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One Book Two Blogs!

After a period of silence I not merely producing one blog but in effect two! One has to do with my own work the other as we will see later is the creation of the distinguished artist Robert “Bobby” Ballagh.

              Following on from my last blog the launch of my current book which I mentioned, was a great success. The booksellers Easons put on quite a generous supply of edibles and wine therewith and what might be termed a large and representative gathering of friends, relations and hangers on generally turned up to add lustre to the occasion.

              One only realises the passage of time and how society has evolved when considering the implications of such occasions, there was a former Irish Press copyboy, now the distinguished novelist, Hugo Hamilton over there my friend the restauranteur and fish monger, Peter Caviston who had decided that the occasion would be enlivened and enriched by bringing along a choir, The Brooks Singers, who had the bookshop ringing to everything from Tom Moore’s Irish melodies to Brendan Behan’s “Auld Triangle”. Cavistons run the best delicatessen in South Dublin which I patronised frequently and gladly, becoming in the process a friend of Peter’s dad, John.

              John took delight in “getting it up for me” by standing at the back of the shop as I entered, drawing himself to his full height, some six feet plus and, giving a parade ground salute derived from his former British army days, uttering in stentorian terms the toast;” Her majesty, God Bless her!”

              Amongst the rest of the attendance which was too numerous to name individually there was one man I was particularly glad to see. This was Aogan O‘ Fearghail the president of the GAA. Aogan had helped me in the preceding days to get the truth of a story that has persisted in GAA and rugby circles since the famous day when the English international rugby team played at Croke Park.

              It was rumoured that Girvan Dempsey scored his famous try at the spot where Michael Hogan, after whom the Hogan stand is named, had died on Bloody Sunday, shot by Crown forces. I discovered that the Croke Park archives contained a map of the grounds, showing where each person had been shot dead. Aogan arranged that I be shown these maps and I had the pleasure of being taken out onto the famous pitch to see whether the site of Hogan’s death matched up with the now much altered Croke Park grounds.

              Subsequent checking by the Croke Park architects established that Girvan’s try and the spot where Hogan fell are within a short distance of each other. So though memories remain reminds us that things change and evolve and it is possible for the grass to grow green over the bad things of past relationships.

              On the night of my launch Aogan was presiding over the launch of a book, produced by the GAA itself, at Croke Park. But in the midst of this busy schedule he was good enough to come along to Easons to shake my hand and wish my book well before departing to fulfil his duties at GAA headquarters. With that send-off it’s not surprising that the book went into the Bestsellers list after only three days!

              And now for the second blog. Bobby Ballagh made a speech which some found to be precisely what needed to be said in the run up to the 100th anniversary of 1916 and others among the attendance told me they found “deeply offensive”. Ballagh had obviously fulfilled the role of an artist in society, he had created thought, debate and an examination of deeply held, and sometimes unquestioned views. Therefore as we are approaching the anniversary of 1916 I thought it would be useful to reproduce Ballagh’s words here:






              I would like to begin by stating a simple historical fact- The Easter Rising did happen, although there are still some around who would appear to wish that this seminal event in modern Irish history never occurred.

              Certainly last November when the government seemed to be of that persuasion when it launched “Ireland Inspires” on an infamous evening just down the road in the part of its commemorative programme. This video presentation literally airbrushed the men and women of 1916 out of history in the very location where they made history.  No images of Pearse, Plunkett, Connolly, Clarke, McDonagh, McDermott and Ceannt were on display- the forming fathers of our nation ignored- as if they had never lived – as if they had never died.

              Someone seemed to think that it would be a good idea to replace them with images of Queen Elizabeth II, David Cameron, The Rev. Ian Paisley, Bob Geldof, Bono and Brian O’Driscoll. And Now even if the reality of the Rising is reluctantly acknowledged, official Ireland is still inclined to suggest that we must be mature and remember “all” who died in a shared history. To the extent that the Irish Government is organising as part of its programme a ceremony at Grangegorman cemetery for British soldiers who died during the Rising. Also we are told that we should welcome the erection of a memorial wall in Glasnevin Cemetery inscribed with the names of all the 1916 dead. Incredible! Connolly, Pearse and other soldiers of the republic on the very same memorial list as the British soldiers that fought to destroy the Irish Republic.

              Recently I was working in my studio on a project sponsored by the trade union S.I.P.T.U.; I was asked to design an extension to the already complete tapestry based on the 1913 Lockout to feature the story of the Easter Rising. As it happened one of the first panels I began working on featured the execution of James Connolly. I decided to base my design on a poster I had recently discovered that had been published in New York, which featured Connolly’s execution. Now the artist, who was probably American, depicted a firing squad composed of Red Coats, which is understandable enough, considering American colonial history, however I knew this had to be incorrect, and on checking the facts I learned that the firing squads in Kilmainham Jail after Easter week were drawn from the regiment of the Sherwood Foresters. This was a reward given to the regiment because they had suffered serious casualties at the battle of Mount Street during the Rising.  Anyway there I was carefully drawing a firing squad of Sherwood Foresters when I was distracted by something on the radio. It was probably a mention of the name of the regiment that caught my attention. Someone on the radio was suggesting that we should erect a plaque at Mount Street in memory of the fallen Sherwood Foresters. Unbelievable! A memorial plaque to the regiment that shot not only the wounded James Connolly strapped in a chair but also 13 other patriots in the aftermath of the Rising!

