02 April 2005


Pope John Paul II’s legacy of paradox

By Robert Graham and Tony Barber
Published: April 2 2005 22:17

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Pope John Paul II, who died at the age of 84, will be remembered above all else for his efforts to reinvigorate the Catholic Church and for his role in the fall of the Soviet empire - an achievement that ushered in a new era of religious and political freedom. Yet the exceptionally long pontificate of this, the first Polish pope, will also go down in history as a period of paradox.

It began with the Vatican's contribution to the demise of the totalitarian regimes of Communist Europe but it ended with division in the Church as a revered but authoritarian pope refused to tackle what critics saw as crucial issues of reform. The deep conservatism of the man who had fought so hard for glasnost - openness - in the Soviet Union meant he was having none of it in his own Church.

Perhaps his triumphs and failings showed different aspects of one of John Paul's strongest characteristics: his courage. It was this physical and moral courage, which was never in doubt, that gave him such stature on the international stage.

It was in evidence when he backed the Solidarity movement against the ruling pro-Soviet Communists in his native Poland. It showed in the way he spoke out against what he saw as the pernicious, materialistic aspects of modern capitalism and globalisation. Latterly it shone through when, in spite of old age and growing infirmity, he undertook gruelling pastoral journeys all over the world.

Such was his humanity and charisma that wherever he went crowds flocked to him, often in their millions. He was the first media pope. He had a talent for showmanship, in the best sense, and a willingness to embrace modern methods of communication that lent force and verve to his leadership even when his physical health was failing.

Yet his conservatism, his unyielding views on sexual morality - views ignored by many of his flock, particularly in Europe and the US - plus his refusal to tolerate dissent of any kind meant that, for many, his reign did not wholly fulfil its earlier promise.

His 26-year pontificate made him the third longest serving pope in 2,000 years of Christianity. It allowed him to replace almost all the cardinals who will pick his successor, thereby virtually guaranteeing no relaxation of conservative Vatican doctrines in the next papacy.

His last years were clouded by doubts about the Vatican's handling of child-abuse outrages, notably its reluctance to force the resignation of senior prelates caught up in the cover-up of paedophile offences by fellow churchmen.

Whatever the perceived failings of his later years, it was the Church's approach to the Soviet monolith that defined much of John Paul's reign. There can be no doubt about his contribution to changing the face of Europe after almost 50 years of cold war division.

From the outset, he was convinced of the providential nature of his pontificate. "Is it not Christ's will that this pope should manifest at this precise moment the spiritual unity of Europe?" he said rhetorically on his first papal visit to Poland in 1979, eight months after being elected.

Whether providence or coincidence, it was extraordinarily fortuitous that John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century, should be elected at a time when the Communist regimes of eastern Europe were losing their momentum.

His obstinate courage, vigorous advocacy of the spiritual unity of Europe and personal experience of Communism undoubtedly spurred the collapse of the Communist system. His influence was most direct in Poland. He gave unwavering support to Solidarity, the opposition workers' movement headed by Lech Walesa, the devoutly Catholic shipyard electrician.

Like the administration of Ronald Reagan in the US, John Paul was widely thought to have helped channel funds to Solidarity. He provided protection for opposition activists after martial law was imposed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski's military regime in 1981. By 1989, the Solidarity-Church alliance and the easing of east-west tensions ensured Poland became the first post-Communist country in eastern Europe.

Arguably the highlight of the pope's diplomacy came when he received Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, at the Holy See in December 1989. On this historic occasion, ties between the Vatican and the Soviet Union, suspended since the Bolshevik revolution, were restored, and the Soviet leader conceded the principle of religious freedom: "Respect for the people's national, state, spiritual and cultural identity is an indispensable condition for a stable international environment which Europe and the world now need."

John Paul's experience was crucial in encouraging him to drop the Church's traditional reserve in dealing with eastern Europe. He worked as a priest, bishop and cardinal in Poland, an experience that gave him unique insights into the Communist system as well as the appalling human suffering in Europe's postwar division.

Karol Wojtyla was born on May 18 1920 in Wadowice, only 18 months after Poland had emerged newly independent from the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian, tsarist and German empires. His father was a retired army quartermaster and his mother a schoolteacher of Lithuanian origin.

His mother died when he was six years old and, according to at least one biographer, the effect of this loss influenced his strong devotion to the Virgin Mary. The future pope lost all his immediate family through natural death by the time he was 20. He was educated at the Marcin Wadowita primary and high schools in Wadowice, and the second world war found him in Kraków, unable to begin higher education. To avoid deportation by the Germans, he became a labourer in a limestone quarry and later a stoker in a water purification plant. The experience of hard labour marked him deeply and forged his subsequent rapport with Solidarity.

His 1989 encyclical, Centesimus Annus, written with the Berlin Wall falling, gave an insight into his views on labour exploitation and legitimate profit. The core of his economic philosophy was a rather ill-defined need to uphold the dignity of man.

It was not just his experience as a labourer that set Karol Wojtyla apart from other recent popes. He was a keen sportsman and excellent skier. Intellectually, he proved an accomplished poet and playwright and a talented actor. He knew all about artistic censorship, having been forced to take his small theatre group underground during the Nazi occupation.

Reports of youthful love affairs abounded, most notably a formative relationship with the actress daughter of his grammar-school headmaster. Whatever the truth of such liaisons, Karol Wojtyla was certainly a well-rounded man with an unusually rich experience of the world when he finally decided to go into a seminary and then be ordained in 1946. When he became pope, he retained an intensely human side with a rich sense of humour.

His first experience of Rome came in 1946, when he was sent there to study for a doctorate for two years. He gained top marks with a thesis on the Spanish mystic, St John of the Cross.

Thereafter, where possible, he sought to combine pastoral work as a priest with academic specialisation in ethics and philosophy. In 1958, when appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków, he insisted on combining this job with a chair of ethics at Lublin University, 220km away. Having been appointed Poland's youngest bishop aged only 38, he was set on an ambitious career path. By 1964 he was archbishop of Krakow; in 1967 he was made a cardinal.

On becoming pope in October 1978 - he celebrated his silver jubilee in 2003 - he chose to be called John Paul II. That was partly in deference to his predecessor, John Paul I, who had died after only 33 days in office. It was also a tribute to John XXIII (1958-63), the first of the contemporary popes to understand the need to modernise the Church, laying down a more liberal role in the historic Vatican Council II.

However, those who hoped that John Paul II would continue the liberal tradition of the Vatican Council II were disappointed. Paradoxically for someone so internationally adventurous and innovative, his spiritual and pastoral legacy was that of a conservative.

While still a cardinal, he defined the task of a theologian within narrow confines: namely, to "guard, defend, and teach the sacred body of revelation in strict subordination to the Pope and his bishops". This intolerance of dissent remained throughout his reign and led him into conflict with Hans Kung, the German theologian, over papal infallibility.

He refused to endorse the message of liberation theology coming from Latin America, where radical priests, influenced by Marxist ideology, sought to combat social injustice by establishing a "church of the poor". Priests who joined the Sandinista government in Nicaragua were excommunicated.

The conservative in John Paul led him to give less weight to the traditionally influential counsels of the Jesuits. Instead he turned to the Opus Dei movement, making it one of the most powerful forces in the politics of contemporary Catholicism. He beatified in an almost unseemly hurry Monsignor Josemara Escrivá de Balaguer, Opus Dei's Spanish founder.

On ethical matters he was uncompromising - especially where they concerned the family and birth control. With age, he became more dogmatic, and his 10th encyclical, Veritas Splendor, published in 1993, sealed his unwavering opposition to non-natural methods of birth control.

As a result, John Paul alienated many Catholics in the US and northern Europe, who felt that he was out of touch with modern mores. Despite the potential of condoms to prevent the spread of Aids, he remained impervious to pleas for a more rational view and went so far as to list contraception with genocide as an "intrinsically evil" act that would condemn sinners to eternal hellfire.

As Charles R. Morris noted in his history of American Catholicism, this meant that "the vast majority of Catholic married couples . . . stand on the wrong side of the abyss, with Hitler and Pol Pot".

Tensions over sexual morality were made worse in 2002, when more than 60 Catholic priests in the US became the subject of child sex abuse investigations. The US Church paid millions of dollars in damages to victims, and Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston, resigned in disgrace over the subsequent handling of the scandal - though he was later appointed to head a basilica in Rome.

John Paul II condemned the molesting of children as an "appalling sin in the eyes of God". He stated that there was no place in the Church for those who would harm children. Yet there were many who felt his words needed to be backed by tougher action.

Some of John Paul's supporters are convinced that he waged a valuable rearguard action that prevented the Catholic Church from being seduced by the values of a morally bankrupt consumer society. Others fear that rigid adherence to conservative doctrines will lead to an ever greater exodus of Catholics - and their cash - from the Church, notably in rich, sophisticated countries such as the US.

