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28 June 2007 Edition

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Letter to the Taoiseach

I am writing to you earlier than usual this week, Bertie, far above the clouds en route to Washington.  ‘My countrymen Kiltarten’s poor, my country Kiltarten Cross’ comes to mind, as I head off to lobby for Ireland at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
I will still be in the States when you receive this letter. Will you text to me the result of the Derry-Monaghan match because I want to know who we will be facing in the Ulster Final at Clones on Sunday 15 July.  I forgot to ask you last week what you made of Raymond Mulgrew’s goal against Donegal.
Youse did the business, yourselves, in the replay against Meath, of course.  Do you think that the Jacks are really back?  What are the chances that we will meet later on this summer?
Martina Anderson was highlighting the current employment differentials between Protestants and Catholics in the Six Counties the other day.  We were meeting in the grandly named Senate Chamber at Stormont.  The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.  That probably sounds like some sort of Politburo. Ian and Martin were there, themselves, Taoiseach, and so too, were Ian Óg and Gerry Kelly.
Our job was to scrutinise Ian and Martin and the emerging priorities which guide their approach to the Programme for Government. In the North that is, minus Donegal which falls within your remit. Yourself, Brian Cowen and John Gormley have been at the same craic in the rest of the country, working towards a Programme for Government in recent days.
Anyway, Martina was saying that Catholics in the Six Counties are still much more likely to be unemployed than Protestants.  Which is true.  Some of the Unionist members wanted to know how many Protestants are elected to the Dáil. This was not terribly relevant which was a bit like comparing apples to oranges.  Ignore the pun if you can.  Ian Senior pointed out that there is at least one Protestant TD in the Dáil and he is a Green Man.
The fact remains, Taoiseach, that Catholics in the Six are still facing discrimination in various walks of life and Martina did not want this to be glossed over.  Nor would you, I know.
Dolores Kelly of the SDLP was on her own theme.  She wanted “the MOD” (British Army to me and you) to hand back some vacant “military sites to the people of Northern Ireland” so that these can be regenerated for social and economic benefit. I would not disagree with Dolores except on aspects of her emphasis and tone. Francie Molloy put it better when he suggested “handing back Northern Ireland.”  The teddy bear’s head as it is in the words of a Wolfe Tones’ song.
The joint captains of the ship, Martin and Ian, sailed out of the Senate Chamber after our questions and have agreed to further update us in the weeks ahead.
Any word of your own planned meeting, Taoiseach, with the two men now that the three of youse speak collectively for all of Ireland?
Still on Assembly business, the Ulster Council of the GAA presented evidence to our Statutory Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure, on Thursday of last week.  So, too, did the Ulster Rugby Chief Executive and before him, the previous week, a delegation from the Irish Football Association (IFA).  My Deputy Chair, David McNarry cautioned me privately before the meeting about being biased towards the GAA.  But the GAA presentation stood tall on its own merits and needed no favour from the Chair.  
Those of us from a GAA background were very pleased when even the unionist members around the table commended the delegation on their professional approach and how the Association is impacting in social and sporting terms on communities throughout Ulster and the whole of Ireland. 

Is mise le meas
Barry McElduff

NB: Bertie Ahern can be contacted on (00 353) 1 619 4020 or e-mail [email protected]  Address: Office of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings, Dublin 2.

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