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Posted by On 11:30 PM

Northern Ireland: Tory MPs urge Theresa May to ditch unsolved killings probe

UK Politics UK Politics Northern Ireland: Tory MPs urge Theresa May to ditch unsolved killings probe

Northern Ireland veterans protestImage copyright PA
Image caption Former soldiers staged a protest outside the Ministry of Defence

Theresa Ma y is facing demands from 150 Tory MPs and peers to drop plans to investigate past crimes in Northern Ireland and other military conflicts.

In a letter to the PM, they say a new Historical Investigations Unit would put "service and security personnel at an exceptional disadvantage".

And they accuse the government of breaking the Armed Forces Covenant - its manifesto commitment to personnel.

The Northern Ireland Office declined a request for comment.

Proposals for a Historical Investigations Unit were part of the 2014 Stormont House agreement and designed to deal with killings where there had been no prosecutions.

Last year, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said that investigations into killings by the Army account for about 30% of its Troubles legacy workload.

But concerns have been building in Westminster over whether military veterans have enough protection from unfair prosecutions, with some cases going ba ck decades.

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Wednesday's letter is signed by many former veterans, who are now MPs - including Johnny Mercer, Mark Francois and Richard Benyon - and former heads of the military including Lord Dannatt.

The new unit is meant to take over the work of the Historical Enquiries Team and legacy work of Northern Ireland's police ombudsman that remains outstanding.

But the Tory MPs and peers say the existing system is "completely at odds" with the government's commitment to the armed forces - and the proposal for a new unit would put "service and security personnel at an exceptional disadvantage".

The Ministry of Defence and the Northern Ireland Office have clashed over the plans in recent m onths and a consultation recently finished.

Now Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is understood to be looking at ways of limiting the likelihood of unfair prosecutions.

Cabinet sources have told the BBC that one proposal under consideration would be for potential prosecutions of former service personnel to require consent from the attorney general before taking place.

Image caption The new unit is meant take over the work of the Historical Enquiries Team

There are concerns in government however about politicising the process in that way and about interfering in devolved legal matters.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "I don't want to see elderly veterans having to face repeated investigations decades after the eve nts in question. The Northern Ireland Office recently closed a consultation on legacy cases like this and will report soon.

"The Ministry of Defence has put in place a comprehensive package of support, including legal representation to any individual accused of an offence arising from their service on operations. A new team has also been created to consider the concerns of veterans and the wider public in order to find appropriate solutions."

A statement issued on behalf of the attorney general said: "As a matter of convention, known as the Law Officers Convention, we do not disclose whether or not the attorney general or any of the law officers have given law advice or been asked for it."

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Source: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland

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Posted by On 11:30 PM

Risen people, chosen people: Ireland's complex Jewish history

The first ever mention of Jews in the Irish historical record was in the medieval Annals of Innisfallen. In an entry for 1079 (but probably written down much later), it is recorded that “’Five Jews came from over sea with gifts” for the medieval King Tairdelbach “and they were sent back again over sea”.

In this one short sentence, there seems to be an ominous prediction of the intolerance Jews would face in later Irish history. Yet there is also a subtle paradox at work; if we are to believe the Annals, no one in Ireland had ever seen a Jewish person before, and yet the Irish annalists clearly had some knowledge of Jews. The medieval Irish who gave such short shrift to these Jewish guests “ knew” some things about Jews, or more accurately they think they knew some things about Jews: they “know” that Jews are not trustworthy, that Jews bearing gifts are not to be taken into one’s care. And Jews are not suitable for residence in Ireland â€" they should be expelled from the country.

It is quite telling that the medieval chroniclers of the Annals of Inisfallen did not feel the need to explain any of this: a contemporary reader would presumably have readily agreed with the implicit assumptions here about Jewish perfidy and untrustworthiness.

In this one short sentence, there are two quite different histories at work. First, there is a conventional social history: five Jews, presumably seeking a better life, arrived in Ireland hoping to find refuge there. This was refused to them and they were promptly expelled from the country. And second, there is a kind of cultural history, or what is sometimes called The History of Ideas. In this case, ideas about Jews and Jewishness. Irish Questions and Jewish Questions is a collection of essays that explores both of these divergent strands of Irish Jewish history.

Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, right, with the honorary president of the Irish Jewish Museum Mr Justice Henry Barron. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, right, with the honorary president of the Irish Jewish Museum Mr Justice Henry Barron. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Then Minister for Foreign Affairs DermotAhern, right, with the Chief Rabbi Dr Yaakov Pearlman, left, and Stanley Siev, vice-president of the Irish Jewish Museum in 2005. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Then Minister for Foreign Affairs DermotAhern, right, with the Chief Rabbi Dr Yaakov Pearlman, left, and Stanley Siev, vice-president of the Irish Jewish Museum in 2005. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

At its demographic height, at the very end of the Emergency, the Irish Jewish community numbered about 4,000 in total; one tenth of 1 per cent of the total population of Ireland (north and south). Hardly a major aggregate. And yet, at that time, Jews were the only sector of the populace whose origins lay outside of Britain and Ireland and the community had long been a noticeable presence in Dublin. In 1908, for instance, the charter meeting of a Judæo-Irish Home Rule Association at the Mansion was the cause of noticeable controversy in Ireland and within the British Jewish community; should Irish Jews remain a loyal subset of their co-religionists on the other side of the Irish Sea or should they throw their lot in with nationalists on this side? A desire to prove their nationalist bona fides and thus to prove that they are “real” Irish would endure within the Irish Jewish community. And the community’s official narratives have often downplayed the existence of anti-Semitism among Irish gentiles. Likewise, the prevalence of anti-Judaism in 20th-century Ireland has been somewhat de-emphasised in written histories of the Jews of Ireland. None of which is really in line with the historic record.

Some of the most central figures of 20th-century Irish life have been overt antiSemites; DP Moran, John Charles McQuaid, Arthur Griffith, Oliver St John Gogarty, Oliver Flanagan, the prominent Jesuit priest Richard Devane, his clerical colleague Denis Fahey of the Holy Ghost Fathers. Anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery regularly surfaced in the nationalist press before and after 1922. The IRA-backed campaign against usury in the late 1920s targeted Jewish moneylenders far more than their gentile counterparts. Jewish industrialists who fled the Nazis and established factories in the west of Ireland in the 1930s and ’40s often had to negotiate a matrix of stereotypes and negative perceptions. The sizeable numbers of Irish men who served in the Palestine Police in the same period regu larly interpreted what they saw in Jaffa, Jerusalem or Bethlehem in terms of the anti-Jewish animosities traditional to Catholicism.

Nick Harris, author of a book on the vanishing of Dublin’s Jewish Community, in the Irish Jewish Museum on Victoria Road, Dublin. Photograph: David Sleator
Nick Harris, author of a book on the vanishing of Dublin’s Jewish Community, in the Irish Jewish Museum on Victoria Road, Dublin. Photograph: David Sleator
The Old Jewish Cemetery of Ballybough at 67 Fairview Strand, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Old Jewish Cemetery of Ballybough at 67 Fairview Strand, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

“Irish-Jewish History” is the history of the actual social lives of actual flesh-and-blood Jews in Ireland. But it also names another history: ideas of Jewishness in Ireland. This is partly a history of this kind of anti-Semitism, but something else also; the history of the idea that the Jews and the Irish share something in common. Some of the weirder race-obsessed fringes of Victorian and Edwardian Britain, for example, convinced themselves that the Irish were a lost tribe of Israel and attempted to excavate at Royal Tara in 1902, with hopes of finding the Ark of the Covenant there. This caused well-publicised and well-attended protests; WB Yeats, Douglas Hyde, George Moore and Arthur Griffith were all present. They were all aghast at this attempted desecration of a site of nationalist memory. Griffith was probably also aghast at the suggested comparison.

Around the same time as this insensitive archaeological dig, George Bernard Shaw threw himself into the published works of Max Nordau, a Zionist ideologue and best-selling (if highly pessimistic) writer of popular philosophy. Bernard Shaw used his reading of Nordau to imagine strong parallels between the Irish and Jewish experiences. And in more maudlin terms, Francis Sheehy Skeffington, describing the 1906 funeral of Michael Davitt, noticed the Jewish attendees â€" they were grateful for Davitt’s several interventions into Jewish causes and were, apparently, “the one race which has suffered more than the Irish”. The comparable patterns of Irish and Jewish assimilation in America and the similar motivations behind the revivals of Hebrew and Irish suggest that â€" his mawkish language aside â€" Sheehy Skeffington was right to identify such parallels.

Ben Briscoe, left, appears on the 1950s US game show, What’s My Line?
Ben Briscoe, left, appears on the 1950s US game show, What’s My Line?
Ben Briscoe appears on the 1950s US game show, What’s My Line?
Ben Briscoe appears on the 1950s US game show, What’s My Line?

