Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Words on Wednesday...with David Norris

Senator David NorrisWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Taking my questions this week I'm pleased to say is Irish Senator and human rights activist David Norris.

I'd like to thank Mr Norris for very kindly agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said, let's begin:

What initially attracted you to political life?

I was initially attracted to political life by a sense of injustice and the belief that even in a small way people, by entering the political process, can help to change things for the better. I was also associated with Mary Robinson's first election campaign to the Senate and ultimately followed in her footsteps into the Senate via the TCD constituency.

You are a Senator representing graduates of Trinity College Dublin. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

A typical day in my life would be first of all to deal with whatever post arrives here at home, then to go down to Order of Business in the Senate. The Order of Business is often the most lively and exciting part of the day and its the one in which the limited media focus that exists for the Senate is concentrated. The rest of the day consists in making contributions where appropriate on legislation or on statements, trying to get issues ventilated such as the war in Iraq etc. I might also then have to attend one of the two committees on which I serve, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Transport Committee.

I also deal with extensive post. Many people contact me as if I were their local TD and others raise issues, many of great substance. I may also have interviews to do either directly or with the media. At lunch I would often have somebody in who has contacted me about a particular issue or have invited somebody in myself in order to brief me from an expert position.

What are your thoughts on the Seanad? Do you feel it provides a useful service to Irish society or do you think it's in need of reform?

With regard to the Senate I do think it provides a useful service to Irish Society, in particular we led the debate on issues like the Iraq War, the CIA Rendition Flights, we had the first debate on Aids in either house and we have managed to open up the area of debate in issues such as Civil Partnership. Nevertheless I think it is certainly in need of reform and the best reform would be to make the 43 panel members, who are presently elected on basis of an electorate that consists entirely of politicians, open to the ordinary members of the nominating bodies.

If you could change three things about Irish society, what would you change and why?

The three things I would change about Irish Society would be the excessive and rather sad drinking, especially among young people whose lives are sometimes clearly damaged by excess. I would also like to see something done about the disregard we show for our environment ranging from the filthy litter strewn streets of Dublin to the pollution of our rivers and so on and finally I would change our continuing wish to live in the past and refight old battles.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

With regard to a United Ireland, I have no problems with it at all as long as it doesn't cost lives. In the present European situation I think national boundaries mean less and less.

What should be done to improve the situation in NI?

With regard to improving things in Northern Ireland, I think the most important thing is to get the two principal communities to know each other and acknowledge each other's rights. The old tag about parity of esteem comes into mind. I also think that relaxing the sectarian hold on education of all the principal churches would be good because if people are educated together they get to know each other.

There have been calls in the past to allow MPs from NI to speak in the Oireachtas, perhaps in the Seanad. Would you welcome such a move?

I have no problem having distinguished speakers addressing the Oireachtas. This is already extended to MEPs and I would have no difficulty in it being extended to members of the Assembly from Northern Ireland or indeed MPs. However, I don't think this should be a statutory right as I think that should be retained to those who have been duly elected to Seanad Eireann.

Recently there was a military parade held in honour of the Easter Rising. I know in the past you have spoken of your unease at celebrating the Rising. What are your thoughts on the 1916 Rising and what did you make of the military parade?

With regard to the military parade I don't like militarism and I felt that the parade at Easter was a cynical attempt by the Government to outflank Sinn Fein.

Sticking with the Rising, you have previously commented that: "We got an Irish Free State, but there was going to be one anyway. They got kudos for that. And of course the Brits were bloody fools." However Garret Fitzgerald recently commented that to say Home Rule would have led peacefully to Irish independence was "alternative history gone mad." What are your thoughts on that?

I have of course respect for Garret Fitzgerald's opinion as he is a senior and highly respected politician who has a family background in the struggle for independence. However on this subject I disagree with him. I believe that Irish independence in the limited form gained in 1922 was very much on the cards and could have been achieved.

You have long campaigned for greater rights for homosexuals and you were the first openly gay person elected to public office in this country. What are your thoughts on the way homosexuality is now treated in modern Ireland?

With regard to homosexuality in Ireland, the treatment of gay people has certainly improved very considerably. When I was young it was not only a criminal offence but it was a subject that was not spoken of at all in polite society and any implication at all that one was gay could lead to social and economic disaster. However young people coming into knowledge of sexuality whether heterosexual or homosexual very often go through a rocky period in adolesence when they are finding themselves. This I think will continue to be true.

There is also no question that for some people and in some areas of the country things remain difficult. I hope however that when we pass legislation recognising civil partnership things will improve further.

Staying with homosexuality, you have in the past criticised Pope Benedict XVI and stated that teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality are "in line with the prejudices that included Hitler and Himmler". Do you stand by that view?

Yes I stand by my view on the teachings of the Catholic Church being in line with the prejudices that included Hitler and Himmler. There is unfortunately a long history of this kind of discrimination going right back to the early period of the Christian Roman Empire. Both Jews and gay people suffered parallel discrimination both socially and legislatively and the Christian Church stood firmly behind this and was in many ways the source of it.

Pope Benedict the XVI joined the Hitler Youth and was in it for a number of years. This was not compulsory as he himself has acknowledged. I have read a statement of his in which he indicated that he did so in order to acquire certain educational privileges that assisted him with his studies for the priesthood. I do think that we are entitled to a further explanation of this especially in the light of the fact that he has presided over the uttering of statements describing homosexual behaviour as intrinsically evil and objectively disordered and also tolerated the expression of the view of the Spanish hierarchy that the recognition of gay relationships represented "a virus" in Spanish society.

This is exactly the kind of language that Himmler used in his promulgation of sexual hygiene laws which were directed against gay people and which paralleled the racial hgiene laws against the Jews.

What are your thoughts on the Orange Order?

With regard to the Orange Order, I regard it as a narrow and sectarian institution many of whose foundation documents are blisteringly anti-Catholic and in that context greatly to be regretted. I was strongly opposed to the whole Drumcree episode and wrote to all the Bishops of the Church of Ireland objecting to the use of the Church of Ireland for this political purpose.

What are your thoughts on the current conflict in Iraq right now and Ireland's position?

With regard to Iraq, I am in the awful position of having predicted in the Senate exactly the tragic mess into which George Bush and Tony Blair would lead us all.

With regard to Ireland's position, we have been ambiguous to say the least. The use of Shannon airport is a moral disgrace. I was not impressed by Bertie Ahern saying that this was a tradition that had gone back over fifty years. Indeed it did and it meant that we also facilitated the appalling war in Vietnam with the destruction of many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians lives and the use of chemical components such as Agent Orange used in a massive defolation of the countryside.

You are one of the few Irish politicians who blogs. Why do you blog and do you see more Irish politicians taking it up? (Mr Norris' blog can be found here)

The reason I blog even though I am technically illiterate is because I think it is very important to communicate with the general public, especially if you are committed to change in society and in international relations. As a result I am happy to use whatever technology comes to hand in order to disseminate ideas.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now?

I would hope that Ireland twenty years from now would be continuing to prosper but with a greater sense of responsibility internationally and that we would be leading the way in trying to establish ethical responses in terms of foreign policy and accepting our global interconnectedness.

Finally, I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Bertie Ahern -
Tony Blair - Insincerity
George W. Bush - Sniggering hypocrisy
Mary McAleese - If you are Irish come into the parlour
Ian Paisley - If you are Irish stay out of the parlour
Gerry Adams - Its my parlour anyway
Michael McDowell - Is the parlour licenced?
Pope Benedict the XVI - Dialogue Schmialogue
Padraig Pearse - Blood Sacrifice
David Norris - That gobshite!

Many thanks.

Thank you, Senator.

Information on future interviews will be posted soon. Be sure to keep clicking in to United Irelander for for your firsthand look at Irish political life.

