Saturday, January 30, 2010

The ghostly presence of Drumcree hangs over Hillsborough talks

The ghostly presence of Drumcree hangs over Hillsborough talks

David Sharrock: Analysis - January 30, 2010

The sounds of marching feet, accordion bands and the Lambeg drum reverberate across Northern Ireland every summer but they have not been heard on the Garvaghy Road since 1997.

The bloody riots of Drumcree are a recent memory, erupting over a dispute one balmy summer morning between local Protestant Orangemen wanting to walk their “traditional route” home from church to Portadown town centre and the Catholics of the Garvaghy Road who wanted them to go another way.

For years it was a flashpoint, bringing the Province to a standstill, causing death, injury and millions of pounds of damage.

Drumcree has been a ghostly presence at the Hillsborough talks all week. It is as if the Drumcree Orangemen have been tapping Gordon Brown on the shoulder, reminding him how they wish to be able to complete their journey down the Garvaghy Road.

On many Sundays the Orangemen still walk up to a police checkpoint and petition for the right to continue down the road, before turning back with their request denied.

That ceremony is what lies beneath the Democratic Unionist calls for the Parades Commission, which sets conditions on contentious loyalist marches, to be abolished and replaced with something that will not offend Protestant sensibilities about their civil rights to freely walk “the Queen’s highway”.

But on the Garvaghy Road, Patricia, a local Catholic on her way to buy a sausage roll, was contemptuous of the Orangemen’s demands. “If Gerry Adams was to give in on this and they got to march down here again that’d be the end of him,” she said.

In a corner of the United Kingdom where symbols carry extraordinary weight the Garvaghy Road is an issue as symbolic to supporters of the Democratic Unionists as that which Sinn Féin seeks: the transfer of policing and justice powers from English politicians and civil servants in London to their counterparts in Belfast.

It was the “victory” of Lord Trimble in getting the Orangemen down this nondescript road that propelled him to the leadership of the Ulster Unionists and the role of First Minister in the first, doomed experiment in power-sharing.

The Reverend Ian Paisley was with Lord Trimble in 1995 when the Orangemen made it down the road: the two men ecstatically clasped hands above their heads as they walked the last few yards.

Lord Trimble (who was ennobled in 2006) dismissed accusations that he was being triumphalistic but the image created a lasting impression on Catholics and nationalists.

The history of the Drumcree protest is mired in myth but Gerry Adams readily admits the work that Sinn Féin put into organising Garvaghy Road resistance to the Orangemen.

Times have changed, however, and local republicans, once loyal to a Sinn Féin that promised to “smash Stormont”, no longer take orders from a party that now “administers British rule in Ireland”.

Breandan MacCionnaith, a former Provisional IRA prisoner and once a bright Sinn Féin prospect who ran the Garvaghy Road residents group, is now spokesman for the political group éirígí, which rejects the Good Friday settlement and refuses to support the police.

The Garvaghy residents issued a statement this week, rejecting speculation that a deal based on the “Derry model” — where loyalist orders march through the commercial and historic centre of Londonderry with local agreement — might be the solution.

The DUP must be aware that Sinn Féin is unable to deliver a deal for Orangemen to walk — even one last time for the sake of symbolism — down the Garvaghy Road. But they also must be quietly enjoying the bitter irony that a dispute with which Sinn Féin was so closely associated is now causing the republicans so much grief.

The 2006 St Andrews agreement, which brought about power-sharing between the DUP and Sinn Féin, did not set a deadline for the transfer of policing and justice powers, although the British and Irish Governments said that they thought it could take place within two years.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness claims that the DUP promised him personally that that date would be met. But look at what happened to a similar two-year deadline in the 1998 Good Friday agreement for the decommissioning of terrorist weapons, despite the nod-and-winks to David Trimble that it would happen?

It took more than seven years to achieve, by which time Lord Trimble’s political career in Ulster was in ruins and support for his party had collapsed.

For the DUP, the logic of the argument is inescapable: if the Government was so patient with Sinn Féin, prepared even to sacrifice the leader of the largest Northern Ireland party and its main ally in reaching the original agreement, why the hurry now?

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Shaun Woodward, has spoken of a “natural timeline” to the process, ending just days before the general election.

There are legitimate question from the DUP’s point of view: does Mr Woodward believe that Labour is going to lose and therefore be unable to finish the process? Would a Conservative government act differently? Would it not be better to get the agreement right rather than rush it?

Peter Robinson, beset on all sides by pressure and scandals involving his wife Iris’s “inappropriate behaviour”, does not intend to follow David Trimble down the road to ruin — whether or not its name is Garvaghy.


The following thoughts from Brother John Shanahan regarding the infamous Orange Order and their feeble attempts to present a new "scrubbed up" version of an old anti Catholic, anti Irish, disruptive, group of bigots are "spot on". Furthermore, they have not changed one bit from their origins and they still have their supporters as evidenced by the above article from a newspaper which contains several innuendoes that are obviously slanted toward the Unionist point of view. Our thanks to John for very capably stating the "other side of the story".

To All,

"A cultural institution," they said under the tent on the National Mall. They wore new golf shirts, a pale orange colour with a lovely purple flower on them. For the youngsters, comic books with a new action hero all dressed up in purple and orange tights and a cape. This was the scrubbed-up face of the new Orange Order, the cultural champion of Christian values in the protestant tradition -- values that one might expect to be rooted in the essential message of "love one another."

Some of us did not believe this. Some of us said, "No, this is a sham." Others rushed forward to embrace the painted whore and said, "See how lovely she is! Why don't we all accept her and let's all get along." But a small band of us knew the truth -- that in the words of scripture, the painted whore was "full of rot and dead man's bones." Despite criticism from friends and brothers, we stood our ground. We knew the truth and we stood for it.

Today, the truth is out for all to see. The painted whore is exposed. This is no friendly bunch of lads, all about preserving an iconic slice of local culture. This is evil, the modern-day institution of the old Protestant Ascendancy, dedicated to one thing and one thing only -- the repression of the Catholic Church and all who believe in her. This evil would go so far as to bring down the Northern Ireland government and end the peace, if that's what it takes, to preserve its historic goals of religious oppression and sectarian bigotry.

Let all know and understand: this is what the Orange Order is and what it stands for. And let any man who refuses to see this truth, proven today in Stormont, for what it really is, be called by his proper name: Fool.

In Our Motto and Proud to Stand in Defense of Our Faith,

John Shanahan

Ancient Order of Hibernians

Washington, DC and

Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leaders swoop in for crisis talks on North

Leaders swoop in for crisis talks on North

By Shaun Connolly, Political Correspondent in Belfast - Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CRISIS negotiations fuelled by a frantic diplomatic push, which saw the Taoiseach and his British counterpart rush to Belfast to try and prevent a collapse of power-sharing, spilled into a second tense day as both leaders dug in for a deal.

The gathering emergency threatening to smash the Belfast institutions apart forced Brian Cowen and Gordon Brown into the dramatic step of breaking off from a Downing Street summit to fly directly to Hillsborough and take charge of the unravelling situation yesterday evening.

The simmering row over delays in devolving policing and justice powers to Stormont finally exploded after a terse face to face showdown between DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

Republicans are incensed at unionist demands for the justice issue to be linked to the abolition of the Parades Commission, which Sinn Féin sees as an attempt to give the Orange Order aveto over the process and hand the DUP a victory.

