Letting the side down

Maurice Hayes rebukes Fianna Fail and the SDLP (aka the Civil Rights party) for their joint fundraising breakfast for surcharged Newry councillors. He argues their behaviour was the opposite of the founding attitudes of the SDLP:

In taking their stance, the SDLP councillors seem to have lost the plot, at least as it was written by their founding fathers. Was it for this that Austin Currie squatted to protest discrimination by a local council, or John Hume led civil rights marches in Derry to protest at the exclusion of a whole community from civic life? It is hard to imagine Seamus Mallon or Gerry Fitt or that man of enormous compassion, Paddy Devlin having much time for this sort of petty discrimination. What raises it from the petty to the serious was the abuse of power in depriving a group of ratepayers of the use of a publicly owned facility (ironically called a community centre) on the same terms as it was available to others.

He also argues strongly that the ‘who’ in this case doesn’t and shouldn’t have mattered.

  • runciter

    For Maurice Hayes to call the councillors’ actions a “petty act of spite” shows that he knows nothing about the details of the case or the individuals involved.

    The article is a disgrace.

  • warrenpoint

    Runciter,

    The fact remains that the councillors went against their own council legal advice when refusing use of the hall. Whatever about your view of Willie Frasers motives it was wrong to refuse the use of the hall and that is why courts ruled the way they did……the civil rights principles of Johb Hume are an appropriate point to raise in this issue..

  • I don’t care for Willie Frazer and his friends/fellow travellers. I don’t think he’s a genuine campaigner for victims, more a Mé Féiner than anything else.

    However it was wrong for the SDLP councillors in Newry to deny FAIR the use of public facilities as they did and Maurice Hayes is right to point it out. No matter how many wrongs of this type perpetrated by the likes of Willie Frazer against nationalists/catholics in the past, it isn’t right, when the boot is on the other foot, to stamp it down on them.

  • runciter

    the civil rights principles of Johb Hume are an appropriate point to raise in this issue.

    Only if you are unaware of the details of the case, or would like to score a cheap shot.

  • Debbie

    According to the Irish News.

    Profits from a breakfast organised by Fianna Fail and the SDLP will be used to pay fines for five councillors who denied a victims group the use of a hall.

    Guests at the breakfast at a hotel near Dundalk paid £60 a plate, with the profits split between the SDLP in the Newry and Armagh constituency and Fianna Fail in the Louth constituency.

    Part of the profits are being donated to SDLP Newry and Mourne councillors who were fined because they ignored legal advice and refused victims group Fair the use of a hall in Newtownhamilton.

    The SDLP members were among 17 councillors who decided Fair could not use the council-owned building to host a meeting.

    When William Frazer of Fair complained, the local government auditor fined the councillors £10,000.

    Mr Frazer last night said in a statement that the breakfast fundraiser money was being used to “bail out SDLP councillors who denied use of council premises to victims”.

    “This is a sad day and appears to mark the decline in the SDLP,” he said.

    Mr Frazer said he intended to raise the matter with the leaderships of both parties and with the Irish government.

    I agree with the link though that t agreement is about respect for all traditions.

  • An Lochlannach

    Hayes contradicts himself in the course of the article. He writes: ‘There should be no hierarchy of victims, and no attempt to differentiate on political or ideological grounds those who may mourn or be mourned.’

    And he wants to apply to those criteria to FAIR? One could read everything FAIR have ever produced and come away with the impression that no Catholic sustained as much as a scratch in 30 years of senseless slaughter.

  • runciter

    No matter how many wrongs of this type perpetrated by the likes of Willie Frazer against nationalists/catholics in the past, it isn’t right, when the boot is on the other foot, to stamp it down on them.

    The problem is that when the likes of Hayes incorrectly paint this case as one of sectarian discrimination and petty spitefulness, the ill-informed are likely to believe them.

  • URQUHART

    It is very disappointing to see Hayes entirely miss the point of the Carrickdale breakfast. Whether it was deliberate or not remains to be seen.

    The money raised was to be distributed between a number of constituency organisations. What they then choose to use it for is up to them. If they want to waste it on bailing out a few councillors for making a crazy decision, that’s up to them.

    The business about FAIR was emphasised to the media, deliberately I imagine, by some within the SDLP who don’t like the FF link and who wanted to discredit what was an excellent event.

    Also, CO’L, it wasn’t ‘SDLP councillors in Newry & Mourne’ who denied FAIR the use of the facility as you suggest. It was a coalition of a minority of SDLP councillors and Sinn Fein councillors.

    But I suspect you knew that.

  • Debbie

    An Lochlannach

    Some unionists would have us think that all those who think of themselves as British are law abiding and it is only nationalist and republican rabble who are the terrorists. Thats is not the issue however, if there is agreement now then Fair should have been given the use of the hall, infact, it doesn’t even have to be post agreement. Common decency alone – they ought to have allowed the use of the hall. Thats how I see it anyhow!


