230,000 RTE Viewers Watched ‘I, Dolours’

Figures just supplied to New Decade production company by RTE show that the station’s screening of ‘I, Dolours’ a week ago attracted a 24 per cent share. I don’t pretend to know what that means, but I am told that it translates into a total of 230,000 viewers. RTE bosses are apparently delighted – and perhaps that might persuade them to commission or screen more ambitious programmes on the Northern conflict.

The Irish Independent published this review:

Irish Independent – The testimony of Dolours Price turns out to be priceless – Independent.ie

 

Lessons From The Oil Tanker Bombings In The Gulf

It is quite remarkable how the US claim, supported by allies in Europe, that Iran was behind last week’s bomb attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has been greeted with so much public scepticism, not just in Europe but also in America.

Part of that is due to the less than persuasive video evidence provided by the US State Department which showed alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guards removing what was claimed to be an unexploded Iranian limpet mine from the side of one of the tankers.

The world was asked to believe that removing the mine was evidence of having planted it in the first place when it might also have been consistent with Iranian claims that its forces had arrived to help the tanker crews escape. Removing the unexploded mine might therefore have been a legitimate part of that rescue mission.

The other reason of course is that the claims of Iranian responsibility came from the Trump administration and it just so happens that a few days before the Gulf bombing CNN published an analysis of Trump’s fibs which concluded that the US president lies more often each day than most people wash their hands.

The report claimed: ‘In his first 869 days as President, Donald Trump said 10,796 things that were either misleading or outright false, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Do the math and you get this: The President of the United States is saying 12 untrue things a day.’

So by this point the Trump White House has less than zero credibility with many Americans and even less amongst Europeans.

Deeper down in the psyche of many people on either side of the Atlantic is a scepticism born of the lies told to justify and launch the US invasion of Iraq. Readers will, hopefully, remember that the Iraq war was premised on the claim from the George W Bush White House that Saddam Hussein was secretly manufacturing ‘weapons of mass destruction’, i.e. nuclear bombs, and had to be stopped before he killed millions.

That was, of course, a lie and the damage to American credibility when that became clear was immense. It was compounded by the fact that Iraq was not the first deception played on the world to justify US warmongering.

Way back in the 1960’s, Lyndon Johnson invented North Vietnamese attacks on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the war in Vietnam. It took years, and the leak of the Pentagon Papers, to reveal the truth and raise the suspicion that dissembling in high places to justify war was by this point institutional.

So there is a history – a tradition if you like – of American administrations lying to spark or intensify wars. Thankfully, the sceptical reception given to the Gulf of Oman incidents suggests that we may have reached a point where that sort of thing no longer works as well.

Bush’s adventure in Iraq was in no small measure facilitated by the American media, The New York Times in particular. This time round there has been some flag-waving by my American colleagues but also a healthy dose of scepticism as well.

The Irish Times And Billy McKee

I notice that The Irish Times’ report on the death of Provisional IRA founder Billy McKee, who passed away at his West Belfast home today (Wednesday) was supplied by the Press Association (PA) and not by one of the paper’s own journalists, much less any of its Northern staff (assuming they, he or she still exist).

Is this The Irish Times’ way of saying ‘we do not wish to soil our hands by asking one of our own to compose a story about such an awful person’ – an attitude that too often characterised the paper when I worked there – or is it just a reflection a) of a general staff shortage/financial hardship in the paper, or b) a manifestation of the  reality is that there really is no-one on the staff knowledgeable enough to write more than half a sentence about the man?

Bill McKee – a founder member of the Provisional IRA who died today

Whether or not you regard Billy McKee as an antedeluvian Catholic reactionary or an Irish freedom fighter in the tradition of Dan Breen, there is no getting away from the fact that he was an enormously significant figure in the early phase of one of the most traumatic and impactful periods ever in Irish history. And that Ireland’s paper of record should reflect that by at least assigning one of its own reporters to cover his demise.

