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11 March 2004 Edition

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The 5th Column

'Mad Mac' loses the plot

MICHAEL McDOWELL, the Progressive Democrats Propaganda Minister, is in danger of becoming the 'Comical Ali' of the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition.

This week, Bertie Ahern's wealthy, toffee-nosed Justice Minister followed up a print media onslaught on republicans with an early-morning solo run on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland.

'Mad Mac' — whose PD presidency is under attack on the equally right flank by 'Farmer Tom' Parlon — foamed at the mouth with cryptic, unsubstantiated references to alleged dark deeds in Dublin's Docklands and elsewhere by Sinn Féin.

The public schoolboy's flimsy grasp of politics and reality was then totally exposed when the barmy Ballsbridge barrister ranted that Sinn Féin is "Nazi" AND "Marxist"!

Who put the Balls in Ballsbridge?

Honour among unionists

IAN PAISLEY'S tribe lost on Ballymena Council last week in their quest to have the Big Man granted the freedom of Ballymena.

After DUP critics blocked the honour going last year to locally-born Hollywood superstar Liam Neeson, non-unionist and Alliance Party councillors voted against a DUP motion to have Papa Doc officially honoured as one of the Antrim town's favourite sons. Ulster Unionist councillors abstained but hinted that they might be persuaded to change their votes later if the Paisleyites stop being beastly to them.

Baby Doc, Ian Paisley Junior, lamely tried to pretend that Daddy didn't really want the honour anyway but that his minions felt they had to demonstrate their devotion to their lord and master. "The only honour my father needs," Baby Doc mumbled through gritted teeth, "is the vote of the people of this great city of Ballymena".

So there's no need to table the motion again or for the Ulster Unionists to vote for it, is there?

Who Dares Quits

THE SAS is in crisis because the British Army's not-so special forces are showing where their true loyalties lie and are cashing in their winged daggers for big wage packets by becoming mercenaries in Iraq.

The cash being offered by private military outfits in Iraq has already lured up to 60 soldiers from the SAS, their water rat equivalent in the Special Boat Squadron and the Marine Commandos who have demanded "premature voluntary release" (or PVR).

The Scotsman newspaper reports: "In operational terms, this could mean that this year, the equivalent of one entire special forces squadron out of a total of six in the SAS and SBS is on its way to seek its fortune in the new Iraq.

"The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-terrorism deployments in Europe, training commitments abroad as well as the need to have one entire SAS squadron of 65 men and one SBS unit of 20 men permanently on anti-terrorism standby in the UK, means that Britain's special forces are very thinly stretched."

The desertion by so many soldiers of fortune has forced the current O/C of the full-time 22 SAS (a bemedalled lieutenant colonel from the Irish Guards) to use 60 'Weekend Warriors' from two Territorial Army units, 21 and 23 SAS, in Afghanistan.

The 131st Chipping Sodbury cub scouts have their woggles at the ready in case Tony Blair calls them up too.

Surfing serfs

AS Tinseltown celebrates the record-breaking success of 11 Oscars for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, there's a wacky internet campaign to restore the High King of Ireland.

Internet serfs have made a special appeal to holders of the surnames of former kings, O'Connor, O'Brien and O'Neill.

Organisers have dreamt up a convoluted system with some veneer of democracy in the process to elect a High King and stress that no one has been pre-selected although O'Neills are expected to be among the contenders.

"Who," the site asks, "will be the next Ard Rí of Ireland? Who will receive our allegiance, loyalty and fidelity? Who will be the father and protector of the Irish race?"

With his Order of the British Empire tucked under his belt, the reining Celtic FC chief, Martin O'Neill, might want to go all the way but we're confident the redoubtable P O'Neill will be standing by the Republic.

Snow go area

THIS MONTH'S 20th anniversary of the heroic British Miners' Strike against Thatcherism and privatisation brought many retrospectives. But we particularly like this memory from ex-miner Dave Douglass's book, All Power to the Imagination.

"The Miners of Silverwood, having been told they were confined to six pickets only, built themselves a seventh comrade in the shape of a large snowman, wearing a plastic policeman's helmet. Next morning, Chief Inspector Nesbitt appears on the scene and — seeing the jeering miners and their snowy companion — ordered the constables to knock the snowman down. This order brought rebellion to the police ranks as PCs declined to 'look so fucking stupid, knocking down a snowman'.

"'Very well,' shouts the irate Nesbitt, jumping in his Range Rover and charging off to demolish the snowman. As the vehicle made contact, it came to a dead stop, smashing front grille, bumper and headlamps and hurling the shocked Nesbitt into the steering wheel. PCs found excuses to walk away or suppress body-shaking laughter while pickets fell about on the ground with side-splitting mirth. The snowman had been constructed around a three-foot high, two-foot thick concrete post!"

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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