  • No matter how many wrongs of this type perpetrated by the likes of Willie Frazer against nationalists/catholics in the past, it isn’t right, when the boot is on the other foot, to stamp it down on them.

    The problem is that when the likes of Hayes incorrectly paint this case as one of sectarian discrimination and petty spitefulness, the ill-informed are likely to believe them.

    Unfortunately, Runciter, this smells like petty sectarianism and it looks like it. The onus is on the SDLP and the SF councillors to prove otherwise. They haven’t done so to date. I hold no brief for Willie Frazer – but he is entitled to the protection of the law when he is wronged which he has been, it appears, in this instant.

  • BillyBob

    runciter – you are keen to tell us that we are “ill-informed” about the details of this matter. Please inform us.

  • Urquhart should realise that I wrote the 11.53 post prior to reading his post at 11.49 – I have no doubt that SF councillors were equally to blame on this occasion and merely omitted them in my original post because they appeared to be left out in the cold in the FF rescue effort. I think it’s wrong of the SDLP and SF to get involved in such petty sectarian antics and it does the cause of United Ireland little good.

  • TAFKABO

    I’m going to sit back and enjoy this thread, watching the great and the good bend over backwards to justify their support for sectarianism.
    I’ll say one thing for irish nationalists and republicans, they really do put some effort into rationalising their hatred.

    How long before we’re told that the hall was to be used by terrorists, and that’s why they were denied prmission?

  • runciter

    Unfortunately, Runciter, this smells like petty sectarianism

    Who am I to argue with anyone’s sense of smell?

    Joking aside, I would suggest that the burden of proof rests with those making the accusations.

    For anyone who is genuinely interested, it is worth noting that the auditor settled out of court and that the charge of wilful neglect was set aside.

    http://archives.tcm.ie/newrydemocrat/2007/11/21/story8385.asp

  • An Lochlannach

    Debbie

    I agree with you completely and thank you for pulling me up on it. Frazer should have been allowed to use the hall (and I wish his march hadn’t have been attacked in Dublin either). What I objected to was the tone and emphasis of Hayes’ article – the use of words like ‘hypocrites’and so on. It just seems typical of a one-sided agenda in the Indo which magnifies every nationalist flaw and fraility and gives a blank cheque to loyalist organizations which are certainly no better.

  • Harry Flashman

    *I would suggest that the burden of proof rests with those making the accusations.*

    Am I missing something, isn’t this what Faser did when the local auditor agreed with his accusations and fined the councillors?

  • Hogan

    The SDLP & Fianna Fail held a joint event which raised a few quid on the side.

    What’s the big deal where it went? The two parties are perfectly within their rights to give it to whomever they want.

    Every party has Councillors who occasionally find themselves in hot water be it in PR terms (ref. DUP backwoodsmen post-Tsunami)or legally. Some are more talented than others at staying out of the brown stuff. That’s politics.

    In 25 years people will look back on this event as a clear sign-post of the evolution of a new Irish political landscape that for the first time in almost a century provides a challenge (not a threat!)for Unionism. That’s the real story!

  • Debbie

    ‘The SDLP & Fianna Fail held a joint event which raised a few quid on the side.’

    400 guests at £60 quid a touch! The £10,000 for Frazer is almost half of it.

    I think something is wrong with that?

  • runciter

    Am I missing something, isn’t this what Faser did when the local auditor agreed with his accusations and fined the councillors?

    You missed the part where the councillors appealed and the auditor settled out of court.

  • Hogan

    Debbie

    “400 guests at £60 quid a touch! ….”

    What’s wrong, just shows the amount of interest that exists for a political realignment that could re-shape the political debate for the next 50 years?

    “The £10,000 for Frazer is almost half of it.

    I think something is wrong with that?”

    Read above posts and pick a suitable response from the selection.

  • Steve

    FAIR is as much a victim group as the ruc were a police force

  • Peter Brown

    Runciter

    I am not a member of the Frazer fan club either but there is no point in trying to use smoke aand mirrors to disguise the truth that although the Auditor seettled out of court and withdrew the charge this was done because the councillors agreed to pay up and therefore accepted that what they had done was unlawful. There may have been a plea bargain bu the plea was still guilty as charged!

  • I too am going to sit back and enjoy the spectacle of nationalists getting their green knickers in a twist trying to excuse all of this. Given the level of spin so far, I wonder if someone is going to claim the Ra didn’t do the Northern Bank after all.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I think we’re all missing the point here

    People paid 100 euro to hear a speech by Mark Durkan

    My orange brethren- can we ever hope to defeat such fanaticism?

  • Steve

    Watchman let be the first to say it then

    Northern Bank Proof?

