24 April 1997 Edition
Challenge to SDLP
John Hume, in what he must have considered were dire circumstances (if his actions are anything to judge by) made a desperate attempt at stealing Sinn Féin votes. In an attack on Sinn Féin forced upon him by pressure from within his own party, and quite out of character for a man of his intellect, John Hume said that a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for the IRA to murder people.
I am sure John Hume didn't consider his vote cast in a Westminster parliament as a vote for the British Army to murder nationalists in the streets of his native Derry on Bloody Sunday.
The SDLP are prepared, it would seem, to disregard the interests of the nationalist people in furtherance of party politics. This SDLP party political attitude would appear to be confirmed by their refusal to have an election pact with Sinn Féin. William McCrea and David Trimble, associates of alleged UVF man, Billy Wright, could have a pact (without any objection from the SDLP) to get William McCrea re-elected.
Why did the deep-thinking political analysts of the SDLP deem a pact with Sinn Féin unnecessary? It would have guaranteed strong nationalist representation and placed a nationalist in William McCrea's DUP seat. Have the SDLP a huge impersonation campaign planned and don't require a united nationalist vote?
John Hume's attack on Sinn Féin will have caused division, apathy, confusion and spoilt any chance of tactical voting in one of the most crucial elections and it will split the nationalist vote. The SDLP have been, unwittingly, McCrea's best election agents.
The onus is now on the SDLP to repair the damage, stop electioneering for the DUP, and unite with Sinn Féin to give the nationalist people the strong representation they deserve before 1 May.
POWs urge SF vote
1 May offers nationalists an opportunity to cast a vote in favour of rebuiding a credible peace process. By voting for Sinn Féin we can send a clear message to any new British government, whether it be Labour or Conservative, that we demand a meaningful programme aimed at a negotiated and just settlement.
Throughout the IRA cessation the British government hid behind preconditions rather than face up to their responsibilities thus allowing the peace process to grind to a halt. Dependence on Unionist votes in Westminster and a lack of moral courage ensured that the Conservative Party would stay in office and the Unionists would be allowed to hold up any real progress in Ireland. This cannot be allowed to happen again and the only way to prevent it is by turning out in force to vote for Sinn Féin candidates and building upon the tremendous results of the Forum elections.
The SDLP has refused all Sinn Féin offers of an electoral pact which would have ensured that seats in predominantly nationalist constituencies would not go to Unionists such as Willie McCrea. Nationalist should not be left unrepresented and therefore we would urge people to vote for Sinn Féin so that their voices can be heard and views represented in all future negotiations. Your vote and how you use it is of the utmost importance, we urge you to vote Sinn Féin.
I was amused by your note from the Editor's Desk about me and Sean O'Callaghan.
I hate to be a spoilsport, but I'm afraid you are wrong in thinking that our trip was unsuccessful and ignored by the mainstream media.
Our major purpose was to get through to opinion-formers our joint view that Sinn Féin should not be allowed into talks until the IRA declares a permanent, credible ceasefire as well as an end to punishment beatings. Among the editorial boards we met were the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Post and Readers' Digest.
At dinners with senior journalists the newspapers represented included the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. We also had dozens of private meetings with think tanks, foreign policy groups, academics, journalists, officials, politicians, staffers and other interested parties in Washington, Boston, the mid-west, New York and California and in the process recruited talent for Friends of Peace in Ireland, a group which will be based in Washington and will disseminate information about what is really going on in Northern Ireland.
As far as the mainstream media was concerned, you should know that, for example, in January 15 minutes of the most prestigious American current affairs programme (CBS's `60 Minutes') was devoted to Sean; the day before we left for the US he was the subject of CNN's 30-minute Q & A programme (with a phone-call with your own Danny Morrison); on arrival he gave an hour-long interview to Associated Press, who disseminated parts of it world-wide; his news conference on 24 February was attended by 50 journalists and was followed by interviews on Sky and NBC other appearances included lengthy interviews with CBC International Hour and Fox News (following Gerry Adams) and substantial contributions to two documentaries on terrorism. The innumerable radio interviews included two one-hour coast-to-coast shows with a huge listnership; the `Oliver North Radio Show' and the `Talk of the Nation' (with a phone-call from your woman in Washington, Mairead Keane).
Ruth Dudley Edwards.
I hate to contradict Ruth Dudley Edwards, but Sean O'Callaghan's trip to the US was a disaster. The main opinion-forming newspapers did not meet him and most of the papers he did meet, he met informally or at social functions. Joe Carroll of the Irish Times described the trip well: ``In spite of efforts by the organisers of his tour to get O'Callaghan noticed by mainstream media, his exposure was largely on radio phone-in programmes.
``At his opening press conference, there were almost more representatives of political organisations than journalists.
