June July 2005 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:56:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Interview: Gerry Adams https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/interview-gerry-adams/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/interview-gerry-adams/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:59:51 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31018 Read more..]]> As we go to press, Northern Ireland is immersed in elections, the outcome of which could mean serious implications for the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin is expected to emerge as the dominant nationalist party, while the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will likely end up as the leading Unionist party.

Under the peace agreement, this should lead to the province’s suspended government being revived, and led jointly by the DUP and Sinn Féin. But such a prospect is scarcely conceivable.

While Sinn Féin’s leaders have called for the Good Friday Agreement’s full implementation, the DUP, led by the firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, opposes the Agreement. The DUP wants a new peace deal that guarantees Northern Ireland’s union with Britain, and has refused to serve with Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Talks of reinstating the Assembly, which was suspended in October, 2002 (for the fourth time), collapsed over the DUP’s insistence on photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning of weapons. And whatever slim hope Sinn Féin has of the Assembly being up and running this year was further dashed when the Northern Bank in Belfast was robbed in a pre-Christmas raid. Though no evidence that the IRA is responsible has yet been made public, Sinn Féin was charged with sanctioning the robbery and penalized by the House of Commons.

The death of Robert McCartney in a pub brawl in February, allegedly at the hands of republicans, again put Sinn Féin on the defensive, as the “Justice for Robert” campaign by McCartney’s sisters and fiancée made its way to Washington, D.C., in March — during St. Patrick’s week.

The McCartneys where invited to the White House, Gerry Adams was not. And for the first time since 1994, when Adams was granted a visa to enter the U.S., Senator Edward Kennedy did not meet with him.

On a grassroots level, Adams was made more welcome, particularly in New York City where he spoke to the Transit Workers Union, an event which was attended by John Sweeney, the powerful head of the AFL-CIO.

Meanwhile, the Irish media, particularly the Irish Independent (which incidentally, is owned by Anthony O’Reilly, founder of The American Ireland Fund) has been vicious in its attacks on Sinn Féin.

The Irish government has also been hard on Sinn Féin. And in what was perceived as a votecatching exercise for the SDLP (Sinn Féin’s rival nationalist party), Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell — who claims the IRA is planning to create “a state within a state” — and Foreign Minister Dermot Ahem, went north to meet with SDLP candidate Alasdair McDonnell.

This was seen as the Fianna Féil’s answer to the significant gains Sinn Féin has made in the 26-counties. The only all-Ireland party, Sinn Féin now has five TDS in the Dail, and one European Parliament member, Dubliner Mary Lou McDonald.

Despite its troubles Sinn Féin is upbeat about the future. As the election campaign heated up, Adams made a historic appeal to the IRA to disband and embrace a political way forward (see sidebar), and on the morning of our interview, April 21, he called on the Irish government to begin the practical planning for Irish unity now.

Patricia Harty: How’s it going with the election?

Gerry Adams: I have to say that in all the places I’ve been, the canvassing returns have been very encouraging. I’ve stayed away from any speculation about how well we are going to do or not, but I think that we are going to have a good election. We don’t take the voters for granted, but people do seem enthused.

The language that has been appearing in the papers is that the DUP will not sit with Sinn Féin at least for another generation. What do you say to that?

Well, they haven’t quite said that, but whatever they say, it was quite predictable that the battle within Unionism in this election will lead to the hardening up of the language. I actually think that [making sure there is power sharing] is a bigger challenge for Tony Blair than for anyone else. I don’t have any illusions about the DUP. I think that the DUP does want to do a deal on its own terms. Those terms cannot be acceptable, so it’s up to the British prime minister and the Taoiseach to bring them to the position where they accept that the terms are the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

There’s a lot of talk about criminality. How does it make you feel to hear that language coming from the Dublin government, when Bobby Sands and nine others died on hunger strike in a fight against being labeled criminals by the British?

Well, it doesn’t surprise me. I have said that the Dublin onslaught, the Irish government’s onslaught, is electorally driven. I don’t think that we should be too defensive. Sinn Féin is opposed to criminality of any sort. And because of the sacrifice of the hunger strikers, republicans do feel very sensitive and quite angry when they hear the stuff that is coming out of the Irish establishment. But May 5th was the day Bobby died, and also by complete coincidence, it is polling day in this election. So the electorate will have their say on it and I only hope that the Irish government and the rest of them accept the outcome.

