Friday, December 31, 2010

Bertie bails out

Bertie bails out

Ahern refuses to apologise for downturn as he retires on €151,000-a-year

Irish Independent - Friday December 31 2010

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last night dramatically announced his retirement from politics and conceded he could have done some things differently.

But he said those asking him to apologise for policies during his time in power also have to give credit "for all the gains" the country made during the Celtic Tiger.

He also refused to rule out a campaign to run for President.

Mr Ahern now stands to draw down a huge pension. He will get a ministerial pension of around €98,000 and one for a TD worth €53,000 -- a total of more than €150,000 a year. He is also entitled to a once-off lump sum of around €160,000 based on his years of service as a TD.

Last night, he issued a statement confirming his intention to step down ahead of the next General Election. Later, he spoke at his headquarters in St Luke's, Drumcondra, about his regrets that we're now back to 2005 economic levels. He also hit out at the failure of financial advisers or economists to warn him that Anglo Irish Bank could cause future problems.

"I don't think it's a question of an apology," he said when asked if he felt he should apologise for any of his economic policies.

"What I've always said is I feel that all the gains I created . . . when I brought the country to full employment, I brought it to immigration instead of emigration, I brought it so we were spending billions on infrastructure.

"So I do take credit for the gains and I say I'm sorry we weren't able to keep the gains at the same level, that we did go back a bit," he said, adding that the "international recession" helped wipe out those gains.

He had gathered with the O'Donovan Rossa Cumann in St Luke's earlier in the evening and was joined by his former wife Miriam.

Flanked by his brothers Noel and Maurice, and local Fianna Fail TD Cyprian Brady, he said nobody advised him that a banking crisis could be coming down the line.

"I can honestly say, not once did any official or any delegation who was in to see me, and everyone was in to see me, not once did anyone ever say to me, watch out for Anglo (Irish Bank).

"Never ever, ever, once. Not from anyone . . . I wish they had."

He declined to rule out running for President, saying: "Everybody would love to be in the Aras, but only one person will end up there."

Mr Ahern plans to canvass for Fianna Fail in the next General Election but admitted that the people will be tough on Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his colleagues.

"I hope they do better than all the opinion polls, and I think they will. But we're not doing great because we've had to make hard decisions, we've had to make tough decisions.

His decision to retire after 40 years in politics means he will now be financially better off than if he had returned to the backbenches after an election.

In his formal address to his local cumann Mr Ahern acknowledged the economic turmoil being endured and the difficulties being faced by so many people across the country, saying he "dearly wished there was no crisis".


"I realise that it would have been better if some things had been done differently.

"But I will not denigrate the good that has been done, or belittle the effort it took to achieve it."

He added that he believes our economy will recover.

As a former Taoiseach, he will still be entitled to a state car, a garda driver and garda protection for his home for life, as well as a secretarial assistant and a mobile phone -- also paid for by the State, for life.He said last night that he sees the car as a "security issue".

Mr Cowen paid tribute to Mr Ahern, who now joins Noel Dempsey, Dermot Ahern, Jim McDaid, Rory O'Hanlon, Martin Cullen, MJ Nolan and Sean Ardagh in bowing out of politics ahead of the General Election.

Mr Cowen described his predecessor as "without question the consummate politician of our generation in this country".

"He is a person of rare ability and extraordinary talent," Mr Cowen said.

"He has an immense work ethic and he is a superb negotiator."

Mr Ahern said it had been an "incredible journey" since 1977 and an extraordinary privilege to represent the people of Drumcondra and Dublin Central for over 30 years.

He said he now plans to spend more time with his family and in the gym.


Mr. Ahern is not only a “wily, crafty, and consummate politician”, he is also a very wealthy one at the expense of the beleaguered Irish taxpayer. Shame on him and his colleagues for walking away from a deplorable situation that they created through greed and incompetence.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Plan could treble number speaking Irish, says Cowen

Plan could treble number speaking Irish, says Cowen

DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN – Irish Times - Wed, Dec 22, 2010

THE NUMBER of daily Irish speakers could be increased from 83,000 to 250,000 if there was a unified approach, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said at Government Buildings yesterday.

Announcing the Government’s 20-year strategy for the Irish language, Mr Cowen said it was a historic occasion and one that “lifts my heart”.

“I believe this strategy is a historic one and that this is a historic day for the Irish language. For the first time since the State was founded there is a comprehensive, long-term plan for Irish,” the Taoiseach said, speaking in Irish.

“Under this plan, it is intended to increase the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis from 83,000 to 250,000 people within 20 years.

“Bringing that about will be an enormous task but I am certain we can succeed. As the old proverb says: “There is no strength without unity .”

He added: “We should never make excuses for defending Irish nor for promoting the language, inside or outside the Gaeltacht.” Mr Cowen said the cross-party support that had been shown for the strategy was very encouraging: “This is a good development because Irish belongs to us all.”

His own family had attended an Irish-speaking school: “It is wonderful how proud of the language they are; they never have any issue about speaking Irish.”

Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey said it was “a cause for celebration” that the strategy would ensure the State, the language organisations and the general public were working together.

Speaking in Irish he said: “Irish is still identified by Unesco as a language of fragile status. If a language is lost, it is virtually impossible to revive it.”

“Irish is like an unbroken chain which reaches back through 2,000 years of our history. A modern, up-to-date plan for Irish is being launched today for this millennium – a plan whose aim is to ensure that the chain is not broken.”

He said that, “although it is a Government plan, it does not belong to the Government, it belongs to you and to us and it is up to us and to you to ensure it is put into practice”.

Speaking in English, he said: “I am pleased to see members of the English-language media here today. The English-language media have an important role to play in increasing awareness of the Irish language.

“While I am not in any way suggesting that the media become cheerleaders for the Irish language, I do feel, however, that certain media do not always treat Irish language issues with the same seriousness that they treat other issues.”

