Wigmore 27 June 1985 - Gorbachev and Ulick, Frank Flannery, Dick Spring, Michael Noonan, Sunday Trib

TROUBLES CROWD in on the decrepit Gorbachev regime in the USSR. Hooliganism, alcoholism, petty theft and joy riding in official cars are widespread as the working class expresses its discontent with its corrupt state-capitalist rules. A .thoroughgoing revolution which will sweep this collection of vodka-soaked gangsters into oblivion is, of course, the only ultimate answer. In the meantime, Ulick O'Connor and the National Union of Jourrnalists will do their best.

Ulick - who, incidentally, is being flown to London on 22 July in a dessperate effort by the BBC to improve the ratings for the "Wogan" chat-fest fiasco - was gracious enough to make very valuable, hard-back first editions of five of his books available to the USSR authorities five years ago, with a view to giving the oppressed masses of the Stalinist empire the opportunity to read his ouvre in translation. The advantages of this project for the culltural and political development of the Soviet citizenry cannot be overrestimated.

The nefarious Russkies have now stolen Ulick 's books. They have not translated or published them, nor have they been willing to return the valuable tomes to the author. No doubt the cultural commissars who "tasted" the volumes realised that allowing Ulick 's questing, free spirit loose in the collective consciousness of the Soviet people would be fraught with incalculable consequences. The First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy on the Orwell Road who had taken custody of the books from Ulick has since been mysteriously "transferred", quite possibly to a turf-fired sewageedisposal plant to the North of Vladiivostok where, even now, he whiles away the frozen days perusing the liteerary works of Tomar Macgillavitch as a prescribed antidote to the demoocratic contagion of Ulick 's Life of Oliver St John Gogarty.

Ulick has written letters to the Russkies' opulent embassy, made phone calls, appealed to the Soviet writers' union etc, all to no avail. Now he has authorised the escalation of the dispute by putting the matter in the hands of the Dublin Freelance branch of the NUJ, a tightly-knit group of unpolitically-minded people tempered and toughened by long years of struggle against money-crazed prooprietors and mad-dog editorial executives.

Comrade Nesterenko and his sideekicks up in Orwell Road would do well 'to arrange the return of Ulick's books now or face the wrath of Freelance Branch members including Sam Smyth, Nell McCafferty, Hugh Leonard, Shay  Healy, Fr Brian D 'Arcy , Lyn Geldof and Lord Killanin, not all of whom will I be able to restrain from advennturist protest action which no righttthinking person would support.

Give Ulick back his books, ya bowsies.

Frank answers frank question

In the last issue of Magill, Wigmore asked the chief executive of the Rehabiliitation Institute, Frank Flannery, if it was true that the labour of disabled people is being bought by the Rehabilitation Institute for as little as twentyyfive pence an hour.

A loaded question, we agree but far too many questions are unloaded nowadays and we aim to redress the balance.

Anyway, it emerges that it is sort of true that the Rehab is "buying" the labour of disabled people for this amount - sort of because the labour is not really bought but trained. The complete picture is as follows: the Rehab Institute trains about 2,000 at anyone time, in skills from electronics, to computer programming to very basic work, involving the severely mentally handicapped. Part of the training for some of the courses involves actual innvolvement in the manufacture of clothes, furniture etc.

Rehab is funded partly by the State - £700 per person per year, which is far below the AnCO grant - partly by the European Social Fund, partly by donation and partly by the sale of products manufactured by trainees. This latter revenue source covers thirty per cent of the total cost of the Institute.

Rehab trainees are paid about £50 to £60 per week, which compares favourably with some AnCO payments, but is still below the AnCO level _ Rehab has been agitating about this for some time. It doesn't provide any long term employment but of late both because of the recession and the failure of the State to provide "sheltered" employment, apart from the Workkshop for the Blind, which caters for only 100 people, Rehab has been allowwing trainees stay on courses longer than is required, both to ensure that they have something to do and to ensure that they do not lose the skills they have acquired.

While it is true that the differential between what the trainees get from the Rehab and what they would get if they were just on Disability Allowance amounts to around £10 per week, this is no different from the situation preevailing at AnCO, where there is a small differential between what people get paid on AnCO courses and what they would get on unemployment benefit. We asked a question. We got a very satisfactory and full answer.

Next business.

DICK SPRING must by now be reegretting the petulant letters he disspatched to RTE Head of News, Wesley Boyd, and Controller of Programmes, Muiris Mac Conghail, four days before the poll complaining that the Labour Party's prospects had been unfairly downgraded in RTE news and current affairs programmes and suggesting that this had been deliberately done by anti-Labour elements in an effort to damage his party.

In his letter to Boyd he instanced a number of items on the "This Week" programme of June 16 which allegedly illustrated RTE's anxiety to underrestimate Labour support. He commplained that the programme had assumed Labour's prospects in Limeerick were poor. In the event, Labour lost three of its four corporation seats with Lord Mayor Frank Prenndergast barely holding on. Meanwhile Jim Kernrny's DSP won three seats and People's Democracy one.

He wrote that "I view with exxtreme seriousness the deliberate atttempt to bias the reporting in the North Inner City area of Dublin." Spring claimed that an RTE reporter had accompanied candidate Don Buckkley on a canvass of sixteen houses; that Buckley had been promised first preferences in nine of the sixteen homes and a second preference in another; that five households had not yet made their minds up and that on only one doorstep had Buckley enncountered hostility. If this happened it was quite remarkable and entirely unrepresentative and "This Week" was right to ignore it and report that Labour's prospects were poor. The total Labour vote in perhaps the most solidly working class constituency in the land was 857, 5.4% of the poll. Effectively, the party no longer exists in the constituency where it had its headquarters.

Spring protested, too, about the programme's pessimistic prognosis for the party in Dun Laoghaire. In an ennlarged council area it managed to drop a seat while Fine Gael gained three and the Workers' Party scored its first success.

The programme's forecast that the party would do badly in Kilkenny was likewise borne out by the result, which showed Fianna Fail and Fine Gael holding their seats while Labour lost one.

Spring's final specific complaint was that the programme had suggested

that the Labour campaign in Kerry was being hampered by personality conflicts and that the party there was developing as a "Spring family dyynasty". The poll outcome was the loss amid considerable acrimony of Minister of State Michael Moynihan's seat in mid-Kerry, the party's only real success in the county being the return of Spring's sister Maeve in Tralee.

In every instance, "This Week" got it generally right, Mr Spring got it badly wrong. Short of arguing now that the party suffered these reverses because of the RTE coverage, it is difficult to see how he will be able to sustain what were very serious charges against the national broadcasting staation. And since journalists and others at R TE are determined that his charges will not be allowed to lie unanswered on the table, the likelihood is that there will be further embarrassment for Labour and demands that the alleegations be publicly withdrawn. This one could run and run.

* * * * *

SPRING'S LETTER to Muiris Mac Conghail had serious implications for future Labour policy on public broad" casting.

He told Mac Conghail: "I think you will be aware of the attitude my party has always adopted in relation to pubblic service broadcasting ... There is no other political party in this State that has been as supportive of RTE as we have . . . I hope it does not turn out to be the case that the clear absence of fairness in RTE's treatment of this party leads to a different attitude within my party to the need to protect and develop RTE."

What this appears to mean is that Labour support for RTE - particularly in relation to local broadcasting - is not based on firm principles but is negotiable and dependent on the party's perception of the way its actiivities are covered by RTE broadcasters. This is a very original approach to a serious political issue and it will be interesting to hear Mr Spring develop and elaborate on it in the coming months.

It would be interesting, too, to hear the reaction of Mr Spring and of mainstream political commentators were, say, the leader of Fianna Fail publicly to inform R TE that party policy on broadcasting might be deependent on how the station covers the party's activities.

Incidentally, RTE chiefs can be exxpected to stand by their journalists in this controversy, a tradition not always rigidly adhered to in other media, such is the sad decline in stanndards.

MANY WILL have assumed that among those most cheered by the reeturn of Paddy "Mad-law" Madigan to represent Blackrock in Dun Laoghaire Corporation were the beleaguered members of the local gardai. Mad-law, after all, is a passionate advocate of greater powers for the police over the people and a deviser of imaginative schemes for pressing the public into service to assist the law-enforcers in their endless struggle against heroinnimporters, muggers, the citizen's right to bail and other threats to civilisation.

Things are not, I gather, quite that simple.

Nervous Fianna Fail chiefs expect Mad-law now to campaign for close liaison between the Corporation and the gardai and for the formal establishhment of a "law and order" committee involving councillors, garda representaatives and other relevant interests. One Fianna Fail vote-winner in the area speculated after the result that the only way to handle the matter will be to put Mad-law in charge of such a committee and let him get on with it.

As the redoubtable Paddy dreams up new wheezes for confounding the criminal - neighbourhood watches, part-time auxiliary gardai in every street, the issue of machine-guns to traffic wardens etc - this prospect is, I am told, being contemplated by senior garda officers in the borough with, shall we say, a certain lack of ennthusiasm.

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IN LAST week's Sunday Tribune book reviewer Joe Ambrose is desscribed as "a writer and critic. His latest novel is Love's Dark Night."

This is not the first time I have read a description of Mr Ambrose as the author of this novel. But where is the novel? Its publication was originally announced as long ago as Christmas 1983, when it was promoted as part of a unique package which was intennded to include the Host's interesting "concept album", "Tryal". Eighteen months later, still no novel.

The longest gestation period in the animal kingdom is that of the Sumaatran rhinoceros. But never was a Sumaatran rhinoceros as pregnant as Joe Ambrose must now be with this book.

I think that in future I, too, shall describe myself as a novelist and ask editors to identify me as author of works including the trilogy "Sharp

Side of the Law", "The Worrying of 'Sheep " and "Fink".

* * * * *

THE NORTH Inner City area of Dublin has an electorate of 35,046. On June 20 only 15,963 of these voted. Labour, as mentioned, won only 857 first preferences. Fine Gael took 2,1 08. That's a combined Coalition total of 2,965, fewer than a fifth of the total poll and under nine per cent of the electorate. Fine Gael's front runner, former Lord Mayor Michael Keating, came in fourth in terms of first preeferences and a mere 250 ahead of Sinn Fein's Christy Burke.

Only one voter in eleven walked to the poll to register approval of the government's performance. I know of no worse performance by any governnment in any election in any constiituency in the history of the State.


ANOTHER SCANDALOUS abuse of government and misuse of public money is evident in this communicaation from Justice Minister Michael Noonan to voters in the Bruff, Limeerick area a few days before the June 20 poll. There is clearly public expennditure involved in that the letter is written on official departmental noteepaper. If the letter was typed and photocopied within the department a quite serious diversion of public funds into the Fine Gael election campaign coffers is indicated. If, on the. other hand, the official notepaper was removed from the Department and given over to Fine Gael activists to use in this wayan even more disgraceeful situation obtains. The name and authority of the Department of Jusstice is not the property of the Fine Gael party, to be deployed in an elecction campaign. I hope we have not heard the last of this matter which has been drawn to my attention by a number of understandably· outraged citizens of Limerick.