The real gombeen man!

Some have the cheek to call Jackie Healy-Rae unsophisticated , Jackie is a veritable Oscar Wilde compared to John O'Donaghue!

This is what passes for mature engagement by the current Ceann Comhairle!

IRA Volunteer Paddy Kelly

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the death of IRA Volunteer Paddy Kelly.

Paddy Kelly was brought up in Co.Laois and could very easily have ignored the "troubles'' in the North. However from an early age he was eager to learn about Britain's involvement in Ireland and became deeply concerned at the plight of his fellow Irish people in the Six Counties.

He came to believe that he had a duty to do something about this and he became an active republican.

Paddy was very conscious about his own security and kept a very low profile in his native Laois where many local Republicans did not know of his connections. He moved up into the border area, engaging in countless operations against the British.

His enthusiasm for the fight, his courage in the face of danger and his sense of humour gained him great respect among many people who were to become lifelong friends and comrades.

In particular, he was to become accepted by the very close-knit Republican community in South Armagh as one of their own.

Paddy's ingenuity, quick thinking and sense of humour extricated him and his comrades from many a situation.

On one occasion along the border he was stopped by a Brit patrol while returning in a car with a comrade from preparing a load of explosive mix. A Brit enquired about the strong smell of deisel coming from the car. Paddy cracked a joke about the car being a "bucket'' and how the leak in the engine stinking the car out was having an adverse effect on his love-life. Luckily the Brit didn't open the bonnet or he'd have discovered that the car had a petrol engine.

On another occasion while transporting some gear across the border the van he was driving broke down. While Paddy was bent over the bonnet a Brit patrol arrived on the scene and enquired what the problem was. Paddy explained that the engine was playing up and had stalled on him. The Brit told Paddy that it was getting dark and he'd be wise not to leave the van in that area as it would be away by the morning.

He suggested a push might get the van started and Paddy, thinking about the gear in the back, happily agreed. All the Brits lent a shoulder and the van started. A toot of the horn, a wave of his hand out the window and a smile on his face and Paddy was on his way again - another successful mission accomplished.

No task was too great for Paddy and he took every opportunity to engage the enemy. He had his own business which could have made him quite wealthy but his republican activities were always more important to him.

When approached to work with the IRA's England Department, Paddy, true to form, did not hesitate. He proved a dedicated Volunteer and an extremely valuable asset in the England Campaign.

In 1992 Paddy was arrested in England in connection with a four-ton bomb found on a lorry apparently destined for the centre of London. This incident earned Paddy the affectionate nickname of "Four-ton'' while in the jails there. Sentenced to 25 years Paddy remained unbroken.

He met up with comrades in the jails in England, many of whom had been there for over 20 years, and he became known for his good nature, his staunchness and his sense of humour revealed in the many hilarious stories he told.

After the IRA ceasefire was announced in August 1994, rather than experiencing a relaxation in the repressive conditions in the jails in England, Republican POWs were to witness an increase in draconian measures introduced by the British Minister, Michael Howard. Increased strip-searching, closed visits, ghosting to other jails, solitary confinement became the norm and all transfers to Ireland were stopped.

As a result, by December 1994 Paddy and his comrades found themselves on a non-co-operation protest in Full Sutton Special Secure Unit (SSU). By December 1994 when the rest of the world was expecting movement from the British government towards a lasting peace in Ireland, Paddy was beginning the first of many months of protest in solitary confinement.
Paddy had previously undergone an operation for skin cancer which appeared to have been successful.

However, while in jail, although it was quite obvious to him and his comrades that the problem had re-occurred, he was denied treatment by the prison authorities who at first denied a problem existed and then deliberately dragged their heels when his condition worsened. During the time on protest Paddy suffered the pain with no treatment whatsoever. When he and two comrades were moved to Whitemoor SSU in July 1995 a "no-wash' protest began.

Paddy's condition was causing increasing concern but he refused to come off the protest - even when the prison authorities refused him access to a consultant (provided by his solicitor Gareth Pierce and Fianna Fáil TD Eamonn O'Cuiv) unless he complied with prison rules.

Eventually pressure forced the British government to allow the consultant to see him without preconditions. However, even after cancer was confirmed the British Home Office dragged its feet. Several weeks later he was brought to an outside hospital, chained to a bed and under armed guard.

Paddy had been demanding an end to the repressive regime of the SSU and a transfer to Ireland. However, immediately after his operation he was returned to the punishment block in the SSU from where he'd come and, true to form, rejoined his remaining comrade on protest, which was to continue for several months.

Eventually international opinion forced the British to repatriate Paddy to Portlaoise Gaol where his deteriorating condition led to his release on compassionate grounds. He died on Wednesday 11 June 1997 at the home of his long-term partner Angela and his family, in his native Laois. Ironically this is also the month when his comrade Michael Gaughan died.

Like Paddy he died as a result of gross neglect and inhuman treatment at the hands of his British captors.

Sinn Féin Councillor Brian Stanley said

“Paddy was a dedicated and determined republican – highly respected the length and breath of Ireland. He served time in some of the worst prison conditions in what were called Secure Units – units that both Paddy and his comrade Mick O’Brien described as ‘steel tanks’ with minimum lighting, poor sanitation and often no mattress as the POWs spent a lot of time on protest against the appalling conditions"

The 10th Anniversary is being marked this Sunday at 2.30pm at the Railway Bridge, Killenard.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam


Dáil standing orders a disgrace

Sinn Féin’s Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has today called on the Taoiseach to amend Dáil Standing Orders to allow a Technical Group be formed by the four Sinn Féin TDs and Independent Tony Gregory.

Speaking at a protest outside the Dáil today Deputy Ó Caoláin said 143,410 voters gave their first preference votes to Sinn Féin in the General Election and these voices must not be silenced.

“The Government has so far refused to amend Standing Orders to allow a technical group to be formed by the five opposition TDs outside of the Labour and Fine Gael parties,”

“Current Standing Orders dictate that seven TDs are required to form a technical group. However, in the last Dáil, the Green Party called for Standing Orders to be changed to allow five TDs to form such a group.

“And, during the negotiations for Government, Finian McGrath said that one of his priorities would be to ensure adequate speaking rights for all TDs and there was no way he would ‘hang the technical group to dry’ and that the Greens agreed with him"

“The Taoiseach clearly sees the attempted marginalisation of Sinn Féin as the icing on the cake of his deal with the Greens and the so-called Independents"

“Sinn Féin TDs, just like all TDs, are elected by the people of this State and are entitled to speak on their behalf in the Dáil. As long as we are elected to this Dáil we will not be silenced.”

The Dáil standing orders are a disgrace!

Every single TD is elected with the same mandate, to serve the people. Yet Dáil standing orders are allowed to discriminate against a section of the Irish people and in effect to deny them a voice.

This is an unacceptable position and one which needs to be addressed. I am disappointed in Finian McGrath and to a lesser extent the Greens.

Every member of the Dáil should be entitled to the same speaking rights; they should not be beholden to either Labour or Fine Gael for speaking time.

The Dáil standing orders represent a form of discrimination, one that is attempting to silence the views of 143,410 people.


Were you really surprised?

Was anyone really surprised by the news that the PPS will not be pursuing prosecutions against the state killers of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane?

I understand why many were angry by the decision but what does surprise me is that anyone would be surprised that the PPS would do this.

After the report into collusion in North Belfast, a report that came to light because of the brave actions of Raymond McCord, they announced that no prosecutions would take place there either.

Indeed it seems to be PPS policy not to prosecute state killers of innocent civilians.

Despite the review of Criminal Justice that was carried out following the GFA there has been no significant change in the modus operandi of the prosecution service in the six counties.

Yes, they have removed the pictures of the British Crown from certain courts, they changed the name to the PPS and they have a few more Castle Catholics at law events in QUB but the body itself has not been subject to any real change.

They remain as a patsy for Whitehall and the British establishment.

Due to this odious position they will stifle any prosectuion(s) that would reveal the butchery of the British Crown Forces involvement in Ireland.

Pat Finucanes son Michael, who followed his fathers footsteps into the legal profession, said the decision was "extremely disappointing and in some cases very, very perplexing".

"I think the DPP has taken a very soft and very submissive approach to the manner in which prosecutions would be mounted,"

I feel for the family as their search for the truth, not even justice, has been thwarted yet again by an arm of the British state. First it was the new Inquiries Act, now this!

For that is all the PPS is, an arm of a repressive British state that will do all in its power to cover up that states past involvement in state murder.

That is why I and not one other member of my law class in Queen's who came from the Nationalist/Republican community (80% of the class) even considered joining them.

The sooner Criminal and Justice powers are devolved to local politicians the better.

The PPS could do with a political "night of the long knives" as many of the top brass are either complicit in a cover-up or totally incompetent.

Neither scenario fills me with much confidence that justice will be done and seen to be done.


The Irish in South America

Most Irish people are well aware of the huge Irish diaspora in America, Australia and England.

Many however are oblivious to the Irish diaspora in South America and the part that many Irishmen and those of Irish decent played in those countries fight for freedom.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of the Mayo-born founder of the Argentine navy.

Admiral William Brown from Foxford in Co. Mayo emigrated from Ireland more than 200 years ago and in his adult life played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Argentinean Republic.

Admiral Brown is considered a national hero in Argentina and was the father of the Argentine Navy and leader of the Argentine Armed Forces in the wars against Brazil and Spain; he died in Buenos Aires in 1857.

The Almirante Brown class destroyer is named after him.

Brown's victories in the Independence War, the Argentina-Brazil War, and the Guerra Grande in Uruguay earned the respect and appreciation of the Argentine people.

During a Naval blockade by the Brazilians he roused his men by declaring

"Comrades: confidence in victory, discipline, and three hails to the motherland!"

His contribution was marked today in a special joint remembrance ceremony with junior defence Minister Tom Kitt, diplomatic personnel and senior naval commanders from both countries.

A wreath was laid at a statue to the Foxford-born Admiral at Sir John Rogerson Quay in central Dublin, against the backdrop of the Argentine sailing ship, the ARA Libertad. Mr Kitt paid tribute to the Argentine Irish.

“As a component of the Irish Diaspora, the Argentine Irish are to be congratulated for maintaining their identity, their sense of community and their culture for more than 150 years."

Admiral Brown was not the only famous Irishman in South America or the only Irishman to fight against imperialism in South America.

Che Guevara, whose grandmother's surname was Lynch, was another famous member of this diaspora. Guevara's father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, said of him

"The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels"

Probably the most famous Irishman ever to reside in Mexico is the Wexfordman William Lamport, better known to most Mexicans as Guillen de Lampart, precursor of the Independence movement and author of the first proclamation of independence in the New World.

His statue stands today in the Crypt of Heroes beneath the Column of Independence in Mexico City. There are also monuments in Mexico City paying tribute to those Irish who fought for Mexico in the 1800's.

The Irish also had a huge impact in Venezuela and other South American countries under the leadership of Simon Bolivar.

The Irish had a huge impact of Bolivar and he respected them deeply indeed one of them, Lieutenant-Colonel William Ferguson from Antrim, died defending the Liberator from political rivals.

Daniel Florence O'Leary from Cork won Bolivar's highest esteem. Bolivar made O'Leary his personal aide-de-camp. As a member of Bolivar's headquarters, O'Leary attained the rank of brigadier general and played a key role in plotting political and military strategy.

In Colombia, where O'Leary died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1854, a bust of the Irish hero overlooks a plaza in Bogotá.

In 1882, the Venezuelan government removed O'Leary's remains to its own capital, Caracas. There, with high public honours, the soldier was laid to rest in the National Pantheon, the sacred burial place of Bolivar himself.

Indeed Daniel O'Connell's own son Morgan was sent to help Bolivar in his fight against Imperialism.

"Hitherto," O'Connell wrote to Bolivar, "I have been able to bestow only good wishes upon that noble cause. But now I have a son able to wield a sword in its defence, and I send him, illustrious Sir, to admire and profit by your example."

With this letter in hand, Captain Morgan O'Connell landed at Margarita on June 12, 1820 and presented himself for duty as the Irish Legion's youngest officer.

After the Liberation of Colombia Colonel Francis Burdett O'Connor and his Irish lancers went south to participate in the Peruvian campaign of General Antonio Jose de Sucre. As Sucre's chief of staff, the Irish officer set the strategy for the battle of Ayacucho, which was the death knell for Spanish rule in South America.

Bernardo O'Higgins, the Chilean revolutionary, born in Chillán in 1778, illegitimate son of Ambrosio O'Higgins, the Irish-born viceroy of Chile and Peru. Played a great part in the Chilean revolt of 1810-1817, and became known as the 'Liberator of Chile'.

His exhortation "Live with honor or die with glory. He who is brave, follow me" lives in Chilean history.

In 1817-1823 he was the new republic's first president, but was deposed after a revolution and retired to Peru, where he died in 1842.

It seems the Irish are much better at securing Independence for other countries than they have ever been in securing their own.

Are we ready to tell the truth?

That's the one big concern that I have with the new group that has been appointed to make recommendations on how best to probe our troubled past.

The group is being headed up by former head of the Church of Ireland Robin Eames and for Deputy Chair of the Policing Board Denis Bradley. They will be joined by a panel of six which includes former Armagh GAA captain Jarleth Burns.

This group with then have two international advisors in the form of former Finnish PM Martti Ahtisaari and South African Lawyer Brian Currin.

It is this group of eight which will decide if a Truth Commission similar to that set up in South Africa should be established or whether some other route to dealing with the hurt should be used.

Doubts have already been raised about the independence of the group by Sinn Féin MLA Francie Malloy who said the British government would have the final say on any recommendations made.

"Inevitably serious concerns do and will arise from the fact that the group is appointed by the British government and will report back to the British government which will have the final say on any recommendations."

Robin Eames has said however that they had sought and been given a guarantee of total independence and among the things they would do would be to review much of the work from the past carried out by government and non government groups.

For me personally I believe that some form of Truth Commission similar to South Africa is necessary. The main problem I foresee is will those parties concerned tell the truth.

I am thinking about the issue of State Collusion with Unionist death squads, the state murder of civilians which many deluded souls still don't believe occurred.

For this process to happen we need all the parties of the conflict to participate and tell the truth. I'm talking about the IRA, the British Government and their proxy death squads in Unionist areas.

We don't need public immunity certificates coming from the Brits and nonsense about "in the interests of national security". All that would do is to make a mockery of the entire process.

The victims of this conflict deserve at least some degree of closure; I'm just worried that the parties concerned are not prepared to be truthful at this stage.

I hope I'm wrong!

Dodds blasts plans for an "IRA shrine"

It seems DUP Enterprise minister Nigel Dodds is not too happy about plans to keep one of the H-Blocks as a conflict transformation centre.

Dodds said that Unionists will not accept the building of a new sports stadium at the site if it also contains "a shrine to IRA terrorism".

There seems to be mixed messages coming from the DUP over the issue of the stadium at the site.

Ian Paisley has said that a proposed site in Belfast is out of the question and the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Edwin Poots has already said the site at Lisburn is the preferred option.

It's common knowledge that Nigel was unhappy about the DUP deal with Sinn Féin and ever since the executive was formed he has been running around like a prophet of doom.

According to Dodds the conflict transformation centre appears to be a pre-requisite for Sinn Féin supporting the stadium project and would become a shrine to the hunger strikers who died at the H-Blocks in the 1980's.

"That would be obnoxious to the vast majority of people and is something unionist people cannot accept,"

Nigel does not speak for the vast majority of people; he needs to get that through his head first of all. Secondly he also needs to remember that there are two veto's at play in the Assembly.

There is the Unionist veto and the Nationalist/Republican veto.

The only way that we can govern is through partnership and agreement, so he can stick his objections where the sun doesn't shine!

I personally have little time for this proposed new stadium for a number of reasons. It is going to be used by Rugby, GAA and Soccer. Now the only thing the GAA will use the stadium for is the McKenna cup matches, maybe.

As I don't go to Rugby matches in the North and I would never attend a NI soccer match that leaves me with no reason to attend the stadium.

So I don't really care where the stadium is, I would however like to see one of the H-Blocks kept so that future generations can learn from our shared period of conflict.

Nigel's just upset that his community are no longer top dogs, he's going to have to get used to that!


Iran goes bananas over Rushdie "honour"

Iran is none too pleased with the news that author Salman Rushdie was given a knighthood by Elizabeth Windsor in her "birthday honours".

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Britain's ambassador to Tehran today to protest, calling it a provocative act.

Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" prompted the late Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa death warrant against him in 1989.

"This insulting, suspicious and improper act by the British government is an obvious example of fighting against Islam,"

Ebrahim Rahimpour, Foreign Ministry director for Western Europe, told British Ambassador Geoffrey Adams.

I have never read the Satanic versus but as a believer in free speech it wouldn't bother me too much.

