Mí: Lúnasa 2011

Black Provos – The ANC And The IRA

Sinn Féin and the African National Congress - Martin McGuinness, Nelson Mandela and Gerry Adams meet in a very public display of the close alliance between the revolutionary movements in Ireland and South Africa

Sinn Féin and the African National Congress – Martin McGuinness, Nelson Mandela and Gerry Adams meet in a very public display of the close alliance between the revolutionary movements in Ireland and South Africa

One of the more famous descriptions to have emerged in the last thirty years for the former ANC leader and South African president Nelson Mandela came from Frank Miller, a senior Ulster Unionist Party politician in the north-east of Ireland, who dismissed Mandela as a ‘black Provo‘ (in other words a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army or ‘Provos‘). Miller represented a view common amongst the British Unionist minority in Ireland, also shared with their right-wing nationalist contemporaries in Britain, who saw little difference between the African National Congress and Sinn Féin on one hand and the associated guerilla armies of MK and the IRA on the other. All were left-wing, anti-colonial movements inimical to British interests both at home and abroad. Indeed many members of the Unionist minority felt a close affinity with the Boer minority in Apartheid-era South Africa: a centuries-old “settler” community trying to preserve their political, economic and military hegemony over the “natives”.

In Britain the conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher regularly impeded sanctions against the Whites-only regime in South Africa, despite the condemnations of the international community and domestic critics. She regarded the ANC as a ‘…typical terrorist organisation‘ and later explained on a visit to South Africa that her refusal to meet the imprisoned ANC leader was simple enough: ‘…the Prime Minister of England does not talk to terrorists‘. These sentiments were widely echoed throughout her government with Tory Party conferences proposing motions demanding Mandela’s execution while members wore suits with collars, ties and lapel badges emblazoned with the words ‘Hang Nelson Mandela‘ (one of Thatcher’s closest political allies, Sir Teddy Taylor stated that Mandela ‘…should be shot‘, a view Thatcher never disassociated herself from).

A wall mural in Belfast celebrating the close ties between the revolutionary movements in Ireland and South Africa

A wall mural in Belfast celebrating the close ties between the revolutionary movements in Ireland and South Africa

Even two decades on, though the current Tory leader and prime minster of Britain David Cameron has admitted that Margaret Thatcher and her then government were wrong in their policies on Apartheid South Africa, there are still those in his party who remain wedded to their old views. So it is probably with some outrage and a reaffirmation of their ancient prejudices that they heard today’s new revelations reported in the Irish Times of just how close the two liberation movements were:

‘THE IRA helped carry out one of the biggest bomb attacks against the South African apartheid government in the early 1980s, according to the memoirs of former senior ANC activist and politician Kader Asmal.

The former ANC cabinet minister and Trinity law professor, who died earlier this year, reveals in his memoirs published this week how volunteers recruited from Ireland carried out reconnaissance on one of the country’s most strategic installations – the Sasol oil refinery in Sasolburg, near Johannesburg, before it was bombed on June 1st, 1980.

The attack was carried out by Umkhonto we Sizwe, better known as MK, the military wing of the ANC, and struck a major blow against the apartheid state at the time.

In his book, Politics in my Blood , Asmal, founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement (IAAM), also claims Gerry Adams provided the IRA volunteers to carry out the mission after he contacted go-between Michael O’Riordan, then general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland.

“I went to see the general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, Michael O’Riordan, who was a man of great integrity and whom I trusted to keep a secret. He in turn contacted Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and it was arranged that two military experts would come to Dublin to meet two MK personnel and take them to a safe place for two weeks of intensive training. I believe the expertise the MK cadres obtained was duly imparted to others in the ANC camps in Angola.”

Asmal says he was later approached again by the MK high command who wanted two people to conduct a reconnaissance operation on the feasibility of attacking Sasol, South Africa’s major oil refinery, vital to the maintenance of the apartheid state.

“Once again, I arranged the task with Adams of Sinn Féin, through the mediation of O’Riordan. Though I no longer recall the names of the persons who volunteered, if indeed I ever knew them, they laid the ground for one of the most dramatic operations carried out by MK personnel.”

Recalling the 1980 attack as one the most daring acts of military insurgency in the struggle against apartheid, he writes: “. . . while the damage to the refinery was, according to the apartheid regime, relatively superficial, the propaganda value and its effect on the morale of the liberation movement were inestimable. Yet only Louise (my wife) and I knew the attack on Sasolburg was the result of reconnaissance carried out by members of the IRA.”

He added: “The attack on Sasolburg had nothing to do with the IAAM, and nobody knew about the story behind it except Louise and me.

“When the plant blew up, we were so excited I suppose some of the other IAAM people must have wondered if we had any connection or involvement.”’

In a building used by the Orange Order some members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland display the banners of various racist or colonial regimes from across history, including British Rhodesia, Apartheid South Africa and the Confederate States of America

In a building used by the Orange Order some members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland display the banners of various racist or colonial regimes from across history, including British Rhodesia, Apartheid South Africa and the Confederate States of America

Many years later the ANC played a crucial role supporting Sinn Féin in the Peace Process of the 1990s and early 2000s some of which was revealed by the Observer newspaper:

‘One of the last ANC militants to lay down arms after the war against apartheid played a leading role in convincing the IRA to move to its historic compromise over arms decommissioning last weekend, The Observer has learnt.

Sathyandranath ‘Mac’ Maharaj held a secret meeting with IRA leaders, including the hardline Marxist Brian Keenan, in Belfast in February, shortly after the British Government suspended the short-lived power-sharing executive. The one-time Communist ANC activist told Keenan and three other members of the IRA’s Army Council to ‘be creative’ over the arms issue.

According to republican sources, Maharaj’s advice helped propel the organisation towards its unprecedented offer to put arms beyond use and allow independent observers to monitor its weapons dumps. Maharaj was accompanied on the trip by Leon Wessels, a white member of the Cabinet who ran Pretoria’s security apparatus, but the former held the talks with the IRA leadership.

Maharaj is understood to have reported back to his ANC colleague and former trade union leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, that a breakthrough in the Northern Ireland deadlock could be achieved. Ramaphosa has since been appointed as one of the two observers to verify IRA arms dumps are sealed and guns have been put beyond use.

It is suggested Sinn Fein MPs Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness asked the ANC leadership to help them convince IRA sceptics to launch an initiative to break the deadlock.

Maharaj, like Keenan in Ireland, was initially sceptical about the politics of compromise at the end of apartheid. He was number three in the ANC’s military wing and laid down his arms only after Nelson Mandela had convinced him attacks on the security forces would damage reconciliation with the white community.

The IRA looks upon the ANC as ‘brothers’ in the struggle for national liberation and for more than two decades has maintained political links with the South African movement. However, there were never any formal military ties.’

Of course we can now see that there were very formal ties between Umkhonto we Sizwe or MK and the Irish Republican Army or the IRA. In fact the struggle between Irish Republicans and Apartheid-era South Africa went much further, for it involved the Boer-regime directly engaging in state-sponsored terrorism in Ireland through the supply of weapons, explosives and money to British terror factions in the country during the 1980s and ’90s. As the report above continues:

‘In the Eighties it was other South Africans who helped fuel the Ulster conflict. Apartheid agents indirectly armed both the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force 13 years ago, enabling the two loyalist organisations to intensify their violence up until the 1994 ceasefires.

Douglas Berndhart, an American-born agent for Boss, apartheid’s secret intelligence agency, put loyalists in touch with a Lebanese gunrunner, Joe Fawzi, in 1987. The UDA, UVF and Ulster Resistance paid Fawzi around £300,000 (stolen in a bank robbery in Portadown) for a large consignment of weapons, including hundreds of AK47s that had fallen into the hands of Lebanese Christian militias. These weapons had been captured from the retreating PLO, which was expelled from south Lebanon in 1982.

Ulster loyalists made two further attempts to gain arms directly from the apartheid regime. The UDA sent Brian Nelson to Johannesburg in the same year to make contact with Ulster expatriates living in South Africa who supported the loyalist cause. The trip came to nothing, probably because Nelson was an agent working inside the UDA.

A more serious bid to procure weapons took place a year later when Ulster Resistance, founded but later disowned by Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, tried to sell surface-to-air missile systems to apartheid agents in Paris. French intelligence arrested three Ulster men, Samuel Quinn, James King and Noel Lyttle, at the Hilton hotel as they were about to make contact with South African diplomat Daniel Storm.

Storm had offered Ulster Resistance weapons in return for stolen missile systems manufactured at Shorts aircraft factory in east Belfast. The apartheid government wanted the missiles to shoot down MiG aircraft flown by Cuban pilots in battles between Angolan Marxist forces and the South African Defence Forces. Ulster Resistance’s botched attempt to buy weapons from the Pretoria regime resulted in France and Britain expelling six South African embassy staff, including Storm, from their Paris and London missions.

The political leaders of the loyalist organisations that smuggled those Lebanese armaments into Northern Ireland have so far refused to follow the IRA’s lead and offer up a similar arms inspection deal. John White, a former UDA prisoner and now chief spokesman for the Ulster Democratic Party, said he would have preferred all paramilitary organisations voluntarily to destroy their arsenals.’

Peter Robinson, a founding member of the Ulster Resistance and future leader of the DUP, caught on camera in late 1984 during a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border with an automatic assault rifle. This same type of rifle was later imported from the Lebanon via British and South African intelligence services to arm the British terror factions in Ireland

Peter Robinson, a founding member of the Ulster Resistance and future leader of the DUP, caught on camera in late 1984 during a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border with an automatic assault rifle. This same type of rifle was later imported from the Lebanon via British and South African intelligence services to arm the British terror factions in Ireland

The obituary of the notorious British Intelligence agent Brian Nelson provides even more details on those who connived in facilitating the support of Apartheid South Africa for the militant separatists of the Unionist minority in Ireland, the close involvement of the British military and intelligence services, and the years of terrorism that stemmed from that:

‘Brian Nelson, who has died of a brain haemorrhage aged 55, features in today’s report by the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir John Stevens. In the early 1990s, Stevens, then a relatively lowly deputy chief constable in Cambridgeshire, was asked to conduct an inquiry into the relationship between the British army and Protestant paramilitaries, notably the Ulster Defence Association.

He soon came across Nelson, a fanatical and sectarian Protestant from Belfast’s Shankill Road, who was recruited in 1985 by British military intelligence to act as an army agent in the UDA, which he had joined a decade earlier. Nelson, a former soldier, had served with the Black Watch, and later took a building job in Germany

He performed his delicate and dangerous new task with great enthusiasm. His house and car, plus £200 a week expenses, were paid for by the British army (the British taxpayer). In 1987, soon after his recruitment, Nelson went to South Africa to shop for arms for the UDA and supervised the shipment of two huge batches of arms, at least one of which ended up in the hands of the paramilitaries.

Throughout his time in the UDA, Nelson worked closely with army intelligence, whose policy at the time was shamelessly to take sides: for the Protestant paramilitaries, who were seen as pro-British; and against the IRA, who were seen as the enemy. This policy drew British military intelligence into a gang war. Drawing on his sources in British intelligence, Nelson would pass on the names and addresses of known IRA activists to the UDA, whose gunmen would promptly go out and “execute” thesuspects.

The success of Nelson’s work commended him to the UDA hierarchy, who appointed him “head of intelligence”. But his system did not always work. In May 1988, Terry McDaid, a bricklayer, was at home watching television when masked gunmen smashed into his home and shot him dead. It was a mistake. The gunmen were looking for Terry’s brother Declan, whose name had been supplied by Nelson.

The policy of consistent collusion between British army special forces and Orange assassins was bitterly opposed in the 1970s by Colin Wallace, an army information officer at Lisburn with strong connections to intelligence, and Fred Holroyd, a British military intelligence officer in Northern Ireland. Both men were denounced and sacked.

Wallace was framed, and jailed for killing his best friend. In 1996, 10 years after his release, his conviction was quashed by the court of appeal. When Stevens discovered the role of Nelson in paramilitary sectarian murders, he insisted on Nelson’s prosecution, and he was arrested.

This caused dismay in the British army and its undercover organisation, the Force Research Unit (FRU). Stevens was adamant that he could not condone Nelson’s behaviour, and frantic negotiations followed. For nearly two years, Nelson was held in the relatively comfortable police “supergrass suite” in Belfast.

A deal was finally clinched in January 1992. Nelson agreed to plead guilty to five conspiracies to murder, and at least four sectarian murder charges against him were dropped. In a bizarre court case lasting less than a day, Nelson’s real role was effectively covered up. After a moving tribute to his sterling work for the British army from a then anonymous colonel, Nelson got 10 years.

Speaking from behind a security screen, and brushing aside Nelson’s record as an accomplice to murder, the colonel stressed the lives Nelson had allegedly “saved”. Nelson was released after serving less than half his sentence, and spent the rest of his life under a false identity.

Stevens, however, was reluctant to leave the matter there. Assisted by Hugh Orde, now chief constable in Northern Ireland, he continued his inquiries into the complicity of army intelligence and the FRU with sectarian murder gangs. Nelson was always at the centre of his inquiries.

The Stevens/Orde report is likely to deal in detail with many sectarian murders of the time, including the appalling murder in his home in 1989 of solicitor Pat Finucane. Nelson’s premature death saves him from further embarrassment. The anonymous “Colonel J” has since been identified as Brigadier Gordon Kerr, now military attaché to the British embassy in Beijing.’

Hundreds of Irish men, women and children, citizens of Ireland, lost their lives or were injured as a result of the steady supply of arms from White-minority rule South Africa to the British minority in Ireland, a supply chain overseen by the highest echelons of the British state in what was, and is, Britain’s Iran-Contra Scandal. However, no one in Britain has ever expressed any real interest in examining this campaign of state-sponsored terrorism waged on their behalf. On the contrary some have been implicit in covering it up, as with much else that happened in Britain’s 30 year Dirty War in Ireland.

Recent photo of Ulster Resistance terrorists, one armed with a British Army issued SA80 Rifle (the recent ‘A2′ variant only available to British Troops)

UPDATE 06.12.2013: For a closer examination of the ties between the British terror factions in Ireland, the British Intelligence services and the apartheid-regime in South Africa please read this article, The 1969 Truthers.

Below is a photo posted today from the Felons Club or the Irish Republican Felons’ Association, a charitable and social organisation for veterans of the Irish Republican Army. It shows the note from Nelson Mandela accepting his honorary membership of the club in the 1990s.

A note from Nelson Mandela to the Felons Club or the Irish Republican Felons’ Association, a charitable and social organisation for veterans of the Irish Republican Army, accepting his honorary membership of the club in the 1990s, Belfast, Ireland

A note from Nelson Mandela to the Felons Club or the Irish Republican Felons’ Association, a charitable and social organisation for veterans of the Irish Republican Army, accepting his honorary membership of the club in the 1990s, Belfast, Ireland

Specially invited by the ANC the president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams TD, is greeted with applause as he joins the Guard of Honour at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the late president of South Africa, 2013

Specially invited by the ANC the president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams TD, is greeted with applause as he joins the Guard of Honour at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the late president of South Africa, 2013

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The Independent Newspaper – Defending The Indefensible

Two weeks ago I was amongst the first online bloggers and commentators to highlight a book review by the British journalist Roger Lewis in the right wing Daily Mail newspaper where he described the Welsh language as a ‘monkey language’ and claimed that Welsh speakers were turning Wales into a ‘foreign country’.

The controversy that blew up caused a huge reaction in Wales itself but was largely dismissed by the British political and media establishments. Indeed it became something of an excuse for further bigoted remarks towards the people of Wales across a spectrum of British news media and online forums.

However in a move supported by many in Wales the Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards contacted the British Home Secretary Theresa May and the British Press Complaints Commission, pointing out that though the views expressed in the article were entirely the concern of the writer some of the phrasing used by him carried racist overtones. As stated in Wales Online:

‘In his letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Mr Edwards writes: “The article is a disgraceful slur on the people of Wales. It is deeply inflammatory as the representations I have received indicate. The article equates Welsh nationality with mental illness. It indicates that the only way to achieve social and economic progress is to move to England. That Wales has been turned into a ‘foreign country’ as a result of Welsh language equality legislation.

It describes our national tongue as a ‘moribund monkey language’. This is an abhorrent comment considering that Welsh is one of the oldest living European languages, and comes only a week after the National Eisteddfod was held in Wrexham, one of Europe’s largest cultural festivals. The article throughout resembles the sort of language often associated with fascists in a different context.

It is often said that hatred of the Welsh is the only remaining form of acceptable racism. Articles like this further that perception…”’

Now, incredibly, the supposedly liberal centre-left British newspaper, the Independent, has stepped forward in a defence of the indefensible that stretches credulity and facts to beyond breaking point. According to the journalist Matthew Bell (with his highly original opening line):

‘Have you heard the one about the Englishman, the Welshman and the Plaid Cymru MP? It doesn’t end well for the MP. A chorus of Welsh personalities has rounded on Jonathan Edwards, the member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, after he reported a book reviewer to the police, and wrote to the Home Secretary to complain the review was “sick” and “racist”. They say that he is giving the Welsh a bad name by overreacting.

But Mr Edwards’s response has drawn nothing but criticism from his colleagues. “I can’t believe Jonathan Edwards has risen to the bait,” says Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda in South Wales. “Roger Lewis’s piece is fatuous nonsense, but the last thing people want is a moaning version of Welsh nationalism. Wales is at its best when it is triumphantly insouciant about the criticism of others, and if we can’t take a bit of scabrous attack without running to the police, it’s a sad day for Wales.”

But others have gone further, criticising Mr Edwards for his assault on the freedom of the press. “With a free press, not everything that is written is going to be pleasant,” says Lembit Opik, the former MP for Montgomeryshire. “But people have the right to hold objectionable views.

“The best way to promote the Welsh language is to promote the positive, not to prosecute the negative. It can look a little bit oversensitive. He needs a reality check. If I had tried to prosecute people every time I didn’t like what they said, I would have become a barrister.”

Last night, Mr Lewis said he had been inundated with messages of support from Welsh and English people, including Stephen Fry and Gyles Brandreth. “I was quoting jokes made by Kingsley Amis in The Old Devils. He won the Booker Prize for that, and I get reported to the police.”

When Mr Edwards’s allegations against Mr Lewis were reported in the Western Mail, it provoked one of the biggest response from readers its website had ever experienced.

“Why write to the Home Secretary?” wrote one. “It’s a free press, and not North Korea. It’s hardly ‘inciting hatred'; it’s expressing dislike, which last time I looked, we were – just about – still free to do. Anything else he wants to alert the Cabinet to? Sun not yellow enough for him? Too much rain? He should grow up and do whatever MPs are supposed to do, which even in their la-la land of self-importance can’t encompass this petty and trivial meddling.”

Carol Vorderman, the former Countdown presenter who grew up in Prestatyn, North Wales, said yesterday that a sense of humour is usually a Welsh trait. “Roger Lewis is just doing what modern-day critics are paid to do, which is give everything a vicious pounding while attempting humour,” she said.’

Wow. That is some ‘chorus of Welsh personalities’. Lets see now. Two men who are members of political parties that are bitter rivals of Plaid Cymru in Wales? One a current Labour MP who laps up media attention with his rent-a-quote style when not embroiled in other controversies. One a former Liberal Democrat MP who is not Welsh and only moved to Wales after standing in seats across Britain in a series of increasingly desperate attempts to get elected to the British parliament before becoming a C-List celebrity through dating a, ehpop star. Oh, and Carol Vorderman, a minor TV celebrity who is widely perceived to be sympathetic to the centre-right Conservative Party (which also contests against Plaid Cymru in Wales).

