November 28, 2003

PSNI, loyalists harass Sinn Fein candidate

Sinn Fein has said it will complain to the police ombudsman about harassment by the PSNI police outside a County Down count centre.

Quotes from the count centres

The electorate have given a clear message to the Ulster Unionist Party. The last five and a half years have not delivered what they had hoped for. It has been a series of failed negotiations.

Public inquiry demanded after tampering of evidence

Two men accused of a dissident republican bomb plot in September last year were formaly acquitted of the charges today after the prosecution incredibly offered no evidence against them.

New Republican Assembly members profiled

A look at the assembly election candidates


As the dust begins to settle following Wednesday's Assembly election, Republican joy at Sinn Fein's success has been tempered by near-misses in many areas and the deep crisis now facing the peace process.

Energy And Repressive Politics

Twenty years ago a bitter environmental conflict over the Franklin dam in Tasmania ended with a victory for environmentalists concerned to prevent needless destruction of their country's ecosystem.

Collusion case reopened

A new investigation is to be made into a sectarian murder 16 years ago, following claims by a notorious loyalist killer that British Crown forces colluded in the killing.

No coincidence

The surge in the vote for the DUP and Sinn Fein has been dangerously presented in the media as a polarisation of public opinion in the Six Counties.

November 26, 2003

Three years of terror for marrying a Catholic

A south Belfast family last night remained defiant despite a 36th sectarian attack on their home in the last three years.

New bid to have British Army killers dismissed

The mother of Peter McBride, who was murdered by two British soldiers in Belfast in 1992, has launched a third legal bid yesterday to get them thrown out of the British Army.

McAllister returns to family pending appeal

Irish American activists are celebrating a victory of sorts following the release of Malachy McAllister from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) Detention Center in Newark last week.

Loyalist murder accused out on bail

A leading Belfast loyalist accused of murder was released on bail yesterday, prompting renewed question over double-standards in the judiciary.


A series of talks are to take place before Christmas with a view to salvaging the northern peace process.

26-County election date announced

The local and European elections will be held on June 11th next year, the Irish Minister for the Environment said yesterday.

Budget 2004 - Main Points

The following are the main points of the 26-County Budget, from the speech in the Dail today by the Irish Minister of Finance, Charlie McCreevy.

British govt sits on Cory report

Pressure is growing on the British government to publish a report into some of the most controversial killings of the troubles.


Voting is underway in the North of Ireland in the twice-delayed election to the Belfast Assembly, but some voters have been turned away from the polls, according to reports.

Election previews - Greater Belfast

This is the final installment of a five-part constituency by constituency analysis of the parties and candidates in the up-coming Belfast Assembly elections, to be held on November 26th.

Each of the 18 parliamentary constituencies will return 6 members by single transferable vote (STV) to sit in the Stormont Assembly, thus making up its 108 members.

Warning to Ahern on suppression of Barron report

The Dublin government has been criticised for its plan to block out certain names in a report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Get out and vote Sinn Féin

There is only a matter of hours left in which northern nationalists and republicans can act directly and peacefully to improve their lot.

Ahern, Blair to discuss post-election scenario

The Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will meet the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair on Friday to discuss the peace process in the aftermath of today's election.

November 24, 2003

No surrender to DUP - Adams

The IRA is not going to respond to any ``surrender'' demand from the DUP or its leader, Ian Paisley, the Sinn Féin president Mr Gerry Adams told the party's Easter Rising commemoration in Dublin yesterday.

Keane to return to Irish soccer team

The former captain of the Irish soccer team, Roy Keane, is set to return to international football almost two years after he dramatically quit the squad at the 2002 World Cup in Japan.

Groups hold rallies to mark Easter Rising

The anniversary of the Easter Rising saw commemorations from many different republican groupings at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast.


There has been growing concern at the proposed citizenship referendum in the 26 Counties, which could effectively rewrite the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Easter Address by Gerry Adams

The following is an edited version of the address by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams at this year's Dublin Easter Commemoration

Attacks in Derry

A Catholic teenager has been treated in hospital after being assaulted by up to 12 youths in a suspected sectarian attack in Derry.

US congress holds hearings on anniversary of Nelson murder

A committee of the US congress are currently holding hearings on the peace process and the issue of human rights.

Scappaticci admits taped attack on IRA

Freddie Scappaticci has confessed he secretly spoke to journalists about the IRA 11 years ago but has again denied being the alleged British agent `Stakeknife'.

Poll indicates election gains for Sinn Féin, Greens

The latest opinion poll on the 26 Counties ahead of June local and European elections indicate that Sinn Féin, the Green Party and possibly Labour will gain on many local authorities.

Kelly family condemn PSNI inquiry into killing

The family of a Catholic councillor who was murdered in controversial circumstances almost 30 years have detailed a number of serious concerns with the re-investigation of the killing by the PSNI police.


The publication of the Cory reports on British Crown force collusion with paramilitaries could be further delayed by legal injunctions.

Alliance Party

Following the annual conference of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland at the weekend, we present an edited version of the speech by party leader David Ford.

Church targeted by arsonists

A priest has esccaped injury after he was targeted by loyalist arsonists while he slept.


At the time of writing, three days after bombs on four commuter trains in Madrid killed 200 people, a number of suspects have been arrested and are being questioned. This followed the discovery of a stolen van with detonators (and a tape of verses of the Koran in Arabic); crucial forensic evidence being adduced from an unexploded bomb; a claim from al Qaeda to an Arab language newspaper in London; and, on Sunday, a claim of responsibility from al Qaeda in a video message.

Shoot-to-kill not covered by Human Rights Act - Lords

Britain's House of Lords has overturned a ruling by the Court of Appeal in Belfast that the British government breached the Human Rights Act by failing to carry out an investigation into the killings of three unarmed IRA Volunteers in 1982.

Republican seeks release over forensic frame-up

A Derry dissident republican on remand in Maghaberry Prison is to challenge the decision to prosecute him on explosives charges after the PSNI police and British army interfered with forensic evidence in the case.

Referendum could affect Good Friday Agreement

Irish politicians s have expressed grave concern about the implications for the Good Friday Agreement of the Dublin government's proposed constitutional referendum to restrict citizenship rights.

Omagh victims blast Nally 'whitewash'

Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims today branded the report by the 26-County government into the atrocity a ``whitewash'' at a meeting with the Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Irish horror at Madrid atrocity

There has been strong cross-party condemnation in Ireland for yesterday bombings in Madrid, which left some 200 dead and over a thousand injured.


The focus of efforts to revive the Irish peace process moves to Washington this week as meetings have been organised in the US Capital for the annual gathering of Irish political leaders at the Whitehouse.

Attacks in Larne and Derry

A number of sectarian attacks have made a mockery out of the so-called 'ceasefires' by unionist paramilitaries.

Ardoyne Suicides

Virtually every piece of commentary on the recent suicides of young men in Ardoyne mentioned the area being left behind by the peace process. But few ventured to suggest what it was about the process which had brought this about.

Transport strike blamed on Minister

Bus and rail workers' across Ireland mounted a four-hour work stoppage today, culminating with a rally outside the Department of Transport in Dublin.

John Davey remembered

A Sinn Fein councillor was remembered yesterday by family, friends and party activists on the 15th anniversary of his murder in County Derry.


What is claimed to be the full list of the victims of British agent Brian Nelson was published by the Sunday Life newspaper at the weekend.

A Human Rights Windbag

IN the very early days of the Troubles a reporter from British television, freshly arrived from `the mainland', was interviewing a woman on the Falls Road. He was perplexed at the degree of nationalist alienation and he asked the woman what had happened to her and her neighbours' homes. The woman said, ``They came down >from up there with bricks and petrol bombs and burnt us out, one after the other, in the middle of the night.

DUP must `play ball' - SF

Sinn Fein has called on Ian Paisley's DUP to begin direct negotiations with republicans and called on the British government to push ahead with justice and human rights reforms.

Council votes against Long Kesh museum

Proposals to retain part of the Long Kesh prison site as a museum have been set back after the local council voted against the plan.

Catholic home torched

Unionists were last night blamed for an arson attack on the home of a Catholic family in west Belfast.

Sense of drift

The following comments were made by Sinn Fein EU candidate Pearse Doherty at the twelfth annual Joe McManus/Kevin Coen lecture.

`Real IRA' mistrial at Special Criminal Court

THE trial of three men accused of membership of the breakaway `Real IRA' was aborted at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday after the Garda police said they had ``mislaid'' documents relating to the trial.

Protests mark anniversary of Finucane murder

The British government is under increasing pressure to announce a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

Petrol bomb attacks in Derry

Republican dissidents have been blamed for an attack on the home of the North's Policing Board vice-chairman, Denis Bradley.

More delays in Kelly case

Lawyers for the family of a murdered nationalist councillor have criticised new delays in their fight for an independent probe into his death.


The final witness finished his evidence today at the Bloody Sunday inquiry, which has been sitting for four years.

The Story of the Catalpa

by Joseph Clarke

Of all the wonderful escapes and rescues of Irish political prisoners from British dungeons down through the years none was as remarkable as the rescue of six Fenian prisoners from the penal settlement of Western Australia in 1876.

Armed British incursion into 26 Counties

British PSNI police and Army patrols crossed over the Border into the 26 Counties on Wednesday night, sparking local anger in north County Louth.

The Process of `Constitutionalisation'

Breandan Morley (from the Blanket)

Hopes for the restoration of a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland now depend upon Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party, after the two parties emerged as the dominant forces at the assembly elections.

PSNI criticised over policing decisions

The Derry-based human rights centre, the Pat Finucane Centre, has questionied why extra police were drafted in for today's Assembly elections and not directed to protecting nationalists against sectarian attack.

Dissident republicans mount attacks

A bomb exploded at a British Army base in the North of Ireland late on Monday night after PSNI police had moved into the area to carry out searches. There had been a number of telephone warnings from the dissident Continuity IRA that a device had been planted.

Bloody Sunday Inquiry latest

A woman today told the Bloody Sunday tribunal today she saw four civilians fall after a British soldier raised his rifle and aimed towards the rubble barricade in Rossville Street.

SF canvassers attacked; UUP HQ paint-bombed

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey has said that one of his canvass teams was attacked in south Belfast.

Orangeman resigns over murder

The father of John Allen, who was shot and killed by gunmen two weeks ago in Ballyclare, resigned from the Orange Order today.

Irish family under siege by U.S. agents

An Irish Republican is facing expulsion from the US after an immigration court rejected an appeal against his deportation.

A Handful of Nationalists

The first I ran for election was in Mid-Ulster twenty-one year ago.


