By Ray O’Hanlon
The libel case surrounding the Sean McPhilemy book "The Committee" is gathering steam. Some anyway. Both sides are preparing the ground in a case where Northern Ireland car dealers David and Albert Prentice are suing the author and publishers, Roberts Rinehart, for a cool $100 million.
Along the way, McPhilemy has received a letter from Rev. Brian Kennaway and Arnold Hatch, Pooh-Bahs of The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Education Committee. The two expressed pain over the fact that the book referred to the "so-called" Education Committee.
While seeking an explanation for their sudden lack of status, the two stated that they were "not in any position to comment on the substance of the contents of the book."
In a reply, Russell Smith, attorney for McPhilemy and Roberts Rinehart, said his clients were "especially intrigued and tentatively heartened" to learn that the two could not comment on the substance of "The Committee," thus contrasting themselves with David Trimble and other unionists, who had trashed it.
"Given your stature in that community, and your undoubtedly thorough familiarity with that community, we are pleased that you do not share the position of Mr. Trimble and his allies in this matter," Smith said. Touché. "IF" can see this case dragging well into the new millennium.
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And just in . . .
In a shock decision, five British law lords have voted not to extradite imprisoned Irish rebel leader General P. O’Shea. The general, who was visiting London for an emergency operation on an ingrown toenail, is being held in a secret location in Kilburn where, British authorities believe, he will look just like every other Paddy. At least 17 countries have been seeking P. O’Shea’s extradition on the grounds that he previously entered them without declaring the fact that he was Irish and prone to fits of rebellion, cheek, and outright sentiment.
The governments of these countries say they are determined to stamp out all vestiges of Irish humor and cheek from the planet. In their unanimous decision, Lords Hodge, Podge, Splodge, Smudge and Sludge, said they agreed with the concerns expressed by the various governments and regretted deeply that there was any vestige of Irishness left on the planet, particularly since Prime Minister Tony Blair has secured a commitment from the Irish parliament, the Or, Ar, Oer, whatever, to seek immediate readmission to the Empire and confine its population to a diet of moldy cheese and onion crisps. British made of course.
Despite their reservations, the law lords said that the original arrest of P. O’Shea was legally unsound given the fact that it was the law of the realm that Paddies could only be arrested in batches of four, six or more. However, in an addendum that has produced howls of outrage from human rights groups, the Lords further ruled that for the period of his confinement on British soil, P. O’Shea was to be denied the ingrown toenail procedure.
"We aim to put manners on the fellow, commented Lord Splodge. "It’s about time these damned Irish ‘toed’ the line," said Lord Smudge.
But seriously, folks
It was interesting to see all the Irish angles in the Pinochet story as reported in the New York Times. "The ramifications were unclear, but opponents of the reasoning behind today’s finding have said prosecutors could apply it to people like Queen Elizabeth II, for past British actions in Ireland," the Times reported.
Pinochet himself cited Northern Ireland as a place where "wise decisions have been made not to revisit the past."
Don’t count Mary Robinson to back him up on that. The UN human rights commissioner said that the decision by the five British judges "will hearten human rights defenders around the world."
"IF"’s favorite line came from Pinochet’s pal Maggie Thatcher: "The senator is old, frail and sick and on compassionate grounds alone should be allowed to return to Chile." Too bad it was never a case of "the hunger strikers are frail and sick and on compassionate grounds alone should be allowed wear their own clothes."
Conor Cruise O’Brien, it turns out, does not pay tax on his journalistic earnings, thanks to a scheme set up by his old enemy Charlie Haughey.
"I made the case that my journalism, whatever else may be said about it, is on the same level as all the rest of my writing and that to admit parts of my writing because they appear between boards, and exclude the rest because they appear in newspapers, would be wrong," Cruiser told RTE.
The tax-free scheme for writers and artists was introduced by then Finance Minister Haughey in his 1969 budget. All manner of people have benefited over the years, including several British writers and rock stars who took up residence in the wee Republic.
All this surely sticks in the craw of Gerry Adams. According to a report in the "Oirish" edition of the Sunday Times, Adams is considered neither Irish enough nor arty enough under the scheme’s rules and is not exempt from tax on his best-selling autobiography "Before the Dawn."
"Adams has attended a hearing before tax officials to decide if he qualified for the relief. It is understood that expert witness testimony from a member of the Arts Council, that the autobiography was a political rather than an artistic work, swung the decision," the S.T. reported.
So how does this refusal square with the decision to let the Cruiser off the tax hook? Are his polemics in fact art? Should we take the man literally at all? Should "IF" immediately relocate to Ireland and declare one’s rantings to be on a level with Joyce, Freddie Forsyth, even the Cruiser himself?
C.J. and Bruce
Conor Cruise O’Brien and Charlie Haughey have had their scraps and so too have C.J. and Bruce Arnold, political writer and currently literary editor of the Irish Independent. Arnold had his phone tapped by elements in the Haughey government in the era of midnight heaves and GUBU. Ah. the good old days. Arnold’s present beat is more likely to land him at an art auction in Kinsealy but he well remembers the time when the tapped phone affair went some of the way toward sending Charlie into early retirement.
Arnold will be in New York this week to promote his new book on artist Jack Yeats entitled "Jack Yeats: Painter Triumphant," which is being published by Yale University Press. He will be speaking in Glucksman Ireland House on Dec. 6 and the National Arts Club the following evening.