Mí: Deireadh Fómhair 2011

The Right To Talk – The Right To Teach

Place names in Gaelic are becoming increasingl...

Talking of indigenous languages and education, while in Ireland our political parties make the right noises while purposely doing none of the right things, in Scotland they have their priorities straight.

Following on from the long campaign to get a dedicated school in Edinburgh teaching through the medium of the Scottish language, the capital’s city council has finally voted in favour of the project. The Scotsman reports that:

“THE city’s first Gaelic school has finally been given the go-ahead following a series of delays linked to the rising cost of the project.

Councillors agreed the £3.5 million redevelopment of the former Bonnington Primary School in Leith, which will house the Capital’s first all-Gaelic primary from 2013.

Pupils will be moved from the current Gaelic Medium Education (GME) unit based in Tollcross Primary to the new facility, and the unit will be closed.

Following months of discussions with the Scottish Government – which backs the dedicated school – it has agreed to contribute £1.8m.

Following the decision, Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, the city’s education leader, said: “The Gaelic community felt it was important for this to happen and the increases over the years in parents wanting their children to go to Tollcross mean we have a pressure to address.”

The move to create the city’s first Gaelic school was passed without debate after all political groups agreed on the proposals from council officials.

Alasdair Cameron, of parent group Comann nam Parant, said: “It is interesting when people understand the quality of education at Tollcross and the number of nationalities represented at one school.

“People of all walks of life and nationalities get a first-class education, and a bilingual education, and we should be proud of that.”

Arthur Cormack, chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said that the council should now make the primary a success before assessing how to provide for Gaelic education at secondary school level.

Education chiefs first started looking at the future of Gaelic provision in Edinburgh after it emerged there had been a large increase in the number of pupils learning the language in recent years.”

Well done to all involved for recognising the rights of native speakers to an education in their own language, and for facing down the opposition of the Anglophone extreme. If only Ireland could match the new-found enthusiasm of the Scottish political classes for their national language and culture (but then our Anglophone elites have their own ready-made allies to rely on).

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The Truth About Irish

The policies of all political parties in Ireland on the issue of the Irish language are bullshit. Complete and utter. There, I’ve said it.

There is not a single political party on the island of Ireland that has a real, substantive or detailed program to implement full equality between the nation’s Irish and English speaking populations. What we have is bullshit. Oh it sweet-smelling bullshit, pleasing to the eye and the ear too, but get beyond the aromatic qualities and you’ve got nothing but a big pile of crap.

If you’re looking for progressive or radical party policies in Ireland on language rights, on the same scale say as Québec’s influential Charter of the French Language, then you’re going to be looking for a long time. In fact it’s pretty hard to find their policies on Irish full stop. Some have none. As for those that do, most mouth the same touchstone points: Irish medium schools, Irish in the general education system, TG4, maybe more Irish in the media, and… Well, that is pretty much it. No, seriously. Legislation never features in these little rhetorical sections on their party website or literature (“little” being the word). You’ll never see something along the lines of “language rights equal human rights”. Good God no. Let’s not get carried away here, folks.

While other nations or sub-nations, Québec, Israel, Wales, Lithuania, Belgium, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and all the rest across multilingual Europe and beyond, just get on with language rights or language revivals we in Ireland embrace bullshit. We speak it, we write it, we believe it (well, all except the last bit).

We are truly a nation of bullshitters.

However, sometimes, even the worse bullshit will find someone willing to clean it up, and dump it down a sewer. So to a report from the BBC on the long fight by Coláiste Feirste, the only Irish medium secondary school in Belfast, to get a bus service for its pupils in the face of opposition from the northern department of education (including its former minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, and one presumes the present incumbent John O’Dowd):

“A refusal to provide a dedicated bus service to NI’s only post-primary Irish language school must be reconsidered, a High Court judge has ordered.

The judge ruled the Department of Education failed to properly consider its obligation to encourage the development of Irish medium education.

He granted a judicial review being sought by the board of governors at Coláiste Feirste in west Belfast.

They wanted funding for a bus service for 11 pupils coming from Downpatrick.

In September 2010, former Education Minister Caitriona Ruane decided not to financially back the pilot transport scheme on the basis of an economic assessment.

But lawyers for Colaiste Feirste argued that the department had failed to comply with a duty under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 to provide suitable transport to encourage Irish education.

Delivering his judgment, Mr Justice Treacy pointed out that the relevant legislation embodied a clear commitment enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement to put a statutory duty on the department to encourage and facilitate such an education.

He said: “I do not accept the respondent’s contention that this duty is merely aspirational.”

He ruled: “Accordingly, I consider that the respondent has failed to give proper weight and consideration to its obligation… to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education.”

Colma McKee, vice-chair of the school’s board of governors, said the verdict was recognition of the difficulties facing children in gaining an Irish-medium education.

“We hope we can enter discussions with the Department of Education to rectify what has gone wrong in not encouraging children to go to an Irish-medium post primary school by simply not having transport available.”

To think that the British judicial system in Occupied Ireland is more sympathetic to Irish medium education than the region’s Irish Republican partner in government, Sinn Féin. This, of course, being the very same foreign judiciary that ruled in 2010 that the 270 year old British ban on Irish people speaking in Irish in British courts in Ireland is still legal.

As I said, when it comes to the Irish language all Irish political parties are full of it – bullshit, that is.

Dissecting Empire – Richard Gott

In the Guardian journalist and writer Richard Gott examines the revived nationalist ideology of the British Empire as the world’s only “good empire” and how it is gaining ground in modern Britain.

“In his speech to the Conservative party conference this month, David Cameron looked back with Tory nostalgia to the days of empire: “Britannia didn’t rule the waves with armbands on,” he pointed out, suggesting that the shadow of health and safety did not hover over Britain’s imperial operations when the British were building “a great nation”.

Tony Blair had a similar vision. “I value and honour our history enormously,” he said in a speech in 1997, but he thought that Britain’s empire should be the cause of “neither apology nor hand-wringing”; it should be used to further the country’s global influence.

Half a century after the end of empire, politicians of all persuasions still feel called upon to remember our imperial past with respect. Yet few pause to notice that the descendants of the empire-builders and of their formerly subject peoples now share the small island whose inhabitants once sailed away to change the face of the world. Considerations of empire today must take account of two imperial traditions: that of the conquered as well as the conquerors. Traditionally, that first tradition has been conspicuous by its absence.

Cameron was right about the armbands. The creation of the British empire caused large portions of the global map to be tinted a rich vermilion, and the colour turned out to be peculiarly appropriate. Britain’s empire was established, and maintained for more than two centuries, through bloodshed, violence, brutality, conquest and war. Not a year went by without large numbers of its inhabitants being obliged to suffer for their involuntary participation in the colonial experience. Slavery, famine, prison, battle, murder, extermination – these were their various fates.”

Gott is the author of “Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt“, a new history which charts the story of those who spread the British Empire across the globe and those who fought it, a theme which has drawn the ire of the British political and media establishments.

“No colony in their empire gave the British more trouble than the island of Ireland. No subject people proved more rebellious than the Irish. From misty start to unending finish, Irish revolt against colonial rule has been the leitmotif that runs through the entire history of empire, causing problems in Ireland, in England itself, and in the most distant parts of the British globe. The British affected to ignore or forget the Irish dimension to their empire, yet the Irish were always present within it, and wherever they landed and established themselves, they never forgot where they had come from.

The British often perceived the Irish as “savages”, and they used Ireland as an experimental laboratory for the other parts of their overseas empire, as a place to ship out settlers from, as well as a territory to practise techniques of repression and control. Entire armies were recruited in Ireland, and officers learned their trade in its peat bogs and among its burning cottages. Some of the great names of British military history – from Wellington and Wolseley to Kitchener and Montgomery – were indelibly associated with Ireland. The particular tradition of armed policing, first patented in Ireland in the 1820s, became the established pattern until the empire’s final collapse.

