Monthly Archives: October 2017

Guess Who?

Free lifetime subscription to The Broken Elbow to the first person to correctly guess this person’s identity:

‘No More Catholics!’ – Trainspotting Two Hits A High Note

I loved the first Trainspotting movie and Trainspotting 2 came very close. I watched it, en familie, in a movie house in posh Westchester County, of all places and nearly laughed my leg off (which I can assure you is not easy for me to do).

Here is my favourite scene. The background is that the characters played by Ewan McGregor and Johnny Lee Millar have stumbled into a Glasgow Rangers supporters club intending to pickpocket as many credit cards as they can. Challenged by a suspicious Loyalist they must sing a song to prove their credentials. Enjoy:

A Memory From The 1986 Sinn Fein Ard-Fheis

Every dog has its day, goes the old saw. I see that Malachi O’Doherty has become the go to guy about all things Provo in the wake of his biography of Gerry Adams (which I must admit I have only leafed through, mostly the index pages which often tell you all you need to know).

He has a piece in the Belfast Telegraph this week about Gerry Adams denying that bullying exists in Sinn Fein, which is odd – the denial I mean – since bullying, i.e. the use or threat of physical violence has always been the Provos’ stock-in-trade.

Anyway it was this paragraph which really caught my eye:

Sinn Fein was for decades an adjunct of the IRA. This was illustrated clearly on several occasions. In 1985, when Gerry Adams urged the ard fheis to vote in favour of the party fighting elections in the Republic, he told delegates that they had little choice, for the IRA had already met and made its own decision to support the move. And they didn’t want to be disloyal, did they?

Actually the ard-fheis which dropped abstentionism in the South happened in 1986 not 1985, November 1st if my memory is right. And the path to taking seats in Dail Eireann was a much more complicated and protracted process than Malachi makes it out; likewise the role played by the IRA was not as straightforward as his reporting of Adams’ speech suggests.

The renunciation of abstentionism happened in a series of carefully choreographed stages overseen by Adams’ closest adviser, Ted Howell that lasted four years or more. It was done carefully and slowly because it was a very dangerous exercise for the Adams’ camp, leaving them open to charges of treachery and heresy.

It began at the 1983 ard-fheis, just two years after Sinn Fein had embraced electoralism, when an important ideological embargo of sorts was broken. A motion was passed allowing discussion of the issue, hitherto forbidden territory. But then nothing happened for two years, allowing the grassroots to get used to the idea and for discrete lobbying to take place.

In 1985 a motion to allow Sinn Fein TD’s to take seats in Dail Eireann was proposed from the floor but defeated. The leadership did not back it and Adams did not speak. But you can be sure that his and their hands were at work in the background.

The 1985 motion was a toe in the water, so to speak, which enabled Adams and  Howell to measure, identify and gauge the opposition to a move they clearly supported, and to plan accordingly.

By the following autumn they were ready to move. Fake Sinn Fein cumainn, under IRA control, had been created in sufficient numbers to swamp the O Bradaigh-ite opposition at a special ard-fheis called to debate the issue. A militant speech from Martin McGuinness settled the matter, since in the view of most activists he would never sell out, no matter the doubts they might harbour about the Big Lad.

By the early evening of November 1st, 1986, militant republican abstentionism, a key aspect of the rejection of the 1921 partitionist settlement in Ireland was a thing of the past, and a way opened towards taking the Provo grassroots into the peace process.

A critical element in the story was the disposition of the IRA. Whichever way the army voted, so would Sinn Fein.

In the autumn of 1986 I had left The Irish Times in circumstances which still leave a bad taste in the mouth. But I hadn’t quit journalism; far from it.

The weekend before the special Sinn Fein ard-fheis I had spent in Donegal with my family and there I met up with an old republican contact cum friend who told me that a special IRA Army Convention had been held recently and had endorsed the dropping of abstentionism. That was a big story and not a whiff of it had leaked – so far.

At this point a bit of background is necessary. During the 1981 hunger strikes I had fallen out badly with the Sinn Fein publicity machine. I had come to believe that it was not to be trusted, that it had traded in half-truths and outright lies sufficiently often during the protest that it was impossible to distinguish fabrications from honesty. I am not saying they lied all the time, just often enough to make me wary.

In the face of my reservations, Danny Morrison had assured me that he would not misinform or lie to me and then immediately did (over the ending of the hunger strike). Ever since I had tried to be as circumspect in my dealings with him and his team as it was possible to be. Morrison later apologised for misleading me and assured me it would not happen again; but I was on guard.

But what to do about this story? It was a big one, for sure. There had not been an IRA convention since the foundation of the Provos in the winter of 1969. And this one was truly historic, since the convention had now accepted a doctrine – they had called it a heresy seventeen years earlier – whose rejection had contributed to the Provos’ formation.

I thought I really needed to have high level confirmation of this story and so I picked up the phone, rang Sinn Fein and said I had an urgent matter to discuss with Gerry Adams and could he possibly meet me?

