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October 18, 2004

News 10/18/04 - UN Chief Visits Derry College

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 10/18/04 UN Chief Annan Visits Derry College
EX 10/18/04 Opin: SF's Role: Keep Focus On Saving Peace Process
MG 10/17/04 Sex-Change Husband Fights Irish State Ban
IO 10/17/04 Mass For Drowned Boys In Áras An Uachtaráin
LT 10/18/04 Rare Cancer Gene Found In Five Sisters
GU 10/17/04 Film: Inside I'm Dancing
LT 10/18/04 Inside I'm Fuming: Disabled Want To Boycott The Savoy
IH 10/18/04 Book: The Last Of The Celts (Languages)


UN Chief Annan Visits College

Peace building around the world is to be the theme of a speech by
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Londonderry.

Mr Annan is visiting the University of Ulster's Magee College
campus on Monday, in what is understood to be the first visit to
Northern Ireland by a UN secretary general.

He will talk about the UN's work in building peace around the
world, but any reference he makes to the Northern Ireland political
situation is expected to be very brief.

Former SDLP leader John Hume holds the Tip O'Neill chair in peace
studies at the university, and his status as a Nobel Prize-winner
has been credited with attracting a long line of high profile
figures to Magee College.

Past speakers have included Senator Hillary Clinton and Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern.

Britain's former ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said
he believed the wider significance of Mr Annan's visit would be

After delivering his lecture, Mr Annan will head to London for
talks with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/18 06:32:19 GMT


Opin: SF's Future Role - Keep Focus On Saving The Peace Process

CONFUSION among the public and grassroots Fianna Fáil is easy to
understand given the mixed signals emanating from both Government
and the country's biggest party on the question of getting into bed
with Sinn Féin.

Significantly, in his keynote speech at the annual Wolfe Tone
celebration in Bodenstown yesterday, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made no
direct reference to the issue.

Only when questioned by the media did he play down any prospect of
an early marriage. He also poured cold water on the optimistic tone
of last week's remarks by Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern who said it
was "only a matter of time" before Sinn Féin was in government in
the Republic.

If anything, the feeling of confusion deepened further yesterday as
Justice Minister Michael McDowell reiterated the claim that senior
members of Sinn Féin sit on the IRA Army Council. For the minister
to remain tight-lipped because he doesn't want to be accused of
"wrecking" the peace process is a cop out. He should either put up
or shut up.

Confusion also surrounded the identity of two un-named FF deputies
who reportedly said they would leave the party if such a coalition
was formed.

Further muddying the waters, backbench TD Ned O'Keeffe went on a
characteristic solo run last week, saying there was no reason why
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin should not share power.

It was noteworthy that as the Taoiseach was speaking yesterday, the
Minister for Foreign Affairs stood passively by, showing no glimmer
of his up-beat feelings about Sinn Féin. Asked to clarify where the
party stands on the question, the Taoiseach refused to speculate.
Keeping his cards close to his chest, he reiterated the
Government's position it would only be possible to move to a new
stage when decommissioning was complete, when paramilitarism had
ended, and when there was only one recognised army in the country.
Democracy and private armies do not mix.

Sending out a loud message to loyalists, he said it was vital to
get agreement on devolution as well as policing and justice. Then,
he believed, it would be reasonable to expect the DUP to share
power with republicans.

Sinn Féin's rapid growth as a political force in the Republic
prompts the question not whether but when Fianna Fáil will invite
them to form a minority government. Ultimately, realpolitik will
dictate the terms of that marriage.

Significantly, the broad canvas depicted by Sinn Féin president
Gerry Adams includes dealing with the peace process, continuing to
build for Irish unity and independence plus "preparing to be in
government in the future".

Suggestions Mr Ahern's remarks were carefully choreographed,
signify that a carrot was being held out to the DUP before the next
round of talks aimed at getting the power sharing train back on
track. That is the bigger picture. For the long-suffering people of
the North, it overshadows all other considerations.

The problem is that with local elections looming there next spring,
and with Britain set to take up the EU presidency next year, the
North's future could once again be put on the back burner.

The stark reality is until the peace process is salvaged, the
North's fledging democracy and hopes of creating a normal life for
its people remain at risk. For them, the prospect of their dreams
being long-fingered until 2006, is an appalling vista.


