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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 07, 2004
News 11/07/04 - Clegg Case Basis of Law Reform
News about Ireland & the Irish
GU 11/07/04 Clegg Case Forms Basis - Murder Or Nothing Law Reform
UT 11/07/04 Racists Target Portuguese Family
IO 11/07/04 UN Concerned For Hostages' Health
SB 11/07/04 US Tax Amnesty Will Take Billions Out Of Ireland
II 11/07/04 Seal Massacre An Organised Cull By Fishing Industry
SB 11/07/04 Irish Dangerous Debt
ST 11/07/04 Bewley's In Battle To Keep Its Windows
MH 11/07/04 Florida: 'Bomb' Wired To Car Was Fake After All
II 11/07/04 Exposed: SF's Crazy Tax Policies
II 11/07/04 Locals Crushed By Suicide Rate Of Small Cork Town
SB 11/07/04 Irish Firms Got $15m Over Kuwait
SB 11/07/04 Bush Will Get What He Wants
VC 11/07/04 View From Abroad Far From Flattering
ST 11/07/04 Coca-Cola Eyes Up Co Louth Sites
PJ 11/07/04 Guy Fawkes: Burning The 'Guy'
VC 11/07/04 A Hopeful Journey On Derry's Roadways
VC 09/26/04 Rainy-Day Irish Wedding Ceremony Takes The Cake
NW 11/05/04 Rose Of Tralee -VO
NW 11/05/04 Sick As A Parrot -VO
Rose Of Tralee - Roisín Ní Eadhra spends a day with the 2004 Rose
of Tralee, Orla O'Shea
Sick As A Parrot - A report on a woman who was found to be
suffering from the same ailment as her pet parrot
New defence for police who kill
Lee Clegg Case Forms Basis For 'Murder Or Nothing' Law Reform
Martin Bright, home affairs editor
Sunday November 7, 2004
Armed police officers who shoot dead members of the public in
controversial circumstances could be charged with the lesser
offence of manslaughter rather than murder under Home Office plans.
A defence for armed officers will be based on the case of Lee
Clegg, the British army paratrooper jailed for life in 1993 for the
murder of a teenage joyrider in Northern Ireland.
Court of Appeal and House of Lords judges who reviewed the case of
Private Clegg said that the law should be reformed where 'agents of
the state' could prove they genuinely thought they were acting in
self-defence and believed they had to use 'excessive force' to
prevent harm to the public.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said this weekend that the
'murder or nothing' option for juries in cases involving police
marksmen was in urgent need of reform. He said killings by police
officers faced by spilt-second judgments about public safety could
not be considered as murder.
He has asked officials to include the issue of shootings by armed
police in a review of the law on homicide. As a result, officers
who kill in the line of duty would be unlikely to face a life
Home Office officials confirmed that the manslaughter verdict was
being seriously considered in a review of the homicide law.
Campaigners reacted with fury to the news last night. Deborah Coles
of Inquest, which works with the families of people who die at the
hands of the police, said: 'This is a very worrying development.
Families of the victims have always felt that the rule of law does
not apply to the police and this is now being endorsed by the Home
Blunkett intervened after an inquest jury found that Harry Stanley,
a 46-year-old father of two, had been 'unlawfully killed' by two
armed officers in London five years ago.
The verdict led to an unofficial strike by more than 100 members of
SO19, the Metropolitan Police's specialist firearms unit, in
protest at the suspension of the two officers.
Chief Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan would face a
mandatory life sentence for murder if the case proceeds to court.
'The problem with the law is that it's murder or nothing,' Blunkett
told the BBC.
The incoming Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has
called for a reform of the law and Blunkett confirmed that he had
been lobbied by Blair and the present commissioner, Sir John
Stevens, to introduce the possibility of a manslaughter verdict in
Ian Blair said: 'These incidents are terrible tragedies for
everyone involved. But is it right that the only choice that we are
faced with is to make the officer a hero or a murderer? At present
the law is as clear as that.'
Representatives of beat officers this weekend confirmed that the
Clegg defence would be central to their case for reform. The
chairwoman of the Police Federation, Jan Berry, said: 'It will be a
good starting point to look at [the Clegg] judgment. I don't think
any police officer would want to act beyond the law. But when they
are acting in exactly the way they are supposed to, a verdict of
"unlawful killing" is simply not just.'
In 1991 Clegg shot 18-year-old Karen Reilly five times as the car
she was travelling in raced away from an army checkpoint in west
Belfast. Clegg was released on licence in 1995 following a campaign
led by a group of senior retired officers and the newspaper editor,
Max Hastings. His conviction was later quashed.
Lawyers acting for the family of Stanley said that armed police
officers should not be given special status in law and the inquest
verdict showed that the officers' account of events had not been
Sharman and Fagan claimed they had good reason to feel threatened
by their victim, who was unarmed and carrying a coffee- table leg in
a bag that they mistook for a gun. They said he faced them in a
'boxing stance' and reached down for what they thought was a weapon
before they shot him. But forensic evidence contradicted this as it
showed Stanley had been hit in the side of his head.
The Stanley family's solicitor Daniel Machover said the 'Clegg
defence' should not be applied in the case of Sharman and Fagan:
'In the killing of Harry Stanley there is no legitimate self-
defence case. The officers presented the events as if they were
clearly, absolutely under threat and they were not believed.'
The row with the capital's armed officers was defused last week
after Scotland Yard agreed to review the suspension of the
officers. But it is likely to re-ignite tomorrow as an inquest
begins into the shooting of Derek Bennett, a 29-year old man shot
four times in the back by police marksmen in Brixton, south London
in July 2001. The 'weapon' he was thought to be wielding later
turned out to be a cigarette lighter.
In March 2003, The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press
criminal charges against the two officers because there was not
sufficient evidence to proceed. They may have to rethink if the
inquest jury returns a verdict of 'unlawful killing'.
Racists Target Portuguese Family
A Portuguese family were today the latest victims of a racist
attack in Northern Ireland.
By: Press Association
Police were investigating a petrol bomb which was thrown at the
family`s home in Portadown`s Armagh Road at 8.20pm last night.
The front window and wall of the house were scorch damaged.
Witnesses saw a tall, thin man in dark clothing running away in the
direction of Armagh Road and Church Street Junction.
Police in Lurgan Road have appealed to other people in the area who
saw anything suspicious to come forward.
Portadown has a number of Portuguese families living in the town,
employed in local factories.
It isn`t the first time the community has been targeted.
In August, the homes of two Portuguese families were targeted when
a number of people kicked and battered in the doors of their flats
in Moeran Park in an early morning attack.
Members of the Fillipino and Vietnamese communities have also been
victims of racial attacks in the town.
UN Concerned For Hostages' Health
07/11/2004 - 10:34:11
Militants threatening to kill three UN hostages - including Armagh
woman Annetta Flanigan - said talks were to begin with Afghan and
UN officials today, 10 days after the victims were abducted at
gunpoint on a street in the capital.
Manwhile, the United Nations expressed growing concern for their
well-being, and appealed along with President Hamid Karzai and
Afghanistan's top general for their immediate release.
Authorities have not confirmed any contact with Jaish-al Muslimeen,
a Taliban splinter group demanding a UN pull-out from Afghanistan
and the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for the freedom of
the three election workers.
Syed Khaled, a spokesman for the militants, initially claimed that
talks had begun on Saturday afternoon at a secret location in
southern Afghanistan. But he said later that an Afghan government
delegation arrived too late.
"Our people thought the talks might continue late into the night,
so the two sides agreed to hold them tomorrow," Khaled said. "We
hope that the Afghan government delegation will be empowered to
solve the issue quickly."
The abduction of Annetta Flanigan, Angelito Nayan of the
Philippines and Shqipe Hebibi of Kosovo was the first of foreigners
in Kabul since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.
The militants released a videotape of the hostages last Sunday
fuelling concern that they are copying the tactics of insurgents in
The group says Flanigan is ailing under the strain of her captivity
and that all three are suffering from cold and a diet of little
more than cookies. They have offered no further proof of their
UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said the concern of
relatives, friends and colleagues was increasing "every day, every
hour and every minute that goes by".
If they are suffering, "the best response for their need of medical
attention is their immediate release," Almeida e Silva said.
The spokesman said the commander in chief of Afghanistan's armed
forces, Bismillah Khan, also had condemned the abduction, following
the lead of political leaders and religious scholars.
The kidnappers have repeatedly extended a deadline after which they
said they would decide whether to kill the hostages. They also
demand that British troops leave Afghanistan and that the United
States release Muslim inmates from a US prison in Guantanamo Bay,
The US military has volunteered to help in any rescue and said it
was receiving daily government briefings.
Spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson said yesterday that he couldn't give
details of efforts to free the three because they were at a
Karzai also renewed his condemnation of the kidnapping yesterday,
when he received a visit from Pakistani President Gen. Pervez
Musharraf did not mention the hostage crisis but pledged a common
fight against terrorist groups for the two neighbouring countries,
whose relations have been strained by suspicions that militants
find sanctuary in Pakistan.
"The success of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan is Pakistan's
success, and our success in Pakistan will be Afghanistan's
success," Musharraf said.
US Tax Amnesty Will Take Billions Out Of Ireland
By Eamon Quinn, Business Editor
Billions of euro in profits generated in Ireland will return to the
US as a result of a US corporate tax amnesty, which was signed into
law by President George W Bush aboard Air Force One just days
before last week's election.
The amnesty has also raised fears that US multinationals will slash
the amount they plan to invest around the world, including in the
Republic, over the next 12 months.
The American Jobs Creation Act allows giant US companies a once-off
chance to repatriate $350 billion (E270 billion) in accumulated
profits held around the world.
A significant chunk of these billions has been generated and kept
in Ireland by US hitech and pharmaceutical giants which dominate
the Irish economy.
In a report to be published this week, investment bank Morgan
Stanley warns that US companies will reduce the amount they invest
in Europe as they absorb the money flowing back home.
Morgan Stanley has identified the US companies which will most
likely repatriate huge amounts of profits, according to economist
The companies, which lobbied for the tax break in the run-up to the
election, are also big-name investors in the Republic. They include
Dell, Intel, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and Wyeth.
Irish tax lawyers have warned that the move to repatriate billions
of euro from Irish subsidiaries back to the US will raise
burdensome duties for Irish directors.
"They will need to be particularly aware of the statutory
provisions before taking any steps to effect a repatriation of
profits," said Robert O'Shea of solicitors Matheson Ormsby
Under the US act, American companies can avail of a special
corporate tax rate of only 5.25 per cent, down from the standard 35
per cent rate usually levied, for just 12 months.
Seal Massacre Said To Be An Organised Cull Carried Out By Fishing
THE seals slaughtered off the Great Blasket Islands were killed
over a number of weeks in a carefully co-ordinated cull which is
being blamed on people linked with the fishing industry.
The 51 seals were mainly shot by rifle. None examined so far had
nails driven into its head, was disembowelled, clubbed or beaten to
death with rocks, as was claimed in initial reports.
"Some of the seal pups died from natural causes. It is possible
they starved after their mothers were shot," local wildlife chief
Paddy O'Sullivan told the Sunday Independent.
Though the discovery of mostly pups, known as whitecoats, is deeply
shocking, their killers were not involved in sadistic mutilation of
the protected species.
Gardai and the Wildlife Service have so far been met with a wall of
silence in Kerry amid fears of intimidation.
But the authorities are convinced that hundreds of people would
have witnessed boats travelling to the Blaskets in the last few
O'Sullivan, regional manager of National Parks and Wildlife Service
for the south west, has appealed to locals to come forward with
information which, he says, will be treated in confidence.
The reports of mutilation may have emerged because many of the pups
had been dead for weeks and would have fallen prey to seabirds
during that time. The action of sea water and waves would also have
speeded up decomposition and putrefaction.
The bodies of five seals were washed up in Brandon Bay. O'Sullivan
will be sending a report to Environment Minister Dick Roche next
Sean Eviston of the Irish Seal Sanctuary said most of the seals
killed were around three weeks old. He blamed fishermen for the
As the level of personal debt rises across the country, so too does
the number of debt collection agencies, a sector which has not yet
been regulated, writes Louise McBride.
A British couple's debt that spiralled to stg384,000 (E554,000)
from a loan of stg5,750 was found by a Liverpool judge last month
to be "extortionate''.
Referring to the 15-year loan, which carried an interest rate of
34.9 per cent, the judge said: "It seems to me that the combination
of factors is so potentially exorbitant that it is grossly so and
does grossly contravene the principles of fair dealing."
Whether this landmark decision will have an impact in Ireland
remains to be seen. Interest rates in Ireland can run as high as
and even to a multiple of the rate charged in the case of the
Liverpool couple. Under Irish regulations, lenders charging 23 per
cent or below are regulated credit institutions, while those
charging above this are moneylenders. Some authorised moneylenders
charge interest rates as high as 196.5 per cent APR.
There's plenty of evidence of loans spiralling out of control in
Ireland, said Paul Joyce, a legal advisor with the Money Advice and
Budgeting Service (MABS).
"Often people enter into arrangements that they can't sustain and
they get into a spiral of debt. In many cases, someone would have a
number of credit cards running simultaneously," said Joyce. "People
borrow to try to clear the debt, getting into further high-cost
credit to try to settle a debt. "Although the economy is good and
things are buoyant, there are an awful lot of people who have
bitten off more than they can chew," he said. "Unmanageable
personal debt is now very wide, stretching right across the
classes." The level of personal debt relative to average disposable
income has more than doubled over the past ten years. This year,
credit institutions lent a total of E78 billion to private
households, of which mortgages accounted for almost E61.8 billion.
The debt explosion has contributed to huge growth in the debt
collection industry, said Declan Flood, chief executive of the
Irish Institute of Credit Management (IICM), which represents the
debt collection industry. Unlike mortgage intermediaries,
moneylenders and credit intermediaries, debt collection agencies
are not licensed in Ireland. According to Flood, there are no
figures available on the number of debt collection agencies due to
this lack of regulation. However, Cash Flow Services, a member of
the IICM, has seen its business increase by 300 per cent in the
last three years, said Flood. "The huge amount of credit in Ireland
is a major cause of concern," said Flood. "People are lured into a
false sense of security because their houses are worth a lot of
money - they're simply not afraid of debt.