Negotiations were continuing through the night as both premiers stayed at Hillsborough Castle, and Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward predicted the "end game" was being reached as he hinted at "lateral thinking" on the parades sticking point.

It is understood Sinn Féin put pressure on Dublin and London to intervene directly after the party signalled it was preparing to collapse power-sharing and force fresh Assembly elections.

Both governments are keen for the present administration to go its full term into next year as an early poll could throw the North into the untested situation of Sinn Féin emerging as the biggest party and Mr McGuinness assuming the role of First Minister.

Mr Brown insisted the problems were "soluble", but the gravity of the situation is underlined by the fact he made time to dash to the North when he is preparing to host two major international conferences in London on Middle East terrorism and the future for Afghanistan.

Both premiers put major domestic agendas on hold to try and overcome the last major constitutional threat to power-sharing ripping the Assembly apart as dissident republicans and the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) threaten to erode SF and DUP support from the outer extremes.

Mr Robinson continues to lead DUP negotiations despite standing down for six weeks as first minister in the wake of the financial and sexual allegations swirling around his marriage.

DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson dismissed the Sinn Féin stance as a "contrived crisis". The DUP has seen its position strengthen after the hammer-blow of revelations surrounding the relationship of Mr Robinson’s wife, Iris, with a 19-year-old, as the party is edging towards an electoral pact with arch foes the Ulster Unionists.

Mr McGuinness expressed frustration at the unionist stance as many in the party question the DUP’s agenda.

Foreign Minister Micheál Martin warned the weight of the situation demanded the presence of both premiers at Hillsborough.


It is time for “the irresistible force and the immovable object” to put the toys away and start acting in the manner in which the people who elected them expect and, more importantly, deserve. They are on the verge of squandering away something that may not be recoverable. The people of the North of Ireland deserve a great deal more in the area of governance than they have received thus far from this totally ineffectual and incompetent lot

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Congressman Patrick Murphy, does not like Irish Immigrants.

Congressman Patrick Murphy, does not like Irish Immigrants.

From: - 1/23/2010 9:51:15 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania is a disgrace to his Irish
roots. Yesterday he was one of just nine Democrats who voted to never
allow 'amnesty' for undocumented persons in America.

Congressman Murphy should be ashamed of himself. He has joined the
ranks of the anti immigrant lynch mob which seeks to ensure that
immigrants are treated with hate and suspicion.

Back when Congressman Patrick Murphy's forefathers were trying to come
to America there was an ignoramus group called the Know Nothings that,
like Patrick Murphy now, wanted to seize the Irish and deport them in
chains back to the old country. They hoisted signs like 'No Irish Need
Apply' and portrayed us as apes and simians.

The Irish overcame all that discrimination and Patrick Murphy is a
congressman today because of what his forefathers were able to

I'm sure they are turning over in their graves today at the idea of
what their descendant has decided to do -- to join the ranks of the
modern 'Know Nothings' and seek to inflame hatred and violence against
immigrants. Some of them today , by the way, are from the same country
that Congressman Patrick Murphy's people came from.

Not far from where this congressman's district is located is a place
called Duffy's Cut where in 1832 an estimated 57 Irish laborers were
found dead. Many had been murdered because locals feared they were
spreading cholera. They were only six weeks in America.

Near Scranton, Congressman Patrick Murphy can find the graves of many
of the Molly Maguires who were similarly murdered by mine bosses
because they dared to revolt against sickening working conditions.

Congressman Patrick Murphy should know his history -- he is a former
Marine who served in Iraq, and he should know that turning on the
weakest and most vulnerable is not the Irish or the American way.

Except it is for Congressman Patrick Murphy, a man who has disgraced
his roots and his history. Shame on him.


To be sure, Congressman Murphy has done a disservice to his Irish heritage, his Irish Catholic constituents, and his Brother and Sister Hibernians by signing onto the Chaffetz/Kratovil No Amnesty Bill HR 1026. I stated in a recent e-mail that he should be reminded by the A.O.H. National Board of our solid commitment to the passage of legislation that would be beneficial, not only to future immigration from Ireland, but also to resolve the plight of the undocumented Irish currently residing here in the U.S. That suggestion does not in any way, shape, or fashion mean that I, or for that matter any member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, condone the nasty innuendos in the attached memo from the ILIR.

Congressman Murphy is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a member of an "anti immigrant lynch mob" and he should certainly not be likened to the infamous "Know Nothing bigots" of long ago. I still believe that Congressman Murphy should be reminded by our National Board of our policy regarding immigration reform but I feel even more strongly that the ILIR and any other group with whom we work on the immigration issue should be told in no uncertain terms that we will not tolerate open nastiness toward our members who may have made what we consider to be an error in judgement. With friends like those above, who needs enemies!

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí

Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí

BRIAN Ó BROIN - Sat, Jan 16, 2010 – Irish Times

A new survey indicates that Gaeltacht and urban Irish speakers are finding each other increasingly more difficult to understand. Could this rift further weaken the language?

RECENTLY, I’VE been meeting a lot of urban speakers of Irish, and was thinking about the Government’s plan to boost the number of daily speakers of Irish from the current 83,000 to 250,000 within 20 years. A threefold increase in daily speakers is a bold proposal, and there’s little doubt that these speakers are going to have to come from the towns and cities, rather than from the Gaeltacht, whose entire population (including several solidly anglophone suburbs of Galway city) is currently 91,000.

This got me thinking. Is there a city version of the Irish language? And if there is, how different is it from Gaeltacht Irish? A conversation I recently had with a speaker from Limerick, who is raising her daughter in Irish, revealed a fascinating fact. She never listened to Raidió na Gaeltachta. Was it that it was a Gaeltacht station and irrelevant to her, I asked? Only partly, she admitted. It was actually because she found the presenters very difficult to understand.

Yet this woman spoke fluent Irish. How could a fluent speaker of Irish have such difficulty with the national Irish-language radio station? What did she listen to?

“Oh, the usual. RTÉ, Today FM, Live95.” Surely she listened to some Irish-language media. Maybe she watched TG4?

“No. Not TG4, sometimes Hector and the sports.” And she let her young daughter watch the kids’ programmes.

My conversations with Gaeltacht people met with a similar bias, but in the other direction. When presenters with so-called “school Irish” came on the radio, my Gaeltacht friends say they tend to tune out, finding the Irish unpleasant, or difficult to understand. They tolerate much of TG4’s output, but grimace or change channels when city speakers come on. As for the hordes of Irish-speaking teenagers and parents who descend on the Gaeltacht during the summer months, they absolutely prefer to speak English with them. They say that the city folks’ Irish is simply too strange.

As a linguist, I find this fascinating. The two groups, while nominally speaking the same language, have almost no points of contact. They prefer to tune each other out or speak English with each other, rather than use Irish together. This seems to have all the hallmarks of a separation.

Linguists tend to examine languages according to several criteria, and I decided to do a comparative analysis of the two types of Irish (Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht) using the most common of these criteria: pronunciation, word-order, word-formation, and vocabulary. To do this, I transcribed recordings of news reports compiled and read by Gaeltacht speakers on Raidió na Gaeltachta, and then by urban speakers on the two urban Irish-language stations, Raidió Fáilte in Belfast and Raidió na Life in Dublin.

