Fragments 2006-09-07

Ireland has had its own 9/11 in which more people were massacred than were killed in the United States on 9 September 2001. Fewer than 3,000 were killed in the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks five years ago – more than 3,650 were killed in the Irish 9/11.

On 11 September 1649, more than 2,800 soldiers were killed, more than 700 civilians and 150 Catholic clergy lost their lives in the siege of Drogheda, when Cromwell besieged the town.

Cromwell had landed in Ireland in August of that year with 18,000 soldiers to confront forces loyal to Charles I, who had been overthrown in the English civil war by the army led by Cromwell, acting on behalf of the English parliament.

At that time, Drogheda was garrisoned by over 3,000 Royalist and Irish Confederate troops under Arthur Aston. Cromwell demanded that Aston surrender and when he refused he bombarded the walls of the town on 11 September 1649. Because of the refusal to surrender, in accordance with the custom of the time, everyone in the town was subject to massacre. Cromwell's soldiers pursued the defenders through the streets, killing them as they ran. A group of soldiers in St Peter's church were burned to death. Arthur Aston, the Royalist commander, was reportedly beaten to death with his own wooden leg. Only 150 parliamentarians were killed in the attack.

It has been argued recently that Cromwell's orders were not exceptionally cruel by the standards of the day. Tom Reilly, a local historian, has claimed there was no evidence that unarmed civilians were killed on the streets of Drogheda.




'3' texts sent 40 times

Ireland's newest mobile phone provider, 3, has been experiencing some problems with its roaming texting service. Some customers who texted people who were in a foreign country, or who texted while they were in a foreign country found that the texts sent multiple times – as much as forty sometimes. The phone provider has explained that this happened because of problems with agreements with other operators and, when the phone was roaming with those operators, customers cannot send texts to other phones.

The phone automatically keeps resending the text. In order to avoid similar problems again, 3 has reduced the number of automatic resends. The customers were not charged for the texts.




Up to half a million prostitutes in EU

Between 200,000 and 500,000 women, many of whom have been trafficked, work in the illegal sex trade in the European Union, according to a report by the United Nations Population Fund published on 7 September. The report, 'State of the World Population 2006', estimates that 100,000 people are trafficked from the former Soviet Union every year and 75,000 from eastern Europe. Since Lithuania joined the EU in 2004 researcher have reported that the number of women being trafficked from that country has risen – the International Organisation for Migration estimates that 2,000 Lithuania women are illegally taken out of the country every year and forced into the sex trade.

Ireland is the only EU country without specific legislation addressing trafficking in adults. Ruhama, an Irish organisation that works with women involved in prostitution, says trafficking is a rising problem here. They know of 200 women who have been trafficked into Ireland in recent years, and they believe this is the "tip of the iceberg".

Ireland was also mentioned in a US State Department report on trafficking for the first time this year. It said, "There are reports which suggest that Ireland is a transit and destination country for a significant number of trafficking victims".

Emma Browne



Missile casualty at Poulnabrone

There are at least four different classifications of megalithic tomb in Ireland, built largely during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods. Court, portal, passage and wedge tombs were constructed over this protracted

period and, whilst not all were in contemporaneous use, some, such as the passage tombs and court tombs, were. These tend to occupy different and mutually exclusive distributions in the landscape. The differing grave goods and architecture of the tombs reflects the variations in religious belief and burial custom associated with the inhabitants of Ireland at this time.

It is well recognised, too, that these monuments, often strategically placed in conspicuous locations, served not just as funerary monuments and temples but also as territorial markers. Long before the written word these permanent structures proclaimed the collective ownership of the land for those who built them.

It may come as little surprise, therefore, that among the human remains excavated by Dr Ann Lynch at Poulnabrone portal tomb in Co Clare, was the pelvis of a person who had been shot with an arrow.