"People need to be responsible and I'm not sure if they're being
encouraged by financial institutions to be that way." A recent
survey by The Sunday Business Post found that some mainstream
lenders were offering borrowers mortgages of up to five times their
annual salaries. Last month, ICS Building Society revised its
credit policy so that single applicants earning over E60,000 can
borrow up to five times their salary. Although Flood stressed that
none of the IICM's members acted inappropriately, he said the lack
of licensing of debt collectors caused problems in the industry.
"We would welcome some kind of regulation," he said. "Anybody can
set up and call themselves credit management and debt collectors,
and some of them are not as ethical as they should be." A spokesman
for the financial regulator, the Irish Financial Services
Regulatory Authority (IFSRA), said he was unaware of any plans to
introduce legislation to regulate debt collectors. IFSRA is
responsible for enforcing the 1995 Consumer Credit Act, which,
among other things, outlines how lenders should interact with
The law applies directly to lenders, regardless of whether or not
they use agencies to act on their behalf in their dealings with
customers. However, the most worrying problems with debt
collectors often arise in relation to non-mainstream lenders. "If a
collection agency acting on behalf of a mainstream lender was
acting inappropriately, it would probably be relatively
straightforward to resolve that matter," said a financial source.
"However, the fear is usually in the non-mainstream areas of
lending. This is a different territory altogether when you're
talking about threats, intimidation and so on and that can be a lot
The source said that, if debt collectors were subject to licensing,
those issuing the licences could lay down minimum standards, such
as the manner in which contact is made with debtors. Under the
Consumer Credit Act, it is an offence for creditors, owners or
people acting on their behalf to visit or phone debtors without
their consent between 9pm and 9am the following day, or at any time
on Sundays or public holidays. It is also an offence to visit
debtors at their workplace or business unless they live there and
all other efforts to contact them have failed. "I am aware of some
debt collectors who called at inappropriate hours of the day, like
late at night or early in the morning or Saturdays," said the
source. "The one exemption is where people's consent is given to
visiting outside set hours."
According to another well placed source, many members of the public
are not aware that debt collectors don't have an official status.
"Sometimes, a debt collection agency will come across as such, not
necessarily in any overt sense, but implying that the agency is
acting in an official capacity," said the source. For example, one
letter to a debtor from debt collection agency Intrum Justitia said
it would instruct the "Nationwide Bureau of Default and
Investigation'' to investigate the debtor's assets "unless you
contact us within 48 hours to arrange repayments," according to the
source. "Such correspondence is designed to intimidate," he said.
When contacted by The Sunday Business Post, Intrum Justitia said
the Nationwide Bureau of Default and Investigation was a registered
division within their company. Intrum Justitia said that they used
this division as a last resort before taking a debtor to court. The
source has also seen letters from other agencies stating that "you
have between 7 and 14 days before we may have to visit you and we
regret that the person visiting you may be known to you''. Such
threats are against the 1997 Non-fatal Of fences Against the Person
This makes it an offence for anyone demands so frequently that they
cause alarm, distress or humiliation to the debtor or family, to
claim falsely that criminal proceedings will follow non- payment, to
claim falsely to be authorised in an official capacity to enforce
payment and to issue a document that purports to be an official
Last year, a successful case was taken against a former freelance
agent of Bank of Ireland for breaching the act. The agent, a debt
collector, sent letters purporting to be legal documents to a
debtor. The language used in the letters was also very
Bewley's In Battle To Keep Its Windows
FOR Bewley's, breaking up will be hard to do. Dublin's oldest
coffee shop is facing a dispute with its landlord over priceless
stained-glass windows in the Grafton Street branch.
When the chain closes its doors for the last time at the end of
this month, it wants to remove six windows designed by Harry
Clarke. But Treasury Holdings, which owns the building, is equally
determined to keep them.
"They'll walk away with the windows over my dead body," said a
senior source in the company. "Once they're attached to the
building, they're our property."
The row could end up in court. Bewley's says it has received
opinion from two senior counsel in support of its position. The
coffee shop points out that it paid up to Â1m to renovate the
windows in 1999.
Bewley's will need planning permission to remove the panes, as the
Grafton Street branch is a listed building. It would like to move
them to its Westmoreland Street branch, which Bewley's plans to
However, one solution could be for Treasury Holdings, or the new
tenant in the Grafton Street building, to buy the windows from
Bewley's. A conservative estimate of their value would be Â2m. Nine
stained-glass panels by Clarke sold at Christie's in London for
£331,500 (Â500,000) in 1997.
Clarke's windows have a huge emotional attachment for Bewley's,
which opened its first oriental cafe in George's Street in 1894.
Ernest Bewley almost went bankrupt fitting out the Grafton Street
branch, which opened in 1927, at a cost of £60,000.
Clarke, a Dubliner who died in 1931 at the age of 41, was Ireland's
finest stained-glass artist. His most famous work, the Geneva
Window, was commissioned for the International Labour Organisation
in Switzerland. Another of his windows, removed from Mungret
College, is in Bewley's Westmoreland Street branch.
Cash-strapped Bewley's had to do a sale and leaseback of the
Grafton Street building in 1989. The agreement, with Royal &
SunAlliance, will now be examined by lawyers.
John Bruder of Treasury said he was unsure about ownership of the
windows, but was checking it out. "We are digging out the contracts
which will take a week or two," he said. "The general rule is once
something is fixed to the building it becomes part of the building
and is owned by the owners. Once it is detached and demountable, it
can be taken away.
"These windows are special and is is quite possible that they were
reserved out of what was sold at the time."
Other Treasury sources were adamant that the windows would not be
going without a fight. Informed of this a Bewley's source replied:
"Bring it on. We have maintained and cared for the windows, and
preserved them in their current state. That's the decisive factor."
The Bewley's tiled sign on the front of the building is also
protected. Everything else in the historic cafes needs to be nailed
down because customers are pilfering mugs and cutlery as souvenirs
in advance of the November 30 closure.
"Last Saturday morning, three young ones started putting stuff on
our shelves into their bags," a company source said. "Confronted by
a security man, they replied, 'You're closing down, aren't you?'
"Small amounts of stuff are disappearing; salt and pepper canisters
are particularly popular. The trays will be most at risk. There is
a discreet security presence at the front door to catch this."
But Bewley's is receiving a fillip from nostalgic Dubliners who
want to enjoy one last coffee and sticky bun before the chain
closes. "We've just enjoyed our best weekend in a long time," the
company source confirmed.
"The place was engorged with people last week; we had to direct
them around the place. Dubliners and tourists are having a last
look at the place. One woman is coming from Switzerland."
There is some surprise that Bewley's is closing just before the
Christmas rush, but the company says it is haemorrhaging money
every month, and needs to sell 7,000 cappuccinos a day just to
'Bomb' Wired To Car Was Fake After All
A Hollywood man wants authorities to find the person responsible
for attaching a fake bomb to his car.
By Wanda J. DeMarzo
A boxy device with wires and tape that looked like a bomb and
forced the evacuation of a Hollywood neighborhood on Thursday has
turned out to be a fake.
Still, authorities are investigating links to the Irish Republican
Army, and South Florida compatriots who raised money here and
shipped guns to Ireland from local post offices.
One connection: The Geo Prism with the suspicious device under its
bumper was once registered to Conor Claxton, an IRA gunrunner. And
federal authorities want to know if Jim R. Panaro, who now owns the
car, is being targeted because of his former ties to the IRA -- he
was the chairman of the Irish Northern Aid Committee's South
A second link: Panaro has had limited contact with Claxton -- a few
e-mails -- since Claxton's release from prison about a year ago, he
Panaro raised $100,000 for the defense of Claxton and three others
who were prosecuted in 2000 for smuggling weapons and ammunition to
Northern Ireland. He was also subpoenaed to testify before a grand
jury regarding his knowledge of the men -- known as the Florida
Four -- and the smuggling plot.
It's not clear how he came to be driving the Prism, but he wasn't
entirely ready to admit that it had belonged to Claxton.
''It would be just my luck that through a total coincidence that's
Conor's car,'' Panaro said.
On Thursday, Panaro took the Prism to his mechanic, and they
noticed something hanging off the rear bumper. Hollywood police,
along with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives -- called to the Hollywood garage -- examined what seems
to have been a very convincing fake.
BOX BLOWN UP
The plastic box was wrapped with black tape and attached to the car
with a putty-like material. Red and yellow wires snaked from the
box to the light fuse for the car's license plate.
The Broward Sheriff's Office robot removed the box and blew it up.
Authorities, including the FBI, are investigating, said Hollywood
Capt. Tony Rode.
''I have no reason to believe this has anything to do with the
Irish,'' Panaro said. ``I just hope that all the authorities
investigate this incident thoroughly and find out what happened so
I can have some peace of mind.''
Claxton, one of the Florida Four, bought the 1994 Teal Geo Prism in
early 1999 from co-defendant Anthony Smyth.
During their trial in 2000, prosecutors contended that Claxton,
Smyth and Martin Mullan, three natives of Belfast, Northern
Ireland, shipped more than 100 guns, 1,066 rounds of ammunition and
133 magazines to the IRA from post offices in Boca Raton and
Deerfield Beach in boxes disguised as baby clothes and toy fire
trucks. Smyth's girlfriend, prosecutors said, was simply drawn into
the cause. She received 20 months for having purchased some of the
Claxton admitted in court to being a member of the Irish Republican
Army, but said the guns were needed to fight if the peace process
in Ireland collapsed.
The confessed leader of the plot, Claxton was sentenced to four
years and eight months in prison. Smyth and Mullan were sentenced
to three years each.
The year after the trial, Panaro distanced himself from the Irish
Northern Aid organization. Times had changed in Ireland, he said.
There was no longer any reason to send money to families of
political prisoners, he said.
Claxton, Smyth and Mullan now live in Ireland.