              Self-confident nations would never engage in such nonsense – such national self – abasement! Imagine the British authorities erecting a plaque of the Cenotaph in London to honour those gallant members of the Luftwaffe who perished on bombing raids of London during World War II. I think not!!

               The presentation of the rising as ‘just another event’ is a distortion of our history, a deliberate and desperate attempt to distance citizens from the aims and ideals of a golden generation the likes of which we have not seen since. Among their number were poets, writers, playwrights, teachers, musicians, journalists, actors, artists and ordinary working men and women – citizens – striving to create a society rich in cultural activity and identity. They contributed to the cultural revival of a defeated nation and they left us a legacy that needs to be embraced and cherished with pride – pride in our language not a dismissal of it, pride in our flag not a disregard for it, pride in our national anthem not an apology for it with trust in those elected to represent our interests – citizens interests. The men and women of 1916 were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their country in stark contrast to those in our time willing to sacrifice their country for their lifestyles.


I believe that it is only right and proper that at this historic time, that the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who fought in 1916 be marked with dignity and respect, but, I believe it would be a disservice to their memory if we failed to recognise why they did what they did in the first place! Let’s face it, these people were not merely rebels – they were visionaries! What they desired was not simply a green flag over Dublin Castle and a harp on the coinage. They were calling for revolution – a complete transformation of both public and personal reality!

              The blueprint for that vision was set out in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic a visionary statement of intent which rightly belongs in the pantheon of human achievement alongside exceptional documents like the Magna Carta and the American Declaration of Independence. Let’s face it the Proclamation of 1916 is much more than simply a call to arms: it is a progressive statement of intent and vision of a better future for all Irish men, women and children.

              Sadly, however the vision of 1916 has never been fully realised and the Irish people , north and south have been forced to bear the consequences political, social, economic and cultural failure at this critical point in our history I find myself asking some fairly fundamental questions –

“Who fears to speak of 1916? And Why?” and “where stands the Republic today for which so many gave their very lives?”

              Well cometh the hour and cometh the man- Tim Pat Coogan, with his book which is being launched tonight, provides us with many answers to such probing questions. He paints a concise picture of the historical forces that were at play in the lead up to the Rising and the subsequent struggle towards Independence which, as we know resulted in a much disputed treaty and the disastrous partitioning of the country. He describes the terrible civil war that followed and the nature of the state that was established by the victors in the aftermath of that internecine conflict. Terence Brown in his book “Ireland, A Social and Cultural History” asks how “a revolution fought on behalf of exhilarating ideals, ideals which had been crystallised in the heroic crucible of the Easter Rising , should have led to the establishment of an Irish State notable for a stultifying lack of social, cultural and economic ambition.”

              Once again Tim Pat Coogan answers that particular question by describing the dominant forces that created the nature of the emerging state that was designed to serve their interests, a state that had remained in place, more or less unchanged to this day. He also chronicles a series of historical episodes that could only have occurred with either the connivance or collusion of that state apparatus.

              The establishment of institutions, charged with the care of the underprivileged and marginalised that allowed shocking levels of abuse to occur.  The abandonment of the catholic minority in the North to their fate in a sectarian state which resulted in a bloody conflict lasting almost 30 years. The dominance of one particular religions ethos which cruelly discriminated against one half of the population, namely the women of Ireland.

              The unacceptable levels of corruption that were exposed in the various tribunals which caused “a loss of public confidence in Ireland’s political structures, the rule of law and in governance in general”

              And finally the recent economic collapse that brought the state to its knees caused by the greed of a private banking elite, and a political elite. Yet, as you know the unsustainable private gambling debts run up by an unaccountable golden circle have been placed on the shoulders of the citizens of this state who, together with their children and grandchildren, will be condemned to economic bondage in perpetuity.

              So as we look back on the 100 years since the Rising what can we say?

              Certainly the state that was established in the aftermath of the revolutionary years has not proved to be a rip roaring success – the emigration figures alone are proof of failure – however there is one aspect of achievement that must be acknowledged and that is survival – against all the odds the state has survived – but at a price! – a price that has been paid by the majority of its citizens, and that is the betrayal or abandonment of the dreams and inspirations of a heroic generation – the men and women of 1916.


Tim Pat Coogan’s latest Book; 1916 The Mornings After is available in all good bookstores and online now. Published by Head of Zeus

Do Cry for Us Argentina

I solicit tears, not because of rugby but because of the conclusions I have been driven to by the research for my next book. The reason for my long absence from bloggerdom will become apparent from Wednesday of this week onwards. My new book; 1916 The Mornings After, is being launched in Easons of O’Connell Street, Dublin.

              A subtitle to the work indicates the subject matter: From the Court Martials to the Tribunals. I’ve taken a long and not particularly indulgent look at how Cathleen ní Houlihan fared from 1916 to the present day, my thesis being that one could chart the economic and social problems that the Republic has been through in the last seven years by the extent to which Ireland’s decision takers departed from the idealism of 1916.

              Obviously there are some pluses, modern Ireland is a stable functioning democracy which has come through the strains, not merely of austerity and the thirty years of the Troubles, but it is true that the worst wounds are self- inflicted and when one examines the last century through a historical perspective one sees a steady build up in corruption that eventually led to the loss of Ireland’s economic sovereignty and the grim years of austerity.

              We are coming out of these now but the guilty men still go free and the contemporary media custom of discussing the crash in purely economic and commercial terms, interlarded with meaningless statistics about debt ratios to GDP and so on overlook the inconvenient truths of the wreckage caused by the unholy alliance between bankers, developers, politicians and the elites in accountancy, law and stockbroking.

