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.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010


© Joe ÓNéill 2009
The late Brendan "The Dark" Hughes

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the death of the Belfast IRA leader, Brendan "The Dark" Hughes.

A new book, Voices From The Grave - Two Men's War in Ireland, by journalist Ed Maloney, is expected to be in stores in the comming weeks. The release of the book, which is already posted, but not yet available on Amazon and other such sites, is eagerly awaited by those in TV, print media, and the blogesphere. The cause of their eager anticipation will be any new information which may emerge regarding the personal and political relationships between the President of Sinn Féin, and the self-confessed member of the organization of which Gerry Adams was never a member.

It is also expected that new information may come to light on the 1981 hunger strike controversy, as to whether or not a deal was on the table which may have saved lives.

In late 2000, I interviewed Brendan Hughes in his apartment in Divis Towers Belfast. That interview which was published in the on-line magazine G21, is reproduced below.

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
The funeral cortege of Brendan Hughes on Falls Road Belfast

Brendan Hughes was one of a small group of Republicans in the Lower Falls (Belfast) who split from the IRA in 1970 to form what was later to be known as the Provisional IRA. In the sometimes violent split within the movement at that time one of the first victims was his cousin, Charlie Hughes, who was shot dead in a gun battle in the Lower Falls by members of the Official IRA.

After almost three years on the run, Hughes was arrested, along with Gerry Adams. They were tortured for over 12 hours in Springfield Road barracks and then Castlereagh before being flown to the cages of Long Kesh. Within 5 months Hughes had escaped from Long Kesh, crossed the border, and within 10 days was back in Belfast with a new identity, to assume command of the Belfast Brigade.

Captured again, 6 months later, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison on weapons, explosives and documents charges. Hughes, as Brigade O/C (Officer Commanding) was caught with what the press called a "Doomsday Plan" which was the IRA plan for the defense of the Nationalist community in Belfast.

While O/C of Republican prisoners in Long Kesh, Hughes was charged in connection with a prison riot and given an additional 5 years. However, at this time, the process of Ulsterization and criminalization had begun and he was taken from court to the infamous H-Blocks.

"That morning" said Hughes, "I left Long Kesh, Brendan Hughes, O/C Republican prisoners, recognized as a political prisoner and that afternoon, I was Hughes, 704, in the H-Blocks."

In the H-Blocks Brendan Hughes was instrumental in organizing the men on the blanket protest and was elected O/C with Bobby Sands as his adjutant. As the protests by the men escalated, without any movement by prison authorities or the Thatcher government to resolve the prisoners demands to end their inhumane treatment, he called for volunteers to join him in a hunger strike.

Hughes resigned as O/C, to be replaced by Bobby Sands and was joined by 6 of the 90 men who had volunteered to go on hunger strike. After 53 days without food, with Sean McKenna within hours of death and the others in very serious condition, the strike was called off as the government delivered a document which satisfied the prisoners demands.

After the government reneged on their agreement the strike led this time by Bobby Sands commenced with deadly consequences.

In our interview Hughes discussed a wide range of topics on the Irish political landscape.

G21: Share with us your opinions on the Good Friday Agreement.

HUGHES: The decision was taken from the top down, there were no discussions, there was nothing taking place.

What we heard was, 'The Hume/Adams Document' and I am very annoyed at this because, I have spent my whole life in this Republican movement and all of a sudden everyone is talking about 'The Hume Adams Document' and I asked if I could see it . To my knowledge no one has ever seen it.

I thought it was a disgrace that John Hume knew where this movement was going [and] I didn't know where it was going. I didn't know anything about 'The Hume Adams Document', what the hell is it? Then, 'The Hume Adams Document', developed into the 'Good Friday Agreement'.

What was the Good Friday Agreement all about? All of my life I spent attempting to bring down Stormont, attempting to remove the British from Ireland and all of a sudden, all of that language was gone. We no longer talk about a British declaration of intent to withdraw from this country and we have got to the stage where we were actually fighting to get down to the Stormont, that we just spent 30 years trying to bring down. The loyalty factor eventually burnt out with me, the loyalty factor was no longer there.

