23 October 2003 Edition

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Málaí Poist

At least they're consistent!

A Chairde,

The sister of young Peter McBride, who was murdered in Belfast by British soldiers, recently stood in the Brent East by-election to highlight the contrast between the treatment of Ptes Wright & Fisher and Major Charles Ingram. Major Ingram was expelled from the British Army for cheating on a TV quiz show while the two convicted murderers of McBride were retained in the British Army and at least on was promoted to Corporal.

This week at the Bloody Sunday Tribunal, it was revealed that the young private who found the British Army's "Shot List" describing the victims as "bombers" and "gunmen" was court-martialed and dismissed from the British Army while the compiles of the list has been repeatedly promoted and decorated as General Sir Mike Jackson.

At least they're consistent!

Seán Marlow,
Dublin 11.

Arts Council funding of loyalist bands

A Chairde,

I am shocked to learn from An Phoblacht that the Arts Council has given more than £100,000 of lottery money to fund loyalist paramilitary bands.

I really am appalled. Public funding of such bands is disgraceful and certainly goes against the spirit of searching for peace. This act is like funding the National Front and British National Party to have bands march through Handsworth, Brixton or Oldham.

Acts of intimidation and oppression are not "artistic or cultural", whatever the participants claim.

We have publicised this matter and appealed to people to write to Tessa Jowell British Minister of State for Arts, Media and Culture, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH Tel: 020 7211 6000 email: [email protected]

We believe she should instigate a full inquiry as to how public money is used to fund overt sectarianism.

Mary Pearson, Secretary,
Troops Out Movement, Birmingham.

Building an all-Ireland government

A Chairde,

Martina Anderson's piece in last week's paper should set the tone for the way in which republicans approach the elections and the re-establishment of the GFA institutions. In particular, we must focus on how to utilise the "architecture for an all-Ireland government" which Martina refers to, by expanding the areas that come under the cross-border bodies.

With the benefit of the party's previous experience in the Executive, and with the addition of a stronger Sinn Féin presence in Leinster House, we can turn these bodies into genuine instruments of government, particularly in the areas where the party will have control over Ministries. Certain policy areas, such as agriculture and rural development, are particularly suited towards this type of allIreland approach. We are the only party with the vision to utilise those mechanisms in the interests of rural communities on both sides of the border in the development of a much stronger Irish agricultural and rural economic sector.

We must also ensure that all levels of the party are conscious of the potential of the all-Ireland institutions. This means that Sinn Féin Councillors must become actively involved in any cross border boards or groups that come under their remit, and that party activists promote the participation by their communities in these bodies. In this way, we can not only use the institutions, many of them funded through the EU, to promote economic and social development, but we can also use them to dismantle the border itself.

As Martina said, this process is part of the "ongoing revolution" and it will be up to ourselves to see it brought to a successful conclusion. As we expand our political strength in the Assembly, in Leinster House, on the Councils and in Europe, we are advancing ever closer to the goal of an all-Ireland Republic. It is not a Republic that we are going to wake and find waiting for us one morning, it is a Republic that we will have to build for ourselves through our day to day work. And in that work, the all-Ireland institutions can become the laboratory in which we learn how to make that Republic a reality.

Matt Treacy,

Building on the Agreement

A Chairde,

Martina Anderson pointed out in her article in last week's paper that the Good Friday Agreement was not a "blueprint for utopia - it's an architecture for an all-Ireland government which incorporates some very important ideas".

Some five years after the signing of the GFA, it is indeed timely for us to examine the potential that exists in the Agreement and strategise on how to build on it. We can be sure that our political opponents have been and will continue to interpret and manipulate the outworking of the Agreement to frustrate the potential for radical change and the creation of the type of Ireland that we have been working towards and struggling for.

The Unionists (at least those who are termed pro-Agreement) have reluctantly engaged in the GFA, but they have done so in a strategic manner, cherry-picking those parts that they believe will strengthen the ties with Britain and/or will cause the maximum pain to progressive republicanism.

The SDLP and the political establishment in the 26 Counties see the GFA as a settlement in itself with no further need for dynamic and growth. This should not surprise us. These are by and large conservative political parties who have ideological and political difficulty with the potential for community empowerment that clearly exists in sections of the GFA.

The progressive elements of the GFA were negotiated by the Sinn Féin team. Given our relative political strength, it was a massive achievement. We need to continue to be the agents for change and work to expand the Agreement. It is not just a job for negotiators or 'the leadership'. Sinn Féin activists from throughout the 32 Counties need to ensure that Cumann, Comhairle Ceantar and Cúige facilitate a debate on how to move the GFA forward.

We have to remind ourselves that the GFA is an opportunity to further our struggle. At different times we have built alliances with others to effect change. There are mechanisms negotiated in the GFA such as the Consultative Forum and the Charter on Human Rights that could and should have a massive impact on society throughout the 32 Counties. Positive engagement with other progressive elements in Irish civic and political life could create the dynamic for radical change and move us closer to turning strategic objectives into tangible gains for our struggle and the people of Ireland.

Vincent Wood,
Salthill, County Galway.

Páistí Pailistíneacha

A Chairde,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported the Páisti Pailistineacha campaign in 2003.

Over €7,000 was raised through fundraising events, donations and collections.

Following my second visit to Palestine in August it was decided to donate the money to health, education and youth projects because the continuing oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government made it very unlikely that the children would have been granted visas to come to Ireland. In the unlikely event of visas being issued, there was a strong possibility that Israeli security would have blocked their passage at the border, with a resultant loss of all monies.

It was the wish of the local communities in Palestine that the money would be far more beneficial to specific projects, thereby benefiting hundreds of children rather than a dozen.

In conjunction with An Phoblacht photographer Inaki Irigoien, I am currently compiling a photographic exhibition of Palestinian children and society. This exhibition will be on display in various venues over the coming months and I would be grateful if you know of any libraries/venues that would host the exhibition. We will also be giving a series of talks.

Once again thanks for your support.

Seán Ó Donaile
C/o 74 The Paddocks, Dublin 7.

Seanad Reform

A Chairde,

The ideas proposed in Sinn Féin's submission for the reform of the Seanad (last week's An Phoblacht) are very exciting - and a sign of the times.

Since the Good Friday Agreement, with a United Ireland so clearly on the agenda, many exciting new ideas for democratising governance in Ireland, for what sort of a united Ireland we want, are blowing in the wind. I hope the debate is widespread throughout civic society.

To further the debate may I pose a couple of questions:

Why must someone living in Ireland wait for five years before they should have the franchise? Once they are living here, and of course paying taxes, should they not be entitled to vote as soon as they get onto the register?

How can we ensure that the panels do not become party-politicised? And will this not mean that those elected to the different Seanad panels would cease to represent their sectoral interests, but start to represent the interests of government parties?

Will this give the marginalised, the community and voluntary sector, a real voice in governance, a voice which our current representation democracy denies them?

Should the number of representatives elected from each panel not reflect their numerical strength in civil society? Wouldn't it be absurd if the Business Panel, representing business owners, elected the same number of senators as the Labour Panel representing those who work in our economy?

Name and address supplied,
Rathmines, Dublin 6.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1