Monthly Archives: May 2018

Now We Know – It Was All About Making Mary Lou Taoiseach

At least that seems to be the subliminal message in this New York Times article about ‘the most exciting person in (Irish) politics today’, by the interestingly named Shawn McCreesh:

A Woman Takes on Ireland’s Old Boy’s Club

By Shawn McCreesh

Mr. McCreesh is an editorial assistant for the Opinion section.

 

Mary Lou McDonald, the new Sinn Féin president, at her parliamentary office in Leinster House in Dublin. CreditFran Veale for The New York Times

DUBLIN, Ireland — On a misty Monday morning in the city’s north end, I am sipping coffee — not the Irish kind — with Mary Lou McDonald, the new president of Sinn Fein and the most exciting person in politics here today. At 5 foot 4, this fast-talking, 49-year-old mother of two is barely a few months into the job and is already being whispered about as the possible first female prime minister of Ireland.

“How great would that be?” she asked, with a laugh. “Well, why not?”

While Britain was busy this week celebrating a fairy-tale princess, Ireland was plunged into two painful and bruising debates about women’s health issues and Ms. McDonald was in the rings of fire, arguing, ahead of Friday’s referendum on abortion, that “the old boys’ club that runs this state” had betrayed the women of Ireland with its draconian policy, and in an ongoing scandal about a government cover-up on botched cervical cancer tests.

With her appointment she’s also joined a new girls club that’s faced with tackling another wildly contentious issue — Northern Ireland in the age of Brexit. In addition to herself, Ms. McDonald will work with a cast of all women to hammer out a new deal. They include Theresa May; Arlene Foster, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party; Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland; and Michelle O’Neill, who is Ms. McDonald’s deputy.

She mused that, “maybe this is a test for women in politics.”

In February, Ms. McDonald’s mentor, Gerry Adams, passed the torch after 34 years, anointing her the new boss of Ireland’s oldest political party and one that, for much of its existence, has been thought of simply as the I.R.A. in a suit.

These are turbulent times for any new leader to step into the fray. Fears abound that the old sectarian conflict could reignite, since Brexit has thrown a monkey wrench into the fragile power-sharing mechanism that keeps Northern Ireland chugging along. The country is bitterly divided over the abortion issue, a procedure outlawed now even in cases of rape and incest. A surge of immigration and a widening inequality gap threaten to crack Ireland’s perceived invincibility to the alarming wave of far-right nationalism crashing on the shores of so many of its neighbors.

And the demise of the once all-powerful Catholic church here has changed the landscape in ways still not fully understood. In some ways, Ireland has grown more European and modern; it passed same-sex marriage easily three years ago and didn’t blink at a gay, half-Indian Prime minister. But in Ireland, as they say, the past is never the past, and the undertow is strong. Ms. McDonald is determined to keep Ireland from falling backward, especially for women.

Amid this identity crisis, Sinn Fein, once on the fringe, rises like a phoenix from the peat bog, gobbling up seats in Parliament and swelling its ranks with new voters. The party of the working class is now Ireland’s third largest. It is the most socially progressive and advocates for wealth redistribution — so badly needed here in the post-Celtic Tiger era. This, while the other parties, continually choked in corruption scandals, have contributed to a feeling of malaise that has set in among an increasingly apathetic electorate.

But if Sinn Fein wants a shot at legitimacy it will need to shed its militaristic image while also remaining true to the gray-flecked beards in the North who make up the bedrock of the party. It is believed that this mom from the south, who majored in English literature, named her daughter Iseult after the daughter of Maud Gonne, Yeats’s muse, can do it.

“Sinn Fein is a changed and changing party,” she says. “I understand it’s a gear shift for people to appreciate that the party is changing but that’s the truth, so the only thing I can say to people is bear with me.”

