Republican News · Thursday 19 November 1998

[An Phoblacht]

Our old and esteemed friend, Finlay Spratt, Chairman of the Prison Officers Association in the Six Counties, has caught everyone by surprise with the vehemence with which he is defending his highly skilled members' interests.

But of course, for screws, the issue on which he is campaigning is the most important thing in the whole wide world to them - money.

Many of them face redundancy and their aptitude for other work is not highly rated, nor is their appetite for hard work, so they are looking for as much lolly as they can possibly get. The deal on the table at the minute is worth up to 230,000 for some of Finlay's mates. And still he isn't satisfied.

He made the extraordinary pledge this week that he is prepared to ``go to jail to get justice for my colleagues''. Isn't that what screws are supposed to do?


I received a copy of Hansard this week which deals with a lively debate in the British House of Lords about the upgrading of the Derry-Strabane-Ballygawley road, although they didn't say Derry, of course.

The debate was begun by the noble Duke of Abercorn who told the assembled snoring peers that he is President of Strabane Chamber of Commerce and then, mysteriously, that his family owns a disused quarry in County Tyrone ``where a local quarrymaster pays a modest rent in order to ensure that the quarry remains closed''.

There followed a remarkably lucid case for upgrading the road before the noble Earl of Carlisle got to his feet.

After praising his oul mucker the Duke to the high heavens (this stuff has to be seen to be believed) he said ominously,''I declare an interest''. Another disused quarry, perhaps? Oh, no.

``Twenty six years ago last month,'' he said, ``I was serving as a soldier in Northern Ireland. I was in a civilian car bought locally. I was undertaking the kind of job where the number plates needed to be changed every two to three months. I was driving quite slowly, at about 40mph, from Omagh to Ballygawley. Suddenly there was a bump. I lost control of the car. It slewed over to the right and a car coming in the opposite direction crashed into me. Fortunately, no-one was killed. Given the nature of my duties, it would have been ironic had I been wiped out by a car and not a terrorist.''

No, my Lord, not ironic. Try ``a source of dark glee to many people''.


Visitors to Dublin Sinn Féin's office on Wednesday afternoon were taken aback. Behind the locked door loud music thumped out its heavy beat and chinks of flashing lights escaped into the gloomy corridor.

A small, puzzled group gathered. Someone went to fetch a key. The crowd grew bigger. Eventually the door was opened to reveal three female members of Sinn Féin Youth posing as the kids from Fame, dancing among the filing cabinets and posters as makeshift disco lights flashed around the dark office.

Thecrowd stared for a moment, then the door was gently closed and the older Shinners quietly went back to their work.

Was it Emma Goldman who said, ``If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution''?

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