Guarding the unions
Delegates at last week's annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) voted in favour of a motion seeking trade union status for the association. They are looking for the status and limited right to strike rather than have to resort to another bout of swine fever.
The garda sergeants have come to the conclusion that trade union membership is not such a radical act after all. Isn't it amazing how self interest can aid political and social development?
The difficulty with guards being members of a trade union is whether they will police trade union legislation with the same zest they once did - the heavy policing at the series of building industry disputes in Dublin over recent years being just one case in point. Will it be possible for one comrade to arrest and imprison another?
A second motion was passed at the AGSI conference calling for garda employment records to be made available to them under the Freedom of Information Act.
The question is whether they would consider supporting revealing the files held by them on republicans and others or are they going to be like some of the other public sector unions involved in the partnership process who put their interests before those of everyone else? The guards are fast learning the ways of institutional conservative trade unionism.
Corruption is high on most people's agenda this week and they are asking the very simple question: What is going to be done? When it comes to unfair competition, restrictive practices and other such dubious cartelisation of our free market system, we can sleep easy at night knowing that the Competition Authority (CA) is hard at work on our behalf ensuring fair play.
Well no, actually. The CA has admitted that complaints about cartels (when companies fix prices to increase profits) are not being dealt with this year. A staff shortage has left it unable to deal with any new enquiries. The authority has only 14 staff at the moment. It is sanctioned to have 24.
The CA has made its plight known to the relevant minister Mary Harney, who has not sanctioned the immediate hiring of extra staff but a consultant's examination of the Authority's resources.
It gives an interesting insight into how government in the 26-County economy operates. First, identify the problem. Then, fail to adequately address it. Notify your management of the shortcomings and wait for the consultants' reports. It worked for the child care crisis, local government financing, the housing crisis, the unemployment crisis of the early 1990s, etc. Then rest up, knowing your work is done. If it ain't broke...!
Pipe bombs meant for republicans
BY PEADAR WHELAN
Republicans in South Down are being warned to be on their guard after the discovery of primed pipe bombs near Castlewellan.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin councillor Aiden Carlin said that three primed bombs were found on the road between Seaforde and Clough villages on Tuesday 18 April at about 3pm.
Carlin said that an anonymous caller to the RUC warned that the bombs were ``ready for immediate use against republicans in Castlewellan''.
``Sinn Féin is taking this threat seriously, as the bombs were uncovered near Clough, which has seen a high level of loyalist activity over the past while,'' said Carlin. ``Last year, they were carrying out monthly attacks on nationalists.''
Loyalists from the area were involved in the killing of 16-year-old James Morgan in July 1997. The schoolboy from Annsborough, on the outskirts of Castlewellan, was abducted outside Newcastle and his mutilated body was found buried in a carcass pit near Clough. One man, Norman Coopey, who went onto the LVF wings in the H Blocks, was convicted and given life.
Carlin criticised the RUC, who phoned Sinn Féin councillor Frank McDowell and asked him to pass on the warnings about the bombs. ``It took them over two hours to tell Frank about the bombs then they asked him to pass on the warnings,'' said Carlin.
RUC wage campaign against family
A County Down Sinn Féin activist is accusing the RUC of waging a campaign of harassment against his family.
Francie Braniff told An Phoblacht last week that since March a particular RUC unit has singled out members of his family. His wife, Rose, was fined for not wearing a seatbelt ``although she had only removed the belt to get her licence after the RUC stopped her''.
The latest incidents, involving Francie's wife and younger children occurred in mid-April. As Rose Braniff left the children, aged 11, 13 and 14, off at the school the RUC stopped her. The previous day, the same RUC patrol sat across the road from the school bus as she left the children off.
The weekend before that, on Friday 7 April, Francie's 18-year-old son Paul was in Newcastle to collect his younger brother when an RUC vehicle drew up beside his car. One of the RUC members approached the car and the young lad opened the window, thinking he was going to be questioned, but the RUC man then inexplicably crouched down and just stared at the boy.
``As Paul drove home with his younger brother, the same RUC car followed him along the Castlewellan Road, stopped him and the same thing happened. This RUC man just glared at Paul,'' said Francie.
``I've been getting harassed by the RUC for years,'' says Francie. ``I'm damn sure I'm not going to let my children get it as well.''