Monday, May 21, 2007

'Spotlight / Derry Besieged / Death And Mystery' .

From 'The United Irishman' newspaper, January 1958 .

Democracy cannot operate in secrecy . Dictators and would-be dictators and little men with totalitarian leanings know this well : they do their utmost to control the press , stifle public opinion , develop spinelessness , buy-off opposition - all the better to work out their scheming in the dark where the people will have no chance of checking on them . We are perilously close to that situation in Ireland to-day .

It was an American statesman who said : ' You can't be crooked in the light.' It is high time the Irish people understood this : it is time they made up their minds to end the crookedness in the dark. They still have the power - for how long they will have it we would not like to guess .

We think if the truth were known about what is happening in Ireland to-day there would be an outraged cry from the Irish people . But the truth is not known . It is buried . Or else it is labelled 'propaganda' . Consider these things : our people in the North of Ireland are being persecuted and crucified , whole areas are being turned into terror-zones , prisoners are being tortured , young men are in arms against tyranny . How much of this story is known ? We would hazard a guess that Americans and others know more about what is happening in the North (albeit from biased sources) than the average citizen in the South.......


Derry , once the cockpit of the Northern Irish conflict , has become quarantined in apathy , grimness and deprivation , writes Seamus Deane , the Derry-born poet and writer . In a return look at his native city he finds that its demoralisation has disturbing implications .
From 'FORTNIGHT' magazine, 1983.

Derry , in other words , is , like the North , in 'quarantine' . It suffers from an illness which no-one can cure but with which many are willing to experiment . Until the illness is cured , the quarantine cannot be lifted . Yet , of course , it never will be lifted because the illness is the state of quarantine itself . It is not just a particular political structure , it is a deep-seated mentality . It is not surprising that the best-known structure in the North is Long Kesh, a prison in which modern technology is used to create the segregated conditions which are natural to the whole society , in a particularly pure and cruel form .

Derry , then , manages still to achieve its own peculiar symbolic importance in Northern society . Its 'two names' - 'Derry/Londonderry' : its two communities : its history of siege : its absorption of the effects of violence and economic demoralisation along with economic subsidy : the contrast between its beautiful setting and its ruined cityscape : and above all , its isolation , allow a visitor-native like myself to see it as a place , small enough to be understood and big enough to be typical of others , as the North's , maybe the whole island's , exemplary town .

Thus the charisma , if I might call it that , which it possessed in the early days of the crisis , when Free Derry, or the Bogside, or even Bloody Sunday, were names of resonant places and events , was generated by the clarity with which the society's oppositions were represented in the place , down to the smallest detail.......

John O Shea was a small farmer and republican . He died at his Kerry home in October 2001 within hours of being released from Garda custody . The inquest into his death raised more questions than it answered and now Kerry County Council has backed calls for a public inquiry . Did John O Shea die from natural causes or is there a more sinister explanation ?
By Mairead Carey.
From 'MAGILL' magazine, May 2003 .

John's father , James O' Shea , already believed his son was dead . His wife wouldn't accept it . She washed the blood off his face and went out and cleaned the step . For the next three hours she stayed with him . Her other son , Michael , says she was afraid to call him "...for fear I would give out about his drinking.." . At around 5am she eventually called for help . " When I saw him I said to myself - 'This man has been murdered' " , said his brother . The local doctor also thought his death was suspicious and told the family to call the gardai .

State pathologist John Harbison originally said that John O' Shea had a number of minor injuries suggesting falls shortly before his death , and that he did not appear to have been beaten up . He gave hypothermia as the cause of death . But neither the jury nor Michael Finucane were satisfied with his evidence , and he was dramatically called back to Kerry on the second day of the inquest to explain himself further . He withdrew his opinion that hypothermia had been a cause of death , explaining that his initial decision had been influenced by information given to him by gardai that John O' Shea had been lying outside the house half naked for a long time . The gardai denied ever saying as much to Mr Harbison .

Among the injuries listed in the pathologist's report were abrasions and bruising on his forehead , a laceration on the bridge of his nose , an abrasion on his chin and on the back of his right hand . He had an abrasion on his penis , a group of abrasions on his left thigh , a more marked group of abrasions on his right thigh and matching abrasions above both knees.......