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19 February 1998 Edition

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Standing our ground

Sinn Féin has fought this week to defend the rights of its voters against a spurious indictment to expel the party from the all-party talks. There was no evidence on which to expel Sinn Féin and thus no opportunity for them to defend themselves. It was a kangaroo court in Dublin Castle.

There is deep anger among republican supporters at the way the party has been treated and at the attempts to disenfranchise their voters. But Sinn Féin will remain committed to their peace strategy and in the days and weeks ahead they deserve the support of every democrat.

 

There can be no settlement without negotiations




Below we carry extracts of Gerry Adams' final statement to the multi-party talks on Wednesday 18 February in Dublin Castle
       Sinn Fein is committed to a settlement which will accommodate the rights of nationalists and unionists. Such an accommodation can only be achieved through agreement. Agreement requires dialogue and negotiation between all the parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect. 

When we were to come here we were to deal with Strand 2 and it is unfortunate that we have not dealt with Strand 2. Instead the entire proceedings have been hi-jacked into an attempt to expell our party. I want to deal with that. The question is have Sinn Fein dishonoured the Mitchell Principles. We have not. In the court affidavit I said that we upheld the Mitchell Principles and reaffirmed the Mitchell Principles and we do so again now.

Secondly, I make the point that Sinn Fein is committed to our peace strategy and to negotiations. Thirdly, I would formally request that both governments give us their judgement face to face.

Fourthly, for those who have concerns and have raised doubts about this constituting an exit strategy, it is not. The Sinn Fein party is totally and absolutely wedded to bringing about a peace settlement.

The current crisis began with the two killings of the two men in Belfast. That is clear. The crisis goes back much further but the current crisis started then. I am mindful of the tragedy and I have expressed condolences to each of the families but any attempt to develop that as an exit strategy is spurious. I believe the IRA statement that the cessation remains intact.

Let me say that there are no grounds for our expulsion and let me say that in making this submission I want formally to rebutt the Alliance indictment and the British government indictment. Let me say that Sinn Fein does not represent any armed group. Let me say that our priority is to end all killings. The IRA have not breached their cessation. Sinn Fein disavows all killings. Sinn Fein has worked for an end to all killings. Sinn Fein calls for an end to all killings. Let me tell you that we will continue to do this regardless of the difficulties placed in our way.

Going back to the Strand 2 points. David Trimble some time ago refused to do a meeting which I had requested in priviate and in a letter. Mr Trimble said it was a publicity stunt. It was he who put it in the media. He then set out grounds for not meeting us. I will resist the temptation to get into recriminations. It does not diminish me if I meet Dermot (Nesbit) and he does not talk to me. It diminishes him. It does not diminish me if Steven (King) turns his back when I meet him at the coffee bar. It diminishes him. When Mr Trimble his reasons for refusing to meet us I worded a reply to him which I wanted to put in Strand 2 in an effort to deal with the reasons he put forward. Although it is a slight distraction from the rebuttal I am now making I want to respond to Mr Trimble's points so that the UUP can understand our position. So this is what I wanted to say to Mr Trimble.

I do not know how we are going to get the negotiated settlement we all want unless we negotiate. I am very conscious of the difficulties the unionists face about the future and on the whole question of change. Our view is a broad one. I am very conscious of difficulties that unionists face about participaing in a process of negotiations. Sinn Fein's view of the future is a broad one. We do not have all the answers but we do have a vision for change. We want to see a pluralist Ireland which recognises and celebrates the diversity of the all the people of the island. We recognise the fears of the unionist section of our people. We want to make peace with you. We want to share the island of Ireland with you on a democratic and equal basis. We take no comfort from the fact that you live in fear about the future. We want to play our part in removing those fears through dialogue.

We want to make a difference for this and for future generations. We need to create a situation of equality. We have no wish or right to inflict upon unionists what was inflicted upon us. I have acknowledged already that republicans have inflicted hurt and that the unionist community has suffered, as have we all.

I acknowledge that the consent and allegiance of unionists is needed to secure a peace settlement but consent is a two way street. Nationalist consent is also necessary.

Sinn Fein is committed to a settlement which will accommodate the rights of nationalists and unionists. Such an accommodation can only be achieved through agreement. Agreement requires dialogue and negotiation between all the parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

We need, through dialogue and negotiation, to remove the causes of conflict, to agree the changes on which a lasting peace can be built No one can have a veto in this process and none of us should seek a veto.

We want to address the concerns of unionists in a spirit of respect and goodwill. We cannot do so unless the unionists engage with us.