Fine Gael spokesman on the Gaeltacht Frank Feighan said his party supported the 20-year plan “in principle” with the reservation that the party believed the teaching of Irish should be obligatory until Junior Cert level only and not until the Leaving Cert stage as at present.


* Increase the number of daily speakers of Irish from 83,000 to 250,000 and the number of daily speakers of Irish in Gaeltacht areas by 25 per cent.

* The strategy proposes to reconfigure Údarás na Gaeltachta as a new Údarás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Its headquarters will be based in the Gaeltacht.

* It will retain an enterprise function and it will also have responsibility for Irish language matters throughout the State in the context of the new Strategy.

* Foras na Gaeilge will continue to be supported and will maintain its existing responsibilities for the language on an all-island basis.

* The Cabinet committee on Irish and the Gaeltacht will maintain oversight of progress of the strategy.

* A total of €1.5 million has been set aside by the department from within existing resources to support the strategy, as required, during its first year.

* The first steps have been taken in establishing a strategy unit in Pat Carey’s Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs that will direct the implementation of the strategy and draft the legislation.

* Up to 20 per cent of places in colleges of education to be retained for students educated through Irish in Gaeltacht schools, in gaelscoileanna and for those attaining a high performance threshold in Irish in the Leaving Certificate.

* Under a new Gaeltacht Act, Gaeltacht status will be based on linguistic criteria. Communities that cannot comply with the criteria will be given two years to develop language plans to maintain their status as Gaeltacht communities.

* New areas may also be included in the Gaeltacht if they meet the linguistic criteria under the new Act.


Tir gan teanga, Tir gan anam. Gaeilge go deo!

Sean Og O’Miadhachainn

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shinnernomics is nothing but empty rhetoric

Shinnernomics is nothing but empty rhetoric

Willie O’Dea – Irish Independent – 19 December 2010

Where Sinn Fein is not being economically reckless, it is being utterly hypocritical, writes Willie O'Dea

Poor Gerry Adams. I never expected to find myself uttering these words, but I cannot help it.

His first attempt to be added to the electoral register for Louth ended in failure when the local returning officer found a lack of evidence that he was living in the Louth-Meath East constituency on the dates required.

As his primary home in west Belfast, his rented flat in London and his holiday home in Donegal did not qualify, he may now have to add a home in Co Louth to his burgeoning property portfolio.

But this is not the reason I talk of poor Gerry Adams. I do so as he seems to be developing a condition I suppose may eventually be diagnosed as parliamentophilia: an unnatural obsession with being in as many parliaments as possible.

He wanted to get into Westminster -- well, to get into the building, restaurant, bars, and offices, but not the actual chamber itself. He wanted to get into Stormont (this time actually managing to show up in the chamber occasionally). Now he is fixated with getting into Dail Eireann.

Like other obsessives, he attempts to rationalise his compulsion as something he must do for the good of others. The reality is not so noble. His retreat from west Belfast reflects Sinn Fein's need to get him out of mainstream Northern politics before the May 2011 Assembly elections more than any desire to see him take the lead in Dublin.

Memories of his stumbling and clumsy performances in the 2007 General Election debates, particularly his routing by Michael McDowell, still linger. Are we to believe that the economic illiterate of 2007 has now metamorphosed into a Sinn Fein Joseph Stiglitz?

Of course not. While the party has improved the quality of its rhetoric with people like Pearse Doherty, the absolute vacuum at the heart of its economic approach has not diminished one iota. It is still the same old Shinnernomics.

Remember, these are the people who, back in 2007, demanded increases in mortgage interest, said that the social partnership deal did not go far enough and wanted even greater increases in the public sector pay bill. Now they tell us they saw the whole downturn coming.

They even try to reinvent their present. They may offer the rhetoric of being the only alternative in the South, but they are in government in the North. In Stormont, they impose cuts even though there are alternative revenue-raising opportunities. In the Dail, they reject all cuts even though there are no alternatives.

The Sinn Fein Education Minister in Stormont is cutting almost £70m (€82m) from the education budget without a whimper from Gerry, Martin or Pearse. So much for a united Ireland approach.

Their economic duplicity goes even further down here. They want to dump the IMF/EU rescue package, claiming that it hurts the poor and unemployed.

We borrow a third of the current €21bn social welfare budget in order to assist those most in need.

Rejecting the EU/IMF package would leave a €400m-a-week black hole in social welfare. That is €400m Sinn Fein would have to take back every single week from widows, pensioners, the unemployed and disabled to pay for its euroscepticism.

It is too big price a pay for Sinn Fein recklessness -- and that is before you add in how it would replace the €130bn the European Central Bank has loaned to Irish banks.

Where Sinn Fein is not being reckless, it is being hypocritical.

It opposes the wage and pension reductions for the Taoiseach and ministers, while conveniently forgetting that its MPs milked Westminster's second-home expenses system for nearly £500,000 though refusing to take their seats.

As reported in The Daily Telegraph in May 2009, Adams and McGuinness jointly claimed expenses of £3,600 a month for a two-bedroom flat in north London, though a local estate agent said similar flats in the area fetched only £1,400 a month.

Maybe this is what Martin Ferris meant when he said: "Be guided by your conscience."


Although the argument could be made that no politician in Ireland is without sin, this is a rather damning statement of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein’s total lack of understanding regarding the basic economics of government. Frankly, after reading about the collapse of the once vibrant Irish economy, I would not care to have any Irish political party controlling my finances. God save Ireland from the inability and incompetence of the current administration as well as the potential field of candidates that they will have to choose from to lead the country in the upcoming general election.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Northern Bank robbery finished IRA

Northern Bank robbery finished IRA

LIAM CLARKE – 14 December 2010

"YOU can't rob a bank on charm and personality" is a truth spelt out with some patience to the Readers Digest by "Slick" Willie Sutton, one of America's most charming and successful bank robbers, who, unlike the equally charismatic Gerry Adams, could be disarmingly frank in interviews.