Referendum posters featuring Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald are all over Dublin. CreditFran Veale for The New York Times

A relative of mine who lives in the North once had a gun put to his head by Sinn Fein. It rattled him enough that he said he would never become “a Shinner,” as Sinn Fein voters are called, sometimes pejoratively. I ask Ms. McDonald what she would say to a person — and there are many — who’d been caught in the crossfire of Belfast confetti before but who now, with the departure of Gerry Adams at the helm, may be up for grabs in elections.

“I’m not on a mission to convince anybody to forget,” she insists. “In Ireland, the whole issue of remembering, and memory, is associated for very obvious reasons with a negative impulse because people suffered across the board, including at the hands of the I.R.A. — I recognize and say that very clearly — and at the hands of the British state, and Loyalist death squads, and so on.

“But remembrance is also a positive thing,” she says, brightly.

Ms. McDonald grew up less than a hundred miles from the armed struggle, which saw more than 3,500 people killed between 1969 and 1998, in a middle class home in a tony section of south Dublin. Unlike many of her Sinn Fein colleagues, and to her political benefit, she lacks what the Irish call “the smell of cordite.” Still, she says the violence shaped her.

She hails from a staunchly Republican family and says her grandmother, Molly, whose brother was executed in an earlier struggle for independence, hugely influenced her. “She used to look up the road to the North and she had a real sense of connection with what was going on up there.

“I remember the morning the news came down that Bobby Sands died. I remember the hunger strikes,” but, she said, growing up in the South, “you didn’t have the British army on the streets.”

Among those who did, some view the lack of blood on Mary Lou’s hands as a lack of credentials.

“You see, you get it from both ends,” she says. “On the one hand, you’re criticized for being too Republican, and then you’re criticized for not being Republican enough.”

Others wonder what business a private-school educated girl from a well-to-do neighborhood has as the head of the party that champions the working class.

“I represent probably the most working-class constituency and district in the country,” she says, referring to her Dublin constituency, where we are today. “I love the working class, and I don’t mean that in a patronizing way. I’m proud to represent them. I’m really proud that they trust me.”

They trust her, sure, but can a Dubliner be trusted to lead the party of the North?

“Some people speculated when I came into position that this woman is from the South, so therefore the North will be forgotten. Far from it.”

Joking, she adds: “I don’t care if they hate the Dubs. That’s ’cause we’re great at football.”

But trying to be everything to everyone is a game so many politicians lose, and to her credit, not one she is playing. “The truth is, there’s no one way to look or be or sound, there’s no particular background to be an Irish republican,” she says. “There used to be a thing that the assumption is Irish Republicans were male, with beards, and black leather jackets. We are now a hugely feminized, feminine movement.”

Indeed, the hard-charging Mary Lou has fast become something of a feminist icon in the Emerald Isle. There isn’t another lawmaker more closely allied with the movement to legalize abortion. Her face is the lone politicians beaming down from pro-choice posters adorning lamp posts from here to Galway. Where other parties’ support for the “Yes” vote has been mixed, Mary Lou has cracked the whip on Sinn Fein, threatening suspension for any of her troops that fall out of line. On a primetime debate about abortion last week, she took the stage and deftly parried her opponents.

Rising to the top of a legislative body that had to impose a gender quota just to ensure minimal female representation has not been easy. “The very male atmosphere is something you kind of have to steel yourself to,” she allows. “You get used to it, actually, and sometimes that’s not a good thing.

“Even just the fact of being a woman makes you kind of noteworthy in the political firmament, still. We’ve got a lot of ground to make up. But ‘Poor us’ doesn’t get us anywhere. It has to be Strong us. Entitled us. Able us. Smart us. Determined us.” (At the abortion debate last week, she said to the audience that it was time to “woman up.”)

Ms. McDonald had an eye-opening experience when she learned, at one of her first jobs out of college, as a consultant, that she was being paid less than male colleagues.

“I remember the precise moment when I discovered it,” she says. “And this is a different thing than being harassed, but there’s something degrading about suggesting that you don’t carry the same worth in terms of your work.”

