09 July 2005
Bomb found inside police station
A bomb has been defused at a police station in County Tyrone.
Army technical officers carried out a controlled explosion on a suspicious object in Coalisland. Police later said it had been a "viable device".
It was found on Saturday just inside the fencing at the station. Its remains have been taken away for forensic examination.
Some premises were evacuated during the security alert which began following a telephone bomb warning to a newsroom.
The area is getting back to normal after being cordoned off.
Anyone who saw any suspicious activity just after midnight on Saturday is urged to contact the police at Dungannon.
UDA-linked Group To Distribute 'Anti-police' Leaflets
Friday 8th July 2005
The Derry branch of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) is to press ahead with plans to distribute 5,000 leaflets urging local Protestants to report police 'harassment'.
Local PSNI chiefs have branded the leaflets - entitled "Policing in Londonderry - A Community Matter" - as 'anti-police'.
The flyer includes a questionnaire asking respondents if they have ever suffered police harassment.
The handout also urges anyone claiming maltreatment to report their cases to the URPG, Police Ombudsman, the city's District Policing Partnership (DPP), the Protestant Interface group (PIN) or a solicitor.
Contact details for all groups are included in the leaflet.
The leaflet also asks respondents if they have ever been physically attacked by a police officer, if their homes have been raided or if they have been stopped and searched.
A PSNI spokesman said the leaflet put a Waterside partnership programme involving police and community leaders at risk.
However, the UPRG - which has links to the UDA --denied the police assertion, insisting Protestants were keen to work with police on a range of issues including tackling anti-social behaviour, on-street drinking and interface tensions.
UPRG spokesman David Nicholl added that police, "like all other organisations", had a duty to "face facts" and remove a minority of "troublemakers" from its ranks.
Mr. Nicholl said residents in unionist areas of Derry were of the opinion that police were more " heavyhanded" in dealing with young Protestants compared to youths in Catholic areas.
Mr. Nicholl said 50 "trial" leaflets were distributed two weekends ago outside pubs and clubs.
"As a result, two fresh complaints, relating to incidents in Lincoln Courts and Nelson Drive, which otherwise would not have come to light, have been made to the Ombudsman," he said.
He insisted the UPRG would go ahead with a door-todoor drop of 5,000 leaflets. However, this will not take place until after July 12.
He also cautioned police against withdrawing from a local partnership programme which allows officers to contact community representatives in the event of trouble.
A PSNI spokesman insisted police had not withdrawn from the scheme which has been upandrunning for three years.
"We are considering our position, but these leaflets are anti-police and very unhelpful in terms of undermining the good relationship between the community and the police," said a PSNI spokesman.
Loyalist 'Hardmen' Blamed For Limavady Road Flags
Friday 8th July 2005
Loyalist 'HARDMEN' are being blamed for erecting "intimidating" Union and Ulster flags along a stretch of main road in Derry's Waterside.
Residents living in the mixed Limavady Road area are said to be furious at the proliferation of flags - including the Orange Order standard --close to their homes.
One resident, who asked not to be named, told the 'Journal' this week: "Homeowners, both Protestants and Catholic, are really angry at the erection of these flags.
"They send out the message that this area is controlled by loyalists --which couldn't be further from the truth.
"I know some people will say that they've been put up because the main county Orange parade is taking place in the city this year.
"That simply doesn't wash. In previous years, when Derry hosted the main parade, I cannot recall such a proliferation of flags on the Limavady Road.
"Indeed, it'll be interesting to see if the flags are removed once July 12 is over."
The resident also expressed concern at the "message" the flags send out to people visiting the city.
"For example, I know that some of the games in the Foyle Cup are being played at nearby St. Columb's Park - what must our international visitors being saying to themselves when they see this type of display?"
The homeowner also accused the authorities of "passing the buck" as regards the flags issue.
"It seems no-one is willing to accept responsibility for the erection of flags," he said.
"But, at the end of the day, someone must take charge of this - after all people are suffering as a result of this intimidating behaviour."
This week, police chiefs acknowledged that the display of flags was an "emotive" issue.
Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said: "The flying of flags is not a policing issue alone. The Police Service is just one of the partners involved in the protocol, signed earlier this year, designed to address the flying of flags.
"The responsibility to find a way forward lies with everyone --statutory agencies, elected and community representatives and the communities themselves."
Asst. Ch. Cons. McCausland said the display of flags to mark out geographical areas or to promote sectarianism or intimidation was "wholly unacceptable in a peaceful and tolerant society."
Veterans mark end of World War II
**Following this article, I have re-posted a piece from last year concerning the involvement of the Irish in WWII.
Commemoration events to mark the 60th anniversary of VE and VJ Day have taken place in County Down.
A wreath-laying service was held at the war memorial in Ward Park at the British Legion War Memorial in Bangor.
Irish who fought on the beaches
By Kevin Connolly
BBC Ireland Correspondent
01 June 04
Sixty years on from the anxious summer months of 1944 it is a time for remembering in all the nations that were shaped and scarred by World War II.
There is one European country though where the full picture of what happened during the war is being discovered for the first time.
Neutral Ireland saw no reason to fight against Hitler's Germany alongside Britain in 1939; it was after all only 18 years since the country had bloodily secured a partial independence from London after centuries of British rule.
Irish volunteers fought in the Second World War
At the time it seemed a reasonable decision, and at the political level neutrality was scrupulously observed.
When the first, still barely believable reports of what had happened in the Nazi concentration camps emerged they were strictly censored.
And the Irish leader Eamon de Valera even paid his respects to the German representative in Dublin when news of Hitler's death emerged.
Irishmen who had volunteered for Britain's armies were given a tough time when they were home on leave, and were cold-shouldered after the fighting by a de Valera-led government that didn't see why they should qualify for state welfare payments when they came home from fighting for a foreign power.
The volunteers went into a kind of a historical black hole - largely because Ireland's official history as taught in school curriculums was always more comfortable with men who had fought against the crown, rather than men who had fought for it.
All that though is changing. The Northern Ireland peace process, designed to improve the country's future, is also illuminating its past.
First came the rehabilitation of the huge and long-ignored contingent of Irish volunteers from World War I who had been away fighting for Britain while republicans staged the Easter Rising against it in 1916.
When Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein was Lord Mayor of Belfast he even laid a wreath at the city cenotaph - an extraordinary gesture when you consider his party traces its roots directly back to the Easter Rising.
Now, it is the turn of the Irish volunteers who fought in World War II.
Yvonne McEwen, a historian with a special interest in Irish affairs, has now come up with a detailed estimate of the numbers of Irishmen from both sides of the border who fought for Britain.
Based on the War Office calculation that 22 men served for every one who died, she estimates that 99,997 Irishmen volunteered, with the number divided almost evenly between the North and the South.
Fascinating stuff which still has a certain political resonance. After all it suggests that while the government of Ireland may have been neutral, many of its people were not.
And it also demonstrates that the supposedly non-combatant Irish Free State contributed as many soldiers as Northern Ireland, a region of the UK whose unionist population prides itself on its loyalty.
Eamon de Valera: Irish leader during war years
In Dublin, the national museum's splendid buildings at Collins Barracks, built for the British Army during the days of imperial rule, are to house an exhibition on the history of Irish soldiering which will take into account this changing view of the second world war.
It will include the familiar tale of Irish resistance to British rule, but the museum's curator Lar Joy is actively appealing for uniforms, medals and other memorabilia from Irish volunteers in Britain's armies so that their story can take its place in the official narrative of Ireland's place in World War II.
Mr Joy sees the job of running a museum as a form of historical storytelling - I wish people like him had been running museums when I was a child - and getting the volunteer's contribution into the public domain, is part of getting the overall story right.
For a country whose political establishment rather ludicrously used to insist on speaking not of "World War II" but of "the emergency" as though language alone could keep them out of the conflict, it's a huge step forward.
And given that that war turned out to be a global moral crusade against fascism rather than just another of Britain's foreign campaigns, as it may have originally seemed to many in Ireland, it probably suits Irish politicians well enough to discover that their country did after all play a significant role.
*Anyone who may have medals or military memorabilia which might be worth a place in the Irish National Museum's forthcoming exhibition is invited to contact the curators. Yvonne McEwen is also interested in further contact with Irish Volunteers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass your details on.
US judge raises hopes for Malachy McAllister
The sister of billionaire Donald Trump is now a US judge who is raising hopes for ex-INLA man Malachy McAllister
By Sean O'Driscoll in New York
09 July 2005
A SISTER of billionaire mogul Donald Trump has strengthened the case of a former INLA man fighting deportation from the US.
Judge Maryanne Trump Barry has questioned the deportation of Belfast man, Malachy McAllister and said he didn't pose a threat to US national security.
During hearings at a Newark federal circuit court in New Jersey, Judge Trump Barry questioned US government lawyers on why McAllister's involvement in 1981 in an "800 year old war" could threaten US national security in 2005.
She also sought information on why former Attorney General Janet Reno ended deportation cases against six Irish republicans during the Clinton administration.
McAllister's lawyers showed Judge Trump Barry a statement released by Reno at the time in which she said that she had ended the cases to help the Irish peace process.
A three-judge panel was sitting to hear oral arguments in the case and noted that US anti-terrorism laws may prevent them from taking any action.
Judge Marjorie Rendell, a wife of Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, agreed with McAllister's Belfast-born lawyer, Eamonn Dornan that US immigration law's definition of "terrorist" is "extremely broad," and included acts that "none of us would consider terrorist."
However, Government lawyer John McAdams Jr argued that an exception for McAllister could open the floodgates and assist those involved in attacks against the US.
McAllister was convicted in 1983 for involvement in the attempted murder of RUC officer Gregory Conway. He and his family fled Belfast after a loyalist attack on their home in 1988 and came to the US in 1996.
His wife, Bernadette, died of cancer last year after she and two of her children won the right to stay in the US.
McAllister has argued that it has been unsafe for him to return to Northern Ireland since the 1988 attack, when a loyalist paramilitary gang fired 26 shots into his south Belfast home.
Attorney Dornan said that he was very pleased with the oral arguments but said that the court's power to act may be hampered by sweeping federal anti-terrorism laws.
Republican Sinn Féin - Cork Launch Website.
by Séan O'Murchú PRO - MacCurtain/McSwiney Cumann Republican Sinn Féin Cork
Saturday, Jul 9 2005, 3:58pm
The MacCurtain / McSwiney Cumann of Republicam Sinn Féin Cork Ireland have launched a new website at www.rsfcork.com.
This site gives Republican Sinn Féin in Cork the ability to voice its views on the continuing illigal British occupation in Ireland. As well as commenting on matters of daily revelance to Irish people with weekly news updates.
Below is a outline of who Republican Sinn Féin are and what they represent.
