10 February 2005 Edition

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Mála Poist

Votes for emigrants

A Chairde,

The elections in Iraq drew attention to a people voting in a country in the grip of civil unrest and conflict over foreign troops in the country. It further drew attention to the fact that over one hundred million Iraqi people abroad were offered the opportunity to register their vote in their homeland. Irish emigrants abroad looked on and wondered why they too could not have a vote in their homeland.

The Iraqis were entitled to register and vote in some 14 countries. Like the Irish, they had to lobby for their vote. They must be grateful they didn't have to deal with the indifference of the Dublin government towards its emigrants.

No Dublin government has given any rational explanation or argument as to why they continue to deny the Irish abroad a vote.

Yet, no country's Diaspora has been more loyal to their homeland than the Irish, providing money during difficult times in Ireland, from the Famine to the economic recession in the 1980s. They return yearly to Ireland for holidays, they promote the Irish name abroad and they buy Irish abroad.

The government is, I believe, in breach of the spirit of the Treaty of Rome in denying its emigrant citizens the rights to vote abroad, in that it can be seen as an impediment to the free movement of people in Europe. We are the only European state denying that right. It can also be seen as a breach of the Good Friday Agreement in its aim of parity of esteem. People who emigrate from the Six Counties hold their vote for 20 years. People from the 26 lose it as soon as they leave.

If the Iraqi people can organise for their community abroad to vote during such volatile times, what is stopping the Dublin government from doing the same?

Democracy, like charity, should begin at home, and you would imagine it would be embarrassing for the Dublin government to have such a democratic deficit in its own backyard. I would appeal to the general public in Ireland to raise this matter with the government.

Pat Reynolds,

The Irish in Britain Representation Group, London.

Is history repeating itself?

A Chairde,

The Kells great train robbery frame-up of 1976 remains of immense political significance, not solely because it led to the longest political trial in Irish legal history, at the cost of well over £1 million, not because State repression became the focus of international attention and to some extent to the downfall of a Coalition Government, but because it failed in its main attempt to discredit and pave the way for the suppression of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP).

The robbery of £620,000 from an unguarded train in Kearneystown, County Kildare, in the early morning of 31 March 1976, led to a political storm

The Garda Commissioner at the time conveyed urgency down the Garda ranks, and the Special Branch used the occasion to misinform the Cabinet that the IRSP was responsible for the Kildare robbery.

A smear campaign against Séamus Costello and the IRSP by the Gardaí, without any evidential base, was launched and was assisted by the media.

Osgur Breathnach and Brian McNally were sentenced to 12 and nine years respectively. Nicky Kelly, now a member of the Labour Party, was sentenced in his absence.

A national and international campaign began for the release of the IRSP Three, and 17 months later, in May 1980, Brian and Osgur were freed. The Court of Criminal Appeal to date has given no reason for its decision to free Osgur and Brian. Nicky Kelly was imprisoned on his return to Ireland and later freed.

Could it be that the two governments are playing out the same game plan to undermine the position of Sinn Féin and its leadership?

Is history repeating itself?

Is it possible that the increased mandate of Sinn Féin and the popularity of its leadership is what is behind the naming of the IRA as responsible for the Northern Bank raid and the unsubstantiated accusation that the leadership of Sinn Féin had advance knowledge of this impending heist?

I will leave it to your readers to draw their own conclusion.

John Doyle,

Bray, County Wicklow.

Guilty until proven otherwise

A Chairde,

As an American onlooker, I am dismayed at the statements made by government officials blaming the IRA for the Northern Bank heist. While they may have suspicions, should they not reserve their conclusions until actual facts are available — especially when the entire Peace Process hangs in the balance?

When DUP Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr said: "It is up to the IRA to prove they did not do it", does he not deny the concept of innocent until proven guilty, a supposed cornerstone of jurisprudence? (Although, it is getting to be a very rare concept in America.)

I believe in a " follow the money" theory — that is, he or she who benefits the most from a crime is the likely suspect and in this case the only beneficiaries seem to be all opposed to power sharing with Sinn Féin. Unfortunately, those who are losing the most are the people of the North of Ireland, who truly desire peace for themselves and their families.

I would also like to ask, that if Britain is such an honest "broker" between the republicans and loyalists, then how is it that the British Government has gone out of its way to secure the safety of Mr Johnny Adair on his release from prison, or do you extend this courtesy to all prisoners?

I've been reading quite a bit recently about the loyalist taxi company in Belfast coming under assault by another loyalist faction and about the women whose homes were invaded and were assaulted, allegedly by loyalists — but only the IRA is the criminal faction?

Syndi Holmes,

North Carolina, USA.

Griffith descendants wanted

A Chairde,

I am working on my family tree and am searching for anyone who is either interested in, or is able to put me in contact with, the descendants of Arthur Griffith.

Arthur's sister, Fanny Griffith, lived with my great-grandfather's sister for many years at 24 Upper Gardiner Street.

If any of your readers could assist in this, I can be contacted on 01-6205823. Many thanks.

Barry Kennerk,

Dublin.

After the tsunami

A Chairde,

I am a junior at Southwick-Tolland Regional High School, Massachusetts. I am writing in response to the editorial entitled 'Cancel the debt for tsunami nations'.

I agree with this article, which said that countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia have been living in impossible conditions for some time now, and this natural catastrophe has worsened already bad circumstances.

Donating money to these countries isn't enough. Many people have suffered the loss of family members and all their treasured possessions. Long-term investment, including the cancellation of debts, is needed to put these countries back on track.

The world's governments have been informed about climate changes and the effects of global warming for some time. They've never paid much attention.

This great loss of rainforests, homes and businesses, will greatly impact on the Southeast Asia region. Protecting the environment more may prevent these countries from being hit by other natural disasters in the future.

Rachel Legault,

Massachusetts, USA.


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