John Paul II must take credit for giving the papacy a far higher international profile, both pastorally and diplomatically. He set a precedent that his successors cannot easily ignore, continuing to travel even when age and infirmity inflicted great pain.

His early love of the theatre contributed to his remarkable ability to communicate with crowds and to exploit the enormous media interest that his activities aroused. He carried his pastoral role to the farthest corners of the globe, visiting virtually every country with a Catholic presence.

He laid particular emphasis on the developing countries, which he identified as the most promising area of evangelisation.

Nearly always these papal visits included a local beatification - testimony to John Paul's belief that the evangelisation process required a continuous flow of new role-models, especially in those countries previously without saints. The pope simplified the complex beatification procedures and created more than 480 saints, more than all previous pontiffs combined. Many were evidently chosen for their adherence to John Paul's own anti-Communist and conservative social views.

The Vatican offended non-Christians in September 2000 with Dominus Iesus, a document that denied the ability of other world religions to offer salvation independent of Christianity. Yet the Pope strove to improve his Church's relations with Islam, authorised the construction of a mosque in Rome and expressed vehement opposition to the US-sponsored wars against Iraq in 2003 and in 1991 - conflicts that were declared "unjust".

The pope constantly spoke out in favour of the Palestinians, complicating and delaying the establishment of formal relations with the state of Israel. The Vatican's awkward relationship with Israel under John Paul contrasted with the reconciliation he fostered with world Jewry.

In 1986 he visited a Rome synagogue and attended the first Jewish service by a pope. On this occasion he sought to atone for the Vatican's lukewarm defence of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust and referred to the Jews as "our respected elder brothers".

The response was entirely in keeping with a man who had seen the effect of the Holocaust on his home town of Wadowice: 2,000 of its 9,000 pre-war inhabitants were Jews.

Nevertheless he pushed forward the candidature for sainthood of Pius XII, the wartime Pope criticised by Jews and other non-Catholics for his public silence during the Holocaust.

John Paul's attempts to heal old wounds and bring great faiths closer together had only limited success. Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which had worked with the Kremlin during the Soviet era, remained frosty. Some thought that the Soviets had posed a real threat to John Paul II during the early years of his papacy.

Although not proven, it was more than plausible that the attempt on his life in St Peter's Square in May 1981 was inspired directly or indirectly by the KGB. Ali Agca, the Turkish assassin who fired three shots at the Pope, was an unlikely lone killer. The Italian courts ruled that Ali Agca had been hired by the Turkish Mafia on the instructions of the Bulgarian security services. They, the courts thought, had in turn been working for the Soviets.

The pope attributed his survival to the intervention of his patron and protectress, the Virgin at Fatima, Portugal. It was perhaps a measure of the man that John Paul not only forgave Ali Agca but visited him in prison.

Even in his last days, when racked with Parkinson's disease and arthritis and, towards the end, a respiratory infection, his purpose never faltered. Such was the mettle of the man that no adversity could detract from the nobleness of his spirit.

Today in Irish History

On 2 April 1902 - Premiere of Yeats' Cathleen ni Houlihan starring Maud Gonne

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For complete text of the play and background links go >>>here.


Daily Ireland

TAKE FIVE - Good luck to the canvass junkies

Government and media in Dublin can rest easy again. Easter is over. The anxiety they feel about how to recall events leading directly to the birth of their state – which involved men and women with loads of guns but not a single mandate between them – has passed for another year.
For those not afflicted by either collective amnesia or historical revisionism the vision of the Easter 1916 Proclamation is very much alive. Spurred on by speeches at numerous commemorations this past weekend, they are eager for the forthcoming elections; another opportunity to again take on their opponents and embarrass their detractors at the ballot box where Sinn Féin will again increase its mandate.
It all began in 1981 when an excited young helper on the Bobby Sands election campaign quipped to Bernadette McAliskey: “This is more fun than stripping down and reassembling an Armalite.” Today the canvass junkies strain at the leash waiting for the green light.
It used to be the crack of a pistol shot that got them going but that was in bygone days, recalled now only late at night, misty-eyed, in a shebeen, over a drop of the hard stuff (preferably the illicit variety; it tastes more subversive). These people look on canvassing and the electoral process as a military operation.
They scour the roads and streets looking for the ideal spot to ambush the potential voter with a carefully positioned poster. They have a green canvass and a yellow canvass (interesting colour code). They know which households have transport to the polling stations and even what model and make. “And what about the young one at university? Will she be home to vote?”
Addictions need to be fed and canvass junkies have been well catered for in that regard. It’s been a case of one fix after another. As with any addiction there is always the belief that if they can just get that one more “high” then everything will be OK.
The world will be a brighter place. They will be able to deal with a multitude of problems, make friends easier, live healthy, peaceful and more successful lives.
With sobriety come some harsh realities. But that’s not the concern of the canvass junkie. Their job is done. And if done successfully then others will be better placed to deal with the inevitable withdrawal symptoms that must follow. Good luck to the junkies.

Laurence McKeown was a republican prisoner for 16 years in Long Kesh and spent 70 days on the 1981 hunger strike. He is the author of a doctoral thesis, the co-author of a feature film, H3 and two plays, The Laughter of Our Children and A Cold House.

Daily Ireland

Arts Council accused of prejudice against traditional arts

The Arts Council of Ireland has been accused of prejudice against traditional arts, tampering with official reports and not properly allocating government money.
The claims were made by Marian Harkin, the independent TD and MEP for Sligo and Leitrim.
She is to pursue the matter in the Dáil.
Her claims refer to legislation introduced by the Irish government to revamp the Arts Council and to the creation of three special subcommittees, one of which was to deal with the traditional arts.
A five-member committee had to draft a report for the Dáil outlining money allocation for arts across the island.
The traditional arts committee drew up a report, which was submitted to the Dáil for approval.
The document later went back to the committee to be approved by its authors.
However, two out of the five committee members complained that major changes had been made to its content.
It is claimed that, during the consultation period, the two committee members argued with their counterparts that more money should be funnelled into traditional arts.
However, the two committee members were overruled.
The differences in the report, according to Ms Harkin, “ranged from minor changes to the actual deletion of whole paragraphs.”

>>>Read on

Daily Ireland

Artists to create Palestinian peace mural

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Tom Kelly, William Kelly and Kevin Hasson

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A team of Irish mural artists is preparing to create a Palestinian peace mural, Daily Ireland can reveal.
The Bogside Artists transformed the Rossville Street area of Derry with a series of murals that form a people’s gallery in the heart of Derry.
Thomas Kelly and Kevin Hasson will travel to the strife-torn Palestinian city of Ramallah at the end of this month at the invitation of the organisers of the annual Palestinian Arts Festival.
The artists will produce a mural based on a painting featuring a dove of peace on the gable wall of a house in the heart of Derry’s Bogside.
Mr Kelly said that the Bogside Artists will be honoured to complete the project. “This is a major honour for us,” he said, “our work is distinctly different and we produce murals with an international resonance. We’re delighted to be invited to this event.”
The Bogside Artists have been producing murals on the streets of Derry for ten years. The subjects of their work include the Bloody Sunday massacre and internment.
“The people’s gallery in Derry really is owned by the people of the Bogside and the city,” Mr Kelly said. “The murals in the Bogside have proved to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. It was all made possible by the ordinary people contributing money so that we can carry out our work, as we don’t receive any funding or sponsorship.”
The Palestinian Arts Festival runs from April 20 until May 5. Mr Kelly said that the mural will be based on the peace mural in the Bogside, but will be characterised by a distinctly Palestinian theme.
The Rossville Street murals are viewed by hundreds of international tourists each day. The most famous piece of art is one depicting the iconic image of Bloody Sunday, former Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, shepherding a group of men attempting to carry the body of Jack Duddy to safety. The artists have had exhibitions in three continents and have travelled the world to conduct lectures.
Ramallah has been at the centre of bitter clashes between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army since the beginning of the conflict.
On Wednesday members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs fired on the Ramallah headquarters of new Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who replaced Yasser Arafat after his death last year.