As for the other swathe of Welsh celebrities mentioned in the article there is… umWell, there’s some nameless person who posted a Comment under an online article on a local newspaper site in Wales, and, er

Oh, well there is Stephen Fry and Gyles Brandreth. They’re named as part of the evidence of the ‘chorus’ that expressed disapproval for Jonathan Edwards actions. Except of course they’re sort of not Welsh. Nor do they live in Wales. Or in fact do they have any association with Wales in any way shape or form.

So, in actual fact, this vast list of personalities in Wales condemning Jonathan Edwards is made up of one Labour MP, one former Lib Dem MP turned media buffoon, one former TV presenter who is close to the Tory party, some bloke who posted some comment on some local news site, one English B-List television celeb and former Tory MP, and one English TV and movie actor, writer and Twitterephile.

Amazing.

Perhaps we should leave the last words to Jasper Rees, author of the book Bred of Heaven, the review of which reignited the protests of British media bias and discrimination towards the Welsh people:

‘“People like Roger Lewis and people in the media who make these statements are, in my view, utterly risible and should not be given a platform.

One knows for certain that if you substitute any other language or culture or ethnicity for Wales, Welshness or the Welsh, it would not get in the paper.

I hope that Jonathan Edwards has every success and I hope that he gets a reply. I hope that it is taken seriously by the Home Secretary and that something is somehow done about it, because these attacks on Welsh culture, as embodied by the Welsh language, cannot be allowed to go on.”’

Sitting At The Back Of The Bus – But Not For Much Longer…

The Irish language on TV3?

Well not quiet. Ever since TV3 snatched away the exclusive broadcast rights to the GAA’s All-Ireland Minor Championship finals in hurling and football there has been considerable controversy over the British-owned television channel’s ambiguous responses on whether or not it would continue to broadcast the games in Irish, following on from RTÉ’s popular coverage of the events. I wrote about this a few months ago and was less than sanguine about the chances of an exclusively English-speaking television station actually taking notice of the fact that we live in a bilingual nation and I was right – and wrong. A report on Breaking News explains why:

‘The tradition of live TV broadcasts of the GAA All-Ireland Minor finals in Irish will continue after an announcement by TV3 today.

TV3 and its sister station 3e will provide a simulcast broadcast of the finals on September 4 (Hurling) and 18 (football).

In what will be a first for Irish broadcasting, TV3 and 3e will offer viewers the choice of language in which to watch the All-Ireland Hurling and Football Minor Finals.

Commentary on 3e will be broadcast as Gaeilge while TV3 will broadcast commentary in English.

The All-Ireland Minor Hurling final between Galway and Dublin on September 4 will be the first Irish language programme to be broadcast on either TV3 or 3e.’

3e was a minor cable channel acquired and rebranded by the TV3 Group in 2008 and up to now its only real claim to fame has been the shallowness of its programme schedules, with a trashy diet of cheap British and American imports that make its broadcast stable-mate in TV3 look like high-brow television (and that’s saying something). As it is 3e continues to be largely a cable and satellite entity, with little presence on the terrestrial or analogue TV channels and an average audience figure of around 1% (though that may change with the move to digital television broadcasting and greater prominence on the Saorview service).

The decision by the management of TV3 to simulcast the games in English and Irish is a surprising one given the network’s broadcast philosophy (cheap, lowest denominator television for the greatest viewership). However it does perhaps speak volumes about the current status of the Irish language and the Irish speaking population in Ireland. A decade or more ago the TV3 Group would probably have taken the commercially-driven decision to broadcast the championship games in English only with little recourse by those who opposed or felt disenfranchised by the move, and little reaction from the wider media or general public.

After all in its thirteen year history TV3 has never broadcast a programme in the Irish language. As Ireland’s ‘independent television network’ that says much for the shameful manner in which broadcast regulations in Ireland were ‘liberalised’ by our corrupt incompetent political establishment, the failure to legislate for linguistic and cultural equality suiting the demands of the ‘private market’. TV3 instead became a moderately profitable cash-cow for a series of foreign owners (presently it is a London-based investment company called Doughty Hanson & Co) with a schedule of foreign TV programming and simulcasts with the British network ITV (hence the description of TV3 as ITV Ireland or the rather more biting acronym of TVWB – TV West Brit).

However, the times have changed.

The Irish-speaking population is no longer the powerless and discriminated minority of yesteryear, despite the continued bigotry of some in the Anglophone communities. What was fringe has become mainstream, and the Irish community today includes men, women and children from every region, every class and every walk of Irish life. The Irish-speaking areas of the 21st century are just as likely to be found in Dublin’s working class inner city or middle class suburbs as in some rural, west coast setting. The old paradigms no longer apply and that, perhaps, is one reason why a commercial enterprise like TV3, whose main purpose is to make money – and profit – by gaining advertisers through audience numbers, has opted to provide a dual-language service for these particular broadcasts. If there is money to be made there will always be someone there to exploit it: and in any language.

Of course some might take a more cynical view and regard this as merely a sop to a ‘vociferous minority’ or the token use of an available minor television channel by the TV3 Group in order to deflect criticism of an unpopular decision to show the games in English on their main channel. However that still says much, for even the most vociferous of minorities will gain nothing for all the noise they might make unless they have some real power and influence – and numbers. And a simulcast in Irish will cost the TV3 money: money on facilities, transmission, programming and presenters (though of course we will have to wait and see just how all this will work out and whether the Irish language programming will actually be ‘on the cheap’).

So there must be some pay-off in it for them more than simply silencing critics. Will this go towards the 30% of ‘made in Ireland’ programming they are legally obliged to produce? TV3 successfully lobbied in 2009 to have 3e added to the conditions governing their original contract with the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland: does mean their 30% can now be split across two channels, making it far easier to achieve with minimal real input?

Naturally none of this controversy would have arisen if the GAA had insisted that Irish be maintained as the language of transmission for the championship games as part of the new deal signed with the TV3 Group, or at least retained the Irish language broadcast rights to the finals and sold them to someone else (separate broadcasting contracts for different languages is the norm in multilingual nations across Europe and has been for decades). In this area the GAA has let down both itself and its supporters very badly indeed and an urgent review of its media policies is needed. After all Rule 4 of the GAA’s regulations states:

‘The Association shall actively support the Irish language, traditional Irish dancing, music, song, and other aspects of Irish culture. It shall foster an awareness and love of the national ideals in the people of Ireland, and assist in promoting a community spirit through its clubs.’

However there may be some grounds for optimism here. There are countless examples in history of minority opinions becoming those of the majority. It could be that the Irish rights activists of this century will prove to be the equivalent of the environmental activists of the last century, for it was in the latter half of the last century that environmentalism went from being the isolated concern of a ‘few’ to the mainstream philosophy of the ‘many’.

So, though relegated to the colder fringes of Irish television broadcasting in 3e than the sunnier climes of TV3, the future doesn’t look as dark as it might have been. The TV3 of ten years ago would have simply ignored the Irish language and the Irish language community. While Irish speaking men, women and children may not be allowed to ride at the front of the bus just yet at least now they are actually allowed on the bus. And from the back the only place to go is forward.

Scottish – A Modern Language For A Modern Nation

In the Scotsman newspaper John Campbell challenges the Scottish Government to build on the high level of acceptance and support for the native Scottish language displayed in a recent public survey after many decades of indifference or hostility within the general populace:

‘The news that Gaelic enjoys considerable public support will enrage some detractors whose hostility has polarised discussion on the language.

It might also surprise native speakers and learners of Gaelic who find very little in print that might support its use in the home, the community, or the workplace.

That is why I have written an open letter to Alasdair Allan, the new minister for learning and skills, asking him to clarify his government’s intentions for Gaelic. Dr Allan speaks Gaelic and Scots, and as a student was able to resolve hitherto implacable official attitudes against use of those languages in higher education. It would be difficult to think of anyone better qualified to accept ministerial responsibility for language planning.

If the condition of the print industry associated with an endangered language is an indication of government plans for its development, then the Scottish Government has so far shown very little real vision for Gaelic as a modern European language.

There is no provision for adult literacy, the range of dictionaries and adult learning materials is inadequate, there is a chronic shortage of trained editors and opportunities for adult learning are severely restricted.

Experts warn against restricting threatened languages to arenas where they are maintained as second languages by academic elite groups, who can be called on for tokenistic displays of “heritage and culture”.

Does the Scottish Government have any real plan to revitalise Gaelic as a living language and to secure its status, as required by the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, on a principle of equal respect with English?’

One could ask the same question of the present Irish Government, at least part of which seems to be made up of the same vociferous lobby of Anglophone bigots who oppose the modern expression of Ireland’s native language and culture in favour of the dead hand of an anachronistic Anglicised-Irish colonial past.

Jamie Bevan, Welsh Rights Activist, Jailed By British Authorities

News from Wales that Jamie Bevan, a Welsh rights activist with Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), is to be imprisoned by the British authorities for seven days. According to Wales Online:

‘A WELSH language campaigner has been sent to jail for refusing to comply with his sentence for breaking into an MP’s office to protest against S4C cuts.

He told supporters gathered outside the Cardiff Magistrates Court this morning: “I’m ready willing and happy to face the possibility of prison and hopeful this will spark some kind of sensible talk on the position the government in London is taking.”

…Bevan’s actions were part of a campaign against government plans to cut their grant to S4C by 94% and merge the channel with the BBC.

On March 6 Bevan and another activist smashed windows to get into the Conservative MP’s office, before damaging a door, pushing computers off desks and spraying Welsh slogans on walls and cabinets. They then called police and waited at the scene so they could be arrested.

He told the court: “The politicians in London continue to ignore all the organisations and voices in Wales over S4C, they continue to insult our small nation.”

Bevan was also sentenced to five days in prison to run concurrently for an earlier offence of criminal damage for painting Welsh slogans at the Welsh Government buildings in Cathays Park.’

