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30 October 2008 Edition

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I am a sectarian bigot

I have discovered, somewhat to my surprise at the age of 32, that I am a sectarian bigot. Happily I am not the only one. Over one hundred thousand Irish men, women and children marched through the streets in Dublin in February of 2003 motivated only by our hatred for Protestants and our fanatical commitment to the principle of the immaculate conception.
Or so it seems the Unionist media in the North would have us believe. I oppose the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is an immoral war. I do not believe it should be celebrated, nor that we should recruit more cannon fodder for the occupation (Irish Times take note).
Alex Kane, in the Newsletter, went with the ‘stuck in the past’ argument, asking: “But how, exactly, can they have that confidence when Sinn Féin is determined to politicise a Homecoming Parade and turn what should be a quiet tribute into a focal point for tension, hostility and potential violence?”
Alex seems to believe that celebrating the illegal occupation of another country and the men and women who participate in it is a non-political act, only made political by those dastardly Shinners. Which says more about Kane’s understanding of the word ‘political’ than it does about anything else.
Roy Garland, in Monday’s Irish News, went a bit Yeatsian on us
These “...boys and girls suffered in, or have just returned from, the hell of war. We must tread carefully for we tread on their dreams.”
Well, I for one would prefer not to tread on the dreams of a member of the RIR. Much, I’m sure, as many an Iraqi prisoner would have been grateful if RIR members had not tread on their heads during interrogations.
In Saturday’s Telegraph Lindy McDowell, acute analyst of republicanism that she is, argued that by protesting the RIR visit Sinn Féin has ‘shot itself in the foot’.
“What fires up the supporters over here, now has the very real potential to backfire among the supporters over there.”
We heard this tired old unionist hope trotted out before in the aftermath of September 11th. We heard it again when Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams visited Cuba.
The reality is that millions of Americans are opposed to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest anti-war demonstrations have been in the United States.
There are those Americans who do not agree with Sinn Féin’s positions on US foreign policy. It’s been that way for decades and those with whom we might disagree with on Iraq we can work with on Ireland.
Much plaudits then to Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey, who has been as ubiquitous as pictures of despairing bankers these last few weeks, and just as joyful to see. On the BBC’s Politics Show on Sunday, Nolan Live on Tuesday with the DUP’s Nelson McCaulsland and popping up in print here there and everywhere consistently reiterating his point.
“I’m on record”, he told BBC News, “saying I want to see as many of these British troops coming home uninjured. But many thousands of people expressed their concern with regards to these illegal wars.”
Maskey has also continually highlighted the fact that many English towns and cities have refused permission for these kinds of parades, which he rightly describes as ‘catwalks’ to bolster ailing recruitment figures for British regiments.

When I was a wee girl trying to figure out what I wanted from life it was the columns of Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Times that persuaded me to enter journalism. Statements of palpable madness were so routinely made that it demonstrated anyone can be a journalist, in much the same way that Sarah Palin demonstrates anyone can be US President.
Bringing me to the Sunday Tribune’s Michael Clifford.
“These marchers want to ensure that third-level fees won’t return,” wrote Michael Clifford last week referring to the student demonstration in Dublin. “They are adamant that money garnered through tax from semi-skilled and low-paid workers should go towards educating third-level students, so that their life experience shall be more prosperous.”
Makes you want to slap him about with the business end of a haddock doesn’t it?
Similar nonsense is trotted out in the medical card debate with members of the press arguing that supporting universality is everyone else paying so that the rich get a medical card. We see this again around Child Benefit, which Noel Whelan in the Irish Times has been targeting for some time.
The reality is that those of us supporting free fees, universal access to healthcare and the like do believe the rich should pay for them. Through the taxation system.
And to be fair, there have been a couple of pieces over the last week making this point, including a decent Irish Times editorial on the subject. Universality of public services and a low tax regime is not possible outside of a short-term economic boom period.
This does not discredit universality, but it does discredit the notion of a taxation system where people on massive salaries pay a pittance in tax.

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