Republican Sinn Féin, the last remaining true Republican political party founded in 1905. Reformed in 1986 out of the walkout of the 86 Ard-Fheis by the true Republican leadership, who saw the failure of the new Provisional leaderships's decision to enter into a partitonist assembly of the 26 County Southern Free State. This one day would lead to a larger erosion of Republican principles, to the acceptance of entering a new Stormont and acceptance of British Partition. Republican Sinn Fein uphold the right of the Irish people to oppose continued British occupation in Ireland. We are dealing with state sponsored censorship and are continually demonized in the media, with harassment of our members carried out by the States "Political Police" on both sides of the British imposed Border.
Republicans today are labeled as anti-peace or portrayed militarists. Anyone who becomes arrested for political offenses is now either purposely ignored, demonized in the media, or criminalized. In the north the British have brought back the denial of Political Status, 17 years after the 1981 hunger strikes. In 1981 Bobby Sands and nine other republican POWs died in the cell blocks of Long Kesh on hunger strike to win POW Status for all Republican POWs.
In Short the present climate is one in which the Republican Movement finds itself struggling against enormous odds, but like all other times of seeming defeat, retreat, or disillusionment, this too shall pass, for its only noble and righteous ideas which live on. As it has been said, You can Kill - or as today's lessons have taught us, even buy-out the revolutionary, but you cannot kill the Revolution.
Therefore this movement will have to be one built upon a strong and solidly principled foundation, built with planning, organization, and structure with a clear purpose and direction to achieve the end goal of a New Ireland ( Éire Nua ) free of British rule.
Republican Sinn Féin believes that the historic Irish nation is a distinct, coherent unit and is entitled to exercise its own independence. Because of the history of our own country we identify with national liberation struggles around the world.
We believe, in the words of one of the 18th Century founders of Irish Republicanism, Wolfe Tone, in the urgent need to "break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils". We stand for the complete overthrow of British rule in Ireland and the establishment of a Federal Democratic Socialist Republic based on the Proclamation of 1916.
To bring the Proclamation of the Republic, declared in Easter 1916 into effective operation and to maintain and consolidate the Government of the Republic, representative of the people of all Ireland, based on that Proclamation.
To establish in the Republic a reign of social justice based on Irish Republican socialist principles in accordance with the Proclamation of the Republic of 1916, the Democratic Program of the First Dial Éireann in 1919, by a just distributation of the nation's wealth and resources and to institute a system of government suited to the particular needs of the people.
To establish the Irish langauge as the primary means of communication in the Republic. To teach Irish History in such a way as will foster a pride in our own cultural heritage, and a sense of rights and responsibilities in our people as citizens of the Republic.
Suspect device found in Co Tyrone
09 July 2005 14:05
The area around the police station in Coalisland in Co Tyrone has been sealed off following the discovery of a suspect device.
Elsewhere in Co Tyrone, shopkeepers in Dungannon and Cookstown have been advised to check their premises.
It follows warnings that incendiary bombs may have been left in the shops.
South-east says farewell to Tall Ships
09/07/2005 - 15:27:24
Photo: Haydn West/PA
Tens of thousands of people lined the Waterford Estuary today as the Tall Ships sailed off in formation for the start of the 2005 race series.
The seized every possible vantage point as the magnificent vessels, most with their sails up, passed down the River Suir in formation to Dunmore East for the pre-race Parade of Sail.
The 86 Tall Ships were joined by a flotilla of smaller vessels as they made their way towards the open sea.
The Parade of Sail formally kicks off the 2005 race series with its first leg to Cherbourg-Octeville in France.
Visitors watched the spectacle from both sides of the estuary ahead of the race start at 3pm.
Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out in recent days to see the vessels birthed in Waterford Port.
A spokeswoman for the event said the atmosphere had been “brilliant” with spectators treated to parades, an Air Corps fly-by and fireworks display as part of the free festival.
Gardaí estimated the fireworks display alone in the city on Friday night was watched by 130,000.
They reported no major incidents.
The ships have come from countries around the globe including France, Uruguay, the USA, Bulgaria, India, Indonesia, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Poland, Finland, Belgium, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and Norway.
One of the three Irish ships taking part, the sail training vessel Asgard II, was given the honour of leading the sail past down the river.
Orangemen go on march in Donegal
Members of the Protestant Orange Order have taken part in an annual pre-Twelfth parade in County Donegal.
The Rossnowlagh parade brought together Orangemen from the border counties of Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim as well as many from Northern Ireland.
Joined by loyal order members from Liverpool, Orangemen and bands marched along a one-mile route into the village before a religious service.
The Orange Order had expected between 50 and 60 lodges to take part.
Twenty lodges belong to the Orange Order in Donegal, but it said there had been a steady increase in new members in recent times.
The demonstration is known for its relaxed and peaceful atmosphere and has been problem-free in previous years.
There is none of the security seen at some marches in Northern Ireland, despite Rossnowlagh being a mainly Catholic area.
The march comes three days ahead of the annual 12 July celebrations across Northern Ireland to mark the anniversary of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne.
Tuesday is the biggest day in the Protestant marching season.
08 July 2005
Comparison of bomb weights in attacks
Investigators say the bombs that destroyed three London subway cars and a double-decker bus weighed less than 10 pounds each. In some other bombings:
_ MADRID, Spain: An estimated 220 pounds of explosives were used for the 10 backpack bombs in the March 11, 2004, attacks on four commuter trains. The bombings, which killed 191 people, were blamed on Islamic militants with suspected ties to al-Qaida.
_ MOSCOW: The bomb that blew apart a subway car on Feb. 6, 2004, killing 39, contained the equivalent of 11 pounds of TNT.
_ CASABLANCA, Morocco: The attack that killed at least 28 people on May 16, 2003, was blamed on international terrorists and local militant groups linked to al-Qaida. Homemade bombs weighing about 18 to 22 pounds were used. The explosives apparently were hidden in backpacks, investigators said.
_ ISTANBUL, Turkey: Suicide truck bombers set off explosions at two synagogues, the British consulate and London-based HSBC Bank on Nov. 15 and 20, 2003. Each of the four pickups used was packed with about 5,000 pounds of fertilizer bombs.
_ BALI: Bombs that killed 202 people in nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali on Oct. 12, 2003, were blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terror group linked to al-Qaida. Investigators estimate up to 220 pounds of fertilizer-based explosives were used.
_ OMAGH, Northern Ireland: A 500-pound car bomb exploded Aug. 15, 1998, killing 29 people. The Real IRA, a dissident group that rejects the 1997 cease-fire by the Irish Republican Army, claimed responsibility for Northern Ireland's worst single atrocity.
_ OKLAHOMA CITY: Timothy McVeigh packed a rental truck with a mixture of fertilizer, oil and commercial explosive to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people. An estimated 4,800 pounds of ammonium nitrate was used.
Real scandal behind Ros Dumhach 5 jailings
Government's criminal squandering of national resources
**Here is an excellent article which will give you an idea of what is at stake here. To read the online An Phoblacht, all you need do is register your email. It only takes a few minutes.
Those who suffer write the songs - Frank Harte
**Because there was such a response at the news of Mr Harte's death, I wanted to re-print a 2001 interview with him at the end of this article by An Phoblacht. This photo comes from the interview.
"Those in power write the history, those who suffer write the songs. Given our history, we have an awful lot of songs"
Frank Harte was born in Dublin on 14 May 1933. He grew up in Chapelizod, where his father owned 'The Tap' public house. A Traveller singing the Valley of Knockanure, on a fair day in Boyle, County Roscommon was what first sparked his interest in Irish traditional singing. It was an interest that became lifelong. By the end of last year, his database of Irish songs had reached over 15,000.
An architect by profession, he managed to find time to record a number of albums. Down Dublin Streets first appeared on Topic Records in 1967, followed by Through Dublin City. His songbook Songs of Dublin appeared in 1978.
He first collaborated with Dónal Lunny on And Listen To My Song, Daybreak and a Candle-End in 1987. On the bi-centenary of the 1798 Rising, Frank launched 1798 The First Year of Liberty. This excellently produced album is distinctive in having copious sleeve notes and including many forgotten songs of '98. In 2001 he launched a CD of songs of the Napoleonic period, My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte. This double album has a total of 26 songs, as well as a 56-page booklet of sleeve notes. In 2003 he received the Gradam TG4 traditional singing award.
Despite ill health, Frank continued to record. The Hungry Voice, an album of songs of the Great Famine was launched last year, and just prior to his death he had completed recording a CD of Irish labouring songs; There's Gangs of Them Digging.
Frank Harte is survived by his wife Stella, his sons Darragh and Cian, and his daughters, Sinéad and Orla.
BY PAT BURKE
Prairie Home Companion: Off Across the Sea - 2001
Frank Harte: Storyteller in Song
Few traditional Irish singers know as many songs as Frank Harte or sing them with as much enthusiasm and enjoyment. Born and raised in Dublin, Frank was first introduced to traditional Irish songs many years ago when he chanced upon a tinker who was singing and selling his ballad sheets at a fair in the town of Boyle. Ever since, Frank as been collecting and singing "songs that tell stories" and his vast repertoire is second to none.
Below, Frank explains what it means to be a traditional Irish ballad singer and offers some thoughts on Irish music generally.
What is meant by Irish "sean-nos" singing?
Sean nos, translated from the Irish simply means "the old way," in other words, the old way of singing. The term is generally applied to songs sung in the Irish language. Even though I sing old songs in an old way, I would not consider myself a "sean nos singer." Should you wish to hear a Sean nos singer I would suggest that you find a record of the late Joe Heaney or Darrach O'Cathain or Nicholas Toibin and listen to their styles of singing.
How would you describe the different regional styles of singing unaccompanied ballads in Ireland -- for example, the differences between Connemara or Donegal or Cork. What is the predominate style in Ireland today?
There was a time when it was easy to detect from the playing of a musician or the singing of a singer which part of Ireland he came from, or indeed almost which county he came from. The songs themselves would be an indication, as they would almost certainly have many local references in them, likewise the style of the musicians playing would indicate which part of the country he came from. In the past these individual styles were easily recognizable due to the fact that there was no other means of transmission other than the oral or aural contact between musicians and singers. Now days however with the means of mass communication, if a singer/musician from Donegal records a tune it will be learned by a musician in Kerry the following day. It would be very hard to say just what particular style dominates today? as all styles are all available on records to all musicians and singers.
What makes a ballad a "street ballad"?
Again it is almost impossible to be specific, the edges of these various definitions are very woolly. What makes a New York taxi driver? I would consider myself a ballad singer...why? because I sing songs generally without musical accompaniment, songs that have a story to tell, and I sing them in a declamatory manner. I demand that my audience stay quiet and listen to the story that I have to tell, and I tell it out loud with very little ornamentation so that the message comes across clearly.
Most of the street ballads would have started with the first line being.. "Come All you true born Irishmen" or "Come All you jolly ploughmen..." or "Come All you loyal lovers?." And so they were often classified in a derogatory manner as "Come All Ye's". A street ballad ?. a ballad that had news to tell, and on the time when they were created they were generally sung in a declamatory manner in the streets by ballad singers who then sold the ballad sheet for a penny for any of the street audience that wished to purchase the song. These songs would differ from the romantic tender love songs, or the 'art ' songs such as the renowned Danny Boy etc.
