27 January 2005 Edition

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Mála Poist

McDowell misses the beat

A Chairde,

Minister Michael McDowell's performance on Questions & Answers last week was, as usual, totally predictable, but his parting shot that Sinn Féin would be "drummed out of politics come the next general election" needs to be examined rationally.

Even the most vehement anti-Sinn Féin political analysts are openly conceding that the party will take 12-14 seats at least in the next Dáil.

These seats will be won with the votes of the ordinary hard working people who have decided, at long last, that they want to change the way they are represented, and by whom.

The people who will be voting for Sinn Féin have absolutely nothing in common with the McDowells, Harneys, Aherns or Cowens of this world. Minister McDowell or his colleagues will never have a monstrosity developed, towering over the back of their homes in their leafy suburbs. Their loved ones will never lie on beds in hospital corridors — the same beds that miraculously disappear when a Minister arrives to promise funding, already promised by the previous minister before he moved to a better seat on the gravy train.

They will never know the hopelessness of the dole queue, or the constant struggle to make ends meet.

On the other hand, Sinn Féin representatives and workers know exactly what these conditions are like, because we live them daily. We continue to build our support from our own people, the ordinary people. Minister McDowell and his colleagues have been, and always will be, both socially and politically aloof from the ordinary people.

The minister sees the growth of Sinn Féin as a serious threat to the cosy existence in power that his party has undeservedly enjoyed for too long. Hence his daily scaremongering about perceived threats to national security, etc in the vain attempt to muddy the real political issues of everyday life.

The people have learned the hard way, especially over the last two decades, how the establishment parties have consistently betrayed them and they are saying "no more"!

The minister is right in that many politicians will be drummed out come the next Dáil elections, but this time the ordinary people will be beating those drums, and many of the minister's colleagues will be marching out of politics to that drumbeat.

P Ó Sabhaois,

PRO, Charles Kickham Cumann,

Sinn Féin, North Tipperary.

Let them eat cake

A Chairde,

I was very annoyed, but not surprised, at the current Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney's recent comment in Limerick that the cost of healthcare insurance cover in this country is very reasonable.

This clearly echoes the way the PD coalition partner views Irish society. It ignores the reality that the two-tier entrenching of society, not only in healthcare, but in all aspects of life is nothing short of a complete failure of government to transform the state for the benefit of all citizens during the current phase of growth.

It seems strange that while Ireland leads Europe in so many sectors, the PDs and their Fianna Fáil conductors cannot make any real change in healthcare. Why is this so when financial institutions, the legal profession, big business and property developers have been so well catered for? It is simple. They view people as economic units and favour financial stability and profitability over personal wellbeing.

One of the minister's solutions to the health crisis was to raise the cost of private beds in public hospitals. So her solution is to charge sick people more money when they need medical attention on the grounds that they have insurance. She is as creative as a bull in a china shop, not moving in any direction for fear that something will break.

I have to inform the Minister that it is already broken. Her flippant response to health insurance subscribers that "health care is expensive" reminds me of Marie Antoinette's words in France when told the people were hungry and had no bread. The ill-fated response was 'let them eat cake' and history followed.

Is it not time to clear the boards of such self-serving economic idealogues as the PDs and their Fianna Fáil puppeteers? Viva la revolution!

Joe Desmond,

Tuam Sinn Féin.

Understanding Russell

A Chairde,

How very sad that the desecration of Seán Russell's statue in Dublin has prompted some people to denounce him as pro-Nazi. The most prominent images evoked by use of the word Nazi will forever be of the holocaust and Hitler's death camps, images seared into the collective unconscious of most of the world. But when Russell asked for German help in 1939 he, along with the rest of the world, could not possibly have known these horrors were going to occur. Britain and its allies fought the Germans to prevent fulfilment of German expansionist and invasion plans, not to prevent a holocaust they didn't know was going to happen. This year, we commemorate the discovery and liberation of Hitler's death camps in 1945. In 1939, they had not even been designed.

The Germans' bombing of Belfast and the consequent deaths are obviously to be deplored. But let us not forget that both the Germans and the British regarded the six northern counties of Ireland as part of Britain. Belfast was contributing greatly to Britain's war effort through shipbuilding and munitions production and preventing this would therefore have been regarded by both sides as a "legitimate" target for the Germans. Neither side would have viewed this as an attack on Ireland.

By 1939, Germany was already a long and well-established supplier of aid and arms to the Irish. Remember Childers, Casement and even the arming of Carson's original UVF. In 1939, Russell was working closely with Joe McGarrity of the Clan na Gael in America. McGarrity, through the Clan, was a major promoter of and fundraiser for the IRA and had already established strong contacts in Germany for arms purchases. When Britain entered the war in Europe, Russell found himself stranded in America with no safe shipping route back to Ireland. At McGarrity's instigation he wrote to the Germans, seeking help to get home, which the Germans agreed to. He managed to get to Germany and the Germans subsequently put a submarine at his disposal to take him home, a thing they had done before with Casement.

Aside from their traditional role as supporters of the IRA, the Germans were undoubtedly particularly pleased to accommodate the Chief of Staff of the IRA at a time when they were planning an invasion of Britain. But any possibilities of collaboration they saw would have cut no ice with Russell, unless he saw potential for achieving his lifelong goal of a free and united Ireland. To apply the term Nazi to Russell is to desecrate the memory of one of Ireland's true patriots, who had dedicated his entire adult life to the cause of Irish freedom.

He had been a 1916 man, fighting at Fairview, the Metropole and finally the GPO. Following his imprisonment at Frongoch he went on to command Dublin's 2nd Battalion and was then appointed the IRA's Director of Munitions by Michael Collins. He was anti-Treaty and was arrested and imprisoned several times during the 1920s and 1930s, including one period when he did a 41-day hunger strike. He began to form a close friendship with McGarrity in 1929 and subsequently visited America on fundraising trips. He was appointed Chief of Staff of the IRA in 1938. In 1939 his English bombing campaign began and he went to America soon after to raise more funds for it. When he got stuck there all he wanted was to get back to his beloved Ireland and continue his life's work.

Sue Stuart,



Basque solidarity

A Chairde,

Readers of An Phoblacht may be interested to know of the recent establishment of the Basque Solidarity Campaign in Scotland.

It is a campaign that actively promotes the Basque people's right to national self-determination by highlighting a number of issues, such as human rights for all Basque political prisoners, the right of the Basque people to vote for their chosen representatives, the repatriation of Basque political prisoners to the Basque Country, and the defence of all forms of Basque culture. A recent example of this was the successful campaign on the right to fly the National Flag of the Basque Country, the Ikurrina, in Strathclyde without police interference.

We support the current political initiatives that are taking place within the Basque Country and would ask anyone willing to join and/or receive more information to contact us at the Basque Solidarity Campaign, PO Box 7518 Glasgow, Scotland G42 2AA (email: [email protected]).

Liane Cumming,


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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