Wigmore - 2 May 1985 - Michael Noonan, abortion, An Garda, RUC, Dublin Corpo, Ronald Reagan
NICKY KELLY'S case for damages finally comes before the High Court this month. This is the case which he was explicitly invited by Justice Minister Michael Noonan to bring. Mr Noonan drew Kelly's attention to this option in a statement issued on June 7 1983 in which he added that Kelly could expect speedy treatment from the courts and that a "favourable outcome could be adduced as relevant, even only indirectly, to the question of his imprisonment. "
This statement was issued simultaneously with the announcement that Kelly was abandoning his hungerrstrike, then in its 39th day.
When Kelly started down this road the State started moving obstacles into his path. In October 1983 Mr Noonan's department demanded that Kelly come up with £ 1,200 to cover the cost of security on a journey from Porttlaoise to Dublin's Eye and Ear Hospital where Kelly had arranged to be examiined by a specialist in order to gather evidence of any permanent physical damage done to him while undergoing garda questioning.
While public derision was forcing the Department to back down on that one, Mr Noonan's officials were preevaricating about entering a defence to the statement of claim lodged by Kelly s lawyers on July 27. After three hearings and two separate motions for a judgement in default, the State, on December 16, at last entered a defence:
It did not deal at all with the substance of Kelly's claim. Instead, it argued that he was estopped from bringing the action because the issue at stake had already been decided in the criminal courts. In other words, the State was arguing that Kelly could not bring the case which the Minister had publicly suggested he should bring.
It is this issue which will be decided in the forthcoming hearing when, among other things, the good faith of the Department in issuing the stateement of June 7 two years ago will be on trial.
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DURING THE debate on the abortion amendment in 1983, Michael Noonan, Minister for Justice, referred to the Supreme Court as a "back door" through which all manner of nasty things might 'creep in and terrorise the citizenry. More recently he has expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the courts are not "processing" people fast enough.
There was a time - long ago ˜when it was generally believed that the courts existed to "try" the accused. There is also a concept known as sub judice, which under threat of imprisonnment prevents comment on cases before a trial is held. Usually sub judice is used as a means of gagging the press. Certainly Mr Noonan has no respect for it. He has told the judges that the 600 or so people who have recently been charged with offences related to car theft must be processed quickly, "put in jail and kept there." He has also alleged to the judges that these people have committed other offences while on bail.
He has directed his comments specifically at the judges and no judge dealing with such cases in the near future will be unaware of the Minister's wishes.
We will make no comment on this, we merely record the fact of this behaviour. It might be of interest to the solicitors who will be defending those people whom the Minister for Justice has already proclaimed guilty.
On second thoughts, we will commment. It is interesting to note that many of the kids appearing before the courts would appear to have as much - if not more - respect for those courts and t~.t-co~cept.of a.system of. law. 'than does the' Minister for Justice.
* * *
LOUD HAS been the lamentation in business circles and newspaper editoorials over the decision by Telecom chief Tom Byrnes not to seek a renewal of his contract. Mr Byrnes objected to a government edict that Telecom must kick back to the Department of P&T £ 180 million spent on infrastructural work. I suppose Mr Byrnes must be right on this one. All the experts say so.
Still, his sense of loss will possibly be eased if Communications Minister Jim Mitchell agrees to an ex-gratia signing-off fee of one year's salary £39,450. A request along these lines is, I am assured, being "favourably considered" and the support of Mr John Boland's Public Service Departtment canvassed.
Civil servants in the Department of Communications, mindful of occaasional public interest in; their own modest pension arrangements, are, innsofar as civil servants ever are, up in arms and mutinously muttering about the rather less generous attitude taken towards the misfortunate employees. of Irish Shipping.
There's a little spot of excitement. left in this one yet.
* * *
SPOKESMAN FOR the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Gerard Doyle, has been taking some .flak .for ·the- association's suggestion that citizens who use the proposed new procedures for bringing complaints against gardai and whose commplaints are subsequently found unnproven should be fined. Seems a sound enough suggestion to me and could usefully be included in the terms of reference of the new commplaints body presently being drafted in the Department of Justice. It would logically follow, of course, that gardai who charge citizens with offences of which they are eventually found innoocent ought also to be fined.
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I'M SITTING at home minding my own business, no hint of a hindrance to anybody, when there's a clatter at the letter box and a rustle from the hall floor and what do I discover but somebody's just delivered a great wodge of glossy gaudy-coloured bumph advertising this and tha.t and hinting at the other, and inserted into this wad of spurious enticements, between a coupon offering six-pence off a fraggrant lavatory cleanser and a pamphlet extolling the efficacious qualities of a new preparation for alleviating haemmorrhoidal bum-itch, is a begging letter from Fianna Fail.
I investigate. And it turns out that the Republican Party has decided this year to dispense with the services of its cumainn members for delivering the annual collection come-on and is innstead using a professional letter-drop outfit which, reasonably, has simply included the FF item in its weekly package.
Questions arise. If Fianna Fail has thought it proper not to rely on the voluntary Iabour of its own members, should it not have given the work thus made available to An Post, rather than to a private, non-unionised firm? Should not the Post Office Workers' Union have by now made comment on this matter?
