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COMMENT, VIEWS, BOOK REVIEWS AND ANALYSIS ISSN 0790-7869

Iris THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Issue Number 25 January - March 2012

»

INTERVIEW Controversial Greek economist

Yanis Varoufakis says there’s no silver bullet to cure all the problems of capitalism – we need commonsense and political will

»

AFTER ETA’S CEASEFIRE Séanna Walsh, former

IRA leader in the H-Blocks, on how prisoners can help build and secure the peace process in the Basque Country

»

EU Cá bhfuil an Eoraip ag dul? Agus cá bhfuil muide leis?

»

FEATURE

Writer Seán Cronin, architect of the IRA’s ‘Battle Schools’

PEARSE DOHERTY


IRIS Contents

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Iris THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

JANUARY – MARCH 2012

IRIS – The Republican Magazine is back with a new look for the New Year. We aim to publish three times a year from 2012 and complement the monthly An Phoblacht with more space for bigger features and analysis.

IRIS wants to hear from readers and suggestions about the topics they would like covered in future issues, to be published for April, August and December. Email suggestions (marked IRIS in the subject line) to:

editor@anphoblacht.com

CONTENTS Pearse Doherty: It’s all about choices 2

High flyers and high wages 28

Sinn Féin puts people at the centre of Budget proposals

What the Kevin Cardiff and Court of Auditors saga says about the ‘democratic revolution’ promised by Labour and Fine Gael before the election

A just society, not just an economy 7 Sinn Féin’s Dáil Budget proposals

Cá bhfuil an Eoraip ag dul? 12

BOOK REVIEWS Revolution: A Photographic History of Revolutionary Ireland 1913-1923 » BY PÁDRAIG ÓG Ó RUAIRC

Seán Cronin, journalist, author and historian 32

A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918 » BY PÁDRAIG YEATES

By Land, By Sea – an internee’s story » BY PATRICK FEENAN

Open Season – The sectarian campaign against Celtic’s Neil Lennon » BY GEORGE GALLOWAY

Agus cá bhfuil muide leis?

‘No silver bullet will cure all the problems of capitalism – we need commonsense and political will’ 16 Interview with Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis

The strategist of the IRA’s Operation Harvest

The Arab Spring: Power shifts in the Middle East 42

Binlid mo Mhuintir 22 Prisoners can help secure peace in the Basque Country 24

Dara McNeil looks at the varying impacts of the people’s protests

Voices for the Arab Spring, weapons for the ruling regimes 48 Séanna Walsh, former leader of IRA prisoners in Long Kesh, on ETA’s ceasefire announcement

Amnesty International indicts the arms trade to repressive rulers by Britain, Germany and the USA

The interviewees tell their own stories and those stories stand without interpretation by another

It is a challenging read for any of us who are ourselves parents of children who were directly affected by our involvement in the conflict Children of the Revolution: The Lives of Sons and Daughters of Activists in Northern Ireland » BY BILL ROLSTON

Straight from the Heart: Irish Love Letters – Tone, Emmet, leaders of 1916 » EDITED BY BRIDGET HOURICAN

Tony Gregory » BY ROBBIE GILLIGAN


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THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

EDITORIAL Sinn Féin leads the fightback

THIS is a time of unprecedented difficulty for the Irish economy and the Irish people. Hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of others are struggling to survive. Highly-educated, intelligent young people are flooding out of the country in scenes reminiscent of the 1950s and 1980s. The euro currency is in crisis as its own contradictions threaten its future. In the North, British Conservative Party policy threatens to destroy the economy through the imposition of a savage cut of €4billion to public funding. This is the same policy of austerity that the EU and IMF are attempting to impose in the 26 Counties and to which the Fine Gael/Labour Government is acquiescing. The question for political leaders is what to do in such circumstances. It boils down to political choices. They can meekly accept the situation and punish ordinary citizens or they can stand with the people, resist austerity and lead a political fightback. Across Ireland, Sinn Féin is leading the fightback. Fine Gael and Labour fought the 2011 general election on the promise of change, but in Budget 2012 they targeted the vulnerable and low-income and middle-income families with the same failed austerity measures that were pursued by Fianna Fáil. They have chosen to protect those on huge salaries and pensions in the upper echelons of the public sector. They have continued the disgraceful policy of pumping billions of the people’s money into banks to pay unguaranteed bondholders. Sinn Féin advocates an alternative route out of recession which is spelt out in its pre-Budget submission. It is an alternative based on fair taxes, investing in jobs, debt restructuring and growing the all-Ireland economy. North and South, Sinn Féin’s approach is about protecting public services and those on low and middle incomes. In the North, Sinn Féin has led the political resistance to Tory cuts and has worked to offset their effects on the most vulnerable. As a result, the Executive has prioritised

SINN FÉIN ADVOCATES AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE OUT OF RECESSION . . . IT IS AN ALTERNATIVE BASED ON FAIR TAXES, INVESTING IN JOBS, DEBT RESTRUCTURING AND GROWING THE ALL-IRELAND ECONOMY

finding money to maintain frontline services, and protect those on lowest incomes and communities which were subject to decades of economic discrimination. It also committed not to increase student fees or introduce water charges. There is surely an irony that as Sinn Féin in the North fights to have fiscal powers transferred from London to Ireland, the Fine Gael/Labour Government is meekly surrendering to Brussels whatever remains of the state’s economic sovereignty. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now acting as the effective leaders of the EU, want to severely limit the ability of national governments to direct their own financial affairs in the interests of their citizens. Loss of fiscal powers for Ireland is now firmly on the agenda but the Fine Gael/Labour Government has so far refused to commit to holding a referendum so that Irish citizens can have their say. The latest developments are part of a process where Irish sovereignty has been steadily eroded and to which successive Irish governments have acquiesced. The Taoiseach now needs to spell out clearly that he will not agree to further centralisation of fiscal powers in Brussels. Sinn Féin is the only party in the Dáil that has been consistent in its position on successive EU referendums. Developments show that much of what it warned about during those campaigns has come to pass. North and South, Sinn Féin is leading the political fight to assert Irish democratic rights against outside rule, whether from London or Brussels or the IMF. Sinn Féin is seeking to build a real republic in Ireland based on the rights of citizens.


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S BY

PEARSE DOHERTY TD

INN FÉIN has put people at the centre of its Budget proposals and offers an alternative to the Fine Gael and Labour Party’s austerity programme. Like everyone else, we recognise that we are in recession and that we can’t continue to borrow large sums indefinitely. Fine Gael and Labour (just like Fianna Fáil and the Greens) are trying to impose their failed economic approach while at the same time recapitalising banks and paying private bondholders. In other words,

THE SINN FÉIN STRATEGY IS BASED ON A FAIRER TAX SYSTEM THAT TARGETS WEALTH AND LIFTS THE BURDEN OF THE LEAST-WELL-OFF THROUGH MEASURES LIKE ABOLISHING THE UNIVERSAL SOCIAL CHARGE despite all their promises, this government is upholding the status quo and making ordinary people bear the burden of the crisis. Sinn Féin is putting forward a different strategy. A longer timeframe is needed to reduce our enormous deficit and changes must be made to get us out of the mess we find ourselves in – a mess made by others. The Sinn Féin strategy is based on a fairer tax system that targets wealth and lifts the burden of the least-well-off through measures like abolishing the Universal Social Charge. Sinn Féin would not pay the Anglo Irish promissory note. This would save the state

3 Jobs could be created completing the regeneration programmes in Limerick and Dublin


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Sinn FĂŠin puts people at the centre of Budget proposals


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BUDGET 2012 €3.1billion next year and up to €74billion over the next 21 years. A key element of our pre-Budget submission is the creation and protection of jobs. It makes

WE ARE PROPOSING A CENTRAL BOOK-BUYING SCHEME FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN, RESTORATION OF THE SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS WHO LOST THEIR JOBS DUE TO CUTS, REMOVAL OF THE LEVY ON MEDICAL CARD PRESCRIPTIONS, AND TAX REFUNDS FOR THE LOWEST-PAID WORKERS

sense that taking people off social welfare, getting them back to work and giving them more to spend promotes growth in the economy. There can be no recovery without jobs. Sinn Féin would invest €7billion over three years, €5.3billion from the National Pension Reserve Fund and €1.7billion from the European Investment Bank. This would create 60,000 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly. It would additionally save up to 96,000 jobs. This money would be used to build 150 state-run crèches. It would be used to build 100 new schools and refurbish 75 more. Jobs would be created completing the regeneration programmes in Limerick and Dublin and in rolling out next-generation broadband throughout the state. Sinn Féin would invest in 50 new primary care centres and invest heavily in wind-power. The Fine Gael/Labour Government has not stood up to the European Central Bank; it has not stood up to the banks; it has not stood up for Ireland.

5 It makes sense that getting people off social welfare, getting them back to work and giving them more money to spend promotes growth in the economy 4 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE


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DUBLIN THE CITY THAT FOUGHT AN EMPIRE

WALKING TOUR

S

Sinn Féin is standing up for Ireland. Sinn Féin is standing up for the people of Ireland.

INN FÉIN has put forward fullycosted proposals which are good for families and children. We are proposing a central book-buying scheme for schoolchildren, restoration of the Special Needs Assistants who lost their jobs due to cuts, removal of the levy on Medical Card prescriptions, and tax refunds for the lowestpaid workers (under €15,000). We are proposing to make tax credits refundable which would benefit 113,000 lowincome individuals. Sinn Féin would reverse the cuts to the Household Benefit package, which provides much needed support with utility bills for carers, people with disabilities and older people. There is an urgent need to reform our tax system both to bring in sufficient revenue to invest in jobs and services and to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. We would abolish the Universal Social Charge and introduce a third rate of tax of 48% on incomes over €100,000 per year. We would introduce a Wealth Tax of 1% on net income over

YOU WILL HEAR the story of the 1916 Easter Rising. It tells how the forces of the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers came together as the Irish Republican Army – the IRA – and how they took on the might of the British Empire, which then ruled much of the world. Learn how the Rising came about and what happened before and after it.

Visit the places where Ireland’s history unfolded and, in the words of the poet Yeats, “a terrible beauty was born”.

HEAR THE STORY OF THE IRISH STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE AS TOLD BY IRISH REPUBLICANS THE SINN FÉIN BOOKSHOP 58 PARNELL SQUARE, DUBLIN 1. TELEPHOHE: (+353 1) 814 8542 THERE IS NO NEED TO BOOK SIMPLY TURN UP WE'LL BE THERE! TOUR TIMES:

» MONDAY TO FRIDAY – 11:30am » SATURDAY – BY APPOINTMENT DURATION OF THE TOUR: ABOUT 1 1/2 TO 2 HOURS AT AN EASY GOING PACE

Follow us on

Rebel-Tour-of-Dublin

PRICE: €10 PER PERSON (GROUP RATES AVAILABLE)

www.sinnfeinbookshop.com


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BUDGET 2012

SINN FÉIN WOULD REVERSE THE CUTS TO THE HOUSEHOLD BENEFIT PACKAGE, WHICH PROVIDES MUCH NEEDED SUPPORT WITH UTILITY BILLS FOR CARERS, PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND OLDER PEOPLE €1million. We have proposed detailed changes to the generous tax breaks introduced by the last government. Our pre-Budget proposals include measures to reduce waste of public money and to reduce the salaries of highly-paid public servants. Additional issues such as dealing with the 6 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

banking debt and tackling the ongoing crisis is the Eurozone are also dealt with in our submission. Taken together, our measures would generate more revenue, reduce the tax burden on low-income and middle-income families, reduce waste in the public service and generate substantial investment in jobs and families. People are being squeezed. They can’t take any more. After three years of austerity, the economy is not doing any better and more people are unemployed. The Government is offering four more years of austerity but Sinn Féin is putting people at the front and centre of its Budget proposals. It is about choices and we have made the choices that protect working people.

See the Sinn Féin proposals in full: http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/19680


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BUDGET 2012

Route to Recovery

A just society, not just an economy BUDGET 2012 Sinn Féin’s economic alternative

IN this pre-Budget submission, the political choices Sinn Féin makes are about achieving a far fairer yet still successful route to recovery. Sinn Féin’s plan is about growing the economy to a sustainable recovery, making sure the most vulnerable are protected, that those who can afford to contribute more are asked to do so, and bringing a level of equality not seen in this state. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 7


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BUDGET 2012

Invest €7billion in job creation and economic growth over the next three years, including using semi-states as a driver for recovery. This proposal would benefit almost 200,000 people.

End wasteful spending, beginning with €1billion in savings this year through a range of measures including capping all public sector wages at €100,000, reducing professional fees by 25% and ending the practice of providi ng medical care for private patients in public beds.

Support working families and the most vulnerable abolish the USC and invest in a household stimulus package to help those struggling to survive. Abolishing the USC will benefit half a million people by taking them back out of the tax net.