Do you see the oral tradition of telling stories slipping away in the electronic age of exchanging information?
The venues for singing are fast disappearing, whereas the audiences for our music and dancing has increased out of all expectation, both nationally and internationally. The venue for the song was of course the kitchen where respect for the song and the singer was of paramount importance. Now, however, the TV has taken complete control of that quiet time when the creative elements of the individual were allowed free rein amongst their neighbours. I think it would be a brave singer or storyteller who would switch off the children's program to try to tell a story about Fionn Mac Cool. But then the older folk song collectors at the turn of the last century said that it was already too late that all of the songs were gone?.and here we are today talking about and singing that same songs.
Do you see the younger generation in Ireland having much interest in keeping the tradition of ballad singing alive?
It depends on the attitude of many of the schools. In general there is a positive attitude to the promotion of Irish culture, music singing story telling, dancing and the Irish language. There is also a group called Comhaltas Ceoltori Eireann which has branches throughout the country and in America and England and are doing great work in teaching and holding competitions largely for children and aspiring musicians and singers.
I think many Americans like to hold on to their romantic notions of what Ireland is all about. But how would you explain modern Ireland, and Dublin to someone?
So much of the American's perception of Ireland dates back to the massive emigration periods from the worst years of 'the great hunger' of 1847 into the 1850s and from then on up through the more recent periods of the 1920s through almost to the 1970s. The people of that time arrived in poverty, sickness, illiteracy, and in many cases speaking a different language. A people who for generations had lived in close contact with their neighbors and gregarious by nature now found themselves lonely in the middle of millions in New York. They also carried with them the stereotypical hatred of English rule and their exploitation by the landlord class. Following the freedom for which we fought and won in 1922, it was evident that our markets were largely dependent on exports to Britain, so that in effect they still maintained a form of financial control in the Irish affairs. One of the major changes has been Ireland's entry into the European Economic Community, whereby our markets are now largely European with an eye to the larger world market. European aid has contributed largely to the development of the country's infrastructure and our adoption of international computer companies has provided in large measure a great source of employment. At present, the farming community is now largely a part-time enterprise with their income being supplemented by employment in industry. Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the general standard of education in the country. We now have probably the highest educated youth in Europe and it is the availability of this workforce, along with tax concessions that are attracting foreign industry to Ireland.
The biggest change in Ireland of course if the fact that in the Irish Republic we are a nation free from English rule and govern ourselves to our own advantage. For a nation that is only 80 years old we are doing quite well, we have the fastest growing economy in Europe. We now can make decisions solely for the benefit of our own nation and our own people, whereas in the past the Irish economy would have been considered only in relation to what was good for England.
The youth of Dublin have no more idea of the famine years that caused the massive exodus to America, they are living in the prosperous economy of 'The Celtic Tiger' and long may it continue. But among the mass of the people there is an awareness of the things that are essentially Irish, music, poetry, literature, language and song, all of these in the past had been associated with the stigma of poverty, now however we are confident enough to take pride in those roots and to know that we can take pride in them and bring them with us into the new millennium.
If someone in Ireland today was going to write a ballad to be sung hundreds of years from now, what might it be about?
As I often say myself regarding the songs of our people - songs, which I consider in many cases are the unwritten history of our people?. Those in power write the history and those who suffer write the songs, and given our history, we have an awful lot of songs.
The Irish ballad tradition, unlike many other nations has never waned, it has never stopped, it is a continuum and the songs are still being written about what is happening in the North of Ireland today. What songs will be sung in a hundred years from now?.well just three years ago we commemorated the Rebellion of 1798 and sang the songs of two hundred years ago. I have just this week completed a CD of the traditional songs about Napoleon Bonaparte, again written about 200 years ago. I would hope that in another 100 years the people would still be singing the songs in praise of the men who fought and died, and particularly those who died in the Rebellion of 1916, to give us the freedom which we and our children enjoy today. A freedom which puts no limits to the possible achievements of my grandchildren. I would hope that someone would write a similar "We saw a Vision" which was written just a while ago to commemorate those men.
WE SAW A VISION
In the darkness of despair we saw a vision,
We lit the light of hope
And it was extinguished.
In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision,
We planted the tree of valour,
And it blossomed.
In the winter of bondage we saw a vision,
We melted the snow of lethargy,
And the river of resurrection flowed from it.
We sent a vision aswim like a swan on the river,
The vision became a reality,
Winter became summer,
Bondage became freedom,
And this we left to you as your inheritance.
O generations of freedom remember us,
The generations of vision.
Finally, could you recommend some "must-have" records or CD's for someone who is just starting to become interested in traditional Irish ballads?
The following people are all good singers and there are records and CDs available of their singing. I would suggest that you contact Finbar Boyle in Claddagh Records, Cecilia Street, Dublin, and ask him what records he has available of "good ballad singers''. Here are a few names to start with:
Sarah Ann O'Neill
Mairghead Ni Dhomhnaill
British Parachute Regiment manouvres in North Louth
Published: 8 July, 2005
A British Army Puma helicopter landed in the Rassan area of North Louth at 8.40 pm on Thursday night last, 7th July 2005. Two heavily armed PSNI officers and 8 British paratroopers were dropped off in a field next to
the Dundalk/Derry road 3/4 miles south of the border. The helicopter then flew towards Co. Armagh, leaving the 10 members of the security forces behind in Co. Louth.
Within minutes, local residents who were alerted by the noise gathered at the scene and confronted the security forces. A number of motorists also stopped in the area. there have been reports that some people threw stones
at the paratroopers. At this point the Puma helicopter returned, landed in Co. Louth and collected the soldiers and PSNI officers. The helicopter then flew further south and hovered over a house. The lady of the house
went to her front door and witnessed a British paratrooper point his rifle at her while other soldiers made obscene gestures. The helicopter then returned to its base in Crossmaglen.
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey has reacted angrily to the incident;
"The border area is being saturated by British security forces who seem hellbent on inciting local communities. Only two weeks ago, a parachute regiment patrol waved a car through a checkpoint outside Crossmaglen and
then fired on it. The border communities are living in fear of this maverick behaviour.
"I do not accept that the helicopter was lost or simply off course. It flew over a British base at Drummucknavall, a local school, and the main Castleblayney road. I believe that the soldiers were on british army business in Co. Louth, attempting to either place or remove their own surveillance equipment. Irish people are well aware of the parachute regiments track record here.
"I met the junior minister for Foreign Affairs, Conor Lenihan only 2 hours after the incursion. His officials have been in contact with me and are waiting for a resonse from the British security forces. I made it clear to them that I will not accept yet another standard response on this issue. The Parachute Regiment are not welcome in County Louth."
Over 50 killed in London bombings
08 July 2005 19:42
The death toll from yesterday's bomb attacks in London has risen above 50. Police have said that figure is expected to rise.
It is understood that among the victims of the four attacks were nationals from China, Australia, Portugal, Poland and Sierra Leone.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said that the death toll from the bomb blast on a London bus is 13, revising up a figure of two given yesterday.
The wreckage of the bus, with the roof torn off, is still on the street where it blew up. A large screen has been erected around the site.
Earlier, Mr Blair said there was great difficulty in determining a final death toll because of the damage at the blast scenes.
He added that there were 700 casualties, 350 people were taken to hospital, 22 are still in a critical condition and one person died in hospital.
Mr Blair said there was absolutely nothing to suggest that any of the attacks were carried out by a suicide bomber, although he added that nothing at this stage could be ruled out.
It has also been revealed that police have yet to reach one of the London underground train carriages where a bomb went off.
The Assistant Police Commissioner, Andy Hayman, said there were safety concerns in the tunnel.
Claim taken seriously
Britain's Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said a claim of responsibility for the bombings is being taken seriously.
The claim was made by a previously unknown group calling itself the Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda's Jihad in Europe on its website.
It posted a message saying the blasts were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a television interview, Mr Clarke said the claim was serious, although alternative explanations have not been ruled out.
A huge police investigation got underway today to find those responsible for the bombings. Police investigators are still working at the scenes of the attacks.
Three explosions occurred on underground trains, the fourth on the double-decker bus. It was the worst terrorist attack in Britain since the Lockerbie explosions 17 years ago.
Muslim leaders in talks
Muslim leaders in London were holding talks with police today amid fears of reprisals against their community.
Most buses and a limited train service were operating in London this morning, but underground services remain curtailed. Transport for London has said many sections of the underground will not be fully restored for several weeks.
A large number of schools in London remained closed today.
A thousand join protest over 'Shell five'
08/07/2005 - 18:10:11
Over a thousand people staged a nationwide protest tonight to highlight the plight of the five men jailed over their objections to a gas pipeline in Co Mayo.
The supporters took up their pickets outside Shell garages across the country as the row over the jailing of the men deepened
Micheal O’Seighin, Vincent McGrath, his brother Philip, Willie Corduff and Brendan Philbin from Rossport in Co Mayo are being held in Cloverhill prison in Dublin for refusing to obey an injunction taken out by Shell.
“It is not good enough for the Government to wash their hands of the Corrib Gas debacle and allow Shell to ride roughshod over the people of Rossport,” Martin Ferris, a Sinn Féin TD, said.
The five men were put in Cloverhill prison last week for obstructing the construction of the pipeline across their land and have stated publicly that they are determined to continue their opposition to the pipeline.
Shell E & P Ireland is seeking to pump gas at high pressure from the Corrib gas field along the pipe to an onshore refinery at Bellanaboy in Mayo as part of a €990m project.
The jailed men want Shell to build the gas refinery offshore because they fear that pumping unrefined gas past their homes will lead to a health and safety risk.
The President of the High Court, Judge Joseph Finnigan, has warned the five men that their fate is in their own hands.
The judge said it was up to the men to purge their contempt of court to be freed from jail.
The jailing of the five men has brought national attention to the campaign against the pipeline, which has been going on since work on it began in 1998.
Protests took place in Dublin, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Leitrim, Waterford, Laois, Kilkenny, Kildare and Westmeath.
Mr Ferris said over a thousand people had turned out to protest and hand out leaflets to highlight the men’s plight.
“In the interest of justice it is only right and proper that all people concerned should show their support for the men and their families,” he said.
“They all have families and it has taken an enormous toll on them.”
Mr Ferris said: “The five men should be released immediately. The Government should initiate an independent review of health and safety risks and institute a thorough public investigation into every aspect of Shell’s involvement in this project right back to the shoddy deal that gave them control over the Corrib Field in the first instance.”
The Kerry North TD added: “Mostly everyone I have spoken to is revolted that a multi-national like Shell is infringing on the rights of citizens.”
Republicans stop Blunkett visit
There was jostling between police and republicans
Former home secretary David Blunkett has called off a visit to west Belfast after a republican protest.
