11 March 2006

National Hunger Strike Commemoration

An Phoblacht

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Photo: • Jim McVeigh at the launch of the Hunger Strike events (click photo to view)

Interview: Jim McVeigh, National Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee

The Hunger Strikes - this generation's 1916

An Phoblacht: What do you think the Hunger Strikes represented in terms of the Republican struggle?

Jim McVeigh: Well I think it is true to say that they represented the 1916 of our generation. They radicalised both the older and younger generations. Tens of thousands of young people got involved at the time.

What really puts this in perspective is a very famous picture of a group of young people gathered at Martin Hurson's graveside. Years later many of these people had been imprisoned or were dead. It was a monumental event and had a huge effect on public opinion. It brought a whole new generation into the struggle.

In terms of the present, do you see a role for these commemorations in reaching out to today's youth?

The committees are pretty broad based and have people who are not involved in party politics and this gives them a reach greater than Sinn Féin. Young people are increasingly disillusioned with establishment politics. They are looking for role models, someone they can look up to and hold out as an example. They certainly can't look up to anyone in the current Irish political establishment.

I think the Hunger Strikers were such models of bravery and integrity that they certainly can become an icon for a new generation. We intend to be outside or inside any event that attracts young people. We will be leafleting and inviting these young people to attend events in their local area. We should be active on this in every college in the country and the local committees should target colleges and schools in their areas. Some of the youth have very little memory of Bobby Sands and the rest of the Hunger Strikers. Even if we can get them to ask who these people were, it will be a significant achievement.

One of the events organised is a travelling exhibition of H-Block artefacts. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, it's a very interesting exhibition. It is definitely one for the schools and colleges and is a compelling demonstration of bringing history alive. Some of the really interesting things on this exhibit include communications between the prisoners and the outside, comms as they were called.

There are also miniature An Phoblachts that had been smuggled into the prison for the prisoners. My own personal favourite is the Maggie Taggart. This is the nickname given to small homemade radios that the prisoners used to keep themselves informed. It was named after a prominent journalist of the time. It has been out now for about three weeks and has already been to about a dozen places including Ballina, Navan, Carrickmore, Belfast and Dundalk. I would urge all local areas to investigate the possibility of having it exhibited in local colleges. It takes you right into the Blocks with the prisoners and is absolutely fascinating.

Events and exhibitions are planned for all over the country. These will include films, dramatisations, vigils and lectures. On 9 March in St Mary's College Belfast we will see the launch of Denis O'Hearn's book, Bobby Sands: Nothing but an Unfinished Song.

On 11 April the third James Connolloy memorial lecture will take place in Dublin, in Wynn's Hotel and it will focus on the 1981 Hunger Strikes.

On 30 April a commemoration has been organised at Fords Cross Hunger Strike Memorial by the Newry and South Armagh Committee.

I don't want to offend areas by leaving them out, but obviously I cannot list all the events. For a full catalogue of events you can log on to >>www.hungerstrike81.com or phone 028 9074 0817.

Could you describe the overall tone of the commemorations?

These are very sombre and tragic events that are being remembered. Nevertheless, I think it is extremely important that these commemorations should be a positive celebration of the lives of these people and a celebration of their vast contribution to the struggle. This is about bringing in a new generation and advancing the struggle. Events should be occasions that unite republicans, socialists, radicals and liberals, in celebration of the Hunger Strikers.

How significant is it that these commemorations will be happening in tandem with the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising?

I think that is very significant. Like the Volunteers of 1916, the Hunger Strikers were fighting for the Republic, not just political status. As I have already said, the Hunger Strikers were this generation's 1916. Like those who participated in the Rising, they inspired a whole generation to strike out for the Republic. We will be making this point all the time and we will be drawing clear parallels between the two events. I think it is a very positive thing that these two landmark anniversaries fall together. It certainly adds a context and a historical continuity to the events.

Another very obvious connection between the two is the Irish language. Many of those who were out in 1916 had played a significant role in revitalising the Irish language through the Gaelic revival movement. Similarly the prisoners in the Blocks and former prisoners, played a major role in revitalising the Irish language in the Six Counties.

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Bobby Sands' name uttered with fondness by oppressed the world over

BY LAURENCE McKEOWN

All of us have a story to tell. There's few though whose life, cut short at 27 years of age, can be said to have impacted so dramatically on the course of Irish politics and to have become such an internationally recognised icon as Bobby Sands. Guerrilla fighter in the Irish Republican Army, he was elected a member of the British parliament shortly before his death on hunger strike in the H Blocks of Long Kesh on 5 May 1981.

I shared a prison wing with Bobby for several months in 1979. Later I joined the Hunger Strike that he had just died on. I approached Denis O'Hearn's biography of Bobby therefore with a little trepidation. I should not have been concerned. It is an excellent book. It tells, not just the story of Bobby, the prison protest and Hunger Strikes, but accurately captures the atmosphere of the prison - the good times and bad, the hopes and despair, the pain, the joy and the totally selfless love that is rarely witnessed between a group of males. The strength of the book is that O'Hearn does not attempt to tell what he thinks happened behind prison walls (as other academics have) or to interpret events within his own ideological paradigm. Instead he facilitates others - friends, associates and comrades of Bobby - to tell of the person they knew and allows that person to become alive and vibrant on every page.

Most importantly, the book traces the development of a very ordinary, young, politically naive, high-spirited boy from a working class background on the outskirts of Belfast, to the highly politicised, articulate, prolific, competent revolutionary that he became in later years. In this way O'Hearn informs a new generation of political activists in Ireland and elsewhere that they too can become a 'Bobby Sands' but hopefully never have to make the life and death decisions that he was faced with.

This year, the 25th anniversary of the Hunger Strike, it is timely for this biography to appear. It demonstrates the global interest that is retained in events that happened over a period of 217 days in 1981, when ten men died, one after the other, in prison cells in a struggle to be treated as the political prisoners they were. No wonder that states tremble before the power of such an idea that cannot be conquered, quenched, bought off or tortured into submission. No wonder that from the lips of oppressed peoples around the world the name, Bobby Sands, is uttered with such fondness and admiration.

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Vigils mark Hunger Strike anniversary

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usTwenty five years ago on 1 March 1981, Bobby Sands began his historic Hunger Strike. The anniversary was marked by pickets, demontrations, exhibitions and candlelight vigils at various venues around Ireland and abroad last week. (click photo to view)

Sinn Féin leaders,including Party President Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness joined a candlelight vigil outside the GPO in Dublin on Wednesday evening. The GPO was a focal point for H-Block campaigners in 1981, where signatures in support of the prisoners' demands were gathered and where information and literature was distributed to thousands of people throughout the course of the hunger strike, while the 26-County media and RTE in particular, played a shameful role in failing to adquately inform the population of the horror of the H-Blocks and the plight of the protesting prisoners.

The Patrician Hall, Carrickmore, County Tyrone was the venue for a National Hunger Strike Exhibition on Saturday, 4 March. Over 700 people passed through the exhibition during the course of the day, viewing posters from the time, contemporary newspaper articles, and a short film and photo exhibition.

A commemorative lecture was attended by upwards of 200 people. Danny Morrison provided a fascinating insight into the negotiations which took place outside the prison at the time. Barry McElduff MLA provided an overview and analysis, while former blanketmen Sean Coleman, Sean McGuigan and Bernard Fox held the audience in thrall with an account of their experiences in the Blocks. The most moving contribution came from Brendan Hurson, brother of hunger striker Martin. He spoke of the awesome responsibility himself and his brother faced as Martin's condition deteriorated and of the election campaign when Martin stood in Longford.

Chairing the proceedings was Sinn Féin chair of Omagh council Mickey McAnapsie, to whom organisers were particularly grateful, as he has only recently suffered a family bereavement.

Addressing a Hunger Strike commemorative vigil in Dunloy, County Antrim on 3 March, Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay said: "Wednesday 1 March 1981 marked the beginning of an emotional phase of the Irish revolutionary struggle on this island. 1 March, 1981 was the day that Bobby Sands embarked on his first day of hunger strike which aimed to highlight and break the British Government's policy of criminalising republicans in the prisons. At the time ,Bobby Sands was sharing a cell with Malachy Carey, a republican from Loughgiel who was later shot by loyalists in Ballymoney."

In cold and snowy conditions, a large crowd gathered to commemorate the 10 young men who died in 1981. The event is the first of a series of events to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strikes across North Antrim that will be held over the next few months.

"The prison protests of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in particular the Hunger Strike of 1981, were watershed moments in Irish history. To many, it does not seem like 25 years ago when 10 republican prisoners lost their lives when faced with an intransigent British Government in London, and an Irish Government in Dublin more concerned with self interest than in seeking a resolution to the situation in the H-Blocks and Armagh prison", McKay said.

"This forthcoming year will provide an opportunity to reflect upon the ten volunteers who died, the contribution they made and the sacrifices made by their families during the summer of 1981. These events will be about more than just looking back. They must also be about looking to the future, exploring how best we move our struggle forward in the coming years and how best we complete the job of delivering Irish unity and independence.

"The commemorative calendar will also allow a new generation of Irish people, who weren't even born in 1981, to learn about the time and participate in mapping out the future. Irish republicans will never forget those terrible months from March to October when ten men died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and over 50 others died on our streets, but in marking the 25th anniversary of the Hunger Strike we have an opportunity to celebrate their lives, remember their sacrifice and rededicate ourselves to advancing the struggle for a United Ireland of Peace, Justice and Equality."

London

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usLondon republicans gathered in the snow and ice at Downing Street last Wednesday to take part in a candlelit vigil to commemorate the Hunger Strike, the first in a programme of events in England throughout the forthcoming year, which have been organised by the Wolfe Tone Society.

A delegation from the Society had earlier delivered a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, calling on the British Government to respect Sinn Féin's electoral mandate and implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Also at the vigil was Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Carthy, who told An Phoblacht that he was there, not only to support the event, but also as part of the party's renewed efforts to build closer relationships with supporters in Britain. He acknowledged the work of British-based Irish republican organisations such at the Wolfe Tone Society, Troops Out and the Connolly Association, particularly during the most difficult times of the conflict, when anti-Irish racism was endemic in British society and political activists experienced harassment by the authorities.

Addressing the London gathering, Carthy said: "Twenty five years ago Bobby Sands was elected as an MP and people honestly believed at the time that the British government and Margaret Thatcher could not ignore his electoral mandate. So it is ironic that we are here outside Downing Street on the anniversary of the start of the 1981 Hunger Strike and that a British Government is refusing to respect the mandate of Sinn Fein".

Dundalk

Ógra Shinn Féin at Dundalk Institute of Technology held a day long exhibition. There was a great interest in the exhibition from the students, most of whom were far too young to remember the events of 1981 and in many cases were not even born.

A book of condolence was signed by a number of students in honour of the Hunger Strikers.

