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13 June 1997 Edition

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Editor's desk

Word reaches me that the SDLP are finding it very difficult to come to terms with the loss of the West Belfast seat. Their website still carries a profile of `Dr Joe Hendron MP', listing the various party responsibilities he holds at Westminster. One of our readers has e-mailed the SDLP twice in the last few weeks to tell them that they lost the election in West Belfast. But still Joe clings to his lost status. He is, I suppose, the first virtual reality MP.

 


Someone else who can't come to terms with changed times is the right wing Tory MP who was quoted this week as saying that if Kenneth Clarke becomes leader of the Conservative Party ``I'm going to South Africa''. He might not realise that he won't be as welcome as he once would have been.

 


Look carefully and you can see evidence in this photograph of collusion between loyalist death squads and the Basque equivalent of the RUC, the Ertzaintza.

These friendly bobbies, who look like a cross between the Power Rangers and the SAS, are guarding a bus in Bilbao in the Basque Country. And the evidence of collusion? The bus they are guarding is marked ``UDA Tours''.

 


RTE current affairs were not well-disposed to Sinn Féin during the election, you may not be surprised to hear. RTE radio news on the day of the election had an item saying there were concerns about personation in Cavan/Monaghan. It just happened to be the constituency in which Sinn Féin was running strongest and it followed similar claims against Sinn Féin in the Six Counties in recent weeks as opponents tried to rubbish the Sinn Féin performance.

Brian McDonald, Caoimhghín O Caoláin's director of publicity, rang the returning officer who said, ``No, I've received no reports of personation''. He then rang the RTE newsroom. They said they got their information from ``a stringer in Cavan''. They admitted they hadn't checked it or asked the stringer for any evidence. The item was dropped from subsequent bulletins. Bias? What bias?

 


Who did the Irish Times send to cover the election count in Cavan/Monaghan? Why, none other than their security correspondent. The anti-republican Jim Cusack was a bad choice when the story of the election was the Sinn Féin vote. Poor Jim got a frosty reception from the Shinners in the count centre and his report on Monday had few quotes that weren't already broadcast in radio interviews.

 


Democracy is a strange thing. You'd think that the bitterest rivalries would be between candidates from opposing parties. Not in Cavan/Monaghan where two Fine Gael candidates fought the election against each other. One of the Blueshirts was phoned up a couple of days before the election and asked if he would present himself for a TV interview. Of course he jumped at the chance of national exposure so he sped off to meet the film crew at a location 40 miles away. When he arrived, he waited. And waited. But in vain. After an hour and a phone call to RTE the penny dropped.

His rival was more than happy that his opponent had wasted four hours crucial canvassing time so close to polling day.

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