The Basque children of 1937

This day, seventy nine years ago, the Condor Legion, Nazis,  bombed Guernica. One month later, financed by the British people, four thousand children, refugees of the bombing, arrived in Southampton. They were given homes all over the land.

In 2015 I was privileged to attend a talk at Shankill Public Library, organised by the International Brigade Commemoration Committee. The speaker was Manuel Moreno, one of those children. He has lived in Britain ever since.

Seventy five years on the Tories voted down a Labour motion to accept three thousand unaccompanied refugee children to the United Kingdom. No surprise there.

What is shocking to me is that my MP, Danny Kinahan voted with the Tories.

No doubt he will peddle the Tory party line that it will only encourage others.

So what? To do what? How does a child take advantage of such a concession?

Following the arrival of the Basque children, Britain gave a haven to many other refugees.

Northern Ireland has a tradition of accommodating refugees, from the Jews fleeing Russian pogroms to the victims of Idi Amin and onwards.

The action of my MP and his colleague Tom Elliott makes me ashamed.

Kinahan will not get my vote again.

I wonder what his party leader has to say?

 

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Gavin Robinson’s lost afternoon

On 24th March I attended a meeting, addressed by Tobias Ellwood and attended by , seemingly , a wide range of people , including victims of Libyan supplied Semtex.

Elwood, he who told the Commons that on a salary of almost £90,000, he was having to watch the pennies, tried to establish his bona fides with us by telling how his brother was killed in the Bali bombing and how he , Tobias, had served as a soldier in Northern Ireland and was almost shot.

The big message which his masters in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had given him to deliver was that HMG had no intention of making any effort to access £9.4 billion of Libyan assets, held in the UK.

Speaker after speaker criticised this position and HMG’s lack of activity. Not one politician joined in the criticism, neither Robinson, Paisley, Elliott or Kinahan. Voters should be aware of that. At the end of the meeting they fell over themselves to thank Ellwood and have their photograph taken with him. [Organised by Frazer]

I asked Ellwood to go to the UN Security Council and have the resolution , freezing assets, amended. Toby is practising the Big Tory Putdown. He scoffed and asked me did I think that Russia and China would support that. Why not? Why not try?

The mood of the meeting was summed up by Jim Allister MLA who told Ellwood that he had no plan for victims and that his purpose in addressing us was to keep us under control in case we rocked the diplomatic boat and big business in the UK did not get lucrative contracts in the new Libya.

So where did Gav get his impression of “positive ministerial engagement” Assuming that Gav was not able to make up his own mind or was perhaps asleep throughout the meeting, he was relying on none other than Willie Frazer. Willie, who never misses an opportunity to witter, except when Martin McGuinness is in the room, told the meeting that he had had a private meeting with Ellwood and that it was the first meeting with a minister that he had not been thrown out of. This is classic Willie. Establish your credentials as a no nonsense man of the people. A rabble rouser who is a thorn in the side of the establishment. Do you remember Paisley doing that , while all the while negotiating behind backs?

It’s interesting that a man with terrorist connections can be afforded a private meeting with a British Government minister. Times have not changed. I wonder what was discussed?

Perhaps Robinson would like to tell us what he thought was positive. The suggestion that once a new UN backed, unelected government is imposed in Libya and all the militias are bribed or killed, a committee of the Libyan government will have a think about compensating us? How likely is that in the lifetime of any existing victim?

Perhaps it’s another example of the Unionists cosying up to the Tories. Perhaps some have aspirations to do business in Libya or have mates who want to do so. Perhaps Jeffrey, Her Majesty’s Trade Envoy to Egypt, has a hand in it. Who knows?

Will big Gav tell us or even make a really angry speech about it?

The past

 

My attention turns towards Christmas Past. Who can avoid such stuff?

Thousands contemplate the empty place at the table , the gift not bought.

“the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” comes to all our doors.

Christmas is especially burdensome for those who have lost relatives or friends at the hands of terrorists. Much worse again if the crime was committed by the State.

As time moves on ,those OxBridge boys and girls in Whitehall look for ever more cunning ways to disengage GB  from the disaster which is Northern Ireland.

The Army is perplexed as  to why its squaddies might be prosecuted. I’d be happier if an officer or two was in the frame but what do you think is the likelihood of that?

Here, George Hamilton, the somewhat sturdy leader of the Constabulary calls the murders of my parents, in June 1990, a ” legacy issue”. Extraordinary for a policeman. More and more as he manoeuvres at the behest of his paymasters [those OxBridge ones again]  he wants nothing more to do with old crimes.

Only in the fantasy world of Northern Ireland would the most senior police officer suggest such a course.He is pretending that this all came as a terrible shock when he became Chief Constable. What a jolly jape!

Nothing to do with me Guv!

But there is worse.

In November 2015 Pablo de Grieff , the UN rapporteur on transitional justice , published a preliminary report on us.

He says that there are four pillars in a transitional justice policy;  truth , justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

On all of these the Northern Ireland vehicle is running on empty.

During his ten day visit he met [apparently] with a wide range of people. It didn’t take him long to spot our segregated education system as being a major problem.

Nor did the Spooks pass him by. Here is what he said about that:

“Although everyone must acknowledge the significance of national security concerns, it must also be acknowledged that particularly in the days we are living in , it is easy to use ‘national security’ as a blanket term.”

For those who have been bereaved, the sting is in the tail.

He says: “the issue of reparations for victims will need to be tacked in a serious and systematic way.  Here it may be important to bear in mind the many international experiences that have established reparations programmes on the basis of broad acknowledgement of responsibility distinct from acknowledgements of criminal guilt.”

In this jurisdiction no organisation has remotely come near  this standard.

It is facile and useless to expect the Northern Ireland Executive might so do. Might our Westminster MPs? Might the Victims’ Commissioner?