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All Saint's Day
OMAR KHAYAM knew about libel lawyers. Remember how he put it? "The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on in elaborate circumlocutions." So I'm not about to say anything too straight or overly explicit about the case of Gay Byrne, the popular media personality who, at the time of writing, might be banged up at any moment in Mountjoy on account of having broadcast an item about the 1976 Sallins mail train robbery - the so-called "Nicky Kelly case".
Eamonn McCann, 30 Jun 1993
OMAR KHAYAM knew about libel lawyers. Remember how he put it? "The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on in elaborate circumlocutions."
So I'm not about to say anything too straight or overly explicit about the case of Gay Byrne, the popular media personality who, at the time of writing, might be banged up at any moment in Mountjoy on account of having broadcast an item about the 1976 Sallins mail train robbery - the so-called "Nicky Kelly case". Lawyers acting for a number of gardai have suggested that the broadcast could have prejudiced court proceedings in which their clients will, well, have a role to play.
So they are asking the High Court to put Mr. Byrne in prison. there are many who might think this is rather a flimsy reason for putting Mr. Byrne in prison, when compared with all the other available reasons, but I say nothing on that. You can't be too careful.
I can say, however, that I was discussing the tragic possibility of Mr. Byrne doing porridge with a number of my fellow intellectuals as we stood on the roadway opposite the Baggot Inn quaffing unwise quantities of drink a couple of weekends ago, and a consensus emerged that, much as we were all committed to fighting oppression when and where we find it, it might prove difficult to build a mass movement to protest against the imprisonment of Mr. Byrne and to demand his release.
I took it upon myself to argue that an effort must nonetheless be made. There's something undignified, is there not?, about going for the easy option all the time, campaigning on behalf of the likes of Ronnie Biggs, Asil Nadir and Vincent Browne but refusing to pick up the gauntlet and take on the really difficult cases.
Not is the time for anybody out there willing to join the fight for Mr. Byrne's freedom to rally round. We will call the new campaign the, er, Gay Liberation Movement.
Sorry about that
John Paul II has reminded me about the first Mother Teresa. I'd quite forgotten that there was a first Mother Teresa - on whom the world's most famous Albanian based her career - until I spotted a paragraph in the religious trade press about John Paul II's recent jaunt to Spain, in the course of which he apparently urged Spaniards to show greater devotion to Teresa of Avila, foundress of the order of discalced Carmelites.
"Discalced" means barefooted: one of Teresa's reasons for establishing a new Carmelite order was that the "official" order, which she had joined as a teenager, eventually seemed to her to be "too much in love with things of the flesh", like shoes. Something of a parallel there with the crinkly Albanian, perhaps.)
Mother Teresa (1515-1582) was a learned woman who could hold discourse with the great seers and sages of the time. Attwater's "Dictionary of Saints" suggests that she would long ago have been recognised as a Doctor of the Church and put on a par with Aquinas and Scotus had it not been that she was a woman and therefore couldn't really have been as smart as she was.
She was, as well, something of a mystic in the intensity of her devotion to Jesus, and it is tht aspect of her holiness that John Paul was anxious to emphasise in Spain. The original Mother Teresa, like her contemporary successor, had no time for fancy theories about the Church finding its validation in the service of actual, living people.
She argued instead that love of god requires not just a personal renunciation of riches but also a disengagement from the material world generally - a perspective which, then as now, tended to find favour with those who reckon that the material world is pretty satisfactorily organised as it is.
Mother Teresa's reveries and mystical visions of Jesus and of various angels and saints are recorded in her autobiography, "Life", in the "Way of Perfection", a sort of training guide for people who want to attain great holiness, and, most strikingly of all, in her ecstatic "The Interior Castle". I used to read it as a student, along with mushrooms, and very interesting stuff a lot of it is.
Here, just by way of giving you a flavour, is Teresa describing a spiritual encounter with a "most beautiful angel . . . in bodily form . . . his face burning":
"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be at times thrusting it into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan: and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain that I could not wish to be rid of it".
No parallel there with the Old Woman of Skopje. As far as I know. But a seriously interesting woman, the first Mother Teresa. Yeah
And still on saints. Today, July 1st, is the feast of Simeon Salus (Simeon the Fool), who is not to be confused with Simeon the Stylite, who spent his last thirty-six years living on a small platform on top of a 60-foot pole in Syria.
Simeon Salus was regarded as a fool because he gave up wearing clothes and lived for the last 32 years of his life naked in a prostitutes' commune and made a habit of stealing goods from shops and giving them to the destitute.
So how come he's the one that's called a fool?
Beano is definitely not dandy in Strabane. "Beano" (Casey) is the Strabane man whose series of revelations in the Mirror on June 14th and 15th was initially dismissed as the type of tosh which the Brit tabloids smear over the front pages when the struggle for circulation is desperate and none of the Royals has committed adultery with a new partner for ages.
But then Beano's yarn turned out to be true. He had been QM to a Provo brigade while simultaneously working for the cops and, so he says, keeping his RUC handlers informed of everything the IRA was up to around Strabane. His police contacts, he told the Mirror, had allowed a number of killings to go ahead so not to blow his cover.
This caused no end of consternation to two separate groups of people. Republicans in Strabane and their families thought on the many IRA personnel who had been killed and the even greater number sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, possibly on the basis of info Beano had fed to his Special Branch handlers . . .
Meanwhile, relatives and friends of RUC and UDR members killed or maimed by the IRA pondered the possibility that their loved ones had been allowed to go to their deaths in order to protect an IRA tout . .
The story shed a sudden light on the working of the secret State on that part of the apparatus of government which is hidden from public view and subject to no democratic control, where State functionaries huddle in the shadows and collude in the arrangement of killing.
An "official investigation" is now under way into Beano's allegations. This, I suspect, has as much chance of coming up with the truth as the investigation by Mr. John Stalker into an alleged RUC "shoot-to-kill" policy in the '80s. But, like all official investigations into official dirty work, it does serve the function of enabling officialdom in the meantime to fob off all enquiries.
Another reason for believing that the full truth of Beano's fantastical allegations will never be acknowledged emerged on BBC television on the same day as the Mirror's exclusive.
Panorama focused on the British Government's nuclear weapons factory at Aldermaston in Wiltshire. Among the points it made were these:
That war-heads for the Trident missile are being manufactured in a building condemned as unsafe 15 years ago.
That huge quantities of nuclear waste are stored in totally unsuitable, totally unsafe aircraft hangers. An official who had been responsible for safety at Aldermaston for years said bluntly that radiation simply pours through the brickwork.
* Some of the buildings are too dangerous to be used but are so badly contaminated that there is no known way of demolishing them safely.
* Miles of pipes carrying contaminated discharge are leaking.
* Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive are "regularly misled".
* A Select committee of MPs who had visited Aldermaston to investigate the concerns of local people and others had been told lies by senior managers and sent on their way.
* Management of Aldermaston has lately been privatised: one of the companies now running the operation is an American outfit which was recently sacked from running two nuclear facilities in the US for incompetence and a disregard for the safety of workers and the general public.
The programme described the fears of union officials representing Aldermaston workers and of former members of the factory's management of a truly terrible disaster waiting to happen. We heard that leukaemia levels among the children of Aldermaston workers, and among children living in the vicinity, are remarkably, inexplicably, high.
The current management refused to be interviewed, on the orders of the Minister for Defence. The Minister for Defence refused to be interviewed or to say why it refused to be interviewed. This billion pound facility, two miles square in the heart of England, is not marked on any map.
The main reason for the existence of the nuclear power plant just a breeze across the Irish Sea at Sellafield is to supply weapons-grade plutonium to Aldermaston for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The ruling class which keeps Aldermaston going and which is answerable to nobody won't be in any way perturbed by a claim that some sordid little man from a small town in Tyrone was a couple of years ago given the go-ahead by the cops to have people killed.