrier to this by a minority who have a different political opinion or religious belief.

A majority want an Assembly which accepts the diversity in our society and delivers for all.

I want to lead Sinn Féin back into a new Executive because locally elected ministers are best placed to run local public services and fight back against the threats of Brexit and austerity.

I want to develop the widest possible consensus in political, civic and popular opinion to achieve this.

I believe that can happen early in the New Year but only if the institutions represent genuine and equal partnership Government for all our people.

That will require the British government and the DUP accepting the political and democratic reality which has already been made abundantly clear by the electorate.

If they continue to set their face against the people and against progressive politics, then there is an onus on the two Governments to spell out how they intend to ensure the implementation of previous agreements and pave a pathway to restore the institutions on the basis of equal partnership and respect in the terms set out almost 20 years ago.

Marriage Equality Rally


New film 66 days on Bobby Sands to get Derry showing at Féile

The Film 66 days on Bobby Sands  is be shown shown as part of  Gasyard Féile on the 4th Aug tickets on 02871 262812Gasyard_66days

It will be introduced by Raymond McCartney who himself spent 53 days on hungerstrike

Raymond McCartney said “There have been many different angles you can take when addressing the story of the hunger strike but I think the way in which the facts leave people  feeling tends to be universal.

There have been many films and documentaries made in the past and I think people can see how utterly unjustified and wrong it was for the British government to criminialise republican prisoners .

I think prisoners in Armagh and Long Kesh were epitomised by the 10 men who gave their lives and I think anyone seeing this for the first time will agree that republicans were first and foremost political prison


Speaking on behalf of the Bogside and Brandywell Monument committee Stephanie English said



This year with it being the Centenary of 1916 we were thinking of different new ways of marking the occasion. Last year we did a very successful event around the 30th Anniversary of Charles English when we asked people to do something to remember him and post the photos online. Several hundred people took part and we had people doing stuff across the world ,doing the likes of  a 10k run, a swim walking the two bridges in Derry ,climbing  the likes of Errigal Mountain  we even had a band in Australia doing a parade .It was all good positive stuff.

So this coming  Sunday 3rd April we will be doing the Centenary Challenge Run /Walk run just slightly over 3K which is 1.916 Miles. Registration will take place in the Gasyard from 9.30am for a 11am start.  The run will start and finish at the Gasyard Centre. The entry fee is £10 per person. Children attending with an adult go free. Each paying adult entrant will receive a commemorative t-shirt and there’s a certificate for everyone taking part. There will be refreshments straight afterwards and lots of spot prizes.

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney who launched the race “It is a great idea. Everybody has their own way of remembering or commemorating our history. This is a family friendly event on Sunday and I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved.

McCartney to address Derry Centenary Easter Sunday Commemoration

Thousands of people  from across Derry will gather at commemorations throughout the city this coming weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising and to commemorate all those who have given their lives in pursuit of Irish Freedom.WP_20160322_12_25_16_Pro(1)

Encouraging Republicans to take part in the Centenary commemorations this Sunday.

Sinn Féín Councillor Colly Kelly said

Easter is a very important date in the annual Republican calendar, a time when we not only gather in Derry, across Ireland and throughout the world to remember those who have died in pursuit of Irish Freedom and Liberty and to stand in continued solidarity with their families, but also a time when we recommit ourselves to the pursuance of our Republican objectives.

This year there will be four parades from each of the areas converging simultaneously on Westland Street .There will be pageantry, street theatre and a large number  of those in the parade wearing period costume of the day so it will be a great spectacle to see and i would encourage as many families as possible to come along as we will only see something on this scale once in a life time.

We would encourage people not only to take part in their local events but also to come along to be part of the main commemoration in Derry this Sunday at 2.30pm,  assemble Westland Street .We are very pleased to announce this year that the main speaker will be Raymond McCartney.

Local area commemorations will take place on Sunday at the Republican monuments

12.00pm Shantallow   Monument (Racecourse Road)

1.30pm Waterside (Rose Court)

1.45pm Creggan (Central Drive),

2.00pm Bogside and Brandywell (Lecky Road)

Derry City Easter Parade 2016

Derry Centenary Challenge.1916-2016

Easter lily launched in Derry

The annual launch of the Easter Lily took place at an event in Shantallow on Wednesday night to launch a local programme of events for the centenary year

Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy saideaster lily launch shanty 1


“The Easter Lily is an emblem of unity between the different traditions within the nation as well as the heroism of those who sacrificed so much in 1916. The lily has always had strong symbolic value, though its meaning and symbolism have changed through the ages. Today in 2016 it symbolises the possibility of unity, equality and prosperity for all the peoples of the island.

The annual distribution of the lilies will take place in the lead up to Easter weekend. A limited numbers of metal pin badges are also available at our Ráth Mór office on the New Road, Peadar O Donnell’s and Checkpoint Charlie shop Waterloo Street.

The Easter Sunday parade  is this weekend on the 27th March and further details will be released in the Derry press shortly.



Derry man elected to SF National Youth Committee at Cork convention

Caolán McGinley said 285629_10154031183599345_8604665909312775786_n

“I was honoured to have been elected to the Sinn Féin Youth – National Committee at the Comhdháil Náisiúnta in the Rebel county of Cork particularly in the centenary year of the 1916 Rising.

There was a great turnout of over 100 young republicans from the across the island gathered to debate and plan the year ahead. It’s very important that young people get involved in politics no matter what your opinion is, to formulate ideas and policies that will affect all our lives in the future.

James Connolly and his legacy




Uniting Ireland Conference in Derry on 21st March


Derry Centenary Challenge 2016


30th Anniversary Óglach Tony Gough

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Respect the human rights of Basque political prisoners – Martina Anderson MEP‏

Martina Anderson MEP, on a European Parliament delegation to the Basque Country, called on the Spanish Government to respect the human rights of Basque political prisoners and their families.Martina new pic 201

Speaking from the Basque Country, Ms Anderson said:

“The purpose of the delegation is to investigate serious claims of human rights abuses against Basque political prisoners and their families.

“We have met with the Basque prisoners’ relatives’ association Etxerat, as well as local politicians, trade unions, and human rights organisations.

“Of particular concern is the Spanish government’s policy of dispersal, a punitive policy which is inflicting unnecessary distress on prisoners and their loved ones since introduced in 1989.

“As well as denying prisoners the right to see their relatives, this policy unfairly punishes the families by forcing them to make long round trips, at an average cost of €20,000 per year and resulting in the deaths of 16 relatives and injuries to many more as a result of road accidents while travelling to prisons.

“There are around four hundred Basque political prisoners imprisoned in more than 70 prisons in Spain, France and Portugal, hundreds of kilometres away from their families.

“The policy of dispersal is cruel and a breach of European and international human rights law, and must end. All Basque political prisoners should be returned, in the first instance, to prisons in the Basque Country.

“The Spanish government must also bring an immediate end to political trials against Basque pro-independence activists. There are currently more than 50 people serving sentences in Spanish prisons for purely political activity.

“The armed conflict in the Basque Country is over, but in order for the Basque Peace Process to move forward, the issue of political prisoners and the persecution of political activists must be resolved.

“The issue of prisoner release has been central to every peace process in post conflict situations around the globe. We know from our own experience in Ireland that former political prisoners,

when released as part of a peace building process, play an essential role in consolidating the peace.

“The continued imprisonment of Basque prisoners is an unnecessary obstacle to building peace and as part of that process a prisoner release programme should be developed without further delay.”

“Our delegation will be producing a report on its findings, which we hope will help improve the condition of Basque political prisoners and contribute to a peaceful, democratic resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country.”

NB: The delegation is composed of seven MEPs from three different political groups:
Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL, Die Linke, Germany); Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, Vänsterpartiet, Sweden); Martina Anderson (GUE/NGL, Sinn Féin, Ireland); Lidia Senra (GUE/NGL, Alternativa Galega de Esquerda, Galicia); Josep-Maria Terricabras (Greens/EFA, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Catalonia); Tatjana Zdanoka (Greens/EFA, Latvijas Krievu Savieniba, Latvia); Mark Demesmaeker (ECR, 
Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, Belgium)

Anderson MEP welcomes pending release of Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi‏

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the countdown is on for Basque pro-independence leader Arnaldo Otegi to be released from a Spanish jail on March 1. Ms Anderson was speaking from the Basque Country where she has taken part in a European Parliament delegation investigating human rights abuses against Basque prisoners.

She said: “Last March I spoke at the launch in the European Parliament of an international campaign for the release of Arnaldo Otegi and to bring Basque prisoners home. While I am delighted that Arnaldo is soon to be released and can return to his family and community, I’m appalled that he received this sentence in the first place. CWrWZ7UWUAEjEpO

“Since the 1990s, Otegi has been acknowledged as the leader of the Basque pro-independence political movement – and he has also faced unrelenting political persecution by Spanish authorities.

“Among the outrageous political charges that have been brought against him include being sentenced to jail in 2006 for participating in a commemoration marking the murder of an ETA leader by a Spanish death squad in 1978, and being jailed again in 2010 for comparing a long-term ETA prisoner to Nelson Mandela.

“In 2005 Otegi was sentenced for ‘insulting the king’ after he commented at a press conference held on the torture of Basque journalists that the King bore ultimate responsibility for this torture as the official head of the armed forces. In March 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Spain had infringed Otegi’s right to freedom of expression in this case.”

Ms Anderson continued: “But as well as being acknowledged as the leader of the Basque pro-independence movement, Otegi is also indisputably the leader of the Basque peace process, and that is why he was jailed in 2011.

“In October 2009, 10 central leaders of the Basque pro-independence movement including Otegi were arrested as they met to discuss a new peace initiative, and five of them were jailed. Despite such provocation, this peace initiative has led to the permanent ETA ceasefire of 2011 and its move in 2014 to begin the process of disarmament. It has also led to the legal registration of new pro-independence party Sortu in 2013, which has rejected violence and reached unprecedented levels of popular support in the Basque Country.

“I warmly welcome the release of Arnaldo Otegi and offer him our full support in his efforts to develop the Basque peace process. The Spanish government should finally engage with this process. It should release all those who have been jailed for purely political work, and immediately repatriate all Basque prisoners to prisons within the Basque Country as the first step towards an early-release programme.” 

How can we leave our heritage to profiteers? – McDonald

Sinn Féin TD and Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has appealed to the Government to honour the “ordinary Irish men and women risked life, limb, death, and incarceration, not only to free Ireland from foreign rule, but to build a nation of equals” during the Easter Rising by halting the demolition of the Battlefield Moore St site.

The Dublin Central TD said:DIGITAL CAMERA

“100 years ago, Dublin quaked and trembled, under the bullets and shells of an empire. As ordinary Irish men and women risked life, limb, death, and incarceration, not only to free Ireland from foreign rule, but to build a nation of equals; an Ireland to be proud of, a country to be defined by the high ideals of the Proclamation.

“And how little this government thinks of these men and women and what they went through. We can look at 1916 through the mists of time, even through rose tinted glasses, and romanticise their struggle.  How easy it is to forget how real it was for them. How real their suffering was, how real the despair was for them, facing into an uncertain future, and then the horror of the drawn out.

“They thought not of themselves. Their actions were unselfish. And today it is the actions of ordinary unselfish people who are fighting to preserve their legacy. It was people power saved Kilmainham Gaol for the nation, it wasn’t any government that saved that national edifice, a dedicated group of citizens saved this historical building for the nation.

“And it seems that it rests once again with people power to repeat history and to save for the nation for future generations the 1916 historic revolutionary quarter of the GPO/Moore Street area.

“An area that should rightfully be designated a national monument, an area that should rightfully be preserved and developed under the protection of the state. It should not be left to the vagaries of developers or speculators, whose only interest is in their profit margin.

“How can we leave our heritage to profiteers?”

Aidan McAnespie killing by British Army at checkpoint to be re-examined by Public Prosecution Service

● The former Aughnacloy Border crossing where Aidan McAnespie was shot dead by a British soldier while walking to a GAA match

THE SHOOTING DEAD of Sinn Féin election worker Aidan McAnespie as he walked through a permanent British Army checkpoint in County Tyrone in 1988 on his way to a GAA match and the dropping of a manslaughter charge against the Grenadier Guards soldier responsible is being re-examined by the North’s Public Prosecution Service at the request of the Attorney General and Aidan’s family.

Aidan McAnespie

Aidan (pictured) had complained of ongoing harassment by the British Army and RUC when he frequently had to use the checkpoint at Aughnacloy.

On Sunday 21 February 1988, Aidan was shot and fatally wounded by a soldier firing a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) from the permanent British Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy.

Grenadier Guardsman David Holden was charged with manslaughter but the then Director of Public Prosecutions later withdrew the charge.

Holden claimed that he was moving the GPMG when his wet fingers (allegedly wet from cleaning the sangar) slipped on to the trigger, which resulted in the discharge of three shots. One of the shots struck Aidan in the back, fatally wounding him.

A report by the Historical Enquiries Team found that the soldier’s explanation “could be considered to be the least likely” genuine explanation.

Now the North’s Attorney General has asked the Public Prosecution Service to reopen the file on the case.

Solicitor Darragh McIntyre said the family maintain their belief that Aidan was unlawfully and deliberately killed.

Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew said that Aidan McAnespie was shot dead after years of harassment from the British Army and RUC.

“I welcome the decision by Attorney General John Larkin to refer the case to Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory.

“It is important the family of Aidan McAnespie get the truth to what happened that day as Aidan walked through the British Army checkpoint.

“I will continue to support the family who have carried out a very dignified campaign to get justice for Aidan and hope that his inquest can now proceed as soon as possible.”


GUARDSMAN HOLDEN claimed that he moved the weapon by holding the pistol grip with a “loose grip”. As he did so, his finger slipped and he inadvertently pulled the trigger. The HET test fired a GPMG and found that:

“Activating the trigger required having a firm grip on the pistol grip and squeezing the trigger until it activated. It was found to be difficult and required considerable force to activate the trigger without having the hand firmly gripped around the pistol grip.” Holden’s loose grip explanation therefore contradicted the results of the practical test on the weapon.

Furthermore, the HET discovered that the gun was mounted on a pivot that allowed the weapon to be swivelled. Consequently, there was no need for Holden to have his hand on the pistol grip and finger on the trigger-guard since he only had to swivel the butt of the weapon on the pivot in order to reposition the weapon. In addition, another soldier confirmed that he had already repositioned the weapon.

Holden claimed that his hands were still wet from cleaning the sangar 10 minutes earlier. HET investigators analysed the activities in the sangar that day which showed that the cleaning was conducted by a cleaning party and that Holden had resumed look-out duty half an hour before the shooting. The ‘wet hands’ scenario is difficult to reconcile with the timing of the cleaning duties.

Lance Sergeant Peters gave evidence that, on entering the sangar after the shooting and asking Holden what had happened, the reply was that he had squeezed the trigger.

Holden was not interviewed until more than 24 hours after the incident. In the intervening period he remained in military custody. There was a further 24-hour delay before the second interview took place.

The crime scene was not examined by the Forensic Service until the next day and there is no record of any crime scene protection in the interim. This would result in “crime scene evidence recovered being questionable”, according to the HET report.

Manslaughter charges against Guardsman Holden were dropped in 1990. He was fined by the British Army for “negligent discharge” of his weapon and allowed to return to duty. He was later medically discharged from the British Army.


The gun had been dismantled and cleaned earlier that day. It has not been established why or by whom the gun was left cocked and with the safety catch off. This was totally in contravention of standing orders.

The forensic evidence concluded that a ricochet bullet which struck the ground just directly behind Aidan before it entered his body inflicted the fatal injury.

The weapon discharged three rounds and the fatal bullet was a tracer round. There is now no way of knowing whether the fatal bullet was the first or the last of three shots fired. Swab tests taken from the roadway no longer exist.

If the first shot fired resulted in the ricochet from the fatal strike mark, then this could support the assertion that the gun was aimed at the victim or in his vicinity. The HET later discovered that the forensic report gave no consideration to the possibility that the fatal ricochet was a result of the first shot discharged from the weapon.

It should be noted that there is clear evidence that the guardsman had Aidan (whom he considered to be a ‘suspect’) under close observation as he passed through the checkpoint. However, at the moment of discharge, Guardsman Holden claimed to have been physically repositioning the weapon. In other words, he claimed not to have been aiming at or tracking Aidan when the shots were fired.

The HET questioned “the likelihood of an accidental random discharge striking the roadway only a few feet behind what would be from the vantage point of the machine gun post a minuscule figure at a distance of 283.4 metres”.

Having weighed up all the propositions and taken all the circumstances and available evidence into account, the Historical Enquiries Team decided that Guardsman Holden’s version of events “could be considered to be the least likely”.

‘Bulldozing historic Moore Street will not be tolerated’ – Mary Lou McDonald TD

PROTESTERS gathered outside Leinster House on Wednesday afternoon to demand that the Government protect the historic Moore Street terrace in its entirety, the site of the last headquarters of the Provisional Government during the 1916 Rising.

Speaking to the crowd, Mary Lou McDonald TD accused the Government of selling-off the family silver via the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA):

“It is a disgrace. It is a national scandal. This friends, shows the complete arrogance and contempt to which this Fine Gael and Labour Government have towards the Irish people and they’re time is now up – It is time for them to go!” she said to applause.

“Today, from this rally we demand that the outgoing Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny sits up and takes note. Sending in the bulldozers to Moore Street is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. ”

An occupation of the site, some of which is designated a national monument, took place last week in opposition to demolition works on part of the terrace. The occupation only ended when a two week stay was placed on work pending a court case.

One of the organisers of the Save Moore Street campaign, Patrick Cooney spoke at the event outlining how the families of the 1916 leaders have campaigned for 15 years for the area to be preserved as a battlefield site and a fitting tribute to Ireland’s patriots.

“On the 2nd February we will be going into the Courts with all our determination and history behind us to win Moore Street. It’s not going to be easy and we have to keep the campaign rolling and make sure everybody is involved.”

He also applauded those who had occupied the terrace.

Mary Lou McDonald also called for unity across political divides on the Moore Street:

“Let’s stand together united, in this the 100th anniversary of 1916 to honour the men and women who fought for a real Republic, and resist the destruction by this Government of our national heritage and culture.”

Those present at the event included TDs and Senators from Sinn Féin, including Gerry Adams TD as well as the Mayor of Dublin City Críona Ní Dhálaigh and the Mayor of South Dublin Sarah Holland. Independent TDs were also in attendance.

Floods – Government pledge of Shannon ‘co-ordinating task force’ not enough, says Gerry Adams

● Limerick City Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan helps with flood relief

THE GOVERNMENT has partially conceded Gerry Adams’s call he made to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil before Christmas for a single authority to be given total responsibility for the River Shannon and a strategy to deal with flooding. But the announcement of a ‘co-ordinating task force’, though welcome, does not go far enough, the Sinn Féin leader said.

“Sinn Féin believes a Shannon River Authority is needed to ensure that there is proper co-ordination and a robust response from the various agencies responsible and to take the necessary steps to minimise the risk of flooding in the future,” he said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told RTÉ News that the Government’s reaction to the floods to date was piecemeal and the new task force was insufficient if it did not have statutory powers. She repeated the call for a single Shannon River Agency.

Gerry Adams had said yet again earlier in the day that the fact that there had been not one overarching agency responsible for management of the river and to co-ordinate the response to massive flooding in the region was “frankly bizarre”.

But the junior minister responsible for the Office of Public Works, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, claimed the idea was “premature” despite the devastation and millions in costs caused to families, communities and businesses along the Shannon as well as across the state.

Deputy Adams was responding to the Taoiseach’s chairing of a meeting of the various agencies with responsibilities in respect of the Shannon region today. These include the ESB, Bord na Mona, the National Parks & Wildlife Service, and Waterways Ireland.

Teachta Adams said:

“In the Dáil before Christmas, I called on the Taoiseach directly to ensure that a single agency is empowered with responsibility for management of the River Shannon.

“The Government has consistently failed to deal with the issue of flooding in a strategic and co-ordinated fashion and, as a result, we have seeing a repeat of very serious problems witnessed in the past.

“The majority of the consistent and repeated flooding we have seen in recent years has been in the Shannon region. The fact that there exists no single agency responsible for management of the river and to co-ordinate the response to flooding in the region is frankly bizarre.

“The Taoiseach rejected my proposal before Christmas but gave no logical rationale. The fact that he is chairing a meeting of the various agencies with responsibility for the Shannon today clearly demonstrates that a co-ordinating body is required to ensure an adequate response to flooding and to prevent flooding in the future. The Taoiseach must now accept that fact.”

The Taoiseach later did.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Met Éireann’s Gerard Fleming said:

“I think we’re heading towards the end of the unusually high levels of rainfall that we saw at the end of December.

“But I think even normal amounts of rainfall at the moment, given that the rivers are so high and the fields are completely waterlogged, that amount of rainfall may still cause a problem over the days to come.”

New Year message from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD – 1916-2016 Centenary Year

2016, the 1916 centenary year, is “time to stand up . . . a unique opportunity to begin the work of positively transforming Irish politics and society to reflect the revolutionary vision of Easter Week”, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD says in his New Year message in the January issue of An Phoblacht published on Thursday.

1916 logo

“The 1916 Proclamation is a clear statement of intent for an all-Ireland Republic built on foundations of civil and religious liberty, social justice and equality for all citizens. It remains the guiding template for modern republicanism,” the Louth TD says.

“The 1916 Proclamation is a clear statement of intent for an all-Ireland Republic built on foundations of civil and religious liberty, social justice and equality for all citizens. It remains the guiding template for modern republicanism.

“The promise of the Proclamation has yet to be realised. Ireland remains partitioned and a real republic built on equality for all citizens remains to be constructed.”

He adds that 2016 should be about “national renewal, hope and political progress”.

Make the Change x 4

Pointing to the fact that there will be elections in the first half of 2016 in both states, the Sinn Féin leader says:

“Sinn Féin will stand candidates on a progressive republican and anti-austerity platform across this island.

“In the South, citizens will have an important opportunity to get rid of this bad Fine Gael/Labour Government whose tenure has been marked by destructive austerity policies that have deepened social inequality.

“Sinn Féin is committed to delivering a fair recovery by working towards a progressive republican government.

“In the North, we will continue to stand up for working families, vulnerable citizens and the development of the economy and public services.

“The recent Fresh Start Agreement allows the political process and institutions to proceed on a new and stable basis.

“Sinn Féin is committed to resolving the issues of the past, supporting victims of the conflict and promoting reconciliation and healing.

“We will continue to campaign for the return of more political powers and economic levers from London to the island of Ireland.

“But the greatest safeguard against Tory misrule in the North is the peaceful ending of partition and the building of an agreed, united Ireland – a real republic.

“In this important year, working together, the people of Ireland can make important steps towards a genuine republic and a citizen-centred, rights-based society.

“I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year.

“Bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibh go léir.”

The MI6 Wyman spy network in Dublin

● (Left) John Wyman, escorted by a Special Branchman, leaving Dublin’s Special Court after he was charged under the Official Secrets Act

IN DECEMBER 1972, the extent of the British Intelligence spy network in Ireland and their infiltration of the Garda Síochána was dramatically exposed by the arrest of John Wyman and Patrick Crinnion.

Wyman (alias “Douglas Smythe” and also known as “Michael Teviott”), a member of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, was an important cog in the well-oiled machine of British Intelligence in Ireland.

During the 1960s, especially following the beginning of the most recent phase of the struggle, Wyman’s network expanded. He recruited a number of gardaí and Special Branch officers as agents, the most important being Garda Detective Sergeant Patrlck Crinnion.

Crinnion joined the Garda in 1955. He was transferred to Dublin Castle in 1961 and in 1969 was appointed private secretary to the then Head of the Special Branch, Chief Superintendent John P. Fleming, and moved to Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park to control the intelligence section known as C3.

Crinnion was a particularly valuable spy and was ideally placed to supply the British with intelligence on the IRA, the Republican Movement and gardaí. In return for large sums of money, he supplied Wyman with photostat copies of files and information relating to republicans and republican sympathisers.

MI6 spies Wyman & Crinnion


Also in the Wyman network were the Littlejohn brothers.