Next I transcribed segments of chat shows from the different radio stations, in which the speakers were speaking freely. To avoid complicating matters, I chose the speakers at random, electing to ignore whether they were speakers who had learned Irish in the Gaeltacht or not. A comparison of the recordings unearthed significant differences in all areas of analysis.

Phonetics, or pronunciation, is a major feature of any language, and particularly so for Irish, which uses pronunciation to mark things such as the case of a noun or the tense of a verb. Since Irish has very many distinct phonetic features, I chose only three for comparative analysis: slender dentals (the initial consonants of “teas” and “tí”, for example), velar fricatives (the initial consonants of “chaisleán” and “Chonnacht”, for example), and palatal fricatives (the initial consonants of “cheann” and “chiseach”, for example).

NEWSREADERS ON RnaG missed these features between 0 and 7 per cent of the time (that is to say, not much), while newsreaders on the urban stations missed them between 21 and 66 per cent of the time, a fairly significant number.

This demonstrates differences in pronunciation between Gaeltacht and city, and suggests a significant difference in the grammar used by Irish speakers in urban areas.

Most linguists agree that syntactic sophistication can be partially marked by the presence of subclauses in sentences. So, one might argue that “Peter died because he was sick” is more sophisticated than “Peter was sick and (then) he died”. A count of subclauses in the texts shows that newsreaders on RnaG produce eight subclauses for every 10 sentences, while their counterparts in urban stations produce five.

Gaeltacht speakers produce 15 subclauses for every 10 sentences, while their urban counterparts produce between six and eight. This is a considerable difference. Furthermore, urban speakers rarely nested subclauses within subclauses, while Gaeltacht speakers did so very frequently. The implications of this are quite serious, suggesting that the sentences of urban speakers are notably less sophisticated than those of their Gaeltacht counterparts.

Given all this, one might expect a lexical analysis of the texts to show that urban speakers have smaller vocabularies, but they actually seem to have much the same vocabulary as their Gaeltacht counterparts. For every 100 words used by a Gaeltacht newsreader, 66 are discrete (that is to say, not repeated). For the urban newsreader, the number is 68. The Gaeltacht speaker has 46 discrete words per 100, while his urban counterpart has 42. The conclusion is that speakers within and without the Gaeltacht have a similar range of vocabulary.

Interestingly, although language activists often decry the presence of English in the utterances of all Irish speakers, the highest level of English for any of the speakers was 4 per cent, from a speaker who used interjections such as “níl aon, really, excitement” and “you know, sin grand”.

This suggests, perhaps, that some (but not all) urban speakers are occasionally thinking partially in English, and translating what comes to mind on an ad-hoc basis.

Irish has a fairly sophisticated morphological system. That is to say, words can change form in several ways. The noun cainteoir, for instance, can mutate to gcainteoir, cainteora, chainteora, cainteoirí, and gcainteoirí, depending on its grammatical function. As we saw earlier, if the pronunciation of these mutations alters or fails, the entire grammatical system of the language becomes endangered.

When I analysed the expected morphological changes in the nouns of newsreaders, I found that newsreaders on RnaG, reading the news and speaking off the cuff, missed a fairly unremarkable 2 to 6 per cent. Newsreaders on urban stations, however, missed 40 per cent of expected changes.

In terms of expected pronunciation, the relaxed urban speakers missed almost every opportunity to lenite or eclipse (“séimhiú” and “urú”), usually failing, for example, to mark any masculine nouns that were in the plural or genitive. This is an extraordinary development, and the urban dialect of Irish seems to have not yet developed any strategies to deal with it.

Urban Irish doesn’t seem to be actually Anglicising, but it is different, particularly in the area of grammar. Some experts might be tempted to call this new entity a Pidgin. Although the term has negative connotations, there is some justification for it. A Pidgin is a relatively unstable language with simplified pronunciation and grammar, created on the fly for purposes of practical communication. By definition, it has no native speakers. Should the Pidgin persist into another generation and further, it gains native speakers, becomes known as a Creole, and develops the hallmarks of an independent language, including a stable grammar.

The number of Irish speakers in Ireland is increasing, according to all census and survey data, and yet the number of Gaeltacht speakers is falling. However, the city dialect of Irish seems not yet to have progressed beyond the level of a second language spoken mostly outside the home by activists, while Gaeltacht Irish is, at least for its broadcasters, a medium through which they are working and thinking for most of the day without the undue influence of other languages.

LANGUAGE PURISTS may claim this as more evidence that Irish is dying, but it must be most vigorously noted that this small study shows quite the opposite. The language is being spoken in all corners of the country (and abroad), and while it might be changing radically, particularly in this current generation, there is no evidence of it dying out. The good news is that there are urban Irish-language radio stations, and that they broadcast a wide variety of programmes directed primarily at young people. There were no such media 20 years ago, and this suggests that Ireland’s towns and cities are reaching a critical mass of second-language Irish speakers who want their own media.

If their language is to move beyond its current unstable stage, however, they will have to consider making the decision to raise their children through Irish. Some, such as my Limerick friend, are already doing so, and we can only wait to see what sort of Irish the next generation of urban speakers will have. Will the urban variety become its own dialect of Irish, or grow further apart from its Gaeltacht cousin, becoming a Creole or new language?


As an Irish speaker and long time supporter of the expansion of its use in the media and in the daily life of the Irish people, I agree with the writer in that there seems to be some significant differences in the Irish spoken in the Gaeltacht and that spoken in non-Gaeltacht areas. The three distinct dialects spoken in the main Gaeltacht areas along the West Coast in Donegal, the Dingle Penninsula in Kerry, and Connemara and the Aran Islands in Galway seem to have become more homogenous in recent years since the inception of alternate broadcasts on Raidio na Gaelteachta from sites in each of those main areas. I have often raved about the resurgence of interest in and use of the Irish language in the North in recent years. I have occasion to visit the North on a fairly regular basis and I have noticed differences in the Irish used there, as well as in urban areas in the Republic, from that with which I am familiar in the Connemara Gaeltacht and Aran. This is not too surprising when one thinks of the colloquial differences when people from these areas are speaking in English. I would like to think that anybody who is interested enough to learn Irish, would also insist on its preservation rather than allowing it to deteriorate into another language altogether. That would, in my view, be nothing short of a tragedy.

Tir gan teanga, Tir gan anam! Gaeilge go deo!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

PSNI officer has right leg amputated

PSNI officer has right leg amputated

DAN KEENAN Northern News Editor - Thu, Jan 14, 2010 – Irish Times

THE POLICE officer targeted in a car bomb attack last week in Co Antrim has had his right leg amputated, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed.

Peadar Heffron (33) remains in a critical but stable condition in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital. He was seriously injured last Friday when a device exploded under his car as he left his Randalstown home for duty at Woodbourne station in west Belfast.

The Irish language specialist and Gaelic footballer was targeted by dissident republicans because he was a Catholic and a high-profile officer in language and sporting circles, the PSNI believes.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: “He is a modern-day hero, he is someone who has stepped out, someone who is doing the right things for everybody.”

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing and no single dissident group has been singled out by the police.

Mr Baggott told UTV: “What a fantastic officer he is and what a great man of courage, a man who is doing all the right things in the community, saving people’s lives and helping people day in day out.

“I want to pay him that tribute as he lies seriously injured in hospital as a result of this abhorrent attack.”

He expressed confidence that other Catholics would not be deterred from applying for careers in the PSNI following the attack.

“If that means becoming involved with the Gaelic Athletic Association, helping people to have a conversation with us using the Irish language, respecting people in every walk of life and every community – then that’s exactly what the police service and police officers should be about,” he said.


To Seamus Boyle, A.O.H. National President,

In view of the firmly stated commitment of the A.O.H. to the devolution of policing and justice powers which would include the management and direction of the PSNI , I would like to make the following suggestion. When our National Board meets to determine the recipients of this year's F.F.A.I. donations, consideration should be given to a generous donation being made to the family of PSNI Constable Peadar Heffron who was the victim of a heinous bomb attack by a dissident republican group. Constable Heffron is currently in hospital suffering from very serious life threatening injuries as a result of a bomb exploding under his car as he traveled to work one morning recently. His injuries will most likely prevent him from returning to work for a very long time if at all.
Constable Heffron is a nine year veteran of the PSNI, a Catholic, a member and player of his local GAA Irish football club in Co. Antrim, as well as an enthusiastic and fluent Irish speaker. He serves on the PSNI group that works with the Irish speaking community in West Belfast and is well respected in that community as a man who is very proud of his Irish heritage.
Such a donation would serve as an affirmation of our commitment not only to the turning over of policing and justice to the devolved government at Stormont and our condemnation of acts of violence by dissident republican groups, but also our strong support for the ultimate success of the Peace Process.
Yours in our Motto,
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

After the freeze

After the freeze

By Dan Buckley, Sean O’Riordan and Niall Murray -Tuesday, January 12, 2010 – Irish Examiner

AFTER the freeze, the rain and winds are on the way back.

While the thaw will bring a welcome relief to motorists and air travellers, it is also expected to herald another bout of severe flooding in coastal and low-lying areas of the country.

As Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe allowed schools to reopen in the light of rising temperatures, Met Éireann forecast a return to heavy rainfall. Already one council has called on the army to assist with what are expected to be extensive mop-up operations as floods and melting snow combine to cause havoc.

A 40-strong platoon of soldiers was dispatched to Skibbereen yesterday after Cork County Council requested military help ahead of the expected deluge.

The army also dispatched four trucks and two patrol jeeps from Collins Barracks in Cork to the town. County engineer Noel O’Keeffe said the ground was so cold it wouldn’t be able to absorb the rain.

Local town councillor Brendan Leahy said sand bags were being distributed to businesses and householders and Civil Defence personnel had set up a command centre in the town.

"People are panicking and it’s hard to blame them. The first flood hit the town on November 19 and we got hit again on New Year’s Eve," Mr Leahy said. He said residents had been told to expect flooding anytime between 3am and 4pm today.

The army continued to transport gardaí around Cork city and Bandon because their patrol cars were unable to handle severe ice on the roads. Army trucks were also used to ferry health service staff to and from local hospitals.

Road, air, bus and rail transport continue to be affected, with both Bus Éireann and Irish Rail warning of continuing disruption to services. Most services, however, are operating normally.

Cork Airport re-opened yesterday afternoon after being closed for 16 hours because of heavy snowfalls.

Passengers have been advised to check with their airlines for updates.

Slushy conditions continue to hamper routes in Dublin, Meath and Kildare and parts of Connacht. There are icy conditions on primary and secondary routes around Mullingar and Portlaoise while secondary roads at Ballybofey in Donegal are described as treacherous.

Earlier, Taoiseach Brian Cowen commended those involved in assisting people affected by the cold spell, saying it was "very heartening to see".

However, he also warned that plummeting temperatures have had an economic cost. Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday appealed to people to conserve water. He said supplies were running dangerously low in Dublin and there were also problems in Cork, Sligo, Leitrim and North Tipperary. The minister urged householders not to leave taps running.

Around half the country’s schools are expected to reopen this morning after yesterday’s decision by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe to lift last Friday’s order that they should close until Thursday at the earliest. He said it was the sensible thing to do in light of the weekend weather not being as bad as had been forecast and the earlier-than-expected thaw in many regions, rejecting Opposition claims that he had done a political flip-flop.

But while thousands of schools will open their doors this morning, Mr O’Keeffe said those where teachers had travelled away and were unable to return in time for classes starting today or tomorrow would have to pay for substitution cover from their own funds, despite teachers understanding until lunchtime yesterday that they would have no classes until Thursday because of the minister’s directive.

The Joint Managerial Body, representing boards of most second-level schools, said it would expect the Department of Education to help foot the substitution bill for any absences arising from the past week’s weather conditions or staff being unable to return to schools opening earlier than previously directed by Mr O’Keeffe.


It appears that Ireland is still a victim of the extremely harsh and unusual weather conditions that have plagued the country for the last several weeks. The widespread flooding that they experienced recently was followed by snow, sleet, and freezing rain that coated the roads and made travel nearly impossible. Bus, rail, and in some cases air travel were seriously curtailed. To make matters worse, another bout of high winds and heavy rain are forecast to return very soon. The Ancient Order of Hibernians and other Irish American organizations, to their credit, have responded generously to the Irish Red Cross Flood Relief Effort, a very worthy charitable undertaking. Unfortunately, it appears as though this tragic series of events will present an ongoing need for donations and hopefully these organizations and individuals will continue to respond generously to the Irish people in their time of need.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Government Is in Peril as Scandal Rocks Ulster

Government Is in Peril as Scandal Rocks Ulster

By JOHN F. BURNS – New York Times – January 10, 2010

LONDON — The sex scandal that has transfixed Northern Ireland in recent days has a cinematic echo: a 60-year-old Mrs. Robinson who was caught in an affair with a man who was 19 at the time, and is now at the center of a scandal that threatens to bring down the power-sharing government that has steered the province out of 30 years of sectarian bloodshed.

Predictably, local newspaper headline writers and bloggers have resorted to catchphrases like “Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,” borrowed from the song in the 1967 film “The Graduate.” But the storyline unfolding in Belfast has a more serious edge because this Mrs. Robinson, Iris, a stridently moralistic lawmaker, is the wife of the province’s unionist first minister, Peter Robinson, who is now struggling to keep his job.

The revelations come at a critical time, when the mostly Protestant unionists and mostly Catholic republicans are in increasingly bitter discussions about how to put in place one of the last and most difficult pieces of the United States-brokered power-sharing agreement: the transfer of police and justice powers in the province from British officials to the unity government.

The transfer would be a step of historic significance for republicans, who viewed the police as a paramilitary arm of the unionists during the 30 years of “the troubles” that left 3,500 people dead. But it raises alarms among unionists, who fear that their republican partners will not adequately pursue and punish dissident republicans who have rejected the unity government and mounted a deadly campaign of bombings and assassinations in recent months.

Mr. Robinson’s fate is crucial to the future of the agreement; as negotiations have dragged on months beyond the deadline for transferring police power, both sides have become more entrenched in their positions. If Mr. Robinson were forced from power, analysts say, there would be little chance of any new unionist leader risking the wrath of his followers by moving ahead with the deal.

When the leaders of the shared government left for their Christmas break in a state of angry impasse, both sides warned that the shared government, which took office more than two and a half years ago, could collapse early in the new year.

This has been a time of equal-opportunity scandals for the unionists and the republicans, divided through history over whether the six counties of Northern Ireland, with a Protestant majority, should remain part of Britain or become part of the Catholic-majority Irish Republic.

Just as the unionists have been damaged by the revelations about Mrs. Robinson’s affair, republicans have been struggling to absorb recent disclosures by Gerry Adams, their pre-eminent political figure, of a history of sexual abuse within his family. Those include episodes of pedophilia by his late father — a republican icon — and investigations of a brother accused of molesting his own daughter.

The shock of the revelations about the family lives of the Adamses and the Robinsons has hit especially hard because Northern Ireland remains a world apart from Britain and the Irish Republic, with their more laissez-faire social and sexual attitudes. With the recent decades of violence across the province entrenching many people in their faiths, Catholics and Protestants alike have hewed to the sterner moral codes of an earlier age. Politicians flouting those codes have done so at their peril.

Last week, an emotional Mr. Robinson told reporters that he learned of his wife’s infidelity only on the night last March when she tried to commit suicide over the affair with the young man, who is now 21. But the sympathy he earned turned to demands for his resignation when a BBC documentary on Thursday revealed that Mrs. Robinson had taken $80,000 in secret loans from property developers to finance her lover’s investment in a cafe near Belfast, the province’s capital. Neither she nor her husband had reported the loans to the Belfast Assembly or the British Parliament, where the Robinsons each hold dual seats.

For now, Mr. Robinson’s survival as first minister depends on an investigation of the loan deal by an independent counsel, yet to be named, whose appointment Mr. Robinson promised Friday night. He said he learned of the loan several months ago, but did not know important details about it until he saw the BBC documentary. “I don’t believe that I have done anything wrong,” he added. When Mrs. Robinson went public last week with an acknowledgment of her affair, she announced that she will withdraw from public life and asked forgiveness of her husband and the public. “I am so, so sorry,” she said.

Her former lover, Kirk McCambley, now the successful co-owner of the cafe financed by the loans, has given a series of interviews saying the affair began when Mrs. Robinson befriended him after his father, who owned a butcher shop in the Belfast neighborhood where the Robinsons lived, died of cancer. “She was there to help,” he has said.

On Monday, political life will revive in earnest with the resumption of the fractious provincial Assembly at Stormont, the imposing neo-Classical-style Parliament building that sits high on a hill overlooking Belfast.

The issue of the transfer of police power has become deeply personal for the two men who lead the Belfast government: Mr. Robinson and Martin McGuinness, a former chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army, the paramilitary group that put its weapons away to support the government.

Mr. Robinson and Mr. McGuinness have made little secret of their personal dislike for each other. In a recent interview in Belfast, Mr. Robinson spoke of his disdain for the idea of handing power over the police to men who “bombed and butchered” their way to power, a formulation that sounded as though it had been crafted to refer to Mr. McGuinness, who started out as a butcher’s apprentice.

Mr. McGuinness was less personal, but brusque. “I can get along with anybody,” he said. “I think I have conducted a respectful relationship with Peter Robinson, but I can stand up for myself as well.”

The mood is a far cry from that of the first year of the power-sharing deal, when the government was led by Mr. McGuinness and the grand old man of right-wing unionist politics, the Rev. Ian Paisley. Together they became known in the province as “the chuckle brothers” for their cheerful acceptance of each other and their efforts to make power-sharing work.

But when Mr. Paisley resigned after a year at the age of 81 and handed his job to Mr. Robinson, the mood deteriorated, with Mr. Robinson increasingly beleaguered by right-wingers within the unionist movement who see the power-sharing deal as a betrayal, and Mr. McGuinness under pressure from the rising threat of dissident republicans.

Under the rules of the power-sharing agreement, if Mr. Robinson resigns over the scandal, Mr. McGuinness, too, will be forced from office. That would push efforts to construct a new leadership into the Assembly, where mutual recrimination between unionists and republicans is running high, and where both sides are eyeing the possibility that an impasse on the agreement could force new provincial elections.

In that climate, political experts in the province say, it might take months, or even years, to reconstruct a power-sharing government, leaving the British government once again to administer the province by decree.


It presents a sad state of affairs, indeed, when the future of the hard fought Peace Process in the North of Ireland is in danger of collapse over the indiscretions of a few elitist politicians. Unfortunately, this is only the latest incident that has thrown the fragile Stormont government into absolute chaos. The time has long since past for all political parties in the North to get down to the serious business of government instead of carrying on like a made for television soap opera.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Time for transfer

Time for transfer

Irish Echo Editorial – January 6-12 issue

January 6, 2010 The year just gone was something of a lost one in Northern Ireland politics. Many expected, or at least hoped, for the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to the elected representatives in Belfast.

That didn't happen, so those same representatives are now looking into a year when the same questions are outstanding, though writ larger as a result of delay, argument and procrastination.

Yes, there are difficulties for the parties and their leaders in working together on many fronts, not least policing and justice. Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party is a most unlikely coalition by any standards.

But the people who voted both parties in with the idea that they govern really don't have a full and clear picture of how these parties actually do this until the parties hold in their hands the full remit of normal governance.

With talk of an election in the air, it is high time that voters in Northern Ireland were presented with such a picture.


I have no doubt that whatever side of the political divide one is on with regard to the North of Ireland, they can agree that these are very trying times for both the Adams and Robinson families. This is not a time to try to beatify one and demonize the other. Let’s practice a little “True Christian Charity” and allow both families time deal with their own problems in their own way. In the chaos resulting from the personal problems of these two families, we seem to have lost track of the issue confronting all of the people of Ireland, the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Stormont. This is the last and probably the most crucial part of the Good Friday and St. Andrew’s Agreements to be implemented. It is long past time for the elected officials in Stormont to settle their disagreements and work cooperatively with the Irish and British governments to reach a final resolution to this issue.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Family misfortunes for DUP and Sinn Fein leaderships

Family misfortunes for DUP and Sinn Fein leaderships

Deals on hold as speculation mounts over ‘out of circulation’ First Minister and arguments continue over Adams sex abuse allegations

By David Gordon - Wednesday, 6 January 2010 – Belfast Telegraph

It should have been a very different start to the new year at Stormont. But family matters have instead intervened to complicate life for the DUP and Sinn Fein leaderships.

The current week was expected to witness a kickstarting of negotiations aimed at ending the stand-off on the transfer of policing and justice powers.

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin got together at Hillsborough yesterday to “review progress” towards a DUP and Sinn Fein agreement on what the two governments view as the last piece of the devolution jigsaw.

Instead, all deals are on hold if not quite off amid an avalanche of speculation and intrigue.

Peter Robinson — in the words of his own party — is “out of circulation” for the rest of this week as he attends to “family circumstances”.

His MP wife Iris shocked the party — and everyone else for that matter — by announcing just after Christmas that she was retiring due to mental ill health.

On Monday Tory spokesman Owen Paterson had to go to Mr Robinson's home for discussions on the devolution impasse.

The First Minister's absence from the day-to-day political scene has helped created a vacuum of sorts that is being filled by gossip and speculation.

Some people are even wondering if he is going to follow the other half of ‘Team Robinson’ and walk away from public life. Others say there is no basis whatsoever to that suggestion.

There is also said to be a TV documentary programme ready to roll.

Rumour does not have to be grounded in any hard facts to become a factor in politics. Senior DUP figures were last night admitting to being totally in the dark about what is going on.

The absence of Mr Robinson is hardly helping to soothe Sinn Fein impatience about a lack of meaningful talks on the way forward at Stormont.

Not that Sinn Fein doesn't have its own internal problems to worry about. Its President Gerry Adams is caught up in a very different and potentially career-closing family saga.

Arguments will continue on specific actions the West Belfast MP did or did not take after learning of the abuse allegations against his brother Liam.

But there is now no doubt that Liam Adams was both publicly active in Sinn Fein and in youth work several years after his politician brother was first told of the accusations against him.

Significantly, the Sinn Fein president has said he believed the allegations on learning of them back in 1987. He knows full well that the modern-day definition of collusion includes sins of omission — of not doing enough to ensure an alleged perpetrator faces the full rigours of the law.

Some of the highest church leaders on this island have recently paid a price for their past mishandling of cases. Supporters of Mr Adams must be privately wondering if he will escape that fate.

January 2010 was tipped to be a crunch period for the fledgling power-sharing coalition headed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

But even seasoned political observers could never have predicted the year starting like this — with both parties' leaders deeply embroiled in personal family nightmares.


These are very unfortunate circumstances, indeed, involving the families of two prominent members on both sides of the impasse presented by the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Stormont. They could, very well, further delay implementation of that crucial final step set forth in the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen just how patient the public will be while the two politicians involved deal with personal matters and the policing and justice issue hangs in the balance.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

UDA gives up is guns - reaction

UDA gives up is guns - reaction

Published Date: 06 January 2010

THE news that the UDA has put its weapons beyond use has been widely welcomed.

"The DUP welcomes the news that the UDA has decommissioned its illegally held weaponry will be welcomed throughout our country. The Party has been working for a considerable time to remove all illegal weapons from the streets of Northern Ireland and to deliver universal support for policing and the rule of law.

People will now be looking for clear evidence of a complete and total commitment to the peaceful and democratic path by all those previously involved with paramilitary groups.

The Troubles had a negative and damaging impact upon the communities in which paramilitaries operated down through the years. Working-class loyalist people will be pleased to see paramilitary organisations fading out of existence and a normal peaceful situation coming to the fore.

We need to work with community leaders in these areas to bring investment in local infrastructure and to remove the obstacles to creating a more prosperous economic environment with job creation and training opportunities.

The DUP will continue to work for the elimination of all paramilitary structures from our society."

Gerry Kelly - Sinn Fein Junior Minister

"Firstly if this statement by the UDA is verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning then it is a substantial move forward.

The nationalist and unionist populations will both be relieved that a substantial amount of guns are being taken off our streets and nationalists communities in particular would rest much easier as a result of that.

There can be no place for guns as we move forward in advancing the political process, this process has been about taking the gun out of Irish politics."

Owen Paterson - Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

"We very much welcome this news that has been fully verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

This move justifies the tough stance we took in Parliament in refusing to agree to the extension of any further deadline for decommissioning of the UDA's weapons.

At the same time it is now imperative that the UDA ends all forms of criminal activities."

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs - Micheál Martin T.D

"This is an important day for the people of Northern Ireland.

It completes the process of decommissioning by the main loyalist paramilitary organisations, including the arms previously put beyond use by the UVF and Red Hand Commandos.

This is a statement of confidence in the political process and in the devolved institutions, one which moves us closer to that genuinely shared future for which so many have worked over decades. Another obstacle to dialogue and partnership has been removed."

The Rev. Donald P. Ker - president of the Methodist Church

"With many others I warmly welcome the announcement and independent confirmation of the decommissioning of arms by the UDA.

I sincerely hope that this move will open the way for the pressing needs of loyalist communities to be more fully addressed. Such needs are best met when all those involved in local community life are able to come together in partnership with the welfare of all in their locality as their chief motivation.

While the removal of weapons reduces the threat of armed violence we must recognise that the ongoing divisions in our society damage us all. Northern Ireland needs more people, at every level, who are prepared to build bridges of understanding and trust."


Although there appears to be a certain amount of skepticism from certain circles with regard to the validity of this announcement, it certainly comes as very good news to anybody who has an interest in a sustainable and lasting peace in the North of Ireland. They should be given the benefit of the doubt until this announcement can be verified. Afterall, that courtesy was extended to the IRA when they made their announcement to decommission their arms. Let’s hope that this will bring a long overdue end to the hostilities between the UDA/UFF and Irish Republicans.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Monday, January 4, 2010

€10m: Shannon security bill for US troops

€10m: Shannon security bill for US troops

By Mary Regan, Political Reporter - Monday, January 04, 2010 – Irish Examiner

ALMOST €10 million has been spent in just three years on protecting US troops passing through Shannon airport on their way to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Department of Justice figures show the cost of providing Garda security at the airport was €8.6m between 2006 and 2008. This includes €2.8m on Garda overtime, more than €1m in expenses and subsistence claims by the gardaí and €4.8m in salaries.

During the same period, the cost of army patrols at the airport was €964,702, according to Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, bringing the total cost of security at the airport to close to €10m.

The latest figures show more than 243,000 US troops passed through Shannon airport in 2009 – or 665 per day. This brings to more than one million the number of military who used the airport en route to US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of 2006.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín O Caoláin said the cost to the taxpayer is a "disgraceful situation" and something that should be properly debated in the Dáil.

He said the use of Shannon was "totally and absolutely opposed by the overwhelming majority of Irish people who do not accept the legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan".

The movement of troops is estimated to have been worth around €7m to the airport in 2009.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said it is too early to say if there will be any impact on the airport caused by the recent decision by US President Barack Obama to deploy an extra 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2010.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the annual bill of more than €3m was justified.

"The deployment of Garda resources is based on an assessment by the Garda authorities of the measures necessary to ensure the safety and security of personnel, staff, passengers and property at Shannon airport," said Mr Ahern.

Anti-war protesters claim the use of Shannon airport by US troops undermines Ireland’s neutrality. But the Government argues that the missions are being carried out under a UN mandate.

The Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) has criticised the Government’s response to the escalation of US military personnel numbers in Afghanistan.

PANA chairman Roger Cole said Ireland has become a "vassal state" of the "American empire".

"These wars must be stopped now, and the termination of the use of Shannon airport by the US troops is a key step towards peace and economic stability," he added.

PANA held the first anti-war demonstration at Shannon airport in 2002 and has been involved in many protests since then.

Mr Cole said: "While it is the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Pakistan that have suffered most from the wars of the American empire and its vassal states like Ireland, the ordinary American family is being impoverished by its militarist neo-liberal agenda."