It is in all our interests to secure peace.

Having for the record spoken to these issues in a way in which there can be no equivocation or ambiguity I want to make a number of points. There are double standards and we know that - all of us know that. When Sinn Fein pointed up all the different times when other organisations were not indicted we did so not to get at the PUP but to show double standards. For example, there was a 30lb bomb, a powergel bomb, outside the Monaghan office of Sinn Fein some time ago. Who planted that? What is the assessment? There were the UVF threats in the paper the other day. Why no indictment? It is double standards when these things are allowed to happen.

Let me try to explain why I think these double standards are applied. Expediency rules. There have been attempts to argue that Sinn Fein's attitude to the UDP expulsion means we have to be expelled. Let me explain Sinn Fein's attitude to the UDP expulsion. Let me take you back to events before Christmas when there was a row going on in the talks and the UUP left the PUP outside the loop. That is why David Ervine said he may not be able to come back into the talks. That is when the entire situation went mad. When the UFF prisoners withdrew their support for the loyalist ceasefire and there was the nonsense of visits to the H Blocks and so on. I spoke to the Secretary of State at this time, before Christmas. I told her that the UFF had taken a decision to end their ceasefire and was working with the LVF and that the British government needed to face up to this.

After Christmas when another Catholic was killed we knew who did it. So did everyone else. Sinn Fein knew we needed a political strategy to deal with this. The political strategy involved identifying the organisation responsible so that community, moral and political pressure could be exerted on it to stop. That is why we called for the forensic history of the weapons but the RUC said only that they had an open mind about these killings. I raised all of this with the Secretary of State after Christmas. I told her it was important that the UFF be named as the killers and that the RUC were covering it up. Nothing happened. I think the reason nothing happened was because the British government hoped these killings would stop. But they didnt. A Catholic a day was killed. 29 were shot. The traditional response to such savagery would have been that the IRA would have tried to shoot loyalist leaders. Is this what was wanted? Yet the RUC boss took 3 weeks to identify the killers of 3 of the victims.

He has never said who killed the other six. But once he named the UFF then the pressure mounted and the killings were stopped which is what we were trying to achieve all along.

We did not make an indictment against the UDP but we knew the governments had to put them out of the talks. If the RUC Chief Constable had not delayed would as many Catholics have been killed? Would the UDP have had to be expelled?

I privately challenged every UFF representative at government buildings at Stormont. I spent the day challenging all of the loyalists.

These are not the only times we have dealt with these issues privately and publicly. For example, there is a case of John Slane who was shot dead almost one year ago. Initially the RUC attempted to suggest that republicans were involved. But of course it was loyalists who killed John Slane. I have written to the last Secretary of State, to the last Security Minister and the RUC about John Slane. I have spoken to Adam Ingram, Paul Murphy and the Secretary of State and the Irish Government about John Slane. There are still no answers from the government Ministers or the RUC.

Earlier I tried to explain to John Alderdice about what a peace strategy is and how we came to build it. I dont want to repeat this now but let us compare the situation in the decades before August 1994 and the few years with all its set-backs since then. Before August 94 the policy was to marginalise, to exclude, to demonise, to censor. All of the big parties on this island colluded in the lie that what was happening, what was wrong in the north was a criminal conspiracy. To change that policy is a huge challenge for governments, for constitutional partitionists as well as constitutional nationalists, for church leaders, editorial writers and all the rest. I just dont believe politics is worth anything unless it empowers people and all the wrong that has been done in the last 30 years there is no sense from it that the isolation and marginalisation policies have achieved anything in the way of ending the conflict.

But when Sinn Fein developed our peace strategy, when I went to John Hume. When he had the courage to stay with me. When the Irish government got involved, when Irish America backed us, then that led to the IRA cessation. What condemnations and denunciations, what marginalisation could not achieve we achieved by reaching out and dealing with people in a political way and on their own terms. It was part of putting an argument that there could be another way. And the IRA, in fairness to them, facilitated this. But if there is to be another way then it is up to the politicans to produce it and that is the big challenge.

James Molyneaux said ``the IRA cessation was the most destabilising thing to happen in Northern Ireland''. It was a disgrace to say that. It meant that the UUP preferred war to the challenges of peace making.