Garda Donal Corcoran, who became known as "Robocop" after he struck protesters with his baton at the Reclaim The Streets (RTS) rally in May 2002, was recently promoted to detective rank. He was acquitted of assault charges arising from the protest, but admitted using excessive force. He is currently being investigated by the Garda complaints Board for allegedly not wearing an ID number at the RTS rally

John Byrne


Greens on top for older people

Asurvey conducted by Irish magazine Senior Times has found the Green Party's policies on older people to be "excellent". Senior Times is a publication aimed at older people. The Green Party was the only party to

receive a positive comment. The magazine condemned Fianna Fail's social-housing and sheltered-housing provisions as they had failed to deliver on elder-abuse legislation. Fine Gael failed to respond to issues such as sheltered housing and community facilities, and the PDs response was 'disappointing', according to the publication's survey. Senior Times said it was surprised Labour "does not already have a comprehensive policy on older people". Over 20 per cent of the population are aged over 60 and they make up 30 per cent of those eligible to vote.




Bowman, the Abie years

Abie Philbin-Bowman, son of broadcaster John Bowman, is preparing for a two-week run of his oneman comedy show Jesus: The Guantanamo Years in Dublin.

How was the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

It's difficult to break even in Edinburgh because there are so many good shows on. Luckily I was on in the afternoon and my only competition was Neil and Christine Hamilton. Also I had some good publicity – I got on the front cover of List magazine, a listings mag for the Fringe, so that was a few hours of flyering I didn't have to do. I made a small profit.

What's the message of JTGY?

Well firstly I'd say that the idea of Jesus being in Guantanamo is more than just a gimmick. Guantanamo is profoundly un-Chrisitian. There's a spiritual idea beyond the idea that Jesus, as a bearded Middle-Easterner on an avowed mission to martyr himself for his beliefs, might be imprisoned in Cuba. I think it explores the idea that laughter is a threat to religion because it requires you to be critical about ideas.

Can an atheist pull off doing a play about Jesus?

One guy called me a cunt and a blasphemer, but I think he was a little drunk. A vicar asked me to give a talk next year and two Pentecostals from the Bible Belt in America loved the show so much they came to see it again.

I'm a moderate first and an atheist second. There have been plenty of crackpot atheists: Pol Pot, Stalin. I admire Jesus (and Gandhi and Buddha) but I think we should honour the spirit with which they live rather than dogma which might have been attributed to them.

Your show in Dublin opens on 11 September. Is that intentional?

Well it's not entirely accidental. I think 11 September is a very important day for all of us. Those 19 hijackers also hijacked our foreign policy and I think it has been disaster. I think the war on terror is unwinable. It just begets more violence. I think Irish people are very sensitive to terrorism, because of the Troubles. If the British did in Derry what the Israelis did in Tyre, you could understand why people might start supporting the IRA.

You poke fun at right-on lefties too, right?

I think that Guantanamo gives trendy European liberals a reason to be smug about themselves. I don't want to be lazily anti-American. I think we must be self-critical, but I also think it's better to wrap an idea in a joke than try to hector anybody.

Abie Philbin-Bowman performs Jesus: The Guantanamo Years at Spirit on Abbey St, Dublin, from 11 to 16 September 2006. Tickets €19 from Ticketmaster.



Drugs 'keep the lid' on Mountjoy

"If it wasn't for the drugs in here, this place'd be murder on top of murder. It's

the drugs that keeps your mind suppressed, it has a calming effect."

In the wake of the killing of Gary Douch and two further deaths in Mountjoy, we spoke to one prisoner (who asked not to be named) by mobile phone about conditions in the jail. He said the atmosphere in Mountjoy was "very volatile" and that drugs were crucial to "keep the lid on this place". He said "99 per cent" of the prisoners in Mountjoy were on drugs. One of the ways they

get the drugs, he said, is from prison officers.

"There's the odd screw in every prison that is on a good earner from drugs.

One ounce of heroin in here can get you nearly ?10,000 [twice its 'street'

price]. If a fellow was to say to a screw, there's a grand in it for you, just bring up a small package."

He said violence in the prison was closely related to the availability of drugs.

"The tension level goes right up where there's no drugs. It can happen for a day or so. Then someone comes back from a day out [with drugs on

them] and everybody's flush again."

There have been a number of stabbing incidents in recent weeks, according to this prisoner.

The governor of Mountjoy, John Lonergan, said he had no evidence of prison officers being involved in smuggling drugs into the prison.