The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Bogota Diary


It may seem strange at first to some that Sinn Fein has a Caribbean Cumann at all. "'tis far from the Caribbean ye were rared" my old granny would have said were she here, and had she been in the habit of using expressions like that. It is in fact a fascinating region for students of revolutionary politics, and nothing gives us more pleasure than to assist those who wish to experience the struggle at first hand. To us, nothing seems more natural, but clearly others take a more jaundiced view. So it is that we have become embroiled in the harrowing case of the three Irish tourists wrongfully accused of terrorism in Colombia. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for us to point out that as these men were entirely unconnected with the Republican Movement, this was no concern of ours. That would have been wrong.

When I arrived in Bogota, it was with some trepidation. Not only is the country in the midst of civil war, the quality of the hotels is notoriously poor. Fortunately I was not alone. Three Dublin politicians had accompanied us, including our own Sean Crowe, and I learnt to value their insight, their support, and the ability to charge food and beverages to their rooms. As if that were not enough, we were privileged to be joined by Paul Hill. Paul, as you may know, is no stranger to miscarriages of justice. He was on the defence witness list for the trial of his cousin Michael Skakel. Fortunately for us, he became available when the defence decided that his character evidence was unnecessary.

One of the things that has most angered me is the ill-informed press speculation about the case. Recently Eilis O'Hanlon in the Sunday Independent took me to task for suggesting that discussion of the topic was unhelpful. What she fails to realise is the extent to which her (frankly rather sarcastic) comments in what is after all one of the most widely read Irish Sunday newspapers in Latin America, could prejudice the minds of the Colombian judiciary as her poisonous diatribes are passed around the Bar Mess. It is scandalous that, whilst the trial is still ongoing, she is permitted to discuss the facts of the case.

The facts of the case are straightforward. Three Irish tourists arrive in Colombia. Much has been made of the fact that they were travelling on forged documents, but who among us has not at one time or another, either for privacy or simple amusement? Many of us involved in the struggle have found it difficult to enter the US, and, very often we find that, short of complying with US immigration law, this is the only avenue open to us. This is clearly a red herring. The men, as James Monaghan has pointed out, were particularly keen to witness the exchange of prisoners between the rebels and government forces. This may seem like a straightforward enough procedure but if you think about it, is really quite complex. To take just one example, who goes first? The relevance of this to Ireland is clear, and the idea that "Mortar" Monaghan was involved in weapons engineering is as offensive as it is absurd.

Before leaving, I felt that I had to see the revolution for myself. I accompanied Catriona Ruane, who wanted to organise a Christy Moore concert there. Catriona is a leading non-member of Sinn Fein and has worked tirelessly campaigning to persuade the authorities that the men are so innocent that no trial is necessary. As a Republican, my visit was an unforgettable experience. There is a real bond that unites revolutionaries across the globe. We listened to their stories of battles against the Colombian army while I tried, in my schoolboy Spanish, to explain the Private Finance Initiative to them. The look of surprise on their faces told me that they (unlike some around here I could name) were impressed with what we have achieved. We left all too soon to a rousing send-off. I will never forget the sound of shots being fired in the air behind us.

Adalante, indeed. Adios amigos, and Hasta Manana!

Jimmy Sands
Ceann Comhairle
Caribbean Sinn Fein





Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

3 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Carefully Crafted Message - Little Revealed, A Lot Concealed
John Meehan


What if They Give an Election and No One Comes?
Eamon Lynch


The Conscience of a King
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Lost Honour, Lost Cause
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh


Bogota Diary
Jimmy Sands


The Tongue
Anthony McIntyre


Glossary of Occupation

Paul de Rooij


26 January 2003


Drugadair and the Drugadiers
Anthony McIntyre


Thesis Antithesis
Paul Dunne


The Hungry Continent
Terence McMenamin


Sean Torain


Do They Talk to You?
Annie Higgins


Fight Against American Hyper-Imperialism and Oppression

Sean Matthews


The Letters page has been updated.




The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices