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Archive for May, 2014

I drove just 12 kilometres yesterday to mow the lawn of an English friend who has a holiday home nearby. He lives in Indre et Loire so this involves crossing ‘the border’.

We have had a lot of rain lately and the grass cuttings filled 12 black bags and my car. Since I didn’t know the whereabouts of a dechetterie near his home and no way of asking anyone, ie it being 2 pm (that means all villages look deserted!) I drove around to find one. You are not allowed ‘by the law of France’ to burn anything in your garden between April and October – unless you’re a farmer – so people have to compost or dump. My friend doesn’t compost, hence the search for a waste disposal centre.

Anyway I found a dechetterie a few kilometres away hidden down a lane. When I got there an English builder chap was in the middle of an argument with the site operator about various things he was hoping to dispose of, and eventually he and his wife drove off in something of a huff. This should have been a warning, however the car was starting to pong of grass by now (and weird insects were crawling about) so I began to tear the bottom out of a bag and dump the grass into the correct skip. This was a mistake, he didn’t like me damaging the Council provided bags and told me to empty them properly. He helped me with this, to be fair, and we soon completed the task.

It seems it was now that he noticed my car registration plate. All cars registered in France carry a number which indicates the department in which you live. My number was not from Indre et Loire. Furthermore you have to use the dechetterie nearest to your house. He wrote my registration number down and asked ‘commune?’ I told him and suddenly realised my mistake. I tried to explain the clippings came from a garden in his department (that sounded reasonable) but when I told him the garden location, he said there was a dechetterie nearer to it than his, and I was still in the wrong. He smiled and told me to expect a fine!

I slunked off, a good deed had turned horribly wrong.

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Putin (and Hitler for that matter) have a one eyed view when it comes to self determination and suffering, a good example of this is the current objection to acknowledging war crimes that need to be investigated while they are happening and to pursue  them at the ICC. This from the New York Times…..

Written by SOMINI SENGUPTAMAY 22, 2014 – New York Times

UNITED NATIONS — Beheadings, torture, aerial bombardments of schools and hospitals: The war in Syria, raging for more than three years with no sign of relief, represents the very excesses of war that the International Criminal Court was designed to take on.

Nevertheless, the court will not take on war crimes in Syria, not anytime soon anyway. China and Russia voted Thursday against a Security Council resolution that would have empowered the world tribunal to go after perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Syria.

Before the vote, the United Nations deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, issued a poignant rebuke. “If members of the Council continue to be unable to agree on a measure that could provide some accountability for the ongoing crimes,” he said, “the credibility of this body and the entire organization will continue to suffer.”

Now those who demand accountability for war criminals in Syria will have to prepare other options, potentially including ones outside of the International Criminal Court. One option could be setting up a special tribunal, which American officials have privately suggested in the past. Another could involve plucking war-crime suspects from Syria when they travel abroad — to go shopping or attend a child’s college graduation, for instance — to be tried under universal jurisdiction laws. A third could involve a General Assembly resolution under a provision called Uniting for Peace, which can be invoked when the Security Council is believed to have failed to do its job in maintaining peace and security.

“In the face of mounting crimes, and 150,000 dead, the international community must think creatively about how to ensure accountability in Syria — with or without the Council,” Beth Van Schaack, a law professor at Santa Clara University and a former special adviser to the State Department, wrote Thursday on a legal blog called Just Security.

None of these options would be easy, legal scholars and diplomats have said. Each would face considerable diplomatic and legal hurdles. Supporters of the world court say that this is precisely the kind of war that it was set up for, and that it would be a waste of time and money to create something else.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/world/middleeast/syria-vote-in-security-council.html?ref=middleeast

 

 

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A bit to near home this one, on so many levels.

The Slog.

Boozy Brits are one of mainland Europe’s biggest problems, and I must admit to being an enthusiastic toper myself. But the temptation here at times is beyond belief. I was in our nearest Auchan hypermarket last week – it’s not a cheap place at the best of times – but like everyone else as the world sinks into recession, Auchan is having to produce a ‘basics’ range.

In among the Underclass stuff was a Corbières bog-standard Red at one euro eighty a bottle. Just so we’re clear about this, €1.80 is around £1.50, or $2.50. I blinked on seeing the special offer, and was about to walk away from it when I saw the Wine Department bloke filling other shelves. Grabbing a bottle, I approached him and asked, “Is this stuff drinkable?” He beamed at me before replying, “Buy as much as you can, m’sieur, it is wonderful value”.