Irish Questions and Jewish Questions is a study of the Jews of Ireland, of their social history in Ireland. The book also unpacks the idea of an Irish-Jewish parallel and the motivations of those who wanted to collapse together Irish identity and Jewish identity, as well as those other people who recoiled in horror from any suggestion that the Jews and the Irish might share anything in common.
Aidan Beatty works at the Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh. Dan O’Brien is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin. Irish Questions and Jewish Questions: Crossovers in Culture is out now with Syracuse University Press. It will be formally launched by Prof Mary McAuliffe at the Irish Jewish Museum, Portobello, Dublin, at 7pm, on Thursday, October 25th

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Posted by On 12:58 PM

Abortion in Northern Ireland: MPs to vote on scrapping ban

MPs will be gvien a chance to vote on legalising abortion in Northern Ireland, after a cross party coalition of politicians launched a 10-Minute Rule bill to decriminalise women who end their own pregnancies.

Although they rarely make it into law, those behind the move hope the vote will step up pressure on the government for repeal.

The bill would remove the criminal provisions from the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 that make abortion illegal except when there is a risk to the life of the mother or a serious risk to her physical or mental health.

In theory, anyone breaching the law could face life in jail. In practice, many women travel from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK for legal abortions.

After the Irish Republic voted earlier this year to decriminalise abortion, pressure mounted for the same to happen in the North.

But until now, the government has rejected calls for repeal, arguing that abortion is a devolved issue that Stormont must decide. However, the Northern Ireland Assembly has not sat since January 2017.

Last year the UK government announced women from Northern Ireland may have free abortions in England and Wales.

In a Supreme Court case this summer, justices found that Northern Ireland’s law was incompatible with the right to respect for private and family life as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The mental health toll on women with fatal foetal abnormality is particularly harsh
MP Diana Johnson

Diana Johnson, the Labour MP behind the new vote, told The In dependent that current legislation was outdated, and that from talking to doctors and women, she believed the province needed an updated law that didn’t criminalise women and accepted social attitudes had moved on.

“Abortion is a healthcare and human-rights issue. Women who have abortions are not criminals, and the law should not treat them as such," she said. “In Northern Ireland, prosecutions are a reality and this cannot continue.”

She added that it was wrong that abortion was outlawed even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

“The mental health toll on women with fatal foetal abnormality who have to continue the pregnancy knowing it will be a stillbirth is particularly harsh," she said.

It would leave us with no law whatsoever protecting mothers and their unborn children
Bernadette Smyth

Under retained powers, if Northern Ireland is in breach of international conventions, Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, has the power to intervene, Ms Johnson said.

MPs backing the bill include Conservatives Dr Sarah Wollaston, Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Crispin Blu nt, Green Caroline Lucas, Lib Dem Norman Lamb, and Labour’s Stella Creasy.

In February, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called on the government to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

In polls most Northern Irish people oppose criminalising women who end their own pregnancies, the MPs said.

The 10-Minute Rule bill would allow abortion to be regulated in the same way as other medical procedures. It would not change the time limits for abortion.

The bill applies to all the UK, although in Britain later legislation superseded the 1861 Act. It also introduces a new offence of using violence or the threat of violence to cause a woman to have a miscarriage.

Ms Johnson said it would bring Northern Ireland into line with some states in Australia, the US and much of Europe.

Ms Soubry added: “Abortion is a matter for women and their doctors, not the criminal justice system. I fully support the decriminalisation of abortion.”

Amnesty International, which has dubbed Northern Ireland’s law “dangerous and degrading” says police in Northern Ireland are cracking down on the use of abortion pills, “further limiting women’s options and forcing them into despair”.

However, anti-abortion campaigners in Northern Ireland condemned the “inconsiderate and undemocratic attack on unborn babies”.

Bernadette Smyth, of the Precious Life group, said: “It’s undemocratic for Westminster MPs to be debating what happens in Northern Ireland”.

Petitions with more than 15,000 signatures showed there was no will to scrap the ban, she said. “It would leave us with no law whatsoever protecting mothers and their unborn children.”

Most women with unplanned pregnancies who received counselling and support did not have an abortion, she said.

She pointed out that in 2016, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against any change in the law.

Source: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland

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Posted by On 12:58 PM

Is this the most beautiful walk in Ireland?

I look at my cousin Tom. He’s chiseled, hardy and athletic. In short, everything I’m not. Fortunately, he’s also 131.

The statue in front of me is of a man holding a litter of puppies. It honours Tom Crean, an understated Antarctic explorer, and can be found opposite The South Pole Inn â€" which he owned â€" in Annascaul, County Kerry, on the Dingle Peninsula.

Tom Crean never garnered the fame of his peers, Shackleton and Scott, but was hugely respected by both; noted for his strength and bravery (for which he was awarded the Albert Cross), his feats have only in recent years received much attention.

My grandfather was Crean’s cousin, or so he said. Stories in this part of the world are known to have legs â€" just one of the many reasons I love returning to Kerry. But I won’t be abseiling a frozen waterfall or trudging through ice storms like the explorer. Dingle boasts some of the world’s most stunning scenery (and fewer dangers than the South Pole).

My hike around the Dingle Way (dingleway.com) begins with a relatively gentle ascent up a mountain from Annascaul Lake. Storm Ali has turned the usually trickling stream that runs into the lake into a gushing waterfall, and sheep trot along the mountainside as I hop gracelessly from stone to stone, trying to find firm ground on which to walk. From atop a large hill, I look down the valley at the lake below, still gorgeous in spite of the drizzling mid-afternoon rain.

Tom
My cousin Tom â€" chiseled, hardy and athletic Credit: Andy Walsh

The weather here is more volatile than the President’s Twitter account, but the sunshine presents itself later, down by Ventry Bay, where horse riders trot past beneath a blue sky pockmarked with fluffy clouds, the air fresh and salty as we walk alongside an unusually gentle Atlantic. Wandering off-road and onto marked hiking trails, we make our way into the mountain path, in the direction of Slea Head.

My father was from the Iveragh Peninsula to the south, and no matter how many often I take in the ocean view, with the Skellig Islands in the distance, I’m amazed. My spellbound fixation is short lived. I turn at a crashing noise behind me to discover that Michelle, my guide, has knocked down six or so stones hitherto piled atop a boulder.

“I simply can’t understand why people need to leave something of themselves in a place this beautiful,” she says.

Blasket
Blasket is a sight to behold Credit: Getty

She has a point. This is not a part of the world f or selfies. To my left the Atlantic stretches out before me, glimmering beneath an unexpected autumn sun. The lush green fields are dotted with sheep and cattle, and to my right the mountain above is covered in rock, yellow gorse and purple heather. There are more challenging walks in Ireland, but the Dingle Way might be the most beautiful.

Nearing the village of Dunquin, we look out towards the Blasket Islands. Inhabited by a tiny, Irish-speaking community until it was evacuated in the early 1950s, the Great Blasket is a sight to behold. Its lush green mountain is counterbalanced by frothy, fierce waves that crash into the cliffs relentlessly â€" a far cry from the peace of Mount Brandon, where I finish my hike.

Named after Saint Brendan, who is believed to have sailed to North America well before Columbus made it vogue, the landscape here is equally spectacular. Around halfway up, we look down upon the coastline marvelling at the verdant fingers of land that spread o ut into the Atlantic, admiring the mist as it rolls off the mountain, as if it’s being blown out towards the sea.

“Now, we can climb further up if you like,” says Michelle. “Or go down and head back towards Dingle.”

I imagine my hardy relative, and am tempted to trudge on, to scale the mountain. But then I think of the town of Dingle, with its seafood restaurants, its pubs, cafes and, vitally, flat surfaces. “Let’s head down.”

Essentials

Hiking: The Dingle Way starts from £1,427 per person sharing, including six nights' B&B, six lunches, two dinners, transfers and the services of a Wilderness Ireland guide (wildernessireland.com; +353 (0) 91 457 898). 2019 departures from May to September.

Getting there: Faranfore Airport in County Kerry is served by Ryanair (ryanair.com). Dingle is approximately two hours by car from Cork Airport, also served by Ryanair.

Annascaul Lake
"My hike around the Dingle Way begins with a relatively gentle ascent up a mountain from Annascaul Lake" Credit: Getty

Where to stay: Rooms at the Dingle Skellig are light, airy and comfortable (dingleskellig.com; doubles from £58 per person, including breakfast). Emlagh House country home is notable for its elegant decor and warm, personal service (emlaghhouse.com; doubles from £125 including breakfast).

Where to eat: Recommended by Michelin, The Global Village (globalvillagedingle.com) serves an eclectic array of innovative dishes made using local ingredients. Mains from £17.

More information: visitIreland.com; wildernessireland.com

Source: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland