In 1997 Bertie Ahern personally launched Fianna Fáil's position paper ``A Radical Approach to Drugs and Drug Related Crime''. This paper was launched with such phrases as `the big fight back' and the `most comprehensive' anti-drugs strategy. But its promises have emerged only as paper tigers of the Fianna Fáil publicity machine.
The clearest evidence of this is the level of drug abuse which has been reported in the midlands region, but it would be helpful to look at the difference between Fianna Fáil's promises and practice in terms of policy. One major promise was fast track drugs courts. Nearly three years on, we have a planning group, which cannot be of much use to the numerous communities under siege from drug dealers. The new detoxification facilities and new education initiatives have also failed to materialise. What we have now is the age of addicts in Dublin dropping and some research showing that methadone may be a bigger killer than heroin itself.
To sit back and ignore the drugs crisis that is enveloping Irish communities is to be morally corrupt. However to promise action, give hope to people and not act but cynically abuse anti-drugs support is to back the murder of a generation of young Irish people.
Trail of Confusion
The Irish Independent never fails to play the old British game of ``divide and conquer''. On Saturday 26 February, it ran a full page article headed ``Blood money trail to North''. It was claimed that Clan na Gael, led by Dorothy Robinson, a cheerleader of this breakaway Irish republican group, held a fundraiser in a named pub in Manhattan. The article proceeded to talk about ``disregard for human life... more sinister group... supporters have betrayed an addiction to violence... Garda intelligence sources... etc''.
The truth is that Clan na Gael did not hold a function in the named pub and that Clan na Gael remain solid supporters of Sinn Féin and our peace strategy. Dorothy Robinson left Clan na Gael some years ago and has spent her time since, spreading dissension, division and confusion. Is it any wonder that the Independent, the most pro-British newspaper in Ireland would carry such an article?
Sinn Féin Councillor,
It is disgraceful that several of the Glen Of The Downs eco-warriors are still languishing in jail.
Contrast this draconian treatment of peaceful protesters with the suspended sentences recently awarded to major heroin dealers and the failure to prosecute businessmen and politicians who have been clearly exposed as tax evaders.
It says a lot about the legal system when trying to protect our environment is considered worthy of more severe punishment than selling heroin to our children or effectively robbing hard-working taxpayers of millions of pounds.
Councillor Dessie Ellis,
19 Dunsink Rd,
The sickening spectacle of General Pinochet's return to Chile, where he was given a hero's welcome by the current Army Chief, Izzurrietta, extinguishes any lingering hopes that the mass murderer might someday face justice in his own country. With the Chilean Army remaining the most powerful political player, it is clear now that Pinochet will never have to answer for his crimes.
The decision by the British government to free him was disgraceful, even by their standards, and once more renders as a sick joke their claims to follow an ethical path in international affairs. All over the world those who are opposed to injustice will be appalled, but it is the poor and oppressed of Chile who are the real victims of this decision.
The US-backed coup of 1973 ushered in a nightmare period, which saw 130,000 Chileans murdered, tortured or disappeared. Economically, as John Pilger noted, Chile became the first Third World country to be structurally adjusted, in accordance with the wishes of US imperialism. Wholesale privatisation of industry was backed up with the slashing of health, education and public services and the erosion of trade union rights. This process led to the complete impoverishment of around 40% of Chile's population, and a massive redistribution of wealth in favour of US and Chilean capitalism.
Pinochet's defeat ten years ago, whilst testament to the courage of Chile's poor, has nonetheless not resulted in a change in their conditions. The economic stranglehold imposed upon them by Nixon and Kissenger has been progressively tightened by Reagan, Bush and Clinton. The so-called democracy in Chile acts as little more than a veil, obscuring the rapacious capitalist interests which are still being ruthlessly upheld there. It is little wonder that malodorous Pinochistas like Thatcher and Norman Lamont are so supportive of the current political set-up in Chile.
Had Pinochet been extradited, a huge boost would have been given to those in Chile who are still struggling against the reactionary forces which upheld his rule and which still control the country. Instead, the opposite will now be the case. The forces of reaction will be strengthened and the poor and oppressed of Chile will continue to suffer.
Perverse military priorities
Due to the vast amount of coverage given by the media (including An Phoblacht) to the devastating floods in Mozambique, no one on this island can ignore the awful conditions the people of that country find themselves in. A reported 800,000 people are now left homeless in Mozambique and this number is set to rise steadily as forecasts of more heavy rain for that region are promised. Aid agencies are in vital need of money to fund helicopter flights in order to rescue the estimated 100,000 people that are still rapped on roofs, trees and on the other few remaining dry areas.
The request from the government of Mozambique for aid money and rescue equipment comes at the same time as the Irish government announces that a ridiculous amount of money is to be set aside for the improvement of the Defence Forces in the 26 Counties. An amount in the region of £609 million is to be provided for this unnecessary improvement. It shocks me that, with Irish Aid so far only able to allocate an additional £400,000 towards the current disaster, the Irish government is willing to turn its back on the people of Mozambique in order to satisfy a handful of the Defence Forces' top brass. Why a neutral state has to spend so much on the boosting up of its defences forces is baffling.
What is also ironic is that the Irish government calls for the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons while at the same time it, and most of the political parties in the 26 Counties, promote the expensive and needless strengthening of the Irish Defence Forces.