G21: So what is your opinion of the Sinn Féin leadership?

HUGHES: Stormont is OK as long as we're in it. What was developing here was a sort of a class thing within the Republican movement. You had the "Armani Suit Brigade" and a lot of these people I had never come across before. I had never spent time in prison with them and their politics drifted away from me -- their politics -- I didn't drift away from my politics, their politics drifted away from me to a stage where I believed I needed to say something, because these people are running away with my movement.

The suffering and everything that we represented was no longer there anymore and these people had it, they were wining and dining at Stormont.

I believe very shortly, we will be wining and dining in Westminster. I believe that they have run away with the politics, the real politics of the Republican movement, the Republican struggle, and I believe that they have to be resisted. Which I am doing.

It wasn't easy for me to go public and criticize all these things that were going on, but I feel a moral responsibility to do so. Even though it puts me on the fringe and I am called a dissident and other names. But I know damn well, that what I am saying, is representative of the ordinary people on the ground. The Republican Movement.

I believe this Republican movement belongs to the people. I don't believe that people like me should walk away and form another small group to oppose this group. This group is the Republican movement. We have fought, we have gone through an awful lot of struggle and I believe it has been hijacked by a handful of people who have gone in a particular direction that I disagree with.

But it is my movement. I don't want to form another movement, I want my movement back to what we fought for.

I don't believe that it is totally hopeless. I believe it can be won back. If I thought it was hopeless, I would probably leave the country. I believe that I have a moral responsibility and a duty to carry on the struggle. It's not easy, a lot of the people I am talking about are comrades and friends of mine. I wish they could change and turn this thing around and bring it back to the people. Bring the movement back to the people. Not a political party that's running to Stormont, running to Westminster with their Armani suits on and jutting about in their State cars. The same regime that's been oppressing us for so many years, they have become a part of.

G21: So what's your position on decommissioning?

HUGHES: The IRA has been asked to decommission. We were all told that there would be no decommissioning. When you bring a stranger to a dump, an IRA dump, and point out where that dump is, to me that is decommissioning.

I certainly would not go near that dump again, so that dump is, by and large, decommissioned. Forget about it. It has been identified.

Yet I am told there will be no decommissioning.

To me that is decommissioning.

People are telling lies. We are doing everything we were told would not happen. We still hear at some commemorations people getting up on platforms and telling blatant lies. 'The war is not over'. By and large, the war is over. The current joke in the town at the moment is:

Q. 'What is the difference between a Sticky (Official IRA) and a Provie (Provisional IRA).

A. Twenty years.'

The only difference is that the Stickies didn't have to decommission.

G21: The controversy about the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) still rages. What are your thoughts?

HUGHES: What I was beginning to see was the reintroduction of a different type of philosophy. The words they were using 'the RUC has to be changed' no longer 'disbanded.'

G21: Your feelings on commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Hunger Strike?

HUGHES: Anyone who is going out to commemorate the Republican struggle should commemorate the people who died in the struggle. It should be about respect and to commemorate the sacrifice that these people made. I believe the party of the working-class is entitled to commemorate the working-class people who died.

I believe a party of the Middle or Upper-class should not be allowed to capitalize on those people's deaths. Those people died for working-class issues and I believe that the only people who should be allowed to capitalize on that are working-class people who are fighting for working-class issues. I don't believe the leadership of the Republican movement, at present, is fighting for working-class issues or fighting for the issues that these people died for.

G21: So it sounds like you might be accused of advocating armed struggle.

HUGHES: We are sitting in Divis Towers now and there is £10 million of equipment on top of this roof, there are armed British troops on top of this roof.

As long as there is one British soldier on this roof, I believe that people have a right to oppose that. Unfortunately, the occupation forces are still here and unfortunately, the leadership of the movement that I belonged to have become a part of that, they have become a part of the problem."

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Soldiers of Destiny at the Queen's University

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
(R to L) Chairmen of the Down, Armagh, and Fermanagh Forums, Edmund McCullough, Martin McAllister, Padraig Murphy, and Chair of the William Drennan Cumann of Ógra Fianna Fáil, Mark Mulholland.