It is clear from the court case that the damage caused to the office of the Conservative MP Jonathan Evans was entirely minor, and Jamie’s only offence was to paint a slogan in Welsh on a wall supporting calls for a proper television service for Wales. He had not ‘trashed a Conservative MP’s office in protest over funding cuts to a Welsh language TV station’ as the English-based Huffington Post UK inaccurately described it nor was he guilty of ‘vandalising a Welsh Assembly building’ either.

The website of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg carries a full report of Jamie’s trial and sentencing and they are calling for support from Welsh and Celtic Nationalists everywhere:

‘Jamie Bevan, 35 years old from Merthyr Tudful, is the first language activist to be imprisoned over the future of Welsh language broadcasting for almost 30 years. He was convicted of breaking into the office of Cardiff North MP Jonathan Evans, and painted a slogan on the wall of the building. The non-violent action was part of the campaign against government plans to cut their grant to S4C by 94% and merge the channel with the BBC.

In a previous hearing, Jamie Bevan was ordered to be tagged and pay compensation of £1,020. He has refused to be tagged in an effort to draw further attention to the threat to S4C, the only Welsh language TV channel in the world.

In a further sign of the peaceful nature of the protest, a Church Minister read a message to a crowd of supporters as they gathered to hear the verdict. Addressing Cardiff Magistrates Court, Jamie Bevan said:

“The politicians in London continue to ignore all the organisations and voices in Wales over S4C, they continue to insult our small nation.”

“I didn’t act for my own benefit. I didn’t ignore the curfew for my own benefit. And neither do I refuse to pay fines or costs for my own benefit. I protested, and continue to protest, out of principle, without self-righteousness, completely confident that I am doing the only thing I can under the undemocratic circumstances we face.”

“In their first application to refuse bail, the police said that I was someone without any respect for law and order. May I say that I live the vast majority of my life legally and orderly, working full time, and more, a responsible and loving father. But I don’t respect a system of law and order which picks and chooses who they defend and when they act democratically or undemocratically.”

“No social injustice has ever changes through cowardly accepting rules imposed by the few who protect only their own selfish interests. We must push against the system if we are to see real change which is for the benefit of our communities.”

Bethan Williams Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) appealed to people to refuse to pay their TV licence in support of Jamie Bevan’s sacrifice for the future of the language:

“We’re asking people to refuse to pay their TV licence as a sign of support for Jamie. If the Government doesn’t listen to the united voice of people in Wales – who oppose the savage cuts which put S4C’s future in doubt – more and more of our young people will face prison. That’s the result of the ill-considered decision of the Westminster Government to make a 94% cut in their grant to the channel.”

“It’s terrible that after the struggle of the seventies and eighties, we are in a situation where we have to campaign again for something that was won decades ago. I hope the Government will take note of Jamie’s sacrifice for Wales’s unique language; a treasure for everyone who chooses to make Wales their home.”

People are refusing to pay the TV licence until the Government ensures independence for the channel and sufficient finance to run the service.’

For more information please contact Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) at post@cymdeithas.org or phone 01970 624501.

 

Welcome To An Irish Ireland?

In Ireland we have the insane situation where a nation with its own native language has named the features of its landscape in that native language yet in our daily lives we are frequently forced to use the often bizarre Anglicised versions of those native names to suit the prejudices of some vociferous bigots in the Anglophone community. It’s as if we still live under the mandate of the foreign colonial rule that gave us those Anglicised names and that Anglicised community of English-speaking Irish people. To call it anachronistic madness is to put it mildly and it is indicative both of the status of Ireland’s Irish speaking population as second class citizens with second class rights and of the colonised mind-set of a minority of the English speaking population.

When the day comes that Irish people can use their own native names for their own native villages, towns and cities, without reference to some foreign inventions from our colonial past, then we will have truly achieved our independence. But in the meantime we are not alone in our struggle towards progress and modernity, as this article from the Inverness Courier aptly illustrates:

‘IT is difficult to walk around Inverness and not see some evidence of the ancient language. Whether it is on a road sign, or on the side of a public building, Gaelic is prominent. But for many native speakers and those trying to increase the status of the language, Scotland lags way behind many other countries.

It is an issue close to the heart of Inverness Courier columnist Roddy MacLean, who is trying to counter the negativity surrounding the promotion of Gaelic and the critics who question its value, particularly at times of austerity.

The Inverness-based journalist, broadcaster and educator has published a booklet on Gaelic signs and maps to highlight how much further Scotland must come to catch up with other countries, such as Wales and Ireland.

Gaelic, he argues, has suffered discrimination and a “second rate treatment” at the hands of state institutions for centuries and he describes the general view of Gaelic when he was growing up as an “anachronism”. However, he always vowed the language would be a central part of his life — his father and grandfather were native Gaelic speakers on the west coast of Scotland.

But it was a trip to Ireland in 1982, which really highlighted the gulf which existed. “As I walked onto the green land of Èirinn I saw what was effectively ‘my language’ staring down at me from signs,” he writes. “Not only was Dublin signposted, but so was Baile Atha Cliath. Gaelic signs abounded. It hit me like a punch in the midriff. I felt angry, filthy angry, that Scotland had betrayed its heritage in such a callous manner.

“The Irish had taken ownership of their country and their language. We had not. No longer was I going to accept Gaelic being hidden away like a dirty secret in Scotland. For Ireland in 1982, read Scotland in 2010.”

Using the example of signs and maps, Mr MacLean notes the issues which exist in Scotland – from national organisations advertising bilingually in Wales, but not Scotland, to signs in places of special cultural significance to Gaels, not automatically bilingual.

“Even where authorities have accepted the validity of bilingual signage in a bilingual community, there are still issues to be resolved,” he adds.

Using examples, Mr MacLean notes the difference in signage across the country – from the Gaelic above the English, to Gaelic below the English, to each language appearing in a different font, size or colour.

“There seems to be no national consensus on these matters and this can be a source of frustration for the non-Gaels in our community,” he said. “They are not able to locate ‘their’ language (English) by just glancing at a sign, knowing where it will be.”

Without uniformity, he argues, mixed messages are being sent on the acceptability of each language.

He also doesn’t buy the well-rehearsed argument that bilingual signage is a waste of public money.

“I would contend that the acceptable of bilingualism should be automatic,” he continued. “Visit a hospital in Wales and you’ll see it. I very much doubt that the Welsh health authorities have sacrificed clinical excellence in creating bilingual signage — they have simply built bilingualism into their thinking and planning, so that Welsh language signage is not seen as an extra expense.

“We need the same mindset here, and not just in the health service. Gaelic on signage should not be viewed or counted as an extra expense, it should be seen as a fundamental aspect of delivery on the remit of the organisation.”

And it is not just about promoting the status of Gaelic for native speakers, but, he argues, is important for non-speakers too so they can engage with the land.

“It is a founding language of our nation, it has been spoken by Scots throughout the entire history of Scotland, it remains a living language, it covers vast areas of our landscape and maps and it has a unique culture associated with it. For those features alone, if nothing else, it ought to be valued.”

However, he remains optimistic. New research by the Scottish Government shows 81 per cent of the public feel it is important that Scotland does not lose its Gaelic language traditions. The report, Public Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language, also indicates 65 per cent think more should be done to promote Gaelic in Scotland. “There is, ahead of us, a generation of Scots who will hold the Gaelic language in the sort of esteem which the Welsh have won for their language in Wales,” he writes.’

I wholeheartedly agree with Roddy MacLean’s views on the status of the Scottish language in times past but I similarly share his hopes for the future.

In Ireland we are still struggling with the legacies of our colonial past, as I mentioned above, a struggle that manifests itself in almost every area of our lives, even, as in Scotland, with something as seemingly innocuous as road signs. But as the designer Garrett Reil points out:

‘The Government’s Statement on Language promises equal status for Irish but the reality of our road signs effectively renders it a secondary language.

In the Official Languages Act 2003, (Section 9) Regulations 2008, special care is taken to ensure Irish is principally prominent in signs…

(2) The following provisions shall apply to a sign in the Irish and English languages placed at any location in the State by a public body:

  1. the text in the Irish language shall appear first,
  2. the text in the Irish language shall not be less prominent, visible or legible than the text in the English language,
  3. the lettering of the text in the Irish language shall not be smaller in size than the lettering
  4. of the text in the English language,
  5. the text in the Irish language shall communicate the same information as is communicated by the text in the English language.

But the legislation provides an ‘opt-out’ for road signs. Irish is described as “a fully fledged modern European language” in the Government’s Statement on Language(1827kb PDF file) Surely, a modern and living language should not be ‘ghettoised’ and Irish place names deserve to be read as easily as English.’

 

Indeed, the placement of the Irish language on road signs across Ireland clearly indicates its secondary status, indeed the implication that it is a language foreign to Ireland not least by the use of Italics:

‘“Italic is sometimes used for secondary information, as in France. I haven’t seen that anywhere else. More often it is a light [weight] beside a regular, or medium roman that is given this job. [See] Schiphol airport and several other airports, such as Reykjavik, Iceland.” Gerard Unger (Reil 2006)

Unger’s comment about ‘secondary information’ is incisive, the Irish language appears devalued by setting in Italics. In general typographic use – italics are employed for very specific purposes – most commonly for a use of a foreign language expression.

“Foreign words and phrases… should be set in italics unless they are so familiar that they have become anglicised and so should be roman.” (Economist 2000)

In terms of signage where stress or differentiation is required, Bold type is preferred.