    Peter Brown It shouldnt be seen as an admision of guilt but simply the lesser of 2 evils, Many civil actions are settled in this way

  • runciter

    There may have been a plea bargain bu the plea was still guilty as charged!

    There was no plea bargain.

    The auditor settled because he did not think his case was strong enough to convince a court of law that wilful misconduct took place.

    It’s pretty simple. No smoke and mirrors are necessary.

  • George

    “It is hard to imagine Seamus Mallon or Gerry Fitt or that man of enormous compassion, Paddy Devlin having much time for this sort of petty discrimination.”

    Was Seamus Mallon not at this do?

  • TKMAXX

    Maurice was not so in step with the Civil Rights founders of the SDLP at the time as he likes to claim with now very mature reflection- many SDLP in Downpatrick can verify to that- nor was he in step with the SDLP or other nationalists over Patten in relation to the role of the police ombudsman. The fact he is only picking up on the FAIR story now -shows just how out of touch he really is. Pity really. Though in fairness – the Newry councillors -SF and SDLP were wrong in denying FAIR – the premises -even if the locals -did not want FAIR.

  • BonarLaw

    Steve

    “Many civil actions are settled in this way”

    Yes, and payment of damages indicates acceptance of liability.

    Perhaps it’s time to stop digging?

  • George

    Bonar,
    “Yes, and payment of damages indicates acceptance of liability.”

    But that is not the case here it seems.

    Damages are awarded by the court after judgment or an acceptance of liability by one of the parties. Here as there was no judgment by the court (at the appeal stage) and it was settled outside of court, I would take it that there was no acceptance of liability and no awarding of damages.

  • Peter Brown

    Lets not try to teach our grannies how to suck eggs – payment of damages even without an admission of liability (especially on appeal!) is de facto an admission of guilt – I have persuaded 2 insurance companies to do it today and if they don’t pay up in good time when I get them to the door of the court they’ll not be changing their tune and claiming to be whiter than white. Is anyone here seriously suggesting otherwise? Any lawyers?

  • “Northern Bank Proof?”

    Flip, there’s always one. I suppose, Steve, you’re going to tell me next Elvis is performing at the Derby House in Poleglass this Friday night? Or that there really is a double decker bus on the moon?

  • Garibaldy

    Communalist parties in sectarian shock.

  • Steve

    Flip, there’s always one. I suppose, Steve, you’re going to tell me next Elvis is performing at the Derby House in Poleglass this Friday night? Or that there really is a double decker bus on the moon

    Posted by The Watchman on Apr 21, 2008 @ 06:16 PM

    I don’t know why don’t you tell me as its you that seems divorced from reality

    Now Peter Brown you are stretching your credibility a little here arent you? The insurance companies atleast here in Canada include in their settlement packages a clause specifically stating that they admit no liability, are the insurance companies their different?

    Infact most offers of settlement are done on a “without prejudice” basis so that even the offer of a settlement is non-binding and non-evidence of guilt basis.

    Of course I will accept your system might be different

  • Peter Brown

    But if they aren’t actually to blame then why settle – or alternatively why pay the fine if you did nothing wrong?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Let me see, oh yes they paid £10,000 because they weren’t guilty, instead of defending themselves.

    Sometimes I am incredulous at the statements made here, they do make one wonder how far some posters are prepared to go in prostituting themselves for dogma.

    Frazer/Fair I do not like or support, but he/they has/have rights like everyone else and they were infringed.

  • NP

    “tell me next Elvis is performing at the Derby House in Poleglass this Friday night?”

    The King is alive i tell ye…. i seen him on the TV.

  • the spectator

    “But if they aren’t actually to blame then why settle – or alternatively why pay the fine if you did nothing wrong? ”

    Bacause any court case is a risk regardless of how strong yor case is.

    Frankly settling a court case is the legal equivalent of Deal or No Deal; and just because the Banker offers you 15,000 doesn’t mean there isn’t in fact 1p in the box; he’s buying off the risk that there is 250,000. So no, settling is not an admission of guilt.

  • Steve

    And as a follow up to spectator

    You can agree to pay an “administrative fee” of $10,000.00 which is a valid known number or you can take a chance spend $15,000.00 defending yourself and still pay the $10,000.00 fine so infact your cost is potentially $25,000.00 or a guaranteed $10,000.00

    Thats exactly why insurance companies settle, it is not just a matter of winning or losing but the costs associated with winning or losing.

    If you estimate the cost of defending a suit that has merit at $50,000.00 with a 50 / 50 chance of winning, why not just offer to settle for $25,000.00. You save 50% of the cost of fighting the battle and in effect guarantee you a win.

  • Peter Brown

    Rubbish. Litigation is not like Deal or no Deal where the box is locked closed and only by a process of elimination does what is in the box become clearer – it is like playing Deal or no Deal with the box open for all to see and clearly tthey didn’t like what was in the box – if they did nothing wrong there was no element of chance/

    Lets call a spade a spade – they did what they did even though they knew it was unlawful but hoped that there would be no consequences. Unfortunately there were….