Why did you feel that it was necessary to make that address to the IRA now?

For two main reasons: one, my view that the peace process was going down the tubes because of the poisonous atmosphere that had been created in recent times — the attitude of the two governments, the anger which is building within republicanism, and the vacuum which has been there for some time. I thought, as I said earlier, that we would get a hardening of position within Unionism during the elections. After the elections you’re nearly into the marching season, and before you know it it’s the autumn and the vacuum continues. So I thought it needed a bold initiative. Was Ian Paisley going to give you such an initiative, or David Trimble, or Michael McDowell, or Paul Murphy, the British Secretary of State?

The other motivation was my very clear view that the IRA was being used by those who are opposed to the process, or who want the minimal change. When we failed in December because of Unionist intransigence and the two governments, in my view, taking up the wrong position in supporting the DUP, we had a choice — either let the whole thing wither, with a disastrous outcome for everyone, or take the initiative to leapfrog over all the difficulties — and that’s what I tried to do.

In reality, what will Ian Paisley accept other than, people seem to think, public humiliation of the IRA?

Well, that doesn’t matter. The fact is that those who want the greatest change have to be able to make the biggest move — the biggest effort. We want the peace process pinned down and stabilized. We want the Good Friday Agreement fully implemented, and we want beyond that, a United Ireland. And it is going to be a battle a day with the DUP, on all the issues, not just on power-sharing, but on equality, on economic rights, on cultural rights, on political rights, and Sinn Féin is up for that. Sinn Féin has confidence in its own position.

If you are privy to what’s been happening here for a long time, you know now that the agenda is all-Ireland, that all of the Dublin parties are at least having to deal with that issue. So we don’t think we have all the answers, but we have confidence that there’s a political way forward, and that’s what I was saying in my remarks to the IRA.

So what is the reaction of the Dublin government to your call for a Green Paper on Irish unity?

Their reaction thus far has been fairly predictable. They haven’t responded in any positive way. The fact that it takes a political party to demand and to campaign for a Green Paper by the Irish government points to the failure of the Irish government thus far.

What we are asking the government to do, and we have no copyright on the issue of independence or Irish unity, is to debate these issues out. To look at why, on a small island like ours, you have a duplication of services. Why can’t people avail of decent health services North or South, if their illnesses so demand. Why you can’t build upon implementation bodies, and have a decent engagement for humanism?

Are you disappointed in the British Labour government? Have they been any better than the Conservatives who needed the Unionist vote?

Well, they have been. Again, I don’t have any illusions. I would say to republicans what do you expect a British government to do? The British government is there to uphold the union. So what Tony Blair has been, if you like, is a more benign prime minister, but in a lot of the fundamentals he hasn’t shifted. He needs to be shifted but I would argue if the Taoiseach isn’t putting it up to him on these issues, and if the SDLP isn’t putting it up to him on these issues, why should he listen to Sinn Féin? The British government will always take the easiest option.

So is it time to stop blaming the Brits and start looking to the Irish government to step up to the plate?

Well, I think that the British government obviously has a responsibility, and can’t dodge its responsibilities, but when you look at how you get a British government to face up to its responsibilities, we who live on the island of Ireland, and who are in political leadership, have to get our act in order, and the first line of that has to be the Irish government.

You said the Dublin onslaught on Sinn Féin is electorally driven. Can you talk a about that and Sinn Féin’s role in the Republic of Ireland?

The fact that Sinn Féin is growing right across the country presents a real threat to the election of Labour [the Irish Labour Party]. We out-polled Labour in County Meath, in what was the most vile, nasty, untruthful campaign against Sinn Féin. And the fact that Labour couldn’t outpoll us shows that they feel threatened. Fianna Féil also feels threatened.

