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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
November 02, 2004
News 10/31/04 - Rumble By UDA Heavyweights
News about Ireland & the Irish
SL 10/31/04 Tension Rises After Rumble By UDA Heavyweights
SL 10/31/04 Loyalists Won't Forget Threats By Adair's 'Lapdog'
SL 10/31/04 Annetta's Inner Strength Will Be Tested To The Wire –V
SL 10/31/04 Richhill Holds It Breath - Annetta's Nightmare Goes On
IO 10/31/04 SF: DUP Uncomfortable With Core Principles Of Agreement
IT 11/01/04 Churches Do Not Support Iraq War, Arab League Told
SL 10/31/04 15-Month Omagh DNA Logjam Ends
IT 11/01/04 Dublin And Wicklow Cemeteries Vandalised –V
DR 11/01/04 Bigot Row Council Figure Dies Suddenly
GU 11/31/04 NHS And Police Reforms 'Threaten Chaos'
SL 10/31/04 Slick Movie For Movie-Maker
IT 11/01/04 15 More Tesco Stores Become 24-Hour Outlets Nationwide
TA 10/31/04 Theatre: Loyal Women
IT 11/01/04 Stars Shine Brightly For The 'Paddy Oscars'
GN 10/31/04 Celtic Festival All About Community
Tension Rises After Rumble By UDA Heavyweights
By Stephen Breen
31 October 2004
TENSION is mounting between rival UDA units in Belfast, after two
loyalist godfathers were involved in a bloody fist- fight.
Senior security sources told Sunday Life that dissension is growing
within UDA ranks, after north Belfast commander Andre Shoukri
clashed with suspected MI5 agent, Jim Spence.
When Sunday Life contacted Shoukri, he refused to comment on the
But it is understood that friction between the pair erupted into
violence, after Spence accused three members of Shoukri's brigade
of selling cocaine without "permission", at an illegal drinking den
in the Woodvale area.
Spence's cronies are believed to have viciously assaulted the drug-
dealing trio, before they returned to north Belfast to inform their
leader about the row.
But when a furious Shoukri visited the drinking den, it is
understood Spence barricaded himself in the shebeen, before issuing
threats to the north Belfast brigadier.
Spence is also believed to have hurled racist abuse at Shoukri.
Sources claim Shoukri ordered his men out of the area after the
threats were issued, insisting the row was now a matter for the
UDA's so-called 'inner council'.
A meeting was held in the club last Sunday, when Spence is believed
to have begged for forgiveness for issuing the threats, and also
for attacking Shoukri's men.
But sources say Shoukri ordered other senior UDA members to leave
the meeting, before he viciously assaulted the suspected double-
Spence, who has denied being the loyalist equivalent of IRA
superspy 'Stakeknife', has been keeping a low profile about the
A meeting was held in north Belfast on Wednesday night to discuss
Said a senior source: "Spence was forced into a humiliating
climbdown because Shoukri is a brigadier and he's not.
"Spence had the choice of leaving the organisation, taking a bullet
in the leg or taking a personal beating from Shoukri.
"He chose the personal beating, because he knew this was the only
way he could stay within the organisation which has helped him make
a fortune over the years."
Fat Pastor bounces out
Loyalists Won't Forget Threats By Adair's 'Lapdog'
31 October 2004
ULSTER'S fattest terrorist is back on the streets.
Roly-poly preacher, 'Pastor' Clifford Peoples was released from
Maghaberry Prison last week, after serving out a 10-year jail
sentence for explosive offences.
But the Bibles and pipe-bombs loyalist - now dubbed 'Johnny's fat
lapdog' - faces an uncertain future, on the outside.
For loyalist sources say the Woodvale man made a huge mistake, when
he publicly backed UDA druglord, Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair, at the
height of the UDA feud, which led to Adair's supporters being
ousted from Shankill.
Peoples was shunned by UDA inmates at Maghaberry, after he issued a
chilling warning to Mad Dog's rivals, from inside prison.
Speaking on behalf of the Red Hand Defenders, Peoples warned in a
newspaper interview, in December 2002: "If anyone so much as throws
a stone at Johnny Adair, they will be hunted down and executed."
But the words have come back to haunt the self-styled, firebrand
preacher and former chip shop fryer.
One senior loyalist source said: "The fat man thought he was being
smart by siding with Adair, but he didn't reckon on how things
would turn out in the lower Shankill.
"He thought he would be a main player, but he misjudged the
A loyalist source added last week: "People haven't forgotten his
warning about people being hunted down and executed.
