Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Medeival Monarchs Of Stormont Castle

Well folks, this is what all the slaughter, suffering and destruction of the last four decades or so was about.

This morning’s News Letter has a great story revealing that the appointment of David Gordon as press officer for the power-sharing Executive (salary a cool Stg 75k p.a.) was contrived behind closed doors, out of sight or scrutiny, employing a legal device so undemocratic, anachronistic and secret that not even Lord Brookeborough in the heyday of one-party Unionist misrule would have dared contemplate its use.

And all so that First Minister Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness could appoint their man, David Gordon, to the job without the post being advertised and filled in the customary, above board fashion.

In so doing the FM and DFM have driven a cart and horse through fair employment legislation – the product of a civil rights struggle which Mr McGuinness’ party purports to support – which was designed specifically to make public appointments fair, above board and free of political bias.

In the case of Ms Foster such behaviour may not be surprising since the DUP was always an opponent of anti-discrimination hiring laws; but in Mr McGuinness’ case his behaviour is nothing less than scandalous, since his party is supposedly in the vanguard of the movement for fairness and equity in Northern Ireland.

Here is how the News Letter’s Sam McBride described the device used by the two leaders to change the law so that they could appoint David Gordon:

The law change was passed under the same principle which allowed medieval kings to issue decrees without consultation, something which the 18th century English jurist Sir William Blackstone defined as “that special pre-eminence which the King hath, over and above all other persons…in right of his regal dignity”.

I can only hope that David Gordon now has the decency to quit the job. Not to do so would bestow legitimacy on a gross act of political trickery. His job is now tainted and he should not take it.

When The Fox Becomes The Chicken Farmer

I can’t say I knew David Gordon at all well, in fact I think I met him only once. But I greatly admired his book on ‘The Fall of the House of Paisley’ chronicling the political demise respectively of Ian Paisley Senior and Junior in 2008, and said as much at a book launch in Belfast.

What cheered me about him was that while most reporters in post-GFA Belfast spent their days terrified of being accused of being ‘unhelpful’ to the peace process in any one of the dozen ways it was deemed possible to be, his book just went for the story of how greed of one sort or another had done for the Paisley duo.

It was an example of honest, straight, brave journalism at a time when there wasn’t much of that about.

That was in the days when no-one in the media had batted an eyelid, or if they did, had batted them very discretely, when it emerged that one prominent reporter had hosted secret peace process meetings between Sinn Fein and the DUP at his home but failed to include any of this in the reports he filed for his employer.

David Gordon disappeared into the bowels of the BBC after his book and I thought that perhaps he had wised up and left the country. But to my disappointment he popped up today on Facebook with an announcent that he had been appointed press officer to the NI Executive and had been given the job by the OFMDFM (that’s the DUP’s Arlene Foster and SF’s Martin McGuinness to you and me).

That means he will be recycling bullshit most of the tine and I suspect there will be lots of it. I never really knew La Foster but the DUP generally regarded journalists as an unnecessary evil and I would be surprised if she is any different, while my experience of the Shinners is that David will likely be handling not just bullshit but lying bullshit from them.

Very sad to see this happen.

There is only one set of circumstances which could lead me to both forgive and understand him. And that’s to write the tell-all book of all tell-all books at the end.

What Are Hillary Clinton’s Chances Of Dying Of Pneumonia?

According to one reading of a 1993 study published by British medical journal, The Lancet, Hillary Clinton has a 42 per cent chance of dying within two years of contracting the pneumonia which today saw her stumble and lose her balance in New York.

Another study, based on a much larger sample suggests that her chances of dying after a year at between 34.6% and 50.9%; the study reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2003 was based on an examination of the fate of nearly 159,000 pneumonia patients while the Lancet study was based on just 141 patients.

If Clinton wins the US presidential election there is therefore between a one in three and one in two chance she could die in office, if these studies are to be believed. The Democratic candidate for the White House is 68 years old. Pneumonia is sometimes dubbed ‘The Old Man’s Friend’ because it speeds terminally ill and elderly patients to a quick and relatively peaceful and painless end.

The studies examined the medical histories of pneumonia patients who were hospitalised; Hillary Clinton has not yet been sent to hospital although plans for her to travel to California this week have been shelved because of her condition.