Keith and Kenneth Littlejohn, two English criminals on the run in Ireland in 1969, made contact with British Intelligence and offered to work for them in return for an amnesty. Their offer was accepted and they were put in contact with “Douglas Smythe” (Wyman) in Dublin.

The Littlejohns’ orders were to infiltrate the Republican Movement, kill republican leaders, and carry out operations in the 26 Counties in an effort to discredit the IRA and to force the Fianna Fáil government to crack down on the Movement. They were responsible for numerous bombings and robberies in the 26 Counties which prompted the Minister for Justice, Des O’Malley, to promise tougher action against the IRA.

In November 1972, O’Malley introduced the draconian Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill before the Dublin parliament and in the early hours of 2 December, as the Bill was being debated in Leinster House, British Intelligence agents exploded bombs in Dublin, killing two people and seriously injuring 127 others. Within hours, the Bill was passed by a large majority.


On 20 December, the Littlejohns were arrested in London. The following day, Wyman and Crinnion were arrested in Dublin and charged with stealing state secrets.

The reason for the arrest of Wyman and Crinnion is clear: the Fianna Fáil government knew full well that the British agents provocateur, having failed to lay the blame for the Dublin bombs at the door of the IRA, would now resort to political assassination.

After the loss of their two key operatives, the British decided to sacrifice the Littlejohns in exchange for the return of Wyman and Crinnion.

In February, both were tried in camera and sentenced to three months. As they had already been held for that time, both were released and immediately flown to London. The following month, the deal was completed when the Littlejohn brothers were sent to Dublin to stand trial.

MI6 agents John Wyman and Patrick Crinnion were arrested in Dublin on 21 December 1972, 43 years ago this week.

Dorothy Macardle – republican, historian and novelist – died 23 December 1958

DOROTHY MACARDLE, republican, historian and novelist, was born in Dublin in 1889.

Educated at Alexandra College and later at University College Dublin, she qualified as a teacher and taught English at Alexandra College. She was a daughter of Sir Thomas Macardle, head of the well-known Dundalk brewing family.

Influenced by Maud Gonne MacBride, she became involved in Inghinidhe na hÉireann about 1910 and was later active in both the Gaelic League and Sinn Féin. She supported the Easter Rising of 1916 and during the following years played an active role in the struggle for freedom.

Following discussions with Charlotte Despard and Maud Gonne, Dorothy Macardle became involved in the White Cross, a relief organisation established in January 1921 to provide assistance for thousands of Irish people who had been left destitute throughout the country as a result of the destruction of homes and businesses by the British forces.

She opposed the Treaty in December 1921 and took the republican side during the Civil War.

An active member of the Women Prisoners’ Defence League (WPDL) she was arrested in November 1922 during a raid on the home of Maud Gonne. Imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail, Dorothy Macardle, along with several other women political prisoners, embarked on a successful hunger strike in April 1923 in support of their demands to receive and send out letters.

She took part in the mass hunger strike by thousands of republican male prisoners and internees held in jails and camps throughout the Free State and 340 women imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail and the North Dublin Union. After the ending of the hunger strike on 23 November, Dorothy Macardle was among the women prisoners released the following month. Nine months previously, in March 1923, while still in jail, she had been officially sacked as a teacher at Alexandra College for “not attending to her duties”.

Although Dorothy Macardle joined Fianna Fáil following its formation in May 1926, she continued to be actively involved with the Republican Movement. She took an active part in the campaign organised by the WPDL to protest at the hardships being endured in Portlaoise Prison by republican prisoners at the height of the Cosgrave coercion era in 1930/31.

In the mid-1930s she was involved in the Irish Women Workers’ Union and organised opposition to the anti-women sections of the Conditions of Employment Bill 1935 which allowed the Minister for Industry and Commerce to prohibit the employment of female workers in industry and forbade employers to employ more women than men.

The Irish Republic, Dorothy Macardle

A prolific writer and eminent historian, her historical writing included The Irish Republic, first published by Gollancz in 1937 (out of print for over 20 years), undoubtedly the definitive history of the period 1914-23; Tragedies of Kerry, first published by The Kerryman in 1946, a graphic and moving description of the appalling atrocities committed by the Free State forces against republicans in Kerry during the Civil War; and Children of Europe (1949), on the subject of refugee children.

Her other writings included a number of novels, plays and collection of short stories, the best known of which are Uneasy Freehold and The Uninvited (which were made into films), the plays Asphara Dark Waters and Ann Kavanagh, and a volume of short stories, Earthbound.

Dorothy Macardle died in Drogheda on 23 December 1958.

American Commission of Inquiry into Black & Tan terror, 1920

DURING the winter of 1920 and spring of 1921, at the height of the Tan War, an American Commission of Inquiry on Conditions in Ireland focused worldwide attention on the campaign of terror being waged by the British forces against the Irish people.

Launched in August 1920 by Dr W. J. Maloney and Frank Walsh, with the support of the Government of the Irish Republic, the American Commission of Inquiry sought to investigate means of checking the excesses of British troops and police in Ireland.

Of the original committee (which comprised 150 individuals, including prominent clergymen, a number of senators, congressmen, newspaper editors, labour and industrial representatives) a list of members was selected to act as the court of the commission: The court, which consisted of five members, had power to request the attendance of witnesses representing English and Irish opinion and was to take evidence at public sessions in Washington.

The committee secured promises from the British authorities, who declined an invitation to attend, that passports would be issued to persons travelling from Ireland to testify and that reprisals would not be taken against them.

The testimony given during the winter of 1920, under skilled examination, constitutes an appalling record of terrorism by British troops and police while at the same time giving an extraordinary account of what can be endured by a risen people in defence of their national integrity.


The court held its first session on 19 November. One of the first witnesses requested to attend was Fr Michael Griffin of Gurteen, County Galway, but the following day they received word that he had been murdered by the Black & Tans.

Three weeks later, in early December, Daniel Crowley, a former member of the Royal Irish Constabulary who had resigned the previous June, gave evidence to the commission explaining the reasons for his action. His testimony also reflected considerable tension between the RIC and the Tans.

The situation which he described as existing at Clogheen, County Tipperary, was typical of Ireland at the time.

He described how, at the time of the murder of the Mayor of Cork Tomás Mac Curtain, the previous March, the police had received an order which required them to accompany the military in patrolling the country night and day. “They were,” he continued, “to go on an armoured car with a machine-gun . . . and every man who took a prominent part in the Sinn Féin movement they were to stand up in front of his own house and turn the machine-gun on it. In the armoured car there were put 120 cans of petrol and also 120 Mills bombs, and the reason for this was that they were for burning houses.”

Black & Tans


He went on to describe how, on the night of 21 May, a number of RIC constables, accompanied by heavily-armed Tans, arrived at the home of Maurice Walsh, the Chairperson of Clogheen District Council. One of the Tans said that he was going to shoot them. “We reminded him that he was not in the army now,” recalled Crowley, “and he said that when he left the training depot he was told that he could not be subjected to any discipline whatever if he shot any Sinn Féiners.” The dispute ended with the Tans firing on the police.

During the following months, the commission heard numerous accounts of the horrific atrocities being committed in Ireland by the RIC, Tans, Auxiliaries and British military.

The committee’s interim report, published early in 1921, which was a huge embarrassment to the British authorities, highlighted the appalling conditions in Ireland and brought further pressure on the English government to bring about an end to their reign of terror in Ireland.

Details of some of the atrocities being committed in Ireland by the crown forces were vividly described at one of the public sessions of the American Commission of Inquiry on conditions in Ireland on 12 December 1920, 95 years ago.

Indo in puerile bid to link Sinn Féin to Donald Trump’s xenophobic rant

Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the USA (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

AN INCREASINGLY desperate Irish Independent has taken to regurgitating months-old stories from other news outlets in a bid to damage Sinn Féin.

On Wednesday the Indo website ran a story regarding the recent outrageous comments made by US Republican Party Presidential candidate Donald Trump in which he called for a ban on Muslims entering the USA.

In the piece, the Indo noted that – almost 21 years ago! – Trump once attended a Sinn Féin fundraiser in New York shortly after the IRA’s cessation.

In fact, Donald Trump only attended the Essex House Hotel event briefly, accompanying another guest. He made no donation to Friends of Sinn Féin and since then has had no involvement with the party.

The juvenile attempt by the Irish Independent at guilt-by-association and to imply that Sinn Féin supports Trump’s disgraceful remarks by pulling out a 20-year-old photograph of him and Gerry Adams shaking hands is quite moronic.

None of the Indo’s usually attention-seeking scribblers would attribute their name to the hysterical piece, possibly because both and Irish Central had reported on the incident already – almost four months ago!

However, one of the most deliberate and shameful parts of the Indo’s “story” is their exploitation of Alan McBride, who had lost his wife and father-in-law in the 1993 Shankill bombing.

He was in New York at the time of the 1995 fundraiser, picketed the event and was highly critical of Gerry Adams.

Fifteen years later, Alan McBride participated with Gerry Adams in a Channel 4 documentary about religion and Jesus Christ. He and Gerry Adams met, shook hands and discussed the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness.

McBride has been a champion of peace and in 2012 he spoke at the Sinn Féin Summer School in County Cork on the issue of reconciliation.

Regrettably, the Irish Independent chose to use the past in its anti-Sinn Féin campaign instead of focusing on how much progress has been made and supporting the process of peace and reconciliation.

Mick Wallace TD jailed over Shannon Airport anti-war protest but later released

Mick Wallace TD jailed over Shannon Airport anti-war protest but later released

MICK WALLACE TD, who was jailed on Wednesday for 30 days for non-payment of €2,000 fines for breaching airport by-laws during a protest at Shannon Airport in July 2014, was released after a number of hours.

The Wexford TD had been arrested by appointment at Clontarf Garda Station in Dublin at 8:30am and taken to Limerick Prison.

Wallace and fellow TD Clare Daly were arrested trying to inspect US military planes at Shannon in protest at the Irish Government’s continuing refusal to inspect flights carrying troops or equipment for the US armed forces and CIA to the Middle East. US aircraft landing at Shannon have also been implicated in the rendition (illegal detention for torture) of suspects.

Former Defence Forces commandant and United Nations peacekeeper Edward Horgan, now of Shannonwatch and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, said Wallace and Daly (among others, including Sinn Féin TDs) have demanded in the Dáil the inspection of these planes “and as a result they were told to bring evidence to the Justice Minister to support their demands. All they did was to try to get that evidence.”

He added:

“Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have repeatedly highlighted how the US military use of Shannon Airport breaches Irish neutrality and contributes to the death and displacement of millions of people.

“They have repeatedly asked for the Irish authorities to search aircraft carrying US soldiers and war materials at Shannon in order to restore Ireland’s credibility as a neutral state.

Ballymurphy Massacre victims remembered in Christmas vigil

Ballymurphy Massacre victims remembered in Christmas vigil

Families of the Ballymurphy Massacre on their candlelit parade through the area

A CROWD of around a hundred people joined a candlelight vigil and paraded through Ballymurphy in west Belfast on Sunday evening with the families of the 11 people killed by British paratroopers in what has become known as ‘The Ballymurphy Massacre’.

The unarmed civilians (including a mother of 8 and a Catholic priest) were among those killed when British troops went on a killing spree in the 72 hours after the introduction of internment without charge or trial by the Unionist Party Government on 9 August 1971.

Sunday’s march and vigil made its way from Corpus Christi Church in Springhill to the Memorial Garden at the Springfield Road where the rally was addressed by a number of speakers,

Danielle Shepard, whose grandmother Joan Connolly was one of those shot dead by the British Army, outlined the success the campaign has achieved during a year which saw Taoiseach Enda Kenny visit the area and an all-party motion, instigated by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, supporting the families’ quest for justice was passed by the Dáil.

Families of people killed in the McGurk’s Bar boming in 1971 and representatives of people killed in the Springhill Massacre also attended in a show of support and solidarity.

Ballymurphy Xmas vigil

  • Janet Donnelly whose father Joseph Murphy was one of those killed puts a star with her father’s photo on it on the Christmas tree placed in in the area’s memorial garden

Police to probe British Army’s ‘Dirty War’ death squad – the MRF

Police to probe British Army’s ‘Dirty War’ death squad – the MRF

MRF – British Army death squad

THE Military Reaction Force – a covert death squad run by the high command by British Army Military Intelligence and under the control of General Sir Harry Tuzo – is being investigated by the PSNI. Police have appealed for information about the activities of the unit in the early 1970s.

The British Army unit – using non-regulation weapons and disguises, including dressing in plainclothes and driving civilian cars – was involved in at least 18 shootings in which nationalist civilians were killed or wounded, some in random attacks. The intention was to goad republicans into a sectarian war by pretending loyalists were behind the attacks.

MRF MoD file

An Phoblacht and Republican News publicised the activities of the MRF at the time in the 1970s but it wasn’t until a BBC TV Panorama exposé in 2013 that the mainstream media took an interest. A police investigation was launched after former soldiers who had served with the MRF told the BBC that they had killed unarmed civilians.

The incidents under investigation are:

  • The fatal shooting of 44-year-old Patrick McVeigh and shootings of four other men in Riverdale Park, west Belfast, on 12 May 1972;
  • The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Daniel Rooney and shooting of a 18-year-old man in St James’s Crescent, west Belfast, on 26 September 1972;
  • The shooting of two brothers, aged 19 and 30, in Whiterock Road, west Belfast, on 15 April 1972;
  • The shooting of an 18-year-old man in Glen Road, west Belfast, on 6 May 1972;
  • The shooting of a 15-year-old boy outside a school disco on Glen Road, west Belfast, on 7 May 1972;
  • The shooting of an 18-year-old man in the Slievegallion area of west Belfast on 12 May 1972;
  • The shooting at a 34-year-old man in Silvio Street, north Belfast, on 26 May 1972;
  • The shooting of four men in Glen Road, west Belfast, on 22 June 1972;
  • An incident during which a white Austin Morris vehicle was shot at in Kashmir Road, west Belfast, on 9 May 1972.

The new PSNI investigation is based on the BBC programme broadcast in November 2013, Britain’s Secret Terror Force. Even though members of the unit confessed they were responsible for firing on and killing unarmed civilians, senior PSNI officer Drew Harris, now Assistant Chief Constable, maintained there was no evidence of a crime.

In June of last year, however, just as the families were about to mount a legal challenge and force the PSNI to investigate the claims aired in the programme, it was announced that a senior officer was to review the case.

Now Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery of the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) is saying his probe is “part of a wider investigation into the activities of the MRF”.

Last year, in the wake of the BBC programme, the North’s Attorney General granted fresh inquests into the killings of father of six Patrick McVeigh (44), who was shot from a passing car at Riverdale in West Belfast in May 1972, and 18-year-old Patrick Rooney, shot in September the same year as he walked through the St James’s area of the city.

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Gerry Kelly said:

“The activities of the MRF were part of Britain’s so-called ‘Dirty War’ in the North so I welcome the investigation but, in the long run, all these legacy issues need to be resolved under a comprehensive agreement.”

Dec 2013 front

‘MRF operatives uncovered and executed’ – From An Phoblacht/Republican News Archives

PLAINCLOTHES British Army undercover units known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF) began operating in Belfast in 1972.

The main work of the MRF spy network – under the control of General
 Sir Harry Tuzo and consisting of
 British soldiers from the Military 
Intelligence Corps and the SAS – was to gather, collate and analyse intelligence
 on the Republican Movement and the 
IRA in particular.

The most spectacular example of an
 MRF undercover operation was the 
Four Square Laundry.

The Four Square 
did business as a real laundry.
 Laundry vans are usually big so there 
was a good excuse to have a vehicle
 capable of holding several men and their equipment. The van toured
 nationalist areas of Belfast, soliciting
 custom and making collections and
 deliveries. The washing was sent out to 
another laundry on contract.

Intelligence was collected in many 
ways. The ‘laundry people’ would chat 
with women and obtain apparently 
insignificant bits of information which
 could be of great importance when
 pieced together. Meanwhile, the two agents hidden under the roof
 of the van photographed the houses, occupants,
 streets and vehicles.

Once back from their tour, laundry 
lists were compared with previous
 ones concerning a given family. A 
difference in the size of a man’s shirt
 could indicate the presence of a second man; a woman whose 
husband was in jail or had been killed 
who gave men’s clothes for laundering 
could inadvertently give away the 
presence of an IRA Volunteer ‘on the 
run’. The clothes were also
 scientifically analysed for traces of 
blood, gun oil and gunpowder.

The Four Square Laundry was
 highly sophisticated and it took 
several months for the IRA’s
 Intelligence Department to unmask it.

On the morning of 2 October 1972, a 
laundry van bearing in large green 
letters the words “Four Square” was 
driving on its usual round in the
 Twinbrook area in Belfast. As it drove through Juniper Park, two Volunteers
 of a special IRA Intelligence unit
 sprang from a car and machine-gunned 
the van, killed two British Intelligence 
officers who were lying under the roof 
in a compartment specially designed as 
an observation post. The driver, Sapper
 Stuart, was also killed.

The IRA had killed three MRF 
members whose intelligence mission was to collect as much 
information as possible on republicans
 and republican sympathisers.

Within hours of the attack on the 
laundry van, the IRA shot dead two
 more MRF members who were 
operating one of a series of massage
 parlours, the Gemini Health Studios,
 on the Antrim Road.

The following
 day, 3 October, the British, realising 
that their undercover operations were
 blown, admitted to the death of the van driver and the aim of the 
operation. They failed, however, to
 disclose that not one but five MRF 
soldiers were executed by the IRA on
 this October day in Belfast.

Fianna Fáil must reflect on its ‘disastrous interventions’ on Northern issues

Fianna Fáil must reflect on its ‘disastrous interventions’ on Northern issues

Mary Lou McDonald TD

FINE Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and the Anti-Austerity Alliance teamed-up in the Dáil on Wednesday to exploit a debate on the North and the recent Fresh Start Agreement to attack Sinn Féin.

The decision by these parties to zero-in on Sinn Féin rather than address issues on the North was criticised by Gerry Adams, as well as deputies from other parties.

Clare Daly of the United Left described the broadside against the republican party as “utterly pathetic” while Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit described it as “petty point-scoring”.

Mary Lou McDonald TD of Sinn Féin said securing the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’ was challenging due to both the British and Irish governments being on the side of austerity and against the rights of victims to full disclosure about what happened to their loved ones:

“However Sinn Féin stood up for ordinary citizens. We have secured additional monies for the Executive which will help minimise some of the worst excesses of British Government austerity,” she said.

Mary Lou added that the Tories have no mandate for their austerity policies in the North and that austerity for citizens in the Six Counties is clearly “the price of the union with Britain”.

Gerry Adams questioned the motivations of parties in the South who have repeatedly attempted to undermine the agreement – particularly Fianna Fáil who have changed their stance on various issues:

“The Socialist Party [AKA Anti-Austerity Alliance] at least are consistent,” said Gerry Adams, “They are against the Good Friday Agreement and all the other agreements, though I note they are not against partition.”

While accepting they had a right to critique the Agreement, Adams said:

“Lets be clear, without last week’s agreement the door would be open for direct rule from Westminster and the full weight of a Tory assault on the welfare state.”

Mary Lou McDonald hit out at Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin for his unhelpful and downright stupid interventions in the North:

“Fianna Fáil sided with the unionists and sought to bring down the institutions,” she said. “I hope they will reflect on their continued disastrous interventions when it comes to the North, and to stop using these issues as a political football inside and outside this House.”

Gerry Adams condemned the continued cover-up of files relating to British state collusion and the failure of the Irish Government to work for full-disclosure from the British government:

“When I raised these matters with the Taoiseach yesterday, Enda Kenny drew our attention to the way U2 have publicised the campaign for the ‘Justice for the Forgotten’. I agree with the Taoiseach on this, in fact U2 have done more internationally to highlight Justice for the Forgotten than this Government,” Adams said.

Finishing up, the Louth TD said that a united Ireland would best secure prosperity for the people of this island:

“As we approach the centenary of 1916, those of us who want a united Ireland need to be active persuaders of that vision, both with the British Government and our Unionist neighbours, along with defending the process of change, the political institutions and the primacy of politics.”

Venezuela elections monitor role for Sinn Féin MP

Venezuela elections monitor role for Sinn Féin MP

THE President of the National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has personally invited Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy to be one of more than 50 international observers for Venezuela’s parliamentary elections on 6 December.

FrancieMolloyPosterFrancie is scheduled to travel to the South American state on 1 December and return to Ireland in the days after the elections.

Conor Murphy MLA carried out a similar role in 2012 when he was MP for Newry/Armagh.

A delegation from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has already arrived in Caracas to install their observer mission.

UNASUR Secretary-General Ernesto Samper, who accompanied the mission, told reporters:

“We’re here to make sure that these elections turn out good and Venezuela’s democracy comes out strengthened.”

The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) holds just under two-thirds of the 165 congressional seats.

Chavez Maduro graphic

Nicholas Maduro has been President of Venezuela since 2013. Previously he served under President Hugo Chávez as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2013 and as Vice-President of Venezuela from 2012 to 2013

There has been controversy over a call by President Maduro to supporters with divergent views to come together – do “whatever it takes” – to achieve victory. This has been portrayed by political and media opponents as a declaration that a win by the opposition would be rejected.

In answer to these allegations, President Maduro signed a pledge with the National Electoral Council on 27 October publicly vowing to respect the outcome of the elections but the opposition has refused to do the same.

See the report on Conor Murphy’s 2012 visit here.

Venezuela achievements

A Fresh Start – The Stormont House Agreement & Implementation Plan

What’s in the new agreement concluded at Stormont today

THE CRISIS in the political institutions was created by Tory austerity and their failure to honour commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and other agreements, including full disclosure on the legacy of the past.

Tory austerity cuts have taken hundreds of millions of pounds out of public services since 2010 and they also launched an ideologically-driven assault on the safeguards of the welfare state.

In July of this year, British Chancellor George Osborne announced that another £1.4billion would be removed from the Executive’s budget over the next four years.

He also announced cuts to tax credits for working families and those on low incomes. These changes will take another £1.1billion out of the local economy.

While tax credits are not within the remit of the Executive, Sinn Féin cannot discriminate between supporting those on in-work and out-of-work benefits.

A package of measures has now been negotiated in the Stormont House Agreement & Implementation Plan to provide support to those who will be most affected by the Tory cuts agenda and to invest in public services and the economy.

As a result of the negotiations we have secured approximately an extra £615million in new money and between £525million and £650million in flexibilities, allowing this money to be used to grow our economy.

This agreement also provides for the establishment of a fund of £585million to provide support to people who will lose out on benefits and tax credits.

A panel will be appointed (headed up by leading benefits expert Eileen Evason) to bring forward a report on how this package of funding will be used.

This additional money will be used over a four-year period with a review at the end of the third year.

Funding for a number of key infrastructural projects was also agreed during the negotiations with £75million for the A5 upgrade project and £2.5million for the North-West Gateway Initiative.

This agreement also deals with institutional reform and makes provision for the number of MLAs to be reduced to five members per constituency at the 2021 Assembly elections.

The number of departments will also be reduced from 12 to 9 in time for next year’s Assembly elections. Parties which are entitled to ministerial positions in the Executive but choose not to take them up will be recognised as an official opposition.

It was not possible, however, to reach an agreement on dealing with the legacy of the past.

In the Stormont House Agreement, the two governments and the parties agreed to mechanisms to provide full disclosure for victims of the conflict.

The British Government has failed to honour that agreement and has sought to put in place a veto on the information to be disclosed to families under the bogus guise of national security.

These documents relates to events which happened 30 to 40 years ago; it is a nonsense to suggest that this information should be subject to national security.

It is not acceptable to families of victims and is not compatible with the Stormont House Agreement.

They continue to cover up the action of the state’s agents, army, police and political establishment by using a national security veto. That is unacceptable.

Sinn Féin will continue to press the British and Irish governments for full implementation on outstanding issues from the Good Friday and other agreements.

These include the establishment of full inquiries into the murder of Pat Finucane and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, Acht na Gaeilge, and the creation of a Bill of Rights in the North

Legacy failure at Stormont talks angers human rights groups

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten have expressed “deep disappointment and frustration” on behalf of the 200 families they work with at the failure of the Stormont talks to reach agreement on legacy issues and truth recovery.