Sex-Change Husband Fights Irish State Ban

17 October 2004 09:42

Because Nicholas used to be Nadia, the Irish state refuses to
recognise his marriage. Now the 32-year-old Russian businessman who
was born a woman is taking legal action to force the government to
accept that his birth certificate can be changed.

Ireland is the last of only three countries in the Council of
Europe which does not treat transgender people equally. Like
Albania and Andorra, the Republic does not allow post-operative
transsexuals to alter their birth certificates.

A successful entrepreneur in the import/export business, Nicholas
Krivenko says he and his German wife, Sybille Hintze, will be
forced to leave Ireland if the state continues to deny them
residency on the basis of not recognising their marriage. The
couple live in Quin, Co Clare and married legally and in full
knowledge of the registrar in a civil ceremony in Limerick City
five years ago.

'Nowhere on the marriage form did it say "Have you changed your
sex?" But I gave the registrar my old birth certificate as a girl,
my new one and a translation of them from Russian into English at
the ceremony. I did not hide my past. I gave them the opportunity
to find out.'

The Krivenkos problems started when he applied for residency and
the right to apply for jobs in Ireland.

'A member of the gardai [police] said he couldn't sign our
application because he knew I had changed sex. When our application
was processed, the state objected to the validity of the marriage.
They said "We can't accept Nadia to Nicholas." '

Nicholas fought a legal battle to gain full residency status, which
if the couple moved to Germany would have been automatic. The
Federal Republic recognises the marriages of transgender people.
Nicholas had his sex change at a private clinic in Germany ten
years ago.

'We want to stay in Ireland because we have no problems with
ordinary Irish people. When our problems started, people rallied
around. Even the local butcher in our village came around to the
house with his wife and a couple of bottles of wine. They said they
came over to give us our support. As the evening went on, the
butcher's wife said to me "Now, I know you are a man because you've
left the toilet seat up." The only prejudice we get is from central

The next step in the battle for legal recognition is for Nicholas
to apply for unconditional residency. Following that, he will seek
full Irish citizenship.

'I think I have made something of a contribution to Irish society.
When I arrived here in 1995 from Germany I was in charge of
exporting 10 per cent of all Irish butter to Russia, over 120,000
tonnes. All my wife and I want is to be given full legal status
because once they recognise the marriage I am entitled to apply for
work as Sybille is an EU citizen. But if this doesn't work, we
might resettle in Germany as there is no problem there.'

Fluent in English and French as well as having a working knowledge
of Japanese, Nicholas has lived all over the world. His father used
to work for a state-owned trading company in the former Soviet

'We want to stay in Ireland if we can, but that will depend on
getting the law changed that will allow me to apply for jobs. I'm
entitled to work as self-employed but not to seek jobs in the
employment market. Now we are still in limbo.'

Nicholas is co-chair of the recently founded Transgender Equality
Network Ireland (Temi). Sarah Duffy, 40, the network's co-founder,
says it wants legislation similar to that introduced into the
British parliament in July, which gave legal recognition in the UK
to those who alter their gender.

The Dublin-born pre-op transsexual says that the Dail and Senate
should follow suit.

'You change your name by deed poll in Ireland. You can change your
gender on passports and drivers licences, even your social security
documents. But in Ireland you still can't alter a birth
certificate, even though being born in the wrong sex is a
recognised medical condition. '

Sarah, who was only out in public as a woman for the second time in
her life last Friday, adds that Temi will be using the European
Human Rights Act as a means of forcing the Irish state to change
the law regarding birth certificates. The Southern Health Board has
recently granted Temi 5 000 euros to help build up a national
network of the Irish transgender community.

'In the 1970s and 80s, women fought for equality. In the 1990s,
gays and lesbians won their struggle for equal rights with the
ending of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In the 21st
century, we are the last group of people fighting the battle for
personal freedom.'

Nicholas meanwhile is adamant that he will not give up the fight to
change Irish law for the transgendered.

'Even Iran, in certain circumstances, allows for people to change
their sex and all official documents changed thereafter. Why can't
Ireland do the same?'

- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004


Mass For Drowned Boys In Áras An Uachtaráin

17/10/2004 - 14:11:47

President Mary McAleese is holding a mass in Áras an Uachtaráin for
the two young boys who drowned in a private swimming pool in the
North on Friday.

A joint funeral for four-year-old Shea Laverty and two-year-old
David Smith will be held tomorrow in Newry.

