Category Archives: Irish peace process

IAUC covers new ground in cross-community dialogue at 2007 convention

groupboston.jpgIrish American Unity Conference (IAUC) President John Fogarty hailed the success of this year’s national convention in Boston, calling it a ground-breaking effort on behalf of Irish America in the encouragement and facilitation of cross-community dialogue in the north of Ireland. This year’s convention brought together members of both the unionist and nationalist communities, including academics, community workers, politicians and political ex-prisoners. Speakers included Dr. Pete Shirlow, Raymond Stewart, Terry Kirby, Bobby Lavery, Matt Morrison, Paul Harkin, Gerry McHugh, Roy Garland, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Raymond McCord, Nuala O’Loan and Father Aiden Troy. Participants took part in public and private discourse throughout the weekend, speaking forthrightly and respectfully without diluting their beliefs or holding back their opinions in order to be polite.

Speaking at the close of the convention, President Fogarty said, “In order to move forward and come together, we need to recognize each other’s positions and allow time for understanding, even if we do not agree. Through dialogue we might develop the level of understanding necessary to produce genuine visions of a common future in the north of Ireland that is both inclusive and just. As witnessed in Boston this weekend, the Irish peace process does not simply belong to the political parties, it belongs to the people.”

Though political parties are at the center of representative democracy, it is the belief of the IAUC that political agendas very often slow down or even halt the process of engagement. The honest discourse which was witnessed and participated in at this year’s convention reinforced the notion that ordinary people, motivated by the desire to secure a safe and egalitarian future for all our people, can create a parallel avenue for advancement; can create a situation atmospherically which supports and facilitates the ability of the political parties to interface to the benefit of all.

President Fogarty went on to say, “The IAUC appreciates the difficult and often painful work necessary to bring about true and lasting political change, and we will continue to use our resources to encourage such discussion in the future. Irish America has played such an integral role in the Irish peace process, and we should continue to be used as a tool to lay the groundwork for political and socioeconomic change in Ireland in any way that we can.”

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Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish peace process

Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention

 

Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention
By Irish Echo Staff

(Pictured from the left are: republican ex-prisoner Terry Kirby, IAUC President John Fogarty, IAUC Treasurer Gretchen Bales, and IAUC Chairman of the Board Dr. Robert C. Linnon)

 

Unionist voices at the Irish American Unity Conference annual convention in Boston last weekend brought a new dimension to the annual gathering of the pro-United Ireland activists.

The most heated exchanges of the day followed repeated assertions by Raymond McCord that the IRA ex-prisoners present were “terrorists”.

McCord, whose son Raymond was murdered by a loyalist gang leader who was a police agent, rebutted claims by former republican prisoner Gabriel Megahey that the IRA had acted in defense of embattled nationalist communities in 1969.

“I have acted in defense of my family,” said McCord. “I have beaten up loyalist paramilitaries who threatened my family but when did the IRA’s defense become putting bombs in pubs in the middle of Belfast?”

On several occasions, McCord challenged his audience to tell him how his three grandchildren would be better off in a united Ireland.

“Convince me they’ll be better off and I’ll vote for a united Ireland,” he said.

However, McCord remained unimpressed by the answers he received.

“No one here has answered my question satisfactorily,” he told Saturday’s closing session of the convention.

Ulster Unionist Roy Garland said dialogue was the cornerstone of continuing reconciliation in Northern Ireland. He had harsh condemnation for Dr. Ian Paisley’s DUP, recalling that Ian Paisley Jr., now a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, had demanded Garland be drummed out of the UUP for being pictured with Gerry Adams and Albert Reynolds.

Fr. Aidan Troy, the North Belfast priest who famously defended schoolchildren who were the focus of angry loyalist pickets outside Holy Cross school told the convention that education was crucial to the future of Northern Ireland.

“The key to carrying the process forward is education,” he said.

Responding to questions about the need to encourage integrated education, Troy defended the right of parents to chose a Catholic education for their children.

“But I would like to see the Catholic hierarchy come forward and to say, what contribution can we make to integrated education. However, we can’t expect the children at integrated schools to carry the burden of integrating their communities if at home their parents and grandparents are carrying a contrary message,” he said.

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Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish Echo, Irish peace process, Raymond McCord

Changing Times, Changing Realities by Inez McCormack

The following article by Inez McCormack was printed in last week’s Irish Echo and kicks off a new campaign to organize Irish America’s participation in a new drive to encourage and support equitable investment in the “new Northern Ireland”:

This should be a time for change and hope for all who live in the North. I am writing this article for two reasons- one is to honour the significant contribution made by Irish Americans and others such as President Clinton and New York City Comptroller Thompson in making hope for just and inclusive change into tangible realities of peace and opportunity. The other is to argue that this time and these opportunities will not come again and we must now once and for all grasp them to build an inclusive and modern future. For over 30 years now I have argued for real, measurable change that people can feel, taste and touch in their daily lives. This core foundation for such a future, based upon equality, resonates with three decades of lost opportunities in implementing necessary and agreed change.

Strategies and interventions that bring the legacy of a difficult and divided past into such a future need to be built on both what has successfully worked in making change and on what is the agreed mandate of the people as the context for that change. That mandate has been given expression in the Good Friday Agreement, now more than ten years old. It is not too much, to expect that the inclusive equality provisions of that agreement are implemented with urgency and finality. They are also the key building blocks for stable economic and social development

Irish Americans are being asked by me AMONG others to support and call for investment in the north to build prosperity and support peace in this time of historic hope. There are now clearly emerging opportunities for profitable investments in billion dollar commitments to build new infrastructure within the next decade. There is a determination and commitment by all political parties in the new devolved administration to bring external investment and new companies to the North and encourage the growth of local small and medium size companies to take advantage of new opportunities as well as increase trade and investment between North and South on the island.

Twenty years ago Irish America responded to calls to make fairness in employment a reality here. Together we argued it was neither feasible nor acceptable to have a society and economy based upon exclusion and discrimination. Those who then ran Northern Ireland rejected our arguments, claiming that there was not a problem. But the stark realities revealed by official census figures showed brutal patterns of exclusion, discrimination and poverty experienced overwhelmingly, though far from exclusively, by Catholics. At that time I described the plight of unemployed Protestants as disastrous, and that of Catholics as catastrophic. Instead of tackling this economic disadvantage based upon objective need, the authorities used all their resources to attack the messengers. We were accused of scaring off investment, worsening sectarian division and destabilising the possibilities for peace. These were the alibis that time was not ripe for change.

Voices for peaceful and just change from within Northern Ireland, unaided by powerful external support, were ruthlessly swept aside. Irish Americans steadfastly refused to accept any of these arguments, particularly the doctrine of unripe time. Through the MacBride Principles campaign they declared they were no longer prepared to have American dollars support discriminatory practices. Together we went one step further. The MacBride Principles required that Americans investment in Northern Ireland should actively promote affirmative action and produce measurable change, I recall with great gratitude the chorus of support for such change ultimately reaching the highest office in the United States. Such voices from an early stage included the City and State Comptrollers office in New York, Irish American organisations, and a growing number of state and city legislatures who passed and implemented the MacBride principles. That campaign and pressure led to new and tough affirmative action domestic legislation and disciplines on expenditure of public monies. The MacBride legislation is still there as a guarantor of real change: American companies were and are required still to show how state and city pension funds are promoting the reality of fair employment in Northern Ireland.

Irish American pressure to mainstream and promote equality of opportunity, and to insist upon implementation of tough policies played a major role in the interventions of the Clinton administration. George Mitchell, amongst others, saw the importance of inclusive economic and social opportunity in creating confidence that peace could work , especially for the communities and areas of greatest deprivation that had suffered most in the conflict. Such measures then became part of the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed, the promise in the Agreement to bring forward “a range of measures aimed at combating unemployment and progressively eliminating the differential in employment rates between the two communities by targeting objective need” was one of the few explicit commitments in the document.

Continuing resistance to accept responsibility for structural change by placing the causes of disadvantage on the shoulders of those who experience it — the blame the victim approach — was rejected by the political parties and the people in Northern Ireland. Subsequently, the recent St. Andrew’s agreement reinforced this commitment by agreeing objective need as the prerequisite for allocation of resources and investment.

I write this not to bring up old history or old problems but to emphasize the huge contribution of those who argued that fairness in action was not only right in itself but crucial to building prosperity, and would contribute to the potential for building an inclusive peace from which all would benefit and all could own . They also argued that a sustainable business model must effectively integrate economic, social and environmental practices.

This seems so obvious and modest a proposal now. Yet the inability to accept responsibility in implementing that change, in spite of its huge democratic mandate backed up by statutory imperative, remains deep and systemic. The patterns of exclusion that spurred us to action have widened in the decade since the Good Friday Agreement. This is the unstable and unhelpful legacy bequeathed to the fledgling political institutions in Northern Ireland.

The reason I address Irish America now – and of course the coalition that so powerfully joined with us to argue that peace was not possible without justice and equality – is to ask all of those who helped to create the potential for peaceful change to now ensure that in the hope in which so much has been invested is implemented. This requires that economic investment, both internal and external, is used and measured deliberately and consciously to make those hopes for fundamental and irreversible change into reality.

The current reality is, that ten years on from the Good Friday Agreement and a few months into the historic political accommodation that we have all worked and hoped for the patterns of disadvantage are widening. The last decade has been a time of increased investment and growing prosperity. Yet as in the eighties government’s own figures show an ever increasing gap between the haves and the have nots within both communities and growing differential in disadvantage experienced between the Catholic and Protestant communities in the decade since the Good Friday Agreement.

This growing inequality is a direct consequence of deliberately ignoring the commitments in law and policy on fairness and opportunity. Instead of the last decade being used to integrate economic and social development and using these tools of change agreed by the mandate of the people to lay solid foundations to underpin an inclusive peace and a stable economic base, the patterns of past investment and resource allocation are virtually undisturbed.

The ever widening gap means those suffering the greatest deprivation, again predominantly Catholic, but also with a significant number of Protestants, are spectators of prosperity not participants.

New policies and laws were agreed based on the need for structural change and on the urgent requirement for structural measures . They simply have not been implemented in a way that measured action against impact. Our campaign for targets and timetables, so carefully constructed to produce real change within a reasonable time span, has been met with inaction.

The recent report by the Committee on Administration of Justice – Rhetoric and Reality – spelt out this failure in cold terms and hard figures.

The evidence in the report came from figures and facts analysed in four government reports. So these continuing patterns of unacceptable realities are well known. There is simply no evidence that resource allocation and policy are being directed to change them, as required by the Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrew’s Agreement and the law of the land in Northern Ireland. In fact the current allocation of resource and investment is virtually in inverse proportion to these figures. Resources are going to where they went before in the old status quo and the mandate of the people for a new and inclusive status quo has been ignored.

The data produced by the government’s own body the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2005 gives the following results. Based on their analysis of a range of factors, including income, employment, and access to services, NI was divided up into almost 900 equally sized areas in order to map out “regional inequalities”.

• Out of 900 areas in total, 19 of the top 20 most deprived areas are in North and West Belfast or Derry.
• Of the top 100 most deprived areas in NI out of a total of 900, over three quarters are within North and West Belfast or Derry.
• Of the top 50 wealthiest areas in NI, none are in North and West Belfast or Derry.
• In fact, of the top 100 wealthiest areas in NI out of a total of 900, only one, is in North and West Belfast or Derry, namely, the Covehill part of North Belfast, which is an historically affluent part of the city, surrounded by some of the poorest areas that suffered both economically and physically during the conflict.

As I know only too well from work I have been involved with there recently, the population there has not sniffed the changes that they were promised and that they could expect in relation to investment and opportunity.

What this data shows is serious geographic and regional differences in terms of inequality in Northern Ireland. Moreover, these regional inequalities also provide a proxy measure for community inequalities. Cleary there are correlations between where these poorer areas are, and the profile of the people who live in them.

A report by the Special EU Programmes body also showed that there is a direct link between how poor an area is, and the proportion of Catholics living in the area.

Catholics make up 19.5% of the population in the 500 most affluent areas in NI.

Catholics make up 72% of the inhabitants in the 500 most deprived areas in NI.

With irrefutable detail these cold hard facts and statistics reveal the depth of daily realties of humiliation and exclusion experienced by those outside the golden bubble of the new good times.

Bringing a difficult past into a new and inclusive future is not easy. But if we do not learn from the lessons of the past then the new future we are all working for is destabilised from the beginning . There is a depressing sense of déjà vu about what is happening. In the eighties government figures showed that over 45% of Catholics, and around 25% of Protestant males were without work. The campaigning that we carried out over those two decades was meant to ensure that those in power faced up to their responsibility to shift the figures. They had the resources – moral, legal, and economic, to do so. Yet many of those excluded in that past are excluded still. The gap between their realities and growing prosperity of some areas and communities are the stark and undeniable reminder in the last decade that new times of peace and hope brought them crumbs not comfort.

Based upon our shared experience of the possibilities of change, there are a number of practical and effective steps that the devolved administration can take now in modernising the economy and stabilising the peace. Public resource allocation can be planned as envisaged in a way that requires govt departments to measure and structure their actions against their impact on reducing inequality and building prosperity .Tools of public procurement that integrate practical equality and social requirements can be effectively used to involve the long term unemployed and economically inactive and thus build a new skills base.

New York City Comptroller Thompson, on his recent visit to Belfast declared his support for a sustainable business model that integrated, economic, social and environmental practices. It is what his office has supported all over the world through their investments and has been fiscally and ethically successful. This is the context of his strong support to bring direct investment to the North and to influence companies to look at the potential for investment on the island of Ireland. Irish America is calling for support for investment opportunities and there will be an international investment conference in the coming year in the North to turn some of the good will in America and elsewhere in the world into practical and tangible investments by companies

In asserting once again that prosperity and fairness must be intertwined in the impact and allocation of such investment. Once again the ball is in Irish America’s court to again assert and require that hope and opportunity must be within the grasp of all. That this is the time for long overdue change in the daily realities of exclusion and that this is good for business and good for peace.

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Filed under belfast, Derry, human rights, Inez McCormack, ireland, Irish peace process, MacBride Principles

IAUC statement regarding the deportation proceedings against Malachy, Sean and Nicola McAllister

October 1, 2007—The IAUC has dedicated itself to the idea that peace can only occur in an atmosphere that promotes frank and open dialogue amongst all parties to the conflict in the North of Ireland.  This includes the United States of America, which acting as an “honest broker,” facilitated a political atmosphere that allowed for the birth of the current peace process.  The end product of a lasting peace based on enduring democratic principles is now at hand.  Recognizing this, the IAUC has welded itself to the role of identifying and speaking out against anyone and anything which has the potential to thwart the development of the peace and democracy in which so many people and groups have invested so much commitment and energy.

In this spirit, the IAUC must state forthrightly that the United States Government, by actively pursuing the deportation of former Irish Republican activists, is markedly out of step with all other parties involved in this political endeavor.  The US policy is anachronistic and undermines the concept of a “peace dividend.”  By extension this policy will undermine the peace itself.

We urge our government, through our elected representatives and appointed officials, to stand for peace in Ireland.  With all the conviction we can muster, we request that the McAllister family be granted permanent resident status.  To deny this family legal status would be an affront to our country’s longstanding principles of justice and asylum.

Stop the deportation of the McAllister family.

John Fogarty
President
Irish American Unity Conference

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Filed under deportation, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, loyalist paramilitaries, new jersey, political prisoners

Qana, Derry: The Dead Lie in Familiar Shapes

Article by Eamon McCann originally printed on Counterpunch:

It was the sudden eruption at the back of the room upstairs at Sandino’s which brought us eventually to the burial ground at Qana.

At the edge of the village, pictures of each of the 28 victims were displayed on a wall around the canopied space where the graves are laid out in precise, neat pattern by the place where the building which they were crushed under once stood.

Qana Mayor Mohammed Atiya made a formal speech of welcome while relatives of the dead stood sentinel by the graves. Shane Cullen, who had designed the memorial plaque we’d brought over, explained that it had been hewn from Irish blue limestone because we wanted “to leave a little bit of Ireland here in Qana, as a sign of our sorrow.” I talked of how we’d heard of the massacre and why we’d occupied the Raytheon plant in Derry in response. Goretti Horgan sang a Gaelic lament. Jimmy Kelly played the tin whistle.

Afterwards, we were invited into the homes of some of the victims where we sat around awkwardly and sipped the glasses of sweet tea that were offered to us everywhere in Lebanon.