Daily Ireland

**Billy Leonard on why he went from being RUC to SF

Long journey to republicanism

“People talk about me in headlines as ‘The policeman who joined Sinn Féin'. I am extremely comfortable with my Irish identity but people forget that it only came at the end of a very long process."
Speaking quickly and earnestly, Billy Leonard leans forward from an armchair in the rambling home he shares with his wife Valerie and six sons, overlooking the sea at Portstewart, Co Antrim.
Nothing about this man follows any pattern, yet he insists he is not unique — a Protestant British unionist who became an Irish republican and will be running in east Derry for Sinn Féin in the Westminster election expected in May.
“I’m not ‘anti’ anything. I have no harsh feelings about my past. I regret nothing about the process of change and am thoroughly at ease with the person I am now."
Despite his protestations, you would have to go back a long time to find someone who has made such a long journey, from attending Orange parades in his youth to his “contented and happy” Irishness now.
Orange history is part of Irish history, he says, but Dublin is his capital city and he has no stirrings when he hears the British national anthem.
“I gave myself time during the ’70s and ’80s to make the progress from one to the other. It didn’t happen overnight.”
He even speaks a little Irish, although he found evening classes studying verbs and declensions “a killer”.
Does this ex-cop now really feel at home in Sinn Féin? Perfectly, he says.
As he tells his story, it becomes clear that the study of international conflict has been a hugely influential guide.
Now a researcher with the Northern Ireland Centre for European Co-operation at Magee College in Derry, he works professionally on diversity in theatres of conflict such as the Basque Country and Serbia and Montenegro.
“You have to be careful. You can’t just draw simple parallels but you can find principles or pointers in different places from which we can learn, as long as we put them in context.
“I remember the ANC telling Sinn Féin that the Good Friday Agreement could turn them from being unionism’s enemies into its opponents without compromising on what they stood for. You can turn conflict from war into a new arena of articulation."
In 1954, Billy Leonard began life in the bitterly divided town of Lurgan in Co Armagh. His father was a police officer and war was the backdrop to his school days. He remembers picking his way to A levels through bomb sites.
He says that, even then, he was drawn towards history and politics. “I guess I was curious about why there was low-intensity warfare on our streets. I was suspicious of the simplicity of the arguments against Irish republicanism.”
Leaving school, he began work as a civil servant at the dole office on Corporation Street in Belfast. At an office party, he met Valerie, a Catholic from the staunchly republican Lurgan estate of Kilwilkie.
The couple dated from 1975 to 1979. When they married, both sets of relations came to the wedding, despite it being the height of the Troubles.
Leonard was a serving member of the RUC Reserve from 1976 to late 1980.
“I joined through a sense of making some contribution," he says. But his doubts grew for both ideological and practical reasons.
He was already questioning his British identity and began to see the police more as protectors of the state than the people. Several local members of the RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment were also convicted of loyalist activities.
“It wasn’t a case of rumour or innuendo. I actually saw state violence, institutional violence, and was aware of the dominant perspective of sectarianism."
By the time Bobby Sands was elected in 1981, he could understand why 30,000-plus people voted for him while many contemporaries felt only disgust that so many could support a man they considered a murderer, Leonard says.
Why did he take this path when so many others would never have given it a moment’s thought? He says he believes that others within the Protestant community have the same doubts he had but that the Troubles suppressed their questioning.
His own self-questioning led him, in the mid-1980s, to study in England with the Seventh-Day Adventists — a period of his life he briefly terms a “phase”. He now has “no religious labels".
Returning to the North in 1993, he began work at the University of Ulster for a doctorate on state and paramilitary violence. Having decided he could not sit on the sidelines forever, he joined the SDLP in 1994 — “a big decision”.
He stood for council election in 2001, topping the poll in Portrush, Co Antrim. As well as local activity (branch and constituency chairman), he became involved in party policy-making.
“The more I was involved centrally after the [Good Friday] Agreement, the more I believed the SDLP had to refocus itself as a party, to adjust our core message and think clearly where we were going. People were demanding change but it wasn’t happening at the top.”
He says there was considerable unease about joining the Policing Board. “Having seen policing from the inside, I didn’t believe it would change simply because of a Policing Board and district policing partnerships.
“You could argue we had to be on the inside to change it but political parameters had to be set first to guarantee change. I was not convinced that requirement had been met.
“I also thought the SDLP had not rethought its position on a united Ireland. Was it going to remain a Six-County party?"
When he began to consider joining Sinn Féin, he lifted the phone to an old friend, whom he doesn’t want to name, and talked it through.
Loyalists had already attacked his home with a paint bomb and left a hoax device after he had made an issue of the rampaging of Rangers supporters in Coleraine.
He then got the obligatory visit from the local constabulary warning he was on a loyalist death list and “the odd stone at the back of the house". As a “traitor" to his background, safety was clearly an issue but he took the leap in January last year.
So how does he square joining a movement that has killed members of the force to which he once belonged?
“In war, there will always be enemies. Normal benchmarks go. They have to. On all sides. There are serious moral questions about conflict but they can become reworked into peace-building. It’s very hard but we have to rise above the past without forgetting about it. I can live with that.
“It’s about moving forward. It’s happening the world over. There are former ANC people in South Africa becoming local police chiefs and there are plenty more examples.”
Didn’t his sons and wife think “Daddy has gone off his head and joined Sinn Féin”?
“No, there’s always been political discussion in this family. We sat down with them and explained it.”
What of Sinn Fein’s reputed hierarchical modus operandi? That the leadership hands down policies, which the rank and file endorse or else?
“The anti-Sinn Féin bandwagon puts that out but I have found plenty of bottom-up, open dialogue.”
And the last three months? The Northern Bank robbery and Robert McCartney’s murder? “Yes, it’s impacted on the public view of the party but there’s a lot more understanding out there than you’d realise from the media coverage.
“Look at Joe Reilly’s vote in Meath. Ordinary people are realists. They know Sinn Féin didn’t kill Robert McCartney.”
On his own candidature, he knows there’s a hard slog ahead but says: “If you have an all-Ireland vision and it’s not a romantic notion, there has to be hard graft.
“Republicans have a responsibility to open a debate with Protestants. A united Ireland will only come about through argument and persuasion. It’s all exciting and full of potential.
“The outreach to unionism is essential. Sinn Féin will be a major player in that growing political debate and I want to be part of it."

Daily Ireland

Loyalist attack victim to sue PSNI

A Co Armagh man who was almost kicked to death by loyalists three years ago has launched legal proceedings against the PSNI chief constable for negligence and breach of duty.
Papers were lodged in the High Court in Belfast last week by solicitors representing Brian Rouse. The Portadown man was almost beaten to death by a gang of loyalists near the town centre on March 24, 2002.
The 48-year-old father of four was trying to separate rival gangs of youths who had clashed at a notorious flashpoint close to the Garvaghy Road. A group of loyalists then set upon him and viciously beat him up.
Mr Rouse had previously survived a loyalist murder bid in the early 1990s.
Daniel Rouse, the beating victim’s father, was murdered in a similar attack in November 1983.
The Ulster Volunteer Force is believed to have been responsible.
It is claimed the brutal attack on Brian Rouse took place within sight of two closed-circuit television cameras operated by police in the staunchly loyalist town.
Several hundred metres away is the spot where loyalists savagely beat up Portadown man Robert Hamill in April 1997 as police looked on.
Brian Rouse, a former lorry driver, said a police control room had been understaffed and so a series of incidents leading up to and including the attack on him had gone unnoticed.
In 2003, the Compensation Agency denied Mr Rouse damages for criminal injury because he had been convicted of carrying out a minor scheduled offence as an 18-year-old in 1975.
Mr Rouse suffered brain damage during the 2002 incident. He was left with a gaping head wound, which required 27 staples. Even today, he is forced to attend the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for regular check-ups.
After undergoing three years of intensive physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy, Mr Rouse still suffers from paralysis down his right side and occasional memory lapses.
Since the attack, Mr Rouse has been unable to work. His wife was forced to leave her job to help care for him. Surviving only on state benefits, the family have accrued significant debt just to survive day by day.
“I’m not the same man I was,” Mr Rouse said.
“There’s not a hope in hell I will get back to 100 per cent. I don’t remember much about the incident at all and more or less go on what people tell me.
A police spokesperson said: "We cannot comment on active legal proceedings."

Daily Ireland

Gray by name, flamboyant by nature

BY Robin Livingstone

They say you shouldn’t kick a man when he’s down. Personally, while I’m by no means a violent man, I find that if you absolutely, positively have to kick a man, then when he’s down is an excellent time to do it. It’s a bit like those old soft targets. Remember them? If the IRA shot a UDR man when he was delivering bread up a boreen in Co Tyrone, the victim was invariably described on the news as a soft target, as if it was somehow more despicable to bump him off behind the wheel of a Mother’s Pride van than it would have been to wait a few hours for him to clock off and get him in a Land Rover.
Poor Jim Gray is down. There’s no doubt about it. The flamboyant east Belfast loyalist has been kicked out of the Ulster Defence Association, which, like getting sent off in a game of rugby, takes some doing. I had a soft spot for Jim, if the truth be told.
It takes a big man to stand out from the crowd. In the drinking dens of loyalist Belfast, Jim cut a distinctive figure. While his UDA comrades propped up the bar in regulation tattoos, tinted glasses, leather jackets and gold chokers, Jim preferred to knot a salmon-pink cashmere sweater lightly around his shoulders, push his Chanel sunglasses up into his bleached and carefully coiffeured hair, all the while jingling his BMW car keys in his manicured hands.
In an earlier era, this would have gained him not kudos and respect but a short trip in a wheelie bin to the boot of a waiting car. But loyalists have moved on, although they still draw the line at grilling an Ulster fry.
The UDA is being a bit coy about exactly why it showed Jim the door, but I think we can be fairly certain that it wasn’t because the UDA disapproved of his political analysis. Now we wait to see whether the Assets Recovery Agency will move against Jim, which really would be kicking him while he’s down. Headed by former PSNI heavyweight Alan McQuillan, the agency is on a bit of a roll at the minute.
Last week, it froze assets worth some £5 million (€7.3 million) belonging to former RUC man Colin Armstrong. He had an impressive portfolio of property, including a mansion near Stoneyford in Co Antrim, which, worryingly, is only a five-minute drive from where I live.
I took a walk up there at the weekend and had a look around the place. It’s kind of fairytale castle meets Spanish hacienda. Alan and his colleagues probably didn’t have to do much work on this case. The place has got suspected drug dealer written all over it. It also has a few nice touches that the UDA boys in the social club would admire — fake shutters that wouldn’t fit the windows even if they worked; a three-foot-high statue of John Wayne in the hall; a clock on the wall in the shape of a guitar; a television the size of an Olympic swimming pool. What Alan’s going to do with these sundries is anybody’s guess, although I’ll be happy to have them if nobody else will.