I do think that the Taoiseach gets numerous complaints from backbenchers and from his party activists on the ground. I think [the threat] is exaggerated, and I said that to the Taoiseach, because we have to develop our party and our organizational base. But the fact that Grainne McGeady was selected in the Údaras na Gaeltachta elections [Údaras is the government agency charged with supporting employment in the Gaeltacht and this is the first time that Sinn Féin has put up a candidate in Donegal] shows that there is a Sinn Féin seat in the Dail in the next election. That’s on the back of Pearse Doherty’s European union achievement. [Doherty narrowly missed being returned as an MEP for the constituency].

Sinn Féin is active when it can be. We’re also the only all-Ireland party. But if you ask me how to judge Sinn Féin’s success, it isn’t just on electoral achievements, it’s in how we can bring about change, and how we can affect the agenda, and all of that is aggravating the minds of the more conservative parties in the South.

Is it possible that Fianna Fail is forming an alliance with the SDLP?

I don’t really know. The SDLP was bad mouthing the Irish government in December, and in November the Irish government left the SDLP out of discussions against our wishes. And while I welcomed the visits of the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Justice, I made the point that the Minister of Justice could usefully have gone to the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, which opened up in Craigavin this week. A ministerial visit to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal may have been a useful intervention, and people in the Short Strand and the Garvahey Road or Ardoyne would have welcomed Dublin ministers.

But then Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labor, and the PD’s have always campaigned against Sinn Féin in the North, always. Their very senior party leaders were here on the ground in all of the constituencies, in all of the elections I’ve ever contested.

Why is there an unwillingness to put the peace process above local politics?

Well, it’s as old as politics, I suppose. The partitionism, the existence of the two states, people being cozy in their little positions, the revelations of corruption, the peace process, the growth of Sinn Féin, all of those are reasons. And I’ve said this directly to the Taoiseach; they have the ability to do focus analysis of the elections so they are looking ten years down the road. They are looking at Mary Lou McDonald’s vote, and the fact that she couldn’t have been elected without preferences from the other parties, and they are looking at the trends. It isn’t about the last election or even the next election, it’s what’s going to be the situation in ten years’ time. We get things stabilized in the North. We get the peace process moving forward. Sinn Féin continues to make gains here. Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland party. Sinn Féin keeps building in the South, and that is what they are trying to stop. And Sinn Féin is the only party with an actual strategy towards Irish unity.

Seven years after the Good Friday Agreement, how much time has the Assembly been in operation?

The institution has not been in place for any period longer than 18 months, that’s been like Humpty Dumpty, punctuated by period of suspension.

There gas been some criticism of Sinn Féin not taking up their seats in Westminster. Do you think that that will ever change?

No, I don’t think so, and I would certainly be opposed to it. We developed a strategy of active abstentionism. In the past when republicans or nationalists were elected as abstentionists, they were elected and then they went home. We’re actively abstentionists. We got the British to give us, as per our rights, our facilities as MPs. We make representations. We lobby. We do everything except go into the chamber and take the oath to the English queen. The fact is that even though the SDLP may argue [against Sinn Féin’s absentionism], it has the worst attendance record of all the parties.

The trust of politics in this island, the political center of gravity in the island, is Ireland. We have succeeded in getting the Irish government, and the constitutional reform, the subcommittee of the Oireachtas, to agree to Northern representation in the Southern institutions. So hopefully, it will not be long before you get Northern MPs debating in the Dail. We don’t have the right to vote at this point, but symbolically that would be a very important development. If the Unionists want to continue going to Westminster, fair enough, but for the rest of us, the center of political gravity has to be the island of Ireland. I don’t dismiss the idea that even while attending Westminster, Ian Paisley will come to put his case in the Dail, if the Taoiseach moves to bring about Northern representation.

So essentially you would have one Ireland?

Oh, absolutely. The whole thrust of what should be a sensible Irish government position at the moment would be to expand the all-Ireland dimensions of the Good Friday Agreement. There is no reason why a person from the North requiring treatment for cancer or cardiac couldn’t get it in Cork. Or, given the lack of facilities for women in West Galway, they couldn’t be flown up here to West Belfast to avail of facilities here. There is no reason why in education, tourism, transport all of those, we can’t share whatever happens to be the expertise on each part of the island.

Getting back to the the issue of policing, and building trust in the community. Will Sinn Féin be joining the policing board?

