Hong Kong and democracy

Anthony Sheridan

Hong Kong belongs to the Chinese in exactly the same way as the Isle of Wight belongs to the British.

Here’s how Britain came to own Hong Kong.  In the 19th century the British East Indian Company was making huge profits in the illegal smuggling of drugs [opium] into China. 

This criminal activity did serious damage to the Chinese economy and resulted in widespread drug addiction among the population. 

The Chinese authorities appealed to Queen Victoria to stop the drug trade, she ignored them.  The authorities then offered to allow the merchants to trade in tea in place of opium but this too was rejected.  As a last resort the authorities confiscated supplies of opium and imposed a blockade of foreign ships.

The British responded by going to war.  They defeated the Chinese and in the subsequent peace treaty demanded and were given ownership of Hong Kong.

For the next 150 years Hong Kong was ruled from London through a British appointed governor, there was no democracy under British rule.

Hong Kong citizens were never happy with this lack of democracy and frequently rebelled.  In 1856, for example, when a very limited form of democracy was suggested the Colonial Office rejected the idea on the grounds that:

Chinese residents had no respect for the principles upon which social order rests.

The current Chinese dictatorship holds the exact same anti-democratic view.

Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong before the territory was handed back to the Chinese in 1997, is outraged by this anti-democratic policy. 

Here’s some of what he had to say in a recent article:

The world simply cannot trust this Chinese regime. Liberal democracies and friends of Hong Kong everywhere must make it clear that they will stand up for this great, free and dynamic city.

But Patten’s complaints are futile and hypocritical. 

They are futile because China is now an empire and Britain a mere backwater on the world stage.  They are hypotcritical because the Chinese are not doing anything the British did not do during their occupation of Hong Kong.

And there’s another important point, Hong Kong is geographically and culturally part of China.  Britain, on the other hand is nearly six thousand miles away from its former colony.

Let’s imagine a reversal of history.  Let’s imagine that China was the most powerful empire in the world in the 19th century and went to war with Britain because it was prevented from selling illegal drugs to the British people.  Let’s imagine that after defeat the British were forced to hand over the Isle of Wight to the Chinese.

Fast forward to the present day and the Chinese, having lost their empire, are forced by the British to give the island back. 

How would the British respond if the former Chinese colonists, from six thousand miles away in Beijing, began to lecture London on how they should govern the newly liberated territory.  

I think we know the answer to that.

China agreed to give some political and social autonomy to Hong Kong through a ‘one country, two systems’ policy for a 50 year period. 

That a ruthless communist regime should actually honour that promise for nearly half that period is nothing short of a miracle.  Again, if the situation was reversed, would the UK honour such an agreement, particularly if its political and commercial interests were threatened – highly unlikely.

And it is principally commercial interests that lie behind the, so far, relatively benign response by the Chinese government to events in Hong Kong. The city is an extremely rich capitalist money-making machine and China is fast becoming the most powerful and richest capitalist country in the world. 

The Chinese government want two things, to continue sharing the wealth generated by Hong Kong but, at the same time, exercise total political power over its citizens.  In a word – they want capitalism but not democracy.

And that policy is a carbon-copy of the policy imposed by the British during their undemocratic rule of the territory.

Oliver Callan: Back in his box

By Anthony Sheridan

Comedian Oliver Callan is a confused man and his confusion is getting him into all kinds of trouble.

He’s in trouble because he doesn’t understand the difference between harmless political satire and serious political comment.

If Callan was an ordinary Joe Soap comedian his confusion would not be a problem.  But Callan is not an ordinary Joe Soap, much of his income comes from powerful sources within the establishment such as RTE and the Irish Times.

The rule is simple:  If you work for the establishment, you don’t attack the establishment.

There’s just one exception to this rule. If you’re a comedian you can slag off the establishment if, and only if, your comments are made within the strict confines of comedy.

Clearly, Callan doesn’t understand this rule.  Recently he tweeted a very strong criticism of the leader of the establishment itself – Leo Varadkar. 

The arrogance is astounding.  As covid19 kills scores and puts 500k on dole, Taoiseach [on full pay & exp] alleges without proof that workers are seeking layoffs to exploit benefits.  The SF leader gloats the crisis proves she’s ‘’right’.  Are we in  this together or not??? FFS

Somebody must have had a word in is ear.  Perhaps a call from RTE or the Irish Times or maybe even a call from the Great Leader himself.

In any case, Callan quickly deleted the tweet with the following seriously pathetic excuse.

Ok ok, so I deleted my tweet referencing Leo’s comments on welfare applicants and Mary Lou’s opinion piece in IT.  I wasn’t fair to either of them and if we are in this together, I’ll have to simmer down too.

This wimpish but unstandably self-interested climbdown was rightfully torn to shreds on twitter.

So let’s have a look at the difference between Varadkar’s comments and McDonald’s Irish Times article.

McDonald wrote a well balanced, well informed article on the current political situation focusing particularly on the disgraceful, anti-democratic exclusion of Sinn Fein from government formation talks by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Varadkar, on the other hand, obnoxiously and without any proof accused citizens of exploiting layoff benefits.

But, according to Callan’s flaky logic, Varadkar’s vile accusation is no worse than McDonald’s reasoned political analysis. 

This is the mindset of a man running in fear of those with power to damage his interests.

All went quiet then…for a while.  Callan probably thought he was off the hook, that he was still in the establishment’s good books. 

But, once again, he made the massive error of mixing up satire with serious political comment.

In another tweet he described a speech delivered by the Great Leader as wooden and robotic. 

Clearly, Callan was not getting the message – If you work for the establishment you cannot criticise the establishment. 

To hammer home that message, the mistress of the establishment’s high moral ground was called into action, Irish Times columnist Kathy Sheridan.

Personally naming Callan, Sheridan did not mince her words:

Cheap, personal shots at politicians demean everyone involved.

Callan, at last, got the message.

In an article that would embarrass even the most toadying, most servile supporter of the establishment Callan prostrated himself in a spineless effort to regain favour.

The Great Leader, who just days before was described by Callan as  an arrogant robot, suddenly morphed into a man of passion for his country, a man who was going to deal with the [evil] ‘shinners’, a man who was determined to leave a legacy of greatness on history.  

Climbdowns as abject as this only happen after a serious slap on the wrist has been delivered.

And to copper-fasten his total allegiance to his masters, Callan jumped on the bandwagon that is the establishment’s hatred of social media, a hatred second only to its loathing for Sinn Fein:

Here’s Sheridan’s comment:

Just the kind of hot take that characterises the swamplands of social media along with idiotic #notmyTaoiseach hashtags.

And Callan’s servile parrot:

Social media…a place where the cringey hashtag ‘Not My Taoiseach’ trends with regularity.

Ah yes, I think we can safely conclude – Callan has definitely been put back in his box. 

Copy to:

Oliver Callan

Kathy Sheridan

Elaine Byrne: Lacking moral courage to name names

By Anthony Sheridan

Establishment commentator Elaine Byrne believes Mary Lou McDonald and her party are lacking in moral courage and are therefore unfit to govern.

Sinn Fein does not deserve a pass until Mary Lou and her leadership demonstrate genuine moral courage.

Byrne is not alone in holding such an intolerant, undemocratic and hypocritical view.  The entire horde of establishment journalists have been scrambling around in panic ever since polls indicated that Sinn Fein have become a major force in Irish politics.

This development comes as no surprise to ordinary citizens who have suffered catastrophe after catastrophe as a direct result of political corruption in Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.  

The very fact that Ms. Byrne obviously believes that these two parties are in possession of any semblance of moral courage destroys her credibility as an objective commentator.  

But Ms. Byrne will not recognise this criticism because, like all establishment commentators, she operates from within the extremely restricted realm of the political establishment.

Looking out from that bubble Ms. Byrne can see and is indeed very angry at the massive damage inflicted on Ireland and its people by the disease of political corruption.

We know this because she wrote a book outlining in great detail every major incident of political corruption perpetuated principally by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael since the formation of the state.  

Unfortunately, Ms. Byrne does not, for whatever reason, possess the moral courage to name the guilty.