The British government is to begin a review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement next month following Wednesday's election to the Belfast Assembly, it has confirmed.

Election previews - West and Border areas

This is the fourth installment of a five-part constituency by constituency analysis of the parties and candidates in the up-coming Belfast Assembly elections, to be held on November 26th.

Each of the 18 parliamentary constituencies will return 6 members by single transferable vote (STV) to sit in the Stormont Assembly, thus making up its 108 members.

Call for Irish language legislation

Sinn Féin has called for the introduction of an Irish language bill in any new assembly. Launching the party's manifesto on language yesterday, Bairbre de Brun said: ``Sinn Féin has been to the forefront in promoting the importance and safeguarding the position of the Irish language and culture during the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement and since, on an all-Ireland basis,'' said Ms de Brun.

Vote for change and vote for the future

(for the Irish News)

There has been enormous progress across Irish society over the last 10 years. There has been a political transformation, which many people thought was not possible.

November 21, 2003

South Down raids and arrests slammed

The arrest of eight people from Kilcoo and Castlewellan in South Down during the early hours of Tuesday morning has been slammed by local Sinn Féin Councillor and Assembly candidate Willie Clarke.

PSNI take over prisons after warder walk-out

The PSNI have been called in to run prisons in the Six Counties after warders failed to report for duty.

Irish placenames back on the map

The Dublin government has taken its first steps to legally recognise the original versions of Irish placenames in the 26 Counties.

Cheerful Paisley threatens expulsion over SF talks

The DUP leader, Ian Paisley, has said that ``any party member who negotiated with Sinn Féin after the election would be immediately expelled.''


Loyalist paramilitaries were tonight suspected of bludgeoning a Catholic man to death.

Election previews - Belfast City

This is the third installment of a five-part constituency by constituency analysis of the parties and candidates in the up-coming Belfast Assembly elections, to be held on November 26th.

Each of the 18 parliamentary constituencies will return 6 members by single transferable vote (STV) to sit in the Stormont Assembly, thus making up its 108 members.

Paras wanted to talk - journalist

A former member of the Parachute Regiment who later became a journalist told the Saville Inquiry this week about threats he received after a British TV documentary about Bloody Sunday in which he was involved was aired.

Tackle inequality and poverty

The following is the introduction to Sinn Féin's pre-budget submission, launched at a press conference in Buswells Hotel yesterday.

Adams returns to campaign

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP returns to the campaign tomorrow with an extensive canvass in his West Belfast constituency following the death of his father earlier in the week.

November 19, 2003

Campaign heats up with unity prediction

A prediction by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness that there could be a united Ireland by 201 has set the tone of the debate in the last week of campaigning for the Assembly election.

Unionist leaders criticised for childish spat

The leaders of the North's two largest unionist parties descended into a public slanging match on the streets of east Belfast yesterday.

Real IRA `lured police into bomb trap'

A bomb planted by dissident republicans in the seaside town of Newcastle, County Down was defused today amid accusations by the PSNI police that the group had sought to kill members of the Crown forces.

Policing controversy follows protest arrest

A young man who was arrested at a Sinn Féin protest rally outside a British Army barracks in Omagh was released on bail in the High Court in Belfast today.


A savage sectarian attack has left a Catholic father-of-one badly disfigured.

Election previews - Foyle & East Derry

This is the second installment of a five-part constituency-by- constituency analysis of the parties and candidates in the up-coming Belfast Assembly elections, to be held on November 26th.

Donaldson trio launch `five commitments'

Hardline members of the UUP opposed to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement have issued their own ``post-election strategy'', calling for a ``better agreement''.

Further delays seen for Cory, Barron reports

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern today admitted that the report his government received from Judge Peter Cory into allegations of collusion on both sides of the border was ready to be published.

Guilty verdict in Dublin corruption case

The former Dublin city and county assistant manager, George Redmond, has been found guilty on two counts of corruption at the at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and remanded in custody until a December 17th sentencing hearing.

Tried and tested election formula

The elections seem to be settling down well and can now be carried out according to the tried and tested formula that has been developed here over the past 20 years or so.

November 17, 2003

Sinn Féin launch manifesto

Sinn Féin today launched its `Agenda for Government', which sets out the party's policies for the incoming Assembly and Executive.

Protests at planned hospital cutbacks

New health reform proposals have led to large protests and a bitter public spat betweeen the Minister for Defence, Michael Smith and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Loyalists blast north Belfast home

Loyalists have been blamed for a weekend blast bomb attack on a north Belfast house, which left one man badly shocked.


Mr Gerry Adams senior, a veteran republican and a former prisoner, has died after an illness at the Royal Victoria Hospital in west Belfast.

Former IRA man held by U.S. authorities

An Irish citizen who was once convicted on IRA charges is being held in U.S. federal custody pending a probable cause and detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Election previews - Antrim East & North

This is the first installment of a five-part constituency-by- constituency analysis of the parties and candidates in the up-coming Belfast Assembly elections, to be held on November 26th.

Appeal to Dublin, UN over Orange judiciary

A Victims' group is seeking a meeting with the Irish government amid growing concerns that unionist paramilitaries are being treated leniently by the courts.

Election Gamble

I love elections. I find them exciting. Can't believe that in my day I voted for Gerry Fitt (several times) and now I -- a Sinn Féin supporter - am being asked to vote for pro-Agreement parties that include the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists and the Progressive Unionist Party! I shall do as I am asked and vote down the line and across the spectrum in the knowledge that it is unlikely to be reciprocated but in the hope that it will help create a culture where in the future it one day might.