So if you look at the record, we have all been hurt, ordinary people from all sides. But there are also people in top places still caught up in the policies of marginalisation who think that people in places like Ballymurphy, Crossmaglen or the Bogside are unclean. That they are lazy. That they are inferior. That they are drunks. That they beat their wives or their husbands. That they are lesser beings. It is the people who think like this who want to go back to the old ways. We should not let them have their way. A simple lesson of the last 30 years is that the republicans are not going away. The unionists are not going to go away. The nationalists are not going to go away. That no section of the people of this island is going to go away. So we can shout and shoot at each other but we still have to come back to sit round the table to negotiate the future.

This (the expulsion of Sinn Fein) is a big decision for the two governments. I have asked the British government to withdraw their indictment. I have asked the Irish government and I am formally asking the Irish government not to support the British government.

And despite my scepticism maybe you (the British government) will consider what is being said here because you have not demonstrated in any way that Sinn Fein has done anything wrong or that we have dishonoured any committments that we have made.

We are the best chance you have of building a properly inclusive peace settlement. Excluding us does not assist the search for peace. The London government is a participant, it is a party to these negotiations. The British government and Sinn Fein have traditionally been hostile, have been enemies. I want to bring that to an end. We want to get away from all of this. That the British government are judging republicans is hugely unpopular and unfair.

There are elements outside of here who will think that me saying all of these things is in some way bowing the knee. Nothing could be further from the truth. We remain firmly focussed on the need to bring about an end to British rule. Others have a different view. But everyone must know there has to be fundamental change. That is the wish of the people who vote for us. If the indictment goes against us who will be the voice for all those people.

Other parties not here chose not to be here. That is their decision. The DUP chose not to be here. Dr Paisley would be welcome if he came but he has decided otherwise. If we are excluded no one else can represent our constituency except us.

So it is a big decision (to expel us) which will have profound consequences in terms of the necessary trust which is needed to build peace.

I do not know, if you decide to put us out, when we will next meet in a session like this. I wish you well. To all the parties around this table, Women's Coalition, Labour, Alliance, SDLP, PUP, Unionists and the Irish government.

I also wish the British Secretary of State well and her Prime Minister well. Good luck also to the Chairmen.

 

Contradictions of British position exposed




Marcas Mac Ruairí highlights key aspects of the Sinn Féin rebuttal of the British talks `indictment'

SINN Féin has categorically denied that it was involved in either of the two killings last week.

The British government, in seeking to have the party which represents 45% of the nationalist electorate excluded, has singularly failed to offer any evidence.

Despite this they are insisting that Sinn Féin must go, as did the UDP following a string of random murders of nationalists.

The action taken against the UDP related to the murders of Eddie Treanor, Larry Brennan and Ben Hughes. It did not relate in any way to the deaths of six other Catholics who were killed in the period between 5 December and 24 January.

The British government has made no formal representation to George Mitchell in relation to these killings. Dr Mowlam claims she has been given no assessment from the RUC on who is responsible for them. When she was asked whether she had sought assessments from the RUC on the killing of two Catholics after the UFF reinstated their `ceasefire', she said she had not.

Breaches of the loyalist ceasefire extend back far beyond the recent killing spree which commenced with the death of Gerry Devlin on 5 December 1997. Prior to that murder, loyalists had already been responsible for nine murders since the declaration of their conditional ceasefire.

The period witnessed numerous attempted murders, loyalist bombing attempts, threats against the nationalist community and the conviction of one of the PUP's talks team on gun running charges.

In May last year the RUC conceded that all the constituent parts of the CLMC had breached their ceasefires. Attempts by Sinn Féin to uncover the facts in many of these events has been blocked and the RUC has refused to release the forensic details of the shooting of John Slane.

The British government cannot therefore claim to have a consistent position on the Mitchell Principles.

The exclusion of the UDP last month came only at the end of a litany of violence which started at an early stage of the peace process; it came only after a UFF admission that they had killed three Catholics.

They were killings designed to pre-determine the outcome of negotiations by intimidating nationalists and pressurising the two governments. The UDP claim to politically represent those involved.

Therefore, the indictment of the UDP represents the exception rather than the rule.

Following the shooting of drugs dealer Brendan Campbell and leading UDA man Robert Dougan last week, RUC sources gave off-the-record news briefings alleging that the IRA was involved.

The forensic history of the weapons used in the Campbell shooting was made available within a week in stark contrast to the refusal to disclose forensic details of weapons used in loyalist killings.

In refusing to elaborate on the evidence she claims to have, Mo Mowlam has said that as people have been charged it is now sub judice. Sinn Féin delegates have argued that as she is out of the juristiction and as the talks are confidential she is free to tell the plenary session the details of the evidence.