The President expressed her profound shock and said she feels
intensely sad for the families of the two boys.

Newry Parish Priest Fr Richard Neachtain said he hopes the two
families will be able to gain strength and support from each other,
and that they have been joined together in grief by the shared


Rare Cancer Gene Found In Five Sisters

Nicola Tallant

WHILE one in every 12 Irish women can be expected to develop breast
cancer, the phenomenon of all five sisters in one Dublin family
contracting the illness initially baffled doctors.

But the tragedy of the Woods sisters, two of whom died, led to
scientists discovering the genetic reasons underlying breast
cancer, according to a consultant who treated them.

The surviving three sisters had mastectomies, and now the next
generation of the family is being monitored for a gene mutation
that leaves women with up to an 85% chance of getting breast

Research by Peter Daly, a consultant at St James's hospital, helped
identify BRCA2 as the cause of the sisters contracting the disease.
Scientists have identified two mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2
genes that increase cancer risk. Daly estimates that 5% of the
1,500 new cases each year are because of a genetic predisposition.

"Before the Woods case came along we knew of the existence of
BRCA1, but it was mainly through them that BRCA2 was discovered,"
he said. "The family seems to carry a particularly aggressive form,
and it strikes young."

The professor said screening has been made available for Woods
family members who want to check if they are carrying the gene. But
lack of funding means other families who have a high incidence of
cancer are not being offered proper screening services, he claims.

A daughter of Marian Woods, one of the women who died, has already
opted to have her breasts removed after being informed she carries
the gene.

In 1982 Ann Woods, then aged 33 and a mother of twin daughters, was
the first of the sisters to discover she had breast cancer.

"I had lost a lot of hair and decided to go to my GP to tell him
that I thought I had a lump on my breast. I was examined and he
said yes, it was the size of a large egg," she said. "That was on a
Tuesday. On the Thursday I went to see a consultant and almost
immediately had a mastectomy. After that I had a year's

Just as Ann Woods started to recover, her sister Alice was
diagnosed with the same disease. Then a third sister, Marian,
realised that she had a lump. She had one breast removed, and was
tested again, only to learn that her other breast was affected.

Doctors asked the other two sisters to have tests. While Breda was
given the all clear, her eldest sister Betty, 46, tested positive.

She recalled: "The doctor said, 'you have a lump'. I didn't believe
him. But he got my finger and showed me where. He said it is coming
out, whether it is malignant or not. It was Christmas and we were
all trying to make it as good as possible while looking after
Marian's children and realising Alice was terminally ill."

Daly began genetically screening the sisters. DNA tests eventually
confirmed that the family had inherited a rare breast-cancer gene.

Alice died in August 1987. By 1990, when Breda was told she too had
breast cancer, Marian, the youngest, was seriously ill. She died
the following year.

Marian's eldest daughter Jessica was 13 at the time. She and her
siblings were placed in an orphanage in Dun Laoghaire so they could
be kept together.

Ann's daughter Tanya, 30, a mother of three, was one of the first
of the next generation to be found positive. "Sometimes you are
struck with fear and other times you get on with life," she said.

Marian's daughter Jessica, now 26, didn't hesitate to have surgery
when she tested positive. "When I found out, there wasn't really
much of a waiting period because I didn't want to know if I had
cancer or not. All I wanted to know was if I had the gene. There
were no guarantees that I was safe and I wasn't willing to take my
time making a decision that I knew I would have to make

Daly says Ireland is behind Europe in terms of cancer- detecting
genetics. "Medical genetics was seen as a dirty word for a long
time because people associated it with abortion. We have a lot of
catching up to do.

"We hopefully will screen all women every year from the age of 50,
which is the maximum risk time for breast cancer. But for women
like those in the Woods family, this is no good. They need to be
singled out and given attention."

The Woods will tell their story on RTE's Would You Believe
programme next Sunday at 10.25pm.


Inside I'm Dancing

Philip French
Sunday October 17, 2004
The Observer

After the dispiriting English road movie Heartlands, Damien
O'Donnell returns to the considerable form he demonstrated in his
debut, East Is East, with Inside I'm Dancing, made in his native
Ireland. This funny, touching, affirmative film is not, as the
title suggests, a biopic of Victor Sylvester. It's an account of
the friendship between two men in their early twenties confined to
wheelchairs. Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy) suffers from a degenerative
form of muscular dystrophy and has a very short life expectancy.
Michael Connolly (Steven Robertson) has cerebral palsy and his
speech is virtually unintelligible.