"He's Johnny's fat lap dog, and he's made a lot of enemies."
It is suspected that Peoples plans to re-settle in mid- Ulster,
where Adair has sympathisers.
Peoples and fellow dissident loyalist, Jimmy Fisher, were caught
red-handed with grenades and a pipe bomb in a car stopped by a
police patrol, near Dungannon, in 1999.
The pair were jailed in January 2001, but had a major fall-out
See Militants to consider deadline extension - Fiona Mitchell
reports on three UN workers taken hostage in Afghanistan
'Annetta's Inner Strength Will Be Tested To The Wire' -V
31 October 2004
As Annetta Flanigan's kidnap ordeal enters its fourth day, former
Afghan hostage YVONNE RIDLEY describes the torment the Co Armagh
woman must be suffering. The award-winning journalist — who visited
Ulster after being freed by the Taliban in 2001 — writes of how she
hopes Annetta's captors will show mercy... and that, one day, they
can compare accounts of their captivity.
ANNETTA Flanigan will wake up this morning, wondering if this is
going to be her last day on earth.
The thought of execution will have prayed on her mind last night
and, if she manages to sleep at all, it will be her first waking
The exact mode of execution chosen will also not be far from her
You see, I know exactly how Annetta will be feeling.
Because, just over three years ago, I was also captured by the
Taliban, in Afghanistan.
I was treated with courtesy and respect by my captors, but it
didn't matter how nice they were.
I kept thinking the really bad guys would show up any minute . . .
armed with electrodes, and other torture devices.
Annetta will be absolutely terrified.
But how this manifests itself will be down to her own individual
She will probably manage to bury her emotions and remain cool -
otherwise she wouldn't have volunteered to work in a war-zone in
the first place.
We all react in different ways to severe shock.
Quite often, we surprise ourselves at the calm and rational way we
handle extreme stress.
Annetta's inner strength will be tested to the wire, over the next
She will also have a feeling of immense guilt for what she imagines
she is putting her family, friends and colleagues through.
This will be exacerbated by the total isolation I imagine her
captors will have imposed.
It is very difficult to try and second-guess what is happening in
the outside world, when your own has just been turned upside down.
For instance, as a journalist, I was horrified when I emerged, 10
days after being arrested by the Taliban, to discover I had become
global headline news.
I hope that Annetta's captors show her the same respect.
But human rights in the topsy-turvy world created by the War on
Terror have evaporated, and it is becoming increasingly difficult
for ordinary Afghans to tell the good guys from the bad.
Mercifully, when I was captured, the war in Afghanistan had not
There was no US benchmark set for the treatment of prisoners -
after all, Guantanamo Bay did not exist, and it was going to be at
least two more years before the spectre of Abu Ghraib Prison in
Baghdad erupted on to the world stage.
No one shaved, shackled or abused me, before locking me in a cage
wearing an orange jump-suit.
I was never threatened with torture - or made to sign false
Nor was I sexually humiliated, gang-raped or sodomised, with the
evidence being captured on video to add to the total degradation.
All of this - and more - happened to some of the female, as well as
the male, prisoners held in Abu Ghraib, at the hands of the US
I really hope those who hold Annetta share the same Islamic values
and principles as my captors.
If so, she will have nothing to fear, other than her own
The fact that Annetta and the other two hostages held with her are
UN workers will cut no ice with their kidnappers, as the United
Nations is regarded with a great deal of suspicion, in some
The kidnappers' motives remain unclear at the moment, but I suspect
they will try and make a political point, rather than a cash gain.
Putting it bluntly, criminal gangs in Afghanistan already make a
decent living out of kidnapping rival ethnic groups, without having
the added complication of holding a Westerner.
I just pray that the true spirit of Afghan hospitality and chivalry
manages to burn through the hatred of all things Western, so that
one day soon Annetta and I can compare tales of captivity.
Hoping and praying
Richhill Holds It Breath As Annetta's Nightmare Goes On
News special by Stephen Breen in Richhill
31 October 2004
A DARK cloud last night hung over the home village of the
Ulsterwoman held captive by Islamic militants in Afghanistan.
As the people of Richhill went about their business yesterday,
their thoughts and prayers were with the devastated family of
The solicitor - who has worked in some of the world's most
notorious hotspots, including Rwanda, Bosnia and Nigeria - was
kidnapped by armed extremists in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on
The 43-year-old, who also holds a degree in English, had been
working for the UN in the war-torn region as an election official.
The kidnapping was claimed by the 'Army of Muslims', as US and
British forces stepped up their search for Ms Flanigan.
Since her abduction, her distraught family have been comforted by
friends and family, as the anxious wait for news lingers on.
There was only one topic of conversation in the normally quiet Co
Armagh village yesterday - their neighbour's well-being.
According to locals, the village was not as busy as it normally is
on a crisp Saturday morning.
The media, which had also visited the area after news of the
abduction emerged, had also returned to their offices.
Gordon Lyttle, whose two daughters grew up with Annetta, said the
people of Richhill had been "devastated" by the solicitor's
Mr Lyttle spoke to us after a Hallowe'en party, which was due to be
held in the grounds of his home, was cancelled.
Said Mr Lyttle: "I have known the Flanigan family for many years.
"I can remember Annetta playing with my children in my garden, as
if it was yesterday.
"She is a beautiful person - and also very clever.
"She has worked in a lot of trouble hotspots. The only thing she
ever wanted to do was help people.
"Annetta would always visit my wife and I when she was home.
"I could not believe it when I was told she had been abducted by
"She is just so timid - I just can't believe that anyone would want
to kidnap her.
"I just hope she is returned safely to her family.
"Everyone in the village will no doubt be hoping that the Flanigan
family's nightmare ends sooner rather than later."
His sentiments were echoed by local Ulster Unionist councillor, Jim
Added the UUP man: "This is a tragic event for the Flanigans,
because they are a lovely family, who are very close.
"The people of Richhill feel helpless, because they don't know what
they can do to help Annetta's mother, who must be going through a
nightmare at the minute."
The family's minister, St Matthew's Church of Ireland rector, David
Coe, said the entire community's thoughts were with the family.
He said: "This is a terrible time for the Flanigan family and I
have been doing my best to comfort them.
"The thoughts and prayers of the entire community are with
Annetta's family at this awful time."
Militants threaten to execute trio
THE militant group claiming responsibility for kidnapping three
foreign UN workers said last night it will execute them unless
Britain withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Jaish-al Muslimeen, a splinter group of the
Taliban, said it had made a video of the three hostages - but
provided no evidence that it was holding the trio.
Armed men kidnapped Annetta Flanigan, Filipino diplomat Angelito
Nayan and Kosovan Shqipe Habibi on Thursday.
Ishaq Manzoor, a purported spokesman for the 'Army of Muslims',
said via satellite phone: "If ... don't agree to our demands, we
will do the same thing as the mujahedeen are doing in Iraq."
NATO troops and Afghan security forces have mounted extra patrols
and roadblocks in and around Kabul since the election workers were
abducted from their marked UN car.
Manzoor, who said he was speaking from near the Afghan- Pakistan
border, also demanded the release of all Afghan detainees from the
US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that the search for the
abductees be called off.
"We may kill them if we could not get a positive response," he
He said the video would be released "in two or three days" to an
Arab television channel.
He also provided what he said were the numbers from identity cards
found on two of the hostages. Afghan and UN officials had no
immediate comment on their validity.
SF: DUP Uncomfortable With Core Principles Of Agreement
The Vice President of Sinn Féin, Pat Doherty, said today that
recent statements by DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson and other
members of the party seem to indicate they are uncomfortable with
the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Doherty said that the DUP appears to be "moving backwards from a
deal based on power-sharing, equality and respect".
However, he reiterated that a deal will only be done on the basis
of the framework laid out in the Agreement.
Slick Movie For Movie-Maker
By John McGurk
31 October 2004
OSCAR-winning Hollywood actor, Tim Robbins, will be feeling "all at
sea" - down on Belfast Lough this winter.
For the Ulster film industry has hit liquid gold - after persuading
international movie-makers to use an oil rig, berthed in Belfast,
as the location for an upcoming big budget film drama.
The £14m movie - The Secret Life Of Words - will use the massive
accommodation rig - currently awaiting refurbishment at Harland
&amp;amp;amp;amp; Wolff's Queen's Island complex.
Robbins - star of classic prison movie The Shawshank Redemption and
2004 Oscar winner for Mystic River - will start filming on the rig,
in early December.
Young Canadian actress, Sarah Polley, will play opposite him as a
survivor of the war in Yugoslavia, who goes to work as a nurse, in
the male-dominated world of oil exploration.
H&W spokesman, Joris Minne, said the temporarily Ulster-based
oil rig - which has been at the yard since early September - is an
extraordinary semi-submersible structure.
Said Minne: "It is a huge rig, which is leased out by its owners,
Fred Olsen Energy, for contract work in the likes of the North Sea
and the Gulf of Mexico.
"For example, it has living and sleeping accommodation for 600
workers - with facilities like a hospital, restaurant, baseball
court and even a full leisure centre."
Minne said the yard was ship-shape and busy with other projects -
including the renewal of two drilling rigs, tanker refurbishment
and the construction of road bridges.
Both H&W and the Northern Ireland Film and Television
Commission are delighted to be on board for the upcoming project -
produced by world-famous Spanish film-maker, Pedro Almodovar.
NIFTC marketing manager, Laura Maltman, said: "Pedro Almodovar's
production office was looking for a oil rig, and they contacted us.
"One of our production co-ordinators, Laura Livingstone, liaised
with them on the possibility of filming some of it here.
"Then, it just so happened that Harland & Wolff was receiving
this oil rig to be fixed, before being shipped off somewhere else.
So, it was due to a mixture of good luck and the skill of our
production team, that this is happening."
After filming here, Robbins - partner of star Susan Sarandon - will
prepare for his role in the most expensive movie ever made,
Spielberg's War Of The Worlds.
Churches Do Not Support Iraq War, Arab League Told
Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent
A Roman Catholic bishop and a Church of Ireland bishop have told
the Arab League that the war in Iraq did not have the support or
sanction of the main Christian churches. They were on an inter-
faith visit to Egypt.
In discussions with Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Abul
Gheit, they expressed disapproval of the notion that there is a
"clash of civilizations", either between the Middle East and the
Western world, or between Christians and Muslims.
The two Irish bishops, together with an Anglican bishop in Egypt
and the Muslim president of a committee for dialogue with the
monotheistic religions, were able to agree a joint statement on the
situation in Iraq.
Putting their names to the joint statement were the Church of
Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, the Catholic Bishop of
Dromore, Dr John McAreavey, the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr
Mouneer Hanna Anis, and Sheikh Fawzy el Zefzaf
Their statement calls on the international community "to intervene
to put an end to the bloody conflict that has befallen the people
of Iraq"and for every effort to be made "to secure a just solution
to the Palestinian conflict". It urges "the group that has
kidnapped Mrs Margaret Hassan to release her", pointing out that
"she has devoted her life to humanitarian work and the care of the
people of Iraq ".
At a meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr Amro
Moussa, the Irish Church leaders shared their concerns about the
current crises in Iraq and Palestine.
They assured Mr Moussa that the Iraq war did not have the support
or sanction of the mainstream Christian Churches.
On their week-long visit, the bishops also had separate meetings
with Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Patriarch
Stephanos II of the Coptic Catholic Church, the papal nuncio,
Monsignor Marco Dino Brogi, the Governor of Menoufia, and the
British and Irish ambassadors in Cairo. Their visit was arranged as
part of the partnership between CMS (Church Mission Society)
Ireland and the Anglican Diocese of Egypt.
The Irish bishops spoke of the churches' role in Northern Ireland
in bringing people together across religious divides. They said
they had been moved by their experiences of the dialogue between
the Anglican Communion and al-Azhar al-Sharif in Cairo, the
principal seat of theological learning in the Sunni Muslim world.
© The Irish Times
15-Month Omagh DNA Logjam Ends
By Alan Murray
31 October 2004
DETECTIVES investigating the Omagh bombing have now received two
DNA samples from Garda - more than a YEAR after they were first
Police confirmed last night that the samples - taken from
republicans while in Garda custody last year - were handed over to
the Omagh investigation team, a week ago.
The move ends 15 months of wrangling between two forces who claim
to have a "good working relationship".
In September, the PSNI urged Security Minister Ian Pearson to
intervene to ask Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell to ensure
the samples were made available.
It's believed the samples were taken from two of the five men
facing an unprecedented £14m civil lawsuit, being brought by the
relatives of the Omagh victims.
One of the men is understood to be Seamus Daly, from Co Monaghan,
who pleaded guilty to being a member of the Real IRA, last March.
The other DNA sample is believed to be from Dundalk man Seamus
McKenna, who was arrested by Garda last year and charged with
unlawful possession of explosives.
Ulster cops have refused to provide any detail on the identity of
the two suspects.
They said in a statement: "Police can confirm that a request made
for mutual assistance in relation to the Omagh bomb investigation
was met recently, as part of ongoing co-operation between the two
The chairman of the Omagh Support Group, Michael Gallagher, said he
welcomed the development.
