17 April 1997 Edition
Féile dismay at Kenny comments
I am writing to express my dismay at the comments made by Enda Kenny on the Radio Ireland programme (7 April) and in the Dáil (9 April) in relation to the opening of Teach na Féile on 25 March. Your readers may be aware that Albert Reynolds, Roy Garland, Gerry Adams, Frances Black, Shane Connaughton, and hundreds of local people were present at the opening.
Féile an Phobail is the biggest community Festival in Ireland. I sent a personal invitation to Joe Hendron to our opening. His office confirmed to me that he received the invitation. Dr Hendron chose not to come. Messages of support were received from President Robinson, Mayor Ian Adamson (Belfast City Council), Donnell Deeney (Arts Council of Northern Ireland), Stephen Rea, Ken Loach and Paddy Sloan (Making Belfast Work). It was a very exciting event for Féile - it is our 10th year, we have a dynamic arts and cultural programme lined up for this year.
I would like to make a few points in relation to Féile an Phobail so that your readers might understand our dismay and disappointment.
1) Féile is a broad-based organisation funded by a wide range of bodies, including: Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Making Belfast Work, The Irish Funds, Belfast City Council, Bass Ireland, The Irish News, The European Partnership Board, Community Relations Council, Northern Ireland Electricity, BBC Children in Need, Probation Board and Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust. Ill-thought statements jeopardise the funding of organisations like ours and contribute to a climate of political vetting, which I assume all parties are opposed to.
2) Féile is working in a very difficult political context, in an area that has suffered disproportionately from the conflict. In the past few years loyalist paramilitaries have killed more than three people within a 100 metre radius of our new offices. Devices were placed outside An Culturlann, an Irish language Centre and Falls Community Council, a community development organisation. Fortunately no one was injured on those two occasions. Comments like Minister Kenny's endanger our workers' lives and people within the community. People in positions of responsibility must appreciate that we are living in a situation of real and immediate conflict.
It is sobering to think back to the circumstances giving rise to the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane and the inflammatory comments made by Douglas Hogg in the House of Commons. Any comments made should be carefully thought out as they can have serious implications for people here. We do understand that there is an election coming up in the South of Ireland and that point scoring is all part of the process but we would appreciate if it was not done at our expense or in a manner which endangers our security.
3) Making Belfast Work has commended Féile an Phobail for the work we have done. In our brochure they said: `The linkages between arts/cultural development and the achievement of social integration are clearly established and Féile an Phobail has played a significant role in assisting the regeneration of West Belfast' Féile has given a major boost to tourism and economic regeneration and we have timed our main festive celebrations to take place around the anniversary of internment. The injustice of internment was marked in subsequent years by street disturbances. Many people were killed on the streets, including young children killed by plastic bullets. Féile was intended to replace this with a time of creative expression for the people of West Belfast. We are particularly disappointed that a Minister for Tourism and Trade would make such ill thought out comments.
Finally, we would like to thank all the people who came to our opening. We appreciate and look forward to their continued support. I have written to Minister Kenny requesting a meeting with him so that we can discuss this important issue.
Politics and sport
There must be people shaking their heads in disbelief at the hysteria that surrounded the cancellation of a horse race in England.
Take the widow of John Slane murdered two weeks ago by loyalist death squads, for example. His death didn't even merit a mention by John Bruton, let alone condemnation. Yet the same Mr Bruton condemned the cancellation of a horse race.
Politics has no place in sport, every news bulletin told us. The supporters of Cliftonville FC must have pondered on their recent experience outside Portadown football ground when a three hundred strong loyalist mob stoned their bus as the RUC stood by and watched.
Those attached to Crossmaglen Rangers Gaelic football club must be wondering where all the lovers of sport have been hiding over the past twenty years, given that they had part of their ground forcibly taken from them and have frequently had to abandon matches as a result of crown forces harassment.
Each news bulletin brought us news that the Aintree fences had been damaged - not a mention of the church burnt to the ground less than twenty four hours earlier.
Oh yes, how well the British have groomed their apologists here in Ireland.
Mr Bruton's latest tirade against Sinn Fein is hardly likely to be taken seriously, given his highly selective reaction to recent events. While he and his coalition colleagues fulminated at length about the disruption of a horse race, he could not even find a word of condolence for the grieving family of John Slane, never mind comment on his murder.
On the same day as his latest condemnation of republicans, loyalists had attempted to kill another Belfast nationalist, but Mr Bruton failed to even mention the gunning down of Ciaran Delaney, which left him fighting for his life in hospital. Despite several loyalist killings and attempted killings, the coalition government continues to maintain contact with the loyalist parties, while refusing to talk to a party with ten times as many votes.
Unfortunately, such double standards are par for the course for Mr Bruton. Even during the ceasefire in 1995, when nationalists were seriously injured by RUC plastic bullets, and in 1996, when Dermot McShane was killed by the British Army, he failed to make even the mildest criticism. It was only when British Forces shot dead the unarmed Diarmuid O'Neill that Mr Bruton spoke out - he sent a message of congratulations to John Major!
Does he seriously imagine that knowledgeable voters in the north will be influenced by such hypocrisy?
(Dr) Sean Marlow.
No double tax
When I sit down to consider the selection of a public representative for my area, I have to consider his or her basic intelligence level. I also have to consider how much that person understands about the problems which beset my life, and most of all I have to try to assess the ability of the prospective candidate to understand what I have to say, and the willingness of that person to listen to my complaints.
All this being the case, I am less than impressed by Mary Harney's latest bombshell regarding Water Rates. First of all, she has failed to heed the clearly expressed will of the majority of the people of this country, which is that the imposing or the retention of Water Rates is unacceptable as a means of funding the state's coffers.
Since 1983 there have been clear statements to this effect from tenants, residents, and community groups, and if Mary has not heard their opinions by now, she is either unwilling to listen or too stupid to understand. Either problem would make her too stupid to adequately represent the people of this country.
Mary also trots out the old argument that we cannot expect to continue to receive water supplies for nothing. I must point out that we have never objected to paying for such services. After all, who else is paying the bill for the running of this state? We have pointed out before (when Mary was apparently not listening) that when Fianna Fáil abolished domestic rates they explained that they had to find the funds lost by this move from a different source. They did so by the simple expedient of raising the level of income tax payments. So, once more Mary (and I'll write this slowly), what we object to is ``paying twice''.
The dreadful thought has just crossed my mind. Mary is the leader of the party. Surely there has to be a mistake somewhere - she can't possibly be smarter than the rest of them.
Chairperson and PRO,
Ballyfermot Community Association.
I attended the Easter Commemoration in Dublin and I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to both Dublin Sinn Féin and the National Graves Association for organising such a worthy patriotic event.