              The prime inconvenient truth never discussed in relation to the crisis is the increase in suicides. More people died by suicide during the seven years of austerity than were killed in the thirty years of the troubles. The ravages of enforced emigration, unemployment and homelessness can be seen at every hand. Nevertheless the Irish legal system is still not geared to deal with white collar crime and the decision takers have found ways of further frustrating the public by methods such as denaturing the Freedom of Information Act by the simple but effective means of not taking notes at important meetings and as a general rule avoiding writing down anything of any consequence wherever and whenever they can.

              The banking crisis did not spring upon Cathleen ní Houlihan like Prometheus fully armed. There were several scandals in AIB before Anglo was much talked of. No heads rolled for these and gradually the entire Irish banking system was allowed to get as irresponsible as it was unregulated. We ended up being told by the Germans how to regulate our affairs – that is we had to account for the cheap money which the German state banks lent us so irresponsibly.

              And it’s not only the banks who betrayed us. Christ joined hands with Caesar in literally raping the innocent.  The saga of clerical child abuse which has done so much to undermine centuries of Irish Catholicism and the fidelity of a people to their faith.  The story of episodes which occured between the Court Martials and the Tribunals, like the Stardust fire, is one that arouses anger, cynicism and a lack of trust in both politics and pontiffs.

              My first book was called Ireland Since the Rising and still stands as the first serious attempt to chronicle the fifty years that elapsed between 1916 and 1966. In those days the academic historians shied away from attempting to talk about what happened because of the Civil War. They haven’t got a whole lot better in the intervening fifty years, but even I could not have foreseen how much worse things would become between the fiftieth and the hundredth anniversaries of the Rising. For better or for worse the reasons I say this are to be published in book form next Wednesday.  

Hit me now!

Hit me now with my eightieth birthday and the writing of a book in my hands! Probably if truth were known the 80 had a bearing on my output, so that blogs, letter writing and emails necessarily suffered on the altar of the book’s requirements. Let us hope that in October this year when it is due to be published the effort will have been worthwhile. There are so many things one could comment on, blog wise, ranging from the Denis O’Brien affair, the John Delaney affair involving Mr Serge Blatter’s largesse, various garda matters and the homeless crisis.

              But the homeless crisis which fired my imagination and sympathy was the one being played out in the Mediterranean. Of course our homeless crisis is a disgrace, one more mortal sin on the souls of our bankers – and I am probably paying them a useless compliment by inferring that they do have souls. Of course mortgage interest rates should be reduced.

              The idea that banks which have cost this country so dear should not lower their interest rates is as infuriating as it is farcical.

              The bankers help to drive people to suicide, they harass people not merely weekly but daily about their borrowings. They, or at least their former bosses, who are presumably cut from the same cloth as the present breed of bank executives hi themselves to the bank inquiry to say how sorry they are for their misdeeds. But the bankers keep on bringing sorrow to ordinary decent people’s lives.

              There is an old adage that he who pays the pier calls the tune, we the people are paying the pipers – pied pipers they remind me of – and our government should call their tune and force the people to stop adding to the misery and the homelessness.

              But when one looks to the Mediterranean a sense of proportion sets in. we are in economic difficulties, we have a homeless problem but while charity begins at home, it does not stop there and for a country with the term “coffin ships” hardwired into its DNA we are falling far short of what might be legitimately expected from us by way of aid for the desperate fleeing Africa in the contemporary coffin ships.

              The crew of our one elderly warship in the area, the L.E. Eithne, are doing noble work but we haven’t taken anyone into our shores yet and the sort of numbers we are talking about are derisory for a country with our history.  Our own homeless are a shame in our approach to this and despite our problems with the banks we are rich enough to fix this problem quite quickly if the political wing will existed. And as I say while charity begins at home it should not stop there.

              As this is written men women and children in dangerous leaking boats, without sufficient food or water aboard are floating in the Mediterranean, are we whose seventy million strong diaspora was so largely contributed to by the Famine going to continue to tell these people that there is no room at the inn?

              I’ll return to this question but meanwhile for a lighter moment I am posting below a video taken at the party which my children gave for me on Inis Mór, Aran Islands, County Galway on the occasion of my 80th birthday.

Could Israel use the Bomb?


“We do but teach bloody instruction which having being taught, returns to plague the inventor”


As is so often the case Shakespeare said it first. Anti-Semiticism, the selfishness of great powers, a tradition of standing back and allowing massively unjust regimes to have their way so long as countries which should intervene can continue to trade profitably with the oppressors.


       All these factors have come together infused by Zionists age old yearning to regain a homeland to deposit the bloody detritus of history in the form of bombs and shells on the heads of innocent, sleeping, Palestinian children.


       Even the Irish are not without guilt. Our inactivity in the face of the Gaza massacres is deplorable. To think that this small nation which once shone as a beacon light in the eyes of oppressed people everywhere who sought independence and human rights would cravenly abstain on a UN vote to set up an inquiry to even enquire into Israeli policy is heart breaking. Now a lack of moral fibre politically has joined the lack of financial morality which created our recession.


       We avert our gaze as the children are being made to pay for what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, what the Romans did to the Jews thousands of years ago.


       The children whom the Israelis are slaughtering were not Nazis, were not even conceived when the Nazis destroyed those whom they regarded as ‘untermensch’ the Jews.


       Now it is the Jews who regard the Palestinians as untermensch and invite us to blame Hamas for what they are doing to women and children.


       The late Joseph Goebbels, the perpetrator of the big lie would smile in approving wonderment at the Israeli spin doctors’ manipulation of the truth as they stand before camera, microphone and notebook attempting to justify the unjustifiable and unforgiveable.


       Morally and politically the Hamas rocket firing is also unjustifiable and wrong, but its military effects are miniscule. The Israelis own actions underline this point.


       When a rocket landed near Ben-Gurion airport, the Americans at first refused to fly in the Germans did likewise. But, obviously under pressure commercially and politically from Israeli lobbyists the Americans and the Germans soon resumed their flights.


       Pointedly the German pilots did so reluctantly stating that the decision to resume flights was not taken on security grounds but on political ones. Of course it was.  During a war in which, outside the Middle East, three huge airliners have crashed with enormous loss of life, no airline would willingly risk rocket fire to land in Israel. But obviously, deplorable as the rockets are, the Israelis have been able to argue successfully that militarily speaking the rockets are not as dangerous as they are being made out to be.


       No doubt Iron Dome will be working overtime to keep the airport safe, but the incident does illustrate in telling fashion, the disparity between Israel’s military might  and the disproportionate brutality of its response to the rockets compared to what the Hamas militants are doing. In this contemporary conflict between David and Goliath, David doesn’t have a catapult; he is armed with a pea-shooter.


       But the Israeli onslaught clearly has a wider target than Hamas, the displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is intended to make the two state solution unworkable because the Palestinians will have become demoralised and dispersed.


       But this is not how human nature works, despite the Israelis propaganda that it is Hamas who is causing the havoc amongst the Palestinians the reality is that such brutal counter insurgency tactics can and probably will bolster the “defenders” plank in the Hamas argument.


       There have been other manifestations of a physical force response to the Israeli occupation in recent history, similar factions have come and gone, just as they did with various labels for the Irish physical force tradition, IRA, INLA, Official IRA, Provisionals and so on throughout the last century here.


       They too were condemned and outgunned, in both the shooting and propaganda wars but hey played the defender role successfully and they are now in a fair way to gaining power in both states in this island. Is this the sort of two state solution the Zionist want to achieve?


       The only hope for Israel’s long term future and for an end to the Palestinian agony is for both David and Goliath to negotiate. The horrible state of the Middle East is being made worse by the horrors in Gaza and they will have long term repercussions on Israel’s viability.


       The eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth policy could and quite possibly would be used to justify the use of nuclear weapons against Gaza. Is that the sort of homeland for the Jews that their propagandists want to create?  





Cruel Inhumane Behaviour.

Man’s inhumanity to man (and to women and children), was never better exemplified than in the last few bloody days, which saw the shooting down of the Malaysian Airliner and Israel’s unpardonable butcheries in Gaza.  The primitive attitudes displayed by allowing drunken “separatists” to prevent crash scene experts retrieve evidence, which includes human bodies, from the site of the crash of the Malaysian airliner, is as sickening as it is inhumane.

       The mental torture endured by the relatives and loved ones of the dead visualising those corpses strewn across the Ukrainian landscape is unimaginable.  Obviously the Russians are hoping to get to the black boxes and other vital evidences so as to prevent the fact of their missile systems involvement in the downing of the airliner.  But this behaviour makes Putin, the hand up the marionette’s glove, that is the separatist movement, look less a modern world leader than an old style Asiatic dictator.

       Whatever about diplomatic manoeuvrings and great power cover ups, or attempted cover ups, which one might expect any country to engage in, the interference with that most basic of human rights, the enabling of human beings to enjoy that most fundamental human decency, the according of the right to bury their loved ones with decency has been trampled on and made a victim of Putin’s clumsy efforts at geo- politics.

       There is nothing clumsy however about the Israeli onslaught on the virtually defenceless population of Gaza. Patiently, with Nazi like efficiency, the Israelis are showering one of the most densely populated areas of the world with high explosives.  Their spokespersons appear on television, sibilant of tone and sanitised in language to talk about “operations”, not the slaughter of children.

       The diseased clarity of the Israeli case: “Hamas must stop the rockets terrifying our people. It is they who are exposing their people to sacrifice. We want only peace” is as cynical as it is inaccurate.

       Of course Hamas should stop the rockets, if for no other reason than that they are militarily ineffective and politically disastrous in that they provide a fig leaf for the Israeli’s campaign of atrocity.

        But this is the part of the play where we, the world audience, come in, the real drama has been building up off stage for decades. What the Israelis have been doing behind their duplicitously sincere media campaign has been ethnic cleansing.

       A state which under the Balfour declaration of 1917 was conceived in the belief that; “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” has instead subjected the Palestinians to systematic ethnic cleansing.  The UN has passed some 45 resolutions condemning Israel’s breaches of human rights to no avail.

Behind the excuses about Hamas is the reality that Israel is coldly, brutally working to make the two state solution to the Palestinian problem unworkable. The objective is to leave the Palestinians without sufficient land on which to found any state.

       Systematically the Israelis have been driving the indigenous population off their lands and filling them with settlers. Israel is not an oasis in an Arab desert of obscuranticism. It is a cuckoo’s nest society in which the intruders hatch new holdings and squeeze out the original occupants of the nest.