The Pat Finucane Centre campaigns for “truth recovery” about events during the conflict. Justice for the Forgotten provides support and advocacy to victims and survivors in the 26 Counties, including those bereaved and injured in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and other attacks in the South.

In a joint statement, the two organisations said after the unveiling of A Fresh Start – The Stormont House Agreement & Implementation Plan:

“In their homes around the country, those who lost loved ones in the conflict will be privately grieving and angry at London’s insistence that it must be able to redact/censor reports from the proposed Historical Investigations Unit on ‘national security’ grounds.

“The PFC and JFF consider it totally unacceptable for the state to demand the right to conceal the actions of its agents in bombings, shootings and murders during the conflict. This was not part of the Stormont House Agreement in December 2014.

“If London had this right, it could mean that families would never discover that state agents, informers, UDR soldiers and RUC men had a role in their relatives’ murders.”

Urging the politicians to return to the table and “work this out”, the two organisations add:

“London is also ignoring its international obligations under European human rights law in insisting on being able to redact reports using its own interpretation of ‘national security’.

“We cannot agree that revealing details of the state’s criminal actions 40 years ago could possibly affect the personal security of any individual today.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness shared Sinn Féin’s frustration over the deadlock about legacy issues from the conflict and truth recovery.

The senior Sinn Féin negotiator said:

“The legacy of the past remains a huge gap. The onus remains on the British Government to live up to their responsibilities to victims, in particular full disclosure.”

‘Those who died in WW1 were not heroes but victims,’ say Veterans for Peace

White Poppy ceremony at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance

Veterans for Peace lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin

A WREATH OF WHITE POPPIES was laid in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin on Wednesday by veterans from the Irish, US and British armed forces to remember all those – soldiers and civilians – killed and injured in war.

The ‘White Poppy‘ event was organised by Veterans for Peace (Ireland), who hit out at the Irish Government for complicity in ongoing wars by allowing places such as Shannon to serve as “forward air bases to fuel wars in the Middle East”.

One of those taking part in the event was World War 2 veteran Norman Scarth, aged 90.

On Christmas Day 1943, Norman was serving on HMS Matchless during the Battle of the North Cape and took part in the sinking of the feared German battleship Scharnhorst, an attack that left more than 1,800 German sailors dead.

At the Garden of Remembrance, Norman told An Phoblacht:

“Tragically, those men all died in vain, as did my own brave young shipmates. Everything we fought against is now in Britain,” he said, condemning the failure of the British state to uphold human rights along with what he described as “endemic corruption” within the state itself.

Noting the ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, Veterans for Peace said:

“The present chaos in the Middle East has been mainly caused by irresponsible and illegal wars waged under the false banner of humanitarian intervention, just as World War 1 was justified in Ireland as a war ‘in defence of small nations’.”

Others taking part in the event included Edward Horgan, a former Irish Defence Forces commandant and UN peacekeeper, who said:

“Those soldiers who died in WW1 were, for the most part, not heroes but victims who were conned by their leaders. Those who were shot at dawn due to post-traumatic stress (PTSD) were not cowards. They too were victims of war.”

◼︎ Veterans for Peace UK – made up of British armed forces former personnel, including those who have served in Ireland and the Middle East – staged their own ‘White Poppy’ commemoration at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday.

Veterans for Peace

Sinn Féin and the IRA Army Council

Sinn Féin and the IRA Army Council

SO HERE’S how it works.

At 5am, my Army Council-issue alarm clock abruptly wakes me. I jump out of bed and take a 4-minute military-style cold shower.

I then eagerly stand to attention beside the Army Council-issue telex machine. At 5:25am, my orders arrive telling me where to go, who to meet and what to say.

Duly instructed, I go about my business as a Sinn Féin activist and South Dublin County Councillor.

At 10pm, having completed my allotted tasks for the day, I return home. I read my designated 24 pages of the Army Council-issue Collected Writings of Comrade Adams. At 10:45pm, content that I have served my master well, I go to sleep.

When confronted with the important political issues of the day, I take my cue from an unknown group of people, meeting in secret, deciding what I should think and how I should respond.

I have no mind or opinions of my own. I blithely take instructions from others. I am but a small cog in a well-oiled machine designed and directed by the IRA Army Council.

This is what a motley crew of disgruntled securocrats, failing politicians and partisan journalists would have you believe. They present no evidence to support their outlandish claims. They are trading in lies.

The idea that a non-existent IRA Army Council tells me what to do is not only absurd, it is an insult.

It is an insult to the hundreds of us elected to public office and the thousands of party activists.

More importantly, it is an insult to the half a million people who vote for Sinn Féin.

Do you really think all of us are that stupid? Is it really credible to assert that more than half a million people are willingly complicit in such deception or too stupid see that the IRA Army Council are pulling the wool over their eyes?

Give me a break!

These claims and the increasingly hysterical debate surrounding them has nothing to do with the existence of the IRA or their alleged relationship to Sinn Féin. This is all about politics.

In the North, the crisis in the political institutions has reached a turning point. Tory austerity is crippling the Assembly, souring Executive relationships and jeopardising the Peace Process.

Sinn Féin’s principled stand in defence of those who would be worst affected by welfare and public spending cuts has stopped David Cameron and Peter Robinson in their tracks. The strength of our mandate and our arguments has placed an obstacle in the way of their corrosive policy agenda.

So what do you do when you are losing an argument? You change the subject. Out of nowhere you reveal that the bogyman of the IRA is back on the scene. Worse still, you claim that they are pulling the strings of the Sinn Féin puppet.

In vain, Cameron and Robinson hope that such ‘revelations’ will weaken Sinn Féin’s resolve and force us into making concessions on the full implementation of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements and the Assembly Budget.

Mícheál Martin looking dumb

Meanwhile, across the Border, poor aul Mícheál Martin is feeling the pressure.

Fianna Fáil are stagnating in the polls. Their leader knows that his post-election choices are grim – a junior partner in government or another five years on the Opposition benches.

So he stands in front of the grave of the IRA’s ideological and organisational ancestors and rails against the Mafia-like cult known as Sinn Féin. Of course, poor aul Mícheál knows a thing or two about Mafias, albeit of the Galway Tent vintage, but that is besides the point.

Now everybody knows that in politics if you have nothing positive to say about yourself your only option is to attack your nearest opponent. Unfortunately for poor aul Mícheál, such disparate tactics inevitably backfire.

While Fianna Fáil’s relentless focus on Sinn Féin will do little to revive their flagging fortunes, it has the potential to undermine the Peace Process. But, given their recent support for the unionists’ attempt to collapse the Assembly, they clearly aren’t too worried about that.

Joan Burton looking through fingers

If you think that Fianna Fáil are desperate that’s nothing compared to the Labour Party.

Sinking in the mire of their own broken promises and incompetence, Labour leader Joan Burton is only delighted to have something to talk about other than the fiasco of Irish Water or the deepening housing and homelessness crisis.

For Fine Gael, the utility of attacking Sinn Féin is a little more sophisticated.

Stability and chaos is their clarion call as they head into the general election. No harm if their claim of economic instability can be reinforced with the more general calamity of crime and cordite. And, sure, they never cared too much about the Peace Process anyway.

Meanwhile, back in Irish Independent HQ in Talbot Street, the new guard at the helm have a problem. Flagging readership has caused a certain panic. In response, Spindo hacks wade deeper into the gutter with ever more bizarre stories about moles and cover-ups.

At the heart of all of this distraction and disinformation lies a simple fact. Two elections are fast approaching.

AP Election Special poster

Sinn Féin are doing well in the polls. The centres of power and privilege, North and South, are nervous.

For different reasons, and in different ways, the interests of Southern conservatives, Northern unionists and the British Government have converged.

Interestingly, they don’t want to confront Sinn Féin on the ground of which party has a better vision and programme for the future of Ireland. Instead, they retreat into fantasies about the existence of the IRA and its apparent control over our party.

So let me make it very clear. The IRA no longer exists. Sinn Féin controls our own destiny. Increasingly, more and more people support us.

It is the fear of fundamental social, economic and political change rather than the existence of the IRA Army Council that has the Establishment in such a spin.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my Army Council instructions for today or I’ll be in trouble . . .

First published in the Sunday Business Post, 25 October 2015

Anger as council removes 1916 Proclamation mural

The mural in Cabra was in the process of being completed when it was removed by Dublin City Council staff

THERE is anger in Cabra, Dublin, after a mural which was in the process of being completed to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising was removed by Dublin City Council’s housing department in the early hours of the morning.

Cabra 1916 Commemoration Committee, which is made-up of local residents from a number of community groups, said in a statement:

“We are saddened by this act. The mural is only one part of a number of planned events which we have submitted to the council over four months ago.”

The Committee said other plans for the area include re-enactments, Irish language and cultural events, exhibitions, sporting competitions, the publication of a book on the history of nearby Grangegorman Cemetery and plans for a memorial to Cumann na mBan.

“We are asking our community and local representatives to support our programme of events and our further options and actions in relation to the mural,” the Committee said.

The mural at the Canon Burke complex on Faussagh Avenue had received widespread from local residents and elected representatives, and in July a motion in support of the plan was approved by the Council’s North West Area Committee.

Pat Finucane’s widow lodges appeal against court ruling in favour of British Government reneging on commitment at Weston Park

THE WIDOW of Belfast human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane, who was shot dead by the UDA on 12 February 1989, has lodged an appeal against the judgment and order of Justice Stephens on 8 September that the Secretary of State was justified in reneging upon a commitment made at Weston Park that if a public inquiry into Pat’s murder was recommended by retired Canadian judge Justice Peter Cory then the British Government would establish a public inquiry.

Pat Finucane H&S

Pat Finucane

Geraldine Finucane’s solicitor, Peter Madden of Madden & Finucane, said on Wednesday:

“It was demonstrated by internal communications between the Secretary of State and his officials, and in documentation disclosed in the course of the judicial review application, that the Secretary of State had already closed his mind to the type of inquiry envisaged by Judge Cory and promised by the British Government in 2001.

“He had engaged in a sham exercise, inviting representations from the family as to the model of inquiry which would be acceptable to them in circumstances where he had absolutely no intention of establishing such an inquiry.

“A full independent and international tribunal of inquiry – where documents will be examined in public and witnesses shall be compelled to attend and be cross-examined by Geraldine’s lawyers – remains the only model capable of achieving the truth of Pat’s murder.”

◼︎ Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Programme Director for the Six Counties, has previously said that Westminster’s failure to hold an independent public inquiry into the circumstances of Pat Finucane’s death “risks fatally undermining public confidence in Britain’s commitment to deal honestly with the past in Northern Ireland”.

He added that “extensive and compelling evidence has emerged which shows that security personnel colluded with loyalist paramilitary groups” in the killing, saying:

“In the Stormont House Agreement, the UK and other parties signed up for a human rights compliant process to deal with 30 years of killings in Northern Ireland. It is vital for public confidence in that process for Britain to honour its previous commitment to an independent public inquiry.

“At this point, everyone accepts that this was a brutal murder of a lawyer, carried out in partnership with the UK state.

“Yet the continued refusal to air this case in public and get at the truth of allegations risks fatally undermining public confidence in Britain’s commitment to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. Given the commitments made in the British-Irish Weston Park Agreement in 2001, anything less th

Palestinian people need international protection and embargo on all military exports to Israel

THE Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fatah) has said is “alarmed by the level and intensity of atrocities committed by Israel and it has called for the international community and friends and allies of the Palestinian people to speak out to “stop the Israeli Army and colonial settlers’ attacks on Palestinians, and invasion of the holy places, including Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

In the longer-term, the Palestine liberation movement said that the Palestinian people need international protection, an embargo on all military exports to Israel, and a ban on the trade of illegal settlement products, adding:

“Finally, it is time that the international community mobilises all efforts to end the Israeli occupation of our land and moves seriously to achieve real peace in the Middle East.”

Dublin Palestine solidarity Oct 2015

In a lengthy statement issued on Monday, Fatah pointed out that, since 1 October 2015, “Israel has murdered 27 Palestinians (17 of them are women and children)” and injured more than 1,350 civilians.

“The escalation of aggression and attacks that has seen the cold-blooded assassination of several unarmed civilians – such as Fadi Alloon of Jerusalem , Hadil Hashlmon of Hebron, and Isra Abed of Affuleh – while Palestinian homes have been demolished, as an act of collective punishment, are a disgrace to humanity and international law,” Fatah said.

Fatah urged people around the world:

“Please cry out for a halt to Israeli targeting of our children,”

It wants people to call for an end to the Israeli siege of Palestinian towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza and an end to the Israeli settlement project on the Palestinian territories.

“In an unprecedented act, Israel barred Palestinians from entering Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque and the Old City. Settler invasion of Al Aqsa mosque continued, with the support of the Israeli Army. These provocative actions are aimed at further entrenching Israel’s control and illegal annexation over East Jerusalem.

“These actions continue to enflame tensions while shifting the conflict from a political one that could be resolved to a perpetual religious confrontation.

Settler attacks on Palestinian villagers include shooting and beating of Palestinian civilians, vandalising homes, obstructing Palestinians’ movement (including through blocking streets) and burning olive orchards and other crops, Fatah said.

“The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem asked all Jewish residents of the city to carry arms and use them against Palestinians.

“More than 650,000 Israeli settlers are currently present in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in Israeli colonial settlements, mostly built during the period of the Oslo peace process since 1993. Notably, such a transfer of civilians is illegal under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and considered a war crime under the Rome Charter of the International Criminal Court.

The “alarming excessive use of force” is the outcome of three events, Fatah said:

  1. The Israeli Government decision in September to allow its occupying forces the use of lethal weapons with live ammunition against civilians;
  2. “Unprecedented warmongering and the culture of hate and racism among extreme groups in Israel who are now in the government”;
  3. Impunity and absence of accountability for the deaths Israel causes – “Not one perpetrator has been brought to justice, including the Jewish settler terrorist group who burned the house of the Dawabsheh family, causing the death of the parents and their 18-month-old baby. Shortly after this terrorist attack, the Israeli Defence Minister announced that he knows the group who committed the crime but for ‘national security reasons’ decided not to take action.”

Fatah continued:

“The Israeli Government continues to claim that all its actions are motivated by security. In reality, it is Palestinians who need security and protection the most.

“We are the only nation in the history of mankind where the occupier continues to demand protection from the victim.

“We call upon you, our friends and allies, to take action to stop the Israeli Army and colonial settlers’ attacks on Palestinians and invasion of the holy places, including Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“Please cry out for a halt to Israeli targeting of our children.

“Call for an end to Israeli siege of Palestinian towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza.

“Call for an end to the Israeli settlement project on the Palestinian territories.

“These are immediate measures needed to stop the escalation.

“For longer-term measures, we need international protection, an embargo on all military exports to Israel, and a ban on the trade of illegal settlement products.

“Finally, it is time that the international community mobilises all efforts to end the Israeli occupation of our land and moves seriously to achieve real peace in the Middle East.”

Tory direct rule from Westminster would be disastrous for unionist and nationalist communities, Martin McGuinness warns

MARTIN McGUINNESS told a packed public meeting in Belfast this week that Sinn Féin will oppose Tory austerity and “will not desert the working-class people, nationalist and unionist, of the North”.

He warned that a return to direct rule would see “unfettered Tory rule and an unrestrained onslaught on public services and the most vulnerable in our society”.

The deputy First Minister was speaking at a packed public meeting in Belfast on Wednesday when he addressed the present political negotiations and outlined the party’s commitment to negotiate a way out of the present political impasse.

“Sinn Féin has signed up to and stood by the commitments we made in the Haass Talks and the Stormont House Agreement reached last Christmas and we are serious about reaching agreement in these present talks,” he told his audience.

“However,” he added, “the Stormont House Agreement was seriously undermined by billions in additional cuts announced by the British Government in the months afterwards.

“A key objective in the negotiations leading to the Stormont House Agreement was achieving a workable and sustainable budget in the context of the many challenges facing the Executive and Assembly. But the British Government effectively reneged on the Stormont House Agreement when they unleashed a new attack on the welfare system and the Executive’s budget just months later.”

On the panel with Martin McGuinness were West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann (who answered questions from the floor on legacy issues with some questioners criticising the British Government’s recent proposals on dealing with the past), and Carál Ní Chuilín (who fielded queries from Belfast Gaels on the delays in developing Casement Park).

West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey, Paul Maskey, Jennifer McCann and Martin McGuiness with lifelong republican Kitty McGettigan

West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey, Paul Maskey MP, Jennifer McCann MLA and Martin McGuinness MLA with lifelong republican Kitty McGettigan

British Government locked into negative and partisan approach towards Stormont talks

● British Prime Minister David Cameron – gratuitous reproach of Sinn Féin

ROUTINELY, on an almost daily basis, a statement is issued in the name of British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to advise of “focussed discussions”, “frank exchanges”, “steady progress”, and other descriptions of the plenary discussions occurring at the new Stormont House talks.

These statements read and sound like report cards from a school inspector pronouncing upon the pupils’ conduct and attention to their lessons.

They are as ridiculous as they are patronising and arrogant.

There presently is no momentum within the talks process. 

What’s happening is an action replay of the British and Irish governments’ approach to the process last winter which culminated in the Stormont House Agreement.

The British Government in particular is posturing as some type of referee or arbiter. And that is the central faultline which denies any dynamic to these talks.

The British Government is not a referee. 

It needs to start taking responsibility for what the Tories have deliberately neglected since they came to power in 2010 – that is to act as a co-guarantor with the Irish Government for even-handed management of the peace and political processes.

This political crisis is the inevitable culmination of British disengagement and negative mismanagement, and Irish Government semi-detachment and passivity.  The existing and escalating political difficulties have been exacerbated by the austerity crisis unleashed by the Tories in the North.

It suits this British Government for there to be no dynamic or momentum and to remain aloof from active participation in the talks.

But make no mistake about it; there is a “plan”! And that is, while the five parties do round-table discussions, British officials in the background are drafting legislation and documents designed to predetermine the talks outcomes, even at this stage.

Their periodic circulation is meant to create the illusion of building consensus.

Not surprisingly, attempting to dilute and reverse previously-agreed positions is part of this manoeuvre.

That’s clear to be seen in the draft legislation for dealing with the past recently submitted by British officials that seeks to further distance the British Government from its obligations to maximum disclosure under the Stormont House Agreement.

That is not acceptable to Sinn Féin.

However, it is part of a build-up to “take it or leave it” proposals being set down by the British.

This is not the way to do proper politics – but it is this British Government’s way of doing business.

The scene has already begun to be set for such a game plan with the recent interviews by Prime Minister David Cameron and Theresa Villiers prior to and during the Conservative Party conference. These interventions have been typically partisan and pro-unionist.

Cameron’s gratuitous reproach of Sinn Féin with his reference to politicians “holding ballot boxes and guns”, during a UTV interview last Monday night, clearly reflects British policy.

In rebukes of both Sinn Féin and the SDLP, Cameron and Villiers have demanded that Tory welfare cuts are accepted.

They have also now set the end of October as a deadline by which time the talks must be concluded.

The most recent negative public intervention by Villiers has been to threaten a return of direct rule.

The British appear to be proactively conditioning public opinion for the imposition of ‘take it or leave it’ demands limited to “paramilitarism and welfare”, combined with dilution of the Stormont House Agreement.  Arguably, this would have an appeal to the Irish Government as a backdrop to the next Southern general election.

Put simply, as the political crisis deepens, this British Government is politically positioning itself to try and impose its own predetermined talks outcomes and to justify the subsequent blame game.

This approach reduces the political process to a travesty, undermines the Good Friday Agreement, hollows out the Stormont House Agreement, and ridicules the very Peace Process itself.

The British Government and the NIO are not neutral.

Britain is part of the problem with huge challenges to face in terms of its role in the conflict, involvement in collusion, human rights violations, ideological aversion to neutrality and impartiality, and its strategic responsibility to the political process.

The Tories must not be allowed to sidestep the scale of the North’s economic problems and the irrefutable ‘special circumstances’ which exist in the Six Counties as a result of partition and the conflict.

Providing a sustainable budget and economic stimulus package must be central to the current talks process.

The question is whether the British Government and the Irish Government really want to be part of contributing to a successful talks outcome which will empower transformational politics in the North and ensure we are not pushed back into permanent political instability.

The political pattern being recycled by the approach of the two governments, left unchecked, will only take us all in one direction and with one consequence – failure.

That scenario must be avoided.

Positive interventions by civic society, and Irish democratic opinion – as well as the significant political influence of the European community, Irish America and the US administration – are now more important than ever.

These voices need to reinforce the message that success will depend upon leadership from every political party and equally from both governments.

The British Government should step up to the mark immediately, get properly involved in the talks, and fulfil its responsibilities to guarantee political progress and a sustainable economic future in the North.

Immediate international protection needed for Palestinian civilians, says Martina Anderson

IRISH GUE/NGL MEP Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin) has called for East Jerusalem to be placed under immediate international protection after a series of violent clashes have left several dead and tensions heightened to an extreme level.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Martina Anderson, Chair of the European Parliament delegation for Relations with Palestine, said:

“Every day we read with horror about another violation of Palestinian fundamental rights, another violent clash on a holy site or increasingly, another fatality in the region.

“Three young Palestinians were killed over this weekend alone. One was Abed al-Rahman Obeidallah, a 13-year-old boy. Over 500 Palestinians have been wounded, almost 200 of them with live fire.

“This – in the context of the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and the brutal repression, collective punishment and humiliation of the Palestinian civilian population – is simply serving to heighten tensions in an already aggravated environment.

“The illegal ban on Palestinians entering the Old City of Jerusalem and the blanket-restriction of Palestinian Muslims and Christians trying to access their Holy Sites in Jerusalem has to stop immediately. People of all faiths must be free to worship unconditionally.

“The downhill path to try and present/convert the issue of occupation into a religious conflict is extremely dangerous and should be stopped at its heels.

“Israeli religious discrimination coupled with an alarming increase in Israeli settler violence is made worse by the total impunity with which they act. The international community cannot stand idly by as the occupying power and settler militias continue their violent crimes against the Palestinian people.”

5 October 1968 – RUC attack Civil Rights march in Duke Street, Derry

IN the aftermath of the first Civil Rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon, in August 1968, it was announced that the next demonstration would be in the city of Derry. Civil Rights campaigners in Derry had been pressing for a march in their city which had long been a byword for unionist sectarianism and discrimination.

Using gerrymandered electoral boundaries and a corrupt voting system which allowed wealthier citizens to have multiple votes in local elections, the unionists maintained a majority of members on the council in a city with a nationalist majority. Nationalists lived in very poor housing conditions and were affected disproportionately by the 20% rate of unemployment in the city.

Unionists had long regarded the old walled town as a citadel that could never be surrendered and their dominance was symbolised by the walls towering over the crumbling 19th century terraced streets of the nationalist Bogside. The last time nationalists had attempted to hold a parade inside the walls was on St Patrick’s Day 1951, when they were batoned by the RUC.

Housing was a massive issue in Derry and the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) provided the focus for leadership as the Civil Rights campaign took off. The DHAC had organised a James Connolly commemoration in the city in July 1968 which was banned by the unionist government.

1968 Duke Street poster

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) agreed to hold a march in Derry on 5 October. The loyalist Apprentice Boys organisation immediately announced a counter-demonstration with the purpose of forcing the unionist government’s hand to ban the Civil Rights march. But the regime at Stormont did not require forcing because the Home Affairs Minister was ultra-unionist William Craig, who promptly imposed the ban.


NICRA held an emergency meeting with the DHAC. Many on the NICRA Executive and some Derry nationalist figures, including John Hume, wanted to cancel the march but the majority of Derry activists were determined to defy the ban. They won out and the march was to proceed as planned.

It was a relatively small march, beginning on Craigavon Bridge with several hundred people. The objective was the Diamond in the city centre. The march was stopped in Duke Street by the RUC. A meeting was held with speakers, including Gerry Fitt, Betty Sinclair, Eddie McAteer, Ivan Cooper, Austin Currie and Eamonn McCann. Three Westminster Labour MPs were also present.