We will be joining the policing board but not until it is the type of policing board that allows us, and everyone else on it, to have more authority than the current board has. When it comes to the point where we have the framework, I’m very strongly of the view that we need to have a community debate. There is no point in Sinn Féin going off and having its own little discussion on this. The people who have suffered from state policing need to have their views heard.

What challenges present themselves for republicans in the time ahead?

One, to deal with the issue of the IRA. Two, to deal with the DUP in terms of sharing government with them, and then three, the whole issue of policing. So there are big challenges. We are living in interesting times.

What about the possibility of an IRA split? When we interviewed you in 2001 you said that the most important thing with the IRA constituency is to avoid any serious split.

That still is my contention. I would characterize any split or schism within the IRA as a failure of leadership by us. There are people within republicanism who disagree with our positions on a lot of issues. I validate their right to have a different view. I think dissent is entirely legitimate. I like to believe that we create an atmosphere where people are empowered enough to disagree with the leadership, and I would always uphold people’s right to do that. It is a matter of us all staying together and having thorough debates and discussions, and united — I know it is an old cliche — united we stand.

So I would be very, very focused, on bringing as many people as possible with us. In terms of what service I can be to this process, I would say it is my ability and the ability of people like Martin McGuinness to bring as many other republicans with us. Once we lose the ability to bring other people with us, then we are of no good service to this process.

How did you feel about your last trip to America?

I thought it was good. I’m glad I went. I was very focused. I have a great affection for Irish America. I think that there has been a huge bond built up between us. Certainly, in my personal experience in the time that I’ve been going there, the meetings at grassroots level were bigger than they would have been otherwise. I found the experience similar to what’s happening here with our grass roots — that the attacks on us have galvanized supporters. And I’m glad that we were there dealing with people at government level and people within the media, who would not necessarily be supporters. We were taking it on the chin and we were giving our responses, but I’m glad we were there and I came away with a feeling that it was a very important visit.

Thank you very much, Gerry Adams. ♦

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First Word: The Way Forward https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/first-word-the-way-forward/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/first-word-the-way-forward/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:58:31 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31020 Read more..]]> There is a sign on the wall at Gleason’s, Brooklyn’s storied boxing gym, posting an invitation from the poet Virgil: “Now whoever has courage, and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forth, lace up his gloves, and put up his hands.”

John Duddy, a young boxer from Derry, was in Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, far from his hometown in Northern Ireland, when Irish America writer Marilyn Cole Lownes interviewed him back in March. He’s young, affable, handsome and a great boxer. He won his fight against Leonard Pierre on March 21, in a first-round knockout. The 25-year-old rising star now moves up to 9-0, with a shot at making it in the big leagues. In short, Duddy’s future looks bright.

In researching photos for Marilyn’s piece, I found an old black-and-white of John Duddy on the web. He looks about 14, an amateur boxer striking a pose. But almost instantly, though there is a great resemblance, I grasp that it can’t be the same John Duddy. The photo is old, for one thing, and when I look closely I see that it’s identified as belonging to the Bloody Sunday website — a site commemorating the 13 who were shot and killed on that January day in 1972 when the British Army fired on a peaceful civil rights march in Derry (one more person later died of wounds).

I realize with a pang that this John “Jackie” Duddy was one of those killed. He was just 17. He would never meet the nephew who would carry his name into the ring. Never watch him fight, or listen to his dream of being a world champion.

The Derry of Jackie Duddy’s youth was a very different place from what it is today. Throughout history, the Unionist minority within the city, gerrymandered votes (which were tied to property ownership) to the detriment of the Catholics living outside the walls, in an area known as the Bogside.

The Catholic and nationalist community was rife with unemployment and poor housing. The ’60s brought change as it did all over the world. The community began to organize and civil rights marches became part of a campaign to institute “One Man One Vote,” and address the issues of housing and employment.

The British response to the march on Bloody Sunday dashed the hopes for a political solution. It brought massive enrollment in the IRA by young men and women in Derry and across the North who saw no other way forward.

Bloody Sunday brought years of strife, internment without trial, diplock courts, hunger strikes, harassment by the security forces, and unimaginable pain inflicted on all the people of Northern Ireland. It brought the British Army, some 50,000, at times. (Even today there are more British Army in Northern Ireland than there are in Iraq, a point made by Martin McGuinness on a recent visit to New York).

