MARK Carruthers asked an important question last week: “Is it the vehicle to bring about or thwart a united Ireland?” The ‘it’ he was referring to was Micheál Martin’s Shared Island project. Is the project a people-before-territory project? Or is it a flimsy fig-leaf aiming to conceal that the leader of Fianna Fáil the Republican Party isn’t equipped and would much prefer not to have a united Ireland. I mean, have you seen that last Red C poll ( FF on 12%)?
IN the days running into Brandon Lewis’s statement on a public inquiry for Pat Finucane there was a short sharp campaign to undermine it. It began with: “Because most families have been screwed over, no family should have access to anything.” We heard the contrived cry: “But don’t the family of xxx also deserve an inquiry?” Then the campaign invoked the names of solicitors killed by the IRA. “Why this solicitor and not xxx, doesn’t anyone value xxx?” Pat Finucane is thereby pitted against another dead solicitor. Classy. Then there was the continuation of besmirching Pat Finucane’s name. This besmirching began in January 1989 with Douglas Hogg in the House of Commons while the killing of Pat Finucane was being planned. He said then that there were some solicitors who were unduly sympathetic to the IRA. Now some of the Finucanes are put on banners, named in Westminster and John Finucane’s extraordinary mandate is dismissed and delegitimised. Media outlets played along and pitched the public inquiry for Pat Finucane as somehow compromised by his son’s public service. So by the time Brandon Lewis got up in the House of Commons to make his statement all previous political commitments, all legal direction and all legitimate expectation had been delegitimised, and he felt on solid ground to make a nonsensical statement devoid of law or reality. The denial of inquiry was welcomed by both the UU and DUP. Most of the comments began with some expression of “horror” at the killing of Patrick Finucane, words that are dripping in hypocrisy and lack of conviction. Some of the words are not worth repeating, but they did not miss the opportunity to add a cherry of bile on top of the cake of British government insult. In total contrast the statement from Brandon Lewis was met with dignified anger by Geraldine Finucane. Her husband was shot dead in front of her and their children in the home they shared. She herself was injured. She was 40 in 1989. Now at the age of 70 she still stands as a beacon of strength and fortitude. At her side are her sentinels, Michael, Katherine and John. They exude the confidence of the knowledge that they stand on the side of truth and justice. On March 18, Brandon Lewis tore up the Stormont House Agreement for dealing with the past, barely raising an eyebrow. This decision, which ensures that families will not be entitled to human rights-compliant investigation decades after their loved ones’ violent deaths, got little to no scrutiny. Why was that decision made? Because of the discomfort of former soldiers, cops and policy makers. There was a sustained and concerted campaign by some veterans, aided and abetted by unionism and the Conservative Party, aimed at preventing any scrutiny of their actions during the conflict. This culminated in the Stormont House Agreement being binned.The British state and Unionism happily sacrifice the rights of the Finucane family, all victims and our society to truth and justice in order to protect the reputation and narrative of their Britannia. But a lie does not become truth, and justice will not lie sleeping. The Finucanes will achieve their inquiry and all families will see access to lawful investigation. Justice will prevail.