Duke Street 1968 man dragged

After the meeting, the marchers found themselves hemmed in on all sides by the RUC. They could not disperse and, after a tense stand-off, the RUC – oblivious to the presence of TV cameras and photographers ­– unleashed an unprovoked attack on the crowd with batons, boots and fists. Water cannons were then used.

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, then a young People’s Democracy activist, recalled:

“Quite deliberately, they hosed in the upstairs windows and shopfronts, and they went right across Craigavon Bridge, hosing all the onlookers. The police just went mad.”

Divis Street 1964 remonstrating with RUC


The RUC attack in Duke Street brought the Civil Rights struggle in Ireland to a world audience for the first time. It was a complete eye-opener to many people in the 26 Counties and in Britain. But most profound was its effect on young nationalists. Derry man Mickey Devine, the last of the ten Hunger Strikers to die in 1981, recalled:

“Like every young person in Derry, my whole way of thinking was tossed upside down by the events of 5 October 1968. I didn’t even know there was a Civil Rights march; I saw it on television.

“But that night I was down the town smashing shop windows and stoning the RUC. I developed an intense hatred of the RUC. As a child I had always known not to talk to them or to have anything to do with them, but this was different.

“Within a month everyone was a political activist. I had never had a political thought in my life but now we talked of nothing else. I was by no means politically aware but the speed of events gave me a quick education.”

(Quoted in Duke Street – The Point of No Return, by Kevin McCool, An Phoblacht, 6 October 1988).

The RUC attacked the Civil Rights march in Duke Street, Derry, on 5 October 1968.

O’Donovan Rossa ceremony in New York with Rossa family, addressed by Gerry Adams

● Great-grandchildren of O’Donovan Rossa lay a wreath (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

THE 100th anniversary of the death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa was marked in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York, last weekend when the main speaker was Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD.

More than 200 people gathered at the historical Fenian Plot on 26 September. Proceedings were opened by President of Clan na nGael Danny Browne and chaired by Friends of Sinn Féin President Jim Cullen.

Gerry Adams reflected on the life and death of Jeramiah O’Donovan Rossa, whom he described as “the most high-profile Irish revolutionary exile in America” who was “an unrepentant Fenian to his death”.

The Sinn Féin leader thanked everyone “who has remained loyal and true to the cause of Irish freedom over many decades”.

ODR New York Sept 2015

Louth Sinn Féin Councillor Edel Corrigan spoke on the life of Mary Jane O’Donovan Rossa, her contribution to the fight for Irish freedom and the great role model she has been for women over the generations.

Irish actor and playwright Tony Devlin re-enacted the famous speech by Pádraig Pearse which was delivered at the graveside in Glasnevin Cemetery in 1915. It is regarded as the signal for the mobilisation for the Easter Rising the following year.

ODR Gerry Adams and Congressman Crawley walk to the Fenian Plot

● Gerry Adams and Congressman Crawley walk to the Fenian Plot (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

US Congressman Joe Crawley, whose district the ceremony was taking place in, also spoke to the crowd about those buried in this iconic graveyard.

The great-grandsons of O’Donovand Rossa and Mary Jane, Williams and Rossa, and their great-great-grandson, Atticus, laid a wreath at the Fenian Monument. Also present was their great-great-granddaughter, Cleo.

Williams and Rossa are making a documentary film about their great-grandfather in the context of the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

The event is part of a series of events which will be held in the coming year to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

ODR Jim Cullen, Gerry Adams, Rita O’Hare, Tony Devlin and Danny Browne at the Fenian Plot

Jim Cullen, Gerry Adams, Rita O’Hare, Tony Devlin and Danny Browne at the Fenian Plot (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

Flag of Palestine raised at Government Buildings in Dublin

Young elected Sinn Féin representatives in solidarity with the people of Palestine

THE FLAG of Palestine was raised over Irish Government buildings in Dublin on Wednesday to coincide with the raising of the flag for the first time at the United Nations in New York.

Speaking to An Phoblacht at Leinster House, Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD expressed his solidarity with the people of Palestine but hit out at the Government for failing to recognise Palestine as a state.Sean Crowe

In December 2014 a Sinn Féin proposal in favour of recognition of the State of Palestine received unanimous support in the Dáil.

“General recognition of Palestine should now follow. We will continue to call on all member states to recognise Palestinian statehood, to give further support to the Palestinian people and to assist the peace process in the region,” Seán Crowe said.

The Dublin South West TD said now is the time for the Government to “take the next step and recognise the Palestinian people’s right to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other countries of the world.”

Catalonia votes ‘Yes to independence’

CATALAN nationalists say they will move to create an independent republic of Catalonia after regional parliamentary elections on Sunday saw pro-independence parties win an overall majority of seats in the Catalan Parliament.

A massive 77.5% of voters turned out for the election, with the ‘Together for Yes’ alliance – which includes a number of pro-independence parties – topping the poll.

The pro-independence parties say the result gives them a clear mandate to go about creating an independent Catalan state.

“We have won. Catalans have voted Yes to independence. We have a clear, absolute majority in the Catalan parliament to go ahead. As democrats we were prepared to accept the defeat. Now, we demand that they accept the victory for Catalonia and the victory of the Yes,” Catalan President Artur Mas told reporters as news of the victory broke.

Spain previously blocked a planned referendum on independence by Catalonia and has pledged to block any attempts by the Catalan Parliament to form an independent state, claiming that unilateral independence is illegal under the Spanish constitution.

Both Together for Yes and the smaller CUP party previously said that in the event of a majority they would unilaterally declare independence within 18 months.

It is expected a ‘Roadmap to Independence’ will be published by 2017 and the Catalan Government also wants to begin moves to create its own institutions including an army, central bank and judicial system.

Artur Mas says he wants to meet with the Spanish Government and the European Commission to plan a way forward “for all of us, not only for Catalonia”.

Weapons fueling refugee crisis being brought through Shannon Airport

Protesters outside Leinster House in 2014 demand the release of anti-war activist Margaretta D’Arcy

WEAPONS and munitions which are being pumped into the Middle East and fueling Europe’s refugee crisis are being transported through Shannon Airport, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Shannonwatc shows.

The FOI by the anti-war organisation reveals that the Fine Gael and Labour Government approved 272 US military flights carrying weapons and explosives to pass through Shannon Airport in 2014.

The FOI also shows that over 550 permits were granted by the Department of Transport to airlines carrying US troops and munitions to forward operating bases in the Middle East. Only 20 requests were refused.

Retired Irish Defence Forces officer and Shannonwatch activist Edward Horgan says it is likely some of the weapons which passed through Ireland are now in the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) group who have captured huge amounts of US equipment while other US-backed rebels have either defected or simply handed over their weapons to ISIS:

“US arms manufacturers will be delighted with these developments as they will continue to replace all this ammunition expended in wars, or stolen and handed over to the likes of ISIS,” he said.

John Lannon of Shannonwatch says the continued flow of weapons into the Middle East is exacerbating the refugee crisis:

“The information reveals flights going to the likes of Saudi Arabia which is dropping cluster bombs on Yemen. When we see the scale of the refugee crisis created by the use of weapons in Syria we begin to get a glimpse of how arms shipments can impact on a region. It’s not something we should be part of.”

John Lannon also said the records seen by Shannonwatch showed a lack transparency, no proper oversight and little regard for the consequences of war:

“Why couldn’t the Government have answered some of the many requests made by TDs like Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Sinn Féin’s Seán Crowe for details of what is being brought through Shannon by the US army? How can our government claim we are in any way neutral when this is happening? ” he asked.

Unionist councillors oppose moves to help refugees

There have been demonstrations North and South in solidarity with refugees

THE decision by unionist councillors on Causeway Coast and Glens Council to oppose motions aimed at helping refugees fleeing war-torn Syria has been condemned as “disgraceful”.

The motions, submitted by Sinn Féin and the SDLP, were voted down by the unionist dominated council during a heated Council meeting in Coleraine.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have continued to flee to Europe this year as they escape war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. Many of the conflicts have been fomented by Western military intervention in the region.

The meeting was even briefly suspended after the DUP used the refugee motions as a pretext to attack Sinn Féin over the recent conflict in the North.

Local Sinn Féin Councillor Kieran Mulholland said he was “a bit taken aback” by the attitude of unionist councillors to those fleeing war an persecution:

“I couldn’t believe the attitude of unionist councillors to what were, in my view, common sense ideas for the Council to investigate ways and means of providing practical help to a humanitarian crisis.”

Councillor Mulholland said the community had taken the lead on the issue with enormous generosity shown from locals in donating money, clothes, toiletries and other necessities to charities working with refugees.

“I know that the local community want their politicians to find further practical ways of helping to end the suffering of families trekking across Europe,” he said.

“I am extremely disappointed and saddened that unionist councillors argued against this non-political, humanitarian aspiration.”

Uncomfortable Conversations happening in Scotland

● The panel of republican ex-prisoners and former British Army soldiers in Plains, Scotland

PLAINS is a small, quiet village in north Lanarkshire, close to the larger centres of Airdrie and Coatbridge.

The west of Scotland is marked by sectarian geography not unlike the segregation seen in the North of Ireland – Plains is regarded as a Catholic village, as is the town of Coatbridge, while Airdrie is seen as strongly loyalist, with the suburb of Clarkston, the closest point of the town to Plains village, a veritable sea of Union Jack flags.

Last Saturday afternoon, all seemed quiet on the sleepy main street of Plains but, inside the small but busy community centre, an event probably unheard of in Scotland was happening in front of a fascinated audience.

Organised by the local cumann of Irish republican group Cairde na hEireann, it was an event which demanded rapt attention and respectful silence in the room.

On the community centre platform were six people, five men and one woman, each telling their own personal testimonies of the conflict in the Six Counties, or ‘Northern Ireland’ as some had it – a conflict to which there is so much allegiance and affinity in the west of Scotland.

It was a scene some present thought almost impossible to credit. Three Irish republican former political prisoners sitting alongside three former members of the British Army who had all served in the North.

Conversations cover

All unaccustomed to public speaking, and all just a bit nervous of each other and of whatever audience turned up, the event soon took off as all the panellists rose to shake hands with each other. And, during the course of the discussions, all remarked that they felt in no way ‘uncomfortable’ with each other.

People spoke plainly and directly about their experiences and didn’t try to soften the impact of what those ‘the other side’ represented had done to them – Archie Fleming’s brother shot dead by the British Army; one of the British soldiers’ memories of many friends killed in the IRA’s Warrenpoint ambush of a Para convoy in 1979.

As one of the ex-soldiers arrived up to the venue sporting a small set of Para wings in his lapel, some of those gathered smoking outside shifted uncomfortably, remarking it was a bit insensitive given that the three Irish republicans hailed from Derry, where the scars left by the Para killings on Bloody Sunday still run so deep.

But such reservations were forgotten as the debate in the hall warmed up. People were honest and discussion ranged from the political developments which have allowed such events to happen to many very personal reminiscences of times of conflict, post-conflict and post-prison, including the death of Mickey Kinsella’s brother Pól while still a republican prisoner.

All strongly agreed with each other that the Peace Process had to keep moving forward. No one on that stage wanted to see any of a younger generation having to go through what they had encountered, whether it was the house raids, interrogation and imprisonment described by Patricia Moore; or to be a teenage soldier standing among a hostile population on the Falls Road or in South Armagh waiting in fear of the unseen sniper.

The audience paid close and respectful attention, and every contribution was openly and genuinely applauded. Questions were straight and the answers were equally honest.

Both audience and panellists commented, extremely unfavourably, on the absence of the representatives of local unionism who had been strenuously and repeatedly invited to attend – church ministers, local Orangemen and local loyalists. They were regarded as having turned their backs on dialogue and whilst they may have been uncomfortable at the prospect of attending, it would have been no more uncomfortable than for the three friendly and honest local men who had gone to fight “for Queen and country” and returned to their home places.

British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, 2015

British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott launching ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ in Dublin with Gerry Adams last week

At the end of a week where Gerry Adams and British Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott had shared a platform in Dublin, this small but significant event in a small Scottish town was a fascinating couple of hours.

As people parted outside, it was handshakes all round. It was clear that the afternoon had whetted the appetite of those present to develop such events of reconciliation and acknowledgement, and to bring this much-needed debate back to Scotland again in the future

EXCLUSIVE – Bobby Storey after his arrest, still totally committed to Peace Process



THE SHOCK ARREST of Bobby Storey, the Chair of the Six-County Cúige of Sinn Féin, last week during the PSNI investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August was used by unionist parties vying for electoral advantage to threaten to bring down the political process at Stormont.

Storey’s arrest led to a flurry of accusations by unionist politicians and the media that were used to justify the Ulster Unionist Party’s and later the Democratic Unionist Party’s actions to try and sanction Sinn Féin, plunging Stormont into crisis.

After two days in police custody, Bobby Storey was released unconditionally.

In a tweet soon afterwards, lawyer John Finucane said:

“After two days in Antrim, my client Bobby Storey has been freed. No evidence was put at any stage and my client will be suing for unlawful arrest.”

In an exclusive interview with An Phoblacht, Bobby Storey said he is “personally livid” at his arrest and, “on a political and democratic level”, how it has been exploited by the unionist parties to try and undermine the power-sharing Executive and Assembly at Stormont. But, despite his clearly burning anger, he reaffirms his continuing and passionate support for the Peace Process.

How do you feel after your arrest and release without charge?

First of all, there are two families who have been bereaved by the brutal murders of Jock and Kevin and both of those grieving families have my wholehearted sympathy.

The people who carried out these killings are criminals; they are enemies of the republican peace strategy and the Peace Process overall. They should face due process. The only way to deal with these killings is through the criminal justice system.

I repeat calls already made by my party colleagues that anyone with any information should come forward and give it to the PSNI.

Self-appointed gangs like this ‘Action Against Drugs’ group are well-known in the community as a hybrid of pseudo republicans, criminals, extortionists and thieves who have nothing to offer anyone other than misery. They are a cancer, they are anti-republican, and they are anti-community.

As far as I feel about my arrest since my release, I was and I am still personally livid.

When a PSNI uniformed sergeant asked me as I was leaving the police station how I was, I told him I couldn’t find the words to express how angry and affronted I was to have been arrested and held for such a terrible thing as Kevin’s murder.

I totally reject scurrilous allegations around my arrest and the suggestion that I would do anything to damage the Sinn Féin peace project or the Peace Process that we have worked so long and hard to build and advance.

It was something I should never have been arrested for.

Does your arrest affect your view of the Peace Process?

Absolutely not.

My commitment to the Peace Process remains and I will not be swayed from that by the actions of criminals or the actions of the PSNI.

I reject the attempts of the unionist parties to cynically use these murders or my unlawful detention to question or threaten the political institutions.

I’d like to make a few points about the media and the political fall-out from my detention.

My party and I have been subjected to trial by media. The presumption of innocence has again been set aside for political expediency.

The behaviour of the unionist parties in using my unjust detention to try and pull down the political institution is nothing short of a disgrace. They have succeeded only in holding the political process to ransom, and providing encouragement to ‘dissidents’ and those who murdered Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan.

Neither I nor Sinn Féin will allow criminals to win and I’m going to continue to play a constructive role in the weeks ahead in shoring up the Peace Process against the attacks by those who would drag us back to the past.

Your reaction after your release has been calm and considered. Will you be seeking an explanation from the PSNI Chief Constable for your arrest?

Well, as the Chair of the Six Counties Cúige of Sinn Féin, I have organisational and political responsibilities and I always want to give clear leadership on all matters, particularly at times like this.

I’m particularly conscious of this in this interview because I’m talking to An Phoblacht but I have been and I still am – on a personal and emotional level – infuriated and outraged by arrest.

My family, friends and comrades feel the same, and I have even had people who know me but who are not Sinn Féin supporters come up to me and say how angry they are at what is going on.

There was no basis for arresting me. At no time during my detention did the police present anything which, in my opinion or in the opinion of my solicitor, warranted my arrest.

Questions must be asked about the timing and nature of my wrongful arrest. The PSNI is now accountable for its actions and I and Sinn Féin will be raising all our concerns through the mechanisms set up to make the police accountable, mechanisms which Sinn Féin has worked hard to achieve.

I have also instructed my solicitor to look at taking legal proceedings against the Chief Constable.

What can you say about the almost 40 hours you were in custody?

My solicitor made several complaints about the length of interviews, time-wasting by detectives, and lack of evidence.

On occasions they questions me on stuff they’d taken from media reports! That was the basis for the police asking me questions!

When we asked them for any substance or intelligence to back up their lines of questioning, they retreated into ‘Police believe…’ or ‘Well, it is an opinion.’

Are you concerned that your arrest – as a steadfast supporter of the Peace Process – could be used by opponents to undermine the Peace Process?

What struck me on my release was the impact it has had on people who knew me and even on some people I didn’t know.

People who know me are well aware of my views of such murders and those who would carry out such acts. They were completely shaken by the fact that I could be arrested in this way.

As I said earlier, many people – including non-republicans – have stopped me to ask what was going on. Their opinions ranged from my arrest itself (given my views), the question of timing, and unionist infighting exploiting a man’s murder.

Of course these things will be used by opponents of the Peace Process (of all shades) but it’s our job to see that they don’t succeed.

Have you had a chance to catch up on what unionist politicians and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers have said about your arrest?

Most people can see that it’s unionist political infighting and rivalry between the UUP and DUP that has allowed brutal, criminal murders to be brought in from the streets to threaten the political process.

[Acting First Minister] Arlene Foster’s remarks about “rogue Sinn Féin or renegade SDLP ministers” taking decisions that will harm the community and DUP leader Peter Robinson’s comments about Sinn Féin representatives who have a democratic mandate the same as him have been shameful.

But whatever about all that, unionists have to come out of their regressive, retrograde mindsets and embrace equality and democracy. They have to recognise and accept the democratic mandates given to all elected representatives under the Good Friday Agreement.

I’ll be continuing to support the Peace Process and make it work.

Refugees crisis – Ireland should do more, say Sinn Féin leaders

Refugees crisis – Ireland should do more, say Sinn Féin leaders

A rescue worker carries the body of toddler Aylan Kurdi from a Turkish beach

Independent Syrian child on beach 2015

IRELAND should do more to help refugees fleeing war-torn and economically-devastated states, Sinn Féin leaders said again as even the right-wing mainstream media revised or at least moderated its anti-refugee rhetoric in the wake of a heart-rending photograph of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey after he drowned attempting to reach Greece.

Aylan and his five-year-old brother (who also drowned) came from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where Kurdish forces have been tenaciously resisting Islamic State assaults.

Martin McGuinness press conference

Martin McGuinness and Jennifer McCann

Sinn Féin MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Thursday made a direct appeal to British Prime Minister David Cameron to accept more refugees from Syria and the Middle East.

“The world has been shocked by the harrowing images which have been beamed across the globe in recent days and we all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to alleviate this growing humanitarian crisis,” Martin McGuinness said.

“I spoke to David Cameron today and made a direct appeal to him to permit entry to more refugees. I have no doubt the people of the North – and indeed Scotland and Wales – would gladly welcome any moves to allow more refugees to come here. My department has already been exploring the feasibility of how we can do that.”

He pointed out that Sinn Féin Junior Minister Jennifer McCann raised this very issue at the Joint Ministerial Committee in June where there was a clear view that more needs to be done to assist refugees.

Martina Anderson with refugees

MEP Martina Anderson with a refugee family

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who has also been vocal in highlighting the human toll that has turned the Mediterranean into a mass grave for people desperate to save their families from situations caused or prolonged by some EU states’ policies, said:

“Clearly, the EU member states can and need do more to help end the suffering.

“They need to take in more refugees right across Europe to help prevent further tragedies.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said in Dublin that the quota of 600 refugees that Ireland has been asked to take in is “woefully inadequate” and must be re-examined.

“The Irish people share a common history with those escaping conflict and hunger. We cannot stand by and watch others experience the horrors of the coffin ships.

“Human dignity and compassion means that we all have a responsibility to protect those fleeing conflict. There should be no more photos of drowned children washed up on the shore.”

The Dublin TD added that Ireland can and should do more.

“This must include increasing aid and the number of refugees accepted, ending Direct Provision, and investing in housing and public services.

“We cannot just expect refugees to join the list of already overstretched public services. This cannot be an either/or situation – we must invest in public services to meet the needs of all.”

Jim McVeigh

Belfast City Council Sinn Féin Group Leader Jim McVeigh (left)

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Belfast City Councillor and Group Leader Jim McVeigh called on Mayor Arder Carson to convene an emergency sitting of Belfast City Council to see what Belfast can do to address the refugee and humanitarian crisis unfolding across the Middle East and Europe.

Mayor Carson has called an emergency meeting of Belfast City Council for 6pm Monday “to discuss the unfolding refugee crisis”.

Councillor McVeigh said:

“Images of infants being washed up onshore after fleeing, with their families, conflicts in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Kurdistan have been extremely distressing.

“No father or mother would choose lightly to make such a perilous journey for their families without just cause.

“We cannot stand by idly and let this humanitarian crisis unfold further without doing something.”

◼︎ See also: The human rights elephant in our nation’s room by Sue Conlan, Irish Refugee Council CEO, writing in September’s An Phoblacht, in shops or online now.

Irish Refugee Council CEO article, 2015

A united Ireland will deliver a stronger economy and a just, equal and fair society

A united Ireland will deliver a stronger economy and a just, equal and fair society


ACROSS IRELAND, the support for republican ideals is growing. Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland political party with elected representatives in every forum across the island – the all-Ireland Ministerial Council, the Executive, the Dáil, the Seanad the Assembly, the European Parliament, and at local council level. Every single person across Ireland, North and South, is represented by Sinn Féin.

We are the only party with the strategy and policies to achieve Irish unity.

Our strategy to deliver a united Ireland is built upon:-

  • Building popular support and consensus for Uniting Ireland
  • Developing governmental and non-governmental structures, policies and networks on an integrated and all-Ireland basis and to influence policy makers to achieve this.
  • Challenging those who would seek to maintain the status quo.
  • Ensuring that that the British and Irish governments maintain and implement in full their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and other agreements.
  • Ensuring the Irish Government acts on the Constitutional imperative of reunification.
  • Building international political and practical support for Irish unity.

Sinn Féin are building a new, agreed and united Ireland. We are driving forward the architecture for a united Ireland.

Uniting Ireland is about delivering the necessary political and social change that is required to ensure that Ireland is a nation which serves all of our people.

A united Ireland will deliver a stronger economy and a just, equal and fair society.

GA & Matt Carthy, Ploughing 2013, Laois

Gerry Adams TD with Matt Carthy MEP

Removing the inherent economic instability of partition will make way for an integrated all-Ireland taxation system which is progressive and which will support healthcare which is free at the point of delivery, and a strong education system.

A united Ireland means stronger public services. Back-to-back provision doesn’t work. It wastes resources and drains the economy. All-Ireland provision delivers for all the people of Ireland.

There are multiple examples in which a better service has been delivered through an all-Ireland approach. For instance, the joint cancer centre in Derry now provides services for patients from throughout the north-west. Patients from Donegal or Derry do not have to travel to Belfast or Dublin for treatments.

There are opportunities within a united Ireland to reconfigure how we deliver health services across Ireland.

The total money spent per person within the current regressive health system in the South is more than is spent per person in the North of Ireland or in Britain. Yet the people of the North and Britain have access to better services which are free at the point of delivery.

With vision, commitment and determination we could deliver better services to all the people of Ireland, North and South.

A united Ireland economy will create a level playing field for trade not dependent on the whim of currency exchanges or taxation differences on one small island. ‘Brand Ireland’ can be promoted free from the confusion and the wasteful duplication brought on by having different state bodies promoting produce and products from Ireland. We would no longer have the ludicrous situation where a body such as the National Dairy Council could decide that milk from a Northern cow is not Irish!

GA with Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, Ploughing 2013, Laois

☻ Gerry Adams TD and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh with ‘udders’ at the Ploughing Championships in Laois

The combined economic output per person in all of Ireland together is greater than our nearest neighbour, Britain. This means our combined economies are stronger together. Integrating the economy will drive economic growth and deliver a more sustainable fair and equal economy.

