30 December, 2012

Pranab Mukherjee



Pranab Kumar Mukherjee is an Indian politician who served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. In a political career spanning six decades, Mukherjee was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President, Mukherjee was Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012, and the Congress party's top troubleshooter.

Mukherjee got his break in politics in 1969 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi helped him get elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, on a Congress ticket. Following a meteoric rise, he became one of Indira Gandhi's most trusted lieutenants, and a minister in her cabinet by 1973. During the controversial Internal Emergency of 1975–77, he was accused (like several other Congress leaders) of committing gross excesses. Mukherjee's service in a number of ministerial capacities culminated in his first stint as finance minister in 1982–84. Mukherjee was also Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1985.

Mukherjee was sidelined from the Congress during the premiership of Rajiv Gandhi, Indira's son. Mukherjee had viewed himself, and not the inexperienced Rajiv, as the rightful successor to Indira following her assassination in 1984. Mukherjee lost out in the ensuing power struggle. He formed his own party, the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress, which merged with the Congress in 1989 after reaching a consensus with Rajiv Gandhi. After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991, Mukherjee's political career revived when Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao appointed him Planning Commission head in 1991 and foreign minister in 1995. Following this, as elder statesman of the Congress, Mukherjee was the principal and architect of Sonia Gandhi's ascension to the party's presidency in 1998.

When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came into power in 2004, Mukherjee won a Lok Sabha (the popularly elected lower house of Parliament) seat for the first time. From then until his resignation in 2012, Mukherjee was practically number-two in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government. He held a number of key cabinet portfolios—Defence (2004–06), External Affairs (2006–09) and Finance (2009–12)—apart from heading several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and being Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. After securing the UPA's nomination for the country's presidency in July 2012, Mukherjee comfortably defeated P. A. Sangma in the race to Rashtrapati Bhavan, winning 70 percent of the electoral-college vote.

In 2017, Mukherjee decided not to run for re-election and to retire from politics after leaving the presidency due to "health complications relating to old age". His term expired on July 25, 2017. He was succeeded as President by Ram Nath Kovind.

John Loder



John Loder was a British-American actor. He was born William John Muir Lowe in London. 

Jim Skardon




William James Skardon was a Special Branch officer who became an MI5 interrogator and head of "The Watchers". He was intimately involved with the investigation of the Cambridge Five and the interrogation of Klaus Fuchs. 

Seán Lemass



Seán Francis Lemass was one of the most prominent Irish politicians of the 20th century. He served as Taoiseach from 1959 until 1966.

A veteran of the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War, Lemass was first elected as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South constituency in a by-election on 18 November 1924 and was returned at each election until the constituency was abolished in 1948, when he was re-elected for Dublin South-Central until his retirement in 1969. He was a founder-member of Fianna Fáil in 1926, and served as Minister for Industry and Commerce, Minister for Supplies and Tánaiste in successive Fianna Fáil governments.

Lemass is widely regarded as the father of modern Ireland, primarily due to his efforts in facilitating industrial growth, bringing foreign direct investment into the country, and forging permanent links between Ireland and the European community.

John Francis Lemass was born in Ballybrack, County Dublin before his family moved to Capel Street in Dublin city center. He was the second of seven children born to John and Frances Lemass. Within the family his name soon changed to Jack and eventually, after 1916, he himself preferred to be called Seán. He was educated at O'Connell School where he was described as studious.

One of Lemass's classmates was the popular Irish comedian Jimmy O'Dea. Another friend during his youth was Tom Farquharson, who went on to play as a goalkeeper for Cardiff City. In January 1915 Lemass was persuaded to join the Irish Volunteers. His mature looks ensured he would be accepted as he was only fifteen-and-a-half at the time. Lemass became a member of the A Company of the 3rd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. The battalion adjutant was Éamon de Valera, future Taoiseach and President of Ireland. While out on a journey in the Dublin Mountains during Easter 1916 Lemass and his brother Noel met two sons of Professor Eoin MacNeill. They informed the Lemasses of the Easter Rising that was taking place in the city. On Tuesday 25 April, Seán and Noel Lemass were allowed to join the Volunteer garrison at the General Post Office. Seán Lemass was equipped with a shotgun and was positioned on the roof. He also was involved in fighting on Moore Street. However, by Friday the Rising had ended in failure and all involved were imprisoned. Lemass was held for a month in Richmond Barracks, due to his age he was released from the 1,783 that were arrested. Following this, Lemass's father wanted his son to continue with his studies and be called to the Irish Bar.

Following the Easter Rising, Lemass remained active in the Irish Volunteers, carrying out raids for arms. Until November 1920, Lemass remained a part-time member of the Volunteers. In that month, during the height of the Irish War of Independence, twelve members of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA took part in an attack on British agents living in Dublin, whose names and addresses had been leaked to Collins by his network of spies.

The group was under the leadership of Michael Collins. The names of those who carried out Collins' orders on the morning of November 21, 1920 were not disclosed until author Tim Pat Coogan mentioned them in his book on the history of the IRA, published in 1970. Coogan identified Lemass as taking part in the killing of a British agent as a member of "Apostles" entourage that killed fourteen and wounded five British agents of the Cairo Gang. That day, November 21, 1920, became known as Bloody Sunday.  Lemass was arrested in December 1920 and interned at Ballykinlar Camp, County Down.

In December 1921, after the signing of Anglo-Irish Treaty, Lemass was released. He became a training officer for a period in Beggars Bush Barracks before the IRA split and was involved in the Belfast Boycott operations. During the debates of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, Lemass was one of the minority who opposed it along with de Valera. As a protest all the anti-Treaty side withdrew from the Dáil. In the Irish Civil War which followed Lemass was adjutant and second in command to Rory O'Connor when the group seized the Four Courts, the home of the High Court of Ireland. The occupation of the Four Courts eventually resulted in the outbreak of Civil War, when, under British pressure, the Free State side shelled the building on 28 June 1922. As a result, fighting broke out in Dublin between pro and anti- Treaty factions. The Four Courts surrendered after two days bombardment, however Lemass escaped with Ernie O'Malley and some others to Blessington. Their Flying Column operated in Enniscorthy, Tullow, Ferns, Baltinglass and Borris before the Column was broken up. Lemass and O'Malley returned to Dublin along with Thomas Derrig as a member of the IRA Eastern Command Headquarters but was later captured in December 1922 and interned again.

In June 1923, after the end of the civil war, Seán Lemass's brother Noel Lemass, an anti-Treaty IRA officer, was abducted in Dublin by a number of men, believed to be connected to the National Army or the Police CID unit. He was held in secret until October when his mutilated body was found in the Dublin Mountains. Seán Lemass was released from prison on compassionate following his brother’s death. On November 18, 1924 Lemass was elected for the first time as a Sinn Féin TD.

On August 24, 1924, Lemass married Kathleen Hughes. The wedding took place in the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Name, Ranelagh, Dublin. Jimmy O'Dea, acted as Lemass's best man.

Together Seán and Kathleen had four children – Maureen (1925–2017), Peggy (1927–2004), Noel (1929–1976) and Sheila (1932–1997). Maureen Lemass would later go on to marry a successor of Lemass as Fianna Fáil leader and a future Taoiseach, Charles Haughey.

In 1926, de Valera, supported by Lemass, sought to convince Sinn Féin to abandon its refusal to accept the existence of the Irish Free State, the legitimacy of the Dáil, and its abstentionist policy of refusing to sit in the Dáil, if elected. However, the effort was unsuccessful and in March 1926 de Valera, along with Lemass, resigned from the party.

At this point, de Valera contemplated leaving public life, a decision that would have changed the course of Irish history. It was Lemass who encouraged him to stay and form a political party. In May, de Valera, assisted by Gerald Boland and Lemass, began to plan a new party. This became known as Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party. Lemass travelled around the country trying to raise support for Fianna Fáil. The vast majority of Sinn Féin TDs were persuaded to join. The new party was strongly opposed to partition but accepted the de facto existence of the Irish Free State. It opposed the controversial Oath of Allegiance and campaigned for its removal.

Due in large part to Lemass' organizational skill, most of Sinn Féin's branches defected to Fianna Fáil. This enabled the new party to make a strong showing at the June 1927 election, taking 44 seats while reducing its parent party to only five. More importantly, this was only three seats behind the governing party, Cumann naGadheal. Pending the removal of the Oath of Allegiance, the party announced that it would not take up its Dáil seats. A court case was begun in the name of Lemass and others. However, the assassination by the IRA of Kevin O'Higgins, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (deputy prime minister), led to the passing of a new Act requiring all prospective Dáil candidates to take an oath that, if elected, they would swear the Oath of Allegiance; a refusal to do so would prohibit anyone from candidacy in a general or by-election.

Faced with the threat of legal disqualification from politics, de Valera eventually took the Oath of Allegiance while claiming that he was simply signing a slip of paper to gain a right of participation in the Dáil, not actually taking an Oath. On August 11, 1927, having signed the Oath of Allegiance in front of a representative of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State, the TDs from what Lemass described as "a slightly constitutional party" entered the Dáil. The party had another strong showing at a fresh election in September, taking 57 seats.

Lemass was one of the party's stronger performers in opposition, attacking Cumann naGadheal as being too pro-British. He also attacked the government's stewardship of the economy, and was largely responsible for drafting Fianna Fáil's economic programme.

In 1932, Fianna Fáil won power in the Free State, remaining in government for 16 uninterrupted years. The party which Lemass had described as only a "slightly constitutional party" in 1929 was now leading the Irish Free State, a state that de Valera and Lemass had fought a civil war to destroy a decade earlier. De Valera appointed Lemass as Minister for Industry and Commerce, one of the most powerful offices in the Executive Council (cabinet), and a position he would occupy, with only one short break, in all three of de Valera's governments.

Lemass had the two difficult tasks of developing Irish industry behind his new tariff walls, and convincing the conservative Department of Finance to promote state involvement in industry. Against the background of the Great Depression, he and de Valera engaged in the Anglo-Irish Trade War which lasted from 1933 until 1938, causing severe damage and hardship to the Irish economy and the cattle industry. In 1933, Lemass set up the Industrial Credit Corporation to facilitate investment for industrial development; in the climate of the depression investment had dried up. A number of semi-state companies, modelled on the success of the ESB, were also set up. These included the Irish Sugar Company, to develop the sugar-beet industry, Turf Development Board for turf development, and an Irish airline, Aer Lingus. Years later Lemass described Aer Lingus as his "proudest achievement". These helped create management skills within Ireland, as most people of ability preferred to emigrate.

The Irish market was still too small for multiple companies to exist, so practically all the semi-states had a monopoly on the Irish market. While Lemass concentrated on economic matters, de Valera focused primarily on constitutional affairs, leading to the passage of the new Constitution of Ireland in 1937. De Valera became Taoiseach, while Lemass served in the new Government again as Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Subsequently, Irish economic historians have found that many of his decisions on tariffs and licenses were made on an ad-hoc basis, with little coherent policy and forward planning.

Lemass became Minister for Supplies in 1939 following the outbreak of World War II. It was a crucial role for Ireland, which maintained an official neutrality.  The state had to achieve an unprecedented degree of self-sufficiency and it was Lemass's role to ensure this; he had the difficult task of organizing what little resources existed. In 1941, the Irish Shipping Company was set up to keep a vital trickle of supplies coming into the country. However, petrol, gas, and some foodstuffs remained in short supply. De Valera chose Lemass over older cabinet colleagues to become Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) when Seán T. O'Kelly was elected President of Ireland in 1945.

After the Second World War Lemass sought help from the Marshall Aid Plan, securing $100m that was mainly spent on the road network. Emigration continued, particularly to Britain. Despite a high birth rate, the Republic's population continued to fall until the 1960s.

In 1948, partly due to its own increasing isolation and also due to a republican backlash against its anti-IRA policies, which had produced a rival republican party, Clann na Poblachta, Fianna Fáil lost power.

The First Inter-Party Government, made up of Fine Gael, the Labour Party, National Labour Party, Clann na Talmhan, Clann na Poblachta and others, was formed under Fine Gael TD John A. Costello. In opposition, Lemass played a crucial role in re-organizing and streamlining Fianna Fáil. As a result of this, and also due to crises within the Inter-Party government over the controversial Mother and Child Scheme, Fianna Fáil were not long out of government.

In 1951 Fianna Fáil returned as a minority government. Lemass again returned as Minister for Industry and Commerce. Seán MacEntee, the Minister for Finance, tried to deal with the crisis in the balance of payments. He was also unsympathetic to a new economic outlook. In 1954 the government fell and was replaced by the Second Inter-Party Government.

Lemass was confined to the Opposition benches for another three years. In 1957 de Valera, at the age of seventy-five, announced to Fianna Fáil that he planned to retire. He was persuaded however to become Taoiseach one more time until 1959, when the office of President of Ireland would become vacant. Lemass returned as Tánaiste and Minister for Industry and Commerce. In 1958 the first Programme for Economic Development was launched. De Valera was elected President of Ireland in 1959 and retired as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach.

On June 23, 1959, Seán Lemass was appointed Taoiseach on the nomination of Dáil Éireann. Many had wondered if Fianna Fáil could survive without de Valera as leader. However, Lemass quickly established his control on the party. Although he was one of the founding members of Fianna Fáil he was still only fifty-nine years old, seventeen years younger than the nearly blind de Valera.