Our tax to savings ratio is 3 to 1.

Close the deficit between 2012 and 2016, beginning with €3.5billion this year. The Government is making an adjustment of €3.8billion, but claims €600million of this will be carry over from last year, so €3.2billion of this is from new measures. We are targeting €3.5billion to allow for the impact that some measures will have against others. Our plans will make deficit to GDP 8.3%. We achieve €3.5billion by reducing the tax burden on low-income to middle-income families, increasing taxes and removing loopholes for higher earners, as well as spending savings.

Maintain social welfare levels and oppose the introduction of student fees, household and water charges.

Ease the recruitment embargo in the public sector to hire nurses, teachers, SNAs and gardaí.

Stand up for Ireland and negotiate a new EU/IMF deal. 8 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Tackle the debt crisis – Irish debt levels are unsustainable. A Europe-wide solution is needed to deal with the debt problem. As a first step, private bank debt and sovereign debt must be separated and the Anglo promissory notes, which will cost €74billion over the next 20 years, should not be paid.


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BUDGET 2012

FINANCIAL MEASURES Adjustment of approximately €3.5billion to the deficit after tax and spending adjustments are made. Job creation package of €7billion. Household stimulus package of €596.7million.

| TAX RAISING

Net total €3.263billion TAX RELIEFS AND LOOPHOLES

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INCOME TAXES

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Introduce a new third rate of tax of 48% on income earned by individuals in excess of €100,000.

WEALTH TAXES

Raises: €410million Adjust PRSI exemption for share options, shared-based remuneration and capital gains.

Raises: €97million Abolish the USC.

Cost: €4.1billion Reintroduce the income levy (reducing the 2% to 1% on income up to €75,000) and the health levy.

Raises: €3.118billion

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Introduce a wealth tax of 1% on all assets in excess of €1million, excluding working farmland, business assets and the first 20% of value of the primary residence.

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Raises: €800million Increase Capital Gains Tax from 25% to 40%

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Raises: €195million Increase Capitals Acquisitions Tax from 25% to 35% and reduce the thresholds by 25%.

Raises: €165million

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Place an earnings cap of €80,000 on pension contributions and grant relief at 20%.

Raises: €550million Abolish the ability of incorporated bodies to claim trading losses against profits made in previous years for tax return purposes.

Raises: €108million Halve mortgage interest relief for landlords.

Raises: €400million Standardise discretionary tax reliefs, excluding donations to charity.

Raises: €628.3million Abolish ‘Group relief’ availed of by companies to transfer losses to profitable companies and write down tax receipts.

Raises: €450.3million Abolish legacy property reliefs.

Raises: €341.8million Introduce 5% tax on online gambling.

Raises: €100million IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 9


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BUDGET 2012

| SAVINGS 8

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Apply charges based on the full economic cost for the use of beds in public and voluntary hospitals in the state for the purposes of private medical practice.

Net total €837.25million

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Saves: €372.744million Implement full generic substitution of medicines under the GMS scheme and clamp down on over-prescriptions.

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Saves: €200million Cap commercial state-sponsored bodies’ CEO pay at €100,000.

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Saves: €3million Cut all state agency board fees by 25%.

Saves: €6.7million

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Target a reduction of 25% in professional fees across departments, excluding Health.

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Saves: €38.5million Cap Government salaries at €100,000, TDs at €75,000 and Senators at €60,000.

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Saves: €4.3million Phase out state subsidy of private schools while continuing to make provision for minority schools.

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Savings: €20million Reduce spending on rent supplement by providing social housing.

Saving: €20million

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| JOB STIMULUS

Cap all public servants’ wages at €100,000 per annum.

Saves €265million Recoup social transfers paid to wrongfully dismissed employees from employers.

Saves: €12million Reform social welfare system to make it easier for job-seekers to avail of casual work.

Saves: €40million Remove the recruitment ban to hire frontline staff for Sinn Féin’s jobs investment projects such as schools and primary care centres. This would allow for the employment of approximately 3,500 extra frontline staff.

Cost: €145million

Cost €7billion €7billion to be provided from €5.3billion in the National Pension Reserve Fund and €1.7billion from the European Investment Bank for a three-year investment package: 60,000 jobs created directly, thousands more indirectly and up to 96,000 saved (full details in the Sinn Féin pre-Budget submission at www.sinnfein.ie).

| HOUSEHOLD STIMULUS 8

8 8

Provide every primary schoolchild in the state with a free lunch meal.

Cost: €250million Reverse changes to the nonadjacent grant for third-level students.

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Cost: €43million Make tax credits refundable.

Cost: €140million

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Fund a central schoolbook provision scheme for all schoolchildren, which would see books provided free of cost to schools for children’s use.

Cost: €60million Restore the cut of €3.90 made this year to Fuel Allowance recipients in smokeless zones and extend that increase to all recipients.

Cost: €48.7million

Cost €596.7million 8

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Return the 200 SNAs cut in the last Budget.

Cost: €6million Remove the levy on medical card prescriptions.

Cost: €24million Reverse the cuts to the Household Benefits Package.

Cost: €25million

€596.7million paid for from excess in taxation and savings measures 10 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE


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Cá bhfuil an Eoraip ag dul? AGUS CÁ BHFUIL MUIDE LEIS? IS LÉIR go bhfuil an Eoraip in aimhréidh anois, agus an scéal ag dul i ndonas in aghaidh an lae. Bhrúigh máistrí an aontais, Merkel na Gearmáine agus Sarkozy na Fraince, athrú rialtas ar an nGréig agus ar an Iodáil araon, ach is beag difir a dhein sé. Tá na margaí - déithe nua na haoise - ag cur praghas neamhinbhuanaithe ar bhannaí Iodáileacha arís, os cionn seacht faoin gcéad, in ainneóin go bhfuil bata is bóthar tugtha acu do Bherlusconi. Bhfuil aon réiteach ar an scéal? Sea, bhain an fiontar eorpach riamh le stát

LE

EOIN Ó MURCHÚ

lárnaithe - feidearálach nó eile - a chruthú san Eoraip is na stáit faoi leith a chur an mbonn céanna is a bhfuil na réigiún sa nGearmáin. Ach níor labhraíodh go poiblí faoin aidhm sin, is shéan lucht fainiceach na hEorpa i gcónaí gur bhain aon cheann dena chonarthaí leis an aidhm sin. Ach anois tá Angela Merkel ag labhairt go poiblí faoin riachtanach go rachadh an Eoraip i dtreo an stáit lárnaithe is cúrsaí airgid is cánach insna stáit - den limistéar Euro ar a laghad a chur faoi smacht ag an Aontas, sé sin ag Merkel agus Sarkozy. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 13


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Cá bhfágfadh an plean seo ceart na hÉireann maidir le ráta cánach corporáideacha a shocrú? Simplí: ní bheidh an chumhacht sin againn a thuilleadh, agus is ar dhea-thoil na hEorpa a mbeidh muid ag brath maidir le forbairt eacnamaíochta is eile. Dea-thoil? Go deimhin, níl mórán de sin léirithe i gcaitheamh na géarchéime seo. Tá an tAontas, agus Banc Cheannais na hEorpa - agus Merkel is Sarkozy - sna suíocháin stiúrtha taobh thiar díobh - ag cur iachall orainn (is ar rialtaisí na Gréige, na hIodáile is eile) déine a imirt ar ár muintir fein le coras bancaerachta na hEorpa, agus bainc na Gearmáine sa túsáit, a chosaint is a shábháilt. Agus fós ní leór sin dona margaí. Ní leór é, mar tuigeann siad nach féidir go mbeidh aon fhás san eacnamaíocht trí

Is cuma le Merkel agus Sarkozy cén praghas atá le n-íoc ag pobail na hEorpa déine, is nach mbeidh aon choras inbhuanaithe ann gan fás eacnamaíochta. Tuigeann na margaí go bhfuil muid sáite i gciorcal oilc. Ach caithfidh an iarracht a dhéanamh toisc go bhfuil Merkel is Sarkozy meáite ar an Euro a chruthú mar airgeadra mór an domhain, is cuma cén praghas atá le níoc ag pobail na hEorpa. Ní féidir é a dhéanamh, is ar a laghad ma ta plean na beirte móra le cur i gcrích beidh se riachtanach limistéar níos bige is níos teoranta a chruthu don Euro - an Ghearmain, an Fhrainc, an Ísiltír, an Bheilge, an Lúsambúir agus, fiú anois, an Iodail: sé sin bun-tíortha an Aontais. Chun na fírinne a rá níor fheil an Euro dúinn ón tús. Nuair a bhí borradh mór san eacnamaíocht againn - agus praghas tithe ag dul as smacht - bhí rátaí arda úis ag teastáil le cuid den éileamh a bhaint ón margadh agus praghsanna a ísliú. Ach 14 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

DAVID McWILLIAMS

mar chuid den Euro ní raibh an chumhacht, nó an uirlis sin, againn. Dá mbeadh, bheadh fiacha tithíochta ann i gcónaí gan dabht, ach fiacha i bhfad

níos bige - idir fiacha pearsanta agus fiacha bainc. Agus anois, tráth chliseadh na heacnamaíochta, mar chuid den Euro ní feidir


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linne tabhairt faoinár gcuid fiacha tré ráta malairte a ísliú nó tré airgead a chur i gcló - is tá an eacnamaíocht dhá scriosadh mar a léiríonn na figiúirí dífhostaíochta. Ach dá n-imeódh muid ón Euro anois, céard faoina fiacha atá orainn ón ECB, IMF is eile? Ar dtúis beidh muid in ann diúltú do

Tá an eacnamaíocht dhá scriosadh mar a léiríonn na figiúirí dífhostaíochta fhiacha na mbanc is ligean do lucht ceannaithe na mbannaí a gcailliúinti féin a sheasamh. Uimhir a dó, tá réiteach simplí ar an mbaol go mbainfeadh na margai díoltas asainn tréísliú ráta malairte a bhrú orainn a rachadh níos doimhne ná an tísliú a theastodh uainn féin: sé sin, mar a

EAMON GILMORE

mholann David McWilliams, bíodh airgeadra nua againn (an tÉireó, b’fhéidir) agus an chéad lá socróimis gur ar aon dul leis an Euro é. Ansin má íslítear luach an airgeadra ísleófar luach na bhfiacha atá ag na margaí orainn. Ní bheidh sé éasca, ach beidh muid in ann ligean dona droch-bhainc dhul tóin

poill, agus banc nua a thosú, rialaithe ag an stát, le cibé airgid atá againn a úsáid le creidmheas a chur ar fáil do chomhlachtaí agus fíor-phlean fostaíochta a chur ar fáil. Ach ní féidir le polaiteóirí na bpáirtithe móra smaoineamh ar a leithéid fiú. Nuair a chuirtear an cheist, ní hamháin ar Fhine Gael, ach ar Eamon Gilmore is Páirtí an Lucht Oibre faoi cibé plean B atá acu má theipeann ar an Euro, níl de fhreagra acu ach nach nglacann siad leis gur féidir go dteipfear cé go bhfuil comharthaí an chliseadh le feiceáil ar gach taobh. Níl ach creideamh dall taobh thiar den sheasamh seo: dóchas go mbeidh rudaí i gceart ar an oíche. Ach ní bheidh rudaí i gceart ma chloíonn muid leis an déine, agus sin é amháin atá ar fáil ón Aontas Eorpach an fhaid is a leanfar leis an iarracht leibideach seo an tEuro a shábháilt nó stát lárnaithe a bhunú anois. Ní nach íonadh mar sin go dteastaíonn ón rialtas reifreann faoina cúrsaí seo a sheachaint, faoi mar a shocraigh Merkel is Sarkozy gur seachnaíodh sa nGréig é. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 15


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Greek economist and author Yanis Varoufakis talks to IRIS

NO SILVER BULLET WILL CURE ALL THE PROBLEMS OF

CAPITALISM A PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS at the University of Athens and a much-sought-after commentator on mainstream media, Yanis Varoufakis is a person of contradictions. As a teenager he was arrested for distributing political leaflets promoting the Greek Socialist Party and he cites political and economic heroes in Che Guevara and Marx. But this has not hindered the forging of a successful academic career in economics, a discipline whose limitations and deficiencies he is ever ready to enumerate. Yanis has a solution to the euro crisis - bad bonds, zombie banks and economic free-fall. If you don’t mind mixed metaphors, Yanis believes he can cap the well but there’s no silver bullet to cure all the problems of capitalism and the free market. When Yanis recently visited Dublin, ROBBIE SMYTH got an audience sandwiched in between a day of briefings, interviews and a public meeting and heard how a theorist firmly in the left wing socialist camp has what he thinks could be the panacea for the conservative free-market Europe.