Previous interviews can be read here.


Loach dismisses "anti-British" claims

Well done, sir! Well done to British director Ken Loach who has dismissed claims his award-winning film The Wind That Shakes The Barley is anti-British.

He told BBC Breakfast this was "nonsense" saying:

"We could have shown things that were much worse than are actually in the film."

He also said accusations that his film could be seen as a recruiting tract for the Irish Republican Army were "a cheap shot" and "barely worth answering". The film centres around Ireland's struggle for independence from Britain in the 1920s and also touches on the Civil War which followed. It has just won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

The film, told entirely from the perspective of its Irish characters, shows British soldiers to be indiscriminately violent. Loach, however, said this was a true depiction of how the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries behaved:

"Their brutality is legendary - no one would question that."

He added that the film was "about a group of people, mainly young lads, who are fighting to get an army of occupation out of their country":

"You could compare them to the French Resistance and the Partisans in Italy."

Indeed you could and Mr Roach is right about the Black and Tans as well. I had a teacher from Kerry who once told our class how when he was a boy he saw the Tans break into his home and physically assault his grandmother and grandfather. The Black and Tans were no joke and committed some terrible atrocities in Ireland.

I personally can't wait to see this film but I do hope it's more historically accurate than the Michael Collins film was. I also hope it gives proper credit to the IRA of the early twentieth century as I feel the Old IRA have suffered as a result of later versions who, in my opinion anyway, misappropriated their ideals.

More to the point this film isn't about bashing modern-day Britain or British people. The majority of Irish people are not so stupid that they would lash out at the Britain of today due to decisions made by the Britain of the past.

I actually think we're at an excellent point in time now where we can look back on events like the War of Independence and the Civil War and have a healthy debate on the decisions that were made back then.

If the movie causes debate, and I suspect it will, then it is already doing us all a healthy service.


UVF man shot in attack

Road seeled off One of the biggest new stories of the moment concerns the shooting of leading Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary chief Mark Haddock who has been left in a critical condition.

The Ulster Unionists must be feeling very uneasy about this incident after their widely criticised move to align themselves with the Progressive Unionist Party, the political wing of the UVF.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has already condemned those behind the shooting:

"The perpetrators of this barbaric act must be swiftly taken off the streets and subjected to the fullest rigour of the law."

The DUP's Nigel Dodds likewise hit out at those responsible while Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly suggested it could have been state sponsored:

"An inquiry into collusion between the Mount Vernon UVF and the Special Branch is currently being conducted by the Police Ombudsman and is due to be published next month.

"Mark Haddock is at the centre of this inquiry. Given this many people will be rightly suspicious of both the timing and the motivation behind this shooting.

"There is a clear pattern of former British agents being killed in circumstances like this just as allegations of collusion or other activities are about to be exposed, as was the case of those involved in the murder of Pat Finucane."

I do believe myself that there are elements within British Intelligence who want the peace process to fail despite the efforts of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern. With that being the case I don't regard it as beyond the realms of possibility that this could have been conducted with backing from elements within the British state.

After all, if this man dies and the UVF are found to be involved in some way, it will be a real blow for the prospect of reviving devolution since the DUP would be left in a very comfortable position. In contrast, the UUP could face political meltdown. The DUP wouldn't have to alter their present strategy.

Whether it was or wasn't state sponsored, it remains clear that incidents like this leave Reg Empey and his party looking very exposed and it makes his decision to align his party with the PUP appear even more foolish.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Legal advice sought

Some of you who read United Irelander may have become aware of serious defamatory claims that have been made against me on two sites.

The posts I am referring to can be read both here and here.

I'd like to thank those who have so far emailed me expressing their concerns about these posts and I can tell you that I am currently getting legal advice in regard to these posts.

According to Irish defamation laws:

"Defamation occurs where a false statement is published about a person which tends to lower that person in the eyes of right-thinking members of society. Defamation is a generic term – slander is defamation in a transient form, while libel is defamation in written or permanent (or equivalent) form.

"Defamatory statements include accusations of professional incompetence, or of unethical, illegal or immoral behaviour."

It does seem to me that defamatory allegations have been made about me in the two posts highlighted above.

I welcome anyone with a legal background to proffer advice on the best way to handle this matter.

Thanks again for your support.


Today in History - New Ireland Forum

One island, one nation It was on this day, May 30th, 1983, that the Irish government established the New Ireland Forum to consult on the manner in which lasting peace and stability could be achieved in a new Ireland.

Four political parties took part in the Forum who represented three-quarters of the entire population of Ireland. Sinn Féin were excluded due to Provisional IRA violence whilst the unionist parties and the Alliance Party chose not to attend. Some individual unionists did particpate in the Forum however as the Forum sought submissions from the general public.

One of the principle conclusions from the New Ireland Forum's report published on May 2nd, 1984, was as follows:

"Among the fundamental realities the Forum has identified is the desire of nationalists for a united Ireland in the form of a sovereign, independent Irish state to be achieved peacefully and by consent."

The New Ireland Forum recognized the distinctive unionist identity on the island of Ireland. It also acknowledged the basis for unionist fears of a united Ireland and elaborated the need for a new Irish constitution should there ever be a unitary state. It went on to state that both the nationalist and unionist identities would be protected and preserved should there ever be a united Ireland.

The Forum's published report can be read in full here but I'd like to focus on Chapter 6 which deals with the idea of a Unitary State. The report reads:

6.1 A unitary state would embrace the island of Ireland governed as a single unit under one government and one parliament elected by all the people of the island. It would seek to unite in agreement the two major identities and traditions in Ireland. The democratic basis of a unitary state in Ireland has always existed in modern times. Historically up to 1922 Ireland was governed as a single unit and prior to the Act of Union in 1801 was constitutionally a separate and theoretically equal kingdom. Such a state would represent a constitutional change of such magnitude as to require a new constitution that would be non-denominational. This constitution could only be formulated at an all-round constitutional conference convened by the British and Irish Governments. Such a constitution would contain clauses which would guarantee civil and religious liberties to all the citizens of the state on a basis that would entail no alteration nor diminution of the provisions in respect of civil and religious liberties which apply at present to the citizens of Northern Ireland. These guarantees could not subsequently be changed, except in accordance with special procedures.

6.2 The rights of all citizens would be guaranteed in the constitution. Reinforcing guarantees would incorporate in the constitution the clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights with a right of access to the European Court of Human Rights.

6.3 In a unitary state, there would be a single legal and judicial system throughout the island. The study by Professors Boyle and Greer, The Legal Systems, North and South shows that there would be no significant technical obstacle to the creation of a unified legal system.

6.4 Political and administrative arrangements in a unitary state would be devised to ensure that unionists would not be denied power or influence in a state where nationalists would be in a majority. For example, provision could be made for weighted majorities in the Parliament in regard to legislation effecting changes in provisions on issues agreed to be fundamental at the establishment of the new state. In the Senate unionists could be guaranteed a minimum number of seats. The powers of the Senate could include effective blocking powers in regard to the issues agreed to be fundamental. Mechanisms for ensuring full Northern participation in an integrated Irish civil service would have to be devised.

6.5 A unitary state would have a single police service recruited from the whole island so designed that both nationalists and unionists could identify with it on the basis of political consensus.

6.6 A redefined relationship between Britain and Ireland would take account of the unionist sense of Britishness. In a unitary state, persons in Ireland, North and South, who at present hold British citizenship would continue to have such citizenship and could pass it on to their children without prejudice to the status of Irish citizenship which they would automatically acquire. The state could develop structures, relationships and associations with Britain which could include an Irish-British Council with intergovernmental and interparliamentary structures which would acknowledge the unique relationship between Ireland and Britain and which would provide expression of the long-established connections which unionists have with Britain.