The failure of the IRA border campaign in the 1950s and the accession of Lemass as Taoiseach heralded a new policy towards Northern Ireland. Although he was of the staunch republican tradition that rejected partition, he saw clearly that it was unlikely to end in the foreseeable future and that consequently the Republic was better served by disposing of the matter. The new Taoiseach played down the nationalist and anti-partition rhetoric that had done little to further the situation over the previous forty years. Still, as long as the hardline Basil Brooke was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland there was little hope of a rapprochement.

However, in 1963 Terence O'Neill, a younger man with a more pragmatic outlook, succeeded as Prime Minister. He had years before told Tony Grey of The Irish Times that if he ever succeeded Brooke, he hoped to meet with Lemass. A friendship had developed between O'Neill's secretary, Jim Malley, and the Irish civil servant, T. K. Whitaker. A series of behind-the-scenes negotiations resulted in O'Neill issuing an invitation to Lemass to visit him at Stormont in Belfast.

On January 14, 1965, Lemass travelled to Belfast in the utmost secrecy. The media and even his own Cabinet had not been informed until the very last minute. The meeting got a mixed reaction in the North. In the Republic, however, it was seen as a clear indication that the "Irish Cold War" had ended, or at least that a thaw had set in. Lemass returned the invitation on 9 February of the same year by inviting O'Neill to Dublin, but he did not want to be seen to be anti-British. The Irish government encouraged overseas developments with the USA, so that they could share in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising. The two leaders discussed cooperation between the two states on general economic matters; local services such as road systems and sewage facilities; agriculture, including exempting Northern Ireland from Britain's quota on butter imports from the Republic; customs; and all-Ireland representation in international sporting events. In Northern Ireland the Easter Rising was celebrated by the film the Insurrection on the BBC. The first occasion that people began to take notice of the implacable Ian Paisley demagogic speeches. O'Neill was by Ulster standards a 'liberal' (Roy Hattersley MP), Harold Wilson's government decided that there had to be radical change as a consequence of the diplomatic rapprochement with Lemass.

The meetings heralded a new (but short-lived) era of optimism, although for the most part it was manifested in the Republic. Hardline Northern unionists led by Ian Paisley continued to oppose any dealings with the Republic, and even moderate unionists felt the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Easter Rising in 1966 were insulting to them. The rise of the civil rights campaign and the unionists' refusal to acknowledge it ended the optimism with violence in 1969, after Lemass's term in office had finished.

The Lemass era saw some significant developments in Irish foreign policy. Frank Aiken served as Minister for External Affairs during the whole of Lemass's tenure as Taoiseach. At the United Nations Aiken took an independent stance and backed the admission of China to the organization, in spite of huge protests from the United States. Admitted only in 1955, Ireland played a large role at the UN, serving on the Security Council in 1962, condemning Chinese aggression in Tibet and advocating nuclear arms limitation.
Lemass was always skeptical about remaining neutral, particularly if Ireland were to join the European Economic Community. Aiken was much more in favor of a neutral, independent stance. In 1960 Irish troops embarked on their first peace-keeping mission in the First Republic of the Congo. Nine soldiers were killed during this mission.

While Aiken was at the UN, Lemass played a major role in pressing for Ireland's membership of the EEC which in many ways became the chief foreign policy consideration during the 1960s.[19] The Anglo-Irish Treaty Act 1965 emerged as a significant achievement in breaking the Cold War ice between the Republic and Britain. It had come when Lemass had discerned a modern agenda to move away from the old An Phoblacht agenda of an impoverished woman's Ireland. He recognized quite bravely the need to modernize socially and economically.

In 1966 the Republic of Ireland celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Éamon de Valera came within 1% of defeat in that year's Irish presidential election, less than two months after the celebrations in which he played such a central part. In November 1966, Lemass announced his decision to retire as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach.

On November 10, 1966, he officially announced to the Dáil with his usual penchant for efficiency, "I have resigned." That very day Jack Lynch became the new leader. Lynch was the first Taoiseach that had not come through the Irish War of Independence. Lemass retired to the backbenches. He remained a TD until 1969.


During the last few years of his leadership Lemass's health began to deteriorate. He had been a heavy pipe smoker all his life, smoking almost a pound of tobacco a week in later life. In February 1971, while attending a rugby game at Lansdowne Road, he became unwell; he was rushed to hospital and was told by his doctor that one of his lungs was about to collapse.

On Tuesday, May 11, 1971, Seán Lemass died in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, aged 71. He was afforded a state funeral and was buried in Deansgrange Cemetery.




Percy Fawcett



 Lieutenant Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett was a British geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist and explorer of South America. Along with his eldest son, Fawcett disappeared in 1925 during an expedition to find "Z" – his name for an ancient lost city, which he and others believed to exist and to be the remains of El Dorado, in the jungles of Brazil.

Percy Fawcett was born on 18 August 1867 in Torquay, Devon, England, to Edward Boyd Fawcett and Myra Elizabeth. He received his early education at Newton Abbot Proprietary College along with Bertram Fletcher Robinson. Percy Fawcett's India-born father was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). His elder brother Edward Douglas Fawcett (1866–1960) was a mountain climber, Eastern occultist and author of philosophical books and popular adventure novels.

Fawcett attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich as a cadet, being commissioned as a lieutenant of the Royal Artillery on 24 July 1886. On 13 January 1896 he was appointed adjutant of the 1st Cornwall (Duke of Cornwall's) Artillery Volunteers, and was promoted to captain on 15 June 1897. He later served in Trincomalee, Ceylon, where he also met his future wife Nina Agnes Paterson, whom he married in January 1901 after having previously ended their engagement. They had two sons, Jack (born 1903) and Brian (1906–1984), and one daughter, Joan (1910–2005). He joined the RGS himself in 1901 in order to study surveying and mapmaking. Later, he worked for the British Secret Service in North Africa while pursuing the surveyor's craft. He served for the war office on Spike Island, County Cork from 1903 to 1906, where he was promoted to major on 11 January 1905.[8] He became friends with authors H. Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle; the latter used Fawcett's Amazonian field reports as an inspiration for his novel The Lost World.

Fawcett's first expedition to South America was in 1906 when at the age of 39 he travelled to Brazil to map a jungle area at the border of Brazil and Bolivia at the behest of the Royal Geographical Society. The Society had been commissioned to map the area as a third party unbiased by local national interests. He arrived in La Paz, Bolivia in June. Whilst on the expedition in 1907, Fawcett claimed to have seen and shot a 62 foot long giant anaconda, a claim for which he was ridiculed by scientists. He reported other mysterious animals unknown to zoology, such as a small cat-like dog about the size of a foxhound, which he claimed to have seen twice, or the giant Apazauca spider which was said to have poisoned a number of locals.

Fawcett made seven expeditions between 1906 and 1924. He was mostly amicable with the locals through gifts, patience and courteous behaviour. In 1908, he traced the source of the Rio Verde (Brazil) and in 1910 made a journey to Heath River to find its source, having retired from the British army on 19 January. After a 1913 expedition, he supposedly claimed to have seen dogs with double noses. These may have been Double-nosed Andean tiger hounds.

Based on documentary research, Fawcett had by 1914 formulated ideas about a "lost city" he named "Z" somewhere in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil. He theorized that a complex civilization once existed in the Amazon region and that isolated ruins may have survived.[14] Fawcett also found a document known as Manuscript 512, written after explorations made in the sertão of the state of Bahia, and housed at the National Library of Rio de Janeiro. It is believed to be by Portuguese bandeirante João da Silva Guimarães, who wrote that in 1753 he'd discovered the ruins of an ancient city that contained arches, a statue, and a temple with hieroglyphics; the city is described in great detail without providing a specific location. This city became a secondary destination for Fawcett, after "Z".

At the beginning of the First World War Fawcett returned to Britain to serve with the Army as a Reserve Officer in the Royal Artillery, volunteering for duty in Flanders, and commanding an artillery brigade despite the fact that he was nearly fifty years of age. He was promoted from major to lieutenant-colonel on 1 March 1918, and received three mentions in dispatches from Douglas Haig, in November 1916, November 1917, and November 1918, and was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June 1917.

After the war Fawcett returned to Brazil to study local wildlife and archaeology. In 1920, he made a solo attempt to search for "Z", but ended after suffering from a fever and shooting his pack animal.

In 1925, with funding from a London-based group of financiers known as the Glove, Fawcett returned to Brazil with his eldest son Jack and Jack's best and longtime friend, Raleigh Rimell, for an exploratory expedition to find "Z". Fawcett left instructions stating that if the expedition did not return, no rescue expedition should be sent lest the rescuers suffer his fate.

Fawcett was a man with years of experience travelling, and had brought equipment such as canned foods, powdered milk, guns, flares, a sextant, and a chronometer. His travel companions were both chosen for their health, ability and loyalty to each other; Fawcett chose only two companions in order to travel lighter and with less notice to native tribes, as some were hostile towards outsiders.

On 20 April 1925 his final expedition departed from Cuiabá. In addition to his two principal companions, Fawcett was accompanied by two Brazilian labourers, two horses, eight mules, and a pair of dogs. The last communication from the expedition was on 29 May 1925 when Fawcett wrote, in a letter to his wife delivered by a native runner, that he was ready to go into unexplored territory with only Jack and Raleigh. They were reported to be crossing the Upper Xingu, a southeastern tributary river of the River Amazon. The final letter, written from Dead Horse Camp, gave their location and was generally optimistic.

Many people assumed that local Indians killed them, as several tribes were nearby at the time: the Kalapalos, the last tribe to have seen them, the Arumás, Suyás, and the Xavantes whose territory they were entering. The Kalapalo have an oral story of the arrival of three explorers which states that the three went east, and after five days the Kalapalo noticed that the group no longer made camp fires. The Kalapalo say that a very violent tribe most likely killed them. However, both of the younger men were lame and ill when last seen, and there is not any proof that they were murdered. It is plausible that they died of natural causes in the Brazilian jungle.

In 1927, a name-plate of Fawcett was found with an Indian tribe. In June 1933, a theodolite compass belonging to Fawcett was found near the Baciary Indians of Mato Grosso by Colonel Aniceto Botelho. However, the name-plate was from Fawcett's expedition five years earlier and had most likely been given as a gift to the chief of that Indian tribe. The compass was proved to have been left behind before he entered the jungle on his final journey.

Gerry Adams


Gerry Adams is an Irish republican politician and Teachta Dála (TD) for the constituency of Louth. From 1983 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2011, he was an abstentionist Westminster Member of Parliament for Belfast West. He is the president of Sinn Féin, the second largest political party in Northern Ireland and the largest nationalist party. From the late 1980s onwards, Adams was an important figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, initially following contact by the then Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume and subsequently with the Irish and British governments and then other parties. In 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) indicated that its armed campaign was over and that it is now exclusively committed to democratic politics. Under Adams, Sinn Féin changed its traditional policy of abstentionism towards Oireachtas Éireann, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, in 1986 and later took seats in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

Neil Blaney


Neil Terence Columba Blaney was an Irish politician. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1948 as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) representing Donegal East. Blaney served as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1957), Minister for Local Government (1957–1966) and Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (1966–1970). He was at one time Father of the Dáil.

Neil Blaney was born in 1922 in the rural Fanad Peninsula in the north of County Donegal, in Ireland. The second eldest of a family of eleven, Blaney's father Neal had been a commander of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Donegal during the War of Independence and the Civil War. He served as both a TD and as a Senator between 1927 and 1948. It was from his father that Blaney got his strong republican views and his first introduction to politics. He was educated locally at Tamney on the rugged Fanad Peninsula and later attended Saint Eunan's College in Letterkenny as a boarder. Blaney later worked as an organiser with the Irish National Vintners and Grocers Association.

Blaney was first elected to Dáil Éireann for the Donegal East constituency in a by-election in December 1948, following the death of his father from cancer. He also became a member of Donegal County Council. Upon his election Blaney was the youngest member of the Dáil. He remained on the backbenches for a number of years before he was one of a group of young party members handpicked by Seán Lemass to begin a re-organisation drive for the party following the defeat at the 1954 general election. Within the party Blaney gained fame by running the party's by-election campaigns throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He introduced the concept of cavalcades after his election victories in his constituency together with roadside bonfires. At the time this was an alien political concept in Ireland. Blaney also adopted wearing sunglasses, chewing gum and wearing bright ties and colourful suits. His dedicated bands of supporters earned the sobriquet 'the Donegal Mafia', and succeeded in getting Des O'Malley and Gerry Collins elected to the Dáil.

Following Fianna Fáil's victory at the 1957 general election Éamon de Valera, as Taoiseach, brought new blood into the Cabinet in the shape of Blaney, Jack Lynch, Kevin Boland and Micheál Ó Móráin. Blaney was appointed Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, becoming the first government minister from Donegal, however, he moved to the position of Minister for Local Government at the end of 1957 following the death of Seán Moylan. Blaney proved to be an innovative minister and his first task as minister was to prepare the groundwork for the referendum to scrap the proportional representation electoral system and replace it with the first-past-the-post voting system. The referendum failed to be passed, however, Blaney was retained in the post when Lemass succeeded de Valera as Taoiseach in 1959. In 1963 he introduced the Planning Act to rationalise planning throughout the local authorities in the state. This act also created the agency, An Forás Forbatha, to bring planning experts together. His department underwent a very large programme to provide piped water to rural homes. In 1965 Blaney introduced the Road Traffic Act which required that motorists take a driving test in roadworthy cars. During his tenure it became possible to pay rates by instalment and he also introduced legislation which entitled non-nationals to vote in local elections.

In 1966 Lemass resigned as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. The subsequent leadership election saw George Colley and Charles Haughey emerge as the two front-runners. Blaney was unimpressed with the choice and, with the support of the like-minded Kevin Boland, he threw his hat in the ring, declaring himself to be the "Radical Republican" candidate. However outside the Northwest and apart from Boland, Blaney failed to attract much support. After some pressure from Lemass the Cork politician, Jack Lynch, entered the race and was deemed to be an unbeatable candidate. Haughey and Boland withdrew in support of Lynch, however, Colley forced a contest. He was defeated heavily with Lynch becoming party leader and Taoiseach. In the subsequent cabinet reshuffle Blaney was appointed Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.


In 1969, when conflict broke out in Northern Ireland, Blaney was one of the first to express strong Irish republican views, views which contradicted the policy of the Irish Government, in support of Northern nationalists. Blaney was a native of Ulster and was affected by the outbreak of violence in parts of his home province. He was concerned about the plight of the Republican majority in West Tyrone and in Derry, areas that bordered his constituency in West Ulster. From around late 1968 onwards, Blaney formed and presided over an unofficial Nationalist group in Leinster House popularly known as 'the Letterkenny Table', so named because this group of politicians used to meet at a certain table in either the Dáil bar or the Dáil restaurant. The group was dominated by Blaney up until his death. He had also been one of a four-member Cabinet sub-committee set up to decide on government policy to Northern Ireland together with Haughey, Pádraig Faulkner and Joseph Brennan. A fund of £100,000 was set up to give to the nationalist people in the form of aid. However, those involved have denied that the government supported the importation of arms.


There was general surprise when, in an incident known as the Arms Crisis, Blaney, along with Haughey, was sacked from Lynch's cabinet amid allegations of the use of the funds to import arms for use by the IRA. Opposition leader Liam Cosgrave was informed by the Garda that a plot to import arms existed and included government members. Cosgrave told Lynch he knew of the plot and would announce it in the Dáil next day if he didn't act. Lynch asked for Haughey and Blaney's resignations. Both men refused, saying they did nothing illegal. Lynch then advised President de Valera to sack Haughey and Blaney from the government. Boland resigned in sympathy, while Micheál Ó Móráin was dismissed one day earlier in a preemptive strike to ensure that he was not the Minister for Justice when the crisis broke. Lynch chose government chief whip Des O'Malley for the role. Haughey and Blaney were subsequently tried in court along with an army Officer, Captain James Kelly, and Albert Luykx, a Belgian businessman who allegedly used his contacts to buy the arms. After trial all the accused were acquitted but many refused to recognise the verdict of the courts. Although cleared of wrongdoing, Blaney's ministerial career was brought to an end.

Lynch subsequently moved against Blaney so as to isolate him in the party. He was defeated by George Colley in a vote for the position of Joint Honorary Treasurer at the 1971 Ardfheis, while his constituency colleague, Liam Cunningham, had been appointed a Parliamentary Secretary in the cabinet reshuffle. In the Dáil Blaney abstained on a motion of no confidence on the worthiness of cabinet minister Jim Gibbons for office, sponsored by the opposition. Paudge Brennan and Desmond Foley acted similarly and, while the government survived, they were all expelled from the parliamentary party. When Blaney and his supporters tried to organise the party's national collection independently Lynch acted and in 1972 Blaney was expelled from the Fianna Fáil party for 'conduct unbecoming'.

Following his expulsion from Fianna Fáil, Kevin Boland tried to persuade Blaney to join the Aontacht Éireann party he was creating but Blaney declined. Instead, he contested all subsequent elections for Independent Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party, an organisation that he built up, chiefly in the County Donegal constituencies from disaffected members of the Fianna Fáil party who remained loyal to him along with a large number of Republicans. Throughout the 1970s there were frequent calls for his re-admittance to Fianna Fáil but the most vocal opponents of this move were Fianna Fáil delegates from County Donegal.

At the 1979 European elections Blaney topped the poll in the Connacht–Ulster constituency to the annoyance of Fianna Fáil. He sat in the Technical Group of Independents and served as chair of the group along with the Italian Radical Marco Pannella and Danish left-wing Eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde. He narrowly lost the seat at the 1984 election but was returned to serve as an MEP in 1989 election where he sat with the regionalist Rainbow Group. He also canvassed for IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election, in which Sands was elected to Westminster.

Blaney held his Dáil seat until his death from cancer at the age of 73 on 8 November 1995 in Dublin.

Uwe Johnson


Uwe Johnson was a German writer, editor, and scholar.

Johnson was born in Kammin in Pomerania. His father was a Swedish-descent peasant from Mecklenburg and his mother was from Pommern. At the end of World War II in 1945, he fled with his family to Anklam; his father died in a Soviet internment camp. The family eventually settled in Güstrow, where he attended John-Brinckman-Oberschule 1948–1952. He went on to study German philology, first in Rostock (1952–54), then in Leipzig (1954–56). His Diplomarbeit was on Ernst Barlach. Due to his lack of political support for the Communist regime of East Germany, he was suspended from the University on 17 June 1953 but was later reinstated.

Beginning in 1953, Johnson worked on the novel Ingrid Babendererde, rejected by various publishing houses and unpublished during his lifetime.

In 1956, Johnson's mother left for West Berlin. As a result, he was not allowed to work a normal job in the East. Unemployed for political reasons, he translated Herman Melville's Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (the translation was published in 1961) and began to write the novel Mutmassungen über Jakob, published in 1959 by Suhrkamp in Frankfurt am Main. Johnson himself moved to West Berlin at this time. He promptly became associated with Gruppe 47, which Hans Magnus Enzensberger once described as "the Central Café of a literature without a capital."

During the early 1960s, Johnson continued to write and publish fiction, and also supported himself as a translator, mainly from English-language works, and as an editor. He travelled to America in 1961; the following year he was married, had a daughter, received a scholarship to Villa Massimo, Rome, and won the Prix International.

1964 - for the Berliner Tagesspiegel, Reviews of GDR television programmes boycotted by the West German press (published under the title "Der 5. Kanal", "The Fifth Channel", 1987).

In 1965, Johnson travelled again to America. He then edited Bertolt Brecht's Me-ti. Buch der Wendungen. Fragmente 1933-1956 (Me-ti: the Book of Changes. Fragments, 1933-1956). From 1966 through 1968 he worked in New York City as a textbook editor at Harcourt, Brace & World and lived with his family in an apartment at 243 Riverside Drive (Manhattan). During this time (in 1967) he began work on his magnum opus, the Jahrestage and edited Das neue Fenster (The new window), a textbook of German-language readings for English-speaking students learning German.

On 1 January 1967 protesters from Johnson's own West Berlin apartment building founded Kommune 1. He first learned about it by reading it in the newspaper. Returning to West Berlin in 1969, he became a member of the West German PEN Center and of the Akademie der Künste (Academy of the Arts). In 1970, he published the first volume of his Jahrestage (Anniversaries). Two more volumes were to follow in the next three years, but the fourth volume would not appear until 1983.

Meanwhile, in 1972 Johnson became Vice President of the Academy of the Arts and was the editor of Max Frisch's Tagebuch 1966-1971. In 1974, he moved to Sheerness on the English Isle of Sheppey; shortly after, he broke off work on Jahrestage due partly to health problems and partly to writer's block.

This was not a completely unproductive period. Johnson published some shorter works and continued to do some work as an editor. In 1977, he was admitted to the Darmstädter Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (Darmstadt Academy for Speech and Writing); two years later he informally withdrew. In 1979 he gave a series of lectures on poetics at the University of Frankfurt (published posthumously as Begleitumstände. Frankfurter Vorlesungen).

In 1983, the fourth volume of Jahrestage was published, but Johnson broke off a reading tour for health reasons. He died on 22 February 1984 in Sheerness in England.

Norman Leavitt


In films from 1941, American character actor Norman Leavitt spent much of his career in uncredited bits and supporting roles. Leavitt can briefly be seen in such "A" pictures of the 1940s and 1950s as The Inspector General (1949) and Harvey (1950). His larger roles include Folsom in the 1960 budget western Young Jesse James. Three Stooges fans will immediately recognize Norman Leavitt The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), in which he player scientist Emil Sitka's sinister butler--who turned out to be a spy from Mars! - Hal Erickson, Rovi