There is something of a cinematic tradition here - the use of the
wheelchair as an announcement of vulnerability and confinement, at
once a prison and a source of freedom, a machine that becomes an
extension of the self. The people involved are both coming to terms
with their situation while refusing to accept that they are set
apart from the rest of humanity. Half a century ago Marlon Brando
made his screen debut as a paraplegic Second World War veteran in
The Men. Jon Voight in Coming Home and Tom Cruise in Born on the
Fourth of July were Oscar-nominated as paraplegic Vietnam vets. The
crippled Lionel Barrymore spent his last 16 years in Hollywood
acting in a wheelchair and Christopher Reeve, whom we were mourning
last week, played the wheel chair-borne photographer in a remake of
Hitchcock's Rear Window, a role created by James Stewart. Richard
Widmark became a famous screen villain overnight by pushing an old
lady in a wheelchair downstairs in Kiss of Death. Hitchcock in his
signature appearance in Topaz and Stan Laurel in Blockheads both
get laughs by leaping out of wheelchairs to greet friends.

Rory, the young man with muscular dystrophy, is a silver-tongued
nonconformist raging against his condition and the institution it
confines him to. His cinematic predecessors include Malcolm
McDowell in Bryan Forbes's The Raging Moon, John Savage in Richard
Donner's Inside Moves and Eric Stolz in The Waterdance (directed by
the paraplegic Neal Jimenez), all wheelchair-borne rebels with a

In a Dublin home for the disabled that carries the patronising
slogan 'A Special Home for Special People', Rory insults the staff,
defies their rules and stirs up his fellow patients. In particular
he befriends Michael, a quiet conformist whose terrible speech
defect produced by cerebral palsy has cut him off from the world.
Rory becomes his interpreter, realising how articulate and
intelligent he is. He takes Michael on defiant sprees in the city,
funded from the collection boxes they've been rattling in the
streets. This is funny, defiant stuff in the style of McMurphy in
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .

But the home isn't held up to ridicule and Brenda Fricker as its
head is no Nurse Ratchett, just a kindly, devoted woman, prim and
conventional, and insisting on gratitude, courtesy and respect for
authority. Rory's ultimate act of rebellion is to convince a state
board that he and Michael should establish independent lives in
their own flat. He forces Michael's father, a wealthy lawyer who
has callously washed his hands of his son, to provide this
accommodation. They need a full-time personal assistant and, after
rejecting numerous applicants, they recruit Siobhán (Romola Garai),
a likeable, buxom shelf-stacker in a supermarket. With no special
training, Siobhán brings warmth and a bracing candour to the ménage
and the boys' relationship with her becomes part of their
sentimental, social and psychological education. The three of them
act superbly together.

There are odd, slightly sticky moments, but O'Donnell, his
screenwriters Jeffrey Caine and Christian O'Reilly and his cast
avoid the sentimentality and the triumphalism so often found in
movies about the disabled. The final shot makes a powerful visual
statement. Michael is alone in his chair moving confidently along a
crowded Dublin street. The camera cranes up and away from him until
he can no longer be seen. He's become an independent figure, part
of the common crowd of humanity.

Details: 2004, Ireland/Rest of the world, Drama, cert 15, 90 mins,
Dir: Damien O' Donnell, Damien O'Donnell

With: James McAvoy, Romola Garai, Steven Robertson

Summary: Rory, who has muscular dystrophy, is admitted to a care
home - and there develops a close friendship with Michael, who has
cerebral palsy and finds it hard to make himself understood


Inside I'm Fuming: Disabled Want To Boycott The Savoy

Jan Battles

DISABLED groups want a boycott of Dublin's best-known cinema
because wheelchair users can't get in to see a new film . . . about

Inside I'm Dancing, a buddy movie about two wheelchair users, is
being shown in a non-wheelchair-accessible screen of the Savoy on
O'Connell Street.

The groups believe the insult is all the more pointed because the
film depicts the obstacles faced by disabled people due to lack of
wheelchair access.

The movie, directed by Damien O'Donnell, opened on Friday in screen
two of the Savoy, which is upstairs. Screen one, the main
auditorium on the ground floor, is the only one accessible to
wheelchairs. This is showing the cartoon Shark Tale.