Late today, after a ‘medical episode’ at the 911 remembrance ceremony at the site of the twin towers downed by Al Qaeda controlled jets, it was disclosed by her physician that the Democratic candidate had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. This followed weeks of speculation about her health, mostly from the Trump camp, caused by her periodic coughing fits:


SummaryIs pneumonia “the old man’s friend”—a terminal event for patients who will otherwise die soon of underlying chronic disease? If so, chronological age might influence treatment policy. We investigated the predictors of 2-year mortality after patients’ admission to hospital for community-acquired pneumonia, and focused on the predictive value of age. In a prospective cohort study 141 consecutive patients were admitted to hospital with community-acquired pneumonia. Clinical, laboratory, and sociodemographic data were collected on admission. Comorbidity was categorised as mild, moderate, or severe by a physician based on the patient’s medical history. Survival was assessed at 24 months after discharge.

22 (16%) patients died in hospital. Of the remaining 119, 38 (32%) died over the next 24 months. In a Cox model, 2-year mortality was independently related to severe comorbidity (relative risk [RR]=9·4) or moderate comorbidity (RR=3·1), and to haematocrit less than 35% (RR=2·9) (all p≤0·005). However, compared with patients aged 18-44 years, patients aged 45-64 (RR=0·84), 65-74 (RR=1·28), and 75-92 (RR=1·99) were not significantly more likely to die during the 24 months after discharge (all p≥0·2).

Old age should not be a sole criterion for withholding aggressive treatment of community-acquired pneumonia.


Pneumonia – Still the Old Man’s Friend?

Vladimir Kaplan, MD; Gilles Clermont, MD, CM, MSc; Martin F. Griffin, MS; Jan Kasal, MD; R. Scott Watson, MD, MPH; Walter T. Linde-Zwirble; Derek C. Angus, MD, MPH
Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(3):317-323.


Background  Hospital mortality of patients admitted with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) has been well described. However, the long-term survival of those discharged alive is less clear. We sought to determine long-term survival of patients hospitalized with CAP and compare the outcome with controls hospitalized for reasons other than CAP.

Methods  We performed a matched case-control analysis using the Medicare hospital discharge database from the first quarter of 1997. We compared all Medicare recipients 65 years or older hospitalized with CAP and controls matched for age, sex, and race hospitalized for reasons other than CAP. We measured 1-year mortality determined from the Medicare Beneficiary Entitlement file and the Social Security Administration.

Results  We identified 158 960 CAP patients and 794 333 hospitalized controls. Hospital mortality rates for the CAP cohort and hospitalized controls were 11.0% and 5.5%, respectively (P<.001). One-year mortality rates for the CAP cohort and hospitalized controls were 40.9% and 29.1%, respectively (P<.001). One-year mortality rates in hospital survivors of the CAP and control cohorts were 33.6% and 24.9%, respectively (P<.001). The difference in mortality between the CAP and control cohorts was not explained by underlying disease. Standardized against the general population, the risk of death for both cohorts decreased monthly but was still elevated 1 year after hospital discharge. The standardized mortality ratio was 2.69 (95% confidence interval, 2.47-2.93) for CAP patients and 1.93 (95% confidence interval, 1.79-2.08) for hospital controls.

Conclusions  Almost half of all elderly patients admitted for CAP die in the subsequent year, with most deaths occurring after hospital discharge. The mortality is considerably higher than that of either the general population or a control population hospitalized for reasons other than CAP.

The North Korean Nuclear Bomb And The Scourge Of The Neocons

For reasons that are entirely understandable the news that North Korea had recently exploded a more powerful and effective nuclear weapon is deeply scary. In the hands of a regime that is characterised by brutality towards its own people and which is headed by a psychopath who has allegedly tortured his rivals to death, a working nuclear arsenal, however small or limited in range, provides real and grave cause for concern.

But in all the media coverage of the enhanced threat posed by North Korea I have not yet seen any reference to the fact that a decade or so ago, the US government, then headed by George ‘Dubya’ Bush spurned a real chance to entirely remove nuclear weapons from the hands of North Korea’s leadership.

It could have done so at a cheap price. All the US had to do was to remove North Korea from a list of nations alleged to be sponsoring terrorism and to resume oil deliveries to the isolated and impoverished regime. In return North Korea would freeze its nuclear programme, which by that stage was in it early stages.

Now freezing a nuclear programme is not the same as scrapping it but it is a definite step in that direction. It could have been built on.

So how did the Bush White House respond? The offer from Pyongyang was rejected out of hand with Bush saying that the goal of US policy was not to ‘freeze’ North Korea’s nuclear programme but to irreversibly dismantle it.