Of course Sutton had far less to hide than the republican movement which Adams led. The nattily dressed American's 40 year career as a stick up artist netted him just $2 million. That is £1.27 million at today's exchange rates, a small fraction of th e £26 million taken by the IRA from the Northern Bank in a single day, not to mention the series of high value heists which proceeded it.

Now it has all turned up in Wikileaks, with cables from James Kenny, the US Ambassador in Dublin at the time of the 2005 Northern Bank robbery, reporting that the Irish government had '''rock solid evidence' that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were members of the IRA military command and for that reason, the Taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of the robbery."

Adams' attempts to talk his way out of the accusations in radio interviews yesterday were as laughable as the Sinn Fein statement claiming that there was "not a shred of evidence" of IRA involvement in the robbery. Tell that to Ted Cunningham, the ageing Cork moneylender left serving a long prison sentence after laundering money, some of which was given to him in brown cartons by Sinn Fein members.

Yet they, and he, have to keep denying it. Sinn Fein are attempting to market themselves in next year's Irish general election as the clean party, the one which had no involvement in the culture of money in brown envelopes which they claim characterized Irish political funding in the last decade.

The idea that, as the Wikileaks cables allege, Sinn Fein was itself funded by the proceeds of outright robbery, has the capacity to blow a hole in all that. Denial may not be plausible, but admission would open up a still more terrible vista about where the money went. It would open up questions of what the party thought of the tiger kidnapping of bank employees in which one terrified mother was dumped in the countryside after being held hostage.

That, together with the links to organized crime and sleazy finance which accompanied the robbery, is considerably worse than anything which emerged about backhanders and political payola during the Celtic Tiger years.

It is a can of worms which Sinn Fein dare not open. Denial may be implausible but stops the questions getting past first base. After the first skirmish, Adams' standard procedure is to remind interviewers that he is hardly going to answer a question differently on the second or third asking. Yesterday on Radio Ulster, he used this tack to change the subject to another Wikileak showing that MI5 had promised to release files on the murder of Pat Finucane to a public enquiry held under the most recent legislation.

Adams introduced the topic at the very end of the interview so that Conor Bradford, the journalist, had no time to explore his inherent inconsistency. If he was arguing that Wikileaks and the Irish government couldn't be believed about the IRA then how could he rely on something which Wikileaks claimed a former head of MI5 said in private to Mitchel Reiss, the US envoy? If Bertie Ahern wasn't to be trusted on Sinn Fein then why was his assertion of collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane credible?

In fact Wikileaks is credible on both counts. Lord Stevens has already found, in inquiries drawing on MI5 files, that there was collusion in the solicitor's murder. He implicated a Military Intelligence agent, Brian Nelson, and secured the conviction of an RUC informer, Ken Barrett for the crime.

Similarly we knew about the IRA and the Northern Bank robbery and the Irish government's belief that Adams and McGuinness were IRA commanders. At the time Bertie Ahern dismissed Sinn Fein's denial with the question "What kind of eejits do people take us for?"

The Northern Bank robbery had at least one positive effect. The fact that it was carried out during negotiations put backbone into both the British and Irish governments to face down Sinn Fein's excuses and demand an end to IRA criminality.

The concerted political pressure on Sinn Fein sounded the death knell of the Provisional IRA in its new guise as a covert fund raising arm for Sinn Fein and pension fund provider for IRA veterans. We can be thankful for that, even if Adams' denials of the obvious undermine the credibility of any statement he makes on any subject.

As Slick Willie said, charm and personality can only go so far.


Whether or not the IRA was responsible for the bank robbery, is of absolutely no interest to me. The only reason that I would have any interest in who the actual perpetrators were would be if I had money on deposit there and I did not. The question here is how long his audience is willing to listen to the very questionable statements of Gerry Adams about the involvement of the IRA in the robbery. As they say in the North, even the dogs in the street know the truth. Also, Adams has been known to tell a “fib” or two on occasion. Will his consistent denials about this and other incidents that were attributed to the IRA have a negative effect on his candidacy for Dail Eireann in the upcoming general election? That remains to be seen, but, as Willie Sutton said, “charm and personality can only go so far”.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Leave taxes alone and cut spending, warn public

Leave taxes alone and cut spending, warn public

By Conor Ryan – Irish Examiner - Saturday, December 04, 2010

CUT spending, don’t touch taxes and scrap the Croke Park Agreement, that’s the message from the public to the Government ahead of Tuesday’s Budget.

Given options for bridging the gap in the public finances, a poll showed 70% thought taxing or means-testing child benefit for high earners was the fairest.

The introduction of a property tax and cutting the minimum wage were the next two most popular options.

However, there was strong opposition to any planned cuts to the old age pension, with 43% saying it was the least favourable option.

The Irish Examiner /Lansdowne Millward Brown opinion poll also revealed:

- 80% agreed that at 166, we have too many TDs. Separately, Irish Examiner journalists interviewed 100 people face-to-face on streets across the country.

The overriding message was that politicians and ministers should cut their pay before looking for savings from the rest of the country.

- Eight-out-of-10 people thought the agreement not to cut jobs in the public sector under the Croke Park Agreement was unrealistic and should be scrapped.

- Almost half of those surveyed rejected the suggestion that the presidency was a luxury the country can no longer afford.

- More than 75% believe the €25 million-a-year Seanad is excessive and should be abolished.

- More than two-thirds do not want the 12.5% corporation tax raised under any circumstances.

- 60% believe Ireland no longer has the power to make its own financial decisions.

Although 75% of people surveyed believed the country is heading in the wrong direction, they had little faith in the political parties most likely to be charged with leading the country out of the crisis.

Less than 25% thought Fine Gael’s economic policies would solve the economic turmoil. Some 23% considered the Labour Party’s policies would work.

To make matters worse for Fine Gael, only 20% thought Enda Kenny would make a good Taoiseach. One-in-three thought Eamon Gilmore was a positive option but this is far less than the personal approval rating suggested in other polls.

Despite reservations about the two main opposition parties’ policies, there was still a widely-held belief that the two groups could work together to form a stable coalition after the election. But this was not the preferred option.

More than 60% of people thought a national government involving all parties would be the best system for the country.

This was a poor showing for the opposition partners because the survey of 1,000 people began the day after the Green Party announced it wanted a general election and continued until after the Government revealed its devastating Four-Year Plan to save €15 billion.

Claims that the Croke Park deal will still be in place to protect public service workers have been dismissed by the vast majority of people.

They believe that whoever forms the next government will have to tell those employed by the State that their pay will be cut again.

Some 81% of those surveyed thought the notion of the partnership deal maintaining jobs was unrealistic. Just 13% felt it was liable to remain intact for the lifetime of the Four-Year Plan.

The dismissive attitude towards the deal was strongest among richer people, where just less than 90% reckoned the agreement would have to be revisited.


The new 4 year budget which is expected by most to include savage cuts in all areas of the Irish economy will be announced on Tuesday 7 December. As usual, it will be the middle income tax payer who will bear the brunt of these Draconian measures. I, for one, have been absolutely appalled in recent weeks having read in the Irish papers of the “sweetheart deals” which continue to be lavished upon both current and former politicians while these drastic cuts are borne in every other sector of the very severely battered Irish economy. Although the Irish have proven time and time again what a resilient and resourceful people they are, I can’t help but wonder about the outcome of this attempt to recover from the collapse of their once vibrant economy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Call to hire more Irish speakers for State sector

Call to hire more Irish speakers for State sector

ANNE LUCEY – Irish Times - Mon, Nov 29, 2010

LANGUAGE COMMISSIONER Seán Ó Cuirreáin has called for “positive discrimination” in recruitment to the public service to tackle the fall in State workers able to deal with the public through Irish, one of the two official languages of the State.

A new survey within the Department of Education and Skills has found only 1.5 per cent of officials can deal with the public through Irish, a situation the commissioner described as “a scandal”.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin was speaking at Tralee’s Institute of Technology, where research on the Official Languages Act (2003), which aims to improve public service through Irish, found low levels of fluent Irish speakers across most public service organizations.

The Language Commissioner – an independent office akin to an ombudsman – said the figure of 1.5 per cent of administrative staff able to provide services through Irish amounted to a halving since 2005 when 3 per cent of staff were able to use Irish. “This means that 98.5 per cent of staff members were unable to deal with the public through Irish. This fall in the department’s Irish language capacity has happened at a time when the national language is, in general, undergoing an undoubted resurgence in popularity,” Mr Ó Cuirreáin said. “This is a scandal.”

It was “futile” to have all the emphasis and resources of the State placed on acquiring and protecting the language if those with Irish could not then use it within the State sector, he said.

There was strong official recognition of the language, he said. It was mentioned in 140 Acts, some €700 million a year was spent teaching it, there were State-funded Irish radio and television stations but there was no practical application. Students spent 13 years and 1,000 hours learning Irish but there was no opportunity to use it, he said. “We have failed utterly to link learning Irish with using the language,” he said.

Irish was rarely used in the Dáil, where all the political party leaders had Irish “but seldom use it,” he said. Irish was not among the top 10 languages used in the courts and was well-behind Polish, French, Russian and Chinese Mandarin, the commissioner detailed.

English was “the default setting” because Irish speakers believed they would get a better service through English.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin said recruitment into the public service would begin again within the lifetime of the new 20-year strategy planned for the Irish language and he urged a model of “positive discrimination” be used. “I am not in any way making a case for a return to compulsory Irish for employees of the State, but neither do I believe it is acceptable compulsory English is forced on the public in their dealings with the State,” he said.

While official status was demanded for the language in Europe, it was being eroded at home, he said.


Tir gan teanga, Tir gan anam! Gaeilge go deo!

Sean ‘Og O’Miadhachainn

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ireland's had the party - now for the hangover

Ireland's had the party - now for the hangover

Jenny McCartney - 20 Nov 2010

The economic crisis in the Republic of Ireland today is the national equivalent of waking up with a blinding hangover to find that while you were making an eejit of yourself at a very long, crazy party, someone stole your wallet and quietly emptied your bank account. Worse, your disapproving parents are banging on the door, offering to lend you enough cash to pay your debts, but only if they can move in and double-check every outgoing for the foreseeable future.

There was a similar descent from cockiness to embarrassment in Britain, but Ireland is a smaller country and it made bigger mistakes. The shape of its crisis is now well known, including the insane property-building boom – greased by bribes from developers to government officials – that has left empty homes scattered all over Ireland, and the Irish government’s fateful scheme to pump billions of euros into the country’s failing banks. Anyone can see what has become of Ireland’s economy: the deeper question is what it has done to its psychology.

There is anger, of course. The “boom” might have been one almighty knees-up for the business and political elites, but to many ordinary people it simply meant the compulsion to mortgage oneself to the hilt, before being pitched into negative equity. Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, scenting a potentially fruitful popular fury against the republic’s establishment, has already abandoned his West Belfast power base to stand for election in Louth. Even more widespread is the feeling of shame that an EU bail-out would mean the hemorrhaging of sovereign power in a nation that fought for independence.

Shame, however, simply slides off the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen – previously the country’s finance minister – who informed the public that there was no need to be “in any way ashamed or humiliated at all” by the scrutiny of the International Monetary Fund. The Irish Times begged to differ, eloquently asking in an editorial “whether this is what the men of 1916 died for: a bail-out from the German chancellor with a few shillings of sympathy from the British chancellor on the side”.