Yet, despite all that, the tide began to turn again in 1994 when, persuaded by Sinn Féin with the backing of Irish-Americans, especially President Clinton, the IRA called a ceasefire. And, under the watchful eye of the former Senator from Maine, George Mitchell, all-party talks began and culminated in the Good Friday Agreement which was signed in April, 1998.

It takes great courage to lay down arms and embrace a political way forward, and this is what the Catholic and nationalist community has done. Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams has now asked the republicans to do the same.

“Let our revenge be the laughter of our children,” Adams said, quoting Bobby Sands, in remarks to the Transit Workers Union in New York recently. Sands was elected to the British parliament as he lay dying on hunger strike in Long Kesh prison in 1981.

As we go to press, the North readies itself for elections on May 5, the day Bobby Sands died.

The Irish and British governments must honor the outcome of this election, and see to it that the Good Friday Agreement is fully implemented, that the Northern Ireland Assembly is reinstated, and that there is full powersharing between all the parties in Northern Ireland.

As President Bush (talking about the Iraq elections) said, “If people are given a right to express themselves in a ballot in the ballot box, in the public square, and through a free and open press, it’ll lead to peace.” ♦

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Mayo Gas Terminal Provokes Concern https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/mayo-gas-terminal-provokes-concern/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/mayo-gas-terminal-provokes-concern/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:57:37 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31022 Read more..]]> Residents in the west of Ireland have voiced concerns about planning authorities giving the go ahead to a proposed gas refinery on the Erris peninsula. The giant gas rig is being built by Royal Dutch Shell on a 160-acre inland site at Bellanaboy, Co. Mayo. The refinery will process gas from the 800-million Corrib gas field in the Atlantic Ocean, but local people believe constructing the rig offshore would be a safer option.

The Erris peninsula is a thinly populated region known for its desolate beauty and environmental treasures. The bogland peninsula boasts rare species of flora and fauna, and local residents question whether locating the gas rig at Bellanaboy will endanger what is regarded as some of the last natural wilderness left in Ireland. Building the terminal will require a clearance of some 650,000 cubic metres of peat from the bogland. Another major concern is an extremely high volume of heavy traffic during construction of the rig.

The gas terminal represents a further development in the Corrib gas project since significant reserves were first discovered in 1996. The reserve field is located in 349 metres of water some 50 miles offshore. Royal Dutch Shell is the major shareholder in exploiting the find, along with Marathon International and Statoil. Yet despite the huge scale of operations, the gas discovery will bring no more than 50 jobs to the region. All of the specialist work has been contracted out, and following a recent series of factory closures in north Mayo, residents see little value to the local economy, considering the environmental risk of the enterprise.

The controversy at Bellanaboy is not the first environmental protest to occur recently in the region. Many local people in north Mayo suspect that the area’s high unemployment and low population density is marking it as a location for `dirty’ industries. In addition to the gas rig, Glancre Teo in nearby Geesala began operations to convert sewage sludge into fertiliser. Following protests by the Erris Action Group, the company was found to be operating without necessary planning permission. The Mayo County Council originally granted Glancre Teo an operating permit but has since decided that planning permission is also required. A decision is expected shortly on the plant’s future.

Another company, Irish Environmental Processes (IEP), proposes to convert the former Asahi plant in Killala into a recycling facility for asbestos. Local opposition has been organised as the North West Alliance Against Asbestos with a series of community meetings. IEP is an Irish company which operates under licence from a U.S. company named ARI Technologies. IEP maintains that ARI procedures have a proven safety record and that the proposed Killala facility would process asbestos only from Ireland. The matter is under consideration with the county council but Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly told the Irish Times that opposition to recycling asbestos was unanimous in the region. “Not since 1798, the year of the French, has there been such a unity of purpose in this area,” he remarked. ♦

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Report Highlights Change in Ireland’s Population https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/report-highlights-change-in-irelands-population/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/report-highlights-change-in-irelands-population/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:56:13 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31026 Read more..]]> A new report produced by the Central Statistics Office in Dublin shows that Ireland is second only to Cyprus in the percentage increase of population within the EU between 1995 and 2004. The CSO report, titled `Measuring Ireland’s Progress,’ makes a number of observations that underline significant social change in Irish society.

The average household size has decreased from 3.13 persons to 2.88, with a 14 percent increase in the number of one-person households. Ireland ranks third in the EU for the number of 25 to 34-year-olds with a third-level education.

Less encouraging were findings on social and environmental issues. Expenditure on social protection policies was the lowest in the EU for the year 2001. Two years later some 21 percent of the population faced the risk of poverty, a disproportionately high figure matched only by Slovakia. Ireland uses landfill to dispose of municipal waste far more than the EU average, and cumulative inflation of 16 percent from 2000-04 was almost double the EU average. ♦

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GAA Opens Up Croke Park https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/gaa-opens-up-croke-park/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/gaa-opens-up-croke-park/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:55:18 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31030 Read more..]]> The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) made an historic decision at the organization’s annual congress this year by opening up its Croke Park headquarters to non-GAA sporting events such as international soccer and rugby. The decision marked the end of a highly contentious debate that has caused bitter division within the Association in recent years.

Under the GAA’s Rule 42, `foreign’ sports were effectively prohibited from using GAA facilities. However, the costly development of Croke Park into a magnificent stadium altered the debate, with a groundswell of opinion looking for change. Many who campaigned against Rule 42 put it down to a simple matter of economics. The state-of-the-art 80,000-seat stadium has placed a financial strain on the GAA, and few of the Gaelic football or hurling matches staged there can fill the facility to capacity. Renting it out for big international soccer or rugby matches would provide a significant new revenue stream for the GAA.

Many within the Association also felt that Rule 42 made the GAA appear old-fashioned and out of step with modern Ireland. The excellence of the stadium itself is testimony to advances made by the GAA, and campaigners hoped a more inclusive sports policy would move the Association forward rather than leave it standing still.

The vote at the congress required a two-thirds majority, and although it passed by 227 votes to 97, the margin was tight enough to indicate widespread opposition to the change. Significantly, every Ulster County except Donegal and Cavan voted in favor of upholding Rule 42. The successful motion allows for the GAA to rent out Croke Park to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) under certain circumstances. However, this provision is subject to a time frame set by reconstruction of the outdated IRFU stadium at Lansdowne Road.

Residents in the Croke Park area are unhappy that the volume and array of events taking place at the venue may be expanded. In June they will see U2 play three sell-out concerts at the stadium, and following this historic decision at the congress, the prospect of international sports events in Croke Park is a real possibility. ♦

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Judge Questions “Colombia Three” Verdict https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/judge-questions-colombia-three-verdict/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/judge-questions-colombia-three-verdict/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:54:13 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31034 Read more..]]> Although the whereabouts of the so-called `Colombia Three’ remain a mystery, a judge on the three-member appeal tribunal has publicly questioned the guilty verdict returned against them. The three Irishmen — Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley (pictured above) — were accused of assisting FARC rebels in Colombia and passing on expertise gained from IRA bomb-making methods.

The three men were found not guilty at the initial hearing last April, but on appeal, they were found guilty by a majority opinion. They were sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment for training FARC guerrillas and using false passports. However, the three men went into hiding before their heavy custodial sentence was handed down. They have not been seen since.

At a press conference in Bogota, defense lawyers for the Irishmen indicated that Magistrate Jorge Enrique Torres dissented strongly from the verdict. “I was overwhelmed by the countless amount of technical evidence used in this case that was questionable,” Torres reportedly stated. Despite the men’s disappearance, defence counsel intend to take the case to Colombia’s Supreme Court in an attempt to have the sentence overturned. The dissenting magistrate’s comments will be used as part of that appeal.