An hour later I was driving over to west Belfast, to the Sinn Fein advice centre in Beechmount Avenue. I met Adams in his office, just the two of us, and told him the reason for my trip. He didn’t answer but immediately rose from his chair and stalked out of the room.

An hour later, back home, my fax machine began to buzz and whir. It was a press release from Sinn Fein announcing that a special IRA Convention held recently had endorsed the removal of abstentionism from Sinn Fein’s political theology.

I have no idea how or when the Provo leadership would have announced this but for my intervention. Perhaps a masked man would have delivered the news to delegates during a closed session of the special ard-fheis. Maybe Adams would have announced it in his speech; or better still Martin McGuinness. Whatever, I had thrown their plans into disarray.

And the moral of the story? If you believe your sources and they have proved trustworthy in the past then go for it. Go higher for confirmation and you’ll likely be screwed. Suffice it to say that I never made the same mistake again.

Trump’s America (cont’d)

October 13, 2017
By Joe Kloc

Congressional Republicans reportedly said that US president Donald Trump was “nuts,” “unfit,” and “dangerous,” and that they were “praying” Trump didn’t “do something really, really stupid” before they reformed the tax code and then removed him from office; the Republican speaker of the House told Congress that they may need to work “till Christmas” to pass tax-reform legislation as soon as possible; and Trump complained about department stores using red decorations but not making their employees say “Merry Christmas” to customers. “America is a nation,” said Trump, “sustained by the power of prayer.” Trump announced that his administration was “stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”; and then signed an executive order to stop subsidizing the cost of health insurance for poor people, which he said he was “only doing” because “it costs” him nothing. Trump declared flashlights obsolete as he handed them out to Puerto Ricans, 90 percent of whom had no electricity in their homes; and tweeted that he wouldn’t keep providing federal hurricane relief “forever” to Puerto Rico, a US territory that the secretary of energy referred to as a “country.” Vice President Mike Pence attended a football game in Indiana, where he responded to NFL players not standing for the national anthem to protest police killings of black men and women by leaving the game in protest; Trump tweeted that the players were disrespecting the American flag; and Trump remained seated during a flag-honoring ceremony at the base of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, where he did not put his hand on his heart and then asked if the bugle was playing for him or for his companion, a talk-show host whose ratings he then complimented. Trump said that the Keystone XL pipeline, which he approved two months into his administration and which is still not under construction, was approved by him “within twenty-four hours” and was currently under construction; that Obama was responsible for the formation of the Islamic State, which formed two years before Obama took office; that a journalist “set up” Republican senator Bob Corker by secretly recording their conversation, which captured Corker asking the journalist to record him; and that Chief of Staff John Kelly “loves” his job “more than anything he’s ever done.” “It is not the best job I ever had,” said Kelly. A reporter asked Trump about a lunch the president was said to have shared the previous day with his secretary of state, Trump said the reporter was “behind the times” and that the lunch had occurred the previous week, and the White House confirmed that the lunch had in fact occurred the previous day. Trump said that he had no schedule for his administration but that if he did he would be “substantially ahead of schedule,” that “a lot of countries are starting to respect the United States of America,” and that he “met with the president of the Virgin Islands,” a US territory of which he is president. “What’s that?” Trump reportedly asked when he was told of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which gives his cabinet members the power to remove him from office.

‘The Soldiers – Belfast 1972’

This is a British TV documentary based on the life of British soldiers stationed in Belfast at Christmastime, 1972 at the height of the war with the IRA. The interviewer is not named but sounds very much like Peter Taylor who in 1972 worked for Thames TV’s This Week programme. Notice how much he frames the conflict in Protestant v. Catholic terms.

Sinn Fein’s Southern Malcontents…..

An interesting piece below from last week’s Sunday Independent, written by an old Tribune colleague, Maeve Sheehan, which some of my followers may have missed.

It deals with a burgeoning problem for Sinn Fein, the flight of talented elected activists in the 26 Counties who have become angered or disillusioned by the extent of what they call ‘bullying’ by the party hierarchy. Quite a few have quit in anger.

What they complain of – although most almost certainly do not know it – is really a feature of Provo republicanism that goes back to the origins of the modern Sinn Fein, back to the re-organisation of the IRA that followed the defeat of the O Bradaigh-O Connail leadership by the Adams-Bell-McGuinness faction in the aftermath of the 1974-75 IRA ceasefire.

Facing near defeat by a new British policy of criminalisation, the IRA was re-structured into Northern and Southern commands, a new security unit was created, some cells were created and the organisation ‘politicised’ for a long war.

A central feature of that politicisation was the new status given to Sinn Fein – hitherto mostly a bunch of IRA cheerleaders – which would be given the task of making the Provos relevant, socially and economically, to the Catholic base so that there would be a reason, other than killing British soldiers and RUC men, for people to support the IRA.

A draft of the re-organisation plan was found in a Dublin flat where the then Chief of Staff, Seamus Twomey was hiding in December 1977 and when Twomey was tried for escaping from Mountjoy jail in 1973, portions of the document were read out in court.

Sinn Fein, the document read, ‘would come under Army discipline at all levels’.