For much of its early history, the British ruled their empire through terror. The colonies were run as a military dictatorship, often under martial law, and the majority of colonial governors were military officers. “Special” courts and courts martial were set up to deal with dissidents, and handed out rough and speedy injustice. Normal judicial procedures were replaced by rule through terror; resistance was crushed, rebellion suffocated. No historical or legal work deals with martial law. It means the absence of law, other than that decreed by a military governor.”

The entire article is well worth reading as indeed is his scrupulously researched, detailed and frequently shocking book. It is highly recommended.

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil – The Irish News Media And The Sam Smyth Scandal

As many regular readers may know (you are there, aren’t you?) I frequently bang on about the inequities of the “media establishment” in Ireland. In general I pretty much loathe ‘em, the whole right-wing, faux liberal, elitist Anglo shower. Bah! But for those of you who ask, “A Shionnach, but why?”, here, in several easily digestible paragraphs, is the answer.

Earlier this month The Journal carried some surprising news for those of us who believe in media plurality and freedom, news that has remained strangely underreported by the Irish press (or perhaps not so strangely as you will see).

“TODAY FM PRESENTER Sam Smyth has taken to the airwaves today following reports that his days presenting his Sunday current affairs show are numbered.

The Sunday Times reports today that Smyth has been sacked from the show he presents on Today FM, with the last show to be broadcast on 6 November. According to the paper Smyth has said that his reporting on the Moriarty Tribunal and his criticism of Denis O’Brien is behind him being dropped from the show.

On the show earlier, Smyth read out today’s headlines relating to his position in Today FM, but declined to comment saying:

“…before someone comes downstairs and pulls a wire we better move onto something else.”

The Sunday Independent reports that Smyth is planning to fight against his sacking by Today FM, which is owned by O’Brien. The Sunday Independent reports that O’Brien is currently suing Sam Smyth over comments made and written about the Moriarty Tribunal.”

The reaction to the news drew a deafening silence from the Irish rat pack – sorry, media pack. So much so that even a member of that august sleeping chamber, Seanad Éireann, was stirred from his slumber, as The Journal also reported:

“A LABOUR PARTY SENATOR has criticised members of the media for not showing more public solidarity to Today FM’s Sam Smyth, who is to be dropped by the station.

Senator John Whelan this morning criticised press commentators for their failure to publicly support Smyth…

“Press freedom and fair comment are a cornerstone and fundamental values of our democracy,” he said. “Fair comment in the public interest is a pillar of a real republic.”

It was reported in Sunday newspapers that Smyth was to be dropped from the station, which is owned by media and telecoms magnate Denis O’Brien – with the Sunday Times reporting that Smyth had protested that the move was related to his coverage of the Moriarty Tribunal.

That tribunal, which investigated the awarding of Ireland’s second mobile phone licence to O’Brien’s Esat Digifone, was prompted after reporting by Smyth published in the Irish Independent – which is also now majority owned by O’Brien.

George Hook of Newstalk – which is also owned by O’Brien’s Communicorp broadcasting empire – told listeners through Twitter that he did not think the matter was worthy of bringing up in an interview with Communications minister Pat Rabbitte.

On Sunday morning, however, Newstalk’s Eamon Dunphy made a brief statement on his own show – which clashes with Smyth’s Today FM show – defending his Communicorp colleague.

“If there’s any link between that sacking and his work as a journalist for the Independent newspaper group… it is up to every citizen in this country to understand that press freedom is threatened,” he said.”

That the Fine Gael activist journalist celebrity presenter George Hook squirmed his way out of making a comment on the affair was no surprise. Nor for many of us was the muted response of the journalistic class as a whole. After all they know which side their bread is buttered on and most have, do, or will work for the ubiquitous O’Brien owned media in Ireland. Eamon Dunphy’s courage in speaking up for his friend and colleague did come as a bit of surprise to some, despite his “maverick” reputation. However there is always a price to pay, even for integrity.

The Journal again:

“EAMON DUNPHY HAS announced that he’s quitting his job at Newstalk, calling the atmosphere at the station ‘inhospitable’ for journalists to work in.

A member of Newstalk staff has told TheJournal.ie that the first many employees heard about Dunphy’s departure when they opened the Irish Daily Star this morning, which carries Kieran Cunningham’s exclusive story.

Dunphy said that journalists have been encouraged to “put a positive spin on the news agenda” and he’s criticised budget cuts at the station.”

Today Dunphy spelled out his thoughts on the matter:

“EAMON DUNPHY HAS used his last show on Newstalk to reveal some of the reasons behind his decision to leave the station.

Dunphy said that Denis O’Brien – whose Communicorp company owns both Newstalk and Today FM – “hates journalism”. Dunphy also made reference to the working environment in Newstalk and said “not nice things are happening in this place”.

The Sunday Independent quotes Newstalk CEO Frank Cronin, who said that Dunphy was not spoken to about recent comments he made on his show about Sam Smyth’s departure. Cronin told the Independent’s Niamh Horan that Dunphy is free to say whatever he wants, and that he had been asked to take a more positive view in his coverage of some issues.

Meanwhile Dunphy told Mark Tighe and Justine McCarthy in The Sunday Times that Denis O’Brien is at war with journalists.”

As well as owning several radio stations in Ireland O’Brien is also a (somewhat unwelcome) shareholder in the dominant Independent News & Media (IN&M) along with long-time rival Tony O’Reilly (or Sir Tony O’Reilly as he – and his newspapers- insist on styling him following some serious kowtowing to the British establishment). He was briefly Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ireland while living as an overseas tax exile (you couldn’t make this stuff up) and more recently threw a few quid into the campaign fund of Mary Davis in her disastrous candidacy for the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann. However, in the last few years most of the focus has been on his, er, business dealings.

It is often said that we get the politicians we deserve. Perhaps the same can be said of the news media too.

One Race But Three Victors

Well its all over bar the shouting (or gnashing of teeth) and three clear victors have emerged from the election for the next President of Ireland. First and foremost of course is Labour’s Michael D. Higgins who managed to expand on his party’s core vote to almost certainly win through to the Áras. From RTÉ’s report yesterday evening:

“2115 National FIRST COUNT: Higgins 39.6% (701,101), Gallagher 28.5% (504,964); McGuinness 13.7% (243,030); Mitchell 6.4% (113,321); Norris 6.2% (109,469); Scallon 2.9% (51,220); Davis 2.7% (48,657).”

With the elimination of the also-rans Davis and Scallon their votes were distributed to the other candidates with a second count result coming in early this morning:

“Higgins: 730,480 votes (+29,379); Gallagher 529,401 (+24,437); McGuinness 252,611 (+9,581); Mitchell 127,357 (+14,036); Norris 116,526 (+7,057)

The quota is 885,882.”

Since none of the candidates met the quota requirement to be elected outright counting will resume this morning with the strong presumption that Higgins will eventually hoover up enough preferences from a third or fourth count to be elected (the votes coming from Mitchell and Norris). As well as a personal achievement for the former TD from Galway it is also a good result for the Labour Party, especially after its repeated drubbing in recent polls (the latest placing it in third place behind Sinn Féin). However, many in Labour are well aware that the vote for Michael D. Higgins was very much a personal one in an election dogged with controversy and that they have in no small part the dramatic intervention by Martin McGuinness on RTÉ’s Frontline Debate to thank for a significant chunk of their 39.6% vote. Remove the “outing” of Seán Gallagher as an unofficial Fianna Fáil candidate rather than the Independent nominee that he presented to the general public and we might have a very different story here today.

It also remains to be seen just how much of that nearly 40% support Labour might retain in any future election. Though they are having a good week electorally (including yesterday’s by-election victory in Dublin) there is little doubt that in real terms their national vote is nearer to 20%, and perhaps lower still. This may be the best Labour vote ever but it is also a very much an exceptional one.

