North Atlantic Skyline, despatches from the west coast of Ireland

Friendly fires.......................................................................... Thursday 31st October 2002

At the beginning of the month, there was a story about an Israeli family (see entry for October 5th) who were refused accomodation in Ireland - Bord Failte later offered them a free trip. I hope they didn't come this week. As I drove home this evening, the sky was lit up with flashes and the sounds of bangers and firecrackers might be a little too reminiscint of the West Bank. Yes, it's Holloween and every gurrier in the West has stockpiled fireworks (illegal in this country but sold openly everywhere) for the big occasion. Kudos to the lads who toiled hard on some huge bonfires along the road - great spectacle (though some of the fuel looked suspiciously like traffic cones). Eternal damnation to the bunch of lads I passed in a Galway town merrily throwing firecrackers at each other - Darwinian theory in action. A cool reception also awaits the little feckers that decorated the front of my house with eggs - I hope they were free range.

The Gardai were out in force on the roads today, presumably to get a few early scalps for the new penalty point system for speeding. The Labour party, refreshed now that they have elected Pat Rabbitte as leader, attacked the new system with one of the lamest complaints imaginable. They complained that giving insurance companies details of penalty points accumulated by drivers - who would then faced increased premiums - was an invasion of privacy and contravened the Data Protection Act. Lads, that's the point of the penalty system - it's meant to deter people, specifically those whose bad driving kill hundreds every year.

Christmas is nearly upon us (there, I've said it) and the inevitable slew of album releases are being unleashed. Tom Dunne's programme on TodayFM is playing the new album, Man comes Round from Johnny Cash. The particular track that has caught Tom's ear is Personal Jesus, which was originally a Depeche Mode track. I think many a Depeche Mode fan will be crying out for their own personal Jesus after hearing Johnny's version. He trundles his way through it like a German panzer division rolling through the Belgium border. It's not pretty but it's pretty effective. I reckon Johnny saw the video for the original ( an awful dollop of faux-Goth) and thought "Even if I slaughter this song, it will still be better than the original". That's for sure.

I'm not so sure about some of the other covers - there's a Nine Inch Nails song, a Sting song, Bridge Over troubled Waters and the Beatles track "In My Life", which he sings as if he was a bulldog growling at someone who came too close to the bone he was chewing. He also covers the Eagles' song, Desperado. I share Tom Waits' sentiment when he said that the only good use for an Eagles record was to keep the dust off your turntable. I hope he murders it.

The Thin Blue Line.......................................................................... Wednesday 30th October 2002

The Gardai have been in the news this week. A Channel 4 investigation claimed that Gardai had prior knowledge of an attack planned by the Real IRA that subsequently became the Omagh bombing - their investigation is in part based on an investigation carried out by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan. Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne has denied the claims.It seems that there are as many people investigating the police investigation as there are police investigating the actual bombing.

From the first of November, motorists caught speeding will get 2 penalty points as well as a fine. Twelve points equals a 6-month driving ban. This plan was first proposed in 1997, and even though everyone thought it was a good idea, it was not destined to be implemented for another year or so until Transport Minister Seamus Brennan demanded it be launched this year. The Gardai rank-and-file promptly threw a hissy fit - they claimed that they hadn't been briefed properly. They quietened down a bit when the deputy Garda Commissioner, Tony Hickey, acidly pointed out that the main difference would be that the tickets would be a different colour. Why the sulk from the force? Well, maybe I'm cynical, but the scheme is due to be extended to 61 other driving offences next year - expect impassioned speeches about all the extra work when the next pay round comes up for the Gardai.

The Gardai in the West are earning their overtime - drink-related crime in the West of Ireland is the worst in the country, according to a report carried on UTV's website. Counties Clare, Galway and Roscommon have 82 convictions whereas Dublin only had eight. I am more inclined to associate the conviction rate with the enthusiam of the Gardai in the West rather than see it as a reflection of the law-abiding nature of the people in the West versus the capital.

Two men who hopefully won't be getting any speeding tickets are the father and son from Maam who are training to climb Kilimanjaro in aid of Galway Hospice.They hope to make the climb in March. The floods around Galway should have subsided by then.

Exit, followed by a gale..................................................................... Monday 28th October 2002

First the rain, now the gales. Whatever flowers survived the frost last week were well and truly massacred by the storms over the weekend. Here's a reminder of what the weather was like just a few weeks ago.

Owenglen river and Cregg hill near Clifden in Galway

Another stormy character, Richard Harris, passed away over the weekend. Among the tributes to him, the Observer had a nice 2-page spread on Sunday.

Apres Moi, Le Deluge..................................................................... Tuesday 22nd October 2002

What a week. After the first frost of winter, the west of Ireland is slowly sinking under the result of three days of oh-so-solid rain. It didn't rain on Saturday and almost 50% of voters managed to stir from their apathy to vote "Yes" to the Nice Treaty by a ratio of 60:40 for.

The Northern Ireland Assembly finally collapsed and the Unionists won't go back until the IRA has disbanded. Since they hardly believe the decommissioning body (who have verified that the IRA have destroyed some weapons), who will they get to verify that the disbandment? As if to prove it, the Real IRA prisoners in Portlaoise announced that the organization had disbanded, only for the members still at large to announce that they hadn't. Things are going to get worse before they get better.

As I write, the Washington sniper has killed for the tenth time. Even allowing for the amount of law enforcement working around the clock in America's capital, it's not encouraging to remember that in Northern Ireland, gunmen of all persuasions were able to kill with impunity for years despite a huge military apparatus and very restrictive laws.

The BBC are running a poll on who is the greatest Briton of all time. Predictably, there has been some debate over at the P45.net fora on who would be in the top one hundred Irish people of all time.

The Scotsman reports of a plan to farm seahorses of the Conneamara coast. The idea is that they will be sent to the Pacific to repopulate the seas there, where they are heavily fished (and where it is a good deal warmer). The articles notes the opposition to the scheme by a group called the Friends of Irish Seahorses. Indeed.

Horses of a different variety will be running at the Galway Races this bank holiday weekend. Bring an umbrella if you're going.

The Voice of the People............................................................... Tuesday 15th October 2002

There are only a few more days left before the vote on the Nice Treaty. One problem is voter apathy - this country is a disaster when it comes to voting. It's mainly down to laziness. Now I know there are lots of other arguments; politicans haven't explained stuff properly, topic too boring; polling boths have very bad fen shui, etc. - but they are all shite. The last really good turn-out was the vote on the Good Friday Agreement - even hotly debated topics such as the divorce and (numerous) abortion referenda have attracted low numbers of voters. Until a referendum vote is somehow connected to an phone-in eviction vote on Big Brother, low turnout will be a fact of life.

It's worth looking abroad for some inspiration on how to fix this problem - Saddam Hussein held a referendum in Iraq today. The people were presented with a single candidate (guess who?) who was expecting to be returned with a comfortable majority. Serbia have just had an election and it may have to be held again because too few people turned out to vote. Imagine that here - we'd still have Garret Fitzgerald and Michael O'Leary running the country. In Belgium, people must vote - otherwise they receive a fine. Since 30, 000 tax evaders in this country from 1985 -1990 are only just receiving summons from the Revenue Commission now, a paltry voting fine will hardly strike fear in the hearts of anyone.

Maybe the solution to achieving a 'proper' result lies closer to home. In the early Nineties, during one of the regular heaves by the Fianna Fail party ungratefuls against Charles J. Haughey, a vote of confidence was held. Basically, all the TDs in the party would vote to decide if Haughey would remain as Leader. When the TDs gathered in the meeting room, they were aghast to find that the vote would be 'open' - i.e. each TD would step forward and state his preference. When someone demanded a secret ballot, they were rebuffed." If ye want a secret ballot, ye can join the Secret Ballot Party", snarled the TD charged with organising the vote. Backbone being in short supply, CJ put off the inevitable for a while longer and won the vote. The identity of the enterprising organizer ? In the words of Haughey himself, "the most cunning, the most ruthless of them all", Bertie Ahern.

Sonia.............................................................................................. Sunday 13th October 2002

Sonia O Sullivan easily won the Great Ireland Road Race (5 miles) in Loughrea today, in front of what was a very small crowd (particularly on a fine day). Last year, the crowd was much bigger, since the race was a head to head between Sonia and Paula Radcliffe. Paula was otherwise occupied today - she won the Chicago marathon and set a new world record. In three weeks time, Sonia will run in the New York Marathon, so maybe Paula's record won't last to long.

No More Mr Nice Guy................................................................. Saturday 12th October 2002

There is only a week to go before the Irish people vote on the Nice Treaty again. As the deadline draws closer, the dirt is flying in both directions. Latest to come under the spotlight is Justin Barrett, who is chairman of the No to Nice. Irish newspapers, including the Irish Times have revealed that he spoke at rallies and meetings of what are termed 'far-rigtht' parties, such the German National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Italian Fuorzo Nuova activists, in the last couple of years.

