Diary 2 May 1985 - Irish Press, Trinity Ball, Alan Clancy, Milk Wars, Today Tonight

The Press Gang: THE RATHER UNKIND observation by a Burgh Quay union officer that trying to put new life into the Irish Press Group was "like putting lipstick on a corpse," has finally been refuted. Management there have let it be known that they intend to switch over to new technology on their three national papers from May 13.
The date is subject to final union ratification, but as there are no great obstacles here, the target is expected to be met by both sides. The proocess of getting assent to the change from staff is protraccted, simply because there are some six different unions, each representing quite disstinct interests, requiring sepaarate negotiations for each.

What was a veritable bearrgarden of industrial relations has now calmed down remarrkably. During 1983 and much of last year management tried to rail-road staff into deeferred pay rises and subbstantial redundancies - total staffing is now down in the company from 1,100 to 840. The final figure will be around 820 when all rationalisation agreed, last year is complete.

The ferocity of those connflicts left the protagonists somewhat jaded: "We've all levelled out now," said one chapel official earlier this week. "It was the rationaliisation talks that brought the temperature up.",

But if the question of economies to finance the changeover to new technoology or "cold metal" have been resolved, the long-term future of the compositors represented by the Irish Print e Union has not. The deal due to be ratified by the IPU.~ and the Irish Press management gives the printers' union members sole access to the central computer for editorial input (i.e. what will evenntually appear in the paper) for the next four years.

After that the whole battle has tobe fought again, at that stage to decide who - journaalists or printers/compositors feeds the raw stories ("copy") into the computer. For now, at any rate, there will be no direct input into the system by the journalists.

Any expectations of London-based journalists' reppresentatives that in 1989 the printers will act like welllbehaved dinosaurs and die quietly and voluntarily are likely to be confounded. Connflicts then between the two groups of staff may be every bit as intense as those seen in the company in the last two years.

The determination of the company to drive through its facelift with the minim urn delay is witnessed by the fact that the equipment for "cold metal" composition has allready been bought - ranging from photoprocessors and two computers to visual dissplay units and paste-up faciilities - in advance of agreeements being reached on its use. Talks on these have been "ongoing" since the new year. The total cost of the package, supplied by US manufacturers Harris Intertype, is put at £2Y2m according to Burgh Quay sources.

What the reader will see as a result of all these changes will be a radical modernisaation of appearance. The daily paper - already directed to a more populist and aggressive approach in the last year with snappier picture captions and headlines, and more lively use of photographs - is exxpected to show the fastest change, as their sub-editors experiment with the greater design possibilities opened up by the technology.

There are however going to be teething troubles. Berrnard Rorke, of the Irish Print Union (IPU) feels manageement have been too optimisstic in expecting compositors to get used to using different keyboards after years on the old linotype machines. The company hopes to retrain composing room staff in just two weeks, with a one-week refresher course later. "I wouldn't be all that confident it can be done that quickly," he says cautiously.

There will be a major knock-on effect of the change outside Burgh Quay if the plan goes ahead on schedule. The Independent Group have deliberately held-back their introduction of new technology to see what terms the Irish Press group negotiated with their unions - by the logic that if there is going to be a battle, let it be at the expense of your rival. With the uncertainty all but reesolved at the Press (whose financial traumas prevented any such wait and see tactics), sparks may soon be flying in Abbey Street.

Alan Murdoch

DOUBLE TICKETS· FOR this year's Trinity Ball are fetching up to £90 on the black market. Most years there are small profits to be made in the resale of these tickets, but this year black market prices are the highest ever.

There were 600 fewer tickets sold this year due to the activities of the TCD firebug. The fact that the college dining hall has been damaged by fire means that the campus will be able to accommodate fewer late night revellers than in previous years. There was much unngentlemanly and unladylike conduct in the queue for tickets last month, with reeports of queues being skipped, hands being broken and minor bouts of fisticuffs occurring, as students waited for hours in the rain to pay the official price of £29 for double tickets.