In late September, Claxton's older brother, Francis Claxton and
Mullan's girlfriend were charged with financing the weapons the
Florida Four purchased and sent to Ireland.
Panaro said he hasn't been contacted by any authorities in relation
to their upcoming trial. He does not expect to be asked to testify.
Herald staff writer Kevin Deutsch contributed to this report.
Exposed: SF's Crazy Tax Policies
Jody Corcoran and Jane Suiter
A SINN Fein policy to massively increase taxes on labour, capital
and companies has been exposed for the first time, the Sunday
Independent can reveal.
The party's General Secretary, Robbie Smyth, was forced into
revealing some of its startling proposals under strong questioning
last week from students at Trinity College, Dublin.
Until now Sinn Fein had refused to spell out the details of its tax
plans, preferring to talk about a "review period" in Government
during which it would consider the issue.
But this piece of political expediency was ripped away last week in
a debate between Mr Smyth and the Minister for Justice, Michael
Yesterday, Mr McDowell said he was "very gratified the wheels have
now fallen off the propaganda wagon" following what he said were
"very searching questions" from students.
During the debate it emerged that Sinn Fein wants to increase
Double Capital Gains Tax and tax high income earners at a new rate
of 50 per cent.
Yesterday, economic experts predicted that the 50 per cent
"supertax" policy would lead to "offshore accounts galore",
accountants getting richer and the return of wholesale tax evasion.
Mr Smyth also said his party wanted Corporation Tax increased by 4
per cent to 16.5 per cent, but cut back to 12.5 per cent for
companies who fulfil a range of criteria - from recognising trade
unions to providing childcare and doing Research & Development.
Mr Smyth also reiterated Sinn Fein's policy that Capital Gains Tax
should be doubled to 40 per cent.
The Sinn Fein proposal to increase taxes on labour, capital and
companies is a direct reversal of the polices which have been
backed by every political party in government since 1987, including
the Labour Party and Democratic Left, as well as Fianna Fail, the
PDs and Fine Gael.
Yesterday, Trinity College economist, Sean Barrett said: "We tried
this in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties and tried it again in the
Eighties. It's called 'economic nationalism' and a dose of economic
nationalism is the last thing Ireland needs now."
Ireland's Corporation Tax rate has been cut from 36 per cent to
12.5 per cent. As a result revenue went up, from Â2 billion to over
When Ireland halved Capital Gains Tax from 40 per cent to 20 per
cent revenue went up five times, from around Â225 million to Â1.3
The Government argues that low taxes facilitate more business
activity and generate more public resources for social use.
But now it has been confirmed that Sinn Fein, if it achieved power,
would implement a series of massive tax hikes which experts believe
would threaten the country's economic stability.
And yesterday a defiant Mr Smyth bluntly told the Sunday
Independent: "Yes, we want to increase taxes. So what?"
He said Sinn Fein would be determined to press ahead with its new
50 per cent "supertax" which, he said, would apply to earners of
Â127,000 a year, or more.
It would, he said, be time-limited tax, imposed for perhaps six
months, while the party devised ways to close off what he said were
"tax loopholes" used by the well-off to minimise their tax bill.
The "tax loopholes" are actually legitimate tax incentives and
These reliefs - such as urban and rural renewal reliefs - were
brought in purposely by successive governments to stimulate
They are used by many middle-class voters who would not consider
Locals Crushed By Spiralling Suicide Rate Of Small Town
DAYS after his brother committed suicide James Buckley told his
mother, "Don't worry about me - I wouldn't do anything like that to
you." The 22-year-old comforted Josie Buckley, saying the manner of
his brother Mark's death "wasn't the way to go", but 15 months
later James was found dead - hanging from the balcony of his
apartment - in a chilling copycat suicide.
The brothers, who were buried side by side, were both victims of a
curse that has settled on Midleton, Co Cork. The prosperous East
Cork town has been identified as having the second highest per
capita suicide rate in the world. Only Lithuania is worse.
There have been more than 35 suicides in the past three years in
the blighted town and devastated locals renamed the graveyard
"Suicide Row" after 12 young people were buried in as many months
after taking their own lifes.
Although everyone in the town is on their guard, the suicides keep
on coming in a cruel succession of bolts from the blue.
Mark, a popular construction worker and soccer fan, had left the
local pub after a few drinks promising to return after going home
to get changed and have something to eat. Instead he killed
himself. James found his 30-year-old brother hanging from the attic
door of his home by a length of wire cord.
Mark left a note describing his two-year-old son Calvin as his
"soulmate". The suicide note said he loved his mother and,
remarkably, thanked everyone for going to his funeral. But there
were no clues as to why the fun-loving father of one killed himself
on June 24, 2002.
