21 September 2006 Edition
Hunger Strike Commemorative Mass
A Mass will be held in St Patrick's Cathedral Dundalk on Tuesday, 3rd October 2006, at 7.30pm. This is to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the ten young Irishmen who died on Hunger Strike in Long Kesh in 1981 for political status. It is also to commemorate the sacrifice made by their comrades Michael Gaughan, who died on Hunger Strike on 3rd June 1974 in Parkhurst Gaol, and Frank Stagg, who died on Hunger Strike on 12th February 1976 in Wakefield Prison.
The Mass has been organised to mark the ending of the 1981 Hunger Strike on 3rd October 1981 and to mark this tragic period in Irish history in a proper, fitting and dignified manner. The committee wish to stress that everyone is welcome to attend and participate in the Mass.
County Louth was deeply affected by the trauma of the Hunger Strikes and, in electing Paddy Agnew as TD, signalled their support for an end to the inhuman conditions which the prisoners had endured for many years. Commenting on what he witnessed in the H-Blocks in 1978, the late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich said, "One would hardly allow an animal to remain in such conditions let alone a human being. The nearest approach to it I have seen was the spectacle of hundreds of homeless people living in sewer pipes in the slums of Calcutta." These circumstances forced the prisoners to embark on Hunger Strike.
In remembering the suffering of these men and their families, we would ask all those who were involved in the various committees during the Hunger Strikes, those who marched in support of them, those who prayed for them, and the many people who remember these tragic times to attend this Mass to commemorate the lives of these courageous young men.
Ógra Shinn Féin
Attitudes to Irish
Sinn Féin is committed to becoming a fully bilingual party. This is a very serious commitment with personal implications for all members of the organisation. But is it taken seriously? I would have to say the answer is 'no' because negative and negligent attitudes to the Irish language persist within Sinn Féin. While, as a party, we have worked to advance the Irish language more seriously and with more commitment than any other party, this has been the work of a minority of republicans.
While we aim to change Irish society we also reflect that society. For that reason we reflect in our low proportion of women members the general low rate of participation of women in Irish political parties. Similarly, many of the general attitudes to the Irish language are found within Sinn Féin. Chief among these is that Irish is only the concern of the Gaeilgeoirí, a special interest group who are "doing a great job, let them at it, we fully support them but I don't have to learn Irish, tried at school and couldn't..." etc. etc.
An example of the negligent attitude to Irish in Sinn Féin is the simple matter of names. Many internal communications regularly spell names in Irish incorrectly. Instead of taking the trouble to get these right the attitude seems to be: "Ah well sure, they know who I mean anyway." Would this be tolerated if the name was that of a comrade from the Basque country or Africa or Asia? I don't think so. It would be seen as grossly discourteous. Irish speakers are entitled to the same courtesy.
Baile Átha Cliath
McDowell on tax
PD Leader Michael McDowell's proposals to cut the rate of tax for single people on 50,000 Euro and couples on 100,000 Euro from 40% to 20% displays a startling disregard for the times we live in. Likewise, his assertion that the state can do without the 2.6 billion Euro raised in stamp duty displays his Thatcherite and selfish view of the state. At a time when the health service is in chaos, classrooms are overcrowded, public transport is crying out for more vehicles and the public services in general have fallen apart, McDowell's attitude is truly frightening.
His position, however, is far from illogical. The PDs represent an ultra wealthy elite in this society. If given the choice between health cuts and tax cuts it will be tax cuts all the time. These people don't care about public services apart from maybe the Gardaí who protect their property. Beyond that they have no interest in the state. They dress this blatant selfishness up in so-called neo-liberal economics.
No surprise then that McDowell should be advocating these policies. Bertie Ahern however, who recently and famously described himself as a socialist and whose party aspires to a much more populist image, should have cause to reflect on all of this. If, as is the common perception, the PD tail continues to wag the Fianna Fáil dog, where is this society headed? Enda Kenny has said that a vote for Fianna Fáil is a vote for Sinn Féin. The stark and frightening reality is that a vote for Fianna Fáil is a vote for Michael McDowell.
The admission by direct ruler Peter Hain last Monday that Nuala O'Loan's report into the 1997 murder of Raymond McCord in Belfast by the UVF would be deeply embarrassing for the British state is, as far as I am aware, the closest any British government has come to admitting the existence of collusion. The report is expected to be scathing of the RUC who ran UVF man Mark Haddock as an agent and during which time he murdered nearly a dozen people.
During the course of his remarks, however, Hain was at pains to put the issue of collusion in the past, insinuating that the demise of the RUC represented the end of the issue. This "it was in the olden days" treatment of collusion is disingenuous in the extreme.
There is now enough evidence to prove that the practice of collusion was systematic and endemic. It was a policy pursued by all branches of the British state security apparatus and as such must have had approval at the very highest level. If any lessons are to be learned from collusion and the state's involvement in murder, those that sanctioned the policy must be exposed. Blaming it all on the RUC is a cop-out as Peter Hain knows well. When the truth is finally revealed Hain will know the true nature of embarrassment.