Loyalists losing the plot

Unionist politicians are a bit miffed that the Assets Recovery Agency is targeting so many loyalists while republican swag remains relatively untouched. It’s not that the agency is biased in favour of the IRA. It’s much more subtle and nuanced than that — it’s because loyalists are stupid.
I don’t mean that in a racist or sectarian way. How could I with a Scots Presbyterian background and a name like mine? What I mean is that they never got the chance to get smart. Years of plotting in safe houses and back rooms made the IRA lean and mean. Whispering out of the side of the mouth became the norm, as did touching the nose and winking. These guys would pat down the parish priest if he came calling, which, granted, is not likely.
Loyalists, on the other hand, had it all handed to them — clear runs to shoot Catholics in their beds; skipfuls of security montages; weapons; cars; men; money.
When the war came to an end and the tap was turned off, the poor blokes suffered terribly. They couldn’t understand why it was okay to have a dead Catholic in the back of the car but that the Trevors were liable to get miffed if it was a kilo of cocaine or a bag of ecstasy.
Basic anti-detection practices were not honed and developed.
Buying a house in the Algarve, your average Shankill Road UDA dealer filled in his real name on the form and gave his occupation as Ulster freedom fighter. The speedboat, meanwhile, was named Quis Separabit. Mobile phones were used to make and close deals with gay abandon and, whereas republicans on mobile phones give it lots of “the daffodils are blooming early in Moscow this year”, loyalists chatted away about where the charlie was planked and who got paid what.
So, when the ARA decided to move, it was like hunting koala bears with an M60.

Taxiing for the Lord

All’s not lost for Jim, however. Perhaps he could get a job with a new taxi firm that has just opened on west Belfast’s Shankill Road. Liberty Taxis describes itself as a Christian taxi service and I’m all for giving it a chance.
It would make a pleasant change to discuss the Old Testament with your taxi driver instead of crippling insurance premiums and which everyday household objects make the best weapons for self-defence.
If Christianity isn’t about redemption, then what is it about?
A snappily dressed ex-UDA godfather could do worse than to employ his BMW in service of the Lord.
With every click of the meter, he’d be wiping another sin off his soul, although you could see how it might be a bit embarrassing if he has to pick up any of his old comrades.
Just imagine — a taxi driver without a “Honk if you’re horny” sticker on his back window, one who doesn’t smoke or play gangsta rap at maximum decibels, one who doesn’t freewheel downhill to save diesel, or give fake fivers to drunks in their change. Instead, one with a pink jumper knotted around his neck, sunglasses in his hair and Jesus in his soul.
I’d certainly pay extra for it.

An Phoblacht

Leonard selected to contest East Derry seat

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Councillor Billy Leonard has been selected by Sinn Féin as the party's candidate to fight for the East Derry seat in May's Westminster election.

At a party convention on Wednesday 23 March, delegates selected the sitting member of Coleraine Borough Council.

Speaking from the party's East Derry headquarters in Dungiven, Paddy Butcher congratulated Leonard on his selection.

"Billy has earned a well deserved reputation as the champion of ordinary working-class people in the Coleraine Borough area," he said.

"His work rate on grass root issues such as housing, benefits and road safety is second to none. He has stood alone as the only effective voice against the unionist home rule attitude which has dominated local politics in Coleraine since partition."

Sinn Féin colleague Francie Brolly described Leonard as an ideal candidate and praised his inspirational leadership as a councillor in Coleraine and his "commitment to all-Ireland issues such as tourism, the environment, equality and the promotion of the Irish Language and culture".

Leonard, the party's only councillor on Coleraine Borough Council, joined Sinn Féin in January last year having been elected to Coleraine Council as an SDLP representative.

However, Leonard's background as someone from a Protestant household and a former part-time member of the RUC, makes his decision to join Sinn Féin all the more interesting.

He grew up in a unionist household in Lurgan, County Armagh. His father was a member of the RUC who retired just as the conflict in the North erupted. His own membership of the RUC was short lived and his time as an RUC reservist saw him dealing with mundane and uninteresting tasks.

Speaking recently to students from Queen's and Jordanstown Universities, Leonard recalled the election of Bobby Sands and how he thought it went a long way to explaining what republicanism was all about.

Living, as he did in Dublin for a number of years, Leonard was surprised at how people in the 26 Counties saw the conflict from a unionist perspective, "the Dublin 4 mentality", he called it.

Moving back to the North, Leonard decided that he wanted to become politically active and joined the SDLP.

However, he became disillusioned with the party, seeing it as lacking direction and nationalist in name only; a party that wasn't interested in pursuing the objective of a united Ireland.

His move to Sinn Féin in January 2004 saw him abused and ostracised by unionist councillors on Coleraine Council.

Needless to say, the SDLP were unhappy with him and to this day two of the three SDLP members on the council have yet to say a word or acknowledge his presence, despite the fact that he sits beside them in the chamber.

Irish Democrat

Michael Barrett: a Fenian remembered

Kevin Haddick Flynn on the Irishman who suffered the last public hanging in Britain

The Ballad of Michael Barrett

Throughout the Kingdom, among high and low,
A great excitement has long been caused,
Of a dreadful crime - horrible to tell
The fatal explosion at Clerkenwell.

... ...

Out of the seven they for the crime did try,
One Michael Barrett was condemned to die.

... ...

Patrick Mullany was a witness made,
A military tailor, he was by trade;
To save himself, he evidence gave,
Which he his neck has saved.

... ...

The informers swore, and others beside,
When the prisoners, all at the bar was tried,
That by Michael Barrett the deed was done,
And from the spot did to Scotland run.

... ...

He was taken in Glasgow and to London brought,
He says of the crime he never thought,
He would not be guilty of such a deed,
But he was convicted, as we may read.

... ...

Though Michael Barrett is condemned to die,
The dreadful deed he strongly does deny,
There is one above who all secrets know,
He can tell whether Barrett is guilty or no.

... ...

We hope all men will a warning take,
And long remember poor Barrett's fate;
We find it difficult throughout the land,
For man to even trust his fellow man.

... ...

A dreadful tale we'll have long to tell,
The fatal explosion at Clerkenwell.

... ...

THE FENIAN movement was one of the most important revolutionary movements to challenge the British Empire in the 19th century. It dominated Irish popular politics in the 1860’s and defied the anathemas of the Catholic Church and the condemnations of middle–class nationalists who advocated milder approaches.

Thousands of young Irishmen in both Ireland and Britain were recruited into its ranks; one of these was a young man from Co. Fermanagh who paid the highest price. This was 27–year old Michael Barrett, the last man to be publicly hanged in Britain. A commemoration was recently held in the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park, to mark his burial there over a 100 years ago.

Barrett was executed outside the walls of Newgate Prison on 26 May 1868 before a crowd of two thousand who booed, jeered and sang Rule Britannia and Champagne Charlie as the body dropped.

Months earlier, he had been arrested in Glasgow for illegally discharging a firearm and false evidence was used to implicate him in the Clerkenwell prison explosion which occurred the previous December. At the time it was widely believed that he was innocent and had been arrested to mollify a demand for vengeance against the Irish community.

In court, he produced witnesses who testified that he had been in Scotland on the date of the incident. The main case against him rested on the evidence of Patrick Mullany (a Dubliner who had given false testimony before and whose price was a free passage to Australia) who told the court that Barrett had informed him that he had carried out the explosion with an accomplice by the name of Murphy. The jury was out for two hours and in spite of the lack of corroboration pronounced Barrett guilty.

One of the trial lawyers, Montague Williams, wrote:

“On looking at the dock, one’s attention was attracted by the appearance of Barrett, for whom I must confess I felt great commiseration. He was a square–built fellow, scarcely five feet eight in height and dressed like a well–to–do farmer. This resemblence was increased by the frank, open, expression on his face. A less murderous countenance than Barrett’s I have not seen. Good humour was latent in his every feature and he took the greatest interest in the proceedings.”