WE NEED COMMONSENSE AND POLITICAL WILL

16 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE


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Greek economist and author Yanis Varoufakis talks to IRIS YANIS VAROUFAKIS positively fizzes with energy. Ensconced in a Leinster House meeting room, I got 40 minutes with this disarmingly witty, articulate force of nature. Yanis is just 50, looks decades younger and (despite spending a day in the hothouse confines of the Irish parliament) was focused, energised and probably for the umpteenth time ready to tell of his plan to save the European economy. But first how did Yanis get here? “My mother and my father lived through a dictatorship. I grew up through a dictatorship. My father spent eight years in a concentration camp. When I was seven, the police broke the door down and dragged him out and he disappeared into a football stadium that had been turned into a prison. “My uncle was sentenced to death for political activities in 1970 to 1971. So it was impossible not to be political. I was political from the age of zero. “When the dictatorship fell in 1974, I was a young teenager, I was already organising and distributing leaflets and all that.”

IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 17


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Greek economist and author Yanis Varoufakis talks to IRIS had ever met an Irish person!), we felt that Belfast was our second home.”

The Irish economy in Europe

5 Tanks rumble through the streets of Athens, Greece, April 21, 1967

Economic and political heroes On the economic side, Yanis says: “It would have to be Marx because Marx was the first person and the only person that gave me a glimpse into the astonishing and wonderful and awful contradictions of our era. “I think that Marx defines my frame through which I look at the world. Marx moved at some point from being an activist, a philosopher, a revolutionary critic, into being a political economist. That’s where he loses me.” And his political heroes? “Like many young people in the 1970s, Che Guevara was high up in the list”. In Greece itself? “It would be Aris Velouchiotis, partisan leader, Communist Party member, effectively responsible for starting the resistance against the Nazis, and he was never one of those communists who became entrenched in Communist Party machinations. “When I was young I was extremely impressed by Andreas Papandreou, the father of the [then] current prime minister, to the extent that I joined the Socialist Party he set up in 1974. I was one of the first kids who set up the youth wing of the party.”

Greek view of Ireland Yanis explained his support for the Troops Out Movement and how as children they sang songs about Irish hunger strikers from the 1920s. “When I was growing up, Ireland was very close to our hearts, particularly the conflict in Northern Ireland. The people that I associated with in Greece (though none of us 18 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

When it comes to talking about the economy we get closer to the crux of Yanis’s economic theories regarding the eurozone crisis. “The problem with this crisis is that because the revolutionary aspects of our lives have taken a beating in the last 20 years, Europeans are indulging in a inane and ridiculous game of trying to look at their circumstances as unique to themselves. For instance, after Greece blew up, the Irish were very much concerned that they should not be thought of as similar to the Greeks. “Soon after that, the Portuguese were saying, ‘We’re not Irish.’ Now the Italians will want to pretend that they are very different to the Spaniards, who were previously saying they were not like the Portuguese! “I always talk about the crisis as being a European crisis and I never talk about ‘the Greek crisis’. I incur the anger of the media by denying there is such a thing as a Greek crisis.”

A climate change view of the economic crisis “When it comes to climate change, it takes many different forms: for instance, floods in north Queensland and bushfires in Siberia - two very different phenomena yet they have the same cause. It is silly to refer to one or the other as separate. If you do that you don’t know what is going on. “They keep saying, ‘What do you propose about Greece?’ My answer is, ‘Nothing.’ I don’t propose anything about Greece because nothing that can happen in Greece can solve Greece’s problems unless it’s an attempt to deal systematically with the crisis at a European level. “I am very much afraid from what I hear in Ireland that you have the same problem that the Irish people are insular in the sense that if they do the right thing then they will be rewarded within the context of the Irish economy. That is impossible.”

The Roosevelt/United States example “Imagine if you were in 1930 now in the United States of America and you happened to be in Ohio state and there was this question, ‘What can Ohio do to end the Great Depression?’ The answer is, ‘Nothing.’ But it is not an answer that people like to hear. I understand that psychologically because people would like to be owners of their own fate. “I say, ‘You know what, mate, there is nothing you can do about it as an Irishman or woman or as a Greek or as a


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5 Demonstrators are met with a wall of riot police in Athens

Portuguese, but there is something you can do about it as a European.”

Tolstoy’s happy families The logic of Yanis’s argument is clear but I asked about the wider social and economic problems in the Irish economy, not just debt and banking problems but healthcare, housing, education and political corruption. Yanis’s answer is to quote the opening lines of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike, but unhappy families are unhappy each in its own different way.” Developing the theme, Yanis continues, “We are now unhappy in different ways and yet the causes of our unhappiness are one and the same. Unless we realise that we will not be able to deal with the causes of our unhappiness. “Greece has malignancies that the average Irishman or

5 Merkel and Sarkozy

woman would not be able to comprehend and which are very different to your malignancies. We are facing completely different circumstance. In Greece, we have a corrupt state, much more corrupt than the Irish state is.”

Silver bullets are for zombies and werewolves So what is the solution? “Silver bullets are all very well when you have zombies and werewolves. We don’t have zombies or werewolves. We have a very simple crisis which can be solved very simply so we don’t need a silver bullet; we need a modicum of commonsense and political will to apply that commonsense and solve a problem.” He says we have three problems in Europe that affect everyone: 1) A banking sector catastrophe, everywhere including Germany; 2) A significant problem with debt; 3) A massive under-investment crisis.

“Mrs Merkel and the powers that be are saying we have to continue down the road of austerity and this is making the problem worse. “There are others who say, we should have a common economic policy, a fiscal union, effectively a federation. When I hear that, I panic, because I know we are not going to have a federation before the euro zone collapses so what is the point in talking about it? “Our proposal – Stuart Holland and I – (it is called A Modest IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 19


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Greek economist and author Yanis Varoufakis talks to IRIS Proposal for Overcoming the Euro Crisis) is to use the institutions we have without any treaty changes otherwise it won’t happen.” Varoufakis and Holland believe that the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) could be reassigned the tasks that they have in such a way as to deal with the three problems. They argue that the EFSF, instead of lending money to Ireland, Greece or Portugal (money that cannot be repaid, therefore exacerbating the problem), should recapitalise the banks forcefully, just like it happened in 1992 in Sweden, in 1998 in Korea, and in 2009 in America under the TARP programme “which means that you expropriate the bankers, simply because you won’t give them the capital for nothing you take shares”. “It is not a radical idea,” says Yanis. “ The next step is to deal with the debt.” “You take the euro zone debt in its entirety, each member state’s debt and you slice it into two parts, the first part which is legal, according to Maastricht, is the 60% of GDP debt which you shift into the ECB. They don’t buy it, they service it.” The idea is that, over time, the ECB replaces short-term and medium-term member state debt with longer-term cheaper debt. “The ECB issues another long-term bond over 20 years at a low interest rate and this is owned by the member state. “The beauty is that this happens for every country in the euro zone. Suddenly, the whole mountain of debt, which is mostly interest, the whole debt crisis goes away. The ECB has

» WANT TO SEE MORE OF YANIS? HAVE A LOOK AT: http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/ » WANT TO READ A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR OVERCOMING THE EURO CRISIS? HAVE A LOOK AT:

http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1380

not printed money, the ECB has not paid anything and no German taxpayer is guaranteeing Ireland’s loans.” The remaining debt will be “serviced by the member state country; with the debt crisis gone, the spreads will fall on servicing this debt”.

Under-investment in the EU Varoufakis and Holland believe that the EIB has the willingness, the track record and the capacity to effect very large investment projects that will boost the economy of the euro zone, not just Ireland or Greece. “The EIB has a long list of potentially profitable projects it would love to invest in.” Wouldn’t this mean that the EIB would end up driving local economies? “It is exactly what Roosevelt did under the New Deal [the programme to transform America’s economy which had been shattered by the Wall Street Crash]. The way that Roosevelt got the American economy out of depression was by utilising the capacity of the federal government to borrow to invest in the states. That’s what we need to do.” But what about the banking sector, the bad governments, the lack of regulation that created this problem? “There is no silver bullet which will cure all the problems of capitalism. I really don’t believe that there is any simple policy one can implement that will rid us of all the malignancies and troubles that come with capitalism. “Capitalism will always be a problematic socio-economic mode of production but, you know what, currently we are in freefall and the freefall is like 1929 - it is not conducive to progressive politics. “The only people that benefit from the freefall are the xenophobes and the nasty underbelly of our societies. This set of policies is not going to be a blueprint for the good society. It is a blueprint for arresting the freefall and giving us an opportunity to sit down both within our communities, our nation states and within the euro zone, the European Union, even globally, to discuss ways of rationalising our world.”

5Enda Kenny with EU leaders: ‘The powers that be are saying we have to continue down the road of austerity and this is making the problem worse 20 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE


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IS CUIMHIN liom na hagóidí in mo cheantar le linn1981. Ní raibh mé ach ocht mbliana d’aois an bhliain sin. Bhí neart agóidí ann ar son na stailceoirí uilig ach tá sé deacair idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir achan cheann i ndiaidh 30 bliain. I ndiaidh bhás Bhobby, dódh Teach na Cúirte. Is cuimhin liom a bheith ag féachaint ar chrotal an fhoirgnimh dhóite an mhaidin ina dhiaidh agus mé ar mo bhealach ar scoil. Is cuimhin liom a bheith ar na mórshiúlta uilig i lár an bhaile achan uair a fuair duine eile de na cimí bás. Cé go raibh agóidí ag dul ar aghaidh go rialta, tá siad anois mar aon agóid mhór amháin i mo chuimhne. I rith an tsamhraidh bhí orm fanacht ar feadh cúpla lá in Ospidéal Chromghlinne i mBaile Átha Cliath. Bhí bainis Charles Windsor le bheith ann thart fán am sin agus bhí a fhios agam go mbeadh an-spéis ag máithreacha na bpáistí sa bharda in stíl na brídí is na haíonna eile ag an bhainis. Ní raibh mé féin ná buachaill eile sa bharda, Benny Mc Elmeel sásta leis seo, so shocraigh an

bheirt againn stop a chur leis. Chaitheamar an lá uilig ag rith isteach sna seomraí ar fad a raibh teilifíseáin iontu agus iad a chur as. Ní raibh na máithreacha róshásta leis seo agus cuirfeadh siad an bhainis ar siúl arís ach bhí mé féin is Benny ar mhisean! Lean an cath an lá uilig go dtí go raibh an seó faisin i London thart. Ní raibh mé ach tagtha abhaile ón ospidéal nuair a theip ar an aibhléis, ní amháin in ár dteach ach timpeall Mhuineacháin uilig. Dúirt mo dhaid gurb shin é an comhartha go raibh Kieran Doherty imithe ar shlí na fírinne. Bhí agóidí mar gheall ar bhás Kieran ag bun na sráide an oíche sin. Bhí tine i lár an bhóthair agus daoine amuigh le feadóga is le claibíní bhoscaí bruscair. D’iarr mé ar mo thuistí ligint dom a bheith páirteach ann. Go drogallach, lig siad dom dul. Ach sular imigh mé thug mé liom claibín an bhosca bhig mhiotail a bhí againn sa seomra suite le haghaidh na luatha ón tinteán. Bhí mé ar an tsráid ar feadh uaire nuair a shocraigh an slua dul chun agóid a dhéanamh os comhair Bheairic

Binlid mo Mhuintir

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na nGardaí. D’imigh mise abhaile i m’aonair ach ansin dúirt mé liom féin gurbh fhearr an slua a leanúint. Is cuimhin liom nach raibh cead ag na páistí eile ar an mbaile a bheith amuigh ag an am sin den oíche agus nuair a shiúil mé suas an tsráid, bhí siad ag féachaint amach fuinneoga s’acu agus ag rá gur chóir dom a bheith i mo leaba. Níor chuir siad isteach orm mar bhí a fhios agam go raibh éad orthu toisc go raibh mise i lár agóide! Bhí mé ar mo bhealach chuig an bheairic, nuair a tháinig mé ar bhuíon de Ghardaí gléasta i gculaith círéibe agus bataí is sciatha á niompar acu! D’iompaigh mé thart agus ar aghaidh liom an bealach eile. Chonaic mé go raibh teach tabhairne á dhúnadh in aice liom, go raibh na custaiméirí meisciúla taobh amuigh de agus a ndroim le balla an tí. Cheap mé nach n-aithneodh na Gardaí an difríocht idir fhir mheisciúla agus gasúr óg, so chuireas mo dhroim féin le balla in aice leo agus chur mé claibín an bhosca bhruscair taobh thiar díom. Faraor, níor éirigh le mo phleann mar tháinig garda chomh fada liom is dúirt sé: “We’ll take that, sonny”. Ní raibh an dara rogha agam ach filleadh abhaile. Ní go dtí an lá ina dhiaidh gur thug mo thuistí faoi deara

go raibh an claibín in easnamh. Bhí orm admháil dóibh an méid a tharla cé go raibh a fhios agam nach sásta a mbeidís. Agus bhí an ceart agam. Ach tar éis lá nó dhó, bhí na gardaí ag maíomh faoi na huirlisí troda a dtáinig siad orthu le linn na hagóide is bhí mo thuistí in ann gáire faoi conas gur féidir l’éinne uirlís troda a thabhairt ar chlaibín bhosca bruscair chomh beag sin agus é i gcnuasach fianaise éigin i gCeanncheathrú na nGardaí. De ghnáth mothaím amadach is mé ag caint faoi mo chuimhní ón bhliain sin. Conas gur féidir comparáid a dhéanamh idir íobairtí dhaoine eile agus an méid a rinne páiste. Ní gáire ach brón a thagann orm anois nuair a smaoiním ar an fháth go raibh na hagóidí sin ann i rith 1981. Ach le déanaí, bhí oíche againn i bhFáilte Cluain Eois, craobh de Choiste na nIarchimí, oíche a raibh iarchimí is gnáthphoblachtánaigh ag roinnt a gcuimhní ón tréimhse sin; cuimhní a bhain leis an áit a bhí siad nuair a chuala siad faoi bhás Bhobby Sands agus leis na himeachtaí ar ghlac siad páirt iontu. Labhair muid faoin phian is faoin ghreann. Is ansin a thuig mé an snáithe idir na cuimhní uilig a bhí againn is go raibh tábhacht ag baint leis an méid a tharla do ghasúr ocht mbliana d’aois i 1981.

LE SEÁN Ó MURCHADHA

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ANY MOVE TO RESOLVE THE ISSUES AROUND PRISONERS WILL HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT IMPACT,FAR FAR BEYOND BEYOND THEIR THEIR IMMEDIATE FAMILIES


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Prisoners can help secure peace in the Basque Country BY

SÉANNA WALSH Former Officer Commanding IRA prisoners, Long Kesh DEVELOPMENTS in the Basque Country following the latest ceasefire initiative from the leftist militant group ETA have proved very promising. They also highlight the difficulties that persist around the independence movement’s drive to build a path out of armed struggle and forge a political and non-armed road to the independent Basque homeland desired and demanded by the majority of Basque citizens.


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Since the emergence of ETA and their political allies, the Spanish state (regardless of whichever government sits in Madrid) has mounted a ferocious offensive seeking to subvert the demand for Basque independence. As part of that strategy, the Madrid Government and their allies in Paris have demonised and criminalised Basque activists in general, but their prisoners in particular. “Basque prisoners should be locked up and the keys thrown away” is the level of political

THERE IS NO EASY WAY OF ENDING CONFLICT discourse conducted on the Spanish media. The difficulty with this sort of expression and exposition of extreme views is that it allows you to pretend that the fundamental problem is a criminal conspiracy and not a political problem. This then allows for the torture, abuse and even disappearance of captured Basque activists. Anyone who raises their voice against state repression is branded a ‘fellow traveller’ and risks exposing themselves to vilification and even abuse and torture by the forces of the state and their apologists in the media. The recent initiatives, statements and declarations by ETA’s ruling council have been rejected and brushed aside by media commentators and Government spokespeople alike. They are still wedded to the old agenda of repression and denial.

26 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

All of this looks very familiar to Irish republicans following events in the Basque homeland and in Madrid. The Government knows only too well what they need to do to build a way out of conflict. The difficulty for them is that they have conditioned the ordinary Spanish people to such an extent that any hint of compromise or let-up in the draconian stance adopted since the fascist dictator General Franco elicits hysteria in the media. Yet there is no easy way of ending conflict. Years of suspicion and antipathy, of strike and counter-strike, have poisoned the waters. The reams of newsprint and propaganda screaming ‘No compromise’ have also had their impact. But the Spanish Government must be made to recognise that the alternative to compromise is more of the same cycle of conflict and war, repression and guerrilla warfare - indefinitely. The position of the prisoners can be the key to unlocking this question. The prisoners hold a special place in the hearts of the people; they and their relatives can form the backbone of the resistance movement. Any move to resolve the issues around prisoners will have a positive impact far beyond their immediate families. Measures which can be introduced immediately are:*

The release of prisoners who are sick and infirm;


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The release of political leadership who have forged new direction; The release of prisoners who have served their sentences but are held under dubious extensions; The repatriation of all prisoners to the Basque homeland; The formulation of a release programme to facilitate the return of prisoners to their homes and their families.

In a very clear way this will indicate to all that the military conflict is well and truly over, that the Spanish Government are serious about finding a new, inclusive way forward, and it

also creates a dynamic securing the future of the political process. The release of the prisoners will not be a panacea for all the woes and difficulties of the

THE POSITION OF THE PRISONERS CAN BE A KEYSTONE TO PROGRESS Basque/Spanish conflict resolution process but it can be a keystone in building the bridge from conflict, bloodshed and repression into a new, peaceful future.

SÉANNA WALSH is the man who read the statement on July 28th 2005 declaring an end to the IRA’s armed campaign. Séanna spent 21 years of his life in British prisons. He held the position of Commanding Officer of the IRA prisoners in Long Kesh. He was a close friend of the late Bobby Sands and also a cell-mate of Bobby’s in 1981 during the H-Blocks Hunger Strikes. He is now head of the Irish Language Department of Sinn Féin.

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High flyers high wages BY SINÉAD Ní BHROIN

AND

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE chief Kevin Cardiff has been in the news recently but for all the wrong reasons. I’m sure the poor man doesn’t know what’s hit him. Only a few short weeks ago it was all so different. In early October, the Government announced Kevin Cardiff, current Secretary General to the Department of Finance, as its nominee to the European Court of Auditors. Naturally, this plum job comes with big bucks, in excess of 28 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

IT HAS LONG BEEN A POLICY POSITION OF SINN FÉIN THAT WE WOULD CAP PUBLIC SECTOR PAY AT €100,000

The European Court of Auditors


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4 Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore chastised Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil for even raising the question of Kevin Cardiff’s suitability for a top job in Europe and stood by his Government’s nominee

€200,000 per year plus additional allowances. “Happy days”, he must have thought. Kevin Cardiff has been with the Department of Finance since 1987. He was head of the Taxation and Financial Services Division within the department and worked closely with Fianna Fáil Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in delivering the bank guarantee (with a bit of help from the bankers, of course). He was promoted to Secretary General in 2010 and was a key figure in the negotiation of the EU/IMF bail-out. Fine Gael and Labour have form when it comes to promoting ‘high flyers’, even if they have flown too close to the sun. Remember Dermot McCarthy? He’s the former Secretary General from the Department of An Taoiseach who got a bumper pension pay-off of €713,000 with an annual pension of €142,000, despite retiring at just 57 years of age. McCarthy was Bertie Ahern’s and Brian Cowen’s chief adviser – need I say more? Two more Secretary Generals are due to retire before the end of February 2012

with similar bonanza pension pots. From March 2012, pension lump sums will be less but current Secretary Generals will still get a special severance gratuity payment worth half a year’s pay (€100,000) as well as added years which enables early retirement.

THE CULTURE OF EXCESSIVE HIGH PAY AND PENSIONS FOR THE SMALL FEW AT THE TOP MUST END

Following increased public and political pressure (much of it from Sinn Féin), the Government has recently announced changes to salary and pension entitlements for Government department head honchos. These guys (and, yes, they are still predominantly male) will get an annual salary of €200,000 but will have to work until normal retirement age and will not get a special severance payment on retirement. It has long been a policy position of Sinn Féin that we would cap public sector pay at €100,000. We have called on the Government to use the Superannuation and Pensions Act of 1963 to rescind special severance payIRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 29


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3 It wasn’t until Mary Lou McDonald TD asked the Tánaiste directly if a top civil servant who misplaces €3.6billion of public monies is really the best person for a top auditing job in Europe that the penny dropped with the media

ments and the awarding of added years to current Secretaries General that lets them retire early on full pension. The culture of excessive high pay and pensions for the small few at the top must end. By halving the salary of a single Secretary General or a hospital consultant you could pay three extra Special Needs Assistants or three nurses. But I digress. Just last year, Kevin Cardiff admitted to the Public Accounts Committee that his department failed to forecast the depth of the financial crisis in 2008. He then went on to spread the blame by adding that whilst his department had made mistakes, its projections were in line with forecasts from other agencies at the time. But the current Government didn’t take much notice of the concerns raised and the dust settled, until it was revealed that a double entry accounting error in the Department of Finance had resulted in a substantial over-statement of the state’s debt — €3.6billion or 2.3% of GDP. Naturally there was uproar from the public. But it wasn’t until Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD asked the Tánaiste directly if a top civil servant who misplaces €3.6billion of public monies is really the best person 30

for a top auditing job in Europe that the penny dropped with the media. If the guy can’t keep the books balanced at home, is he really the best person to

BY HALVING THE SALARY OF A SINGLE SECRETARY GENERAL OR HOSPITAL CONSULTANT YOU COULD PAY FOR THREE SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS OR THREE NURSES

send over to Europe to oversee everyone else’s? Naturally, Eamon Gilmore chastised Mary Lou for raising such matters on the floor of the Dáil; and he stood by his Government’s nominee. Imagine a public representative having the temerity to demand full accountability from the most senior civil servant in the Department of Finance. The public deserves and expects transparency and accountability from those who are tasked by government to manage the people’s money. Labour and Fine Gael declared a “democratic revolution” on entering Government earlier this year but their revolutionary scorecard already makes for pretty glum reading – and the hope of the words of The Red Flag “a banner bright and symbol plain” has all but disappeared.


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GLIMPSES OF AN IRISH FELON’S PRISON LIFE BY THOMAS J CLARKE BY THOMAS J CLARKE

RECOLLECTIONS OF 15 YEARS IN ENGLISH JAILS BY THE FIRST SIGNATORY OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC Introduction by Seán Kinsella, 21 years in English prisons

Price €8/£6.88 PLUS POSTAGE & PACKAGING

Sinn Féin Bookshop, 58 Parnell Square, Dublin 1

www.sinnfeinbookshop.com


Seán Cronin

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the strategist of the IRA’s Operation Harvest FEARGAL O’HANLON MEMORIAL LECTURE 2011 THE 2011 Annual Feargal O’Hanlon Memorial Lecture was a tribute to the late Seán Cronin, the strategist of the IRA’s Operation Harvest - the Border Campaign - as well as a distinguished author, historian and journalist. Cronin was well-known to surviving veterans of the IRA’s 1956-62 campaign in the Border region and to other republicans who met him during the course of his long career. Seán Cronin died in March 2011 in the United States, where he spent much of his life. His ashes were returned to Ireland for burial in Kerry, his childhood home, on September 17th. A number of his old comrades as well as younger people from across the generations gathered in Teach na nDaoine, Cortolvin, for the Memorial Lecture. The event was chaired by Malachy Toal, Cathaoirleach of the O’Hanlon/McMahon/Lynagh Sinn Féin Cumann, Monaghan Town, who welcomed the sizeable audience. Cavan/Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin introduced the two speakers and a formal vote of thanks was moved by Monaghan Town Councillor Padraigín Uí Mhurchadha, sister of Feargal O’Hanlon, who with his fellow IRA Volunteer, Seán Sabhat of Limerick, died in the Brookeborough raid on New Year’s Day 1957.


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title |

The first part of the lecture was delivered by Dr Ruán O’Donnell of the History Department, University of Limerick. We carry here edited excerpts from his remarks.

SEÁN CRONIN AND OPERATION HARVEST

IN VIEW of his exceptionally long career as a journalist and prolific author, surprisingly little is known of the biography of Seán Cronin who died aged 91 in his adopted home of Washington DC on March 9th 2011. Born in Dublin in 1920, he moved with his family to Ballinaskelligs within the Kerry Gaeltacht as a child. Relocation ensured fluency in Irish at a time when the nascent Free State was making halting efforts to restore the national language. The county endured several of the most notorious anti-republican atrocities of the Civil War, which Dorothy Macardle documented in her searing July 1924 account Tragedies of Kerry. Such controversies were inescapable for a young Seán Cronin given that his father served in the Irish Army and a number of uncles had joined the British military. Cronin held a commission in the Irish Army during the Second World War and developed sufficient military acumen to lecture in the Staff

Cronin held a commission in the Irish Army

during the Second World War and developed

sufficient military acumen to lecture in the Staff College on the Curragh. He was destined to

spend an enforced stay on the same site in the late 1950s when the internment camp was

reopened to house untried members of the IRA and Sinn Féin

College on the Curragh. He was destined to spend an enforced stay on the same site in the late 1950s when the internment camp was reopened to house untried members of the IRA and Sinn Féin. Journalism was Cronin’s main professional 34 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

calling and he migrated to Canada and the United States in 1948 to pursue this interest. He lived in New York City in the early 1950s and was already an active member of the proIrish republican Clan na Gael organisation when the IRA Army Council announced its intention to resume its campaign against the British presence in the North of Ireland. On returning to Ireland in 1955, Cronin was, as arranged, inducted into the IRA under its effective Chief of Staff, Tony Magan. Paid work on the Evening Press covered other endeavours as a Training Officer in the IRA. By 1956, Cronin was the Director of Operations and, as such, made a key input into the ‘Operation Harvest’ document which outlined IRA strategy and was adopted by the Army Council in July 1956.