6.7 All the cultural traditions in Ireland, North and South, would be guaranteed full expression and encouragement. The educational system would reflect the two main traditions on the island. The Irish language and culture would continue to be fostered by the state, and would be made more accessible to everyone in Ireland without any compulsion or imposition on any section.

6.8 A unitary state achieved by agreement between the nationalist and unionist traditions would for the first time allow full participation by all traditions in the affairs of the island. This would require a general and more explicit acknowledgement of a broader and more comprehensive Irish identity. A unitary state would promote administrative and economic efficiency in the island by ending duplication and separate planning and investment programmes and by facilitating integrated promotion of investment, exports and tourism. Natural resources, oil, gas and minerals will be developed for the benefit of all the people of Ireland and could make a significant contribution to securing the economic basis of the state. With no scope for conflicts of jurisdiction and with single taxation and currency systems, the implementation of an integrated economic policy suitable to the largely similar needs of the economies, North and South, would be facilitated, with consequent benefit. Integrated economic policies would ensure a united voice in advancing vital interests of both parts of Ireland, especially in the European Community, within which both North and South have common interests in areas such as agriculture and regional policy which diverge from the interests of Britain.

It is clear from reading the above report that the sensible ideas proposed by the New Ireland Forum are as relevant now as they were back then.

Indeed the Forum's conclusions are so relevant to Irish people today that I myself would not object to the idea of holding another New Ireland Forum.

It is abundantly clear that the division of the national territory remains the biggest problem facing both parts of the island of Ireland. It is a problem that will not ease with the passage of time.

The only way the evils of Partition can be successfully dealt with is through the reunification of the national territory.

The entity known as Northern Ireland was borne out of sectarianism and thus it is not surprising that its legacy has been pure, unadulterated sectarianism.

How can people be expected to live together in harmony when they are living in a construct that was designed to encourage division and segregation?

Since the New Ireland Forum in 1983, the Irish Republic has become more and more culturally diverse and the 26-county State has become successful. In contrast, the sectarian 6-county polity remains stagnant.

It is time unionists realised that there is no longer any valid reason for them to keep the Irish people divided.

It is time for us to reunite.


Why power-sharing can't work

Can a settlement be reached? I was impressed with this article in the Irish News by Patrick Murphy who suggests that power-sharing in NI is an impractical form of government and that NI is ungovernable from within.

Commenting on power-sharing being impractical, Murphy writes:

"A coalition government is challenged by an opposition. Under power-sharing, almost everyone is in a government party (even David Ervine) and there is no formal opposition party. Thus opposition to a specific government policy can come only from within that same government. It may be democracy but not as the rest of the world understands the concept."

Murphy then goes on to state that NI is ungovernable from within based on the fact that the system, rather than promoting a system of power-sharing, in actual fact promotes a system of power-partitioning:

"The problem is reflected in our assembly's hypocrisy. On their first day back members stood for a minute's silence for Michael McIlveen. He was a victim of sectarian tensions between those who wear Celtic shirts and those who wear Rangers shirts (while sporting the name of the same brewery on both).

"Members then signed in and, under the rules of the assembly, they were required to register, not by political party but by their soccer shirts – nationalist, unionist or other. Like all hypocrisy, it was both galling and sad.

"The British government has now officially recognised the partitioning of power by establishing seven new district councils, which will move us from local government to local ghettoes. Having misinterpreted our history, the Good Friday Agreement is now seeking refuge in our geography.

"In the meantime events at Stormont continue. In terms of normal politics they appear to represent little more than the incompetent in pursuit of the impossible."

I must say I find it difficult to argue with the bleak view of events portrayed by Mr Murphy and I feel he makes a compelling argument. Can the North's political parties make the institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement work, or are those institutions part of the problem in that they consolidate the sectarian politics that plague the North?

I believe that November will arrive without the North's parties reaching a settlement. 'Joint Stewardship', whatever that will involve, seems more and more inevitable as the weeks drag on.

The Irish and British governments are trying to get the North's political parties to unite together but it appears they are are more divided than ever.

Are we witnessing, as Mr Murphy infers, politics "in pursuit of the impossible"?


UUP-PUP link justifiable?

I think Mr Andrews is struggling I came across this letter in the Belfast Telegraph by Johnny Andrews of the Ulster Unionist Party (pictured left) who attempts to justify the recent hypocritical decision by Reg Empey and the Ulster Unionists to reach out to the Progressive Unionist party, the political wing of the UVF.

Andrews writes:

"In response to John Sutherland (Writeback, May 23), the UUP's tactical decision to ally with David Ervine in the Assembly is entirely compatible with reaching out to pro-Union Catholic voters. This twin strategy is radical but logical and consistent with the new Ulster Unionist vision of inclusivity and tolerance in a secular society; the main potential beneficiaries are nationalists from reduced sectarian conflict. This policy shows loyalists they can come in from the cold and engage.

"Until we recognise that maintaining the Union means making Northern Ireland work we are consigning our children to under achievement, especially in deprived loyalist communities.

"The UUP is taking a lead and engaging with the PUP, showing there is an alternative. While some within unionism understandably may find this strategy uncomfortable and may wrestle with their conscience on this issue, politicians have a duty to engage. This strategy in no way condones the atrocities perpetrated by the UVF; the emphasis remains to see decommissioning of paramilitarism. David Ervine and others in the PUP represent a constructive voice within loyalism through their attempts to change mindsets away from criminality, build a shared future and make Northern Ireland work and be at ease with itself."

Johnny Andrews, Ulster Unionist Party

It's funny to think that the Ulster Unionists once condemned John Hume for his strategy of reaching out to Sinn Féin only for them to go and do the very same thing with regard to the UVF.

What's more pathetic about the Ulster Unionist's position however is that, according to reports, the Ulster Unionists actually contacted other political figures before they turned to Ervine in their silly quest to garner more power and influence for unionism.

Thus it's hard to take seriously the words of people like Mr Andrews who are trying to spin this as some great endeavour on the part of Reg Empey to put a stop to loyalist terrorism when in reality, Empey has found himself in the unenviable position of having to rely on loyalist paramilitary figures to justify his party's political greed.

One wonders if Reg Empey will soon come to rue the day that he got into bed with the PUP.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Monday Madness - EU outrage

Scum Here is a disgusting story which typifies why the EU poses such a dangerous threat to Irish sovereignty as well as the sovereignty of other European nation-states.

European judges will rule tomorrow on the legality of a decision by the Irish government to complain to the United Nations about the Sellafield nuclear plant. Can you believe this?

The Government launched UN action in 2001 over marine pollution from the site, on the Irish Sea coast of Britain in Cumbria and a UN Tribunal responded with recommendations for helping solve the long-running and bitter Anglo-Irish dispute, however the European Commission went to court accusing Ireland of breaching rules obliging member states to keep disputes involving EU law within EU jurisdiction.

An Advocate-General at the European Court of Justice has already backed the Commission’s case that the environmental conflict over Sellafield should be tackled within the EU.

Lawyers for the Irish Government argued that Dublin was right to turn to the UN, because the case against the UK concerned the alleged flouting by the Sellafield plant’s operators of marine environmental protection obligations under the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

The Tribunal itself concluded that the dispute was soley based on UN requirements, even recommending "provisional measures" to resolve the problem, including further exchanges of information between the UK and Ireland, the monitoring of potential risks for the Irish Sea and pollution prevention measures.

But the Commission said environmental protection was an area of joint EU legal responsibility and that Ireland should not have asked a UN body to interpret EU laws and declare Britain’s responsibilities under them.

Earlier this year the Advocate-General Miguel Poiares Maduro said Ireland had breached its "duty of cooperation" under EU law by invoking UN dispute settlement procedures, without consulting Brussels.