In failing to do this she has not just failed to show how Sinn Féin has dishonoured its commitments, but she has exposed serious contradictions and double standards in the British government's handling of the peace process.

Of much importance is the political context in which these events have transpired and in particular the attitude and tactics of the Ulster Unionist Party to the peace process. Sinn Féin is in absolutely no doubt that the Unionists have been a dominant influence on the British government's position in relation to the crisis in the peace process.

The UUP tried to prevent the peace process starting, it tried to block progress, tried to keep Sinn Féin out of the process and is now threatening to leave if Sinn Féin is not put out.

This approach of Trimble is tactical and riven with opportunism. It is about resisting change and using any means within the talks process to subvert its potential.

Trimble had no difficulties meeting Billy Wright when the residents of the Garvaghy Road were under siege; nor a problem with making a pact with representatives of both the UDP and the PUP; nor a problem meeting with convicted loyalist killers in December.

Coupled with the behaviour of Unionists in councils and quangos throughout the Six Counties there is not a scintilla of proof that this current Unionist leadership is different from those that went before. It is clear that David Trimble would take us back to the days of James Craig and Basil Brooke. And if that sustains the conditions in which - as in the past - conflict became inevitable, he is prepared to accept that.

In attempting to connect Sinn Féin to the two killings last week, the British government has exposed how it treated loyalist attacks on nationalists with expediency. It is expediently trying to have Sinn Féin put out of the talks to facilitate Unionist intransigence.

The media spin generated by briefings from various British official sources supports this analysis as being correct; suggesting a pre-determined ruling by the two governments.

The starting point of this crisis is the RUC. It has been repeatedly indicted by international human rights agencies for torture, killing nationalists, collusion with loyalist death squads and cover-ups. Some 3,000 security files originating from the British forces including the RUC have ended up in loyalist hands. This is the force that sought in recent weeks to cover up information about the killings of Catholics.

It is bizarre that its word should be taken as independent, objective or credible.

It is proposterous to suggest that Sinn Féin was involved in last week's killings. It is also proposterous that the 172,500 people who voted Sinn Féin should be held hostage to the actions of any organisation or individual over which they neither nor the party representing them have no control.

There is no case in any concept of democratic practice or in the concept of natural justice to attempt to exclude Sinn Féin. It has not breached the rules and procedures underpinning the talks process. Any attempt to exclude Sinn Féin as has been proposed is a deliberate act of discrimination against its electorate and only erodes confidence in and the credibility of the talks.

 

Taoiseach challenged on SF exclusion



by Micheal Mac Donncha

Bertie Ahern was urged in Leinster House to ``disassociate himself from this charade and stand up for the rights of Irish citizens for whom he is responsible and who are today being put beyond the pale''.

The call came from Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin who hit out at the ``fraudulent indictment'' of his party which was proceeding at Dublin Castle on Tuesday.

During Taoiseach's Questions on Tuesday afternoon Ahern was cleary sensitive to the accusation that the information on which the indictment of Sinn Fein was based came from Ronnie Flanagan and he sought to distance himself from the RUC. He said he had recieved the opinion of the Gardai and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both of these of course recieved their information from the RUC.

To his credit the only TD in a largely empty house who spoke against the exclusion of Sinn Fein was Socialist Party member for Dublin West Joe Higgins. Independent Jackie-Healy Rae had also opposed the move when he appeared on RTE's Questions and Answers on Monday. Caoimhghin O Caolain rose to defend his party in the most robust exchange of the day:

Caoimhghin O Caolain: The Taoiseach referred to ``a case to answer''. There is a case to answer, but by whom? There was also reference to objectivity. There is very little objectivity, scientific or otherwise, in this matter. I assure the Taoiseach and members that as an elected Sinn Fein member I am here to represent the people of Cavan and Monaghan, with the support of 11,531 votes, a mandate equalled by only a handful of other members. I intend to stand here for peace and justice in solidarity with my elected colleagues who today are fighting a fraudulent indictment that has been laid against us at Dublin Castle. Will the Taoiseach disassociate himself from this charade and stand up for the rights of those Irish citizens for whom he is responsible and who are today being put beyond the pale? Will he agree to a special debate today on the crisis in the peace process? I urge agreement from all sides on this matter.

The Taoiseach: The answer to the first part of the Deputy's question is the IRA. In regard to the second part, a process is taking place elsewhere to which all parties in this House - including I think the Deputy's party - subscribed. I am pleased to hear him express what a number of his negotiators have said to me in recent days, that they are prepared to see the process worked through. Part of the process is that certain rules have to be worked through and I hope all that will happen in the next few months.