Sinn Féin have shown real leadership in the Northern Executive and Assembly. We have:-

▪︎ Protected access to Social Security;

▪︎ Delivered free prescriptions;

▪︎ Protected people from Water Charges;

▪︎ Delivered free travel for our older people;

▪︎ Protected access to higher education;

▪︎ Defended health and education;

▪︎ Supported small business.

We have achieved all of this despite huge cuts to our local budgets imposed by Westminster. It is this vision, leadership and credible alternatives to austerity which Sinn Féin will deliver to all the people of Ireland within the context of a united Ireland.

No one given the task of designing the best economic, social and political model for an island of 6.4million people would dream of separating the north-east corner from the rest of the country and, in turn, creating two separate competing currencies, tax systems, legal frameworks and two administrations.

Let’s be clear – simply maintaining the status quo in the form of two separate competing economies on a tiny island will not deliver prosperity for the people of this island.

There are no advantages for a small island nation on the edge of Europe having separate tax regimes, regulatory and legal systems, disparate economic development agencies and programmes, divergent and competing investment strategies and economic policies.

The transition towards Irish unity offers us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape a nation.

Reunification will not be the endpoint. The end will be the nation we can build with freedom and powers that unity will give us.

We can deliver a real republic. We can build the kind of Ireland envisaged in the Proclamation.

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens.”

A nation confident in ourselves taking our place together in the world.

We are stronger together than we can ever be apart.

Soldiers responsible for Ballymurphy Massacre cannot be traced, claims ministry – Taoiseach urged to act

THE Ministry of Defence claims that it cannot find any records identifying the soldiers involved in the Ballymurphy Massacre in the three days after internment in August 1971 when 11 civilians (including a Catholic priest) were shot dead by British Army paratroopers.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD – a former MP for Ballymurphy in west Belfast – says that, in light of the recent all-party motion passed by the Dáil supporting the Ballymurphy families, this deserves the urgent attention of the Taoiseach.

In March, Taoiseach Enda Kenny met the Ballymurphy families and reiterated the Irish Government’s support for the families’ quest for the truth and for justice regarding the deaths of their loved ones, including their proposal for an Independent Panel of Inquiry.

Expressing his “deep concern and anger at the failure of the British Government to progress the Ballymurphy case”, Gerry Adams said he has been given a copy of a letter sent from the Crown Solicitor’s Office to the Coroners’ Service in Belfast which reveals that “serious hurdles have been erected by the British state to the families getting to the truth of events in Ballymurphy in August 1971”.

The letter also confirms that the member of staff assigned to Ballymurphy has been reassigned to another inquest.

Ministry of Defence logo

It reveals that the British MoD “has not been able to uncover any records within its control regarding the original cipher list [British Army personnel record] at Ballymurphy in 1971 . . . MoD has not as yet been successful in tracing any ciphered soldiers involved in Ballymurphy”.

Additionally, it also notes that the PSNI has previously advised the Coroner that “the resources which the Chief Constable can commit to servicing the legacy inquest process are finite”.

Gerry Adams says:

“This is an unacceptable situation. It is clear evidence that the British Government and system is not dealing with Ballymurphy in a manner and a timescale that meets international human rights standards.”

He added:

“The deliberate withholding of resources and the failure to speedily identify the soldiers present in Ballymurphy is evidence of a British Government and MoD deliberately frustrating the families efforts.”

He said the Irish Government has a responsibility and a mandate from the Dáil to challenge the British Prime Minister and Government on the way it which it is dealing with the Ballymurphy families and with this case.

“It needs to adopt a more robust and assertive approach to ensure that the British Government allocates the necessary resources to the Ballymurphy Massacre case.

“I have therefore asked the Taoiseach if he will raise these concerns with British Prime Minister David Cameron; instruct the Minister for Foreign Affairs to also raise this with the British Secretary of State; and seek from the British Government a commitment to allocate the necessary financial and personnel resources to the Ballymurphy Massacre case.”

Michael Devine – Died 20 August 1981 after 60 days on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh

Michael Devine – Died 20 August 1981 after 60 days on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh

» Special Correspondent

MICHAEL DEVINE, aged 27, was born in the Creggan, Derry City, on 26 May 1954.

Michael was arrested in September 1976 following an INLA arms raid in County Donegal. He received a 12-year sentence in June 1977.

He spent 60 days on hunger strike from 22 June. He died on 20 August 1981.


The death of Michael Devine


On the death of INLA Volunteer Michael Devine at 12 minutes to eight on Thursday 20 August 1981, his brother-in-law, Frankie McCauley, said:

“One thinks, ‘Ten men, how many more have to die? We have ours now over us. Next week it will be big Laurence’s people waiting for the same thing. Then the Devlins after that and another boy will go on hunger strike and another. They’ll never break them.’”

Michael Devine was the last of the Hunger Strikers to die in 1981. His funeral took place on Saturday 22 August in his native Derry City, in a grave next to his friend and comrade, Patsy O’Hara, who died the previous May.

The funeral went from Michael Devine’s sister’s home in Rathkeele Way directly to the cemetery after Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Chapel. People came from many parts of Ireland to attend and a long queue of mourners lined up outside the house to pay their respects. Thousands gathered in the street as the coffin was removed from the house, flanked by an INLA guard of honour, followed by relatives and then representatives of the families of the other Hunger Strikers.10-Mickey-Devine

Conversation on the day revolved around the courage and determination of the Hunger Strikers and the wavering attitude of the Irish Government, the SDLP and the Catholic Hierarchy. Another topic of conversation was the election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone after the death of Bobby Sands MP of Owen Carron, who attended the funeral. He was repeatedly mobbed by well-wishers. Three British military helicopters flew overhead.

The cortege made its way to the top of the cemetery and to the plot where Michael Devine’s comrade, Patsy O’Hara, was buried three months previously. A piper playing laments was followed by a guard of honour of eight men in uniform. The two leading Volunteers carried the Starry Plough and Tricolour flags, followed by six more carrying semi-automatic short-arms in their belts. Three drummers then marched silently forward. A second guard of honour of 16 men flanked the coffin on the last few yards of its journey.

Margaret McCauley walked behind the coffin with Michael Devine’s two children, Michael (Jnr), aged seven, and Louise, aged five, and Michael’s aunt, Theresa Moore. The coffin was laid on trestles and the firing party stepped forward and delivered three volleys of shots over the remains of their comrade. This salute was greeted with loud applause. Terry Robson chaired the ceremony and praised the deceased Hunger Striker who was the former O/C of the INLA prisoners in the H-Blocks. Wreaths were laid on behalf of all the Hunger Strikers’ families, the INLA, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the National H-Block/Armagh Committee, the IRA and many others. A girl piper played The H-Block Song and a bugler sounded The Last Post.



The flags were then removed from the coffin for presentation to Margaret McCauley. “The colours,” Terry Robson said, “include the Starry Plough and the national flag, the Tricolour. It will also include his beret, his gloves and his belt – denoting his rank as an officer in the Irish National Liberation Army.” A statement from the Army Council of the INLA was read out. It said:

“The Army Council and Volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army deeply regret the death of Volunteer and Hunger Striker Michael Devine. The Irish National Liberation Army applauds his heroism in the face of the most extreme deprivation and horror.

“As Officer Commanding our Prisoners of War in the concentration camp at Long Kesh, Michael relentlessly pursued an honourable settlement for the protesting prisoners, not in any elitist disregard for the rights of others but in the full knowledge that his struggle was merely an extension of the same struggle for which he was incarcerated.”

The INLA statement went on to say:

“The creation of the H-Blocks, a development unseen in the history of the sophisticated torture machinery of British imperialism, brought a new unity amongst anti-imperialist organisations and saw a degree of co-operation between people as our nation reacted in horror at what really was going on inside the corrugated and barbed enclosures of Long Kesh.”

The main oration was delivered by Naomi Brennan, Chairperson of the IRSP. She described Michael Devine as “a revolutionary, a soldier, but above all a socialist”. She went on to say that Devine saw from “the reality of everyday life in his native Derry what British imperialism means in Ireland. He saw the long years without hope on the dole. He saw the discrimination and gerrymandering from the fat cats behind the Derry walls, and he liked none of it.”

Naomi Brennan said that Michael Devine was only a youngster when the RUC batoned the civil rights protesters off the streets in 1969, adding that the lessons of the period were not lost on him. She said that 1969 was a time when people had at long last found their voice, learned to stand and demand their rights and that “to stand and fight was far better than 50 years of bending the knee”.

Of Michael Devine’s socialist politics she said that Michael “realised that to have national freedom, we must have socialism, and that, also, to have any chance of socialism, we must have national freedom”. She said that his dedication to the socialist cause was a well-thought-out one and one which he put into practice.

“He realised that you had to organise the people to struggle for themselves; that you had to organise a revolutionary party to guide and direct that struggle; and that you had to organise military resistance to give backbone to that struggle, because that was the only thing that the British had ever really listened to.”

She said the prisoners’ five just demands could, and must, be won.

“The hope we have is not in the droppings from this or that British Government, much less from the well-oiled phrases of the SDLP politicians and their likes. No, the hope we have is in the spirit of Michael Devine, unquenchable even in the jaws of death itself.

“While Ireland brings forth young men and women such as him there is hope now and for the future – a certainty that the cause for which Michael Devine gave his young life is just, and is necessary, and we must see it through to the end. And we will.”

Kieran Doherty TD – Died on 2 August 1981 after 73 days on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh

KIERAN DOHERTY, aged 25, was born in Andersonstown, west Belfast, on 16 October 1955.

Kieran was a teenage internee between February 1973 and November 1975. On his release he was an extremely active IRA Volunteer and was finally captured in August 1976. Kieran received an 18-year sentence in January 1978 for possession of weapons.

On 11 June 1981, Kieran was elected as TD for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency in the Dáil general election, receiving over 9,000 first-preference votes.

He spent 73 days on hunger strike from 22 May. He died on 2 August 1981.


IRA Volunteer Kieran Doherty, TD for Cavan/Monaghan, died at 7:15pm on Sunday 2 August 1981, the day after Kevin Lynch’s death. Kieran had joined the hunger strike one day before Kevin Lynch and survived one day longer.

Kieran Doherty embarked on his fast upon the death of Raymond McCreesh. He managed, with difficulty, to speak to his family almost to the end though his sight had almost completely gone. Kieran (or ‘Big Doc’ as his comrades affectionately called him) had a strong spirit of survival which kept him conscious for most of his 73 days on hunger strike.

Kieran’s body was brought out of Long Kesh and through Andersonstown to his parents’ home in Commedagh Drive at two o’clock in the morning. About a thousand mourners accompanied the coffin and even larger crowds came out on Monday morning to pay their respects. The next day, hundreds of stewards took position on the funeral route as Kieran’s coffin was carried out of his parents’ house, escorted by an IRA guard of honour. An IRA firing party came out of the crowd and, lining the side of the coffin, fired a volley of shots. As British Army helicopters hovered overhead, the crowd cheered at the Brits’ inability to prevent the firing party from honouring their dead comrade.Kieran-Doherty-Colour


The cortege then moved through Andersonstown, led by two pipers. It may be recalled that during the Hunger Strike some of the clergy had set out to undermine the prisoners’ protest. In contrast to the attitude of the priest celebrating Mass at Kevin Lynch’s funeral, Fr Hansen’s sermon demonstrated a fundamental understanding of the issues at the core of the Hunger Strikers’ protest. While the presiding priest at the Lynch funeral refused to wear his vestments at the graveside because of the presence of a firing party, the priest at Kieran’s funeral recalled having visited Doherty on the 13th day of his fast and remembered it to be a cheerful event. He went on to recount Kieran’s words when he asked him if he would consider coming off the hunger strike. Kieran replied:

“Look, Father, I could not give up. If I did I would go back to criminal status. I am not a criminal. I never was and never will be one.”

Recalling those words at the funeral of Kieran Doherty, the priest said:

“Basically, I had to agree with him.”

He finished off by saying:

“Kieran was very much his own man. He died quietly and very determined, serene and dignified.”

Fr Toner, who was criticised by Bobby Sands in his diary, was in the congregation, listening but apparently unmoved by Fr Hansen’s words.

It was estimated that a crowd of about 20,000 attended Kieran’s funeral.

Chairing the event, Sinn Féin member Jimmy Drumm referred to the ongoing pursuit of the prisoners’ ‘Five Demands’.

“The British Government needs to be moved on the issues of work, association and segregation.” He finished by saying that with the basis of a just settlement “then we and the families will be spared the anguish and suffering of such funerals as this, and the prisoners who have suffered so much will be able to live in tolerable conditions.” Kieran Doherty was the eighth man to die on hunger strike in 1981 and two more would follow.

The oration at Volunteer Doherty’s funeral was given by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Kieran’s Director of Elections during the 1981 general election in the 26 Counties.

Ó Caoláin said that the people of Cavan/Monaghan had taken the 26-year-old to their hearts and that they were proud to elect him as their public representative. Ó Caoláin criticised the Irish Government’s handling of the Hunger Strike, saying:

“Their gamesmanship for petty political scores has been a major factor in the continuing deaths in Long Kesh. The people of Cavan/Monaghan hold the present coalition government directly responsible, through firstly their inactivity and afterwards their open support for pressure to be placed on the Hunger Strikers and their families.”

Ó Caoláin recalled all the other Irish hunger strikers who had died as a result of British intransigence, three of them elected representatives: Terence MacSwiney, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty. Again of Doherty, he added that Kieran had taken his place amongst all those who fought for the three tenets of republicanism: “Equality, as embodied by James Connolly, who struggled to achieve a classless society; liberty, the liberty of Patrick Pearse; and the fraternity of Wolfe Tone.”

Kevin Lynch – Died on 1 August 1981 after 71 days on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh

KEVIN LYNCH, aged 25, was born in Park, north Derry on 25 May 1956.

Kevin, an INLA Volunteer, was arrested in December 1976 and charged with conspiracy to obtain arms. He received a ten-year sentence in December 1977.

Kevin excelled at Gaelic games and had captained the under-16 Derry team which won an all-Ireland hurling trophy in 1972. He stood as a H-Block/Armagh candidate in the Waterford constituency during the June 1981 general election in the South and polled extremely well despite missing out on election.

He spent 71 days on hunger strike from 23 May 1981. He died on 1 August 1981.



Kevin Lynch laid to rest in Dungiven


THE death of INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch after 71 days on hunger strike occurred on 1 August 1981. It was followed the next day by that of IRA Volunteer Kieran Doherty.

They were the seventh and eighth men to die on the fast.

Kevin had been lapsing into frequent periods of unconsciousness in the last four days, having already lost his sight, hearing and speech. His family were at his bedside throughout the final days until he died in the early hours of Saturday morning.

His funeral took place the following Monday in his home town of Dungiven in County Derry. Between the return of his body to his home and the removal for Requiem Mass on Monday afternoon, a constant stream of mourners queued outside to pay their respects. The road was decorated with Tricolours and black flags, along with posters of Kevin Lynch.

The RUC and the Ulster Defence Regiment made every effort to disrupt the funeral, holding up cars and forcing buses to park outside of town so that the passengers would have to make their way on foot. Ulsterbus in Belfast cancelled bookings at the last minute. Nevertheless, mourners came in convoys of cars and black taxis.

At mid-day, the coffin, bearing the Tricolour, Starry Plough, gloves and beret, was carried to the nearby church. The procession was led by a lone piper, followed by the Lynch family, relatives of other Hunger Strikers, and senior representatives of the IRSP and the broad republican movement, along with the National H-Block/Armagh Committee.

Five British Army helicopters flew overhead as the coffin entered the church grounds. Applause broke out momentarily as an 18-strong INLA guard of honour marched up to escort the coffin to the church door. The priest who celebrated the Mass, Fr John Quinn, expressed outrage later when the INLA Volunteers escorting the coffin fired three volleys after it had left the church. So enraged was he that he refused to wear his vestments at the graveside. This same priest had failed to refer to the suffering of the Hunger Strikers themselves and failed to condemn British intransigence. He tried to imply that the family had been opposed to the military funeral – an opinion later refuted by family members, who criticised the press and those who had made unsolicited comments on their behalf. At the graveside, the piper played I’ll Wear No Convict’s Uniform. The Last Post was also played and wreaths were laid, including from both the INLA and IRA Army Councils.



A uniformed INLA Volunteer then read a statement on behalf of the INLA Army Council, stating regret at Kevin’s death and applauding his heroism. “Kevin Lynch has made the greatest sacrifice, and he has done it in the face of the repressive machinery of British imperialism and in the wake of the greatest gesture of defiance against those who control the prisons and those who rule and ravage our country,” he said.

A short oration was given by Councillor Seán Flynn from Belfast, Vice-Chair of the IRSP:

“Kevin epitomised all that is good in a young Irishman. Playing our national sports of hurling and football, he excelled at both and in 1972 captained his native county to win an All-Ireland medal at hurling.”

He went on to contrast Lynch’s Gaelic spirit with the performance of the Gaelic Athletic Association leadership off the field.

“Yesterday, the Derry County Board and South Antrim County Board asked for a minute’s silence before the All-Ireland Hurling Semi-Final between Limerick and Galway. It was no surprise to me when Croke Park refused. President Mac Floinn last week declared that no clubs, grounds or units were to be used for H-Block activity as it contravenes Rule 7.”

He added that work would be done to encourage support for the prisoners’ ‘Five Demands’ amongst the GAA.

Of Kevin’s courage and determination, Seán said:

“It must be remembered that if Kevin had conformed to the British authority he would be a free man today; but to Kevin, Kieran Doherty, Patsy O’Hara, Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson and the continuing Hunger Strikers, they knew if the political prisoners were criminalised then the British Government would attempt to criminalise the struggle on the outside.”

He added that Kevin Lynch knew the consequences of going on hunger strike.

“Deprived of every other means of defending his political integrity, he defended it with his life. Those who imply that he might have been ordered to do so, or could be ordered to cease to do so, fail to understand the depths or the personal integrity – the individual courage and the dedication to the principles he believed in – that made Kevin Lynch the person he was.”

Tánaiste’s Dáil distortion of facts about Ballymurphy Massacre

“The Ballymurphy killings were part of the immediate aftermath of the introduction of internment. As violence flared, gun battles broke out between members of the IRA and the British Army. In the midst of this chaos, 11 people were shot by the British Army in Ballymurphy.” – Tánaiste Joan Burton’s distortion in the Dáil of the facts on Wednesday 14 July 2015 as stunned Ballymurphy families watched from the public gallery.

IN AUGUST 1971, British soldiers gunned down in cold blood ten unarmed civilians. An eleventh person died of a heart attack after he was subjected to a mock execution by British soldiers who placed a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Much like the events of Bloody Sunday less than six months later, the British Army’s shock troops of the Parachute Regiment claimed they had come under fire from republicans – thus attempting to justify their rampage through this west Belfast neighbourhood. As with Bloody Sunday, eyewitnesses were adamant that the firing came from one direction only – that of the British troops.

The Tánaiste’s ignorance of one of the worst atrocities in the history of the conflict – and during a Dáil debate – is at odds with her deep interest in incidents which involve victims of republican violence.

Ballymurphy families 2015 Dáil

Of course, victims of republican violence can often be used to attack Sinn Féin and to deflect and derail from answering tough questions in the Dáil on Government policy. The victims of British state and unionist violence offer her no such tactical advantage – therefore their suffering can be treated with indifference, ignorance or falsehoods.

At the time of the massacre, some Irish newspapers swallowed the British propaganda which the Irish Labour Party leader read into the Dáil record on Wednesday.

The Irish Independent reported at the time:

“Reverend Hugh Mullan was killed last night in Belfast following his attempt to administer the Last Rites to a dying guerrilla fighter in the New Barnsley area.”

The “dying guerrilla fighter” was in fact local civilian Bobby Clarke, who had been shot by a British soldier while walking across a field.

Bobby had been helping evacuate women and children from nearby houses which were under attack from loyalist mobs. He had just carried an 18-month-old child to safety and was returning to help others when he was shot.

The local priest phoned Henry Taggart British Army base to let them know he was going to administer the Last Rites to the wounded man. After anointing him, the priest attempted to return back through the field to get an ambulance. It was then that a British sniper on the roof of a nearby flats complex shot Fr Mullan. Witnesses could hear the priest praying aloud for some time as he lay dying. Bobby Clarke, the man he had anointed, miraculously survived.

Also killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre was grandmother Joan Connolly.

She was shot in the face by a British soldier as she went to the aid of a wounded man who was lying in the street near the barracks.

Even after the massacre, soldiers targeted the families.

Briege Voyle, Joan’s daughter, told An Phoblacht:

“We had already been through a terrible ordeal but it didn’t stop there. The paratroopers continued to torture us. They used to sing ‘Where’s your mama gone?’ [the chorus of a pop song Number One in the charts] outside our door and you couldn’t walk down the street without them taunting you. We were all so terrified.”

Joan Burton, of course, never bothered to inform herself of this. Such a horrific massacre, carried out by the British Army’s elite paratroopers against besieged nationalist civilians just months before they went on to gun down 14 Civil Rights marchers on Bloody Sunday in Derry isn’t the narrative that has been pushed by the Southern Establishment ad nauseum.

The Irish Government claims it will do all it can to help the Ballymurphy families in their quest for justice. But if the most senior elected representatives of that Government can display such wilful, unmitigated ignorance of the topic – can we really take their assurances seriously?

Coalition for reconciliation is essential, Declan Kearney tells Westminster audience

Coalition for reconciliation is essential, Declan Kearney tells Westminster audience

● Declan Kearney with Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty at Westminster

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney addressed a major reconciliation event in Westminster on Tuesday evening 14 July., 

He was speaking alongside former Labour Secretary of State Peter Hain; the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Canon of Reconciliation, David Porter; former Assembly Speaker John Alderdice; the Chief Executive of Irish in Britain, Jennie McShannon; and Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty.

The event – based on the ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ series of articles carried by An Phoblacht – was chaired by Professor Mary Hickman, St Mary’s University College. 

This is what Declan Kearney said in his speech.


Prince Charles’s recent meeting with Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness happened not just because of the Sinn Féin leadership’s total commitment to reconciliation and healing but also because the British royal family and key elements of the British state had the independent foresight to recognise it represented another important opportunity to create positive forward momentum


All wars and political conflicts create carnage and suffering.

One hundred years ago, the unimaginable horror of World War One was unfolding.

It was described as “the war to end all wars”.

Yet, within 30 years, a new world war had erupted and it too caused colossal devastation and suffering. World War Two included events like the blitz of London, and the mass atrocities at Auschwitz and Belsen.

Last May marked the end of that war in Europe 70 years ago. Three months before, in February 1945, the city of Dresden was carpet-bombed. It became another of the many horrific events which were part of the carnage of World War Two.


Dresden after being carpet-bombed by the Royal Air Force

A play has recently been written about this particular episode in European history called After Dresden. A review of it said:

“Together the central characters ask each other painful questions. ‘Is forgiveness possible? How does reconciliation happen? And can we ever recover the truth about the past?’ It is more important than ever that we address these issues in a society that still has not healed.”

Such questions – and the compromises implied within them – are part of the ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ which need to happen for reconciliation and healing to grow.

There is no distinction to be drawn between the carnage and suffering resulting from conflict.

No war can be romanticised.

Terrible devastation and human loss were caused by the political conflict in Ireland and Britain.

Victims were created by and on all sides – by republicans; the British state, its forces and agencies; and by unionists.

All sides were part of the conflict which occurred and continued.

IRA operations in this city resulted in many military and civilian fatalities and casualties as well as enormous commercial damage.

Regrettably, our collective past cannot be changed. Neither can it be disowned by republicans or anyone else.

Too many families from all sides, across Ireland and Britain, live with real and continuing pain. I am sorry that cannot be undone. No reasonable person could disagree that there are many things which we wish had been done differently or not at all.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the IRA’s formal announcement to end its armed campaign and support the achievement of republican objectives of Irish unity and independence through democratic and political programmes.

Irish society has now moved irreversibly beyond war.

The Good Friday Agreement was the catalyst for that transition. It is the definitive benchmark against which to measure change.

The absence of war, however, is not in itself enough.

The time has come for us all to develop reconciliation, promote healing and to embrace forgiveness.

That is a challenge which will be both difficult and painful because uncomfortable compromises inevitably need to be considered.

After two wars in 30 years, Europe had to compromise in order to find a relationship with its history and avoid recycling past pain for the future.

Courage will be required but, as Nelson Mandela said:

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.”

Mandela, McG and Adams

The fact is that the hurt caused by war still needs to be healed long after wars finish.

Now that the war which divided Britain and Ireland is over, we have to explore how new political and human relationships can be made.

That challenges us all to open our hearts and minds and embrace respect, generosity, forgiveness and trust. These must be the foundations of a shared future.

Reconciliation and healing must be our future, otherwise society and politics will remain trapped in the pain and resentment of the past.

However, a minority still oppose that vision.

In Ireland, North and South, and here in Britain, some believe that dealing with the past is a new battlefield.

They prefer endless recrimination to reconciliation and refuse to accept that reconciliation should be set above political agendas or allegiances in the greater good.

In his recent article in The Irish Times, Professor Richard English commented:

“Many pro-Union people were louder in demanding that republicans should give up violence and that they should respect Northern majority opinion than they have been to engage in meaningful dialogue with republicans once those crucial changes were brought about.”

This is why symbolic initiatives and political leadership supporting the reconciliation vision remain so important.

Given our history, such gestures should not be taken for granted. But, when carried out in a spirit of mutual respect and equality, these gestures and initiatives can provide hugely important examples for wider society.

There was great significance attached to the private meeting which followed the public encounter between Prince Charles sand Gerry Adams during the recent royal visit to Ireland.

Prince Charles meets Gerry Adams 2015

That meeting brought together Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, as the most central republican leaders of the last 45 years, with Prince Charles, the British royal figure most synonymous with the British military forces and imperial and military traditions of the British state and set to become the next British head of state.

Coming as it did in the context of Prince Charles’s own personal pilgrimage to Mullaghmore to remember his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, killed by the IRA, this meeting powerfully underlined the irreversibility of the Peace Process and our collective responsibility to open up a new phase based upon reconciliation.

It also symbolically gave expression to the multiple narratives about the past and was evocative of some (but not all) of the incidents which moulded the experience of our most recent conflict.

Importantly, this latest initiative happened not just because of the Sinn Féin leadership’s total commitment to reconciliation and healing but also because the British royal family and key elements of the British state had the independent foresight to recognise it represented another important opportunity to create positive forward momentum.

Queen Elizabeth has already made her own influential contribution to the Peace Process. The decision of Prince Charles to meet with Sinn Féin, repeat her words from 2011, and then offer his own words on regrets, resentment and attribution of blame, indicate the British royals are committed to developing authentic reconciliation and healing.

That sends a clear message to those who are hostile to this agenda.

There is a bigger picture.

Those who share a strategic vision for the future of the Peace Process must reach out to each other and make alliances for the greater good.

A coalition for reconciliation drawn from all sections of society and throughout Ireland and Britain needs to be formed to unlock a new phase of the Peace Process.

Nelson Mandela also referred to the importance of partnership in peace building:

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your friend.”

No government or state system is monolithic.

There are always competing positions, both progressive and regressive.

Some sectional and political interests did not want the meeting between the Sinn Féin leadership and Prince Charles to take place.

They are unwilling to place reconciliation above the political process or to promote healing and authentic reconciliation as strategic priorities.

That mindset is indicative of British Government policy towards the North over the last five years.

The reality is that the biggest threat to the viability of the political institutions and political process was the approach of the Tory-led coalition.

It reduced the North to a political backwater through negative mismanagement of the peace and political processes. The imposition of its austerity agenda has directly contributed to political instability.

No political process can flourish without a sustainable economic framework or the expenditure to meet society’s needs.

The worsening austerity crisis in the North is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement. The ideologically-driven approach of this majority Tory Government is now putting it on a direct collision with the very basis of the Agreement.

The current British Government’s economic and political policy is pushing the regional economy and political process into a negative downward trajectory.

That can only have extreme and long-term adverse consequences, including potentially fatal repercussions for the Good Friday Agreement itself and the North’s relationship with Europe.

May Day 2015 Belfast

Belfast May Day rally, 2015

The question which all of that poses is whether such an outcome has become a calculation of this British Government’s policy towards the North.

Deeper political instability and increased polarisation will surely undermine the prospects for reconciliation and healing.

That must not be allowed to happen.

But averting such a scenario will also depend upon the strength, depth and momentum of an emergent coalition for reconciliation.

The North is still a society emerging from conflict carrying deep-rooted structural economic inequality and under-development, endemic sectarian division, the highest mental health problems and child poverty, and the lowest wage structure and living standards of any region in Britain or Ireland.

The estimated loss of £2.3billion from the regional economy between 2010 and 2018 will have catastrophic economic, social and political consequences.

The North requires a ‘New Deal’ to build a fair society.

There is a need for a new negotiation with the British and Irish governments. New time and space has now been created to address the issues which threaten political progress.

If that does not happen – and British Government policy does not change – we will run out of road.

That will create the conditions for an unprecedented setback.

The alternative is a new negotiation process which delivers a ‘New Deal’ – a sustainable, workable budget – and which also restores political stability and proper power-sharing.

A defining period now faces the political and economic future of the North. What emerges from that will directly influence the potential for opening up a new phase of the Peace Process based upon authentic reconciliation, healing and a fair society.

Joe McDonnell – Died on July 8th 1981 on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh

Joe McDonnell – Died on July 8th 1981 on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh

JOE McDONNELL was the fifth Hunger Striker to die due to the intransigence of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her government.

Born on 14 September 1950, the fifth of eight children in a family from the Lower Falls in west Belfast, Joe eventually married and moved to Lenadoon.

Joe volunteered to replace his good friend and comrade Bobby Sands, who he was captured with on active service in October 1976, joining the hunger strike on 9 May.

A well-known and very popular man in the Greater Andersonstown area, Joe had a reputation as a quiet and deep-thinking individual, with a gentle, happy go-lucky personality, who had, nevertheless, a great sense of humour, was always laughing and playing practical jokes and who, although withdrawn at times, had the ability to make friends easily.


He had joined the Republican Movement soon after the introduction of internment without trial in August 1971. He was himself interned on the prison ship Maidstone in 1972 and in Long Kesh from 1973 to 1974.

Arrested and jailed for a commercial bombing operation, Joe was sentenced in September 1977 to 14 years’ imprisonment. He joined the Blanket Protest fro the restoration of political status and was denied visits unless he wore the prison uniform. His wife, Goretti, and their two children had not seen him in the more than three and a half years since he was sentenced up until the hunger strike and his dying days.

In June 1981, Joe was a general election candidate in the Sligo/Leitrim constituency and narrowly missed becoming a TD by 315 votes.

Joe McDonnell died on 8 July 1981 after 61 days on hunger strike.


The death of Joe McDonnell

IRA Volunteer and Hunger Striker Joe McDonnell, from Lenadoon in west Belfast, passed away at 5:15am on Wednesday 8 July after 61 agonising days on the Hunger Strike. His wife Goretti had maintained an almost constant vigil by his side but, with a callous act of disregard for her feelings when he died, the RUC called her in, ostensibly to identify the body.

From Wednesday evening through to the Friday morning, Joe’s body had lain in state in the family home. During this time, thousands of people filed past the coffin to pay their respects to the fallen Volunteer.

In a reflection of the effect the Hunger Strike had throughout nationalist Ireland, those filing past came from throughout the country. There were people from Dublin, Sligo, Leitrim, Crossmaglen, Tyrone and further afield.

Individuals who paid their respects included relatives of other Hunger Strikers – Rosaleen Sands, mother of Bobby; and Pauline McGeown, wife of Pat who was at that time on hunger strike. A particularly poignant visit was that of Jimmy Dempsey, whose 16-year-old son John, a member of Fianna Éireann, had been shot dead by a British soldier in the disturbances following Joe McDonnell’s death. Also present was Joe McDonnell’s brother Frankie, one of the longest-serving Blanket Men who had been released for 12 hours to attend the funeral.

It was a measure of the ripple effect that the Hunger Strike – and more particularly British intransigence and brutality – were having on the nationalist community that at the same time another Blanket Man, Tommy Cosgrove, was out on temporary release to attend the funeral of his sister, Nora McCabe, killed by an RUC plastic bullet, also in the disturbances following the death of Joe McDonnell.


• Joe McDonnell’s wife Goretti, his children and his brother Frankie pay their respects

At midday, the coffin was sealed and a Tricolour and the black beret and gloves of an IRA Volunteer were pinned to it. With British Army helicopters hovering noisily and provocatively overhead, the cortege moved off. Led by a lone piper, it made its way to Oliver Plunkett Church at the top of Lenadoon for Requiem Mass.

After the service the coffin was carried towards Milltown Cemetery. Joe’s three brothers were among those carrying the coffin and it was flanked by his wife Goretti and their children Bernadette and Joseph and other members of the immediate family. When the cortege reached the Andersonstown Road the coffin was place on trestles and an IRA firing came forward and rendered a final salute.

After observing a minute’s silence the IRA firing party disappeared into a nearby garden. A barrage of high-velocity gunfire was heard as it became obvious that British crown forces were attempting to kill or capture members of the IRA firing party. Simultaneously, the British Army and RUC opened up on the cortege with a hail of plastic bullets amidst scenes of pandemonium and panic. In the assault, one of the mourners (a brother of then Sinn Féin Vice-President Gerry Adams) was shot and seriously wounded.

The head of the funeral cortege had moved on a few minutes before the attack and was making its way towards Milltown. Six IRA Volunteers took the coffin on their shoulders for the last leg of the journey to the Republican Plot.

Chairing the graveside proceedings was Eamon McCory of Sinn Féin. He extended the sympathies of the Republican Movement to the family and went on to condemn the SDLP and the Dublin Government who had not applied sufficient political pressure on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. As a result, Thatcher was claiming that not one responsible person in Ireland was asking her to concede the prisoners’ 5 demands.

J McD firing party

• IRA firing party honour of their comrade Joe McDonnell

After the blessing, conducted by Father Matthew Wallace, John Joe McGirl, Chairperson of Leitrim County Council and election agent for Joe McDonnell in the 26-County general election, gave the oration.

Speaking of the deceased Hunger Striker, he said:

“He has died rather than debase the cause he served, rather than live with the forced tag of criminality on him. His courage is an inspiration, not only to his fellow prisoners, not only to the Irish people who admire such courage – the world stands in wonder and admiration, accepting that men such as Joe McDonnell are not criminals but patriots.”

John Joe at Joe McDonnell funeral

John Joe McGirl went on to lambast British policy in Ireland, saying:

“The policy of England and the English government towards Ireland down through the years has been one of jailing, shooting and hanging. Today, this week, their policy has changed somewhat. They have left over hanging and replaced it with the rubber bullet, plastic bullet and live round.

“Men, women and children are murdered in the streets of Belfast and Derry and in the occupied part of the north-eastern Six Counties. I want to say here that the responsibility for this lies with the British Government, and I say to the British Government that she has no right in our country and never had, and that the way forward is for her to withdraw her forces from the occupied part of our country and let the Irish people resolve their differences themselves.

“She is not here as a friend, she is here as a treacherous foe, and we recognise her as such.”

In conclusion he said:

“We will build Joe McDonnell a memorial, we will build so many of his comrades who are buried here a memorial, and their memorials will be the freedom and the unity of the Irish people.”

Throughout the 26 Counties there were numerous vigils, reflecting the growing anger of the population, and in the North (as previously mentioned) two people were killed by crown forces in the aftermath of Joe’s death.

More worrying for the British was the continued and growing support abroad.

In the United States there were numerous protests in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco to name but a few. There were also many demonstrations in Australia and New Zealand.

In France, lawyers formed a commission tasked with investigating conditions in the H-Blocks. French parliamentarians wrote to the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva, asking it to take action in support of the two newly-elected H-Blocks TDs, Kieran Doherty (Cavan/Monaghan) and Paddy Agnew (Louth).

In Italy, an incendiary bomb exploded on the roof of the British Consulate and there were protests and demonstrations in Belgium and Portugal.

Rioting after Joe McDonnell funeral

• Rioting in Belfast after the funeral of Volunteer Joe McDonnell


Singer Fran O’Toole honoured in his native Bray 40 years after Miami Showband Massacre by UDR/UVF

Singer Fran O’Toole honoured in his native Bray 40 years after Miami Showband Massacre by UDR/UVF

● Miami Showband – Fran O’Toole is second left

SINGER FRAN O’TOOLE has been commemorated in his native Bray, County Wicklow, 40 years after his Miami Showband was ambushed in County Armagh at a bogus British Army checkpoint by serving soldiers in the Ulster Defence Regiment and members of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

On 31 July 1975, five members of the Miami Showband were travelling by minibus back to Dublin from a gig in Banbridge, County Down. At the townland of Buskhill, outside of Newry, they were stopped at a military-style checkpoint by gunmen dressed in British Army uniform. They were ordered to get out and line up by the roadside. Two gunmen hid a time-bomb on the minibus but it exploded prematurely and killing them.

The remaining gunmen then opened fire on the band members, killing Fran O’Toole, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty, and wounding Des Lee and Stephen Travers.

Two serving Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers and one former UDR soldier later received life sentences for murder. There are still serious questions about collusion between members of the ‘security forces’ and the UVF that need to be answered, however.

Miami Fran O'Toole events 2015 plaque

Councillors John Brady, Oliver O’Brien and Peter Carroll, who was the driving force behind the commemorative events honouring local legend Fran O’Toole

Sinn Féin Wicklow County Councillor John Brady paid tribute to local man Peter Carroll, who is a family friend of the O’Tooles and was the driving force in the campaign to remember and pay tribute to Fran O’Toole in his home town of Bray.

John Brady said:

“Unfortunately, nothing has ever been done in Bray to acknowledge, pay tribute or remember Fran O’Toole, who was the lead singer with the Miami Showband band at the time of his murder.

“The band had a massive following and played in packed-out venues right across Ireland, Britain and the United States. The band united people through music and gave people a glimmer of hope at a difficult time in our history.”

The Miami regularly played in Fran’s hometown of Bray in the Arcadia Ballroom. People would travel from far and wide and on occasions thousands would have to be turned away as the Arcadia was packed to capacity, John Brady said.

He continued:

“People right across Ireland were shocked at the murder of Fran and his colleagues, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty. Bray came to a complete standstill for his funeral, which people say was the largest ever to be held in the town.

“It’s only right that we remember Fran, his music and the legacy he left.”

Miami Fran O'Toole events 2015 bridge

● Des Lee, Stephen Travers, Councillora Oliver O’Brien and John Brady with Peter Carroll at the newly-named ‘Fran O’Toole Bridge’

On Saturday 4 July, Bray Bridge was renamed the Fran O’Toole Bridge and a plaque was unveiled at the former family home on Albert Avenue in Bray. This was attended by members of Fran’s family along with Des Lee and Stephen Travers, who survived the massacre 40 years ago. The day was completed by a performance by the Miami Showband in the Mermaid Theatre.

PSNI allowed erection of loyalist flags it said would be breach of the peace

PSNI allowed erection of loyalist flags it said would be breach of the peace

THE PSNI has gone back on its word given last year to residents and elected representatives that it would treat the erection of loyalist flags on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast as a breach of the peace, local Assembly member Máirtín Ó Muilleoir says.

Rather than prevent 20 unionists putting up flags on Monday night, the PSNI actually “facilitated” what it had previously declared would be a breach of the peace, the former Mayor of Belfast said.

“The Ormeau Road is a vibrant, multicultural community which in many ways sets an example for the city. No one has the right to mark out territory in this intimidatory fashion.

“I understand that many of the individuals who erected the flags are not from the Ormeau area. Their actions are not reflective of the Ormeau community, nationalist nor unionist, who reject any effort to harm community relations in the area.”

He encouraged residents to voice their concerns to the PSNI by registering their complaint on 101 or by using the online non-emergency reporting form at

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir added:

“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with senior Belfast PSNI officers to raise my concerns that they have reneged on commitments and have colluded with this clear act of intimidation.”

False narratives obscure the need to negotiate ‘New Deal’ for the North

False narratives obscure the need to negotiate ‘New Deal’ for the North

● British and Irish government claims that Sinn Féin wants to collapse the political institutions because of the Southern general election are both preposterous and absolutely untrue – and both governments know that

THE Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle’s decision to conditionally support the current budget’s passage through the Assembly in the North has created space and time. Neither should be squandered.

That, however, will depend upon the commitment of the British and Irish governments and all the local parties to prevent the current austerity crisis pushing the North into an unprecedented political crisis with serious implications for the sustainability of the political institutions and the political process itself.

The party’s Ard Chomhairle meeting heard a range of different political opinions on what decision to take.

Everyone agreed that the election of a majority Conservative Government committed to cutting £25billion from public services, jobs, child tax credits and support for the long-term sick, disabled, the poor, and elderly had changed the context within which the discussion was happening.

In the end, the Ard Chomhairle decided that Sinn Féin would give conditional support to the current budget on the basis that it remained exempt from the immediate “in year” cuts which the Conservatives are trying to force upon the Executive and whatever further cuts to public expenditure will be announced in the 8 July Budget Statement.

The alternative was to vote down this budget, thereby triggering an immediate and real political crisis with ministerial powers being usurped by civil servants or Executive powers being handed back to the British Government.

In recent months and weeks, several false narratives have been encouraged (publicly and privately) to obscure the facts and to rationalise the continuing negative status quo in the North.

Both the British and Irish governments have been saying privately that Sinn Féin wants to collapse the political institutions because of the Southern general election.

That is both preposterous and absolutely untrue – and both governments know that to be the case.

However, it is a convenient fiction behind which to disguise their own inaction and indifference to the ramifications of the huge austerity crisis facing the North. Include in that (and not unlike in Greece) their ideological hostility to the anti-austerity politics of Sinn Féin and their annoyance that Sinn Féin in government refuses to support the Conservatives’ austerity agenda.

A second false narrative being jointly promoted by the Conservatives and all unionist parties is that failure to agree the welfare component of the Stormont House Agreement is the cause of all the economic problems in the North as well as continued political instability.

That is also untrue.

The welfare impasse is a by-product of the wider austerity crisis, not the cause!

Cameron on Trident

David Cameron on a Trident nuclear submarine – his and Theresa Villiers’s Conservative Party wants to spend over £23billion on replacing Trident nuclear submarines . . . and unionist parties at Stormont agree with that

The third fiction being pumped by the Conservatives and all the unionist parties (but particularly the DUP) is that there is no alternative to austerity and there is no more money. Wrong! There is always more money – the real crux is how that money is spent and the choices which governments and political parties make.

The Conservatives and unionist parties all support using 2% of Britain’s GDP on military spending. At the same time as the Conservatives plan to cut £25billion from state public expenditure before 2018, they want to spend over £23billion on replacing Trident nuclear submarines. And the local unionist parties agree with that.

Amazingly, the DUP went even further by proposing the the completion, equipping and deployment of two new aircraft carriers.

And all this while citizens are losing their homes and others live with mortgage distress. Why?

The latest figures from the British Office of National Statistics show that households in the North have the lowest incomes, on average, of any region in the British state. We already know that the standard of living is the lowest of any region in the British state or 26 Counties.

The fact is that more austerity in the North will set back the prospect of restructuring the regional economy. It could not be otherwise when the private sector is already too weak and British Government policy remains impervious to the special circumstances and needs of the North as a society emerging from conflict.

The welfare impasse does not have to hold up progress if the DUP reverts to the original agreement to maintain protections for future claimants and directs the Social Security Agency to proceed with implementation.

That doesn’t require a new negotiation.

The fundamental sticking point which has brought the political process to this crossroads is British Government political and economic policy. That needs to change. The political process will not deliver as envisaged under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement – and indeed the Executive’s Programme for Government – without a sustainable economic framework.

Most if not all sections of opinion and society in the North agree that a workable budget is needed to restructure the economy. There is broad consensus that the financial and economic resource is not available to the local Executive to ensure it can deliver its services, build infrastructure and housing, and grow the economy. That in itself becomes a source of further political instability.

Austerity is incompatible with the political compromises and governance arrangements which underpin the political process.

Unchecked, austerity will create greater inequality and reinforce existing and systemic inequalities within Northern society. It will undermine the development of a fair society and support for a potential shared future.

The trajectory set by the British Government for the regional economy will result in an estimated loss of £2.3billion to the North between 2010 and 2018. That carries with it catastrophic economic, social and political consequences.

The North needs a ‘New Deal’ to build a fair society going forward.

Negotiating and securing that ‘New Deal’ should become the focus for all political parties, the social partners and all stakeholders in civic society during this political space which has become available.

The positive and significant influence of Irish-America, the US administration and European Parliament should also be utilised.

The elements of a ‘New Deal’ should include delivery of a workable budget, provision of “off book” borrowing powers to the local Executive, and the agreed transfer of fiscal powers.

A ‘New Deal’ would equip the Executive with the tools to plan the regeneration of the regional economy with a mid- to long-term strategy and to draw upon the support and expertise of the key social partners from within the business, trades union, voluntary and academic sectors.

Such a strategy would depend upon the political parties and social partners uniting on a new economic and social agenda based upon a firm commitment to proper power sharing and partnership.

If that can be achieved, the next stage would be to commence a game-changing negotiation with the British and Irish governments.

The local parties and all social partners should meet and agree to speak with one voice.

A space has been created and the opportunity should be seized to remobilise the unity of purpose and goodwill which delivered the referendum endorsing the Good Friday Agreement. That possibility should inspire everyone.

If this does not happen, and British Government economic and political policy does not change, then we will quickly run out of road and no more political space will exist. In that context, we will all be left facing a very uncertain and unpredictable future indeed.

Europe’s shame: Refugee drowning horror in the Mediterranean

Europe’s shame: Refugee drowning horror in the Mediterranean

Irish MEP Martina Anderson and Basque MEP Josu Juaristi in Lampedusa

THE horror of the recent mass drownings of refugees in the Mediterranean was recounted to MEPs by survivors who they met at holding centres in Italy during a GUE/NGL mission in June.

So far in 2015, more than 2,000 people have drowned attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean in rickety, overcrowded boats and barges. Most are fleeing wars, violence and persecution in the Middle East, Africa and further afield.

Martina Anderson with refugees

The delegation, which included Irish MEP Martina Anderson, visited reception centres on the islands of Lampedusa and Sicily where they met with survivors, rescue workers, aid workers, the Italian Coast Guard and the Mayor of Lampedusa – to discuss the situation and report back on what facilities and assistance are needed.

The delegation say that in one reception centre in Sicily – already crammed to capacity – they met a 98 year-old Syrian man who had fled the civil war in his country along with a mother and her five-day-old baby who was born at sea. They also visited a centre for unaccompanied minors where more than 60 children are staying.

Many of those who arrive are in need of medical treatment and some require special care for post-traumatic stress disorder.

After visiting refugees at a centre in Pozallo in Sicily, the Sinn Féin MEP said that Irish people understand the plight of these people “We had our own coffin ships,” she said of those who perished trying to make a better life. The former IRA prisoner also hit out at the conditions in which survivors were kept, describing some of the holding centres as “worse than any prison I know”.

When a young Somalian boy asked the delegation, “Is this Europe? Is all Europe like this?” the members said they felt unable to answer. “Europe is doing everything wrong. The same Europe that created the wars and the conflicts these women, men and children have been escaping deprive the same persons of any rights once they reach Europe,” said MEP Angela Vallina.

In a meeting with a commander of the Italian Coast Guards the delegation was informed that most of the boats in crossing the Mediterranean do not have people smugglers onboard:

“We have to understand why people want to come to Europe, if we destroy boats, the people will find another way,” said Commander Cannarile. “Do we want these people to stay in Libya? That is a humanitarian problem.” He says the only way to resolve this problem is through humanitarian corridors that would enable refugees to reach Europe without risking their lives at sea.

Ending the delegation, Martina Anderson MEP said what they had seen and learned in Lampedusa and Sicily had made the MEPs more determined to do allthey can to help those refugees who survived the crossing and not to forget those who died “trying to live”.

British state sued by Glenanne Gang bomb victim

British state sued by Glenanne Gang bomb victim

● Maria McShane with a portrait of Gavin

A WOMAN injured in a no-warning bomb planted by a gang made up of serving RUC police officers and British Army soldiers working with unionist paramilitaries under the control of British Military Intelligence is taking a civil action against the British state.

Two people were killed in the attack by the notorious Glenanne Gang on the Step Inn, in Keady, south Armagh, in August 1976.

It has emerged that the vehicle used to carry the bomb was hidden on the farm of an RUC Reservist prior to the fatal attack.

Maria McShane, who was pregnant at the time, lost an eye in the explosion that killed Elizabeth McDonald and Gerard Gleenan. Now she is launching a legal action against the British state.

Tragically, the baby boy that Maria gave birth to, Gavin, was himself shot dead by a UVF gang in 1994.

The 17-year-old and his friend, Shane McArdle, were on a break from school when they were gunned down.

The killer, believed to be a member of the rabidly sectarian Portadown UVF gang run by Billy Wright, didn’t wear a mask, so confident he was that the RUC would not move against him.

The gun used in that attack was an RUC-issue “personal protection weapon” that is thought not to have been used prior to or after the double killing.

It has also emerged that the RUC destroyed evidence relating to the shootings.

Now, in a bid to expose the links between Gavin’s UVF killers and the British state, Maria is taking action against the RUC over its failure to properly investigate the killing.

The gunman is now believed to be a senior member of a Christian church organisation in County Armagh who was never questioned about the killing.

DUP's Willie McCrea MP and Billy Wright

DUP’s Willie McCrea MP with Billy Wright

SIPTU launches international online petition in support of Clerys workers

SIPTU launches international online petition in support of Clerys workers

SIPTU says that an “overwhelming public demand” has led to the launching on Friday of an online petition for people in Ireland and abroad who want to show their support for the Clerys workers and demanding that the store’s new owners meet them.

SIPTU Campaigns and Equality Organiser Ethel Buckley said:

“SIPTU launched a written petition on Tuesday 16 June. Within 24 hours it had received over 5,000 signatures such is the level of public anger at the way these workers have been treated.

“People are shocked and sickened that the new owners of Clerys felt it was going to be accepted that they could just take the company over, liquidate it and throw loyal workers on the street with nothing.”

She added:

The petition makes a simple demand – that the new owners of Clerys meet the workers.

“At this meeting the workers will discuss face to face with them what they could do to go some way in making up for the hurt they have caused when putting into action this heartless scheme.”

The petition is also open to the many workers and activists from other countries who have been in touch wishing to express their support for the workers.

Feelings are running so high about the way the Clerys workers have been treated, SIPTU say, that protests are expected in the coming days in the US and Britain.

“These will target people involved in this deal which made them millions but left hundreds of loyal workers without jobs or the monies owed to them,” Ethel Buckley said.

◼︎ To sign the Clerys workers petition click here or

Clerys picket with GA

Sinn Féin and SNP discuss resistance to Tory cuts

Sinn Féin and SNP discuss resistance to Tory cuts

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA at Dublin Castle

IT IS important that progressive parties work together to oppose the British Tory government’s austerity agenda, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said after a meeting with Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon in Dublin on Friday.

The Deputy First Minister was speaking after a meeting with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP ahead of the British–Irish Council (BIC) summit in Dublin Castle.

Martin McGuinness said he and Nicola Sturgeon had discussed issues of mutual concern:

“We are keen to work together to develop a collective opposition to the austerity-driven policies coming from Westminster. There are various areas where we share positions and these should be explored as we move forward,” he said.

“In addition to our common opposition to the austerity policies of the British government, we share concerns about David Cameron’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and the prospect of a break from the European Union. We had a positive meeting today and I look forward to building on our relationship in the future.”

  • The BIC was set-up as part of the Good Friday Agreement and is holding its annual summit to discuss co-operation in the region. Membership of BIC consists of Government representatives from both parts of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. 

Tánaiste refuses to confirm if she will meet family of collusion victim Eddie Fullerton

Tánaiste refuses to confirm if she will meet family of collusion victim Eddie Fullerton

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD beside a photo of Eddie Fullerton on the Sinn Féin corridor in Leinster House

THE Dáil heard today how an RUC Special Branch car was used to ferry the unionist killers of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton at his Buncrana home back across the border in May 1991.

Sinn Féin’s Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD raised the issue of collusion between British state forces and unionist murder gangs today at Leaders’ Questions and challenged the Tánaiste to meet the Fullerton family.

The Donegal TD says a witness has stated that the killer gang who gunned-down the 57-year-old councillor inside his Buncrana home were collected by an RUC Special Branch car after the murder and brought back across the border.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn also outlined how ballistic evidence shows that two of the weapons used by the killer gang to carry out the massacre of eight people at the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel on Halloween night 1993 were the same ones used to kill Eddie Fullerton.

When the UDA gang responsible for the Greysteel massacre was in the custody of the RUC, the Gardaí were informed of the damning ballistic evidence against them, but seemingly ignored it and chose not to even bother interviewing those being held.

Eddie Fullerton

Deputy Mac Lochlainn asked how much longer the Irish Government is going to tolerate the refusal of the British Government to open up files on collusion.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said the Irish Government has consistently called on the British Government to face up to its responsibilities on the past:

“Collusion between security forces and paramilitaries was endemic. The people responsible must be brought to justice. The families of the victims deserve nothing less,” she said.

However, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said that simply “raising the issue” is not enough:

“You have a responsibility to hold the British Government to account,” he told Joan Burton.

The family of Eddie Fullerton have been extremely critical of the Garda investigation into the killing. Eddie’s son Albert told An Phoblacht in 2001 that the family had not received a single piece of correspondence from the gardaí in relation to the investigation. They also say the well-planned assassination indicates the UDA gang had high-level assistance in the killing.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn challenged the Tánaiste to meet with the family of Eddie Fullerton, to listen to their concerns and act upon them.

The Tánaiste would not confirm if she would meet with the family of Eddie Fullerton but said she would “speak with the Taoiseach about this”.

Collusion – Relatives for Justice call for action at ‘highest levels’

Collusion – Relatives for Justice call for action at ‘highest levels’

FAMILIES of victims of collusion between the British state and armed groups have contacted MLAs, MPs and TDs, as well as members of the US Congress demanding urgent action and an independent inquiry following recent television programmes which further expose Britain’s ‘dirty war’ tactics in the North.

The call comes as the Assembly prepares to debate a motion on collusion tabled by Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney this evening. A new RTÉ programme exposing further shocking details of Britain’s collusion with unionist death squads will also be screened on Monday at 9.30pm.

Relatives for Justice Director Mark Thompson said in a statement:

“Collectively the families bereaved and those injured through collusion, including the NGOs supporting them, feel that the issues raised on recent television programmes require full and comprehensive discussion at the highest levels of government in Belfast, Dublin, London and Washington if there is to be resolution of the appalling vista that is collusion.”

He said the scale of exclusion means that such a resolution would require a full independent inquiry and described Britain’s ‘dirty war’ tactics in the North as “the most egregious violation of human rights.”

A delegation of over 60 families recently held a meeting with MLAs, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who pledged support in their fight for justice.

It is expected that many families will attend the debate in the Assembly on Monday night:

“We believe that it is important that the issue of collusion, and the accompanying impunity, will be debated at the heart of government in this part of the jurisdiction and we very much welcome that first step in ensuring that similar debates are held in Dublin, London, Washington and Brussels,” Relatives for Justice said.

Donegal Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil vote against monument to 1916 heroes

Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil vote against monument to 1916 heroes

A PROPOSAL to erect a monument dedicated to the rebels of 1916 and all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom was voted down by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour councillors in Donegal County Council on Monday.

The proposal, put forward by Sinn Féin Councillor Jack Murray and seconded by Letterkenny Mayor Gerry McMonagle, called for the council to erect an appropriate memorial on the grounds of County House in Lifford to mark the 100th anniversary of the uprising against British rule next year.

The motion was supported by the nine Sinn Féin councillors along with Independent John Campbell, however other parties and Independents joined ranks to oppose the move. Notably some Fianna Fáil councillors, clearly unhappy with their party’s stance, decided to abstain rather than object to the the plan.

Councillor Jack Murray said that to say he is disappointed in the decision of rival councillors to block the plan is an understatement:

“I can’t think of any other country which would oppose such a monument. I’m very, very shocked and let down today.”

North’s profound, long-term political crisis can be avoided but time is running out

North’s profound, long-term political crisis can be avoided but time is running out

● North South Ministerial Council – Tory Government policy has potentially fatal repercussions for the Good Friday Agreement framework

IT IS an increasingly stark reality that – as the scale of the next phase of British Government austerity measures becomes clearer – the North is at a serious political crossroads that could lead towards an economic cliff.

British Tory policy is now creating seemingly insurmountable challenges for the Northern Executive and the overall local economic and political situation.

The growing austerity crisis will inevitably push the political process into a profound and potentially long-term crisis unless urgent solutions are applied very quickly.

The British Government’s policy agenda is being set by Tory ideologues.

George Osbourne – Tory office pic

The stated intention of Chancellor [Finance Minister] George Osborne (pictured) to proceed with a £25billion reduction in the overall British state’s expenditure plan for the period 2015-2018 – and the recent declaration of £3billion in public expenditure cuts this year – means that an estimated £800million will also be lost to the local economy between now and 2018.

This quantum – combined with the actual net cut of £1.5billion already applied to the Northern Block Grant – translates into an overall loss to the Six Counties economy of approximately £2.3billion, and largely within the 2014 to 2018 period.

Some have wrongly characterised the current deep difficulties as a product of the welfare impasse since last February. The fact is that the welfare impasse represents a by-product of the deeper austerity crisis.

The local private and public sectors are already too weak to withstand such a virtual economic tsunami.

One direct consequence of the ongoing austerity crisis is that, in these circumstances, the regional economy will not be able to afford the introduction of Corporation Tax even if a date and rate were to be agreed. Moreover, the level of cuts on track will also wipe out the financial assumptions upon which the local budget is predicated.

If the proposed British Exchequer plans are implemented, greater systemic and perhaps irreversible damage will be caused to the local economy.

Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement’s political institutions were established as a framework to embed the Peace Process and to serve as agencies of economic and social regeneration. The prospect described would reduce them to delivery mechanisms for the austerity agenda of a Conservative Government and party with no electoral mandate in the North.

Against this backdrop, the ongoing political instability is bound to intensify and the political institutions will be threatened with the real risk of becoming unsustainable, and absent of credibility or purpose. The question which this presents is whether such an outcome has indeed become a calculation of British Government policy towards the North.

The escalating austerity crisis and Tory Government policy has set the regional economy and the political process on a negative downward trajectory. That can only have extreme and long-term effects, including potentially fatal repercussions for the Good Friday Agreement framework and the North’s relationship with Europe.

The emergent political crisis can be averted but for that to happen a change in British Government approach is now essential.

Specifically, that means the austerity agenda aimed at the North must be stopped. A new workable budget is required. (The £1.5billion cut from the Block Grant should be reinstated – this only represents 0.002% of total British state expenditure.)

Borrowing powers similar to the ‘off book’ arrangements proposed for Scotland should be agreed so as to attract new forms of investment. Incredibly, every council in the North presently has borrowing powers which British Government policy denies the Executive. That is an entirely absurd and contradictory policy position.

Full fiscal powers should be transferred to the local Executive.

The regional economy cannot be restructured without a larger private sector and sustainable public services. But this aim will not be realised without the instruments to attract new investment and design and drive forward a regional economic development plan over the next 5 to 10-year period.

A new strategic and policy direction of travel needs to be set for the North and away from political instability and austerity.

This poses an immediate challenge for all political parties, social partners and stakeholders in civic society to work together to establish common ground and to coalesce around an agreed economic and political agenda.

A new negotiation is required with the British Government on what this must mean to move forward in the North. Support for such an approach should be mobilised within the business sector, trades union movement, the churches, and right across civic society.

The potential exists to harness international goodwill in Scotland, Wales, Europe and the United States. The Irish Government has to bring itself onto the right side of any such coalition.

Going backwards is not an option. That will happen, however, unless the austerity onslaught is stopped and the political institutions and power-sharing are stabilised and energised with a sustainable economic and fiscal framework.

The political parties and social partners have to act and speak with one voice – but time is running out.

Derry ceremony to remember young Pádraig Barton

Derry ceremony to remember young Pádraig Barton

A CROWD of a hundred people gathered in the bright sunshine in Derry’s City Cemetery on Sunday afternoon for a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of a young Derry republican Pádraig Barton.

The event was chaired by Caolán McGinley and the main speaker was Nicole Ní Láimhbheartáin

Pádraig was involved in an accident outside Derry City in the early hours of Sunday morning, 6 June 2010 and tragically passed away in Altnagelvin Hospital the following day.

Nicole said:

“Pádraig was a well-known, extremely dedicated and likeable Ógra activist who will be fondly and proudly remembered by the many who met him, whether on their travels to the annual Bloody Sunday Weekend, at the Hunger-Strike Republican Youth Weekend in Derry, or the many national Ógra Shinn Féin events which he attended. He was also a seller of An Phoblacht from the age of 11.

“Pádraig, came from a family steeped in republican politics. His grandfather was republican stalwart Seán Keenan; his uncle, Óglach Colm Keenan, was killed unarmed with his comrade, Óglach Eugene McGillan; he has had relatives imprisoned for their role in the struggle and his family has endured the harassment and degradation wrought by the British state during the most recent phase of the conflict.

“He lived for many things: his friends and family, his beloved Stoke City FC, and republicanism, which he embraced through his activism in Ógra Shinn Féin.

“Pádraig was also very intelligent and academically astute, having just completed his A-Levels in St Columb’s, Derry, and was set for going to university.

“We are buoyed by his memory. We are extremely proud and honoured to have worked with and known such an inspirational and gifted young man, and we will do all in our utmost to keep his memory alive and to achieve all that he strived for in his short yet full life.”

Government action can stop exploitation of workers

Government action can stop exploitation of workers

Dunnes Stores workers march on Saturday (Photo by Pádraig Mac Fionnlaig)

THE EXPLOITATION of workers through the use of low and zero-hour contracts can be ended if the Government is willing to enact legislation to protect workers rights, Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has said.

The Sinn Féin MEP made her comments at a rally outside Dunnes Stores head office on Saturday where hundreds of people marched in support of Dunnes Stores workers who went on strike earlier this year calling for fair pay, fair hours, job security and the right to trade union representation.

“People deserve decency in the workplace. This means fair pay, fair contracts and fair treatment. Dunnes Stores workers are being denied this. The blame lies with their employers, Dunnes Stores, but it also lies with the government because we don’t have legislation in place that gives adequate protection to workers,” she said.

She said the current collective bargaining legislation and the scope of the Low Pay Commission are not enough to adequately tackle the exploitation of workers:

“What is needed is fair hour’s legislation that will deal more comprehensively with low hour contracts. Existing legislation is simply insufficient. Sinn Féin has brought forward legislation to protect workers and have proper trade union representation. However these proposals were voted down by the government.”

Sinn Féin supports Dunnes Stores workers

6 June 1981 – Vote the prisoners No. 1

6 June 1981 – Vote the prisoners No. 1

THE candidacy of nine H-Block/Armagh prisoners, including the four current Hunger Strikers in the general election next Thursday 11 June, gives nationalist voters in the South a chance to indicate, in a clear and simple manner, their support for the single issue of the prisoners’ demands and the desperate desire of the Irish people to save the lives of the Hunger Strikers. 

The general election, coming opportunely as it does, has given a major boost for Hunger Striker campaigners to double and treble their efforts in a massive resurgence of activity aimed at saving the lives of this second phase of four Hunger Strikers, who all too quickly will be reaching that critical stage which tears at the hearts of all of us.

The pressure generated by the prominence of the H-Block issue in the Leinster House election campaign is focused on both premiers, Haughey and Thatcher.

It serves as a clear warning to Free State Premier Charles Haughey that the Irish people are not satisfied with his ‘special relationship’ with British Premier Margaret Thatcher with which he continues to excuse his refusal to act against her on the Hunger Strike issue.

Haughey can be shown that he dare not ignore the obvious discontent which is rumbling within his own base of support in the party.

The Fianna Fáil supporter (or nationalist-minded supporter of any other party or candidate) who votes the prisoner No 1 and continues on to vote down the line according to his or her political preference will have taken a unique opportunity to register clearly his or her view on one single issue, presented clearly and simply amongst all the electoral torment of policy and verbiage.

The thousands of votes that will be cast for the prisoners (and for those other candidates who unequivocally support their demands) will reinforce both nationally and internationally the 30,000 and more votes for Bobby Sands in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone Westminster election.

These votes will underline indisputably the marches, vigils and pickets on the streets, the votes passed at local councils, the resolutions of trade unions and trades councils, the motions in cultural and sporting bodies, the questions asked of public representatives, the telegrams sent, the letters to the press, the newspaper editorials, the work stoppages, the names on petitions and books of condolence, and the expressions of concern from churchmen, politicians and public figures.

An arrogant Margaret Thatcher, backed up by Britain’s military might, came to Belfast last week to sneer at all that support and, with all the Tory contemptuous hatred of Ireland, to dismiss it as non-existent.
She has set a simple question which the 26-County electorate can answer in this election – are you for the blood-thirsty Thatcher or for the prisoner?

British Tory austerity crisis in North now threatens political institutions

British Tory austerity crisis in North now threatens political institutions

● Two Tories together – Prime Minister David Cameron with Taoiseach Enda Kenny

JOSEPH STIGLITZ AND PAUL KRUGMAN are both internationally-acclaimed and Nobel Prize-winning economists. Each has advanced robust critiques against austerity. Stiglitz was in London last week to promote his new book, The Great Divide. He said bluntly that austerity doesn’t work and had been bad for the Irish economy.

The Great Divide Stiglitz 2015

Both Stiglitz and Krugman (and other renowned economic thinkers, including Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Finance Minister) are providing an important counter to the argument that austerity is the only way to repair economies in the aftermath of the financial crisis. They also dispute a narrative, camouflaged in the rhetoric of ‘realpolitik’, that the economic pain is unavoidable and should be accepted.

Stiglitz describes austerity as a simplistic package. He said: “It’s said austerity works; I very strongly believe it doesn’t.”

David Cameron’s new Tory Government is seized with an ideological worldview of how politics, society and the economy must be organised.

They have made austerity central to achieving their aims.

Other elements of this Tory agenda include an intention to:-

● Increase military spending (including a proposal to spend over £20billion on the Trident nuclear missile system, whilst simultaneously cutting over £25billion from public expenditure between 2015 and 2017);

● A plan to dismantle human rights legislation;

● Introduce anti-trades union measures;

● An ill-conceived referendum on an exit from the EU.

Cameron’s new Cabinet is an exclusively neo-Thatcherite government dedicated to less state intervention, an end to the welfare state, and unprecedented levels of political authoritarianism in Britain. All of that has very serious ramifications for the Six Counties.

Cameron’s previous government started to disengage from the Northern political process from 2010. It became increasingly partisan and negative in its interventions. The Tory-led coalition also introduced policies which cut the North’s public expenditure settlement (or Block Grant) by £1.5billion and unleashed the austerity crisis now gripping the regional economy.

British Tory political and economic policy towards the North is the context against which the DUP’s welfare legislation has been blocked twice by Sinn Féin, SDLP and the Green Party. The ongoing welfare impasse is one manifestation of this much wider austerity crisis.

During the last three weeks, DUP representatives have tried to argue that continued opposition to their welfare legislation will create a “black hole” in the local economy. That completely ignores and distracts from the fact that a “black hole” of £1.5billion already exists.

That is the reality which has already been driving down living standards in the North (already the lowest in the British state and 26 Counties), entrenching public sector wage restraint, increasing dependency upon food banks; and  further decimating already hard pressed health, education, training, higher education, and other key public services.

The threats now being issued that failure to pass the legislation could lead to senior civil servants taking control of departmental budgets and that welfare powers should be handed back to Westminster have been further exacerbated by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers’s public statement last week raising the prospect of Westminster “action”.

The biggest threat to the political process during the last five years has been the approach of the British Government.

As a result of the austerity crisis created by the previous Tory/LibDem coalition and the announcement that worse is to come, the potential now exists for an unprecedented political crisis to engulf the political institutions and the process itself.

The new Tory Government’s unyielding ideological crusade is the main negative dynamic pushing the North gradually towards that outcome.

This British Government needs to change its approach to the North.

Good Friday Agreement

The political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) were intended to embed the Peace Process and take forward economic and social reconstruction and regeneration. They must not be reduced to instruments for imposing policies which will mean more economic inequality and hardship.

It appears that the Tory ideologues now in government and their commitment to austerity are set on a direct collision with the entire basis of the Good Friday Agreement. That should be a cause of alarm for all those who have supported the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent Agreements – North and South and internationally.

British Government policy has taken the political process for granted. Its role in contributing to political instability and the emergent austerity crisis is a total anathema to all democrats.

Tory candidates who stood for election in the Six Counties at the last election received a derisory vote. This Tory Government has no mandate for its policies in the North of Ireland.

A defining period is opening up for the political process and the economy in the North. Each must be reenergised with substantial positive investment not pushed into a negative downward spiral. Progressive leadership and initiative will be required both in Ireland and internationally to ensure there is forward momentum.


Author of ‘Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland’ in Australia from 20 June

Author of ‘Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland’ in Australia from 20 June

● Anne Cadwallader

THE author of Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland – an exposé of the British state working had in glove with unionist death squads and with evidence from official documents will beon a speaking tour of Australia this month.

Lethal Allies

Prominent political commentator and investigative journalist Vincent Browne called Lethal Allies “a revealing and forensic insight”.

Anne Cadwallader, a former BBC and RTÉ journalist in the North of Ireland and now a researcher with the Pat Finucane Centre human rights NGO has tour dates in five major cities from 20 June:

PERTH: Saturday 20 June @ 2pm. Trades Hall, Unity House, 77-79 Stirling Street.

ADELAIDE: Monday 22 June @ 6:30pm, Irish Club.

SYDNEY: Tuesday 23 June @ 7.30pm, Gaelic Club, 1/64 Devonshire St, Surry Hills.

MELBOURNE: Friday 26 June @ 4pm, Celtic Club, Cnr La Trobe and Queen Sts.

BRISBANE: Sunday 28 June @ 4pm, University of Queensland (room TBC).

All events are free and open to the public without prior booking.

The Guardian:

“One of the most important books about the dirty war fought in Northern Ireland during the 30 years between 1968 and 1998.

Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland offers “indisputable evidence of security forces collusion” with loyalist paramilitaries.

“It alleges that members of the police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were part of a loyalist gang that killed more than 100 people in just one small area in the 1970s . . .”

‘Israel 2015: A government of extremists in charge of an-out-of control military’ – New briefing paper

‘Israel 2015: A government of extremists in charge of an-out-of control military’ – New briefing paper

THE Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign has distributed a new briefing paper to members of the Oireachtas, the European Parliament and local Irish councils called Israel 2015: A government of extremists in charge of an-out-of control military.

The IPSC says:

“The paper is an in-depth investigation of the extremist nature of the new Israeli Government, the shocking views of its leading members, and the appalling recent record of the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza.”

Finally the document makes a series of recommendations that the IPSC believes the Irish Government must take “to help ensure that Israel is held to account for its actions and that the Palestinian people receive the justice they so richly deserve”.

The Israeli officials’ words and soldiers’ testimonies contained in the document reinforce the immediate need for arms embargo and other sanctions against Israel, the IPSC says.

Tory welfare cuts Bill blocked by Sinn Féin and SDLP at Stormont

Tory welfare cuts Bill blocked by Sinn Féin and SDLP at Stormont

THE Welfare Reform Bill being pushed through Stormont by the Democratic Unionist Party – supported by the Ulster Unionist Party, Alliance and other unionists – was blocked by a Petition of Concern tabled by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Green Party late on Tuesday night, 26 May, as An Phoblacht was going to print. The future of the Assembly and the Executive is uncertain.