The National Democratic Party (NDP) seem to be a nasty piece of work, and there has been some discussion in Germany about banning them (around the time Jorg Haider in Austria and Le Pen in France seemed to be enjoying electoral success).

Certainly, articles such as this one in the Canadian Jewish News, this article in Time magazine leave one in no doubt as to their view of foreigners (i.e. non white Germans) or Jews (i.e. non Christian Germans) and an article on the British National Party's website (www.bnp.org.uk/activities/2002_aug1.htm) with the headline "Working Closely with Patriots in Europe" probably sums up their politics best.

Justin appeared on RTE's Late Late Show last night and got a roasting. His defence was that he was there to speak only about abortion - he is also the chairman of Youth Defence ( a vociferous anti-abortion movement in Ireland). Justin's case is not helped by the fact that he is short, has huge ears and speaks with a squeaky, high-pitched voice that sounds like a record playing at the wrong speed - in other words, when he appears on TV, he has a few obstacles to overcome before he can make his case. Unfortunately for him, his case is a bit shaky.

He claims that he knew nothing about the NDP and had no idea what they were talking about because he doesn't speak German. Now, given that a rally of NDP activists would be fairly hostile to foreigners at the best of times, it's a fair bet that a diminutive foreign chap speaking to them at the wrong speed in a foreign tongue would really bug them. I don't know what is the German for Short arse, get off!!, but it's a fair bet that, if Justin's account is true, he would have heard the phrase more than just a few times.

Justin blames a Fianna Fail smear campaign, claiming that they are afraid that the 'No' camp are gaining ground in the referendum campaign. I don't think so. barrett is a bte noir for many in the media because of his strident views on abortion, and his organization, Youth Defence (YD), seem to regard most of the mainstream media as liberals (which, for YD, is a VERY BAD THING). This is payback time.

The Pro-Life movement in Ireland have always been suspicious of European social policy, and fear that closer integration will mean that abortion will be forced upon Ireland by EU-wide legislation. It is the reason that they have worked so hard to isert an absolute ban on abortion into the Irish Constitution. The result - three referenda and still no absolute ban. Hence their fear of the Nice Treaty - that it will somehow let abortion legislation 'sneak in the back door' in Ireland. That the Nice Treaty has no impact whatsoever on how social legislation is enacted across Europe is beside the point, it seems.

Review of The Chastitute................................................................. Thursday 10th October 2002

Anyone who has watched RTE's weekly drama during its many years will recognize most of the cast of The Chastitute, most notably Mick Lally and Mary McEvoy, who played husband and wife Miley and Biddy Byrne in the agri-soap. The Chastitute is playing this week in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway until this weekend.

Lally plays John Bosco McClane, a batchelor farmer in his Fifties who laments the fact that not only is he alone, but that he has never had sex with a woman (hence he calls himself a chastitute). This is a fate that he regards as worst than being a priest or Christian brother, since he has had to endure the celibacy and the ecclesiastical name without the benefit of holy orders. When his aunt announces that she is getting married to an elderly farmer and moving out, she decides to fix up her nephew with a woman with the help of a matchmaker called Micky Molly (Derry Power).

McClane, who has a fondness for poitin, is not so certain and his initial attempts at courting are not so successful. He hires a housekeeper (McEvoy) in the hope that she might develop a gr for him over time. Unfortunately for McClane, she makes it clear at the outset she will entertain no familiarity whatsoever. Later, he enlists the help of the local womaniser Sylvie (John Olohan) to help him chat up women. Sylvie seems more interested in relieving McClane of his money that helping him relieve his sexual frustration.

John B Keane's play is certainly very funny - there are plenty of funny lines (particularly when Micky Molly is describing prospective partners for McClane) and a couple of set-pieces (where McClane is being seduced) that had the audience roaring with laughter.

The emphasis on comedy hides a couple of glaring flaws in the play. McClane starts off by looking for love and companionship to end his life of loneliness but the action in the play focuses only on his attempts to have sex. He reminisces about two times, on a weekend in Cork and on a trip to the Spring Show in Dublin, where he met a woman, went back to her bedroom and would have had sex if fate had not intervened. Both encounters are enacted and are played for maximum laughs, ignoring the fact that they were both one night stands. Even if he had managed to have sex on both occasions, he would still be an aging man living on his own with no prospects of love. When his aunt, who was in the same situation as himself. announces suddenly that she is to be married, he greets the news with equanimity, as if she had mentioned that she had just bought a bag of spuds.

The play never really explores the prospect that McClane might deserve to be on his own. His company is entertaining but his attempts at seduction are crude. He will not consider any of Micky Mollys' proposed ladies that are pregnant, too old or otherwise 'spoiled'. His only attraction is that we, the audience, find him funny. But we are laughing at him, not with him.

The play tries to blame the Church for his predicament - McClane is tormented by the memory of two preachers who (literally) pop up at the most inopportune moments preaching fire and brimstone whenever McClane has an 'impure' thought.

A speech by the priest near the end of the play, when he wonders if the Church's teaching does more harm than good, feels bolted-on to the rest of the play. And the play never addresses the fact that the priest is in exactly the same situation as McClane - celibate and alone.

The performances are strongest when emphasising the comic aspects of the play, but the cast cannot resist any opportunity to ham it up. Lally as McClane is the worst offender - during the scene where he is trying to consumate his encounter with a drunk young lady, he absolutely drags the arse out of the scene. We should be cringing at McClane's ignorance of how to have sex - instead, one cringes at Lally's performance - he acts as if he is in a silent movie.

The result is that the climax of the play, where McClane's rage and frustration at life and God boils over, is completely flat. The cast, all well-established actors, seem happy to skim along the comical surface of the play rather than explore the depths that would have yielded a more satisfying night out.

You can see RTE's review here.

A Gathering Cloud.................................................................................... Tuesday 8th October 2002

There was a spirited debate on RTE's Question & Answers last night. There were only two topics for discussion :- the current crisis in the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, and the Nice Treaty. The panel were divided into the Yes and No sides of the Nice debate, Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein), Justin Barrett (No to Nice) and (Greens) on the No side and Michael McDowell (Minister for Justice), Brid Laffan (Institute of European Affairs) and Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael) for the Yes side. The entire debate can be downloaded from RTE's excellent archive (ready within an hour of the end of the show) - it's divided into low-bandwidth friendly chunks. I'll focus on the Nice debate later in the week.

The news agenda in Ireland has been dominated by Northern Ireland in the last few weeks. The Ulster Unionist party have threatened to leave the Northern Ireland Assembly because they no longer have faith in Sinn Fein. Their final straw (coming after the situation in Colombia, an attack on a bus driver last week allegedly by the IRA and the slow rate of decommisioning) was the raid by scores of policemen on the Sinn Fein offices in Stormont last Friday - a Sinn Fein official (who has an IRA conviction) is accused of, with others, of using the office to spy on government business. The head of the PNSI, Hugh Orde, apologised last night for the manner but not the reason for the raid - he felt it was over the top. This 'concession' was enough to trigger the DUP's withdrawl from the Assembly.

Gerry Adams has the demeanour of a man under pressure. Last Monday, Ed Moloney's book A Secret History of the IRA was published. It's a well-researched book and well written, by a highly respected journalist. It does feel a little lob-sided, since the negotiations for the Hume-Adams talks, the Downing Street Declaration and the Good Friday Agreement are recounted only from the Sinn Fein/IRA perspective.

Predictably, the newspapers focused on IRA operations that it is alleged were ordered by Adams. However, the most worrying aspect of the book was how hard it has been for Adams, Martin McGuinness and others to drag the IRA into accepting a ceasefire and to even contemplate an act of decommissioning. On Questions and Answers, he was careful not to criticize too much the Ulster Unionists and seemed to be appealing to the governments to have some faith in him. Likewise, Michael McDowell was careful with his words - .

.Clearly, if it is proven that the IRA were collecting 'intelligence' within Stormont on the other parties, the British and Irish governments will be forced to take a harder line with Sinn Fein (even if it forces more Republicans into the Real IRA). However, it wouldn't be the first time that a spate of highly-publicised arrests came to nought

.Gay Mitchell's contribution was to attack Adams on the subject of Colombia and decommissioning, though the ratio of telling points to bluster was a little low. Adams does a credibility problem with Colombia - its clear that Sinn Fein knew that it was one of their men that had been arrested even as they first denied the fact. It presents two scenarios, both unpleasant :- either Adams and Co. knew about the 'Colombian adventure', in which case they have been fooling the goverments and the electorate all along, or they didn't know about it, in which case theie influence over the IRA Army council is weakened and they cannot drag the IRA further up the path to peaceful political discourse.