This is disgraceful. Essentially Ireland is being castigated for not going to the EU to solve a problem.

Well here's my thoughts - why the bloody hell should we?

I must have missed the referendum where the people of this country signed away our sovereignty and declared the European Union to be Ireland's masters.

If the Irish government had any backbone they would tell the EU to get stuffed.

And people wonder why I am not enamoured with the European Union? I've heard all the arguments, "Oh they have done so much for us", "Oh we owe them a debt of gratitude blah, blah, blah".

Bullshit. This is the real face of the European Union. It is an expansionist project whose ultimate aim is to override the sovereignty of nation-states and to make itself all-powerful.

It is a force of evil and it must not be allowed to destroy Irish independence.


McGuinness a British spy?

Is this a spy?One of the big stories doing the rounds right now concerns the claims made by former British army intelligence officer Martin Ingram that Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator and former Provisional IRA chief-of-staff, Martin McGuinness is a British spy.

The claims have been circulated in a number of sunday newspapers. As the Sunday Times reports:

"All the newspaper allegations, however, were based on the transcript of an alleged conversation between an MI6 handler and an agent known as “J118”. The provenance of the transcript document was explained by only one newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, which said that the intelligence officer, who uses the pseudonym Martin Ingram, was “circulating” it.

"The document records a brief conversation which, according to Mr Ingram, alludes to an imminent Provisional IRA attack, which took place on the Coshquin checkpoint on the Irish border between Londonderry and Donegal on October 24, 1990.

"Five soldiers and Patsy Gillespie, a civilian who was forced to drive a van containing a bomb, died in the explosion. According to the reports, the MI6 agent encouraged his handler to “push this along as quickly as possible”.

"Mr Ingram told the Sunday World: “It has been confirmed to me that J118 is Martin McGuinness. The most significant thing for me . . . is the fact that McGuinness’s handler is the driving force between the human bomb campaign.”

"Mr McGuinness refused to comment on the reports yesterday, but a Sinn Fein spokesman dismissed them out of hand:

"We have heard this all before.

"It is rubbish. It is nonsense. Anybody with half a wit will treat it with the contempt it rightly deserves."

"Two years ago Mr Ingram claimed that Freddie Scapp- aticci, a Belfast republican, had been an army agent at the highest levels within the IRA who was codenamed Stakeknife. Mr Scappaticci denied the allegation before fleeing his home in the west of the city."

This is no doubt an explosive claim (no pun intended) but can it be taken seriously? I'm not so sure. The boys over at Balrog certainly don't think so.

With that being said, no one would have predicted that Denis Donaldson was a British spy and yet it transpired that he had been one for a number of years. There have been widespread claims since then that there is at least one other senior figure within Sinn Féin who has been secretly working for the British.

To be honest I wouldn't have trouble believing that...but Martin McGuinness? I'm not sure about that.

My gut feeling on this is that it's a lie or at least a claim based on misinformation, but who knows?

What do you think?


Blair waiting on Irish political decisions?

I came across an interesting piece in the Sunday Business Post by Adam Maguire which puts forth the view that the timing of British Prime Minister Tony Blair stepping aside for Gordon Brown will be largely determined on how events shape up in the north of Ireland in the coming months.

The article can be read here.

Your thoughts?


Government support waning

Whoops! I'm pleased to see that support for the current government is waning, according to the latest polls.

The survey, carried out by Red C Marketing for the Sunday Business Post, shows that if an election took place now, Fine Gael and Labour would have enough support to form a Government.

Support for both Fianna Fáil and the PDs is down, with their combined total now at 38 points.

On the other hand there is good news for the alternative coalition as the combined Fine Gael and Labour support has reached 40%, which would give them enough votes to take power if a General Election was called now.

Commenting on the poll's results, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the Government's showing in the latest opinion poll is not where it wants to be while Junior Minister Tom Parlon admitted that the Government needs to focus on the positives to win back support:

"It’s clearly a wake-up call, and I’m sure it means that we’re going to have a much more competitive election."

As someone who favours a change of government, I am pleased with recent polls which have shown dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The onus is now on Fianna Fáil and the PDs to get their act together and convince the Irish people that they deserve another term whilst Fine Gael and Labour, as well as the rest, need to convince the electorate that they can offer a better alternative.

If anything, this is healthy for Irish democracy and I look forward to the next 12 months which will no doubt prove most intriguing.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Weekend Words...with Rick O'Shea

Rick O'Shea Welcome to a new interview feature on United Irelander called Weekend Words which will be more light-hearted in nature than my Words on Wednesday political interviews and which will see me interview non-political, popular figures from Irish society.

Taking my questions this weekend is RTE 2fm presenter Rick O'Shea.

I'd like to thank Rick for agreeing to take my questions. On another note, since this interview has been conducted, Rick has landed a new 6pm-9pm timeslot on 2fm so congratulations to him on that. With that being said, let's begin:

You have your own blog called The Half-Arsed Blog of RTE 2FM's Rick O'Shea. Why do you blog and do you see blogging growing in popularity here in Ireland?

I suppose I blogged initially because I've always been a frustrated writer. I've never been offered anything like my own column in a newspaper which is where the likes of us media types usually let off steam and I really wasn't tech savvy enough to run my own website but when I saw how simple the whole blogspot deely was I thought it was the perfect time to give it a try.

It also coincided with me starting the breakfast show with Ruth Scott and there wasn't an Irish radio show with a blog of its own at the time. I'm always keen to be in at the start of new technology things that can be incorporated into the show and so here we are!

You were the host for the inaugural Irish Blog Awards earlier this year. What did you make of the event?

Brilliant, just brilliant. It was so well organised and put together and yet so unlike a "real" awards ceremony that it was a joy to be part of. We started an hour late because everyone was just enjoying themselves at the bar so much! To get to meet up with people I'd only read up until then and put faces to names was great too. Can't wait for next year's one - that is if Damien has me back :-)

What are some of your favourite blogs?

I don't get to read them as much as I like so I tend to read in bursts weeks apart but I greatly enjoy (for very different reasons) Disillusioned Lefty, In Fact, Ah, Conforming Monkey (when he actually arses himself to post!), Sinead Gleeson and Twenty Major, of course... Ray Foley is also great when he chooses to be :-)

You present a music show Monday-Thursday from 10 to midnight on 2FM. How did you get involved with 2FM and radio work in the first place?

Wow. Ehm, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... It was in the summer between school and college really ('91 for those who remember the old century). Started on hospital radio, got involved in the UCD station when I started there and weaved and dodged from East Coast (Wicklow) to Atlantic 252 to FM104 before I ended up here in June 2001. It's all very boring really... I suppose I ended up in radio because it was something I could somehow do well and the hours seemed good...

What are the most important things you've learned from your time on the radio?

Don't panic, don't get stressed in the short term, try to connect with people as much as you can both in person and on the show and always play like you're about to be sold...

Tell us a bit about your own taste in music. What do you like and what do you dislike?

I love it all, a cliché but, if you see my music collection, true. Everything from Gnarls Barkley to Noel Coward, Johnny Cash to Arctic Monkeys, Chet Baker, Jack Johnson, Hard-Fi, Dylan, The Who, The Stones, Snow Patrol, Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys, The Chili Peppers, Nina Simone, Christy Moore... It might be easier for me to list what I don't have and like at home.

What I don't like? Anyone from a reality TV series, most cheesy cheap dance, almost anything that gets played to death on the radio...

What's the strangest thing that's happened to while you've been presenting your show on the radio?

The night Coolio finished his interview with me, asked me where he could find a wrench and proceeded to try and "borrow" (his words) the TV mounted on the studio wall... Apparently his Playstation wasn't compatible with the one in the hotel...