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Written by Suzzane ……..(?)

With the same population of the British, but with ten times more terrain, we find more space and with that comes a slower more relaxed way of life in the French countryside and more so with the Charentaise. Known as les “Cagouilles” local dialect for “Escargots” …the snails… you can see how the Charentaise lifestyle is laid back and more relaxed.

As I look around my own village, I notice that with this pace of life the locals live for longer with a better quality of life. The air is cleaner, the stars are brighter, the sky is bluer, the

summers are warmer…

My neighbours Madame and Monsieur E are well in to their 80s and yet I see Madame in their Potager (allotment), built like an athlete, weeding furiously, walking half an hour to the local town, rambling with friends, and Monsieur a retired farmer and Mayor of the commune, cycling to friends and family in local villages.

One day as I stood in front of our own Potager, full of weeds, I deliberated on how, with my little rotavator, I would tackle 50 metres by 10 metres in one day…

With a tap of the shoulder I was greeted by Monsieur E.

So what are you doing? Well with this small rotavator I need to plough this plot clean ready for sowing by my wife….no small task, possibly a days work !
…..Hmmmmm…. said Monsieur E…..its lunch time !! You must eat ! But I can’t my wife needs me to finish by the end of the day !
….Hmmmmm…. said Monsieur E…. do you like Oysters ? (Charente-Maritime is famous for the Oyster Farms around Marenne and Royan) I love Oysters !! Then come and eat with us.

On arrival at Chez E, I was asked if I could taste the red wine made from Monsieur E’s son’s vineyard…oh and perhaps some Baguette, oh and perhaps for starters a Potage (soup) from their Potager….delicious. Twenty oysters were presented, and to my surprise found that Madame and Monsieur E didn’t particularly like oysters
….Hmmmmm…I ate fifteen of them.

Well that was a lovely and generous meal and so, making my way to go …
…. Hmmmmm …. do you like beef bourguignon ?! I love beef bourguignon !! Then enjoy a plate full of large pieces of beef, with some Baguette and a glass of home made local red wine……and so followed cheese and dessert and coffee…

And so I stood in front of our own Potager, full of weeds, I deliberated on how, with my little rotavator, I would tackle 50 metres by 10 metres in one afternoon…

Round the corner arrived Monsieur E, in his mid 80s, with an enormous tractor with a contraption attached and ploughed the plot in fifteen minutes!!

With jaw dropped, and eyes wide open, I realised this was the Charentaise life style, an easy pace that gets you there in the end.

And so I took a photograph and explained to my wife that, with my little rotavator, it took me all day to plough our Potager!!

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The Shooting Party

I’d like to draw attention to a recent article by George Monbiot on a bit of hypocrisy engineered by the current government. That being the distinction drawn between the general population and others – who for reasons only they think are reasonable – who shoot and hunt.

http://www.monbiot.com/2014/04/28/the-shooting-party/

 

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The intention had been to bury for ever some of the Provisional IRA’s most uncomfortable secrets: the presence of informers close to the heart of the movement; the traitors who hailed from prominent republican families; the decision to murder a widowed, impoverished mother of 10. There would be no bodies, no funerals, no answers to the relatives’ questions.

But as the arrest of Gerry Adams demonstrated last week, questions about what happened to “the disappeared”, the people who simply vanished during Northern Ireland’s Troubles – and about who was responsible – will not go away.

Between 1972 and 1985, 17 people were abducted, sometimes tortured, then killed and buried. They included a former monk, two young men with learning disabilities, a handful of petty criminals and a teacher at a private school in Paris who was “disappeared” by another republican group, the INLA.

In 1999, as part of the peace process, the IRA named nine people it had “disappeared”, and apologised for the anguish it had caused to their families. It also said it had tried, but failed, to locate the remains of Robert Nairac, a British army officer killed serving undercover in Northern Ireland in 1977. Most of the nine had been informers in the pay of the British army, the IRA said – a claim bitterly disputed by some families.

The organisation said it was not responsible for any other disappearances. Since then, however, it has admitted to three more, and there are suspicions that it may have been to blame for the disappearance of two further people. Many republicans, including people who were members of the IRA, say they believe the fate of the victims and the suffering of their families to have been a shameful and indefensible part of their movement’s history.

But it’s not just part of the past. As Northern Ireland struggles with a legacy of decades of conflict, and tries to make sense of what happened – often in a fraught and fitful fashion through re-opened inquests, cold-case police investigations and litigation in the civil courts – the people who were quietly killed and buried have become a highly visible current affair.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR), a body established by a treaty between the Irish and British governments, continues to search for the remains of seven of the victims, drawing upon information supplied by the IRA through intermediaries, often priests, and with the assistance of forensic archaeologists from the University of Bradford.

There have been excavations across the border in the mountains of County Wicklow, the beaches of Co Louth and the bogs of Co Meath and Co Monaghan. As a result of an agreement with the IRA, no evidence is gathered at the grave sites.

The remains of one of the disappeared were found in 2010 after a 16-month excavation of an area the size of four football pitches. Another body was found after an area more than twice as big was raised a few inches at a time.

 The value of this work was made clear this week by the mother of Brian McKinney, whose remains were found in 1999 after Gardai pumped more than two million gallons of water out of a bog in Monaghan, then slowly peeled back its surface. Alongside his body was that of his friend John McClory, who had vanished on the same day, 21 years earlier.

Margaret McKinney says she still cannot comprehend why anyone would kill her son and then hide his body. “But at least I know where he is now,” she told the Guardian. “He’s in Milltown Cemetery. And I visit him every day.”

During the Anglo-Irish war and the civil war that followed, there were storiesabout people being shot and buried quietly in the remote bogland of what is now the Republic. The practice was revived in the North in 1972, the bloodiest year of the Troubles.

Joe Lynskey

Joe Lynskey went missing from his west Belfast home in 1972

The first to disappear. A former monk and founder member of the Provisional IRA, Lynskey is said to have been a personal friend of Adams, but was killed in June 1972 after he offended against both IRA rules and Catholic morality.

Lynskey is said to have ordered another IRA man to kill a third member of the organisation, while having an affair with the intended victim’s wife. The shooting was bungled and, amid the mayhem of west Belfast at that time, it reignited the violent on-off feud between the Provisional and Official wings of the IRA. The feud claimed the life of an innocent man, Desmond Mackin, shot in a Provisional raid on an Official drinking club.

Lynskey was murdered after being summoned to a meeting outside Belfast. Republicans say he was buried in an attempt to conceal evidence of his conduct, as well as his death, and his name was omitted from the list of the disappeared that the IRA issued in 1999. Eleven years later the organisation admitted the truth in a briefing to the Belfast Telegraph.

Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee

Seamus Wright disappeared in 1972
 Seamus Wright. Photograph: BBC

Vanished four months later. Aged 25 and 17, they were members of D Company of the Belfast IRA’s 2nd Battalion – the organisation’s most active unit in the city, nicknamed “the Dogs” – and were killed after confessing to collaborating with the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a covert British army unit.

The information they gave to the IRA under interrogation enabled it to attack a laundry company and massage parlour that the MRF had established as front operations. It was a major propaganda coup.

According to a recorded interview that senior IRA man Brendan Hughes gave to the Boston College oral history project before his death in 2008, Wright and McKee were buried in secret because they were from staunchly republican families; such was the stigma attached to informing, Hughes explained, that the IRA believed their relatives would be less distressed by their unexplained disappearance than by the discovery that they had become much-hated “touts”. It had been done “to protect the family”, Hughes insisted. “Looking back on it now … it was totally, totally wrong.”

Kevin McKee disappeared on 2 October 1972
 Kevin McKee

The Irish journalist Ed Moloney, one of the researchers behind the Boston project, advances another theory for the disappearance of informers like Wright and McKee.

“The secret manner of the deaths served another purpose,”he has written. “The extent of British intelligence penetration of [Gerry] Adams’s IRA units, particularly his own 2nd Batt [Battalion] and D Coy [Company], went to the grave with them.”

As with other disappearances, false reports were put about. Wright and McKee had been seen here or there, the stories went, alive and well.

They were probably buried north of Dublin, and their bodies have never been found.

Jean McConville

Jean McConville disappeared in 1972
 Photograph: PA

McConville was dragged from her Belfast home in December 1972, a few months after the death of her husband, as her children looked on. It was this case that led to Gerry Adams’s recent arrest.

The police did not open an investigation into McConville’s disappearance for 23 years. In 2006, after an inquiry into this failure, the police ombudsman for Northern Irelandconcluded that there was no evidence that she had been an informer.

Brendan Hughes also spoke about this case, telling the Boston researchers that he had recovered a radio transmitter from McConville’s home, questioned her and warned her. “We actually knew what she was doing because we had the transmitter. I took a device out of her house … and warned her.”

McConville was taken away and shot a few weeks later, Hughes claimed, after she was found to have a replacement transmitter. Hughes also said that the order for McConville to be shot was given by Gerry Adams, an allegation that Adams denies.

While the bodies of most informers were dumped in public places as a warning to others, Hughes said the IRA decided McConville must vanish.

“I think the reason she [was] disappeared was because she was a woman,” he said.

If Hughes’s account about the radio was truthful – and McConville’s children believe it to be preposterous – many in Northern Ireland would argue that there are serious questions to be asked of the British army, which would have known that the first radio had been confiscated by the IRA and that McConville was in serious danger if she continued to carry out work for them.

While many of those who agreed to inform for the army or police may have had their weaknesses – the “£5 touts” as republicans called them – few could have been as needy or as vulnerable as Jean McConville, an east Belfast Protestant convert to Catholicism, living in the heart of Catholic west Belfast.

Her body was found by chance in 2003, near a beach on the Cooley Peninsula, across the border in Co Louth, after a heavy storm washed away part of an embankment.

Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson disappeared in 1973
 Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

One of two disappearances the following August. A 21-year-old man with learning disabilities, Wilson spent four days living with an army unit at their base near his home in west Belfast, and was never seen again.

His name was added to the list of the disappeared after a tip-off to the ICLVR in 2009, and his body found at a beach north of the city the following year.

Patrick Duffy

Patrick Duffy was shot as a suspected informer
 Photograph: Kelvin Boyes Photography

Disappeared, and then “undisappeared” two weeks later. An unemployed father of seven from Derry, he was shot as a suspected informer and buried across the border in Donegal. After members of the clergy protested at his disappearance, a local priest received a telephone call to say that Duffy’s body could be found in a coffin that had been left inside a car that was abandoned on the border. The dead man’s clothes were found to be caked with mud and lime.

Eamon Molloy

Eamon Molloy disappeared in 1975

The disappearance of Molloy in July 1975 was so successful that few people noticed that it had happened until the IRA admitted it 24 years later. A quartermaster for the organisation in Belfast, Molloy is said to have confessed to having been an informer for the British for three years, disclosing the location of arms dumps and possibly providing information in 1973 that led to the arrest of 16 leading members, including Adams and Hughes.

Molloy was named by the IRA on the list of the disappeared that it released in March 1999, and a few weeks later his remains were disinterred and placed in a coffin that was left in a graveyard just south of the border.

There is reason to believe that the body was delivered up in this way because it had actually been buried in the front garden of a house, rather than a remote rural location.

Columba McVeigh

Columba McVeigh disappeared in 1975
 Photograph: Justin Kernoghan/Photopress

Aged 17 when he vanished in November 1975. His parents had bought him clothes for Christmas; they kept them for the next 22 years, unable to believe he was dead. The IRA admitted in 1999 that they had shot him as an informer.

Over the last 15 years, the ICLVR has mounted several searches for his remains at Bragan Bog in Monaghan. His sister, Dympna Kerr, said last year that she could not go to the scene. “I’ve got an image in my head of Columba standing there crying, looking into a hole.”

Robert Nairac

Captain Robert Nairac disappeared in 1977
 Photograph: Press Eye

A 29-year-old old captain in the Grenadier Guards, Nairac disappeared in May 1977 after being abducted by the IRA from a pub in South Armagh, where he is said to have been attempting to pass himself off as a republican from Belfast. He was taken across the border into the Republic and shot dead.

A number of men have been prosecuted and imprisoned on both sides of the border for their roles in the kidnap and murder, but Nairac’s body has never been found.

Brendan Megraw

Brendan Megraw disappeared in 1978

Megraw, 22, was abducted after masked men arrived at his home in west Belfast in April 1978, reportedly sedated his wife with a forced injection, and waited for him to return home. His name was on a list of the disappeared published in 1999 by the IRA, who said he had admitted to having been a British “agent provocateur” – which his family deny. His remains have never been found.

John McClory and Brian McKinney

 John McClory disappeared in 1978
 Photograph: Alan Lewis/PA

In May 1978, a time when IRA members in west Belfast were guarding their weapons even more zealously than usual, McClory, 17, and Brian McKinney, a 22-year-old with learning disabilities, were abducted and beaten because they had used one of the group’s handguns in a robbery at a bar near their home in west Belfast. The pair were released after two days, and returned the money they had taken.

A week later they vanished again. McKinney’s mother, Margaret, knew immediately that he had been killed. “I went out walking around the fields, until four or five in the morning, looking for his body. I couldn’t look after my other children, I was walking the streets, crying. People would stop and stare at me. I was warned to stop talking, I was warned to stop blaming the IRA.”

Twenty one years later the IRA admitted having killed both men, and provided information to the ICLVR that led to their remains being found.

Gerard Evans

Gerard Evans disappeared in 1979

Evans, 24, an unemployed man from Crossmaglen in South Armagh, was last seen alive in March 1979, while hitchhiking home from a dance. The IRA has not admitted responsibility for his disappearance. In 2009, a man who identified himself as one of the killers told the Irish Sunday Tribune that Evans had been condemned to death by the IRA because he was a police informer. But while plenty of informers were killed and their bodies dumped in the lanes of South Armagh, they were usually outsiders, brought to the area to be murdered by local men.

“There are dozens of Evanses around Crossmaglen,” the killer was reported as saying. “It wasn’t in our interests to kill Gerry openly just in case we alienated any of them. It was easier to do it secretly. It was an act of self-preservation.” The following year, Evans’s body was found in the area identified by the newspaper’s source.

Eugene Simons

Eugene Simons disappeared in 1981

Aged 26 and married with three children, he vanished on New Year’s Day 1981. His body was found by chance three years later in a bog, south of the border near Dundalk. He is believed to have been an IRA member who had betrayed the whereabouts of bomb-making material.

Danny McIlhone

Danny McIlhone disappeared in 1981

Went missing from west Belfast during the summer of 1981. In 1999 the IRA said he had been killed after admitting to having stolen the organisation’s weapons for use in robberies. Some reports suggest that he was shot during a struggle with the man who was guarding him. His remains were found in bogland in Co Wicklow in November 2008.

Charlie Armstrong

Charlie Armstrong disappeared in 1981

Nobody has admitted responsibility for the kidnap and murder of Armstrong in August 1981. Aged 54 and married with five children, he left his home at Crossmaglen one Sunday morning to collect an elderly neighbour and take her to mass, and was not seen by his family again. The priest Father Denis Faul was in no doubt that the Provisional IRA were to blame, saying: “It’s a very serious religious, cultural and anti-Irish action to deny these people a burial. Of all the most savage and barbarous acts the Provos have committed over the years, this is the worst.”

In 2001, Armstrong’s widow received a letter purportedly written by a member of the IRA, saying the group had killed her husband. Gerry Adams later said that the IRA leadership did not authorise the killing. The ICLVR recovered his remains in Co Monaghan in July 2010 after a map was sent anonymously.

Seamus Ruddy

Seamus Ruddy disappeared in 1985

In 1985 Ruddy, a former gun-runner for the INLA, had broken his ties with the organisation and settled in Paris, teaching English at a private college. In May that year, when the INLA was short of weapons, a number of members travelled to France, convinced that Ruddy was still in control of a cache. According to former members of the group he was tortured and shot dead by INLA leader John O’Reilly, who was himself shot dead two years later. French police and teams from the ICLVR have carried out excavations in woodland in Normandy, but without success.

Lisa Dorrian

Lisa Dorrian disappeared in 2005
 Photograph: Photopress

Seven years after the 1998 Good Friday agreement largely brought the conflict to an end, Dorrian, 25, disappeared from a caravan park on the County Down coast, south of Belfast. There are suspicions that people associated with loyalist paramilitaries are responsible. If so, she will be the only person to have been “disappeared” by loyalists. Police have made arrests and searches have been conducted, but her remains have not been found.

By  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/10/disappeared-ira-troubles-northern-ireland

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