       The terrible irony of the situation is the extent to which the abused have become the abusers. The only avowedly anti-Semitic government in the world today is Israel’s – the Palestinians, let it be remembered are a Semitic people.

       The Israelis are making political capital out of the Hamas theology and their futile rocket campaign by coining slogans such as, “Hamas denies the State of Israel’s right to exist. How can we negotiate with such people? These people are only terrorists”.

       What Hamas is doing is wrong and stupid but much of what the IRA did was equally so and yet the wheel turned eventually to the point where the electorate eliminated the moderates and voted for Sinn Féin. In Palestinian terms, Hamas could be seen as an off shoot of a physical force tradition which could be called PLO or Fata one day but evolve into something else as the years pass as did Irish militant republicanism morph from simply three letters, the IRA, into the official IRA, the Provisional IRA, the INLA, the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA and so on and so on.

       But at least in the Irish situation there is a hope of Peace taking hold, of evolution, of economic progress subsuming the militant traditions of both Orange and Green. The Israeli tactics provoke only despair and a thirst for vengeance. Peace will never be built that way.

       If Israel’s had been the prevailing attitude in Belfast, Dublin, London and Washington during the 1990s there would have been no Good Friday Agreement.  The mutually exclusive goals of the Republicans and the Unionists could have been manipulated to stall the Peace Process in its tracks.

       But sloganizing was not allowed to have its way. Washington in particular, played a proactive and a constructive role but while this is being written, Washington, in effect, stands idly by and allows the Israelis to rain death and destruction on the untermensch.  

       To think that a people who endured the Holocaust and indignities like the scourging of the Warsaw ghettos, the dehumanising regime of the yellow stars, could act like this makes one despair of human progress.

       The history of the Israeli settlement in the Palestinian lands has been an atrocity laden tale that has veered downward from that calculated effort at frightening the Arabs from their holdings that was Deir Yassin in 1948, in which some of the founders of the Israeli state used axes as well as hand grenades to dispose of men, women and children from that ill-fated village, to today’s brutalities in the skies over Gaza.

       The Jews are one of the great civilisations of the World but what is being done in Gaza at the moment is a both a defecation on the memories of Jewish martyrs like Anne Frank and Jewish geniuses like Albert Einstein.

Let’s sue the Bastards!

Sun and summer have a fear engendered blog writing inertia in me recently but the codology about the setting up of a banking inquiry has re- energised me to angrily re-enter the blogosphere.

       It is now several years after the infamous banking guarantee, and improbably enough in the mouth of an election which means we are highly unlikely to see the fruits of its deliberations until well after said elections. This is as damnable as it is infuriating.

       Obviously the politicians and the elites believe another Irish saying, well-known to both Church and State: “The people are sheep to be driven”.      

       Several years ago as the scale of the banking disaster and with it the rottenness of the relationships between the various Irish financial institutions, Government, senior officials and in particular the accountancy and legal professions I had a sadly prophetic encounter with a senior counsel, a woman, at a Christmas party.

       Angered by the destruction of jobs, savings and hopes that were beginning to show up in the suicide statistic, I had commented to my friend to the effect that: “these bastards will have to be sued.” She replied evenly with a slight, attractive lisp, (she is of German origin): “there vill be no suing!”    

       Both angered and thunderstruck I asked how she could make such an extraordinary prophecy.  She replied squarely and correctly. “The gardaí dealing with fraud issues are quite good. There unit is efficient but they do not have the back-up they require, they need specialised forensic accountants to make successful court cases possible.”

       Like an ejit, I thought the woman had lost touch with political reality. After all the national debt involved here is of the order of 125 billion, try paying that off four and a half million population Mr. IMF. In the face of mounting public wrath, the idea that the hiring of a few accountants could hold up the bringing to justice of people who have landed Irish society with a debt burden which is unlikely to be met within the lifetime of my great – great grandchildren seem preposterous.

       But my legal friend was a hundred and one per cent correct. At the recent Bar Council Annual Conference, one of the country’s leading White Collar crime experts, Remy Farrell SC broke silence to tell the public about the national scandal involved in the failure of the government to hire vitally needed forensic accountants to combat White Collar crime. 

       Farrell was quoted as saying that The State’s regulatory agencies are so stretched by an “endemic” lack of resources that many reports of white-collar crime are not even being read by the authorities.


       He also revealed that it was a “scandal” that investigators were “at breaking point”, with lack of investment enabling large-scale fraud to go undetected and costing the State millions in lost revenue.


He made the startling revelation that “there is now one forensic accountant working in the principal law enforcement regulatory body in this country,” Mr Farrell said, adding: “It’s enough to make the tin-pot dictator of a banana republic blush.”


       It emerged that the state’s requirement to adequately deal with the situation caused by the crash would require the employment of five of these specialist accountants. It seems that the current resources available to the state have been absorbed largely by the Anglo inquiries alone. An official report cited at the conference revealed that there were two forensic accountants employed by the government but that one has now retired.

       This effectively leaves the citizenry with only one of these vital personnel left to secure justice on their behalf when five are needed.

       Political advisors have been hired and the income guidelines which the average citizen must follow have been breached for top executives of The Heath Service Executive (HSE) but yet a relatively insignificant amount of money cannot be found to turn over the stones and see what scuttles out into the light of day from the financial sector.

       Instead the public are being offered a send the fools further inquiry, which may not even sit for a year never mind extract anything worthwhile from the claws of the fat cats.

       The children of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan are being not merely beggared but mocked.


Adams Arrest Threatens Peace Process

Despite my best intentions other writings have been diverting my attention recently and I have not been able to fulfil my promise to keep this blog up to date but recent events have driven me back to the drawing board – I’m referring to the arrest and release of Gerry Adams which had the potential to wreck the peace process.

The threat that this might happen was taken so seriously in Washington that I understand that there was direct communication between the White house and David Cameron to secure his release.   This intervention came about as a result of Irish –Americans influence. Apart from being an important development in itself it highlights the fact that it’s time for Americans to become re-invigorated and become involved again in the peace process. For the elephants in the room during the debacle of Gerry Adams’ arrest  are the dissident republicans and their Unionist opposite numbers  who oppose the  process, They are the beneficiaries of the well laid plot to destroy both Adams and the process he did so much to create,

The arrest would not have taken place had Tony Blair still been Prime Minister in London or had there been a Fianna Fail Government in Dublin.


           But both the present administrations initially supported the action, In fairness it may be, to judge from his later comments, that David Cameron may have come to regard the arrest as a mistake after being briefed on the background, but the reaction of the two Dublin coalition leaders  Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamonn  Gilmore,  was simply to attempt to make politicl capital out of an opponent’s arrest. 

Dublin’s focus these days is not on Northern Ireland but on the scourging of its poor and its tax-payers so as to be thought well of in Europe.

                   It’s time for Irish-Americans to bestir themselves again and mobilise to save the peace process,

                             To give an idea of the forces at work let me remind readers of the provenance of this affair. It goes back to well before 2008 when a book appeared, called Voices from the Grave, compiled by Ed, Maloney, based on an allegedly agenda free oral history project sponsored by Boston College. It appears that the university, at best, may be judged to have acted with very little knowledge of Six County politics and, at worst, as we shall see, under Unionist tutelage…

                In  his introduction, to Voice, Maloney, who is unquestionably both a courageous and a skilful journalist, sets forth the background to the book, which is based on    taped interviews  with some leading figures from opposite side of the Northern struggle, most notably the republican Brendan Hughes who died in 2008, estranged from his former friend Gerry Adams .

                       Maloney’s introduction says that the interviewers  for the programme’s archive have followed the example of the Irish Bureau of Military History, which collected statements  from war of independence veterans.

                                    But the Bureau programme was purely a historical record. It. safeguarded the living by guaranteeing   no publication until the last interviewee  to receive a military pension had died. The Boston operation only stipulates that nothing be published until the interviewee concerned had either died or given their consent. As soon as Hughes died however Voices was rushed into print..

                                  Maloney’s introduction thanks his two researchers Wilson McArthur and /Anthony McIntyre,, for “their individual objectivity and commitment to the truth.”  McIntyre is described as “a Ballymurphy republican and Ph D,”  Maloney does not indicate that both himself, and McIntyre, an ex-IRA prisoner and blanket man,   are two of Gerry Adams’s most prominent and relentless critics.

                     McIntyre left the republican movement after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement. He argued, if I understand him correctly, that it smacks too much of an internal settlement and consistently attacked it, and the Adams leadership, in his (now concluded) on line journal of dissent The Blanket, to which his friend Brendan Hughes also contributed in similar vein. McIntyre has since continued his criticisms in other outlets.                                 

                     .  Maloney, for his part, has produced an earlier book to Voices, A Secret History of  the IRA,  in which it was suggested that Adams could have had something to do with the betrayal of IRA, active service units, such as those which perished at Loughall  and at Gibraltar.

                      For whatever reason, and even before writing this book, and prior to moving to America, where he now lives, Maloney had become persona non grata with the Adams camp and there are no interviews with this side of the Republican family included in Voices from the Grave. Only anti-peace process dissidents are represented.

                      Another significant factor in the book’s provenance is the fact that it and the Boston College oral history project owes much to Paul Bew, now Lord Bew, David Trimble’s former advisor. In his introduction Maloney thanks Bew for his assistance.  What he didn’t say is that – according to the Boston College spokesperson – it was Bew who initiated the project and suggested that Maloney and McIntyre be hired.

               This book then was no mere academic exercise.  Maloney and McIntyre have shed copious crocodile tears on radio and television over the fact that Boston College handed over the tapes of the interviews on which the book was based to the Six County authorities. The pair were alerted before the contracts were signed that under American law they would have to be handed back if sought. In fact a Boston college spokesman has stated that a stipulation to this effect was written in to their contracts. The move to secure the tapes was both inevitable and entirely predictable…

But before there was any question of court proceedings being taken to enforce the tapes hand-over, the Maloney/McIntyre book, based on the words of a dead man, constituted a journalistic hand grenade hurled into contemporary Six County politics.

                        The explosion has not merely taken place during election campaign

, north  and south of the border, it has also taken place in an unusually heightened  period of  loyalist emotion, We have already had the anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant swearing to resist the introduction of Home Rule and this year we await the Centenary commemoration of the Larne gun-running. Taken with the effect of the flags controversy stemming from restrictions on flying the union flag in the Six Counties, Dublin’s lack of initiative, and the failure of the Hass mission, the North already felt as though a continuous twelfth of July snake-headedness was in progress.

                        The black ops swoop on Adams was part of a larger scene—probably masterminded by Belfast and London securocrats—- and it has heightened tensions. The depressing scene needs to be alleviated by the addition of some counter-balancing figures from the Irish American world. The peace process is in trouble.   

Disgustingly Obvious

There is no doubt about it Irish controversies have a distinctly Irish flavour to them.  Where else would you find it necessary for a slew of cabinet ministers to suggest to the officer in charge of the countries organisation charged with preserving the civil peace An Garda Síochána to act with civility.

Of course Commissioner Callinan should apologise for his ‘disgusting’ remark and of course the performance of minister Shatter was deplorable.

To cut out the crap and obfuscation the plain facts of the matter are that the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner have been engaged in verbal warfare with two sets of responsible people who were acting legally and according to their consciences.

Somebody bugged GSOC and we can take it for granted that he, she or it was not for example acting on behalf of the Ballyfermot Boys’ Brass Band. Neither did the two whistle blowers put a foot wrong. But both GSOC and the whistle blowers were blagarded because they had the temerity to do what they were supposed to do, – act responsibly.

The police should serve the people, not the other way around.

My father, who was the first Deputy Commissioner of the Gardaí, died when I was twelve so I cannot claim to have known him very well but I have an abiding memory of him telling me one day that one of the greatest achievements of this State was the setting up of an unarmed acceptable police force in the middle of a civil war.

I believe he was right and that there are many things about the Gardaí about which both the force and the public can be proud but the recent bout of bullying outrage at the notion that accountability is a word that applies to all of us, even those in uniform, is literally Shattering.

All organisations, be it the Church, political parties, an army or civil service, need to be overhauled from time to time and in recent decades, probably from ‘blue flu’ days onward there have been signs that the Garda could benefit from some outside searchlights being shone on the workings of the force.

To give but one example involving myself, I think that the garda inspectorate’s suggestion that there may be laxity in the serving of summonses may be only too well founded.

In veighing one day against the fact that I had been, as I considered, unjustly served with a parking ticket, I was ‘reassured’ by a garda acquaintance of mine that I needn’t worry, he’d see to it that the summons was torn up. A summons mark you not a parking ticket.

He showed me a satchel of summonses and said ‘that’s my job.  I’ll probably be throwing out a rake of these.’ He told me that he didn’t believe in wasting his time getting, ‘a pain in the face’ trudging up through flats only to be fobbed off by ‘some auld one who’ll tell me that she doesn’t know where yer man is or when he’ll be back or if he’ll be back’.

I shunned his infamous offer of course but I’ve often wondered how come that man superiors didn’t check on what summonses found their marks and what not.  

I won’t go back over cases which have been in the news in recent times where had bench warrants been served or greater garda diligence been deployed, people might not have been at liberty to take life, or to lose it.  But one strange talking point that I came across in Donegal puts even the events described in the Morris Tribunal in the shade.  The rumours began after one Jimmy Curran disappeared from the Dungloe district in July of 2003 and were fanned into fresh life in January of 2005 when Sean Duffy was found dead in his home in the same general area. 

He had died from stab wounds, a bolt from a cross bow and there was an axe wound in the back of his head.  No one was ever charged with his murder but it was rumoured that he had been talking about a pending court case against him, making threats that if he went down others would follow. 

Jimmy Curran’s body was never discovered and the rumours allege that he may have been struck by a garda car, and his corpse disposed of with the help of Duffy who was said to have engaged in a variety of activities ranging from horse dealing, undertaking to garda informant.

All of these rumours could be totally unfounded but I found them to be strongly believed in the Donegal area and obviously it would both quieten gossip and allay public anxiety if the Republic did possess an independent police authority which could investigate the affair and issue its findings publically.

The PSNI benefitted and continues to benefit from the reform process initiated by Chris Patten. The current spate of calls for a police authority along the lines of that which functions in Northern Ireland is however only a partial answer. If that were grafted on to the present police landscape all we would get would be a further spate of GSOC type rows. A public airing of the problems of the Gardaí performed in courageous and responsible fashion, like Chris Patten’s inquiry would clear the air for both police and public and provide a climate in which a police authority could not merely be set up but operate efficiently.


Haul in the Bloody Bankers

Haul in the Bloody Bankers!


Bring the bloody bankers before the Public Accounts Committee! There should be three important steps taken as a result of what can only be described as the spectacularly successful hearings of the Public Accounts Committee.

                           One, the lawyers cant about Dáil Committees being an intrusion upon the work of the judiciary and the right of a man to his good name, should be treated as the self-interested rubbish it is and the PAC should do as it has done in the Rehab and penalty points debacle, insist on the principle that it has authority where public monies are concerned and haul before it eh bankers and everyone else involved in the  greatest, most wasteful  expenditure of public money in the history of the State, the infamous bank bailout.

                             The greedy corrupt, and inefficient decision-takers in law, politics, the professions and the financial institution s who indulged in the orgy of reckless trading that brought upon us a crash that has driven people to kill themselves should be treated as those responsible for  the penalty point s debacle and the misuse of charitable funds held up to public scrutiny and condemnation.

                        Public opinion has c hanged since the lawyers helped to sway the referendum which decided again against giving the people, via their elected representatives, the power to  hearings into the causes of the bank crash. The workings of the public accounts committee have helped the change minds for the better and the change should be acted on.

              I say to the PAC: public opinion is with you, strike now while the iron is hot- bring the bloody bankers before you.


              The second point which I refer to in my opening paragraph is that, also arising from the PAC deliberations that there should be a thorough going inquiry into the running of the Garda Síochána. We need something on the lines of Chris Patten’s overhaul of the police in the six counties.

              For some time I have been increasingly annoyed at the annual statements by the Garda commissioner and his cohorts about crime statistics. To listen to the official pronouncements one would think that matters were not too bad, or even in some categories that crime is down.

              This is sheer nonsense. This week for example one only had to listen to Valerie Cox’ reports on RTE radio one about the reign of terror endured by elderly people in county Donegal to wonder did the crime statisticians live on the same planet as the rest of us.

              The plain fact is that crime in the Republic has gone to Hell in a hand basket. When I began work in the Evening Press in August 1954 there were two murders that year. Now one would feel lucky to only have two in a week. On top of that Garda stations are being closed down left, right and centre. No matter what anyone says this must have an effect on the crime statistics.

              The guards like the rest of the community are suffering pay cuts and morale in the force is low. There was too much reliance on overtime within the force and like other sections of the community the Gardaí in the good days were able to get loans without much difficulty. That’s not the case now.

              I remember during a previous recession in the seventies when prison warders were known to take their wives to New York for Christmas shopping until the overtime was suddenly axed, Drastic, but secret action had to be taken by the authorities.

              Lending institutions were visited by government representatives issuing warnings against foreclosures without notifying the authorities first. The Department of Justice wanted the opportunity of quietly helping out with loans rather than rendering the warders susceptible to bribery by the Provisionals.

              It’s high time that the whole question of moral in the force, how promotions are affected, how income packages are built up, what is the state of the equipment and why we can’t be told in plain language why we don’t see more guards on the street should be publically aired.

         I‘ve a particular interest in the police force, my father was the first Garda deputy commissioner and I grew up believing, as I still do that the establishment of an unarmed police force in the midst of a Civil War was one of the greatest achievements in the history of the state, it’s a legacy worth preserving – nobody suffers more than the average decent member of the force from bad behaviour on the part of any of their colleagues.

              If an inquiry would show that there is a genuine need for investment in the force, then let us have it, let there be recruitment, let there be more modern car fleets etc, isn’t it a damn sight better to have a top class police force than to pump billions into bank – and before the year is out remember, we may well have to cough up more billions when the Europeans conduct their stress test on our banks

              Already there has been one ominous straw in the wind Michael Noonan has let it be known that the government is looking for some international bank to come in here and help with lending as the economy improves. That’s a fairly clear indication that despite all the billions expended on them the Irish banks are not in a position to do that lending.

              Finally the third point, maybe last but it’s not least, but the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the Garda Commissioner Mr Martin Callinan should resign, if this were England they’d be gone already. I’ll expand on this topic along with the significance of a very worrying incident concerning Garda oversight which I was personally involved in. Wait for it!


Eat, Drink and be Merry, For Tomorrow…..

Eat Drink and be Merry For Tomorrow….

In the past week I was reminded of how friendship and tragedy, distance and proximity can echo across the world to resound unexpectedly in one’s daily life.

In the same forty eight hours I was most generously entertained by  Nisheeth Ta with members of my family in the best Indian restaurant in Ireland; Rasam in Glasthule, Co Dublin, which for some unfathomable reason has become one of the buzziest and best places to either eat or shop in the Dublin area.

Across the road from Rasam there lies the emporium of a fishmonger extraordinaire, my friend, Peter Caviston, who runs the best fish restaurant, fish shop and delicatessen in the area. Why this tiny strip comprising shops, wine bars and an Undertakers should thrive as it does, staging one of Ireland’s best Bloomsday celebrations annually into the bargain is not easily explained. A few hundred yards up the road the town of Dun Laoghaire is depressingly filled with shops which have either closed or are struggling to stay open.

Presumably the drive and initiative of people like Peter Caviston and Nieesh has a lot to do with it, and these and other worthies of the district have now been joined by some ex rugby players whoa re doing a roaring trade in health foods and have even succeeded in converting me to Goji berry juice!

When the Troika of dire repute descended on Ireland a few years ago, led by the Indian Ajai Chopra, the first place they headed to before consigning Cathleen Ni Houlihan to a diet of bread and water was Rasam.  Nieesh whose wife is Irish is part of an internationally known family of restaurateurs.  He learned his trade in Mumbai in the famous Taj Mahal hotel which was attacked during the 2008 onslaught on Mumbai in which gunmen killed one hundred and sixty four people and wounded hundreds more.

Amongst the dead were some of his close friends and relatives. As we discussed the Crimea over Nieesh’s incredible cuisine I was reminded forcefully by his presence that no longer do events in faraway parts of the world touch us not.  The bell really does toll for all of us.

I can hear it clanging in my ears as this is written because thanks to the initiative of a local Frank Mullins, a former member of an Garda Síochána we are preparing to commemorate the worst domestic fire tragedy in Ireland, which happened approximately a mile from Glasthule in the Village of Dalkey on 9th March 1974.

On that night the mother and family of the Howard family and eleven of their children died in a fire in Carysfort Road, Dalkey.  I can still vividly remember the sight of friends of mine in the local Civil Defence Unit helping to carry out the bodies, through the smoke and the rain. The victims died as much from smoke inhalation as fire. The smoke was generated by smouldering newspapers; the Howards made their living distributing the papers, including The Irish Press, of which I was then the editor.

Over the years their gravestone had become somewhat tarnished by wind and weather and Frank Mullins has organised the refurbishing of their memorial and a mass at which I’ve been invited to address the congregation, which it is hoped, will include the surviving two members of the family who now live in England.

Separate events, separate memories but one inescapable conclusion, we are all human and all mortal.