The other speakers had little to say on this topic, since they were there to speak about Nice. It's strange that Justin Barrett, who is a vocal Pro-Life activist, had absolutely nothing to say to Gerry Adams about his alleged past or the crimes that he is alleged to have committed. In fact, one was struck by the incongruity of Sinn Fein, the Greens and Pro-Lifers gathered together in a common cause. But more of that later this week.

Beyond Belief........................................................................................... Monday 7th October 2002

Anyone driving around the country in the last few weeks have probably seen the Power to Change posters, such as the one below, featuring golfer Bernhard Langer. The organization is a Christian group that promotes prayer and belief using case studies of people who turned their lives from despair to hope based on belief.

Power To Change in Ireland, Bernhard Langer

The group had hoped to advertise on RTE but the station took a legal case to the High Court, successfully arguing that it was not possible for them to advocate a religious viewpoint. The PTC group have to be content with distributing their message via billboards, free CDs and the internet. Personally, I'd like to see a billboard featuring Daniel O'Donnell telling us that he had given up his TV show after realizing all the pain it caused people. It certainly fills a much-needed void.

A message that all the media are only too happy to promulgate is that Bertie Ahern's hold on power is weakening. The Sunday Independent seems to have a bee in its bonnet about Bertie - it carried a banner on the front page In the Name of God, Go, and inside carried a nice fuzzy interview by the editor (Aengus Fanning) with Brian Cowen. [The paper also carried the obligatory 2 photographs of Aengus - it must be in his contract]

Brian was busy denying (yet again) that he is the heir apparent at a news conference in Dublin yesterday.

"...whether having said it on a number of occasions, whether I sing it from the roof tops or go in and cut a CD and have it put to music and have it put out there on radio every half hour, I can assure you that the leader of our party, the Taoiseach of this country, has our full support and will be continuing on with his leadership responsibilities."

Maybe Brian is thinking of his own story of triumph over adversity........

Brian Cowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, ponders a change

And finally, the Galway Under 21 footballers will be touring the county tonight (and most of the pubs) after beating Dublin in the final yesterday.

No room at the Inn.... .......................................................................... Saturday 5th October 2002

Last week, the Irish Examiner ran a story headed Tourism in Crisis, describing the downturn in Ireland's tourism industry - the subheading Raw Greed killing the Golden Goose leaving little doubt as to what the Examiner saw as the root cause of the problem. In all parts of the country, particularly the West, the industry has suffered from the downturn in the world economy.

What a surprise to see that at least one business in the tourist sector has actually turned away business. The Irish newspapers all carried the story on Thursday of Arik Bender, who tried to book a holiday cottage for himself and eight other Israelis in Killarney. He sent an Email to the owner who replied that, while he condemned the current wave of suicide bombings in Israel, he would not accept bookings from Israelis as a protest against the policies of the Israeli government in the Occupied Territories. Mr Bender, being a journalist, promptly forwarded the Email to various Irish media outlets. Interviewed on RTEs Morning Ireland programme, Mr. Bender saw it as anti-Semitism and described how it reminded him of the pervasive anti-Semitism of sixty years ago which gave rise to the Holocaust. Brian O'Shea, the proprietor of the holiday cottages, denies anti-Semitism. It is, for him, a political protest.

Boycotts are blunt objects at the best of times. The boycott of South Africa is generally seen as having been an effective one, whereas the sanctions against Iraq are increasingly seen as counterproductive. Often, the call for a boycott is made when media coverage peaks, only to peter out when the press move on to the next story. The Norwegians are still whaling but there is almost no discussion anymore on boycotting Norwegian products because of it. [By the way, of all the ports in all the world, why did Keiko the killer whale (the whale in Free Willy) seek shelter in a Norwigan port? Looks like his rehabilitation course did not include geography]. When the French tested nuclear weapons in the South Pacific, there wasn't much success in organizing a boycott of French goods, probably because they tasted too darn good. (at the time, I remember a German girl telling me that she was going to stop buying French wines because of the nuke tests. Why do you think the French feel the need to have nuclear weapons, I asked her, it's not as if they are aiming them all at the Russians. She didn't answer.)

In the UK, a decision by a number of academics to sever contact with their Israeli counterparts has provoked a spirited debate (described well in a series of Guardian articles such as here and here). In Ireland, it is illegal to discriminate against somebody solely on their nationality or religion (though Mr. Bender has no intention of taking legal action). It seems a pity that Mr. Bender sees his treatment as anti-Semitic. Mr. O'Shea's actions may have been misguided, but they were hardly hateful. There is a good deal of sympathy for the Palestinians in Ireland for a number of reasons; they are seen as the underdogs and the Irish tend to associate with the oppressed (for historical reasons) If there are two things that will rub an Irish person the wrong way, it is the perception that (a) people are dispossessed of their land to make way for others to take it (because it reminds them of the Brits) and (b) soldiers are harassing civilians to enforce harsh security measures (because see [a]).

