21 January 2006

Allegations of IRA moles in RTE and Govt. offices

Southern Star

DO you know that RTÉ has two senior executives who are also members of the IRA? Or that there are 200 IRA moles in Government departments up to and including the Taoiseach's office? Or that three lecturers in a Dublin college for journalism are poisoning the minds of young people with Sinn Féin propaganda?

Certainly Johnny Laird, a Unionist peer, believes such to be the case and before Christmas, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, said so in the British House of Lords. Laird, who goes under the amusing title of Lord Laird, has a reputation for making slanderous allegations against people with whom he disagrees, knowing that House of Lords privilege ensures that those who are publicly abused have no recourse to protect their reputation.

He has previously named journalists and academics as "republican sympathisers" and made a string of other allegations against leading members of Sinn Féin. He says he bases his remarks on information supplied by the Gardaí and clearly enjoys the cushion of parliamentary privilege, a procedure that he used when he targeted Frank Connolly's Public Inquiry Centre as a “Sinn Féin intelligence gathering operation”. He did that some time before our own Justice Minister destroyed in a cowardly fashion Connolly's livelihood and reputation, also with the assistance of the comfort blanket of parliamentary rights.

Under House of Lords and Oireachtas privilege, individuals who are pilloried by public representatives in the Dáil or Westminster cannot resort to legal action to clear their names although it is considered bad constitutional precedent to identify people without serious corroborating evidence.

Amazingly, the Unionist Peer of the British Realm claims the proof for his assertion that RTÉ has been infiltrated by "extreme republican sympathisers" lies in the highly negative reaction by sections of the media, in particular RTÉ, against the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell. "It is not a coincidence", he said, "that instead of being lauded for his anti-republican speeches, Minister McDowell has found himself the subject of vilification in the Irish media."

A bemused RTÉ said they did not know who Laird was referring to, or what incidents he was using as alleged corroborative evidence. It suggested that if he had a problem he should contact the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. In response, Laird vowed to name the RTÉ men in the House of Lords the first chance he got.

Interestingly, while most sections of the Irish media considered his attack on RTÉ as the ravings of a loony lord, the Sunday Independent published Laird's comments in full, even going so far as to repeat the names of the three lecturers he slandered – a move that may or may not have had something to do with the fact that he is a public relations consultant for Independent Newspapers!

For someone who can't stand anything with a republican tinge Laird, a former advisor to David Trimble, has no problem accepting money from Irish republicans; from Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, in particular. From 1998 to 2004 he fronted the Ulster-Scots Agency, an organisation he set up to promote the Ulster-Scots 'language'. The agency is funded by grants from the Northern Ireland Department of Culture and Ó Cuív's Department of Gaeltacht Affairs and has a budget of over two million euros, a quarter of which comes from the Irish government.

Oddly enough, no one had heard of the Scots-Ulster 'language' before Laird resurrected it in 1998, although linguists argued that something approximating a Scottish dialect was known to exist in darkest Antrim but that it had absolutely nothing in common with Scots Gaelic. They described it as a kind of 'make it up as you go-along' jargon – or as a civil servant in Ó Cuív’s department sarcastically told this scribe: "it’s English spoken with a Ballymena accent, drunken Prod gibberish".

In 2004 Laird resigned from the Ulster-Scots Agency shortly before British government auditors sharply criticised it for excessive spending on entertainment, ‘research’ into Orange lodges in Ghana and for ‘festive events’ during the marching season. Its budget was cut by £600,000, prompting Laird to complain that the British and Irish governments were betraying Protestant culture. He defended his own bill of £692 for taxis to Dublin as due to a concern about his personal security which he linked to his practice of wearing a kilt!

Some years ago Hugh Oram wrote a book about Irish newspapers. In it, newspapers like Sir Anto's organ, the Sunday Independent, were seen through rose-tinted glasses. He presented a cheerful, fair-minded world in which hacks were renowned for their meticulous care with news and comment as they documented Ireland's cultural, political and social progress – light years away from the Sindo's scurrilous depiction of the lady injured in the car crash that killed Liam Lawlor as a "prostitute".

One wonders what Mr. Oram now thinks of the onslaught on the new newspaper, Daily Ireland, not yet a year old. The Sindo sneered at it for daring to call itself a 'national newspaper'; for its 'whingeing editorials', its absence of 'government' advertising, its ‘low’ circulation; and for the fact that its readers, staff and directors were people with a nationalist interest. (Even before the newspaper ever hit the streets Minister for Justice McDowell, a former writer for the Sunday Independent, described Daily Ireland as a "Nazi rag").

Hardly fair comment! But then, maybe the Sindo believes its Sunday morning readers are in such a state of lazy collapse that they don't take seriously anything it says about Daily Ireland, or indeed about anything at all. Mr Oram refers to a comment made by a Sindo editor, Aengus Fanning – that if you can get a laugh out of a reader, it's worth 2,000 words. That comic philosophy, it seems, still prevails.

Oh dear! The Blueshirts are in the wars. The party's policy of allowing one vote per member to select election candidates has led to fears that bogus members are being registered – people seen once at an election convention and never again. The practice is known as 'convention stuffing' and is designed to assist candidates who are up against the long established party faithful. What concerns Fine Gael elder lemons is that voting power is falling into the hands of gougers who have been in the party for only a few months. That, they complain, is very, very undemocratic.

And then, there's the revelation that Fine Gael has been dangling the begging bowl under the noses of National Toll Roads, Cement Roadstone Holdings (the gang building Israel's evil apartheid wall), Treasury Holdings, an assortment of builders, property speculators and Musgraves, owners of SuperValu and Centra chains.

No conflict of interest at all in seeking donations from such captains of industry, says the Rip-Off Ireland party, even though it earlier accused National Toll Roads of making massive profits – "NTR takes all the gain and the public takes all the pain"; or that the profits of Cement Roadstone Holdings were extracted in a way that was both "anti- competitive and anti-consumer". Accepting cash from them is simply politics, Enda Kenny style. Another word might be hypocrisy!

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