Caoimhghin O Caolain: When the Taoiseach talks about working within specific rules will he recognise that one of the fundamental rules is the basis of evidence in relation to any charge against any group within the talks process? Is it the case that no such evidence has been produced against Sinn Fein, an independent political party with a mandate throughout the length and breadth of the island and which has played a constructive and courageous role in the formation and work of this process to date?

The Taoiseach: I have not seen any evidence brought against Sinn Fein but the deputy will understand how the rules and the system operates. Due process must take place. I hope his representatives will have an opportunity today to state their case and their views before any decision is made.

The Sinn Fein TD later described as ``highly significant'' the Taoiseach admission that there was no evidence against Sinn Fein and said the government had ``no credible alternative'' now but to disassociate itself from the attempted exclusion.

 

Fighting every single step of the way



Monday: by Brian Campbell

It wasn't until three o'clock on Monday afternoon that the penny finally dropped with the posse of journalists in Dublin Castle. It was then that Martin McGuinness made it clear that Sinn Féin would fight the attempt to have them expelled ``every single step of the way''.

Suspicions were raised earlier when an Irish government spin doctor refused to say whether Mo Mowlam's accusations against Sinn Féin was a ``formal indictment''. He was surrounded by puzzled journalists demanding an answer to this apparently simple question. Then his mobile phone rang. ``Thank God,'' he said, ``rescued!''

That morning the world's press had collectively decided that Sinn Féin would be gone in an hour or two. It was a foregone conclusion, bolstered by NIO briefings. As time ticked by and no information emerged from the talks, certainty turned to puzzlement. Mowlam's accusation was in the form of a `speaking note' which contained no new information. It simply said that it was RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan's `firm view' that the IRA was responsible for two recent killings.

Sinn Féin gave a number of briefings. Is it now up to Ronnie Flanagan to say who is part of negotiations? How can we defend these vague and non-specific accusations? There is absolutely no proof that Sinn Féin has dishonoured any commitments.

It became clear that when Mowlam made her `statement' she was asked whether she had sought information from the RUC on who had killed Liam Conway and John McColgan, two nationalists shot dead in Belfast in the days after the UFF said they were reinstating their `ceasefire'. Mowlam said she hadn't. Sinn Féin pointed out that this was one among many double standards.

``This [attempted expulsion] is a fundamental issue of equality,'' Martin McGuinness said. ``This is an issue of whether or not the political representatives of around 130,000 people are going to be thrown onto the streets, effectively by the British government and the UUP. The big question people have to ask themselves is whether or not the expulsion of Sinn Féin assists the search for peace on this island.''

After a further few hours of bottomless cups of coffee interrupted by regular consultations with spin doctors, the journalists prepared to go home. Then it was announced that Gerry Adams was to give a press conference. It was an explosive event.

Adams outlined their position. After fielding a few questions he was asked by ITN reporter Johnny Irvine to explain the `influence' Sinn Féin had with the IRA. ``You covered the last election, what did it say in our manifesto? It said `Sinn Féin is not the IRA'. Ask any of the people here how the cessation came about,'' Adams said. Irivine then repeatedly interrupted him: ``I didn't ask you that. In the run-up to the last ceasefire did you or did you not say... I will seek a time when I can go to the IRA... Tell us what influence you have with the IRA.''

Adams replied: ``The children in the streets know how we brought about the cessation. John Hume and I and Albert Reynolds and people in Irish America moved beyond marginalisation and started to deal with the north as a political problem instead of the collusion that it was a problem created by republicans. And we were able then to put up an alternative... And that's how we were able to bring about a cessation. And you know that, so don't smart-arse me. I have given you a reasonable answer to which you knew the answer. The Sinn Féin leadership have placed our lives, our integrity, our reputations on the line to create along with others this opportunity for peace and to maintain this opportunity for peace.''

Johnny Irvine didn't interrupt him again.

 

Hacks just don't get it



Tuesday: by Marcas Mac Ruairí

THERE was a surreal atmosphere in Dublin Castle on Tuesday as the world's media hung around for a second day, drinking coffee and speculating.

From time to time party representatives and spin doctors would emerge to be mobbed by a scrum of reporters seeking morsels of information as to how the debate was unravelling.

A press release suggested a shift in the SDLP position, conceding the need to apply deeper consideration than the British wished before making any rash decision to expel Sinn Féin.