November 14, 2003

Shock for nationalists as guilty verdict overturned

A top loyalist paramilitary, caught with a gun and ammunition in hostile territory at the height of the UDA feud, has had his six-year jail term quashed.

SDLP, UKUP launch manifestoes

The real battleground in the assembly election is between those who want to protect the Good Friday Agreement and those who want to wreck it, SDLP leader Mark Durkan said yesterday.

Human Rights Commission chief in new scandal

The head of the North's Human Rights Commission, Brice Dickson, has defied growing calls for his resignation after further embarrassing revelations over his lack of independence from the British government.

Adams seeks unionist votes

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams tonight urged unionist voters to vote for his party in the Belfast Assembly Election on November 26.

Selective interests

After the treatment of Martin McGuinness by Lord Saville at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry last week, it might be interesting to muse a little on the objectivity of both the distinguished Lord in his manner of conducting the inquiry, and on that of the British media, which turned up in vast numbers for the first time at the Guildhall, Derry, on day 390 of the inquiry to pick over in minute detail the evidence given by Martin McGuinness. So, consider the following:

Over 200,000 unable to vote - report

About 170,000 people in the North of Ireland, some 13% of the electorate, will not be able to vote in the Assembly election because they have been removed from the register, a report by the Electoral Commission shows.

Furore over new taxes and cutbacks

The 26-County government is facing a `winter of discontent' after it signalled its intention to raise 91 Million Euros through new ``stealth taxes'' and cut social welfare schemes by 58 million Euros.

Flawed registration process

The revelation that 180,000 voters in the North have been disenfranchised highlights the discriminatory mess created by the Six-County Electoral Office. The introduction of restrictive new measures, and the attitude of the Office to accessibility and voter facilitation has ensured that while other voters are out having their say on 26 November, a very significant minority will be staying at home.

November 11, 2003

Sinn Féin targets Belfast gains

Sinn Féin could take a third of Belfast's Assembly seats in this month's election, party leader Mr Gerry Adams has claimed.

No contempt charges seen despite IRA honour code

A replica famine ship commemorating the plight of Irish emigrants has returning to Kerry after a ten-month journey to North America.

The Jeanie Johnston, which has sailed more than 12,000 miles since leaving County Kerry last February, has received tens of thousands of visitors in more than 20 American ports.

The following is a brief history of the ship and the times in which it sailed.

The remarkable story of the Jeanie Johnston is set against the backdrop of life in Ireland in the 1800s and, particularly, the devastation of the Great Famine or Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor in Irish).

The population of Ireland grew enormously in the early 19th century, at a rate unparalleled elsewhere in Europe. In just 21 years (1800-1821), it rose from 5 to 7 million, and reached 8.5 million in 1845.

Most people lived in rural areas. Dublin, the capital city, for example, had less than 3% of the population in 1845. Consequently the economic system centred on agriculture, with very little industrialisation.

Landlords, a tiny minority of the population, owned and rented the land. Those who worked the land were mostly either agricultural labourers (who rented usually less than an acre of manured ground to grow a single crop of potatoes under what became known as the `conacre' system), cottier tenants (less than five acres), or small tenant farmers (less than 20 acres).

The potato was the staple diet of the majority, particularly the poorer land users who contributed most to population growth. It was a cheap and nutritional source of food; for over three million people, all they had was the potato, with milk or buttermilk.

Potato blight: trail of devastation and death

In 1843, a new fungus disease, phytophthora infestans, was observed on the east coast of the United States and, by the summer of 1845, it had spread to Europe. In September 1845, it struck up to half the potato crop in Ireland, reducing it to a state of rottenness. This blight was to leave a trail of devastation and death throughout the land in the years that followed.

The Irish potato crop failure of 1846 was unprecedented in the history of modern Europe and the hard winter of 1846/47 took a terrible toll on the population.

Starvation, malnutrition and diseases such as typhus, relapsing or yellow fever, jaundice, scurvy and dysentery became widespread. Epidemic conditions were created in the workhouses designed to cater for the poor, which were completely overcrowded. Many impoverished tenants were evicted from their homes by landlords.

The initial response of Sir Robert Peel's Tory government in 1845 was effective in providing food for the hungry. A change of government in 1846 brought the Whigs to power and they were against any interference with market forces. The government's rigid adherence to the concept of free trade ultimately led to a lack of political will to do more for the starving masses in Ireland. As one of the richest nations in the world at the time, the measures taken by the government to alleviate the disaster were inadequate and ineffective, and in many cases increased the suffering and desperation of the people.

While the worst of the Famine was over by 1850, its effects were devastating. It is estimated that over one million died and another million or more emigrated. Irish communities at home and abroad were deeply scarred for generations.

Exodus from Ireland - to a New World

Faced with the spectre of disease, starvation, eviction and death, many people were forced to leave their native shore.

The desolation and misery that swept Ireland in the wake of the Famine led to a dramatic upsurge in emigration, particularly to the `New World' of North America but also to countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Faced with the spectre of disease, starvation, eviction and death, many people were forced to leave their native shore and, as the only means of doing so was by sea, many ships like the Jeanie Johnston were pressed into service to take them to their destination.

Emigration had, of course, been a feature of Irish life well before the Famine but the decision to leave then was, generally, a considered one. Now, the country's tragic circumstances forced an estimated two million people to flee and seek a new beginning during the period, 1845-1855. This represented a quarter of the total population -- an unprecedented mass exodus in the history of international migration.

The majority of those leaving Ireland in the wake of the Famine looked to North America as the land of hope. That continent's expanding industrial economy was an important factor in this decision.

Another contributory factor was the high level of pre-paid passages. Many emigrants who had arrived in the US or Canada sent money home for the fares to other family members. The impact of `chain emigration' can be gauged from the fact that approximately one million pounds was sent back in small amounts to Ireland in 1850 alone. Some commentators claim that up to 75% of emigration in 1848, for instance, was paid for by money from America.

The Famine greatly influenced Irish emigration trends. Whereas males dominated early 19th century departures, family groups were most common from 1845 to 1850. In the years that followed, the emigrant was more likely to be single and travelling alone -- usually the young and unskilled sons and daughters of farmers and labourers.

Emigration affected every strand of society

While it is accepted that the poorer cottiers and labourers, and their families, figured most prominently in post-Famine emigration, those that left were drawn from almost every social class and practically every household.

There were limited examples of `assisted emigration'. Small numbers of the poor in workhouses and orphaned children were given assistance to leave by the Government under the Poor Law system. Some landlords also provided money for assisted emigration schemes. In most cases, this was a financial move on their part to clear their estates of unprofitable tenants, who were given a choice of eviction or emigration.

The mass migration of the Irish in the 1840s marks the first great movement of people from Europe to the United States in the 19th century. Together with the Germans, the Irish made up over 70% of total immigration to the US between 1841 and 1860.

From the 1880s, however, many left Italy, Greece, Poland and other southern and eastern European countries for the ?'ew world'. The Irish exodus differed significantly in one respect from the rest of Europe: single women contributed heavily to Irish emigration numbers while, in contrast, women were not encouraged to emigrate alone elsewhere.

An incredible history

The story of the Jeanie Johnston is the story of one of the most momentous periods in Irish history -- the era of the Great Famine that swept the country in the middle of the 19th century.

It is also a tale of great humanity, remarkable courage and pioneering spirit on the part of Irish people fleeing the dreaded famine, which decimated the population of Ireland in a few short years.

It can be truly said that the Jeanie Johnston -- and the many similar emigrant ships of the 19th century which it eloquently represents -- paved the way for Irish people to play a leading and distinguished role all over the world in the intervening years.

Stark choice -- emigrate or starve

When disease hit the potato crop -- the staple diet of the Irish people -- during consecutive seasons from 1845 to 1848, disaster struck. Every family in the country was touched in one way or another.

For many people, it came down to a stark choice between risking the fearful transatlantic voyage on an emigrant ship or remaining in Ireland to starve.

This is where the famed Jeanie Johnston entered the picture to dramatic effect. A square-sterned, three-masted barque, constructed of Quebec oak and pine, the 408 tonne ship was built in Quebec, Canada by noted Scottish-born shipbuilder, John Munn in 1847.

A year later, the prominent Tralee, Co. Kerry hardware merchant, Nicholas Donovan, purchased the ship in Liverpool and originally intended to use it on the North Atlantic route as a cargo vessel.

New beginning for over 2,500 people

The dire circumstances of the starving Irish soon altered his plans and the ship made its maiden voyage to Quebec on April 24, 1848, with 193 emigrants on board who were searching for a new life as the effects of the Famine ravaged the land.

Over the next seven years, the sturdy wooden sailing vessel made 16 heroic voyages in all to North America, sailing to Quebec, Baltimore and New York. From 1848 -- 1855, the ship carried over 2,500 Irish people across the Atlantic on the first step in a brave new adventure.

In the process, the Jeanie Johnston accomplished a remarkable feat. Under the direction of its kind-hearted owner, Nicholas Donovan, its caring captain, Captain James Attridge and a highly experienced resident medical doctor, Dr. Richard Blennerhassett, no lives were lost on board.

Few comforts on hazardous journey

The Jeanie Johnston boasted just a single main deck and a poop deck, housing its travellers in very cramped bunks. It offered few comforts on the hazardous journey, which usually lasted about two months, but it was also far removed from the infamous `coffin ships' most notably associated with the thousands of emigrants who perished on the transatlantic voyages in 1847.

The emigrants on the Jeanie Johnston were berthed below deck in the steerage area, where temporary accommodation was rigged up for them, and they were expected to provide their own bedding. They were pressed tightly together in tiny spaces ? four to a six foot-square bunk, with two children counting as one adult! It is difficult to visualise that, on one trip, the stalwart ship carried a total of 254 passengers.

Can?t you imagine the turmoil and confusion as frightened people, who perhaps had walked for miles from neighbouring counties beforehand to catch the emigrant ship at Tralee, were thrown together in strange surroundings on the high seas ? with very poor lighting and ventilation -- to face a highly uncertain future?

On the way, they would experience many variations in weather ? sailings were usually in April (when it was cooler) and in the warmer August when the ship, however, may have been caught up in a hurricane.

While families were kept together, where possible, and separate bunks were generally arranged for single men and women, the laws of the time did not even stipulate the segregation of the sexes.

The makeshift quarters used by the emigrants were removed when the emigrants disembarked in North America, enabling the ship to perform its secondary role of transporting vital supplies of food and timber back to Ireland on its return journey.

Who were these brave Irish people who paid the fare of #3.10 shillings to make the heroic journey to the ?New World?? Although the passenger lists to Quebec remain undiscovered, a complete list for the voyage to Baltimore offers some clues to the profile of those on board the voyages. Farmers and labourers figure prominently, and many were family groups. The largest group, however, were single women, the majority between the ages of 16 and 30.

Unusual passenger!

One unexpected passenger joined the Jeanie Johnston in 1848. The story of how a baby boy was born on board the day before the ship's maiden voyage began from Tralee perhaps encapsulates the emigrant vessel's heartening story generally. To mark the unusual surroundings of his birth, which was assisted by Dr. Blennerhassett, the parents -- Daniel and Margaret Ryal from Tralee -- named the child after both the ship's owner and the ship. Consequently Nicholas Johnston Ryal was proudly added to the passenger list!

For many Irish people in the mid-19th century, it was a stark choice between risking the fearful transatlantic voyage on an emigrant ship or remaining in Ireland to starve.

Limited provisions The passengers on board had to make do with very limited food provisions during their treacherous journey. They were expected to bring some food on board with them ? that's if they could afford it, of course -- and this was not likely to last too long into the voyage, with the sweltering heat and crowded conditions.

All were also required to provide their own cooking utensils and to cook for themselves. This meant queuing up for a turn on the only stove which was located on the main deck. The main meal of the day could be at six o?clock in the morning or six at night. If the weather was bad, or there was overcrowding, the family would go hungry that day or be reduced to eating raw flour or meal.

An indication of the meagre provisions received by the emigrants on board can be gauged from the shipping legislation of the time, which calculated the following amounts should be given on a weekly basis to passengers: 21 quarts water; 21/2lbs bread or biscuit; 1lb flour; 5lbs oatmeal; 2lbs rice; 2ozs tea, 1/2lb sugar and 1/2lb molasses.

Toilets were practically non-existent on mid-19th century emigrant ships like the Jeanie Johnston. If they were lucky to have them, people resorted to chamber pots or, more often, shared buckets below deck, which they had to then empty overboard up on deck! The stench from these buckets and from the seasick poor souls can only be imagined.

A well run ship with an enviable record

Despite these extremely cramped and primitive conditions by today's standards, the Jeanie Johnston was a well run and humanely operated ship which cared as best it could, in most difficult circumstances, for the fleeing emigrants.

Its enviable record (in the context of 19th century transatlantic voyages) of not having lost a single life to either disease or illness at sea was largely due to the great efforts of Dr. Richard Blennerhassett, supported by the humanitarian attitude of the ship's master, Captain James Attridge.

The doctor would ensure that hatches were open every day when possible, that the bedding was aired, the accommodation below deck was kept as clean as possible and that everyone would be encouraged to take a walk on the deck each day unless the weather was too rough.

In this regard, the Jeanie Johnston differed from many other ships of the time in that it employed a highly reputable and experienced doctor. In their frequent letters of appreciation to Captain Attridge following their voyage, the passengers also singled out Blennerhassett for praise.

It is also noteworthy that, even when the ship met its final end, no lives were lost. In 1856, she was sold as a cargo ship to William Johnson of North Shields in England and, two years later when en route from Quebec to Hull with timber, she ran into trouble in mid-Atlantic. Overloaded and waterlogged she sank, but not before all aboard were rescued by a passing Dutch ship, the Sophie Elizabeth -- preserving her unblemished safety record.

Brave crew

Life on board a 19th century emigrant ship was also arduous for the 17-man crew who had to, first, maintain some order as the confused emigrants arrived on board, many with not much more than the clothes they wore. It was a difficult and emotional time, with perhaps families becoming separated from each other and, on shore, loved ones wailing and shouting as their relatives prepared to leave them forever.

The crew had to take it in their turn to man the four-hour watch from the poop deck, keeping the ship on a steady course and watching for other vessels. They steered with the aid of a magnetic compass located immediately in front of the ship's wheel, and it took two men to hold the wheel together in bad weather.

Crew members came from all over Ireland (including ten from Northern Ireland on different voyages), the UK, Continental Europe, Canada, the US and South America.

The captain, meanwhile, plotted the ship's position in the Chart Room, using the sextant and chronometer as the primary instruments of navigation.

Nicholas Donovan - Proud owner

Born in 1815, Nicholas Donovan was the largest importer of timber in Kerry who also dealt in coal, iron and slate, and had extensive flour and saw mills. In 1841, he married Katherine Murphy who was the sister of James J. Murphy, the founder of the Cork brewery. He died in 1877.

Experienced captain

Capt. James Attridge (1805 -- 1885) was the ship's master until the Donovans sold it in 1855. From Castletownsend, Co. Cork, he had been a captain from the age of 23 and had first gone to sea as a 15-year old in 1820.

A caring doctor

Son of a well-known Dublin and Tralee physician, Richard Blennerhassett was a graduate of Edinburgh University, then one of the most prestigious medical colleges in Britain and Ireland.

After qualifying in 1845, Dr. Blennerhassett served as a ship's doctor on the Bassora Merchant on a journey to Calcutta. Although he would have had a whole range of careers open to him, he decided to concentrate on caring for passengers on the high seas by joining the Jeanie Johnston.

Tragically, Dr. Blennerhassett later contracted cholera on board another emigrant ship, the Ben Nevis, that sailed from Liverpool and he died at the age of 36 in 1854.

Jeanie Johnston - dawning of a new era

The Jeanie Johnston opened up a new world for the Irish emigrants, in the midst of despair and poverty -- and Irish people have followed in their pioneering footsteps with distinction and glory all over the world ever since.

The Jeanie Johnston - a potted history

A replica famine ship commemorating the plight of Irish emigrants has returning to Kerry after a ten-month journey to North America.

Holy Cross drama to be screened tomorrow

A new television drama based on loyalist intimidation and violence against schoolgirls and their families at Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast has sparked a controversy.

Stevens seeks prosecutions

London police chief John Stevens, who is heading an investigation into British Crown force collusion with loyalist killers, revealed today his inquiries have led to new breakthroughs.

Bin protestors carry on despite court sentences

On Tuesday morning Justice Finnegan in the High Court in Dublin fined six anti-bin tax protesters Euro1,500 each and jailed them for three weeks. The previous day, he had fined eight bin charge protestors Euro200, despite the fact that they had undertaken not to further disrupt bin collections.

BBC changes position on electoral coverage

Sinn Féin has welcomed the decision of the BBC to modify its position relating to election coverage in the light of a Sinn Féin court challenge.

An Enemy Of The Republic?

John Hume is a likeable person and a man who has done much good but as a republican I see his ideas as a danger to the realisation of the republican objective. They are a danger because John is not a nationalist - he is a European Regionalist - and he looks forward to the day that Europe becomes one based upon a regional carve-up.

November 10, 2003

Man killed for `standing up to UVF'

The loyalist paramilitary UVF has been blamed for the murder of a 31-year-old welder in Ballyclare, County Antrim at the weekend.

Bomb attack follows Holy Cross drama

A mother-of-three became the latest target of unionist violence less than 24 hours after the screening of the controversial Holy Cross BBC drama about the intimidation and violence directed against the girls primary school in 2001.

Sinn Fein launch 10-point plan for Irish Unity

Both of the largerst unionist parties have launched their vision for a new Northern Ireland in recent days.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mr David Trimble has said that ``begrudgers and those clinging to the violence of the past'' must not be allowed to wreck the future of Northern Ireland.

The party's manifesto, published in Belfast today in advance of the Assembly Elections, said the party wanted to see the Assembly restored, but only when republicans have ``dealt conclusively with the issues of decommissioning, continued paramilitary activity and the effective winding-up of their private army''.

In its 10-point charter published last week, the UUP said its candidates would ``hold firmly'' to the requirement for ``acts of completion'' and the effective winding up of paramilitary organisations before Sinn Fein can participate in a Northern Ireland executive.

Mr Trimble expressed concern about the effects of ``voter apathy'' on the forthcoming elections.

Speaking on the publication of the manifesto today, he said: ``We are determined to make Northern Ireland a success but there is a problem and that is people not voting.

``The worry we have in this election is if there is apathy or people do not turn out. So we are saying there can be progress, there can be success but it requires you to come out and exercise your franchise and to do it in such a way as to strengthen those who are working for a better future.''


But the Ulster Unionist message received a cool response on the staunchly loyalist Shankill road this week.

71-year-old Margaret Beattie was lying in wait for David Trimble when he visited the area on Tuesday.

When the Ulster Unionist leader emerged from a building to shake hands and make small talk with constituents, she made her move.

``You're a puppet for the IRA!'' she screamed. ``Ulster's not for sale. You told us lies. Traitor!''

She then teamed up with some more local women, all DUP voters, who started to clap and burst into song on the side of the street.

``What shall we do with the traitor, Trimble? What shall we do with the traitor, Trimble, Ear-lye in the morning?''


The DUP launched its election manifesto today, which sets out its criticisms of the British and Irish governments' peace proposals. The glossy 32-page Assembly Election manifesto also set out seven tests for what they term a ``lasting political settlement'' in the North.

The document also attacked David Trimble`s record, claiming the Ulster Unionists could no longer be trusted to represent their community in negotiations.

The party's so-called seven tests are:

  • any agreement must command the support of both nationalists and unionists
  • any assembly must be democratic, fair and accountable. Ex-ecutive power must be fully accountable to the assembly
  • only those committed to ex-clusively peaceful and democratic means should exercise any ministerial responsibility
  • within any new agreement any relationship with the Rep-ublic must be fully accountable to the assembly
  • a new settlement must be able to deliver equality of opportunity for unionists as well as nationalists
  • agreed arrangements must be capable of delivering an efficient and effective administration
  • the outcome must provide a settlement within the UK, not a process to a united Ireland, and it must provide stable government for the people of Northern Ireland and not be susceptible to recurring suspension.

The manifesto criticised British and Irish Government peace process proposals, claiming their joint declaration was a ``threat to Ulster'' which offered a ``raft of concessions'' to republicans.

It also portrayed a ``nightmare'' vision of what the North would be like in the next four years if the Ulster Unionists remained the largest voice in unionism. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams would become Deputy First Minister, the party claimed.

His colleague Gerry Kelly would be Policing and Justice Minister, Sinn Fein ministers would act unaccountably, there would be more cross-border rule between the Irish and Stormont Governments and also a permanent place for republicans in government.

Unionists launch manifestoes

Both of the largerst unionist parties have launched their vision for a new northern Ireland in recent days.