And for years thereafter Sinn Fein was treated as part of the IRA. If the IRA gave an order to jump, SF’s reply would be ‘How high?’ Now the Provo hierarchy never liked to be reminded of this reality and I can remember Gerry Adams once bridling in anger when in conversation, I referred to the IRA as ‘the parent body’. But he was fooling no-one. The Army called the shots.

Now a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. We have had ceasefires, decommissioning, the consent principle accepted, Stormont recognised, the hands of British royalty shaken, Dail seats taken and so on.

But one thing has not changed. Sinn Fein is still regarded by the leadership as an Army instrument, to be used as the leaders demand, to obey and not to question – and don’t be fooled, the IRA still exists (who do you think does all the spying or husbands the investment portfolio?). The days are gone, admittedly, when the relationship was transparent but it lives on in the attitudes which have forced so many councilors and TD’s to quit the party.

And it is not without significance that you don’t hear any complaints about bullying north of Newry, just in the south.

Anyway here is Maeve Sheehan’s article. Enjoy.

The once loyal followers who have fallen out with Sinn Fein

OUT OF THE PARTY: Melissa O’Neill 3
OUT OF THE PARTY: Melissa O’Neill
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Sorcha O’Neill is one of a number of once loyal elected representatives and members who have fallen out with Sinn Fein in recent years.

Some have quit the party, others have been expelled, and some remain in Sinn Fein but have criticised the party publicly. Some have claimed they were bullied, some they were mistreated. Sinn Fein has repeatedly insisted that bullying isn’t tolerated in the party. Sinn Fein has also said that local disputes arise but it’s not always possible to resolve them, as demonstrated by our list of those who have had issues with the party.

Sorcha O’Neill was a councillor in Kildare. She resigned from Sinn Fein in April, claiming she experienced “bullying, hostility and aggression”.

Another of the people on our list, Melissa O’Neill, organised a meeting in Waterford last weekend for disaffected members and former members of the party.

More meetings are expected to be held in the coming weeks.

O’Neill, a councillor in Kilkenny, was expelled from Sinn Fein last year, after a disciplinary process over video footage that emerged of a public argument. She alleges she had been bullied prior to the video and is considering legal action against the party.

OUT OF THE PARTY: John Snell 3 3

Others to have fallen out with Sinn Fein include:

Lisa Marie Sheehy, councillor in Limerick. She resigned from Sinn Fein in September, claiming she had been “undermined, bullied and humiliated”;

Gerry O’Neill, councillor in Wicklow, was expelled from Sinn Fein in September. He is one of three councillors who challenged the party in a dispute over internal leadership roles. He has accused “unelected” party figures of undue influence and control;

John Snell, councillor in Wicklow. He was expelled from Sinn Fein in September, and is another of the Wicklow trio who challenged the party about internal leadership roles;

OUT OF THE PARTY: Lisa Marie Sheehy 3 3
OUT OF THE PARTY: Lisa Marie Sheehy

Oliver O’Brien, councillor in Wicklow. Expelled from Sinn Fein in September, he is the third of the Wicklow councillors to challenge Sinn Fein’s internal leadership roles;

Tara O’Grady, human rights activist and Sinn Fein member. Expelled from the party in July. She believes it was because she assisted the three Wicklow councillors by accompanying them to meetings with Sinn Fein;

Eugene Greenan, former councillor in Cavan. Resigned from his Sinn Fein council seat in June, but remains a party member. Although he left in part for personal reasons, he later accused Sinn Fein of having an “element of dictatorship” and of “acting like bullies”;

Paul Hogan, councillor in Westmeath. Although he remains a Sinn Fein councillor, he claimed in June that he was “bullied”, “threatened” and subjected to a “whispering campaign” by elements in the party;

Seamus Morris, councillor in Tipperary. An attempt to expel him from the local organisation earlier this year failed, and he remains a Sinn Fein councillor. He claimed last month that he was subjected to a nine-month campaign of harassment and slander, and considered taking his own life;

Sandra McLellan, former Sinn Fein TD for Cork East. She declined to run in the 2016 general election and claimed there had been attempts to “undermine and malign” her within the party;

Ger Keohane, councillor in Cork East. Resigned from Sinn Fein in November 2015, and although he has not spoken publicly, it is believed he was unhappy with the party;

June Murphy, councillor in Cork East. Resigned from Sinn Fein in 2015, but did not speak publicly about her reasons until last month, claiming there is a “bullying culture” in Sinn Fein and that the party demeans women;

Kieran McCarthy, councillor in Cork East, Expelled from Sinn Fein in June 2015, after an internal inquiry accused him of “uncomradely” behaviour, which he denied. His expulsion was later lifted but he refused to return to the party;

Jonathan Dowdall, former councillor in Dublin. Resigned in 2014 for health reasons but he also claimed there was a “whispering campaign” and of “bullying” within the party. He has since been jailed for a false imprisonment and threats.

Sunday Independent

Jackie Chan And Gerry Adams Make A Movie…..

‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’ – Karl Marx