19 September 2002 Edition

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Mala Poist

Beyond the road map

A Chairde,

I would like to make use of your letters column, to pass some comment (favourable, I'm glad to say) on a recent article carried in your paper.

I'm referring to your inclusion of Declan Kearney's John Joe McGirl lecture, under the title "Beyond the Roadmap - Preparing for power", (An Phoblacht, 29 August). In my opinion, it was one of the most stimulating and thought provoking pieces to appear in the paper for a long time.

I believe that such pieces, on the strategy our struggle is following, are invaluable for readers, especially for activists who at times can become totally bogged down in their areas of work. To be able to read material like Declan's talk, as well as some recent stuff about our setup in Leinster House, allows people to sit back and lift their heads above the parapet of daily struggle and to share in the type of vision many in the leadership obviously have, to use the dreaded cliché - "the big picture".

Declan's piece makes it abundantly clear that this extends far beyond short term goals in relation to the Assembly or Leinster House, and the publication of material like this gives activists, and all readers, a window to look at the entirety of what all our individual pieces of work are part of.

So can the paper make such material a regular feature? The article on our Leinster House operation introduced the role of a Political Oversight Manager (Mary Lou McDonald). What about more information on that area of work, and on the operation of the All-Ireland bodies? I attended the seminar on this in Navan, and I felt that it served its purpose - to whet peoples appetites on these very important subjects. Our paper is the vehicle we should be using to carry all this information out to our members and supporters.

I would just like to close by urging any reader who hasn't yet read Declan's lecture to go back and dig out that edition of the paper.

Sean Oilibhear,
North Belfast

Time to move on

A Chairde,

I wanted to give my impression of the article entitled "9/11: Real grief amid TV and Tee Shirts," written By Oistín Mac Giolla Bhríde. I an American who happens to agree very much with the writer, who has expressed my sentiments exactly. I agree that the fife and drum need to be stored, and the tee shirts that undoubtably read "I survived Sep 11" need to be stopped.

We have a real tragedy on our hands, and I feel for the victims and their unfortunate families. But life is hard; Ireland certainly understands that life is filled with maniacs who want to hurt us. The Egyptians enslaved the world; the Romans lined the Appian Way with crucified criminals; the Macedonians are surrounded by countries that hate them; the Polish have been overrun by enemies for millenia; several European and Middle Eastern nations have armoured vehicles parked on the streets. All occidentals understand this, but accept it as part of history and life. Yes, it was horrible what occurred in New York City, but we just finally got a taste of what the rest of the world has known for a very long time.

Every one of us is stronger for this experience. We are not victims, we are not heroes, we are just us. Nobody is more important than the next person; we all did our jobs that day. Firemen and police officers have accepted their jobs are inherently dangerous. On September 11 we all did our respective parts, and now we need to toughen up and move ahead.

It is time for us Americans to continue. It is time for tacky tee shirts and grief counsellors to disappear and for us to concentrate on a solution instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. The thin skins need to get thicker. Thank you for the article that said what I have wanted to say. My Irish and Macedonian ancestors, who have faced so much pain and war, would be proud to hear that.

And the article was very correct about one thing: we don't need any more tragedies. We need solutions, not phantom wars.

A Nicoloff,

Ombudsman's Devenney disgrace

A Chairde,

The decision by the office of the Police Ombudsman to stop its investigation into the complaint made by Paud Devenney is very disappointing and wholly unjustified. The public statement issued on behalf of the Police Ombudsman has exacerbated this decision and the unwarranted and erroneous allegations levelled at the Short Strand Community must be repudiated.

Since the night of 11 May/early hours of 12 May, when the Short Strand was attacked by loyalist bombers and subsequently by the PSNI, our community has been living under virtual siege. During this initial attack, Paud Devenney, who was attempting to bring some calm to an extremely tense and volatile situation, was viciously attacked by the PSNI. Paud sustained two fractures to his skull resulting in brain damage and had to undergo neurosurgery during a life threatening operation.

