Netanyahu, The Baby Killer

Watch this and weep. A soul-crushing video, as my friend Philip Weiss calls it, of a Palestinian father grieving uncontrollably for his dead baby son, killed in an Israeli airstrike launched ostensibly in vengeance for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenage boys but in reality to break up the Hamas-PLO alliance struck in the wake of John ‘The Feather Duster’ Kerry’s failed peace initiative in the Mid East.

You can watch it here, but a warning to those of a sensitive disposition. It is very disturbing, but also anger-making.

The Peace Process, On The Eleventh Night In Belfast, Fourteen Years After The Good Friday Agreement

Sometimes cliches are actually meaningful. The photo below (from the Belfast Telegraph) confirms that a picture can often be worth a thousand words. It was taken from the slopes of Cavehill, overlooking Belfast, on the evening of 11th July, the Eleventh Night in Orange folklore, the eve of the Twelfth parades when Loyalists light bonfires to symbolise…what? Their wish to burn Catholics out of their homes? To incinerate IRA leaders? To warn their community of impending danger? Or all of these?

TwelfthBelfast

Whatever the answer, the bonfires have grown in number and size in recent years and that must say something about the mood on the ground in Protestant districts twenty years after the first IRA ceasefire and fourteen since the GFA when the Troubles were supposed to start the wind down to peace. They are not the only symptom of what one well-placed local recently described to me as “an uneasy peace”. Clearly something has gone wrong.

My own view is that there was a serious flaw in the process and that was that it was a top-down affair, hatched in secret by political elites, developed furtively and only fully disclosed to competing grassroots when leaders thought they could get away with it. The surprise and shock within the ranks of the IRA at the ’94 ceasefire or the commencement of decommissioning was mirrored by that within the DUP when the first television images of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams seated at the same table at Stormont flashed across their screens.

Things that grassroots activists were told would and could never happen without their say-so suddenly did. The shock has arguably been greater amongst Loyalists than within the republican community where Protestant anger at a changed Northern Ireland has softened discontent within IRA ranks. Doubtless that has brought great satisfaction to the Sinn Fein leadership, playing on Unionist angst to stabilise their own base. But it is no way to build a real peace.

Let’s see what happens if the PSNI gets its way and the Boston College archive on the UVF falls into their hands.

At Last, A Truthful U.S. (At Least More Truthful Than Usual) Take On The Boston College Story

Hats off to the Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen for saying some essential truths in this National Public Radio (NPR) segment about the Belfast Project saga. Long overdue perhaps but most welcome nonetheless. And wonderfully ironic that a Bostonian said them. Thanks Kevin!

Saddest figure on the programme was BC’s resident lizard, Jack Dunn, shamed into silence by Kevin’s principled stand and unable to launch his customary torrent of lies against the project’s research staff. One priceless quote from Dunn was his lament that because of the subpoenas fewer people would be willing to participate in oral history projects in America. Nothing to do with BC’s cowardly capitulation, of course!

You can hear the programme here. Enjoy.

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Caption Contest: Best Suggestion Wins A Prize (Details Later)

queen-northern-ireland

Gerry Conlon, RIP

REVISED AT 22.04 EST

There are many things one could say about the sad and troubled life of Gerry Conlon, whose tragically premature death from cancer has just been announced, and the cruel miscarriage of justice that cost his father his life and himself so many years of imprisonment for an offence he had nothing to do with.

But for the time being I would like to confine my reaction to the role of the Irish media in the story of Gerry Conlon and the Guildford Four.

Gerry Conlon celebrates his acquittal outside the Old Bailey with his two sisters in 1989. Notice the unhappy-looking policemen in the background.

Gerry Conlon celebrates his acquittal outside the Old Bailey with his two sisters in 1989. Notice the unhappy-looking policemen in the background.

In the next few days we will, I am sure, be treated to acres of coverage from Ireland about how awful the treatment of the Guildford Four was at the hands of British justice, how pernicious was the climate of anti-Irish racism in England in the 1970’s and how corrupt was the British police service.

All true of course but one thing you will not hear from the Irish media is that at the time that Gerry Conlon and his father, Guiseppe were sent to jail, not one major newspaper or electronic media outlet would have had the courage to have even thought of saying such things.