Our hearts grieve with yours, I told Maryam Shaloub, who had moved into the home of her sister to look after what was left of the family. Five had been among the 28 who’d perished in the basement when a Raytheon bunker-buster brought the house where they’d sought shelter tumbling down. Some were squashed to death, some choked on dirt and debris. Most were children.

She bustled around, affecting crossness with two teenage survivors for being tardy with the tea, then beaming with pride at how well they are doing in school. We grieve for our loneliness that those we loved are not here, she said with a determined smile of seeming serenity. But we do not grieve that they are dead. We are joyful to know they are in paradise. They are martyrs now.

But there was no semblance of joy from Hala, who had lost her husband, her two children, her mother and father; sitting on the sofa alongside me, she was stiff, immobile, unspeaking, impenetrable, her face a mask of frozen pain.

Although we’d had little appreciation at the time of the depth of the anguish which had hollowed happiness out from the families of Qana, this was the reason we’d trashed the Raytheon plant.The meeting at Sandino’s pub had been called by the Derry Anti-War Coalition (DAWC) on August 2 last year to hear from Joshua Casteel, a former US Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib, and Iraqi lawyer Hani Lazim. But the focus of discussion turned quickly to Lebanon and Qana. For two days, television bulletins and newspapers had featured pictures of children being carried in dripping bundles from the crumpled ruin. “We have to do something,” came the angry roar from the rear. “Raytheon’s down the road. Derry’s a total disgrace.”

The meeting voted to protest at the Raytheon premises, and scheduled a gathering five days later to decide on the detail of what would be done.

US company Raytheon is one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, with 73,000 employees in 45 countries and 2006 sales of $20.3 billion. It specialises in electronic guidance and control systems for weapons, including the Patriot, the Sidewinder, the Sea Sparrow, the Tomahawk, the Maverick, and the bunker-buster Paveway used at Qana, which carries 945 pounds of explosive tritonal, about 80 percent TNT, 20 percent aluminum. In April this year, Israel ordered 2,000 more units to replenish stores depleted in last year’s bombing of Lebanon.

The arrival of Raytheon in Derry, announced in August 1999 by John Hume and David Trimble on the steps of the Guildhall in their first joint appearance after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, was widely hailed as a down-payment on the “peace dividend” arising from the Belfast Agreement. Sinn Fein and the DUP quickly joined the peace laureates’ parties in praising the company for creating new jobs. None of the parties has flinched from this position since. Everyone at Sandino’s knew it very likely that Raytheon soft-ware had guided the Qana bomb (proof, in the form of the code-numbers on fuselage fragments, was soon to come to hand), and knew also that it would be futile to appeal to the political mainstream to speak against the company’s role.

And so we did what we believed we had to, entering the plant and barricading ourselves inside. Nine of us were arrested after eight hours inside the plant, during which we hurled computers from the windows, used fire extinguishers to put the mainframe out of action and destroyed any paperwork and computer discs we could find: we next appear in court on September 3rd. The DAWC thought it appropriate to send a delegation to Qana on the anniversary of the massacre to lay a memorial stone.

The inscription on the stone, in Arabic and English, comprised two lines from the narrative of Bloody Sunday in the Museum of Free Derry and two lines from Patti Smith’s poem, “Qana”.

Qana, Derry,
The dead lie in familiar shapes.
No-one who yearns for justice is a stranger,
No-one who dies for justice is forgotten.
Derry, Qana,
The miracle is love.

The 28 who’d perished came from two extended families, the Hashems and the Shaloubs. They’d been sheltering in a three-storey building at the edge of the village, because it was relatively new and built in the lee of a hill ­ and they reasoned that it offered better protection than their less sturdy homes. Villages in a strip along the Israeli border had been shelled and attacked by Israeli aircraft for more than two weeks. Qana had been repeatedly hit. But the two families were among many who had been too frightened to flee to the nearest town, Tyre. The seven-mile highway was a junkyard of houses in rubble and burnt-out cars.

On streets around the Imam Ali mosque today, chunks of concrete and mortar still dangle precariously from crooked iron rods jutting out from rubble and dust. But much of the village ­ the location, many believe, of a miracle when Jesus turned water into wine for a wedding feast ­ has either been rebuilt or resembles a construction site. On every roof, it seems, young men are hauling buckets of cement and cinder blocks up by pulley. They look mildly curious when our group straggles into view, smile and return thumbs-up signs.