What are your thoughts on politics? Does it interest you at all?

Intensely. To be fair it's mostly global or US politics that really takes my interest. I've read my own fair share of Chomsky, John Pilger, Greg Palast, Gore Vidal's political stuff, Bob Fisk, Christopher Hitchens through to Al Franken and Michael Moore... The situation in the US has captivated me in recent years as much as anyone else. I get my Irish fix every day from the Indo and my worldview from The Guardian.

I was in the European Parliament in Brussels recently though as part of my work as patron of Brainwave - The Irish Epilepsy Association ( and was suitably awed by what I saw. I'm a true believer that the European project is a genuine force for good in the world most of the time...

At home I've never had a party allegiance, I almost always find someone from a smaller party whose views and mine match somewhere. I do always vote though whether I like the looks of anyone or not. Call me a cynic but I'm always immediately suspicious of anyone who would choose to enter politics for a living!

What do you make of the 98FM fugitive that 98FM have recently revived? Do you think it's a good concept?

I think it worked wonderfully first time around and was a great example of one of those promotions that starts in the station and all of a sudden reaches a critical tipping point and then takes on a life of its own in the real world. I think, like Big Brother, its effectiveness will diminish the more often you do it...

If you had to be stranded on a desert island and were only allowed take three things with you, what would you take and why?

Wow. I've always wanted to be asked this one! My Moleskine notebook would be one. I'm in the initial notetaking stage for a novel I'm writing so I could keep myself endlessly occupied. To read Orwell's 1984, the one I keep coming back to as the world becomes more and more like Airstrip One...

And to finish, a bottomless bottle of Jameson.

I understand you're a Liverpool fan. What did you make of the FA Cup final?

A long suffering one at that! I've been a red since I was too little to know what football really was but it's great to see us finally with a manager and the bones of a squad that can win trophies on a regular basis again.

The cup final itself reaffirmed my view though of the real potential "all-time" greatness of Steven Gerrard. He created one, scored two (one while hobbling at the end of normal time) and his penalty in the shootout. On his day there are few I'd rather have in midfield. It convinced me I was right though to think that Djibril Cissé's one to keep even with his problems this season and that Reina was a brilliant, brilliant buy.

I think Morientes has to be the one to go during the summer [well predicted! - Ed.] and that we need another world class midfielder...

To my eternal shame I didn't see the game live as I was on the train down to work down south but as I said on my own blog, "I wouldn't have missed the experience of having my 8 year old commentate on the penalty shootout down the phone as the train pulled into Cork for anything".

What would you say to anyone reading now who is thinking about a career in radio?

Think hard, I suppose. I know it appeals to a lot of people because it appears to be an easy enough career and sure all you have to do is talk and play a few cds here and there but ponder this - even out of everyone presenting in radio in Ireland maybe only the top 10% are earning "decent" money. Below them are 90% many of whom struggle to pay the bills on a regular basis; we've all been there. There's almost no security in the job - one bad book and you can be out.

But... If it's your passion pursue it to the best of your ability but know when to quit and always have a backup plan. Mine is winning Euromillions. Part of me has always wished I'd done what I wanted to at 16 and become an accountant :-)

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Ryan Tubridy -
Dave Fanning - Legend
Marty Whelan - Comeback
Roy Keane - Inspiration
Rick O'Shea - Paycheck

Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed, Rick. I appreciate it.

My pleasure :-)

This Wednesday I put my questions to the always entertaining, incomparable Senator David Norris.

Keep clicking in to United Irelander for your up close and personal look at Irish society.


Fury over FIFA foolishness

I'm pleased to see this issue is not going away and that FIFA are being tackled by the Irish Government over their disgraceful insistence that NI players carry British passports.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern (pictured left looking pissed off) has said NI players should be able to travel on Irish passports if they want but FIFA have written to the Irish Football Association to say its officials cannot determine whether footballers with Irish passports can play for NI.

That's right - they can't figure out that players from Northern IRELAND might actually have IRISH passports.

Apparently the average FIFA official has the brain capacity of Father Dougal Maguire.

Previously, it had been acceptable for NI players to have a British or Irish passport and it was hoped this policy would continue. The SDLP and Sinn Féin have pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement recognised that all people born in NI could opt for British or Irish citizenship.

FIFA have remained stubborn in their stupidity however as a statement from football's governing body highlighted:

"FIFA sees no alternative but to require players to hold the passport of the national association they are seeking to represent in order to allow the match commissioner to verify their eligibility".

"The fact that a player holds an Irish Republic passport does not demonstrate conclusively that he or she is eligible to play for Northern Ireland."

An Irish passport doesn't say it's a passport of the 'Irish Republic' so it's not as complex as these morons are making it out to be. The passport states quite clearly 'Ireland' on it. Why is this so hard to figure out for these simpletons?

A FIFA official's worst nightmare

As Dermot Ahern rightly pointed out, "from a travelling point of view if a player wishes as he is entitled to under the Good Friday Agreement to produce an Irish passport, in my view that should be accepted at the receiving country."

This view was shared by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness:

"This is a human right, a national right for Irish citizens to carry an Irish passport.

"If the logic of this ruling was to be followed through by other sporting organisations it could have far reaching ramifications for sport in all of Ireland."

The SDLP's Pat Ramsay echoed these sentiments:

"It is clear that the Irish government and the IFA must take a stand against what is essentially the sporting marginalisation of half the community in the north.

"This decision is discriminatory, it is damaging, and in the context of the Good Friday Agreement, it is illegal."

Well said. I completely agree with the views above. How on earth can FIFA be so dense about this matter? They can host global football tournaments yet they can't get their heads around the notion that Irish players might actually be in possession of Irish passports?

If you want to articulate your displeasure with FIFA over this matter and challenge them over their incredible idiocy, do what I did and send them an email at

Register your disgust and let these donkeys know how you feel.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Fun Irelander Feature - Armageddon!

Not much happened yesterday This made me laugh.

A website called 'Save Lives in May' has forecast a giant tsunami hitting Atlantic Coasts...yesterday.

According to the site's Eric Julien:

"I have received information psychically, which is corroborated by scientific data, according to which on May 25, 2006 a giant tsunami will occur in the Atlantic Ocean, brought about by the impact of a comet fragment which will provoke the eruption of under-sea volcanoes. Waves up to 200 m high will reach coastlines located above and below the Tropic of Cancer. However, all of the countries bordering the Atlantic will be affected to greater or lesser destructive and deadly levels. This site is dedicated to life, to civic responsibility and to information. There is still time to save lives. Thanks for participating in the world-wide alert!"

Hmm. Now my country is pretty close to the Atlantic Ocean and it seems to be still standing as I write this!

I loved this bit Mr Julien wrote from yesterday:

"Beginning with the moment when you will have finished reading this fourth and last article on May 25 2006, the countdown will be merciless. Every minute lost not warning others will bring about thousands of deaths. Would these not be as many crimes? Are we not dealing here with crimes against humanity? The time might come to pass when we might have to bring suit against those legally at fault."

I take it that lawsuit has been put on hold then?

"The coming ordeal is that of the entire human fraternity. You will see more fear, selfishness and violence than ever before."

Come to think of it my milkman popped by earlier and he did seem more brusque than usual.

"All will be clamoring for help, be it psychological, medical or logistical."

Nah, just you mate.

You can just picture this guy last night praying for a catastrophe, can't you? Granted there was a bit of rain last night but that's it!

Rest easy ladies and gents. All is well. Go out for a few pints tonight as well if you want. But if you see a comet fly by, run for the hills!


Slugger lives!

Earlier on I thought this Slugger site was some sort of parody of the proper Slugger site but it seems the boys at Slugger are having some technical problems on their real site here.