  • Steve

    Wrong peter its like playing deal or no deal with semi transparent boxes and the cost of the tv studio being deducted from your account whether you win lose or draw

    Unless you are an american contingency lawyer

  • USA

    Deal or No Deal….Your court system sounds like a lot of fun and I hear your health care system is a lot like playing Russian roulette.

  • Steve

    usa

    and yours is a lot like playing Russian roulette with 5 of the 6 chambers loaded

    heres a wee joke for you

    What is General Motors?

    well they used to be the worlds largest car manufacturer

    but now they are the worlds largest health care provider who build cars on the side

    I would rather be sick in Canada and wait a few weeks then sick in the states and lose everything I own

    by the way our court system is one of the fairest in the world, we treat corporate interests with the same weight we treat personal interests. Its why I can go to work every day with out worrying about being sued by some shyster because of some imagined injury.

  • Cynic

    “For Maurice Hayes to call the councillors’ actions a “petty act of spite” shows that he knows nothing about the details of the case or the individuals involved.”

    Absolutely!! After all they were Protestants and should have no rights at all in Newry and Mourne. Indeed the whole area would be better off without them altogether coming in here polluting our community facilities and demanding more support for victims…do they think we are made of money?

    It would be better if someone ‘persuaded’ them to leave then we could all live in peace and harmony with all the rest of our own kind …..but best not to mention that.

  • URQUHART

    Cynic: “After all they were Protestants and should have no rights at all in Newry and Mourne”

    Good God.

  • Peter Brown

    Eh Steve – try transparent boxes and the loser in this case the Councillors pays for the studio – costs follow the cause after all unlike N America yet another nail in the coffin of the Councillors….

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Petrer Brown

    “But if they aren’t actually to blame then why settle – or alternatively why pay the fine if you did nothing wrong?”

    I don’t know the details of this case, but I do know that it’s very common for medium to large businesses to settle out of court instead of, say, going through the full process of an industrial tribunal.

    I talk to business people here fairly regularly, and one of the things that most angers them is their sense that the legal system is weighted in favour of the litigant. It seems every medium or large company has to pay large sums on a regular basis to keep themselves out of courts or tribunals, even when the case is wholly frivolous and the companies would surely win the case.

    Why? Because the litigants are almost always on legal aid, so have nothing to lose – taking a case against a company is like having a free kick. And it’s much cheaper for companies to just pay off a litigant out of court than seek vindication through the legal process. Solicitors know this, so regularly take on ridiculous cases, knowing that companies will usually agree to an ut-of-court pay-off in return for peace.

    It’s a total shake-down carried out within the legal system, and it goes on every day of the week.

    Now, as I said, I don’t know the details of the Frazer case, but an out-of-court settlement should not be taken as an inherent admission of guilt.

    It may be that N&M;lawyers advised the council that they were in the right, but that it would cost them £100,000 to see the legal process through – whereas of course the taxpayer would be picking up FAIR’s tab.

    I don’t know, but nor, I suspect, do any of the posters here.

  • Peter Brown

    Billy

    Many sweeping generalisations but in fairness some of them true! Howwver of limited application here where no-one was legally aided – there is only risk where there is blame if the playing field is otherwise level – no blame no claim as those who take on ridiculous cases would say!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Peter Brown

    “Howwver of limited application here where no-one was legally aided”

    Perhaps you can fill us in on the details. (I honestly don’t know.) Who was footing FAIR’s legal bills?

    “no blame no claim as those who take on ridiculous cases would say!”

    But you know that very often, this is not the truth!

  • Peter Brown

    I could be wrong but my reading was that the councillors were appealing the decision by the Ombudsman which is a spearate action from that brought by FAIR. FAIR are unlikely to have been legally aided and their court case’s outcome was probably irrelevant to the decision by the Ombudsman about the conduct of the councillors which was probably the result of a spearate complaint after the case by FAIR – am I wrong?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Peter Brown

    “Am I wrong?”

    I don’t know. Won’t pretend I do. But surely the Ombudsman wouldn’t be awarding financial settlements? Where did the figure of £10,000 come from? Surely there must have been legal proceedings involved? Where’s there’s cash involved, surely there must have been?

  • Peter Brown

    My understanding is that following the waste of money on legal fees etc arising from the court case brought by FAIR someone presumably WF himself complained to the Omdbudsman about this waste of ratepayers money who then fined the councillors for the relevant maladministration offence under his pseudo criminal prosecution powers. They then exercised their right of appeal against this decision to the relevant court where at the door of the court they agreed to pay the fine in exchange for the actual charge being dropped thus allowing them to continue on office. Someone may shoot that full of holes….