A welcome development in the annual Trinity week has been the scrapping of what one organiser called "the usual sexist, racist and generally offensive rag mag." Instead, a more serious pubblication "Mayday Magazine" has been produced. Concenntrating on music, theatre, fashion and the arts, it conntains interviews with the likes of Bob Geldof, Molly Keane, Richard Ingram, Quenntin Crisp and A.I. Cronin. It is professionally produced and retails at a mere £ I, with all proceeds going to Concern. It will, we are assured, offend nobody.

Mark Brennock

Editorial - Neil Blaney

Half of the present population was under ten years of age when Neil Blaney made his exit from national politics in 1970. Since then the once-powerful figure has prowled around the sidelines, occasionally letting loose a bellow, usually keeping his peace. He is now 62 and the years in which he might have been expected to fulfill the promise of his early career have passed him by. For many in Fianna Fail - and many outside it - however, Neil Blaney remains the symbol of what the party once was and what they believe it could and should be again: powerful, certain of its purpose and unequivicating in its republicanism. Blaney is the one survivor of the tough, arrogant and successful Fianna Fail of the 1960s who is still active in politics and untouched by the comproomises of power or party. As such, the issue of Blaney's relationship to Fianna Fail and how his possible return to the party is handled are important in determining what the future direction of the party is perceived to be.

The ritual dance continues, with Blaney insisting that a return to the party be seen almost as a merger of equals, while the Haughey establishment attempts to downplay the process to one of a neophyte signing on with the local cumann. It is not just a matter of pride but an argument about what significance the move should be seen to have.

For this issue, as the debate about his return to Fianna Fail nears a climax, Neil Blaney talked at length to Olivia O'Leary on a range of subjects, from the Arms Crisis of 1970, which saw Blaney driven out of the party, to the attitudes and expectations which he has today.

Next week's sentencing of Larry Dunne for drugs offfences should be another blow to the myth of the powerrful 'and invincible crime family. But the myth of the glamorous criminals is likely to persist. Sam Smyth reports on Larry Dunne's escapades on the run in Spain and Porrtugal and also examines the reality of the Dunne myth, their grandiose plans and the rather pathetic outcome of those plans. The Dunnes were a talented and ambitious family, some of whom put those talents into crime. They had a short run, destroying people's lives in the process, and their success was as much due to the unwillingness of the authorities to ·take the drugs problem seriously as it was to the abilities of the Dunnes.

Clancy Money

AN APPLICATION WILL be made very shortly to the High Court to give "preferenntial listing " to a Constitutional challenge to the emergency legislation introduced by Michael Noonan last Febbruary. Louth businessman Alan Clancy issued a High Court summons against Ireeland and the Attorney General on March 29 last, claiming that certain sections of the Offences Against The State (Amendment) Act 1985 are unconstitutional.

Under the legislation, the government seized £1.75m from a Navan bank account in the 'name of Alan Clancy. It is open to Clancy to claim the money within six months of the seizure if he could prove that the funds do not belong to an illegal organisaation. Despite the fact that the government could have seized the alleged "IRA money" under the Offences Against The State Act 1939, it saw fit to introduce special legislation.

But there is one crucial difference between this recent amending legislation and the amending legislation of 1972 which allowed for a garda of the rank of Superintendent to claim that a person was a member of an illegal organiisation, and allowed that opinion to become evidence. The Minister for Justice will be allowed to give evidence by certificate and therefore not be liable to crosstion.

Following that legislation, gardai gave evidence under cross examination of not knowing anything about partiicular individuals other than they "were in the IRA." On this basis, with the accused positively affirming that they were not members of the IRA, the courts tended toowards the accused. Eventually, the legislation fell into disuse. The fact that the Minister may not be liable to cross examination as to his "means of knowledge" regarding the money in the Navan bank account may leave questions unanswered as to what chain of events led to the sequesstration of the money.

Alan Clancy has denied emphatically that the money belongs to the IRA and states that it was his intention to start a pork exporting busiiness in Louth along with associates. There is evidence that this was the case. The £1.7m (approx) in the Navan bank is the end product of a long and complicated business deal involving Clancy and

David McCartney, a Scotsman who is currently living in Alaska. Clancy had loaned McCartney money, and the money held at Navan belonged to both of them, part of it being the repayment of the loan. McCartney also believed that he was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service in America as a result of undeclared income.