Israelis are feeling increasingly besieged and have interpreted criticism from Europe as anti-Semitic rather than a criticism of Israeli government policy (which has been much milder than much of the criticism emanating from Israelis within Israel). Before we take umbrage here, we should probably remember how touchy Irish people were to criticism from the UK and elsewhere during the worst of the Troubles.

One thing is certain. If someone had suggested that U.S. goods be boycotted (to protest their strong support for Israel) or Protestants be refused accommodation because of the behaviour of anti-agreement Unionists, you'd be knocked over in the rush to condemn such action.

Bord Failte have now offered Mr Bender and his group a free holiday in Ireland, so this story may have a happy ending after all. As long as they are not expecting a sun holiday.

Plaque at the Quiet Man Bridge,near Oughterard, Galway, Ireland

Fifty years ago, a movie called The Quiet Man was released, and last week in Galway, the Quiet Man Fan Club had its first meeting to celebrate the anniversary. The winners of a John Wayne and Maureen O Hara lookalike competition were unveiled. Note to winners: keep your day jobs, though in fairness, they look more convincing in the photograph in the Galway Advertiser this week (not included on the website) than they do on the fan club website. A few weeks ago, I drove past a bridge near Oughterard used in the film and stopped for a look. While I was there, an American couple and a family from Northern Ireland stopped to pose for the obligatory photo-opportunity. Fifty years on, it's still drawing visitors. I wonder what we'll be celebrating in 50 years time ?

There must be a pony.... ...................................................................... Tuesday 1st October 2002

Any tourist whose image of Ireland is based on The Quiet Man and John Hinde postcards would have been pleasantly surprised while driving through Ballinasloe yesterday. The Horse Fair was in its final day and ,unlike many of the worlds Stock Markets, there was frantic trading taking place on the Fair Green. Since most of the trailers and horseboxes were parked on the edge of town, the streets were full of people either leading their animals to or from the Green.

Note to any visitors:- this isn't a normal occurance apart from a few housing estates in Dublin and Limerick.To my untutored eye, the majority of the ponies were of the nag/piebald/dobbin variety and there was plenty of them. [It reminded me of an anecdote told in the journalist Edward Behr's autobiography, Anyone Here Been Raped and Speak English?. He spoke of the delight of a company of Dublin troops sent by the United Nations to the Belgian Congo in the Fifties. They found that Africa was exactly as they imagined, full of the wild animals that they had seen either in the zoo or the movies. They were in fact guarding a National Park].

The downside of having so many horses in the one spot is that the whole town smells of horseshit. A similar pong was emanating from the statements of several Government ministers today as they attempted to distance themselves from Ray Burke. It bears remembering that the Irish Independent ran a story in 1974 about Ray Burke's links to property developers. Mary Harney, the virtuous leader of the virtuous Progressive Democrats (PDs ) blamed Bertie. In 1997, the electorate returned a Fianna Fail - PD coalition. Bertie wanted to appoint Ray Burke to the post of Foreign Minister (at a time when the Good Friday Agreement was to be negotiated) - in an attempt to quell rumours about Burke's probity, Bertie assigned another TD, Dermot Ahern (no relation) to investigate Burke. The investigation seemed to consist of asking Burke if he had anything to declare, to which Ray obviously replied "Nothing but my jockey's bollox-like neck". Good enough for Bertie.

[Bertie has already admitted that, as Fianna Fail moneyman, he countersigned blank cheques that Charles Haughey subsequently used for personal pleasures (or wasted on Terry Keane, depending on your point of view). He never asked what the cheques were for (that's his story and he's sticking to it). He must make an ideal partner for Celia - she comes home with a bunch of new outfits, and he'll never ask where the money came from to pay for that lot. It's just not in his nature. Brian Cowan feigned indignation (as only he can) when asked about rumours that another senior Fianna Failer will be 'outed' soon by the Flood Tribunal, he replied "horseshit!". Actually, he blubbered that the "rumours are without substance", but it smelled just the same. At least in Ballinasloe, they can blame the horses.

 

 

 

(c) north atlantic skyline 2002
The blog is updated once a week, usually at the weekend. More often if the cows are milked early.