Wigmore 16 June 1985 - Thomas Donnelly, David Norris, RTE coverage of McGuigan-Pedroza

IT IS PLEASANT to record that not everyone has collapsed into Evening Herald/Irish Times-style hyssteria over the supposed "crime crisis": pleasant not only because the heighhtened emotion of recent times has militated against rational consideration of the issues involved and obstructed sober assessment of the measures which do need to be taken, but also - and more importantly - because this style of reportage has significantly hindered the work of probation offiicers and of the welfare services geneerally in their efforts to break down the barriers of prejudice against those _ who, for whatever reason, have found; themselves on the wrong side of the law and for whose rehabilitation a supportive environment and accepptance by other members of society is quite crucial.

Secure employment, for example, as is well known, can often be the factor determining whether a connvicted person is able to reintegrate into normal society: highly coloured and contentious reporting of stories relating to crime and criminals carries with it the real danger that employers, whether in the public or private secctor, will rightly or wrongly perceive themselves to be under pressure not to accept back into the workplace emmployees bearing the stigma of criminal conviction. And that, paradoxically enough, lengthens the odds against the convicted person managing subseequently to stay within the law.

Thus we should not allow to go unmarked the progressive stance adoppted by the employers and workmates of Thomas Donnelly, who had the missfortune to be convicted of driving with excess alcohol at the Dublin District Court on April 3rd and who wassfined £ 150 and disqualified from driving for one year. Thomas Donnelly returned to work on June 6th. Obserrvers report that his immediate workkmates referred not at all to his recent difficulty but rather proceeded to the work at hand in an easy and comforrtable atmosphere which speaks volumes for their innate decency and their eagerness to ensure that the contrite Donnelly had no cause to experience anxiety or awkwardness.

The conviction of Thomas Donnnelly, readers may recall, was reported in Magill on April l Sth in, I think we are able to say, an objective and unnsensational manner. The report noted that journalists had had some little difficulty in discovering that the case was due to be heard and that, unusually, details of the charges were not read out nor was the charge sheet made available to reporters for scrutiny afterwards.

Mr Justice Thomas Donnelly is a former president of the District Court.

The column has not hesitated in the past to suggest that judges are not among the most vibrantly radical members of the community and, on occasion, to castigate some of their number for attitudes which fall short of what progressive thinkers believe is appropriate in certain situations. All the more apt, then, that the column . should now draw attention to the fact that Mr Justice Donnelly returned to sit on the bench in the no-jury Special Criminal Court last Thursday where, flanked by judges Doyle and Buchanan, he expertly handled a number of reemands, a couple on bail, a few in cusstody, the usual mixture.

Credit is due to the Department of Justice, to the cabinet, to the Attorrney General Mr John Rogers, to the president of the Supreme Court, Mr Thomas Finlay, and most particularly to Justice Donnelly's fellow judges for having taken a stand in this matter which should surely serve as an example to us all.

Rehabilitation rather than vengeful retribution should be the aim of all those professionally involved in the handling of convicted law-breakers.

* * *

I GATHER FROM the gossip around Leinster House that the shape of the proposed "national lottery" has allmost been finalised and that Rehab chief and leading national handler Frank Flannery is set to playa promiinent role. Before his appointment is confirmed, Mr Flannery might care to deny suggestions that some disabled people working in Rehab establishhments are paid as little as £ lOa week for up to 40 hours labour; that this is obscured by the device of including in the wage packet the Disabled Perrsons' Maintenance Allowance - which disabled people are entitled to whether they work for Rehab or not - as well as the tiny Rehab wage; that there is serious discontent and resentment among disabled people working in Rehab installations who believe that they are being used as cheap labour but who fear that their already vullnerable and isolated situation would be made worse were they to go public

with their complaints.

However, Mr Flannery is a very busy man - involved in running a Taoiseach and a broadcasting station as well as Rehab - so I'll settle for an answer to this question: Is it true that the labour of disabled people is being bought by the Rehabilitation Institute for as little as twentyfive pence an hour?

* * *

FURTHER TO MY comments last issue on the statement by Sinn Fein women candidates in the local governnment election objecting to the sexist language used in the official notificaation of the poll in Dublin, I have drawn to my attention another example of blatantly sexist language in which Republican women indeed all women - should surely be interested.

I refer to statements regularly isssued by government spokespersons in Dublin and London and to editorials in newspapers in both countries which persistently speak of the need to deefeat "the men of violence" and to thwart "IRA godfathers". I would have thought that, as far as the Dublin government and Irish newspapers are concerned, it should have been the duty of Ms Nualla Fennell publicly to condemn this insult to her sex. Speak up woman!

What's more: a number of my best friends happen to be fiery godmothers and they are becoming very upset about the whole thing.

THE RTE COMMENTARY on the McGuigan-Pedroza fight by Eamonn Andrews' smarter brother,' Noel, was appalling. At no point over the fifteen rounds did Andrews make a single observation which would have enabled viewers not expert in boxing - i.e. the vast majority - to understand better what was happening in the ring. At no point until the 14th round did he exxpress a clear opinion as to which of the boxers was winning. This possibly resulted from a lack of confidence in his own judgement, which would be perfectly understandable. He seemed incapable of conveying any sense of the tumultuous atmosphere at the Lofftus Road ground. He failed at the end of the 10th round to alert viewers to the fact that McGuigan was now enterring unknown territory, having never in his previous career fought more than ten competitive rounds. His perforrmance was flat, unhelpful and altogeether inappropriate to the occasion.

Meanwhile, back in the studio in Montrose Liam Nolan was topping and tailing the programme. Nolan's dyed hair might be ridiculous and his taste in sports jackets (he ten ds to .favour punk tweed) execrable, but he knows his boxing and has an ability to convey atmosphere and informaation in an effective and only slightly obtrusive way. No doubt Tim O'Connnor or whoever selects commentators for TV Sports at Montrose reckoned that these qualities disqualified Nolan. After all, this is the sports departtment which employs as one of its main radio soccer commentators a man with the diction of a drunk Hottentot.

WHY WAS "GOD Save The Queen" but not "The Soldiers Song" played as a preliminary to the fight?

The explanation canvassed in some circles - that a regulation of the World BoxingAssociation requires the playing of the anthem of the country in which a championship bout is taking place _ has no substance. There is no such regulation. Indeed, there is no requireement that any anthem of any kind be played at any fight. The promoter and the boxers are free to" arrange these matters to their own satisfaction.

The last world championship fight in Britain took place on January 19th at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, between Colin Jones of Wales and Don Curry of the US for the WBC welterweight title. "God Save The Queen" was not played. The Jones camp had the Welsh ant-hem, "Men of Harlech " played instead.

A spokesperson for the British Boxing Board of Control told me on Monday: "McGuigan is officially Briitish. He holds a British title and carries a British passport. The British national anthem would have been played at the suggestion of the McGuigan camp, or certainly with their agreement."

The identification of McGuigan with and by the British national annthem is, clearly, a political act and is consistent with the political uses to which he is being put by his advisers. His projection as a man who "unites the warring Irish factions" while acccepting that he himself is "officially British" fits perfectly into the analysis of the "Irish problem" promoted by the British establishment through its political leaders and newspaper commmentators: that political violence in Ireland is an entirely Irish affair for which Britain is in no way culpable and that the solution is for the incorrrigible, half-crazy Irish at last to see sense.

If McGuigan were to go into the ring with "Up The Provos!" emblaazoned on the back of his dressing gown and to celebrate victory by treating the crowd to a verse of "The Boys Of The Old Brigade" he would not be expressing a committed politiical viewpoint any more clearly than he is already. He would be expressing a different political viewpoint, of course, one not calculated to endear him to the powerful, un savoury and profoundly reactionary interests which dominate British boxing and who would promptly denounce him for "being political".

* * *

THE LATEST PHASE of the propaaganda drive to make Zionist persecuution of the Palestinian people respecctable in Ireland consists of the formaation of the "Irish/Israel Development Association" which has been founded to "promote hi-lateral trade and innvestment between Ireland and Israel" and which made its public debut at a reception in Dobbin's Bistro in Dublin on June lath.

The chairman of the "Development Association" is Alan Benson who just happens also to be the boss of Easy Travel, the major Irish travel operator offering trips to occupied Palestine. This encouraged a number of the hacks attending the reception foolishly to believe that if they play their cards right and produce "positive copy" they might touch for a freebie.

Among those who crossed a picket to attend the Dobbin's reception were Labour Minister Ruairi Quinn and Trinity intellectual David Norris. Norrris, when challenged by the picketers, replied mysteriously: "After all, there are gays being killed in Iran."

Each of those attending was presennted with a few "token" gifts, plus a five-page press hand-out and a copy of an eight-page tabloid newspaper exxtolling the produce and the culture of the Zionist state. On none of the 13 pages of propaganda material was the existence of the Palestinian people acknowledged. Hitlerite accounts of Germany took the same line on the Jews.

* * *

TWO DAYS BEFORE the Slane gig, on the Thursday afternoon, four great heads of our time were taking their ease in the balmy sunshine, stretched langorously by the banks of the Boyne on Lord Henry Mountcharles' estate, talking about this and that and one thing an du nothcr , and remarking that this was the way to live and no mistake about it, the four great heads in question being Lord Henry himself, gig supremo Mr Jim Aiken, leading immpressario and freelance personality, Mr Terry O'Neill, and Wigmore.

And Lord Henry happened casually to remark that this year, 1985, marked the 200th anniversary of the arrival of his family in Slane to take possesssion of the castle and that, perhaps, this significant bicentennial ought to be the occasion of some appropriate ceremony. What, he inquired of his three languid companions, would connstitute a suitable celebration?

Came the swift answer from Aiken:

"You could always give it back to its rightful owners."

* * *

EAMON DUNPHY HAS not left Fine Gael. He told me so himself. I'd asked him because he wrote in the Sunday Tribune (June 9th) that "the fact that: this citizen joined Fine Gael in the belief that it was pluralist and nonnsectarian only proves that 'there's one born every minute'." He cited as evidence for this proposition that Sinn Fein supports the IRA; the SDLP has colluded with Sinn Fein on Northern councils, Fine Gael helps to prop up the SDLP; therefore Fine Gael is susstaining the IRA.

Eamon is nothing if not an original thinker. But did his impassioned connfession that he d been made a fool of mean that he'd left Fine Gael?

"No," he replied. "Fine Gael left me."

Then he said: "That was off the record."

Then I said: "Too late, squire."

* * *

ALSO TOO LATE have been about a dozen entries for the Wigmore What Bruce Arnold Means Test. One of the late entries came from Phoenix, Ariizona. Another came from Sudan. A third came from Guam in the South Pacific. This guy Arnold is bigger than I'd imagined .. _ .

* * *

A GOODLY SUM was raised by the Nicky Kelly Committee at a £lOhead "poker classic" held in the Clarrence Hotel in Dublin on May 28th and attended by some of Dublin's most highly-regarded hustlers, rustlers and variegated political idealists. The top prize was won by none of these, howwever: the pot was scooped by a prison officer from Portlaoise.

CITY CENTRE SHOPPING in Dublin last Saturday afternoon (June 8th) was enlivened by a parade of uniformed Irish Navy sailors pushing a float in the shape of a boat and energetically colllecting money for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. A most worthy cause, of course, which we were pleased to note seemed welllsupported by the promenading citiizenry whose attention was drawn to the colourful procession by pop music emanating from a loudspeaker car which accompanied the intrepid seaafarers. The car, as the advertising hoarrdings affixed to its sides and roof attested, represented Captain Eamonn Cookes Radio Dublin.

Recalling that it is supposedly the function of the navy to sink pirates rather than join with them publicly -- even for charitable purposes - we phoned Radio Dublin to ask the Capptain how he had managed to lure a section of the State's armed forces in to association with his unlicensed operation. Nothing to it, he explained. He hadn't approached the navy at all. The navy had approached Radio Dubblin.

A spokesperson for R TE tells us that the station "takes a very dim view" of any official body or State innstitution "putting themselves in a posiition where they might seem to be suppporting illegal broadcasting."

"It is setting a very bad example by giving respectability to those who are blatantly breaking the law. However, all we can do is protest. We are not a law enforcement agency."

A spokesperson for the armed forrces said that participation by navy units with the unlicensed station would be "improper ... we would not approve."

Back to Eamonn Cooke. The navy would have approached Radio Dublin, he speculated, rather than Nova, RTE or Sunshine, possibly because of Radio Dublin's friendly association with the armed forces over a number of years. For example, there's the weekly reequest programme which enables Irish troops serving in Lebanon to send and receive greetings to and from their loved ones back home. The proogramme, the Captain explained, which is broadcast on Radio Dublin on Sunnday evenings, is taped. and the tape' supplied to the army which flies it out to Lebanon for broadcast on the UNIFIL radio network.

Meanwhile, no-hope candidates for obscure seats in Urban District Councils are being sternly warned that any association with radio pirates will result in them being blacked by RTE.

* * *

TO BE FAIR to the navy officers innvolved, their motivation was entirely, innocently benign. They were out to raise money for a worthy cause and looking for help to publicise the funddraising effort and only a churl or a pedant would make much of it, parrticularly when it is recalled that Communications Minister Jim Mitchell a fortnight ago instructed R TE not to bring into operation three VHF transsmitters in the Cork area which would have strengthened the legal station in its competition for listeners against a .number of pirate operations.

* * *

THE OFFICIAL OPENING of the new Luke Kelly Bridge in Ballybough in Dublin had been scheduled for next October. Instead it was opened on May 30th last. The reason was that politicians believed that there might bea couple of local election votes in being seen to associate themselves with the memory of the popular balladeer.

Thus, the ceremony went ahead even though the plaque to be unveiled hasn't yet been affixed to the bridge.

Among those present was Fianna Fail chief Charles Haughey.

The rush-hush ceremony had origiinally been brought forward with so little fuss that Mr Haughey had been

unaware that it was imminent. Also ignorant of the opening as late as Monday 25th was Dubliners' manager, the small but almost perfectly-formed Noel Pearson. However Mr Pearson happened to bump into gravel-voiced superstar Ronnie Drew who laid the info on him. Mr Pearson then disscovered that the only political interests likely to be represented were the Labour Party - in the person of current "Lord" Mayor Michael 0 'Hallloran - and the Workers' Party, whose stan dard in the local elections is being borne by a brother of the late Mr Kelly's.

Reasoning that the universal popuularity of Luke Kelly would hardly be reflected by such a restricted assembly, Mr Pearson set about informing others. Among these was FF press boss, the Slane-famed "Big Bopper " of Irish politics, P.J. Mara, who promptly cancelled all the Leader's engagements for the day and shepherded him toowards Ballybough and the cameras.

Among the mourners who gathered afterwards in O'Donoghue's in Merrion Row there were two distinct factions, the miffed strokers and the triumphant counter-strokers. As the faction in the back room sang out "Raglan Road", the front-bar tendency countered with "St Teresa of the Roses".

Luke Kelly was a beautiful singer and a man of great dignity and, in any conversation I ever had with him, was willing openly to proclaim his own political allegiance which was to the Communist Party of Ireland.