Those involved in the Hunger Strikes of 1980 and 1981 were ordinary men and women who, in extraordinary circumstances and with the support of people throughout Ireland, defeated this policy.

Waterford

A group of over 20 people from south Kilkenny held a silent protest on Waterford Bridge last week to commemorate the start of the Hunger Stike. Many local people remember the marches held in Waterford, including one of the largest protests held in all of Ireland at that time and the large tournout on the canvass trail for Hunger Strike candidate Kevin Lynch. The South Kilkenny crowd last week were joined in their vigil by many people from Waterford.

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Castlebar to commemorate Hunger Strikers

Castlebar Town Council is to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes later this year. Sinn Féin councillor Noel Campbell successfully put a motion to the council calling on the authority to join with Mayo County Council in marking the anniversary.

Earlier this year, Sinn Féin Mayo county councillor Gerry Murray was succesful in getting cross party support in the chamber for his motion calling on that council to mark the extraordinary lives of the Hunger Strikers.

Bobby Sands' diary - day 11

Larkspirit

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Wednesday 11th

I received a large amount of birthday cards today. Some from people I do not know. In particular a Mass bouquet with fifty Masses on it from Mrs Burns from Sevastopol Street. We all know of her, she never forgets us and we shan't forget her, bless her dear heart.

I also received a card from reporter Brendan O Cathaoir, which indeed was thoughtful. I received a letter from a friend, and from a student in America whom I don't know, but again it's good to know that people are thinking of you. There were some smuggled letters as well from my friends and comrades.

I am the same weight today and have no complaints medically. Now and again I am struck by the natural desire to eat but the desire to see an end to my comrades' plight and the liberation of my people is overwhelmingly greater.

The doctor will be taking a blood test tomorrow. It seems that Dr Ross has disappeared and Dr Emerson is back...

Again, there has been nothing outstanding today except that I took a bath this morning. I have also been thinking of my family and hoping that they are not suffering too much.

I was trying to piece together a quote from James Connolly today which I'm ashamed that I did not succeed in doing but I'll paraphrase the meagre few lines I can remember.

They go something like this: a man who is bubbling over with enthusiasm (or patriotism) for his country, who walks through the streets among his people, their degradation, poverty, and suffering, and who (for want of the right words) does nothing, is, in my mind, a fraud; for Ireland distinct from its people is but a mass of chemical elements.

Perhaps the stark poverty of Dublin in 1913 does not exist today, but then again, in modern day comparison to living standards in other places through the world, it could indeed be said to be the same if not worse both North and South. Indeed, one thing has not changed, that is the economic, cultural and physical oppression of the same Irish people...

Even should there not be 100,000 unemployed in the North, their pittance of a wage would look shame in the company of those whose wage and profit is enormous, the privileged and capitalist class who sleep upon the people's wounds, and sweat, and toils.

Total equality and fraternity cannot and never will be gained whilst these parasites dominate and rule the lives of a nation. There is no equality in a society that stands upon the economic and political bog if only the strongest make it good or survive. Compare the lives, comforts, habits, wealth of all those political conmen (who allegedly are concerned for us, the people) with that of the wretchedly deprived and oppressed.

Compare it in any decade in history, compare it tomorrow, in the future, and it will mock you. Yet our perennial blindness continues. There are no luxuries in the H-Blocks. But there is true concern for the Irish people.

1916 artifacts sale ‘a scandal’

Daily Ireland

BY DAVID LYNCH
11/03/2006

A planned auction of historical documents and artifacts associated with the 1916 Rising has been described as a “scandal” by an opposition politician.
Adam's the auction house is co-hosting the sale of important Irish historical artifacts in Easter week, including the original words and music of the Irish national anthem.
Adam’s is offering clients the first opportunity to view and bid online live for any lot being sold in the sale-room by logging on to www.liveauctioneers.com or www.eBay.com.
“In our business, clients come first and this new bidding system is designed with them in mind to ensure they don’t miss an opportunity with any of our sales,” said Eamon O’ Connor, associate director of James Adam & Sons.
“Adam’s believes on-line live bidding will be of particular value at the forthcoming sale of important Irish historical artifacts, the ‘Independence Sale’, that is certain to attract a global audience on 12th April, as well as internationally popular Irish art and Irish furniture auctions throughout the year.”
However, this Independence Sale has provoked strong opposition from Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Mr Ó Snodaigh said it was a scandal that there was a plan to sell-off some of the last letters of executed signatories of the Proclamation.
Also included are manuscripts of Pádraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, a handwritten copy of the National Anthem by its author Peadar Ó Cearnaigh, a tricolour believed to have flown from the GPO in 1916 and Michael Collins's typewriter, “among other unique historical items”.
“It is scandalous that these priceless historical documents and other irreplaceable parts of our national heritage are to be auctioned off to become the private prestige property of wealthy individuals,” said Mr Ó Snodaigh.
“There is nothing to stop these items being taken out of the country.
“To add insult to injury, the auction firms are promoting this sale by linking it to the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
“The government should immediately intervene with emergency legislation to prevent this sell-out of our heritage.
“Successive governments have failed to put in place legislation to protect heritage items from market forces.
“If anything, it should spur long-overdue action.
“For any government to allow these items to be auctioned in this way makes a mockery of our reputation for cherishing our history and culture, something that is touted around the world as one of the main reasons for people to visit Ireland.
“The state has the legal authority to declare an historical site a national monument.
“It also has the power to issue compulsory purchase orders on lands in certain circumstances.
“Similar powers should be put in place for historical items such as those about to be sold off,” Mr Ó Snodaigh said.

State set to buy Great Blasket as heritage site

Irish Examiner

By Donal Hickey
11 March 2006

**Please see dingle-peninsula.ie for a great article and more photos on the Blasket Islands

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTHE long-awaited purchase by the State of Great Blasket Island is to go ahead this year, the Government announced yesterday.

However, there could still be obstacles in the way of the €1.7 million buy-out because agreements on commercial rights to the island, including the landing of visitors, have not yet been finalised, according to local sources.

Dingle solicitor Peter Callery, whose company Blascaod Mor Teo owns 17 of the 25 holdings on the island, has accused the State of not honouring an agreement made three years ago.

His company operates a ferry service between Dingle and the Great Blasket.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is currently taking legal advice on whether controversial landing rights will be included in the purchase agreement.

The Government decision to acquire the historic island, best known for its literary heritage, was announced last July and confirmation came yesterday that it will shortly take place.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said the purchase had now been ‘ring-fenced’ with other investments, to take place this year under a conservation programme.

The long-term plan is to have the island designated as a world heritage park.

Kerry Fianna Fáil councillor Tom Fleming, also a nominated FF candidate for the next General Election, said the purchase would turn the Dingle Peninsula into a world heritage centre.

Evacuated in 1953, the Great Blasket remains uninhabited, but is open to visitors who make the three-mile journey from the mainland by using ferries operating out of Dingle and Dunquin.

Under a plan for the future of the island, visitor numbers will be limited and the aim is to conserve the island very much as it looks today.

The village, home to many of the island’s writers, has long since been in ruins and will not be restored.

Holiday homes and camping sites will not be allowed, but toilets, an information centre and catering facilities are to be provided.

The overall plan for the island is reckoned to cost in the region of €8 million and will include the building of new piers at Dunquin and on the island.

Work on the piers is due to start this year.

Dawn raid as net closes on notorious IRA farm

Times

By David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent
10 March 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTHE net finally closed yesterday around the farm renowned as the centre of activities of one of the Provisional IRA’s most feared commanders.

Hundreds of officers supported by helicopters made a dawn raid on the farm owned by Thomas “Slab” Murphy in one of the largest security operations in the notorious South Armagh and northern Co Louth region.

Police refused to name the two men and a woman who were arrested. With the help of soldiers and customs officers from both sides of the Irish border they seized guns, money, vehicles and cigarettes. Eight other properties were also searched.

The farm complex of the alleged chief of staff of the Provisionals has been at the heart of IRA activity since the Troubles erupted at the start of the 1970s. It was considered sufficiently threatening to British security for the erection in 1986 of two army watchtowers — known as Golf Two Zero and Golf Three Zero — to maintain 24-hour surveillance. The towers are expected to be dismantled by the end of May as part of the Army ’s normalisation programme.

Scores of soldiers and police have died in the area, which became so dangerous that movement was restricted to helicopters. Local people were amazed to see police vehicles on the roads yesterday; for 25 years they have been absent.

Thirty thousand smuggled cigarettes and 8,000 litres of fuel were seized in the operation, according to Irish police, as well as £140,000 in minor currency. Two shotguns, computers and financial records were also taken away. Three fuel trucks and a large tractor trailer that had a fuel container hidden inside were also seized.

Police said that they arrested three people, a man and woman in their early 50s and a second man aged in his 60s. The two men had sped in a car through a police checkpoint at Hackballs Cross, Co Louth, on the southern side of the border. All three were released without charge last night.

Police in Northern Ireland said the operation had been aimed at a sophisticated criminal enterprise. A detective in the Republic, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the raids were conducted in the hope of identifying links to a portfolio of properties in Manchester that was frozen last September on suspicion that it had been bought with IRA cash.

One of Mr Murphy’s brothers has acknowledged that he owns some of those properties but denies any link to the IRA.

A Garda spokesman said later that the searches had “found no direct linkage” with the properties. He added that the police “were not searching for individuals. We were searching for evidence”. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, which represents moderate nationalist opinion in Northern Ireland, welcomed the raids as a sign of co-operation between police forces.

“The threat of organised crime recognises no borders,” Alex Attwood, its policing spokesman, said. “Any crime boss or foot soldier must know there is no hiding place for them.” Sinn Fein, the Provisional IRA’s political wing, declined to comment.

Mr Murphy has never been convicted of any crime, but anti-terrorist police and several published histories of the IRA identify him as the outlawed group’s long-time chief of staff. Since the early 1980s he also has legally operated, then shut down, a series of fuel distribution businesses that customs and police officials have long suspected of tax evasion through cross-border smuggling.

Mr Murphy has twice sued The Sunday Times, which described him as a millionaire smuggler and a pivotal figure in plotting bomb attacks. Both times he lost. In 1998 a Dublin jury found that he was an IRA commander and a smuggler.

British Agent Claims Queens IRA Link

Irish Abroad

**Via Newshound

By Sean O’Driscoll

A BRITISH agent who infiltrated the IRA has claimed that his British agent handlers sent him to New York to buy sophisticated bomb making equipment for the IRA.

The agent, who goes by the pseudonym Kevin Fulton, also claims that he arranged to have a prominent Republican in Queens, New York deported on behalf of British agents.

He made his claims in this month’s edition of the U.S. current affairs magazine, Atlantic [subscription only].

The magazine’s reporter, Matthew Teague, said he had verified details of Fulton’s trip to New York and was satisfied that he was telling the truth after verifying details with the FBI and deportation records.