“Torres clearly points out that there was no certainty of guilt in the case,” claimed defense lawyer Pedro Mahecha, who alleges the two other judges came under outside pressure to return a conviction. “The ruling was completely politicized,” he said. ♦

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Ballymun Makeover Begins https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/ballymun-makeover-begins/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/ballymun-makeover-begins/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:53:47 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31039 Read more..]]> Visitors to Dublin will notice a major change to the skyline on the next approach to the city’s airport. Demolition has begun on high-rise apartment blocks nearby in Ballymun. The first high block to be knocked was the 15-story Sean MacDermott Tower, named after one of the signatories to the 1916 Proclamation. Hundreds of Dubliners gathered to watch the controlled explosion, and the tower that stood for 40 years came crashing down in five seconds.

The demolition of the high-rise towers is part of a massive regeneration plan for Ballymun on Dublin’s northside. The 2.5-billion project includes designs for social housing to overcome many of the problems associated with the 36-block high-rise complex originally built in the 1960s.

A new hotel will be constructed on the site of the MacDermott Tower. Many of the smaller blocks have been dismantled rather than imploded. The regeneration project is scheduled for completion between 2012 and 2015. ♦

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Irish Heroes of the Vietnam War https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/irish-heroes-of-the-vietnam-war/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/irish-heroes-of-the-vietnam-war/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:51:44 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31042 Read more..]]> At a barber shop in Ringsend, Dublin, hangs a purple heart awarded to Lieutenant John Driver of the 101st Airborne, killed in action when his patrol was ambushed in Thua Thien, South Vietnam on April 17, 1969.

His older brother, Jim Driver, keeps his memory alive with a display of memorabilia in his barber shop, and until recently John Driver was believed to be the only Irish person who died fighting for the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

There are over 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and, says Declan Hughes “about half are Irish names.” In 1999, Hughes helped bring a traveling replica of the Vietnam memorial to Ireland. Now, he is part of the Irish Veterans Historical Research Centre, which is planning to build a permanent memorial to the Irish.

“John Driver was the only one officially recorded as Irish because he insisted on putting down `Ringsend, Dublin’ on all of his army forms,” said Hughes. “But I knew there had to be more. I contacted the Vietnam Vets organizations in the U.S., and by the time `the wall’ came to Ireland, we’d traced 12 Irish-born people who had been killed in Vietnam.”

That number is now at 24.

“Irish people who emigrated to America at that time, were eligible for the draft. Some also volunteered,” said Hughes.

The Irish who served in the U.S. military and died in Vietnam include Lance Corporal Bernard Freyne of the 1st Marine Division from Roscommon, and Corporal Patrick `Bob’ Gallagher, also a Marine, from Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. Gallagher was the second eldest of nine children.

In 1962, when he was 18, Patrick went to stay with his aunt in Long Island. In February, 1966, he went back to Ballyhaunis for three weeks, not telling his family he had been drafted into the U.S. Marines and would be off to Vietnam on his return to the U.S.

He went to Vietnam in April, and on July 18, 1966, saved the lives of three comrades. Four of them had been manning a defense post at Cam Lo near the border with North Vietnam when it was attacked.

Patrick kicked a grenade out of their position before it exploded and, as the citation for the Navy Cross he was later awarded read, “another enemy grenade followed and landed in the position between two of his comrades.

“Without hesitation, in a valiant act of self-sacrifice, Corporal Gallagher threw himself upon the deadly grenade in order to absorb the explosion and save the lives of his comrades.”

As the three other marines ran to safety two further grenades landed in the position and exploded, “miraculously injuring nobody.” Patrick’s squad leader ordered him to throw the grenade he was lying on into a nearby river. It exploded on hitting the water.

“Through his extraordinary heroism and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from probable injury and possible loss of life,” said the citation. He was awarded the Marines’ highest honor, the Navy Cross, and promoted.

The publicity around Gallagher’s heroism meant he had to tell his family he was in Vietnam, but he was shot dead while on patrol in Da Nang. He was 23.

The list also includes Pamela Donovan of the Army Nursing Corps, the only known Irish woman to die in Vietnam, and Captain Edmond Landers from Oola in Limerick, who served in the U.S. Army from 1958 until he was killed in action in Gia Dinh in May 1968. He is buried in Limerick.

Four of the 24 known Irish people were killed serving with the Australian forces in Vietnam.

Hughes, and the Irish Veterans Historical Research Centre, are keen to hear from anyone who knows of Irish people who served in Vietnam, or who would like to support the efforts to build a memorial.

