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19 August 2004 Edition

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The 5th Column

UUP race row

REVEREND MARTIN SMYTH, Orange Order big-wig and Ulster Unionist MP for South Belfast, was the star turn at a recent dinner in London for white supremacist supporters of Apartheid South Africa and racist Rhodesia.

The old owl of the UUP claims that his audience included people of all races when he addressed the 'Northern Ireland Springbok Club' in June, which would be curious seeing as the Springbok Club came out of a merger between the White Rhino Club and the Rhodesian Forum and holds its meetings under the old Apartheid flag of pre-democracy South Africa and calls for a return to whites-only rule.

The Springbok Club's official website reports: "Quoting extensively from Niall Ferguson's book Empire, the Rev Smyth was able to show how, in spite of some failings, the British Empire was one of the greatest ever forces for good in the world, and ended by quoting Kipling's famous injunction 'Take Up the White Man's Burden'."

A spokesman for Reverend Smyth told the South Belfast News that people of all colours and creeds attended his talk. "As far as Reverend Smyth is concerned, the Springbok Club has nothing to do with white supremacy," said Martin's mouthpiece. So why is the Six-County branch of the Springbok Club scheduled to hold a Rhodesia UDI Day commemoration on 6 November featuring as guest speaker "Prominent Unionist MP, County Antrim"? And who is it?

Ruth's race challenge

SMYTH'S South Belfast DUP colleague, Councillor Ruth Patterson, is also involved in a race row.

She demanded to know why unionist paramilitaries have intimidated a woman pensioner from her Donegall Pass home. Ruthless (a member of the District Policing Partnership) was particularly perplexed because the victim "was not from an ethnic minority community or a Catholic".

If they had been African, Chinese, Balkan or Catholic, then it would have been much easier for Ruth to understand, although we're sure she would have been equally as vocal — wouldn't you, Ruth?

Political games

BBC OLYMPIC GAMES commentator Barry Davies is one of the Grand Old Men of broadcasting and he brought his 'Great' British perspective to the opening ceremony in Athens.

As the Ugandan team appeared, Bazza snorted: "The Ugandans, led by a taxi driver, so he should know his way around".

But the Iranians were reprimanded by Bazza for refusing to recognise the Israeli team. "It's sport, it's sport," Bazza huffed.

When the Irish team went by, Sports Minister John 'The Bull' O'Donoghue was seen on camera waving. Bazza announced The Bull as the Taoiseach (in your dreams and John's, Bazza). And then the Man from the Beeb airily intoned: "Of course, they used to compete for Great Britain until 1924."

It's politics, Barry, it's politics.

PSNI track record

GOING for an Olympic record of its own is the West Belfast District Policing Partnership, which opposes the closure of the Brits' Andersonstown military base. Not one single person has asked the West Belfast DPP a question in 15 months.

Cheekily suggesting that the local PSNI champion and SDLP runner, Alex Attwood, is bound to be left gasping by this abysmal track record, Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson pointed out that the West Belfast DPP is headed by a Women's Coalition member in South Belfast. "Indeed, there is a widespread local belief that the vast majority of its members have never actually set foot in republican areas in West Belfast," Michael said.

Maybe that Ugandan taxi driver could show them the way around.

Black Skull in Derry

NO OLYMPIC records were being broken by the old boys of the Apprentice Boys loyal order in Derry last Saturday and pics of genial geriatric gentlemen being whistled along by comely young unionist maidens in flute bands dominated the pages of the News Letter. No photo, though, of the band that always leads the parade, the Black Skull Band.

The News Letter made a fleeting reference to this Glasgow band but avoided dwelling on its intriguing title. The Black Skulls' website bizarrely tries to explain how it changed its name from Crown Defenders to Black Skull in 1981.

"Back in July 1981, the band had painted an emblem on its bass drum and it just happened to be a skull painted black, wearing a bandsman's hat and a cigarette hanging from its mouth (now that's another story)." Oh, do tell, do tell how it 'just happened'. Okay, don't then.

At a subsequent Glasgow Orange demo, the Crown Defenders' bandmaster was told by the Orange and Blue Band that they came from Blackscull. "He thought they were pulling his leg as our bass drum had just been painted with the new emblem (a black skull wearing a Balmoral) on it." And so, we are supposed to believe, the loyal band boys binned their honoured name of Crown Defenders in favour of Black Skull just because of a chance encounter with a band from somewhere they had never heard of before and their bandmaster who couldn't spell.

It is from this that loyalist legends are written, even if badly misspelt.

White House contract killer

IRISH-AMERICANS and the Pat Finucane Centre are putting pressure on the US Government to revoke a $293 million Iraq security contract awarded to a British firm because it is headed by Tim Spicer, once a lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guards and who has supported the Scots Guards killers of Peter McBride, shot dead in Belfast in 1992.

Spicer is an old mercenary hand with links to Britain's Foreign Office and its overseas spy agency, MI6. In the late 1990s, Spicer ran into a worldwide storm of bad publicity over the involvement of his then mercenary outfit, Sandline, in fighting rebels in Papua New Guinea and breaking a UN arms embargo on Sierra Leone which Spicer said had British Government backing.

Now old Spicer has landed the largest contract to date for security in 'post-war' Iraq, granted to Aegis Defense Services Ltd in late May. The White House has hired Aegis to provide security teams for the Project and Contracting Office, the body responsible for overseeing $18.4 billion in US reconstruction funds.

Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said: "As commander in Belfast, Tim Spicer believed his soldiers were above the law and he disputed their convictions for murder. We need to know if his background was taken into consideration when this contract was awarded."

Maybe it was Spicer's background (and contacts in Jack Straw's Foreign Office) that landed him the job.

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