This new year, 2010, will be the 12th anniversary of the start of the Saville Inquiry into the January 1972 massacre, Bloody Sunday, when 13 unarmed Derry citizens were shot to death by British paratroopers on the streets where they lived. A fourteenth would die later of his wounds. No one has ever been charged, no one has been adjudged guilty, and the fact that it has taken a dozen years - with the end not yet in sight - to try to clean up his Lordship Widgery's disgraceful whitewash should be an acute embarrassment to the British legal establishment. The report is obscenely late and the latest buzz making the rounds in Derry is that it could be another full year or more before the family and friends of the victims hear the official findings. This despite indications earlier this year that the report could be ready for release in the waning days of 2009.
The statistics surrounding the Saville inquiry are daunting and gargantuan: $300 million in costs, 160 volumes, 4,500 pages, 2,500 witness statements, with the last witness heard five years ago this February. The Northern Ireland tribunal's costs just since it heard its last witness in 2004 has risen by $57 million. It would not be unkind to suggest that it has become a never- ending workfare program for scores of now aging British barristers.
The victims' families' greatest fear with the latest projected delay is that the British political calendar will end up dictating when the final report will be issued, and after almost 38 years since the killings and a dozen years since the start of the inquiry, relatives of the dead are frustrated and angry.
The political reality is this: Ted Heath was prime minister and his Conservative Party was in power at the time of Bloody Sunday. In this coming year in the springtime there will be a national election in England and many feel that David Cameron will oust Gordon Brown and Labour and return a Tory government. As John Kelly, whose brother Michael was a victim, said, "As far as we are concerned the main part of the problem lies with the Tory government and Ted Heath. They will try to protect their soldiers and the Tory government who had part of the responsibility" in 1972.
The Saville inquiry was begun by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair in January 1998.
Grand Larceny In Paris - The officials in the World Cup qualifying match between France and Ireland last month went into overtime and the critical late goal was scored by France with the French player using an illegal double handball that would seal Ireland's fate. Throughout soccer-mad Europe there was instant anger at the non-call and considerable support for the Irish team. Many were calling for a full game replay, but the FIFA decision, in a ruling the Republic's manager predicted, said there would be no replay. The Irish manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, said, "When a referee decides a game has finished, I know it is impossible to replay the game."
Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, calling the French goal "a blatant double handball," said, "if that result remains, it reinforces the view that if you cheat, you will win." Alas, a sad day for Ireland and its team.
A Bright Christmas In Dublin - The Dublin City Council last year pony-ed up over $425,000 for a specially designed glass Christmas tree that will rise again this year in O'Connell Street in the city centre. The tree, a very distant cousin of the more traditional evergreen, consists of 100,000 energy efficient bulbs and was designed by the French company Blanchere, which created the lighting for the Eiffel Tower.
Meanwhile a few miles away, up in Derry, the punters, at least some of them, are looking for a white Christmas later this month and their hopes transcend aesthetics. A top British bookmaker believes that it is more likely to snow in Derry on Christmas Day than in Dublin or London. Each year in Ireland and the UK over a million bets are made on the chances of a white Christmas. Bookmaker Paddy Power is offering odds of 7 to 2 on a snowy holiday in Derry. For chances of snow in Dublin and other Irish cities the odds are longer but the snow predictions remain an enduring and popular seasonal highlight.
Politically Correct Travel - It is no skin off my nose because I am not about to sign on to a European jaunt with a plane load of Rush Limbaugh acolytes. I'll take my travel, thank you, politically straight up, no conservative chatter or chaser. However, Republican Ken Chase who runs Conservative Tours in Belmont, wants his tour groups to be a collection of right thinkers (no pun intended) when they sign on to travel overseas. I'm all for it, birds of a feather and all that. Why not!
What did raise the bile a bit was a column Chase had published in the Globe in which he is quoted as saying, "I never, never heard a liberal say 'I want to make a pilgrimage to Normandy.' " All I can say to that is that Mr. Chase has to get out more and mix with a different crowd. Four of us, my brother, myself, and our wives spent two glorious weeks in France a few years back and lived and toured for a full week along the Normandy coast and the invasion beaches, Omaha, Gold, Sword, and on up at Pointe Du Hoc - and the acres of white crosses and Stars of David marking gravesites of young soldiers who never got back home. Those were solemn days in Normandy and I doubt that any of the four of us have forgotten the experience.
I'm not really angry at Ken Chase, but, yes, terribly disappointed in his copper-fastened mind set that thinks political conservatives and flag-waving right wingers are the sole proprietors of a patriotic spirit. You are wrong, sir.
Did You Know … that a Limerick-born Irishman was responsible for rebuilding San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake? Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy, born in 1864, was the San Francisco city engineer from 1912 to 1934, a time when he directed and rebuilt the city's ruined infrastructure. His most celebrated accomplishment was the construction of the city's water supply system that brought 400 million gallons of water per day from Yosemite Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains to San Francisco.
Catholic Church Scores Big Victory - Right to Life groups were elated at the House amendment that tightened restrictions on government-funded abortions, but none had a greater claim to sponsorship in that legislative victory than the Catholic Church. For months the US Conference of Catholic Bishops had lobbied almost without letup in urging that the health care bill being shaped in the Congress contain restrictions on federally funded abortions or the Church, normally an enthusiastic supporter of broadened health care for all, could not support it.
Nowhere has the debate been more rancorous than in Rhode Island where Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence and the late Ted Kennedy's son, pro-choice Congressman Patrick Kennedy, found themselves in a very public argument over what constitutes a Catholic in good standing. Rep. Kennedy, elected to Congress in 1994 in Rhode Island's first district, asserted that the Church should be out front in support of the health care bill, while Bishop Tobin, an articulate and assertive prelate, insisted that "protection for the unborn" and restraints on government funding must be included in the final bill before the church would support health care reform.
In a game-changer at deadline, Kennedy is saying that Bishop Tobin has forbidden him to take Communion because of his position on abortion rights. Stay tuned.
EU Leader, Forget The Big Names - The first permanent president of the 27-member European Union has been named and it's not one of the names mentioned here and elsewhere. Well-known world figures were touted as interested becoming the EU leader, a new and powerful executive in the European government. Among those on the short list whose names were mentioned at one time or another in the lead up to the selection in mid-November were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, John Bruton, former Irish Taoiseach and EU ambassador to the US; former Irish President and Human Rights high commissioner Mary Robinson, and yes, the recently retired Irish leader Bertie Ahern.
The new president of the Union, nearly 500 million strong in the marketplace, is the poetry-reading Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy. Reports from Brussels suggest the Van Rompuy had the support of the leaders of France and Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.
We have the answer finally to Henry Kissinger's possibly apocryphal question of "Whom do you call if you want to speak with the head of Europe?"
NAMES IN THE NEWS
John Bruton, the (Fine Gael) former Taoiseach, is leaving Washington after five solid years as the European Union's Ambassador to the United States, He missed widely in becoming the EU President but don't be surprised if he lands on his feet once he returns home. One of the more likable FG headliners, he might just have a good shot at the Irish Presidency following Mary's second term. … Our next "name" is the unknown Galway City worker who tossed into the trash a public sculpture by Edward Delaney that cooler heads later found was worth a third of a million dollars. They're still looking for it. … Late Hollywood director John Huston enjoyed some of the best years of his life at Galway's St. Cleran's Manor, once described as the "most beautiful house in Ireland." Owned for a while by Merv Griffin, it's on the market now for $5 million. … Pulitzer Prize winning author Taylor Branch, who penned "The Clinton Tapes," has apparently suffered a case of Stockholm Syndrome after spending dozens of taping sessions with Bill. Branch says Clinton has been wronged and the New York Times has not been kind to him. … In a recent column we featured the Biggie breakfast from Bill Mahon and his Fermanagh hotel. Now in a repeat of the late, lamented WKRP in Cincinnati , the hotelier has "threatened" to throw live turkeys off a tower. Business must be tough in Fermanagh.
Be still my heart, as Immigration scold and certified anti-immigration wingnut CNN's Lou Dobbs has finally exited the Wolf Blitzer hideout for a possible political career at a border fence near you. …The only civilian victim of the Fort Hood massacre by shooter Army Major Hasan was an Irish American, physician's assistant, Michael Grant Cahill, whose ancestors came from Cork & Clare. He had just returned to work after a heart attack. … Maire Geoghegan Quinn, a frequent and popular Boston visitor in the early 1990s as an Irish government minister, has just been named as Ireland's newest European Commissioner. A nice comeback after a decade out of government tending to her family. … Pope Benedict is seriously looking at an official visit to Ireland, north and south in 2010. Some of the more vitriolic loyalists are unhappy with the Papal Invasion but he can come if he wants to, say others. … A CNN/ Opinion Research survey out in mid-November says 28 percent of the American people believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. Scary at best until you read that the Washington Post/ ABC News poll reports that 38 percent believe she is qualified. Is there a saliva test for voters? … Nice to see old political foes Ray Flynn and Mel King in tandem supporting the ill-fated Flaherty-Yoon bid to oust Tom Menino. Flaherty was just a prayer and neither the former mayor nor the long time Roxbury activist and academic had anything to win in opposing Menino, except maybe saying aloud what they felt. … Sad to report that The Donald, as in Trump, won his land case in Scotland and is about ready to develop the countryside there near Aberdeen into a sumptuous resort, spa, and golf club. Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton recently added her name and celebrity to a petition against Trump. Trump, never at a loss of words, accused the actress of siding with "extremists."
"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy, born 84 years ago, on November 20, 1925
Artist Tax Exemption Continues - Charlie Haughey, when he was Irish Minister for Finance from 1966 to 1970, decided that Ireland should be a tax free haven for artists and writers and he introduced a special tax exemption for creative people. Almost forty years later, amidst a crippling economic crisis, some in the Irish government felt it timely to increase tax revenues by repealing the artists' tax exemption. In a brief response, the current Finance Minister said, " No, let it stand." In 2006 the ceiling on tax benefits for artists had already been capped at $375,000, a reasonable amount that still allowed the revenue folks to collect big bucks from high profile acts like U2 and resident best-selling authors yet leave a tax break cushion for struggling artists. Good show, good government.
Ireland On The Go - Some forget that it's a mere half-century since Ireland was chiefly an agricultural country. Today, thanks in large part to the vision of Sean Lemass and others who followed like Garret Fitzgerald, Chares Haughey, Albert Reynolds et al Ireland has become a country of light industry, software, big Pharma, and US and foreign investment. Most of Ireland's people now live in or near cities and work in service, information technology or light manufacturing.
Given the transition to a modern, urbane society it is not surprising that the government has committed itself to a plan to transform the country into a leader in the field of electric vehicles. In pursuit of that goal Ireland is looking to create a network of car-charging stations around the country in 2010. It is the stated aim of the Department of Energy and the Irish government to have 250,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020.
RIP, John Patrick Driscoll, Esquire - I was a unabashed fan of Jack Driscoll, honorable and honored Boston lawyer, class act, activist in a multitude of good causes, a person of unwavering high principle and purpose. I liked him for many reasons, not the least, I suppose, that he was, like myself, a Somerville Irish guy. He was good at everything he did, disarmingly competent, known and liked by other movers, and always a no fuss-direct guy who could get it done.
Boston will be far poorer for his leaving. "Handsome Jack" Driscoll was one of a kind.