Accusers must be confronted


Reports obtained from:

(1), (2) Daily Ireland, (3) The Guardian

Tuesday, 10 February, 2005

Sunday, 13 February, 2005

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Tuesday, 10 February, 2005

Four groups should be going to the courts

By Des Wilson,

Surely there are at least four groups of people who should be going to the courts in rage over the undemocratic treatment they are getting.

One is the Sinn Féin party which is being ruthlessly attacked. Another is those who are not members of that party but vote for Sinn Féin and are being denied their most basic democratic rights. A third is other political parties, especially the SDLP, who, if London and Dublin succeed in destroying Sinn Féin, will be their next target. And a fourth, those who are not members of Sinn Féin, who do not vote for Sinn Féin, have no sympathy with Sinn Féin policies, but have some regard for saving what progress we have made as Europeans towards democratic government.

All these four groups should be united in protest against one of the most vicious attacks on basic democratic principles we have seen since the dictators. We should also be proceeding with our best lawyers into the courts with a view to reaching the European courts as quickly and as effectively as possible.

Those interested in the possibility of taking such legal action should surely come together and talk about it privately and publicly. Or is it true that we have become so accustomed to being insulted that we don't notice it any more?

It is too serious to allow that to happen. It becomes most serious of all when those insulted get used to it and no longer notice it; and when those who insult you don't even recognise they are doing anything wrong (that helped the rise of the European dictators); and worst of all when those who are insulted feel it does not matter because they are powerless to do anything about it.

When all these factors come together, as they are doing in Ireland now, you are heading for big, big trouble. Because such is the Kingdom of the Dictators.

Just think about one current insult for a moment, an insult that nobody is saying anything about: a man just elected leader of one of the churches in Ireland, what does he do as one of his first public acts? Why, he insults the Catholics of course. Hardly a moment's delay. The new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland publicly announces he is not going to invite the Catholic archbishop – who is the most eminent office-holder in the Irish Catholic Church – to his inauguration.

Does it matter? Well, just think about it. If you are having a party and you don't invite someone, what difference, people understand that. But if you are having a party and you announce publicly on radio and television that you are not inviting so and so, that is a carefully honed, fully intended affront. Who does that? Anyone you know? Probably not, because most of the people you know are guided by the ordinary rules of civilised behaviour among people for whom courtesy is important.

We are lucky in many ways, but one of the penalties for being well brought up and belonging to a good tradition of courtesy is that when discourtesy comes barging in at you, you feel a sense of betrayal and hurt all the more.

Most people will care about whether an archbishop goes to a Presbyterian Assembly just about as much as they would about whether Aunt Delilah invites Uncle Raymond to the christening. But every person involved will feel a sense of outrage if Aunt Delilah announces on radio and television and in the papers that Uncle Raymond is not being invited. Such rudeness is unlikely with most of us, but there is always a small minority of people for whom rudeness is great gas entirely.

The lack of outrage at this calculated affront to the Archbishop of Armagh makes one feel nervous that perhaps we are indeed getting so used to insults that we don't notice them any more. All the more reason why we should be hauling London and Dublin and others into court as early as possible and as often as necessary. To discipline them. To teach them manners.

They talk about a peace process. What peace process is possible if on the one hand you have governments denying the most basic of democratic principles and on the other you have public figures handing out insults to those who have treated them with the courtesy natural to them? What a pity it is when governments and others who could influence the situation in Ireland for good decide instead to select one set of people for degradation in the hope that thereby the other can flourish.


Sunday, 13 February, 2005

South heavily influenced by '26-Countyism'

I have spent a lot of time writing in Southern newspapers attempting to explain the North to the South. Perhaps in this column I might now and then attempt the converse.

I think it's important at this moment to write about Southern attitudes given the immense wave of anti-Sinn Féin feeling here following the allegations that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery. I do not exaggerate but the response right across the political establishment and public opinion in the South has been immensely negative. More importantly, the enemies of the peace process in the South - and sometimes I think there are as many there as in the North - are using the occasion to inflame opinion and to inflict damage on the political consensus that created the peace process in the beginning.

Sinn Féin has characterised this response as "political", given the rising Sinn Féin vote, but I think that is a gross underestimation of the strength of feeling here. Whether you like the Southern political establishment or not - and many Northerners don't - the robbery has had a significant impact. Demands that only a Sinn Féin minus the IRA be allowed re-engage in talks again have been made all over the place and I don't think that it's just rhetoric.

