28 August 1997 Edition
Branch harassment in Kerry
On 7 June at the North Kerry election count in Cumann Ioseaf, Tralee, local Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leen was approached by one of the many Special Branchmen present who remarked on the exceptionally high votes received by North Kerry Sinn Féin candidate Martin Ferris.
Councillor Leen agreed that the vote was indeed impressive and added ``You're going to be very busy over the next few months''.
``Why do you say that?'' asked the Branchman.
``Because you'll have 7,294 houses to raid,'' replied the councillor.
It was a lighthearted remark which raised a lot of laughs following the high tension of the count, but behind it lay the serious issue of Special Branch harassment of what was one of the most successful and hard fought Sinn Féin campaigns in the 26 counties.
For approximately two months, Martin Ferris was under 24 hour surveillance by the Special Branch.
Walking out of his house in the morning, he was greeted by the sight of an unmarked 96D car which was always there waiting for him, and which was his constant companion until he returned home that night.
Friends or neighbours who gave lifts to members of his family were stopped, checked and questioned.
Sinn Féin election workers and activists were raided and arrested, canvassers were harassed, posters were torn down, and media hatchet jobs attempted to undermine Martin Ferris's character and integrity.
The people of North Kerry responded to this by giving Martin Ferris 7,294 votes, including 5,691 first preferences, the second highest Sinn Féin vote in the 26 counties and the highest in the North Kerry constituency since 1925, a result which Dick Spring described as ``worrying''.
We have often wondered how ``worried'' candidates from other larger parties would be if they had to fight an election campaign with the minimal resources available to Sinn Féin, and under constant and relentless pressure from the authorities and elements in the media.
Sinn Féin received the impressive vote that we did, not with any assistance from Ben Dunne but through dedication and hard work.
A vital element in Sinn Féin's electoral success in North Kerry was a high profile and extremely popular anti-drugs campaign in which we attempted to highlight a problem that until recently the authorities were unwilling to acknowledge even existed. Almost inevitably, those active in the campaign were targeted for harassment by the Gardai, who seemed intent on dealing with the perceived threat to their authority rather than the crisis of drug addiction in our communities.
This situation, of course, will be all too familiar to the community drug activists in Dublin who have watched scores of young people die from heroin abuse while the state stood by and washed its hands, and then proceeded to punish those who were attempting to deal with the problem.
Two months on from the success of 6 June and we're still facing old problems.
One of our members was recently arrested under the Offences Against the State Act and held for 12 hours. Our attempts to secure venues for public meetings are being frustrated as owners and managers of various hotels and community centres are coming under pressure from the authorities not to co-operate.
We can only hope that the new political situation which is developing and the opportunity offered by the IRA's recent cessation will lead to a change of attitude from the authorities in this state, and that Sinn Féin will be treated as a legitimate and respected political party which has so much to offer all the people of this island.
North Kerry Sinn Féin
Angelus as a spiritual space
Michael Kennedy's TV Review `Why does the Bell Toll?' (21 August) attracted my attention primarily because it described the daily Irish television audience as Catholic and Protestant. That is why I take issue. The religious truth celebrated by the Angelus is Christ as the human expression of God. This is the truth that makes Catholics and Protestants all of the Christian faith. Many Anglican churches recognise the Mother and Child in exactly the same way as Catholics do, for example.
True, I do not say the words of the Angelus when the bell tolls but I do respond with attention to the magnificent artistic interpretations of this religious truth from faraway Christian cultures and from other periods of history. Presently, I marvel at the unique Celtic presentation of `the Word dwelt amongst us'.
Perhaps we might be generous about the reality of spiritual experience. Take any Sunday morning: religious programmes on television and radio evidence appreciative audiences. On international radio, there are Islamic and Jewish services on Fridays and Saturdays as appropriate.
While the sports enthusiasts have their hours of play and replay, seven one-minute beautifully presented spiritual spaces per week might be accorded the rest of us, we have to learn to `see' the challenge of inclusiveness and pluralism.
M M McCarron,
Civil War tragedy remembered
While the Great Hunger has rightly been marked by many commemorative events, and while similar occasions are planned for the 1798 anniversary, another calamity in Irish history has been neglected. 1997/'98 marks the 75th anniversary of the tragic Civil War. Many of that war's victims have been forgotten. One incident in particular deserves mention. That was the summary execution of two teenage members of the republican youth organisation Fianna Eireann in Dublin early in the Civil War.
Fianna members Sean Cole and Alf Colley were arrested on 22 August 1922. They were taken to a quiet country lane in Whitehall called Yellow Lane. Buckets were placed over their heads and they were shot dead by Free State troops. To mark the 75th anniversary of this event Sinn Féin is holding a commemoration. It will take place on Saturday 6 September at 6pm from outside the Beaumont House (near the main entrance to Beaumont Hospital) and will parade to Yellow Road (formerly Yellow Lane), Whitehall.
All are welcome to attend the ceremony, in particular any surviving relatives of Seán Cole and Alf Colley. If there are any such we would be grateful if they could contact us in advance of the commemoration.
Cathaoirleach, Cole/Colley Sinn Féin Cumann, Coolock.
c/o Mícheál MacDonncha, An Phoblacht,
No to super highway
I read with interest your article ``Danger - Road Widens'' by Robert Allen. More newspapers should give coverage to news of this importance.
You only have to look at America with its super freeways to see how ugly the countryside can become; a virtual cement jungle. The land stripped of trees and animals just to accommodate families that own two or three automobiles.
Don't they know an upset in the balance of nature can only destroy man? Yes, it only takes one tree to produce enough oxygen for 30 people; just hope your tree isn't cleared away for man's convenience.
Will there be another `JAK' I wonder? After all, he kept up an honourable tradition in British establishment's eyes.
I deliberately kept the cartoon from the Evening Standard of 1983, because at the time I was reading that marvellous book, `Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature' by L Perry Curtis. JAK was brilliant at `aping' the Punch cartoonists Tenniel and George Cruikshank, who'd been drawing the same pictures 100 years before. Just like another Curtis (Liz) would say - `Nothing but the same old story'.
It's a bit harsh, in these days of `peace', to say `I'm glad the bastard's finally gone', but I'd say the search for another JAK is in full spate. For the time being I'd forget the words and watch out for the pictures.
Too many soaps
Regarding your article (14 August) on the parade to the Belfast City Hall, why do you use the language of the common English? I thought I was reading about Coronation Street..The `parade reached City Hall' insted of the `parade reached the City Hall'. This aping of the English just shows that you are watching too many of their soaps. If you cannot keep it Irish, please keep it proper English.