Ivor Bell Trial Secretly Gagged As ‘Critical’ Gov’t Witness Drops Out

An unprecedented gagging order banning the media in Northern Ireland and Britain from reporting any aspect of the prosecution or trial of former Belfast republican leader, Ivor Bell on charges connected to the IRA disappearance of Jean McConville – including the trial date or any of the evidence presented in court – was imposed secretly by the Belfast courts last December, thebrokenelbow.com can reveal (see court documents below).

This disclosure comes as a ‘critical’ witness in the Bell prosecution has withdrawn from the proceedings because of a serious and apparently irreversible medical condition.

Ivor Bell, former IRA Chief of Staff and ally of Gerry Adams

Lawyers for Dr Bob O’Neill, the librarian at Boston College and the custodian of the Boston oral history archive upon which the prosecution is based, applied to the US District Court in Boston recently to excuse O’Neill from giving evidence and this request was granted (see court documents below).

The precise reasons for Dr O’Neill’s withdrawal were outlined in a memorandum presented to the presiding judge, William G Young, but the contents were not publicly disclosed to interested parties.

Dr O’Neill’s evidence was considered vital for the prosecution because Boston College had lost Bell’s alleged contract with the college, the only piece of paper which identified participants in the project by name. The prosecuting authorities claim that the interviews by a participant known only as ‘Z’ were given by Bell while Bell and his defence team deny this.

Jean McConville – Disappeared by IRA in 1972, now the evidence in her case will be hidden

Dr O’Neill was likely to have given evidence about the chain of custody of Z’s interviews which the prosecution hoped would strengthen their claim that ‘Z’ was Bell.

At a secret court hearing in April this year, which mentioned Dr O’Neill’s illness, the presiding judge, Mr Justice O’Hara, remarked: ‘…Mr O’Neill is not a secondary witness in the proceedings, but critical to the issues before the court’.

The Bell ‘trial of the facts’ was supposed to have started on April 29th, but this was called off when the prosecution were notified by the US authorities of Dr O’Neill’s health problems.

Bob O’Neill – former librarian at Boston College, will not give evidence at Bell trial

It is understood that Dr O’Neill’s medical difficulty is one that develops and gets progressively worse over time. Usually the symptoms take months if not years to worsen to the point where the victim becomes incapable of coherent intellectual activity.

In a document endorsed by the US court, Judge William J Young noted that O’Neill’s condition ‘…appears to have begun in the past year’.

The obvious question arises: how long ago did the prosecution know that Dr O’Neill had a potentially serious condition that could inhibit his ability to give rational evidence? Was this before or after last December’s court order?

Under the terms of the order, the media has been banned from mentioning any aspect of the Bell prosecution ‘until the completion of the proceedings or further order of the court’. It is not clear whether this means that the gagging order can be extended after the trial has ended.

The gagging order applies only within the UK jurisdiction and since thebrokenelbow.com is published in the United States, this site is free to make the order’s existence known. Thebrokenelbow.com believes an important principle is at stake in this story: that is the public’s right to know and the media’s right to publish.

Mr Justice Adrian Colton, former SDLP ‘Young Turk’, imposed gagging order on Ivor Bell trial

The order was imposed by Mr Justice Adrian Colton on December 19th last year at the conclusion of a hearing of the Ivor Bell prosecution in the Belfast Crown Court.

This decided that the former IRA Chief of Staff, who is 82-years-old, was mentally unfit to take part in a normal criminal prosecution. Instead Judge Colton ordered that he face a so-called ‘trial of the facts’, in which a jury will be asked to decide whether the facts of the case suggest guilt or innocence. He cannot face a prison sentence if found guilty.

While some legal sources suggest that Mr Justice Colton, a former SDLP activist and election candidate from Mid-Ulster who was once regarded as one of the party’s so-called ‘Young Turks’, may have acted to mitigate the embarrassment all this caused to Ivor Bell, the media was nonetheless permitted to publish his decision that Bell would face a ‘trial of facts’ because of his mental deterioration. Any embarrassment caused to Bell came with that publicised decision.

Here are the relevant documents, beginning with the court order:

Here is a copy of an article written and distributed to the media by one of the Belfast court reporters who normally files for most of the local media. It is dated April 29th this year, the date on which Bell’s trial of the facts was supposed to commence. It makes reference to Dr O’Neill’s health difficulties but warns the media not to publish the article:

Here are the US District Court documents distributed recently to attorneys of record in the case. These include an unsigned order from the judge excusing Dr O’Neill from giving evidence:

RTE Promo For ‘I, Dolours’, To Be Broadcast June 10th, 9:35pm

‘I, Dolours’ On RTE June 10th

RTE One will screen ‘I, Dolours’ on the evening of June 10th at 9:35 pm. Watch trailer here:

Sinn Fein Verdict: ‘When Sorrows Come, They Come Not Single Spies, But In Battalions’

No commentary needed on this piece in yesterday’s Irish Independent:

Ex-SF councillors who left in wake of rows are re-elected

Joy: Former Sinn Féin activist Noeleen Reilly celebrates her election in the Ballymun-Finglas electoral area. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Joy: Former Sinn Féin activist Noeleen Reilly celebrates her election in the Ballymun-Finglas electoral area. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Six former Sinn Féin councillors who had disputes with the party have been re-elected as Independents.

The party struggled to deal with a string of internal rows in the last five years and more than 15 councillors and other public representatives had either quit or been expelled.

Sinn Féin has had a poor local election, losing many of the seats it picked up in 2014.

One ex-Sinn Féin councillor, Noeleen Reilly, got more than 1,700 votes in Dublin City Council’s Ballymun-Finglas ward and said she was “delighted” to be re-elected.

She resigned from Sinn Féin last year after being suspended by the party, which claimed she had orchestrated a social media bullying campaign against the party.

Ms Reilly rejected this and alleged she was bullied within the party and Sinn Féin ignored her complaints.

Last night she said: “The last five years were very challenging but I’ve put it all to bed.”

She argued that the voters in her area endorsed her “positive campaign” and were “turned off” by Sinn Féin. She said she hoped her former party had “learned their lessons”.

Tipperary councillor Séamus ‘Séamie’ Morris quit the party in November 2017 amid claims he was subjected to “unfounded and untruthful allegations”. He was re-elected in the Nenagh ward.

Mr Morris said he was “practically destroyed” by his alleged experience in Sinn Féin and “it took me a long time to pick myself up”. He said he was not surprised by the party’s poor local election, claiming “they’re drifting”. He added: “I’m surprised at how Mary Lou McDonald hasn’t been able to turn the ship around.”

Mr Morris said he had a “good team” around him.

Wicklow councillors Gerry O’Neill, John Snell and Oliver O’Brien were expelled from Sinn Féin in 2017 after an internal dispute.

Both Mr O’Neill and Mr Snell were re-elected. Mr O’Brien was unsuccessful as an Aontú candidate.

Mr O’Neill got more than 1,800 votes. He said he had been a member of Sinn Féin for 47 years and was disappointed at his alleged treatment by the party.

He claimed the people of Wicklow had seen issues with Sinn Féin and “they gave their verdict on Friday”.

Galway County Councillor Gabe Cronnelly resigned in December 2017 due to “unrest” over how Sinn Féin deals with “unethical behaviour”.

It came after Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh left the party, accusing party leadership of ignoring misconduct by local rival Sinn Féin members. Sinn Féin rejected this.

Mr Cronnelly said he decided to leave at the same time as Mr Ó Clochartaigh. The Galway councillor said that, as an Independent, his vote was up 30pc in Friday’s election.

“I’m doing my representation my way now and it’s being seen on the doors. I don’t begrudge Sinn Féin any vote or anything but I have a mandate from the people as an Independent now,” he said.

Carlow councillor John Cassin quit Sinn Féin in February in a reported row over local election strategy. He was re-elected as an Independent on Friday.

Senior Sinn Féin figures including Ms McDonald have repeatedly denied there is a culture of bullying in the party.

She was asked about internal rows on KCLR radio last week. Ms McDonald said she wanted Sinn Féin to be a “happy place for people to engage in politics and activism”.

She said it was a “human organisation” and people fell out and there were political tensions or rivalries.

She insisted the idea its membership was constantly fighting was untrue.

“I accept that there have been some instances in which there were fallings-out and I regret every single one of them,” she said.

But she argued it was “not unique to Sinn Féin”.