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Inside File The letters season

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Busy days indeed for journalists dealing with the wee North. There have been lots of editorials and more than a few letters, seen and unseen.

A recent A.M. Rosenthal column in the New York Daily News sparked quite a flow of ink, with several letters published by the paper in reply to Rosenthal’s evident difficulty with some of the facts of life in the North, recent and otherwise.

In his column, Rosenthal blamed the Provos for Omagh and for recent attacks on Catholic schoolgirls in North Beflast. In one riposte, Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus accused the veteran scribe of having a long history of "hostility to the Irish cause" and of engaging in "malicious propaganda."

Sinn Féin’s U.S. representative, Rita O’Hara, followed in the same paper this week with a letter accusing Rosenthal of being merely "ill-informed" and of making a "bizarre" reference to the IRA wounding young schoolgirls in Belfast.

Another News reader, Patrick G. Walsh, wondered where on earth Rosenthal had come up with this "fabrication."

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The letters were on the mark, of course. The wee ones in Belfast were being intimidated by loyalist thugs as they attempted to toddle off to school. This shameful carry-on was further highlighted in a recent New York Times front page photo, the caption of which stated that the young girl in the photo was being taken on an alternate route to school "to avoid confronting Protestant protestors."

Friends of Sinn Féin president Larry Downes duly fired off a riposte to the Times in which he pointed out that 7-year-old-girls do no "confront" violent men. A valid point indeed. The letter didn’t make it to print, however. What did appear recently in the Times letters page was a correspondence from Mike Cummings, in response to an editorial, in which Cummings accused the British government of "unilaterally" dumping the Good Friday agreement.

It may be the marching season in Northern Ireland, but in Northern America it is more a case of the letters season.

Bull run market

You can easily spot the Irish tourists these days. More often than not they are sporting T-shirts with corporate logos, a hand-me-down spinoff from the Celtic Tiger’s largesse. This is most evident with regard to the Republic’s soccer jersey, but just about everyone’s in on the act at this stage. The next thing they’ll be wearing tribunal T-shirts.

Anyway, "IF" isn’t getting shirty here. Why not indeed show off the old sod’s prosperity to the world? Sometimes it even pays off big time for the company that sponsors the shirts.

A case in point was the front page of the New York Times Sunday. The main color photo atop the page was a scene from the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. In the middle of the pack of runners was a young man with the traditional red scarf tied, Hemingway-like, around his neck. But he really stood out from the rest by virtue of the bright green Irish Permanent Building Society T-shirt about his frame.

The photo was taken and distributed by Agence France Presse, so it doubtless popped up tout le monde, so to speak. Pity, though, that the camera picked out yer man at a moment in which he seemed to be laughing at the excitement of it all because just a few feet in front of him a poor eejit, minus the protection of a large financial house on his shirt, was being tossed like a rag doll by one very teed-off bovine.

Tuskar report looms

After a delay lasting more than six months, the report commissioned by the Irish government into the 1968 crash of the Aer Lingus plane St. Phelim off the Wexford coast is heading for the desk of Public Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke. The report is now expected to see the light of day before the end of this month.

The report, initially due late last year, is the work of three international investigators, Admiral Yves Lemercier, Manuel Pech and Colin Torkington. They were appointed to review the events surrounding the crash of Sunday, March 24, 1968 in which all 61 passengers and crew on board the four-engined Vickers Viscount — flying from Cork to London — were killed. The investigating trio have interviewed a long list of witnesses, some of whom were ignored by the initial investigation.

According to the Irish Independent, the new report will challenge the original findings of the 1970 investigation.

Various theories abound as to the cause of the aircraft’s plunge from the sky into the Irish Sea near the Tuskar Rock lighthouse. Mechanical failure is one but the particular speculation has for years centered on the theory that the plane was struck by either a British missile launched from a firing range in Wales or a pilotless target drone.

McPhilemy wins again

Author Sean McPhilimy has won a second verdict in his favor from an appeals court in London.

The court last month upheld an earlier jury verdict that awarded the Derry-born author £145,000 in an action against the Sunday Times newspaper.

The paper had accused McPhilemy of perpetrating a hoax with his TV documentary and subsequent book, "The Committee," both of which claimed that a secret committee made up of top unionists and loyalists had ordered the deaths of Catholics in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court followed up last month’s verdict by awarding the costs of litigation to McPhilemy on a special "indemnity" basis.

According to McPhilemy’s lawyers, the court decision could result in the Sunday Times paying as much as £2 million in legal fees and as much as £1 million directly to McPhilemy.

The latest twist to the saga of "The Committee" comes just over a year after McPhilemy lost a libel case in a Washington D.C. court take by two Northern Ireland car dealers, Albert and David Prentice, who were named in the book as members of the alleged secret group.

The Prentices secured a million bucks plus costs in that case. Interestingly enough, the lads recently purchased a big office block in downtown Belfast for £6.6 million, which just happened to be a £1 million above the asking price. Could it be that McPhilemy’s tome has — indirectly, of course — paid for a wing in a Belfast block now to be used to flog Mercedes Benz cars to prosperous wee North burghers?

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