And also: it is reported that FF rank-and-filers are in high dudgeon that they have had the delivery job withdrawn from them (although the party faithful will be dispatched to collect the donations which people with more money than sense put in •.. the supplied envelopes).
Now it has always been my immpression, and indeed experience, that mem bers of political parties trudge wearily round other people's houses delivering propaganda and con-job letters not because they actually enjoy this experience but because, although they do not enjoy it at all, they reckon it part of the price they have to pay to put their political ideas into action.
But it appears that members of Fianna Fail like going around the houses in all weather stuffing things into letterboxes . . . They complain if they are denied the opportunity ...
I can't help thinking that it would be a mistake to allow these people to get their hands on the machinery of the State ....
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DUBLIN CORPORATION has devised a most imaginative way to encourage tenants in trouble with rent arrears to pay up.
If you drift into deep arrears the Corpo will not permit you to pay any rent at all until you have come up with a lump sum equal to about half the total debt. If you can't find the lump sum you can't pay rent at all. Thus the debt mounts. And with it the required lump sum ...
There are Corpo officials who now appear to spend more time refusing rent than accepting it. Tenants report that some officials seem to take to this bizarre task with relish. One result is the sight of distraught people stumbling from the rent offices in Jervis Street unable to payoff all their rent arrears, not allowed to payoff that portion which they can afford and thus, desspite having demonstrably made their best effort to halt the slide into hopeeless indebtedness, facing eventual and seemingly inevitable eviction.
Perhaps somebody in the Corpo understands the logic of this. If so, I'd like to hear it.
* * *
RIGHT-THINKING people of all poliitical persuasions will surely join in the protests against the proposed Hunger Strikers' Commemoration March in Bundoran in August in which the New York Police Emerald Society pipe band is scheduled to participate. The idea of Provo supporters being invited to march to the tune of any police band will - given the Provos' activiities and stated attitudes - strike many as singularly inappropriate and indeed reprehensible. I hope to be among those who will go to Bundoran on August 31 to register a protest.
Of course, members of the band claim that they will be marching as private individuals and not as reppresentatives of the New York Police Department. But, as spokespersons for both the gardai and the RUe have joined Foreign Minister Peter Barry in pointing out, their presence will nevertheless tend to identify New York's Finest with Provisional Repubblicanism.
The New York cops have an unennviable record of racist brutality against blacks and Chicanos in that city and are generally regarded as solidly righttwing in their politics, passionate advoocates of tough "law-and-order" policies and supporters of Ronald Reagan. And yet Sinn Fein in Donegal is willing to associate itself publicly with them. Shame!
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THERE IS surely no need for the continuing speculation as to whether RUC Chief Constable Jack Hermon is entirely happy about the plan - unnveiled by Northern Secretary Douglas Hurd on April 11 - for a marginally more independent system of investiigating complaints against members of the force.
Early in 1978 Mr Hermon, then a deputy chief constable, was appointed to man the RUC end of a "hot-line " through which police doctors were invited to channel complaints about the maltreatment of people held for interrogation. This arrangement was made by Chief Constable Kenneth Newman (now Sir Kenneth, Comrnisssioner of the London Metropolitan Police) following a meeting at RUC headquarters in Belfast on March 21 1978 attended by Mr Newman and Mr Hermon for the RUt; a delegation from the North's Police Authority;
and two police doctors, Robert Irwin of Belfast and Dennis Elliot of Armagh. The meeting had been convened as a result of complaints of brutality made by the doctors to the RUC top brass, the Northern Ireland Office and the Police Authority. The RUC side's response was to announce the setting up of the "hot-line" and also to underrtake to investigate the specific alleegations made to the meeting by the doctors.
Three weeks later, on April 14, Dr Elliot wrote to the Department of Health asking to be relieved from his position at Gough Barracks, Armagh, in protest against the fact that illltreatment was still going on. He was persuaded not to resign by promises that action was imminent to deal with the situation.
For a further nine months police doctors sought to use the machinery established by Newman in their efforts to have the brutality stopped. For its part, the Police Authority held a number of meetings with both Newwman and Hermon to underline that it shared the doctors' concern. On one occasion the Authority by-passed the RUC top brass and wrote directly to Northern Ireland Secretary Roy Mason saying that it was "considerably perrturbed" by the fact that, despite all, the ill-treatment was continuing.
During the same period a letter to the Police Authority from Dr Elliot, giving exact details of injuries susstained by people held in Gough Barrracks, was passed by a senior civil servant to RUC headquarters, where it was retained without the Authority, to which the letter had been addressed, being informed of its existence. It is not clear which senior RUC officers were directly involved in the suppresssion of this letter.
What is clear is that throughout this period Mr Hermon was in a better position than any other RUC officer to be aware of the doctors' concern and had a degree of direct responsibiility for taking action to remove the causes of that concern.
In March 1979, as a result of frusstration that use of the existing machiinery produced no results, Dr Irwin appeared on London Weekend Teleevision's "Weekend World" -prograrnme and, in an interview with Mary Holland, blew the lid off the torture scandal.
Mr Newman was later promoted.
So was Mr Hermon.
* * *
WARBLE-VOICED pop singer Geralldine Brannigan is back home after her latest sortie to South Africa where she was doing her tiny bit for apartheid by singing to segregated audiences. Sadly, I have to report that the tour was not an unqualified success.
Geraldine returned after making "eight-and-a-half" appearances out of a scheduled 40.
"The whole thing was a mess and a circus," according to Cape Town promoter Ronnie Quibell, "with the audiences getting smaller and smaller . . . In Welkom she only did half an hour, and got the band to fill in. She told the audience she had lost her voice. The next night we never sold a ticket. "
Ah well, Geraldine, sure don't you worry your head about it. There's plenty of other markets around. A word in the right Washington ear and you could easily fill in with a Central American tour, gigging for the Contras in Nicaragua, entertaining the El Salvadorean National Guard and so forth.
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STILL ON the wild and wacky world of entertainment, I have to make it clear that wild horses will not drag from me the name of the much-loved and very successful pop balladeer who, on December 23 last in the Killiney Court Hotel, responded to a merry invitation to "give us a song, Joe," by smacking a young woman so hard in the face that she was rendered unnconscious.
Wild horses wouldn't. But failure by this burly star to make suitable amends just might.
* * *
CASTLEBLANEY super-star Paddy Cole has been telling me that the family is deeply distressed by the perforrmance of cousin, German Chancellor Helmut Cole, in the matter of Ronnie Reagan's visit to the Federal Republic this week.
Reagan found it difficult to cooordinate the brain-cells when deciding if he should (a) visit the graves of SS storm troopers but NOT the site of a concentration camp where the SS had murdered millions of Jews, or (b) to visit the concentration camp but NOT the SS graves, or (c) to visit both, or (d) neither.
I suppose he didn't want to ignore the SS graves for fear of seeming to insult the British Royal Family.
Chancellor Helmut has compounded the problem by publicly supporting Reagan's decision while appearing unnaware what the decision actually was. What he should have done is to have told Reagan to visit the Russian graves.
Reagan's European visit has been presented as part of the process of commemorating the .May 1945 victory over Hitler. In fact the commemoraation is being single-mindedly used in the West as a means of solidifying the NATO alliance against the Soviet Union. There is a stark contradiction here which explains Reagan's dithering. The contradiction arises from the fact that the Soviet Union won the Second World War.
Of 54 million people killed in WW2, around 20 million were from the Soviet Union. Seventy-three per cent of all the German losses were on the Eastern front. When the strength of the fascist forces was at its highest in the East, in November 1942, there were 266 German and German-allied divisions facing the Red Army; there were 125 Nazi divisions deployed on all other battle-fronts combined. At no time during the war did the fascist forces fighting in the east fail to outtnumber by at least two-and-a-half to one those fighting on all other fronts combined.
The success of the armies of the US, Britain and their allies in the series of skirmishes which became known as the "Western front" was, of course, signiificant. But, mainly, it was the people of the Soviet Union who, at unimagiinably terrible cost to themselves, defeated Nazi Germany and won the war.
Ronald Reagan, given his political ideas and world outlook, understandably finds it difficult to handle this fact. But the rest of us would do well to remember it 'as the drums of triumph begin to beat for the Western leaders as they wilfully misremember what price was paid, and by whom, for desstroying German fascism.
* * *
NORMAN ST JOHN STEV AS, Eric Heffer and the Daily Telegraph have a solid point when they complain against recent attacks on Princess Michael of Kent over the fact that her father, Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, was a Nazi. No daughter should be blamed for what her father happened to be involved in. Quite so. Perfectly obvious. Indubitably right.
Except that, when you come to think about it, if there is one family in the whole world which proclaims and even personifies the proposition that the qualities, characteristics and entitlements of parents do pass directly down to the next generation it is the British Royal Family. It is fundamenntal to the mystique of monarchy that the Royals are entitled to rule, not on account of personal qualities or talents which equip them so to do but preecisely on account of the fact that they are descended from their ancestors. They are Royalists, not anti-Royalists, who defend and insist on the vital importance of heredity.
Of course, Prince Michael is well down the list of those in line for the throne. But I am told that if, say, a mortar attack on Windsor Castle on Christmas Eve were to eliminate from the succession line 27 accuratelyyselected members of the Brit Royal Family Prince Michael WOULD beecome King Michael, his princess would be queen and their eldest lad, suddenly promoted to the head of the queue for the sceptre and crown, would be set fair to become the first British monarch with a Nazi granda.
* * *
THE SCENE is Foley's in Merrion Row last Sunday night and, as Dennis Taylor delves deep into himself for steadiness and lines up a horrendously daring and awesomely important red, the only sound to be heard is a symmphony of twangs as nerves start snappping and, from a corner, the quiet sobbing of a contingent of emotionallyyshattered Tyrone exiles, when a darkkeyed woman of a certain intensity announces, apparently by way of encouragement to Mr Taylor, or, possibly, as a placatory offer to the gods, that "If Dennis Taylor pots this ball, I'll sleep with anybody in the bar. "