BATTLE SCHOOLS Cronin devised and ran a series of ‘Battle Schools’ in which some of the largest training programmes ever organised by the IRA were held in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. The under-rated ‘Border’ or ‘Resistance’ campaign commenced on December 12th 1956 with leading IRA figures such as Seán Cronin and Charlie Murphy playing active roles in the first phase of attacks on barracks and infrastructure. Although arrested and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Mountjoy in January 1957, Cronin remained one of the most dynamic members of the IRA leadership. He and Murphy persevered in directing the campaign in July 1957 when the introduction of internment badly disrupted the Republican Movement. Pamphlets and article written by Cronin helped sustain an effort which, if serious in intent and comprehensive in scale, had


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failed to ignite the anticipated level of public support. Problems arising from factionalism within the Curragh Camp, where Cronin was held from September 1958, complicated the task of waging an unequal armed struggle against vastly more numerous and resourced British forces. Following the closure of the camp in early 1959, Cronin retained sufficient confidence among the IRA as to be reinstated as Chief of Staff. Rearrested in June 1960, the Kerryman had lost favour with elements of the transAtlantic support base by the time of his emancipation. While an IRA Court of Inquiry cleared him of false allegations, he believed his presence within the upper leadership was counter-productive to the conduct of the campaign. He remained, however, a popular figure with many Volunteers and his rare combination of military, propaganda and management skills made him a valuable ally to successors at the helm of the Republican Movement. Cronin was among a select coterie who in

1963 coalesced as the Wolfe Tone Society in order to reinvigorate opposition to partition by non-violent means. This influenced the adoption of the Civil Rights Campaign as the primary means of combating Stormont sectarianism and Westminster neglect.

Cronin devised and ran a series of ‘Battle

Schools’ in which some of the largest training programmes ever organised by the IRA were held in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains

By the time Cronin relocated to the US in 1965, the sinews of a highly significant and broad-based political strategy were wellestablished. His friendship from Irish Army days with Douglas Gageby facilitated his employment as American correspondent of The Irish Times. Cronin remained politically active throughout his life and supported Sinn Féin’s adoption of the ongoing Peace Process. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 35


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title |

The second part of the lecture was given by Mícheál Mac Donncha, former editor of An Phoblacht, Parliamentary Assistant to Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD in the Dáil since 1997, and a Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor since his co-option in May 2011

THE WRITINGS OF SEÁN CRONIN MY FOCUS is on the writings of Seán Cronin, which I would argue were at least as important, if not more important, than his years of active service in terms of their lasting legacy for the advancement of Irish republicanism. His intelligence, insight and skills of research and writing made him an excellent journalist and author and his output was prolific over a period of more than 40 years. I met Seán Cronin in the company of Rita O’Hare sometime in the mid-1990s when he visited Dublin. He was a most interesting and engaging man. He told me he was very influenced politically by a republican teacher he had at school. That was in the 1930s when Gandhi was visiting London during the struggle for Indian independence and the teacher told him that while foolish people laughed at Gandhi, this little man wrapped in simple peasant clothing would bring an end to the British Empire. Around 1989 or 1990, I’d heard Cronin deliver a fascinating lecture in Dublin on the Home Rule crisis of 1912-1914 and how the British Tories stirred up sectarianism in Ireland. That was for the Dublin ‘68 Committee in which Charlie Murphy, his comrade of the 1950s, was involved at the time. When I told Martin Ferris we were having this lecture he said Cronin was an intellectual. And I think that’s true. He was an intellectual in the true sense of the word, although I am sure he would never have described himself as such. Of course, ‘intellectual’ has become a discredited word because most of those who regard themselves as intellectuals in Ireland today are pretentious posers. We need only think of the likes of Fintan O’Toole and Eoghan Harris and others of their ilk who have shared with us the benefit of their wisdom on the candidature of Martin McGuinness for President of Ireland. In any self-respecting state, a man like Seán

36 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Cronin would have been valued and would certainly have featured prominently over the years on the state broadcast network. I don’t recall ever seeing Cronin interviewed on RTÉ - I am open to correction on that - but he was certainly never given the prominence or the role that his encyclopaedic knowledge of Irish history and politics deserved. I recall a number of years ago the RTÉ newsreader Brian Dobson made a series on the Irish Civil War, interviewing some of the few survivors then still living. I said to him at the launch that the series had been made 20 years too late because so many of the survivors were dead. He said that it had taken so long because the wounds had not healed. I said, on the contrary, there were plenty of people willing


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Seán Cronin to speak over the years (and in fact about 20 of them had been interviewed in 1980 for Uinseann Mac Eoin’s book, Survivors) but that because of the Section 31 broadcasting censorship mentality, RTÉ would not touch the subject with a barge pole. Cronin was one of the many voices ignored by the national broadcaster because of that mentality. Thankfully, in the case of Seán Cronin, we have his own writings which speak for themselves. They speak initially and in a special way for the generation of republicans that carried out the Resistance Campaign. Cronin produced much of the publicity material for the Resistance Campaign both as a regular writer and sometime editor of the Republican Movement’s monthly newspaper, The United Irishman/An tEireannach Aontaithe, and as the author of pamphlets and other publicity material. His most significant production from that period was of course the book Resistance - the story of the struggle in British-occupied Ireland. This was published by the Republican Movement under the imprint of the Irish Freedom Press in December 1957. It had on its front cover the Tricolour shield worn on the combat uniform of active service IRA Volunteers during the campaign. The author of Resistance was given as Joe McGarrity, the pen-name used by the IRA for its public statements at the time - just as P O’Neill was used in a later campaign. The real author was Seán Cronin and he explained in 1972 that the pen-name was used in tribute to the Clan na Gael leader in America. But I will return to Joe McGarrity later. Resistance was treated as an illegal document north and south of the Border and possession of it could and did lead to prison sentences. But this only added to its impact on readers as it was circulated widely and secretly at home and abroad. It was translated in 1966 into Catalan which was still then a banned language in Spain under the fascist Franco regime. I only read the book on its 50th anniversary in 2007 when we prepared it for republication in IRIS magazine Number 20. I had always thought it was a kind of War News, simply describing IRA operations. But the book is more than that, describing the historical and

political background to the campaign and analysing the sectarianism of the Six-County state. In the Preface, Seán Cronin set a theme he would return to many times: “British propaganda follows this line of argument: Ulster Protestants will not submit to a Catholic parliament in Dublin: that is the partition issue. Otherwise Ireland is free but

Cronin was one of the many historical voices ignored by RTÉ because of its Section 31 censorship mentality

divided. This leaves British imperialism out of the question altogether and that is exactly what British imperialism wants. Sectarianism is not the issue in Ireland. It is used as a weapon by British imperialism and some Irish politicians have played this game for Britain in the past. Doubtless they will continue to do so in the future. “There is no question of Protestant Irishmen being asked to submit to a Catholic parliament. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 37


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Seán Cronin Irish republicans are not fighting for the incorporation of the Six Counties in the Southern state. They are fighting positively for Irish freedom. They say neither North nor South can have independence in the full sense of the term while the country is divided and part of it occupied by British forces. The enemy of Irish unity still remains British imperialism - not the Orange rank and file of north-east Ulster . . . “Irish republicans want an Ireland with the shadow of imperialism removed from it forever. They want an Ireland where economic independence will be as much a reality as

The McGarrity papers contained many hitherto unknown facts about

contacts between the IRA and de Valera in the 1930s

political independence. They want an Ireland where Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists can live in harmony and peace as Irish citizens.” In 1961, Seán Cronin wrote a pamphlet entitled Ireland Since the Treaty. He updated it in 1971 and succinctly described the circumstances of the ending of the Resistance Campaign in 1962: As on previous occasions, the struggle ended in defeat in February 1962. Military courts were set up in the South, hundreds were interned in Belfast and the Curragh, scores received prison sentences. Although the guerrillas managed to survive for the duration of the campaign and received shelter and food from the people, they were unable to transform the fight into a popular struggle. They also suffered from internal and external weaknesses, especially in the matter of equipment. In the 1960s, Cronin returned to journalism, in which he had worked in America and Ireland in the early 1950s. He continued to write on Irish politics and history and was part of the inter-play of analysis and ideas following the ending of the Resistance Campaign. This period included the establishment of the Wolfe Tone Societies for 38 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

the bicentenary of Wolfe Tone’s birth in 1963 when Cronin published a study of Tone and the United Irishmen. In 1964, Cronin wrote a study of Jemmy Hope, the Presbyterian weaver, United Irishman and comrade of Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmet. Taking up again the theme of unity among the Irish people he wrote of Jemmy Hope: “In each great revolutionary period at least one man has examined the social content of the revolt. Such a man was James Fintan Lalor in 1848. Such a man was James Connolly in 1916. Such a man was James Hope in 1798. In his long life of political struggle, Jemmy Hope exemplified the United Irish movement that brought together - if only for a short period - the two great traditions that are rooted in the soil of Ireland: the Catholic tradition of resistance to the Conquest and the Presbyterian tradition of struggle against tyranny. His concern, like Wolfe Tone, was ‘the rights of man in Ireland’. It is significant that the man who led the Spartan Band in Antrim in 1798 was also the trusted leader of the Dublin workers in 1803. For him there was but one Irish people.” In 1972, Cronin joined with Wexford republican and journalist Richard Roche and the Belfast republican and journalist from a Protestant background, Jack Bennett, to produce a collection of Wolfe Tone’s writings entitled Freedom the Wolfe Tone Way which was published by Anvil in 1973. This was an influential book for the republicans of the 1970s and 1980s and is still the best short collection of Tone’s writings. The introduction by Jack Bennett is a brilliant argument against the two-nations theory advanced by Conor Cruise O’Brien and others at the time as their excuse for abandoning the nationalists of the Six Counties and for opposing Irish unity. I had the privilege to meet Jack Bennett who, like Cronin, was a very clear-headed and coherent writer. In their preface to the book, Cronin and Roche restate the fundamental anti-sectarian position of Irish republicans:


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Seán Cronin “Wolfe Tone’s objective was a united, democratic, independent Ireland where Catholics and Protestants would live together as fellow-citizens and work together for the common weal; where tolerance would be an everyday practice, not just a Sunday virtue.” It was in 1972 also that Cronin published a landmark work of Irish history - The McGarrity Papers. This was the fruit of his two years’ research of the treasure trove of documents left in the care of Clan na Gael in America by Joe McGarrity, the Carrickmore, County Tyrone, republican who died in 1940 and spent most of his life in the United States. McGarrity supported successive generations of Irish revolutionaries from Tom Clarke and Pádraig Pearse before 1916 to Seán Russell in 1939 and he spent several fortunes in the process. He left a huge volume of confidential correspondence and Cronin mined this to produce a book that is a brilliant narrative and a first-class source of Irish revolutionary history in the first half of the 20th century. It is interesting to note that Cronin dedicated the book to “two Brave Ulstermen”: Patrick McManus (1930-1958) of Fermanagh and Jack McCabe (1916-1971) of Cavan. Both were IRA Volunteers who died as a result of premature explosions, Jack McCabe being a member of GHQ Staff of the ‘Provisional’ IRA. It is also interesting to note on the McGarrity papers that Cronin acknowledges in the book the assistance he received from Vincent Conlon of Philadelphia Clan na Gael and also, of course, of Monaghan, late father of Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Conlon. The McGarrity Papers contained many hitherto unknown facts about contacts between the IRA and de Valera in the 1930s. Further light was shed on this in Cronin’s very important study of the IRA, Republican Congress and International Brigade leader Frank Ryan. Published in 1980, the year after his body was returned from Germany, Frank Ryan – the Search for the Republic is still the best study of Irish republicanism in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Again, the research is meticulous and

the writing is clear and concise. The book is a fine tribute to Frank Ryan who is now much more widely known because of it and because of the interest in the Spanish Civil War and the heroic role of the Irish who fought in the International Brigades. The book shows clearly how Fianna Fáil cut the ground from under the divided Republican Movement in the 1930s and came to dominate politics completely, winning over the mass of republican support among the people. We might ask are we seeing the full reversal of the process now with a damaged, divided and discredited Fianna Fáil losing support to Sinn Féin? Let’s hope so! Cronin often shed new light on what were apparently well-known aspects of Irish history. For example, in the 1978 Capuchin Annual (the last of those annuals, as it happened), Cronin wrote a very enlightening piece on James Connolly and the 1916 Rising and, in particular, the campaign in print of the Irish Independent for his execution. Cronin showed how this was inextricably linked to the 1913 Lock-Out in which the Independent’s owner, William Martin Murphy, led the Dublin employers. As we witness today the continuing reactionary role of the Irish Independent it is no harm to remind ourselves what their editorial said