The truth is that after their conviction a disgraceful silence descended on mainstream Irish newspapers’ and RTE coverage of the Guildford Four’s concocted conviction that was extended to the Birmingham Six, the Maguire Five and Judith Ward. The Irish media’s shameful and contemptible shunning of this extraordinary catalogue of judicial corruption lasted during all of the 1970’s and most of the 1980’s.

I began my career in journalism not long after the conviction of the Guildford Four and already it was clear that there was evidence of a serious and scandalous miscarriage of justice that cried out to be probed by the media. But in those days to write that people like Gerry Conlon might be innocent, or to suggest that the Birmingham Six might have been framed, or that the notion that Anne Maguire, a member of her local Conservative Party Club in London, lived a secret life as an IRA bomber was sheer nonsense, was tantamount to an admission of IRA membership and was fatal for the career of an ambitious Irish reporter. So mainstream Irish journalists – and here I am talking primarily of the Dublin-based media – learned to keep away from such stories.

There were exceptions of course. Hibernia magazine, for which I then worked was one, as was Vincent Browne’s Magill magazine and there were many individual journalists who tried to get the story out but ran up against a brick wall of Irish media cowardice. The vast bulk of editors and media chiefs just would not give space to a story that even suggested that the IRA might be right to complain about British justice.

Instead, as with so many controversial stories during the Troubles, it was left to the Brits to do the decent thing, especially those who worked in current affairs television. And so World in Action, Yorkshire TV, Thames’ This Week and the BBC’s Panorama amongst many others did the job that the Irish media was too timid and spineless to do.

It was stalwart work by British lawyers, most of them left wing or progressive, which secured the acquittal of Gerry Conlon and his confreres as well as the Birmingham Six and others, but the British television media set the tone that made it all possible. It is a fundamental truth of the story of the Troubles that the British media often did what most of their Irish counterparts were too craven and yellow-bellied to even contemplate.

If the story had been left to the Irish media to cover, Gerry Conlon would have died in a prison cell.

 

Guardian Reports On Growing Boston Project Spying Scandal

Call for investigation of alleged Boston College-IRA archive spying

By Henry McDonald

The American and Irish governments have been challenged to investigate an alleged spying operation directed at a family at the centre of the Boston College-IRA archive controversy that led to Gerry Adams’ arrest in April.

Ireland’s prime minister Enda Kenny and the US secretary of state John Kerry have received letters from the Belfast Project’s director urging them to back a thorough criminal inquiry into claims that private communications from an American citizen and the US embassy in Dublin were illegally intercepted.

American-born Carrie McIntyre’s husband, an ex-IRA prisoner, recorded the taped testimonies of Irish republicans for the Belfast Project. She has made a formal complaint to the Garda Síochána about how her private messages to US diplomats ended up in an Irish Sunday tabloid last month.

Ed Moloney, the Belfast Project’s director, has also written letters to the leader of the Irish Republic’s main opposition party Fianna Fáil and a powerful US senator calling on them to back an investigation on both sides of the Atlantic into how Carrie McIntyre’s communications were made public.

In his letter to Kerry, Moloney states that “while we do not know for certain sources that I trust strongly suggest the involvement of a proscribed organisation rather than an agency of the Irish state”.

Moloney points out to Barack Obama’s peace envoy to the Middle East that he has also called on the Irish premier to support a trans-Atlantic criminal investigation into the spying claims.

“I believe that this is part of a mounting campaign of threat, menace and intimidation of the McIntyres. I fear for their safety and wellbeing and I expressed the hope that the prime minister would leave no stone unturned in the search for those responsible.”

And in his letter to the taoiseach, Moloney says: “I am writing to ask you to leave no stone unturned in the search for those responsible and in the effort to make them amenable under the law. Tapping the phones of Irish citizens in any circumstances is unpleasant and offensive even when it is carried out within the law by legitimate agencies. But when it is done by illegal organisations and involves intercepting communications by an important ally it is, I am sure you will agree, a direct challenge to the authority of the state.”

The award-winning journalist and world authority on the IRA has also written to senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the US Senate’s foreign relations committee, and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin about the alleged spying operation on Irish soil.

The Sunday World newspaper last month reported that McIntyre had written to the embassy and the US consulate in Belfast seeking political asylum for herself, her children and her husband. She has denied reports that her family are seeking asylum and that she ever worked on the Boston College project.

