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7 May 1998 Edition

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Television: Forgotten

Children of Shatila (BBC2)
Something changed (RTE Radio 1)
The Life of Francis Stuart (Network 2) (Undercover)
With the celebrations of Israel's 50th birthday party, the plight of Palestinian refugees, who can be found everywhere from the slavery of Kuwait to the market stalls of Nicaragua, is being conveniently forgotten.

``Children of Shatila'' (BBC2) filmed and narrated by children, is a harrowing indictment of the wrongs perpetrated by the Israeli state upon the Palestinian people over the last fifty years.

Established in the wake of the Deir Yassin massacre of the late 40's, the refugee camp has been in use since and is infamous for the slaughter carried out by the Israeli army on Palestinian civilians in the southern part of Lebanon in 1982. Farah Abdeid, the 15 year old child, mature beyond her years, featured in the programme, was in her mother's womb at the time of the slaughter. Her aunt Ibithja, who was nine months pregnant, was hit by a shell and to the amazement of all, her child was delivered alive, only to die five hours later.

A similar fate met a number of her uncles and relations, as practically every family was affected by the genocide, carried out in the name of ``democracy''. Living conditions can only be described as ``dreadful'' with much of the housing destroyed or pockmarked from shelling and gunfire. Facilities are similar to that of many traveller camps in Ireland and many children are forced to mix schooling with work, ``I see boys scavenging in dumps and polishing shoes-they shouldn't have to suffer like this''.

The children hold a series of off-the-cuff interviews with their elders who talk of their dreams of returning to their homeland-''No matter where we go we'll always be strangers''.

The children's escape from the misery is through Art and the use of their imagination-''I dreamt I was a prince with a horse and a house''........''I dream of getting my land back and our house as it was before''. For such a downtrodden lot their imagination hasn't suffered with murals of everything from flowers to AK-47's dotting the settlement, symbolising the unbroken spirit of the Palestinian youth.

Another hotbed of Art, Portlaoise Prison, was highlighted on Radio 1's ``Something changed'' documentary on Wednesday last, charting the progress of two Republican prisoners, one of whom, Colm Lynagh had never produced any art before his incarceration.

he talks of his realisation at seventeen that the British Government weren't interested in addressing civil protest, his subsequent arrest and progress through the Courts and his first impressions of Portlaoise Prison with it's ``fourteen airlocked doors, rows of socks and jelly in the wash basins..... the domestication of the jail'' He was not met by a cigar smoking general with handlebar moustache, but a middle aged O/C in a cardigan and elbow patches.

He talks of the alternative education system created by the prisoners themselves, as most had been denied the benefits of college life.

After a smart comment to an open minded-non-academic art tutor, Lynagh soon became immersed in the world of art, spending weeks at a time, attempting to portray personalities on canvas. Lynagh continued to develop his skills and on release took up a place in the National College of Art and Design. He recently launched his own exhibition and is currently seeking work in the ``do-gooder'', but commendable'' community art sector.

Word has it that artists of renown have recently landed in Portlaoise to take up the baton!

Judging by the standard of singing on this otherwise excellent documentary, they might consider choral lessons in Portlaoise!.

Yet another rebel artist, Francis Stuart was featured on ``Undercover'' on Wednesday last. Stuart, who was lately awarded a ``Saoi'' (the highest possible artistic honour) has become the focus of the dying kicks of desperate revisionists, following the ridiculous channel 4 documantary which attempted to link republicans with nazism.

Stuart did indeed spend some time in Germany, but ``One could not find any evidence of anti-semitic propaganda''

Although from a wealthy school boy backround, Stuart ``sensed his life lay outside the life of privilage'' and after coming under the influence of his partner Iseult Gonne, (daughter of Maud), joined the Republicans during the Civil War and was interned for a time.

he has written over thirty books from his early work ``which hit a cord with post Civil War Ireland'', through the mediocre novels of the 40s which were to supplement his existence as a part time poultry farmer, part time IRA activist and part time globe trotter.

Marie Mhac an tSaoi (wife of the original revisionist Conor Cruise), did her best to smear him, but one senses that if anything her day is gone as the Free State emerges from the cloud of censorship.

By Sean O Donaile

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