Mr Blunkett was due to visit Springvale Training Centre on Springfield Road with other EU employment ministers.
However, outside the building there was jostling between police and republicans protesting about the re-arrest of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly.
The other ministers were already inside when news came through that Mr Blunkett would not be turning up.
Kelly murdered nine people, including two children, in the attack on a fish shop on Belfast's Shankill Road in 1993.
His IRA accomplice Thomas Begley also died in the blast.
Kelly received nine life sentences but was freed early from prison in July 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement.
He was returned to jail last month after security information indicated he had become "re-involved in terrorism".
One-in-seven children here 'go cold and hungry every day'
ONE in seven children in Ireland live at such a level of poverty that they often lack such basics as warm clothing and a square meal each day, according to Barnardos.
Fergus Finlay, the head of the children's charity, was speaking as Barnardos launched its annual report yesterday.
Mr Finlay painted a stark picture of Irish children who go through their days experiencing cold and hunger and sometimes not having a bed to sleep on each night.
He said that such is the scale of the problem that despite the work of the charity in helping 12,000 children and their families in the last year, it has "just scratched the surface" of child poverty.
He warned that Ireland cannot be complacent simply because it has achieved unprecedented economic properity.
Mr Finlay said that despite this prosperity, "148,000 children still live in consistent poverty. It remains a mystery as to how the notion of a Celtic tiger can be embraced, yet the concept of poverty is seen as mythical. It is real and it is stalking one in seven of our nation's children".
A person is in 'consistent' poverty when they are living on below 60pc of median income, and in addition they may lack certain basics such as a proper pair of shoes, a winter coat, or one hot meal every day.
Mr Finlay said: "Simply put, we have children living in Ireland who are frequently cold and hungry; who may not have a bed to sleep on; who feel worthless from being constantly told that they don't have a future or any rights at all."
He blamed the situation facing many children in Ireland today on the old attitude that "children should be seen and not heard", and that this had resulted in a nation of "invisible children".
Mr Finlay said: "I grew up in an Ireland that told its children that they should be seen and not heard; speak when they were spoken to; respect their elders.
"We have ended up with a nation of invisible children. They are nowhere in sight when childcare is debated; they are overlooked when provisions in the 2001 Children's Act sit stagnant on government tables; and they are absent from any form of meaningful attempt to respond to children's real needs."
The Barnardos report lists its work over the past 12 months including: helping 12,000 disadvantaged children and their families; providing child and family services through 35 locations across Ireland; representing 75 children involved in court proceedings; and supporting 1,500 parents to improve their parenting skills.
The charity raised a record €16.2m in funds in the year to December 31, 2004, up 27pc on the previous year with 93pc of this being spent directly on work with children.
Social Affairs Correspondent
Brian Chambers: Bus hero tells of saving boy's life
Driver nominated for special award
By Linda McKee
08 July 2005
AN Ulsterbus driver has described the moment he spotted a small figure hanging from a tree.
Brian Chambers, from Crumlin, slammed on the brakes and raced to the spot where the 11-year-old boy was hanging - but believed he had been too late.
Even as he disentangled the rope from around his neck, he realised the child wasn't breathing. But as he tried to resuscitate him, he noticed a weak pulse and knew there was still hope.
Mr Chambers managed to save the boy's life, and now his employers Translink have nominated him for a Vodafone Lifesavers Award. The awards, run with the Belfast Telegraph, are aimed at those who have saved lives in exceptional circumstances.
Police and councillors in Crumlin have commended Mr Chambers for his quick thinking and heroic actions in rescuing the boy, who had been swinging on the rope.
The bus driver was returning from a shift at Stoneyford on March 8 when he passed a small glen that was a popular spot for children to play.
It was only because he was sitting high up in the bus that he caught sight of the motionless figure, he said.
"I happened to look over my shoulder and there hanging from a tree was a wee boy, hanging by the neck," he said.
Mr Chambers lifted the boy down and tried to resuscitate him, not sure whether he was alive or dead.
As more people arrived, the boy was rushed to hospital.
Since the accident, parents have removed the rope, which hung over a brook, Mr Chambers said.
"He was just mucking about and whatever happened the rope must have slipped and caught him around the neck," he said.
The boy was home in three days and making a good recovery.
"I don't think he'll ever be the same again. He'd stopped breathing when I lifted him down," said Mr Chambers.
Newtownabbey Mayor says ‘I won’t go against loyalists’ on UDA flag
An illegal UDA paramilitary flag on the main Carnmoney Road will not be removed, according to the PSNI.
And the new DUP Mayor of Newtownabbey says because he’s a “loyalist” he doesn’t wish to comment on its presence.
Residents of the mixed area just yards from a Catholic Church complained to the North Belfast News about the flag at the junction of Coolhill Park and Carnmoney Road fronting Queens Park.
Nationalist councillors in Newtownabbey have condemned the erection of the flag.
Sinn Féin’s Breige Meehan said the PSNI had refused to remove flags “time and again”.
“This is obviously a sop to loyalists in Glengormley and again these paramilitaries are being treated with kid gloves by the police. Here we have republicans not protesting at the mini Twelfth and the erection of the arch in Glengormley.
“We welcomed an undertaking by the UPRG that the church would be free of flags, but our calls for reciprocation have been ignored,” she said.
Noreen McClelland, whose SDLP party colleague and MP for South Belfast, Alasdair McDonnell, has brought up the issue of flags this week, said the UDA flag was “totally unacceptable”.
“We believe the time has come for strong legislation to be put in place to deal with the issue of flags. Local people need to be listened to and not feel intimidated in their own home,” said Noreen McClelland.
Newtownabbey Mayor Billy DeCourcy said he didn’t want to make a comment “just yet” on the flag.
“I’m a loyalist and I don’t know what to say about that. I need to see where it is myself, but isn’t Queens Park a loyalist estate?
“I’m not against the union flag and in all honesty there’s nothing I want to comment on at the minute. I wouldn’t take Noreen McClelland’s part.
“It’s a dodgy one, the paramilitary flags. I don’t want to be pushed into a corner.
“I’m not going to go against the loyalist community. As I said I’m a loyalist, but if the police won’t do anything in all honesty there’s not much I can comment on at the minute,” he said.
A PSNI spokeswoman responded with a stock answer to NBN inquiries about illegal paramilitary flags, saying it was down to the community to remove them.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Nationalists have been urged to be vigilant in the run up to the 12th following the Parades Commission’s decision to allow marchers and their supporters past Ardoyne and Mountainview.
The warning from Sinn Féin’s Kathy Stanton after last weekend saw a series of attacks on Catholics.
A man was assaulted as he walked along the Oldpark Road near Henry Joy McCracken’s bar by a group of men in a car who got out and asked him for directions.
Another man was assaulted near Carlisle Circus around 1.30am on Sunday by a gang of loyalists who emerged in a car from Denmark Street in the Shankill.
“I would call for calm and urged nationalists to be vigilant. I hope the week ahead will pass off peacefully.”
And a Whitewell community worker said a car was attacked in the new Catherine Court housing development by loyalists.
Paul McKernon said the attackers struck around 2.30am on Sunday and later on Sunday evening around 7.30pm tried to attack Catherine Court again.
The PSNI confirmed it was investigating an incident.
Paul McKernon said tensions were high in Whitewell after a Parades Commission decision to allow Orangemen to walk past nationalist homes on the Whitewell this Tuesday.
“We’ve had three families narrowly escaping death two weeks ago when their oil tanks were set on fire. We’ve had attacks from Graymount through this laneway on the lower Whitewell and now Orangemen are going to walk past these homes with their supporters,” he said.
Greencastle LOL will walk from Greencastle Orange hall down the Whitewell Road, along Shore Road, turning at Mount Street and back to Shore Road on the morning of the Twelfth.
They will return to Grays Lane after boarding transport from York Street and walk up the Shore Road and onto the Whitewell at 7pm.
The Whitewell Defenders Flute Band will be marching on July 12 in what the Parades Commission has ruled it as a contentious march. Some 40 people will accompany one band onto the Whitewell Road bus terminal between 6.30pm and 10.30pm.
The parade is prohibited from proceeding beyond the M2 off-slip bridge passing over the Shore Road. However, Paul McKernon said Orangemen flouted the ruling last year.
“This ruling on no left turn towards Bawnmore was ignored and the Orangemen walked to the second bridge to the onslip of the M2,” he said.
Meanwhile an attack on a man from the Limestone Road at the weekend which happened on the Serpentine Road is not thought to be sectarian.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Interface bonfire will not be moved
Sinn Féin councillor Carál Ní Chuilín has hit out at the NIO after it failed to broker any kind of bonfire agreement on an interface in Duncairn Gardens.
The bonfire on Adam Street is built beside a steel gateway separating Catholic and Protestant homes on Duncairn Gardens.
It is built beside several businesses including Teletech and the Play Resource Centre, which houses mountains of recycled paper and plastic. The bonfire is also adjacent to the newly refurbished Star Neighbourhood Centre.
On Tuesday NIO staff came and erected steel metal sheets over the gate, so that visibility of the bonfire was cut off.
Councillor for the area, Carál Ní Chuilín, said she had contacted the NIO about the bonfire nine weeks ago and called for it to be moved away from Catholic homes.
“This bonfire poses a danger to not only residents who live in fear at this part of the road most of the year anyway, but also local businesses,” she said.
“I contacted the NIO nine weeks ago and was in contact with staff on a weekly basis about getting this moved somewhere more appropriate in the Tiger’s Bay area. Community workers also contacted them.
“People understand that this is a part of Protestant culture, but it is putting people’s lives in danger, and creating an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.”
A NIO spokesperson was unable to comment.
Journalist:: Áine McEntee
Appeal for compromise
• No reply from Orange Order as residents group appeals for compromise
on Twelfth of July parade past Ardoyne
• Outrage as council funds bonfire with UDA
banners to tune of £2,500
The Nationalist community of Ardoyne has called on the Orange Order to compromise over this year’s Twelfth of July march.
The compromise, which the Orange Order hasn’t commented on, would have enabled the march to take place on the morning of the Twelfth without protest from Nationalist residents.
In return the group asked that the parade would not pass Ardoyne that evening.
The Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group this morning made a direct appeal to the Orange Order to pull out of its evening parade in return for no protest and for its march to be facilitated on the morning of the Twelfth. It also met with the Parades Commission on Thursday morning in a last ditch effort to get the decision overturned.
But no one from the Orange Order could be contacted for comment.
Joe Marley of the nationalist residents group said the fact that the appeal had been made should have forced a Parades Commission review of the march.
“We are making a direct appeal to the Orange Order if they withdraw the march on the Twelfth evening we will withdraw the protest and facilitate the parade in the morning.”
He said the Parades Commission should act on the residents’ appeals.
“It’s incumbent on the Parades Commission to give us a review on this basis and therefore help to diffuse the situation.”
And there has also been outrage in the north of the city after a bonfire decked with UDA banners was given funding by BCC.
At the same bonfire site in Westland Road last year the UDA staged a show of strength on the eleventh night.
This year’s bonfire has a banner with the words UDA 3rd Battalion K Coy draped across the middle. Combined with several paramilitary flags on top, Catholic residents in the Cavehill Road said they feel intimidated in their own homes.
Westland community sources have said they do not expect a similar show of strength this year and that they are in negotiations with the UDA to remove the flags and banner.
Belfast City Council are running a pilot bonfire scheme across the city offering £2,500 to help better manage the sites and cut back on toxic fumes.
The council has indicated the Westland bonfire committee are still in line to receive the money despite tyres in their bonfire and despite paramilitary connections.
“We have removed 500 tyres with approval from the local community last Saturday. There probably still are tyres in the bonfire. But this pilot was about reducing the number of tyres. And we have been working in agreement with that community,” the council spokesperson said.
“Our Code of Conduct was about environmental aspects. We’re not allowed to comment on illegal flags, that’s a matter for police.”
The council spokesperson also confirmed the bonfire committee would receive £2,500 in order to facilitate the day.
The North Belfast News has learned that businesses charge £1 to remove a tyre. In Westland that amounts to an extra £500.
The PSNI said they are still investigating last year’s UDA show of strength.
“We recognise there are community concerns about any incident involving firearms in the Westland area last year and we share these concerns. There is an active police investigation ongoing into the incident, which took place on July 11, 2004, and one person has been reported to the DPP,” said a spokeswoman.
“We would appeal for community representatives to use their influence to ensure that these types of unwelcome displays do not take place again this year. There will be a police presence in the area on the eleventh night and police will investigate any repeat of such attacks.”
And Sinn Féin’s Kathy Stanton called for calm.
“We would advise our constituents to be vigilant because tensions are high. We are calling for calm and calling for community leaders from both sides to show an example and reduce tensions,” said Kathy Stanton.
“All the good work that’s done and attempts to build relationships are all severely damaged by this withdrawal of goodwill.
“We would be calling for cool heads. Things are being exacerbated by the ongoing dispute over parades and loyalist feuds. Sinn Féin will do their utmost to show leadership in the face of adversity.
“It won’t improve the overall political situation if things are allowed to deteriorate.
“Stewarding the parade is going to be problematic enough. We would repeat our call for people to be calm and ask people to be vigilant about their own personal security.”
Journalist:: Áine McEntee
Drumcree security 'scaled down'
The police have said they plan to scale down physical security measures for this Sunday's Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.
Orangemen are again banned from walking along the nationalist Garvaghy Road on their way back from the church service.
Chief Superintendent Drew Harris said people wanted a peaceful outcome and a quick "return to normality".
He said security measures "will not be kept in place for one minute longer than is necessary".
There has been serious violence in the area of the parade in previous years, although it was peaceful in the last two years.
Orangemen last walked down the Garvaghy Road in 1997.
In subsequent years, their homeward route has been blocked by the security forces following decisions by the Parades Commission.
Physical security measures have included metal barriers and razor wire.
"Last year we worked together with the organisers and the community and the result was a peaceful Drumcree," Mr Harris said.
"This was a positive outcome for the whole community in Portadown and we are optimistic for this year.
"There were great efforts by people in all communities to reduce tension and maintain calm last year. We want to see that happen again and will work with people to achieve that."
Mr Harris urged anyone taking part in parades or protests to do so peacefully and said police would enforce street drinking and traffic management legislation.
"Our policing operation will be professional, balanced and proportionate and will have human rights at its very centre," he added.
How the Orangemen Undermined the Six-County State
It is almost the Twelfth when Orangemen across the North march in their thousands to celebrate the victory of William of Orange over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. It was three hundred years ago - but doesn’t it seem as if it were only yesterday?
If this celebration and those of the Apprentice Boys and the secretive Royal Black Preceptory were solely a bit of pageantry about historical events they would be fairly harmless and we could all join in, watch as spectators or simply pass by.
However, the Twelfth of July was never just about history but was a unifying force within unionism, an expression of sectarian triumphalism and exclusiveness. It was (Orange arches in the workplace – thankfully, now prohibited), and still is, aimed at alienating nationalists - thus the importance of parading through or close to nationalist areas and singing anti-Catholic songs to remind the besieged residents of their place in an Orange state.
Although the struggle for full and equal rights remains uncompleted and continues, the irony is that Orange and Apprentice parades have played a central role in the chain of events which have led to the undermining of unionism and the union and to the galvanising of the nationalist community.
A further irony is that any intelligent Orange representative who appreciates this fact and attempts a compromise with nationalists is ridiculed and scorned for being “in breach of Grand Lodge policy” when actually trying to improve the image of the Order. Earlier this year the Order severed its formal links with the Ulster Unionist Party whilst moving closer to the DUP.
In 1969 the Twelfth marches resulted in rioting in Belfast and Derry, almost as a prelude to the riot directly sparked by the march of the Apprentice Boys in Derry on August 12. That riot turned into The Battle of the Bogside. It was a major challenge to the authority of the unionist government at Stormont because nationalists were determined that the writ of the RUC would run no longer in ‘The Bog’. A few months earlier the RUC had gone on the rampage in the same area, assaulting people, including Sammy Devenney who died of his injuries in July.
The RUC in Derry were so exhausted after days of fighting that the government mobilised the B-Specials and planned to send in RUC reinforcements from other areas. Nationalist protests across the North were meant to tie down the RUC but in Belfast the B-Specials, loyalist mobs and the RUC reacted by attacking and setting fire to hundreds of Catholic homes, mostly in the Falls and in Ardoyne. Eight people were killed across the city. The ill-preparedness of the Republican Movement for those attacks contributed to the split in the IRA and the emergence of a Provisional Army Council.
But an IRA armed struggle was not inevitable, even if it was the strategic objective of some republican leaders. Only eight years earlier the IRA had been forced to abandon its border campaign for lack of support. And immediately after August 1969 support for the IRA was based overwhelmingly on it being a defensive body. Conditions were simply not there for an armed struggle, nor were republican Volunteers prepared or trained adequately for a campaign.
Again, it was Orange marches, and British army support for those marches, which were to trigger a series of events that were to create the necessary conditions for armed struggle.
On June 27 1970 in Belfast the Orange Order planned to march past Hooker Street on the Crumlin Road where Catholics homes had been burned down, and up Cupar Street past Bombay Street in the West which had been similarly razed to the ground.
We know from documents and records that both the British and unionist governments were told by their own advisors that these marches were provocative and would lead to widespread trouble. But we also know that the GOC of the British Army in the North, Sir Ian Freeland, made the following remark to the Joint Security Committee:
“It is easier to push them [ Orange marchers] through the Ardoyne than to control the Shankill.”
It spoke volumes for a mindset that still persists among many in the PSNI and the British administration. It explains why loyalists have been allowed to march past Ardoyne and feel no compulsion to negotiate. But it is an issue, like Garvaghy Road and the Lower Ormeau, which ultimately damages the cause of those the marching is meant to placate. Such pandering postpones the day of a settlement – based on the rights of residents and marchers alike.
As predicted, widespread rioting broke out on June 27 th and ended up in gun battles and loss of life in various parts of Belfast. In Ballymacarett a loyalist attack on St Matthew’s Church was repelled by members of the ‘Provisional IRA’ after the British army refused to intervene. Paddy Kennedy MP approached a British patrol for help and was told, “You can stew in your own fat.” Several men died, including a Catholic defender, Henry McIlhone, and Billy McKee, a senior IRA figure was wounded.
The Stormont government took no responsibility for what had happened and blamed republicans. At the next meeting of the Joint Security Committee, on July 1, it was decided that they had to “restore the military image” and put down trouble “with maximum force”.
Thus explains the Falls Curfew one week later and the raid and seizure of arms which had never been used against the British army but were there solely for the protection of people who had experienced terrifying government pogroms just ten months earlier.
The Curfew, by alienating and politicising a huge swathe of nationalist opinion, was to dramatically change the context of the political situation. When the British army first came onto the streets in 1969 they were welcomed by the majority of nationalists as their protectors. But over subsequent months this benign image rapidly changed as the Brits became a mere tool of unionist repression, then, later, the enforcers of British direct rule.
Stormont had also been dragging its heels on introducing reforms. Many nationalists – particularly among the working-class – were coming around to the republican view that they couldn’t get their civil rights until they got their national rights and that that would involve an armed struggle against the government and the system.
It was this mood that the Republican Movement tapped into and it was after the Curfew that the IRA slowly began its campaign, beginning with sabotage operations against key installations and using incendiary devices timed to go off at night in large downtown stores. All of its first military strikes were initially described as ‘reprisals’ for specific British army or RUC attacks on nationalists. There was no military blueprint: the campaign in its early days was largely a matter of improvisation. By the time the campaign was full-blown republican military structures were still only being put in place in many areas.
Orange marches (and, indeed, other protests such as those at Harryville and at Holy Cross) were to play their part again and again in influencing national and international opinion about the sectarian nature of unionism. But it was the Drumcree protest and the demand to get marching down the Catholic Garvaghy Road which probably did most to hurt the Orange Order, as well as demoralise its members over their failure. Supporters of their cause burnt three children to death and shot dead a Catholic taxi driver out of spite.
Yes, the Orange Order whose purpose was to galvanise Protestantism and unionism has certainly undermined the cause it espouses, though few of its members appear to appreciate this.
The Orange Order is truly a public relations disaster.
Ogra SF Third Statoil Shutdown In Solidarity With Rossport 5: Photos
by Ogra SF via imcer
Thursday, Jul 7 2005, 9:55pm
Click on above link for press release and photos
07 July 2005
The death of Joe McDonnell on Hunger Strike - 8 July1981
click to view - Joe McDonnell's funeral from the Larkspirit site (see below)
'Joe McDonnell (30)
Irish Republican Army (IRA)
joined hunger strike on 8 May 1981 and died on 8 July 1981 after 61 days without food'
**This information is from the CAIN page 'The Hunger Strike of 1981 - List of Dead and Other Hunger Strikers', which contains the list of all the Hunger Strike participants and the information concerning the affiliation of each, age, date starting, date withdrawn or date of death. The research and text are by Martin Melaugh, and the page is located here: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/hstrike/dead.htm
click on thumbnail for mural of Joe McDonnell - photo by CRAZYFENIAN
The photographs of Joe's wife Goretti which appear below and the scene from Joe's funeral above come from the great Larkspirit site, The Irish Hungerstrikes - A Commemorative Project. Please take some time to visit this wonderful site.
Here is the information again which I posted on the anniversary of Joe's start of his Hunger Strike in 1981, and it will be followed by some chapters from the Irish Northern Aid website.
IRISH HUNGER STRIKE 1981 MEMORIAL WEBSITE
**Please visit this excellent site to read Joe's biography, originally published in IRIS November 1981. This site is a personal tribute by the webmaster, well done with lots of information and photos and very moving.
Began Hunger Strike 9 May 1981 - Died July 8th, 1981
'A deep-thinking republican with a great sense of humour
THE FOURTH IRA Volunteer to join the hunger-strike for political status was Joe McDonnell, a thirty-year-old married man with two children, from the Lenadoon housing estate in West Belfast.
A well-known and very popular man in the Greater Andersonstown area he grew up, married and fought for the republican cause in, 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.
As an active republican before his capture in October 1976, Joe was regarded by his comrades as a cool and efficient Volunteer who did what he had to do and never talked about it afterwards.'
by Brian Warfield
Oh my name is Joe McDonnell
From Belfast town I came
That city I will never see again
For in the town of Belfast
I spent many happy days
And I loved that town in oh so many ways
For it's there I spent my childhood
And found for me a wife
I then set out to make for her a life
Oh but all my young ambition
Met with bitterness and hate
I soon found myself inside a prison gate
And you dare to call me a terrorist
While you look down your gun
When I think of all the deeds that you have done -
You have plundered many nations
Divided many lands
You have terrorized their people
You ruled with an iron hand
And you brought this reign of terror to my land
Through the many months internment
In the Maidstone and the Maze
I thought about my land throughout those days
Why my country was divided
Why I was now in jail
Imprisoned without crime or without trial
And though I love my country
I am not a bitter man
I've seen cruelty and injustice at first hand
And so one faithful morning
I shook bold freedom's hand
For right or wrong I tried to free my land
Then one cold October's morning
I was trapped in the lion's den
And I found myself in prison once again
I was committed to the H-Blocks
For fourteen years or more
On the "blanket" the conditions they were poor
Then a hunger strike we did commence
For the dignity of man
But it seemed to me that no one gave a damn
Oh but now I am a saddened man
I've watched my comrades die
If only people cared or wondered why
Oh may God shine on you, Bobby Sands
For the courage you have shown
May your glory and your fame be widely known
And Francis Hughes and Ray McCreesh
Who died unselfishly
And Patsy O'Hara, and the next in line is me
And those who lie behind me
May your courage be the same
And I pray to god my life was not in vain
And though sad and bitter was the year of 1981
All was not lost, but it's still there to be won
© Brian Warfield
INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 33
'The fight for Joe McDonnell’s life'
The McCreeshes and Liz O’Hara had dealt with An Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, in order to save Raymond and Patsy’s lives. He promised that neither would die. He did nothing to save them. Goretti McDonnell, Joe’s wife, and Eilish Reilly, Joe’s sister, had to deal with both Haughey and the new Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald. If Haughey was bad, and he was bad, Garret Fitzgerald was, according to Goretti, "one hundred times" worse.
Charles Haughey set up the elections so that hunger strike deaths would have the least effect possible. He knew what a volatile issue it could be based upon Bobby Sands’ election. The Irish people, even in the south, expected some progress in saving the lives of these young men from the Taoiseach. Even if the IRA campaign wasn’t popular, Margaret Thatcher was anathema to Irish sensibilities and it became a matter of saving Irish lives versus her stone like inflexibility and hatred for anything Irish.
So he called the election to take place in three weeks: too late to save Raymond and Pasty and too soon to have to worry very much about Joe McDonnell dying, who would be reaching crisis perhaps six weeks later.
But he lost anyway and here’s how.
Nine H-Block Candidates
Haughey didn’t count on the prisoners effectively running candidates in the southern elections. The Brits took care of that by banning prisoners from running for parliament just a week previous to avoid the embarrassment of loosing their seats to "terrorists" elected by the people. The Brit legislation was ironically called "The Representation of the People Bill" rather than "Those People That Can’t Represent the People Bill."
It would have been political death to propose such a move from Dublin, although it probably crossed their minds. As for the prisoners, they knew Fitzgerald, the leader of the more right wing Fine Gael party, could be the beneficiary of votes flowing to H-block candidates and away from Haughey’s party, Fianna Fail, but what did Haughey ever do that was worthwhile in terms of saving hunger strikers’ lives except to bring in the Human Rights Commission to get himself off the hook? The Commission’s intervention was useless and embarrassing to the families.
The hope of the H-block Committee was that if a hunger striker were to be elected to the Irish Dail, then whoever was Taoiseach would have to stand up to Maggie Thatcher.
Besides, the publicity was desperately needed. On 1 June, for example, just before the elections were called, a Granada television company special affairs program on the hunger strike was censored by the Independent Broadcasting Authority on grounds that a 20 second segment showing poor Patsy O’Hara’s mutilated body in his coffin was republican propaganda! Granada struck back by pulling the entire program in protest and replaced it with a public service program on the evils of smoking.
The H-block campaign for the Dail
The national H-block committee put up nine prisoner candidates; four of them were hunger strikers: Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch and Kieran Doherty. Blanketmen not on hunger strike were also represented, including Paddy Agnew.
Joe McDonnell stood for the Sligo/Leitrim constituency for the Dail from his prison hospital cell. But he had the best spokesperson in the world, his wife Goretti. She was not only an attractive person, she was passionate about her husband. She would always introduce herself at election rallies as "the very, very proud wife of Joe McDonnell." And then she would introduce their two children, Bernadette and Joseph, aged nine and ten. They touched the electorate’s hearts. She begged for votes to save her husband’s and their father’s life.
click on thumbnail to view photo of Goretti at Kieran Doherty's funeral
Goretti campaigned day and night, often with the children. Young Bernadette even went to America to find support, appearing on television and giving interviews. A nine year old!
All of the candidates’ representatives fought hard and furiously, given the short period of time allowed by Haughey, but nobody gave them much of a chance for gaining a single seat. Perhaps they would draw enough votes, however, to be noticed. If they failed to do decently, they would be hammered by the conservative Irish press. The British press would then pick on the bones.
As the campaign began, Charlie Haughey caught an egg with his face. A real Donegal "grade A" fired into his gob by an irate H-block supporter. There would be figurative eggs as well on Fianna Fail faces in three short weeks.
Kieran and Paddy TDs as Haughey Comes Tumbling Down
The night the election returns were announced, 12 June 1981, there was mayhem throughout the north and south. Kieran Doherty was in! Amazingly, Kieran was elected to the Dail for Cavan/Monaghan. Paddy Agnew was also elected from County Louth. Two H-block TDs was an unbelievable result. The campaign got started a week late as it was because of infighting between IRA and INlA supporters figuring out who would stand where. It was run on a shoe string -- the committee was previously banned by the Irish government to raise any funds by law. On top of that, the was constant garda special branch presence at the doorstep of the Dublin election headquarters, enough to scare off the good citizens of the so called Republic of Ireland. Of course, this "Republic" also had a total ban on media interviews with republicans as a result of the Irish Broadcasting Act.
It is tough to run a campaign without money or publicity and with hostile police asking questions and taking notes outside your headquarters.
Joe McDonnell, Kevin Lynch and Tony O’Hara [Patsy’s brother] did not top the polls, but did well enough to make a major impression.
It was, in fact, such an impression that it brought down the government around Haughey and brought Fine Gael to power. Kieran and Paddy replaced two Fianna Fail TDs and the H-block candidates votes all the way around was the difference.
Haughey had the blood of four men on his hands as far as republicans were concerned, so good riddance. They could not have anticipated that the new man they would be so responsible, indirectly, for bringing to power would have the deaths of six men on his conscience.
Irish Commission for Justice and Peace
The elections in the south provided hope for the hunger strikers and their families, so did the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, which put forward on 3 June a three-part proposal for a solution based on improved conditions in prison clothing, work and association. The commission meet with Northern Ireland prisons minister Michael Alison several times during the month.
By the end of the month, the ICJP requested a meeting with Humphrey Atkins, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State. Just before the request, Atkins issued a 6 page statement calling for an end of the hunger strike before any concessions could be considered, i.e., the same old line that brought the 1980 hunger strike to an end and caused the deadly 1981 strike. The prisoners called the statement "arrogant and callous."
Garret Fitzgerald now was meeting with the families and telling them that their sons and siblings would not die. Six would.
Next: Garrett and the ICJP; Joe McDonnell’s last fight; and new men join the strike
(c) 2001 The Irish People.
INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 34
"An Appalling Mass of Evil!"
The Fight For Joe Mc Donnell’s Life
Three More Join the Hunger Strike
After the deaths of Patsy and Raymond, and the H-Block candidates’ successes in the Dail elections, there was still a good period of time before Joe Mc Donnell would reach crisis. Of course, a sudden heart attack or another fatal event could happen at any time. In order to put more pressure on the Brits, three new men who had volunteered months ago were selected to join Joe: Brendan McLaughlin, Kieran Doherty, and Kevin Lynch.
Putting three men on would insure that there were four on hunger strike and that the Brits couldn’t just wait out Joe’s death, because there were others behind him. As Bik McFarlane put it, "It was a calculated risk, taken in the firm belief that we could definitely exert further pressure both on the Brits to seek settlement and on the Irish establishment to do something positive to get Thatcher’s government off their intransigent line... But we needed to act positively and decisively. And pressure, regardless of its severity, could never balance against the sheer hell of an agonizing death for those on hunger strike."
The Catholic Bishops Move -- In the Wrong Direction
The work of The Irish Commission on Justice and Peace, headed by Dublin Bishop Dermot O’Mahony, who was also Chancellor of the Dublin Archdiocese, was one of the few initiatives that offered any real hope for saving Joe’s life. In fact, the whole point of the ICJP was to save Joe’s life. But the Commission was a curious operation, dealing directly with the press, the Irish government, the Northern Ireland Office and the RUC, where they received all of their information, but not with the prisoners themselves. Only when it was too late did they meet with the hunger strikers.
"An appalling mass of evil."
In June, the Irish Bishops delivered a statement which oddly highlighted the crimes of Republicans and spoke of the hunger strikers themselves as performing acts of evil leading to an "appalling mass of evil." The bishops made no mention of the appalling mass of evil the British army and loyalist death squads were heaping upon the nationalist people or the reasons for the IRA’s military campaign, even if they were against it.
In fact, they offered no plan of settlement or way out of the impasse except that the men needed to "reflect deeply on the evil of their actions."
The Bishops’ attack was so severe and one sided that the Sunday Times headline roared: IRISH CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONDEMN MAZE FAST AS EVIL. Meanwhile, Joe McDonnell’s life was daily being sucked out of his weakening body.
Speaking about the situation after the hunger strike was over, Bishop O’Mahony, the man in charge of a committee with the remit of saving these men’s lives on hunger strike, had this to say:
"All along we were against granting political status to the IRA prisoners. To grant political status would help the IRA, and we couldn’t do that... The IRA would have as their goal not only getting the British Army out of Ireland, but undermining the democratic process in the South of Ireland.
"One can’t forget the crimes most of those in prison are guilty of, even though they were tried in special courts: attempted murder, bombing, all kinds of violence..."
It was like putting Hitler in charge of saving Jews.
Brendan comes off his fast
Brendan Mc Laughlin, who had just started his strike, was stricken with wracking stomach pains which turned out to be a severe case of perforated ulcers. He was immediately taken off his fast; he wouldn’t have lasted another week or two. The idea wasn’t to die, but to pressure the Brits to win the 5 demands. So much for Cardinal Hume’s suicide nonsense.
Bik informed Martin Hurson by comm that he would be taking Brendan’s place. And so he did.
Brendan’s coming off the strike, not of his own doing, nevertheless must have encouraged Thatcher to visit the North for sick reasons of her own. The world had watched her gleefully preside over four deaths on hunger strike; there was no reason to expect that she wouldn’t just as gleefully watch the entire Irish Nation heaped dead in front of her.
Nonetheless, here she was flying into Belfast. It got ugly, but not ugly enough.
"Good morning, good morning, good morning"
Thatcher wanted to make headlines, so she tried to set up while on her trip a meeting with Churchmen, particularly Cardinal O’Fiaich. To his credit, he refused to break previous commitments elsewhere to suit her propaganda requirements, although meeting for purposes of saving lives was another matter.
Thatcher, her reptilian self, busily shook hands with Belfast city center crowds in front of the media, although she could hardly help her forked tongue from occasionally flicking out from her stoney serene countenance. "Good morning, good morning, good morning," she chimed as if she were attending a Wimbleton match. "Good morning, good morning, good morning," She feigned, complaining happily like a good housewife that she wouldn’t be able to get any shopping done because of the crowds. She avoided questions from the press about the hunger strike like the plague; the general impression that she wanted to portray was that everything was fine. Hunger strike? What hunger strike? Just Irish men starving to death.
Journalists kept trying to get something out of her, "Mrs. Thatcher, why are you here?" "Good morning, good morning, to see these people, good morning..."
But at a Stormont press conference later she said that the hunger strikers had been "persuaded, coerced or ordered to starve themselves to death." And "Faced with failure of their discredited cause, the men of violence have chosen in recent months to play what may well be their last card."
Thatcher on "Downtown" radio program: ‘No one asked me to compromise...'
One radio journalist cornered her on his Belfast based radio program ["Downtown"] and asked if her "last card’ remark wasn’t tantamount to provoking the IRA? She avoided the question. He followed up and she responded evasively stressing how the community have rejected the Provisional IRA and she said these remarkable words: "... and I stress this very much indeed -- no one in any responsible position in any religion has urged me to give either political status or anything like special category status."
The host [Eamon Maille] jumped in, incredulous: "But they have asked you to compromise, haven’t they?"
Thatcher: "One moment, one moment. No one has asked me to compromise on any of those things."
Maille: "Are you saying that you haven’t been asked to actually find a solution?"
Thatcher: "May I answer your questions? No on. Now let’s get this absolutely clear. No one has asked me to compromise on any of those things. Now what I am saying is we will uphold the law, we will continue to uphold the law."
This was an amazing statement. Hadn’t the Irish government, at least, asked her to compromise or find a solution? And if not, what did that say about the Haughey and/or Fitzgerald?
Maille brought up the 22 people who were killed since Bobby Sands’ death. Thatcher snapped: "And who killed them? The men of violence killed them."
Back in London
She could easily myopically ignore the men of violence in her own army of occupation in Ireland, loyalist killers, and the thuggery of the RUC, because no sooner did she arrive than she was back off to London. While in London, perhaps she would be able to hook up with Cardinal O’Fiaich, who would be attending the centenary celebrations of the martyrdom of St. Oliver Plunkett. That would be some occasion for a meeting of the two, the British PM and the Cardinal from Crossmaglen over in England to celebrate the memory of a man murdered for his faith by the British government. In fact, such a meeting was set up for the 1st of July at Number 10 Downing Street. Whatever would he say to her? The first thing in the event was, when asked what he wanted to drink, he asked for "a little Irish." But there wasn’t a drop of the stuff in the house. He had a bitter Scotch instead.
Joe, weakening in body, gets a joke in
Others flew in after Maggie. One was David Steel, a life-long British civil servant. He actually visited the Kesh and met with Joe. Stupidly, Steel asked Joe to compare the conditions in Long Kesh with the Crum where he was held on remand. I don’t know what kind of face Joe McDonnell put on for Steel, but I like to think he was straight faced: "The food was better." He had been on hunger strike almost two months.
Next: The fight for Joe McDonnell continues; O’Fiaich meets Maggie
(c) 2001 The Irish People.
INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 35
"For the Dignity of Man"
8 July 1981: Joe McDonnell Dies
on Hunger strike
The Commission of Irish Catholic Bishops, the ICJP, as anti-republican and pro-establishment a group as could be imagined, held meetings throughout June with the press, the major Irish political parties, Michael Alison [N. I. prison minister] and only when it was really too late with the prisoners. Aware of Joe McDonnell’s failing medical condition, they met with Alison for the third time on 26 June. Then on 30 June, NI Sec’t of State Humphrey Atkins issued a six page statement calling for an end to the hunger strike BEFORE anything could be done regarding prison conditions. The prisoners were outraged that the Brits would even try to run that tired trick passed them, but of course it was all about the press anyway.
The ICJP had arranged a meeting with Atkins for 2 July in Belfast. The new Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, had a plane at the ready to fly the lot of them to London if they could move up the date. They couldn’t or wouldn’t and finally met on the 2nd of July as planned.
The Taoiseach’s fleet of Mercedes pose for the press
FitzGerald had a fleet of Mercedes standing by to take relatives of the hunger strikers, who were meeting with him in Dublin, to Long Kesh to supposedly persuade the men to accept terms of a new breakthrough that of course never came -- all done to appear to be doing something. The press gave the impression that there they were, engines idling, at the ready, hood ornaments aimed at the Dublin-Belfast road for a last minute dash to the Kesh. It was another Dublin show.
The ICJP did however met with Atkins again on the 4th of July. Whatever signs of conciliatory moves hinted to previously by Atkins were now replaced by the hard line. You could almost feel Thatcher slouching in the wings.
On that same afternoon, the prisoners sent out a 21,000 word statement that incorporated the five demands, but without one mention of political status. It seemed that there could be room here to negotiate. The ICJP hurriedly meet with the hunger strikers that afternoon -- for the first time!
The Northern Ireland Office cynically denied a request to have Bik McFarlane, the prisoners’ OC, at the meeting. The ICJP met with the hunger strikers without Bik. On Sunday, 5 July, McFarlane met with the Commission alone. There seemed to be some hope while meetings were taking place. Behind the scenes, who knew what was happening? In the event, nothing was happening.
Meet, promise, renege
On Monday evening, 6 July, the ICJP was called to meet with the NIO. There was speculation among the media that there was some hitch in compromise arrangements that had been put forward earlier by the Brits.
The press was right. The NIO was pulling back on some potentially hunger strike breaking suggestions. The ICJP demanded that they send a senior NIO official to tell the hunger strikers exactly and authoritatively what would be on offer if they came off the strike. The Brits had suggested movement on prison clothing and perhaps more.
The NIO’s response? What’s the rush? Joe McDonnell’s life was in no "immediate" danger. He had been on hunger strike for 59 days.
O’Fiaich face to face with Thatcher
Cardinal O’Fiaich was gravely affected by the deaths of the men. He had blown the whistle on the Brits about conditions in the Kesh. He made powerful statements and worked behind the scenes, but he blamed himself for not doing enough. What else he could have done, he wasn’t sure, but he cried when Raymond McCreesh, one from his own diocese of Armagh, and Patsy O’Hara died.
He was in London to attend a commemoration for St. Oliver Plunkett, himself martyred by the British. He spoke at the open-air commemorative mass of the penal days in Ireland and of the priests ordained by Oliver Plunkett who defied the British by bringing the people through those terrible Cromwellian times: "Golden priests with wooden chalices" they were called.
At 8 PM, he arrived at Number 10. Thatcher arrived at 8:15 sharp. Bishop Lennon was with the Cardinal; he was asked by O’Fiaich to takes notes. This was going to be a serious meeting.
Maggie: Poor Me
After brief generalities, Thatcher started in, loud and shrill. Why were these people doing this to me? What am I supposed to do if they want to kill themselves? Why were they on hunger strike to begin with? She was shouting now; all worked up over what was happening to her. She had asked so many people why they were doing this and nobody could tell her! It was all happening to HER. It was like she was commiserating to herself in the shower after a rough day. The Churchmen might as well have been back in Ireland, or India, for all she took notice of them.
Rantings and ravings
Bishop Lennon dropped his pen. He was afraid he would throw it at her he was so infuriated. He took no further notes.
She was droning now, over and over again the same questions and points and poor me this and poor me that. Lennon interrupted her. She wouldn’t have yielded otherwise. He started to explain the alienation of nationalists in the north and why it existed. She re-interrupted almost immediately, but the Bishop bulled on -- he had a subconscious habit of thrusting two fingers like daggers at his target when making points. Anyway, she yielded. He accused the NIO of inflexibility and the British government of almost criminal inaction which actually drove young people to the IRA.
When it was Thatcher’s turn, she attacked. But what she said indicated that she heard nothing that Lennon said. Or at least she dismissed it as not being worthy of reply. She began a long lecture, or sermon rather, only to be interrupted by the Cardinal or the Bishop who would then be interrupted by her. Back and forth for two hours. Often they sat as she ragged around the large room. She had no idea of the current situation or even the rudiments of Irish history. At one point she declared that Northern Ireland had been set up to begin with to "save" the Catholics from civil war. O’Fiaich was compelled to give her a history lesson and finished by expressing his belief that the "Irish question" would only be solved when there was a 32 county, independent Irish state of some kind, of any kind, as long as the Irish people themselves could determine their own political fate without interference.
She interrupted with pompous indignation, but he would have none of it. He went on, hoping that in some unconscious reptilian part of her, she was listening -- perhaps some of this somewhere was recording, but no.
Thatcher: why do the Irish always have a problem?
Her position, she explained, after the Cardinal’s long history lesson and personal analysis, was that the British were totally guiltless for any problem happening in Ireland.
She complained: why must the Irish always have a problem? She even explained haughtily that "we" fought the Germans and now we are friends. What about that?
The Cardinal looked her hard in her hardly human eyes: "Because, Madame, if you want a simple answer, you’re no longer in occupation of the Ruhr."
Inside the Kesh: only surrogate visits for Joe
Joe McDonnell refused to take visits the whole time he was on the Blanket, because he would have had to wear the prison uniform. But he would send his love and receive news from his wife Goretti through another prisoner who took visits in order to gather and send out information. Raymond McCartney, a Blanketman from Derry City, took regular visits with Goretti and would pass on family news to Joe and his feelings back to her. Joe was ravenous for this information and insisted Raymond tell him every detail. Ray was always taken by surprise how Goretti, a street-wise Belfast woman, would throw a packet of tobacco at him at the exact moment the screw, who was always present during visits, looked away for a second. "Joe was very proud of Goretti indeed," he recalled. He also got himself sent off to the punishment cells, "the boards", when a screw saw a parcel of tobacco pass between Goretti and him. But Raymond survived in good spirits, much to Joe’s relief. He felt responsible. Raymond told him not to bother, and had even managed to hand over a private "comm" to him from Goretti. When Raymond went on hunger strike in 1980, Joe made sure that he knew how much the McDonnell family were praying and thinking of him for his kindness. Now it was Joe on hunger strike and Raymond praying for him.
Raymond, years later, recalled that Goretti was very generous and warm and that "you could always detect in both of them the emphasis they placed on each other, on their children and family."
First visits in three and a half years
The first time he met his family was after he was a few days on hunger strike. He expected only Goretti, but got half the family. It was the first visit he had taken in over three and a half years. His sister Maura and his mother Eileen were there as well as his two children, Bernadette and Joe Og. They said through it all, even as a child, Joe never cried. He cried then. He told a story to his family. "Poor Frankie Hughes, he’s in a bad way," he said and started to laugh, "He’s still singing. He’s on the way out and singing till the end!" It was the day Frank Hughes died.
Later his brother Frankie visited Joe. He had just lost the Dail election for Sligo/Leitrim by only 300 votes. "That’s it for me," he said but thought that Kieran Doherty would be saved: "They’ll not let a TD die."
Joe: "Don’t forget Bernadette and Goretti’s birthdays"
Maura, Joe’s sister, had been in America for weeks trying to drum up international support. The ICJP were running all over the place when she returned, but it seemed nothing but spinning wheels going nowhere.
She saw Joe just before the end. He was in pain, but lucid. "Look after yourselves ... look after Mammy, and Goretti and the kids," he said. As always, he was thinking of everyone but himself. Then he told Maura not to forget his daughter Bernadette’s birthday which was coming up on the 10th of July and Goretti’s on the 13th.
Just after five in the morning, Tuesday, 8 July, 1981, Joe McDonnell died. He was buried on his daughter’s birthday.
On 9 July the Irish Catholic bishops met again with the Irish Taoiseach FitzGerald and announced that new efforts would be made. I wonder what Goretti made of that. Five more would die of these new Irish efforts, all show and righteousness. Towards the end of the "Ballad of Joe McDonnell", are the lines: "Then a hunger strike we did commence/For the dignity of man/But it seemed to me/That no one gave a damn." It must have seemed that way indeed.
Thatcher and her ilk, we knew, regarded us distantly as another species. But to even our own, for the most part, snug in Dublin, the Blanketmen and those dying for Irish freedom on hunger strike might as well have been from Mars. It’s hard, even after 20 years, not to hate these people.
Next: Joe’s funeral becomes an RUC/Brit army shootout
(c) 2001 The Irish People.
INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 36
"Terror, profanity & sacrilege"
RUC and Brits Riot,
Open Fire On Mourners At Joe McDonnell’s Funeral
By Gerry Coleman
"When I look back and think of him, I always recall that night he said that he wasn’t made of the stuff that makes a martyr and patriot. He could never have been more wrong. My abiding memory of Joe is that he never, ever bent." -- Jazz McCann, Blanketman [Nor Meekly Serve My Time]
click on thumbnail to view photo on Larkspirit website
The false hopes raised by the Catholic bishops of the ICJP made Joe McDonnell’s death an even more terrible blow. His funeral was a Irish tragedy. His lovely wife, at the same time so strong and so broken with brief, his two children, Bernadette and Joseph, crying touching his coffin. There was also the sadistic horror of everything that Joe grew up hating, fighting against, and dying to remove from his country: the brutality of the RUC and the British army and the government that pulled their strings.
click to see photo on Larkspirit
The Tories huffed and puffed over their evening clarets, so appalled were they whenever the television showed IRA color guards firing volleys over the coffins at hunger strikers’ funerals. The coffins were jolly good, but the bloody terrorists mustn’t be allowed to honor or bury their dead. The order went down from Thatcher and her boys: get Joe McDonnell’s firing party. The RUC/Brit army were delighted to comply; at they very least, they would terrorize the mourners.
It took the funeral procession four hours to reach Milltown cemetery; a journey that should have taken a half hour.
Brits fire live rounds indiscriminately into mourners
The Irish Times: "It appears that the firing party was trapped by an Army helicopter carrying telescopic equipment. When the first shots were fired and people in the funeral procession realized what was happening, youths broke away and bombarded the soldiers with stones. Troops and police [sic] reinforcements fired dozens of plastic bullets in return. Some observers believe that they also fired live rounds. The RUC deny this."
That live rounds were fired into the crowd is indisputable.
The Times article continued:
"Women holding young children ran screaming into the nearby church, while others crouched on the footpath and in the doorway of the Busy Bee shopping centre. Troop reinforcements sped in armoured vehicles into the middle of the crowd which scattered into side streets. A local priest, the Reverend Dan O’Rawe, said soldiers and police fired indiscriminately.
"For some time afterwards the procession was seriously disrupted and took nearly four hours in all to reach Milltown cemetery, where a Provisional Sinn Fein speaker told the crowd that they were there ‘despite British Army terror, profanity and sacrilege.’"
Live and plastic bullets
Oistin McBride, who photographed the funeral, described the scene in his about to be published book of photographs and commentary about the past twenty years of conflict in the north, Family, Friends and Neighbors. Once British army fire was heard coming from a nearby house where the IRA color party was believed to be retreating from "some of the tens of thousands of mourners were attempting through sheer force of numbers to reach the house where the shooting was taking place in an effort to aid the IRA firing party."
"They were beaten back by volleys of plastic bullets and the realization that live ammunition was also being fired. I watched groups of soldiers charge down St. Agnes Drive firing plastics, regrouping, firing and charging again. Some bumped into me as they ran. I followed the running battle back to the Falls road where the funeral cortege had disappeared in disarray. RUC and Brit Landrovers drove wildly onto the main road scattering anyone in their way."
He recalled how Brit soldiers established a position in St John’s Church carpark from which they fired volley after volley of deadly plastic bullets at mourners trapped behind low walls on the street.
Soldier of the Queen
Important insights into the mind-set of a typical British army soldier at the time of the hunger strike are to be found in a personal memoir by Bernard O’Mahoney, an Englishman of Irish Catholic decent. He has no love for the IRA, but he reveals some interesting truths in his book, A Soldier of The Queen. When his regiment arrived in Co. Fermanagh from Germany, they were briefed by a sergeant that they would never have to worry about legal ramifications from killing a suspect, "Just shoot the fucker dead and we’ll made it up from here." To lighten up the atmosphere, the men were told there would be a crate of beer for the first one to "kill a Paddy."
O’Mahoney, a rough and crude soldier when it came to the rights of citizens, nevertheless often wasn’t happy about what was going on. He was particularly appalled by the house searches that he found served only one purpose: to harass a targeted family. His insights into the deaths of the hunger strikers are important.
Hatred and disdain
The hunger strikers were treated as figures of hatred or disdain. "Soldiers tried to hide their anxiety by making a joke of it." They put captions like "slimmer of the year" under hunger strikers’ newspaper photos. They had a running Hunger Strike Sweepstakes: on a board in the operations room were listed the names of all those on hunger strike. Soldiers would guess the number of days a particular hunger striker "would take to die." They would get drunk and party in the bar at the base after a death, but the UDR men were the worst, being essentially anti-Catholic bigots. The Brits hated the IRA and perhaps even the Irish generally [including the unionists/loyalists!], but the UDR men would grow venomous at the death of a hunger striker. They particularly enjoyed the death of Raymond McCreesh, all the more because his bother was a Catholic priest.
"Kill all Catholics. Let God sort them out"
O’Mahoney says that they didn’t believe these men would follow through at first. When Bobby died, they were mostly concerned for their safety as IRA attacks increased and the hostility of the people on the ground grew. As hunger strikers continued to die, he said that the soldiers came to believe that all Catholics were closet republicans and abuse was handled out to all. O’Mahoney recalls shouts of "Kill all Catholics. Let God sort them out" in the base canteen.
When a hunger striker would die, the local people would come out into the streets to bang bin lids to announce the loss. The Brit army actually considered confiscating the bin lids in nationalist areas!
But O’Mahoney says, "Behind the bravado, I could smell fear -- fear of the growing strength of the IRA, both on the ground and in terms of the international support the Hunger Strike was attracting for the republican movement. some UDR people seemed to be anticipation the day when they and their families would be slaughtered in their beds by the rampaging Fenian hordes." The soldiers all supported Ian Paisley’s call for squaddies to all carry shotguns. But not all standard weaponry was official according to O’Mahoney, who wrote about the common practice of loading plastic bullet rifles with the equivalent of D-size batteries.
He recalls being puzzled by the black mourning flags on homes and lampposts: "I thought people were foolish to advertise their loyalty to the IRA in that way." Indeed the patrols did take note with the intention of coming back to make them pay for it. Often Brit or UDR soldiers would shoot the flags down, being afraid to pull them down least they be booby trapped. "Yet at the same time part of me admired what I saw as the flag-wavers’ come-and-get-me defiance of the authorities." When it came down to it, he hated his experience in the north of Ireland because "I had met full-on a real badness within myself." Enough said.
Martin Hurson looses ground quickly
Martin had gone on the hunger strike on 29th of May, twenty days after Joe McDonnell, seven days after Kieran Doherty, and six days after Kevin Lynch. Michael Gorman, a Blanketman who was sent to the prison hospital for treatment for an injured foot towards the end of June, got to meet with Joe and Kieran, who he knew were in the hospital. During his stay there, he was disturbed by hollow coughing sounds coming from somewhere on the ward. He couldn’t help but shudder each time it rang out.
At the mass that Fr. Toner said in the hospital ward’s TV room on a makeshift altar, Michael walked in to greet Joe and "Big Doc". What happened next he tells in Nor Meekly serve My Time:
"...to my left I saw what looked like a pile of blankets on a wheelchair. As I passed by, a slight coughing sound came from the blankets, stopping me dead in my tracks. I cast a puzzled glance towards Joe and Doc. Joe told me it was Martin Hurson and that he was very ill.
"I searched for Martin’s face. Reaching out I touched it -- he was warm and looked peaceful and at ease...
"I watched as the communion was lifted and touched to Martin’s lips. Lowering my head, I felt a deep sadness sweep over me at the sight."
As Michael was talking to Fr. Toner after mass, a harsh coughing filled the room: "It was Martin. On their knees one on each side of the wheelchair were Joe and Doc, talking to him, their voices seeking to soothe him. What a sorry, pitiful, moving and heart-breaking sight. I felt humbled at it, yet so proud of them for their loving and comradely gesture."
(c) 2001 The Irish People.