The Clerkenwell bombing was the most serious action carried out by the Fenians in Britain and sparked hostility against the Irish community which took years to abate. It arose from the arrest in November 1867 of Richard O’Sullivan–Burke, a senior Fenian arms agent and the mastermind behind the sensational ‘prison–van rescue’ at Manchester a few months earlier. He was incarcerated in Clerkenwell Prison and on December 13th an attempt to rescue him was made by blowing a hole in the prison wall. The explosion was seriously misjudged; it demolished not only a large section of the wall, but also a row of tenament houses opposite. Twelve people were killed and over fifty injured.

The disaster had a traumatic effect on British working–class opinion. Karl Marx, then living in London, observed:

“The London masses, who have shown great sympathy towards Ireland, will be made wild and driven into the arms of a reactionary government. One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of Fenian emissaries.”

The Radical, Clarles Bradlaugh, condemned the incident in his newspaper The National Reformer as an act “calculated to destroy all sympathy, and to evoke the opposition of all classes”. Certainly it rallied public opinion behind a Tory government that was increasingly concerned by the revolutionary threat that the Fenians posed in Britain, let alone in Ireland.

The day before the explosion, the prime minister, Disraeli, banned all political demonstrations in London in an attempt to put a stop to the weekly meetings and marches that were being held in support of the Fenians. He had feared that the ban might be challenged, but the explosion turned public opinion very much in his favour.

After the explosion he advocated the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Britain, as was already the case in Ireland. Greater security measures were quickly introduced. Thousands of special constables were enrolled to aid the police and at Scotland Yard a special secret service department was established to meet the Fenian threat. Although a number of people were arrested and brought to trial, Michael Barrett was the only one to receive the death sentence.

Queen Victoria was outraged that only one man went to the gallows. She urged that in future, instead of being brought to trial, Irish suspects should be ‘lynch–lawed’on the spot. Before he was sentenced Barrett spoke from the dock. The next day the Daily Telegraph reported that he

“...delivered a most remarkable speech, criticising with great acuteness the evidence against him, protesting that he had been condemned on insufficient grounds, and eloquently asserting his innocence”.

Following the sentence, many people, including a number of Radical MPs, pressed for clemency. In Fermanagh, Barrett’s aged mother trudged several miles in the snow to appeal to the local Unionist MP, Captain Archdale, a staunch Orangeman, who, predictably, rejected her.

On May 27th, following the execution, Reynold’s News commented:

“Millions will continue to doubt that a guilty man has been hanged at all; and the future historian of the Fenian panic may declare that Michael Barrett was sacrificed to the exigencies of the police, and the vindication of the good Tory principle, that there is nothing like blood”.

It should be mentioned that the disaster at Clerkenwell had one positive result; it concentrated British minds on the seriousness and urgency of the 'Irish question'. Within days of the explosion, the Liberal leader, William E. Gladstone, then in Opposition, announced his concern about Irish grievances and said that it was the duty of the British people to remove them. Later, he said that it was the Fenian action at Clerkenwell that turned his mind towards Home Rule.

Prior to its transfer to the City of London Cemetery, Michael Barrett’s remains lay for thirty–five years in a lime grave inside the walls of Newgate Prison. When the prison was demolished in 1903 it was taken to its present resting place. Today the grave is a place of Irish pilgrimage and is marked by a small plaque.

An Phoblacht

Fermanagh Fenian honoured

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On Easter Monday, a crowd of several hundred from North Fermanagh and West Tyrone assembled at Montiagh, near Ederney, County Fermanagh, for the unveiling of a Memorial to the Fermanagh Fenian, Michael Barrett, executed by the British Government in 1868. The unveiling and oration was performed by Sinn Féin Vice-President Pat Doherty, MP for West Tyrone.

Michael Barrett who hailed from this district was the last man hanged in England in May 1868 just some months after the hanging of the Manchester Martyrs. There were no demonstrations for Barrett like there were for the Manchester Martyrs, when an estimated 60,000 turned out in Dublin. The British Government introduced a law banning public demonstrations for the Fenians after these huge demonstrations. Thus Michael Barrett was almost forgotten until recently.

Pat Doherty spoke about the continuity of the republican tradition. He reminded the assembled crowd that the stated objective of the IRB was 'to establish and maintain a free and independent republican government in Ireland'.

"That struggle continues to this day and will continue until it reaches a successful outcome," he said. Another speaker was Breege McSorley, a candidate for the local council election in May, who praised those who organised the event.

Fr Joe McVeigh, a member of the organising committee, called for an apology from the British Government and the exoneration of Michael Barrett, "an innocent man and an unrepentant member of the IRB". He also called for the return of his mortal remains from London to his native parish. He noted that a group in Cork were also demanding the repatriation of the remains of the Manchester Martyrs.

Local Sinn Féin Councillor Pat Cox chaired the proceedings and among those who laid wreaths were two grandnephews of Michael Barrett, Eamonn and Michael Scallon.

An Phoblacht

Mary MacSwiney, revolutionary - Remembering the Past


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On 27 March 1872, 133 years ago, Mary MacSwiney, revolutionary, was born in Surrey, England, of an Irish father and an English mother. Mary grew up in Cork and was educated as a teacher, like her mother and father. At 20, Mary obtained a loan from a student's aid society and was admitted to a teacher-training programme normally reserved for men at Cambridge University in England. She taught in London for some time and then returned to Cork on the death of her mother to look after the younger members of the family and found employment there as a teacher.

The first republican speech Mary attended was the Centenary Celebration in Waterford in 1898. There, she heard John Redmond give a fiery rebel speech. Much to her disappointment, however, she read a speech given by Redmond in Yorkshire, England, a few days later, where he assured England that the Ireland would not even dream of asking for control of excise, customs or taxation in Ireland. She was appalled by the glaring contrast of the two speeches, and fiercely set out as an activist for Home Rule. She refused to join Arthur Griffith's Sinn Féin because, as she said, I will never accept the King of England as the King of Ireland." She did join Sinn Féin in 1917, however, after its views became more republican.

Influenced by her revolutionary brother, Terence, she joined the Gaelic League and Inghinidhe na hÉireann, the nationalist women's organisation that would form the basis of Cumann na mBan. She taught in Cork, where she became a founder member of the Munster Women's Franchise League.

She was a member of the Executive of Cumann na mBan when it was formed in March 1914, to advance the cause of liberty through armed resistance and was arrested in her classroom during the 1916 Easter Rising. The Bishop of Cork effected an early release for women prisoners: Mary, however, was dismissed from her teaching post. Borrowing £200, she established her own school with the help of her sister. The school, St Ita's, was located in her home and modelled on the famous St Enda's boys' school, founded by Patrick Pearse in Dublin.

As an active Sinn Féin member, Mary campaigned for her brother Terence when he was elected to the first Dáil Éireann in 1918. In 1920, Mary supported his fatal hunger strike in Brixton Prison, England. She then visited the US to give evidence before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. For nine months, she and Terence's widow, Muriel, toured America lecturing and giving interviews, providing invaluable publicity to the republican cause. In the General Elections of 1921, as President of Cumann na mBan, Mary MacSwiney was one of the Sinn Féin candidates swept to victory in a wave of support for the party.

She opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, calling it "the grossest act of betrayal that Ireland ever endured". Her speeches were among the most powerful, calling on the Dáil not to commit "the one unforgivable crime that has ever been committed by the representatives of the people of Ireland" by accepting a treaty which required an oath of allegiance to the British monarchy.

She was Vice President of Cumann na mBan when that organisation voted 419 to 63 against supporting the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty After the Treaty was ratified, Cumann na mBan, following a resolution by Mary, was the first national organisation to reject the formation of the Free State.

She was elected again to the third Dáil which, owing to the outbreak of the Civil War, was never to sit. In July 1922, she was imprisoned by the Free State authorities, went on a hunger strike, and was released. After the ceasefire, she retained her seat in the General Election of 1923 but, in common with the other Republican deputies, refused to take the Oath of Allegiance required under the constitution of the Free State.

When Éamon de Valera compromised in 1926 in order to enter the Dáil, MacSwiney, much like her brother before her, held fast to her Republican ideals, refusing to take the required oath to the Crown. In 1933, she, together with Albinia Broderick, founded Mná Poblachta in opposition to Cumann na mBan, which MacSwiney believed was moving too far to the left. In 1934, she was a member of the short lived Republican Congress.

Mary MacSwiney died at her home in Cork on March 8, 1942. Her stance, both before and after the Treaty, may be summed up by her statement: "A rebel is one who opposes lawfully constituted authority and that I have never done"

Invisible Women

The singer sings a rebel song
and everybody sings along.
Just one thing I'll never understand:
Every damn rebel seems to be a man.

For he sings of the Bold Fenian Men
And the Boys of the Old Brigade.
What about the women who stood there too
"When history was made"?