Now, with the woman known only by her first name in the driver’s seat, she has a chance to broker a new phase of peace in the North with her fellow female adversaries and allies.

“There’s an opportunity here for us to demonstrate that we can actually think outside the box and do things differently and actually challenge a paradigm of politics, particularly in the North where it’s ‘I win, you lose,’” says Ms. McDonald. “That, to me, is a very kind of old school, unhealthy, and dare I say it — a very male — model of politics.”

Still, it won’t be easy. Theresa May has only been able to cling to power at 10 Downing Street thanks to a razor-thin margin afforded to her by a few D.U.P. seats in the Northern Ireland, and talks between the D.U.P. and Sinn Fein have collapsed. Brexit has raised the specter of a hard border again.

“Brexit’s a disaster, to put simply,” Ms. McDonald says. “The European project is far from perfect, it needs a serious rebooting. But we are Europeans. The idea of getting cut off in some kind of insular, splendid isolation is not an Irish thing. That’s not how we roll.”

I ask if her North Star, Gerry Adams, had any advice for her as she settled in to her new gig.

“Keep your Sundays.”

Shawn McCreesh is an editorial assistant for the Opinion section.

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Why Didn’t He Say This When He Had The Power To Do Something About it?

19 May, 2018

Former DPP Barra McGrory has said that the currently legacy proposals would result in endless litigation.

Barra McGrory, who has since returned to private practice, said he thinks a tribunal or inquiry would be a better way to deal with the past.

The former Director of Public Prosecutions has said that mechanisms proposed to deal with the past, currently out for public consultation, will only result in “litigating the past for years to come”.

Speaking to the Irish News Barra McGrory, who has returned to working in private practice since he left the senior prosecutor role at the end of last year, said the two year moratorium on sentences served by anyone convicted of Troubles killings “tarnishes the justice system”.

The legacy proposals out for public consultation include plans for an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which would re-examining 1,700 unsolved murders, along with a truth recovery process that would rely on paramilitary groups voluntarily giving information.

Mr McGrory said the proposals ” while well meaning” are unworkable in practice with prosecutions unlikely, and has called for the end to prosecutions in favour of a civil inquiry.

“The criminal process will significantly inhibit the information process and to what end?

“Very few convictions will result, people will be as unhappy as they are now, and the opportunity to have a process which makes people truly accountable will be lost.

“Any criminal justice system can only deliver one thing and that’s a conviction beyond all reasonable doubt, it doesn’t look behind that.

“A cynic might say that the architects of this (public consultation) know that.

“Some of these cases are 40/45 years old and my concern about that is that those who are accountable will escape accountability simply because the criminal process is very narrowly focused.

“It (legacy) was not addressed and that was a significant political failure in terms of the peace process not to have dealt with this.

“It was addressed in a very narrow way in terms of the moratorium on sentencing, the two year limit, which was designed for one purpose only and that was to empty the prisons.

“That was trade off in terms of how low can we go in order to get the prisons emptied quickly.

“It was a politically created figure.

“Now that there is enormous pressure to have criminal prosecutions, those prosecutions are deeply compromised by the existence of the two year maximum.

“It brings into question the whole issue of whether prosecutions are the way forward at all because the essence of justice is that those who have committed serious crimes are held accountable but that accountability means – if convicted – would not serve the sentence that one would expect them to serve”, he said.

“That in my view tarnishes the justice system”, he said.

During his tenure Mr McGrory was criticised over the decision to prosecute former soldiers with a number of conservative MPs using parliamentary privilege to attack his office.

He pointed to the practice of the RMP (Royal Military Police) investigating up to 300 state killings in the early 1970s, investigations which have since been found to be substandard.

“The problem with a lot of the state cases is that they were not properly investigated when they should have been and the PSNI legacy branch has to prioritise them”, he said.

“But if you look at the stats into the number of cases that were looked at by the PPS, there was a fairly even number”.

Mr McGrory said while he is not in favour of ‘drawing a line in the sand’ a tribunal similar to the Historic Institutional Abuse inquiry should be considered as away to deal with legacy.

“Those who have the power to do something different and show true leadership are hiding behind criminal process and are quite prepared to wait it out”, Mr McGrory said.

“People will continue to avail of their right for civil redress and the problem is the civil courts are now clogged up with writs and judicial reviews and that will continue.

“In my opinion they should create an all encompassing process that takes liability down to the civil standard, removes criminal punishment and brings true accountability.

“Otherwise we are just going to end up in endless litigation”, he said.

Mr McGrory added that when he accepted the senior prosecutor’s job back in 2011 he didn’t think his previous private practice, during which he represented among others Gerry Adams, would become such a big issue.

“You take these jobs, you’re a big boy you deal with it, it wouldn’t have driven me out of office, my return to private practice was something I had always intended to do.

“However, it certainly lead to me to reflect on how troubles and legacy investigations were perceived and how they were going to reflect on the role of the prosecutor in the future”, he added.

More Evidence That The IRA Of 1920’s Also Disappeared People….

Many thanks to Pat Flynn, a reporter in Co. Clare for help with this piece which, I think, adds to the growing body of evidence that disappearing people is not something that was confined to the Northern Troubles, or the Provos, but has been part of an all-Ireland republican tradition going back at least to the 1920’s and, who knows, even long before that.

The story that Pat wrote about this week, and which the rest of the Irish media has studiously ignored, concerns the re-burial of a British soldier, one Private George Duff Chalmers, a member of the Royal Scots regiment who was shot dead by the IRA in Co Clare in June 1921, a month before the Truce, and buried in a local bog.

He apparently deserted from his unit and was either on a spying mission against the IRA or on his way to meet a girl who had won his heart; nobody really knows which was the truth. Why the IRA did not publicly claim his killing is another unanswered question.

His body was discovered by chance in the 1950’s by turf cutters who ignored a warning to stay away from a place which it seems nearly every local knew harboured the remains of the slain Royal Scot as well as, Pat believes, another soldier also hidden somewhere in the bog.

Pvt. Chalmers’ remains had been deposited not far from the surface, resulting in the deterioration of his skeleton by peat acid. Bone fragments were all that was found along with parts of his uniform. Someone placed a slab over the grave and erected a cross, and there he lay until last week when he was dug up, at the request of his family, to be re-interred in a British Army cemetery near Dublin.

According to Padraig Og O Ruairc, an historian and civil servant, three other members of the British forces stationed in Co Clare, two soldiers and a member of the RIC, were killed and buried secretly by the local IRA. You can read about that episode here. One body has never been found.

O Ruairc is also the author of a claim that twenty-five of the 196 people killed by the IRA as informers during the Tan war between 1919 and 1921 were also ‘disappeared’.

Add to that Harry White’s account in his autobiography, ‘Harry’, of a plot during the 1956-62 campaign to ‘disappear’ a Belfast informer which was, allegedly, frustrated only because frozen soil made it impossible to dig a grave in the hills of South Derry and it begins to look as if disappearing people was part of a long if less than proud Irish republican tradition. You can read about that incident here.

All of which begs this question: isn’t it beyond time that the authorities in the South, instead of sneering at the barbarous Northerners, did something about their own disappeared problem? Like making some sort of public acknowledgement that this happened, apologise to the relatives of victims and even organise an effort to try to identify and locate the missing remains? It is never too late to make amends.

 

Body exhumed in Clare of British soldier killed and secretly buried in 1921

By Patrick Flynn

The body of a British soldier executed and buried in Co Clare almost 100 years ago has been exhumed and will be reburied in Dublin.

18-year-old Private George Duff Chalmers was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the British Army’s Royal Scots based in Clare during the during the War of Independence.

