After hours of gut-wrenching and insufferable RTÉ/BBC reporting of Bill Clinton's visit to Ireland, I was appalled by the fawning and uncritical nature of AP/RN's three-page coverage.
While I understand the careful and highly sensitive politics that Sinn Féin is pursuing with the US in regard to the faltering peace process, to relegate ``the unacceptable aspects of the modern USA, including the boycott of Cuba, the bombing of Iraq and Kosovo and the undermining of the UN'' to an aside in an otherwise gushing account of Clinton's visit is a travesty of the first order. Has AP/RN really lost its socialist republican edge or have I just missed something along the way?
I trust that normal service can now be resumed.
Cuba Support Group - Ireland
Budget 2001 ``an insult''
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed have asked community groups to write protesting the recent budget.
We are a group of unemployed people and minimum wage workers working within our communities. We agree wholeheartedly with the INOU that ``for unemployed people, Budget 2001 was an insult''.
It was also, in our opinion, an outrage.
Despite the unpaid work of people in excluded and marginalised communities address the effects of poverty and inadequate resources, this budget is a clear statement, to our mind, of the type of society the current government envisages: This is one where wealth and profit will be rewarded and being poor, penalised.
Despite all the rhetoric about ``inclusion'' and a ``national anti-poverty strategy'' - an increase in social welfare payments of £8 a week will only guarantee that people who are falling behind due to an unequal distribution of the nation's wealth (to say nothing of inflation) will only find it harder to survive.
As tax payers who live on the poverty line we are also outraged that instead of being taken out of the tax net the Government introduced a series of measures which benefits the top 23% of earners the most.
Finally, we had made serious representation, locally and nationally, regarding the refusal of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance to many children in our area. We note that our requests and the arguments we made regarding the need to support our children stay in school were, apparently, ignored. If this is the case might we ask what point is there in communicating our views and needs to the other ``social partners''?
We believe that this budget raises a serious question regarding ``partnership'' between the voluntary and community sector and the other ``social partners''. How can there be a ``partnership'' process when the situation as well as the views of so many disadvantaged children, people and communities can be so dismally ignored?
As constituents, and as people who know exactly what effects this Budget will have on the lives of ordinary people in this constituency, we ask you to raise these concerns in Dail Eireann as a matter of urgency.
Seamas Carraher, George Harding
For the Uuenployed Workers' Group
Dún Laoghaire, Bray & Buttevant areas
Flawed Oslo Accords
The November 30 editorial entitled Israel's Bloody Rejection Of Peace states, ``The Palestinian leadership should be commended for its courage in agreeing the historic compromise it made when it signed the Oslo Accords. The PLO recognised the right of Israel to exist and undertook to work within a peace process to achieve an agreement.''
While the editorial correctly calls for solidarity with the Palestinian people fighting for their national rights, I don't believe the position cited above regarding the Oslo Accords is consistent with that taken by the Republican movement concerning Irish self-determination and reunification.
The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination centres on the fight to return to their land, which was forcibly taken from them and on which a colonial settler state was established. The parallel in the Irish context was the forcible expropriation of the land of the native Irish inhabitants, the occupation of that land by a settler population and the establishment of the six-county state under Unionist domination. A land without a people for a people without a land is how some Zionist propagandists justified the establishment of the state of Israel, conveniently ignoring the prior existence of the Palestinian people. And the characterisation of a Protestant state for a Protestant people was used by unionist forces as if the six northern-eastern counties were not part of the nation of Ireland.
Out of these two parallel situations have come two parallel struggles for self-determination - the fight for a democratic, secular Palestine in which Christians, Muslims and Jews could live with full rights and freedoms, and the fight for an independent and reunified Ireland in which the rights of Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters would be equally respected.
In face of heavy imperialist pressure, the Oslo Accords marked a retreat from the fight for Palestinian self-determination. The Accords were not seen as a transition towards a unified secular state in place of the current state of Israel - a situation which could lead to the end of the national oppression of the Palestinian people - but as an acceptance of an historic injustice and an attempt to coexist with it permanently in the form of a Palestinian mini-state side by side with the U.S.-backed Zionist state. Seven years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the lack of viability of this perspective is increasingly obvious.
The Irish equivalent of the Oslo Accords would be to give up the fight for an end to British rule in the six counties and for the reunification of Ireland and an acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement, not as a transitional step along the road to full national self-determination, but as the most that can be achieved, akin to the SDLP's view.
The Good Friday Agreement did not represent the victory of Irish self-determination since British control of the six counties remains. However, despite efforts by Unionist forces and the British government to undermine its implementation, the Agreement offers potential impetus for the transition to a united Ireland. And in signing up to the Agreement, the Republican movement was not forced to renounce its goal of an end to British rule and Irish reunification.
The same cannot be said for the Oslo Accords, which required an explicit renunciation of the goal of replacing the Zionist state with one unified secular state recognizing the religious and democratic rights of all, including the right of the Palestinians to return to their land and be treated as equals in the territory currently occupied by Israel.
It is with reluctance that I write this letter, but I feel something needs to be said about your coverage of Clinton's couple of days in this country.
I was expecting the paper to cover his time here, but not in the manner in which it was covered. Firstly, the front page headlines were something I'd expect from the likes of the `Irish News' or the `Irish Times'. Then we had your columnist, Robbie MacGabhann, writing an article that wouldn't have looked out of place in an English tabloid.
Why wasn't coverage given to a protest outside Belfast City Hall? We were protesting about the embargo on Cuba, the continued bombing of Iraq and other American foreign policies that affect democratic people throughout the world.
So, I hope the paper will, in future, go back to its radical position and criticise American imperalism.