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31 May 2007 Edition

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Fifth Column

Government whip-round

What is the problem people keep alluding to about the possible bankruptcy of the semi-detached Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Cooper Flynn, who was re-elected as an Independent, preventing her keeping Bertie in power?
RTÉ is pursuing Bev for €1.5 million costs from her failed libel case against the Clark Kent of Montrose, Charlie Bird, in connection with allegations that she encouraged tax evasion while working for National Irish Bank.
Can’t Bertie’s buddies in the ‘Fianna Fáil business gene pool’ just have a whip-round for poor Beverley?

Tokyo tribunal

Japan’s Agriculture Minister has hanged himself just hours before he was to face questioning by a parliamentary tribunal about alleged expenses fraud and political donations.
Toshikatsu Matsuoka claimed more than €171,000 in utility bills even though he rented a parliamentary office where electricity and heating is free. Political donations given to him were also under the microscope.
The scandal prompted calls from even his own Liberal Democratic Party for him to resign.
Thankfully, Fianna Fáil is above all that sort of thing.

Political obituary

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea is known as ‘The Angel of Death’, he attends so many funerals. His counterparts in northern Italy’s Veneto region have gone one better with the latest bonus they’ve just awarded to themselves.
Electors are burying their heads in their hands after local councillors have given themselves €7,500 of expenses for their own funerals.
A poll for La Repubblica newspaper has shown only one in 10 Italians has any faith in elected reps.

FAIRly faithless

Willie Frazer, head of the exclusively unionist Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR), is lobbying the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children about its support for the Pro-Life Times newspaper and its coverage of the recent Assembly election campaign of former IRA Volunteer Gerry McGeough on a ‘pro-life’ ticket.
In campaign material circulated by Frazer, the FAIR head claims that his organisation “based mainly in the Bandit Country of South Armagh, has over 2,500 members”.
Two thousand, five hundred. Really?
When Willie stood in the Assembly elections as an Independent Unionist, he only managed 1.2% of the poll in Newry & Armagh – 605 votes. The 1,900 other FAIR members must have forgotten to put their faith in their leader.

No more barmy army

China’s People’s Liberation Army is now insisting that all potential recruits get a clean bill of mental health before they can join.
There are no plans for the British Army to follow the PLA’s suit. It’s hard enough for the Parachute Regiment to find recruits as it is without ruling out some of its most promising prospects.

Highland fling

The People’s Liberation Army last year barred recruits who were heavy snorers, had tattoos, were overweight or were drug addicts. The British Army’s Royal Regiment of Scotland is glad they don’t vet drug-takers before they give them a gun.
The regiment is an amalgamation of the Royal Scots and the hated King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who have a vicious history in Ireland, stretching from Dublin at the start of the century to Belfast at the end of the century.
Mobile phone pictures have been circulating of squaddies dressed in regimental sports gear and snorting cocaine off a CD in a British Army barracks somewhere.
One Brit is seen staggering to his feet and drawling: “Aww, ah’m wrecked, man.”
At the end of last year, almost 30 soldiers in 1 Scots and the Royal Highland Fusiliers were discovered to have taken the ‘high’ in Highland literally.

Harry’s game

One British soldier not taking the high road is Prince Harry, or Cornet Wales of the Blues & Royals Household Cavalry regiment, as the British Army calls him. While Harry’s men are dodging bullets in Basra, he’ll be downing Bacardi Breezers in Chelsea (that’s Chelsea in the swanky West End; not Chelsy Davy, his girlfriend).
Harry’s not going to the Middle East to kill Iraqis because some of the Iraqis have said they might shoot back. The future king of England has been the subject of “specific threats”, according to the operational head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannart.
“These threats expose not only him but also those around him to a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable.”
Putting Harry in the front line would, General Dannart said, “expose him and the troops serving alongside him to “a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable”.
The risk to the ‘poor bloody infantry’ left behind in the front line to face the Iraqi resistance is, of course, entirely acceptable to the general and his boss, Harry’s granny, while Hooray Harry parties it up in Chelsea night clubs like Boujis, Mahiki, Pangaea and Purple.

Victorian values

The first Dickens World theme park has opened its doors in the old Royal Navy dockyard at Chatham in Kent, giving visitors the chance to stroll through what purports to be the sort of streets inhabited by one of the world’s greatest novelists.
The grim reality of Dickens’ real world seems to have had some of its rough edges taken off by the Fagin’s Den soft play area and the Great Expectations Boat Ride.
The blurb for Dickens World promises visitors that they can “become immersed in the urban streets, sounds and smells of the 19th century”. Great. Raw sewage flowing through stinking gutters, squalor and filth, disease-ridden working-class hovels, and under-nourished waifs in workhouses. Just the treat for the kids on a Sunday.
What you can pick up from the “naughty delights” promised in the Free and Easy Victorian Music Hall is anyone’s guess.
And, to keep it really real, maybe they’ll even let you shove small boys up chimneys for less than a penny. Margaret Thatcher and Michael McDowell will love it.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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