He added it was "extremely regrettable" that the response of the
Garda and the Dublin government to requests for assistance, had
been so "tardy".
Said Mr Gallagher: "They can say all they want in their PR spin
about 'good working relationships'.
"But we know that, in this matter and in other matters relating to
the Omagh bombing, co-operation has not only been tardy, but, in
some cases, non-existent."
Policing Board member Sammy Wilson said: "If the police believe
that a year and three months to act on the exchange of important
information into the biggest murder investigation in the UK
represents a good working relationship, then it calls into question
the standards which they are prepared to accept.
"While the main players in the Omagh bombing run free, political
considerations, bureaucratic delays and internal policing wrangles
undermine the effective pursuit of the terrorists."
See video at:
Dublin And Wicklow Cemeteries Vandalised -V
A number of graves in a cemetery in Lucan, Co Dublin, were damaged
at the weekend in what gardaí described as an act of "pure
vandalism". There was also damage caused at a cemetery in Arklow,
Between 10 and 15 graves were desecrated at Esker Cemetery, which
is the biggest in Lucan.
Gravestones were damaged, headstones knocked over, statues,
ornaments and memorabilia smashed, and flowers uprooted.
The incident happened between 9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.
The damage was discovered by a cemetery maintenance man.
A garda spokesman last night said that there did not seem to be any
set pattern to the damage. The incident was an act of pure
vandalism. Gardaí from Lucan investigated the scene yesterday.
In Arklow, kerb stones around 10 graves in the town's cemetery were
smashed when at least one vehicle drove over them during Saturday
night and Sunday morning.
Tracks of one vehicle, possibly a four wheel drive, were visible
after it was driven across a line of graves in the older section of
St Gabriel's Cemetery.
One grave collapsed completely from the impact of one, or possibly
two vehicles driving across it, and the kerb stones on several
other graves were broken.
Councillor Pat Fitzgerald of Arklow Town Council said: "We have
reached a new low in our town and this incomprehensible vandalism
has shocked our people."
© The Irish Times
Bigot Row Council Figure Dies Suddenly
Nov 1 2004
A Controversial councillor has died just weeks before he was to
Tam O'Dea collapsed watching TV with his son on Saturday.
The 66-year-old councillor was thought to have had a massive heart
His fiancee Jennifer Stewart said: 'I loved Tam to bits and I am in
absolute shock .
'We were planning to go abroad and get married over Christmas. It
just hasn't sunk in that he has gone.'
O'Dea was an independent Grangemouth councillor on Falkirk Council.
The Orange Lodge member was forced to quit the Labour Party seven
years ago after a breach of the peace conviction.
He admitted bombarding neighbours with sectarian songs and remarks.
Missed In February, Racial Equality council director O'Dea was
cleared of racially abusing an Asian takeaway owner.
And in May, he was again convicted of breach of the peace and told
to behave for six months.
He met former White Heather Club dancer Jennifer, 55, after his
marriage to wife Isobel failed and proposed two years ago.
The couple split up briefly earlier this year when O'Dea had a
fling with another woman.
But they patched up their differences and had begun planning their
Falkirk Council leader David Alexander said: 'Tam was not
conventional but was a very colourful character and was very
popular in the local community.
'He will be sadly missed by everybody at the council.'
NHS And Police Reforms 'Threaten Chaos'
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday October 31, 2004
Northern Ireland's public institutions are in danger of 'collapsing
like a house of cards', according to an expert in workplace trends.
The process of change recently imposed on bodies ranging from the
PSNI to the civil service could lead to chaos, a conference on the
future of the public sector in the North will be told.
Richard Reeves, a former adviser to the first New Labour
government, has predicted that the 'change frenzy' in Northern
Ireland could have disastrous effects.
Speaking ahead of the 30 November conference, Deputy Chief
Constable Paul Leighton said the Patten reforms had left the PSNI
bereft of experienced officers. 'Another effect caused by
significant numbers of officers leaving under severance during
short periods is the resultant loss of experience and skills in
core roles,' Leighton said.
Reeves's report for Penna, the Human Capital consultants, warned
that the public sector might not be prepared enough to cope with
the threat of institutional collapse posed by the changes.
'Public servants of the province are in the thick of it. If it [the
reform] works, then Northern Ireland's government and society will
reap the benefits. If not, the house of cards may well tumble down,
with serious consequences,' said Reeves.
The former principal policy adviser to New Labour's welfare reform
programme concluded: 'The political vacuum created by the
suspension of the Assembly has made the roles of public servants
even more vital at the same time as making them even less clear.'