I would be more surprised that any person of integrity would lower themselves to accept any class of blood soaked honour from some dim descendant of the house of Saxe-Coburg in the name of the "British Empire".

Great people like W.B. Yeats, Ken Loach and C.S. Lewis refused to taint themselves with such honours and I believe are better because of it.

United they stand but divided they fall

I have been watching with great unease the Palestinian situation unfold these last few days.

Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has sworn in an emergency government and thrown out the Hamas members of the National Unity government.

First off I would like to make it clear that I have always been a supporter of Fatah, they and the PLO are the Palestinian organisations which Irish Republicans have long bonds of friendship and contact with.

Fatah seek the establishment of a secular left wing Palestinian state so that is why I support them.

I have several misgivings with Hamas however the biggest is their deeply religious undertones and as I oppose the Catholic Republicanism of Gerry McGeough so do I oppose the Islamic Republicanism of Hamas.

All that being said however my first loyalty will always be to the Palestinian people and as a majority of them decided that Hamas should be the majority party in government I accept that.

I therefore can not support this illegitimate action by Abbas which is usurping the democratic wish of the Palestinian people

I understand why Abbas was forced to do this; the crippling aid embargo by the West was disgusting and sickening. It led to the continued suffering of the Palestinian people and to an emboldened arrogance by the Zionist squatters.

We now have a situation where Gaza is under de facto Hamas control and the West Bank under de facto Fatah control, this is not a positive situation for the Palestinian people.

Abbas must also be wary of the support that he is getting for this move by US President Bush and Zionist squatter in chief Olmert. Neither of these two have the interests of the Palestinian people in their heart.

Perhaps Abbas should remember the advice of men who came before him, "timeo Danaos et dona ferentis". That seems appropriate under the circumstances.

Palestinians need to place their differences aside and work for the best of their people; they need to work together to claw back the land that was stole from them by Zionist squatters.

They are only as strong as they are united and as weak as they are divided!!


Education Minister to appoint Counsellors

I see that Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitriona Ruane will appoint Counsellors to all post-primary schools in the hope of reducing the scourge of suicide.

This comes on the back of reports that more and more teenagers are committing suicide.

Last week, two young people died in a suicide pact they made on the internet. Their bodies were taken from a lake in Tyrone. Eight attempted suicides were reported in the Shankill Road area in one 24-hour period.

Over the last decade suicide rates have increased by over 25% across the island of Ireland.

While this initiative by Caitriona is to be commended I think the main stumbling block will not be the number of counsellors but getting young people, especially young lads, to use them.

There is still a stigma out there that by seeking advice and help from a counsellor that this makes you weak or unbalanced. Irish men are the worst examples of this because of the way they were brought up.

We are brought being told that men don't cry, only women cry. A lot of Irish men are emotionally retarded and withdrawn because of this.

We don't confide in one another the way girls do and for many men their own means of interaction is though slagging and making a joke of the subject.

It is this mindset and consensus that we need to change.

It doesn't matter how many people are out there for you to talk to if you don't talk to them.

The 30th Dáil

We now have a new government in Dublin, a dolly's mixture of Fianna Fáil, Green's, PD's and "independents". What this coalition shows is that for many political parties politics is not about implementing your policies, it's about lust for power at any price.

After all the commotion of the General Election, the rumble in Ranelagh and the claims by Herr McDowell that the Green's were the "left overs" we now see a progressive party like in Green's in bed with two of the most morally bankrupt and corrupt parties in this country.

I watched the first session of the 30th Dáil on TV and even after all of the disappointment of the election from a shinner point of view I breathed a huge sigh of relief, that could have been us!

We could have been the new mudguard for Fianna Fáilers!

That is exactly what the Green's have become and that was all too evident straight away with the news that the M3 motorway will be going through Tara and there is nothing the Green's can do to stop it.

It seems they have no intention of trying either!

We still have the use of Shannon by the Imperial United States of America as a direct infringement on our country and constitutions stated position of Neutrality.

We still have the PD demagogue Mary Harney as Minister for Health with her "inequality is good" plans for co-location.

I firmly believe that with the possibility of a downturn in the economy, rising inflation and uncertainty in the building sector that the Green's have committed hari kari.

I hope I am proved wrong because this country needs a party like the Green's however all of the evidence points to the smaller party of coalition with Fianna Fáil taking the brunt of the flak.