“In single or few words, style in typography is less of a discriminating factor than weight” (Spencer et al. 1973a)

Furthermore, italics are best avoided for use in signs (Barker & Fraser, 2000). And, any solution which employs different type styles for each language, is likely to cause dissatisfaction on grounds of prominence…

“Using different font styles within a given typeface – using a different font for each language – will inevitably make one version less legible than the other.” (Welsh Language Board 2001)’

It is quiet obvious that the standard orthography of Irish road signs contributes to degrading the status of our national language even further, and favours the English language as being of higher importance. As Reil shows this is more important than it would initially seem:

‘…it is notable that motorway signs become a visible expression of national identity. I would argue that this even more the case in countries with dual-language signs. Margaret Calvert, co-designer of Transport mentions this unintentional by-product in relation to the design of the UK’s signs…

We never thought of it as a corporate identity, because a corporate identity is not just signs, but if you see it everywhere, it is part of the look of Britain. For me, and this is speaking of London, it goes with red buses and black cabs. (Poynor et al. 2004)

This element of identity goes far beyond a simple visual phenomenon in bilingual jurisdictions like Ireland. The ‘accidental’ nature of the design of our road signs to date has not been a positive in terms of identity, making Ireland the butt of humour and longstanding visitor complaints (Bord Fáilte 2000), rather than a leader.

Clearly, our bilingual signs do not follow best practise. But, our road signs are one of the most visible statements we make about the importance of the Irish language, becoming part of our ‘linguistic landscape’ (Puzey, 2007). As such, in a time where we are committed to improving the use of Irish and have affirmed its constitutional status as our first language, there is an opportunity to lead the way. This would go beyond the matter of language and affirm Ireland as a design and research-focused economy.

Surely, a modern and living language should not be ‘ghettoised’ and deserves more than a faux celtic rendition of a few typographic characters. Likewise, Irish place names surely deserve to be read as easily as English.’

It is clear that we need to reassess the whole way we look at our national landscape. While some favour placing the Irish language in the position of prominence with the English following behind, I would argue for a more radical and modernist approach of simply dropping the Anglicised names altogether and returning to the original Irish names. To put it simply, Irish names for an Irish landscape. If we can, with the stroke of a ministerial pen, change from miles to kilometres, smoking to non-smoking, pounds to euros, and the hundred other changes made by government that we all accept and live with, then surely it is possible to return own native language for our own native landscape?

Either that or we will forever live in some bastardised, Anglo-American West Britain.

The Irish And Scottish Languages – A Union Of Hearts And Minds

For all you fellow Gaelic Republicans out there, some more good news, this time via the Belfast Telegraph:

‘A cultural centre renowned for promoting the Irish language in Belfast has started classes in Scottish Gaelic.

The Ormeau Road venue An Droichead, which is Irish for The Bridge, has formed links between nationalists, unionists and diverse ethnic minority communities.

The site includes an Irish medium school, but its purpose-built cultural centre has become widely known as a top venue for celtic music.

The organisers of the annual festival at An Droichead included Scottish Gaelic in their schedule after a successful cross-community project saw people from East Belfast and the south of the city learn Irish and the Scottish equivalent.

Feile organiser Ray Giffen said the classes in Scottish Gaelic were in keeping with its celebration of celtic culture seen in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“It has always been part of our cultural diversity programme to build bridges between people and to bridge the language links between Ireland and Scotland,” he said.’

This follows on from the survey results published by the Scottish Government showing the growing acceptance and status of the Scottish language in Scotland itself, and this new gesture by An Droichead towards that language here in Ireland can be only a good sign in the renewed linguistic and cultural links between our two Gaelic nations.

Na Gaeil Abú!

The Labour Party And The Official IRA – They Haven’t Gone Away, You Know

Proinsias de Rossa - he give you happy ending!

Proinsias de Rossa – he give you happy ending!

The hijacking of the leadership of the Irish Labour Party by Official Sinn Féin / Official IRA Sinn Féin the Workers Party / Official IRA the Workers Party / Official IRA / Group B Democratic Left in the 1990s is one of the great putsches of Irish political history. The sequence of events are clear enough. In the late 1960s the higher echelons of Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army had come under the influence of would-be communist revolutionaries more concerned with liberating the global working classes than the Irish communities in the British Occupied North of Ireland. The fact that the working classes of the world weren’t all that sanguine about the glories of communist liberation and that Irish citizens living in the north-east of the country were rather more concerned about being murdered in their beds by rampaging mobs from the British ethnic minority than Marx or Lenin didn’t overly concern these newbie Reds. The proletariat would follow where the revolutionary leadership led them (for the leadership knew better).

By 1969 the Republican movement was split into two ideological camps with Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army divided into Official (‘communist’) and Provisional (‘nationalist’) wings. Official Sinn Féin (OSF) gradually dumped all pretences of being an Irish Republican or Nationalist party and became just another micro-grouping of super-serious European Marxist-Leninist beardies, albeit with a rather handy military wing in the form of the Official IRA (OIRA). By the late-1970s the OIRA were on ceasefire while OSF played at holier-than-thou working class politics, decrying all forms of (Irish) nationalism while making some rather odd friends across the barricades amongst the British separatist minority in Ireland – much to the approval of their fellow communists in Britain who kindly gave their imprimatur to the whole exercise at which their Irish puppies happily wagged their tails (and some still do). They also managed to infiltrate several key areas of influence amongst Ireland’s media elite, particularly the News and Current Affairs Department of RTÉ, where they openly exercised a tight control deliberately setting news agendas and self-censoring reports from the north-eastern part of the nation.

Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run, Run, Run, Here Comes The Farmer With His Gu- Oooops!

Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run, Run, Run, Here Comes The Farmer With His Gu- Oooops!

By the 1980s OSF had gone through several transformations to become the Workers Party, a straightforward Irish communist party in all but name, with the usual anti-democratic authoritarian tendencies. Wedded to its pure ideology and intolerant of any dissent or disagreement the organisation in the north of Ireland became a by-word for street thuggery and intimidation hidden behind the genuine political efforts of the principled few. The Official IRA was now known internally as Group B and became the party’s enforcers, the breakers of legs and shooters of kneecaps. They also provided much of the party’s funding through an organised web of criminality: robberies, kidnapping, drug-dealing, extortion, prostitution, smuggling and many other ‘special activities’. However the old enmities derived from the original split with the Provisionals never went away and many in the WP / OIRA developed what can be best described as ‘mutually beneficial relationships‘ with the British authorities in the north-east of Ireland, both military and political.

In time the closeness of these relationships were such that it led several members of the Workers Party into spying for the British Forces in the Irish communities of the North (with the approval and connivance of some of the organisation’s leadership), allowing the WP to target political rivals as well as bringing in yet more ‘special revenues’, this time from British government coffers. The fact that this ‘collaboration’ resulted in the imprisonment or deaths of Irish citizens seemed not to bother the Workers Party apparatchiks one whit in their single-minded aim of bringing about about a class revolution in Ireland. Yet this dual game of playing at both politics and militarism, while claiming to be unarmed peace-loving democrats and decriers of all forms of violence, could not continue indefinitely and in the early 1990s the Workers Party experienced its most serious split with the formation of Democratic Left (DL).

The Workers Party - Brought To You In Association With Our Overseas Partners!

The Workers Party – Brought To You In Association With Our Overseas Partners!

This short-lived Irish political party eventually merged with Ireland’s Labour Party in 1999 and here is where the real story begins for in a few short years the former DL members who joined Labour had risen to the top of the party and eventually took control of its leadership in a political takeover so ruthless and audacious that it left many traditional Labour activists and members stunned. The new leading lights of the Labour Party were now the likes of Proinsias de Rossa (former IRA, Sinn Féin, Workers Party, Democratic Left), Pat Rabbitte (Sinn Féin, Workers Party, Democratic Left, Labour Party leader), Éamon Gilmore (Sinn Féin, Workers Party, Democratic Left, Labour Party leader) and Kathleen Lynch (Workers Party, Democratic Left). And it is to the latter that we now turn, in this report from the Mail Online:

‘The brother-in-law of Ireland’s Minister of State Kathleen Lynch is a fugitive from justice who is wanted for questioning by police over an elaborate counterfeiting operation.

Just weeks ago, Mrs Lynch was embroiled in controversy for hiring her husband, Bernard, who spent a year in prison for murdering a man in a machine-gun attack before being acquitted on appeal.

Bernard’s brother Brian, 58, was suspected of being the brains behind a massive counterfeiting scam uncovered by gardaí in a raid at Repsol Ltd, which was on the ground floor of the Workers’ Party Dublin headquarters in 1983.

The Workers Party, the political wing of the Official IRA, became Democratic Left in 1992 and merged into the Labour Party in 1999.

Brian Lynch was one of a number of men wanted for questioning by gardaí in relation to the operation.

Another being sought was Seán Garland, who is currently fighting extradition for his alleged involvement in an international forgery conspiracy involving the KGB and North Korea in a plot to undermine the U.S. dollar.

The U.S. has been seeking Mr Garland’s extradition since May 2005 when he was indicted for alleged trading in forged $100 bills as part of the so-called ‘superdollar’ conspiracy that began in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and expanded to involve North Korea – a place Mr Garland visited several times during the period in his capacity as a Workers’ Party officer and as a director of GKG Communications, an international business consultancy.

The U.S. alleges that Mr Garland and six co-conspirators, a Russian, a South African and four Englishmen, used couriers to transport supernotes around the world.

The indictment also refers to Garland as ‘the man in the hat’ and identified specific dates when he had transported forged currency from North Korean embassies.

However, the whole ‘superdollar’ affair has its genesis in a Garda raid on a warehouse on Hanover Quay in November 1983 that uncovered a stack of near-perfect Irish £5 notes worth £1.7m.

This raid led to the gardaí searching Repsol. a printing firm where Brian Lynch was an employee and which was run by Mr Garland.

Mr Lynch had previously worked in his father’s printing business in Cork and was known among the Official IRA as the ‘master printer’.

His sister-in-law, the well respected politician Kathleen Lynch, is the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, equality and mental health. He is also the brother of Ciarán Lynch, the Labour TD for Cork.’

The Workers Party - it's more than meets the eye!

The Workers Party – it’s more than meets the eye!