As well as the Patten reforms of the old Royal Ulster Constabulary
into the PSNI, education, health and public administration have
In education, the post primary review will examine alternatives to
the 11-plus test while another review will phase out GCSE and A
levels in the UK.
On health, the Hayes review into acute case hospitals has seen
controversial proposals, including the forthcoming closure of Omagh
The planning laws in Northern Ireland are also under review to
provide a simpler, faster, more accessible and transparent planning
15 More Tesco Stores Become 24-Hour Outlets Nationwide
The number of Monday to Friday 24-hour Tesco stores around the
country is to increase from 12 to 27, with immediate effect.
In addition, the Tesco store at Wilton in Cork is to become the
first supermarket in Ireland to open 24 hours a day, seven days a
The additional 15 stores are at Tallaght, Prussia St in Dublin,
Greystones and Wicklow Town in Co Wicklow, Naas in Co Kildare,
Youghal and Mallow in Co Cork, Ardkeen in Waterford, Ashbourne in
Co Meath, Dundalk in Co Louth, Ennis in Co Clare, Castlebar in
Mayo, Killarney Park in Kerry and Roscommon and Sligo.
Mr Dermot Breen, director of corporate affairs at Tesco, said the
move was directed at customers who find it difficult to shop during
traditional shopping hours.
© The Irish Times
Reviewer Helen Thomson
November 1, 2004
By Gary Mitchell, directed by Denny Lawrence, Red Stitch Actors
Theatre, Rear 2, Chapel St, St Kilda until November 14.
Red Stitch has again picked up, after a Royal Court London
production last year, a play by Northern Ireland prize- winning
playwright Gary Mitchell that we might not otherwise have seen.
Loyal Women is tough, uncompromising theatre about the world within
the paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Defence Association and
Ulster Freedom Fighters. Loyal Women examines the lives of their
women supporters who are caught in a labyrinthine tangle of
Mitchell skilfully reveals that enforced domesticity is not the
crucial differentiating factor, but maternity. Four generations of
women occupy Brenda Ford's crowded flat on a Protestant estate. The
play's two men are almost irrelevant, disabled by timidity in the
case of Mark (Brett Cousins) and moral weakness in Brenda's husband
Terry (David Whiteley), just released after 16 years in jail.
All are bound by a violently enforced code of total warfare, not
just against the Catholics, but within their own ranks. Men kill
other men in this struggle, but the women enforce discipline among
their own sex, toughened and intimidated by the threat of brutal
Verity Charlton is superb as Brenda, gradually developing the
character's strength and natural leadership as she finds a way of
surviving against crushing odds. The ensemble of seven women that
includes the guest actors Carole Yelland and Christine Keogh, work
strongly together under Denny Lawrence's direction. They create an
impression of a group honed by harsh necessity into a vengeful
squad capable of violence and cruelty as repugnant as that of the
Gail (Kate Cole) is a sadistic bully; Heather (Kate Stewart) is her
vicious acolyte; Maureen (Christine Keogh) the older woman who has
extinguished femininity; Adele (Olivia Connolly) has transgressed
by having a relationship with a Catholic man. Brenda's daughter
Jenny (Ella Caldwell) is a rebellious teenage mother to whom these
women represent tough glamour and power.
But it is in Brenda that the question of loyalty really becomes
complicated as she is forced to prioritise her duty of care to an
errant husband, his bed-ridden mother, her troublesome daughter and
her baby, along with the UDA's demands: family, or God and country?
It is finally a primeval struggle between masculine and feminine
values, brought to a shocking climax in this production of a
Stars Shine Brightly For The 'Paddy Oscars'
Maureen O'Hara proves the star of the night at 84 when she receives
lifetime achievement award, writes Michael Dwyer, Film
The extra hour that came with the arrival of Winter Time on
Saturday night was a boon to the apparently tireless revellers
attending the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) ceremony in
For the 700 guests, it was a long day's journey into night - and
for some, into the next morning.
The tickets, at Â250 a head, noted an unusually early start for
such an event, with a champagne and cocktails reception commencing
at 4.15 p.m. at the Burlington Hotel.
As is now de rigeur at show business ceremonies, each guest was
given a goody bag on arrival - containing a new Lancome perfume for
the women and "ultra-soothing after-shave balm" for the men.