The byline at the top of this article is grossly misleading at best, a flat out lie at worst. As stated further on in the article the 10 million Euro figure does not take into consideration the vast amount of income to Shannon Airport in the form of landing fees, fuel charges, and the huge amount of sales to our troops at Shannon Duty Free. They spend very large amounts of money on gifts to be sent home, not knowing whether or when they will be going home themselves. With regard to the tired old story of the damage to “Irish Neutrality”, neutrality exists only in the minds of those who wish that it was embraced in the Irish Constitution. The fact of the matter is that it is not. The fallacy of “Irish Neutrality” has been used on those who do not know this fact for many years. The Irish government is to be congratulated for standing up to the misguided participants in the disgraceful demonstrations at Shannon Airport aimed at our American troops who are serving our country with the highest level of honor and distinction. May God Bless our Troops for their Selfless and Honorable Service to the United States of America.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Friday, January 1, 2010

OBITUARY: Cardinal Cahal Daly

OBITUARY: Cardinal Cahal Daly

PATSY MCGARRY and ANDY POLLAK - Fri, Jan 01, 2010 – Irish Times

Cardinal Cahal Daly was born in the village of Loughguile, near the Glens of Antrim, on October 1st, 1917.

He was the third of seven children. His father, a primary school teacher, originally came from Keadue, Co Roscommon, while his mother was from Co Antrim.

The family background was happy and devout with a strong emphasis on education. As a boy he was educated at the local national school and St Malachy's College in Belfast, one of Northern Ireland's foremost Catholic schools. Novelist Brian Moore was a contemporary there. He took a classics degree at Queen's University under a man he greatly admired, the Presbyterian nationalist Professor of Latin, RM Henry.

Cahal Daly then attended the Catholic Church's national seminary at Maynooth. He was ordained in June 1941 for the diocese of Down and Connor. He said he did not remember a time when he did not want to be a priest.

In 1945 he received a doctorate in divinity from Maynooth and in the early 1950s he did post- graduate studies in philosophy at the Institut Catholique in Paris. It was the beginning of a lifelong affection for France where he spent most of his holidays in later life.

Back in Belfast he became classics master at his old school, St Malachy's, for a year before being appointed lecturer in scholastic philosophy at Queen's University in 1946. It was a job he was to do for 21 years.

In the early 1960s he attended the Second Vatican Council, firstly as an adviser to Bishop William Philbin of Down and Connor, and then as theologian to the then Catholic Primate, Cardinal William Conway.

By then he was already establishing himself both as an authority on Vatican II and as one of the Irish Catholic Church's foremost intellectuals, with a particular interest in social studies and moral philosophy.

He also showed an early interest in the media, becoming a member of BBC Northern Ireland's religious advisory committee, the British Independent Television Authority's advisory committee and then an RTÉ Catholic television interim committee.

In 1967 he was appointed Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, a midlands diocese covering parts of seven counties including Longford where St Mel's cathedral and the bishop's house is located. St Mel's was badly burned in a fire on Christmas Eve. It was while he was based there that Cardinal Daly become one of the hierarchy's most outspoken and widely-quoted members, producing a addresses on subjects as varied as emigration, industrial disputes, socialism, abortion, education and the gap between rich and poor.

But in 1969, with the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland, he turned to the theme which would dominate the rest of his clerical career, political violence in Ireland.

One typical such year where this pre-occupation of his was concerned would be 1972. In his New Year's Day address that year he urged a more balanced reading of history which would do greater justice to the contribution made to Irish freedom and democracy by peaceful and constitutional movements for change.

In May he spoke on a related theme, which he would emphasise again and again over the years, the impossibility of coercing nearly a million Northern Ireland unionists into a united Ireland. He believed, however, that they could be persuaded, although it would be a "demanding, slow, difficult" task.

In August he said British and world opinion, which in 1969 had been convinced of the injustice of the Stormont regime, were by then sickened and alienated by the ruthlessness and intransigence of the IRA's campaign of violence. Such forthright denunciations of the IRA were to make him something of a hate figure among republicans.

In that same address, however, Cardinal Daly also showed the same strict orthodoxy which always marked his position on socio-sexual questions in the Republic. He rejected arguments for removing the constitutional ban on divorce and opposed any change in the law banning artificial means of contraception. He also forcefully argued against any secularisation of education in the Republic.

When it came to any controversy involving faith and practice in the Irish Catholic Church, Cardinal Daly stood out as its most forceful and coherent spokesman. He always stressed that his primary concern, in his condemnations of republican violence and sexual permissiveness, was the dangers of moral degeneracy and corruption among his flock.

This compass, however, would fail him when it came to the emergence of the clerical child sex abuse scandals towards the end of his period in office during the mid-1990s.

Still, in 1974 he said there was "probably no greater factor of de-Christianisation at present at work in Ireland than the continuing violence'', adding that the Provisional leaders were dragging Irish republicanism into the gutter and making it "a synonym of shame'.'

Such scathing and indeed courageous denunciations did not prevent him from being at the receiving end of bitter criticism from unionist politicians and the British media. An instance occurred in August 1976 when, during yet another appeal to the IRA to end their violence, he said they were not psychopaths or criminal types, but were sincere, and had shown courage, endurance and ability.

The Cardinal always emphasised the importance of ecumenical dialogue. In 1976 he was co-chairman, with former Methodist president Rev Eric Gallagher, of the inter-church working party which produced the report Violence in Ireland. It proposed some practical ideas for improving inter-community relations, such as a committee to examine ways of improving contacts between the North's religiously-divided schools.

In 1979 he wrote an open letter to Northern Protestants in which he appealed to them "to believe that no community in Western Europe is likely to be as sympathetic and supportive towards your Protestant religious beliefs and principles as are Irish Catholics. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants can and must help one another to stay faithful to Christ in a world where more and more people walk away from him."

However, he spoke with the authentic voice of Roman Catholic orthodoxy when he restated firmly the Church's opposition to women's ordination at the world Anglican Lambeth Conference in July 1978. His address came barely a week after a report by a working group of senior Anglican and Catholic theologians had not excluded the possibility of progress towards mutual understanding on this issue.

By then Cardinal Daly was widely recognised as the main intellectual force behind, and usually the actual writer of, the Irish Bishop's most important statements. And it is widely believed it was he who wrote the Pope's appeal to the IRA to lay down their arms during John Paul's Mass in Drogheda in September 1979.

In February 1982, Cardinal Daly suffered a heart attack, necessitating several months rest and recuperation. It did not prevent his appointment the following September to succeed Bishop William Philbin as Bishop of Down and Connor, which takes in most of the Belfast region.

He said at his first press conference that ecumenism would be one of his dominant pre-occupations in the post. The All Children Together group, which advocated shared schools for those Catholic and Protestant parents wanting them, expressed the hope that he would see the need to provide a Catholic chaplain to the North's first integrated secondary school, Lagan College. It was not to happen.

Bishop Daly's most publicised political intervention came in 1984, when he presented the Catholic Bishops'submission to the New Ireland Forum. Among others to accompany him there, as part of the Catholic Church delegation, was President Mary McAleese.

Cardinal Daly told the forum that the bishops did not seek "a Catholic state for a Catholic people", but re-emphasised the Bishops' opposition to divorce and again rejected the view that joint schooling could contribute to a solution in the North. At one point he raised cheers from the assembled nationalist politicians when he said the bishops would resist any constitutional proposals which might endanger the civil and religious liberties of Protestants in the North.

In the late 1980s, his calls for political dialogue between Northern Ireland's politicians became increasingly frequent and urgent and the British government started to listen very carefully to him as one of its principal barometers of Northern Catholic opinion. It is known, for example, that his strictures about the heavy policing of IRA funerals persuaded the RUC to adopt a lower profile on several such occasions.

During his time in Belfast he was also the prime mover behind a Catholic Church-inspired initiative to try to bring jobs to the unemployment blackspots of north and west Belfast. Taking advantage of the Northern Ireland Office's anxiety to channel money into community employment projects with no republican involvement, he encouraged priests and Catholic businessmen to set up a network of job creation and training schemes which were generously funded by the British government.

In December 1990 he became Archbishop of Armagh and spiritual leader of Ireland's then 3.7 million Catholics in succession to Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich, who died suddenly. At 73, he was the oldest Catholic primate for 170 years, and just two years away from the usual retiring age for bishops and archbishops.

His stature as by far the Irish Catholic Church's most outstanding spiritual and intellectual leader meant that most people expected the Pope to keep him in Armagh well beyond that date. In June 1991 he was made a cardinal, and his high standing with the Vatican was underlined by his appointment to three of its congregations, those dealing with evangelisation, ecumenism and the clergy.

In the event, he was to preside over the Irish Catholic Church's most testing and difficult period this century. The two developments which would dominate that period would be the IRA ceasefire and its aftermath in Northern Ireland, and a series of scandals starting with the resignation of Bishop Casey and continuing with an eruption of clerical child sex abuse cases throughout the island.

The Belfast priests who were involved in mediation efforts with Sinn Féin and the IRA through the early 1990s, particular Fr Alec Reid and others at the Redemptorist congregation's Clonard monastery in Belfast, kept Cardinal Daly informed of the changing attitudes of the republican leadership.

By early 1992 he was beginning to change his tune about the republican movement, saying that if the IRA called off its campaign of violence, Sinn Féin would be entitled to a place in talks about the country's future.

In December 1993, two weeks before the Downing Street Declaration, he was telling British parliamentarians that for the first time in 20 years a realistic peace was attainable in Northern Ireland, with the Irish Government accepting the continuance of the North's constitutional status unless it was changed by the democratic choice of a majority there.

In August 1994 his information appeared once again to be superior to that of the politicians when, on the eve of the IRA ceasefire, he said that the goal of taking the gun out of Irish politics "may now be very near" and the opportunity to achieve it should not be missed.

In January 1995, he made his own striking gesture to the cause of reconciliation between Britain and Ireland. Invited to become the first Irish Catholic Church leader to speak from the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral since the Reformation, he used the occasion to ask the British people for forgiveness for the wrongs and hurts inflicted upon them by the Irish people. He also warned British politicians that political expediency should not be allowed to jeopardise the peace process.

Despite the end of the IRA ceasefire in the following month he continued, in public and behind the scenes, to urge politicians in the strongest language to engage in dialogue, warning that to miss this historic opportunity for a permanent peace would be an "unforgivable political disaste". Similarly, he urged the IRA to reinstate its ceasefire so Sinn Féin could enter talks.

However his frustration was evident after the failure of Church leaders to mediate a solution to the Drumcree Orange parade stand-off in July 1995. Using language of anger and betrayal, which he has always tried to avoid, he said the decision to force the parade down the Garvaghy Road had "totally shattered'' mutual trust and confidence between Catholics and the RUC.

In parallel with the rise and fall of hopes for peace in Northern Ireland, the Irish Catholic Church was experiencing its own deep crisis. It began discreetly, with nearly all dioceses on the island following the lead of the then Archbishop of Dublin Kevin McNamara who took out insurance against possible claims by clerical abuse victims in March 1987.

Then in May 1992 there was the resignation of Bishop Eamonn Casey following revelations that he had a 17-year-old son in the US, which Cardinal Daly knew nothing about until days before the story broke.

A little over two years later came the jailing of Fr Brendan Smyth, a Norbertine priest, on charges of sexually abusing children for 24 years, and revelations that the head of his order had known about Smyth's propensity to molest children for many years. Although Cardinal Daly, as Bishop of Down and Connor, had approved the rapid reporting of the first allegations against Smyth to the RUC, there remained a public perception that more could have been done by senior churchmen to bring Smyth to book. That would become a familiar story.

At Maynooth in November 1994, Cardinal Daly said he did not remember in his lifetime "a more painful, a more worrying and distressing time. We feel the hurt of all those who have suffered, who have been hurt, and all those whose trust in priests or religious has been abused".

Court cases and media revelations about priests sexually abusing children followed and continued. Cardinal Daly issued public apologies and expressed his distress and horror at the crimes of a small number of priests. A year later he was warning that experience abroad showed that the Irish church could expect another two or three years of "very, very difficult and distressing experiences". It was a most optimistic forecast.

The summer of 1995 saw another blow to the traditional and usually unanimous moral authority of the Catholic hierarchy with an unprecedented public clash between Bishop Brendan Comiskey of Ferns and Cardinal Daly over the former's comments about the need to keep open the debate on clerical celibacy.

For many Irish people their lasting memory of Cardinal Daly from this period was his unprecedented extended appearance on a Late Late Show devoted to the problems of the Catholic Church in November 1995. During it he was publicly challenged by Fr Brian Darcy on the Church's handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations. He came over as a defensive elderly man out of touch with an audience which occasionally heckled and hissed at him.

He continued as Catholic primate until October 1996, when he was 79. He was succeeded by Archbishop, now Cardinal Sean Brady.

If Cardinal Daly's numerous public interventions made him by far country's best-known cleric in Ireland at the time, the private man was hardly known at all. His spare-time pursuits were almost entirely intellectual. His early single-minded devotion to his studies set a workaholic pattern for life. Indeed contemporaries have said it was not so much his intellect which set him apart as his work ethic.

He had no real hobbies. His idea of relaxation was a serious intellectual conversation or to settle down with a book of philosophy, poetry or a novel by Dostoyevsky or John McGahern. He was a also a regular attendee at the annual International O'Carolan International Harp Festival in Keadue, Co Roscommon, where his father had come from.

He ate little, keep to a rigid regime based on boiled chicken and fruit prescribed by his doctor after heart surgery in the early 1980s. It may have been why he has such a long life.

However, in retirement he has suffered ill health, missing the funeral of Pope John Paul in April 2005 on the advice of doctors for instance. But he attended the subsequent conclave which elected Pope Benedict. He was ineligible to vote as he was over 80 by then.

In retirement he continued to give talks, take part in discussions and write. He published his last book The Breaking of Bread: Biblical Reflections on the Eucharist in 2008.

"Cahal's a bit of an old saint," the former Archbishop of Tuam Joseph Cassidy, was heard to remark. Fellow bishops and priests never claimed to know him well. Some of them remarked in the past on how appropriate was his nickname in Belfast, that of 'ET', with its connotations of a strange, other-worldly, but in the end rather likeable old wizard.


We may not have always agreed with Cardinal Daly but we mourn his loss as a former Primate of All Ireland and a Prince of our Catholic Church.
Go ndeana Dhia trocaire air agus Go dtuga Dhia suimhneas soirai a anam.

Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America