I previously highlighted the case of Seán Garland (as well as some of the shady history of the Workers Party in Ireland and the baleful influence it has had upon our political and journalistic establishments) but the controversy around Bernard Lynch and Larry White, a Republican activist murdered by the OIRA in highly controversial circumstances in the mid-1970 was largely forgotten, except by his family and friends, until Kathleen Lynch appointed her husband Bernard as a ‘special advisor’, a cushy role paid for by the Irish tax-payer (thank God the Labour Party aren’t like Fianna Fáil, hey? No family-ties, nepotism and cronyism here). As the Irish Times reported:

‘THE FAMILY of a Cork republican murdered more than 35 years ago has called on the Taoiseach to seek the removal of a Minister of State’s personal assistant who was acquitted of the killing in the 1970s.

The family of Larry White are angered that Labour TD Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State at the Departments of Justice and Health, has appointed her husband Bernard as her personal assistant. Mr Lynch, who was then a member of Official Sinn Féin, was acquitted on appeal after being convicted, along with three other men, of the murder of Mr White in the mid-1970s.

The Lynches declined to comment on the matter yesterday. Neither the Taoiseach nor Labour leader Eamon Gilmore were available for comment.

In November 1976, the Court of Criminal Appeal set aside the conviction of Mr Lynch and another man for the murder of Mr White. Two other convictions were upheld. Mr White had been a member of the republican splinter group Saor Éire, which had fallen out with Official Sinn Féin. The 25-year-old was walking from the pub to his home in Cork on June 10th, 1975, when he was killed in a machine-gun attack.

Gardaí arrested and charged four men: Mr Lynch and David O’Donnell (then 21), of Rosewood Estate, Ballincollig, Co Cork and Leeson Street, Belfast; Cornelius Finbar Doyle (25), Nun’s Walk, Co Cork; and Bartholomew Madden (34), Owenacurra Court, Togher, Co Cork. Mr Lynch was at the time a leading member of Cork (Official) Sinn Féin, according to The Lost Revolution, a history of the party by Scott Millar and Brian Hanley published in 2009.

The trial, which lasted 32 days, was one of the longest seen in the Special Criminal Court. The four men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. There were allegations of Garda brutality and of confessions being given under duress.

In setting aside Mr Lynch’s conviction, chief justice Tom O’Higgins said the Court of Criminal Appeal was satisfied there were grounds for suspecting Mr Lynch was aware of the intention to use a stolen white Cortina car for the purpose of some crime, possibly a serious crime of violence. There was, however, no admissible evidence against him of any activity in the preparation or commission of a crime of violence, or the murder of Larry White.

Proof of knowledge that such a crime was about to be committed, even if it had been well established against him, would, in the absence of proof of some active participation, not support the conviction of murder, according to the chief justice. The conviction was set aside.’

Ah, well that’s okay then, isn’t it?

Except, of course, its not.

As the Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis pointed out there are a lot of skeletons in the cupboards of the former members of Official Sinn Féin that are now found in the Labour Party that have yet to emerge:

‘Dessie insists that there are prominent members of Labour today — politicians who had previously been members of Democratic Left, the Workers’ Party and Official Sinn Féin before joining Labour — who were also members of the IRA. ‘There are quite a few hypocrites there. I’m well aware of that. I know some of them from my past. So, I know the positions that they held. Some of them are still there.’

Indeed, for a start one wonders what happened to the arsenal of weapons and explosives retained by the Official IRA that have yet to be ‘decommissioned’ (contrary to public myth the OIRA has not given up or ‘put beyond use’ its stores of weaponry nor does this now seem likely to ever occur). What happened to all those monies raised by the OIRA through criminal activities, and ‘foreign’ donations (East Germany, North Korea, etc.)? Just exactly whose pockets, and whose bank accounts, did all those pounds, dollars and roubles go into?

The Workers Party. Do you remember 1985? No but we remember 1969!

The Workers Party. Do you remember 1985? No but we remember 1969!

And what about justice? Justice for those people who lost their lives or freedom as the result of actions carried out by OIRA/Group B or WP activists?

The next time you see senior members of the Labour Party, and now ministers of the Government of Ireland, spouting on about the necessity for politics aloone and their rejection of violence and ‘paramilitarism’, just remember where they came from, what paths they followed, and what utter hypocrisy they cloak their political histories in.

The Official IRA demands "itegrated" education in a discussion with the BBC, 1975 (no, this is not a joke!)

The Official IRA demands “itegrated” education in a discussion with the BBC, 1975 (no, this is not a joke!)

Banking With Menaces

The British Army Brings Banking To Afghanistan – Belfast-Style. ‘It’s Just Like Home!’ Exclaims Trooper Wee Billy McLilly

I really don’t know what Resistance Republicans have against Spanish banks in Ireland. Maybe its some feeling of solidarity with the people of the Spanish-ruled Basque Country? But the Basques are politically on the up-and-up at the moment, so maybe not. It could be that they’re thinking of moving into the finance business and are using more, um, direct methods to take out some of the potential competition in the market? After all it probably beats working in the security business or, eh, import-export. Though free market capitalism it isn’t. Well, at least not outside of Latin America or Africa (or Sicily).

Whatever the reasons though, yet another Santander bank branch in the North of Ireland has been attacked by a Republican Resistance group, this time in Newry. From RTÉ:

‘The PSNI have confirmed that the device left by two masked men in a bank in Newry, Co Down, this morning was a bomb which could have killed or caused serious injury.

A British army bomb disposal team made safe the device this afternoon.

The attack followed a similar bombing of a Santander branch in Derry earlier this year which caused extensive damage.

A man carrying a bag walked into the bank building this morning and issued a warning that a device would explode in 45 minutes.

The area around Hill Street and Market Street were closed off and dozens of businesses were disrupted.’

Well, there is yet another blow struck for Saor Éire. The British Occupation must be ready to collapse as we speak: helicopters winging their way to Stormont Castle to carry British officials back to dear ol’ Blighty, plumes of smoke masking the sky as files and dossiers go up in flames, and Peter Robinson searching for his passport and the keys to that swanky apartment in Florida.

Then again, probably not…

Alba – The Early Days Of A Better Nation

I have written many times before about the exceptional resurgence in Scotland of the Scottish language, especially amongst young Scots and urban dwellers, from a period when indifference or hostility towards the language was general throughout the population. With the SNP promoting Scottish as Scotland’s national language after decades of the party paying little heed to it (a sea-change in no small part down to the strategic vision of Alex Salmond and his immediate advisers to clearly separate a Scottish identity from a British one), the growth in favourable attitudes towards the Scottish-speaking communities and the language as whole is remarkable. Scottish medium schools are now taking root in many areas that had seen Scottish driven out by English in the last three centuries, while the Scottish language is featuring once again in the life of cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, albeit at an early stage of development.

This growing Scottish Revival is proof of the power of positive state intervention, of how governments can, with the right policies and commitment of time and resources, make a difference, a tribute to Scotland’s fine social-democratic culture of politics that many other Celtic nations would do well to emulate. This is reflected in a new survey, Public Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language, carried out by the Scottish Government which shows just how far public opinion in Scotland has been turned around in favour of their native language after centuries of anti-Gaelic discrimination and propaganda. According to a report in the Herald Scotland:

‘Two-thirds of Scots believe more should be done to promote the Gaelic language, a new survey has shown.

The research also revealed 81% said it is important that Scotland does not lose its Gaelic language traditions.

The Scottish Government survey, which involved 1,009 people, covered a variety of questions related to the language, including current usage, teaching and its heritage. Other key findings include 70% of people polled stating that there should be more opportunities to learn Gaelic, while 90% said pupils should be taught Scottish studies.

The survey report states: “Looking at each of the statements in turn, amongst the total sample there was strong and widespread support for the teaching of Scottish studies – including Scottish history, culture, heritage, language and literature.

“90% agreed that pupils should learn about this and some 70% believe this strongly. Very high levels of agreement with this statement were recorded across all groups, although it is interesting to note that one of the least interested groups was 16-24 year olds (80%).”

Around half of those surveyed were in favour of using Gaelic, with only 9% against it…”

Minister for learning and skills Alasdair Allan said: “The Scottish Government has long believed in the importance of Gaelic to our heritage, culture, tourism and economy and this research shows the majority of Scots agree the language has many benefits.

“Such a strong swell of support for Gaelic from across the country, not just in the Gaelic-speaking heartlands, is very encouraging and just reward for the efforts of those who are working hard to ensure it remains a part of modern Scotland.

“The questions specific to education also have interesting results with high levels of support for teaching Gaelic as a subject, and even greater support for the introduction of Scottish studies as a subject.”‘

This poll adds weight to the already considerable demands that the Scottish language be added to the general curriculum for all schools in Scotland, as well as the need for greater investment in Scottish medium schools. It also highlights the vital role played by broadcast media in the promotion of the language, as well as serving existing Scottish-speaking communities and families.

The survey itself is well worth reading in full, especially as its findings seem likely to be used as one of the blueprints for future language development by the Scottish Government in the years to come (which the Irish political establishment should pay close attention to). It may well turn out that we are indeed living in the early days of a better nation.

 

 

At Home Amongst The Bretons

So far I’ve carried little news on our Celtic cousins in Breizh (Brittany) and I’ve been taken to task for it by a number of you. The difficulties faced by the Breton people in the struggle to assert their national identity and culture in the face of a hostile French state means relatively little news of a Celtic Nationalist nature comes out the country. Of all the Celtic nations Brittany is perhaps the most oppressed in terms of its identity, to the point of an almost Stasi-like authoritarianism on behalf of France which has repeatedly suppressed Breton nationality. The most outrageous act of recent times was the administrative partition of the territory begun by the Vichy French collaborationist government in 1941 which moved the national capital of Naoned (Nantes) into a new artificial region dubbed Loire-Atlantique, thereby robbing Brittany of its cultural and economic heart.

Less than 70 years ago 1.3 million people spoke the Breton language but persecution by the French (especially in the decades after World War II, when many Bretonrefugees fled to Ireland) has reduced those numbers to the present figure of 200,000. Despite this a small but significant movement is attempting to reverse this process, mainly through Breton medium schools, which have grown in popularity over the last decade. Yet even here, France (which refuses to implement the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages), has actively impeded future progress, with these schools receiving no state-funding or recognition. Instead much of the work is left to local communities, voluntary groups, and some well-disposed politicians and civil servants in the regional authority for Brittany.