Holy Cross drama bitterly criticised

A new drama based on the loyalist intimidation at Holy Cross Girls school has been given the thumbs down by nationalists in north Belfast.

Election race `neck and neck'

The latest election poll shows that the four largest parties are virtually neck and neck.

What Went Wrong In The `New' South Africa?

Andrew Nowicki

In 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected the first black leader of what was hailed as a new multiracial, multicultural and democratic South Africa. Now in 2003 in Soweto, one of the central battlegrounds in the antiapartheid struggle, people get their electricity cut off and no longer have ready access to water. Private security firms evict them from their inadequate housing. Through 1999 and 2000, protests grew against unemployment and privatization of basic services. Crackdowns by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) became increasingly repressive.

Court told of horrific attack on Catholic

A sectarian attack on a Catholic man in the Harryville area of Ballymena, County Antrim on 11 October was described by a judge as ``one of the most horrific acts that had come before the court''.

Planes, Trains and Big Wains!

Various parties have taken it upon themselves to bring their election messages directly to us in a mixture of modes of transport.

Official IRA man gives evidence at Inquiry

Former members of the Official IRA, a long defunct republican military group, have been giving evidence to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal.

No custodial sentence for Orange rioters

Fifteen Orangemen and loyalist supporters were freed by the Crown Court in Belfast today for rioting at Drumcree in Portadown in July last year.

IRA trial begins in Germany

A Scottish man has gone on trial in northern Germany today charged with involvement in an 1996 IRA rocket attack on a British military base.

Man killed for `standing up to UVF'

The loyalist paramilitary UVF has been blamed for the murder of a 31-year-old welder in Ballyclare, County Antrim at the weekend.

Republican Assembly election candidates

The following are the candidates standing for Sinn Fein in the 26 November Assembly elections.

Parties unite to oppose `No' men

At the launch of his party's campaign for the November 26 election in the Six Counties, Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness urged supporters to frustrate parties opposed to the Good Friday Agreement by voting first for Sinn Fein candidates and then transferring to other pro-Agreement parties in the proportional representation election.

Breakaway group holds conference

Members of the small breakaway Republican Sinn Fein party are suffering harassment at the hands of British forces north and south of the Border, the president of RSF, Ruairi O Bradaigh, has claimed.

Billy Liar

With the first week of the election campaign over there is no doubt that the prize of Billy Liar has to go to the DUP.

November 5, 2003

Six French arrested over alleged republican link

Eight people have been arrested in France and in Ireland in an investigation of the activities of dissident republicans.

Pro-Agreement `dissident' challenges UUP hardliner

One of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's allies in the last assembly is to run against the party as an independent candidate in the November 26 election.

Peace process deadlock feeds election campaigns

Ulster Unionists yesterday unveiled a 10-point charter which is intended to hold the party together through the next three weeks of election campaigning.

Saville Inquiry circus

A media circus has descended on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in Derry for the testimony of Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness.

Ciaran Ferry denied asylum

Irish Republican Ciaran Ferry was yesterday denied political and religious asylum in the United States.

Deal offers new hope in AIDS battle

According to the United Nations body dealing with AIDS, UNAIDS, an estimated 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have HIV. About 58% of these are women. There were approximately 3.5 million new infections in 2002, representing 70% of the global total. That figure is continuing to rise. The situation is now so bad in some African countries that it is contributing to the spread of famine as workers are lost to the disease. AIDS is a rising epidemic in developing countries. Although progress is being made in the area of prevention, there has been little or no hope for those with the HIV virus, as access to those drugs that make the survival of HIV sufferers in the Western World possible are too expensive to be bought and distributed in most developing countries.

Sinn Féin anger at BBC censorship

South Belfast Sinn Féin representative Alex Maskey has accused the BBC of ``political discrimination and censorship''.

SDLP - No Problem!

If I was in the SDLP and had worked hard all my political life for the party I would be angry and frustrated at the way Sinn Féin has `stolen' the limelight and is predicted by media commentators as being on the verge of opening up the gap between it and the SDLP.

November 3, 2003

Sinn Féin mount All-Ireland campaign

Sinn Féin members of the 26-County parliament in Dublin joined the election trail in Belfast to emphasise the party's all-Ireland agenda.

SDLP look to Fianna Fáil

The SDLP has brought in two of the key strategists behind Fianna Fáil's 2002 election victory in the 26 Counties to advise it on aspects of its campaign for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Prisoners and families put at risk

A prison strike is putting the lives of prisoners in danger, writes Martin Mulholland.

Govts urged to implement the Joint Declaration

The Irish and British governments should stop rewarding unionists for putting the peace process on hold, and declare immediately they will press on with the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said this weekend.

Funeral brings closure for McConville family

After 31 years, Saturday marked the end of the controversy over the lost remains of one of the earliest victims of the Six-County conflict.

Hardliners' threat to Agreement grows

There is increasing concern that a majority of unionists elected to the Belfast Assembly later this month may be opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.

Dessie O'Hare on temporary release

A controversial republican prisoner has taken a first step towards his eventual release in the 26 Counties.

Conduct in the Time of Terror

In spite of constant reassurances about the term ``democracy'' one is rarely allowed to criticize the country of Israel without suffering some punishing consequence for it. If you are a Jew you may survive the accusations of anti-Semitism but if you consistently express yourself online in any dissidence about Israel's current politick, you will probably not be immune to cyber attack.

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