Instead, she falls in with the rest of the baying mob of ‘journalists’ in passing judgement on those who challenge the power and privilege of our corrupt ruling political class. 

Copy to:

Ms.Byrne

Real democracies and referendums

By Anthony Sheridan

(Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Sky UK)

In a functional democracy like the UK the will of the people in a referendum is supreme no matter how inconvenient or disruptive the outcome is to the ruling political class.

In a dysfunctional democracy like Ireland the will of the people in a referendum is supreme only on the strict condition that the outcome is in line with the wishes of the ruling political class.

Public Services Card: Some still forced to comply

By Anthony Sheridan

Two years ago I qualified for the Free Travel Pass but was denied the entitlement because I refused to accept the legitimacy of the Public Services Card.  The Data Protection Commissioner [DPC] has now ruled on the issue:

The Department does not have a legal basis for processing personal data when it’s in the case of a person who’s seeking to avail of a service with the public sector body other than the department itself.

But…there’s always a ‘but’, the DPC has also ruled that:

The legislation only allows the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to insist on its use for its own services.

They [the ID cards] can continue to be used in the context of availing of free travel or availing of benefits that a person is claiming from the department.

So, not withstanding further clarifications, my current understanding is:

All citizens outside the remit of the Department of Social Welfare now have the option of using the card as identification if they so choose.

Those citizens within the remit of the Department of Social Welfare are not granted the right of choice, they must accept this illegal and very dangerous card if they want to receive their entitlements.

I will not be accepting this card until I am granted the same rights as all other citizens.

Catholic Church: Dark influence still active

By Anthony Sheridan

Letter in today’s Irish Examiner.

The editor decided to remove a section from the final sentence.  I’ve reinstated the section in brackets.

There has been a great deal of outrage expressed at the treatment of former Garda Majella Moynihan.

Much of the comment has focused on the apparent cosy relationship between the An Garda Síochána and the Catholic Church, particularly on sexual and moral issues.

You might think that that dark period of Irish history has been firmly consigned to the past but current events tell a different story:

According to Social Democrat TD Roisin Shorthall, the State is awaiting a series of approvals from the Vatican before the new National Maternity Hospital can be handed over to state control.

Just two weeks ago, during the RTÉ documentary Divorcing God, we learned that a diocesan advisor monitors the teaching of sex education in Athenry Presentation College and reports his findings to the local bishop.

At the same school a religious teacher admitted that sex education is only taught because of a directive from the Department of Education. 

She went on to give an example of how the school flagrantly contradicts this State directive:

“I remind my students that this is a Catholic school and as a Catholic, you do not use contraceptives.”

So, as outpourings of outrage fill the air about the oppressive religious culture of decades ago we are currently appealing to a theocratic foreign state for permission to open a maternity hospital and instructing our children, on the brink of adulthood, not to use contraceptives.

Once again we are witnessing a strain of hypocrisy unique to Irish culture that expresses outrage about religious abuses so long as they are safely buried in the past. […while tolerating current abuses without lifting a finger to protect its victims.]

Anthony Sheridan

Cobh

Co Cork

Tom Parlon launches new career in comedy

By Anthony Sheridan

Tom Parlon, former politician and Director General of the Construction Industry Federation [CIF] has come out as a comedian. 

It’s not clear if Parlon intends continuing with his job at the CIF but the quality of his comedy sketch on yesterday morning’s Today with Sean O’Rourke would surely indicate that he’s bound for global fame on the comedy circuit.

Basing his sketch on the Government’s open cheque book joke  for contractors to build the National Children’s Hospital Parlon led with one of his oldest but most hilarious jokes.

This is the one about contractors, while struggling to make a few cents profit against all the odds, recklessly risking everything they possess in order to help out the national economy and those seeking to put a roof over their heads.

He continues with some brilliant one liners on why costs continue to rise into the stratosphere.

It’s a busy, busy time for contractors.

There’s been some big accidents in China and elsewhere in the world.

Stuff is scarcer.

Contractors don’t get a penny more than they’re entitled to.

[No, seriously, he did say ‘stuff is scarcer‘.]

And the new comic genius introduced a brand new type of joke – the one worder.

