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.