17 February 2005 Edition
As I watched Bertie Ahern launch another verbal barrage of accusations and name-calling toward the Sinn Féin bench on a recent episode of Oireachtas Report, I couldn't help but be reminded of a scene from Ernie O'Malley's classic account of the Civil War, The Singing Flame.
The scene takes place a month into the Civil War when Ernie, along with future Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Seán Lemass and other anti-Treaty republicans, go to Mass in the a small Wicklow village. The sermon was about the anti-Treaty forces (many of whom went on to form Fianna Fáil) and it certainly wasn't one of support. "The sermon was about ourselves. We were looters, robbers, murderers. The Hand of God was against us."
There are clearly a lot of parallels between this period, when the State tried to criminalise many, if not all, of Fianna Fáil's founding fathers, and today, where it is Fianna Fáil who is trying to taint republicans in the same way the Free State establishment tried to criminalise Seán Lemass in 1922.
It is now Bertie Ahern that stands at the pulpit abusing his position for his own political ends. He seeks to protect the establishment that has widened the gulf between rich and poor in Ireland, that breeds corruption of the highest level, and that fears the rise of Sinn Féin and its Equality Agenda.
The SDLP and Fianna Fáil are much better suited working with Sinn Féin for the rights and entitlements of Northern nationalists than leading us into another political abyss. The SDLP Conference at the weekend seemed like a DUP AGM at times with speakers lining up to engage in some Sinn Féin-bashing.
This negative brand of politics will lead us nowhere. Only when all the parties involved come together at the negotiating table as equals, and I emphasise the word equals, will we get back to the kind of positive politics that people on the ground want to see. If other so-called nationalist parties don't call off this political witch-hunt, then the smile on Ian Paisley's face is only going to get wider.
Gerard Casey Cumann,
Rasharkin, County Antrim.
Bullying a killer of body and soul
I would like through your letters page to respond to the article dealing with the bullying and beating of Jacqueline McConnell.
Last year my colleague and I met with the Department of Employment & Learning (DEL) in Adelaide House Belfast to discuss matters surrounding the Incorporation of Belfast Teacher Training Colleges and in the course of our conversation we suggested the development of a 'school of excellence' to deal with the issue of bullying.
More recently, Ciarán Barnes, a journalist for Daily Ireland, contacted me following the Andersonstown News story of Jacqueline McConnell, yet another young person who had suffered the physical and psychological trauma of bullying. Since commenting upon the matter I was approached by the relative of another young boy who was also beaten and robbed and it is clear that we need to move from talking about the issue to support those who are already trying to deal with it.
The issue of bullying is extremely serious and has resulted in horrendous physical and mental trauma for the victims and some have even taken their own lives. I will be asking Ministers Barry Gardiner from DEL and the 26-County Minister Mary Hanifin from DES to initiate an All-Ireland initiative through their respective Departments.
This initiative should take the form of a Cross Boarder Study Conference that brings together the experts and models of practice developed for addressing bullying, currently used across the Island and off it. We should aim to emerge from this conference with an agreed Educational Strategy for addressing bullying that includes a 'Common Teacher Training Module' for all the Teaching Profession and a 'Code of Practice' for every Educational and Youth Service Establishment.
Both Government Departments, the North/South Ministerial Council and the Cross Boarders Study Group should work with Teachers Councils, Unions, Human Rights consultants and CRJ Ireland (given their current pilot conflict resolution mediation project in West Belfast Schools) and factored into this initiative should be the Voice of the Bullied and were possible the bullies and young people in general, because children are not born to bully, either as Children or Adults.
Michael Ferguson MLA (Sinn Féin Spokesperson for
Employment & Learning)
147 Andersonstown Road,
BT11 9WB Belfast.
Blair's belated apology is certainly welcome, yet how he can be sorry for a single miscarriage of justice, and ignore the other thousand years of oppression and torture, is beyond me.
Special Savers ripoff
I was amazed and shocked by recent news reports that the Government's Special Savings Scheme is to cost the taxpayers of this state €3 billion.
As a hard-pressed taxpaying, mortgage-holding, two children in secondary school, one in college, working man, I could not afford to avail of this large transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the haves. I can see now why no other such scheme exists in the world. I doubt if General Pinochet would have had the audacity to introduce such blatant robbery of the working class.
This Government has totally lost the run of itself if it thinks the taxpayers should fund the pension schemes, foreign holidays, new cars, bank balances, etc, of the well heeled, while hundreds of seriously ill people lie on hospital trolleys every day and a sizeable portion of the population lives in poverty in this state.
I would not blame people for availing of this free money bonanza but I would have serious reservations about the people who legislated to make this possible. One thing I am certain about is who is responsible for this robbery. It's the FF/PD coalition. Who else would have the arrogance, or should I say, the simplicity, to shoot itself in the foot in such a daring manner?
Patrick J Fitzgerald,
The Irish Government accuses the IRA of robbing the Northern Bank.
They implicate the leadership of Sinn Féin. They produce no evidence for the accusation, but in order to avoid the mistakes of the British Government during internment, the Irish Government will not indulge in imprisoning those accused. That way we can avoid producing actual evidence.
A well-disguised policy of British "justice" brought to us by the Irish Government.
Bray, County Wicklow.