Despite the criticisms of Seán Gallagher in the last week of the race and the controversy that whipped up around him he still managed to accrue a good 28.5%, clearly indicating that the supposed demise of Fianna Fáil as a political entity has been grossly exaggerated. While its doubtful that the party itself could capture such a high vote in a general election at this moment in time (part of the Gallagher vote is clearly of the “floating” variety and the FF “brand” remains faintly odious to many) who can say what will happen five years from now. If a week is a long time in politics five years is a lifetime. The party will also be buoyed by their healthy showing in the Dublin by-election referred to above where they took a respectable second place. Talk of Fianna Fáil renaming and rebranding itself is just that: talk. Talk of Fianna Fáil repackaging itself with Seán Gallagher somewhere near or at the top is a lot more realistic.

For Sinn Féin and Martin McGuinness that 13.7% is a good, if not spectacular, result. While some in the Commentariat were focusing on some wilder polling predictions (McGuinness at 19% for instance) few in SF believed it likely. Their aim was 13-15% of the vote and they have more or less hit that target. 15% would have been nice but nearly 14% leaves them set up for future groundwork in constituencies across the country. That they managed to achieve this despite a ferocious storm of criticism from the political and media establishment in Ireland says much for where SF is right now, in electoral terms. While there is, and will be, no Sinn Féin “revolution” at the ballot box in this part of the country we are clearly seeing the benefts of the party’s slow and steady strategy. Just as SF gradually built up its electoral base in the northern part of Ireland so too are they doing the same here. While critics may try and focus on McGuinness’ high standing within the party and spin the story into a Sinn Féin loss or rejection by the southern electorate that is to completely misunderstand the situation and what SF hoped to achieve. Or rather what they have achieved.

If there is any real loser in this election then surely it must be Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell. A 6.4% result is beyond terrible. However for the party itself, riding high and nearly unassailable in the polls, the principal fallout will be internal recriminations. We are unlikely to see much of knock-on effect in the polls for FG. At least until the worsening economic situation becomes apparent to voters.

Enter Bagman

The damage delivered to Seán Gallagher’s presidential ambitions as a result of the revelations on RTÉ’s Frontline Presidential Debate is continuing to send disruptive ripples across the media and bloggosphere but it remains to be seen if the outcome will prove fatal. Gallagher was accused by Martin McGuinness of personally receiving a five thousand euro cheque from a local businessman in County Armagh for a Fianna Fáil fund-raising drive. Despite several opportunities to confirm the accusation Gallagher denied everything until in a series of increasingly desperate about-faces he admitted the substance of the charges.

Slugger O’Toole carries a transcript of the latter exchanges between the two candidates:

Gallagher: You’ve described me also as a businessman, yes and I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that I created jobs. With regard to the fundraising, the fundraising event in particular, was set up by Fianna Fáil headquarters, I was asking as a local businessman to inform those in the community that might wish to attend, I suggested and invited perhaps three or four… There were not thirty… There were not thirty people there, Pat….

Kenny: Can I ask you for… for a clarification by the way… Seán have you been to Cairde Fáil dinners, have you bought tables at Cairde Fáil dinners.

Gallagher: I was, I believe at about two Cairde Fáil dinners over the last twenty years.

McGuinness: Pat… Pat I actually spoke to a gentleman who attended that fundraiser in Dundalk in the Crown Plaza Hotel, two hours before I came to this studio.

Kenny: When was that fundraiser?

McGuinness: It was two years ago.

Gallagher: It was 2008 I believe.

McGuinness: It was two years ago according to my information. This gentleman told me there was between 30 and 35 people in the room, he also told me that after the event, that Seán called around to his house, and took a cheque for five thousand euro.

Gallagher: Not true.

McGuinness: Seán didn’t even address in the course of [Interrupted] his, in the course of his commentary,

Gallagher: I’m just finishing…

McGuinness: He says it’s not true, he’s begging… he’s begging for someone to come forward, and say that it was true, and I would caution you Seán at this stage, that you’re on [Sic] very murky waters, because one thing is for absolutely certain…

Gallagher: Perhaps you….

McGuinness: If I’m elected president of Ireland, I will stand against croneyism, I will stand against greed and self- [Inaudible]. [Audience applause] …and I will stand against, I will stand against the brown envelope culture that effectively destroyed our economy.

Gallagher: I have never been involved in that culture let me explain to you. Let me ask Martin, perhaps he might identify the name and background of the individual he’s referring to. I can tell you quite clearly, that I invited perhaps 2-3 people to that event, at the event, people were asked would they like a photograph as is normal at these functions. I personally delivered, if that’s the case then I don’t remember it, delivered a photograph… I can tell you…

McGuinness: But that confirms what the gentleman told me, he also said that when you arrived at his house you took away a cheque for 5,000 euro…

Gallagher: That is not correct…

McGuinness: That is not correct?

Gallagher: Absolutely not…

McGuinness: Alright then… I have to say I think you’re in deep, deep trouble.

Kenny: I want to try and move on but I think we can clarify some of the….

[Programme break]

Kenny: A development which I want to put to Seán Gallagher, on the Martin McGuinness for President Twitter account, Sinn Féin are saying they are going to produce the man who gave you the check for 5,000. Do you want to change what you said or are you still saying that it just simply didn’t happen. Are they up to dirty tricks or what?

Gallagher: “Well, you know I’ve always tried to stay above any negative campaigning and I understand from a query during the week in one of the newspapers and when my campaign team sent back the information on the said character, I don’t want to cast any aspersions on him….”

Kenny: “So you know who he is?”

Gallagher: “He’s a convicted criminal, a fuel smuggler, investigated by the Criminal Assets Bureau and rented the office out to Gerry Adams, Martin’s colleague, in the last general election. I don’t want to get involved in this, I don’t believe….”

[Audience noise]

Kenny: “Can we put this to rest now. Did you get a cheque from this guy or not?”

Gallagher: “I have no recollection of getting a cheque from this guy…”

[Audience boo and hiss – someone shouts “Liar!”]

Gallagher: “I can tell you, let me explain this very simply.”

McGuinness: “The man said you went to his house Sean.”

Gallagher: “I explained that they’re were two or three people that I asked….invited, I don’t know the man very well that’s in question…”

Kenny: “Hang on a second, you’re saying you went around to a fuel smuggler and all sorts of things and invited him to a Fianna Fáil do?”

Gallagher: “I’ll tell you quite simply Pat, I was asked…”

Kenny: “No, You labelled him one thing and yet you invited him, so which is it? Or are you happy with both?”

Gallagher: “I wasn’t aware at the time 3 years ago. I’m just making the point that I was asked to pass the information on to local business communities which I did. I want to say one thing. This is not what the presidential election should be about.”
[Audience clap – someone says “absolutely”]

Kenny: “Martin McGuinness, do you want to…..? Briefly?”

McGuinness: I think Seán should answer the question. And the question is, did he go to a man’s house, a man who spoke to me on the telephone several hours ago, and collect a cheque for €5,000 euro?”

Gallagher: “What Martin has said is that I drove to the man’s house to deliver a photograph of the event and that he gave me a cheque. I may well have delivered the photograph if he gave me an envelope… I…”

[Audience laughs]

Gallagher: “The point is, if he gave me the cheque, it was made out to Fianna
Fáil headquarters and it was delivered, and that was that. It had nothing to do with me.”

McGuinness: “That’s a clear admission of what I said earlier.”
[Audience claps]

Kenny: Michael D Higgins, do you want to say anything on this, Michael D

Michael D Higgins: “I think that it’s very important that there be absolutely full and total disclosure and resolution of this and as quickly as possible. You know, what you say when you take the office of President… I dedicate my abilities to the welfare ofthe people of Ireland… That’s all of the people of Ireland and it’s far beyond any of this kind of thing, quite frankly, and I do think we should, in a way if we can, I think these matters should be clarified, they’re quite urgent…”

Kenny: “Hang on a second Michael, it’s all very well to be pious and all the rest of it.”

Higgins: “No, it’s not pious, it’s a man being straight.”

Kenny: “No, hang on, you want to be judged on your record. If there are things that we need to know about all the 7 candidates, about their record, we need to know it. So, you want to walk away from this particular controversy…”

Higgins: “No, I don’t at all. Could I have said more clearly that the matter needs to be clarified? And as a matter of urgency and immediately. And I think that’s very… that’s what the public want, you know in the end it isn’t about us seven here, it’s about what’s good for Ireland and what’s good for the Irish people.”

Since the dramatic revelations in the debate the Gallagher campaign, and the candidate himself, have been desperately spinning their PR machine trying to deflect the storm of criticism while rounding on McGuinness and anyone else with the temerity to question the new Golden Boy of Irish politics (who is actually looking very much like just another Old Boy).

However Hugh Morgan, the businessman it is claimed gave Gallagher the cheque for Fianna Fáil, has issued his own detailed statement:

“I wish to clarify and set the record straight in relation to the dealings I had with Sean Gallagher which resulted in my attendance at a Fianna Fail fundraiser in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Dundalk, on the 1st July 2008.

Sean Gallagher , who I had never met previous to this, contacted me by phone. He first phoned me on the 6th June 2008 and invited me to attend the above fundraiser. In the course of the call he requested a donation of €5,000.00 for Fianna Fail. He advised me that this type of fundraising would replace the annual Galway Tent Fundraiser. In return for the €5,000.00 donation I was promised a private audience with the Taoiseach and I would get a photograph taken with him.

He told me that the Taoiseach would give an up-date on the economy in the South which in his words was ‘beginning to wobble’

On the 9th June he again phoned me to confirm my attendance . I confirmed that I would attend and was prepared to give the donation he requested. He left two mobile phone numbers for me to contact him on.

On the 27th June Sean Gallagher visited my business premises at Killean, County Armagh. I wrote a cheque for €5,000.00 and gave it to him personally. I still have the stub of the cheque , This payment is declared in my Company accounts and was cleared through my bank on the 1st July 2008.

I then attended the fundraiser which was also attended by other businessmen from South Armagh, North Louth and across the Northeast. Sean Gallagher greeted the guests on arrival and directed us to the room at the top of the Hotel where the fundraiser was held.

Brian Cowen gave a speech on the economy and predicted a soft landing. At the end of the night Sean Gallagher introduced me to Brian Cowen and facilitated a photograph to be taken of myself and him. Approximately one week later Sean Gallagher called back to my business and gave me the photograph.

It is a fact that approximately fourteen years ago I was convicted of tax evasion in relation to fuel smuggling in Northern Ireland. As a consequence to that, I have repaid the Exchequer and paid a substantial fine. I was never investigated by CAB or any other agency in the Republic.

Since that time I have developed a successful international business known as Morgan Fuels.

I employ over eighty people in Ireland ,both North and South. I have business interests in Ireland , Britan and Europe and the Morgan Fuel card can be used up to 4,000 service stations in fourteen countries across Europe.I am also the official sponsor of the Armagh County teams of the GAA.”

Meanwhile the Irish Independent reports further on Seán Gallagher’s particular ways of earning a wage which are very far from the entrepreneurial image he likes to project:

“PRESIDENTIAL frontrunnerSean Gallagher charged GAA clubs in his home county of Louth as much as €5,000 to help out with applications for sports grants, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Gallagher charged the fees for as little as 20 hours’ work in order to help the clubs get funding from state agencies, such as theNational Lottery, when Fianna Fail led-governments had enough money to hand out the cash.

Local sources last night told the Irish Independent: “He was inside with Fianna Fail and the ministers and (he had) the inside track, he had been (Dr Rory) O’Hanlon’s secretary. Once you got him to do it, you were going to get the grant.

“We weren’t going to him looking for ham sandwiches, you know. There was unspoken word.”

Mr Gallagher charged the fees to clubs seeking to expand around 2002, near the time he was setting up his ‘Smarthomes’ business.”

Is this the end of Seán Gallagher’s presidential hopes? Judging by some online commentators and activists a significant number of people seem unconcerned by the many, many questions hanging over the nominally Independent candidate. What this says about the citizenry of Ireland, and the morality of our society corrupted as it was by the Celtic Tiger years, is open to question.

Only the election day will tell us whether the Irish people are prepared to turn their back on the squalid crony politics of the last three decades or whether they are willingly prepared to be hoodwinked yet again.

Irish Pigs In The Daily Mail

British journo Ian Birrell carries a lengthy rant against Martin McGuinness in the “Right Minds” section of the Daily Mail, a suitably right-wing British newspaper. It is replete with plenty of hackneyed phrases and stock stereotypes from the “Big British Book Of War In Ireland” (which is also popular reading amongst the Irish media establishment) but the most fun is to be derived from the Comments section underneath the article.

Amongst the choice descriptions of Martin McGuinness MP MLA, Deputy First Minister of the North of Ireland and candidate for the office of the President of Ireland, is one from the not-so-wordy “Rob”, with Britain’s ever-fashionable:

“Irish PIG.”

Or how about,

“This despicable piece of human waste has blood on his hands that can never be washed off. In the real world both he and his master would have been executed for their crimes years ago.”?

That’s from someome who signs himself “Blue, White & Proud”. That’s Tory blue and er… Well, I’m sure you can work the rest out for yourself.

Ah, the Daily Express. Its just like the Irish Independent but without, y’know, the “Irish” bit. Actually, now that I think about it, so is the Irish Independent…

From The People Who Brought You The IMF And The ECB – President Gallagher

Well, we’re in the final stretch of the race for Áras in Uachtaráin and it is claimed that the great Irish public, or at least a sizeable minority of it, may have decided to plump for the “Independent” candidate Seán Gallagher. No amount of revelations about his decades old allegiance to Fianna Fáil, his receipt of government largesse through investments in his companies or membership of cushy quango boards, his less than inspiring business record, his somewhat unorthodox accounting methods, his unapologetic loyalty to the Anglo-American form of exploitative capitalism and cultural narcissism that all but destroyed our nation, indeed his contempt for the history of our nation full stop with his wish to dump our national anthem born of a democratic Revolution, none of these things will deter those eager to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Will this report from today’s Irish Independent outlining Gallagher’s career in the political party that sold away the sovereign independence of our Republic, carry any weight? Or are we really, as a people, so far gone that we are beyond even saving ourselves?

“In a newly obtained letter, Mr Gallagher instead gave countless examples of his work for Fianna Fail at the highest levels.

“I have a long record of involvement and commitment to Fianna Fail over the past 30 years,” he said.

The two-page letter, complete with Mr Gallagher’s personal mobile number and email address, was sent just two years ago to the heads of Fianna Fail branches (cumainn) in Louth. At the time, Mr Gallagher was seeking their votes ahead of the party’s Ard Fheis that year to get elected on to the party’s national executive as one of the Louth representatives.

Mr Gallagher pointed out his service with former Health Minister Rory O’Hanlon as a full-time political secretary and his work with Charlie Haughey.

In his letter, Mr Gallagher also wrote freely about his fund-raising work for Fianna Fail.

“I later worked full time for the party in Fianna Fail headquarters, supporting members like yourself in raising much needed funds for the work of the party,” he said.

Last week, Mr Gallagher admitted he had invited guests to a secret corporate Fianna Fail fundraiser attended by then Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk in 2008 — but strongly denied that he had asked them for any money.

In his letter Mr Gallagher talked about his role in helping Fianna Fail’s Seamus Kirk retain his seat in the 2007 general election by acting as his director of elections.”

I’ve highlighted much of this before and in detail, has have many others, but one fears that the message isn’t getting through. It may be a cliché but it is one that applies here: “If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem”. Seán Gallagher, and the party and organisation he was associated with for decades, were not just part of the problem – they were the problem. He, and they, are most assuredly not part of any solution we need to find.