McIntyre told the Guardian she had made no contacts with the paper and would be prepared to bring forward a large number of friends and acquaintances who would sign legal documents stating they had no knowledge of her communications with the US embassy in Dublin, let alone spoke to any newspaper about them.

There is no suggestion whatsoever that the Sunday World itself carried out any illegal hacking or act of interception regarding Carrie McIntyre’s communications with US diplomatic staff in Ireland.

Her husband Anthony recorded and collated the testimonies of dozens of former IRA activists, some of whom have claimed on tape that Adams ordered the death and secret disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972. The Sinn Féin president has always denied any involvement in the kidnapping, killing and covert burial of the widow, whom the IRA accused of being an informer for the British army. Among those who accused Adams of playing a central role in the McConville murder scandal was the late Brendan Hughes, the former Belfast IRA commander whose taped testimony has been made public.

Since Adams’s arrest in connection with the McConville murder, McIntyre and Moloney have faced sustained verbal attacks. Sinn Féin councillors and their supporters have labelled them “Boston College touts” – a euphemism for informers.

Mr Whitelaw Regrets: “Joe McCann Should Have Been Shot In The Legs; Killing Him Created A Martyr”

By Ed Moloney and Bob Mitchell

On April 15, 1972 the Official IRA legend, Joe McCann was shot dead by British paratroopers near Joy Street in his native Markets district of Belfast as he fled a joint RUC Special Branch and military patrol attempting to arrest him.

The iconic photo of Joe McCann, taken by an Irish Times photographer, in ELiza St in the Markets on the night of internment, Aug 9th, 1971.

The iconic photo of Joe McCann, taken by an Irish Times photographer, in Eliza Street in the Markets on the night of internment, Aug 9th, 1971.

Controversy surrounded his death with allegations quickly following that he had been finished off after being wounded. The alleged presence of ten empty shell cases lying on the street around his remains was cited as evidence. Conspiracy theorists also speculated that since pro-ceasefire elements in the OIRA leadership would gain by the death of this strongly militant leader, they had somehow had a hand in his death. The fact that OIRA called a ceasefire a few weeks later added weight to this theory.

Whatever the truth McCann was a popular figure throughout the then fractured republican community. He had joined the IRA, reputedly along with Gerry Adams and Denis Donaldson, in the mid-1960’s and thus spanned the breach that came with the Provisional-Official split in December 1969 and January 1970.

Some believe that if he had lived he would have sided with Seamus Costello when the Officials split, essentially over resuming armed struggle, in the mid-1970’s and so the British paratroopers who gunned him down arguably denied the resulting INLA a potentially influential and charismatic leader.

The equally iconic poster based on the Irish Times' photo produced by the Mellowes-McCann Republican Club in the Markets

The equally iconic poster based on the Irish Times’ photo produced by the Mellowes-McCann Republican Club in the Markets

Anger at McCann’s death, and especially the manner of it, united the two wings of the IRA and they launched fierce attacks on the British military in the following days which cost at least three soldiers their lives.

A letter discovered by Bob Mitchell in the Irish national archives – correspondence between the Irish ambassador in London, Donal O’Sullivan to the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, Hugh McCann – reveals the concern of the then NI Secretary, William Whitelaw that killing Joe McCann made him a martyr and led to an upsurge in IRA violence.

The letter also demonstrates an abiding feature of British policy in Northern Ireland, a stubborn adherence to the ‘wishful thinking’ school of policymaking. Whitelaw wrote that McCann’s death came at a time “….when support for (the IRA) is, according to all his information, noticeably on the wane”.

Remember this is just three months or so since Bloody Sunday when anger at the British throughout Ireland reached unprecedented levels. How Whitelaw or his intelligence officials could reach such a contrary conclusion defies understanding. The prevalence of such attitudes probably explains why and how the British kept screwing things up in NI.

Joe McCann

Joe McCann

Two other interesting points: the SDLP leader Gerry Fitt told Whitelaw that there were some IRA gunmen in Long Kesh who should never be released from jail. And British concern at Unionist reaction to a proposed dinner between Whitelaw and his opposite number from Dublin, Foreign Affairs minister Patrick Hillery to be held at the Irish embassy in London led to the encounter being downgraded to a meeting in Whitelaw’s office.

Here’s the letter: