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1916: The Mornings After

              As anybody interested in books in Ireland will know by now, an academic historian, Diarmaid Ferriter took advantage of being given my recent book, ’1916: The Mornings After’, to review in The Irish Times to blast what he clearly viewed as the work of a non-academic writer in what was called on a contender for “the bitchiest review of the Year” award. Irish Times readers responded with a spate of letters criticising Ferriter.

              In my view Irish academic historians as a class suffer from three defects, one cowardice, two inability to write and three a closed shop trade union like approach which says “this is our patch, all others keep off”. You’ll never find an Irish academic writing a book about the IRA for example, or history making episodes like the Hunger Strikes, indeed the Troubles generally or something that requires real effort like the travel involved in writing about the importance of the Irish diaspora worldwide.

              Where writing is concerned a number of these gentlemen and ladies fall into the category described by the writer Gautier who said that the critic reminded him of a eunuch in the Haleem; “He knows how it’s done, he sees it done every night, but he can’t do it himself. The Irish book buying public would appear to place Ferriter in this category also to judge from their response to his latest book.

              Because of reaction to his unusually vitriolic and adhominem critique, The Irish Independent investigated how our two books fared. The result was a double page spread in the Independent under a large heading which said; “Coogan blows Ferriter away in explosion of 1916 books.” The results of the Nielsen survey which monitors Irish book sales showed that I had outsold Ferriter by more than four to one (Nielsen does not cover the six counties), even though Ferriter’s book had been in print since March and mine only from the last week in October. I’m still waiting for The Irish Times to print something on the Nielsen findings.


See link below for full article.

Coogan blows Ferriter away in explosion of 1916 books



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?  





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.   

Scottish Independence Go For it

Whoever thought that the worst nightmare of Belfast Loyalists would be in danger of coming true this year?  But ‘tis true they, and those that think like them are dependent on a TAIG, the loyalist term for a Catholic, to preserve the Union. The Taig, Mr David Cameron of Eton and Westminster has emerged Toff Against Independence Granting (Taig) for Scotland.

Candidly I’ve always believed that the dominant theme in Scotland’s debate on Independence was an unstated one; Oh Lord make me good but not yet. We could go on discussing the symbolism of the fact that a British Prime Minister chose London rather than Edinburgh to deliver his State of the Union message but the point of his recent speech is that we really are getting to the sharp end of the devolution debate.

The ‘not yetters’ have either to make use of that pot or get off it.  I am an unequivocal believer in Independence for Scotland, the unity of Ireland and as much Independence in decision taking as regions emerging from a colonial past can reasonably manage.

I see no virtue in merely declaring independence so that a handful of zealots can do a Mugabe on a once prosperous area and take an oath of poverty which the people not the Zealots have to observe.  I genuinely believe that nationality, the Nation is an extension of the family, the clan and that there is a pride and an energising creativity in being independent which transcends reliance on the crumbs from the rich man’s table in a faraway metropole.

The Republic of Ireland has had its share of calamitous self-inflicted wounds since independence, one of the worst being the recent orgy of reckless trading presided over by government and facilitated by corrupt bankers, civil servants, financial institutions and the professions.

Bernard Shaw’s dictum that all professions are a conspiracy against the people was only too well borne out by Irish Lawyers, accountants and the stock broking fraternity who advised people to invest their life savings in banks run by their pals from whom they knew very well that a day of reckoning was coming but continued none the less to funnel funds into these financial monsters so as to puff both prices and their commissions.

The result has been a tidal wave of unemployment, bankruptcies, emigration and suicide, the rates for which are currently more than fifty percent above pre-crash levels, all this of course has long term implications for hopes for a united Ireland. But the same ability to make wrong decisions which Independence confers also gives a people the right and the ability to correct mistakes and Irish confidence is currently growing by the month as harsh medicine was taken, lessons were learnt and visibly the economy is starting to take off again.

Scotland has a proud tradition of achievement. Scottish soldiers, scientists and engineers have added to the reputation of Scotland in every corner of the globe. I believe that with independence the creativity and economic drive which is now being syphoned off to the south of the border could really make the Flower of Scotland bloom. Who knows some improvement might even be wrought in the standard of Scots rugby.

North sea Oil reserves are almost certainly far greater than the public has been led to believe and the region attracts colossal revenues both from whisky distilling and tourism. Scotland is literally one of the most beautiful places in the world and the number of its visitors can only grow with the expansion of budget air travel.

The Irish Development Authority (IDA) is recognised worldwide as a leader in the race to attract inward investment to small countries. From my friends in the organisation I know that its Scottish opposite number is regarded by the Irish as a formidable rival and though it would give my own people further competition I have no doubt that the stimulus of independence would increase inward investment to Scotland.

Whatever reasonable period of turbulence the country might expect to undergo after independence I have no doubt that the business acumen of the Scots and their tradition of hard work and study would greatly increase prosperity in the wake of independence.

The only caveat I will enter if I may, based on our dreadful experiences in Northern Ireland on the evils of sectarianism is that political and religious leaders and all sides of the independence debate should always be mindful of the need to avoid stirring up ancient religious passions. Sectarianism, the monster that lurks deep in the psychology of both Ireland and England is a destructive flame only waiting to be fanned into life by the emergence of a demagogue like Ian Kyle Paisley

The scots have nothing to fear from independence but fear itself. After all neither Braveheart nor Robert the Bruce were Englishmen.

Will the Celtic Ritz Hotel lower its Rates?

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a little while now and am only remerging now, just when people were beginning to think it was safe to come out because with my usual imperishable optimism I felt I detected an encouraging chink of light from our parliamentarians over the past couple of weeks.

A handful of T.D.s encouragingly selected on a cross party basis, have been giving a good example of democracy at work by their behaviour on the Public Accounts Committee. They braved mutterings from the bewigged gentlemen in the Law Library and their money making machine of the Four Courts, to conduct hearings, albeit in private as a result of pressure, into the penalty points system.

The people now sitting in Dáil Eireann are operating in the wake of an economic tsunami and I have no doubt that in picking through the rubble created by the death throes of the Celtic Tiger that they are trying to do the right thing. The lawyers do not have a monopoly on virtue or on truth. Homer nodded big time when they got it so spectacularly wrong over Louise O’Keefe, that shamefully,  she had to go to the European courts to secure a judgement against the Irish state which refused to compensate her for the sexual predations of a school teacher on the cute whore basis that the State was not responsible for the doings of teachers. That was the churches bailiwick.

For years Louise battled on at the risk of losing her home and the state wrote to a hundred and thirty five other claimants bullying them in some cases into dropping their claims in the wake of the Suopreme court decision because the unfortunate victims were threatened that if they didn’t abandon their actions they would be hit with crippling costs.  That was law not justice. The Irish public are entitled to justice those in high places responsible for the banking disaster should be held accountable.

As a result of the PAC’s activities, dare one hope that the public who are showing themselves increasingly favourable to what the committee are doing may get sight of their findings, through leak or otherwise and the principle that the people should have some say in the way they’re governed was upheld. I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything good coming out of Minister Alan Shatter’s manoeuvre in trying to keep the controversy under wraps by referring it to the Garda Ombudsman.

Hitherto lack of political will has inhibited much initiative from that quarter, public spirited though holders of the office themselves maybe.

The PAC also brought to light the disgraceful situation whereby the Central Remedial Clinic was apparently using public money to pay its executives from funds which people thought they were giving to further the CRC’s good work.

What has to be realised in all this is that the elephant in the room of Irish public debate is the stultifying influence of the lawyers who have had and are having a retarding effect on the public’s right to know. Lawyers were loudly opposed to Alan Shatter’s far from impressive, and ultimately unsuccessful referendum campaign to allow the Dáil to set up committees to enquire into how the hell an act of major economic treason was committed which almost wrecked the economy and drove the population to suicide, emigration or unemployment.

The lawyers argue that the parliamentarians are not capable of conducting such enquiries because they will end up in party political ranker and that these committees interfere with the man’s right to his good name and the independence of the judiciary.

This is a load of rubbish as a practising democrat I believe fervently both in the independence of the judiciary and a man’s right to his good name but the judges are human too and they can get a bit too hot in their leather. The ordinary citizen had no option but to pay up when the Universal Social Charge was introduced in the wake of the banking guarantee and the arrival of the Troika. But a referendum had to be held to amend the constitution before the judges paid up.  They should have given a lead not acted as a retarding factor in the development of a sort of Dunkirk spirit amongst the public.

And it is notorious in the wake of the Banking crash that lawyers, who of course earned vast incomes, are now being pressed quite hard in some cases, to pay back the huge borrowings which the banks in good times conceded to them on foot of their earnings. Small groups of lawyers like those in New Beginning are making commendable efforts to help hard pressed mortgage owners caught in the toils of the banks but the big legal battalions do what they can to help the banks and to frustrate any willingness that the government might show to cut legal costs as the Troika recommended.

In Ireland with certain honourable exceptions that we can all name lawyers have made of the Irish court system a sort of Celtic Ritz hotel – it’s open to everyone.  Perhaps the PAC have begun a process whereby a favourable public opinion may yet make entry to the Irish Ritz, more democratic and less expensive.

Water could start the Fire.

There is an uncanny resemblance between the present Irish Government and the first Cumann na nGael administration of the 1920s. Both took draconian decisions and had the fortitude to see them through even in the case of Cumann na nGael, to the extent of taking the horrific step of executing former comrades.

The present Fine Gael dominated government has not formally killed anyone but there is no doubt that as a result of pressure from the Troika, occasioned in the first place by the depredations of crooked bankers and politicians, that several Irish citizens have been driven to take their own lives in recent years.  And it is in this area that the present government can fairly be charged with showing the white feather.  They have proceeded against the innocent by ways of taxes and cuts from which none escaped but they have not pursued those guilty of reckless trading for their crimes.  I will return to this later.

Like Cumann na nGael, Fine Gael can point to some positive achievements, the former set up a democracy in the wake of a guerrilla war and the Civil War and left behind such legacies as a largely corruption free civil service, a democratically controlled army and an unarmed police force. However as the leader of that government, W.T. Cosgrave acknowledged these were not the sort of achievements to win popular favour in the face of Fianna Fáil blandishments and De Valera’s devicive charisma. Cosgrave was born out in the in the elections of the 1930s onwards and Fianna Fáil held power uninterruptedly for sixteen years .

One can’t see the FFers returning to power at the next election by which time on top of all the cuts in government spending and in peoples incomes which have occurred to date the country will also have felt the full effects of the property tax and water charges. Already these last have raised fears that the good old Irish rip off culture which allowed the bankers, the developers and the CEOs of financial institutions to rape the economy, is still alive and flourishing. The poltroons fumbling in the greasy till have not gone away you know.  For, without an inch of new piping being laid or a trickle of water flowing it has been revealed that the government has apparently spent 50 million euro on consultant’s fees advising on how the new water authority should function.  

Granted that previous administrations particularly Fianna Fáil which presided over the economy during the Celtic Tiger years when money was flowing down O’Connell Street did nothing to ensure that cash was spent on overhauling the cracked leaky pipes which have existed since Victorian times and instead squandered the money on property developments, many of which now lie idle. Granted also that it is monstrously unfair that a generation, already bleeding from the wounds inflicted by the death throes of the Celtic Tiger, should be required to pick up the tab for the hugely expensive operation needed to bring Ireland’s Victorian water supply into the 21st Century.

Nevertheless the reality of the situation is that water may prove to be a highly explosive substance which could blow away much of both the governments stability and Fianna Fáil’s unpopularity at the next elections which lie over the horizon in a matter of months rather than years, even though some economic recovery is clearly underway as a result of government policy.

What could influence the electorate is an injection of something that is now lacking, a sense of fairness. The government has not been seen to move in an organised and large scale way against the white collar criminals who brought about the crash. Only one bank, Anglo Irish is being held to account. But it took several other Irish financial institutions, notably Allied Irish Bank, to rack up the need to bail out Irish banks to the tune of 65 billions.

In addition to the already all pervasive sense of unfairness the public is now contending with reports of key Department of Finance documents going missing or of being so redacted as to be unreadable.  The republics entire financial apparatus was involved to a greater or lesser degree in the disaster which has occurred and whose consequences have to be borne by today’s electorate. And in failing to act decisively to hold the guilty responsible the present administration could find that electorally its achievements are not of the sort to bring victory at the polls.  After all the Irish electorate installed DeValera in power after he had actively helped to ferment civil war less than ten years earlier.   Fianna Fáil might yet get another spell at the helm.