I think that there is now a significant battle to be won here for political and public opinion. To fully understand the dimensions of this problem, it is important to understand a barely understood notion called "Southern nationalism". Irish nationalists have long presumed that nationalism in the North and the South are broadly similar philosophies. They are not, and a more critical analysis of the history of Ireland in the last century should point that up. Apart from electoral rhetoric from time to time, Southern nationalism has long regarded the North with suspicion and unease.

Ever since the Treaty, the plight of the nationalists in the North was never one of their priorities. The warring parties to the Southern civil war had no dispute about partition and, even during the Northern civil war when, in the early years of the establishment of the Six-County state, nationalists were beaten into if not submission then at least subservience, their plight was largely ignored. From a very early moment in the revolutionary years, all sides in the South were prepared to accept the reality of partition with all its inherent dangers for the minority in the North. For example, in 1924, in return for Britain forgoing the huge bill for war-damage to Anglo-Irish property etc for which the Free State government was responsible under the terms of the Treaty, the South gave an undertaking not to interfere in the North.

When Eamon de Valera came to power, he continued the same policy of non-intervention. Of course, come election time, his Fianna Fáil would trot out the national question for electoral purposes but it never went any further than that. The political reality quietly understood and attested to by all sides in Dublin was that the South's stability would not withstand interference by the South in the North. Ironically, partition in these circumstances suited the political interests of both the Southern and Northern political establishments. Call it "26-Countyism" if you like but it was and continues to be a powerful force in Southern politics.

In 1968, when the North exploded, the Southern political establishment's response was to batten down the hatches behind a security policy and a political insistence to Britain that Britain do something about it. Harold Wilson's mutterings about withdrawal in 1972 were greeted with horror in Dublin - read Garret FitzGerald on the topic. Every subsequent political initiative on the North was joined but rarely led by Dublin. For 30 years, the reality of the North was hidden from Southern political opinion by state broadcasting censorship and a public consensus that IRA violence was at the root of it all. The Southern revisionist school of thinking that the IRA was the cause and not the symptom of the problem became widespread.

When Albert Reynolds decided to open a dialogue with Sinn Féin in the 1990s, even his civil servants were deeply troubled. In the early days of what became the peace process, there was intense political and media opposition to what he and John Hume were attempting. Astonishingly for a wide spectrum of opinion in the South, the prospect of peace was far too dangerous to contemplate. Reynolds characterised it brilliantly when he was forced to ask rhetorically on one occasion, "Who's afraid of peace?" Sadly the answer was a considerable chunk of Southern political and media opinion.

The IRA ceasefire silenced that spectrum of opinion and, when the Belfast agreement was finally signed, hardcore Southern nationalist opinion could do little but shut up, bide their time and seek refuge behind the massive electoral mandate that the agreement received. All this time, they have been waiting in the long grass to leap up and say, "I told you so." The Northern Bank robbery has overnight transformed them into a force in the South that Sinn Féin will underestimate at their peril.

The novelty of the Adams/McGuinness road show has worn off. The "26-Countyites" are currently dominating the argument and Sinn Féin's "IRA probationary period" is over. It's critically important to understand that the Belfast agreement represented the only time since independence in the South that Northern and Southern nationalist opinion had reached a comprehensive agreement. It's also critically important to understand that that agreement was also founded on the subtext of the end to paramilitarism.

Make no mistake about it - the political instinct of many currently in the South is if not quite to walk away from it all then to put it all on a very long finger. Can the North survive such a vacuum? Equally, how long can Sinn Féin be all dressed up and with nowhere to go? I don't know the answers. I hope Sinn Féin does.

Copyright © 2005 Daily Ireland

Sunday, 13 February, 2005

Accusers must be confronted

And so it came to pass... With clanging inevitability the Independent Monitoring Commission pointed the finger of blame for the Northern Bank robbery (and a few others) at the IRA and for good measure added that a number of (unnamed) senior Sinn Féin figures were involved.

The information that they base this claim on is precisely the same information that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde relied on when they made their interventions in the case.

In other words, it is information gleaned from intelligence sources whose number one enemy is the republican movement.

It is evidence that is not presented to us for inspection or analysis; it is evidence we are asked to believe exists on the word of British spooks.

Last night a furious Gerry Adams challenged those bandying about these accusations to step forward and have him arrested. It is the logical thing to do.

The PSNI team investigating the crime are urging members of the public to come forward with information, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant.

That the PSNI has made no move to arrest and question two men said to be at the very centre of the robbery beggars belief.

The accusation that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness knew about the robbery before it happened is so serious and so far-reaching that this matter cannot be resolved before it is dealt with definitively.

Making such accusations is not a consequence-free activity. Such charges cannot simply be left hanging in mid-air. They have to be confronted head-on by both sides and in that regard Mr Adams is not bluffing when he challenged his accusers to have him arrested.

What kind of Alice in Wonderland scenario is it that has the PSNI presenting meaningless CCTV footage as dramatic evidence, while they sit dumb and inactive when it comes to the arrest and questioning of two men who their own Chief Constable believes knew about the robbery before it happened?

The truth is, of course, that the accusations have more to do with politics than with reality or criminality.

It suits both governments to throw out accusations willy-nilly without any regard for due process or natural justice.

As long as those accusations go untested then the enemies of Sinn Féin will continue to have a field day flinging unsubstantiated allegations around. The hope of both governments is that this will have the effect of stunting Sinn Féin's growth.

Clearly, the fear of further Sinn Féin political gains has spooked the political establishment to the extent that it is willing to put the peace process on hold while they take time out to take care of electoral business.

This is not surprising. The peace process has been put on hold for a bewildering variety of reasons in the past ten years â€" blackguarding Sinn Féin leaders is as good a reason as any.

It seems, though, that the law of diminishing returns may finally be starting to kick in. With every latest accusation and in the continuing absence of one iota of evidence, even those who are opposed to Sinn Féin are starting to ask, where's the beef? And the IMC's latest hamfisted report was so lacking in credibility that it was quite literally a laughing matter for some hardened hacks at yesterday's press conference. What is going on today is the political equivalent of internment: no evidence, no charges, no justice.

And we all know where internment got the Irish and British governments.

Tuesday, 22 February,  2005

Editorial: House of cards collapsing as SF member is released

Sinn Féin wakens this morning under a tidal wave of outrage after the latest developments in the Garda investigation into money laundering. Yet, after all the bluster, the reality is that the one man charged is being linked by Gardaí to the Real IRA. The only Sinn Féin representative arrested has been released without charge.

No wonder that Martin McGuinness yesterday was urging the public not to rush to judgement on claims that the republican movement was reeling from the Garda operation.

Shamefully, though the entire house of cards linking the Garda operation to the republican movement has collapsed, some politicians are continuing to speak of the Garda investigation as a massive blow to the republican movement. Republicans have much to think about after recent events. They can justifiably contend, however, that this latest Garda operation has nothing to do with them.

Political figures who view recent events as providing them with the best opportunity they have had in a month of Sundays to score points over republicans have been dominating the airways over the past 48 hours.

But while republicans may shrug off the brickbats from these traditional opponents, they can't as easily dismiss the concerns of ordinary nationalists who are increasingly bewildered at the train wreck which is now the peace process. To many ordinary nationalists, the IRA has now become the glass chin of Sinn Féin. While the IRA are not, as the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister allege, the only obstacle to a peace process settlement, they are one of the obstacles. That much is accepted by the IRA and underpinned their commitment before Christmas to enter a new mode. That breathtaking compromise fell apart because republicans weren't prepared to be humiliated by the DUP.

But since that deal collapsed, republicans have been denigrated and pilloried the length and breadth of Ireland while the DUP have been on the crest of a wave.

The reality is that Sinn Féin's political project has been damaged by the Northern Bank heist and the vicious stabbing to death of Robert McCartney.

It's open season on Sinn Féin and while that party is robust enough to defend itself, you can be sure that ordinary nationalists will be under the lash as well.

Phil Flynn, a strong supporter of this newspaper since it was first mooted, is just one person of unquestionable integrity caught in the crossfire this morning. We have no doubt his good name will be cleared in the coming weeks.

Every tinpot reactionary who gets an opportunity to smear ordinary, decent nationalists and bona fide, nationalist-minded organisations will be on the bandwagon this weekend.

All will be tarred with the brush of criminality when in reality, their only 'crime' will be to espouse a political point of view different to that of the governments in Dublin and London.

And yet, even as the storm of condemnation rages, it's vital that we defend the right to point out that all the flaws in the peace process are not the fault of republicans.

There are many sides to this unfolding tale, and many, many shades of grey. Who, for example, would ever have believed that Northern Bank notes would turn up in a country club favoured by the PSNI?

Copyright © 2005 Daily Ireland

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Picking up the pieces

Speaking in Strabane yesterday, Gerry Adams insisted that anyone involved in criminality has no place in the republican movement.

"No republican worth of the name can be involved in criminality of any kind. If any are they should be expelled from our ranks," he said.

