Republican News · Thursday 20 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Plastic Bullets - Never Again!

While the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets (UCAPB) welcomes the fact that plastic bullets have not been fired in huge numbers during the present state of unrest, we do take notice of comments being made by many people from the nationalist community. They ask the question ``Why don't the RUC shoot plastic bullets?'' These sentiments are, we feel, understandable, because it is self evident there is disparity of treatment by the RUC in their dealings with the nationalist community. UCAPB's position remains the same; plastic bullets should never be fired!

Where the nationalist community has been involved in similar situations thousands of plastic bullets were fired, lives were lost and hundreds injured.

While the Patten Commission expressed their abhorrence at the firing of plastic bullets, they rubber-stamped their use by saying there is no alternative. UCAPB says: ``If there is enough determination to find a means of policing hostile situations without using plastic bullets, then one can be found.''

The manner and means that the RUC have been employing in dealing with the ongoing state of unrest prompts UCAPB to ask several questions.

• Has an alternative to plastic bullets indeed been found and is it now being put into practice on the streets at this very moment?

• Is this a temporary or a permanent change in policing policy?

• Is this softly, softly approach being taken to avoid adverse publicity because of the ongoing debate on the future of the RUC?

• Will the RUC adopt a similar approach when dealing with nationalist protests in the future.

Jim McCabe

The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets


Catholics forced to take Twelfth off

A Chairde,

Catholics at the Ford factory in West Belfast are angry that again this year they were not allowed to go to work so that Orangemen could celebrate their sectarian and outdated triumphalism.

Trade union leaders at the plant are known to have personal and sectarian reasons for keeping the plant closed on 12 July. Ford's own rule book does not allow for 12 July to be taken as a holiday but the company has always favoured its Protestant employees and insisted that no one will be allowed to work on the Twelfth.

We were forced to stay at home so that Orangemen could walk over the rights of the people of the Garvaghy, Ormeau and Springfield Roads. Ford employees have been seen in all locations.

Ford in Britian does not close its plants so the British National Party can intimidate its ethnic workers. Ford in the USA does not close its plants so the KKK can torture its black workers. So why does it close its West Belfast plant in support of sectarian holidays?

In industrial terms, this is equivalent to the Orange Order imposing itself on the people of Garvaghy Road where they are not wanted. This sectarian holiday is not wanted by many Catholics at the Ford factory but is imposed on them because of the influence of the Orange Order in the plant. Instead of in our own way supporting the people of Garvaghy Road by staying at work, we are actually forced to support the Orangemen at Drumcree by being forced to stay at home.

Trying to get the union leaders in the plant to resolve this would be like getting David Jones of the Portadown Orangemen to look after the interests of the people of the Garvaghy Road.

G. MacCaothmhaoil,


Frustrated in Clare

A Chairde,

As a young republican from West Clare of voting age, I find myself in the predicament of having no republican candidate to vote for in the next election. Numerous attempts have been made by republican sympathisers in the area to get a Sinn Féin cumann set up. These attempts have hit a brick wall.

Although there is a Sinn Féin cumann in Shannon, this can hardly be expected to cover the whole county. We believe that there is enough support in the county to set up three more cumainn, one in West Clare, one in North Clare and one in Ennis. If Sinn Féin are to make gains in the next elections, cumainn need to be developed in places like Clare to take advantage of the growing anger among young people towards corrupt politicians and parties.

Dole `fraud' fatwah

A Chairde,

I note with great concern that Minister Dermot Ahern has stated in the Irish Examiner (12 July 2000) that his priority is to `ensure those claiming welfare are entitled to it'. One would have thought that the role of the Department was to `ensure that all those entitled to welfare are claiming it', given that their mission for 1998-2001 is ``to promote social well-being through income and other supports which enable people to participate in society in a positive way''.

Not all so-called `dole fraud' is about people who are working and illegally signing on. A woman who cannot find childcare for her kids, and could not take a job because she has no one to leave them with can be charged with `dole fraud' because she is `not available for work'. A man who has been out of work for years and who has hundreds of rejection letters can be charged with `dole fraud' because, this month, he decided he couldn't face another bundle of rejection letters and is not `genuinely seeking work'. A person who is illiterate and doesn't understand the letters calling them for an interview can be charged with `dole fraud' because they failed to comply with the Employment Action Plan. A person whose dole is stopped because they can't get a job is not going to be helped by being pushed further into poverty. There are over 150,000 people relying on the Live Register because they can't get sufficient work. The Department would serve us all better if they addressed the very real barrier to getting a job faced by thousands of our potential workforce, instead of trying to shrink the unemployment figures by `cracking down' on so-called fraud.

Emma Jane Hoey,

Vice Chairperson INOU,


Co Monaghan

The other side of Eden

A Chairde,

Serious questions must be asked about the safety of hostel accommodation in Australia in the wake of the disastrous fire at the Palace Backpackers Hostel in Childers, Queensland, which claimed the lives of 15 people.

The Premier of Queensland, Mr Peter Beattie, visiting Dublin recently on a trade mission, sought to reassure the parents of backpackers that all would be done to ascertain the cause of the fire and if necessary introduce new regulations related to fire prevention measures in hostels.

He has sound economic reasons for ensuring that there will be no diminution in the numbers of backpackers arriving in Queensland to work on fruit and vegetable farms and provide a source of abundant cheap labour in the fields.

Robert Hughes in his book The Fatal Shore focuses on the issue of cheap labour in Queensland in the mid 19th century. Public meetings were held to ask the secretary of state for convicts. 150 years later, it's send for the backpackers.

``Australia'', said the Queensland Premier in Dublin, ``is one of the safest destinations in the world''. Well, the Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel was profoundly unsafe. Lisa Duffy, an English woman who survived the fire, stated that the situation was ``appalling''.

``There was,'' she said, ``no fire alarm whatsoever. Alarms had been installed but none of them went off.'' Lisa Duffy claimed that there had been only one fire extinguisher in the 100-year-old building which had been converted from a pub to a hostel only last year. The fire extinguisher was located in the kitchen. Other reports told of how there were bars on windows and locks on doors.

Padraig Collins, writing in The Irish Times on 26 June, reflected on his experience of hostel accommodation in Australia. ``Some of the best and a lot of the worst accommodation I have every stayed in were hostels in Australia,'' he wrote. ``I can remember only one hostel that had smoke alarms in the rooms, and the only place I ever saw fire extinguishers were in kitchens.'' This is Wake In Fright territory.

Australia is most frequently defined in terms of all that is superficial. The weather. Sydney Harbour. Doyles Fish Restaurant. We never hear anything of the darker side to Australia.

Fred C Dickson (Irish Times 4 July) is contemptuous of Connolly Railway Station on his return to Ireland from ``beautiful litter free Australia'' and ``beautiful efficient and clean Brisbane Airport''. This is a generalisation too far.

Australia is most certainly not free of litter and pollution is a major problem in the country. Gore Vidal, on a visit to Australia, commented on how the country had achieved levels of pollution comparable with Europe. And in such a short time compared to Europe!

The ills of civilisation effect Australia in no less a fashion than elsewhere and it is time for an acknowledgement of this fact. Australia is traditionally portrayed as an easy going, laid back, down to earth country populated by a fiercely independent people of an essentially anti authoritarian orientation, real Crocodile Dundee types, myths sustained by those entrusted with formulating public opinion.

Robert Hughes' definition of Australians offers another impression completely. Australians are ``sceptical conformists'' he says.

John Pilger's book A Secret Country, as its title suggests, is a report on Australia of some depth and should be recommended reading for people weary of the usual representation of Australia.

John Kelly,


Co Westmeath

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