Suspicions of Sinn Féin spin

It was reported over a week ago that Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly had all intensified their personal security for two reasons: an apprehension they might be assassinated in the run-up to the recognition of the police service in Northern Ireland and a renewed participation in the institutions of the "six-county" state.

 This prompted a suspicion that elements within the dissident republican movements and the INLA might be planning on killing off not just the leadership of Sinn Féin but the peace process itself.

It now emerges that a series of meetings have been taking place among various republican factions, including Sinn Féin, over the last few months and that these have included people involved in the IRSP (the political wing of the INLA), members of the 32-county Sovereignty Movement (the political wing of the Real IRA) and various non-aligned republicans. The only group not present were those associated with Republican Sinn Féin (whose paramilitary wing is the Continuity IRA).

At these meetings everyone agreed there was no basis for a resumption of the "armed struggle"; there were disagreements over the recognition of the police service. Apparently the meetings were congenial.

There has therefore been annoyance with the suggestion that some of these groups may be planning to assassinate the Sinn Féin leaders.

In a statement issued by James Bradley on behalf of the Irish Republican Socialist Party in Belfast, it is stated: "The IRSP are both saddened and shocked by the recent unsubstantiated comments from both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, and backed up by newspaper columnist Jim Gibney (a member of Sinn Féin), that there was a plot to kill leading Sinn Féin members. The only source for such a plot comes from within Sinn Féin itself."

The statement goes on to ask an interesting question: "Is this an effort by the Sinn Féin leadership to buy more time for their attempt to win over their own members who have doubts about the whole issue of policing? Rumors of plots to kill their leadership seem designed to cement the membership in behind that leadership. At the same time there is a mix to somehow imply that 'some members of the INLA' as opposed to other members of the INLA are involved in this spurious plot."

On the issue of policing the statement notes: "There is no serious public debate taking place. Where are the public meetings? Where is the open debate in Sinn Féin? It is all held in-house. Surely the major Nationalist Party in the North has a duty to let the nationalist public know the arguments for and against signing up to policing?"


The Aer Lingus debacle

The failure, so far, of the Ryanair bid for Aer Lingus merely defers the fall of the national airline into some private pair of hands or another, subject to the whims and self-interests of the new owner, indifferent to the national interests.

It is extraordinary the government has not suffered in the polls as a consequence of this debacle. No rational argument was made or could be made for the privatisation of the airline that had proved itself to be a success in state hands. The state got a measly ?400m (a fraction of the overspend on the roads) for ceding control of the airline. Now Ryanair or some other private corporate entity will swoop some time soon. The ESOP beneficiaries may make a tidy packet, Ryanair (if it is not them) will certainly make a few hundred million and then the workers, the Irish public and the national interest had better look out.


Taxation priorities

The PDs want the top tax rate to be reduced from 42 per cent to 40 per cent in the budget of next month. Why?

There are lots of arguments against reducing taxes at all, especially given the health of the economy and the recent history of tax reductions. And, even more so, the urgent need to fund public services.

But, aside from these arguments, what is the argument in favour of reducing the top rate of tax in preference to bringing more people out of the tax bracket altogether? Even those earning just above the minimum wage get into the tax net, so why not concentrate resources in taking them out of the tax system altogether, a measure which, incidentally, would benefit all taxpayers.

Or even using the resources to take more people out of the top tax bracket?



Short-lived rugby euphoria?

The performance of the Irish rugby team against Australia (pictured) and South Africa has been pleasing. Quite the best successive performances of any Irish rugby team – excepting Munster of course. We seem to have the best squad of 20 players ever. But...

What happens if Ronan O'Gara is injured? Who is there to replace him, now that David Humphries has retired from international rugby? Also if John Hayes were injured or, worse still, say both Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, or both Paul O'Connell and Donnacha O'Callaghan?

We have some strength in dept but hardly enough for the succession of intensive confrontations that take place in quick succession during the world-cup tournament.

Ireland have their opening game against Namibia on Sunday 9 September in Bordeaux. The next match is five days later on 15 September against a weak European side again in Bordeaux. Then on the following Friday (22 September) the first crunch match against France in Paris and then, on Saturday 30 September, against Argentina.

In the world rankings published after the Australia match, Ireland rate third in the world, after New Zealand and France, with Argentina in sixth place, just a few points behind.

So even given the impressive performances against Australia and South Africa, it is by no means certain Ireland will make it beyond the pool stages of the World Cup, given the opposition from France and Argentina. And were there to be an injury to one or two of the key players, then our chances of qualifying would be much reduced.

Were we to win our pool, we probably would face Scotland in the next round on 7 October in St Denis. Were we to come second we would face New Zealand on 6 October in Cardiff. If we face the All Blacks without the full Munster team, or as many as are available, then no hope.


On this day: 27 November 1095

The first crusades and the ensuing massacres

The first crusade was launched on 27 November 1095 by Pope Urban II to "liberate" the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Hellhole Land from the Muslims. A "holy war" against the Muslim world was launched by that crusade, for Muslims were perceived as the enemy of the Christian world, having extended their empire

At the council of Clermont in France, in 1095, Pope Urban II called for the "liberation" of Jerusalem. He spoke of "noble" violence and of the rewards both in this and the afterlife, where remission of sins was offered to any who might die in the crusades. The crowd was stirred to frenzied enthusiasm with cries of "Deus vult!" ("God wills it!"). His speech electrified Christendom and thousands – mainly peasants – came forward to take part in the crusade, ultimately up to 100,000.

In the early stages of the march to Jerusalem, the crusaders looted and robbed as they went. They were attacked by armies in Hungary and Bulgaria and they began to quarrel among themselves. That crusade also ignited a tradition of violence against the Jews in Europe and several pogroms took place, notably in Germany. Thousands were massacred.

There were several battles along the way, and an eight month long siege at Antioch. On 7 May 1096 the crusaders reached Jerusalem. After a protracted siege the crusaders entered the city on 15 July and immediately massacred almost every inhabitant: Muslims, Jews and Orthodox Christians. According to one source: "The slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles." According to another witness, Fulcher of Chartres: "If you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? ...neither women nor children were spared."