Dinner was scheduled for 6 p.m., but the hotel had not bargained on
all the kissing that had to be done in the lobby as guests greeted
The food was served at a brisk pace by the staff, setting the tempo
for the evening's compere, actor James Nesbitt, who won the best TV
actor at the ceremony last year and was nominated in the same
category this year.
He warmed up the audience with a series of gags about Luas ("It's
taking one car off the road every day"), the rebranding of RTÉ 2,
the Spire, Bono, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Farrell and Pat Kenny.
Ignoring the boring black tie dress code for men, a smartly dressed
Gabriel Byrne presented the first award, best film actress, to a
delighted Eva Birthistle for A Fond Kiss, one of her two
nominations in that category.
Brendan Gleeson announced The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the
King as the winner of the best international film award, chosen in
a public vote.
Departing from the autocue script, he joked: "Oddly enough, there's
no one here from the film to collect this. So I'm having it. It's
Later, when Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley were named best
international actor and actress, neither they nor any of their
fellow nominees was present, making these international awards seem
pointless in the context and the object of derision from the
When the award for best television actor went to Ciarán Hinds (who
was not present either), his fellow nominee, James Nesbitt, his
tongue firmly in his cheek, said, "Congratulations to Ciarán. Well
done! I'm really thrilled for him."
The voluble Hector Ó hEochagáin took the stage and joked, "Bertie
couldn't make it because he got locked with me in Navan last
night", before presenting the best Irish language film award to the
engaging short film, Yu Ming is Ainm Dom, in which a young Chinese
men learns Irish before emigrating here, only to find that most
Irish people don't speak the language.
Former Beirut hostages Brian Keenan and John McCarthy came on to
present the best TV current affairs programme, for which Prime Time
had three of the five nominations, and the award went to Keelin
Shanley and Janet Traynor for that programme's report on
They kept their acceptance speech brief and to the point, as did
most, though not all, of the other winners.
However, the dramatic Mercury Rev music used to introduce each
selection of film clips did become wearing on hearing it for the
Those compilations of clips were snappily edited, although some
seemed inappropriate for their categories.
The scene chosen to illustrate Alan Gilsenan's nomination as best
production designer - for Timbuktu - featured the Sahara desert,
which Mr Gilsenan did not design, and when Man About Dog was
nominated for best costume design, the clip showed the film's three
male protagonists wearing only boxer shorts.
Had there been an award for most glamorous presenter, it would have
gone to Sky newscaster Gráinne Seoige, whose hairstyle was quite
extraordinary - a conically shaped, tilted variation on the
She had been nominated in the public vote for most popular TV
presenter, but that award went to her former colleague at TV3,
Claire Byrne, who gave one of the most gracious acceptance speeches
of the evening.
As the award for best TV drama was about to be presented to the
powerful, factually based Holy Cross, the audience was startled to
see the Taoiseach's face suddenly appearing on the giant screen at
the back of the stage. All was explained in a few minutes when Mr
Ahern appeared again, in a filmed tribute to Maureen O'Hara, the
recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award and the most acclaimed
winner of the whole night.
Slipping in another jibe at Pat Kenny, James Nesbitt brought on Gay
Byrne to introduce the Dublin-born actress, who was given a long
and genuinely warm standing ovation, which she vainly tried to
"To be born in Ireland is to have the greatest gift that God could
give," she began before recalling highlights from her long career
and proudly and emphatically declaring, "I am 84 years of age."
She concluded by expressing her gratitude for the award - "A
wonderful gift from Ireland to an Irishwoman, and she appreciates
Then there was yet another dig at Pat Kenny, this time from Gerry
Anderson, before he presented the best supporting actress award,
accepted by John Lynch on behalf of his sister, Susan Lynch.
There was keen competition in the categories of best Irish
director, which went to Lenny Abrahamson for Adam & Paul, and best
Irish feature film, given to Omagh, which also collected the best
actor award for Gerard McSorley.
However, there was no award for the low-budget comedy, Man About
Dog, which had 10 nominations, more than any other film, but it is
getting its reward at the Irish box-office, where it is one of the
biggest hits of the year.
The Hollywood epic Troy took a prize when Peter O'Toole was named
best supporting actor, and the award was accepted by his daughter,
Kate O'Toole, who read a message from him that began: "Should a
whiff of the Paddy Oscars blow my way, thank the voters for
remembering I'm still alive."
As the 165-minute IFTA ceremony wound to a close, there was one
more special award to be presented, to Pierce Brosnan for his
Outstanding Contribution to Irish Film.
The towering figure of John Cleese, who has appeared in several
James Bond movies with the Irish actor, took to the stage and
introduced the award.