MLAs voted 58-39 in favour of the Bill but the Petition of Concern takes precedence. A Petition of Concern insists that there must be “cross-community” support for a motion. This means that 60% of all members present must back the Bill and this must include at least 40% of nationalists and 40% of unionists.

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told the Assembly before the vote:

“The immediate difficulties we are facing into have been triggered by the DUP’s decision to bring forward a Welfare Bill to the Assembly which does not implement the protections agreed at Stormont House for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick and large families.

“It appears that the DUP is responding to pressure and demands from the Tories in London. In my view, that is a major tactical error.”

He said the crisis is not of the making of the parties in the Executive.

Martin McGuinness 600 SF logo

“The crisis has been created by the austerity cuts agenda of a Tory administration in London which is attempting to decimate our public services and punish the most vulnerable people in society.

“Sinn Féin stood in the recent elections against Tory austerity and for social justice and equality. Our approach was mandated by over 176,000 voters, almost 25% of the popular vote.

“In contrast, the Tories received only 9,000 votes in the North, just over 1% of the vote.

“This is a party which doesn’t have a single Assembly or local council seat. They have no democratic mandate for their austerity policies in the North of Ireland.

“Yet they have already taken £1.5billion from the Executive’s block grant. And Prime Minister Cameron’s Cabinet of Tory millionaires have announced plans for further eye-watering cuts of £25billion to our public services and to welfare protections for people with disabilities, the long-term sick and large families.”

It has always been his view, he said, that the outstanding issues in the Welfare Bill can be resolved “but this requires political will, particularly on the part of the unionist parties” to protect the most vulnerable, including in unionist communities.

“Make no mistake about it – the biggest threat to our political institutions remains the ongoing Tory austerity agenda of cuts to our public services and the welfare state.

“We need an immediate negotiation with the British Government for a budget which protects our public services and for fiscal powers that give us control over our economy.

“We are not alone in this battle against austerity. The Scottish Executive has already requested a tripartite meeting of the representatives of the Scottish, Welsh and local Assemblies.

“We should be taking up this offer and developing a common position within the Executive and with the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies in opposition to Tory austerity.”

Martin McGuinness ended by saying:

“There is still time for the parties and the British Government to change tack and deliver a new budget that delivers for our public services, our economy and our people.

“If a choice has to be made to stand side by side with the Tories or stand up for the people here for our economy and public services, I know what side Sinn Féin will be on.”

Marriage Equality must now be extended to North

Marriage Equality must now be extended to North

Yes vote ‘a good day for Ireland’

‘Yes’ campaigners celebrate in Dublin Castle

THE VICTORY of the Yes campaign in the Marriage Equality was “a good day for Ireland” but Gerry Adams says the right to same-sex marriage must now be extended to the North.

Almost two million citizens voted in the Marriage Equality referendum on Friday which passed with 62% voting in favour of the proposal to extend marriage rights to same sex couples.

There were jubilant scenes at Dublin Castle where a crowd of almost 2,000 people had crowded into the main courtyard to celebrate the result – a scene which was replicated on a smaller scale at count centres throughout the state.

The proposal received the support of the main political parties who supported the broad community based ‘Yes Equality’ campaign.

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon hailed the historic result:

“This is truly an historic moment. Ireland has become the first country in the world to approve marriage equality in a nationwide referendum. The result sends an important message to the world; all people are entitled to enjoy their human rights and human dignity, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Welcoming the result, Sinn Féin South Down MLA Cáitríona Ruane said:

“The marriage equality rights that will be enjoyed by Irish citizens in the south must be shared by citizens in the north. Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for marriage equality for all in the North and to end the discrimination against our LGBTI community.”

Attempts by Sinn Féin to introduce marriage equality in the North have been repeatedly blocked by the main unionist parties while the SDLP and Alliance have sat on the fence:

Amnesty International NI director Patrick Corrigan described the North as “the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands” and said the SDLP and Alliance Party “need to get their act together”.

By-election a three-horse race between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion in strong challenge to Establishment parties

The by-election is between Bobby Aylward of Fianna Fáil, Kathleen Funchion of Sinn Féin and David Fitzgerald of Fine Gael

THERE is panic in Fianna Fáil as internal opinion polls and election workers say by-election candidate Bobby Aylward – long considered the favourtie to take the seat vacated by Phil Hogan – is losing ground to Sinn Féin candidate Kathleen Funchion.

An email sent to all Fianna Fáil TDs and senators by Bobby Aylward’s Director of Elections, Barry Cowen, warned that the party could lose the election if its representatives do not up their game in the area.

A report in The Sunday Times notes:

“Aylward is favourite to win but there are growing concerns in the party that Fine Gael or Sinn Féin could take the seat.”

While many mainstream media outlets – particularly RTÉ – have been keen to frame the contest as a battle between the two main conservative parties, The Irish Times quotes an unnamed Fine Gael TD as saying that Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion “could finish ahead on the first count” with transfers proving to be the crucial deciding factor.

Analysing recent polls and observations by those following the elections, The Sunday Times reports that the young mother and SIPTU organiser “is picking up substantial support, particularly in Carlow” while a rival party worker accepted that Kathleen “could be the dark horse”:

“Sinn Féin is much more transfer-friendly these days. Funchion could pick up a lot of votes as the lefties are eliminated,” the insider said.

Speaking to, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“I think we’ve a chance of winning.

“We take nothing for granted and we and Kathleen will have to earn every single vote we get. But we are running a very experienced candidate, a young mother and a person with a huge capacity to represent Carlow and Kilkenny in the Dáil.”

Referring to the Fine Gael and Labour candidates, she said:

“There is very little point in the people returning the same old type of TDs. If you return the same kind of politician you will get the same kind of political outlook.”

UDA-linked group’s threat to young Gaels wearing GAA shirts

UDA-linked group’s threat to young Gaels wearing GAA shirts

THE UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) is putting the lives and safety of young Gaels at risk through an online post by the North Antrim and Derry UPRG linking the GAA to the IRA, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald has warned.

In the post the unionists use a photograph of Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey with young people wearing GAA shirts along with the message “Sinn Féin = IRA = GAA. No there’s no connection.”

Earlier this year the group posted a message saying “When you see someone out with a GAA kit on, remember that they might as well say I am a republican and support the IRA . . . the GAA is the sporting wing of Sinn Féin/IRA.”

Caoimhe Archibald, who received a death threat from the shadowy ‘Real UFF’ in the days before the Westminster election, said:

“Apart from the threat levelled at me, the UDA in the north Antrim area are almost certainly behind the killing of Brian McIlhagga in January and at least six shootings in which one man lost his leg.”

McIlhagga was shot in the leg with a shotgun when a UDA gang dragged him from his Ballymoney home. He bled to death as the blast severed an artery.

The increasing threat posed by the UDA in the north Antrim area is underpinned by its boast that it was the only UDA brigade to vote against the UDA ceasefire in 1994. Over the years it was accused of numerous sectarian attacks throughout the north Antrim and north Derry area.

Caoimhe Archibald said:

“The silence of the unionist parties in face of this violence and threats is deafening.”

‘Like Connolly, we need to be both practical and visionary’

‘Like Connolly, we need to be both practical and visionary’

ONLY the top 40% of households in the 26 Counties actually benefited from the last Budget with the greatest benefits going to the top 10%, Gerry Adams said at a wreath-laying ceremony at the James Connolly monument in Dublin today to mark the 99th anniversary of the revolutionary socialist leader’s execution by Britain after the 1916 Easter Rising.

“First and foremost Connolly was a workers leader,” Gerry Adams said.

Describing his role as a Belfast organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) in 1911, he said:

“He organised the workers of Belfast, especially the linen slaves, thousands of young women who worked in hellish sweat conditions in the mills which were the backbone of the Northern economy.”

Speaking of his role during the 1913 Lockout, Adams said Connolly saw the Irish Citizen Army not only as a defence force for workers, but a revolutionary army dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism:

“1913 was an epic struggle which the Dublin bosses and the owner of the Irish Independent newspaper, William Martin Murphy, set out to crush the workers and their organisations. Eventually the Dublin workers were starved back to work – but they and Connolly remained defiant and continued to organise.”

“During that 1916 Rising, Connolly was the Commandant General of the Dublin Division of the Army of the Irish Republic. Pearse described him as ‘the guiding brain of our resistance’. He was one of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation which guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all our citizens and pledges to cherish all the children of the nation equally – sadly real equality does not exist in this society”

Speaking opposite the SIPTU trade union headquarters, the Sinn Féin leader said:

“Fine Gael and Labour’s four Budgets have been the most unfair and unequal since the economic crash. There has been a huge growth in social inequality. A third of our children now live in consistent poverty. Over 1,000 children are homeless in this city.”

Low-income and middle-income earners have been severely penalised by Fine Gael and Labour, he said. The abolition of the PRSI ceiling, increase in VAT, the introduction of a Family Home Tax and Water Charge have significantly increased the tax bill of ordinary workers.

“The abject failure to do anything practical to alleviate the plight of those in mortgage distress or those struggling with spiraling rents has further increased financial pressure on ordinary families. These are the same damaging policies agreed by Fianna Fáil with the Troika in 2010 and implemented by Fine Gael and Labour since 2011.

“There is a better, fairer way. Sinn Féin advocates a reform of the tax system to ease the burden on low and middle-income earners while also increasing revenue to invest in a fair and just recovery.”

He said that Sinn Féin in Government would:

● Abolish the Property Tax and Water Charges;

● Reform the USC to ease the burden on lower earners;

● Ensure high-earners pay their fair share of income tax;

● Increase employer’s PRSI to address the deficit in the Social Insurance Fund;

● Introduce a wealth tax to generate funds for investment in job creation.

“Sinn Féin passionately believes that the economy must serve society, not the other way around,” Gerry Adams said.

The Sinn Féin leader also welcomed the recently-published ‘Policy Principles for a Progressive Irish Government’ published on May Day by the unions affiliated to the Right to Water Campaign.

Gerry Adams said Sinn Féin needs to prove its policies are workable and yield results:

“Like Connolly, we need to be both practical and visionary. For Connolly, socialism and national self-determination were two sides of the same coin.”

James Connolly commemoration 2015 2

‘Tory cuts are totally unacceptable’ says Martin McGuinness

‘Tory cuts are totally unacceptable’ says Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA of Sinn Féin

DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness says the proposed level of cuts by the newly-elected Conservative Government in London is “totally unacceptable” and pressing ahead with them could lead to a “very serious situation” in the Northern Executive.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Monday, the Sinn Féin MLA said:

“In the aftermath of the Stormont House Agreement we were very concerned by the approach taken by the DUP in relation to keeping the payments of people on social security and future claimants. We made it clear that we would not proceed until such a time as those people were protected.”

He said that following a period of negotiations with First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson, he is confident of finding a way forward, noting that negotiations are resuming today.

While the Conservatives were returned to Westminster with an overall majority, in Scotland the Scottish National Party swept the boards with the Conservatives taking just a single seat. In the North of Ireland the Tories failed to take any seats and took just around 1% of the vote:

“The big complication is that the British Tory party say they intend to bring in €30billion more of cuts including €12billion in welfare. They have been refusing to answer questions by journalists as to where the axe will fall. That is something that needs to be of concern to all the parties in the Assembly,” he said.

“I come from the school of thought that our Government will be judged on how it defends the most vulnerable, the disabled and weakest in our society. And if that has to come out of our block grant, then so be it. We want to ensure we protect front-line services like healthcare and education”.

McGuinness says a united approach from all the parties in the North is needed:

“Speaking with one voice we can make it clear to the British Government that the level and depth of the cuts that they are proposing is totally unacceptable.”

Asked if more cuts from the British Government could leave question marks over Sinn Féin’s participation in the Executive, he said.

“If this British Government presses forward with the level of cuts that they have indicated I think that would be a very serious situation indeed – not just for Sinn Féin but the other parties also,” adding that such a move would seriously undermine the Executive.

McGuinness also said the proposed referendum on EU membership for Britain, which could see the North of Ireland forced out of the EU, is unacceptable to his party.

British Government again snubs Taoiseach’s call for release of Dublin/Monaghan bombs files

British Government again snubs Taoiseach’s call for release of Dublin/Monaghan bombs files

● Talbot Street, Dublin – scene of of one of the bombs

THE Taoiseach has been snubbed by the British Government after he again sought the release of their files and papers relating to the May 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Thirty-four people were killed, including an unborn child, and almost 300 injured when three no-warning car-bombs exploded during rush-hour in Dublin and a fourth in Monaghan town on 17 May 1974.

The unionist Ulster Volunteer Force claimed responsibility for the well-co-ordinated attacks, which have all the appearances of being carried out with the assistance of British state forces. No one has been convicted of the attacks.

SF book

Today’s Irish Times reports that Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan pointed out that Taoiseach Enda Kenny, on a recent visit to Belfast, made clear the importance the Irish Government attached to disclosure and co-operation in dealing with the legacy. Despite this, the British have stonewalled a friendly neighbouring government’s important request.

Now the Irish Government is waiting for a new Secretary of State for the North to be appointed after the 7 May Westminster general election before he makes another approach, one of many over several years.

The minister said he would continue to ask the British Government to give them access to an independent international judicial figure and original documents it had relating to the bombings.

Meanwhile, the questions remain to be answered as to why the British authorities are not co-operating, and what will happen if the Tories once again dominate the new government after 7 May?

10,000-strong petition delivered to Dunnes Stores HQ today

10,000-strong petition delivered to Dunnes Stores HQ today

A PETITION with over 10,000 signatures from members of the public over the past five days was handed into Dunnes Stores HQ on Georges Street in Dublin City Centre at lunchtime on Wednesday in solidarity with staff who claim they have been victimised and even sacked after taking part in a one-day strike on 2 April over working conditions.

The petition, organised by independent campaigning organisaton Uplift, calls on Margaret Heffernan, CEO of Dunnes Stores, to guarantee that Dunnes workers are not intimidated or victimised for trying to secure better working conditions.

Siobhán O’Donoghue, spokesperson for Uplift, said:

“Dunnes Stores cannot afford to ignore public pressure. They know only too well the damage that could be inflicted to the company’s ‘bottom line’ if the public turn against them. Ten thousand people represents a lot of customers.”

Dunnes Strike Mandate

● Sinn Féin solidarity with striking workers

Trade union Mandate said they have received reports from members all over the country who have experienced:

Dunnes Stores strike 2015 Mandate logo

● Dismissals

● Cuts to hours

● Changes in roles

● Changes in shift patterns

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, said:

“As a very last resort, and with no other option available to them, our members in Dunnes Stores took legitimate and reasonable industrial action.

“All they want is for their company to meaningfully engage with them through their union with the objective of creating decent working conditions.

“Now their employer is blatantly targeting people with the hope of intimidating their own loyal staff and turning them away from any future trade union activities.”

Amnesty International welcomes Kincora election pledge by British Labour Party

Amnesty International welcomes Kincora election pledge by British Labour Party

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has welcomed today’s announcement that the British Labour Party would include the sexual abuse of boys in the Kincora Belfast children’s home in an existing inquiry if it wins the Westminster general election.

But Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan said that justice for victims of abuse should not be reliant on the outcome of an election.

“We call on all parties to make a similar pledge to deliver truth and justice to the Kincora victims,” the Amnesty spokesperson said.

“The claims relating to Kincora are deeply disturbing – that MI5 turned a blind eye to child abuse and actively blocked a police investigation, instead using the paedophile ring for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.”

It would be completely unacceptable for Kincora to be left out of any inquiry, he said.

Files ‘lost’

An Phoblacht reported in July of last year that documents alleging child abuse against MPs and senior public figures in the 1980s (when Margaret Thatcher’s Tory party was in power) are among 114 Home Office files on child sex abuse that have been destroyed, ‘lost’ or ‘gone missing’. It is believed that some of this vital information related to Kincora.

The systematic abuse of young boys in the Kincora Boys’ Home in the 1970s and the part played by British Intelligence organisations to keep the scandal under wraps ensured that one side of the murky world of unionist paramilitarism and its links to the crown forces was kept out of the public domain for years.

It all eventually unravelled in the early 1980s.

Kincora William McGrath

At the centre of the affair was Kincora Housemaster William McGrath (pictured).

McGrath was the head of unionist paramilitary group Tara and a man central to the formation of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in 1971.

McGrath was also closely connected to senior figures in both major unionist parties as well as having links to the Orange Order.

McGrath and two other members of staff were jailed in 1981 for sexually assaulting boys in their care.

Choice between equality and austerity is central to Westminster election campaign

Choice between equality and austerity is central to Westminster election campaign

THE Westminster general election is now fully under way in Britain and the Six Counties. Many polls continue to suggest that the next British parliament may be ‘hung’, with the Tories and Labour taking approximately one third of the vote each and the last third being carved out among all other competing parties in England, Wales, Scotland and the North. That includes UKIP and the DUP, the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and Sinn Féin.

Focus on the political economy and how and why the economy and economic policies should function are centre stage.

Gerry Kelly 2015

The Tories have declared that, if re-elected, their plan for reducing the British state’s deficit next time would include an additional £30billion in cutbacks, £12billion of which will come from welfare. They have refused to say what specific new welfare cuts would be implemented. However, given their ideological attack on the welfare state to date, this inevitably means that the disabled, children with special needs and in poverty, the long-term sick, elderly, and care assistants will be targeted.

The ramifications of the Tories’ new plans will be catastrophic.

The British welfare state has already been seriously damaged. There are over 700,000 citizens on zero hours contracts.

The Tories are also committed to a referendum on withdrawal from Europe and this will have its own repercussions.

SNP v Labour 2015

Last month, British Labour Party Shadow Finance Minister Ed Balls admitted his own support for austerity policies, albeit on a smaller scale than the Tories. That signals a future Labour administration has already been compromised by an acceptance of austerity.

So it was significant to hear the trenchant rejection by Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon of austerity during the last fortnight at her party’s spring conference and then on the TV leaders’ debates.

The SNP and Sinn Féin are now the only significant parties in the British state or Ireland giving leadership on anti-austerity politics, and alternative economic and fiscal strategies.

Significantly, the SNP may become the third or fourth largest party in the British parliament after this election.

An unambiguous commitment to equality sets Sinn Féin apart from every other party contesting this election in the North.

All of the unionist parties, including Alliance, have been compromised by the acceptance of austerity. This is why the impasse over implementing the actual agreement on welfare protections remains extant within the Executive.

Ultimately, responsibility rests with the British Government. The political institutions were established to deliver change in the North as it emerged from conflict. Yet the Tories made a decision five years ago to reduce the public expenditure settlement (the block grant), for the Six Counties to support that work by £1.5billion.

Now the Tories have made it clear that they will make even bigger cuts to the block grant, given the chance. That prospect contains very serious economic and social implications for Northern society. The precise intentions of a Labour government are unclear.

When asked about the unionist electoral pact during his visit to Belfast last Tuesday, Tory British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to comment. He had no need. The Tories are standing 16 candidates in the North. They will not contest Fermanagh & South Tyrone or North Belfast. That is an attempt to support the DUP’s Nigel Dodds against Sinn Féin’s surge and to assist the Ulster Unionist Tom Elliot’s challenge against Michelle Gildernew.

Michelle Gildernew 2015

Of course, the Tories have been courting the DUP in particular for some time now. Their focus is on a ‘hung’ parliament and planning for “confidence and supply” arrangements with both UKIP and the DUP.

Ideologically, the DUP and UUP have already bought into the austerity agenda. Their wider electoral pact is a negative, sectarian, and pro-austerity alliance now supported by Cameron’s Tory party. It offers nothing to the unionist working poor, jobless and most deprived, or indeed any section of Northern society.

Simply put, unionism in this election is a byword for no political vision and bad economics – and a proxy to enable even worse Tory austerity in the North.

Caoimhe Archibald 2015

The alternative to the unionist/Tory ‘race to the bottom’ is the type of vision, leadership, and strategy which rejects austerity, supports equality, and is committed to building the alliances across society to bring that about.

That should be the focus of all genuinely progressive parties and organisations in the coming weeks.

‘Ireland: One Island, No Borders’ – photographic record with words by Gerry Adams

Elizabeth Billups and Gerry Adams with the book

THE VISION of an Ireland as one island with no borders is the concept for a book just published by Irish-American photographer Elizabeth Billups.

The US citizen travelled to Ireland over a 12-year period beginning in 1996 and recorded in photographs scenes and images that encapsulated Ireland in all its natural beauty as well as its people.

In the North, in particular, her photographs captured that period in history as society moved through the transition from war to peace.

And as her project unfolded, after two years, she approached Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and convinced him to supply the text to her pictorial record.

The result, Ireland: One Island, No Borders, was launched in a series of events throughout the country during March with its Belfast launch on Saturday 14 March in Cultúrlann MacAdam Ó Fiaich as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge.

In her introduction to the book, Elizabeth says:

“At first I photographed the striking landscape but I quickly learned that, like every country, Ireland has environmental problems and serious political and social issues.

“I soon became immersed in the struggle for a united Ireland and my photographs became a visual record and reflection of the contradictions and paradoxes contained on such a small island divided by the imposed British border.”

She met the Sinn Féin President when she returned to Ireland as part of an Irish Northern Aid tour in 1999.

For his part, Gerry Adams, writing the epilogue, presents a historical and political overview that gives the project its context while at the same time summing up the aspirations of republicans for a united Ireland.

He writes:

“We now have the opportunity to reimagine Ireland, an Ireland where conflict and violence are in the past, an Ireland that reflects our genius and diversity, our dignity and our strengths – one island without borders.”

Ireland: One Island, No Borders is published by George F. Thompson Publishing.

Goldman Sachs – Cheerleaders for austerity want to set the Irish political agenda

GOLDMAN SACHS’S senior European economist produced a howler last week with the assertion that the bank no longer views mortgage arrears as representing the largest domestic risk to the Irish economy. 

Tell that to the 30,000-plus Irish families North and South who are immediately at risk of eviction because of mortgage arrears.

The Goldman Sachs report said: “The biggest risk now in our view is provided by political developments.”

Yes, you’ve guessed it – for “political developments” read ‘growth in support for Sinn Féin’.

Goldman Sachs Mail front page

There’s a breath-taking arrogance to Goldman Sachs’s conclusion, not least because it represents the interests of the international financial and banking elites which were directly responsible for the global banking crisis.

The unspoken implication is that those same interests will prefer some combination of the current Fine Gael/Labour Coalition and Fianna Fáil to become the next government.

The corollary of this thinking is that austerity should continue in the 26 Counties.

That’s exactly what the Tory-led Coalition Budget in Britain also announced last week, including a threat to cut a further £12billion from the welfare state.

The Block Grant allocated to the Northern Executive now faces another massive reduction.

Austerity is not an aberration. It is a fiscal and economic strategy for ‘recovery’ based upon dismantling welfare protections, reduced public services, fully marketising the economy, and producing the opposite of a fair economic and social recovery.

Enforced austerity is the solution proposed to reduce the structural deficits across Western economies by the very financial institutions which caused the international banking crisis in the first place.

Austerity isn’t meant to be a fair recovery strategy. It is a socialised debt reduction plan which demands absolute conformity from those in society expected to pay and take the pain.

In fact, austerity is a trap.

Its only consequence is to drive all of society into an inexorable economic and political race to the bottom.

The result is increasing breakdown in social cohesion and community solidarity, conflict between public and private sectors, sectional disagreements over Budget priorities and expenditure – and (in the North) to fight among ourselves over the public expenditure nightmare imposed upon the Executive by the British Government.

Water Protest, Dublin, 21 Mar 2015

Goldman Sachs and others are cheerleaders for ‘race to the bottom’ economics and politics.

Obviously, Goldman Sachs now wants to be part of setting the Irish political agenda as an ideological ‘player’ during the next three elections between this May and May 2016.

There will be plenty of others doing the same in the coming period to secure maximum social conformity from citizens, North and South.

We can stop that happening by looking outwards, not inwards, and challenging the political narrative which legitimises the austerity agenda of the economic and financial elites.

That is what the Westminster general election on 7 May needs to be about.