‘Frank Ryan – the Search for the

Republic’ is still the best study of Irish republicanism in the late 1920s and early 1930s

when Connolly was lying severely wounded in Dublin Castle: “Certain of the leaders remain undealt with, and the part they played was worse than that of those who have paid the supreme penalty. Are they because of an indiscriminate demand for clemency to get off lightly while others who were no more prominent have been executed? If so, leniency will be interpreted as a sign of weakness.” Cronin argued that this and previous editorials in the Independent were crucial in influencing the British Government to ignore IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 39


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Seán Cronin

pleas for mercy for the last two leaders executed in Dublin, Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada. And in the case of Connolly, Cronin argued that he was executed in vengeance as much for his role in the 1913 Lock-Out as for his command in the 1916 Rising. One of Cronin’s most significant works was his study published in 1980 entitled Irish Nationalism - A History of its Roots and Ideology. This analyses Irish nationalism and republicanism from the United Irishmen up to

With our new imperial masters the IMF and EU in mind, we recall what Cronin wrote in 1972

the 1970s. In his analysis of the so-called ‘Official IRA’ and ‘Official Sinn Féin’ (later the Workers’ Party) he said: “The Officials have come to some very surprising conclusions on the national question, given their tradition and history. They blame the Catholic middle class, not British rule, for Ireland’s failure to industrialise . . . They have been accused of betraying the national question by adopting the two nations theory.” In contrast, Cronin said of Gerry Adams, then vice-president of Sinn Féin: “His political ideas reflect a natural 40 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

radicalisation of an armed struggle conducted among the Catholic ghettoes of Belfast and Derry . . . he seems much closer to Connolly than other voices.” I might add as a footnote that when this book was reviewed in IRIS, The Republican Magazine (Number 2, 1981) Cronin was described as “a renegade republican turned academic”. In IRIS Number 4, the following apology appeared: “We deeply regret this description of Mr Cronin and unreservedly withdraw it with our apologies. Seán Cronin’s contribution to the republican cause over many years is acknowledged by the Republican Movement.” Cronin published a mass of material on Irish history in many publications. For example, a random search of The Irish Times in 1968 reveals a piece on Frederic Engels and Ireland. A complete study of his works should be done and a bibliography compiled. I have only covered a small selection of his writings but there is much, much more to be done. His columns as US correspondent for The Irish Times in a turbulent time in US history, the 1970s and 1980s, deserve much attention. I will conclude with a couple of passages from Seán Cronin that I think are especially relevant today as we take up the task of national reconciliation, reunification and building a New Republic. With our new imperial masters the IMF and EU in mind, we recall what Cronin wrote in 1972: “In Tone’s Republic, the resources of the nation would be used for the benefit of all the people of the nation. Education would not be the preserve of a few, and poverty and emigration the lot of the many. In Tone’s Ireland, this land would not be merely a tributary for foreign finance, a base for foreign forces or a bridgehead for imperialism, political or economic.” And, finally, from Ireland Since the Treaty: “Ireland is indeed an entity; it does not belong to Catholics or to Protestants or for that matter to Britain. It belongs to the Irish people. The time has come to fashion a constitution for that entity that will lead to reconciliation and that will reflect the needs of our day. Simply, it must give Irish men and women the right to live in the country of their birth ‘in freedom and comfort on their own labour’, as Lalor phrased it.”


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Sinn Féin’s vision of a new Ireland – a New Republic for the 21st century – is both pluralist and inclusive and based on equality and citizens’ rights. The New Republic must be built by Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. I believe there are many people who share our goals. There are many people across this island who want rid of outsiders ruling us, whether from London or the IMF or the EU. Many people want a real republic, a new republic. This will require the active participation of citizens.

I call on you to join Sinn Féin Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams BÍ LE SHINN FÉIN/ JOIN SINN FÉIN Bí le Téacs / Join by Text: Seol an focal JOIN ansin d'ainm agus seoladh chuig / Text the word SINN FEIN followed by your NAME and ADDRESS to: 51444 (26 Chondae / 26 counties) 60060 (6 Chondae / 6 counties) Ar Líne / Join online: www.sinnfein.ie/join-sinn-fein Seol d'ainm, seoladh agus uimhir guthán chuig / Send you name, address and phone number to: 44 Cearnóg Parnell, Baile Átha Cliath 1 / 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Ainm / Name: ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Seoladh / Address: ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Fón/R.phost / Tel/Email: ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................


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INTERNATIONAL VIEW

I

The

Arab Spring POWER SHIFTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

T WOULD SEEM that history does indeed repeat itself. Certainly, with regard to the interlinked series of events that have become known as ‘the Arab Spring’, we were privy to a short-lived dress rehearsal some two decades ago. During the late 1980s, popular Islamic movements became the focal point for opposition to Western-backed regimes in Algeria and Tunisia. The emergence of such movements, or in some instances their reinvigoration, was itself a regional phenomenon that flowed from the 1979 triumph of ‘political Islam’ in Iran. Decades of underdevelopment, the absence of opportunity and the imposition of crippling austerity programmes (sounds eerily familiar) left the majority of citizens marginalised within their own countries.

42 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

BY DARA McNEIL Over the summer of 1988, the people of Algeria - Islamist and secular – mobilised with thousands joining strikes and demonstrations. Initially, the regime responded with brute force but it was eventually forced to seek an accommodation with the protesters. From 1989 to 1991, Algeria experienced major economic and political liberalisation, with a new constitution legalising opposition parties. But it was the religious-based opposition that benefitted most. The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) emerged as the clearest threat to the once revolutionary National Liberation Front (FLN), who had won Algeria’s independence from France. The FIS duly won resounding victories in municipal and regional elections in 1990. A similar result on a national scale seemed a mere formality – until the army intervened. A January 1992

coup saw the FIS banned, elections cancelled and Algeria transformed into a modern-day charnel house. Up to 250,000 people, the majority civilians, lost their lives in one of the most brutal, bloody and sinister conflicts of modern times. Barbaric massacres became the hallmark of the war: villages surrounded by night and the entire population systematically murdered by way of decapitation or having their throats slit. There is compelling evidence that Algeria’s notorious secret service, the DRS, played a role in this ‘reign of terror’ with the aim of discrediting the Islamic forces; the latter were not blameless either. Twenty years later, Algeria’s quiescence during the Arab Spring has been attributed, in part, to the deep trauma of those years. Neighbouring Tunisia also enjoyed a brief flirtation with this Arab glasnost. But when elections in 1989 saw a strong


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INTERNATIONAL VIEW

The impact of the Arab Spring has been felt, to varying degrees, in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Oman and Syria


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INTERNATIONAL VIEW

5 1989/91: Members of the Islamic Salvation Front lead protests in Algeria

During the late 1980s, popular Islamic movements became the focal point for opposition to Western-backed regimes in Algeria and Tunisia

52011: Supporters of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party celebrate their victory in elections 44 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

showing from candidates associated with the Movement of the Islamic Tendency, that experiment came to an abrupt halt. The organisation – later to be known as Ennahda (Renaissance) – was suppressed and some 25,000 activists jailed. Its leader, Rashid Ghannushi, fled into exile and was granted political asylum in London. Two decades later, there is a dramatic reversal of roles. The Arab Spring has forced Ben Ali and his family to flee and find refuge in Saudi Arabia – an unusual bolthole for a secular leader. And as Ben Ali departs, Rashid Ghannushi is welcomed home to Tunis as a hero. The Ennahda party is quickly legalised and in the first elections of the Arab Spring, held in late October, the party wins 42% of the vote. Although it will govern in coalition, Ennahda is now the largest single party in the state. It will appoint the new president and play a lead role in writing Tunisia’s new constitution. It has committed to maintaining the secular nature of


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INTERNATIONAL VIEW

T

5 Bahraini security forces kill and wound dozens of demonstrators during a dawn assault on their protest camp in Pearl Square, Manama

the Tunisian state and looks to Turkey as a model. Ironically, during his time in exile, Rashid Ghannushi’s political views saw him either barred from entering, or deported from three countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The former deemed him persona non grata because he was at odds with their fundamentalist view of the world, while the latter refused him the opportunity to address academics at a Florida university because fundamentalist supporters of Israel voiced displeasure.

he impact of the Arab Spring has been felt, to v a r y i n g degrees, in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Oman and Syria. Three former pillars of the Arab world

(Egypt, Tunisia and Libya) have been brought crashing down and at least one more Bashar al Assad in Syria – is under intense pressure. For the first time in decades, the news from the Arab world has been positive. As Rashid Khalidi (Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University) noted with obvious irony: “Suddenly, to be an Arab has become a good thing . . . And it has become respectable in the West as well.” But Khalidi warns of the ‘fragility’ of this shift and how quickly it could sour. He points to the many, vested interests that would like to see this happen: “This includes not only entire bureaucratic empires engaged in fighting the ‘war on terror’, not only the industries

5 Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University

Saudi troops crossed the border into Bahrain to snuff out that country’s brief flirtation with popular protest. Imagine Western reaction if Guyana or Ecuador ‘invited’ the armies of Hugo Chávez to ‘police’ mass demonstrations in their own countries? IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 45


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that otherwise exhaustive list are Saudi Arabia and Israel, the two power centres most unnerved by the popular, democratic impulse of the Arab Spring. Just how unnerved the House of Saud had become was clear when several thousand of their troops crossed the border into Bahrain to snuff out that country’s brief flirtation with popular protest. Their intervention elicited barely a murmur in western capitals. Imagine if that scene was transposed to Latin America and the governments of Guyana or Ecuador ‘invited’ the armies of Hugo

The Saudi intervention in Bahrain and the western intervention in Libya are but two sides of the same coin

5 Syria has been rocked by mass rallies against President Bashar al Assad

that supply this war and the battalions of contractors and consultants so generously rewarded for their services . . . it also includes a large ideological archipelago of faux expertise, with vast shoals of ‘terrorologists’ deeply committed to propagat-

ing this caricature of the Middle East. These talking heads who pass for experts have ceaselessly affirmed that terrorists and Islamists are the only thing to look for, or see.” Conspicuous by their absence from

5 Saudi Arabia, one of the West’s friends in the Middle East, is nervous about the Arab Spring 46 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Chávez to ‘police’ mass demonstrations in their own countries? Rolling 24-hour news coverage and emergency sessions of the UN Security Council are the least we could expect. The very least. But the fate of Bahrain’s protests were decided not just by its proximity to fundamentalist Saudi Arabia but also by the fact that it is home to the US Fifth Fleet, which is charged with policing the shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf - crucial for oil and maintaining a watchful eye on Iran, on the opposite shore. And if Bahrain illustrated the limits of the Western attachment to democracy, then Libya demonstrates its willingness to intervene directly in the unfolding Arab Spring to ensure it delivers the right result. Dubious UN resolutions provided camouflage. As Middle Eastern specialist Vijay Prashad explained: “Libya opened the door to the counter-revolution.” When the leadership of the initial Benghazi-based uprising was replaced by faces more amenable to the West (particularly Mahmoud Jibril), Libya became “the perfect space to launch the Arab Winter”, says Prashad. The Saudi intervention in Bahrain and the western intervention in Libya are but two sides of the same coin. The chronology provides some illumination. On March 8th, the Gulf Co-ordinating Council (a regional military alliance controlled by Saudi Arabia) demanded a ‘no fly zone’ in Libya. Four days later, the Arab League adopted the same position. On March 14th, Saudi troops (under the banner of the Gulf


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INTERNATIONAL VIEW

W

5 In Palestine, Fatah and Hamas have come together to press Palestine’s bid at the United Nations for statehood

Co-ordinating Council) entered Bahrain. Three days later, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973, which mandated “humanitarian intervention” in Libya. Dialogue became impossible and a team of negotiators from the African Union had no option but to leave Triploli. The newly-installed regime in Libya owes its existence, position and power to the West. It is entirely beholden and will be expected to act accordingly.

hile the fundamentalist Saudis h a v e ( t e m porarily) stemmed the democratic impulse that threatens their rule, the state of Israel remains in a state of high anxiety. The loss of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak has been keenly felt among the Israeli leader-

ship, who routinely described him not as an ally but a ‘strategic asset’. They have also been shorn of the invaluable propaganda staple that saw Israel depicted as democracy’s shining light amid a morass of sordid dictator-