When the case comes up in the High Court, whatever evidence Michael Noonan has alleging that this money beelonged to the IRA, will come to light.

Derek Dunne

Milk Wars

IF THERE WERE SUCH things as pinstriped wellinggtons you could expect those who farm the Golden Vale to sport them. The land in this region is some of the best in the country and condiitions for dairy farming are ideal. This natural· resource has not gone untapped. Of the country's six giant dairy co-operatives, five are located in North Munster.

On the Cork-Limerick borrder is the town of Charleville. Its main street has fine old buildings which evidence its age-old prosperity while reeplacement aluminium winndows and numerous fast food outlets vouch for its current wellbeing. It has roughly one thousand houses and as many jobs in Golden Vale Co-Op. There is no rural/urban divide. The town services the farming community and the farmers supply the milk which is the region's lifeblood. Everyone's livelihood is somehow caught up in this cycle and the pattern repeats all over the area.

It all seems quite idyllic.

Comparatively speaking these people are on the pig's back. Threatening to topple them and their co-operative ideals is a five year-old milk war. The most recent and bitter bout has erupted in the last month. As set out by Sir Horace Plunkett, the founder of the Irish Co-Operative Movement, co-ops were all about trust, co-operation and democracy. On the battlefield in West Limerick one milk supplier observed that "Horace Plunkett must now be turning in his grave."

Prior to 1980 a gentleman's agreement existed between the big co-ops. They had designated areas for milk collection and their suppliers were their shareholders, all tied into the system by loyalty, and lack of choice. The first poaching took place in 1980 and since then the Friendly Societies have beecome increasingly unfriendly.

Good manners are being erooded from the £3,000 million co-operative movement as the halcyon days of the EEC's butter mountains and milk lakes are curtailed by the super-levy .

The continuous aggressors in the milk war are Kerry Co-Op. Founded in 1974, Kerry were relative latecomers to the co-op scene, their progress to date has been' remarkable. The milk war is often seen in personalised terms and there is only one personality, that of Kerry's Chief Executive Denis Brossnan, the architect of Kerry's success. In 1983 the co-op recorded a profit of £4.2 million before tax. They are able to take supplies because they can offer a high price for milk, they can use extra suppplies because management diversified into the right prooducts.

Brosnan has a reputation for being tough and able. He has created waves in CBF, the meat and livestock board, since he became Chairman. He lets few niceties stand between greater efficiency and improved profit margins. He is a good businessman, and co-operative ideals don't cramp his style.

Kerry Co-Op and Golden Vale are anything but good buddies. This April almost 500 milk suppliers have notiified Golden Vale of their intention to transfer their milk to Kerry from July 1. Over 7,000 ,000 gallons of milk will go from Golden Vale. Lesser rivalries exist, Golden Vale is also losing supplies to Kantogher Co-Op in Limerick. The introduction of a collection charge has caused a revolt among some suppliers of Mitchelstown, they say they are considering selling to the highest bidder.

The Right Reverend W.N.F. Empey, Bishop of Limerick, has requested peace talks to see if there is "any possible way that the chaos of the moment can be avoided." Golden Vale have stated that they are ready to talk to restore peace and sanity. They cannot afford to better Kerry's prices, their annual report shows a loss of half a million pounds and their super efficient 65-acre manufacturring complex in Charleville is already under-utilised.

At the presentation of the annual report Golden Vale Chairman Pat Johnson alleged that Kerry was "hellbent on the destruction of neighbourring co-ops." He said the society would not stand idly by. "Strong and positive moves" were being taken to protect supplies. Kerry CooOp are not aware of the necesssity for peace talks, Denis Brosnan has said that they will continue to take supplies in an orderly fashion.