According to Mick Fealty:

"For all our awards and multiple expressions of goodwill, we cannot continue our high levels of service without backing from a serious software player.

"Money is not the issue (though donations always welcome) : service is. There is an opportunity for an ambitous, future curious company to team up with Slugger and not simply get us back to where we were, but to help us push the boundaries of Web 2.0 in Northern Ireland."

I can't say I agree with that. What does the service matter? Surely it's the content of the site that is what's important? I've used Blogger since I started blogging. I have intelligent, articulate and regular readers from all sides of the political divide. I'm getting more hits and comments than ever before and I've secured interviews with such notable figures as the Polish Ambassador Witold Sobkow, Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte and Senator David Norris as well as a host of other politicians.

Why can't Slugger just stick to Blogger? They can still produce the same excellent content and in Pete Baker they have in my view one of the best bloggers around.

Still, good luck to Slugger in ironing out their problems.


English prepare World Cup victory parade!

We've already won! Just read this in The Times. This is why I don't root for England and it's a classic example in my opinion of why the English do not deserve support for the 2006 World Cup:

"The Football Association may be tempting fate by planning an England World Cup victory parade that will culminate in tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The Times has learnt that the Queen, after overtures from the FA, will make time in her diary for a reception should David Beckham return with an all-conquering team after the final on July 9.

"Ignoring superstition, the FA has for weeks had officials working full-time on the logistics of an open-top bus drive through Central London, using the same route as the victorious England rugby union team, whose World Cup heroics in Australia in 2003 brought one million people on to the streets of the capital.

"The FA, which has been liaising with the police and Westminster Council over road closures, estimates that that figure would be more than doubled if England’s footballers become champions of the world for the first time since 1966. July 11 has been pencilled in for the celebration.

"More than 75,000 turned up at Luton airport in 1990 to greet the England team managed by Sir Bobby Robson when they returned from Italy after losing on penalties in the semi-finals against West Germany. If England prevail in Berlin this summer, the sheer size of the victory operation is one of the reasons why some of Tony Blair’s advisers want him to make the day a public holiday, but not to announce it until after the trophy is held aloft by Beckham, the captain.

"“We would not want to risk our chances by doing anything which sounds too presumptuous beforehand," one source said.

The holiday would also apply to Scotland, even though some fans there may be tempted to support whoever England are playing against.

Because he wants to be the next Prime Minister and will need the support of millions in England to fulfil that ambition, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has declared that he wants England to win the World Cup.

“Gordon would insist the holiday applied in Scotland,” a source close to the Chancellor, who revealed at the weekend that one of his best football memories was the goal that Paul Gascoigne scored for England against Scotland in Euro 96, said.

The Queen would not be the only member of the Royal Family to give the team the seal of approval of the House of Windsor. Prince William, the president of the FA and an ardent Aston Villa fan, will attend a match early in the competition. If England reach the final, plans are being made — subject to his schedule at Sandhurst — for him to be in Germany for the match.

Blair and Brown — and a clutch of Ministers with an eye on their majorities — may be on the same flight as the Prince, whose brother, Harry, may also seek a pass-out from Army duties. Even the Prince of Wales, who is more at home on the polo pitch than the football field, would do his best to attend.

The parade, which would involve Marble Arch, Regent Street, Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, could not be in starker contrast to 1966. Then, a few thousand gathered for an impromptu parade as the coach carrying the team returned along Edgware Road. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister at the time, popped over to their hotel to offer a few words of congratulation.

The FA has decided to be low-key in public about the detailed planning going on behind the scenes, mindful of what happened to Arsenal last week. Islington Council put up signs giving details of a victory parade before the Champions League final against Barcelona, only for Arsenal to lose 2-1.

Adrian Bevington, the director of communications at the FA, said:

"We have no comment to make on any such plans. Our priority is to achieve success on the pitch in Germany. We certainly would not want to start tempting fate discussing any plans we may or may not have."

"There is no such hesitation by Germany. The host nation is so confident of success that the German football federation has booked hotel rooms in Berlin for use after the final."

Ugh! Sickening arrogance!

I love the line about not wanting to be "too presumptuous" yet they are already planning victory parades, state visits and pencilling in public holidays!

I'm going to give my support this year to Ireland's good friends the Aussies and I hope they have a great tournament. I hope England, Germany and the rest of the cocky countries are shown the door early!


NI players must have British passports

No Irish wanted apparently This is an outrage.

FIFA, the world's governing football body, have ruled that NI players must hold British passports if they are to represent the team.

Despite representations made to FIFA by Irish Foreign Affairs minister Dermot Ahern, the ruling means players holding only Irish passports would not be able to turn out for Lawrie Sanchez's side, who are currently on tour in America.

FIFA's stupid stance is at odds with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which granted the people of Ireland's north the right to dual Irish and British nationality.

FIFA's ruling is an attempt to clear up problems for match commissioners (who apparently have the brain capacity of a donkey's arse), who have to establish the nationality of participants.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) today released a statement detailing the clarification they have received from FIFA "in the light of the rather exceptional circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland":

"FIFA sees no alternative but to require players to hold the passport of the national association they are seeking to represent in order to allow the match commissioner to verify their eligibility.".

"The fact that a player holds an Irish Republic passport does not demonstrate conclusively, that he or she is eligible to play for Northern Ireland."

FIFA are idiots then.

Are we seriously supposed to believe that FIFA are so dense that they can't comprehend the fact that people from Northern IRELAND might actually have IRISH passports?

There's something very dodgy about this. I'm sure the IFA could have done a better job in clarifying this matter for FIFA. I imagine secretly, the IFA are happy about this ruling.

I have previously urged all nationalist players to boycott the NI team on the grounds that it does not cater to the nationalist community whatsoever. This ruling by FIFA vindicates this belief of mine.

And so much for the guff we here about the GAA not being representative towards unionists. At least they don't require unionists to abandon their citizenship rights!

This is a slap in the face towards Irish nationalists, make no mistake about it. Shame on those involved.


Separated at Birth?

I'ma real person!I'm not crazy i swear!

On the left we have "Jacqui" who we're told is a real person (snigger), whilst on the right we have Jo who is genuinely a real person...I think.

Separated at birth? Sure looks like it! Is it just me or does this seem to be the same person but with a different hair colour?

Apparently not though because on "Jacqui's" site, on this thread, "Jacqui" states:

"Some people thought I was Jo with dyed hair." - 4:40am

Um, maybe because they have sense? And eyes? Jo on the thread in question then has a conversation with "Jacqui" and if you observe the comments from "Jacqui" it's easy to see that it is really Jo:

"This is the flirt page I think lol"

Sure Jo, I mean er "Jacqui"!

The poor girl is talking to herself and some of her naive readers have been taken in by this sad charade that "Jacqui" is actually a real person.

The sensible readers here on United Irelander concluded a long time ago that Jo was a loon and that she was pulling the wool over other people's eyes.

It's a shame that some people are so naive to have gone and fallen for Psych-Jo's little games.

Separated at birth? No. Jo is Jacqui!


Michael Collins' funeral footage

Here's some fascinating footage from the funeral cortège of Irish Republican hero Michael Collins. It's set to the song used in the Michael Collins movie but thankfully there are no silly quotes from Tim Pat Coogan this time!

It's an interesting glimpse into the past although I found the CIRA support at the end of the clip disappointing to say the least. Nonetheless, it's worth a look:


Friday Fun's Fascinating Fact

Fact: The average chocolate bar has 8 insects' legs in it.

Ugh! I never knew that. I'll still eat them though!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Thursday Thoughts: Unionism dying

A long time ago... I think unionism is in its death throes.