The impact of the Arab Spring on the Palestinians has been hugely positive. It has spurred political unity between Hamas and Fatah ships (even if most were propped up by the West). In February 2011, Egypt’s new ruling junta sent Tel Aviv a signal that could hardly be misinterpreted when they allowed an Iranian naval vessel to use the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979. They also moved to lift restrictions (imposed at Israel’s bequest) on the Rafah

border crossing with Gaza. Tel Aviv will hope that the $1.3billion which Egypt’s military receives annually from the US will serve to tame its more outlandish impulses. But Egypt is not the only ally of longstanding that Israel has lost of late. Diplomatic arrogance and a refusal to apologise for the 2010 murder of Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara has lost Tel Aviv significant friends and influence in Ankara. Simultaneously, there have been rebukes from Germany, a key European ally, and the United States, over the issue of settlements. But the impact of the Arab Spring on the Palestinians has been hugely positive. It has spurred political unity between Hamas and Fatah and provided the impetus behind Palestine’s demand for statehood at the United Nations. In 2006, free elections in Gaza saw Hamas triumph. That result was met with siege, boycott and slaughter as unleashed by Israel and its Western backers. Those events are ingrained in the psyche of the Arab world. But the Arab Spring has made a repeat impossible. Could it be that the Palestinian people are on the right side of history for once? IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 47


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Voices for the Arab Spring, weapons for the ruling regimes

INTERNATIONAL VIEW

BRITAIN, other European countries, the USA and Russia supplied large quantities of weapons to repressive governments in the Middle East and North Africa before this year’s uprisings despite having evidence of a substantial risk that they could be used to commit serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said in a new report in October. Arms Transfers To The Middle East And North Africa: Lessons For An Effective Arms Trade Treaty examines arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen since 2005. Helen Hughes, Amnesty International’s principal arms trade researcher on the report, said: “These findings highlight the stark failure of existing arms export controls, with all their loopholes, and underline the need for an effective global Arms Trade Treaty that takes full account of the need to uphold human rights. 48 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

“Governments that now say they stand in solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa are the very same as those who until recently supplied the weapons, bullets and military and police equipment that were used to kill, injure and arbitrarily detain thousands of peaceful protesters in states such as Tunisia and Egypt and are even now being deployed by security forces in Syria and Yemen.” The main arms suppliers to the five countries included in the report were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the USA and Britain. At least 11 states have provided military assistance or allowed exports of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Yemen, where some 200 protesters have lost their lives in 2011. These include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, the USA and Britain.


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INTERNATIONAL VIEW

Amnesty International has identified 10 states whose governments licensed the supply of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Colonel Mu’ammar alGaddafi’s Libyan regime since 2005, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Britain. At least 20 states have sold and supplied small arms, ammunition, tear gas and riot control agents, and other equipment to Egypt. The USA has been the biggest — annually providing $1.3billion. Others include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, and Switzerland. Amnesty International recognises that the international community has taken some steps this year to restrict international arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. But the organisation says that existing arms export controls had failed to prevent the transfer of arms in the preceding years.

“Arms embargos are usually a case of ‘too little too late’ when faced with human rights crises,” said Helen Hughes. “What the world needs is rigorous case by case evaluation of each proposed arms transfer so that if there is a substantial risk that the arms are likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations, then the government must show the red stop light. “This proactive ‘Golden Rule’ is already in the UN draft paper for the Arms Trade Treaty talks which resume at the United Nations in February. If the major arms exporters fail to adopt the Golden Rule, and recklessly continue a ‘business as usual’ approach, fuelling human rights crises as we have witnessed across the Middle East and North African region this year, it will needlessly shatter lives and undermine global security.” IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 49


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Women for Election ELECTIONS

WOMEN FOR ELECTION, which describes itself as a unique combination of hands-on support and networking for women entering politics, was awarded one of the three ‘impact’ prizes on the €650,000 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) Social Impact Programme in October in Dublin. Established by Niamh Gallagher from Dublin and Michelle O’Donnell Keating from Waterford, Women for Election is a non-partisan organisation with a vision of an Ireland with balanced participation of women and men in political life. Women for Election sets out to inspire and equip women to succeed in politics by providing a tailored training and support programme for women seeking to enter public life and building a cross-party network of political women committed to equal representation of women and men in Irish politics. Niamh Galalgher told IRIS - The Republican Magazine: “To date, Ireland has failed to maximise female talent at either local or national level.” She pointed out that in the 26-County general election 2011 just 86 of 566 candidates were women (15%) and 25 of the 166 elected were women (15%). “This is the best representation women have ever had in Dáil Éireann - our Dáil has never been less than 85% male. “Only five more women were elected in 2011 than in 1992. “At local level, the story is similar: women make up 16% of elected representatives, an increase of just 1% in ten years, despite comprising about one third of the membership of the main political parties.” She said the reasons for women’s under-representation in politics are well-rehearsed, and classified as ‘The 5 Cs’: 1) Confidence: women are less likely to go forward for selection;

2) Cash: women have less access to resources than men; 3) Candidate selection procedures: the processes by which political parties select candidates poses a significant obstacle to women’s political participation; 4) Culture: a gendered culture is prevalent even within left-wing parties; 5) Childcare: women are more likely to have this responsibility. Women for Election aims to address these barriers “and ensure that sufficient numbers of capable, competent and driven women are ready, willing and supported to run for political office”. Niamh Gallagher said: “The timing is right. We are five years from a general election and three years from the local and European elections. It is time for focused, practical action. Women for Election looks forward to working with Sinn Féin women.”

YOU CAN GET IN TOUCH WITH WOMEN FOR ELECTION AT

hello@womenforelection.ie

www.womenforelection.ie

50 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Twitter @women4election Facebook Women for Election


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Revolution is available from the Sinn Féin Bookshop

Images of insurrection Revolution: A Photographic History of Revolutionary Ireland 1913-1923 By Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc Mercier Press, €25 REVIEW BY MARK MOLONEY AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of Revolution by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc. This 288-page book is packed with photographs from one of the most important periods of Ireland’s history. While you are sure to have seen some of the images before, it is the in-depth com-

mentary that go along with them explaining ‘who, what and where’ is pictured that makes this book an absolute must for those interested in Irish history.

BOOKS

Other images included are taken from personal collections and appear in print for the very first time. As well as photographs of historic moments such as the Easter Rising, Revolution also gives the reader a glimpse into the life and hardships of ordinary people living in Ireland at the time. The book also emphasises the importance of photography as a propaganda tool at the time and includes a number of staged British propaganda photos which purported to show their men “repelling a rebel attack” during the 1916 Rising. Photos of the grizzly realities of war (such as one showing the bodies of four off-duty British soldiers who were captured, blindfolded, executed and dumped in a ditch by the IRA near St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork) also dispel the myths perpertuated by revisionists that the ‘War of Independence’ was a clean affair in comparison to the most recent period of armed struggle. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 51


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BOOKS

A City in Wartime / By Land By Sea is available through the Sinn Féin Bookshop

Dublin in historic times A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918 By Pádraig Yeates Gill & Macmillan, €24.99 REVIEW BY CATHAL Ó MURCHÚ “IN THE YEARS 1914 to 1918,” the cover notes say, “Dublin was utterly transformed.” No doubt this was a time of momentous change in Irish history as these years were part of the Irish revolutionary period which, for argument’s sake, can be dated roughly from the Lock-Out and foundation of Óglaigh na hÉireann in 1913 to the end of the Civil War in 1923. For many people, however, the ‘utter transformation’ proved to be inadequate. Nonetheless, the years of what was called ‘The Great War’ (1914-1918) were critical when new possibilities for significant change emerge and it is this particular segment of the period that Pádraig Yeates focuses on. He discusses many important events of the time such as the Bachelor’s Walk massacre; Redmond’s commitment to Britain’s war effort; recruitment of Dubliners into the British Army; the mount-

ing casualties on the Western Front; and, of course, the Easter Rising of 1916 itself, which proved to be the seminal moment in Irish history. Other events are dealt with such as the post-1916 mood; the AntiConscription Campaign and growing disillusionment with the war; Labour Party’s negotiations with Sinn Féin resulting in the Democratic Programme; and the 1918 general election. The prevailing politics in the book are

questionable at times when coming from a Left republican viewpoint. Yeates bemoans the fact that ‘labour’ (as in the labour movement) was made to ‘wait’ during the struggle for independence, without truly analysing why labour allowed itself to be outmanoeuvred by bourgeois elements in the national movement. He also talks about James Connolly’s execution as “a blessing in disguise” for the labour movement, which for revolutionary socialists and republicans is a particularly questionable statement. To understand the Left or labour/socialist movement, one has to remember that there was a major split internationally between the revolutionary socialists (who largely became communist) and the social democrats (who became reformist). The Irish Labour Party would very much reflect the latter tendency. This split would prove to be fundamental within the international Left, no less in Ireland itself. Overall, Pádraig Yeates has made a worthwhile contribution to a period of Irish history that poses many interesting and not-before-asked questions about issues such as the ambivalence of Dublin’s working class to the British military; the marginalisation of Labour by Sinn Féin and the Catholic Church; and how Dublin’s 92,000 Protestants fared during this time. Furthermore, this book is well-written and easily readable, a commendable feat for any historian.

An internee’s story By Land, By Sea By Patrick Feenan Esteem World Publications, €10.99 REVIEW BY STEPHEN SHAW BY LAND, BY SEA follows internee Patrick Feenan from his younger days living in north Belfast to his time spent on the Maidstone prison ship and Long Kesh internment camp. Out of his secondary school of around 500 students, more than 40 of Feenan’s friends and acquaintances would lose their lives in the conflict. Life onboard the prison ship and in the internment camp is described in great detail, as are the true stories of other prisoners the author met along the way. This book is an important addition to the growing number of biographies and works already published by ex-prisoners about their experiences of the conflict and their time spent inside British prison camps. It will

52 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Maidstone prison ship

also certainly make interesting reading for those who grew up in the Ardoyne, Ligoniel and the Oldpark areas of north Belfast as well as others who spent time in Long Kesh and elsewhere. One criticism I have is of the cover design and lay-out, which do not do the contents of the book justice. A more colourful cover and a sub-title explaining it’s a first-hand account of someone who was actually interned would certainly get it to a wider audience.


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Children of the Revolution is available through the Sinn Féin Bookshop

BOOKS

Families caught in conflict Children of the Revolution: The Lives of Sons and Daughters of Activists in Northern Ireland By Bill Rolston Guildhall Press, £8.95 REVIEW BY RITA O’HARE

THIS book of interviews with the now adult children of republicans or loyalists imprisoned, killed or on the run during the 30 years of conflict is not an easy read. It is not, thankfully, another psychological treatise about the ‘children of the Troubles’. The interviewees tell their own stories and those stories stand without interpretation by another. It is a challenging read for any of us who are ourselves parents of children who were directly affected by our involvement in the conflict. The sense of loss and bewilderment of young children trying to cope with what they saw as abandonment and the anger, grief and resentment at ‘not coming first’ is painful. The fact that so many children who had to deal with the sudden disappearance of a parent (in most cases a father), managed to not only cope and survive but grow strong and flourish is a testament to them. What is powerfully portrayed is the strength and determination of mothers to protect and support their children in the absence or death of a father and to do their best to nurture a relationship between their children and the imprisoned or absent parent. The visits to the jails were particular ordeals when the jail was in England or even further afield. Jeanette Keenan says: “My mammy was very strong. She was our stability.” David McMaster describes his mother in terms of open admiration: “My Mum to me was the hero.” For some, Mammy was gone too, as Jeanette Keenan’s was, in jail in England for a year as well as her father, Brian. And Mary Kennedy was eight or nine when both parents were interned: “One night you went to bed and the next morning you got up, there was no Mammy there and then there was no Daddy.” Mary recalls how she was afraid to let her mother out of her sight when she was released: “You were afraid to go to school and coming home and her not being there.” It’s a feeling echoed by Jeanette Keenan. It’s known as separation anxiety, a clinical term which does not convey the real trauma. I personally recognise and remember that.