The interview comes just as the Irish government launched an independent public inquiry into the murder of two Northern Ireland police officers in 1989, based on Fulton’s claims that there was collusion between the IRA and rogue members of the Irish Republic’s police force, the Gardai.

Fulton’s name also featured very prominently in the public inquiry into the Omagh bombing in 1998, in which 29 people were killed in a Real IRA attack.

Fulton claimed at the time that he had met some of the bomb makers as they were preparing the bomb and had alerted his British intelligence handlers.

In the new interview, which took place in London, Fulton claims that the British wanted to keep his cover in the IRA by encouraging him to make more sophisticated and deadly bombs.

He said that they arranged for him to travel to New York to buy infrared triggers for bombs and that they arranged for him to stay at the Murray Hill Inn in Midtown Manhattan.

While there, he was instructed to set up a man living in Queens for deportation as he was considered a danger by the British.

Teague, known for his writing in GQ and Atlantic, said in an online interview that he was initially suspicious of Fulton’s claims.

“As a reporter, I kind of kept one eyebrow cocked until I started tracking down the details. And every single detail checked out, down to the most minute peripheral details, such as his trip to New York. Everything was confirmed,” he said.

Teague said he checked out the Murray Hill Inn where Fulton claims to have stayed, and also confirmed some details with an FBI agent.

INS records also showed that the Queens man was deported at the exact time Fulton claimed it had happened.

“He referred to an FBI agent as being involved. So I called the agent and he confirmed his involvement, although he couldn’t discuss details or accuracy...He (also) described the deportation of an Irish man in Queens which had resulted from a meeting with him during that trip.

“And the INS records show that the man was deported exactly the way Fulton described. So everything sort of triangulates. It really happened,” Teague said.

The revelations could throw some light on Fulton’s credibility, as his claims of garda collusion as the basis for The Smithwick Tribunal into the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan, which opened in Dublin this week.

The pair were murdered in Armagh after traveling back from Louth in the Irish Republic, where they had a meeting with senior Gardai. Fulton is adamant that there was Garda collusion in the killing.

Derry Mother Loses Us Appeal For Custody Of Her Son

Derry Journal

Friday 10th March 2006

Derry mother, Cara Gunn has lost her appeal to gain custody of her son Dylan in the American courts and has said she is doubtful over whether to continue her long custody battle. The bad news came yesterday following good news earlier in the week when Ms. Gunn was awarded a green card ensuring her permanent residency in the United States.

In 2004, after her visa expired, she faced the prospect of having to leave her son behind in the US when a court granted custody to her estranged American husband. Ms. Gunn had fled the US earlier in the year, following the break-up of her marriage, but was subsequently forced - as a result of international law - to return to face a custody hearing. Her case sparked uproar and money needed to appeal the custody decision in favour of her exhusband was raised within four days. However after a long battle, the 'tug of love' mother was told yesterday that her son would be staying with his father.

Speaking to the 'Journal' following the decision Ms Gunn said that she had expected the appeal to fail but it was still disheartening. "The appeal wasn't based on any new evidence so it means that they didn't have the evidence about my green card so my one chance is that if I do apply for a supplemental petition we can get an opportunity to put that information forward."

However, Cara admitted yesterday that the battle through the courts has taken a lot out of her. She said: "At this point, I'm wondering how long I can drag this out. Maybe it's just time to accept that the best I can hope for is more visiting time. Dylan is so content at the moment and it seems unfair to put him through this." Ms Gunn lives with her fifteen year old daughter who is currently awaiting her green card. "As soon as Laura gets her green card, we'll be able to get back to Derry for a visit," the Derry mother said yesterday.

"In the meantime I'm just going to get on with work and try and spend as much time with both my children as I can."

Immigration policies bad for Irish workers, report warns

Irish Times

Kathryn Holmquist
11 March 2006

Immigration policies could cause serious difficulties for Irish workers if there is an economic downturn, a new report has warned. It urges the State to take control of immigration policy and stop allowing employers to decide who comes here for work.

"The lack of effective policies and thinking to protect the employment prospects of local workers in a less favourable economic environment is a serious weakness in Ireland's current labour immigration system," states the draft report commissioned by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

The NESC commissioned the report from the International Organisation for Migration, (IOM), which has 116 member countries including Ireland. The IOM was set up in 1951 as an inter-governmental organisation to resettle displaced Europeans, refugees and migrants. It now encompasses a variety of migration management activities throughout the world.

The second draft of the report says Ireland lacks a "coherent" immigration policy. Increasing numbers of unskilled migrants are entering the State to work for the minimum wage - yet it is unclear if a lack of local labour justifies this, according to the report.

Illegal working and exploitative work practices are being allowed to continue unmonitored and unpunished, threatening to reduce wages and conditions for Irish workers, it continues. Migrants masquerading as international students are significantly affecting the economy, particularly students from China attending unregulated educational institutions.

Without a proper system of data collection and collation, the report says it is almost impossible for the Government to analyse how many migrants are here, where they are from, how long they are staying and what they are working at.

In the past five years, 750,000 PPS numbers have been given to migrants from the 25 EU states and from outside the EU, but the State does not know how many of these have stayed and how many family members have joined them, it concludes. Computer systems of the four Government departments that collect data are incompatible, making tracking the immigrants impossible. The economy needs the best workers and must encourage them to remain here, the report says. Such highly skilled workers are unlikely to be satisfied with temporary work permits and should instead be offered permanent residency status on arrival in the country, it advises.

The report is titled Managing Migration in Ireland: A Social and Economic Analysis.

DUP's loyalist meeting 'useful'

BBC


Peter Robinson said they would consult with the party

The first meeting between two DUP MPs and the chairman of the Loyalist Commission was "useful", the party's deputy leader Peter Robinson has said.

Mr Robinson said he and Nigel Dodds met Reverend Mervyn Gibson to see what the DUP could do to help end loyalist criminality and paramilitary activity.

He would not be drawn on whether the party would go further than meeting the loyalist umbrella body and see the UDA.

He said they wanted to report back to colleagues before giving more details.

"I want to encourage people to end paramilitary and criminal activity," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme.

"Where people are clearly intent on doing that, encouragement will come from us.

"The form of it would be a matter for the party to decide and I wouldn't want to prejudice any decision that they might take."

Earlier this week, the Independent Monitoring Commission said loyalist paramilitaries remained heavily involved in organised crime, although there were signs of a possible readiness to abandon some criminality.

The Loyalist Commission is an umbrella group which includes members of the UVF, Red Hand Commando and the UDA, as well as clergymen and community representatives.

Getting down to earth ... in old Co Down

Belfast Telegraph

By Linda McKee
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

11 March 2006

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have learned how early Christians in Co Down protected themselves from raiders - they went underground.

A 1,000-year-old tunnel system discovered at Rooneystown near Raholp would have been built so that families could take refuge with their valuables when threatened by Vikings.

The mysterious stone tunnel was uncovered by a builder working on new housing after the ground gave way beneath his digger.

Environment and Heritage Service archaeologist Ken Neill confirmed that the tunnel was a previously unrecorded example of a souterrain, built during the early Christian period more than 1,000 years ago.

"Souterrains are usually known as caves or coves throughout the countryside," he said. "They were underground tunnels built as a refuge against raiders. Some were rock-cut, but most were built by digging a trench, lining it with drystone-walling and placing heavy stone lintels across the top before covering with earth.

"It was one of these lintels which had given way under the weight of the digger to expose the souterrain. Many were built within circular earthen raths or stone cashels, but others, like this one, are discovered in apparent isolation although there was almost certainly originally a house nearby." Mr Neill said the design and complexity of the souterrain supports the idea that it was built as a place of refuge from neighbouring tribes or even Viking invaders.

Chapel parking is just the ticket

Belfast Telegraph

By Nevin Farrell
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

11 March 2006

A PROTESTANT church in Ballymena has agreed to make its car park available to Catholic parishioners using a nearby church.

Harryville Presbyterian Church is making its car park available tonight to Mass-goers at the Church of our Lady, the scene of a controversial loyalist picket.

Harryville minister the Rev John Finlay confirmed that the car park has been offered.

Harryville parish priest Fr Paul Symonds also welcomed the scheme. "It is a very gracious gesture from Harryville Presbyterian Church," he said.

"Someone from the church will have to come along specially on a Saturday night to open the car park and it will be open anyway on Sundays for their own services and they said we are welcome to park then as well."

Last summer the Catholic church in mainly unionist Harryville was targeted several times by paint-bombers.

But members of Protestant church congregations, in a show of solidarity with their Catholic neighbours, helped scrub off the paint.

And, in recent times, Fr Symonds has built up close links with the Harryville Ulster Scots Society. The Ulster Scots Society has worked closely with the Ulster Political Research Group to hammer out an initiative which will see the removal of a UDA mural overlooking Harryville Chapel and replaced with an Ulster-Scots theme in April.

Tricolours and other emblems erected by nationalists in the north end of Ballymena will also be taken down as part of the deal.

Today in history: 'Anti-IRA spies' break out of jail

BBC ON THIS DAY

11 March 1974

**See also An Phoblacht article about the Littlejohns


The men disappeared among neighbouring houses

Two self-proclaimed British Government spies have escaped from a top-security prison in Ireland where they were serving sentences for armed robbery.

It is another embarrassment for the authorities at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin coming just five months after a helicopter plucked three leading IRA members from Mountjoy's exercise yard.

The latest escapees, brothers Kenneth and Keith Littlejohn, were jailed last year for a £67,000 robbery at a Dublin bank - the biggest to date in Irish history.

During their trial the Littlejohns claimed they were working for the British Government against the IRA.

They said they had been told to stage the robbery to discredit the republican organisation and force the Irish Government to introduce tougher measures against its members.

However, the British Government denied all knowledge of the brothers

Kenneth was sentenced to 20 years while his brother received a 15-year term.

Since being jailed the brothers have exhausted all the appeals processes - their last appeal was turned down in January this year.

Hunger strike

The brothers escaped from Mountjoy during an exercise period.

They scaled the 25-foot (7.6-metre) high main prison wall with home-made ropes while other prisoners distracted the guards.

But the pair were spotted as they climbed an outer wall.

Keith, 29, who had injured his ankle, was recaptured near to the prison.

However, Kenneth, 32, disappeared without trace and is believed to heading for the border with Northern Ireland.

His successful bid for freedom has come as a surprise.

He had been weakened by a hunger strike he had been conducting since February in support of a demand for political prisoner status.

Since the brothers were jailed the British Government has steadfastly continued to deny all knowledge of them.

But the brother's tale did receive partial validation last year.

Ireland's former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, admitted he had been given diplomatic reports from the British authorities in January 1973 about the UK's contact with the Littlejohn brothers.

