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5 January 2006 Edition

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Fifth Column

The SDLP — going for a gong

The SDLP are in a right old state over their top spin doctor accepting the Order of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours List from the British Queen and Prince Charles, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment.

Tugging his forelock to accept the royal bauble on bended knee from the anti-democratic, anti-republican, anti-Catholic, British imperial dynasty is PR guru Tom Kelly, the SDLP's representative on the Policing Board.

But rather than be embarrassed by uncle Tom's sell out, SDLP chiefs are unashamedly saying that it's okay for an Irish nationalist political activist and high-ranking SDLP member to accept the OBE and all the colonial baggage that goes with it.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell beamed: "I am delighted for Tom and wish him well. His work on the Policing Board has been superb. He deserves any award that he receives in recognition for his work in the community. Whether he chooses, as a party member, to accept his award is his decision, but I accept it. If Tom is comfortable with it, so am I."

Not for nothing was the SDLP derided in these pages in days gone by as the Stoop Down Low Party.

Steady Eddie Espie on the OBE

Where does SDLP Vice Chair Eddie Espie stand on Tom Kelly taking the Order of the British Empire on behalf of the SDLP?

When Denis Donaldson was exposed as an RUC/PSNI Special Branch police spy in Sinn Féin, Eddie bizarrely called on Gerry Adams to stand down, as if Adams was responsible for the RUC/PSNI recruiting Donaldson. Somehow, the SDLP head curiously omitted to call for the resignation of British Security Ministers, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde or Donaldson's PSNI Special Branch handlers.

Even Eddie Espie must accept that Sinn Féin doesn't endorse agents of the British crown within its ranks; can the same be said of the SDLP?

The man from the Daily Mail

Nearly as bizarre as unsteady Eddie's thinking is the media 'outing' of alleged British spies within republican ranks, including the weekend nonsense peddled by Ireland on Sunday.

Question 1: Why would the RUC/PSNI/MI5 tell journalists the names of key intelligence assets cultivated over decades and at great expense to blast across their front pages?

Question 2: Does anyone really believe what is written by the Sunday stablemate in Ireland of the Daily Mail?

Spies like him

How ironic were the revelations in the traditional New Year publication of state papers from 1975 that Irish Army Intelligence was spying on Conor Cruise O'Brien.

The 26-County Labour Party, anti-republican Communications Minister was the bane of progressives thought in Ireland in the 1970s, ruthlessly enforcing political censorship of RTÉ and even keeping his own J Edgar Hoover-type files by feverishly clipping letters out of the Irish Press and other newspapers that were critical of the then Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

The state documents, released under the 30-year rule, also show that government files were kept on political parties (republicans and Pat Rabbitte's old comrades), trade unions, women's organisations, journalists and politicians, including the left-wing former Health Minister, Dr Noel Browne, then an independent member of the Seanad for TCD.

The name of a future Supreme Court judge and president of the Law Commission, Catherine McGuinness, pops up in a file on her husband, journalist and broadcaster, the late Proinsias Mac Aonghusa.

In a file headed "Women's Liberation Movement", while the conflict raged in the Six Counties, military intelligence officers spent their time snipping letters from the Irish Times, including one from Fine Gael future Education Minister Gemma Hussey and future Junior Minister for Women's Affairs Nuala Fennell, with their names underlined.

One wonders what else is in these files from the 1970s that are now in the custody of Justice Minister Michael McDowell... and what use will the PDs' Witch-Finder General put them to in the run-up to the next general election 'in defence of the security of the state'?

Spy kids

• Franco

The defence of the security of the state in 1975 depended on detailed files being kept on all classes of radical thought -- including schoolkids in County Tipperary.

Eight pupils in the Fifth Year Spanish class at Mount St Joseph College, Roscrea, came under the eagle eye of the spooks in Military Intelligence when they wrote to the Irish Times in a humanitarian protest over five executions carried out in the last days of Franco's fascist regime in Spain. For this, they earned a place in the spy files of Irish Army Intelligence and a place on the list of subversives who could pose a threat to the security of the state.

Just what was Military Intelligence up to? Are they still clipping letters to the newspapers from schoolkids?

Paul Williams's invisible Invincible

Sunday World columnist Paul Williams's criminal writing gets funnier and funnier.

Just before Christmas, Williams ran a dramatic full-page story on Page 4, under the strapline, "Exclusive — Top Cops' Warning About Provos", a headline blazing "Republican Plot to Silence McDowell". There was "a serious threat" to Justice Minister McDowell's safety, according to the colourful scribe, from the PSNI Special Branch, so it must be true. "Minister gets beefed-up security after serious threats," a huge pull-quote shrilled.

And to prove it, the Sunday World had evidence to show how Marshal McDowell braves danger daily. The Justice Minister went for a walk in Dublin's Phoenix Park, scene of a previous vicious republican terrorist double murder of government officials, remember, in... er, 1882, when The Invincibles stabbed to death with surgical knives Burke and Cavendish, the second and third highest ranking members of the British Government in Ireland. Now, just 123 years later, McDowell was being stalked by a very shady character as he walked in the footsteps of Burke and Cavendish. Was he, too, a dead man walking?

Williams had us on the edge of our seats as he revealed:

"Members of the Minister's protection team were forced to move when they spotted 'an Arab-looking man' following him."

Was history about to repeat itself? Were the knives out for Big Mac? Was the man from Ballsbridge being hunted down by Al-Qaeda, or Islamic Jihad, or the Casablanca Brigade of the IRA?

"The foreign national recognised the Minister," Williams gasps, but who wouldn't — and he is the Immigration Minister. But this "Arab-looking" chappie "was following him on foot when two bodyguards stepped in and stopped him".

And? And? And... nothing.

The only thing dead is the story. No wrestling to the ground of a ruthless, wild-eyed, knife-wielding, Muslim fundamentalist; no dragging off of a fanatical suicide stroller in handcuffs to be grilled by the Special Branch or the CIA. No, nothing, really. Zilch. Zip. Non-event after all.

It was just a walk in the park.

Paul Williams is in a (Sunday) world of his own.

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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