The assault on Lebanon had begun on July 12th, when Hezbollah fighters crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two others. They claimed they intended to bargain the captured men for some of the hundreds of Lebanese Muslims held without charge in Israeli jails. Israel responded by launching a land, sea and air bombardment against the Muslim areas of southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and south Beirut, and against the infrastructure of Lebanon generally ­ roads, bridges, ports, power stations, fuel stores, Beirut airport, factories. Nowhere was remote from the targets. Nowhere was safe.

Lebanon is smaller than Northern Ireland, a mere 135 miles by 50; hemmed in by Israel, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea, it has a population of four million. In the course of the 34-day conflict, Hezbollah was to fire 3,900 rockets into Israel, according to the Israeli government killing 44 civilians and 106 soldiers; the Israeli air-force, meanwhile, flew 12,000 combat missions and its army fired 100,000 shells, killing 1,200 Lebanese, including 250 fighters, according to Hezbollah, 530 according to Israel. Villages along the southern border were attacked with particular ferocity—Tiri, Kafra, Zebquin, Aita El Shaab, Bint Jbiel, Tebnin, etc., etc. But Qana struck a particular chord.

Ten years previously, more than 106 Qana people, 41 of them under 16, had been killed in an Israeli attack on the UN compound where they’d sought refuge. There had been a chorus of protest across the world, although neither the UN (because of the certainty of a US veto) nor any western country issued a formal condemnation. Now the death storm of Israel had swirled across the border again.

At around one in the morning in the house where the two families huddled, as two of the men were making tea, a bomb slammed into the structure. Perhaps five minutes later, as local people rushed towards the scene and adults inside scrambled amid the smoke and screams to find who’d survived, a second bomb gouged into the earth alongside and exploded. It seems almost certain it was this second bomb that toppled the building.

The Israelis claimed their target had been Hezbollah positions nearby from which rockets had earlier been launched.

Muhammad Mahmud Shalhub, a farmer, 61, in the house when it happened, recalls: “When the first strike hit, the whole house lifted…I was sitting by the door. It got very dusty and smoky. We were all in shock…I started pushing people out ­ whomever I could find.

“Five minutes later, another air strike came…We could barely breathe and we couldn’t see anything. There were three rooms in the house where people were hiding. After the first strike, a lot of earth was pushed up into the rooms. Then the house and all the earth dropped down onto us.”

Ghazi Udaybi rushed to the house when it was hit. He says he and others pulled a number of people clear after the first strike, but could do little after the second bomb struck. He’s scornful of the Israeli explanation. “If Hezbollah was firing near the house, would a family of over 50 people just sit there?”

Another man recalls voices calling from inside the debris, “Don’t die, Don’t die!” or crying for fathers, mothers, brothers, “Ali! Mohammed! Mama!”

Sanna Shalhoub, 18, round face, bright brown eyes, a smile of instant friendship to greet us, who lost her mother, father, older sister and two younger brothers, readily recites her story for us, and for an Al Jazeera crew covering the anniversary: “I was scared, but normally when I’m scared I cry out for my mother or father. I stood up and shouted ‘Mum, Dad’. I said, ‘If you can hear me, answer me’. I screamed and screamed but no one answered…

“Before my parents died, it wasn’t like this. We were all together. But after I lost them, my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, there was no love anymore. There are times when I don’t just feel alone in the house or the village, I feel alone in the whole world. If I could have just one moment from the time when my mother and father were alive, for them to talk to me or just call my name, I would feel the luckiest person alive.

“Although the place has been knocked down and is just land, I like to go there and sit thinking that this is the place I was sleeping. Here, my brother and I used to eat. Here, my father and mother and I used to sleep. There are still some of their clothes by the side of the road. I look at them and remember how we used to live here.

“Everyone says that we should change these thoughts in our heads and that we must forget, especially the day of the massacre. Before the war, I didn’t believe that there was an enemy watching our every move. I didn’t know there was an enemy that was so desperate to destroy Hezbollah. Now, all my thoughts are political. I wonder if the day will come when I will seek revenge against the Americans and the Israelis. Could it happen that the tables will turn and I will see myself avenging my parents’ death with my own hands? Inshallah, God willing, it will happen like this.

