23 March 2005 Edition

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Mála Poist

Flag burning

A Chairde,

While I admit that on more than on one occasion I have applauded as the Butcher's Apron went up in flames, I am not generally fond of flag burning.

Your report on the Ard Fheis may have inadvertently given a different impression.

Just to clarify — the motion I was speaking against, and which was defeated in a vote, called for the introduction of legislation banning the defacement of the national flag.

I think punitive legislation is unnecessary and could be used to attack free speech. The main concern of the proposers of the motion was the defacement of the flag by commercial concerns and others who scrawl messages across it. I share that concern.

Republicans also are not immune from sloppy use of the flag at times. Rather than legislation, what is needed is the wide dissemination of a clear and simple code of conduct.

By the way, I think those few people on the American left who burn their national flag are doing a grave disservice to their cause. Instead, they should reclaim the best traditions of liberty that their flag once represented for so many people around the world.

Mícheál MacDonncha,

Baile Átha Cliath.

Hurson and O'Rawe

A Chairde,

As an ordinary blanketman, let me say I was shocked at the things Richard O'Rawe said in his book.

We blanketmen followed our leadership (prison leadership) without question; if an order came to "wreck cells" it was done", dirty cells" it was done. I had no input with the leadership, so I do not know how they made their decisions, but I do know Paul McGlinchey is wrong to say Martin Hurston was never in H3 with Richard. I was in H-3 with both of them and 50 other blanketmen can confirm Martin was there. In fact, Martin was one of five blanketmen in H3 selected for the first force wash all five were badly beaten by the screws I am not sure if it was Martin, but one of the five had to be taken to an outside hospital for treatment.

This was all about 25-30 years ago, but if I remember correctly, Martin was granted a retrial and brought back down to the Crum (Crumlin Road prison). His sentence was upheld and he was returned to the blocks. I think he was send to H5; maybe this is what Paul is talking about.

Patrick Smith.

The burden of proof/truth

A Chairde,

I am appaled by the sheep mentality displayed recently by many Irish southerners. I can only put it down to ignorance and amnesia.

Have they learnt nothing from the spin on the elusive WMDs? Can they not see that guilty until proven innocent only seems to apply to Sinn Féin? Do they not ask for proof of claims that the IRA orchestrated the Northern Bank heist, with the permission of top members of Sinn Féin?

And the finding of dodgy Northern Bank notes at the PSNI social club — why has this been completely dismissed with no further investigations on Primetime, or excited headlines in the daily newspapers? Do they not wonder about the supposed Sinn Féin spy ring, which initially broke the power-sharing executive?

This is now old, unproven news — as the latest smear campaign will be after Fianna Fáil have stolen another election.

I think Fianna Fáil have some cheek, self-righteously accusing Sinn Féin of lies and criminality. What about the gush of Fianna Fáil lies and fluffed promises at the last election? What about the brown paper envelopes and cute hoor culture?

Look to who gains most from all of this — Fianna Fáil. They fear Sinn Féin's rise to power and are now involved in their own dirty war. And why do they not want concessions against Sinn Féin? Simple, they still want the right to claim, erroneously, that they are the true socialists and republicans of Ireland.

Bertie isn't just trying to steal other people's clothes — he's trying to thieve their votes, too. I've lost all faith in Fianna Fáil, etc, now.

If is wasn't for Sinn Féin, nationalists in the north would still be scrubbing loyalist streets with toothbrushes and begging the SDLP to do something about it — aside from begging for mercy. I despise Fianna Fáil now. It's taken them almost a century to do something significant about 'the Troubles' and all they can think about is lining their own pockets, as usual.

Patrick Murphy,

Tyrone.

Cannabis motion downer

A Chairde,

I write to express my disappointment with the defeat of motion 49, which called for the decriminalisation of possession of cannabis for personal use.

It is clear to me, from speaking to republicans in attendance at the Ard Fheis, that there is a deep ignorance within Sinn Féin about the nature of cannabis.

If you think that cannabis kills, you are plainly wrong. There is no scientific basis for that claim, but as with the other myths about cannabis, it continues to inform opinions on the drug. Clearly, a drug policy based on ignorance cannot even begin to address Ireland's serious drug problem. And so it has proven, not only in Ireland, but throughout the world.

If we are to be 'anti-drugs', we ought to be implacably opposed to all drug use. An 'anti-drug' position would, therefore, address the most damaging drugs with the greatest severity. In order of severity, tobacco would top the 'anti-drug' hit-list, followed by alcohol, heroin, (crack) cocaine, ecstacy, sugar, caffeine and cannabis. Cannabis is the safest of these drugs because it alone is natural and non-addictive.

Alcohol causes cancer, liver failure, dementia, and digestive disorders. It causes aggression in its users; is a factor in public and domestic violence, and kills two million people a year. Tobacco causes cancers and tumours, contains the most addictive substance known to man — nicotine — and is responsible for four million deaths a year.

On the other hand, the largest ever study of cannabis users (in San Francisco) found that cannabis use had no adverse affect on rates of illness or deaths. The only single health impact proven against cannabis is a minor statistical increase in the incidence of psychosis among its users, though this is thought to be a result of cannabis use making manifest these conditions in people already predisposed to develop them.

If you believe that God created the world, then why would you want to make nature illegal? Did God make a mistake when She/He created cannabis? We have refined nature to create drugs such as alcohol, heroin and cocaine, yet the most benign narcotic is the one consumed in its naturally occurring form - cannabis.

It is deeply ironic that, while others wish to misrepresent and criminalise republicans, we are quite happy to do the same to the cannabis community.

The headline of An Phoblacht two weeks ago was 'We Will Not be Criminalised'. When people call us criminals, we ask: was Bobby Sands a criminal? Was James Connolly a criminal? When we consider the illegality of cannabis, perhaps we should ask ourselves: was Bob Marley a criminal?

Was John Lennon a criminal? The response from delegates to this year's Ard Fheis is clear: yes.

Brendan Hogan,

Dublin.

Remembering Francis Hughes

A Chairde,

Tuesday 15 March was the 24th anniversary of the day the second Hunger Striker to die in Long Kesh in 1981, Francis Hughes, began his fast.

A lifelong republican, Francis saw many injustices upon the Irish people, which led to his decision to join the republican struggle at an early age. Through the areas of Tyrone, Antrim and his native Derry, his actions brought fear to the British establishment in the north.

He was involved in many shootouts with British forces. It was one such gun battle with the SAS that eventually led to his capture.

It was after his arrest and conviction in a non-jury Diplock court that Francis became involved in the prison struggle. On 12 May 1981, he became the second hunger striker to die.

It is appropriate then, that we remember the anniversary of this brave Irish martyr. Republicans look to this man and all martyrs who died for Irish freedom for inspiration.

While the current phase may be different in method, the core objective of securing a 32-County democratic socialist republic remains the same.

Barry McNally,

West Tyrone, Ógra Shinn Féin.

Paddy's Day media bias

A Chairde,

699,748 Dublin citizens thoroughly enjoyed the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations on 17 March.

The arrested 252 and a handful of crabby journalists did not.

Rossa Ó Snodaigh,

Dublin 8.


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