The Queen's University William Drennan Cumann of Ógra Fianna Fáil, held their second annual William Drennan Commemoration Day today with a series of events in Belfast.

Dr. William Drennan, a founding member of the United Irishmen, was born in Belfast in the manse of the First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street.

Drennan, a literary man, founded and edited the Belfast Magazine and with others founded the Belfast Academical Institution. A poet as well as a political pamphleteer, he is credited with being the first poet to use the phrase “Emerald Isle”, in the poem, “When Erin First Rose.” He died in 1820, and is buried in the old cemetery in Clifton Street, which also holds the remains of Henry Joy McCracken, executed in Belfast's Corn Market for his part in the rebellion in 1798.

In the afternoon, a debate on the motion: “William Drennan is the true father of republicanism”, was held in the university Student Union.

Following the debate, the audience was addressed by Martin McAllister, Chairman of the Armagh Forum of Fianna Fáil, who gave a brief account of the background leading to the formation of Fianna Fáil Forum in the six counties. Three Forums have been established in Armagh, Down,and Fermanagh, with the other three counties expected to be constituted by early summer.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


©Fr. Séan McManus 2009
Fr. Séan McManus Pat Doherty

Fr. Séan McManus
Kevin McNamara,
Pat Doherty,
All Challengers

Séan MacBride (Principles)
"I once asked Séan Mac Bride if Hume over the years had ever turned to him for advice and he said he had not. When I asked him why he thought that was the case, Séan replied, emphatically and succinctly: “Because he knows I’m implacably opposed to Partition"
It may not be one of the most unusual book review that I have ever read, but I must admit, it is probably the longest. (Fifteen Pages) For this I suppose we have to thank the wonderful world of the Blogesphere, which allows Mr. Everyman, Everywoman, just to be politically correct, to publish their opinions without the space restrictions of the traditional print media.
The book in question, The Mac Bride Principles: Irish – America Fights Back, is by former Labor MP Kevin McNamara, who stood down in the 2005 election, after 36 years as a MP. After his retirement, McNamara graduated with a PhD from Liverpool University's Institute of Irish Studies in 2007, the thesis for his doctorate being the MacBride Principles.
The tone of the review is pretty much apparent in this initial paragraph of the press release by the reviewer, Fr. Séan McManus.
"CAPITOL HILL. February 2, 2010 - Fr. Séan McManus, the president of the Capitol Hill – based Irish National Caucus – which initiated and launched the Mac Bride Principles – has released his review of the new book by former British Labor MP, Kevin Mc Namara: The Mac Bride Principles: Irish – America Fights Back. (Liverpool University Press. 2009)." Fr. McManus's review is contained in the following letter he wrote to Mr. Mc Namara. While praising aspects of the book, Fr. Mc Manus enumerates factual errors, lack of proper perspective and a surprising persistent pattern of denigration against himself."
Fr. McManus also has some sharp criticisms for Patrick Doherty, whom he labels, 'The Gossip – in - Chief'. Last December, both men were honored in New York City Hall, at an event hosted by the Speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, for their work on the MacBride Principles Campaign.
Some extracts from the review include:
"Furthermore, Pat’s frivolous and fictional account misrepresents the nature of NorAid’s opposition to me. It was nothing personal. The Republican Movement had ordered them to oppose me. Since the beginning of the peace-process, many NorAiders have called me to apologize for their opposition."
"Pat apparently not only wants to serve as your Deep Throat but as your Gossip - in - Chief. He pulls the same stunt on the excellent Sister Regina, page 21, where he states she was hostile to me but that later her opinion of me softened. I did not know that, and I still don't know it, as you don't let Sister speak for herself but just repeat Pat's gossip. When you interviewed me, you did not hear me say, "So and so does not like Pat Doherty". Gossip mongering should have no place in a noble effort like the MacBride Campaign. It is poisonous and spreads suspicion. It is what I would have expected from the BIS, (Editor's Note: British Information Service) not from a close colleague in the struggle. Irronically, or significantly, in your "Acknowledgements" you tell us: "Pat Doherty spent two days at Westminster reading and suggesting improvements to the final text [of your book]." Page IX."
"Finally, it seems rather strange that you do not realize that there are some partisan Democrats who would have never taken on Clinton even if had flip-flopped on every promise on Ireland. And the same is true of partisan Republicans (American) in regards to a Republican president. There are not too many Clare Shorts on either side of the Atlantic … Hence the wisdom of the motto of the Irish National Caucus: "Neither Democrat or Republican but dedicated to getting both parties to stand up for justice and peace in Ireland."
"That is why I was able to stand up to President Clinton, even though there was nobody on the planet more grateful than I for his great work on Ireland. And because I had shown I was prepared to stand up to him, I could with credibility later stand UP FOR him during the Impeachment Process, writing to every Member of the House and Senate and telling them, “Let those without sin cast the first stone”."
"I once asked Sean Mac Bride if Hume over the years had ever turned to him for advice and he said he had not. When I asked him why he thought that was the case, Sean replied, emphatically and succinctly: “Because he knows I’m implacably opposed to Partition”
"However, even with all your slings and arrows, you demonstrate that Her Majesty’ Government was deeply concerned about my work. You are forced to conclude (with your inevitable qualifier, of course, but, this time at least, without a denigrating adjective): "Whether he [Mc Manus] is fully entitled to the accolade of, "Britain’s nemesis in America, the driving force that would eventually erode Britain’s influence within the United State’s government’ is questionable, but he came close to it". Page 212-213. Your partial quote is from American Policy and Northern Ireland by Joseph E. Thompson."
Even with your qualifier, that’s good enough for this humble Irishman.
You are still my friend, and I admire you, too.
The full text is available at:

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Margaret Ritchie Elected SDLP Party Leader

© Joe ÓNéill 2009

New SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie
Party nominee for Justice Minister, Alban Maginness (Right)
Santosh Chowdhury (Left)

In the first contested election for party leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Margaret Ritchie, Minister for Social Development in the Northern Ireland Assembly, defeated the Deputy leader of the party, MLA, and Member of the Westminster Parliament, Alasdair McDonnell, at the party conference last Sunday.

Previous leaders of the party, Gerry Fitt, John Hume, and Mark Durkan, were elected unopposed. Durkan announced his resignation as party leader last autumn.

The new deputy leader of the party is Mid Ulster MLA, Patsy McGlone.

At a press conference in the Stormont Assembly yesterday, Ritchie hit the ground running with an announcement that she has withdrawn as the party nominee for the position of Justice Minister. Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party have been in discussions with Alliance Party leader David Ford to assume the justice ministry, while the SDLP has insisted that the position should automatically be theirs under the De Hondt system, adopted by the Assembly for selecting ministerial positions.

The new SDLP nominee for the post will be North Belfast MLA, Alban Maginness, a barrister by profession, who in In 1997, made history by becoming the first Nationalist Lord Mayor of Belfast.

With the SDLP being eclipsed by Sinn Féin in the last election as the largest nationalist party, the new leader will have her work cut out to reinvigorate the party faithful for the upcoming Westminster elections, and Assembly elections next year. Added to the woes of the SDLP is the organization of Fianna Fáil Forums in the six counties. Three of the six counties, Armagh, Down, and Fermanagh, have established groups, with the three remaining counties expected to follow by mid-summer.

Ritchie has however ruled out any merger with Fianna Fáil. While on the campaign trail for party leader she has stated that she opposed any such moves. Amalgamation she said, would mean Emasculation.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Curious this, how I started off with
the right simplicity, indifferent to crude
reason, and then ploughed my way through
complexities and anger, hatred and ill-will
towards the faults of man, and came back to
where I started.

Patrick Kavanagh.

Guest Blogger Mattie Lennon

Mattie Lennon has written articles (mostly humourous) for The Sunday Independent, The Irish Times, The Irish Post, Ireland's Own, Ireland's Eye, Kerry's Eye, The Wicklow People, The Leinster Leader as well as numerous on-line publications. He claims that he was once told; 'You have the perfect face for radio' and he compiled and presented his own programmes in the 'Voiceover' series on RTE Radio One. He has presented ballad programmes on KIC FM and is currently doing a Sunday morning ballad show on Radio Dublin 100 FM.

There are enough anecdotes about Patrick Kavanagh to fill several volumes. Such as his description of writer’s block when he was writing Tarry Flynn, “I’ve a fucker in a field an’ I can’t get him out of it”. His comment when told by a Garda that he would be prosecuted for writing pornography (The Great Hunger) has gone down in history, “It’s good enough for me; anyone who writes anything that a policeman can understand deserves anything he gets.” And when Flann O ‘Brien’s Faustus Kelly was running in Dublin in 1943 he asked Kavanagh if he would give it a good review only to be told, “I will ... I’m not that honest.”

Kavanagh Country is not just about the colourful comments of Ireland’s leading poet of the twentieth century. The author, critic and historian, P. J. Browne was introduced to the works of Kavanagh by John B. Keane in UCD in 1974 and, years later, followed up his “research” when he again met the great John B. at Seton Hall University, New Jersey.

Every Leaving Cert student is familiar with Antoinette Quinn’s biography of Kavanagh and has pored over collections such as, Ploughman and Other Poems, Come dancing With Kitty Stobling and Collected Prose ...

There are those who would argue Patrick Kavanagh and his times have been well covered from his birth in Mucker in 1904, to his death in Dublin in 1967.

Kavanagh Country approaches the complex subject from a new angle. P. J. Browne and photographer David Maher set out to show us Kavanagh through the best of his poems and pictures of the rural and urban scenes which triggered the poets imagination. On the surface it would appear that “resentment” is not too strong a word to describe Kavanagh’s feelings on Monaghan -but neither is “love.”

As Browne says, “His ambivalence about his move to Dublin was never resolved.”

O stony grey soil of Monaghan,
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived
You clogged the feet of my boyhood,
And I believed that my stumble
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And his voice my thick-tongued mumble

You won’t find many John Hinde postcards of Inniskeen but thanks to the wonderful work, in black and white, of Dublin-based David Maher every poem is accompanied by suitable and evocative picture. The picture with A Christmas Childhood would bring anyone back to a cold December morning in rural Ireland to stand with the six-year old Kavanagh and listen to his father make music as,

Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

The work of David Maher prompts one to concur with the words of Elliot Erwitt, “ … Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Kavanagh saw things differently. He once said, “A poet is not one of the people; a poet is an institution.”

Once, in one of his grumpier moments (of which he had many) a wannabe versifier asked him, “how do I write poetry”? The response was concise and informative, “Observe. Open yer fuckin’ eyes".

In Irish Poets Open Your Eyes he writes;

Irish poets open your eyes,
Even Cabra can surprise;
Try the dog-tracks now and then-
Shelbourne Park and crooked men.
Could you ever pray at all
In the Pro- Cathedral
Till a breath of simpleness
Freed your Freudian distress?
Enter in and be a part
Of the world’s frustrated heart,
Drive the golf ball of despair,
Superdance away your care.

Kavanagh was a great fan of James Joyce and he had a similar attitude to his native heath. When Joyce was asked, in Trieste, “Will you ever go back to Dublin?” he replied, “Did I ever leave ?”

The man from Inniskeen was in complete agreement with the Greek poet Cadaly who said, “No matter where you wander all over the world, in the fields and streets where you grow up, there you will live and there you will die.”

He delighted in telling the story of how his brother, Peter, while taking a Sunday morning stroll in San Francisco, came on a group of Irishmen playing Gaelic football and how, “ . . . everything was as at home . . . not a man of them had ever left home and the mysterious Pacific was just a bog-hole gurgling with eels and frogs.”

It must be said that he also fell in love in Dublin. During his final illness he told his sisters, “I’ve a feeling of death on me and I want to be buried in Inniskeen” but he wanted to be commemorated in Dublin,

O commemorate me with no hero-courageous
Tomb- just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.

The one hundred and twenty-eight pages of Kavanagh Country will enable you to accompany the poet down the Mucker lane on his way to Kednaminsa school, experience the frustrations of a rural adolescent as he watches the young ones going to the dance in Billy Brennan’s Barn or feel the waters of the Grand canal “pouring Redemption.”

Kavanagh Country, published by Currach Press is now available.
Price; €20