“When I am lonely, I feel I must change this feeling, so I go to the graveyard. I read the Quran for my parents, talk to my brothers and sister. It makes me feel happier.”

It was 6.30 am before ambulances and rescue crews made it through from Tyre, having been turned back three times by continuing bombing. Bodies dragged from the devastation lay waiting to be loaded into a refrigerated truck. There was a flurry of hope when a baby, Abbas Ahmad Hashim, was cradled out by a medic, tongue protruding from a mouth filled with dirt, but he couldn’t be revived.

By evening, the bodies had been tagged and bagged in plastic and laid out on a floor at the hospital in Tyre. They were: Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 55; Ibrahim Hashim, 65; Hasna Hashim, 75; Ali Ahmad Hashim, 3; Abbas Ahmad Hashim, 9 months; Hura Muhammad Qassim Shalhub, 12; Mahdi Mahmud Hashim, 68; Zahra Muhammad Qassim Shalhub, 12; Ibrahim Ahmad Hashim, 7; Jafar Mahmud Hashim, 10; Lina Muhammad Mahmud Shalhub, 30; Nabila Ali Amin Shalhub, 40; Ula Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 25; Khadija Ali Yusif, 31; Taysir Ali Shalhub, 39; Zaynab Muhammad Ali Amin Shalhub, 6; Fatima Muhammad Hashim, 4; Ali Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 17; Maryam Hassan Muhsin, 30; Afaf al-Zabad, 45; Yahya Muhammad Qassim Shalhub, 9; Ali Muhammad Kassim Shalhub, 10; Yusif Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 6; Qassim Samih Shalhub, 9; Hussain Ahmad Hashim, 12; Qassim Muhammad Shalhub, 7; Raqiyya Mahmud Shalhub, 7; Raqiyya Muhammad Hashim, unknown.

The women shrouded in black who sat by the grave stones in the gathering dusk as we left, murmuring prayers from the Quran, glanced up and nodded as we presumptuously took pictures and faintly acknowledged our goodbyes. Children scampering at the edge of the burial place waved and smiled. A man whose back had been broken in the blast and was sitting in a wheelchair, waved and pointed to his lapel to show he was wearing the Black Shamrock badge we’d given him earlier.

As our minibus lurched out onto what passes for a main road, we all swivelled round to look back until the village of Qana had passed out of sight. “I’ll tell you,” volunteered Kieran Gallagher, “Fucking up Raytheon was the best thing I ever did in my life.”

Me, too.

Eamon McCann lives in Ireland and can be reached at: Eamonderry@aol.com

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Filed under Bloody Sunday, Derry, DUP, Eamon McCann, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, Israel, Lebanon, middle east, Qana, Raytheon, Sinn Féin, war

Let’s not gloss over the facts

From David McKittrick’s article in today’s Independent, “Staying on one side or the other makes life less complicated”:

Their widely differing takes on the Troubles were starkly illustrated by a poll that showed 86 per cent of Protestants approved of the police using plastic bullets while 87 per cent of Catholics disapproved.

The gulf in these mindsets is so wide that, apart from television and radio debates, it is extremely rare for committed unionists and committed nationalists to debate such things.

McKittrick doesn’t provide any explanation or attempt at a reason to explain this “gulf in mindsets”–and I’m already bored thinking about the reasoning behind this–but the facts are out there, and it bothers me to see an issue like this laid out there in the “we just see things differently” sort of way.

In 2000, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, now Director of the Tranisitional Justice Program at the University of Ulster, published a study called the Politics of Force: Conflict Management and State Violence in Northern Ireland  that I am reading as background for my thesis.   Her study shows notable patterns in the use of state force and the typology of victims–namely that an overwhelming number of victims (85%) of state violence were from the minority (Catholic) community, as opposed to 11% from the Protestant community (with 4% “other”).  Kind of puts the poll in a different perspective now, doesn’t it?

“If we acknowledge that lethal force has, in fact, been a prevalent and widespread component of the minority community’s experience within the state,” writes Ní Aoláin, “then this acknowledgement, in turn, must validate and reinforce the minority’s perception of the states and its agents.”