Surviving brother Pat Buckley, 35, said: "Mark was a very outgoing
and very happy person. He never showed any signs of being anything
other than a happy-go-lucky person until turning to the last option
James received counselling to help him deal with the trauma of
finding his dead brother's body, but just when his family believed
he was coming out of a long, dark tunnel, James too committed
A pioneering peer support scheme has recently been set up in the
blighted town to help young people address issues behind the
spiralling suicide rate. GP Dr Brian Jordan said: "You don't
believe it to begin with. This can't be happening to us. It can't
be happening again. It was one shock after another as they were
disappearing from the town.
"Hopefully the message goes out to young people who are thinking of
suicide, or may be depressed or drinking too much or taking drugs
that there is an alternative."
When James assured his mother he would never contemplate killing
himself Mrs Buckley confided that she was worried about him: "I
said, 'I hope not James, one is enough'.
"If you see something and the hurt it caused and the problems it
caused you would never think at 22 he would do the very same thing
as his brother at 30."
Mrs Buckley's surviving son Pat set up the Let's Get Together
Foundation to provide support for those left shattered by suicide.
He said: "It's so hard to describe the pain. We stopped asking
'why?' - now it's what can we do to make a difference? There are
more people dying from suicide than road accidents and that's an
Irish Firms Got $15m Over Kuwait
By Pat Leahy, Political Reporter
Irish companies including Aer Lingus are among thousands worldwide
that received a total of $18 billion in compensation for losses
arising from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Over $15 million in compensation was paid to Irish companies after
applications by the government. The compensation fund, operated by
theUN, is funded by a levy on Iraq's oil sales.
Previously, 30 per cent of the money generated by the Oil-for-Food
programme had been taken by the fund. It has been distributed to
companies including Halliburton, Shell, Philip Morris, Pepsi,
Kentucky Fried Chicken and Toys 'R'Us to compensate them for losses
sustained in 1990-91.
The largest beneficiary has been the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation,
which received over $14 billion. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein,
the proportion of Iraq's oil money diverted for compensation has
been reduced to 5 per cent.
However, it still amounts to huge sums of money. Last month, $200
million was disbursed by the fund.
Other Irish companies which received compensation include Airmotive
Ireland, Parc Healthcare International And Wellman International.
The government also applied for compensation for several Irish
companies which were turned down, including GPA,the aircraft
leasing company.Beef baron LarryGoodman applied for $330 million
but the UN commission turned down his claim last summer.
The companies had to show they sustained their losses as a direct
result of the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.
Over 2.6 million claims were received, totalling some $350 billion.
Most have been turned down.
The UN Compensation Commission, based in Geneva,was set up by the
Security Council in 1991. It was put on a secure financial footing
when the Oil-for-Food programme was established in 1995.
The programme was designed to provide funds for humanitarian relief
Bush Will Get What He Wants
George W Bush's success in last Tuesday's US presidential election
will have huge ramifications for Iraq and the Middle East, and
domestically, it is certain to have liberals running scared.
George W Bush did not merely survive his battle for re- election
last week. He received a clear mandate for his agenda.
His position is much stronger than it was seven days ago. Bush
became the first president to win a majority of the total votes
cast since his father did so in 1988. Republicans also made gains
in the US Senate and the House of Representatives.
The president is enjoying his victory to the fullest extent. His
comments in the wake of his reelection indicated that he would take
immediate action on his campaign promises. He also implied that he
would be dismissive of Democrats who dissented from his views or
who urged caution.
"When you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and
embraced your point of view, and that is what I intend to tell the
Congress," Bush said during his first post-election press
conference last Thursday. "It's like earning capital. I earned
capital in the campaign - political capital - and now I intend to
spend it." Bush was also reported to have told a newly- elected
Republican senator that, given the party's control of all three
branches of government, "now is the time to get it done''. Exactly
what"it " was remained unclear.
Bush is said to have let aides know that he is aware of the perils
of a second term and is determined not to fall victim to them.
Many presidents' final years in office have been direction less.
The three most recent presidents to be re-elected were all hit by
second term scandals: Richard Nixon by Watergate, Ronald Reagan by
Iran Contra and Bill Clinton by the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Bush is expected to line up numerous domestic initiatives, but the
international community's attention will be more concerned with his
plans in relation to Iraq. At first glance, there seems little
reason to believe that there will be a major change of direction.
During the election campaign, Bush repeatedly presented himself as
a resolute leader who would not be blown off course by political
turbulence or the winds of international opinion. He also linked
the war in Iraq with the broader war on terror, and repeatedly used
the phrase "freedom is on the march'' to describe the effects on
the entire Middle East of US actions there. He pledged that
elections would go ahead as planned in January and that US troops
would keep patrolling the country until the new Iraqi security
forces became confident of their ability to ensure order.
However, although conventional wisdom suggests a change in Iraq
policy is a remote possibility, a more intriguing theory has also
being doing the rounds. This hypothesis suggests that Bush knows
mistakes have been made in Iraq, that the situation is difficult
for US troops, and that it is unlikely to improve any time soon.