I was very pleased to see Sinn Féin vote against both Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny as Taoiseach after they abstained in the 29th Dáil.

I hope this shows an intention to seriously address out current shortfalls, to show the electorate that we will not whore ourselves out to the highest bidder. It's time for the party to take the gloves off and go for the jugular of all the main parties.

I am not talking about negative politics; I'm talking about pointing out their failings and presenting the electorate with a coherent, workable and costed alternative.

I am very happy that the "wink wink" advances made towards Fianna Fáil during the election have come to an end.

We have our backs against it with the loss of the technical group and with a reduction in the number of TD's we have.

That being said I remain convinced that our TD's and the party support that surrounds them are up for the challenge.

Game on!


No more Orange's from London

Sorry for my lack of blogging at the moment, up until Monday I was knee deep in exams for my LPC. Thankfully that has now finished and I no longer have to think about exams.

With the LPC over I have returned to God's Country full time.

I have enjoyed London these last 10 months and have made some close friends.
It was the right move to make at the time and it now means that all I have left is on-the-job training before I am admitted to the roll.

What London did prove to me though was how sad it must be to be a Unionist, waving that Union Jack trying to convince themselves that people in England view them as members of the same nation.

One of the girls in my class was from the North and was a Unionist, not the type that tries to convince themselves that they aren't Irish in any way. She followed Ireland in all sports and even followed her own county in GAA.

She didn't however support either of the soccer teams as she said they caused too much division. She had a British passport etc but she still viewed herself, quite rightly, as Irish. A very confident if somewhat confusing identity.

Of course to the English we were just a couple of paddies, or as a few of our Law teachers christened us, the "Irish bookends".

I only ever met one single person who did not wish to see a United Ireland and that was because the poor girl was shocked to hear that there were Irish people who didn't want to be connected to Britain as we were are "such good friends and everyone has an Irish friend or relation".

A friend had told me before I moved over that it had never been more popular to be Irish in London, he was correct. I remember one girl trying to explain to me that she was Irish because her best friend was Irish, a very tenuous connection I thought.

From my experience I have to say that I never received a single bit of hostility in London even after people learnt of my politics.

London is a great is somewhat expensive city; the amount they charge for drink is downright robbery.

Now that my stint is London is over I intend to take a year out before I enter practice, after 4 years of third level education it's time for a break.


New Blogger

Balrog has a new contributor, albeit an occasional one, in the form of West Belfast Republican "Paul McMahon".

Paul has been a reader and a poster on Balrog for a while now and it will be interesting to see what kind of blogs he will post.

Welcome aboard Paul

Harney attacked on co-location

I see that Mary Harney has been attacked by the religious groups over her plans for co-location in the Health Service.

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and the Adelaide Hospital Society say such a strategy would only serve to entrench the existing two-tier system of care.

I am a Socialist and so my basic premise for the access to Health Care is that it should always be on the basis of need and never on the ability to pay.

Co-location would be a terrible path for the Irish government to go down and ordinary people will be the ones who will suffer.

Sinn Féin were 100% correct when they said during the election that public money should be spent on public services, it should not be used to line the back pocket of some rich business developer.

Harney and the government suggest that co-location will free up 1,000 extra beds for public patients, that is just nonsense!

The major problem within the Health Care system is greedy consultants who do not stay within the 20% limit on private practice and instead treat private patients when they should be treating public patients.

The consultants and the form fillers are the groups that should be tackled in the Health Service.

Consultants should be told you either work in the public Health Service or you don't. They should incure a rate of 75% tax on any private work that they do while employed under a public contract.

The form fillers should be removed from the equation, they suck up valuable resources that should be used at the front line. There is far too much bureaucracy within the system and it needs to be tackled.

The extraordinary thing is that Ireland spends more per head on health than either France or Germany yet we do not have a Health Service free at the point of delivery, we need to be asking why?

Money is not used properly within the Health Service and the system of management is an absolute shambles, too many chiefs and not enough Indians!

The perfect example was the row over the nurses pay, in my view that was pure greed on the part of nurses. The Social Partnership is there to solve these issues and has been an effective tool that has stopped the kind of mass worker strikes that we saw in the 80's. The Nurses however held out, not all nurses only some, and so missed the boat.

Had the government capitulated to those excessive demands then you would have had every other public sector employee out on strikes as well trying to replicate the Nurses deal.

