22 May 1997 Edition
Britannia waives the rules - again
The Irish community in Britain looked to a New Labour government with a degree of optimism (perhaps naively), hoping that New Labour with its overwhelming majority would bring real change for all people in British society and that Tony Blair's vision of ``Nation'' where people's ``different political and national aspirations'' could be given a legitimate forum where their views could be expressed and respected. However, within two weeks of the term of this new government we see Gerry Adams MP and Martin McGuinness MP, Irish elected representatives given a mandate by 127,000 people effectively excluded from Westminster.
Once again Britain moves the goal posts and with draconian expediency disenfranchises the Sinn Féin electorate.
Why should an Irish person from what is a disputed territory be forced to swear allegiance to the crown? This is the same crown that oversaw the death of one million Irish people in the Famine of 1845-1851, the same crown who killed 14 unarmed Irish civilians in Derry in 1972, the same crown who have supplied weapons and information to loyalist/MI5 death squads in Ireland, the same crown who release convicted British soldiers (Clegg and Thain) found guilty of murder in their own courts.
The 127,000 people who voted for Sinn Féin will not go away and this vote must surely strengthen the resolve of all Irish people to bring about the conditions that will make it reality - a just and lasting peace in all of Ireland free from the influence of the `mother of all parliaments'.
The Irish community in Britain should make their voices heard in support of elected representatives of the nationalist community - lobby your MPs to get this illegal decision overturned - for more information contact the address below.
Wolfe Tone Society,
BM Box 6191,
It is typical of what passes for attention to Northern Ireland in Britain that Westminster, and in particular the now exclusively English Conservative and Unionist Party, should have totally ignored the loyalist murder of yet another Catholic to instead become animated about denying Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness MPs their legal rights as the elected representatives of their constituents unless they take a loyalty oath to the Queen and by extension to the `United Kingdom'. Is this the ``parity of esteem'' promised to Irish republicans by the British government?
Where does this now compulsory and retrospectively imposed loyalty oath leave the SDLP MPs who had previously accepted it when it had not been made such an issue? If the IRA had written the script it could not destroy constitutional nationalism in the North of Ireland so effectively as the British establishment has in the last few months.
Despite all the talk about parity of esteem Westminster is still constitutionally incapable of admitting that it may be the political wing of one of the armies in the field in Northern Ireland, so what hope for peace talks? Peter Mandelson's warning to the House of Lords not to impede MPs' representation of their constituents in the matter of selective constitutional change is an irony in the context of the denial of facilities to Messrs Adams and McGuinness. One hopes against hope that the new intake of MPs will vindicate fellow MPs' rights.
What is needed now in Northern Ireland is a serious political initiative to bring all parties together in a totally peaceful atmosphere, not kneejerk antics. President Clinton may view this latest British folly as an unhelpful absurdity when he visits London at the end of May but no doubt nationalists in Northern Ireland and Irish-America will increasingly view Westminster as Wolfe Tone did two hundred years ago, as the ultimate source of all of the North of Ireland's evils.
I recently joined the Galway branch of Sinn Féin and at twenty-one am the youngest member in our area. I would like to get in touch with anybody of similar age, either a Sinn Féin member or just republican minded, for correspondence on any relevant issues from anywhere in the country.
I would also like to congratulate Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness on their recent victories. I hope that we can pull off a few surprises in the 26 Counties.
This brings me to the main reason for writing. I am making an appeal to every republican minded person reading this to support their local representatives. There are a number of ways to help: financial backing to local representatives or to the Sinn Féin head office is vital; people should encourage friends or relatives to vote Sinn Féin.
It doesn't matter how small or trivial you might think your contributions are because when everything is added together I hope that people will be surprised at how the large picture looks.
Local candidates are making personal sacrifices and it is up to us to back them all the way. Remember to vote the right way on the day and let's give ourselves something to celebrate.
Galway Sinn Féin,
(can be contacted via An Phoblacht).
Rights of SF voters
Do Blair and Bruton think they are bestowing some great favour or concession by letting officials talk to Sinn Féin? Sinn Féin have a perfect right to take part in talks on an equal footing with all other parties by virtue of the democratic mandate given to them by 16% of voters in the North.
As for Bruton, it's embarrassing the way he always trots after the British government, or perhaps he thinks he can squeeze a fistful of votes out of talk of `an imminent ceasefire'. If there is now a new opportunity for a real and lasting peace in Ireland, it's definitely no thanks to him. His contribution to the peace process has been, while in opposition, to snipe at Albert Reynolds and, since becoming Taoiseach, to parrot and endorse Mayhew's Washington 3 remarks, to congratulate Major on the killing of Diarmuid O'Neill, to refuse to send observers to Orange marches, to refuse to meet Gerry Adams and John Hume and to write-off 127,000 voters in the Six Counties.
The biggest contribution Bruton could make to the peace process and the country in general would be to retire to Meath and rest on his assets.
Máire Ní Mhuircheartaigh,
Bhí beagán díomá orm nár moladh leabhar nua Uinseann Mac Eoin go hard na spéire sa léarmheas le Micheál Mac Donncha cúpla seachtain ó shoin.
The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-48 is a very important book - not only that, but its great strength is that it is a wonderfully readable book. This is a book for those who do not normally read history - thanks to Uinseann Mac Eoin's unique narrative voice, which is witty, erudite and effortlessly entertaining, tying the history to snippets of gossip and people's connections to each other and events.
The chronology of republican activity brings us through a major part of the century and stands as a memorial to all the ordinary people, as well as the prominent, who suffered and tried to improve the conditions of their time. The second half of the book belongs to the voices of those who lived through it, and brings social history to life, with great heart and humour amidst hardship. Of course in such a monumental work there are bound to be errors and omissions, but all these can be corrected in future editions.
Don't be misled by the book's size - beg, borrow or steal a copy agus bain sult as scéal na staire!
Cris Ní Choisdealbha,
What is the plan?
As a new reader (only three issues so far), please allow me to congratulate you for:
Presenting a fair minded appraisal of many injustices in Ireland and around the world.
Promoting your cause.
As an Irish citizen who is not a member of Sinn Féin, nor a member of any other political party, may I ask what is your cause? You and your readers have many reasons to consider my question presumptious, if not discourteous. To those who are outraged or insulted, my many relations in Ireland understand your feelings.
While your newspaper favours many of the same ideals as the political parties of all liberal democracies: justice, equality, freedom, tolerance, etc. - what is the plan? How do we get from here to there?
I am not referring to a euphemism called the ``peace process''. Either concurrent with or subsequent to ``peace'' - how would Ireland be different under a Sinn Féin government? Beyond the administrative bureaucracy, how would Irish culture and society be different? How is An Phoblacht espousing the goals and aspirations of Irish history in preparation for a future mandate? What view of Irish history is held by An Phoblacht and how is this view germaine to Irish culture and society today?