If you watched on Monday the reaction from the DUP to the failed attempt to elect a First and Deputy First Minister to the North's Assembly, you would have found yourself shaking your head at how low unionism has sunk.

As I sat there observing the shrewd and astute Peter Robinson standing beside the snarling, incoherent Ian Paisley, it dawned on me that this long-term bigot and his party are pretty much all unionism has to show for itself now.

After all, as Paisley himself pointed out, the Ulster Unionists have effectively sold their soul by entering into an alliance with the Progressive Unionist Party, the political wing of the UVF, a paramilitary who have NOT decommissioned, who have NOT upheld a ceasefire and who have NOT shown a willingness to end their campaign of violence. It's now reached the farcical stage where Ian Paisley is now claiming he can't go into government with the UUP either because of their links to terrorists.

As if that wasn't bad enough, unionism has also been rocked by the revelations that have emerged in relation to the Orange Order who according to former members such as Rev Kennaway and David Trimble, were protecting loyalist terrorists and turning a blind eye to sectarian murders. Trimble went so far as to claim the Orange Order conspired to damage the peace process. Infighting, ignorance and intransigence characterises modern-day unionism and is heading unionism on the road to oblivion. But should we mourn the loss of the unionist ideology?

No, we should not. The reality is that unionism is not an ideology that has a glorious foundation. In fact, here in the 21st century, unionism's only function is to continue Partition - which was something unionist hero Edward Carson himself opposed. Unionism's original purpose was not borne out of ethnic aspirations or self-determination, it was borne out of religious bigotry and the attempt at political dominance. In other words, the continuation of the Protestant Ascendancy. Home Rule was bad because it was "Rome Rule".

If one goes back to the days of the Plantations, there was always a fear from the settlers that the native population would rise up in response to having their land seized from them and given to English and Scottish planters. This was to eventually occur in 1641 when many Protestants were brutally massacred by Catholics. The response by the Protestant settlers was to keep the natives in check and the Protestant Ascendancy soon became dominant.

In the latter half of the 18th century, it is fascinating to see how the Protestants, secure in their power, began to take an interest in Gaelic antiquity through groups like the Patriots and how they began to develop and strengthen the idea of a distinct Irish national consciousness. I wrote back in February about the 1782 Dungannon Convention which saw Ulster Volunteers in Dungannon, the majority Protestant, trying to ensure that Ireland was granted legislative independence which eventually occurred, abeit briefly, through 'Grattan's parliament'. By 1782 there were 40,000 enlisted in the Volunteers and half of them were from Ulster. It's worth remembering though that Catholics didn't have the right to vote or take a seat in parliament at this point in time.

Following the United Irish rebellion however, orchestrated mainly by Presbyterians who were themselves discriminated against, we then see a shift as Protestants begin to embrace the idea of Union whereas Catholics continue the idea of a distinct Irish national consciousness. We then see the Irish people again demanding legislative independence and asking for Home Rule yet this time it is mainly the Protestant people who thwart these efforts. Why? Because they see the benefit of remaining in the Union and being able to ensure that Catholics, who were the majority in Ireland, didn't come to dominate political matters. Thus, unionism is born and efforts are made to ensure that the 'Papists' don't get their own parliament in Dublin.

It's worth pointing out too that unionists threatened Partition BEFORE Irish people demanded to leave the UK, which began to seriously occur after the 1916 Rising. Thus, we must counter revisionist efforts to portray unionism as an attempt to remain in the UK. The fact is Home Rule would have left Ireland within the UK and posed no threat to Britishness in Ireland. Furthermore, prior to the Union itself, it was the Protestants who could be regarded in the strictest sense of the word as 'nationalists' since they were at the forefront in developing the Irish national identity. I would thus argue that the polarization in the north of nationalists and unionists is a foolish pursuit in light of the historical facts.

There is no glory attached to unionism. It is built on efforts to promote dominance of one religion over another. In this day and age, such sectarian attitudes are unnecessary. The Irish Republic today has people of many faiths and colours and there is no prospect of unionist people being discriminated against in a United Ireland, regardless of their religion.

Modern-day unionists know this. That is why we are seeing unionism imploding dramatically. The siege mentality has lasted a remarkably long time but the world at large has had an external influence upon the unionist mindset. Ireland's south has evolved and become financially strong and multicultural, Britain too has become multicultural and has distanced itself from the north of Ireland.

As a result of this, we now witness unionists desperately trying to grab hold of something to give the unionist ideology meaning. Unfortunately for them, due to the IRA removing themselves from the political equation last year, this trump card of unionism has been lost and the cards that unionism is dealing with at this point in time are not doing any good whatsoever.

Ireland will be united and it will be united in the near future. Unionists need to ask themselves if there is any logical reason why this should be something to fear. There is no room for religious or political discrimination in this day and age. Numerous nationalities have made the Irish Republic their home and have experienced few difficulties. In the future we will witness Polish-Irish, Romanian-Irish and Nigerian-Irish families living in the Republic so why couldn't the same be true of British-Irish people living in a United Irish Republic?

Is there a good reason for modern-day Protestants to maintain the division of the Irish nation that their ancestors worked so hard to promote and nurture?

Protestants have believed in an Irish national consciousness, Presbyterians have believed in an Irish Republic that caters to all faiths and Catholics have believed that they have a right to have a voice.

A United Irish republic is the culmination of all these wishes. Unionism's ultimate aim was for a sectarian state that ensured a Protestant ascendancy. That was not a laudable aim. The aim of those Protestants who believed in an Irish national identity was laudable, the aim of the Presbyterians who believed in an Irish Republic was laudable. The modern day Irish Republic is built upon these very principles. All of us now here in Ireland, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, can come together in a United Ireland and respect the noble and laudable aspects of our past.

Unionism is dying. I urge today's Protestants to finish it off.


Prima donna minister of Ireland

Yes I DO look fabulous! Here's a story that highlights what a sorry shower we have in power right now.

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been busy defending himself over the money he has spent on make-up to prepare himself for the Dáil's cameras.

Green Party TD John Gormley claimed that Mr Ahern was spending €480 a week on his personal vanity and accused him of decadence.

Mr Ahern countered that it had been the practice of all taoisigh to wear make-up since the televising of Dáil proceedings began in 1990.

Mr Gormley told the Taoiseach:

"Taoiseach, how do you expect the taxpayer, many of whom are lying on trolleys, to pay this exorbitant sum for your vanity?

"It’s extraordinary that you spend more money on make-up than any of the ladies in the Cabinet.

"What sort of priorities do you have when you’re heading around like the Queen of Drumcondra."

"On the 80th anniversary of the founding Fianna Fáil, what would your founder Eamon de Valera say about a Taoiseach who spends hundreds of euro every week on make-up."

He asked if Mr Ahern should be called the L’Oreal Taoiseach 'because he is worth it'." (Ha, nice one!)

I think I forgot my eyeliner

Responding to Mr Gormley, the Taoiseach replied:

"When Deputy Gormley is Taoiseach some day he will find in the Taoiseach’s department that there is a service provided by two people, two days a week.

"They’re paid the Siptu rates for the job. I don’t think that they should be fired to satisfy you."
(Aw Bertie, you hero you)

"I understand that when you go to RTE, that you carefully go to the make-up room. You have never been known not to use make-up."

Mr Gormley asked if it was too much trouble to apply the make-up himself.

Gormley added: "The sum of €480 a week is extraordinary when we have people on trolleys. It amounts to nothing more than decadence."

First of all let me say that I'm pleased to see the politicians of this country tackling the issues that matter. Kudos! My faith in Irish politicians has been restored!

In all seriousness though, this is a ridiculous amount of money being spent on make-up by the Taoiseach. He doesn't seem to be a Taoiseach that spends much time in the Dáil anyway.

