13 January 2000 Edition

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Mála Poist

Extradition fury

A Chairde,

The attempt to extradite Angelo Fusco is an insult. The outrage shown outside the Four Courts last week mirrored the reaction of republicans throughout the country, who have shown nothing but good faith in the peace process. This move smacks of a pound of flesh mentality, hardly in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

The overwhelming logic of the peace process works in favour of Angelo Fusco's release, but political extradition is a flawed legal device anyway. It has been used as a weapon against republicans and the Dublin government has collaborated in sending republicans, without so much as insisting on a prima facie case being made, to face partisan judicial systems in England and the Six Counties.

Dublin must now immediately move to rescind the warrant against Fusco and all outstanding warrants against those facing political charges.

Frank Murray,

London to mark Bloody Sunday

A Chairde,

London will once again host the annual Bloody Sunday march and rally on Saturday 22 January. Despite the setting up of the Saville Inquiry to reinvestigate the shooting dead of 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators, progress has been slow. The Inquiry has been subject to delays and legal challenges, especially in relation to anonymity for British soldiers who may be called to give evidence when hearings eventually begin.

It is worth pointing out that the Saville Inquiry was only won by determined campaigning by the relatives and supporters of those killed, who have consistently marched and campaigned for justice. If there is to be a satisfactory outcome, if the truth is to be told, we need to continue supporting the relatives of those killed.

The Bloody Sunday march this year will take place on Saturday 22 January. Assembling at Victoria Embankment (Embankment or Charing Cross tube) at 12 noon, march at 1pm via Westminster, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square before rallying at University of London Union, Malet Street, WC1 (Euston Square or Goodge Street tube) at 3.30pm.

Speakers include Tony Benn MP, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, Breandán Mac Cionnaith (Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition), Sinn Féin, SDLP (invited) and Justice for Stephen Lawrence Campaign (invited).

For more information about the march or if you are able to help, please contact: Bloody Sunday March organising Committee, PO Box 10132, London SW@ 3BZ, Tel (0181) 442 8778.

Enda Finlay,
Press Officer
Bloody Sunday March Organising Committee

A Chairde,

I would like to tell your readers about an experience that I had, on a recent visit (one of many) to Ireland over the Christmas Holidays. I had occasion to be invited by a Sinn Féin councillor to two commemoration ceremonies in the Limerick area. I thought that this would be a unique experience and readily accepted. What I was about to encounter were two very disturbing incidents of police harassment by the Garda Síochána.

At the first venue, in a small area called Ballysteen, celebrants showed up in twos and threes and gathered near a church. There was a red Dublin registered car there and the three people in the car were taking photographs of the marchers and copying down auto registrations. The red car showed up just 20 feet away from the commemoration venue. The 3 men in the red car (we all know they are Garda Special Branch by now) sat and talked loudly as speeches were made and the crowd from the commemoration dispersed to their cars while the Gardaí continued watching and taking pictures.

We then travelled to Limerick proper for the Sean South Commemoration. It was at the assembly area that I counted ten, yes ten, Gardaí spotting participants and taking pictures. As the color guard and participants marched about one mile to the cemetery the Garda cars would zoom by and park ahead of them and begin taking flash pictures. This tomfoolery continued up to the cemetery. This time the Garda came into the cemetery and stood at the back and to the side of the commemoration persons. They talked continuously during the speeches and kept pointing to different people in an attempt to, again intimidate them, talking continuously.

In reviewing the events of that 2 January, 2000, I felt that my civil rights and those of all those participating had been violated. The question begs. How many individuals, not in any way connected with the commemoration, had their picture taken for just talking with the participants? How many of these pictures are filed with the Garda Special Branch? How many of these people can expect to be interrogated at some future time?

The most disturbing thing about this all is that the Irish newspapers refer to Limerick as having a high incidence of crime. So ten Gardaí are assigned to the cemetery to spy on a commemoration ceremony. Indeed, that evening, the news broadcast that there was a massive fire in Limerick that night. The media speculated that it might be arson. So what are ten gardaí doing at a cemetery spying on a commemoration ceremony? Every one has heard the old saying, `Nero fiddled while Rome burned'. Is it now `The Gardaí fiddled while Limerick burned?'

David E. O'Brien
Derry, New Hampshire

No peace dividend for South Armagh

While parts of Northern Ireland experience some semblance of promised change, the residents of South Armagh rightfully denounce British propaganda claims of demilitarization. Thirty-three lookout posts and five British Army/RUC bases

render this 150-square-mile area the most militarised territory in Western Europe. High-powered surveillance equipment prohibits both freedom and privacy in this prison-like atmosphere. This overwhelmingly intrusive presence not only violates the most basic of human and civil rights but it also precludes future economic growth and development.

British securocrats gaze down the sights of their implements of war in deliberate provocation and violation of their own peace agreement. They demand from an imprisoned community they have murdered and colluded against that which they themselves refuse to relinquish. They dare speak of timetables yet are audaciously oblivious to their own. But the tables have turned and the sights of the world now rest fixed firmly upon them.

The peace agreement mandated British demilitarization. The IRA remains honorably silent. Yet the British government has spent double digit millions this past year alone refurbishing these monstrosities which are themselves unquestionably the greatest threat to peace in the area. South Armagh and the world demand peace, normalcy and action now.

Máire A. Kelly
701 Anderson St.
Corpus Christi, Texas 78411

No to coalition

A Chairde,

Sinn Féin as a political party has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. We have come from being a small party with almost no elected representatives to a situation where we have 134 seats on local authorities; 19 Assembly seats, including 2 ministers; 1 TD; and 2 MPs.

This is a considerable achievement and puts us in a strong position at the beginning of the new millennium. It does, however, also present certain dangers for a party likke ours, which is trying to build a radical alternative to the right-wing politics that dominate this island.

This point has been noted by others. Last June, when the results of the local elections were being discussed on a radio show, the presenter asked one Desmond O'Malley what he made of the impressive performance of Sinn Féin and if he was concerned about it. His reply was something like this. He said he was not concerned as it would change the dynamic in that party completely.

I think what he meant was that the council chamber would make politicians out of scruffy Shinners and that we would be so tied up with procedures and clientelist work that we would have no time left for agitation and protest. We need to prove righteous Dessie wrong.

We are the only all-Ireland party, with completely different politics from any other party. We are a republican labour party, totally committed to a British withdrawal and the creation of a society based on equality and democratic socialist principles. We should never try to be like the rest. People should see us as offering an honest and radical alternative to the false nationalism of Fianna Fáil and the champagne socialism of the SDLP and Labour.

Our natural constituency is the working class throughout the 32 counties. In the North, this includes a large section of the Protestant working class who have become disillusioned with the stale sectarian politics of unionism.

Other parties may confine their efforts to electoralism but Sinn Féin must continue to use a variety of methods, such as pickets and street mobilisations. Parliaments, assemblies and council chambers can be used to build support for our policies and represent our constituents. But we must never enter into a coalition government with any of the establishment parties. Participation in any such coalition would involve the total dilution of our policies and the disillusionment of our members and supporters. It would paralyse our party and stop us from having the positive dynamic role that we have had for over two decades. In short, we would just become `another party'.

Brian Stanley,
Sinn Féin Town Commissioner,

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1