He died on June 10, 1921 at Drumbaun, Co Clare after, it’s believed, he was captured and executed by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Early today, representatives of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), working alongside the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Clare County Council, exhumed the remains of Pvt Chalmers from a site near Miltown Malbay. Gardaí also attended the exhumation.

The remains of Pvt Chalmers are removed from the bog at Rockmout near Miltown Malbay, Co Clare

Pvt Chamlers’ remains were taken to Ennistymon Church where a brief prayer service was held outside. He will be reburied at Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin while a rededication ceremony will take place later this year.

A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) said: “In 2017 the CWGC was contacted by the family of Private Chalmers who enquired about the possible relocation of his remains to an alternative location. CWGC identified that as the current location was difficult to access and maintain, relocation of the remains would be possible.”

The CWGC is responsible for commemorating the men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars, including the building and maintenance of cemeteries and memorials across the world.

War graves from the First World War located in Ireland are managed on CWGC behalf by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

How Israel Is Losing The PR War…..

The two stories below, filed within an hour of each other, from the satirical magazine The Onion demonstrate vividly how the Israeli government is losing, perhaps has already lost, the propaganda war with the Palestinians.

Add to that the fact that the hated Trump is their strongest ally and that young Jews in America are increasingly hostile to/uninterested in the Netanyahu agenda and it is not hard to see how Israel’s isolation can only grow:

Netanyahu Announces Day Of Mourning For Fence Damaged In Yesterday’s Conflict

JERUSALEM—Wiping away a tear as he confirmed the public’s worst fears, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially declared a nationwide day of mourning Tuesday for a section of security fence damaged in yesterday’s conflict at the Gaza border. “We must all come together and take the time to grieve for this poor, innocent length of fence,” said Netanyahu, who throughout his reportedly stirring eulogy shared several images of the youthful barrier, which was first erected between Israel and the Gaza Strip in 1994. “Let us never forget what happened to this beautiful razor wire–topped barricade, which still had so much life ahead of it. As we lower our flags to half-mast, I encourage all Israelis to take a few moments to consider the great sacrifices made by our many brave fabricated enclosures.” Sources confirmed Netanyahu concluded the solemn ceremony with a 21-gun salute fired directly into a group of Palestinian protesters.

IDF Soldier Recounts Harrowing, Heroic War Story Of Killing 8-Month-Old Child

JERUSALEM—Describing the terrifying yet valiant experience to his fellow battalion members, Israel Defense Forces soldier Yossi Saadon recounted Tuesday his harrowing, heroic war story of killing an 8-month-old Palestinian child during a violent attack against protesters. “It was a heart-pounding experience—there was smoke and gunfire all around me, and I made a split-second decision to hurl that canister of tear gas at the encroaching infant cradled in her father’s arms,” said Saadon to the group of awed soldiers, describing the chills that went up and down his spine as he realized that all he had was his M16 assault rifle and some tear gas to defend himself against the unarmed Palestinian family standing only dozens of yards away. “I could see the whites of the baby’s eyes and hear her terrifying cries, and I knew it was either her or me. And this wasn’t some newborn infant, you know? This was a baby who could probably sit up independently. I was scared, but I acted quickly to throw that tear gas at her and her older sister. And who knows how many lives I saved when I shot the women trying to help her?” At press time, Saadon’s battalion commander informed him that he was submitting his name for the Medal of Valor, the IDF’s highest honor.

Boy, American Journalism Can Be A Real Bitch! – Ask Kevin Cullen

This piece appeared in The Boston Herald web edition following the suspension last month of longtime Boston Globe columnist, Kevin Cullen following charges he had manufactured coverage of the Boston marathon bombing of 2013.

I missed the story at the time and if you did, you can read the details, courtesy of The Irish Times, here.

Like sharks, they turn on a wounded colleague.

Christ, I wonder how many, or rather how long, Belfast’s more notorious hacks would last over here!? Good thing they cover for each other so well!