Brexit…snapped Tom and the audience fell about in stitches. 

Before listeners could catch their breath with their laughing he followed up with some great new jokes.

The rising costs of the 2 billion hospital, said the budding comedian, can be compared to someone ordering a gear-change car and, when going to collect it, suddenly says:

Jesus, I want to change my mind and buy an automatic, only to discover that it will cost more.   

And, like all great comedians Parlon roped in a member of the audience to help him make his jokes even funnier.

After telling Sinn Fein health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly that a delay in the delivery of fireboards had added substantially to cost overruns she helpfully asked:

Tom, what percentage of the 1.7 billion overrun is down to the delay in fireboards?

Haven’t a clue… the hilarious Tom responded.

Poor old Sean O’Rourke finally realised he had been set up by his producers.   This wasn’t a serious interview analysing the out of control billions for the National Children’s Hospital. 

 It was the launch pad for Tom Parlon’s new career in comedy.

Listen to the full comedy sketch here, highly recommended.

Copy to:

Tom the comedian

Sean O’Rourke

Presumption of innocence does not universally apply in Ireland

By Anthony Sheridan

During a discussion on Today with Sean O’Rourke surrounding the controversial bail granted to a taxi driver accused of sexual assault Senior Counsel and lecturer in Law at UCD Paul Anthony McDermott was crystal clear:

We have the concept of bail because of the presumption of innocence. Under our system nobody can decide you have committed a crime other than the jury. So, not the media, not the Gardai, not anyone.  It is only a jury. 

So we take the view that unless and until twelve members of the public decide you have committed a crime the system works on the basis that you didn’t commit it. 

That is regarded as a constitutional right but even if we amended the constitution in the morning the European Convention on Human Rights to which Ireland is a party also requires a presumption of innocence.

I’m sure Mr. McDermott will be greatly surprised to learn that his statement is incorrect.

The Irish state does not universally extend the presumption of innocence to its citizens.

There is one very specific crime that the State considers to be so heinous that those found guilty are not just liable to a prison sentence of ten years or a €300,000 fine but are also deprived of the presumption of innocence principle.

That crime is the selling of even one Mass card without the written permission of a Catholic bishop.

There are many who will find it difficult to believe that such a law could exist in a modern democratic republic; so here it is in black and white.

Charities Act 2009

99: [1] A person who sells a Mass card other than pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person shall be guilty of an offence.

[2] In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.

I am not a legal person so I am open to challenge on my interpretation of this law; which is:

A person who sells a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop will be presumed guilty until he/she can prove the contrary.

The crux of the presumption of innocence principle is very straighforward:

It is not for the accused to establish his/her innocence. It is for the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused.

Article 99 [1] turns this principle on its head.

Therefore; in Ireland:

The presumption of innocence that is implicit in Article 31.1 of the Irish Constitution does not apply to those accused of this crime.

The presumption of innocence under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights does not apply to those accused of this crime.

The presumption of innocence under Article 11 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to those accused of this crime.

To my knowledge nobody from the legal profession has challenged this draconian law so it is reasonable to assume that, for that profession, there is no difficulty.

It is, however, reasonable to expect members of the legal profession such as Mr. McDermott to include this exemption to the presumption of innocence principle when delivering an opinion on the issue.

Copy to:

Mr. McDermott

Today with Sean O’Rourke

The poor standard of Irish political journalism

By Anthony Sheridan

The standard of political analysis within Irish journalism is disturbingly poor.  There is one simple but very troubling reason for this. 

Most journalists are loyal members of the establishment and as a consequence refuse to even acknowledge never mind actually write about the dark, underlying reality that lies at the heart of Irish politics. 

The dark reality is that the three centrist parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, are not separate political parties struggling to attain power in order to implement policies for the greater good of Ireland and its people.   

The dark reality is that these three parties constitute a corrupt political class that, for the most part, works to enrich itself and those who support its agendas. 

The economic catastrophe and consequent extreme austerity inflicted on the people of Ireland by this ruling political class since 2008 has resulted in very serious damage to its credibility and as a consequence to its power. 

Labour has been virtually wiped out by an angry electorate while Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have been so damaged they have been forced into a coalition of desperation where they are engaged in a life or death struggle for political dominance.

The establishment media plays a major role in propping up the power of this corrupt political class.  Journalists do this by simply ignoring political corruption altogether or by retreating into a parallel reality.

A recent article by Irish Times journalist Pat Leahy provides us with a good example of how establishment journalists ‘analyse’ politics from within this parallel reality.    

In the article Leahy is making the point that the Left in Irish politics is not serious about achieving its political goals.  They prefer talking to doing, he says.  He goes on:

If power is impossible without compromise and personal sacrifice, they prefer the empty dance of politics without the prospect of power.

This, of course, is a ridiculous conclusion.  But such silly opinions are not unusual among journalists like Leahy because, while they can see the rot in the political system, they are not, for whatever reason, prepared to expose it. 

Clearly, Leahy doesn’t realise that the three centrist parties are a political class masquerading as separate entities.  We witness his ignorance by his use of the term  ‘go figure’  when describing how Fianna Fail and Fine Gael can operate on any point of the political spectrum without apparent scruple.

Political parties of integrity and principle do not do this.  They avoid associating with parties of opposite ideologies altogether or lay down very strict conditions for any coalition deal. 

A single ruling political class, particularly one infected with the disease of corruption, has no scruples about moving to any position on the politcal spectrum if it suits its purpose.  That’s why, for example, the Labour Party had no difficulties in collaborating with Fine Gael’s extreme right-wing austerity policies. 

Leahy further demonstrates his ignorance of the political landscape by asking the following question:

What, exactly, is the difference between the Labour Party and the Social Democrats apart from the fact that they cannot get along together at a personal level?

The answer, of course, is that the Labour Party is a loyal member of the corrupt ruling class.  The party sold out on its socialist principles and political integrity in 1992 when Dick Spring went into coalition with the criminal politician Haughey shortly after [accurately] describing Haughey and Fianna Fail as ‘a cancer on the body politic’.

The Social Democrats, on the other hand, represent the complete opposite of what Labour has become.  The Social Democrats came into existence as a direct result of exposing corruption within the ruling class. 

The party’s leadership know very well that they would be signing their political death warrant if they were to associate themselves with any of the parties that constitute the corrupt political class.

It is incredible and deeply disturbing that a journalist such as Leahy, who is considered an expert on political analysis, is not aware of this obvious political reality.

But, as I said at the beginning – the standard of political analysis within Irish journalism is very poor.

Copy to:

Pat Leahy

RTE bias: A failure of objective journalism

By Anthony Sheridan

Falling revenue coupled with a serious challenge from social media has in recent times prompted the establishment media to emphasise how important professional, objective and well researched journalism is to society  [See here and here for examples].

Unfortunately, these claims of high quality journalism are more fake news than fact particularly when the establishment media is reporting on those who pose a threat to the interests of the ruling political centre made up of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.

Sinn Fein represents the greatest threat to this exclusive political club and for that reason is frequently targetted by establishment media.

RTE in particular has effectively abandoned all pretence of objectivity when it comes to interviewing Sinn Fein representatives. 

A comparison between an RTE interview with DUP leader Arlene Foster and what can only be described as the interrogation of Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald on the day of the funeral of murdered journalist Myra McKee clearly exposes the blatant bias of the national broadcaster.  

Foster was interviewed on Morning Ireland in a carefully  choreographed piece that portrayed her and her party, the DUP, in a largely positive light. 

First we heard a short 37 second clip of Foster speaking earlier on BBC Radio Ulster in which she expressed her feelings during the funeral of murdered journalist Myra McKee.

RTE reporter Tommie Gorman was then invited to respond and proceeded to give a glowing account of how the DUP was ready to engage in talks but [unfortunately] Sinn Fein was adopting a strategy of caution.  

Arlene Foster was then respectfully and professionally interviewed by RTEs Gavin Jennings without interruption or bullying but also without any serious challenge of her views.  She was allowed to promote the view that she and her party were very willing to sit down with Sinn Fein [if only they would cooperate] and sort out any issues they had.  

Tommie Gorman was again invited to give his assessment of Foster’s views. He proceeded to give another glowing account of how the DUP was eager to get politics back on track in Northern Ireland and, again, concluded his analysis with a negative description of Sinn Fein’s election strategies North and South of the border.

Later on in the morning, and in stark contrast, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald was interrogated, bullied and insulted in a disgraceful display of bias by Miriam O’Callaghan/RTE on Today with Sean O’Rourke.

The interrogation was preceded by yet another clip of Arlene Foster speaking as if her only wish in life was to bring peace and harmony to the whole world.

In the fifteen minute interrogation that followed McDonald was agressively interrupted no less that 31 times.  She got to answer just one question without a bullying intervention. 

It was clear to any objective listener that O’Callaghan/RTE was not in the least bit interested in McDonald’s views but rather in trapping her into expressing a negative opinon on the question of resolving the political stalemate at Stormont. 

It was also clear that O’Callaghan/RTE were not interested in informing listeners that the DUP were responsible for the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.  That it was the DUP who initially accepted but then walked away from a compromise agreement with Sinn Fein in 2018.

In her efforts to trap McDonald, O’Callaghan didn’t bother too much with facts.  For example, she claimed that in his sermon Fr. Magill was asking people to compromise when in fact he did no such thing.

McDonald, rightly, upbraied O’Callaghan for putting words into Fr. Magill’s mouth.

The moment of ‘victory’ for O’Callaghan/RTE came when McDonald said that Sinn Fein would not be capitulating to those [DUP] who wish to hold back progress in every form.

Triumphantly, O’Callaghan crowed:

So am I hearing – ‘Sinn Fein says NO’?

This was the whole point of the interrogation, to extract a negative soundbite from McDonald that would portray Sinn Fein as the party that was refusing to compromise on talks to restore the Assembly.

But there’s a bigger, more important reason for the constant attacks on Sinn Fein by the establishment media and that is the threat that Sinn Fein, as an outsider, poses to the power of the ruling centre of Irish politics. 

For years now, in election after election, this ruling political elite, that has done so much damage to Ireland, has been losing the trust and consequently the votes of Irish citizens. 

The weaker the political centre becomes the more strident and more blatant the attacks on all outsiders who pose a threat to its political power.  Over recent years RTE has drifted from a position of relative objective journalism to a point where many see the station as nothing more than an obedient mouthpiece for the ruling political class.

I would recommend listening to the O’Callaghan interrogation of McDonald to obtain a true sense of just how biased RTE has become.  Alternatively, take a quick scroll down the reproduced interrogation below which signposts every interruption by O’Callaghan.

Copy to:

O’Callaghan/RTE

Mary Lou McDonald

O’Callaghan:  Has anything changed in terms of policy, from any party including Sinn Fein?

McDonald:  Service for Lyra McKee was incredibly moving…those who murdered Lyra do not represent the people of Creggan…

INTERRUPTED…

O’Callaghan:  Ok, let me come back in there Mary Lou McDonald.

Fr. Magill directed very strong comments against  all politicians in the North who have responsibility for the vacuum that has arisen since the Assembly has not sat.  You as president of Sinn Fein are one of those seriously responsible he was pointing a finger at.  Do you accept that the vacuum that has been created has led to that kind of violence in Creggen?

McDonald: Well Fr. Magill hit the nail on the head yesterday. He articulated in the clearest and most uncompromising way the fact that politicians myself included need to roll up our sleeves and get cracking…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan: So what are you going to do?

McDonald: People want the institutions back, people want power-sharing and there’s no gainsaying the fact either and this isn’t an Orange or Green issue. People want equality and people…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But Mary Lou McDonald, with respect, we all know that but for people listening this morning that is just frustrating.  Let’s be specific, are you still holding out for a stand alone Irish languge act?  Is that what’s holding up everything?

McDonald:  Can I just say Miriam…

INTERRUPTED

Callaghan:  Well I’d like you to answer that question if that’s ok.

McDonald:  I will of course answer and can I also suggest to you that the issues at play here aren’t triviliaties. I’m sure you didn’t miss the fact that those saying their goodbyes to Lyra were carrying the rainbow flag, I’m sure you haven’t missed the fact that Lyra herself was a very passionate and very effective advocate  for…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  Of course not but Mary lou McDonald, a stand alone Irish language act is trivial compared to the death of Lyra McKee.

McDonald:  Miriam, there is nothing trivial in a society that has been fractured by conflict, in a society where we need sustainable power- sharing. There is nothing trivial at all on insisting on equality and rights for every citizen…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  So you haven’t changed an iota of your position is what I’m now gathering?

McDonald:  We stand by the Good Friday Agreement and we’re not going to resile from that position and here’s the reason why.  The worst possible scenario, worse than where we are now…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  What can be worse than the murder of a 29 year old woman Mary Lou McDonald?

McDonald:  I’m not and please don’t insinuate on any level that I have in any way suggested anything other than the loss of Lyra to be absolutely outrageous, to be condemned…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I hear that.

McDonald:  Well then if you wouldn’t mind Miriam.  You’ve invited me on to state my position…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But you’re not answering any of my questions with respect,  I’m asking you specifically Mary Lou McDonald.  That priest yesterday Fr. Magill directed his comments at Arlene Foster, at Sinn Fein.  He wants there to be movement in the political process so murders like Lyra McKee don’t happen so I’m just asking you politely. Have you changed your position at all for instance in relation to a stand alone Irish language act?

McDonald:  And you’ve asked me policy and I assume you will allow me to politely answer.

O’Callaghan:  Yes, if you answer that question.

McDonald:  Yes, we need an Irish language act.  That comes as no surprise, that has been the case since the St. Andrew’s agreement.  Fr. Magill laid down a very, very serious challenge for us, a challenge not just to talk, not to tick boxes but a challenge to get power-sharing up and running again in a way that serves the whole community…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But that involved compromise, doesn’t it, on everyone’s part?

McDonald: Yes, of course it does and if you listen to him Miriam you would have heard him say…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I did.

McDonald:   …You would have heard him say that politicians need to get to work, we need sustainable government and that we need to fix the dysfunction that has marked goverance in the past, now the…

INTERRUPTED.

O’Callaghan:  But what are you going to do…[McDonald tries to finish her point…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I hear you, but what are you going to change, in what way will you compromise and I’ll ask the same questions of the DUP.

McDonald:  The only way that you’re going to get to sustainable government is to hardwire equality.  So therefore let me tell you what needs to happens next…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  No, tell me what you’re going to do?

McDonald:  Well let me tell you what I have done and more importantly what needs to happen next…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan: No, what are you going to do in Sinn Fein?

McDonald:  Miriam, we are going to stand by the Good Friday Agreement.  I’m sure you’re listeners don’t want a rehash of the past two years…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  No, but I want to know if there’s going to be any compromise?

McDonald:  But Miriam, sorry. I obviously have to remind you that February twelve months ago there was a compromise and there was an accomodation on the table and we had landed on what I believe was a fair and balanced accomodation and unfortunately the DUP walked away from that.  So your suggestion that Sinn Fein haven’t engaged and that we haven’t been constructive is just inaccurate.  You’re…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But just let me come back for a moment Mary Lou because it’s an interview.

So, in other words, as you said February last year those talks fell apart.  Many know at the end of the day it was because the grassroots of the DUP have a red line about a stand alone Irish language act.  Can you not in some way shift on that?  They were going to try and incorporate it perhaps in an overall arching act, is that not acceptable?

McDonald:  [Puzzled] Sure that’s what we agreed last February.

O’Callaghan:  Yeah, but as Arlene Foster said, her DUP supporters do not accept that so can you shift a little on that. 

McDonald:  So Miriam, perhaps you might observe that anything that moved the dial towards equality and inclusion and by the way none of these issues, marriage rights, language right, they’re not the sole preserve of Sinn Fein or of Nationalism.  These are equality issues and people in Northern society now understand that sustainable government is based on equality…

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O’Callaghan:  So is the DUP position on marriage equality a red line issue for you in Sinn Fein as well Mary Lou McDonald, I’m just trying to clarify. 