In Context

Kenneth Littlejohn was not recaptured for 20 months.

During his time on the run - mainly in mainland Europe - he gave several interviews to the press including one to the BBC.

Details of some of the claims he made about working for the British authorities stood up to scrutiny leading to embarrassment for the UK Government.

Littlejohn was eventually caught in London and extradited to Dublin to serve out his original sentence.

In 1976 the Littlejohn brothers made another escape attempt but were unsuccessful.

They were released early in 1981 on condition they leave Ireland.

However, the following year Kenneth was jailed for six years for his part in an armed robbery in Chesterfield, England.

10 March 2006

Border raids uncover major oil laundering operations

Irish Times

**Via Newshound

Conor Lally, and Gerry Moriarty in Ballybinaby
10 March 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe massive cross-Border security operation launched yesterday against an oil laundering business will resume along the Louth-Armagh border this morning. (Fuel tankers being driven from Murphy's farm after raid - photo from Telegraph)

Gardaí believe the main focus of the inquiry, former chief of staff of the IRA Thomas "Slab" Murphy, may have hidden from them in an underground bunker throughout the day.

Today's follow-up operations will have to deal with the disposal of up to six tonnes of synthetic chemicals believed to have been used in the oil laundering business and which may be highly toxic.

Murphy was not at home when his farm straddling the Border at Ballybinaby in north Louth was raided just before 7am yesterday.

Three people aged in their 50s and 60s, two men and a woman, were arrested during yesterday's operation. All were later released.

Yesterday's searches of multiple sites and premises, named Operation Achilles, involved more than 300 Garda and PSNI officers, Irish and British soldiers, and customs and revenue officials from both sides of the Border.

Co-ordinated searches took place around the townland of Ballybinaby and across the Border in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, and in Newry, Co Down.

The operation was linked to the investigation last year into a €44 million property empire around the Manchester area with which Murphy has been linked.

A fleet of tankers which were being used to transport laundered fuel was seized during the searches. Some of the trucks bore the livery of multinational fuel companies, allowing them to drive cross-country without arousing suspicion.

Four laundering facilities attached to a major network of storage tanks, some of which were underground, were also found.

Gardaí also recovered at least €200,000 in cash stuffed into plastic bags, 30,000 smuggled cigarettes and two firearms.

Documentation and computer hard drives were also seized at the north Louth properties and at a number of offices in Dundalk and Crossmaglen.

Gardaí believe a soft-sided trailer fitted with large oil tanks has been used to export oil off the island of Ireland by truck via the ports.

The Irish Times has learned that a very significant amount of illegal fuel has been detected leaving Dublin Port destined for Liverpool for distribution across northern England. One line of inquiry now being pursued is that at least some of this fuel came from the plant targeted yesterday.

The three people who were arrested were taken for questioning to Garda stations in Drogheda and Kells. They were released without charge last night. A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A fourth person escaped during the course of the raids in north Louth. He drove away at high speed across the Border into Northern Ireland and then took to the fields on foot.

He is a much younger man than the people who were arrested and is well known to them.

The Garda helicopter was involved in trying to follow him and is believed to have briefly entered Northern airspace.

Gardaí said a break-in at Dundalk courthouse where the search warrants used yesterday were issued on Wednesday was in no way linked to the operation.

Yesterday's searches in the Republic were carried out by up to 150 personnel from the Garda, revenue, customs and Army.

A similar number of PSNI members, British soldiers and customs personnel were involved in searches north of the Border in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, and Newry, Co Down.

Daily Ireland Editorial: RIR prolonged and deepened conflict

Daily Ireland

Editor: Colin O’Carroll
10/03/2006

So, when it came down to brass tacks, the DUP worked out that the incalculable debt that the people of the North owe to the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) is in fact very calculable indeed – £28,000 (€40,7000) a head for full timers, in fact and £14,000 (€20,350) for part timers.
The instinctive reaction to news that British armed forces minister Adam Ingram is to spend £250 million (€364 million) on pay-offs to the doomed home service battalions of the RIR is to point to other areas where such a vast sum could be much better spent. And we can’t help feeling that it would have been nice if the British could have directed some of that vast amount of money to the many victims of the RIR and their blood-soaked predecessors, the UDR.
After all, the British government directed that baleful nexus of the UDR/RIR and loyalist paramilitaries whose raison d’être was to strike terror into the Catholic community and who carried out some of the most sickening atrocities of the Troubles. Not a bit of it. Not only do we have to put up with the idea of that discredited regiment being handsomely remunerated for their part in the sectarian slaughter, but we have to listen to endless claptrap about how the brave men and women of the RIR/UDR stopped the North from sliding into the abyss.
“They [RIR/UDR] should all be rightly proud of the of the crucial role they have played in creating the environment for normalisation,” said Mr Ingram yesterday. Crucial role? Normalisation? Ask any Catholic who was ever stopped by some tattooed louts in uniform up a country lane at night what they think of the regiment’s crucial role in creating the environment for normalisation, Mr Ingram, and you’ll get a rather different answer. The fact of the matter is that the regiment did as much, if not more, to deepen and prolong the conflict than any of the illegal paramilitaries.
That the regiment is happy to take money to go away quietly is as good a measure of its calibre as any. And that the DUP was the main broker behind the deal says much about that party’s priorities. But at least the main unionist party has learned that a defeat doesn’t have to be total – sometimes a bit of filthy lucre can be salvaged from the ruins.
They failed to smash the IRA; they failed to crush Sinn Féin; they failed to save the B Specials; they failed to rescue the RUC. They failed to save the RIR, too, but at least this time they got their pals in uniform a few extra quid. It’s official: for the DUP, serving Ulster is worth the price of a conservatory or a time-share in the Algarve.
Even as we speak, the DUP are engaged in a similarly grubby deal with the British government over what size of a wad it’s going to take to persuade Protestants not to wreck the place every time they’re denied permission to march. Really, you have to wonder what Edward Carson would make of it all.

Blood money

Daily Ireland

UDR/RIR £250 million payoff – ‘For justice, the truth of this regiment’s role must be independently investigated’

By Jarlath Kearney
10/03/2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usRelatives of people killed by the UDR/RIR yesterday described a £250 million (€364) million ‘golden handshake’ for 3,000 soldiers as ‘repugnant and offensive’.

(Click photo to view)

The British government announced the severance package at Westminster after six months of pressure by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The disbandment of RIR units based in the North – known as the Home Service – was announced last July within days of the IRA’s historic statement ordering its volunteers to pursue purely political activities.
The British government’s severance package will ensure full-time soldiers receive £28,000 (€40,800) on top of a redundancy payment and life pension. Part-time RIR members will receive £14,000 (€20,400), as well as their redundancy and pension.
Responding to the announcement, DUP leader Ian Paisley stressed his party’s opposition to the disbandment of the RIR.
However, he said that the DUP “made a very strong case to the MoD... on the basis of comparative equality with payments made to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the prison officers”.
“The price of their life’s blood which many of them sacrificed can never be valued. I am personally glad that the socio-economic difficulties that these men will have to face in getting employment in the province have been recognised by the government and we will continue to discuss these matters with the government,” Mr Paisley said.
Between 1970 and 1990, over 300 members of the UDR were convicted of serious loyalist offences.
Following the collusion scandal of the late 1980s, when security photo montages of Catholics were published by loyalist paramilitaries, the British government renamed the regiment as the RIR. However, even as recently as July 2004, 28 RIR members were removed from duties after the “disappearance” of a major intelligence document about 400 nationalists from the Castlereagh security base in east Belfast.
Relatives for Justice (RFJ), which campaigns for victims affected by state violence, condemned the severance payments.
RFJ spokesperson Tommy Carroll, whose brother Adrian was killed by UDR members in 1983, said: “This is a payoff to put a gloss on what was otherwise a shameful chapter. It is an affront to the memory of those killed as a result of the UDR/RIR activities and all decent people who had the misfortune to endure the sectarian abuse and harrassment that was the UDR/RIR.
“For many, their ‘duty’ saw no distinction between their role in the UDR/RIR and their loyalist murder gang of choice. For those nationalists on the receiving end there was little distinction either.
“The issue of truth and justice are paramount. The British government has yet to recognise the terrible injustices it inflicted through its armed forces. It has yet to face up to policies of collusion, of which the UDR/RIR was at the heart,” Mr Carroll said.
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, described the RIR and UDR as a “paramilitary force”.
“Sinn Féin have consistently raised the issue of the continuing role of the RIR, its sectarian composition and its collusion with the unionist paramilitaries,” Ms Gildernew said.
“The issue of collusion and the RIR will not go away. Unionist arguments about the economic implications resulting from the scrapping of the RIR expose the truth about their opposition to progress on demilitarisation. It is based on unionist self-interest not the interests of the peace process or the demilitarisation of our society.
“Rather than seek a British exchequer subvention of millions for the exclusive benefit of the unionist population, I believe that many people in places like Fermanagh and Tyrone would prefer to see this money spent on improving the roads infrastructure, improving local schools and in developing the local economy to the benefit of everyone,” Ms Gildernew said.
SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley described the severance package as “a pay-off to the DUP”.
“But the important point to remember is that the RIR is gone from the political landscape. The RIR was a political and community relations disaster like its predecessors, the UDR and the B-Specials.
“Collusion with loyalist killer gangs was rife and systemic in many parts of the UDR and no significant attempt was made to clean it up before it was rolled over into the RIR,” Mr Bradley said.

Adams: 'Slab' Murphy is innocent

BN.ie

10/03/2006 - 13:39:09

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today stood by alleged former IRA chief Thomas “Slab” Murphy.

The businessman, whose farm is at the centre of a police probe into a multi-million pound smuggling operation, has been wrongly demonised, he claimed.

Mr Adams declared: “Tom Murphy is not a criminal. He is a good republican.”

Murphy’s sprawling estate, straddling the Irish border, was among 15 properties searched on Thursday during police raids planned in Belfast and Dublin.

Around €300,000 in cash, 30,000 cigarettes, 8,000 litres of fuel and weapons were all seized in the offensive against organised crime.

Two men and a woman arrested during swoops in north Louth and south Armagh were questioned and released last night by gardaí.

Murphy, the one-time alleged IRA chief of staff, who is already under investigation by the Assets Recovery Agency probing house sales in the Greater Manchester area, was not detained.

But police customs officials and soldiers were all involved in a major operation on his land at Hackballscross.

Murphy, 62, insists he is a legitimate farmer with no involvement in crime.

And Mr Adams offered his total support following raids which were months in the planning.

“I read his statement after the Manchester raids and I believe what he says,” the West Belfast MP insisted.

“He is also a keen supporter of the Sinn Féin peace strategy.”

Asked if Murphy was a member of the IRA Army Council, Mr Adams replied: “If he denies being a member of the IRA then I accept that.”

Mr Adams was critical of the scale of the huge cross-border operation, but backed its objectives.

