By Ray O’Hanlon
Lawyers defending author Sean McPhilemy in the current $100 million lawsuit in Washington, D.C., want to depose David Trimble because of critical remarks by the Unionist leader directed at both the author and his book, "The Committee," in the House of Commons. Trimble is expected in the U.S. next week to pick up an honorary degree from Boston College — another story altogether — and may well be preparing to make the next move himself.
"IF" hears that the Ulster Unionist Party leader and North first minister-designate is "actively considering" taking legal action against McPhilemy because he, Trimble, is named in the book as an "associate," though not full member, of "The Committee." Trimble is also understood to be ready and willing to appear as a witness in the D.C. court on behalf of the Prentice brothers, the millionaire car dealers from Portadown who author McPhilemy alleges were linked to The Committee’s efforts to kill Catholics in Northern Ireland between 1989 and 1996.
Either way, the pace of is picking up after several months of relative calm. McPhilemy recently won a round in court where the Prentice brothers are pursuing their libel action against him. The court ruled that he did not have to turn over his notes to the plaintiffs. The latest twist is that McPhilemy’s primary source for "The Committee" Jim Sands, has recanted his earlier recant and is now pointing an accusing finger at the RUC, who, he claims, forced him into doing a U-turn on his original statements alleging the existence of a secret committee. Sands is a onetime Trimble backer but is presently press officer for the United Kingdom Unionist Party. UKUP opposes Trimble’s support of the Good Friday accord. His present job, not to mention his jumping from story to story, doesn’t exactly strengthen Sands’s street cred. But no matter what way you look at it, the tide does seem to be flowing McPhilemy’s way right now.
As Trimble steps up to accept his award from BC on Monday, May 24, the paperback edition of "The Committee" hits the streets with "new revelations about RUC death squads" and "details of over 100 assassinations." Who makes the next move, and how, is anybody’s guess, but it’s certain that somebody is going to end up in check. That said, checkmate will be a tad more elusive.
Lists within lists
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Fair to say that the list of British intelligence agents posted on the worldwide web by estranged MI6 spy Richard Tomlinson has landed in all sorts of places. But there’s more than one list doing the rounds. MI5, the British "domestic" intelligence service, has its own disgruntled rogues, one of them being a certain David Shayler. Shayler has been naming names, too, and one of them fits an as yet unidentified Irish politician who has reportedly been on the MI5 payroll for years.
According to one published report, the politician is "not of the first rank" but has been "stridently" opposed to the peace process. British intelligence shenanigans in Ireland are nothing new. During the 1970s, a member of the gardaí codenamed "The Badger" was roped in by British intelligence money. And, of course, there were the Littlejohns, Kenneth and Keith, who were both "run" by MI6. The result, as described by historian J. Bowyer Bell, was a "classic disaster." The Littlejohns turned into Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, robbed Allied Irish Banks before fleeing to Torquay, England, where they were — ironically — nabbed by Scotland Yard 5-0.
Wrap the Visa Card around me, boys. Readers will recall Bill Farrell’s annoyance when an offer of a British Heritage Visa Card came in the mail. Given the fact that the Farrell clan has claimed large tracts of the Irish midlands since the year dot, Bill was less than amused that a bank offering the card would consider him a true Brit.
But he, and all others concerned about their heritage, will be relieved to hear that the bank in question, Capital One, also offers an Irish Heritage card. It features a design described in the mail offer as "the famed Celtic knot." It also displays an Irish tricolor flag. The card looks fine and the offer is further embellished by the prospect of a free Irish tricolor for anyone who wants to wave something while loading on the debt.
But there’s a problem. The offer includes a description of the Republic’s flag: "With green and orange stripes representing the descendants of the 17th-century Irish and British colonists, and the white stripe, symbolic of the peace between the two groups . . . " So, eh, just who did the Irish "colonists" push aside when they arrived in the auld sod a mere couple of centuries ago, the Apaches?
Welcome to the "Oirish" rock
The BBC may well have ceded what London sees as a craggy outcrop of fading empire in the North Atlantic. The Irish and British governments have been going at it for years over ownership of Rockall, a weather-beaten pillar of stone off the edge of the known world, northwest of Donegal. The "Beeb" has been running a drama of late called "Ambassador." A recent episode had a Donegal fisherman chaining himself to the weather instruments atop the rock while proclaiming, in the finest tradition of empire building, that Rockall was part of the auld sod. At the end of the episode, the credits rolled as the camera zoomed in on Rockall. Up came "Filmed on location in Ireland." And you know the BBC never lies.
All the better to . . .
Delta Airlines made a strong last-minute pitch for a transAtlantic alliance with Aer Lingus as things came down to the wire recently. But American Airlines was A.L.’s preferred option in the end. And who would be surprised given the fact that the feds are now taking American to task for more than a little ‘ronautic ball-breaking down in Texas, where the carrier has allegedly been driving out smaller cheap airlines flying out of Dallas/Fort Worth? For Aer Lingus, it appears to be a case of having to snuggle with a wolf, so might as well choose the biggest and meanest in the woods. Certainly, with big bad American in the bed, Aer Lingus will be better able to growl at Delta as the transAtlantic air wars heat up.