**Here's someone willing to knock de Valera off his pedestal for the underhanded shite he did

Name one thing Paisley, Haughey and de Valera have in common

By Ryle Dwyer

IT has not been a good week for Irish politics with politicians seeking to embarrass each other rather than putting peace and the national interest first.

Sinn Féin were offering to decommission completely and allow General John de Chastelain and two clergymen - one from each side of the divide - to witness the process.

Ian Paisley’s demand for photographs of the process has nothing to do with verification. It was about triumphalism and humiliation.

If Paisley was looking for verification, surely he could be the Protestant clergyman to witness the process?

When the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in 1984, Charlie Haughey sought to undermine it for purely selfish political reasons, and he sent Brian Lenihan to rouse American opposition to the agreement. Of all the things that Haughey did, trying to undermine the Anglo-Irish Agreement was the worst because he put his own political interests above the lives of Irish people.

Eamon de Valera did the same thing with disastrous consequences back in 1921. After selecting the delegation to negotiate a treaty with the British, he repudiated them even though they returned essentially with the terms he had sought. If he had the integrity to back the treaty, the civil war could have been avoided.

There are issues which should be above politics, especially questions of life and death. The controversy surrounding the possible early release of those who murdered Det Garda Jerry McCabe poses real problems. The attitude of the McCabe family is fully understandable, especially in the light of the contradictory messages from the Government, which had tried to exploit the issue for party gain, and now they are hoisted on their own petard.

The RUC widows have full sympathy with the McCabe family, but then maybe we should have more understanding of the attitude of these unionists all along. We demanded that the unionists should face hard reality in the name of peace, while we adopted the do-as-we-say, not-as-we-do attitude.

The war of independence began with the shooting of two policemen in Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary. That also did not have sanction of the leadership of the movement at the time. In fact, the leadership was furious because Seán Treacy, Dan Breen and company acted without authority on the same day that Dáil Éireann was formed. They murdered Constables James McDonald, from Belmullet, Co Mayo, and Patrick O’Connell from Clonmoyle near Coachford, Co Cork.

The big news story next day was not the establishment of the Dáil but the killings in Tipperary. Breen later wrote that his “only regret” was that there were only two policemen to kill that day. “Six would have created a bigger impression than a mere two,” he explained. “We felt bigger game was needed.” McDonnell was a widower with four or five children. “We must show our abhorrence of this inhuman act,” the parish priest, Monsignor Ryan, told the congregation in St Michael’s Church in Tipperary. “We must denounce it and the cowardly miscreants who are guilty of it - aye, and all who try to excuse or justify it.” Have we not as a nation sought to justify it since then?

“It used to be said ‘where Tipperary leads, Ireland follows,’ ” the monsignor continued. “God help poor Ireland if she follows this lead of blood! But let us give her the lead in our indignant denunciation of this crime against our Catholic civilisation, against Ireland, against Tipperary.”

People who question what happened at Soloheadbeg are now denounced as ‘revisionists’. Was Monsignor Ryan the first revisionist?

“It would be incorrect to say in the years before 1916 the RIC were unpopular,” wrote Seán Moylan, one of the heroes of the war of independence. “They were of the people, were inter-married among the people; they were generally men of exemplary lives, and of a high level of intelligence.” Many of the younger RIC men resigned in the following years, but the older men felt unable to do so because of their pensions. “It was a providential thing for the country that these older men remained at their posts,” Moylan added. “They were a moderating influence that kept within some bounds the irresponsibilities and criminalities of the Black and Tans.”

Would recognising their contribution have made Moylan a revisionist? The Government’s biggest problem over the demand for release of Gerry McCabe’s killers is the promise that John O’Donoghue made as minister for justice that they would not be released early in any circumstances.

THAT fits nicely into the hardline stand that he was taking on crime. Crime figured prominently in the 1997 general election campaign. O’Donoghue promised ‘zero tolerance’ on behalf of Fianna Fáil and rubbished the attitude of Minister for Justice Nora Owen, who was promising a policy of ‘no tolerance.’ At the time Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne denounced ‘zero tolerance’ as unworkable here. Some of O’Donoghue’s critics contended that the policy would overburden our prison system. They did not say which crimes, punishable by imprisonment, should be tolerated. “All laws must be obeyed,” Nora Owen contended. “We have no tolerance for crime.” She argued that there was a real difference between ‘no tolerance’ and the ‘zero tolerance’ being advocated by O’Donoghue, who later explained that he was thinking primarily of the drugs scene.

Whatever about the differences between FF and FG, there was a major difference of interpretation between O’Donoghue and the man who popularised zero tolerance - Bill Bratton, New York city police commissioner from 1994 to 1996.

Bratton’s approach of prosecuting even the smallest crime got international publicity when a grandmother was fined for depositing ‘noxious liquid’ in Central Park because she allowed her four-year-old grandson to relieve himself behind a bush. Ridiculous as the approach may have sounded, the policy had a dramatic impact. Subway crime fell by almost 80% and street crime by more than half. Murders were down 40% and burglary by a quarter. There were 30% fewer robberies and 40% fewer shootings in just two years.

Serious questions remain unanswered not only about the murder of Jerry McCabe, the last garda killed in the recent Troubles, but also about Garda Richard Fallon, the first garda murdered in those Troubles. These questions involve the allegation - first highlighted in the Dáil in 1971- that a ministerial driver helped the murderer to flee from Dublin. They also involve the arrest for questioning of a member of the family of a senior political figure.

The Fallon family have been seeking answers. Surely they deserve an explanation. Even though the minister for justice indicated that he would respond to them, he has not done so after well over a year.

Of course, when it comes to sensitivity, Michael McDowell is in a league of his own. No matter how much anyone might welcome an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin, his insensitivity was breathtaking when he suggested that, in such an eventuality, going to tell Anne McCabe of the release of her husband’s killers would be “one of the happiest journeys I would have to make in my life”.

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