Friday, March 31, 2006

31st March 2006

IT'S been fairly hectic all week, preparing for the Labour Party Conference - it takes place tomorrow in the Helix in Dublin City University. I'll be giving presenting at a work conference - a bit of a pre-view of Labour's health policy documents that will be launched shortly... I'll let you know shortly.

By the way, the programme of events for the Liberty Project - that I've discussed here before - is up on the Labour Party website..under the Current Campaigns section.

There are a few events around the country as well as various events in Dublin and surrouding areas. It promises to be very interesting as the programme is quite diverse. The Liberty Project for those of you who aren't sure and are interested is a joint SIPTU/LABOUR project to commmemorate the role of the Labour movement in Irish history - with particular reference to the events surrounding 1916...One of the event's I'll be looking forward to in particular will be the arts event - a serious of readings from Fintan O'Toole, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan and Glenn Patterson. There'll be a few songs by Jimmy Kelly too!

Oh and a Greystones update...I recently expressed concern at the revelations contained in a submission by the Minister of the Marine to An Bord Pleanala in relation to the proposed Harbour and North Beach development at Greystones.

This submission from the Minister for the Marine raises very serious flaws in the proposal. For example it recommends that the scheme will have to be redesigned to ensure that only acceptable wave heights are achieved at the Marina. This recommendation must raise fundamental doubts about the entire scheme.

On a number of points it describes the Environmental Impact Study as either contradictory or lacking clarity, and also raises concerns about the impact of dredging and on fish life.

Another disturbing finding is that the issue of coastal protection is not properly addressed. There are serious doubts raised about the modelling with regard to impacts of the development on the North Beach.

This submission must set alarms bells ringing. The original purpose of this entire proposal was to restore the harbour and prevent coastal erosion.

Concerns already have been raised about the scale of this development, the traffic implications and the pressure on the local infrastructure.

Now this new evidence from an expert Government source must be taken seriously. Coastal protection must take precedence over private profit.

There is still time to go back to the drawing board and I am urging that a re-think now takes place at Wicklow County Council level to provide a well-designed smaller scale restoration project for Greystones Harbour and the North Beach.

Friday, March 24, 2006

24th March 2006

GREAT to see all the coverage that the blog has been getting. As some of you may know there was a great piece on blogs and politics in the Irish Times this week..

On Tuesday of this week, I joined about 70 people, mostly parents, outside the Dail to support the call for funding for the St Catherine's Barnacoyle Preschool for Autistic Children. Of course, I will continue to support them - even after the announcement of some funding from the Department of Education. The fact that parents have to campaign for basic rights for their children is extremely ridiculous, but the parents and the Irish Autism Alliance have done so well to get this far. I will be pursuing the Minister for more answers after her announcements so this is not over yet! (Labour Cllr Tom Fortune was at the protest also - in the picture on the right)

As an add on to the PES petition against trafficking of women during the World Cup, my Parliamentary Asssistant was in Brussels for the launch of Stop the Traffik campaign. It was launced by Simon Coveney MEP, and is a global coalition for those who are concerned about the issues of people trafficking. Stop the Traffik's goal is to use the opportunity of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in 2007 to create a global commitment to significantly reduce human trafficking and to uphold the human rights of those vulnerable to, as well as those who find themselves victims of, trafficking. Once the website has been set up - I'll post the details here so that you can get information on the practical ways that you can get involved - even if it's simply to sign the Stop the Traffik declaration.

Finally, for those who didn't see Brendan Gleeson's passionate diatribe against the current state of the health services - in particular the A&E crisis - I would recommend you view it on RTE's website. It was a moving and justifiably enraged account of his personal experiences of A&E....more on this again..

Monday, March 06, 2006

Campaign Against Trafficking Of Women During World Cup

I'd like to draw people's attention to a new online petition calling for the prevention of mass trafficking of women and girls into Germany for prostitution during this summer's World Cup. It can be found at

This initiative has been undertaken by the Party of European Socialists, to which the Labour Party is affiliated.

The World Cup is a global celebration of football, which remains the most popular sport in the world. However, the influx of tourists and football supporters to Germany carries with it a dark underbelly. Thousands of women and girls will be illegally trafficked into Germany over the course of the next few months to be exploited as prostitutes. This is a reality that must be confronted in the build-up to the tournament in order to save as many women as possible from this form of sexual slavery.

The online petition created by the PES calls on the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, to take a specific initiative with Member States to prevent women being brought into Germany for prostitution.

I urge as many people as possible to visit the site and add their support for this campaign. The petition will be open for signatures until 08 March, which is International Women’s Day.

Only through concerted pressure will we be able to save women from this brutal form of exploitation.

Friday, March 03, 2006

1916 Commemoration Should Honour all Combatants

As the State commemorations of 1916 approaches, some may have heard my comments on the need to commemorate all sides - and so I've attached a piece I wrote for the that the full argument can be read. I hope it's of interest, and I would welcome comments. I would like to mention also that 5 000 people took part in a march in January of this year in Derry at the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration march. Almost 4000 candles were lit in memory of ALL those who were killed in acts of violence linked to the Troubles in the North. It struck me that if this can be done 34 years after Bloody Sunday, then surely we are mature enough to do the same?

1916 Commemoration Should Honour all Combatants – no Matter what Uniform they Wore

Liz McManus TD
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Member of the Government All-Party Commemoration Committee

The interpretation of history can be simply politics conducted by other means. What we commemorate, whom we commemorate and how we commemorate are essentially political decisions made to promote contemporary results and resonance.

All mere ‘commemorators’ of the 1916 Rising, such as the President in her keynote speech at a recent seminar in UCC, face the challenge of how to reconcile the gap between a small uprising without a democratic mandate and a modern inclusive democracy. For the President to dispose of a charge of ‘sectarianism’ against the Rising is just too simplistic. The charge of religious sectarianism is not one that has been seriously levelled at the Rising – even by unionists – and could hardly be sustained against any enterprise that included James Connolly among its leadership.

The more serious and consistent charge made against the Rising is that it had no democratic mandate and gave renewed (and unneeded) vigour to the physical force tradition over the constitutional tradition in Irish nationalism. The issue of the absence of a democratic mandate is not so easily dismissed, since it was often invoked as the main philosophical basis for the Provisional terror campaign in the North.

The Rising, of course, reflected the attitudes of its time. It was a significant event in which Labour played a proud part but it was followed by a rapid evolution to democratic politics through the 1918 General Election, followed by the first Dáil Éireann early in 1919 and on to the establishment and consolidation of a parliamentary democracy in the Irish Free State.

A somewhat similar evolution may be traced in the events of the past thirty-five or so years in the North – the lesson being that, eventually, constitutional politics prevails and is the people’s preferred option over physical force. This is a lesson that Sinn Féin, above all the parties seeking to commemorate 1916, must take on board. Many of us remain to be convinced that their commitment to constitutional politics is not just a thin veneer overlaid on a grim reality of continuing criminality and gangsterism – north and south.

For democrats, the challenge is not just to commemorate 1916 but to apply some of its ideals in a way that is relevant in contemporary politics. Under this approach, the key phrase is ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally’ - in the proper sense of its use in the Proclamation. In modern politics that equates with ‘parity of esteem’ for all the traditions or identities on this island.

The commemoration has already stimulated earnest debate around questions of Irish identity. Endlessly rehashed discussions about who died on the Somme or in Kilmainham in the summer of 1916 – and whether they should have or not – may be of interest to a small number of committed people or academics. Such discussions are of no relevance to a new generation of post-Celtic Tiger ‘thirty-somethings’.

In recent years, in pursuit of encouraging respect for the different identities on this island, official Ireland has shown a greater willingness to honour the men who fought and died in British uniform in the Great War. There is to be an official government commemoration this year of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in which the Ulster Division played such a prominent part. Some years ago, the President, together with Queen Elizabeth of Britain, participated in the official opening of an all Ireland Peace Park, at Messines, in Belgium.

These are important steps in the process of reconciliation. However, I believe the time is now right to take one further step to make our reconciliation fully genuine and inclusive. This year’s official commemorative ceremonies – and all future ceremonies - should honour all combatants involved in the Rising no matter what uniform they wore. Not just the Volunteers or the Citizen Army, but those who fought in British uniform, as well as the socialist, feminist and pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington murdered in Richmond Barracks by the deranged Captain Bowen-Colthurst, the civilians murdered in North Richmond Street by the same officer and the many other civilians – thirty five of them never identified – killed by both sides in the Rising.

Clarke, Pearse, MacDermott, MacDonagh, Colbert, Connolly – these are all names familiar to us from 1916. However, these same surnames occur in the lists of men decorated, wounded or killed in British uniform during Easter Week 1916 in Dublin. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers were among the regiments called upon to put down the Rising and Irishmen served in many of the other units involved. It is, I suggest, relatively easy for the Irish state to honour those who died far away in Flanders or Gallipoli. Are we tolerant enough now, ninety years on, to officially respect those troops of the same army who fell on the then Sackville Street or at Mount Street Bridge?

Eamonn Ceannt was a signatory of the Proclamation and was executed in Kilmainham on the 8th of May 1916. Yet his older brother, William, was a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Exactly a year after the Rising, on the 24th of April 1917, he lost his life during the offensive at Arras, in France, at the age of forty-six. The night before Eamonn Ceannt’s execution the 1916 leader wrote: ‘I bear no ill-will towards those against whom I have fought. I have found the common soldiers and the higher officers human and companionable, even the English who were actually in the fight against us.’

Asked if he had any message for the members of his firing squad, James Connolly replied: ‘I respect any man who does his duty according to his lights’. Connolly’s response should not surprise us unduly, for although he ended his honourable life in the uniform of a Commandant-General of the Citizen Army, as a young man he wore the uniform of a Scottish regiment while stationed in Ireland. Surely, if these signatories of the Proclamation could extend the hand of reconciliation even to the British soldiers who executed them, it seems churlish that we today could not do the same?

A separate, if equal, official commemoration of those who died on the Somme is no longer enough. That simply perpetuates a form of commemorative apartheid. What we need now is that the language of our official commemoration on Easter Sunday, of our speeches and our publications, should be truly inclusive and reconciliatory and thus extend to all the combatants of 1916, as well as to the innocent civilians.