A site has been identified in the very middle of Ireland, just a couple of miles outside Athlone, in Kiltoom, County Roscommon. It’s an old church, built in 1820, and the organization hopes to restore it as a permanent tribute to the Irish veterans.

The Irish Veterans Historical Research Centre is a registered charity based in Dublin. ♦

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TV’s Newest Bachelor https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/tvs-newest-bachelor/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/tvs-newest-bachelor/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:50:30 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31045 Read more..]]> When the reality TV show “The Bachelor” first aired on ABC, millions of swooning women tuned in every Monday night to watch the dreamy Alex Michel, Harvard graduate and reader of The Economist, charm 25 bachelorettes with carraige rides through Central Park and low-lit gondola dinners in Venice (swoon). This season, ABC has decided to change things around a bit, relying on a more relaxed Bachelor with slightly less sophisticated tastes. At Irish America, our interest was sparked when we found that this time around, the bachelor was none other than Irish-American Charlie O’Connell. The 29-year-old native New Yorker is the star and indeed grand prize in this, the seventh edition of the series.

So far O’Connell’s stint as a desirable hunk, desperate to find the right girl and settle down, has been memorable. This time around the show has been shaken up quite a bit. There are no limos or ball gowns and for the first time the series is set in New York City. So far, dates have been mostly to bars, and even sometimes end up in O’Connell’s apartment. Girls can be sent home at any time and likewise can be given the rose that affirms O’Connell’s interest.

O’Connell’s commitment to finding true love has been questioned, though! Some fans have posted less than flattering opinions about him on the program’s website and are not convinced that his intentions are honorable. Perhaps he has suffered the backlash because he sent one girl packing for being a single mother and another because she had merely patted his arm to say goodbye rather than give him a goodnight kiss (that was after a two-minute first date!) He did, however, keep the girl who gave him the bikini top that she had been wearing. Aah! Every Irish mother’s dream daughter-in-law!

Charlie’s brother, actor Jerry O’Connell, who you might recognize from hit film Kangaroo Jack, has made a number of appearances on the show. So we get two bachelors for the price of one!

Time will only tell if O’Connell will find love. In the past, bachelors have not been very successful in developing long meaningful relationships with any of the girls after the show. But who knows, maybe the laidback O’Connell will be the first bachelor to sign up for a televised wedding. Given that so many have found the series entertaining to watch, one can only imagine what a guilty pleasure audiences would find the wedding to be! ♦

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The Clones Colossus to Take on Iron Mike https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/the-clones-colossus-to-take-on-iron-mike/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/06/the-clones-colossus-to-take-on-iron-mike/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2005 13:49:05 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31048 Read more..]]> On June 11, Irishman Kevin McBride will square off against two-time World Champion Mike Tyson. The bout is set to take place at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. It will be a comeback fight for Tyson and a chance to redeem himself since his loss to the U.K.’s Danny Williams on July 30 last year. For McBride, it will have to be the fight of his life.

While McBride was born in Clones, County Monaghan (also the hometown of Barry McGuigan, 1985 WBA Featherweight Champion), he has spent most of his professional career in the States and now lives in Brockton, Massachusetts. At 31-years-old, he has 32 wins, four losses and one draw. A recent ranking of the world’s boxers has him at number 157. He is widely regarded as the underdog on the ticket despite the fact that Tyson is recovering from knee surgery. Now 38, Tyson has a record of 50 wins, five losses and two no decisions. While Iron Mike’s reputation and experience favor him, McBride has a nine-inch advantage.

In his last bout, McBride knocked out Kevin Montiy with a fifth-round stoppage and now holds a streak of six knockouts. He had previously been lined up to fight Tyson or Williams in 2004 but both sets of negotiations fell through. Now he is focused on beating Tyson and getting a chance at the world title. At the April 12 press conference to announce the bout, underdog McBride confidently announced, “After I beat Mike, I want to fight for the world title. I’m going to shock the world.” Iron Mike was equally confident about his own chances, predicting a “train wreck.”

No doubt all Irish eyes will be glued to the fight come June 11, rooting for “the Clones Colossus” and hoping he will somehow pull off a major upset. ♦

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