Those words will come as some comfort to ordinary nationalists who are left confused and bewildered by the Northern Bank robbery, the vicious killing of Robert McCartney and now the money laundering investigation by the Garda Síochána.

It's a long way from a lonely field in Strabane 20 years ago when Charles Breslin and the Devine brothers were cut down in an SAS ambush to a pub brawl in Belfast which leaves an innocent man dead. Those republicans involved in the murder of Robert McCartney have first and foremost committed a terrible crime against the McCartney family. But they have also done a grievous disservice to the republican cause. The damage done to the McCartney family can never be undone. The expulsion of these people from the republican movement would not go nearly far enough to repair the damage they have done to the republican cause. Only their appearance in a court of law can do that. If republicans can bring that day closer, they should do so. Many nationalists will agree with Gerry Adams when he says that there is now a monumental effort afoot to smear and smash Sinn Féin. There is also an all-out effort to undermine the credibility of the Sinn Féin leadership.

It's no coincidence that this is happening in the run-up to elections across the island.

Nevertheless, the campaign to denigrate Sinn Féin is being helped by the lack of clarity over the future direction of the republican movement.

Before Christmas, in a potentially historic deal with the DUP, the IRA was preparing to decommission and effectively disband. Getting to that position took much hard work and, no doubt, much persuasion from the likes of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

The task of the Sinn Fein leadership this morning is to get back to that position once more.

Copyright © 2005 Daily Ireland

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Paper to sue over minister's IRA claim

By Dan Milmo, Guardian

The confrontation between the republican movement and the Irish government spilled over into the newspaper industry yesterday after three businessman behind the Daily Ireland title started libel proceedings against the Irish justice minister. Two directors of the Daily Ireland, including a former Sinn Féin councillor, and a financial backer of the newspaper yesterday instructed lawyers to issue a libel writ against the government minister Michael McDowell.

Mr McDowell appeared on Irish radio over the weekend and repeated allegations that the Daily Ireland, an all-Ireland republican newspaper, is backed by the IRA. Last month he compared the Belfast-based newspaper with Völkischer Beobachter, a Nazi propaganda sheet of the 1930s.

Mairtin O'Muilleoir, a director of the Daily Ireland and a former Sinn Féin councillor, yesterday denied the allegation. Mr McDowell also named Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness as members of the IRA's ruling army council. Mr O'Muilleoir said he was not surprised that the attack on his newspaper had come in the "same breath" as criticism of the largest republican party in Northern Ireland.

"It's open season on northern nationalists and especially northern nationalists who are sympathetic to Sinn Féin. There is an attempt to criminalise that body of opinion."

Mr O'Muilleoir said the linking of the Daily Ireland to the IRA was a "bare-faced lie" but the newspaper and its parent company, the Andersonstown News group, would not go public with their ownership structures.

"If you want to publish the ownership structure of all the newspaper publishers [in Northern Ireland] that's fair enough. But just because we are allegedly from the wrong side of the tracks I don't see why we should have to [provide further details] than anybody else."

Mr O'Muilleoir said he was a majority shareholder in the Andersonstown group, which has five directors. The Daily Ireland launched this month with a £3m budget provided by its parent company and a mix of Irish and American investors. It failed to win government backing after public funding body Invest Northern Ireland turned down its funding application. The attempt to secure government funding met resistance from rival newspaper publishers and unionist politicians, although Mr O'Muilleoir recently said the Daily Ireland was still seeking public money.

A spokesman for the department of justice, equality and law reform said Mr McDowell would fight any libel case brought by the Daily Ireland backers. "The minister will see them in court and he has nothing further to add at present," the spokesman said.

Mr McDowell first made the allegations last month in a 3,000 word statement on a government website. The minister criticised Sinn Féin, the political wing of the republican movement, after the IRA was accused of carrying out the £26.5m Northern Bank heist in Belfast. Mr McDowell asked whether the Daily Ireland would have the same effect as a notorious propaganda sheet that emerged in 30s Germany.

"Will it be to Irish democracy what the Völkischer Beobachter was to pre-world war two German democracy?" he said.

Mr O'Muilleoir said the Daily Ireland was "pro-peace and anti-violence". Robin Livingstone, a fellow director of the Daily Ireland, and businessman Peter Quinn, an investor in the newspaper, are also joining the lawsuit against Mr McDowell. The Daily Ireland has 40 staff and is available on news-stands in Northern Ireland as well as the counties of Sligo, Leitrim and Louth in the Republic.

Its circulation target is 25,000, half the sales of the Irish News, the biggest selling nationalist title in Northern Ireland.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005