Golden Vale have poached Kerry supplies in the past but this was little more than token retaliation. Their main concern will be to hang on to the suppliers they have as the withdrawal date of July 1 approaches. Propaganda is the main tactic of the milk war but more straightforward methods have been employed. In the summer of '83 Golden Vale trucks blockaded the roadways to farms intending to transfer milk supplies. The scuffles and fights of that time have subsided into more su btle cold war tactics.

The general feeling among farmers is that Golden Vale management has lost the run of the co-op and become preeoccupied with empire buildding. The plant is frequently referred to as "that mausooleum down the road".

"No matter how hard we worked to get efficiency back into Golden Vale it didn't work," said a supplier who transferred to Kerry. The number of company cars was given again and again as an example of waste and ineffficiency. Bad decisions were taken by the co-op such as taking over Castlemahon poultry, incurring losses and then selling it to evolve into a more streamlined operation. Several sources told how one AGM had a ballot box rigged. They say they witnessed it.

Some farmers felt that they were tied to this ineffiiciency and welcomed the competition. "Without it what happens is that I sweat away and the co-op tell me how much they can pay after they have finished with worrkers and cars and any other expenses they might care to incur." One farmer pointed to a new car, and said it was thanks to changing to Kerry Co-Op three months ago. "Remember what happened to Clover Meats," says another.

But what about demoocracy? "The farmers' represenntatives on the Golden Vale board stopped representing the farmers," said an exxGolden Vale supplier. Is Kerry Co-Op offering not only better prices but also a greater say for the farmers? "Not at all," is the response, "that is all finished now."

Denis Brosnan worked for Golden Vale years ago. Stories told about him in North Cork have the air of legend. One saga says he was cheated out of the top job at the Co-Op and left bitterly vowing that he would. be back, to take over.

Clare Cronin

The Quality of Mercier

WHILE MUCH OF THE PUBBlishing business is finding it very difficult to keep the presses turning, Mercier Press in Cork are still going strong after forty years and have over 300 titles to their credit. In the last year or so, Mercier have sold 12,000 copies of "One Day In My Life" by Bobby Sands. This does not include French, German and American editions. "Operaation Brogue" by owner of Mercier, John Feehan, sold over 20,000. "The Course Of Irish History", a collection of lectures edited by Theo Moody and F'X. Martin has sold 1 50,000 since it was first published in the 'sixties. "The Secret War" by Patsy McArdle sold out, as did "The Informers" by Andrew Boyd. "The Irish Bungalow Book" has a 100,000 issue and is reprinted every year.

Over the next while, they intend to augment their ever growing list of titles. "Skyylark Sing Your Lonely Song" .by Bobby Sands will be pubblished in a few months. The once-banned "Taylor And Ansty" will also be reissued. "Irish Company Law", a hard back penned by Mick Ford, is also due out. "A Message To The Irish People" by Nobel and Lenin peace prize winner Sean MacBride, "Ireland My Country" by Charles J. Haughey and a book on extradition by Michael Farrell are also due to roll off the presses before the. year's end. And a book by Joe Ambrose on the media image of Garret FitzGerald as distinct from the reality should raise a few eyebrows.

The prolific output of Mercier is a far cry from the opening days of 1944. Tradiitionally, the company pubblished a lot of religious books. A row erupted between the company and Bishop Lucey of Cork who refused to give his imprimatur to certain publications. Rumour has it that Captain Feehan appealed the Bishop's decisions to Rome and won. Today, they have no such problem and Feehan is himself reputed to be working on a sequel to "Operation Brogue".

According to a spokessperson for Mercier, "republiican books sell very well. The apparent shift in recent years from predominantly religious titles to more diverse subjects has ensured a future for the company.

Derek Dunne

Today Tonight for Channel 4

THE TODAY TONIGHT two-part special on the case of Annie Maguire is causing ripples in Britain and the ripples are likely to spread this month. On Monday May 13 at l Opm Channel 4 will broadcast an edited version of the special. It has been edited down to about 60 minutes by producer Joe Mulholland, cutting back on some of the interviews with members of the Maguire family but keepping as much as possible of the section which examines the evidence· or lack of it - which put Annie Maguire in prison for ten years and locked up other members of her family for long terms.

The programme makers will be staging a press preview in London on the Friday before transmission to which local politicians will be invited.

It is likely that the proogramme will widen even furrther the already growing interest in the case. Earlier this week TV -AM interviewed members of the family and their supporters and examined the evidence, largely based on Today Tonight research. At the end of the item David Frost turned to camera and asked Justice Donaldson, Michael Havers and Leon Brittan to examine their connsciences. The piece was strong enough to startle even Joe Mulholland.

Mulholland intends as of now to remain as editor of Today Tonight, maintaining the programme's format into the autumn, but this is subbject to the internal politicking of RTE.

Gene Kerrigan

On The Record- A selection of contributions to recent Dail debates

"THE MINISTER WILL NOT be able to borrow potatoes, let alone pesetas," Deputy Michaela 'Kennedy FF to the Minister for Finance on the Finance Bill.

"I must confess to finding something faintly ridiculous about the prospect of the heads of the member states sitting down in a solemn connclave to discuss matters like car discs, exhaust emissions, and the amounts people can take across the border," Oppposition leader, Charles Haugghey, on the European Council meeting.

"They (the Revenue Commmissioners) would say that it wouldn't work because the Irish character is so malicious, devious, cute, cunning that any opportunity to avoid tax will be willingly grasped," Deputy Ivan Yates on selffassessment for tax.

"It is one thing to come over here and give woollen headed sap-witted advice and hold press conferences, but to come here and participate in a celebration of murder is quite different," Deputy John Kelly FG on the proposed visit by the Emerald Pipe and Drum Band of the New York Police.

"The most common cause of death was drowning and this accounted for 26 of the deaths. There were 4 persons hanged; three died from chooking and suffocation; two were hit by a car; one arose from the taking of poison; one from an overdose; one as a result of a fall. Another death also involved a fall and in one case there was a combination of causes incluuding pneumonia," The Minisster for Health, Barry Desmond listing the 40 deaths in menntal hospitals over the last two years from other than natural causes.

"An acute hospital (per patient) costs from £800 to £1,000 a week to run and the necessary care could be given at from £200 to £400 a week. Ironically we could Q almost take over a few Dublin hotels and put these patients into the Shelbourne at half the cost," Minister for Health on the problem of long stay patients in acute hospitals.

"The Deputy is such a silly woman. I am as I am, warts and all. I am not anyone's property," Deputy Mary O'Rourke FF to Deputy Avril Doyle FG on the Financing of Education Motion.

"Minister Hussey is a pious woman," Deputy Mary O'Rourke FF on the Finanncing of Education Motion.

"Are you not a snide little man? That is what you are," Deputy Mary O'Rourke FF to Minister of State George Birmingham on the Financing of Education Motion.

Olivia 0 'Leary

The Trimbole judgement

THE RECENT HIGH COURT decision (upheld by the Suppreme Court in a reserved judgement), relating to Ausstralian Robert Trimbole, and his release following Section 30 arrest and detention, "in-, dicates a much sterner attiitude" by the courts, accorrding to senior counsel Adrian Hardiman. The courts ruled that Detective Inspector John McGroarty's belief that Trimmbole had a gun, and was thereefore liable to arrest and deetention under Section 30 (when no gun was present) brought into question the inntention of the arresting garda. Already, where there is a "conscious and deliberate" violation of constitutional rights, the courts will rule the arrest and anything emerging as a result of that inadmisssable as evidence.

In the Trimbole case, the judiciary decided to scrutiinise even more closely exactly what the gardai have in their minds when they make a Section 30 arrest, and that there is some basis for that belief. In effect, what the courts were saying was that they did not' believe some of the garda officers when they gave evidence.

Detective Inspector Gorrdon swore in the habeas corpus· application in the High Court, in which the gardai were legally obliged to produce Trim bole in court. and show good reason why he. should be detained, that he had no reason to believe that "Mr Hanbury" and

Robert Trimbole were one and the same person. As Trimmbole /Hanbury sat across the court from him, he still did not believe that they were one and the same person. Later that same night in a District Court appearance, Detective Inspector Gordon swore that Trimbole and Hannbury were one and the same man. In any case, the courts held that fruits of an illegal act were inadmissable as evidence and freed Trimbole.

The main impact of the Trimbole decision, according to solicitor Dan Sullivan, is that it "brings into question for the first time in practice the bona fides of an arresting officer. "

The figures show starkly (see Section 30 article) that over the years Section 30 has been grossly abused by the gardai. The Trimbole decision reflects overdue judicial conncern at this.

Derek Dunne

Section 30 Arrests soar

THE STATISTICS ON THE number of arrests and detenntions under Section 30 of the Offences Against The State Act and the figures for those charged as a result of such arrests show clearly the extent of the abuse of garda powers over the past decade.

Under Section 30 any garda can arrest and detain any citizen for 24 hours. The detention can be exxtended to 48 hours on the signature of a Superintendent. This is a formality, as exxtension orders are sometimes signed only hours after the initial arrest and are someetimes signed in batches. At no time must the garda give grounds for such an arrest. The garda merely says that he or she had a "suspicion" that the person had committted a crime or was about to commit a crime.

Section 30 arrests are used as a lazy and inefficient way of "following a definite line of inquiry" after a major crime, when gardai "round up the usual suspects" and quesstion them intensely in the hope of getting a break. From such practices grew the scanndal of the "heavy gang" of the mid-1970s, when a section of the garda force used crude methods of interrogation to extract confessions from susspects. The toleration of this by the authorities resulted in . the apparent condonement and thus the spread of such practices.

The other use of Section 30 is the regular harassment of republicans and others. These are lifted at random and questioned in the hope of picking up odd bits of information or as a means of intimidation. A favourite method of harassing unemmployed members of Sinn Fein, according to one soliicitor, is to arrest and detain them for a few hours on their dole day.

Section 30 involves the allmost total suspension of civil liberties for those arrested and was designed to be used only in cases of genuine and immediate threat to the secuurity of the state. Should such powers be widely abused this would in itself be a threat to the freedom of the citizens, a threat potentially greater than that posed by any subversive group.

Year   No. of persons   No .of persons   Percentage of   
  arrested   charged   arrested   
      persons charged   
1972   229   186   81%   
1973   271   181   66%   
1974   602   271   45%   
1975   607   116   19%   
1976   1015   171   16%   
1977   1144 .   150   13%   
1978   912   133   14%   
1979   1431   169   11%   
1980   1874   168   9%   
1981   2303   323   14%   
1982   2308   256   11%   
1983   2334   363   15%   
1984.   2216   374   16%   

Over seventeen thousand Section 30 arrests have been made since 1972. Over half of these arrests have occurred since 1981. In the five years 1972-76, which are generally agreed to have been the most violent years of the conflict in the North and the spinnoff in the South, a total of 2,724 Section 30 arrests were made. In the five years 1980084, generally agreed to be a period in which violence was relatively low, 11,035 Section 30 arrests were made.

In the decade 1972-82 there was a 1007% increase in the annual number of Section 30 arrests.

From the staggering inncrease in the use of Section 30 it might be imagined that the gardai have become much more efficient at catching subversives. The figures show this is untrue. In 1972 229 people were arrested under Section 30. Of these 186 (or 81 %) were subsequently charged with a crime. In 1982 2,308 people were arrested under Section 30 but only 256 (or 11 %) were charged. Quite clearly Section 30 is being used as a fishing net to scoop in all those whom the gardai would like to question, harass or intimidate.

It is also quite striking that the bulk of Section 30 arrests occurred not when the Provisional IRA was engaging in the greatest amount of violence but when Sinn Fein began using electoral methods to gain support.

An analysis of the percenntages of Section 30 arrests which resulted in charges being brought (only charges, not those actually found guilty), shows that the proogress from what could be legitimate use of the law to use which is clearly far from that which was intended and which amounts to a gross abuse of power.

In 1983 and 1984 the perrcentages of arrests which were not an abuse of power fell slightly. However, last year an average of 42 people per week were being detained for periods up to 48 hours. Of these, only seven, on average, were charged with anything. The other 35 were fishing expeditions.

Gene Kerrigan


Derry Mafia

THE LATEST SIGNIFICANT social grouping to emerge in Dublin is the Derry City Supporters' Club, founded at a somewhat chaotic meeting in Mulligan's of Poolbeg Street on Monday April 29.

Present for the Guinness and Srnithwicks-soaked launch were north-western luminaries including Ellen P. (Nell) MccCafferty, sometime Irish Times features supremo Seamus Martin, Press-man Michael (brother of Feargal) Sharkey, ubiquitous Derry personality and Dublin Corpo welfare chief Dermie McClanaaghan, freelance hack Eamonn McCann and an assortment of disparate (surely desperate @ed) exiles from the walled Camelot by the Foyle.

It is anticipated that "bus-runs" to home matches in Derry's Brandywell ground will be organised and the Dublin body promises a "blow-out" after "The City's" first match against Dublin opposition in the new season.

Following the distressing scenes at the recent MilwalllLuton match and the erecction of an electrified fence around the Chelsea pitch, many sports journalists in Britain have suggested that hooliganism at UK soccer matches was in fact being organised by political exxtremists anxious to batten on the high spirits and fierce passions engendered at many soccer games. We trust that the Chicken League authoriities will keep a close eye on this latest development.

Beyond the Pale

I THINK I FEEL THE SILLY season coming on. The Nenagh Guardian is the main source of my apprehension. Last week it informed us that "an unusual flock of birds had been observed around the town" over the previous few days. "The breed is black, like a crow, but has a reputaation of possession a brighter coloured head as well as having a more impressive and calculating intellect ... This breed of bird is none other than 'the legal eagle'," Guarrdian columnist Peter Gleeson informs us in his report on the monthly sitting of the circuit court in Nenagh.

"Viewing the entire scene through the eyes of a layman," Peter goes on, "the ridiculous garb of both judges and barristers is enough to make the most common amongst us fall down on the floor with a sort of human distemper that would make us froth at the mouth from laughing at what are reputedly intelligent men and women dressed in outrageous costumes."

The practice of wearing wigs and gowns in court, Peter Gleeson goes on to innform his readers, was first introduced in Britain, to mourn the death of Queen Mary "in centuries past." "Someone should inform our legal populous (sic) that this country received its indepenndence back in 1922," thunders Peter Gleeson. "What's more, this archaic dress could be compared to the heavy earring worn by a punk, or the pins that are stuck through the nose of an African tribesswoman."

Moving swiftly along, we find that the editorial in the always entertaining Donegal Democrat concerns itself with the recent Workers' Party conference which took place in Dublin.

The Democrat begins by reassuring us that this party "once upon a time a strong arm of the IRA," is unlikely to ever capture any sizeable support. Nevertheless, "it would be wrong to accord it a fool's pardon and ignore its presence," the Democrat cautions.

The Workers' Party, we are informed, is anti-clerical and what's more the thinking of its members "makes for sinisster ideology." The Leader of the Party engaged in "typical Red propaganda during the conference" by asserting that there was no morality in a system "which places thouusands of people in the grindding poverty trap of life on the dole, while others can pay £30,000 for a car or £270 per day in a new private clinic in Blackrock." This was "a parrot echo of Marxism," the Democrat says.

Unfortunately, the Demoocrat warns, although it can see little likelihood of the Workers' Party making any impact on the Irish people, it is not alone in attempting to establish a purely secular state in this country. "The man now in charge of the government health departtment is not gospel greedy /' the Democrat points out. "As a secularist he is getting his way in striving after legislaation which no God-fearing Christian could conscientioussly countenance.

"Clearly," the Democrat concludes, "the challenge of pernicious secularism is buildding up and gradually eroding ~ the ages-old Irish respect for ~ moral standards. There is a ~ powerful antidote available. ~ When is it going to spring into action? That is the question."

What can it all mean?

In marked contrast to the Democrat's trepidations, the editorial in the Longford Leader, I'm delighted to report, is positively brimming with the joys of spring. "If we are to believe all we hear and see," it begins, "we are all living in very depressed and depressing times. There is no money about, thousands are unemployed and places are closing down all the time. If things are really as bad as they are supposed to be, then suicides should be an everyyday occurrence with disstraught business people jumpping from rooftops or into canals. Thankfully, the reality is very different to the media image of Ireland in 1985."

"It's true," the Leader concedes, "that there are a lot of people on the regisstered list of 'unemployed' people in this area. But still, if you were looking for a man to do a day's wheeling on the bog or to set a few spuds in the garden you would have great difficulty in finding one." Generally speaking, we are assured, the Longford area is not having a bad time at all. "The suicide rate shows absolutely no sign of zooming upwards," the Leader notes happily, "and on top of it all, it looks as if summer is just around the corner. So who's deppressed? Where is the depresssion?" the Leader demands to know. "Certainly not in Longgford," it assures us.

Whatever about Longford, it is extremely likely that Sergeant Thomas O'Loughlin, Garda Martin Rooney and Garda Finbar McCarthy of Enfield felt at least someewhat depressed last Wednessday night week when, after travelling to Ballyfermot to interview a suspect about a petrol station robbery that occurred locally, they emerged from Ballyfermot Garda Staation to find a six-month-old Triumph Acclaim going up in flames. Gardai, the Meath Chronicle reveals, believe that the fire was malicious.


John Waters

Beating the Band in Bundoran

THE COUNTY DONEGAL holiday resort of Bundoran has received more publicity over the past few weeks than money could buy. Governnment ministers, backbenchers, police associations and local groups have pulled out all the political and diplomatic stops to dissuade the New York Emerald Society Police Band from taking part in a parade in the town on the last weekkend in August to commemoorate the 1981 hunger strikers.

A campaign was initiated in the Donegal town to perrsuade the band not to take part. Even American ambassaador to Ireland, Robert Kane, has been asked by Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Barry to use his influence to get the band to back down.

Last Monday, the Bundooran Action Group, who are against the visit, decided not to hold an opinion poll to find out just what the resiidents of the town think. Chairperson Peggy Fitzgerald claims that the "vast majoority" of the town were against the visit but added that they "decided not to have a poll because we didn't want to cause a split in the community.

"But we will continue to object and encourage the government to pressurise the band into not taking part," she said. She also claims that the publicity and controversy surrounding the visit last year cost the town tourist bookings and lost revenue for this season. Ms Fitzgerald claims that the Action Group is nonnpolitical and that it, and not the Urban Council, represent the "real feelings" of the townspeople. (Last week, a proposal at the Council meetting requesting the band not to take part in the commemooration couldn't get a seconder and therefore fell.) Ms Fitzz-gerald claims that the reason for this was that "it was not a proper meeting."

Fianna Fail councillor Paddy McGloin says that there is no great opposition to the band. "The march won't harm tourism. It's been held here for a number of years and has always passed quietly." He was surprised at the activity of the Action Group.

"The group was set up to promote Bundoran and to avail of grants that the council could not get. There's certainly resentment for Ms Fitzgerald and the group getting involved in politics. That's not what they were set up for," he adds. His feeling is that the band will -bring in a crowd on an end of season Sunday, that there will be "a lot of ballyhoo, but certainly not any trouble." The local gardai have not exxpressed the view that there will be any problems.

Councillor McGloin makes the now familiar FF claim that Peter Barry and the poliiticians are raising trouble in order to "direct attention" from unemployment and the economy. "If they're elecctioneering, their attitudes will backfire on them," he adds.

The organisers are insistent that the march is to commeemorate the hunger strikers and nothing else, and feel that there are "political mootives" behind the moves to stop the march. One of the organisers said he believed that "outside political forces" were "putting the action group up to this."

"We have held this march for a number of years withhout any problems and will continue to do so," he added.

Peter King who was Grand Marshal of the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York, will be in Bundoran for the march, which is billed as an Irish-American weekend.

Nicky Kelly