At the time of the North Korean offer, late 2003, US foreign policy was firmly in the hands of neoconservatives – and it looked as if the neocons had got it right. Iraq had fallen easily and quickly, the Saddam regime had been routed, Libya’s Col Gaddafi was about to decommission his chemical weapons for fear that he too might be removed from power and here was North Korea looking for a way to fend off US hostility.

Little wonder then that Bush played tough.

Except he got it badly wrong. Within a year Iraq was in meltdown and well on the way to producing its Sunni-Shiite civil war, the growth of ISIS, the Syrian war, the Libyan disaster, the refugee crisis in Europe and, arguably, Brexit and Donald Trump.

The full consequences of America’s dalliance with neoconservatism, which continues to this day, has yet to be calculated but that it has been a disaster is beyond doubt.

As far as North Korea is concerned it resumed its nuclear programme, doubtlessly encouraged by America’s growing difficulties and has now reached a point where it can at least destroy its nearest neighbours.

Meanwhile the two contenders for the US presidency in this November’s election are both warmongers, one who thoughtlessly plunged North Africa into chaos and destruction in the cause of regime change and the other who wonders openly why, if the US has nuclear weapons, it cannot use them.

All this we owe to the neocons.

Bush’s refusal of the North Korean offer was widely reported at the time. Below is Agence France Presse’s report:

Bush Rejects N Korea’s
Nuclear ‘Freeze’ Offer



(AFP) – US President George W. Bush rejected a North Korean offer to freeze its nuclear program, insisting the communist state’s suspected weapons of mass destruction must be dismantled.
Bush’s blunt response added to doubts that more negotiations will be held this year between the North, the United States and four other nations seeking an end to the Korean peninsula’s latest nuclear crisis.
North Korea earlier offered to freeze its nuclear facilities if the United States took it off a US list of nations accused of sponsoring terrorism and resumed suspended US oil deliveries.
Bush gave his answer after talks with China’s Premier Wen Jiabao at the White House.
“We spent a lot of time talking about North Korea here,” Bush said.
“The goal of the United States is not for a freeze of the nuclear program; the goal is to dismantle a nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way.”
Bush said “that is a clear message that we are sending to the North Koreans.”
He added that the United States will continue to work with China and other countries “to resolve this issue peacefully.”
A senior Bush aide later said on condition of anonymity that Pyongyang’s offer to “freeze” its nuclear program was not specifically addressed but that both sides hoped six-nation talks could begin again soon.
China hosted the first round of talks in Beijing in August that failed to make significant progress toward ending the crisis.
“We share a mutual goal, and that is for the Korean Peninsula to be nuclear weapons-free,” Bush said. “I thank the premier for China starting the six-party talks, and I will continue those talks. I think they’re very important.”
Wen remained silent about North Korea. But in New York Monday he had said the US and North Korean positions were “getting closer.”
North Korea said it would only return to the to six-nation talks after the United States agreed to its latest demands.
“There is no reason whatsoever for the US not to accept the principle of simultaneous actions if it sincerely wants to co-exist with the DPRK (North Korea) peacefully,” a foreign ministry spokesman said through the official Korean Central News Agency.
“The resumption of the six-way talks in the future entirely depends on whether an agreement will be reached on the DPRK-proposed first-phase step or not.”
The North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said Pyongyang was deeply disappointed by the US attitude after Washington rejected a North Korean proposal last week for simultaneous measures to ease tensions.
Amidst a new diplomatic burst of activity, a US-backed statement that could be adopted at new six-nation talks has also been sent to North Korea for consideration.
Meanwhile, a delegation of diplomats from the European Union left for Pyongyang and was expected to put across the message that Europe also wants a quick resumption of the talks between North Korea, the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.
But some of the participating countries feel time is running out for talks this year.
South Korea’s top envoy to the negotiations, Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck, indicated new talks were unlikely this year.
Lee told a Seoul radio station that South Korea, Japan and the United States had agreed that if talks were to be held by the end of the year, they would have to be convened next week.
He said the three had agreed the week of December 15 would be the only available time this year.
In recent weeks North Korea has been urging the United States to accept the principle of simultaneous action as a framework for resolving the standoff.
It proposes that North Korean promises to renounce nuclear weapons development, to allow inspections, and eventually, to scrap its nuclear facilities. In return, Pyongyang wants a security guarantee from the United States, economic aid and diplomatic relations.
The US-backed counterproposal focuses on “coordinated steps,” according to a senior South Korean official. Washington is maintaining a central demand that North Korea scrap its nuclear programs in a verifiable manner, as other “coordinated” steps, including a written security guarantee, are made.
Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.