Kevin Cullen – long time Boston Globe columnist and old hand at covering the IRA in the city and the North, now being devoured by his own

Baby barniclein a scrape

HOWIE CARR
PUBLICATION: Boston Herald (MA)

SECTION: News
DATE: April 21, 2018

EDITION: ALL

Page: 5
Kevin Cullen always wanted to be the next Mike Barnicle. And now he is.
The busted pipe-artist columnist of the dying Boston Globe tweeted out a photo Monday of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen with the caption, “The light of day will show these frauds for what they are.”
Be careful what you wish for, Kevin.
I think I first ran into Kevin when I was working for Channel 7, and he was a cub reporter for the Herald. We were both on a night stakeout of Sen. Paul Tsongas, who had just announced he wasn’t running for re-election.
I had to get some videotape for the 11, and I was worried Tsongas was going to screw out the back door of wherever he was huddling with some bigshots.
So I went around to the back of the building to reconnoiter. I saw a giant trash barrel I realized could block Tsongas’ exit out the back door.
I tried pushing the trash can into position, but it was too heavy to budge. But then Cullen showed up and helped me push the barrel in front of the door.
I got my sound cut and didn’t get fired for another few months. I liked Kevin after that, right up until the moment he quit the Herald to go over to the Globe.
He’d been sucking up to, you guessed it, the tough street kid from Lincoln — Mike Barnicle. Later Cullen and his hero Barnicle worked with 60 Minutes — how’s that for a trifecta of fake news? — on a series of slobbering puff pieces about a junkie murderer named Joseph Yandle.
Never bothering to check a single one of Yandle’s claims, Kevin lionized this Townie thug as a “decorated hero” who had come back from Vietnam with a “fistful of medals.”
Uh, no, actually, Yandle never set foot in Vietnam. But you can’t expect any real reporting from the Globe or See BS News.
After Cullen’s utter destruction by “Kirk & Callahan” on WEEI, people have been asking me about the alleged death threats Cullen got from Whitey Bulger 30 years ago.
I mean, if you’ll lie about hearing Krystle Campbell’s “death wail,” what won’t you lie about? Now, I don’t know if Whitey ever actually threatened him, but I am fairly certain the FBI told Cullen he was on the Hit Parade.
That was the M.O. of the G-men back then — a surefire way to scare reporters off the trail of their serial-killing sugar daddy, you know, the guy Kevin’s blue-blooded bow-tied bumkissing bosses always said “kept the drugs out of Southie.”
As I recall it, Kevin asked the G-men who was saying that Whitey was gunning for him. The crooked cops told him their source was Fat Tony Ciulla, the old Winter Hill horserace fixer.
A very convenient answer — Fat Tony was in the Witness Protection Program and thus unavailable for comment. A few years later, Fat Tony was back in town and I asked him if he had ever really told the feds that Whitey was looking to kill Cullen.
“What the bleep are you talkin’ about?” he asked me.
That actually happened, but can you see how easy it is to come up with a good story, whether you’re the FBI, Cullen or even me, especially if the subject is deceased?
I hadn’t bothered to read his PC mush for years, so when I saw the recent cringe-worthy excerpts on turtleboysports.com, I was surprised by Cullen’s total metamorphosis into what Gerry Callahan has been calling “Baby Barnicle.”
The only difference is, I think Barnicle always knew deep down what an utter fraud he was, whereas Kevin had grown to believe his own myth, that he was a tough street kid from where? Malden? Holyoke? Hingham?
Don’t worry about your future employment prospects, Kevin. I hear MSNBC and CNN are both hiring.
It’s boom times for fake-news hacks on cable TV. Just ask your mentor, Uncle Mike.

 

New York Times Cartoon On Jerusalem Embassy Opening

 

Seymour Hersh On How He Broke The My Lai Story

From the current edition of Harpers magazine, legendary American reporter Seymour Hersh recalls how he researched and broke the story of the My Lai massacre, one of the worst outrages of the war in Vietnam. It is a great yarn:

Seymour Hersh