A vote for Gallagher is a retrospective mandate for those who brought us the excesses of the Celtic Tiger years, those who poisoned and disfigured the moral and cultural soul of our nation. This isn’t just about a seven-year term for a president. This is about how we view ourselves as a people and how we wish to go forward into the future. To vote for Seán Gallagher is to take a step back into a past that we wish to leave behind, an era that fed on the worse impulses in men and women and not the best, an era that transformed us from an Irish nation into a crude American and British clone. Urged on by an establishment elite we abandoned our own sense of ourselves and took upon us a distorted image of Ireland and Irishness derived from the views of others. We defined what we were not by our own history, or culture or language, but by what we saw on British and American television shows, read in British and American newspapers and magazines, and what we imagined they wanted us to be.

We became the wage-slaves of others, of international corporations and an unregulated global market. Our indigenous businesses, our indigenous entrepreneurs, were abandoned in the beggarly pursuance of their foreign counterparts lured here by glorified bribes. We kowtowed to their every wish and whim and in the process became their prisoners, as our own people were rendered nothing more than tradable commodities, assets and numbers on a balance sheet.

That is the Ireland we created in the Celtic Tiger age, and that is why, when we ran out of barterable means, or others offered greater prizes than we could compete with, the international businesses we enrichened by coming here abandoned us with such alacrity and ease. Cosseted corruption at the top, cosseted corruption in the middle, while those at the lowest paid for all of it.

If you think of Seán Gallagher think of the IMF, think of the ECB. Think of voodoo economics and property busts, think of ghost estates and boarded-up shop windows. Think of factory closures and crying parents and their offspring in our airports. Think of motorways through Tara, or demolished monuments in Moore Street. Think of crippling taxes and slashed budgets. Think of young men taking their lives and young mothers seeking refuge in hostels away from broken partners. Think of rising crime, rising alcoholism, a rising black tide of despair that seems ready to engulf us all.

Then remember. Remember those who brought us to this place. And then go out and cast your vote.

Not One Small Victory But Three


Some days it is nice to be reminded that the Gaelic languages are not just national languages, but international ones too. So to three stories that highlight those who embrace our native tongues in far distance lands, as well as closer to home, and for whom it represents much more than a mere form of communication.

From the New York Times a story showing that it is never too late – or too far – to learn what it means to be Irish:

“THE jolly trash man was going about his route in the Rockaways, Queens, when he spied a woman in front of her house.

“Cé hé bhfuil tú?” he greeted her.

Naturally, the woman replied, “Tá mé go maith.”

“Ceart go leor,” the trash man shot back.

This exchange — roughly: “How are you?” “I’m fine.” “Ah, grand!” — was in Irish, the Gaelic language that survives only in parts of Ireland — and to a lesser extent, along the garbage route of Ed Shevlin, 51. The route winds through the Belle Harbor section of the Rockaways, where conversations were once commonly conducted “as Gaeilge.”

“I was amazed to find there were people I could speak Irish with, while picking up their garbage,” said Mr. Shevlin, a New York City sanitation man — a “fear bruscar” in Irish — who began studying the language a few years ago.

In June, the Fulbright Commission for Summer Language Study awarded him a grant to study in Ireland — the only trash collector on a list heavy with doctoral candidates and university professors. The Sanitation Department allowed him to organize his vacation weeks in order to stay with an Irish-speaking family and attend the National University of Ireland in Galway for a month long immersion program similar to one he completed in 2009. Mr. Shevlin is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Irish studies at Empire State College in Manhattan, and studying Irish at Lehman College in the Bronx at night. He is eligible for retirement from his sanitation job in less than two years, and he plans to earn a master’s degree and begin teaching at the college level after he retires.

On weekends, Mr. Shevlin invariably travels to Irish-language and cultural events with his girlfriend, an Irish-speaking teacher from New Jersey he met on the dating Web site Match.com — by using the screen name GaelicSpeaker, and writing that he was seeking “grá mo chroí,” or “the love of my heart.” She responded in Irish and Mr. Shevlin was so impressed, he suspended his “No Jersey girls” rule.

Mr. Shevlin is pursuing his studies like someone making up for lost time. He developed a drinking problem at age 14 and dropped out of high school, but earned his equivalency diploma at age 30 and took the civil service exam. For years, he tended bar locally and in the 1980s opened the Raintower Tavern with two friends who were firefighters. After losing many friends in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, he found himself playing drums at dozens of funerals and memorial services, and his alcohol problem worsened.

But a month after the attack, he abruptly quit drinking and has now been sober for nearly 10 years, which leaves him more time to study Irish.

“Tá sé mar atá sé,” he said while finishing up his trash route. “It is what it is.””

From Scotland and the Stornoway Gazette another tale of the power of the language to tie one of the Gaelic Diaspora to their ancestral home and the positive effect it has had:

“AN Comunn Gàidhealach has recognised American student Leah Jaques at this year’s Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail (The Royal National Mòd) by presenting her with the prestigious Gaelic Learner of the Year award 2012 sponsored by Royal Highland Society of Scotland.

Texas born Leah has been recognised for her learning of the Gaelic language in a studious career which spans two years.

A second year student of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, 34 year old Leah started her love affair with the Gaelic language after moving to Glasgow in 2006.

She took Ùlpan classes to learn the language as well as a Gaelic course at Stow College in the city. Leah also supplemented her learning by volunteering as a classroom assistant at Sgoil Ghàidhlig Glaschu (Glasgow Gaelic School).

John Macleod, President of An Comunn Gàidhealach said: “This award reinforces the international appeal of Scottish Gaelic and the success of Ùlpan Gaelic learning courses as well as the attraction for international students to study further education at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.””

And finally, from the Guardian, a review of the final chapter (perhaps) in one man’s love affair with a place, a language and a community:

“Visitors to Ireland, and indeed the Irish themselves, find startling the contrast between the eastern edge of the country and the western. To travel the hundred and fifty miles or so from Dublin and its lush surrounding counties to the flinty peaks and rocky shores of Connemara is to voyage from a more or less familiar present into a mysterious, enduring antiquity. Tim Robinson remarks that of all the words in the Irish language, “the most potent are sean, old, and siar, westwards or backwards in time or space”. Certainly that westward journey is still a vivid emblem stamped on the collective Irish psyche.

“To Hell or to Connaught”, as every Irish schoolboy knows, was the choice offered to the natives by Cromwell’s land-grabbing soldiery, and many a subsequent native son has considered in his heart that only in the west does the true Irish reality survive – impoverished, desperate, hardy and authentic. However, the notion of the “spirit of the nation” preserved in a wild, much-storied place can be a dangerous one. Nationalism, smugly self-assured and at the same time quivering with ressentiment, has wrought much havoc in Ireland, as we know.

Robinson takes his title from Patrick Pearse, leader of the 1916 rising, who cleaved to the west for spiritual sustenance and nationalist inspiration, that real and envisioned west where he “was to build, write and plot, and to foresee his death”. To a friend one day Pearse spoke of the inspired possibility of instituting in Connemara “a little Gaelic kingdom of our own”. It is a telling phrase, indicative as much of Pearse’s gentleness and romantic Lilliputianism as of his grand fantasies of kingship and regal splendour.

Over the past four decades Robinson, artist, cartographer, writer, has devoted himself to a project that is nothing less than an attempted recuperation of what can claim to be the last stronghold, if that is the word, of Irish-speaking Ireland. Born in Yorkshire, he moved to the Aran Islands in 1972, and later settled in the village of Roundstone on the Connemara coast, where he still lives. Over the centuries Ireland has been host and haven to a number of remarkable Englishmen-gone-native, most of them true lovers of the country, a few of them embittered fanatics. Robinson is certainly to be numbered among the former.

Now he gives us a detailed evocation of the heart of Connemara, stretching westwards from Galway city, the area known as Cois Fharraige (“beside-the-sea”), up to Maam and down again to the villages, ports and the bewilderingly various archipelagos of that southern-facing coast which with some delight he describes as “anfractuous”, a word borrowed from that great borrower TS Eliot.

In celebrating the marvels of the little rugged world that is Connemara Robinson strives, in John Updike’s lovely formulation, to “give the ordinary its beautiful due”. As he says, “that the world is explicable is miraculous, and so explanations need not be the undoing of miracles”. He is that rarest of phenomena, a scientist and an artist, and his method is to combine scientific rigour with artistic reverie in a seamless blend that both informs and delights. One intends no slight by saying that he loves Connemara, “this strange, self-obsessed countryside”, as only an outsider could. He is keenly alive to the perils that lie in wait for the unwary immigrant. “Sometimes,” he writes, “in this bicycle-powered world of roadside and hearthside conversations I felt I was inhabiting my own nostalgic fantasy of bygone Ireland.””

In this centuries old struggle it can be even the smallest of victories that inspires one to go on. But having three…

Sí an Ghaeilge Athghabháil na hÉireann agus is í Athghabháil na hÉireann slánú na Gaeilge.

An Chatalóin – Catalonia, That Other Iberian Struggle

Catalan Nationalist demonstration celebrated i...

Image via Wikipedia

 With all the focus on the Basque Country over the last week it has been easy to forget that other separatist struggle on the Iberian Peninsula, in Catalonia. The Guardian carries a timely reminder of the progressive nationalist forces that have captured public imagination in the autonomous region: 

“It is an unlikely age to step into the political fray, but 103-year-old Moisès Broggi believes the state of the world, and of his beloved Catalonia, merits a final burst of activism – which is why he is standing for a seat in Spain’s senate. 

Should the retired doctor, who is standing for a coalition led by the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, win a seat on 20 November, he will be striking a blow for Catalan separatism while also setting a new age record for a Spanish senator. 

The retired doctor’s interest in politics dates back to the start of the Spanish civil war in 1936, when he served as a field surgeon for the international brigades – the volunteer fighters from around the world who helped defend the Spanish republic against a rightwing uprising led by General Francisco Franco. 

“I met people who were important to me and were idealists opposed to tyranny,” said Broggi, whose work during the conflict, and that of his fellow volunteer doctors, set many of the rules for field surgery in the second world war. 

He survived Franco’s Spain thanks to the protection accorded by friends, but he had to practise medicine privately.” 

The Spanish general election is expected to see big gains for Catalan nationalist parties who have increasingly come to dominate local government in the region as it faces a worsening economic climate.

Fine Gael, “No Irish Here!” – A Flashback From 1938

The wonderful Irish Election Literature blog does it again with this Fine Gael election poster from 1938 protesting against “Migrants” in County Meath. That’s Irish-speaking migrants, as FG opposes the breaking up of large estates held by absentee landlords to create the Ráth Chairn Gaeltacht or Irish speaking community in Meath. 

Good to see that contemporary Fine Gael has remained true to its anti-Irish roots. Some things never change, hey?

ETA Declares “Cessation Of Its Armed Activity”

The headlines carry the news of the much anticipated declaration of a permanent end to all military operations by ETA, the Basque guerrilla organisation. From a report in the Irish Times: 

“EUSKADI TA Askatasuna (Eta or Basque Country and Liberty) last night made a long-awaited announcement, which it describes as “historic”: its “armed activity” has come to a “definitive end”.

Coming after its 13-month ceasefire, this statement is widely understood to mean that Eta’s 52-year violent campaign for Basque “independence and socialism”, which has cost more than 800 lives, is completely over. 

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) government spokesman José Bono described the news as “a battle that has been won by Spanish democracy, our citizens, our security forces and our policies”. The party’s leader in the current general election campaign, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, said Eta was abandoning arms not due to any “sudden fit of morality” but because it had been totally defeated. 

In strictly security terms, this is undoubtedly the case. The police have dismantled Eta’s command structure, and its capacity to carry out attacks has been very limited for years. But its supporters in the banned Batasuna party have somehow turned this weakness into strength. They have made a virtue of the necessity of ending terrorism, and, on the basis of the ceasefire, have built a new pro-independence party, Bildu. 

This will be grist to the mill of the deeply conservative Partido Popular (PP), very likely to defeat the PSOE in next month’s elections. The PP sometimes sounds as if it sees a peaceful Basque independence movement as a bigger threat to Spain than Eta’s terrorism. Its response to last night’s statement was characteristically dismissive… 

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, a supporter of the declaration along with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former British prime minister Tony Blair, among others, last night welcomed the move.” 

The widely expected statement from ETA was posted on the Basque news site GARA and reads as follows (translated by GARA): 

“With this declaration, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, the Basque socialist revolutionary organization for national liberation, wishes to give news of its decision: 

ETA considers that the International Conference that has recently taken place in the Basque Country is an initiative of enormous significance. The agreed resolution includes all the elements for an integral solution of the conflict, and it has attained the support of a wide spectrum of the Basque society and the international community. 

A new political time is emerging in the Basque Country. We have an historical opportunity to find a just and democratic solution for the centuries old political conflict. Dialogue and agreement should outline the new cycle, over violence and repression. The recognition of the Basque Country and the respect for the will of the people should prevail over imposition. 

This has not been an easy way. The cruelty of the fight has taken away the lives of many comrades. Many others are still suffering in prison and in the exile. For them our recognition and deepest tribute. 

From now on the way is neither going to be easy. Facing the imposition that still exists, every step, every achievement, will be the result of the effort and fight of Basque citizens. During these years the Basque Country has accumulated the necessary experience and strength to address this path and it also has the determination for doing it. It is time to look at the future with hope. It is also time to act with responsibility and courage. 

Therefore, ETA has decided the definitive cessation of its armed activity. ETA calls upon the Spanish and French governments to open a process of a direct dialogue with the aim of addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict and, thus, to overcome the armed confrontation. Thorough this historical declaration ETA shows its clear, solid and definitive commitment. 

Lastly, ETA calls upon the Basque society to commit with this process of solutions until we build a context of freedom and peace. 



Basque Country, 20th October 2011 

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna 


As someone who has written regularly on the Peace Process in the Basque Country, and the Basque struggle for independence in general, I welcome this move and very much hope it leads to true peace and freedom for the Basque people.

Anglophone Intolerance Speaks The Same Language – In Scotland Or Ireland

Just in case you thought it was safe to speak the Scottish language in Scotland along comes journalist Gina Davidson with an anti-Gaelic diatribe in the Scotsman that twists logic and reason to breaking point:

“CAST your mind back a couple of years to the council’s school closures programme.

After all the wailing and knashing of teeth when it was first suggested that 22 schools and nurseries were to close almost immediately, the axe finally fell on just a handful of primaries.”

Um, does she mean “gnashing of teeth”? I do believe she does. Davidson goes on to discuss Bonnington Primary, one of the schools that was closed, and how the building which housed it was left to wrack and ruin for two years. However, under new plans, it may now be reopened as a Gaelic medium school.

“There are many who claim that the Edinburgh tram is a vanity project of city councillors, and therefore must come to fruition no matter what. Well it seems to me that a Gaelic primary school in Leith is just that – only this time it’s a vanity project being foisted on the council and Edinburgh taxpayers by an SNP government.

Of course, Edinburgh has a Gaelic speaking population that is said to number around 5000. But that’s surely no surprise as this is a city that attracts people from all over the world. Yet no-one is suggesting opening a Mandarin school or an Urdu-only primary for the vast numbers of pupils from those backgrounds who already study in our state schools.”

Is Mandarin or Urdu the native language of Scotland? Who knew? I thought it was a Celtic tongue. ‘mazing. Are the 5000 Scottish language speakers of Edinburgh not tax payers too? As for that point about Edinburgh attracting people from all over the world and having Gaelic speakers there being no surprise. Are you syaing that the people who speak the Scottish language are foreigners?