The Alliance Party, without substantiating their argument, nontheless announced that they believed Sinn Féin to be in breach of the Mitchell Principles. And they were going to offer to formally indict Sinn Féin, thus freeing the British government from the accusation that they were acting as judge and prosecutor.

Martin McGuinness gave a press conference, repeating that Sinn Féin would resist efforts to have it expelled and that it would defend the rights of its voters.

The Unionist Party, displaying their usual grasp of the polemics, released a statement calling for an inquiry into alleged Irish government support for northern nationalists in 1970.

But by and large it was a quiet day with little visible excitement, the world's hacks reduced to desperate digging for snippets to meet their constant deadlines.

What was it like inside, they wondered. Were delegates losing their cool? Were they getting on each others' nerves? Outside there was only tranquility.

But what made the scene so surreal was the glaring lack of understanding the hacks displayed as to what was really happening.

This group of people who I suppose could be regarded as part of the world's intelligentsia, meant to be both questioning and insightful, had, even before a decision is reached, and in spite of the dearth of evidence being presented by the British, and despite the fact that the supposed evidence emanated from the RUC, they had bought into the British allegations wholesale.

While Sinn Fén was inside highlighting the injustice of what was being proposed and arguing that their expulsion would be illegitimate, outside republicans and the broader nationalist community were becoming increasingly angry at Mo Mowlam's behaviour over the past week.

And to this background the media asked what was Sinn Féin trying to achieve. The question they should have been asking was what was the British government trying to do?

 

Decaying relics of the past



By Eoghan MacCormaic

Standing outside Dublin Castle the other morning, trying to think of an opening line for this weekly article, I realised that sometimes there isn't really anything else to write about except the big show. The politics. The same as everyone else is writing about.

The statue of Justice above the gates of the Castle sat immobile, her back to us on the outside and I was reminded of the saying that the Castle never showed justice to those outside its gates. The psychological problem for those of us standing there, protesting, was that our representatives were now inside the gates. Could they get justice there?

Obviously, the answer to that was no, since efforts were underway to drive the Shinners back outside to where they belonged. With us. Then, once more, Justice could happily turn her back on all those standing symbolically beyond the Pale, those whom the Castle sought to exclude.

It was a bit historic, and it had all of the connotations of history being repeated - in reverse. The Dubin Government were now the hosts, the British and the Unionists the visitors, but suddenly they were back and seeking to dictate the pace of the process. Seventy five years was forgotten in a blip. The tape was in rewind.

Mind you, their understanding of the changed realities was, to say the least, a bit on the superficial side. The Unionists decided to take in a spot of Unionist culture while they were in the capital, and led by a Trinity Unionist, Wot wot, they headed for Harcourt Street to view the birthplace of Carson. Hoardings, sadly, prevented Trimble, Taylor et al from achieving a clear view of things, and so in the finest tradition of Unionism they imagined what they were seeing.

The site was a disgrace, by all accounts, and they moaned that if this was the way the State was treating the site of the birthplace of the founder of Unionism, then there was little hope for fair play for them. Ah, the soundbite and the imagery of it all. The little Unionist chappie from Trinners, David Christopher, had a coup and his photo taken with the big boys. Unfortunately, all was not as it appeared to be and the site was not so much a derelict ruin as a building under refurbishment (interior and exerior) with a preservation order on it to boot.

`It's symbolic that they don't want to preserve anything connected with Unionism' was John Taylor's recorded comment. Lamentable. His misportrayal of reality, that is. As they stood gawking, just two doors away from the Ceannaras of Conradh na Gaeilge - the cradle of many leaders from the Gaelic and nationalist movement in the early years of the century - the Unionists might have felt a little uneasy. But they needen't have worried, they were in Harcourt Street, after all, and Harcourt Street is not only home to the Conraitheoirí but also home of the Special Branch.

Unionist accusations against the state of `neglect' or `failing to preserve' symbols of Unionism are misplaced, however, and if they wanted to view examples of real neglect of the leaders of the past all they needed to do was take a stroll across the green and down to Pearse Street and see the dereliction which is or was the home of PH and Willie Pearse. Now that's what I call neglect.

Of course, if their schedule had been too busy they wouldn't have even had to leave the castle precincts to experience the state's wilful neglect of the foundation of the Republic. Their joint prosecution and indictment of Sinn Féin, on the word of the discredited RUC and at the behest of the British and of the Unionists was surely the proof of how readily this state can abandon its roots, and slip back into colonised mode.

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