It was inevitable that many in Ireland, disappointed by the greedy incompetence of their rulers, would raise the ghosts of the Easter Rising in reproach: the nationalist “ancestral voices” of which Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote so eloquently. We can be sure that Ireland’s ancestral voices would disapprove of the current Fianna Fail government: in that, they would be right.

Yet in recent years, much of Ireland has seemed all too willing to abandon history, religion and identity in the hectic pursuit of a fast buck. The moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church was undermined by a series of appalling child abuse scandals and, as the heat went out of the North, nationalism lost its urgency: money rushed into the void.

I do not wholly mourn the weakening of religion and nationalism in the republic: when their might went unchallenged, it spawned its own variety of damage. But along the way, a nation that felt that politics, ideas and culture mattered was replaced by one that believed unwaveringly in the power of the euro. When the government built a motorway through Tara, the ancient seat of the Irish kings, Seamus Heaney was moved to protest at the desecration of older, spiritual symbols of Ireland: “The tiger,” he wrote, “is now lashing its tail and smashing its way through the harp.”

I can remember visiting Dublin in 1987: it was a poorer place then, but you could almost taste the history in the air and hear poetry trapped in the rhythms of the old men’s talk, in threadbare pubs where the falling sunlight was filtered through the rising smoke. By 2007 it was entirely altered, bristling with talk of property prices and traffic jams. A visit was like encountering someone you were once drawn to, and finding them grown unrecognizably brash.

The Celtic Tiger is dead now, and Ireland will be looking, shamefacedly, for its shattered harp. Just a word of warning, from one who grew up in the North: the healing music will not be found in the hands of Mr. Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein.


The consensus opinion of politicians, economists, and most importantly the Irish people who are bearing the brunt of the economic collapse of their country is very clear. The radical socialist policies advocated by Sinn Fein do not provide a viable solution to their dire situation. They must look elsewhere.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gerry Adams to seek Louth nomination for General Election

Gerry Adams to seek Louth nomination for General Election

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has today announced his decision to put his name forward for the Sinn Féin nomination for the Louth constituency at the next General Election. Mr. Adams was speaking today at the Edentubber commemoration in County Louth. He said: “Ireland is at a crossroads. This state is in the midst of a deep economic and social crisis. This Government is probably the most unpopular in the history of the state. It is now implementing bad, deeply damaging policies. It has no mandate whatsoever for this.

There is a better way. Together we can rebuild Ireland.

People need to make a stand against what is happening. We need a better way forward for our country and its people. All this imposes a huge responsibility on those of us in positions of political leadership. In the past I have asked people to step forward and to show leadership. I have asked people to make a stand. I believe that it is my duty at this critical time to step forward and do what I have asked of others.

As Leader of Sinn Féin, I want to be part of the necessary fight-back against bad economic policies in both parts of this island and for a fair, decent and united society for all the people of Ireland.

As a representative of west Belfast I should be able to do this in the Dáil, but the Irish government refuses to allow this, despite a commitment during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and subsequently, by the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that he would introduce measures to allow speaking rights for MPs from the north.

So, as Leader of the only all Ireland party with an all-island mandate I have a choice to make whether to stay in west Belfast, a place that I love, or to seek a mandate in another constituency in the south. West Belfast is my home. It is where Colette and our family are and where I live. But after thoughtful consideration, and with the support of colleagues, I have decided to put my name forward for Louth. If elected for this constituency I will work and stay here and travel home when possible.

This means that I will be stepping down as an MLA for west Belfast. My replacement will be chosen this week. I am proud and honoured to have represented the people of west Belfast in the Assembly. I will remain as MP until the next Leinster House election.

This is a significant initiative by the Sinn Fein leadership. It is a measure of our determination to provide a real alternative to the consensus for cuts being pushed by the other parties. Ireland needs political change. We need change in the Dáil. We need more voices that will stand up against the consensus for cuts – more voices that will stand up for ordinary people. We need new politics. We need a political realignment. A change of government without a change in policies will be worthless.

A Fine Gael led government, propped up by the Labour Party is not a real alternative. Fine Gael and Labour offer nothing that is substantially different from the current government. They are part of the consensus for cuts.

Sinn Féin is the only effective opposition in the Dáil. We forced this government to hold the Donegal South West by-election. We have shifted the debate on the economy by rejecting the consensus for cuts, and producing a costed, viable economic programme that can protect the vulnerable and low and middle income earners, while stimulating the economy and creating jobs. This is a small island. The problems faced by citizens throughout the country are the same.

We have a republic only in name.

Sinn Féin is a republican party. We believe that a republic must first and foremost be about the welfare of the community. This includes access to a decent public health service and the protection of vulnerable people such as the old, the sick and those with disabilities. It also includes at this time of crisis those who are economically vulnerable — including low and middle income earners - a group that is growing in number by the day because of the bad policies pursued by this Government.

As the leader of Sinn Féin, in this time of crisis in our country, I am making a stand with this initiative — a stand for a better, fairer, united Ireland. I believe that things can be turned around. That there is a better way.

Look at the progress that has been made in the north. The peace process has shown what is possible. The North has been transformed for the better. Sinn Féin has led that transformation. We have demonstrated what is possible when people work together in the common good, in the national interest, and for the benefit of all.

Our focus at this time is on tackling the mistakes of this government and providing a real alternative to the Fianna Fáil lite policies of Fine Gael and Labour. Whether it is charting a way out of conflict or striving to rebuild the economy, Sinn Féin is about improving the quality of people’s lives.

This must be the guide for the reconstruction of Ireland in the years ahead. I intend to lead from the front.

The people of Ireland face enormous challenges at this time. But we are no mean people and I am confident that with clear headed leadership and sound economic policies we can rebuild the economy and return prosperity. I want to pay tribute to Arthur Morgan who, for the past 8 years has been a first class representative for the people of Louth and an outstanding member of Sinn Féin’s Dáil team. I first met Arthur in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh where he was incarcerated for his republican beliefs.

I want to pay tribute to Marian. Without her Arthur could not have played the role that he has done over the years. He will continue to play an important role in Sinn Féin. His experience and talent will be available to this party in Louth and nationally in the time ahead.


Anybody who follows Irish politics would agree that Dail Eireann certainly needs help. One thing they don’t need is a T.D. who advocates equal distribution of wealth and the establishment of a “32 county Socialist Republic”. Although anybody who knows Gerry Adams, would readily admit that he is a very charismatic and genuinely likable fellow, his brand of radical socialist politics is not the solution to the problems that Ireland faces today.

In the past, the Irish have proven themselves to be a very ambitious and resourceful race of people who have overcome many seemingly insurmountable challenges. I believe they are quite capable of resolving their current problems without resorting to socialism, a form of government with a proven track record of failure wherever it is practiced.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Time to end IRA's code of omerta

Time to end IRA's code of omerta

By LIAM CLARKE – 9 November 2010

REGULAR readers may be interested to hear that I am currently being described as "anti-republican scum" who should have been shot by the IRA years ago. The mini hate campaign is being run by a number of posters on the website IRISHREPUBLICAN.NET sub titled "for a thirty-two county democratic socialist republic".

It is one of the areas of the blogosphere where supporters of Sinn Fein and republicans who dissent from them, not always violently, meet to do ideological battle.

It is hard to be sure, but the posters who would most like to see me dead seem to be mainstream republicans nostalgic for lost chances but presumably now committed to the paths of peace. Here's hoping.

During the troubles demonizing somebody in graffti, pamphlets or latterly on the internet often become a prelude to attacks, so they can't be entirely ignored.

In my case, a serious security scare, when the IRA attempted to lure me to a meeting, was preceded by a period of verbal criticism in which I was accused of being too close to the police and British administration, a black propagandist.

Since then a number of former IRA members have told me that, in the cold light of day, the stuff I was writing was generally accurate.

That was the problem with it. Reporting the IRA's internal power struggles damaged morale and once disputes were publicly aired they became more difficult to resolve.

On the other hand, I was also arrested and injuncted for revealing details of British army and RUC undercover operations. I never felt that it was a journalist's job to give people in positions of power a quiet life free from scrutiny.

My more recent offences haven't been to reveal secrets but to express views which some republicans fnd distasteful, though others have stuck up for my right to express them.

Particular offence was taken at a column I wrote in which I accused the UVF and dissident republicans of exploiting young people by involving them in rioting. I argued that the police should be able to publish the youngsters' photos as a child protection issue, before their lives were "twisted" by the terrorists.

Another offending column looked at the way in which republican insiders who broke

ranks from the official line, or spoke out of turn, were marginalized.

I referred in particular to Richard O'Rawe, a former H Block prisoner and Sinn Fein PRO who revealed that the 1981 hunger strike could have been resolved on the basis of an offer which was not shown to the prisoners.

Last week, he kindly invited me to speak at the launch of his second book on the subject, "Afterlives", which contains a searing account of the pressure he was put under. The invitation was largely because I had sued the Freedom of Information Act to uncover written details of the offer and proof that it had been personally authorized by Margaret

The documents, reprinted in O'Rawe's book, challenge the standard republican narrative that Thatcher had been implacable throughout the hunger strike.

Her position shifted in July 1981 after the first three deaths. After that, she used a secret channel of communication to Gerry Adams to float proposals which would have conceded most, but not all, of the prisoners' five demands. The offer was declined, apparently for political reasons.

Such secrets still stir deep passions. Former IRA members are still expected to abide by the republican omerta code, described by Martin McGuinness as "the IRA's honor code" at the Bloody Sunday Tribunal. O'Rawe suffered for breaking it; "H Block Traitor" was written up outside his home after he broke ranks. Before that he was visited by the IRA's adjutant who advised him not to go public.

Anthony McIntyre, another ex- prisoner, left Belfast following pressure when he wrote political commentary which contradicted the authorized Provo account of the troubles. A few weeks ago, Gerard "Whitey" Bradley was found dead in his car, he had been ostracized for writing a memoir which was not authorized by the republican leadership.

It is long past time we were free of this heavy hand, this atmosphere of threats and intimidation for anyone who tries in a serious way to shed light on the Provisional IRA's campaign.
After a conventional war history is written, former combatants tell their story and inevitably some will question the decisions of the generals, even the rationale for fighting in the first place.

The Provisionals must accept that this will happen to them, too.

Responding to any sign of informed debate about their past with threats, boycott and intimidation leaves them with little moral ground to challenge the dissidents who, at the end of the day, are simply copying their example.


As you can see from the opening paragraph, Liam Clarke is a somewhat controversial figure in Irish Republican circles. His writing throughout the time of the Troubles was not what you could call supportive of the republican cause. Although he has mellowed to some degree, every now and again he will write something that reminds his readers of his former attitude toward the republican cause. In this article, however, he simply admonishes those readers to recognize that there are two sides to every story. Certainly men like Richard O’Rawe, Anthony McIntyre, Gerard Bradley, and others who endured the inhumane treatment of being on the blanket protest have every right to express their views on allegations that an offer was made by the Brits to end the Hunger Strike. To deny them that right in a free society is nothing short of unconscionable

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bradley, O'Rawe frozen out for breaking ranks

Bradley, O'Rawe frozen out for breaking ranks

Liam Clarke, Sunday Times – 1 November 2010

During the Troubles, anyone applying to join the Provisional IRA was warned they could expect imprisonment or death as the reward for their involvement. Sometimes it was added, half as a joke, that the one perk the Republican movement provided was a good funeral.