“No, Gaelic it seems is somehow more important than other languages – even more important than English, despite the 2005 Gaelic Language Act only stating it should have equal value. So important that while other schools are being closed because their rolls are too small, Bonnington will reopen with fewer pupils – around 158 – than it had when it closed. But that’s OK, as they’ll be doing their learning in Gaelic.”

But if English and Scottish are of equal value shouldn’t there be English and Scottish medium schools where parents and communities request it? Oh, sorry, I get you. You actually mean they are not of equal value.

“I don’t particularly blame the parents who send their kids to the Gaelic unit at Tollcross, and who will use the new Gaelic school, for being excited about the prospect. After all if someone hands you the opportunity to have your children learn the language you were brought up using, instead of you having to teach them at home, why not grasp it? Why not also then demand more if the political climate is right?”

Well, that’s nice of you, Gina. You don’t “particularly” blame the parents then. Only partially blame? Imagine, children learning in their indigenous language, the language they speak at home. Whatever next? Gaels sitting at the front of the bus?

“ It’s not really just about keeping an ancient language of the Scottish highlands and islands alive – it’s about courting Nationalist votes.

I realise that as the Nationalist party of Scotland, the SNP feels it has to prove its Scottish credentials time and again – I like to think membership involves knowing all the words to Flower of Scotland, proving you own a porridge drawer, and naming every whisky distilled in the land.

But Gaelic is something else. It has never been a traditional language of Edinburgh. It’s always been spoken by a minority – fewer people speak it than Scots even.”

That’s Edinburgh. Also known as Dún Éideann. The city with 5000 Scottish speakers (and growing). That is, speakers of the indigenous language of Scotland.

“I have no issue with people who want their children to learn another language – and I believe there are many studies that prove that bilingual children are more successful at school – I just don’t understand why, at a time when services are being cut everywhere else, at a time when kids who want to learn to play musical instruments are having the opportunity removed, public money has to be found for Gaelic. If I want my children to learn another language I’d have to pay for it privately – so why should Gaelic be different?”

Well, patently, you do have a problem with people who want their children to learn another language. Yet you acknowledge that being bilingual is a recipe for educational success. However, you don’t want it in the schools in Scotland? Eh, you don’t want Scottish kids being as well educated as their peers elsewhere in Europe?

As for paying to have your children learn another language other than their own, perhaps that is true. But what if the Scottish language is your own? Are Scottish speaking tax payers not eligible to the same public services as their English speaking contemporaries?

“Gaelic may well be a lovely, lyrical, ancient language and be worth keeping alive, but surely that should be in the places where it is traditionally spoken, not in a modern, cosmopolitan city, where the only Gaelic word known to the most is “slainte”.”

You say Edinburgh is “cosmopolitan” then state that there is no room in it for the national language of Scotland? Do you actually know what cosmopolitan means in a modern European sense?

“This Gaelic school is the SNP’s pet project; its a Nationalist version of the Tory government’s free schools down south. And it is bordering on ethnic engineering.”

Firstly, Gina, I think you’ll find that you should write “it’s”, not “its” (so much for English speakers and their education). Secondly, ethnic engineering? Like the kind that turned Dún Éideann into Edinburgh?

Ho-hum. Same prejudices. Same “ethnic” bias. Same Anglophone claptrap. But here’s this for irony: Gina “Save The Castles” Davidson! Bricks and mortar is for saving. Communities and rights, languages and cultures, not so much. Sounds like a supporter of Scottish Labour alright. Thankfully not everyone thinks the same.

Related articles

Hail To Nova Scotia

Interesting news in the Scotsman highlighting the international dimension that is increasingly important to the two main Gaelic languages, Irish and Scottish. In this case it is the latter as a Canadian Gael is awarded for his Scottish language poetry and writing. 

“AN international dimension was brought to this year’s Royal National Mod in Stornoway as the distinguished “Bardic Crown” was presented to Canadian Lewis MacKinnon, with the award crossing the Atlantic for the first time. 

Mr MacKinnon, a published poet and teacher, made the journey to Stornoway yesterday to be presented with the ceremonial robes and crown at a special event in the town centre. 

The Gaelic version of the poet laureate is a major part of the Mod celebrations and is traditionally handed out during the literature events. 

The newly crowned bard of the Gaelic world was born in Cape Breton, the district where Gaels first landed after emigrating from the Highlands. He has written a book of poetry in the Nova Scotian dialect and is a Gaelic teacher. 

He said: “Acknowledging the importance the bard plays in events like the Mod I accept reticently this role and I hope that in some way I may, through my work, reflect Gaelic Nova Scotia and how it is today, profoundly aware that it has its origins, the words, the actions and historical events of the peoples of Gaelic Scotland.” 

It should be also noted that Nova Scotia (Albain Nua) and Newfoundland (Talamh an Éisc) have strong Irish links too, as anyone who has heard a Newfoundland accent can well attest, and this has led to a renewed interest by Irish-Canadians in their linguistic heritage. (And of course Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism and promotion body, has quickly stepped in to meet this growing demand with offers of overseas education programs and language tourism… Ooops, no, sorry, I forgot, they’re too busy pursuing the petro-dollars of corrupt Saudi Arabian princes and their Wahhabi colleges… SIGH…)

Seán Gallagher And Health Rights USA

I wrote a substantial piece earlier dealing with the Fianna Fáil background of the “Independent” presidential candidate Seán Gallagher, a background which dates to the early 1980s. However in my researches some weeks ago I came across some information that I have been debating whether or not to discuss. Firstly it is (as far as I can tell) a strictly personal matter for Mr. Gallagher and therefore should be off-limits. Politics I do, people’s private lives, whatever area they work in, are their own concern. Unless (yes, a caveat) those private affairs effect their public work. In this case the information I’m going to write about is not a secret but is in the public domain, available on the internet (and on other media), and may be of some concern to the candidate. Especially should he succeed in his campaign and be elected to Áras an Uachtaráin.

In August 2007 Gallagher took a trip to Israel, staying at the Lot Spa Hotel. While there he apparently met one Matthew A. Katz, who later went on to found Health Rights USA, one of those very American medical outfits that claim a not-for-profit status, mixing a “wonder diet” with trips to the Dead Sea health resort mentioned above. According to a November 2007 blog posting by Katz:

“If you are suffering from psoriasis then you know how this can complicate your life. However, this need not be lifelong affliction. In fact, if you take a look at this video of my own recovery, you will see the results. Meanwhile, I came across this remarkable video on YouTube about a group of young people whose parents paid for their treatment overseas. They, too, saw their psoriasis clear up in record time.

The mission of this blog is to invite Jewish and Christian philanthropists to lend their support to assist as many people as we can to experience the same benefits rather than suffer. It is known that many cannot afford this treatment because it is not covered by health care plans in the United States, Canada, England, and Ireland. Contact us for more information regarding giving to this worthy cause at…”

He also posted in November 2007:

“Sean Gallagher from Ireland and Matthew Katz from New Haven, CT landed in Tel Aviv early this past August on a sweltering 110 degree day. Both were bound to the Lot Hotel spa and clinic on the Dead Sea the. Neither man knew the other nor what was about to happen in the next 21 days. Each experienced nearly 100% remission.

Each man had left home with an extreme case of psoriasis which they had lived with for more than 2 decades and within 21-days they were clear of most lesions!

As remarkable as this may sound, it’s common place at the Dead Sea clinic where Dr. Harari and his team has been working to help cure patients for over 15 years. It is a popularly accepted cure in Israel and in some European countries where healthcare pays for nearly 100% of this full-month stay at the hotel and spa/clinic. It can run as high as $3,500 for room, board and medical care, plus airfare. So, you can imagine how Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Katz felt shelling out this many “sheckles” in Israeli dollars with no guarantee of success and without any medical reimbursements in either Ireland or the U.S.A.

But, with the effort they made, they were rewarded with a clean bill of health and there is no price that they can put on this.