How many more hospital beds could have been provided for with this money? Guess it's more important for Bertie to have his nose powdered.

Sums up this Government rather well - all show, no substance.


Caption Time

Wow Bertie, that €480 was money well spent Can you add a caption to this image to your left?

My effort can be read by rolling over the image.


Red hot Chile players

Chile were good alright Ireland 0 Chile 1

That's quite the scoreline. Bring back Brian Kerr! (Just kidding...for now)

I have to say Ireland were absolutely woeful. I wish it had been shown on RTE because I think the lads in the studio would have been very critical. I think a lot of the Irish players thought they were still on holiday.

Chile were good and Mark Gonzales of Liverpool looks like someone to watch out for, but Ireland were just rubbish.

I don't mind the team losing but when they lose like that it's frustrating.

I'll give Staunton the benefit of the doubt of course and I don't want him out of the job or anything but I hope we can expect better than that real soon...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Words on Wednesday...with Dan Boyle

Dan BoyleWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Taking my questions this week is Green Party TD for Cork South Central Dan Boyle.

I'd like to thank Mr Boyle for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said, let's begin:

What initially attracted you to political life?

I have a Fianna Fáil family background which I reacted against, but my real entry to politics was through community and youth work.

You are a TD for Cork South Central. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

The only thing typical about my days is that no day is ever typical. There's many days that have elements that are similar, but no day is ever the same as another. I believe in accountability and on my web site I regularly update my diary and and have also recently introduced a blog. These give some sense of what my days are like.

You are the Green Party's spokesperson on Finance. How do you feel the Government has performed in this area?

This government has operated during very favourable circumstances, mainly due to international factors. That said the way public infrastructure spending has been allowed to go off the rails has been obscene. The real test of the economic credentials of a government is not how it performs during an economic boom but how it protects the economy during a recession. I have a fear that when the current economic indicators begin to go south, the policies this government has followed will mean that many in our society will be caught unprepared and will suffer needlessly because of the short sightedness of this government.

If you could change three things about Irish society, what would you change and why?

I would see myself more of a social green than an environmental green. I believe that how decisions are made, who gets to make decisions and who benefits from decisions that are made, are the essential questions that have to be asked and be repeatedly asked in a democracy.

The first thing I would work towards is a reform of local government to maximise participation and the number of decisions that can be made to allow people to have greater involvement in the making of decisions that affect their everyday lives.

The second area would be to devise a better system of reward and acknowledgement to those who volunteer and provide a level of social services that the State is unable or is unwilling to provide.

The third reform I would try to introduce is to include in legislation the index linking of social welfare payments and tax credits and bands, so that no future government can go play fast and loose with those without resources or living on low incomes.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

I would like to see it happening but it would have to be an Ireland that is united in hearts and minds as well as territory.

What should be done to improve the situation in NI?

Northern Ireland has no economic viability in its own right. The huge British subsidy and transfer cannot and will not be sustained into the future. If a United Ireland is to be achieved in the near future there may be some comeback in the South about similar subsidies being given and the effect that may have on public expenditure and taxation. What needs to be done and done now is the creation and development of an All Island economy. Synergies and economies of scale could be achieved that increase wealth in the North and sustain wealth in the South.

Recently you were involved in efforts to amend the Irish constitution and ensure that "those not resident in the State of Ireland but citizens of the State of Ireland" could vote in Irish Presidential elections. Could you tell us a bit more about this and whether or not this proposal would allow Irish citizens from NI to finally have the opportunity to vote in Irish Presidential elections?

The recent Italian election allowed Italian citizens to vote for the election of members of the Upper House, the Senate. The Green Party succeeded in having Senators elected under this system. In the US, American citizens living abroad can vote in their Presidential elections. In a recent Private Members Bill I've had published I've said that Irish citizens living abroad and living in Northern Ireland can and should vote in elections for the Irish Presidency. I also sit on the Seanad Reform committee where I am arguing that seats in Seanad should be set aside for election by Irish citizens living abroad and in Northern Ireland.

In relation to Green issues, what are your thoughts on cheap air travel as a major contributor to global warming? Do we need to radically reduce the number of people flying in your view?

There has been a huge increase in air travel in recent years and it cannot be argued that this has been a major contributor to the increase in international greenhouse gas emissions. To deal directly with this issue will involve a heavy political price. It would probably be best dealt with at an agreed international level with a cross boundary aviation tax. With ever rising fuel costs in any case this period of seemingly cheap, but environmentally expensive air travel may not last that long.

Recently the Irish state celebrated the Easter Rising with a military parade in Dublin. What were your thoughts on the parade and what is your own view of the Easter Rising?

I don't feel that a military parade was the best way of honouring what 1916 represented. Much of what exists in the Proclamation could have been celebrated in other ways. I'm a pacifist by inclination but I do realise that in the 19th century and early 20th century, social change could often only often be achieved violently. Later in the 20th century Gandhi and Martin Luther King showed there were other, better ways, of achieving the same goals.

You are a member of the Committee on Dáil reform. There was anger recently at the perceived backtracking of the Taoiseach in regard to MPs from NI speaking in the Oireachtas. What are your thoughts on that issue? A good or bad idea?

Speaking rights yes, involvement in Oireachtas committees yes, but voting rights no. There are some constitutional difficulties here. Members of the Dáil need to be elected on the same day representing electorates of similar size. The Westminister cycle is out of sync with Leinster House, with House of Commons constituencies being larger and Stormont constituencies being much smaller than Dáil constituencies. I have already stated that I favour the direct election of Northern Ireland representatives to the Seanad.

What are your thoughts on the current conflict in Iraq right now and Ireland's position?

Iraq is a mess, and through the government allowing the use of Shannon Airport for troop movements, and the probable illegal action of 'rendition' flights, Ireland has become inextricably linked with this mess. I would like to see the largely US/British led multi-national force being replaced with a UN force comprised largely of soldiers from other midlle eastern countries.

An issue that unionists in the North such as the DUP have taken seriously is an issue that presumably your party takes very seriously too - plans to build a 125-metre chimney stack at the site of the Battle of the Boyne in County Meath. What are your thoughts on this issue and what will this mean for such a historically important area?

We oppose incineration because it is the wrong policy option. That it's proposed for a historically and culturally significant area is another reason to opppose its construction, but not the central reason. If we have incineration we cannot have effective waste reduction or recycling policies.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now?

Going forward as a confident nation able to account for itself to all other nations, but also back to see if we can regain some of what we've lost - our sense of community and our sense of fairness. A more equal Ireland would be a more truly wealthy country.

On your site you mention how you were the first public representative in Cork to take to the Web and you take your site seriously. I have also interviewed your party colleague Ciarán Cuffe who has a website and blog that he takes seriously. Do you see websites and blogs playing an important role in politics here, as has happened in the US?

Yes I do. But only a minority of people still have access to computers in their homes, but it is becoming a significant minority. There are problems with the lack of broadband and the cost of internet use, but the Greens would work to overcome these difficulties.

What would you say to any Irish people reading now who aren't sure who to vote for in the next General Election?

I would encourage them to vote. If there is no party they can support then vote independent. If there is no independent that appeals then consider becoming a candidate. If becoming a candidate isn't feasible then spoil your vote, but at least participate.

Finally, I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Bertie Ahern - Inscrutable
Michael McDowell - Spiteful
George W. Bush - Dangerous
Gerry Adams - Capable
Brian Cowen - Skilled
Mary McAleese - Over-extended
Trevor Sargent - Cute
Roy Keane - Hard
Padraig Pearse - Educator
Dan Boyle - Unfulfilled

Next week, Irish Senator David Norris takes my questions. Be sure to keep clicking in to United Irelander for your firsthand look at Irish political life.

Previous interviews can be read here.

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