The problem within the Health Service will only be solved by making some unpopular decisions, it will mean forced redundancies for incompetent staff, it will mean reducing the number of worthless administrative staff and recruiting more workers to engage in direct client care.

From my point of view I don't think any of the political parties have the balls to make these hard decisions. I think these sorts of decisions will have to be made, the question is who will be brave enough to make them?

I remember sitting in the Roma in Dundalk and seeing a poster on the wall, it was an appeal to raise 1 Million EURO in order to buy a scanner for the Louth hospital. I remember being disgusted that despite the huge wealth in the country people still had to try and finance themselves essential medical services.

Public money should be used for the benefit of the general public. If patients wish to go private then let private hospitals acquire private land and build their hospitals there. Let them employ their own consultants on a full time basis.

The rest of us however should work on securing a first class health service free at the point of delivery and if it costs more then so be it. I personally don't object to paying more if the quality of service increases.

Co-location is an attempt by the government to deflect away from the fundamental problems in the Health Service. It's an attempt by free market capitalists to foist an American style system on the Irish people.

An attempt to further widen the inequality in health care provision so that the rich get better care and the poor do with what's left.

That is not good enough


The new Cold War?

It's starting to look that way with Russia asserting themselves against what they see as "Imperialist aggression" from America.

This all flows from American plans, and European acquiescence to those plans, to build a ballistic missile defence system very close to the Russian border in Europe.

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will aim missiles at European targets for the first time since the end of the Cold War if America continues with plans for their missile defence system close to their borders.

In an interview reported in Italy’s Corriere della Sera, Putin acknowledged Russia’s response risked restarting an arms race but said Moscow would not be responsible for the consequences because Washington started it.

He said

“If the American nuclear capability widens across European territory, we will have to give ourselves new targets in Europe,”

Putin has upped the ante even further by test-launching a new ballistic missile in a move it tied to the US missile plans, and suspending its compliance with a treaty limiting the deployment of conventional forces near its western borders.

Is this merely Putin rattling the sabre for the home crowd or is this the start of a new freeze in American and Russian relations?

With much of Europe now America's political poodle is Russia the last link in the chain that says no to American Imperialism? I don't know but I hope it is.

American arrogance in Foreign policy has reached mammoth proportions under Bush and while some in the American Congress are doing their best to curtail this perhaps an outside force like Russia is best placed to achieve that goal.

Stoops deny Belfast a Sinn Féin Mayor

It seems that those kamikaze stoops have denied Sinn Féin, which is the largest party in Belfast, the position of Mayor in favour of Jim Rodgers of the UUP.

Rodgers was already the Mayor back in 2001 and even the UUP's Davy Browne said just a few weeks ago that the position should go to Sinn Féin this time around.

Now before the stoops even attempt to suggest that this is "Unionist Outreach" I would like to say one thing, bullshit!

This decision by the stoops is nothing more than a dirty deal between them and certain Unionists to keep Sinn Féin out and to secure for the stoops the position of Deputy Major.

Do the stoops even wonder anymore why they are in the position that they are?

Look at West Belfast, they are about as welcome as a dose of the clap in many areas and Alex Attwood, that great political strategist, is slowly but surely doing his best to lose their seat there.

This strategy from the stoops is nothing new, even in my own local council in Newry and Mourne. They oppose anything that is suggested by Sinn Féin and do their best to carve out little deals that exclude Sinn Féin with the help of Unionists.

Compare this to Sinn Féin's reaction in any council were we have influence or control, positions are shared equally and nobody is excluded.

It's a disgrace that Sinn Féin, as the largest party in Belfast, have only ever held the position of Mayor once.

Alex Maskey was a shining example of a first citizen for Belfast, a man who performed his role with fairness and equality. When he entered the office he didn't remove the Union Jack, he simply added the tricolour to have equality of esteem for all the people of Belfast.

I remember canvassing for Alex the first time he stood in South Belfast and I was shocked by the reaction of Unionists when I canvassed them.

Many called Sinn Féin for all sorts but admitted that they were very impressed by how Alex conducted himself when he was Mayor and as a result would be getting a preference.

That's all that the stoops have done this time, they have denied Belfast the opportunity of having a young female Mayor who would have represented everyone and not just some.

They will have to answer for that when they return to the doors looking for votes!