Returning to their homelands, Mr. Katz and Mr. Gallagher have remained close friends and each are encouraging everyone they meet who has either psoriasis or arthritis and rheumatism conditions to make the journey to the Dead Sea clinic.

Mr. Katz is even returning with a group next summer. For information about his treatment plan before and after for more information about this healing or to order the booklet please contact Mr. Katz at…”

Since then Katz has moved on to a business website (which repeats the description of the meeting with Seán Gallagher, who is pictured) with a more professional look, offering a means to reverse psoriasis, arthritis and type 2 diabetes, and treatments for $11,995.

“We will train you in 21 days how to “Eat Right” – “Exercise Properly” and “Reduce Stress.”

The Dead Sea and sun are known for positive effects on skin and joints. Look at this YouTube to see families around the world who go for their skin clearing.

HealthRightUSA, Inc. also includes a five-year follow-up by board certified family physician, Dr. Joel Fuhrman to commit to keeping you on track with continued wellness. This is our commitment to you! You need to be as committed to your success in order to remain clear-skinned and strong.

This 5 year program begins with a 21-day Dead Sea spa vacation and tours of historic sites plus includes:

  • All doctor fees, weekly checkups and prescribed creams.
  • Dead Sea and sun solarium treatments daily.
  • Hotel room rental fees and taxes.
  • All Meals (Kosher “vegan” prepared for autoimmune diseases).
  • Educational programs (each evening lectures after daily sun/sea treatments).
  • Access to exhibit hall during meals for questions with professionals.
  • Discount on all products (ie: books, CD’s, vitamins, water filters, juicers)
  • Free daily classes (yoga, guided meditation, group discussions, funny movies!).
  • Hiking and outdoor educational programs designed for fitness, stamina and confidence building.
  • Vegan food preparation and cooking lessons.
  • Site-seeing included to historic Israeli sites.

“ALL INCLUSIVE 5 year Wellness and Health Support Vacation Program” with a 3-week stay at our Dead Sea clinic is $11,995 per person. ONLY $995 extra per spouse/partner* Airfare is NOT included due to multiple departure locations. Group rates are available via our airline company.”

All of which profit-making for a non-profit organisation seems to have caused trouble with Google, as this appeal by Katz in 2010 makes clear:

“Dear Team,
We are a new non-profit with Google Grant acceptance #994-225-6178.

We would like to go through an appeal process with staff person at Google who knows about IRS 501c3 criterion for accepting us as a non-profit. We have been highly scrutinized by the IRS and they have checked our mission (see this link please). It’s a treatment approved for decades by Dermatologist around the world and doctors at the Dead Sea in Israel along with our Medical team in the U.S. has 30 years of documented success with diet for Psoriasis, Arthritis and related issues.

But GoogleAds system will not allow us to use the keywords such as “Psoriasis” in our ads. They don’t understand our “scholarship” program and alternative treatment choice. This is the right of patients to choose their own type of treatment. They kicked out our proposed keywords as “medical claims for miracle cures.” This rejection of direct advertising terms like Psoriasis or Eczema Treatment forces us to come up with other ways to promote our treatment, such as our books on diet, etc.

Why can’t GoogleAds allow us to do our mission? See our 501c3 letter on our “Why Donate” page, which demonstrates that we don’t make claims of cures, but we are providing a service to those interested in alternative treatment. Please give us a reasonable way to promote our safe treatment program using keywords that get patients to learn exactly what we offer.

All that we have worked with you for months is to get help to give FREE scholarships to those who cannot afford care.

I greatly appreciate your support.

Matthew A. Katz


The free scholarships referred to above are explained here:

“Your tax-deductible donations go to scholarships and spreading the word about our mission for general wellness and a natural, non-drug Psoriasis treatment.

Many cannot afford this treatment because it is not covered by health care plans countries like the United States, Canada, England, and Ireland. Our mission is to invite individual givers as well as large philanthropies to lend their support.Our initial goal is $1.4 million to cover the costs of a full year of program planning, professional fundraising and advertising. Any amount that brings us closer to this is greatly appreciated. This goal includes 50 patient scholarships per month. ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. (see our 501c3 certificate below the Donate button).

Would you be able to give:
$18, $36, $72, $100, $150, $200, $250,
…or another amount?

Every scholarship patient must have income less than $45,000 per person, $75,000 per couple, $85,000 per family. Each individual at this program costs $8,995 and any partner or spouse costs $995 which includes hotel, food, and all program fees for a full 21-day stay. Airfare is not included. This is what your scholarship dollars support.”

I’m presuming the donations (via a payment through a Chipin login, a somewhat unusual method) help with running the organisation in addition to the payments made by patients themselves though I find the arrangement somewhat puzzling. Maybe that is just a cultural thing as the organisation – and its functioning – is very American as can be seen elsewhere on the business website:

“Qualified College Students Can Apply for Internship Experience from anywhere around the World who speak these languages!

Seeking qualified college students who speak multiple languages (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Slavish & English) to assist in blogging, social networking and contacting other nutritionists who can refer chronic psoriasis patients for treatment tours to the Dead Sea.

Demographic studies show that there are 125 million in India, China, Japan and in Europe which includes 7.5 million alone in the U.S.

To discuss Internship options, please fill-out the form on the right and we will email you a “getting started” package.

Once trained, you may also qualify for our “Payment Plan” by becoming a Tour Marketing Salesperson.

HealthRightUSA, Inc. pays Intern/Salespeople $200 per patient referred who registers for at our Dead Sea clinic for one of these sessions. An additional $50 if the partner/spouse joins them at the clinic.”

The website also includes links to several videos on YouTube where diet books and other materials available for sale from Health Right USA are discussed. In fact the diet part of these offers seem to be based (or linked) to the much-debated American nutritionist Dr. Joel Fuhrman as the site makes clear:

“We offer FULL SCHOLARSHIPS* for Psoriasis, Eczema, Psoriatic Arthritis and type-2 Diabetes patients programs to help them heal at the Dead Sea in Israel. We use natural methods of sun treatments, special sea mineral baths and physicain supervised healthy vegan diets.

We teach them “healthy living” through proper vegetarian style diet, exercise,meditation and attitudes that will help them maintain their general health and maintain clear skin for years to come.

We have in place “Five Year Wellnes Program” to enhance long-term remission and further document the value of Dr. Fuhrman’s natural treatment program

*Scholarships are based on the economy and our fundraising efforts currently underway. Please give generously to help others receive this treatment!”

Okay. I’m not questioning the validity or otherwise of the treatments or programs offered by the American-based organisation, HRUSA, Inc. Nor do I question the ways by which it raises donations or earns revenues. It states that it is registered in the United States as a “501(c) organization”, that is a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation so presumably it has been examined in some way by US federal authorities to see if it qualifies for that status (there is a letter of confirmation from the Internal Revenue Service, though it  is addressed to the organisation via one Sandra L. Cox and a PO Box number rather than a company address).

My only question centres on the very public association of a man wanting to be the next President of Ireland with this group and the need for this relationship to be clarified. It does not touch upon whatever private medical condition or treatment that Seán Gallagher may have had in the past (or currently still does). That is no ones business but his own, and rightly so. We all have private lives, even politicians, and not everything needs to be known.

However, what does need to be known is how Seán Gallagher is linked to Health Rights USA, Inc. and why does it use his name and image in its promotion? Are there no links? If so should he not request that they alter their website to remove his name and photographs? This is not a “muck raking” exercise since, as far as one can tell, there is no muck to rake. It is a simple matter of clarification and the need for someone who may hold the highest office in this nation to be above reproach. It may well be (and I presume it is) that Mr. Gallagher is unaware of the unusual prominence he is given on the Health Rights USA site. Or perhaps he is a donor and wishes this philanthropy to remain private (a laudable stance, if so, and I apologise for raising it)? Whatever the case a speedy answer will put this question to rest.