Cleese mischievously noted his own predilection for composing
anagrams of his fellow actors, offering No Brains Creep as one for
Mr Brosnan, who was as suavely urbane as ever while making his
pithy acceptance speech.
Edited highlights from the IFTA ceremony will be shown on RTÉ 1 at
9.30 p.m tonight.
And the winners are . . .
Television personality of the year: Claire Byrne (TV3)
Best Irish film: Song For a Raggy Boy
Best international film: Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Best international actor: Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean
Best international actress: Keira Knightley, Pirates of the
Caribbean and King Arthur
Best Irish film: Omagh
Best actor: Gerard McSorley, Omagh
Best actress: Eva Birthistle, Ae Fond Kiss
Best film director: Lenny Abrahamson, Adam & Paul
Best editing: Emer Reynolds, Timbuktu
Best cinematography: Mark Garrett, Freeze Frame
Best production design: Ashleigh Jeffers, Freeze Frame
Best music: Ray Harman, Timbuktu
Best hair/make-up: Dee Corcoran/Ailbhe Lemass, King Arthur
Best costume design: Grania Preston, Cowboys & Angels
Best script: Jeffrey Caine, Inside I'm Dancing
Best short film: Undressing My Mother
Best animation: The Boy Who Had No Story
Best TV drama or drama series/soap: Holy Cross
Best current affairs/news programme: Prime Time: Intellectual
Best entertainment programme: The Bronx Bunny Show
Best lifestyle programme: Show Me the Money
Best sports programme: Final Words: Hurling '03
Best documentary: Battle of the Bogside
Best children's/youth programme: The Boy Who Had No Story
Best actor in a TV drama: Ciarán Hinds, The Mayor of Casterbridge
Best actress in a TV drama: Anne Marie Duff, Shameless
Best supporting actor in film/TV: Peter O'Toole, Troy
Best supporting actress in film/TV: Susan Lunch, 16 Years of
Best Irish language short/animated film/programme: Yu Ming Is Ainm
Best new talent: John Simpson, Freeze Frame
Outstanding Irish contribution to cinema recipient: Pierce Brosnan
Lifetime achievement award recipient: Maureen O'Hara
© The Irish Times
Celtic Festival All About Community
By Rick Cousins
Published October 31, 2004
CLEAR LAKE — Twenty-year-old Laura Gibson held the stage in Landolt
Pavillion as well as the attention of her audience using just a
fiddle at the Eighth Annual Celtic Music Festival and Highland
Games on Saturday.
"I started playing when I was 4 years old, but I got bored with
classical so I took up fiddle lessons. It's a different style
altogether and a lot more fun.
"It's about community and not about competing," she explained.
Hornpipes, jigs and rounds filled the air along with the smells of
local and Celtic cooking.
A few hundred feet to the west, Kevin Holland was warming up for
the athletic competition. A former powerlifter and Kempo karate
expert, Holland had driven from Shreveport to test his mettle
against the best of the local area contestants in several events.
"This will be my sixth game," he said. "Some friends got me into
it. My family is Scottish. It's a lot harder than weight lighting,
because you have to throw them. Real men do wear kilts."
Veteran competitor Earl Ulrich-Linzza, age 83, watched Holland.
"Back when I was 75, I picked up a caber and showed them how to do
it. The Houston Highland Games were dedicated to me last year."
Drew Savage came down from Dallas to judge the athletic events and
summed up the meet.
"We are doing two 'stones,' a heavy and a lightweight for distance,
two hammers, caber and weight for height," he said. "We'll have a
dozen contestants. I've tried every event, realized I'm terrible at
it. That's why I judge."
Backstage, the McTeggart Irish Dancers of South Texas warmed up
prior to bringing a bit of "Riverdance" to the Bay Area, Dara
"We started back in the 1950s. Our founder helped Michael Flatley
get his auditions for 'Lord of the Dance.' It is very similar to
Riverdance, except it is traditional so we don't use our arms and
wear period costumes. The people are so appreciative. The Celtic
Festival here is a lot of fun."
Jennifer Hale added, "Usually kids come because they've seen a
show, or because of their family heritage. We take children as
young as four. The oldest we have is age 18."
Festival organizer, performer and philosopher Geoff Mules notes
that the martyrs at the Alamo included Scots, Irish and Welsh.
"We recognize the best of all these cultures, whether you're from a
Celtic country, or any other, we celebrate the family values.
Everyone can play together and sing a few songs and have a great