“We support the pursuit of criminal assets,” he added.

“Anybody who is involved in criminality should face the full rigours of the law.

“That includes the right to a fair trial and the right not to be vilified in the media.”

Local housing strategy blasted by campaigners

Irelandclick

Anger over yet another rise in waiting lists for nationalists

The chairman of St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee has blasted the latest Housing Executive report that shows that housing stress and homelessness continues to rise.
Liam Wiggins has also branded the outgoing North Belfast Housing Strategy “a complete failure” and demanded that any next strategy be split so it addresses both unionist and nationalist areas separately because of their differing needs.
“After three years of the North Belfast Housing Strategy we called for a review as regards unionist and nationalist areas because they had two different sets of needs, this did not happen. Now we are in the final year of the seven-year strategy and in the area we represent not one brick has been placed on top of another one in a new build development to increase the number of homes,” he said.
“I would ask the Housing Executive if management consider this strategy a success?
Liam Wiggins was responding to a report released recently entitled: Northern Ireland Housing Market – Review and Perspectives.
It showed housing stress figures for North Belfast (those over 30 points in the controversial points system) had again increased by 14 per cent since its last report. Of the entire housing need under and over 30 points, the figure had risen by 16 per cent.
Liam Wiggins said based on these percentages, he estimated that nationalists were now over 90 per cent of the waiting list.
“This so-called strategy has delivered nothing but more housing crisis, now up to 90 per cent from March 2000 at the start of the strategy when it was 73 per cent. We ask: Is this a success?”
The housing campaigner also said that that the Girdwood barracks development plans raised more questions than answers following claims by the SDLP’s Alban Maginness that it would go some way to easing the problem of housing in nationalist areas.
“We need to know what the plans for Girdwood are. Is it going to be a split site, and if so then what percentage of the land will be earmarked for housing? How many units will be built? Whilst we welcome any housing and potential leisure facility being built on the site the facts are that there will be no work started for at least two years which means the waiting list will continue to rise.”
Solving the long-term housing problem for nationalists demands more commitment from government, said Liam Wiggins.
“Realistically what nationalist North Belfast needs is a separate housing strategy similar to the Shankill. This has to be a strategy based on need and the genuine acquisition of land in sufficient amounts to meet that need.”
Liam Wiggins said the answer was an urban village for Sailortown.
“The swathes of land that are lying behind the dock gates under the control of a quango – the Harbour Commission – are the answer to this spiralling problem.”
A Housing Executive spokeswoman admitted that the housing stress list continued to rise, but claimed the situation would be much worse without the strategy.
But again she rejected accusations that the North Belfast Housing Strategy had failed, insisting the investment “cannot in any terms be classed as a failure”.
“By the end of March 2006, the Housing Strategy will have invested £166 million in North Belfast. Up to 2005, the Strategy had brought 822 new homes to North Belfast and by the end of March this year that total was expected to exceed 1,100.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

BBC Facing the Truth series masks the complexity of the truth say ACP

Irelandclick

The BBC programmes on truth and reconciliation aired this week should not be viewed as an example of the form any proper truth process should take, an Ardoyne research group has said.

Tom Holland of the Ardoyne Commemoration Project said right from the outset his group and other victims’ groups objected to the BBC hosting such intense and painful exchanges about the conflict.
“These programmes may well help to highlight the need for some way to be found to comprehensively deal with our past.
“But the BBC, with respect to the political situation in Ireland, has always demonstrated an inherent British government and unionist bias,” Tom Holland said.
“This was reflected in the programmes’ content with two loyalist and three republican ‘perpetrators’ and one British soldier who thinks he might have accidentally killed the wrong man.”
The Facing the Truth series and subsequent special Spotlight episodes aired this week featured several North Belfast people including former IRA member Joe Doherty who met up with victims of the Narrow Water bombing, despite his not being involved in the attack, and Mary McLarnon who met with the British soldier who shot dead her brother, Michael McLarnon, in 1971.
Clifford Burrage, who admitted killing Michael, also met with Ardoyne republican Martin Meehan – he had savagely beaten Meehan to within an inch of his life that same year.
Tom Holland said the programme, which was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, masked the complexity of the conflict.
“It has brought us no closer to understanding who was involved, why they were involved, what role they played and how that impacted on the rest of society,” he said.
“More importantly, they showed no interest in the wider lessons we as a society need to learn from our traumatic experiences if we are to ensure that we never again revisit the conditions of conflict.”
To gain a proper understanding of the conflict an independent, international truth commission is required, the ACP believes.
“Neither the British state, unionists nor republicans have a right to control such a process.
“They all have an equal responsibility to outline their role in the violence and in creating the context to the suffering over the last 37 years.
“We owe it to the victims, to ourselves and to future generations to deal with this issue once and for all in a manner which has the fullest appreciation of the causes, context and consequences of the conflict we all had to endure.”
Martin Meehan, who took part in the Spotlight special programmes, said his contribution to the series was slightly different in that in his case two ex-combatants had come face to face rather than victim and perpetrator.
“The response I’ve got has been very positive.
“A lot of people were of the opinion that our exchange should be a model for the way forward,” Martin said.
“For me I got a lot of inner analysis of conflict resolution at its coalface. Confronting your enemy is a difficult road to go down.
“ But I think we all have to face that road sooner rather than later.
“Conflict resolution, I believe, should be robustly explored and developed for us as a community to make any progress,” said Martin Meehan.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

Nationalist tension on the increase after a new wave of death threats

Irelanclick

North Belfast on high alert as Sinn Féin dismisses UDA claims of reduced criminality

Nationalist North Belfast is on high alert after a wave of UDA death threats were delivered to homes late on Tuesday night by the PSNI.
The threats, mostly to Catholic taxi drivers, claim an attack is imminent and that “someone was going to be shot”.
The sinister letters come on the back of a murder bid on a Catholic taxi driver at the weekend in Ligoniel.
Following a PSNI raid on the Alexandra bar on the York Road a court heard the UDA was intending to announce an end to criminality, a claim dismissed by Sinn Féin.
Local MLA Gerry Kelly said the subsequent death threats exposed such a claim by the UDA as a sham.
“These threats are the most recent attempt by the UDA in North Belfast to crank up sectarian tension and intimidation,” he said.
“This latest development coupled with the attempted murder of a taxi man at the weekend is further evidence that the UDA’s public pronouncements on ending criminality are nothing more than a PR stunt,” he said.
“How do they square this circle when they are making threats under the names of the Red Hand Defenders?”
He called on unionist leaders to condemn the threats.
“I want to take this opportunity to call upon unionist politicians to stand with the rest of us in solidarity with those providing a public service to have the death threats against the nationalist community of North Belfast removed.”
John Bunting of the UPRG said he had spoken to members of the UDA about the threats to Catholic taxi drivers.
“I’ve spoken to the UDA about this and there’s no threat to anyone, be they Catholic, republican or a taxi driver from the UDA in North Belfast. I totally condemn what has happened.
“There is no Red Hand Defenders and even the dogs in the street know the codeword, so it could be anybody putting the mix in.”
The PSNI said they raided the Alexandra bar because they believed a paramilitary event was being organised.
Eleven men have since been charged with attempting to organise a meeting in support of the UDA – six were released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.
DUP MP Nigel Dodds said he would be writing to the Chief Constable Hugh Orde about police tactics during the raid.
North Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri was one of the men arrested during the dramatic swoop on the alleged bar event, which Chief Constable Hugh Orde has described as “no teddy bear’s picnic”.
Ihab Shoukri is currently awaiting trial on charges of UDA/UFF membership. On Wednesday Belfast Crown Court refused the PSNI’s application to revoke his bail.
Judge Tom Burgess said the accused was downstairs while an alleged UDA meeting was going on upstairs and there was no evidence he had broken his bail.
The PSNI had claimed he breached bail conditions banning him from associating with paramilitaries by being in a bar where they were meeting.
Meanwhile the controversial Independent Monitoring Commission produced its ninth report yesterday.
It said the IRA does not pose a “terrorist threat” as it has decided to follow a political path.
But in relation to loyalist activity, it maintained that while loyalists were heavily involved in organised crime, there were signs of a possible readiness to abandon some of its criminality.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

World’s oppressed ‘look to hero Sands’

Daily Ireland

by Mick Hall
10/03/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA new biography of hunger striker Bobby Sands was launched last night.
Denis O’Hearn’s biography – Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker who Ignited a Generation – was launched during a ceremony in Belfast.
Mr O’Hearn lectures in sociology between departments at Queen’s University Belfast and Binghampton University New York. The book was launched in the US several weeks ago.
“The book will obviously be of interest to Irish American activists but also to a wider audience,” said Mr O’Hearn.
“Bobby Sands was an internationalist. He drew strength and political conviction from people like Che Guevara in Cuba, Camilo Torres in Columbia and George Jackson in Soledad, USA. Bobby was particularly interested in Afro-American history and today, contemporary black activists show great interest in his life.
“I have met ordinary people in central America, Jamaica, Palestine and South African and they all have spoken of Bobby Sands.
“When Turkish political prisoners went on hunger strike five years ago, their secret codeword for their plans was ‘Bobby Sands’.
“When Bobby died, Fidel Castro compared him with Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela led a protest at Robben Island and Mayan militants went on the first hunger strike at Cero Hueco prison in Chiapas. He is an international figure,” Denis says.
Mr O’Hearn is certain that, since 1981, political activists have given the hunger strike more prominence as a political weapon: “Hunger-strikes hadn’t been unique to Ireland. But the political impact of the 1981 hunger strike elevated the tactic internationally. It had a ripple-effect. It is no coincidence that the US government has gone to extreme measures to keep hunger-strikers at Guantánamo Bay alive, by brutally force-feeding them. They don’t want another Bobby Sands,” he said.
Mr O’Hearn’s said his aim in the book was to “get under the skin” of Bobby Sands and find out what made him tick. The book outlines his life before his IRA involvement. It looks at his childhood, growing up with the societal vicissitudes of racist, sectarian hatred and his teenage experiences of living under a repressive police state.
But it also attempts to penetrate his psyche, to identify a revolutionary characterology which could account for his endurance of a slow and painful death.
“Nine other men died, while dozens of men and women were involved in the prison struggle. Was there something special about Bobby Sands? Yes,” Mr O’Hearn said.
After being arrested at just 17 years old, Sands spent most of the rest of his life in jail. He died at 27, on May 5, 1981, after 66 days of hunger-strike, during which he wrote poems, kept a prison journal and was elected as Member of Parliament for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
“He was a leader in jail. Bobby’s strength was his ability to reinvent himself. This was particularly the case in prison. In 1975, when Britain took away political status for republican prisoners, he convinced fellow prisoners to reclaim their prison spaces, to fight criminalisation and he led by example.”

Bobby Sands' diary - day 10

Larkspirit

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Tuesday 10th

It has been a fairly normal day in my present circumstances. My weight is 59. 3 kgs. and I have no medical problems. I have seen some birthday greetings from relatives and friends in yesterday's paper which I got today. Also I received a bag of toiletries today.

There is no priest in tonight, but the chief medical officer dropped in, took my pulse, and left. I suppose that makes him feel pretty important.

From what I have read in the newspapers I am becoming increasingly worried and wary of the fact that there could quite well be an attempt at a later date to pull the carpet from under our feet and undermine us -- if not defeat this hunger-strike -- with the concession bid in the form of 'our own clothes as a right'.

This, of course, would solve nothing. But if allowed birth could, with the voice of the Catholic hierarchy, seriously damage our position. It is my opinion that under no circumstances do they wish to see the prisoners gain political status, or facilities that resemble, or afford us with the contents of, political status.

The reasons for this are many and varied, primarily motivated by the wish to see the revolutionary struggle of the people brought to an end. The criminalisation of Republican prisoners would help to furnish this end.

It is the declared wish of these people to see humane and better conditions in these Blocks. But the issue at stake is not 'humanitarian', nor about better or improved living conditions. It is purely political and only a political solution will solve it. This in no way makes us prisoners elite nor do we (nor have we at any time) purport to be elite.

We wish to be treated 'not as ordinary prisoners' for we are not criminals. We admit no crime unless, that is, the love of one's people and country is a crime.

Would Englishmen allow Germans to occupy their nation or Frenchmen allow Dutchmen to do likewise? We Republican prisoners understand better than anyone the plight of all prisoners who are deprived of their liberty. We do not deny ordinary prisoners the benefit of anything that we gain that may improve and make easier their plight. Indeed, in the past, all prisoners have gained from the resistance of Republican jail struggles.

I recall the Fenians and Tom Clarke, who indeed were most instrumental in highlighting by their unflinching resistance the 'terrible silent system' in the Victorian period in English prisons. In every decade there has been ample evidence of such gains to all prisoners due to Republican prisoners' resistance.

Unfortunately, the years, the decades, and centuries, have not seen an end to Republican resistance in English hell-holes, because the struggle in the prisons goes hand-in-hand with the continuous freedom struggle in Ireland. Many Irishmen have given their lives in pursuit of this freedom and I know that more will, myself included, until such times as that freedom is achieved.

I am still awaiting some sort of move from my cell to an empty wing and total isolation. The last strikers were ten days in the wings with the boys, before they were moved. But then they were on the no-wash protest and in filthy cells. My cell is far from clean but tolerable. The water is always cold. I can't risk the chance of cold or 'flu. It is six days since I've had a bath, perhaps longer. No matter.

Tomorrow is the eleventh day and there is a long way to go. Someone should write a poem of the tribulations of a hunger-striker. I would like to, but how could I finish it.

Caithfidh mé a dul mar tá tuirseach ag eirí ormsa.

(Translated, this reads as follows):
Must go as I'm getting tired.


Mural detail from >>CAIN

Fund-raising catch to Adams' US visit

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
10 March 2006

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been invited back to the White House for St Patrick's Day - but he will not be allowed to raise cash while in the US.

Mr Adams is expected to take up the invite, along with other Northern Ireland politicians, for the annual Shamrock Ceremony.

However, the family of a Dublin man murdered by republicans will be among those taking centre stage at the annual festivities.

Relatives of Joseph Rafferty, who was shot dead in a Dublin housing estate last April by a man believed to be a former IRA member, will meet President George W Bush during a special VIP gathering.

Their meeting will mark the second year in a row that Mr Bush has chosen to highlight victims of republican violence at the high profile event. Last year he welcomed the sisters of Robert McCartney, the Belfast man stabbed to death by IRA members.

Northern Ireland politicians were not invited to last year's ceremony because of the disquiet following the McCartney murder and the Northern Bank robbery.

But Mr Bush decided this week to approve the return of politicians, in part to recognise the IRA pledge to become "purely political".

Reports from Washington say US envoy Mitchell Reiss phoned Mr Adams last night to invite him to the White House.

But he was also informed that his visa conditions will not allow him to attend a Sinn Fein fund-raising breakfast in Washington next Thursday.

Fund-raising has been a sore point between Mr Adams and the US recently. In November he refused a trip to New York after being told he could not attend a fund-raising event.

He ended up speaking to the Sinn Fein dinner by a satellite link-up, and later called on Mr Bush to rein in "anti-Sinn Fein elements" in the US administration.

SDLP blows a fuse over stun guns

Belfast Telegraph
10 March 2006

The introduction of 50,000-volt stun guns by the PSNI will be opposed on the Policing Board by the SDLP.

Board member Alex Attwood hit out at the "headlong rush" to introduce TASERs and said there are concerns about their safety.

"The SDLP is totally opposed to the introduction of TASERs - even for the limited purposes that the PSNI wants them," he said.

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde recently approached the board about buying a dozen of the weapons, which use jolts of electricity to incapacitate people.

Sir Hugh wants them as a less lethal option than firearms. He told the board specially trained officers would use the US-made weapons.

TASERs deliver six watts of electricity at 50,000 volts through two barbed electrodes that attach themselves to the targeted person.

But critics of the device say it has been associated with more than 100 deaths in the US and Canada. According to reports, TASERs have been recorded as a factor in 15 deaths in the US.

The weapons were approved for use in Britain last year. But Mr Attwood said: "There is also a dearth of proper research about their safety - especially their effects on children."

He said the time set by the board for public consultation - two-and-a- half weeks - is "woefully insufficient" and wants it extended.

A spokeswoman for the Policing Board said it is "essential for the police to have access to a range of equipment to meet difficult and often dangerous policing situations."

Several computers found during massive swoop along border

Irish Independent

Tom Brady
10 March 2006

LAPTOP computers, which could be the key to unlocking the IRA's multi-million euro war chest, were found under bales of hay yesterday.

The discovery was made after the biggest cross-Border operation targeting the homeland of the IRA's chief of staff, Tom 'Slab' Murphy.

The operation was aimed at striking a deadly blow to the heart of the IRA's financial empire. Thousands of documents and computers were seized for detailed examination.

The raids were spearheaded by the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Northern Assets Recovery Agency (ARA). Over 400 personnel were involved.

Detectives from the gardai and the PSNI carried out checks at Murphy's home which straddles the border at Ballybinaby which is between Hackballscross and Crossmaglen.

Murphy (56) was not at home when the house was raided and the area was sealed off as detailed searches were completed.

On this side of the border gardai searched nine properties including Murphy's own house, his family home, houses occupied by several others living nearby and the offices of a solicitor's firm in Dundalk.

In the North police searched six houses and businesses in Crossmaglen and the nearby village of Keady and officers also served orders on several businessmen, requiring them to provide full audits of their accounts to the anti-racketeering authorities.

Thirty boxes of documents were taken away for inspection along with the computers that had been located in a hayshed.

Gardai seized around €250,000 in sterling and euro, 30,000 cigarettes and 8,000 gallons of diesel.

They also found a diesel laundering unit located on one of the farms, three fuel trucks, a larger truck with a fuel container concealed on its trailer, and two shotguns.

Two men who tried to avoid a road checkpoint were trailed by gardai and spotted by the air support unit who kept watch in a helicopter until the suspects were arrested.

At one stage the helicopter was thought to have strayed across the border while observing the suspects but the incident was later described as minor.

Two men and a woman who is married to one of them were questioned by gardai after the raids.

The three, who are in their 50s and 60s, were later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the DPP.

In the North, Chief Supt Bobby Hunniford said his forces seized a dozen fuel trucks and about €29,000 but made no arrests.

He said locals were "sick and tired of living in fear of the organised criminals among them". Almost 120 personnel were involved in the operation on the southern side. The CAB team was backed up by local units from the Louth-Meath division, the Special Branch, Emergency Response Unit, national fraud bureau, garda technical bureau, national bureau of criminal investigation, air support unit, Customs officers and officials from the Department of Social and Community Affairs.

More than 250 police, British troops and Customs officers took part across the border.

The operation followed months of planning supervised by the head of CAB, Det Chief Supt Felix McKenna and the ARA boss, Alan McQuillan.

It follows a major joint operation last October which culminated in raids on a €44m property portfolio in Manchester and a dozen properties in Dundalk.

Slab Murphy later denied any connection with that property.

The operation was based on intelligence that had been built up over the past four years by police on both sides and represented the first significant blow at the massive smuggling trade being run from south Armagh.

Security risks in the past have restricted the activities of the police in south Armagh.

But senior anti-terrorist officers were determined to smash the smuggling trade which was estimated to provide a very substantial portion of the finances needed for the day to day running of the Provisionals as well as building up a "war chest" to pay for the development of Sinn Fein as a political party north and south.

Last night officers said it would take several months to examine all of the documentation and the information downloaded from the computers.

But the operation was described as a significant success which was likely to have major implications.

Motorists warned of Westlink work

BBC



Looking north at the proposed new Grosvenor Road junction

Roadworks on Belfast's Westlink are set to make their biggest impact so far on motorists travelling through the city.

From Monday, northbound traffic will be unable to turn right from the Westlink onto the Grosvenor Road.

Motorists heading into the city will have to exit at the Divis Street or Broadway turn-offs.

Those travelling southbound will be unable to turn right towards the Royal Victoria Hospital. The Roads Service has warned motorists to expect delays.

Roy Spiers of the Roads Service said: "I would ask motorists to be patient, and to be aware that there is a change in traffic plans starting on Monday."

Work on the multi-million pound upgrade is due to be completed in the spring of 2009.

It will create three continuous lanes on the M1 and Westlink between Blacks Road and Divis Street junctions.

The Westlink carries 65,000 motorists every day and is Northern Ireland's busiest road.

Two lanes will be maintained in both directions throughout the work from 0600 GMT until 2200 GMT on Monday to Saturday and from 1100 GMT on Sundays.

Doctors object to force-feeding at Guantanamo

KRT Wire

BY CAROL ROSENBERG
Knight Ridder Newspapers

MIAMI - More than 250 physicians from around the world are condemning the Pentagon's practice of force-feeding suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a letter in Friday's edition of the British medical journal Lancet.

"Fundamental to doctors' responsibilities in attending a hunger striker is the recognition that prisoners have a right to refuse treatment," says the letter, which accuses the U.S. military of violating medical ethics.

Physicians who signed the letter include former military doctors, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, pathologists and general practitioners from Britain, the United States, South Africa, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. They included South African physician John Kalk, who refused to force-feed hunger strikers in Johannesburg during apartheid.

The protest in the prestigious journal comes on the heels of a New York Times report that U.S. military medical personnel at the base have been overseeing force-feedings of hunger strikers. The captives have been strapped into restraint chairs in cold cells to get them to eat on their own, the Times said.

"We urge the U.S. government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned, forthwith in accordance with internationally agreed standards," the letter said.

The Pentagon said in a statement Thursday night that Guantanamo detainees are "treated humanely and are being provided with excellent medical care." It added that doctors follow federal prison guidelines for feeding prisoners with tubes.

"These dangerous men are held in an environment that is stable, secure, safe, and humane," the Pentagon said.

U.S. commanders at the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base have been struggling for nearly four years to cope with the consequences of hunger-striking protests by some of the nearly 500 captives. They argue that they cannot allow a captive to starve himself.

After a detainee refuses nine consecutive meals, according to Guantanamo procedures, he is fed liquids through a tube that is snaked down his nose and into his stomach.

Guantanamo officials defend the practice as humane in court filings.

"This is not a no-risk procedure. Eventually someone is going to die," said David Nicholl, a neurologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, who organized the letter-writing campaign in Europe.

He listed potential life-threatening complications of force-feedings: a collapsed lung, if the tube is inserted improperly; pneumonia; chest infection; and injuring a captive struggling against straps and restraints.

The physicians assert U.S. military medicine is being unethical by engaging in the practice - and that even U.S. Navy doctors should comply with a hunger striker's wish, because he is a patient first, a prisoner second.

The letter writers say the World Medical Association specifically prohibits force-feeding in the Declaration of Tokyo and Malta, which the American Medical Association has signed.

Nicholl, who was born in Belfast, drew notice last year by running the London Marathon in the garb of a Guantanamo detainee - wearing an orange jumpsuit and chains.

Nicholl said he became aware of Guantanamo's force-feeding practices through a Navy doctor's affidavit attached to a habeas-corpus petition in a U.S. civilian court.

He has since written the Navy doctor's medical association seeking to have him stripped of his license.

Both sides there, he said, are engaging in a form of "mutual Russian Roulette."

"If they choose of their own free will to starve themselves to death, the argument that you're saving their lives just doesn't hold water. You are reviving them in effect through torture."

In the case of Northern Ireland, Nicholls said, the authorities allowed Irish Republican prisoner Bobby Sands to starve himself to death in 1981, rather than force-feed him.

The English did force-feed some Irish prisoners, he said, but only after family went to court and the prisoners were declared mentally unfit.

Nicholls dismissed such an alternative at Guantanamo. "It begs the question, if you've got somebody who is mentally ill, is Guantanamo the right place for them?"

€200,000 is seized in border raids

RTÉ

09 March 2006 22:06

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe three people held for questioning following Thursday's cross-border search operation have been released without charge.

Files are to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

An estimated €200,000, as well as fuel and 30,000 cigarettes were seized in the raids along the border in a joint Garda/PSNI operation directed against organised crime.

Two shotguns, computers and boxes of documents were also taken away for examination during the raids in north Co Louth and south Co Armagh.

Up to 400 gardaí, PSNI, customs officers and military personnel from Northern Ireland and the Republic were involved in the search.

About a dozen properties have been searched in what is described as one of the biggest ever cross-border raids.

At one stage, an area around the family home of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, allegedly a former IRA chief of staff, was sealed off.

09 March 2006

WHO WAS THE REAL MICHAEL COLLINS?

The New Republic

The Organizer
by Fintan O'Toole
Post date: 03.09.06
Issue date: 03.13.06

Mick: The Real Michael Collins
By Peter Hart
(Viking, 485 pp., $27.95)


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

On an Internet site dedicated solely to merchandise bearing the image of the early twentieth-century Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, you can buy a T-shirt imprinted with the hero's face and the slogan "Rebel With a Cause." Michael Collins is the James Dean of the Irish nationalist revolt against Britain. Peter Hart, in his new biography, describes Collins as "the first example of that twentieth century phenomenon: the guerrilla celebrity." Young, good-looking, moody, and sexy, he also had the wit to die in 1922 at the age of thirty-one, before the banalities of peacetime government or the disappointments of middle age could turn him into a bore. Killed by some of his old comrades, who rejected the deal that he struck with the British, he could be admired for apparently contradictory reasons: as a ruthless terrorist leader and as a heroic compromiser.

On the one hand, Collins can be remembered as the father of twentieth-century asymmetric warfare, in which a small guerrilla gang takes on a lumbering imperial giant and wins. In an interview with the London Daily Telegraph in 1998, Yitzhak Shamir revealed that one of the great inspirations in his life was Michael Collins. Shamir said he admired Collins's personal courage, and had studied his tactics. He chose the name "Michael" as his nom de guerre while leading the Lehi group (the so-called Stern Gang, a Jewish band of anti-British terrorists in Mandatory Palestine) as a tribute to Collins. As Shamir wrote in his memoirs, "The spirit and circumstances of [Collins's] struggle against the British came to life for me in faraway Poland and remained with me." The Collins who inspired Shamir was the hard, cold, clear-eyed leader of the Irish Republican Army, who was prepared to use violence as a political tool.

On the other hand, Collins can be remembered as a brave peacemaker. Shortly after the peace deal in 1998, which brought an end to thirty years of violence in Northern Ireland, David Trimble, the leader of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party, was asked about the man who had been his greatest enemy--Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the present-day IRA. He confessed that he thought it "possible that Gerry Adams could be a Michael Collins." What he meant was not that Adams was a cold-blooded mastermind of terror, but that he, like Collins, could lead the IRA into democratic politics by making a pragmatic deal, as Collins had done in 1921 when he negotiated an Anglo-Irish treaty that left Britain in control of Northern Ireland and created a state on the rest of the island whose independence fell short of the republican ideal for which he had fought.

Collins's double image gives his memory a peculiar pliability. The original publicity poster for Neil Jordan's film Michael Collins, which came out in 1996, showed Liam Neeson as Collins leaping over a barricade with a rifle in his hand. It was scrapped in favor of a poster showing him making a speech from an election platform. The transformation of radical gunman into democratic politician was designed, of course, to resonate with the peace process in Northern Ireland, and the film broke Irish box-office records. As a result, Collins's image was commodified through posters, t-shirts, phone cards, and kitschy bronze statuettes. In the village of Granard, home to Collins's girlfriend Kitty Kiernan, the new Michael Collins Bar and Kitty Kiernan Restaurant did a roaring trade. Politicians made speeches about what Collins, had he lived, "would have" done and thought. All of it, remarkably enough, happened to coincide precisely with their own deeds and ideals. In his Michael Collins: A Life, published in 1996, James Mackay, typically of the Collins biographers, wrote that had he lived Collins "would have" peacefully re-united the island and created a thriving economy. The young revolutionary had become the patron saint of lost opportunities.

The malleability of Collins's memory owes much to the facts of his astonishing life, but much, too, to the way his early death made his future a matter of pure possibility. The men who shot Collins in an ambush during the civil war between rival nationalist factions that followed British withdrawal from most of Ireland were partisans of the more hard-line Eamon de Valera, who went on to dominate the Irish state in the coming decades. De Valera still held the ceremonial office of president of the Irish Republic fifty years after Collins's death, and is remembered now as ancient, decrepit, and half-blind. Collins stayed fresh in the imagination as the country boy who had humbled the greatest empire the world had ever known. Revelations that he had a foul tongue and an eye for women only made him seem more attractively contemporary. In the wars of memory, Collins has routed those who killed him.

The process of shaping an official memory began early. As Anne Dolan has shown in her brilliant book Commemorating the Irish Civil War, Collins was scarcely cold before the process of myth-making was under way. Less than a month after Collins's death in August 1922, the embattled government of the new Irish state commissioned an official biography. A few weeks later, it agreed to purchase his death mask and a bronze bust. On the second anniversary of the killing, the Irish army unveiled a large stone cross, with an image of the crucified Christ, at the alleged site of the fatal ambush on a rural road in Collins's native County Cork: a place now declared to be holy ground, "made sacred by the blood of General Collins."

The identification of the hero's blood sacrifice with that of Jesus was by no means accidental. Collins's closest military acolytes had been known as "the Apostles," and his own dying words were even reported as "Forgive them"--an echo of Christ's words on the cross. And like the memory of all dead saints, the memory of the real Collins was being made to measure. The site of the monument, chosen for its capacity to accommodate large crowds of pilgrims, was in fact forty yards away from the real site. A cement cone that had marked the actual place of his death was moved so as to stand, as it still does, next to the cross. The tendency to shift the facts to shape a usable memory goes back a long way.

The subtitle of the new biography by Peter Hart, with its claim to reveal the "real Michael Collins," is thus an open declaration of skepticism in the face of a deliberately constructed image. Collins, Hart notes in his introduction, has virtually disappeared into "the realm of the incredible, of Monte Cristo, the Scarlet Pimpernel and Sherlock Holmes" through "innumerable tales of his miraculous feats, subterfuges and evasions of near-certain capture and death." Hart's aim, he writes, is not to debunk Collins, but simply to "start from scratch and from a new, forensic perspective," one that is "analytical and systematic rather than heroic." Hart is well fitted for the task. His great book The IRA and Its Enemies is a micro-study of the guerrilla campaign in Collins's native Cork, and his collection of historical essays, The IRA at War 1916-1923, includes a groundbreaking study of the Irish nationalist underground in London, where Collins forged his political persona.

The delicious irony that emerges from Hart's sober analysis of the available documentation is that Collins, the arch-enemy of British imperialism, was in fact the perfect product of Victorian Britain. He was upwardly mobile: born in 1890 as the third son of obscure farmers in rural Cork, by the age of thirty he had become chairman of, and minister for finance in, the government of a new state and commander-in-chief of its army, negotiating as an equal with Winston Churchill and Lloyd George. He achieved his ambitions, moreover, by embracing the very values that his imperial masters preached to their subjects: hard work, organization, relentless discipline. If the British ruling class developed a perverse regard for the young man who directed a dirty war against them, it was surely because they recognized him as their own creature.

Collins was not a born genius. When, at fifteen, he took the examinations for a job as clerk in the Post Office Savings Bank in London, he failed two of the four subjects and did not achieve the required grade of sixty-six. He got the job only because so many successful candidates did not accept their offers. Yet it was the Post Office Savings Bank that made him such a successful revolutionary. Irish nationalism had always had a surplus of dreamers, poets, visionaries, rhetoricians, and idealists. What it lacked was bureaucrats. Collins became the indispensable man of the Irish revolution because he knew how to run things.

The guerrilla chief who demanded that his subordinates supply reports "done in tabular form and furnished in duplicate" was simply a grown-up version of the boy in the Post Office Savings Bank, where hundreds of thousands of transactions had to be recorded accurately every day and clerical errors were not tolerated. The earnest, punctual Collins who earned a reputation as "the speediest young clerk in the Savings Bank" was, in embryo, the leader whose favorite terms of castigation were "lazy," "inefficient," and "unbusinesslike." Obscured by the legend of the trickster-terrorist is the real Collins story: the literal treason of the clerk.

Collins's pragmatism and aptitude for micro-management made him a perfect revolutionary bureaucrat. Very few guerrilla leaders can have devoted mental space to the question of dog licenses, as Collins did at the height of the IRA's campaign in 1920, when he suggested that the issuing of licenses for dogs and illegal whiskey might be a good way to make up revenue lost to nationalist-controlled local councils by the withdrawal of British grants. This appetite for detail combined with an ability to survive without much sleep might seem merely the makings of a good middle manager. But the context of Irish revolutionary culture gave a special potency to Collins's ethic of efficiency.

That culture was one of heroic failure. Its cardinal virtues were courage, self-sacrifice, and a noble death. After a decade in London, where he divided his time between respectable day jobs in banking and a burgeoning career in both open and conspiratorial Irish nationalist organizations, Collins returned to Dublin to take part in the most glorious failure of them all, the Easter Rising of 1916. He was in the revolutionary headquarters (appropriately enough, the General Post Office in Dublin) for most of the five days during which a few hundred armed rebels held out before their inevitable defeat by vastly superior British forces. The grand gesture reached its culmination with the cold-blooded (and, from the point of view of public opinion, catastrophically misjudged) execution of the leaders by the British. Collins emerged from a prison camp at the end of 1916 with all the élan of a man who had taken part in the bloody national sacrifice, but also with a contempt for heroic gestures. The revolution he would run would not be a grand opera; it would be a corporation.

In September 1917, when the prominent nationalist Thomas Ashe died as a result of being force-fed by British authorities attempting to end a hunger strike, Collins was given the job of making the funeral oration at his graveside in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. The funeral was staged as a grand exercise in political theater, and as a self-conscious reprise of the obsequies in 1915 for Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, a veteran of the militantly nationalist Fenian movement. On that occasion, Patrick Pearse, who went on to lead the Easter Rising, had made a famous speech whose rhetoric was powered by the romantic glamour of blood sacrifice: "The fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace." Pearse's oration was the high point of a super-charged, ecstatic rhetoric that fused political militancy and religious mysticism into a deathly incantation. It captured, in the words of William Irwin Thompson, "the romance of the monumental grave, the mysticism of martyrdom, the desire for apotheosis in a tragic death."

Thomas Ashe was buried a few yards from O'Donovan's grave, and the crowds who gathered to hear Collins would undoubtedly have expected a rhetorical display along similar lines. What happened instead was that twelve men fired three volleys over the grave and, as the Irish Times reported the next day, "Mr. Michael Collins, after the firing, stepped forward and said there would be no oration. Nothing remained to be said, for the volley which had been fired was the only speech which it would be proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian." The silence was more dazzlingly eloquent than anything Collins might have said. It delivered an unmistakable message. Romantic rhetoric might sanitize or even substitute for violence, but Collins intended to get on with the dirty business itself. This time there would be no heroic and dramatic failures, just cold instrumental killing.

Late in 1921, when Collins's celebrity had made him a great catch for society soirées, he attended a party at the house of the writer and surgeon Oliver St. John Gogarty (best known as the model for Buck Mulligan in Joyce's Ulysses) along with W.B. Yeats and the artist and mystic George Russell. The latter launched into a spiritual lecture on good, evil, and the soul. Collins listened intently for a while, then interrupted with the blunt question: "But what is your point, Mr. Russell?" It was a question that previous Irish nationalist leaders had tended not to ask. The struggle was its own point--merely to have fought was, in some mystical sense, to have won. For Collins, the point was simple enough: to force the British to negotiate their withdrawal from Ireland by any means necessary.

Violence was one of those means. Collins's reputation as the father of modern guerrilla warfare is undeserved. As Hart convincingly argues, the IRA's strength was that its attacks on the police, the army, and the irregular British force (known, from its uniform, as the Black and Tans) were locally directed and opportunistic. There was no central mastermind. Collins's importance lay rather in his ability to maintain the supply of money and arms, to keep his eye simultaneously on the political and military dimensions of the struggle, and, above all, to coordinate intelligence. His success in the latter department was not just militarily useful, but also crucial to the morale of the fighters. In the long and woeful tale of Irish uprisings, every chapter had ended with a bitter acknowledgment that all the plans had been betrayed by enemy spies. By turning the tables, Collins helped to convince his own side that this time the ending could be different.

Again, as Hart shows, Collins was not the awesome spymaster of legend. At least two British agents managed to win his trust before they betrayed themselves by their own amateurism and were shot. Ned Broy, Collins's most important agent, a senior clerk in the plainclothes section at police headquarters in Dublin Castle, contacted the IRA on his own initiative. But Collins's efficiency was nonetheless crucial. He knew how to act quickly on the information that he was given, and his effective networks of communication carried the warnings of police and army raids in time for their intended targets to take evasive action.

Perhaps more importantly, Collins understood the psychological impact not so much of the intelligence itself as of the idea that he had it. The story, widely rumored but nonetheless true, that Collins had been able to sneak into Dublin Castle and examine his own file, gave his supporters a sense of almost magical invincibility. The operation in November 1920 in which twelve British agents were killed in their homes during eight separate but almost simultaneous IRA raids conveyed the same impression to the general public. It also provoked a vicious British backlash in which several civilian spectators at a football match were shot dead, further undermining the legitimacy of the British presence.

How could a man who used violence so ruthlessly become the pragmatic compromiser who negotiated with the British and settled for less than the sacred Republic for which the 1916 leaders had died? The contradiction is more apparent than real. The Collins who preferred gunshots to high-flown rhetoric was precisely the same utilitarian who preferred an acceptable deal to an interminable war. Unusual among his comrades, Collins was immune to Catholic mysticism and to the sectarian religious passions that infected so much of Irish nationalist ideology. Toward the end of the Easter Rising, when many of the rebels were resorting to their rosary beads, an angry Collins saw one of his comrades with his head in his hands and asked, "Are you fucking praying too?" He was strongly anti-clerical, and owned many of the works of the American freethinker Robert Ingersoll (known to contemporaries as "the Great Agnostic").

Cut off from the hinterland of visceral faith, his nationalism was as pragmatic as it was passionate. The experience of running a guerrilla war, moreover, taught him not just about the uses of violence, but also about its limits. Those limits were the same for the IRA in the 1920s as they were for a later version of the IRA in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. The IRA could make Ireland ungovernable by Britain, but it could not actually defeat a vastly greater military power or force the large Protestant and pro-British population in the northeast of the island into an Irish state.

Still, Collins had built his reputation in the nationalist movement by always being on the more militant side of its various splits. It was a surprise to his fellow members of the team that negotiated with the British in London in 1921 when Collins abruptly announced that he would accept the draft treaty creating a Free State in twenty-six of Ireland's thirty-two counties, with the British king remaining as nominal head of state. As Hart puts it, "His personal history of siding with the militants in splits, his power base among conspirators and gunmen, and his fear of being blamed for compromise or failure should have predisposed him to say no." His pragmatism, though, trumped everything else. As he explained to his revolutionary colleagues back home, "In a contest between a great Empire and a small nation this was as far as the small nation could get. Until the British Empire was destroyed, Ireland could get no more." In this Collins was undoubtedly right, and we should recognize the moral courage that it took for a heavily mythologized figure to confront an unpalatable reality.

In the civil war that followed the Anglo-Irish treaty, Collins virtually embodied the new state, dominating its government and commanding its army against his former comrades. He operated again as organizer and manager, galvanizing his forces with his energy, efficiency, and intolerance of failure. Ironically, his death in the fateful ambush ought to have further demythologized him, for it showed the reputed gunman's inexperience in combat. Collins needlessly exposed himself under fire in a way that reminded his colleagues that he had always been essentially a back-room boy. Emmet Dalton, who was beside Collins when he died, recalled that "Mick wouldn't keep his head down. If he'd ever been in a scrap he'd have learned to stay down." Such was Collins's importance for the fragile new state, however, that he was immediately transfigured into a warrior-hero.

Peter Hart has done a remarkable job in recovering the ambitious, workaholic bureaucrat behind the legend of Michael Collins. His argument is always lucid and forceful, if sometimes disfigured by an unfortunate attempt at populist language whose lack of real conviction is conveyed by a plague of exclamation marks. By sticking rigorously to documentary sources, many of them not previously exploited, he has constructed an image of Collins that is more mundane than those that have gone before but still acknowledges his exceptional achievements. This is the book that will unquestionably be the starting point for all future reflections on Collins. But it should not be the last word.

There remains, after all, a sense in which a demythologized Collins is not quite as "real" as Hart would have it. For even before his death and apotheosis, "Michael Collins" meant far more to both his admirers and his enemies than the six feet of blood and bone who plotted his own advancement alongside his country's freedom. When a university student in Dublin confided to her diary in 1921, after a skirmish between the IRA and British forces, the rumor that "Michael Collins was killed in the battle ... while leading his men on a white charger," she was imagining a fantasy figure who could not be further from the reality of Hart's revolutionary bureaucrat. The ability to evoke such fantasies, however, was itself a part of Collins's historical presence.

Collins's mysterious glamour dazzled even his enemies at Dublin Castle. They came to regard him as at once maddeningly elusive and yet so intimately known that they habitually referred to him simply as "Michael." The Irish historian Michael Laffan has noted such comments on the British files as that of the commander in chief Nevil Macready after a prison break allegedly masterminded by Collins: "It was cleverly done, and I rather admire Michael." Other remarks on British intelligence files have the star-struck quality of fans gossiping about a movie actor or a pop singer: "M.C. has, I hear, grown a beard: he is the idol of the young men"; "Michael slept with a girl, address known, once a week"; "Michael is often disguised as a priest with a remarkably high collar."

Even among the lower ranks of the British army, Collins acquired the status of a Houdini. In January 1921, a newly arrived English soldier named J.P. Swindlehurst noted in his diary (published recently in William Sheehan's fascinating British Voices From the Irish War of Independence 1918-1921) that "We have two extremely fast cars with Rolls Royce engines, we had a talk to the drivers this morning, and were told they are kept in readiness to catch the elusive Michael Collins when news of his whereabouts comes to hand. He must be famous, £500 is being offered dead or alive for his capture, but all the Black and Tans ... and CID [Criminal Investigation Department] men from Scotland Yard can't get hold of him." Six weeks later, he was still complaining that "night after night we have been ordered out, 'Michael Collins had been located, he was imprisoned in such and such a house, the CID had him surrounded,' and all sorts of rumours. At the time of writing, he is still at large."

So Peter Hart's forensic examination of the documents captures one part of Collins with a rigorous historian's skill. But the elusive figure compounded of rumor and imagination was perhaps just as effective in convincing the British that they could not hold Ireland in their grasp. That Michael Collins is still at large.


Fintan O'Toole is a columnist for The Irish Times.

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