That is no longer guaranteed. Gerard "Whitey" Bradley, a north Belfast IRA veteran found dead in Carrickfergus last week won't get one. There will be no plot in the Republican graveyard either. Tomorrow Bradley will be cremated privately at Roselawn cemetery in east Belfast and, unless his former comrades break ranks, there will be none of the usual trappings.

Bradley, already a sick man, was hounded through the final months of his existence for having the audacity to tell his story in a book. He was denounced as a "tout" on walls near his home, and taunted with text messages accusing him of cowardice and betrayal.

Richard O'Rawe knows what it feels like to be ostracised by former comrades. His latest book, Afterlives, will arrive in the bookshops on the day of Bradley's funeral. It tells how he struggled to reveal the truth of what happened during the 1981 hunger strike, when, as the prisoners' spokesman in the Maze, he was part of the IRA's H-block leadership. O'Rawe's recollections were first set out in his 2005 book, Blanketmen.

It was an engaging account of the blanket protest and hunger strikes of 1976 to 1981. The problem for the Republican leadership was that it included an explosive allegation – that an offer from Margaret Thatcher to concede some of the prisoners' key demands could have ended the strike after only four of the 10 prisoners had died.

O'Rawe recounted how, on July 5, 1981, he and Brendan "Bik" McFarlane, the IRA's prison OC (officer commanding), discussed the offer in Irish, to avoid being understood by prison officers, and agreed it was enough to settle the dispute. Next day, he claimed, Gerry Adams and the outside leadership over-ruled this. As a result, the offer was not communicated to the other prisoners, and the hunger strike continued with six more deaths.

Fr Denis Faul, one of the prison chaplains, had long argued that the hunger strike was prolonged to allow Owen Carron, a Sinn Féin member who stood as a "proxy political prisoner", to contest and win a Westminster by-election. It is worth looking at the circumstantial evidence and the timeline for what Sinn Féin long dismissed as a priestly conspiracy theory. Before the hunger strikes the IRA campaign was faltering and the Republican leadership opposed the protest because it reckoned that a decisive defeat in the jails would wreck the armed struggle. The 1980 strike did indeed fail when Brendan Hughes, then the prison leader, ended it to avoid deaths. It was clear from the start that the second hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands, had to produce deaths if it was to convince the British government to make concessions. Sinn Féin regarded all parliaments claiming jurisdiction over any part of Ireland as "assemblies whose main tasks are treasonable", and hailed the IRA army council as the legitimate government of the island. Contesting elections was taboo.

When Frank Maguire, the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, died, an exception was made to allow Sands to stand. The justification was that he would only "borrow" the seat to save his life. Instead, he died on hunger strike on May 5, less than a month after winning the election. That meant another by-election, and legislation was introduced to prevent prisoners standing. At the same time, secret channels of communication were opened with the IRA leadership by Thatcher in an attempt to end the mounting pressure on her government. This ran through MI6 to Brendan Duddy, a Derry businessman.

To increase the pressure, and, Faul suspected, to break the ban on fighting elections, Carron was nominated as a "proxy political prisoner" candidate on a ticket of saving the hunger strikers. The last one to die, Michael Devine, expired on the day Carron was elected, August 20, 1981. A few months later, Sinn Féin confirmed its intention of standing in future elections after hearing Danny Morrison famously ask: "Will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in one hand and the Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?" It was the beginning of the peace process, the moment when Sinn Féin took the first faltering steps on a political path that would result in the Armalite being laid down in return for seats at Stormont. This was not what the hunger strikers had demanded, but it flowed from their deaths.

Adams acknowledged the strategic debt he owed them in his 1985 Bobby Sands Memorial Lecture, when he said: "The hunger strikes, at great cost to our H-block martyrs and their families, smashed criminalisation and led to the success of the electoral strategy, plus revamping the IRA."

The question was whether the prisoners had been kept in the dark about a settlement which, while it might have satisfied them and saved six of their lives, might have meant that Carron wasn't elected.

O'Rawe says he and McFarlane agreed the offer, and McFarlane undertook to convey their decision to Adams. O'Rawe struggled with his conscience after his release from prison. Once he revealed his information, he was demonised; denounced as "the H-block traitor" in graffiti near his west Belfast home. Families of hunger strikers were briefed that he was not to be believed. McFarlane was wheeled out to deny that the conversation had taken place.

Afterlives tells the story of O'Rawe's search for prisoners who could confirm his story. He found two – Gerard Clarke from Ardoyne, who had been in the next cell, and another blanketman who wished to remain anonymous but agreed to speak to some of the hunger strikers' families.

Confirmation came from other sources

After years of appeals, the British government released some redacted minutes of its contacts with the IRA, in which the organisation briefly appeared to accept the offer. At a meeting in Derry, Duddy confirmed that this document had been dictated to him over the phone by his British intelligence contact, and passed to an unnamed IRA volunteer in Derry. Martin McGuinness later confirmed that he had passed the document to Adams.

McFarlane partially recovered his memory of the conversation which "never happened". "I said to Richard, 'This is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there is potential here to end this'," he said, after being confronted with the evidence from Duddy and Clarke. He continued to deny that anything was agreed. O'Rawe's book reads like a detective story, as he deals with the emotional pressures and pieces the evidence together. Adams has refused to debate the issues with him, issuing the same sort of blanket denials he gave following Hughes's allegations, as broadcast in last week's RTE documentary Voices from the Grave.

The Sinn Féin president was billed to speak in Rory Dolan's pub in New York on Friday about the 1980-81 hunger strikes. It would have been an opportunity to lay these issues to rest, but he hasn't taken it. After news of O'Rawe's new book appeared in Belfast, he withdrew.

While he will miss the hunger strike discussion, Adams is still billed to address a $500-a-plate fundraising banquet. Awkward questions are less likely there.


Doesn’t it seem somewhat strange that Brendan Hughes, Richard O’Rawe, Gerard Bradley, Tony O’Hara, and many other former Irish political prisoners and blanket men are now portrayed as touts and liars by their former “comrades” in the Stormont government? We might do well to listen to their side of the story and form our own opinion rather than depending wholly on the word of someone who denies ever having been a member of the IRA. All volunteers who fought for Irish freedom, regardless of their current political affiliations, deserve to be heard and not ridiculed by a chosen few.

Monday, October 25, 2010

'People did not die or take up arms for equality. They did so for Irish freedom'

'People did not die or take up arms for equality. They did so for Irish freedom'

Brian Arthurs and Peter McCaughey left Sinn Féin after the party signalled it was serious about working with the PSNI. They're now leading figures in a growing 'independent' republican movement, writes Suzanne Breen, Northern Editor

One of the most senior ex-Provisional IRA figures in the North has said that the nationalist community should not pass on information or "collaborate in any way" with the PSNI.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Tribune, Brian Arthurs, a former commander of the Tyrone Brigade, said Sinn Féin and "other constitutional nationalist parties" were wrong to say that the PSNI should be supported.

Arthurs, who once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, said he had supported the Good Friday Agreement but had become very disillusioned with the failure to progress towards Irish unity.

Similar comments were voiced by Peter McCaughey, another former senior Provisional IRA member from Co Tyrone. Both men disclosed that they had left Sinn Féin two years ago after a major split in the republican movement in Tyrone.

Five Sinn Féin cumainn, and 90% of the East Tyrone brigade, left in the move. Arthurs said: "No one can deny that there have been changes in the North but it is an equality agenda being pursued. People did not die, they did not take up arms, for equality. They did so for Irish freedom.

"Yet a huge £100m MI5 building has been built in the North and 5,000 British soldiers remain here. A special British military intelligence unit has just been deployed in Derry.

"David Cameron told the Tory party conference that he was prime minister of Britain and Northern Ireland. He stressed the importance of the union and said, 'together is how we must remain'. Republicans cannot see Irish unity in any of this. It should be remembered that, as republicans, we were committed to fight on until Britain made a declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland."

Arthurs and McCaughey both come from prominent republican families. Arthurs' brother Declan was one of eight IRA men shot dead by the SAS in Loughall in 1987. McCaughey's brother Martin, and another IRA member Dessie Grew, were killed on active service by the SAS in 1990.

A number of independent republican societies – named after the 1916 leaders and other republican martyrs – have now been formed in Tyrone. "We have six societies with around 200 members and we are in the process of forming another six," Arthurs stated.

He said the societies were "committed to upholding the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation and Irish national self-determination" and were made up of new young members and veteran republican activists.

The societies held a rally, attended by 1,500 people, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew earlier this month. Peter McCaughey said he was "extremely disappointed" with Sinn Féin's condemnation of those who remain involved in 'armed struggle'.

After the Real IRA bomb attack on the Ulster Bank in Derry, Martin McGuinness called those responsible "conflict junkies" and "neanderthals". After the murder of two British soldiers at Massereene last year, he condemned the killers as "traitors to the island of Ireland".

Peter McCaughey said: "Was my brother a 'conflict junkie', a 'neanderthal' or a 'traitor to the island of Ireland'? That is what Martin McGuinness would call him if he was killed on active service today. My brother was a freedom fighter. He fought for a united Ireland. That goal is still there and remains deeply cherished by republicans in Tyrone.

"We were disgusted when Martin McGuinness stood at the gates of
Stormont with the chief constable of the PSNI after Massereene and demonized republicans. He did not speak for us."

Brian Arthurs said the nationalist community should not "pass on information or collaborate with the PSNI" as Sinn Féin and the SDLP urged: "Young people now, just like young people during the previous phase of conflict, will continue to be attracted to the republican struggle.

"It can be argued that an armed campaign is not advisable at this point in time but it will never be right to inform on those who decide otherwise. Informing on republicans will lead to their families being oppressed by the state. It will lead to the arrest and incarceration of volunteers and, at worst, to their death.

"It was wrong to pass information to the police 20 or 30 years ago and it is wrong now. The graveyards are full of young republicans put there because a small minority of the nationalist community passed information to the British forces."

Arthurs said the independent republican societies in Tyrone were "non-party political" and were not linked to Republican Sinn Féin, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, or éirígí.

Arthurs and McCaughey said that, despite long-standing reservations about the direction of Sinn Féin's strategy, they and others had remained loyal to the leadership because they didn't want to split the movement.

"Two years ago, it reached the point that we couldn't stay," McCaughey said. "We were told at a meeting in Tyrone that Sinn Féin's support for the PSNI wasn't just a written policy, we had to implement the strategy in full or leave. So we left."

McCaughey (40) had been a Sinn Féin member for over 20 years. He served four years in the H-Blocks for possession of weapons. Arthurs is a former election agent for Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew. In 1995, he was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment for possession of explosives. He was released five years later under the Good Friday Agreement. He was arrested in connection with the 2004 Northern Bank robbery and released without charge.

In 2007, he was charged with obtaining money fraudulently in relation to a mortgage application. He was acquitted. He is currently facing the same charges again and has pleaded not guilty. His request to be tried by a jury, rather than a Diplock court, was refused. He is appealing that decision to the House of Lords.


Obviously there are some views expressed in this article that not everybody would agree with, but the implication is loud and clear that not all Irish republicans are staunch supporters of Sinn Fein and the Stormont government. It also makes the point that the groups mentioned here are not affiliated with any of the current dissident paramilitary groups. Perhaps they are made up of former “physical force republicans” who feel that Sinn Fein has lost their way. Is this the “other side of the story”? That would be for the reader to decide.