Friday, 12 November 2010


Dan has granted Soñar permission to publish his ODD BODKINS cartoon strip.

ODD BODKINS ON Soñar. Vol. 2 No. 4

Select Image for Larger Viewing

© Dan ONeill

Hugh Daniel O'Neill

Thirty years ago Hugh Daniel O’Neill was described as, “an innovator, a creator and a professional troublemaker” in a Forward to a collection of Odd Bodkins.

For seven years his Odd Bodkins cartoons ran daily in The San Francisco Chronicle and in 350 other newspapers throughout the world. At its peak, the strip had a readership of fifty million.

When he was hired at age 21 —the youngest cartoonist ever hired by a national syndicate— he was given three simple rules: no religion, no politics and no sex in the strip. He did his best to comply — he kept sex out of Odd Bodkins.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ulster Says No!

Trade Union Protestors at Belfast City Hall
© Joe ÓNéill

Thousands of Trade Unionists and their supporters marched in a rain swept down - town Belfast yesterday to protest impending public service cuts announced by the British coalition government last Wednesday.

Below are the comments delivered by Belfast - born Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Friends and comrades.

We gather here today, in our thousands, to send a message to those who rule us with threats and who generate fear through lies and spin.

Last Wednesday, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Trust Fund Tax Avoider, claimed yet again that ‘we are all in it together’.

He then had the brass neck to claim that ‘those with the broadest shoulders should bear the burden’.

He then proceeded to place the entire burden of the deficit onto the least deserving and those least able to withstand the pain – the poor, the ill, young people, women and ordinary working families. The Tories and their enablers and their propaganda merchants talk about ‘fairness’ being at the heart of what they are doing.

Well, is it fair for a cabinet of millionaires to cut over £18 Billion from benefit claimants?

Is it fair for the investment banks and hedge funds who caused the crisis – to pay a measly two-and-a-half Billion, when we know that they are awarding themselves £7 Billion in bonuses?

Is it fair for those same banks to get back most of that two-and-a-half Billion through cuts in Corporation Tax?

Just like the businessmen who backed Osborne’s cuts this week. Between them, we know they pocketed over £14 million in obscene salaries this year. Is that fair?

Is it fair for the pensioners in Fermanagh and Omagh who have had their elderly care cut by 18,000 hours this year already?

Is it fair for the most vulnerable local families who need help, whose social workers and child protection staff are struggling with £6 million in cuts so far this year?

Is it fair for the people of Antrim and Mid-Ulster whose hospitals no longer have any A&E cover?

Is it fair for the students and graduates our economy needs, if it is to grow, to be saddled with tens of thousands of debt before their first pay cheque?

And this is happening before the cuts announced last Wednesday kick in.

The elite who created this crisis see workers, public services and the most vulnerable, as the bank of last resort when they need to be bailed out.

They think that taxes are for the little people.

Half of them should be in prison for wrecking the economy.

The other half should be in prison for tax dodging.

Shame on them for their greed and recklessness, and shame on the Liberal Democrats for providing a cloak of respectability for the Nasty Party which the Tories were and always will be, with or without Thatcher.

Gallows Humor by Equity Actors Union Member
© Joe ÓNéill

Shame on those Liberal Democrat collaborators for clapping George Osborne on the back after he condemned over half-a-million workers to the dole queues - What an obscene sight.

Over 30,000 public and private sector jobs are facing Osborne’s axe here in Northern Ireland, as he slashes away at the essential services which all of us rely on.

Shame on the CBI and the Institute of Directors, the so-called representatives of our struggling private businesses, for backing this ideological vandalism.

Shame on those bank economists who acted as cheerleaders in the press for unrestrained greed, and who now demand that the poor pay for the crimes of the rich. There are plenty of other, wiser, Nobel-prize winning economists who assert that the cuts are too fast and too deep and will plunge us into a deeper recession.

I will tell you what fairness is.

This is the most unequal country in Europe. If we imposed a mere 2 per cent wealth tax on the richest ten per cent, we could raise £78 Billion in a single year.

If we had a Robin Hood tax on speculation and the excesses of investment banks and hedge funds, we could raise billions more, and at the same time we would reduce the rewards for reckless gambling.

If we employed enough tax inspectors with the same political backing to pursue tax cheats as we have for chasing benefit fraud, then we could raise £123 Billion per year in taxes which are evaded, avoided or, unbelievably, not collected.

If those with the broadest shoulders really paid their share, we could wipe out this deficit in one year, not four.

You might think that tax cheats would excite our Minister for Finance. No, what annoys Sammy Wilson most is you being here today.

Sammy wants us to sit down, shut up and take our medicine – like good patients for his prescription of austerity and privatisation. However, this is not medicine, but poison.

This corrupt system, and its cheerleaders and its sponsors, is the sickness pervading our society, and by rallying here today, you are facing up to it with bravery and resolve.

They tell us that the government debt is unsustainable. It is 70% of GDP.

Most of that debt is owed to UK financial institutions that we bailed out.

It was at or above 70% of GDP for most of the 20th century. When it peaked at 250% in 1946, that government decided to invest to help the people and grow the economy.

They built the NHS, decent homes, the welfare state and delivered free education. This government wants to demolish that achievement - For ever.

It is time to shout ‘stop’!

It is time for investment in our economy and our society and our young people.

It is time for each workplace, every office and factory and farm, hospital ward and care home, to be guaranteed a future, free from fear and unfairness.

It is time to protect public services - not decimate them.

It is time for the young to reach their potential through a fair and efficient education system that rewards effort and not burdens ambition with a lifetime’s debt.

To this end, we will shortly be organising an economic conference, to which we will invite civil society organisations who share our vision and ethos, to develop an alternative economic strategy.

It is time to remind those politicians who argue for cuts, that we elected them to represent Northern Ireland and its citizens.

They received no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland to slavishly follow and implement draconian economic policies which will damage all of us for generations to come.

Not one Tory was elected from here, and precious few outside of southern England.

This is the message being sent today from Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and the regions of England.

Together we will stand as the principled opposition to this Millionaires’ club – those in work, those without a job, those who care for their community, those who we elected to speak for us, those who showed leadership by signing the Joint Declaration from the devolved Administrations, warning Cameron and Clegg about the recklessness of their plans. By the way, Sammy signed that declaration of opposition. Maybe he should be here today, after all!

There are elections coming soon. It is time that Sammy and his ilk earned their seats not by their tradition, or even their political parties, but by how they acted in this crisis.

Elements of our political class pulled down the institutions for far less than the welfare of our poorest citizens, the education of our children, the care of our elderly and the jobs of our workers.

If the Tories want to worsen an economic crisis, let us see how they can deal with a determined opposition across these islands, in every part of this country.

Let us stand together, with our brothers and sisters in Wales and Scotland and, as a united Northern Ireland, shout, ‘STOP THE CUTS’!

© Joe ÓNéill

© Joe ÓNéill

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Irish-Americans - They Haven't Gone Away You Know

Former President Bill Clinton
© Joe ÓNéill

A familiar refrain by your average Joe, directed at the political class in Northern Ireland is, ''stop the squabbling and get on with the job that you were elected to do''. To quote an old Bill Clinton quip, ''It's the economy stupid.'' that is foremost in the minds of your average voter, as concern for job security and bread and butter issues predominate the local political landscape, where the coalition government in Britain contemplate massive public expenditure cuts that will have severe repercussions for the Northern Ireland economy.

If there is one thing that politicians in Northern Ireland agree on, and unfortunately, this may be the only thing, then it is the importance of attracting American investment into the Northern Ireland economy.

In July, the American Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, announced that US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, would host an economic conference on Northern Ireland in Washington DC this autumn. Former US President, Bill Clinton, will visit Northern Ireland on a fact-finding tour prior to the conference.

The more cynical amongst us might query the timing of this conference. Americans are due to go to the polls in November for the mid-term elections. President Obama and the Democrats face an electorate that is angry and frustrated with the lack of progress on turning the American economy around. Any and every advantage with large voting blocks is crucial to incumbent Democratic candidates. If President Obama does not realize the importance of the Irish-American vote, then you can be sure that Bill and Hillary Clinton do.

It is well to remember the previous much heralded US investment project for Northern Ireland, the Emerald Fund, launched with great fanfare in 2008, after an economic conference held in Northern Ireland. The fund, which was to provide some $150 million of investment from New York State pension funds, has to date delivered zilch. That is if you discount the reputed $3 million paid in fees to the fund's managers.

While most Irish-American political activists would be supportive of activities geared to promoting American investment in Northern Ireland, there remain those who have not taken their eye of the ball of continuing oversight of the human rights agenda, and the ending of partition.

Far less to the liking of Unionist politicians travelling to America this autumn will be the actions of activists in the American capitol, and in the State of California. Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan, who chairs the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, last week held hearings on Northern Ireland. Father Seán McManus, of the Washington based Irish National Caucus, and Aideen Gilmore, Deputy Director Committee on the Administration of Justice, testified before the subcommittee.

L-R Congressman Russ Carnahan Father Seán McManus

Father McManus said, ''He (Congressman Carnahan) deserves great credit. Irish-Americans are deeply grateful for his support of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland.''

Ms. Gilmore in her testimony to the subcommittee said, “While a lot of progress has undoubtedly been made in Northern Ireland … We would urge continued vigilance and support for the protection of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland as a means of embedding and sustaining peace. ”

Aideen Gilmore

Meanwhile in California ... a joint resolution, SJR 27, on Irish unification, by Senator Leland Yee, Democrat of San Francisco, has passed its third reading with a vote of 30 – 0.

California State Senator Leland Yee

The preamble to the resolution states, ''This measure would express the California Legislature’s strong support for Irish reunification by all peaceful means and would urge the California Congressional delegation to support the final reunification of the island of Ireland by all electoral and diplomatic means necessary.''

The resolution in full reads;

WHEREAS, The logic of history, international law, human rights, and peace dictate the reunification of the island of Ireland, and the realities of the moment, including the Good Friday Agreement and the development of the all-Ireland institutions of governance, attest to this momentum; and

WHEREAS, In the past, the State Legislature adopted the MacBride Principles for Northern Ireland and offered its informal endorsement of the Good Friday Agreement among the previously warring parties; and

WHEREAS, The contribution of Irish-born and Irish Americans to this state and to this nation are legion; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly,

That the Legislature strongly supports Irish reunification by all peaceful means and urges the California Congressional delegation to support the final reunification of the island of Ireland by all electoral and diplomatic means necessary; and be it further Resolved,

That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the President pro Tempore of the Senate, to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States, and to the United States Secretary of State.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Gubernator


Dan has granted Soñar permission to publish his ODD BODKINS cartoon strip.

ODD BODKINS ON Soñar. Vol. 2 No. 3

With the passing of Labor Day, last Monday, the campaign season for the forthcoming American mid-term elections for the House of Representatives, the Senate, and State Governorships, shifted into top gear.

State of California law prohibits constitutional office holders from holding the same office for more that two terms, so incumbent Governor, Hollywood superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger, will end his term on January next.

Dan ÓNéill, AKA Odd Bodkins, gives his take on the Republican Governor's term in office.

Select Image for Larger Viewing

© Dan ONeill

Hugh Daniel O'Neill

Thirty years ago Hugh Daniel O’Neill was described as, “an innovator, a creator and a professional troublemaker” in a Forward to a collection of Odd Bodkins.

For seven years his Odd Bodkins cartoons ran daily in The San Francisco Chronicle and in 350 other newspapers throughout the world. At its peak, the strip had a readership of fifty million.

When he was hired at age 21 —the youngest cartoonist ever hired by a national syndicate— he was given three simple rules: no religion, no politics and no sex in the strip. He did his best to comply — he kept sex out of Odd Bodkins.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Open Letter to BBC Panorama Team - Irish Nobel Laureate Mairéad Maguire

Mairéad Maguire (Centre) at Gaza Blockade Protest Meeting in Long Gallery,
Northern Ireland Assembly
(Left) Gerry McHugh MLA (Right) Dr. Kieran Deeny MLA
© Joe ÓNéill

Editor's Note:
BBC Panorama Program Link

August 21, 2010
Open Letter to the Panorama BBC Team

Dear BBC Panorama Team

I write to you regarding your programme of 16th August, 2010, about The Freedom Flotilla and particularly the killings of unarmed civilians by Israeli Navy Seals on the ship MV “Mavi Marmara’, on 3lst May, 2010.

I have been campaigning for the rights of Palestinians for over ten years. I have visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories many times. I was part of the Freedom Flotilla in May on the MV ‘Rachel Corrie’, my third journey on a Free Gaza boat. I am deeply disappointed at the misrepresentation, lack of truth, and bias displayed by your programme.

This programme had an opportunity to inform and educate the public about the background to the flotilla, the motives of the passengers and crew on board the MV ‘Mavi Marmara’, who (like all of us on the boats trying to get to Gaza) were concerned for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Over 650 people – from all faiths and none, – from over 40 countries, representing the human family and uniting in nonviolent resistance to break a cruel siege (collective punishment is illegal under International Law) to bring hope and support to the people of Gaza. Before leaving their various ports, as part of the undertaking, all passengers made pledges of nonviolence, all people, and cargoes were searched, and all undertook to go in a spirit of peace to resist (as is our moral right and duty) the breaking of Human Rights and International Law by Israel through its siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine.

This journey of courage and call for justice by people on board the MV ‘Mavi Marmara’ and the flotilla represented the conscience of the world. The boats carried no arms, and were no threat to Israel, but what they did carry were voices of dissent from every corner of the world, (including Jews) saying to Israel ‘no more sieges, occupations, wars and threats of violence’, we refuse to be silent in the face of your ethnic cleansing and persecution of the Palestinian people.

Our motives were honourable, we did it for the children of Gaza, knowing that in the end, truth and justice will prevail.

Sadly, the Panorama programme did not see the true significance of this historic journey and missed an opportunity for the media to fulfil its responsibility to ‘tell the truth and nothing but the truth’. They choose instead to try to demonize the passengers on the from the word go MV ‘Mavi Marmara’ by trying to make them out as violent terrorists. They choose to collude with the Israeli propaganda of lies and manipulation of facts thus trying to turn the victims into aggressors.

The fact that Israeli commandos started shooting from the zodiac assault boats and the helicopters from the word go was not stated. The audio and video footage used (provided by Israeli military intelligence) was proven to be doctored, and the IDF have admitted this.

Your programme showed audio containing what was purported to be anti-semitic remarks issued over the radio by members on the flotilla, and you showed a clip of a percussion grenade exploding in one of the Israeli zodiac assault boats. These things never happened. There is so much commentary in this documentary that is inaccurate that it does a grave disservice to investigative journalism and the BBC.

But the real people hurt by this programme, are the families of the 9 unarmed passengers who were assassinated in this unprovoked, illegal, massacre by the Israeli navy seals. So too the more than 40 unarmed people who were injured on the illegal military assault in International waters, whose only crime was to care about Gaza and its people.

The programme failed totally to cover the real suffering of the Palestinian people, it failed totally to cover the fact that the mass kidnapping of 650 unarmed world citizens and the high-jacking of 7 boats, was in International waters and it failed totally to ask the real questions of Israel ‘why is this Port of Gaza – the only port in the Middle East to be a closed military zone (42 years) – not open for the people of Gaza and Palestine to travel and trade with the world as is their human right?

Perhaps, the BBC Panorama will stop taking the propaganda of the Israeli Government (Jane Corbin travelling on Israeli Zodiacs embedded with Israeli military, hardly leads to objective report of facts). These same zodiacs which boarded all the flotilla ships (including the one I travelled on) kidnapped unarmed citizens, hijacked boats (an act of piracy), confiscated all possessions (which Israel still hold onto), forced all under military arms to go to Israel, detained all, violently assaulted many, imprisoned and repatriated foreigners – all an abuse of our human rights and most of which was not reported by BBC Panorama.

The role of the BBC is not to give credibility to the Israeli military but to report facts and allow the public to make up their own minds. By planting doubt in the minds of the public about the events on board the MV ‘Mavi Marmara’. It has done a grave injustice and further injury to the families of all those who were assassinated by Israeli Navy seals, on that terrible morning of 3lst May, 2010.

I would like to ask the BBC Panorama Team, ‘what do you intend to do to redress the injustice you have done to the good names of all those who were killed, and injured, and their families on board the MV ‘Mavi Marmara’ on 3lst May, 2010?

I await your response.

Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate

Monday, 9 August 2010

Ógra Fianna Fáil Summer School - Belfast 2010

L-R Tim OConnor and Minister Noel Dempsey
© Joe ÓNéill

L-R Seán Gallagher, Joe ONeill, Leas Cathaoirleach Ógra Fianna Fáil, and Gerry McHugh MLA
© Joe ÓNéill

With the official opening of their first constituency office in the six counties last month, in Crossmaglen Co. Armagh, by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Fianna Fáil continue to market the Fianna Fáil party brand with the visit to Belfast this weekend by Minister of Transport Noel Dempsey, and Thomas Byrne, TD.

The Minister and TD Byrne were guest speakers at the Ógra Fianna Fáil Summer School, held in Queen's University Belfast. Over 100 activists from the party youth wing from all 32 counties attended the School.

Minister Dempsey, TD Byrne, and Dr. Elaine Byrne, Irish Times columnist and adjutant lecturer on Irish politics in Trinity College Dublin, addressed the first session of the School which was on the subject of, ''Reform of the Irish Political System''.

Speakers at the first afternoon session on ''The Economy'', were Dragon's Den star and Business Entrepreneur, Seán Gallagher, and Tim OConnor, Ex Secretary General of the Irish Civil Service.

The final session of the School was a lively debate on, ''Republicanism in the 21st Century'', with Chairman of the Armagh Fianna Fáil forum, Martin McAllister, and Alex Kane, Former Director of Communications with the UUP and a Unionist/Republican.

On the Friday sign-in for the event, Ógra members gathered at Queen's for a social evening, which members of the youth wings of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Ulster Unionist Party attended.

Friday, 23 July 2010


(L-R) Dr. Ruari OHanlon TD, Martin McAllister, (Chair, Armagh Fianna Fáil Forum)
An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Margaret Conlon TD
© Joe ÓNéill

Crowds welcome An Taoiseach in the square at Crossmaglen
© Joe ÓNéill

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen faces the press at Crossmaglen
© Joe ÓNéill

Hundreds of people gathered in the square of the Irish northern town of Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, last night, to welcome Irish Taoiseach, (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen.

An Taoiseach, was on a visit to the town to officially open a constituency office of the Armagh Forum of Fianna Fáil. A dinner in his honour was held in the Cross Square Hotel which was attended by over two hundred invited guests. Local border TD Margaret Conlon, (Cavan, Monaghan) accompanied An Taoiseach to the event. On his arrival he was greeted by another Cavan - Monaghan TD and member of the Northern Strategy Committee, Dr. Ruari OHanlon, and chairman of the Armagh Fianna Fáil Forum, Martin McAllister. Ministers, Éamon ÓCuiv, (Minister for Social Protection) and Dermot Ahern, (Minister for Justice) also members of the NSC, attended the event, as well as many local border county councillors.

Before the IRA ceasefire, in this staunchly republican Co. Armagh town, and the surrounding border area, which was termed ''Bandit Country'' by the British media, British troops and police, billeted in the town's GAA sports ground, were under constant attack, and had to have their supplies airlifted in by helicopter.

Fianna Fáil northern forums have been accredited in counties Armagh, Down, and Fermanagh, and Antrim will launch in September.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

John Fogarty RIP - A Proud Irish-American

(L-R) Jimmy Smyth, H-Block escapee, and John Fogarty.
At rally in support of H-Block escapees in San Francisco
fighting extradition from USA to Northern Ireland.
© Joe ÓNéill

It is with a sad heart that I have learned of the death of my friend John Fogarty.

John was a proud Irish-American, who never forgot his roots, and was a committed activist in support of those fighting injustice and prejudice.

Your tireless efforts on behalf of Irish unification, and your community activism, will be remembered by your many friends on both sides of the Atlantic.

Joe ÓNéill

In Memory Of John P. Fogarty

SAN FRANCISCO - John Fogarty, longtime Irish American activist died Wednesday July 7,
2010 in Stockton, California, after fighting a long battle with cancer.

Fogarty was born in Bronx, New York, 1946 to William and Helen Fogarty. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister Carol.

He is survived by his sons John Lynch, Sean Fogarty and Keith Phillips and his daughters Shana Fogarty, Meghan, Heather (Tony) and Whitney MacKenzie. Two brothers Kenneth and William Fogarty and one sister Rita Angelopoulas.

A staunch union supporter, John was a member of Local 510 Sign & Display for over twenty years.

Fogarty moved to San Francisco in 1968. He had been a long time activist for peace and reconciliation in Ireland. John had served locally, regionally and nationally in the Irish American Unity Conference, but it was his work on behalf of the H-Block Four that made him a well known figure within the San Francisco Irish community as well as Irish American communities across the country.

A true friend to everyone. A caring father, a loving grandfather. John was very respected and now will be mourned and missed by all who knew him.

Condolences can be sent to the Fogarty Family,
c/o Heather MacKenzie, 3126 Potomac Way, Stockton, CA 95201.

Monday, 12 July 2010


On the eve of the July 12 parade by Orangemen in Belfast, violence erupted in the west and north of the city which left 27 police injured, three from a shotgun blast. The confrontations occurred in the New Lodge and Broadway districts.

This morning's parade of the Orangemen, who celebrate the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange, over Catholic King James, at the ''Battle of the Boyne'' in 1690, passed off peacefully. The Orangemen will gather on the outskirts for a rally and political speeches before returning to the city and their neighbourhoods.

It remains to be seen if the peace holds later this evening as many of the marchers make their way past interface areas bordering Nationalist and Loyalist neighbourhoods.

All photos
© Joe ÓNéill

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Dan has granted Soñar permission to publish his ODD BODKINS cartoon strip.

ODD BODKINS ON Soñar. Vol. 2 No. 3

Select Image for Larger Viewing

© Dan ONeill

Hugh Daniel O'Neill

Thirty years ago Hugh Daniel O’Neill was described as, “an innovator, a creator and a professional troublemaker” in a Forward to a collection of Odd Bodkins.

For seven years his Odd Bodkins cartoons ran daily in The San Francisco Chronicle and in 350 other newspapers throughout the world. At its peak, the strip had a readership of fifty million.

When he was hired at age 21 —the youngest cartoonist ever hired by a national syndicate— he was given three simple rules: no religion, no politics and no sex in the strip. He did his best to comply — he kept sex out of Odd Bodkins.

Monday, 21 June 2010

IRA Leader Brendan Hughes Remembered

With the magnificent Cooley Mountains as a backdrop, family, friends, old comrades from D Company, and prison comrades, of IRA leader Brendan Hughes, gathered at his grave for the second annual commemoration in honour of the republican leader from the lower Falls, Belfast.

© Copyright Joe ÓNéill
Terry Hughes (Center) - Brother of Brendan Hughes

© Copyright Joe ÓNéill
Adrian McLoughlin
Construction-Forestry-Mining & Energy Union
of Australia

© Copyright Joe ÓNéill
Prison Comrades of Brendan Hughes
L-R Thomas Elliott, Anthony McIntyre, Gerard Hodges, & Richard ORawe

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Expel Israeli Ambassador - Irish Nobel Laureate

(L - R) MLA Gerry McHugh, Mairéad Corrigan Maguire, MLA Dr Kieran Deeny
© Joe ÓNéill

(L - R) MLA Gerry McHugh, Martin McAllister, (Chair, Armagh Fianna Fáil Forum)
Senator Cecelia Keaveney, (Fianna Fáil) Mariéad Corrigan Maguire,
Padraig Murphy, (Chair, Fermanagh Fianna Fáil Forum)
MLA Dr Kieran Deeny
© Joe ÓNéill

(L - R) Senator Cecelia Keaveney, (Fianna Fáil)
Mairéad Corrigan Maguire
© Joe ÓNéill

Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairéad Maguire Corrigan, added her voice to the growing number of Irish citizens calling for the Irish government to expel the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evrony.

Ms Corrigan was speaking yesterday in the Long Gallery of the Northern Ireland Assembly, at a meeting hosted by independent members of the Assembly, Gerry McHugh, and Dr Kieran Deeny.

Speaking to an audience of Assembly members, staffers, opponents of the Gaza blockade, and local press, Ms Corrigan reminded the audience that despite the fact that she and her fellow peace activists had been released, the humanitarian aid that was seized by Israeli armed forces, remained on board the peace flotilla vessels in the Israeli port of Ashdod. Personal property of the activists, including laptops, camera equipment, and other valuables worth thousands of Euros were also confiscated. She described the seizure of the Irish vessel in international waters an act of piracy by the State of Israel.

Ms Corrigan called for an independent inquiry into the killing of the Turkish humanitarian aid workers by Israeli commandos aboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Mamara. She said that her feeling was that the inquiry set up by the Israeli government into the killings, would not be acceptable to the Turkish government and people. A former member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Lord Trimble, will serve on the Israeli inquiry team.

Ms Corrigan also called for the special trading status accorded to the state of Israel by the EU to be rescinded.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Gaza Blockade Protests At Belfast City Hall

As Irish peace activist and former Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairéad Corrigan Maguire, was taken into Israeli custody Saturday following the boarding of the Irish vessel Rachel Corrie by armed units of the Israeli Defence Forces, another equally famous Irish peace and justice campaigner, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, was addressing a Gaza blockade protest at Belfast City Hall, that afternoon.

© Joe ÓNéill
The Irish ship, named in honour of the young American peace worker Rachel Corrie, who was killed by a bulldozer in Gaza while protesting the destruction of Palestine homes being demolished by the Israel government, was carrying humanitarian aid to the beleaguered citizens of Gaza.

© Joe ÓNéill
When the news broke of the killings of aid workers by the IDF last Monday, an impromptu meeting in support of Gaza blockage runners was held at Belfast City Hall at which President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, addressed protesters which included many members of Sinn Féin.

© Joe ÓNéill
Saturday's protest was also attended by prominent members of Sinn Féin, including, MEP Bairbre De Brún, and MLA Gerry Kelly. If the irony of the attendance of Sinn Féin politicians and supporters at the event was lost on them then the fiery Ms. McAliskey was quick to remind them of it. Addressing the meeting Ms. McAliskey reminded the protesters that under new legislation supported by Sinn Féin such meetings would be illegal.

© Joe ÓNéill

The ''Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protest Bill'', published on April 20, by the First Minister, (Peter Robinson, Democratic Unionist Party) and Deputy First Minister, (Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin) would make it illegal for all gatherings involving 50 or more people, which take place in any ''public place'' without giving 37 working days notice to authorities. The legislation would also impose a £5,000 fine and 6 months in prison for violations of the act.

Civil libertarians, community groups, trade unions and others, have expressed outrage at the proposed legislation and have vowed to mount an aggressive campaign to oppose it.

A public rally against the bill will take place on Saturday, June 26, at the Art College Gardens Belfast, and March to Belfast City Hall. The meeting will be addressed by leading trade unionists, campaigners, and community activists.

Useful links:
Facebook Page: No To Public Assemblies Bill.!/group.php?gid=104617472916202&ref=ts

Facebook Page: Viva Palestina!!/group.php?gid=238347355199&ref=ts

Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance

Monday, 19 April 2010

An Druma Mór The Big Drum

The Big Drum launch at Glucksman Ireland House.

Dr Art Hughes is one of the world’s leading Gaelic scholars and he is a visiting Fulbright Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University for the academic year 2009/10. Part of Dr Hughes’ remit was to finish off four books during his term at NYU, plus undertake some teaching. With the year now drawing to its close, he has succeeded in doing what he said he would do during the term of his Fulbright Professorship in the Big Apple.

On Friday 23rd April at Ireland House he launched his 15th book: a literary translation entitled The Big Drum. This novel was written in Irish by Seosamh Mac Grianna as An Druma Mór and it is widely recognized as one of the finest ever written in the Irish language. The core of the novel concerns a feud between two marching bands in a little seaside hamlet Ros Cuain (or Rannafast) in County Donegal in the North-West of Ireland in the years 1912 to 1922. This townland was part of the Gaeltacht or ‘Irish-speaking area of Tyrconnell (Donegal)’.

Seosamh Mac Grianna (1900-90), a brilliant and artistic young writer, completed the book in 1930 and it was due to be published in 1935 but the Irish Government decided, at the eleventh hour, to ban the book because of fears that some local characters who featured in the book (albeit under pseudonyms) may have taken court action for libel. Banning the book was a devastating blow for the young author who abandoned his writing career after this unwarranted censorship. Mac Grianna was to spend the next 30 years of his life in a lost wilderness and the last 30 in a mental institution!

For the first time, an English translation of this important Gaelic novel has been prepared by Professor Hughes. Not only does Hughes provide an excellent translation with explanatory end notes, but he also provides a 12,000 word essay on the author’s background and the reader would be advised to read this appended essay (page 119 ff.) before beginning the novel proper.

The novel while seemingly ignoring such major events as the First World War (1914-18) and, to a degree the Irish Easter Rising of 1916, can also be viewed as an examination of the need for feuding in the human race as a whole, where this small local skirmish can be seen as a parody for wider warfare and the inherent struggle of groups or factions of people to control and subjugate each other. This novel is a hidden gem which has now been put on wider public display.

Professor Hughes must be congratulated for bringing the work of Seosamh Mac Grianna to an international audience. In addition to his skills as a literary scholar, Art Hughes has also painted the cover.

The book details are as follows:

The Big Drum Seosamh Mac Grianna, translated A.J. Hughes (Ben Madigan Press 2010).

It is available to an American readership via the website

Go the following page to order a copy:

Friday, 16 April 2010

Voices From The Grave - Belfast Launch

Ed Maloney (Left) and Anthony McIntyre
McIntyre a Ph. D. and a former Republican prisoner, handled interviews with IRA and INLA activists for the Boston College project.
He is also author of Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism.
©Joe ÓNéill

After an introduction by politics professor Paul, (Lord) Bew, author and journalist Ed Maloney,spoke about his latest work ''Voices From The Grave''at the historical Linenhall Library in Belfast last evening.

For a review go to:
The Sunday Times review by Stephen Robinson

During his talk Maloney revealed that a deal has just been negotiated with RTE for a TV programme based on the book.

Family members of Brendan Hughes, and old comrades from the Lower Falls Road attended the book signing.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Honourable Member for West Belfast - Running on his Record

Statistics, Damned Statistics, and ''Statistocrats''

On March 31 2010, the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRI) released the report of the Results from the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation 2010 study. The report is an update of a previous 2005 study. A Consultation Document was published in July 2009, and public events were held from July through November 2009, in Omagh, Lisburn, and Belfast, to facilitate public comment. Over 600 copies of the document were distributed and over 550 downloaded from the NISRI website. There were 42 written responses to the document and over 90 verbal responses noted.

In August 2009, Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, welcomed the consultation process saying, “If the Executive is to continue to make a real difference to local people’s lives, it is vitally important we have the most up-to-date information available to help us target resources more effectively. As the public finance position becomes tighter, it is more important than ever that we make best use of the resources we have.''

''I would ask for anyone with an interest in this important work to come forward with their views. This can help make a real difference to our most disadvantaged communities.''

The results of the consultation were peer reviewed by external academics and a Blueprint Document detailing the results of the final indicators for inclusion was published in February 2010.

The NISRI studied 890 small areas in Northern Ireland with a population of 2,000 people, and listed them in order of relative deprivation. Fifty two separate indicators relating to seven types or 'domains' of deprivation: Income, Employment, Health & Disability, Education Skills & Training, Proximity to Services, Living Environment, and Crime and Disorder were used to access levels of deprivation.

Spreadsheets, Graphs, and a 'statistical hors d'oeuvre', usually have the effect of making my eyes glaze over and send most of us into a stupefying state. With this report however it is relatively easy to draw some simple assumptions. The first one is, that in the top 100 regions of the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland, the first four are in the constituency of the Member of Parliament for West Belfast. They would be: Whiterock 2; Whiterock 3; Falls 2; Falls 3; with Shankill rating number 6.

To put what that means in perspective some simple number comparisons will demonstrate the enormous gap between some better off communities and the more deprived members of our communities in West Belfast.

For example:
Take a Belfast neighbourhood which most of us would considered affluent like Malone Rd.

In the Rank of Income Domain scores (where 1 is most deprived)

Malone 1 would score a whopping 883.
Whiterock 2 A grand total of 44
Whiterock 3 A grand total of 1

Employment Deprivation
Malone 861
Whiterock 2 & 3
11 and 1

Health Deprivation & Disability
Malone 880
Whiterock 2 & 3
1 and 4

Education, Skills and Training
Malone 866
Whiterock 2 & 3
78 & 9

Living Environment
Malone 589
Whiterock 2 & 3
26 & 141

Crime and Disorder
Malone 386
Whiterock 2 & 3
140 & 197

Children & Older People
Malone 838 & 888
Whiterock 2 & 3
90 & 1
50 & 13

In this disgraceful state of deprivation that exists in his Westminster constituency, Mr. Adams is ably assisted in the Northern Ireland Assembly by no fewer than 4 other Sinn Fein elected representatives for West Belfast: Sue Ramsey; Paul Maskey; Jenifer McCann; and Fra McCann. I guess it is only fair when kudos are being awarded, to include the SDLP representative for West Belfast, the very vociferous Alex Attwood. Alex is never short of a few words when it comes to criticizing his Sinn Fein political opponents.

Unfortunately, the numbers for Falls 1 and Falls 2, Clonard, Beechmount, and Andersonstown, do not make for any better reading.

Outside of Belfast, two of the worst areas are Castlederg Co. Tyrone, and Crossmaglen Co. Armagh.

I can almost hear the response of the Sinn Fein leader to the charges that his constituents rate the worst in every field of this deprivation study.

'The Statistocrats in the Assembly are trying to topple the Peace Process.'

For more information on the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation 2010 study.

Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Who Fears to Speak ...

Volunteer Pádraig Mac Con Mara
Memorial Plaque to Volunteer Pádraig Mac Con Mara
Ballina Churchyard Co. Tipperary
© Joe ÓNéill
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam
"May his soul be on God's right side"
Ballina Churchyard Co.Tipperary
©Joe ÓNéill

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Milo O’Shea gives a fine ‘Hebrew Lesson’ at The Irish Arts’ Centre

Milo O'Shea and Dr. Art Hughes
Reception at Irish Arts Centre, New York

Guest Blogger Dr. Art Hughes,
Fulbright Professor of Irish Language, NYU.
Dr. Art Hughes, MA, MèsL, PhD is Senior Fulbright Irish Language Scholar for 2009/10. He is a Visiting Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University. He is Director of Irish Language Programmes at the University of Ulster in Belfast. His doctoral thesis was study of the Gaelic dialect of the Bluestack Mountains, Co. Donegal. he is a prominent scholar in the field of Celtic linguistics and literature. He has written and/or edited 15 books (in English, Irish, French and Breton). He is also the Chair of The McCracken Cultural Society and founder of Ben Madigan Press. Recent publications include The Great Irish Verb Book and The Big Drum a translation of Seosamh Mac Grianna's novel An Druma Mór – he is currently preparing a film script for the same. He also has recently collaborated on an anthology of Irish poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in Irish and French.
Milo O’Shea gives a fine ‘Hebrew Lesson’ at The Irish Arts’ Centre
Who would believe it, a Hebrew lesson in an Irish theatre? But it is true, for on Thursday 23rd March at the Irish Arts Centre in New York City, a special function was held to honour veteran and renowned star of stage and screen, Irish actor Milo O’Shea, on occasion of his 80th birthday. Thespian O’Shea, a household name in Ireland, rose to prominence as a boy actor in Dublin and went on to play many roles on the Irish stage and screen during his long and distinguished career.
On the night I was able to share with our honourand, my fond early childhood memory of my late mother gathering us, as children, around her on the sofa in 1960s Belfast to watch Milo in Hugh Leonard’s television series Me Mammy. In addition to his nationwide fame in Ireland, Mr O’Shea has graced many stages in the West End of London and Broadway. Harold Pinter penned Night School for Milo on British television and his American television stints have included shows such as QB VII, Silent Song (Italia Award) and Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat. Throughout his many years as an actor, Mr O’Shea has been nominated twice for Tony Awards – firstly for his performance in Staircase alongside Eli Walach, and, secondly, for his part in Mass Appeal (which, incidentally, landed him a Drama League Award and the Outer Critics’ Circle Award).
Back, however, to The Hebrew Lesson which was a short 30 minute film produced in 1972 by Wolf Mankowitz, a dramatist, journalist, novelist and screenwriter. Son of a Russian-Jewish bookseller in East London, it is hardly surprising that Mankowitz should concern himself with Hebrew in this work (which he originally wrote as a play). What is of immense interest to an Irish audience is that the film is based in Cork in the 1920s at the time of the Irish War of Independence. A young IRA man, being pursued by the English Black and Tans, stumbles into an attic which has been converted into a synagogue. As if this is not bizarre enough, the young man interrupts the senior Jewish resident during the latter’s self-taught Irish lessons as he was involved in selling his wares in the Gaeltacht area of rural West Cork.
It has to be said that the Mankowitz’s screenplay was nothing short of magnificent although we are happy to report that Mr O’Shea’s did justice to this finely-crafted screenplay with what was a virtuoso performance. This film, hardly surprisingly, won an award at The Cork Film Festival although it has sadly been neglected ever since then. This screening was a coup for the Irish Arts Centre, and we are deeply indebted to Georganne Heller (a theatre producer, board member and stalwart at the Irish Arts Centre) who uncovered the film in an archive during a recent visit to London. The Hebrew Lesson deserves a wider airing – and probably some subtitles, as there are lines in Irish and Hebrew at various junctures in the script.
The film, and the work of Milo O’Shea, were warmly introduced on the night by Mr Niall Burgess, the Irish Consul for New York. After the screening – and, of course, a richly deserved standing ovation - Mr O’Shea addressed the audience in a memorable and moving speech. Congratulations, Milo on a long and illustrious innings and many happy returns.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Dan has granted Soñar permission to publish his ODD BODKINS cartoon strip.

ODD BODKINS ON Soñar. Vol. 2 No. 2

Select Image for Larger Viewing

© Dan ONeill

Hugh Daniel O'Neill

Thirty years ago Hugh Daniel O’Neill was described as, “an innovator, a creator and a professional troublemaker” in a Forward to a collection of Odd Bodkins.

For seven years his Odd Bodkins cartoons ran daily in The San Francisco Chronicle and in 350 other newspapers throughout the world. At its peak, the strip had a readership of fifty million.
When he was hired at age 21 —the youngest cartoonist ever hired by a national syndicate— he was given three simple rules: no religion, no politics and no sex in the strip. He did his best to comply — he kept sex out of Odd Bodkins.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Saint Patrick in Manhattan – a reflection by Fulbright Professor Dr. Art Hughes

A Portrait of Art Hughes
by renowned artist Neil Shawcross

I am pleased to introduce Dr. Art Hughes in his first Guest Blog for Soñar.

Dr. Art Hughes, MA, MèsL, PhD is Senior Fulbright Irish Language Scholar for 2009/10. He is a Visiting Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University. He is Director of Irish Language Programmes at the University of Ulster in Belfast. His doctoral thesis was study of the Gaelic dialect of the Bluestack Mountains, Co. Donegal. he is a prominent scholar in the field of Celtic linguistics and literature. He has written and/or edited 15 books (in English, Irish, French and Breton). He is also the Chair of The McCracken Cultural Society and founder of Ben Madigan Press. Recent publications include The Great Irish Verb Book and The Big Drum a translation of Seosamh Mac Grianna's novel An Druma Mór – he is currently preparing a film script for the same. He also has recently collaborated on an anthology of Irish poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in Irish and French.

Saint Patrick in Manhattan – a reflection by Fulbright Professor Dr. Art Hughes

He did not have a social security number and he worked on the black market. I am not speaking about Seán from Ireland, Maria from Mexico, Ricardo from Italy, Anna from the Ukraine or many of the other so-called ‘illegals’, making their home in modern New York, I am talking, rather, about St Patrick, the fifth century Briton who would later bring the Christian faith to Erin’s Isle.

Patrick was the son of a well-to-do government official of the Roman administration and dwelt somewhere in the west of Britain. Shortly after 400 AD we have a reference, in Irish Annals, to Niall of the Nine Hostages, a powerful Irish king, making a raid up the River Severn (which divides England from Wales). Such raids by Irish pirates on the British mainland were commonplace and it was on such a foray that a band of pirates kidnapped Patrick, a mere teenager, from his home and sold him as a slave in Ireland. His first job, in this ‘black market economy’, was tending to swine - and one source locates this first ‘job’ on Sliabh Mis (or Slemish) in County Antrim.

After some years, Patrick made good his escape to Britain, yet in a vision he dreamt of Ireland and wanted to bring the Christian faith to the country in which he had lived. Following his ordination he was granted permission by the Church to return to Ireland as a Christian missionary. The traditional date cited for his first mission is 432 AD.

Here, then, we have a young man who had spent years working illegally in Ireland getting to know the people and love the country. He later returns, with legal status, and makes one of the most significant contributions to Irish life anyone has ever made before, during or since.
What message, if any, can Patrick’s life and example have for us in Manhattan? I think there are several important ones. Firstly all economies need people from outside to help them sustain themselves and grow. Secondly, most workers, ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’, make an honest contribution to society. They work hard, keep the law and want to feel a part of the set up. Any great civilization which enables its citizens to feel that they are stake holders is destined to flourish and succeed.

We cannot, of course, sum up St Patrick from a purely socio-economic perspective. He brought a message, that all men and women are equal and that we should treat our neighbors (irrespective of birth, country of origin, social status, color of skin or religious denomination) as our fellows and – as such – we should do unto them as we do unto ourselves. This model is at least worthy of an attempt to make it work.

St Patrick’s Day is a highly significant day for the Irish, but St Patrick’s message is not one merely for the Irish, it has much wider implications and ramifications. St Patrick’s life is a story of immigration and exile, of settling in a new country – and in that regard, it has significance for Manhattan. He, as a “Brit”, is an excellent reminder to the Irish of the dangers of xenophobia, or excluding the other.

If St Patrick were to walk among us today in Manhattan, how would he feel about thousands of hardworking people who yearn to be ‘legal’ and yet who are looking over their shoulders? What would he do for these people? Immigration was a real and a burning issue for St Patrick in his own time - it is also one which should be center-stage in our times. What are we doing about it? Perhaps, after all, Patrick’s life, work and example have something very real to offer the legislators and citizens of Manhattan.

To all creeds and classes, then, Happy St Patrick’s Day.

Monday, 15 March 2010

James Connolly The National Festival

© Joe ÓNéill

James Connolly
The National Festival
The Workers' Republic
March 18 1916
The question often arises: Why do Irishmen celebrate the festival of their national saint, in view of the recently re-discovered truth that he was by no means the first missionary to preach Christianity to the people of Ireland? It is known now beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Christian religion had been preached and practised in Ireland long before St. Patrick, that Christian churches had been established, and it is probable that the legend about the shamrock was invented in some later generation than that of the saint. Certainly the shamrock bears no place of any importance in early Celtic literature, and the first time we read of it as having any reference to or bearing on religion in Ireland occurs in the work of a foreigner – an English monk.
But all that notwithstanding there is good reason why Irish men and women should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They should celebrate it for the same reason as they should honour the green flag of Ireland, despite the fact that there is no historical proof that the Irish, in the days of Ireland’s freedom from foreign rule, ever had a green flag as a national standard, or indeed ever had a national flag at all.
The claim of the 17th of March to be Ireland’s national festival, the claim of St. Patrick to be Ireland’s national saint, the claim of the shamrock to be Ireland’s national plant, the claim of the green flag to be Ireland’s national flag rests not on the musty pages of half-forgotten history but on the affections and will of the Irish people.
Sentiment it may be. But the man or woman who scoffs at sentiment is a fool. We on this paper respect facts, and have a holy hatred of all movements and causes not built upon truth. But sentiment is often greater than facts, because it is an idealised expression of fact – a mind picture of truth as it is seen by the soul, unhampered by the grosser dirt of the world and the flesh.
The Irish people, denied comfort in the present, seek solace in the past of their country; the Irish mind, unable because of the serfdom or bondage of the Irish race to give body and material existence to its noblest thoughts, creates an emblem to typify that spiritual conception for which the Irish race laboured in vain. If that spiritual conception of religion, of freedom, of nationality exists or existed nowhere save in the Irish mind, it is nevertheless as much a great historical reality as if it were embodied in a statute book, or had a material existence vouched for by all the pages of history.
It is not the will of the majority which ultimately prevails; that which ultimately prevails is the ideal of the noblest of each generation. Happy indeed that race and generation in which the ideal of the noblest and the will of the majority unite.
In this hour of her trial Ireland cannot afford to sacrifice any one of the things the world has accepted as peculiarly Irish. She must hold to her highest thoughts, and cleave to her noblest sentiments. Her sons and daughters must hold life itself as of little value when weighed against the preservation of even the least important work of her separate individuality as a nation.
Therefore we honour St. Patrick’s Day (and its allied legend of the shamrock) because in it we see the spiritual conception of the separate identity of the Irish race – an ideal of unity in diversity, of diversity not conflicting with unity.
Magnificent must have been the intellect that conceived such a thought; great must have been the genius of the people that received such a conception and made it their own.
On this Festival then our prayer is: Honour to St. Patrick the Irish Apostle, and Freedom to his people.

Friday, 26 February 2010


The American actor, social and political activist, Mike Farrell, famous for his role in the Television series M*A*S*H, has joined with many leading authors, academics, and fellow members of the acting profession in condemning the proposed script of a History Channel program on the late President Kennedy.

Theodore “Ted” Sorensen, Special Counsel and speechwriter for President Kennedy, and author of the best selling book, Kennedy - a biography, published in 1965, has also criticized the planned program.

"I was amazed to find reading those pages that every single conversation with the President in the Oval office or elsewhere in which I according to the script participated, never happened. There were no such conversations... A minimum amount of research could've avoided the remarkable number of obvious errors of that kind in this script."

Ted Sorensen.

In a statement posted today on the Huffington Post, Farrell wrote:

February 25, 2010 12:54 AM

My name is Mike Farrell. I'm an actor.

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to realize an ambition to portray John F. Kennedy, the first US President I was old enough to vote for. Made for PBS, the project was JFK, A One-Man Show, produced by David Susskind, written by David and Sidney Carroll and directed by Frank Perry.

This extraordinary team, understanding its responsibility to history, carefully researched every word that went into the show. As actors portraying historic figures, we can do no less.

To learn, as we near the 50th anniversary of JFK's presidency, that a project now in the works is not only grossly inaccurate but clearly intended to assassinate the character of a man who gave his life for this country fills me with contempt for the tone and depth of the political rancor that rages about us today.

For the History Channel, of all venues, to present a screed that is not only historically inaccurate but meant as a knife in the back of a beloved president, is disgraceful.

At a time when our country is so wrenched with turmoil and confusion, I believe members of our profession, people who have the capacity to speak to the hearts and minds of America through entertainment, have a responsibility to portray history both fairly and honestly. If writers and producers fail to do so, actors, asked to provide faces and voices to their efforts, must draw the line.