Ireland, Mother Ireland, with your freedom loving sons,
Did your daughters run and hide at the sound of guns?
Or did they have some part in the fight
And why does everybody try to keep them out of sight?

For they sing of the Men of the West
And the Boys of Wexford too.
Were there no women living round those parts;
Tell me, what did they do?

by Brian Moore

An Phoblacht

Whitewell parade attacked

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As the annual Greencastle Easter Parade arrived at the junction of the Whitewell and Shore Roads on Easter Saturday 26 March, gangs of loyalist thugs pelted marchers with bricks, bottles, full cans of beer as well as bottles of beer.

Despite a heavy presence of PSNI in riot gear, the loyalists, clearly drunk, as many of them had spent the afternoon in pubs watching the Six-County soccer team being beaten by England, continued their attack for ten minutes before the PSNI confronted them.

Indeed, as the missile throwing continued, the PSNI riot squads, batons drawn, faced the republican stewards, who tried to ensure the republican marchers continued on their parade and didn't react to the loyalist provocation.

Among the loyalist crowd was one of the UDA's most senior commanders in North Belfast, John Bunting, who has been photographed leading loyalist hangers on up the Crumlin Road during Orange Parades at Ardoyne over the past two years.

Also present photographing republican marchers was Mark Coulter, who acted as spokesperson for the loyalist residents of Glenbryn during the Holy Cross protests in 2001.

No one was injured in the attack.

In the run up to the parade, loyalist spokesperson John Montgomery released statements saying the march had the potential for trouble despite the fact that the route stays within the Whitewell area before making its way to Bawnmore.

An Phoblacht

Cahill mural unveiled

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Saturday 26 March saw the unveiling of a mural dedicated to republican veteran Joe Cahill, his brothers Tom and Frank, and other republicans from the Whiterock area. Painted by renowned Belfast mural artist Danny Devenny, the mural captures the essence and spirit of Joe and his comrades.

Organised by Ógra Shinn Féin, Saturday's events began with a parade from the memorial garden at Brittons's Parade to Beechview Park for the unveiling, which was carried out by Joe's widow, Annie.

Cahill, who died in Belfast last year, will be remembered for his devotion and commitment to the republican struggle over many decades.

The main speaker at the event, Gerry Kelly, said he was delighted to be asked to speak at the event, describing Cahill as an inspiration to both himself and others around him. Kelly was also keen to credit the rest of the Cahill family, describing Annie as a "wonderful woman" and a "mother to everyone".

Events commenced with with a GAA tournament, between local teams St Johns, Gort na Mona, O'Donnells and the newly formed Cumann na Fuiseoige.

Fodder - A blog from the heart of zaLand

Sharpeville Massacre

**When the emails about this day of remembrance went around, I didn't pay any attention to them but had it in the back of my mind to look later. Today was later, and what I found was an incredible story which I'm sure many of you already know, but for the benefit of those who don't, I wanted to include it here. It's like Bloody Sunday, only on a larger scale. Nor did it end there, as the following blog entry relates:

Filed March 21, 2005

Sharpville 1960, the beginning of the end

Today is Human Rights day in South Africa and whilst it is intended to celebrate all human rights the history of the day started in Sharpville in 1960 when the apartheid state killed 67 peaceful protesters, shooting most of them in the back as they fled.

>>>Continue reading

Police Commander D H Pienaar said: "If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way." - BBC

Daily Ireland

Bundoran honours 1981 hungerstrikers

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Republicans in Bundoran have opened a garden in memory of all those who lost their lives for Irish freedom.
Some of the families of the men who died in the 1981 hunger strikes travelled to Bundoran for the opening ceremony which was attended by a large crowd of onlookers. Fr Des Wilson gave the oration.
There was also a large garda presence but the day’s events passed without incident.
Among those family members who attended were relatives of Kieran Doherty, Thomas McIlwee, Patsy O’Hara, Kevin Lynch and Francis Hughes who all died during the hunger strikes of 1981. The family of Frank Stagg who died on hunger strike in England also attended.
In all 22 hunger strikers, who sacrificed their lives from 1917 until 1981, are
The five IRA men who had plaques erected in their memory are Paddy Carty, who had family connections in Bundoran, Dermot Crowley and Sean ‘The Crow’ Loughran who were killed outside Omagh in 1973, Antoine Mac Giolla Bhríghde and Ciarán Fleming who was one of the 1983
H-Block escapees.
The garden, on a site in the west end of Bundoran, overlooks the Atlantic ocean and Donegal mountains. A celtic cross carries the names of five IRA volunteers who were killed on active service. There are individual plaques to honour the ten men who died on the 1981 hunger strike and Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, who died on hunger strike in England.
Some have criticised the new memorial saying it is not inclusive and does not commemorate all local volunteers.
Local Sinn Féin member Michael McMahon did not attend the ceremony. He said: “It is supposed to be a garden of remembrance and yet they have neglected to include the name of a local IRA volunteer who was fatally injured in an ambush in 1992.”
Mr McMahon was referring to Joe McManus, a volunteer from County Sligo who was killed in Mulleek, Co Fermanagh.
However, the garden committee say that, while plaques have not been erected in honour of all individual volunteers, the sole purpose of the project was to remember all Irish people who died for Irish freedom. For this reason a plaque has been erected at the exit from the garden which reads: “Before you leave this place today spare a thought and a prayer to all those who lost their lives for Irish freedom and to all those who lost their lives because of England’s occupation of this country.”
Organisers say Easter Monday’s unveiling was the result of nearly 20 years work from a small committee who first had the idea for the garden in 1986.
Joe O’Neill sits on the committee. He said: “It was always our intention to keep politics out of this. When we started we had a list of names we wanted to commemorate. I have friends and relatives who were volunteers, some from this area, who lost their lives but they are not mentioned. We will keep that for another day.
“We made a promise to do this 20 years ago and we had a list of names. We are just delighted to fulfill it today. Those who are criticising the project over the exclusion of names are just denigrating the names of all the people who sacrificed their lives.”
Over 1,000 people visited the garden on Easter Sunday as visitors filled the seaside town of Bundoran over the bank holiday weekend. Organisers say they will add more names to the list of those remembered in the garden over time.

Daily Ireland

Murphy: army did ‘murder

Secretary of State Paul Murphy yesterday admitted that the British army had “murdered” people in as yet unsolved cases during the conflict in the North.
Mr Murphy was speaking at a Stormont press conference alongside Chief Constable Hugh Orde to announce the establishment of a new branch within the PSNI Crime Operations Department, costing in excess of £30 million (€42 million).
After being questioned about his distinction in using the word “murders” when talking about deaths caused by paramilitaries and the word “killings” when referring to deaths caused by state forces, Mr Murphy said, “There is no distinction in terms of a person being murdered, in terms of someone being murdered by loyalist activity, by republican activity, by the army, or whatever it might be.”
Mr Murphy then claimed that the British government had dealt with the issue of collusion through the establishment of recent inquiries.
Responding to the creation of the new PSNI unit, a spokesperson for the anticollusion campaign An Fhírinne said, “It is a political decision”.
Mr Murphy’s admission of state murder might be viewed by some people as “a first step, but the prospect of the British state once again reviewing its own actions will not build confidence,” said the spokesperson.
“These proposals raise very serious questions around issues of disclosure, transparency, accountability, Crown immunity and so on, particularly when people directly involved in collusion are still employed by the PSNI and British security agencies.
“Paul Murphy’s contention that a storytelling exercise or a handful of inquiries established under the umbrella of deeply flawed legislation will somehow deal with the travesty of state collusion is both unrealistic and insulting to scores of families who have been treated with disdain by his government over the past 35 years.”
An Fhírinne will be convening families of victims of state collusion later this week to respond directly to Mr Murphy and Mr Orde.
It emerged yesterday that the new PSNI branch, known as C8, will have at least 100 personnel attached to it, including support from a dedicated Special Branch unit.
Focusing on the review of “unresolved deaths due to the security situation between 1969 and 1998”, C8 will also rely on a newly established and dedicated team within the Forensic Science Laboratary.
Mr Orde confirmed yesterday that no protocol had yet been completed in relation to how cases for review were prioritised or resourced.
It is envisaged that C8 wil comprise current and former members of the PSNI, as well as British detectives.
C8 will be commanded by Dave Cox, a retired commander of the Metropolitan Police. Its head of investigation will be Detective Superintendent Phil James.
Last May, based on his service with the Stevens inquiry, Detective Superintendent James acted in support of Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid and Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Wright during a detailed presentation to the Policing Board about the formation of the Crime Operations Department.

01 April 2005

Daily Ireland

Chopper controversy

The British army has come under fresh pressure to close a number of hi-tech spy posts and military bases along the Border.