Grandparents had a crucial role in taking on the care of children, particularly the Granny. Billy McQuiston, whose father was also in the UDA, remembers his ambivalence when he saw his daughter running to her grandmother for comfort instead of to him but realises what a great thing it was that his child had that relationship. His account of getting out of prison and meeting his daughter from school, her joy at showing him to her friends: “Look, that’s my Daddy! I told you I had a Daddy.” That almost broke his heart “because then I realised the hurt that I was causing my family. But it did not stop me.” Yet so many of these children say that they ‘just got on with it’, living as normal a life as possible in abnormal circumstances. Fiona Bunting was seven when her father and his friend were shot dead in their home by loyalists. Her mother was seriously injured. Fiona had to step over her father’s body to get

down the stairs to get help. She has no memory to this day of seeing him there but has vivid recall of everything else. “The images have been repressed.” Fiona talks about her fear and anger, tries still to understand, but also talks of her father’s stong beliefs about social justice and sees him as someone who “was living it”. As author Bill Rolston remarks in his introduction, it was where children had a close and supportive family circle, not necessarily politically involved, and lived in a community where other children and families were experiencing the same trauma who better coped with such an abnormal life. Though this seems to have been more evident for children from republican communities. In spite of what they came through, most of those interviewed speak with love and affection for their parents. Liz Rea talks about the respect she has for her father, the late former UVF leader Gusty Spence, and of the closeness of their family. One of the most affecting interviews is that with Dan McCann’s daughter. She has no real memory of her father. She was little more than a baby when he was killed as one of ‘The Gibraltar Three’ in 1988. The commemorations for her father, organised to remember and recognise him as a genuine tribute, are seen by her as a second taking away of him as her parent. There are others who wonder constantly ‘Why – why did they put this above all else, above me? What would our lives have been like if that had not happened?’ These are natural and understandable questions. Bill Rolston describes the resilience of his interviewees as shining through the book. What also shines through it is his compassion, respect and understanding for these voices. He has done a great service to all of us, parents and children from the conflct, and to the communities we come from, with this sensitive, moving, thought-provoking book. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 53


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BOOKS

Open Season is available through the Sinn Féin Bookshop

The sectarian campaign against Celtic’s Neil Lennon Open Season By George Galloway Miranda Media, £7.99 REVIEW BY JOHN HEDGES OPEN SEASON is the story of last season’s sectarian and racist campaign to drive Glasgow Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon out of Scotland. It has been a campaign of parcel bombs and bullets in the post aimed at the Lurgan-born Lennon, his family and public figures who are Celtic supporters; death threats on social media sites; and hate-filled graffiti painted in huge yellow letters outside the home of Neil, his wife and his children; and physical attacks on Lennon himself at football grounds and on the streets. Galloway’s book is a passionate, provocative, no-holds-barred look by one of the most outspoken voices in politics about one of the most vicious and violent campaigns against a sporting figure anywhere in Europe if not the world. Open Season says it “explodes the history of Scotland’s shame, anti-Irish Catholic racism and bigotry, and the culpability of the Scottish Establishment in attempting to sweep it under the carpet”. The ‘official’ trade union movement, the SWP and Dr John Reid (aka Lord Reid of Cardowan), the former Labour Party Secretary of State in the Six Counties who is now Chair of Celtic FC, all feel the wrath of George. The history of the Irish in Scotland, including emigration set against political upheaval in Ireland, is traced along with how Irish cultural identity was celebrated in some places, ‘modified’ in others but found its most colourful and exuberant expression in Glasgow Celtic FC. In the fervour that followed the Russian Revolution, the spirit that came to be known as ‘Red Clydeside’ grew and 100,000 people rallied in Glasgow’s George Square to celebrate May Day 1919. Galloway writes: “Irish Catholics were prominent in the massive crowd, with Irish Tricolours flying alongside the red flags which represented the workers’ cause. Prominent Scottish radical and trade union figures such as John MacLean and Willie Gallagher shared the platform with Sinn Féin speakers.” Wolfe Tone, James Connolly (born in Edinburgh), the H-Blocks Hunger Strikes and the Peace Process all feature as part of the background to Open Season. It was the touchline attack on Neil 54 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

Lennon by a Hearts fan at an away match in Edinburgh in May this year that sparked Galloway into writing Open Season. “It was the last straw,” Galloway writes. It’s a book about football and a book about more than football. It’s about emigration, culture, identity and being Irish in a political cauldron where communities are played off against each other by vested interests. Neil Lennon doesn’t want to be a cause. He just wants to do his job, do his best for Celtic, for the fans, for his family and for the community. If only the bigots would leave him alone to get on with it. » Open Season can be purchased either through Waterstones or direct from George Galloway’s office via his Facebook page.


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Romance, revolution and history is available through the Sinn Féin Bookshop

BOOKS

2.30 a.m. 8/5/16 My dearest wife Áine, Not wife but widow when theses lines reach you. I am without hope of this world and without fear, calmly awaiting the end. I have had Holy Communion and Fr Augustine has been with me and will be back again. Dearest ‘silly little Fanny’. My poor little sweetheart of – how many – years ago. Ever my comforter, God comfort you now. What can I say? I die a noble death, for Ireland’s freedom. Excerpt from the letter sent by Eamonn Ceannt to his wife, Áine, one hour before his execution as a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising

Romance, revolution and history

Straight from the Heart: Irish Love Letters Edited by Bridget Hourican Gill & Macmillan, €19.99 REVIEW BY JOHN HEDGES

THE TITLE might make this seem like an unusual choice for review in IRIS – The Republican Magazine but this beautifully-produced and illustrated 224-page volume contains excerpts from the love letters of some of Ireland’s most famous political and revolutionary personalities as well as other wellknown names in our history. The more than 60 love letters span the years from 1694 to 1998 with moving, uplifting and heart-breaking correspondence between:Theobald Wolfe Tone and Matilda Tone Daniel O’Connell and Mary O’Connell Robert Emmet and Sarah Curran Mary Ann McCracken and Thomas Russell Annie Hutton and Thomas Davis Charles Stewart Parnell and Katherine O’Shea Hannah Sheehy and Frank Skeffington WB Yeats and Maud Gonne Muriel Gifford and Thomas MacDonagh Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford Eamonn Ceannt and Áine Ceannt Peadar Kearney and Eva Kearney Harry Boland, Kitty Kiernan and Michael Collins

Other ‘big names’ included in the letters and biographies are Jonathan Swift, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Liam O’Flaherty, Iris Murdoch, and John Ford and Maureen O’Hara. ‘Ordinary people’ are not forgotten, with letters penned amongst the horrors of the trenches of the First World War and by emi-

grants writing home to their sweethearts. Editor Bridget Hourican describes these as “often as eloquent and heart-breaking as those written by the literati or historical giants as love can raise any man (or woman) to passion”. Straight from the Heart is one for anyone you know moved by passion, prose and the past. IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 55


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BOOKS

Tony Gregory is available through the Sinn Féin Bookshop

Tony Gregory on the outside of Leinster House

Local Hero Tony Gregory By Robbie Gilligan O’Brien Press, €19.99 REVIEW BY JOHN HEDGES TONY GREGORY is a legend in Dublin’s north inner city. The Independent left-wing TD for Dublin Central represented some of the most disadvantaged communities in Ireland until his death three years ago and he is deservedly remembered in Robbie Gilligan’s affectionate biography. It’s a portrait easy to read and enhanced by interviews with those closest to Tony Gregory through his years as an activist. It also has many photographs that include Tony with Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, Ronnie Drew, Mother Teresa and Charles J Haughey! In more than 20 years of living and working in Dublin’s north inner city, I never knew how to take Tony when I met him. Sometimes he was cheery, other times he was grumpy, but he was always passionate and dogged in defence of the communities and interests he stood for. He was a lifelong socialist. The author 56 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE

says Gregory joined not just Sinn Féin but also the IRA in 1964, helping to form the Republican Club in University College Dublin and becoming active in the Dublin Housing Action Committee in 1967. Gregory rose through the ranks of ‘Official Sinn Féin’, evading the British Army’s internment swoop in Belfast in 1971, and giving the Easter commemoration speech at Dean’s Grange in 1972. He left the ‘Officials’ later that year, disillusioned by

the ideological splits and machinations. In 1974, the charismatic Seamus Costello, who had also left the ‘Officials’, formed the IRSP and INLA, and Gregory agreed to join the IRSP “on paper”. When Costello was assassinated by the ‘Official IRA’ in Dublin in 1977 (not far from Gregory’s home, coincidentally), Tony was “devastated” and severed all connections with political organisations “more or less”. Community politics brought Gregory into contact with two other solid grassroots activists, Mick Rafferty and Fergus McCabe. Rafferty and McCabe had a different perspective on the North to Gregory’s but what united them were broad Left politics and a heartfelt commitment to changing social and economic conditions in disadvantaged working-class communities like Summerhill, Ballybough and North Wall. The ‘Gregory group’ looked at elections to complement street action as another way of trying to effect change. First a councillor and then elected a TD in February 1982, Tony Gregory’s place in history was cemented with the famous ‘Gregory Deal’, a package secured from Charles J Haughey when Gregory’s vote was the difference between Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael/Labour taking power. (Haughey’s government fell nine months later.) As well as the detail of the Gregory Deal


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BOOKS in an appendix, Robbie Gilligan’s book carries some terrific insights from inside the ramshackle community offices on Summerhill Parade, to where the wealthy ‘Squire Haughey’ was made to travel to hold talks. His summons to his mansion in Kinsealy was flatly rejected by Gregory’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. At their second meeting about the Gregory ‘shopping list’, Haughey is said to have exclaimed: “Lads, for Jaysus sake, I can’t nationalise the fuckin’ banks!” Nor could Haughey accept their nomination of trade union leader Phil Flynn of the Local Government & Public Services Union (now IMPACT) because Flynn was vice-president of Sinn Féin. Gregory was critical of the IRA’s armed struggle but when fellow North Inner City Councillor Christy Burke was the lone Sinn Féin member on Dublin City Council in 1985, three years before the Hume/Adams talks, Tony Gregory was invariably the only one to second a Sinn Féin motion. He also campaigned tirelessly for the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and Nicky Kelly as well as for the truth to be uncovered about the British state’s role in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. In 1985, when asked about his republicanism, Tony Gregory replied: “I believe that Britain is to blame for most of the violence in the North . . . and I have never hesitated from using my position as a TD to spell that out . . . But I am not going to stand

Tony Gregory (circled) at a national rally in Dublin in support of the H-Blocks Hunger Strikers in 1981

on a platform and call on young people to take up arms and fight against the British in the North. I will not ask people to do what I am not prepared to do myself.” What he did do, though, was put issues affecting working-class communities on the political agenda and show that grassroots campaigns can give people marginalised by the Establishment a voice. This included his stand with the community-based Concerned Parents Against Drugs movement in the 1980s despite media and state hostility.

The pluses and minuses of being an Independent (and Gregory’s independent turn of mind) are reflected in Gilligan’s book as largely a positive for Tony Gregory TD. Tony died in December 2008, aged 61, after a long illness. The local hero certainly made several dents in the armour of the Establishment and made a difference to many people’s lives. For that, he shall always be remembered. The question is: could Tony Gregory have achieved more as more than an Independent?

Tony Gregory (leaning on the railings) in an anti-internment protest in 1971 IRIS – THE REPUBLICAN MAGAZINE 57


IRIS back cover

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Le Bobby Sands (Gabriel Rosenstock a chuir i nGaeilge)

Tá guth i gcroí an duine, An eol duit cad é féin? Is ann dó ó thús ama, Beidh sé linn go deireadh ré. Rugadh é sularbh ann don domhan, De phréamh na beatha é, Ghearr sé anuas féithleoga an oilc Le scian ghéar. D’adhain sé tine sa dorchadas A chuir lasair faoinár gcroí, Dhein cruach de luaidhe na hintinne Go síoraí. Chaoin sé cois uiscí na Bablóine Is nuair a bhí an dóchas gann Scréach sé as corp réabtha A bhí céasta ar Chrann.

Rithim an Ama Chuir an leon is an claíomh chun báis é Sa tSean-Róimh fadó, Ach ba chlos an focal Spartacus Gan aon agó.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Bobby Sands Trust. The original version can be ordered direct as a poster at www.bobbysandstrust.com email: info@bobbysandstrust.com or from www.sinnfeinbookshop.com

Le Wat Tyler sea do mháirseáil sé, Chuir sceimhle ar thiarna is ar rí Sceimhle a sheas ina súile Mar mharbh-lí.

Aoibh air, naofa saonta, Roimh an Conquistador, Ceansa is neamheolach Ar chumhacht an óir. Réab sé trí shráideanna Pháras Is d’ionsaigh an sean-Bhastille, Shatail ar chloigeann na nathrach gur fhág sé í gan bhrí. Leagadh é ar Mhá na mBuabhall, D’fhulaing ocras is plá, Cuireadh a chroí i nGlúin Leonta Ach tiocfaidh a lá. Ba chlos a liú thar lochanna Chiarraí Is é ar a dhá ghlúin, Is maraíodh é, a dhorn san aer, Le croí fuar. Is faightear é i lóchrann dóchais, Níl teorainn lena réim, I gcroí gach treibh is cine Faoin ngréin. Scréach na laochra ar lár I súile na dtíoránach, Ag réabadh trí na spéartha Go dtí na beanna arda. Soilsíonn an cillín uaigneach seo Lena dhóchas, lena neart, An smaoineamh úd, dochloíte An chóir! An ceart!

IRIS - The Republican Magazine  

Issue No. 25 Jan-Mar 2012

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