Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Utter Craziness of COIR
'Their ideal is based on a Catholic Ireland'
They're clearly anti-Lisbon, but Cóir's aims appear to be those of a religious movement, writes Political Correspondent Conor McMorrow
88 days to save the country: key dates over the next 12 weeks - 12 September: the Green party holds a members conference in Athlone to debate Nama - 16 September: the Dáil returns to debate the Nama legislation - 2 October: the country votes on the Lisbon referendum - 10 October*: the Green Party holds a special convention to vote on Nama and, crucially, the re-negotiated programme for government between Fianna Fáil and the Greens. - 2 December*: Brian Lenihan presents the 'toughest budget in a generation – part III' yet to be confirmed but expected to be held then
'If Youth Defence are the Cubs, then Cóir are definitely the Scouts". That is how one observer views the relationship between anti-Lisbon treaty group Cóir and the extreme anti-abortion group Youth Defence.
Cóir stirred up much debate last week when it launched a controversial anti-Lisbon poster campaign. But who or what is Cóir? Where did it come from and what are its members' motives?
The group describes itself as a voluntary, non-profit campaign group which was founded after the rejection of the Nice treaty in 2001 was reversed in a second referendum.
"We came together in 2003 specifically to defend Ireland's sovereignty, which we believe is under attack from Europe," said spokesman Richard Greene last year.
Cóir literature on Lisbon distributed in July claimed the Irish people "are being bullied into accepting a Godless Empire" and called on people to say the "Holy Rosary daily until 2 October".
A source close to the group, who did not wish to be named, told the Sunday Tribune that Cóir is the culmination of a group of people "who have had many incarnations. They are about 10 organisations rolled into one."
He said, "It all goes back to the MacMathuna family, the matriarch of that family being Una Bean MacMathuna who famously described politicians who are in favour of divorce as 'wife swapping sodomites'. Although she is not formally involved she has a lot of influence over Youth Defence, which share some of the same personnel and a premises with Cóir."
The source refers to Cóir and its various incarnations as 'Continuity Ireland' as they are "ultra nationalist" and they would "find themselves at home politically with the politics of Ruairi Ó Brádaigh and the more pious elements of Republican Sinn Féin."
It is understood that some of the people involved in Cóir ran a newspaper called The Irish Family Press which ceased publication in the last two years.
The final issue of that newspaper claimed that the paper would be available online in future but it has yet to appear.
The source added: "Their basic ideal is based on a Gaelic, Catholic and free Ireland. To be Irish and not Catholic would be anathema to their beliefs. That is why they would have had a greater welcome for Polish immigrants, who were Catholic, than immigrants from areas such as Asia."
The same group of people was involved in the No to Nice campaign in 2002 where people like Justin Barrett were heavily involved. Barrett is believed to be still involved with Cóir but he does not have any public involvement.
An observer said: "They are Libertarian in their politics and would not believe in state involvement of any aspect of family life."
A women called Mena Bean Uí Chribin is believed to be involved on the fringes of the organisation. The name of this post mistress cropped up during the infamous Roscommon incest case earlier this year when it emerged that she lobbied social workers asking that the children in the case be left with their mother.
Many of the devoutly Catholic members of Cóir are ardent followers of the Latin mass and prominent Cóir member Scott Schittl is believed to have completed three years of training to become a Latin priest in America at one point.
A source close to the organisation claimed that a number of people involved in Cóir are also involved in a project called TruthTV which goes into schools and promotes pro-life advocacy. Some members were also involved in a campaign against embryo research in UCC and the pro-life Mother and Child campaign.
One observer noted: "The same group of people are involved in campaigning for all these issues and they operate out of the same building on Capel Street in Dublin."
Even though the group advocates hard-line Catholic issues there is understood to be some bad blood between mainstream Catholicism and Cóir members. The Catholic bishops have supported Lisbon while Cóir vehemently opposes it.
A source close to Cóir added: "Youth Defence themselves derive money from evangelical circles in America. They are good at preaching in these circles about Ireland being one of the last bastions of Catholicism left on earth and they get young US volunteers to come over on the back of that."
One politician noted: "Some members of Cóir grew out of the militant nationalist wing of the old IRA and they have a vision that Ireland is better off going it alone without foreign interference."
They have a number of articulate spokespeople such as Richard Greene, a former Fianna Fáil member and later a Green party councillor. One source pointed out that Greene is not associated with Youth Defence and he "may not be into same brand of traditional Catholicism as the MacMathunas".
A politician, who does not support Cóir, remarked: "The Yes side will be just as good at oversimplifying their arguments as Cóir have been on their posters. The success of Cóir so far has been that they have learned the lesson of liberal activists on the other side as they have tended to keep their arguments simple.
"They go for big impact and a simple message and they are not too concerned about the truth.
"They seem to have people on the ground and Youth Defence seems to be attracting quite a degree of student support."
September 6, 2009