The call from local residents came after the crew of a British army helicopter was forced to abandon a flight at a mountaintop installation in South Armagh yesterday.
The British army claimed the flight was aborted as a precaution after a mail bag “blew” into the tail rotor of the Lynx chopper while it sat on the helipad at Sturgan Mountain near Camlough but locals say the chopper experienced a mechanical fault mid-flight and was forced to divert to the landing site.
Brian Finnegan from the South Armagh Demilitarisation Committee said the incident highlights the fears experienced by local people and called on the British army to leave the area.
“Regardless of what the army says this helicopter was travelling over Camlough Lake when the noise of its engine changed. Local people say it was clearly in trouble and it diverted to Sturgan Mountain. To get there it had to fly over people’s homes and if it had gone wrong there would have been a disaster.
“People are rightly worried about this. It’s long past time they were gone,” he said.
“They are serving no purpose in the world. They are under no threat from the community. But they threaten people by flying around in these machines. These facilities need to go. We don’t know the extent of the damage they are causing to the countryside or the radiation they emit is causing to people in the area.
“This situation puts a lot of stress on people. People around the country are not aware of the torture being experienced by people living along the Border. Helicopters coming and going all day and night.”
A spokesman for the British army claimed the downed chopper was not forced to land.
“We can confirm that a postbag was believed to have been caught in a tail rotor of an army Lynx helicopter when it was sat on the helipad on Sturgan Mountain near Camlough, South Armagh,” said the spokesman.
“The helicopter had landed and still had its engine running when the bag was caught in the updraft. As a standard operating procedure the pilot turned the engines off and a technician was flown to the site to inspect the aircraft.
“The aircraft was completely undamaged and a couple of hours later flew to Bessbrook. No one was hurt in the incident.
“This was categorically not a crash or forced landing.”
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy called for all British army helicopters to be grounded until the cause of the mechanical fault is discovered.
“There have been serious concerns expressed over a number of years about the safety record of British military equipment in South Armagh,” Mr Murphy said. “There is no purpose to the continuing low-level flights in the area and no purpose behind the ongoing presence of British spy posts on our hillsides. Given the nature of this very serious incident this morning I am demanding that all British military helicopters in this area are immediately grounded.”
Yesterday’s incident was the second involving a Lynx helicopter in just over a year.
Last March a similar aircraft was forced to ditch on a beach at Portrush after experiencing mechanical difficulties. All crew escaped unhurt. In December 2003 a British army Gazelle helicopter crashed at playing fields in Derry City with the loss of two crew.

RTE News

Orde warns over SF opposition to PSNI

01 April 2005 17:23

The PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, has warned nationalists reluctant to join the North's police force that it would be a tragedy if they were denied the opportunity because of Sinn Féin opposition.

Huge Orde was speaking at the monthly lunch organised by the Association of European Journalists in Dublin.

Mr Orde said he understood why some people did not want to apply to the PSNI until Sinn Féin joined the policing board.

However, with 5,000 applications currently being received every time 270 places are advertised, he said the force's popularity was now a factor.

Earlier, Mr Orde said that the proportion of Catholic members of the PSNI was now standing at nearly 19%, up from the 8% in the RUC.

However, he accepted it would take a number of years of 50:50 recruiting before parity between the communities was achieved.


Device is found at furniture shop

Army bomb experts have removed an incendiary device from a furniture shop in County Down.

The premises in High Street, Newtownards, were evacuated for a time while the operation took place.

On Wednesday, Army bomb experts defused a firebomb found at the Ards shopping centre in the town. A similar device was found burnt-out there on Monday.

Police blamed that incident and others over the Easter weekend on dissident republicans.


**Via Newshound

Republicans turn to 'important election'

31 March 2005

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The coming election is the most important one ever, said Fermanagh/south Tyrone MP Ms. Michelle Gildernew said as she addressed the gathering of republicans at Tempo marking Easter Sunday.

We must turn our energy to the elections, she said. “Since I was a child I have always heard Sinn Fein leaders saying this is the most important election ever. Well make no mistake about it ladies and gentlemen, this is the most important election ever. At a time when the direct rule minister is imposing swingeing cuts on education and everything else, we need to be in a position to call for the immediate restoration of the assembly.

“At a time when the British are teasing themselves with the notion of trying to do a deal without Republicans we need to be a voice for the nationalists of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. And at a time when the major parties in the south are trying to write off Sinn Fein’s political growth in the south, we need to be in a position to show them that their predictions are as wrong now as they were when Bobby Sands was elected M.P. for this constituency in 1981.

“We expect to hold onto this seat but we will need every Republican to play his or her part in order to do so. We are just six weeks away from the local government and Westminster elections,” she added.

On Easter Sunday republicans were commemorating not just Pearse and Connolly and Markievicz but also the men and women of Fermanagh who fought and struggled and hungered and died over the last 30 years, she said.

“Because fellow Republicans, Easter 1916 is not some distant event 89 years ago. It defines our struggle today, it will define our struggle tomorrow and the next day and the day after that until we have a united, fair and free Ireland.

“And what of the British? Tony Blair refuses to move on policing. He refuses to re-constitute the assembly. He writes to Bertie Ahern refusing to give the Irish government any information about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. He refuses to implement the recommendations of Judge Peter Cory,” she said.


Here's a clever word translator. If you type in your English word, it will give you the Gaeilge word for it. It also works the other way around. How cool!



New 'Joe Cahill' Mural

Danny Morrison Gallery

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Here is a thumbnail of the new Republican mural just unveiled in the Whiterock, West Belfast. Please click on the gallery link above for the full view and to visit some other great pics of Easter in Belfast.


Belfast Telegraph

Pearce flies out to have life-saving operation
Brave boy going to US thanks to Tele readers.

By Nigel Gould
01 April 2005

A brave little boy who touched hearts across Northern Ireland was today due to fly out for a life-saving operation at the hands of a top US surgeon after generous Belfast Telegraph readers raised thousands of pounds to send him.

Pearce Gilmore (9), from Coleraine, was due to fly from Dublin to New York - one week before a desperately-needed five-hour brain operation.

And as Pearce put the final touches to his packing, his father Seamus told the Belfast Telegraph that the surgery can not come quickly enough.

"He needs the operation as soon as possible," he said. "I can see him getting more tired these days.

"This operation has come at the right time. We could not have afforded any delay."

More than £40,000 was raised by readers throughout the province to send Pearce to America after an appeal in the Telegraph several weeks ago.

Pearce is suffering from an unusual brain condition and his family say his only hope of survival rests with Dr Rick Abbot, who has agreed to carry out the life-saving operation at the Montifiore Medical Centre in the Bronx.

The youngster, along with his dad and mum, Sophie, will meet Dr Abbot on Monday.

He will then attend a Montifiore clinic on Tuesday morning and will have a series of tests including an MRI scan.

His operation will be carried out next Friday - days before his 10th birthday.

Dr Abbot, a paediatric neurosurgeon, who works and teaches at the Einstein Centre, said as far as he was concerned this was not an "unusual operation".

In a recent interview with the Telegraph he said: "Our practice specialises in this type of tumour operation. We are renowned internationally and carry out about 10 similar operations a year.

"Without the surgery the mass of tumour slowly squeezes the brain tissue.

"Our surgery partially removes the tumour and this will be followed up by radiation treatment.

"The operation will take four to six hours.

"He will be in intensive care for a few days, followed by a further four to six days recovery.

"He will then have five to six weeks of daily radiation treatment, which he can have in Ireland."

When the Telegraph launched the appeal for Pearce, Mr Gilmore said he felt time was running out for his little boy.

He said Pearce's condition was deteriorating fast and he feared the youngster might not live to see his 10th birthday.

The fund for Pearce, meanwhile, stands at £52,000 with donations coming in all the time.

31 March 2005

Blogger has been experiencing problems so there are some missing stories which you might find here:




Agency freezes £200,000 of assets

The Assets Recovery Agency has been given permission to freeze about £200,000 of assets belonging to a County Antrim couple.

The assets, including two houses, over 20 bank accounts and a boat, were held by David Winston Hill and Pauline Hill of Woodland Place in Newtownabbey.

The agency told the High Court in Belfast that Mr Hill is believed to have links with the UDA.

It also contends he received income from unlawful conduct.

Mr Hill was convicted of blackmail in October 2003 and is currently serving a 42 month sentence.

The court heard that it was not alleged that his wife had committed any acquisitive crime, but that she held some of the assets derived from the proceeds of crime.

The agency began its investigation after the case was referred to them by the police in 2004.

Speaking after the judgement, Assets Recovery Agency Assistant Director Alan McQuillan said the seizure was a "very positive development".

"The agency is currently working with the police and customs to target all levels of criminality, including significant criminal figures in local communities," he said.

Irish Independent

Why loyalists decided 'Doris' has had his day

31 March 2005

YESTERDAY'S announcement by the UDA that it has sacked its East Belfast Brigadier Jim Gray comes as no surprise - it was always a question of when, not if.

The forty-three-year-old nicknamed 'Doris Day' by the tabloid press had become an embarrassment to the largest of the loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Regarded as the 'figurehead' rather than the actual power within the East Belfast UDA the BMW driving Gray gave every appearance of the archetypical cash splashing, jewellery dripping loyalist paramilitary.