``Claims by the organisers, who included the Sunday Times correspondent in Washington, James Adams, and London-based historian and columnist, Ruth Dudley Edwards, that O'Callaghan would meet editorial boards of major newspapers, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and appear on high-profile TV shows, like the McNeil-Lehrer Hour, all turned out to be wishful thinking.''
James Adams then wrote a piece in the Sunday Times complaining that O'Callaghan was unable to get his message across. The headline was: ``Shunning of Sean, the Irish voice America won't hear''.
Socialist Labour Party
In its election coverage, An Phoblacht has made no mention of the policies of the Socialist Labour Party, founded last year by Arthur Scargill, a credible and radical alternative to the right-wing now being peddled by all the main players in the British general elections.
The Socialist Labour Party's manifesto calls for a withdrawal of British troops from the Six Counties, the release of political prisoners and economic compensation for the damage caused by the war, sectarianism and British occupation.
The SLP seems to be working to focus the election campaign on the real and significant issues, away from the petty and personal bickering of the Labour and Conservative parties.
Mallon's jobs claim ``false''
In Seamus Mallon's election literature it states: ``Mallon means jobs'' and goes on to try and take credit for creating 109 new jobs at Glen Electric and Greenpoint in Newry. As the Union convenor of both Glen and Greenpoint at the time of both the initial talks on new products and when the jobs were announced, I publicly challenge Seamus Mallon to explain to both myself and to the people who really deserve the credit - the employees of both factories - what exactly he did during this period to allow him to make such a blatantly false statement.
I await a reply.
No boom for schools
We are told that this country is in an economic boom, but where are the profits from this apparent state of prosperity going?
I make these remarks in the light of the School Funding Survey which was issued in mid-March by the Irish National Teachers Organisation. Returns were made from 2,286 primary schools. Almost half cannot even pay for the basics out of the £45 per pupil provided by the Department of Education. Local communities supported this ``contribution'' paid by the Department to our ``free'' primary education system, with over £10 million of their own money - made up of fundraising and the compulsory local contribution. 62% of the schools said fundraised money was spent on supplementing running costs and 77% spent such money on teaching materials.
32% of schools are not cleaned and swept daily. 87% do not have staff toilets. 39% of schools do not have two WCs and two washhand basins for each class unit. 17% have classrooms in prefabs and 27% of these are more than 20 years old. 49% do not have a general purposes room. 32% do not have a staff room. And now with so much emphasis on computer literacy it appears that one in every four Primary schools does not have a computer; the average is one computer for every 100 pupils.
Parents and school communities contribute £10 million to Primary education every year while the Department of Education itself contributes only £22 million towards the running of these schools.
As was pointed out in the report, ``the dependence on raising money to provide schools with equipment necessary for the implementation of the curriculum is unfair. Small rural communities and less well-off areas will inevitably be less able to provide the basics of teaching equipment''. Better-off areas have better resourced schools, and the system delivers better quality to the better-off. The wealthy can buy a better deal for their children.
And so back to the boom and the one or two billion pounds in unpaid company taxes, not to speak of the billions of pounds being taken out of the country by the transnational corporations. I suppose everybody at this stage has also forgotten about the whole-scale robbery of the so-called tax amnesty. But then we should all be happy once Mr Lowry and the other beneficiaries of Mr Dunne's munificence as well as all the legal eagles sitting on one Tribunal or another not to speak of all the other parasitical bureaucrats administering one lame duck scheme or other, are on the gravy train. Remember the Beef Tribunal alone cost £35 million to clear up gross neglect on the part on one government or another. And some people through Al Capone was dead!
Thanks from H-Blocks
We have just arrived back from the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in County Monaghan which we attended as delegates on behalf on Cumann na mBlocanna H.
Not only was it a pleasure to meet up with so many old friends and comrades again but we were genuinely touched by the warmth and hospitality of the local community towards all of us who travelled and stayed overnight.
May we use this opportunity to thank everyone who in any way made our day such a pleasant and memorable experience - go raibh céad míle maith agaibh.
And may we also thank our (women) comrades in Maghaberry for providing us with the honour of reading their message to the Ard Fheis. We sincerely hope that we managed to do their statement justice. We can say with confidence that it was very well received.
Finally, on behalf of Cumann na mBlocanna H we would like to congratulate all those who made the 91st Ard Fheis such a vibrant and enjoyable event.
The mood and overall atmosphere was one of confidence and a belief in our capabilities as we go into these elections.
We extend best wishes to all Sinn Féin candidates standing in all of the up and coming elections and urge the nationalist people to support the only party that has the political conviction to force a British government into genuine peace negotiations.
Every Sinn Féin vote is another positive and progressive step towards addressing British injustices in our country.
Play your part in addressing these injustices by voting for Sinn Féin.
H-Block Ceis Fhada.