At a wider level Breton-speakers are generally treated as second class citizens under the so-called Fifth Republic, with no rights to language equality and are simply not recognised by the state as a separate or distinct people. Enforcing this position of institutional-discrimination leaves France in stark contrast with the British state where the limited legal rights enjoyed by the Celtic communities of Scotland and Wales creates at least the basis for future equality.

Another problem in reporting Brittany has been the failure of Breton nationalism to find a modern political voice, with a multiplicity of nationalist parties founding and failing in quick succession due to state-driven hostility and censorship in the local media, business and political establishments. At the moment the main Breton party is the conservative Union Démocratique Bretonne (Unvaniezh Demokratel Breizh or UDB), a sort of Breton regionalist rather than nationalist party, similar in some respects to the SDLP, including enjoying relatively small support. Two other smaller parties further divide the Breton vote, though at least they are more progressive and campaign on the need for a free Brittany. One is the Strollad Breizh (Parti Breton), a centrist group, and the other is the rather better known Emgann, a more active left-wing organisation. However both have gained little electoral success and Emgann in particular has been subject to continuous state harassment due to claims by French nationalist politicians and media that the party is linked to the Armée Révolutionnaire Bretonne or ARB (the Breton Revolutionary Army, a largely quiescent Breton guerrilla movement).

However here is some real Breton news for you with the thoughts of the Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, the General Secretary of the Celtic League (published by the fantastic APB), on Breton politics and the Gouelioù Etrekeltiek An Oriant or Festival Interceltique de Lorient, one of the greatest Pan-Celtic festivals which takes place annually in Brittany:

‘In recent years, the An Oriant / Lorient festival has regularly attracted upwards of a million people, but what does the festival actually mean to these hoards when they return home with a CD in their pocket and wearing a t-shirt with a Celtic flag design on the front?

I once heard the Welsh film director Kenneth Griffiths address a crowd of people at the Rali Cilmeri in Wales where he spoke enthusiastically about 100,000 Celts on the streets in An Oriant / Lorient celebrating their common culture. Mr Griffiths then asked why these people did not come together more often and work for the greater autonomy of the Celtic lands. This is an especially poignant question for Breizh where political autonomy and linguistic and cultural rights are weaker than in any of the other Celtic countries. The growth of Breton music and dance, it seems, is at the expense and in contrast to the lack of political and linguistic freedoms that most of the other Celtic countries now enjoy.

The situation in Breizh has not been helped by the continued existence of a number of different nationalist political parties – with broadly similar aims – who clamber and compete against each other for the vote of a relatively small minority. Unvaniezh Demokratel Breizh (Union Démocratique Bretonne – UDB), Parti Breton, Breizhistance and L’Alliance Fédéraliste Bretonne are just some of the political parties in Breizh that are openly hostile towards each other and pinch each other’s votes. These nationalist parties are in addition to the myriad of nationalist political pressure groups who do not stand for election, but whose members seem to tacitly agree to vote for one or other of the parties or none at all.

I am often asked by people from the other Celtic countries why there isn’t just one nationalist political party in Breizh that everyone who aims for greater autonomy can gather around so that their nationalist voice can be heard more clearly, but to this question I have never been able to give a simple answer. Breton nationalists, it seems, are content to work against each other in their frustrating attempt to gain greater recognition for their nation, language and culture. Consequently today the democratic rights of the people of Breizh are still being smothered by an unsympathetic centralised government in Paris that acts as one of the EU’s biggest hypocrites in terms of what it demands of other states in contrast to its own.

About ten years ago I stopped over at the An Oriant / Lorient festival on my way back from a demonstration in Nanoed / Nantes to protest about the continued incarceration of Breton activists who had been detained by the authorities without charge for several years. There were a couple of thousand people at the demonstration, but our numbers paled in comparison to the tens of thousands that were soaking up the sun in An Oriant / Lorient where Celtic music blasted from street corners through loud speakers. The group of Breton political activists I was with – most of whom were utterly disillusioned with the political process (with the exception of the Emgann members who were there because it was some of their activists who had been arrested) – were not so keen on stopping off at the festival, but I wanted me to see the event for myself after I told them I had never been.

After a couple of hours at the festival I had seen and heard enough and proceeded to make my way to Rosko / Roskoff to catch the ferry. On my way back I started chatting to a man who had also been to the festival. When he found out I was Welsh he presumed that I had come to Breizh to attend the festival, but when I said that I had come to take part in a demonstration, he frowned and said that I should have gone to the festival instead, because it was `French culture’ at its best.

I then began thinking that perhaps Breton culture, rather than it complementing Breton political activity, was actually acting as a substitute to it for many. Depressingly I began wondering on my way home if nationalist politics was not the main driving force for Breton nationalists, but rather the country’s music and dance scene was and this is a thought that I have returned to a number of times since. This `political’ position may be quite acceptable for some Breton nationalists, but the obvious difficulty with this situation – and this is one of the biggest challenges for Breton nationalism today – is convincing people that just because they are able to attend a fest-noz once a week and listen to a bagad on the radio, that Breton autonomy will one day come about.

The fact of the matter is that without a strong representation of Breton nationalist politicians from one political party working together to secure political and linguistic autonomy for their nation, then no amount of bombard-binou playing will give Breizh the freedoms that it so desperately needs to develop into a strong nation of its own in the future.’

I heartily agree with the sentiments above. The nationalist people of Brittany are crying out for their SNP, their Alex Salmond, and the onus is upon the political parties there to put aside their long-standing doctrinal and personal differences and work towards the common good and common goal of Breton freedom and independence.

Finally a side note, albeit a Breton-related one, with a link to a review of the Lyonesse Trilogy a series of high fantasy novels by Jack Vance, and some of my favourite examples of the genre.

As they say in Brezhoneg:

Kentoc’h mervel eget bezañ saotret!

The SNP – The Trouble With Christians

I recently examined the tabling of a motion in the Scottish parliament by the SNP’s John Mason essentially opposing legislation for same-sex marriages in Scotland. It stirred up quiet a hornets’ nest and the trouble is still simmering away over yonder. The Lalland Peat Worrier, blogger par excellence, examines the latest rumblings in his inimical style:

‘Most of you won’t know Bill Walker from Adam. Until recently, that is. The 69 year old was elected as the SNP MSP for Dunfermline in the 2011 Holyrood election, having sat on Fife Council since 2007. Walker signed John Mason’s parliamentary motion on the “Equal Marriage Debate” last week, (incidentally, I notice that Patrick Harvie’s amendment has now attracted 37 signatures in the meanwhile) but otherwise had not, to my knowledge, spoken to the press in detail about why he felt moved to do so.  In something of a scoop for the local media, the Dunfermline Press published an article on Friday morning entitled, “MSP upset by threats in gay marriage row”, which includes some highly inflammatory sentiments from the Fife MSP.  Walker has now also been cornered by journalists from the Scotsman and the Herald, seeming desperate at every turn to introduce himself to the Scottish people as a cantankerous and shallow-pated hephalump with all of the mental and political dexterity of quivering invertebrate.’

Now that is writing! Read the full post as it examines not just the SNP’s troubles but attitudes in Scotland towards same-sex relationships, religion and the law that can be applied across the Celtic Nations. As we may be about to find out here in Ireland.

The Labour Party In Scotland – Fianna Fáil With An Accent?

Some very odd stuff is coming out of the British Labour Party these days. Firstly there was the dramatic implosion of the party leadership in Scotland (following Labour’s drubbing at the hands of Alex Salmond’s SNP in the Scottish elections) with Iain Gray announcing his decision to stand down in the autumn. His on-the-stump performances were less than inspiring and many blamed him for the party’s poor showing, though even the most zealous of red flag waving acolytes should have by now realised that the tide was on the side of the nationalists, and Gray was just another victim of circumstance.

These convulsions were followed by the increasingly hysterical – not to mention histrionic – attacks on the SNP and Salmond in particular by Labour apparatchiks. It was as if some sort of crazy affliction had infected all of the Labour party’s MSPs, MPs and journalistic supporters leaving them twitching and gurning at every utterance or action of Scotland’s First Minster. From accusations of fascism to straightforward abuse, the champagne socialists went into spin-overload like a washing machine on speed.

The latest event to send them into eye-bulging apoplexy was Alex Salmond’s determination to publicly separate Scotland and the Scottish people in the eyes of the global media from the several days of civil unrest which afflicted a number of cities in England. Given Scotland’s precarious economic state, and heavy reliance on tourism and inward investment, it was generally seen as a wise move. However the reaction of the Labour Party and its supporters north of the border were anything but wise. In fact it amounted to a period of temporary insanity as Labour members and supporters in the media almost craved for the trouble to spread northward in a bizarre British Unionist version of the American tactics of the Vietnam War: burning the village to save the village.

As Newsnet Scotland reported:

‘In an incredible editorial the Scotsman newspaper responded by insisting that Mr Salmond’s tone was wrong when he stated that no riots had occurred in Scotland.  The newspaper defended its description of the riots as ‘UK riots’ and argued that Scottish tourism could not be damaged as ‘foreigners’ were not able to tell the difference between Scotland and the UK.

The editorial read: “… he [Mr Salmond] is misguided if he thinks countries such as those that issued travel warnings distinguish between Scotland and the UK.  Rightly or wrongly, they simply do not do so.”

The newspaper accused Mr Salmond of adopting a holier-than-thou attitude and warned that “his pledge that Scotland’s police are prepared to deal with any trouble, may come back to haunt him.”’

If the best answer British Nationalists in the Labour Party and news media can come up with to the SNP’s call for Scottish independence is a desire to see Scottish cities going up in flames just to spite Alex Salmond then we really do live in the dying days of a nation. But it is not the SNP who are digging the grave.

Joan McAlpine also takes the opportunity to focus on Labour’s descent into madness and points out in the Scotsman that:

‘First Minister Alex Salmond said the riots could not be described as UK wide. He reflected what thousands of Scots were saying around office photocopiers, in mother and toddler groups and Facebook sites with names such as “Not rioting in Scotland, too proud of my country” or “UK riots? Last I looked it was only England.”

When the Labour MP Jim Sheridan – fast becoming Michael Martin’s heir as most embarrassing Scot at Westminster – asked David Cameron to condemn Salmond (as opposed to the looters and murderers of Birmingham and London) it wasn’t just the Prime Minister who was confused. The folks back home must have wondered what the lumbering member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North was on. If the people of Scotland were up in arms, it was not at Salmond for doing his job right.

It wasn’t just backbenchers like Sheridan who got it wrong. Labour’s Iain Gray metaphorically linked arms with the Tories David Mundell and the Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie to denounce the First Minister for supporting the Scottish tourist industry at the height of its season. Have they learned nothing from May? One expects the has-been Liberal Democrats and the never-have-been Scottish Tories to be out of touch. But Labour, just a few years ago, could reasonably claim to be in tune with the Scottish psyche. Those days are past now.’

In some ways Labour in Scotland was a movement rather than a party, a Scottish Fianna Fáil, with all that that entails: good and bad. The good was a party that was at times almost intuitively in touch with ordinary Scottish people, that spread democratic rights and accountability far and wide, enfranchising many thousands of disenfranchised voters and non-voters alike, giving a voice to the voiceless. The bad was paradoxically the success of the good. British Labour in Scotland assumed the air of a ‘natural party of government’, and in the process became a gross, complacent caricature of itself, increasingly intolerant of dissent or competition, increasingly self-serving. When an anti-establishment party surrenders its core beliefs to become the establishment it sows the seeds of its own destruction. Fianna Fáil found that out. Can the Labour Party in Scotland be far behind?

So to the words of that very embodiment of Scottish Labour’s establishment credentials, Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch 11th Baronet of the House of the Binns, better known as Tam Dalyell, a veteran Labour MP and writer. In an interview with the Scotsman he discusses his new autobiography, and his fervent opposition to all forms of Scottish self-rule:

‘SCOTTISH independence is inevitable after the SNP’s landslide victory this year, according to the veteran Labour politician and campaigner Tam Dalyell.

His new autobiography, The Importance of Being Awkward, recounts his implacable opposition to devolution when the issued was raised in the 1970s.

Mr Dalyell told The Scotsman he was “not in the least surprised” by the surge in SNP support. “I told you so… is the most unpretty things you can say. But there it is. It is not just the SNP. But every party in any parliament that is set up is asking for more and more,” he said.’

However, he doesn’t think all that much of the voice of the people either, with the advice to the British establishment that a free Scotland is inevitable unless:

‘… you chose Tam Dalyell’s option and that is the abolition of the parliament.”’

Hmmm. So much for democracy. Perhaps this snippet in part accounts for Dalyell’s views:

‘According to his book, his attachment to the Union also has its origins in his formidable family tree. His ancestors helped engineer the 1603 Union of the Crowns, a role celebrated in the thistles and roses carved in the plasterwork of the Dalyell family home, the House of the Binns, near Linlithgow.’

Ah, aristos. Even red ones. Never really change, do they?

Brendan Behan famously answered the question ‘What’s an Anglo-Irishman?’ with the response: a Protestant with a horse.

Perhaps we should rephrase the question?

What’s a Labour politician in Scotland? A socialist in search of a knighthood?

The Ó Muircheartaigh For President?

Well the speculation is continuing to gather as to whether or not the much-loved TV sports broadcaster and Irish rights activist Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh will run for the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann. According to the Irish Examiner:

‘Retired GAA broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh has said the President of Ireland should have a strong appreciation for the Irish language.

The Kerry man, who will announce next week whether he intends to run as a candidate in the Presidential election, feels the head of State should have an appreciation for the Irish language and the part it has played in our history and culture.

He said he had been approached by a number of political parties, and planned to take at least a week to consider the matter.’

Well he may well have just got my vote.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the Irish language and culture, both at home and abroad, over the last forty years, and enjoys almost universal popularity. In fact he could be described as the Lilly to Gay Byrne’s Poppy (if you get my meaning… ahem). With Gaybo exit stage right (left? right? centre?) the Ó Muircheartaigh seems to be the next big name under the spotlight, though this time with the definite whisper of some realistic political backing behind him.

According to the Irish Times:

‘Presidential candidates require the support of 20 Oireachtas members or four country councils.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said: “There’s been no contact with Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh,” while a Sinn Féin spokesman said: “We didn’t approach him”.

Independent TD Finian McGrath, who had been co-ordinating Independent Senator David Norris’s aborted campaign to get the signatures of Oireachtas members, could not be contacted.

Mr Ó Muircheartaigh spoke at a Sinn Féin-hosted conference, “Uniting Ireland – Towards a New Republic” in Cork in June.

At that time, he said the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland had helped move towards achieving a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said there was a “growing desire” within the party to enter the contest.

With 14 TDs and three Senators, Sinn Féin would need to enlist the support of three more Oireachtas members to field a candidate or facilitate the nomination of an Independent.’

Hmmm. Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh would certainly be acceptable to most Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil voters, with the added plus of enough cross-party appeal to attract some Labour, Green and even Fine Gael support. The big question though, and it is big, is how Ireland’s thoroughly Anglicised and Anglophone media establishment will react. While up to now most pieces on Ó Muircheartaigh have used words like ‘legend’, ‘beloved’, ‘admired’ and so on there are plenty of Oirish journos who wouldn’t spit on an Irish-speaker if he or she was on fire. In fact a few of them would probably be looking around for a can of petrol.

Surnames with an Ó, Mac, Mag, Ní, Nic, Uí or de are like a red rag to a bull with the regressive set and it is only a matter of time – if Ó Muircheartaigh announces his candidacy – before the knives get pulled out. In fact if you listen carefully you can probably hear the noise of metal on whetstones as we speak.

In Ireland’s century-old low level civil war over language and culture, between the Irish and English speaking communities, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh may become the next victim – or the next victory.

Celtic Nationalism: Six Nations, One Soul

Some good news for all Celtic Nationalists. Carn, the regular news, current affairs and culture magazine of the Celtic League is now online, with all editions of the publication from 1973 to 2010 available to download for free from the League’s website. This new initiative is to mark the 50th anniversary of the Celtic League’s foundation in 1961 as an organisation to promote the freedom and unity of the surviving Celtic nations of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany, a role which has led to it being officially recognised by the United Nations.

Carn itself is a treasure trove of information on the Celtic Nations, their languages, cultures, histories and politics, and it noted for the very many insightful articles on current issues effecting the Celtic countries. I highly recommend a look through the archives. You might be surprised by what you find there.

For those wanting to know more about the Celtic League and the excellent work they do to promote the spirit of solidarity and community amongst the Celtic peoples then check out their website here. There is a much-praised and regular up-to-date mailing list with the latest news from both the League itself and across the Celtic world in general, that is highly recommended if you are looking for an introduction to the growing politics of Celtic Nationalism. Details about joining the Celtic League, which is open to everyone with an interest (or passion), is available here.

The League is close to a similar Pan-Celtic organisation, An Chomhdháil Cheilteach or the Celtic Congress, founded in 1902 as a cultural rather than political organisation it promotes the native languages and cultures of the Celtic Nations. The Congress is partly funded by the Government of Ireland and has members in all the Celtic countries, though unlike the League it is markedly more low-profile and is rarely active outside of the academic fields. Most of its work involves bringing together people in the areas of Celtic research, scholarship and education and in recent decades it has, sadly, played little role in promoting the Celtic languages and cultures to the general public. Perhaps increased funding and focus from the Irish state could change that but at the moment it is largely a scholarly enterprise, though a praiseworthy one.

The Celtic Congress is very regrettably not open to a general membership though the representatives in the various Celtic nations can be contacted here.

Another great organisation, though Pan-Gaelic rather than Pan-Celtic, is the Iomairt Cholm Cille or Columba Project, jointly set up and funded by the governments of Ireland and Scotland in 1997. The Project promotes the shared Gaelic languages and cultures of the Irish and Scots, and is probably the most active of the state-supported groups, with numerous programs running in the areas of education, heritage, sports, music, literature and media. It is noteworthy for having brought together politicians and civil servants from Ireland and Scotland in promoting and overseeing these programs and is at the forefront of encouraging a sense of common identity amongst these two Gaelic nations.

Those seeking funding can apply here or contact the Project directly via here.

Though absent from its initial foundation it is hoped that the third Gaelic nation, the Isle of Man, will in time join the Project, though the Mann’s recent governments have shown little enthusiasm in co-operating with their fellow Gaels, particularly in the areas of funding and language rights. The Isle of Man has a particularly poor record for respecting the rights of those expressing a native Gaelic identity and most initiatives there have been community-based with minimal or no state input.

Another important organisation is the Féile Pan Cheilteach or the Pan Celtic Festival, a body that stages an annual festival on a consecutive basis throughout the Celtic nations, as well as promoting and coordinating individual celebrations in Brittany, Cornwall, Wales and the Isle of Man. The individual national committees can be contacted here.

Finally to the famous Agence Bretagne Presse or ABP. Founded in 2003 as a voice for the indigenous Celtic people of Breizh or Brittany, who still face the active hostility of the French state towards their language and culture, it has become something of a beacon amongst Celtic Nationalists, since it carries stories on all the Celtic nations, with regular articles on the Celtic League and other Pan-Celtic organisations. Recently re-launched it is a shining example of what a group of committed Celtic activists are capable of in this web 2.0 age (or are we now entering 3.0?). Available in Breton, French and English the site is in constant need of contributors from the Celtic Nations so if you feel you have what it takes please contact them.