Yesterday morning his peers on the UDA's ruling Inner Council decided Gray would pay the price for media profile his exploits generated.

Until recently a pub owner in East Belfast the streak haired medallion man was shot by a rival Loyalist organisation in September 2002 as he paid a sympathy call to the home of a murder victim who the UDA was initially suspected of shooting. He survived after surgery.

The move against Gray by the UDA's five other Brigadiers was known only to a few before it was announced via the media yesterday morning so the full details of why the six foot plus blonde bombshell and three other senior members of the East Belfast leadership were dethroned have yet to emerge.

A suggestion that Gray was perceived as 'too pacifist', allowing other loyalist organisations in East Belfast to seize the initiative in certain parts of his fiefdom was circulated by his opponents as the reason for his removal. In the last couple of weeks loyalist sources say that the Loyalist Volunteer Force element behind Gray's shooting in 2002 has been flexing its muscles in the area.

Gray may have cut just too ridiculous a figure for the rest of the UDA's controlling Inner Council to have placed enough store in his ability to counter the challenge to the organisation in the east of the city.

That physical threat from the LVF in East Belfast may have become the main cause of concern within the rest of the UDA leadership and may indeed herald the beginning of a new round of loyalist infighting in the weeks to come.

Already two main feuds have erupted between the UDA, UVF and LVF factions since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 and additional minor skirmishes between one or two individuals from different organisations continue every week in loyalist areas of the North without making the headlines.

But the release from prison two months ago of Johnny Adair the former commander of the UFF's notorious C Company in the Lower Shankill has added an element of potency which can't be ignored even if Adair is currently confined to the environs of Greater Manchester for safety reasons.

Adair has undiminished ambitions to return to the Shankill to regain his turf and in the process rout those in the UDA who forced the departure of his henchmen and his wife Gina clutching the €100,000 nest-egg Johnny left at her disposal.

There are rumblings of aggravation within other loyalist areas where the UDA has strength particularly in North Belfast where the police warned Gray's counterpart that republicans are closely studying his movements.

The consequence overall could be further upheaval within loyalist areas in the coming weeks with Gray's departure the prelude to a tougher stance coming from the direction of the UDA.

Alan Murray
in Belfast


New Marathon course decided -
West Belfast is back in the Belfast City Marathon – and that’s official!

The Andersonstown News campaign to have the West reinstated in this year’s Marathon paid dividends on Friday when the Marathon Committee met with local community representatives. At the meeting it was agreed that the May Day race would be ‘tweaked’ so as to bring West Belfast back into the race.

It followed an Andersonstown News campaign after this paper first revealed earlier this month that the Falls and Andersonstown Roads had been excluded from the race for the first time in 23 years.

Following our exclusive story hundreds of people signed a petition calling on the route of the race to be redrawn.

And yesterday, after a further meeting with the Marathon Committee, Upper Falls Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maskey finally secured a new route for this year’s Marathon.

“The race will be coming up the Grosvenor Road and will turn right at the Dunville Park and down the Falls to the city centre,” said a jubilant Councillor Maskey.

“This is a victory for people power. We’ve been inundated with support since this story first broke and now the Marathon Committee have agreed that West Belfast should not have been left out of the race in the first place.”

The Sinn Féin councillor also revealed that local representatives will meet with the Marathon Committee in August to draw up a new route for next year’s Marathon.

“What we would like to do now is to get the local community groups together and to organise a big event in Dunville Park around the day of the Marathon.
“It will be a day for the whole family to come out and enjoy,” he said.

Last night West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood welcomed the route change to the Belfast Marathon and said: “It is an important first step in undoing the decision of this year and we would encourage the Committee to include more of West Belfast in future years.”

Although the Andersonstown News has learned that Cllr Attwood is a member of the Belfast Marathon Company Limited, he said that he has never attended any of the meetings or received notification of meetings.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Cllr welcomes gun find decision by Ombudsman

A Lisburn councillor has welcomed the ruling of the Police Ombudsman in relation to a gun find at his party’s offices on the Stewartstown Road, writes Pádraig ó Meiscill.

On October 13, 2004 the PSNI discovered an imitation Walther pistol and 20 rounds of live ammunition in a planned search at the rear of a garage close to the Sinn Féin constituency office. Cllr Paul Butler is one of the councillors who uses the office on a regular basis.

Despite the proximity of the constituency office and the fact that Butler and his home have suffered frequent attacks in recent years the PSNI did not inform him of the find.

However, it was only after being contacted by the Andersonstown News that the PSNI admitted finding the gun and ammunition.

In a letter to Mr Butler the Ombudsman’s office recognised that notification of the find should have been given.

The letter went on to say: “It is the view of the Police Ombudsman that where live ammunition is found in close proximity to the offices of a constituted political party it would have been in the public interest to advise you accordingly.

“In the circumstances the Police Ombudsman considers that it was appropriate that you complained about this matter and regards your complaint as substantiated.”

The Ombudsman also stated that further enquiries were being conducted to establish the “operational reasons” why Councillor Butler was not informed.
Responding to the letter the Lisburn councillor said that the findings upheld his concerns about “the way the PSNI tried to cover up the raid.”

Councillor Butler continued: “I am also very concerned that the PSNI say they did not say anything about this find for operational reasons. What are these operational reasons?

“The full facts about this find of a gun and ammunition should be made public.
“This gun was found near our offices, I and other Sinn Féin elected representatives use this office on a regular basis. It is grave concern to us that we found out by accident that this gun and also live ammunition was found so close to our offices.”

Sinn Féin councillors in the Lagan Valley area have been a frequent target for loyalist paramilitaries in the past.

Gunmen attacked former elected representative Annie Armstrong’s home during her term of office while Councillor Butler himself has been sent death threats and bullets in the post.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


We're no dumping hole

As minister green-lights superdumps, furious residents prepare to take battle to Europe

Residents ‘devastated’ by minister’s decision to ok controversial dumps

Members of the Castlerobin Residents’ Group have vowed to bring their ‘Stop the Dumps’ campaign to Europe, following news that two massive landfill sites at Mullaghglass and Aughrim have been given the green light by Minister for the Environment, Angela Smith.

Residents say they are “devastated” by the decision to locate the two ‘superdumps’ in their communities.

They have also demanded a public inquiry into the legality of dumping millions of tonnes of rubbish in such close proximity to a residential area, and warned of roadblock protests when the sites become active.

Local woman Margaret McCroskery explained that residents believe their human and civil rights are being breached, and said the group plan to take their case to Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner, Nigel Williams.

“We’ve been told of the impact that one superdump would have on our lives in terms of health threats and traffic,” said Margaret. “That was bad enough – one lorry every six minutes carrying tonnes of waste. We can’t even begin to think about the impact that two of these landfill sites will have.”

Margaret added that feelings of hurt and anger are running very deep amongst the local community: “To say we’re furious would be a gross understatement,” she said.

“Those contracted to deliver the waste stand to make a huge amount of money, but it’s our health that’s potentially at stake.

“There are so many good people here who have lived together in this mixed community for years and years.

“None of us deserve this attack on our wellbeing. Thankfully we’ve had the full backing of Lisburn City Council. We just hope that they can still help us.”
Speaking to the Andersonstown News about the decision, Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Butler said, “The reality is that these landfill sites will become a superdump nightmare for local people in the area who will see the burial of millions of tonnes of rubbish over the next 15 years.

“Angela Smith has been panicked into making her decision given the pressure her department have been under in recent times to come up with a credible waste management strategy. The reality is that her department’s response to managing waste has been patchy and slow.”

Cllr Butler went on to say that a recent report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee shows clearly that the DoE have lost their way over waste management.

“If the North of Ireland doesn’t meet its waste management targets set by Europe by 2010, it could face financial penalties in the order of £180 million per annum.”

Echoing Cllr Butler’s sentiment, Lagan Valley MLA Jeffrey Donaldson expressed his disappointment yesterday.

“Naturally I was saddened to learn that the Minister granted approval for the site,” he said.

“Regrettably, though, it seems there is very little that the local community can do to have the decision overturned at this stage, except perhaps challenge it on the basis of infringement of human rights.

“The decision Angela Smith has taken could potentially harm the local environment, and this is chief amongst my concerns.”

Mr Donaldson added that he would be making it his business to express to Ms Smith his grave concern about the decision.

Describing the decision as underhanded, SDLP Cllr Patricia Lewsley added her regrets and said, “This decision was taken in a cynical and underhand fashion. While no one can deny that we need to have a high quality and efficient waste management system, is the answer simply opening three further landfill sites in the Greater Belfast area?”

Although many of the local residents live in new houses which have only received planning permission in recent years, Margaret McCroskery said she did not believe they would move away on a grand scale.

“This is our home,” she said. “It’s where many of us grew up, where our families are and our friends.

“Where else would we go? We love where we live.
“We just don’t want to see it destroyed.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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