The whole community was shocked and angered at the viciousness of the assault and when the Police Ombudsman's Office began its investigation there was understandable scepticism about their ability to independently investigate the police.

In an attempt to address these concerns, the Short Strand Residents' Group, together with Councillor Joe O'Donnell, actually invited the Police Ombudsman and her investigators to the area in the aftermath of Paud's attack. On the night, the Police Ombudsman refused to discuss the complaint made by Paud.

At the same event, the local community overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal by Councillor O'Donnell that the local community should fully cooperate with the Police Ombudsman, including the investigation into the assault by the PSNI on Paud Devenney. The fact, and the welcome given to the Police Ombudsman, are evidence of the good faith of the Short Strand community.

Eyewitness statements of the assault were forwarded to Paud's solicitor, the Ombudsman's office was informed of this. A video taken by a local resident which showed the events leading up to the attack on Paud, and which clearly showed him attempting to bring calm to the situation, was handed over to the Ombudsman by Councillor O'Donnell.

The Ombudsman stated that a number of streets in the Short Strand received a standard letter from investigators asking then to come forward. The Police Ombudsman must accept that a ferocious and ongoing siege of the Short Strand community and low confidence within the nationalist community diminishes the appeal of such a mail shot. The facts are self-evident.

Paud Devenney was brutally assaulted by the PSNI. There are eyewitnesses who have testified to this fact. The community has not hampered the investigation, in fact, they have been more than helpful as outlined above. But the community cannot be held responsible for doing the job of the Ombudsman, which is evidence gathering, a job the Ombudsman's office has the experience to perform.

The decision to unsubstantiate this complaint and the public way in which the announcement was made was a travesty and the case should immediately be reassessed.

Patricia Johnston,
Short Strand Residents' Group,

Time for a Tricolour forum?

A Chairde,

As someone who accepts that "Ireland unfree can never be at peace," but who at the same time believes that the essential meaning of the Irish Tricolour denies the right of Irish people to wage physical force/armed struggle/terrorism to achieve independence from British rule, I would be very grateful for an opportunity to suggest that Sinn Féin is under a patriotic imperative to follow the advice of Declan Kearney (in his address at the John Joe McGirl commemorative weekend) "to make genuine outreach to, and seek dialogue with, the Protestant community nationally to discuss our shared future" (An Phoblacht, 29 August).

Unless I am badly wrong in my interpretation, the Tricolour calls for a "lasting truce" between the Orange and the Green, in order that mutual trust, understanding and tolerance can be developed, so that eventually, together, they will reunite their mutual country in freedom.

Is that not the original (but reneged on) means of Wolfe Tone, which Mr Kearney quoted in his address: "to unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions and to substitute the common name of Irish people in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter"?

Thomas Davis transformed that "means" into the concept of a common, all-embracing nationality which would emerge out of the "lasting truce".

Perhaps we should have a national forum and plebiscite to determine the essential meaning of our national flag. Does it not symbolise that all-embracing nationality?

James McGeever,
County Cavan

Basque message drowned out

A Chairde,

Having recently returned from holiday in the Basque Country, there are a few things I'd like to raise.

On 1 September, thousands took to the streets of Donostia-San Sebastion to march against the banning of the Batasuna, the vast majority of whom were young people, which all goes well for their continued struggle for independence.

What concerned me most and indeed the reason for writing this letter was events following the march, events that are so familiar to those experienced by northern nationalists. In the crowded narrow streets of the old town, where thousands of people of all ages had gathered celebrating a local festival and soaking up the pre-match atmosphere of a local derby, the police discharged indiscriminately dozens of rubber bullets, flailed their batons and if you dared voice an opinion, arrest was threatened.

Was this heavy handed and provocative action of the police reported to the Spanish media? In short, no, quite the contrary in fact, not that this surprised any of the locals.

Too often, the Basque message gets drowned out. Their case for freedom is a strong one; they have a unique identity and a diverse culture. In fact they are the oldest indigenous people in Europe, have a language that is at least 7,000 years old and unconnected to any other in Europe.

To the Basque people, I say, keep the flag flying.

Michael Kelly,

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1