By Ray O’Hanlon
Newspaper legend Harold Evans is lined up as a potential witness for Sean McPhilemy in his $100 million showdown with the Prentice Brothers in a Washington, D.C., court.
But how sympathetic is Evans to the McPhilemy view that Northern Ireland is up there with Stalinist Russia when it comes to lethal conspiracies?
Evans’s views might be more complex than some might expect given what was written about him in the Village Voice a couple of years ago. Evans was working in New York at the time as vice chairman and editorial director of the Daily News. Writing in his "Press Clips" column, James Ledbetter alleged that Evans had "once helped cover up compelling evidence that the British military planned in advance the infamous 1972 Londonderry attack known as ‘Bloody Sunday.’ "
Evans was editor of the Sunday Times when Bloody Sunday erupted across the front pages of newspapers worldwide. According to Ledbetter, the evidence was uncovered by two reporters Evans sent to the North. The intrepid ST hacks seemingly discovered "at least one hundred pieces of evidence" to the effect that Bloody Sunday resulted from a planned operation "which went disastrously wrong."
Ledbetter wrote: "Rather than publish the explosive story — dated 3 February 1972, four days after the attack — Evans killed it. He reportedly gave a copy to the Widgery Inquiry, the official British government body established to investigate Bloody Sunday. In the hands of British investigators, the unpublished document apparently vanished for a quarter-century. A copy has been found in an Irish archive; portions have recently been published in Irish media outlets sympathetic to Sinn Fein and the republican cause."
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Ledbetter spoke at the time to Derek Humphry, one of the Times reporters Evans sent to the North. Humphry indicated that he still stood by the story. The other reporter, Murray Sayle, communicated with Ledbetter through intermediaries. He too, continued to take the view that the British military planned an attack on civilians.
Ledbetter did acknowledge some of the potential problems that Evans and his team might have faced if they had published the story. Imprisonment for Evans and his reporters was not beyond the bounds of possibility at the time. Indeed, the recent Ed Moloney case was a reminder that potentially severe sanctions still hang over the heads of journalists working in the U.K. who fall foul of the Official Secrets Act and other legal tripwires. In fairness to Harold Evans, it should be noted that Ledbetter, or any U.S.-based journalist, goes about the job with a considerable advantage over British-based counterparts. It’s called the First Amendment.
May 22 is the deadline, both real and perceived, for paramilitary decommissioning under the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement. As things presently stand, the prospects are not looking very good. And if you believe in the dead hand of history, they look even worse.
May 22, in Irish history, is, quite simply, a day for dying. Aidan Crealey’s "An Irish Almanac," lists four events for May 22.
In 1807, Longford-native Henry Essex Edgeworth, "confessor to Madame Elizabeth of France," died. In earlier years, Edgeworth had heard the last confession of Louis XVI and escorted the ill-fated monarch to the guillotine.
On May 22, 1849, another Edgeworth passed away. This was Marie Edgeworth, author of "Castle Rackrent" and numerous other tomes.
On May 22, 1932, Lady Gregory went on to that great stage in the sky, while on the same date in 1972, Cecil Day-Lewis, father of actor Daniel Day Lewis, joined the aforementioned three in the hereafter.
The question thus hangs heavy over the GFA. Was May 22 a bad date on which to hang its ultimate fate? Would May 23 have been better? Maybe not. On May 23, 1798, the United Irishmen refused to decommission their pikes and went to war with the British, who, in turn, refused to decommission their muskets and went into battle with the United Irishmen. OK then, let’s try June . . .
Steady on, Tony
Poor Tony Blair. The most popular British prime minister since they invented prime ministers and all he gets for his troubles is a big headache courtesy of those wretched Paddies.
Here’s Tony’s boo-hoo, spilled over the page in an interview given Tina Brown’s (wife of Harry Evans) trendy Talk magazine: " ‘You get things like Ireland that are just a constant frustration when they’re not going well,’ says Blair. ‘That makes the whole of life difficult. But I’m not regretting it. Not yet.’ "
Jaysus, hang tough, Tony, "IF" feels your pain. This Ireland business is a real mess, for sure. Forgetting for a minute the obvious "reap what you sow" response, it’s probably fair to say that it’s nothing personal against your good self. After all, in the 830 years since the Troubles got up and running, when have things ever gone well in Ireland from the vantage point of London? No, Tony, you are not the first PM to end up in knots over the "Oirish Question." And certainly not the last.
Maybe, maybe not
Begod but the auld sod is a fast-changing place. Could be California given all the cars and computer chips. "IF" found this on the back page of the Irish Times the other day. It was an ad for a course in "Assertiveness/Decision Making." The ad told the reader that he/she could learn to identify the different types of behavior that may be encountered in dealing with people. "IF" knows all about that: looney tunes, very looney tunes and absolutely bonkers.
The course enables participants to "communicate a point of view in a direct effective manner." You mean, like, give me your wallet? It provides a model for "dealing with difficult people, awkward situations and conflict." Sure, haven’t they already got the Good Friday agreement? Lastly, the course provides "opportunities to practice the concepts of assertiveness in a range of typical workplace and everyday situations." OK, so you wanna step away from that water cooler before I . . . tell me, Ma!
"IF" was seriously thinking of taking the next flight to Ireland and signing up. But then again, maybe not. Think about it. After all that assertiveness training there might be a risk on the flight back of flying into one of those oh-so-assertive air rages. Better to stay put and decide absolutely nothing.