Stock Up On Those Zinc Buckets, Folks, The Paisley/McGuinness Movie Is Coming…….


The Hunger Strike Scandal That Just Won’t Go Away

The story below, written by the SDLP’s Alban Maginnis, tells us two things. In fact more than two but of that more anon.

The first is that the claim made more than a decade ago by Richard O’Rawe, that the Sinn Fein leadership scuppered a deal that could have ended and won the 1981 hunger strike, is now widely believed. So is the suspicion that this was done to facilitate that party’s entry into constitutional/electoral politics. It is a story that will not go away.

The second is that O’Rawe’s claim has now become respectable enough to be used as ammunition against Sinn Fein by its political opponents, in this case by the SDLP. It has also become a matter, The Irish Times and some film-makers excepting, for media coverage as a credible and important story.

Richard O'Rawe

Richard O’Rawe

In achieving this distinction, the story has broken through what one might call, for want of a better description, the peace process barrier, when some stories are shunned by the respectable media because of the perceived damage they might do the architects of the strategy and the reputations of any reporter valiant enough to take it on.

The passage of time rather than recently acquired media spinal columns probably accounts for this but there is also the undeniable reality that the evidence to support O’Rawe has been accumulating rather than diminishing in the intervening years, as evidenced by the opening paragraphs of Alban Maginnis’ article below.

It is worthwhile then to recall how the story began. I don’t mean the story in the H Blocks but the story of the story. It began with the Belfast Project funded by Boston College back in 2001; among one of the first stories unearthed by the republican interviewer Anthony McIntyre was O’Rawe’s secret tale of what happened during the mid-point of the Bobby Sands hunger strike.

O’Rawe’s decision to finally put his account on the record in the Boston archive served to break an emotional dam; he was initially reluctant to talk about the secret offer from Mrs Thatcher, but once he did it was as if a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and not long afterwards he declared his wish to write a book about his life in the IRA in which the hunger strike episode would feature as a harrowing core.

Despite efforts from myself and others to dissuade him – the IRA, we said, would make his life unbearable and his family could suffer – he persisted. The rest, as the cliche has it, is history.

Fast forward to the Spring of this year, to the news that the PSNI’s legacy unit had served a subpoena on Boston College ordering them to hand over Anthony McIntyre’s own interviews with the archive, and ask yourselves, dear readers, whether there might be a connection between that and Richard O’Rawe’s revelations.

Gerry Adams has good reason to despise the Boston archive. The revelations and claims made by Brendan Hughes in his interviews with McIntyre made a sick joke out of his claims never to have been in the IRA and tarnished him profoundly and permanently with the IRA practice of disappearing people, the widowed mother, Jean McConville in particular.

Richard O’Rawe’s claims, meanwhile, raise an even more ghoulish spectre, as least in the eyes of IRA comrades, one that suggests that he and others in Adams’ circle deliberately allowed colleagues to die so that, eventually, he and they could sit in Dail Eireann or the Stormont Assembly.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (in foreground) shares space at the West Belfast festival with Adam's IRA enforcer Bobby Storey

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (in foreground) shares space at the West Belfast festival with Adam’s IRA enforcer Bobby Storey

So where lies the PSNI in all this?

When Gerry Adams was arrested and held for seven days of interrogation about the disappearance of Jean McConville, few were as furious as respectable Irish-America, by which I mean the Tip O’Neill, Ted Kennedy, Four Horsemen type of Irish-Americans rather than the Noraid followers.

One of their number, a scion of the Four Horsemen, publicly castigated the PSNI for singling out Gerry Adams and wondered why no Loyalists involved in the archive had been pursued.

Well, very quickly, a seemingly chastened PSNI addressed the second of those complaints and a subpoena was soon speeding across the Atlantic seeking interviews with Red Hand Commando icon Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea. He was subsequently charged.

Now we have the subpoena against Anthony McIntyre. Is this the other part of that Irish-American complaint being attended to by the PSNI legacy unit? Is this the PSNI saying to their powerful critics in the US, ‘Well we can’t undo the damage that has been done to Gerry Adams’ name and standing but maybe if we try to discredit the man responsible for collecting these interviews, that will go some way to make amends’?

There’s a term for this. It is called political policing. It involves taking policing decisions for political not policing reasons. The pursuit of Anthony McIntyre falls undeniably, I would submit, into that category.

If you don’t believe that this is what is happening, that the PSNI has not been infected by the same bacillus that destroyed the RUC, go ask the family of Frank Hegarty what has happened to the investigation into his murder.

Time for Sinn Fein to come clean on secret deal that may have saved hunger strikers

Mrs Thatcher offered concessions to the inmates, but proposal was rebuffed, writes Alban Maginness

Published 07/09/2016

Bobby Sands
Bobby Sands

Every year, the British Government releases secret papers relating to Northern Ireland under the 30-years rule, and as time goes by we get to know a little bit more about the truth behind the Troubles. It can be a fascinating insight into the workings of the direct rule administration.

Recently, the Government released a memo from a British civil servant, Stephen Leach, to a more senior civil servant, John Blelloch, who served as a deputy permanent secretary during the hunger strikes in 1981. He had a crucial involvement at that critical time with Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister. The memo confirms that a “good offer” was made that could have ended the hunger strike and saved four or maybe six of the republican prisoners.

The official Sinn Fein narrative of the hunger strikes is that Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady, inflexible and immovable throughout, who was by her very inflexibility directly and solely responsible for the deaths of the 10 republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in Long Kesh.

Richard O’Rawe, who was PRO of the republican prisoners in Long Kesh during the hunger strikes, has courageously put forward in his books Blanketmen and Afterlives an alternative narrative which disputes that and which is much more credible.

O’Rawe makes it abundantly clear that Danny Morrison of Sinn Fein told Bik McFarlane, the IRA leader in the prison, the terms of a British offer to end the hunger strike and that McFarlane then told O’Rawe and that both of them agreed that the offer was good. However, he points out that the hunger strikers themselves were never consulted on the terms of this “good offer”. He argues strongly that Adams and a committee of leading republicans, for self-interested political reasons, refused this “good offer” from the British Government in early July 1981 and when it was repeated again on July 21, 1981.

The main reason for this, he suspects, was to ensure the safe election of Owen Carron in the by-election to fill the seat left vacant by the late Bobby Sands MP. If the hunger strike continued, electoral victory was assured.

If there was no continuing hunger strike, then the seat could have been lost to another nationalist candidate, or on a divided nationalist vote to a unionist, thereby depriving Owen Carron of victory. This would have prevented the emergence of Adams’ political strategy for the republican movement. If that was the IRA strategy at the time, then it was both cunning and ruthless, involving the additional and unnecessary deaths of the six remaining hunger strikers.

This “good offer” was confirmed to intermediaries the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) by Adams at a meeting in a house in Andersonstown in early July 1981. This is also referred to in Leach’s Government memo.

The commission confirmed that Adams admitted to them in July 1981 that a “good offer” had been made by the British Government through a back channel whose code name was Mountain Climber. Adams also warned the ICJP to stay out of the process.

Richard O’Rawe has kept track of previously released Government papers and says that they substantially support his narrative. The recent Leach memo reinforces his argument.

He believes that Adams should apologise to the hunger strikers’ families and the wider community.

He is adamantly of the view that, “the British were broke, the hunger strike broke the British”.

As O’Rawe succinctly puts it: “The hunger strikers broke Thatcher’s resolve.”

In essence, that’s why the British made a good offer, which met almost in full four out of the five demands of the prisoners. The most important concession made was the right to wear their own clothes and not be forced to wear the prison uniform, the very symbol of criminalisation. Criminalisation of the IRA prisoners was at the centre of the hunger strikes.

For years now, the republican leadership has rejected O’Rawe’s account and has systematically tried to discredit both him and his version of events.

Fearlessly, he has countered their arguments and refuses to be bullied by them. He and his family have had to endure persistent vilification and criticism.

He has continued to examine the evidence that has come out through Government papers to strengthen his arguments. He has challenged senior republicans to debate with him publicly, but they have refused.

He has supported the idea of an independent inquiry into the hunger strikes and would be willing to give evidence to it. Sinn Fein has refused to participate in such an independent enquiry. The party has even refused to go on TV with him to debate the issues arising from the hunger strikes.

Now he says that they should have, “A bit of humility after 35 years – it’s the decent thing to do”.

The problem is, neither Adams, nor Sinn Fein understand either humility, or the truth.

Belfast Telegraph