Cola donation leaves a bad taste in the mouth By Lindy McDowell http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/opinion/story.jsp?story=438214 The revelation that Coca Cola gave $5000 to Sinn Fein in America is the oddest thing. Odd on a couple of counts. First of all it's a bit odd that the news has not created more of a hooha over here. Imagine if it had been the DUP who'd got that Coke cash . . . Gerry Kelly would have had kittens. It's also odd that a major concern like Coca Cola does not appear to have been savvy enough to spot that giving money to the political wing of a terrorist army might be problematic from a PR point of view. In defence a spokeswoman for Coca Cola points out that the money "was not intended as a political donation. Coca Cola gave the money towards a St Patrick's Day event which was honouring Irish Americans in Atlanta." Didn't they ask who exactly the money was going to? Which organisation in other words, was going to declare the donation in its accounts? In fairness to the marketing people in America, the name Sinn Fein may not immediately have rung a bell - they may not have been aware of the IRA link. Of just who the IRA are and what they are responsible for. This week by cruel coincidence, a bleak scene played out in Co Louth would have enlightened them as to the nature of the armed wing of the movement into whose political coffers their five grand had gone. On Shelling Hill Beach, the McConville family were being reunited with the earthly remains of the mother who was quite literally ripped from their arms 31 years ago. It is hard not to be emotional about Jean McConville and about what her family endured. It is a story which needs no hype to convey the full horror. The bare, awful facts speak for themselves. Jean McConville was a Protestant woman from East Belfast who married a Catholic man from West Belfast and lived with him in Divis. They had ten children. When her husband died from cancer, Jean was left to rear them on her own. One day a young soldier was badly injured in an IRA attack close to her home. Unable to bear his cries of pain, Jean went out and placed a cushion under his head. And with that simple act of humanity, she signed her own death warrant. First she was savagely beaten by the IRA. Then just days before Christmas 1972, a gang of a dozen people, including, shockingly, a number of women came to her home and dragged the terrified woman away from her screaming, sobbing children. They had to prise the children's fingers from their mother's arms to do so. What sort of women did that? Were they mothers themselves? In the intervening 31 long years have they ever thought back to that dreadful Christmas scene? Are they tortured by guilt with the role they played in her murder? Or is it something they have buried and forgotten about as completely and as mercilessly as the IRA murdered, buried and forgot about Jean McConville? Jean was one of what have come to be known in Northern Ireland as the Disappeared. These were people taken, murdered and buried by the IRA. Three of their bodies were found only after the IRA finally admitted its guilt. The same IRA is accused of "disappearing" another young man Gareth O'Connor, only a few months ago. Jean's oldest child was 16 when her mother was taken. She and her brothers and sisters were separated and taken into care. They were told cruel lies - that their mother had deserted them and run off with a soldier. Now they say that all they want for her is to have a Christian burial in a grave they can mark with a proper headstone. But in a way Jean has had a walking, living epitaph this last 31 years - the sons and daughters who kept her memory alive, who clung to the truth that their mother loved them and was a good woman murdered by fanatics for a simple act of charity. It is poignantly symbolic that $5000, the amount of money the firm gave to Sinn Fein, would just about cover the cost of a funeral for Jean McConville.