"People in wheelchairs, their families and friends should vote with
their feet and their wheels and go elsewhere," said Eugene Callan,
the chairman of the Centre for Independent Living, the organisation
which inspired the film. "We would like the Savoy to put a little
bit of thought into perhaps putting a lift in and improving access
at the front door.

"We are encouraging people to go to cinemas which are for
everybody, not just those lucky enough to be able walk up stairs,"
said Callan, who has been paralysed since 18.

The Savoy was not made wheelchair-friendly during a recent

"It's very disillusioning for anybody in a wheelchair," said Olan
McGowan of the Irish Wheelchair Association. In Britain, new
regulations mean businesses providing services to the public are
required to be accessible to the disabled, but the same is not true
in Ireland.

Inside I'm Dancing stars Steven Robertson and James McAvoy, who
escape from a home for the disabled and experience life in the
outside world.

Ster Century in Dublin's Liffey Valley, the country's largest
cinema complex, is showing the film on two screens, one of them its
largest. Nigel Drake, the general manager, said: "We took two
prints of the film, so we can take 30-40 wheelchair users at any
one time across the two screens."


Book: The Last Of The Celts

Reviewed by Michael Kenney The Boston Globe
Monday, October 18, 2004

The reported death last month in China of the last known speaker of
nushu, a language used only by women in a Hunan province, gave some
measure of human interest to what anthropologists and linguists
call "language death." Most, like aboriginal languages in Australia
and North America, disappear without receiving even that small
measure of attention.

The Celtic languages are not likely to die so unnoticed but, writes
Marcus Tanner in his lively exploration of their status today,
they, too, are doomed to "finally disappear" - as "the Celtic sea,
having retreated into disconnected pools, reduces to puddles."

In the meantime, there are governmental efforts to preserve the
languages to consider, as well as the future of present-day Celtic
revivals, "predicated on the existence, somewhere, of people for
whom these languages, traditions and beliefs actually mean

Tanner is a British journalist whose family, into his father's time
and living in London, spoke Welsh at home - but not to the
children, and he did not learn it. "The Last of the Celts" had its
genesis in a search for ancestral graves in Wales after returning
from lengthy assignments in the Balkans.

As late as the 1880s, Tanner writes, Celtic, in its various forms,
was the dominant language, spoken by 1.5 million people in much of
Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall,
and by another two million in Brittany. Today, that 3.5 million is
down to about 800,000.

Much of the charm in Tanner's book comes from his accounts of
encounters with Celtic-speakers - on the Uists, off Scotland's
northwest coast, where he "heard Gaelic used routinely for the
first time"; at An Spideal, northwest of Galway, in the studios of
TG4, the television station "that some see as holding the key to
the future survival of the Irish language," and at a pub in Saint-
Rivoal, with two Breton-language "learners," eavesdropping on "a
trio of grizzled old farmers in cloth caps, talking quietly in

In Ireland's Gaeltacht, the officially recognized region on its
western coast, Irish is "maintained with government support as the
first language of schools, local government, business and the
airwaves." It stands, writes Tanner, as a kind of "cultural museum
where a precarious older way of life could be maintained."

Tanner discovers an interesting twist to that museum quality in
West Belfast, where an informal kind of gaeltacht exists on several

The Breton language and culture survived France's centralizing
policy so well that midway into the last century it was "the most
vigorous and widely spoken Celtic language." But Breton
nationalists supported Germany during World War II, hoping to be
rewarded with an autonomous state. The decision, Tanner writes,
"had enormous consequences for Brittany after the war, when even
the most timid expression of support for autonomy would be
stigmatized as Nazi and collaborationist."

So while the estimate of 250,000 Breton speakers sounds fairly
healthy compared to the estimate of 80,000 Gaelic speakers in
Ireland, Tanner writes, "Breton-speakers do not have the fallback
position of a gaeltacht."

Most intriguing of Tanner's reports comes from Argentina, where a
Welsh-speaking homeland, settled in 1865, has survived the
vicissitudes of the harsh Patagonian climate and government
hostility. Tanner visits Gaiman, which has preserved its Welsh
appearance, but also where "Welshness is not an attractive pastime
but a livelihood, (doing) good business serving out Welshness to
visiting coach parties of Argentine and foreign tourists."

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