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Sunday 9 January 2005

Terrorists, criminals and drug dealers are shopped on web

ARTHUR Morgan, the cuddly Sinn Fein TD for Louth, became seriously worked up last week over Dermot Ahern - not the Minister for Foreign Affairs, but the website that stole his name for a laugh. 

For the glorious few days it remained uncensored, 'Dermot Ahern's Dundalk Blog Page' was packed with eye-popping posts from the public responding enthusiastically to the invitation inter alia to shop local terrorists, criminals, drug dealers and the like. 

Dundalk is popular with people of the republican persuasion (unkind people have nicknamed it El Paso ), so the lists of alleged terrorists and criminals were as long as some of their names were famous. 

Prominent were such Real IRA luminaries as Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell and Colm Murphy, presently languishing in jail in the Free State, but there were plenty more mentioned who are not household names. 

Among the distinguished IRA names were Slab Murphy and Arthur himself. Though nowadays a blameless politician, Arthur once did time for possession of weapons, and one of the posters was extremely amusing about what he used to get up to for the 'cause'. 

Now you might have thought that a representative of a party that never stops banging on about the evils of Section 31 and any form of censorship that ever affected them might have thought twice before demanding others be silenced, but Arthur demanded that the web-server axe the site - "which shouldn't be there under rules of defamation and such like", as he so eloquently put it. 

First the terrorists and criminals streams went and then the whole site, for Vodafone - about some of whose employees interesting allegations of indiscretion were being made - was as peeved as Arthur. 

Admittedly, Arthur's response was pretty restrained compared to some indignant republicans who livened up the debate by promising to locate the sitemaster and shoot him in the head. But he has demonstrated the old-fashioned and repressive nature of Sinn Fein. You can close down the occasional site, but free speech cannot be long suppressed on the web. 

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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