THE decision by the British government not to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane can in no way be said to have been a suprise, nevertheless it has come as another savage blow to a family which has for over 30 years fought for truth and justice.They – and their countless supporters in Ireland and across the world – no longer seek the tawdry truth about who pulled the trigger, they seek the truth about who and what lay behind the “shocking levels of collusion” that former Prime Minister David Cameron admitted lay behind the savage murder of an officer of the court in front of his family. Any society worth the name should be able to rally around the preposterously simple proposition that a state should not murder any of its own citizens, much less servants of its criminal justice system. What we’ve seen from the British government and its Unionist cheerleaders is a vivid demonstration that normal democratic standards do not apply in this benighted corner of the union. The idea that a Minister could stand up in the House of Commons and say that the state’s murder of a lawyer in London, or Edinburgh or Cardiff is not worthy of a public inquiry is a laughable one – the furore would bring Parliament to a halt. But a statement in relation to the murder of Pat Finucane in Belfast can be made to a virtually empty chamber in which the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, was not even present. That a Labour leader, a former human rights lawyer and ex-head of the Department of Public Prosecutions, could not rouse himself to be in attendance, or to issue a subsequent word of comment, much less rebuke, is indicative of a problem much wider than the collection of feral Tory fanatics that is this Boris Johnson government. This close to the decision and with feelings still running extremely high, the less said about the reaction of Unionism to the decision the better. We will not dignify the sickening personal attacks on the Finucane family with a response, rather we would point out to those Unionists who genuinely care for the future of the union that kneejerk sectarian reactions to fundamental issues of the rule of law here and the state’s right to govern deserve a more thoughtful response than the soccer terrace behaviour we’ve seen since Monday. As for the suggestion by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis that the PSNI should now be allowed to get on with their job of investigating the murder of Pat Finucane, that would be a ludicrous enough idea at any time in the past 31 years given the RUC and PSNI performance in the case. But days after the PSNI paid out hefty compensation for their abominable treatment of two journalists in search of the truth about the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, it is nothing less than a two-fingered salute. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve said it, but we aren’t going to stop: this family, and the tireless community which nurtures and supports them, will keep on keeping on.
AT LAST! Danny Devenny is doing a book. He will have to finish it now that this column has broken the story. It will be a photographic and literary journey through his very eventful life. In my opinion Danny Dee deserves a book or twenty books to celebrate his life in struggle and his art. He has enriched all our lives with his creatativity and brightened Belfast’s streetscape and educated and uplifted its citizens and visitors with his murals. He will tell how art has been a huge help to him through all his decades of activism. That’s where this painting, The Session, comes in. The Session features John Lennon, Danny’s friend Bobby Sands, Ché Guevara, Chilean activist song writer and poet Víctor Jara and Woody Guthrie, the great American song writer and activist. It is availible as a limited edition print and a not-for-profit funder for Danny’s book. Check out his Facebook page and private message Danny if you want to buy a copy. Danny has had a mind to do such a painting for a long time. He was in Long Kesh with Bobby and knows how much music meant to him. Bobby loved John Lennon. He would have loved being in a session with him. And the others. He admired them all. There is a photo of a session of poítín-drinking prisoners in Cage Eleven which Danny based his painting on. I will tell you the story of that photo and that session another time. Anyway, Danny delayed doing the painting because he couldnt do a side view of Bobby’s face which satisfied him. Then Richard McAuley found the photo of Bobby in French photographer Gerard Harlay’s portfolio of photos when we were doing work on the Léargas book on Máire Drumm. That, and the pandemic, allowed the space for Danny Dee to work his magic. I know the political value of that magic from my time in the Kesh with him in the mid-70s. Danny Dee did the artwork for a number of publications produced in Cage Eleven and smuggled outside. These included Peace In Ireland and Our British Problem – unpublished – by this columnist and In Care Of Her Majesty’s Prisons by Hugh Feeney and Prison Struggle. He also did illustrations for the Brownie articles which were smuggled out to the Sinn Féin paper Republican News. His pen name was Flossie. Danny and Bobby were in the Gaeltacht hut in Cage Eleven. Bobby used to drive his comrades mad as he practised his guitar skills and learned his songs. Tomboy Loudon was just as bad. He was learning the mandolin. Bobby was taught guitar by blues legend Rab McCullough. They started in the Crum (Crumlin Road Prison) where there were two guitars. Bobby heard Rab playing and asked him for a few tips. Rab was already an accomplished guitarist. He had been in a number of bands, including Sunshine and The Big Soul Band.
FIRST Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann will address the media today from 4.15pm on the day that the British Government approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for widespread use.
FOUR grassroots organisations have been shortlisted for the 2020 Gaeilge Aisling Awards – Gradaim na hAislinge – for promoting the Irish language and keeping spirits high during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s awards, dedicated to the 'Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic', will be presented at a groundbreaking virtual gala on December 10. The shortlist for the Coinnigh an Misneach/Keep Hope Alive Award for the Irish language, sponsored by Foras na Gaeilge, has been whittled down to the following four: