8 May 2003 Edition

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Mala Poist

Dublin on its knees

After Bobby Sands was elected as MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone in 1981, Maggie Thatcher's Tory government, not liking the result, decreed that prisoners could no longer stand for election.

Last week, Tony Blair's New Labour government give us the latest instalment of Britain's á là carte approach to democracy by cancelling the Assembly Elections so as to prop up the political agenda of Ulster Unionism.

This was further proof that we continue to be treated like colonial subjects - where our rights and entitlements are withheld, bartered or drip-fed at the whim of British governments and filtered through what political unionism finds palatable.

The compliant and subservient nature of the Irish government and the SDLP has been the British government's greatest ally in helping them to perpetuate this sickening colonial relationship.

Time to get off your knees!

Gael Uí Néíll
Tír Eoghain

Is this any way to run a peace process?

A Chairde,

In order to wean republicans away from support for violence and to move them towards non-violent democratic methods, the British government has cancelled an essential element of democracy, elections.

In order to demonstrate a joint Irish and British dimension to the conflict, the British have arbitrarily, in the manner of a colonial overlord, exercised sovereign power on behalf of supporters of colonial policy, Mr Trimble's unionists - who might have lost the election.

Tony Blair might save Dave in the short term, but Trimble's credibility as a political leader has been shredded. His position is now based on the whim of a political benefactor, no longer on the verdict of the electorate.

Many are aware that nationalists' views don't really count, elections notwithstanding.

Unionists should now know that the views of a majority of unionists don't count either.

Is this any way to run a peace process? Sinn Féin supports it, but the British government is ruining it.

Cllr Nicky Kehoe, Sinn Féin
Members' Room, Dublin City Council

Difficult time

A Chairde,

I fear that the effect of joint declarations as a positive anchor in progressing our peace process has been irrevocably damaged.

How many Gestalts or broadening of vistas are we to endure before our perception becomes once again blurred to the root causes of our conflict.

The only discernable strategy in conflict resolution on the part of the Ulster Unionists currently appears to be disembedding by introducing more and more goals - more concerns.

Incredibly, the British Prime Minister seems to be following their lead, while the poor relation (An Taoiseach) is getting a taste of Animal Farm equality ie. some are more equal than others.

We've all come to understand the importance of process and admire the perseverance of all with same.

However, juxtaposing the publishing of the proposed Joint Declaration and the deferring of elections makes it difficult to transcend and generate new cognitive space for re-processing and re-energising.

We'll all have to bless ourselves and cross the flexible but trusty Carrig-a-Reed rope bridge during the summer months before we reach democratic terra firma in the autumn! Deo Volente.

Tom Hodgins
Community Peace Activist

PSNI's long road to travel

A Chairde

I originally come from the Six Counties, however for the past 25 years I was a police officer in Gloucestershire. I spent January to March 2003 in Belfast and from news items covered by UTV have some concerns over the way the PSNI act. It surprised me that searches conducted in loyalist areas in which weapons, munitions, etc, were recovered did not result in arrests of the occupants. Similar restraint in the use of powers of arrest, was not shown when conducted against nationalists and republicans.

The PSNI still has a long road to travel and I have no doubt that those subject to loyalist terror would feel safer in their homes if all parties were accorded the same treatment, equality under the law.

Name & address with editor

Families demand justice

A Chairde,

After an extensive 14-year investigation into collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces in Northern Ireland, Sir John Stevens has issued his long-awaited report. At a cost of stg£4 million, with over 15,000 people interviewed, Stevens has presented barely 15 pages, representing all that the British government feels the public is entitled to know in a case which strikes to the very heart of the rule of law in Northern Ireland. In the meantime, witnesses have been murdered, evidence destroyed and crucial information has been withheld. Nevertheless, this report could not but admit that the British Army's Force Research Unit (FRU), the police and loyalist paramilitaries colluded in the murder of dozens of innocent civilians, including human rights attorney Pat Finucane. Sir John has recommended that criminal charges be brought against 23 current or former police and Army officers. Given the Director of Public Prosecutions' long history of refusal to prosecute killers in the security services, we do not hold our breath waiting on those charges to issue. Now, more than ever, international pressure needs to be brought to bear on the British government to ensure that justice be served.

March 15, 2003 also marked the fourth anniversary of the sinister murder in Northern Ireland of human rights attorney Rosemary Nelson, under circumstances eerily similar to those surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane. Members of the police force in Northern Ireland routinely intimidated Rosemary, and issued death threats against her, in an attempt to dissuade her from carrying out her duties as a civil rights attorney. This pattern of intimidation culminated in her murder at the hands of loyalist paramilitaries, under circumstances that strongly suggest the involvement of British security forces. No disciplinary action has ever been taken against those officers who abused or intimidated her. Colin Port, the British detective appointed to investigate the murder, has retired from the four-year old investigation without having charged anyone with her killing, despite the British government's extensive intelligence apparatus within the loyalist community. Not surprisingly, the nationalist community in Northern Ireland never had any confidence in a British-led investigation involving the very force whose members issued death threats against her.

No-one in the international human rights community, the nationalist community in Northern Ireland or in Irish-America is now prepared to wait another 14 years while witnesses are silenced, evidence destroyed and memories subside. The immediate implementation of fully independent, impartial inquiries into the murders of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, is the only way those responsible will be brought to justice. Indeed, our Congressional leaders have demanded this on numerous occasions. The British government has failed to comply with these basic demands and continues to be in breach of its obligations under established international principles. The Rosemary Nelson Campaign for Truth and Justice calls on our public leaders to renew demands for independent, international inquiries.

Jessica O'Kane,
New York,

New Michael Dwyer book

A Chara,

I have just published a book on the life of the famous Wicklow rebel, Michael Dwyer. Dwyer met with Emmet in Dublin during the run-up to Emmet's rising and this year is also the bicentenary of the end of Dwyer's famous guerrilla campaign in the Wicklow mountains. This compact volume examines both the reality of Michael Dwyer the man and the folklore surrounding Michael Dwyer the myth.

The book is published as part of an awareness campaign currently being carried out by the Michael Dwyer Bicentennial Commemoration Committee. A statue of the famous leader is to be erected in his native Glen of Imaal during the summer. The book contains 120 pages, and retails at €15 per copy and it is on sale in Easons and other bookshops.

Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work regarding the Emmet 200.

Chris Lawlor,
Sparrow Rd,
Co Wicklow
[email protected]

PS. Anyone wanting to order signed copies can contact me directly. If ordering such copies by post, please enclose €20 in total to cover the cost of book, postage and packaging.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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