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Filed under belfast, British army, British government, cross-community, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, policing

Thousands unite in march for truth

Belfast truth marchAndersonstown News reporter Evan Short reports in the 14 August edition:

The British government was challenged by thousands of marchers yesterday to reveal the full role it played in the murder of nationalists and republicans over the last 40 years.
Upwards of 7,000 marchers from all over Ireland, including the relatives of victims, descended on Belfast City Hall to demand that the British government disclose the part it played in helping loyalist murder gangs.
Those gathered heard from representatives of a number of campaigns aimed at finding the truth about the killings of loved ones, and listened to Gerry Adams say Sinn Féin would be continuing to raise the issue with the British government.
“If there is to be an inclusive healing process and a genuine process of reconciliation then the British government must face up to its responsibilities,” said the West Belfast MP.
“It is in the interest of all our people that there is a genuine and successful healing process [and] all political leaders have a responsibility to promote this.
“That means thinking beyond any sectarian, sectional, party political or self interest,” continued Mr Adams.

Thousands of marchers from the four corners of the city descended on the City Hall yesterday to demand the British government own up to its role in the murder of its own citizens.
In bright sunshine up to 7,000 people of all ages, carrying placards and wearing black ribbons, heard the families of the victims of state violence speak of their suffering at the hands of the British government and its policy of using loyalist proxies to attack the nationalist and republican community.
As the march passed, the names of West Belfast men Pearse Jordan, Pat Finucane and Tony Fusco loomed large among the hundreds who were remembered by their loved ones.

Recollections
The daughter of Donegal Sinn Féin councillor, Eddie Fullerton, was first to speak and told a tale familiar to many of those who looked on when she described how loyalists used a sledgehammer to break down the door of her father’s home before shooting him as he lay in bed with his wife.
Her recollection of having to deal with a disinterested legal system, both North and South, was another part of the harrowing recollection that struck a nerve with the crowd.
“Several media investigations have revealed links between British army intelligence and their informers within loyalism that facilitated the murder of my father,” said Amanda Fullerton.
“Four years ago we received information proving collusion between the loyalists and the RUC.
“We have also learned that the Garda Síochána were given this information but had not acted on it.
“We were always told the border was a major problem in the investigation. We know now the border was not a major problem.”
Amanda was followed by Relatives for Justice Director, Mark Thompson, who himself lost a brother to a loyalist killer gang.

Murders
He said that republican and nationalist attempts to assert their rights as citizens with public rallies had always drawn a sharp response from the British and their proxies within loyalism.
“The UDA and UFF murdered over 100 people in this city – most of whom were killed by informers working for the British government – that was policy.
“These agents helped bring in consignments of weapons that were used to kill over 300 people across the North – that was policy.”
Delivering the keynote speech, Gerry Adams said the truth issue would be central to future negotiations with the British.
“The objective of this march and rally is to draw attention to collusion and British state violence; a policy which resulted in many thousands of victims who were killed or injured or bereaved; and the administrative and institutional cover-up by the British government and its state agencies.

Black ribbon
“The black ribbon is the symbol of this event.
“Wearing it today is an act of solidarity with the victims, their families and the campaign groups.
“It also sends a clear message to the British state that we are determined to pursue the truth,” he added.
“We are determined to campaign even though it may take a long time, until the British state acknowledges its administrative and institutional use of state violence and collusion.”
He also said that the issue of the British manipulation of members of the republican movement should be put under the same scrutiny.
“Yes the British recruited, blackmailed, tricked, intimidated and bribed individual republicans into working for them and I think it would be only right to have this dimension of British strategy investigated also.
“If the British state used former republicans to do its killing for it, then the victims of that policy have the right to truth also.

Collusion
“The infiltration of organisations, the tactic of divide and conquer, of counter gangs, has long been a hallmark of British policy.
“But to compare, as anti-republicans do, this policy with the structured control and direction of unionist paramilitaries in the conduct of their war is disingenuous.”
Mr Adams added that the presence of so many at a rally in the city centre showed that the strategy of collusion, like British militarism in Ireland, was a failure.
“Both strategies have a number of things in common – they were about the defeat of republicanism.
“And they failed.
“That objective has not been achieved. And it never will be,” he added.

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