McDonald:  I’ve heard some of the commentary around this and I challenged it before and I’m going to challenge it again.  This isn’t a football match where we chalk up one nil, two nil, five nil.  These are issues that citizens in the North really, really care about because the…

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O’Callaghan:  Yeah but let me come back.  Mary Lou McDonald, to be honest, you saw the reaction yesterday, there was a standing ovation for Fr. Magill.

McDonald:  Yes…

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O’Callaghan:  No, let me speak.  He wanted the politicians to get up and get the Assemply going, that requires compromise.  So all I’m trying to do this morning is try and work out your red lines.  The stand alone Irish language act obviously remains a red line.  I’m just asking you.  The DUP position on marriage equality, is that now also a red line for Sinn Fein?

McDonald:  I’m not even describing them as red lines, these are issues that need to be resolved.  I don’t think you need to dramatise it Miriam…

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O’Callaghan:  Well we need a resolution, I’m trying to work out where a compromise can come.  

McDonald:  Well I was about to share my idea with you if you will allow me.  The fact that marriage equality, equal language rights, the Stormont House apparatus, that those matters need to be resolved is not new to anybody.  My god we’ve talked about these issues for months and months and months and we did land on a compromise.  We landed on a compromise and unfortunately the DUP couldn’t bring it over the line.  Those issues still need to be resolved before Lyra was murdered, before Fr. Magill spoke it was my view in any event that the DUP aren’t prepared to lift these issues and resolve these issues with us.  The governments now need to step in, they need to meet urgently.  I believe in the…INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan: No, no, let me come back. Fr. Magill spoke…

McDonald tries to continue with her point but is…

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O’Callaghan:  Ok, let me come back on that.  He wasn’t speaking to the Governments, he was speaking to the politicians.  We all know that the DUP grassroots could not accept that compromise in February 2018.  What I’m trying to work out is that if you do go back even into parallel talks with the DUP will you accept that an Irish languange stand alone act even incorporated within other acts is not going to be acceptable and can you shift on that?

McDonald:  Well if you’re asking me are we going to capitulate on behalf of citizens in the North to people who wish to hold back progress in every form, to people who do not wish to make room for others in an open democratic society then the answer to that is no Miriam.  We will not capitulate on that and I would suggest to you this business of parallel processes doesn’t actually meet the challenge as articulated by Fr. Magill because the challenge is, was and remains to talk certainly…

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O’Callaghan:   So am I hearing ‘Sinn Fein’ says NO?

McDonald:  No, you’re not hearing that, we’re not the nay sayers.  We’re the people that landed on the accommodation…

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O’Callaghan:  But that didn’t work at the end of the day.

McDonald:  Perhaps I’m not making myself adequately clear. Our review is not NO, our review is absolutely YES.  We need the institutions up but I am a realist…our aim is not just to tick boxes…

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O’Callaghan:  OK, so just let me back in there Mary Lou McDonald.

McDonald manages to continue but is again…

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O’Callaghan:  I hear that, let me come back in.  This is why I’m asking this question.  You just said you have a deeper responsibility for resolving these issues. Post that very moving ceremony yesterday, post the murder of Lyra McKee, Fr. Magill was almost pleading that all sides shifts position.  I am hearing from you if I’m correct Mary Lou McDonald that you have not shifted your position one iota.

McDonald:  No, what you heard yesterday was a call that has been made consistently right across the North in particular which is to get power-sharing back…

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O’Callaghan:  That’s not what I asked you [McDonald managed to keep going]

McDonald: …and what we have said consistently…

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O’Callaghan:  But you haven’t shifted at all.

McDonald:  Miriam, you’re not asking us to shift, you’re asking us…

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O’Callaghan:  But Fr. Magill was asking people to compromise.

McDonald:  Sorry, I don’t think you should put words into Fr. Magill’s mouth.  That’s not what he said.  He said that we need progress…he said we need to rid ourselves of the dysfunctional pieces that haven’t worked…

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O’Callaghan:  He said, Mary Lou McDonald, why did it take the murder of a 29 year old woman for the Northern Irish politicians to meet and talk to each other.

McDonald: Well, the reality is that for just about a year there hasn’t been a substantive engagement.