But, the theory goes, the president may not have felt at liberty to
say such things during the election campaign for fear of incurring
political damage. Now, free of having to seek office ever again,
he will also be free to chart a new direction in Iraq.
To some, this may seem an overly dramatic scenario. But just a few
weeks ago, Robert Novak, a newspaper columnist known for his
extremely close links with the Bush White House, suggested that a
post Election withdrawal from Iraq was a real possibility.
"Inside the Bush policy-making apparatus," Novak wrote, "there is
strong feeling that US troops must leave Iraq next year. This
determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi
democracy and national stability. Rather, the officials are saying:
'ready or not, here we go'." In relation to Iraq, as with so much
else, a great deal may depend on whether the president keeps the
same team of key advisers.
Last Thursday, Bush insisted: "I have made no decisions on my
cabinet and/or White House staff." Then, he added: "There will be
some changes. I don't know who they will be. It's inevitable there
will be changes." Insider gossip suggests that the senior figures
most likely to depart are John Ashcroft, the attorney general
reviled by liberals because of his ultra-conservative views, and
Tom Ridge, the secretary of Homeland Security.
If Ashcroft goes, which is by no means certain, there have been
suggestions that Bush might find a high-profile replacement in the
shape of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The departure of Colin Powell, the cautious Secretary of State who
is perceived to have been sidelined by administration hardliners,
has been predicted for some time. In recent days, however, sources
close to Powell have let the US media know that he might be
prepared to stay on just to avoiding ceding the field to his
nemesis, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld, who is 72, will not necessarily hang on to his post,
though he is thought to want to do so. Condoleezza Rice, the
president's national security adviser, could replace either Powell
or Rumsfeld. Rice is reportedly disinclined to stay in her current
position and will probably return to academia if a new job is not
found for her.
The administration faces plenty of other challenges in addition to
Iraq. It is unclear what efforts, if any, Bush will make in the
months ahead to breathe new life into the barely existent peace
process involving Israel and the Palestinians.
Bush has gone further than many of his predecessors in giving
verbal assurances that he understands the Palestinian need for a
viable, independent homeland, but he has otherwise been extremely
supportive of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.
At home, Bush appears set to devote much of his energy to
simplifying the tax code and reforming social security. He has
reiterated recently that he also intends to give high priority to
improving educational standards, stimulating economic growth and,
of course, fighting the war on terror. US liberals are deeply
concerned by the possibility that the president will be able to
appoint new judges to the Supreme Court during his second term.
The court has made some momentous decisions throughout its history,
such as declaring racially segregated education to be
unconstitutional in the 1950s. In 1973, it ruled that the right to
privacy included a woman's right to have an abortion, a decision
antiabortion activists have campaigned to overturn.
The court has nine members. At the moment, conservatives outnumber
liberals five to four, though one moderate conservative justice,
Sandra Day O'Connor, often sides with her liberal colleagues. The
chief justice, William Rehnquist, who is a staunch conservative,
has recently been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. O'Connor is 74.The
leading liberal on the court is also its oldest member, 84-year-old
John Paul Stevens.
If vacancies arise, Bush is almost certain to nominate relatively
hard line conservatives.
Appointments have to be approved by the Senate. But just one or two
Bush nominees could change the character of the court, strike down
abortion rights and extend the president's legacy for decades. No
wonder liberals are worried.
View From Abroad Far From Flattering
By Alicia A. Reynolds
October 17, 2004
DERRY, Northern Ireland -- It's a strange thing to be living abroad
during an election year. Watching the last of the presidential
candidates' debates on an Irish television station, followed by
commentary by Irish pundits was odd indeed. I can't begin to
describe the sheer dislike the Irish, the British and just about
every European I've met has for the Bush administration -- be they
government officials or taxi drivers. In fact, disdain for the Bush
administration's foreign policies is a decidedly unifying force in
Europe among all cultures, social classes and generations.
Take this curious phenomenon that occurred in my English class. In
keeping with Halloween, I had my 11-year-old English students here
in Northern Ireland write a spooky story. To my astonishment, many
cast President Bush as the monster in their horror story -- I find
this quite telling. What seems obvious to me is that the Bush
administration has truly managed to make Europeans feel afraid.
As an American living abroad, I feel the need to somehow ease this
palatable dismay my Irish neighbors and colleagues feel over our
current administration. The only problem is that I share many of
their views. I can't tell you how many times people have earnestly
asked me why so many Americans support Bush.
Many Europeans and especially the Irish who have very close ties to
the states seem utterly confused over our nation's current
political reality. And as a Californian whose governor is an
action-hero star, I often find my Irish hosts puzzled over our
nation's political choices. My Irish acquaintances can't seem to
grasp how we Americans have arrived at having a powerful and
progressive state such as California presided over by a man who
laces his speeches with corny movie lines and wears more makeup
than Joan Rivers; nor, can they fathom how our country - - the most
powerful country ever in history -- is presided over by a man who
mistakes glib cliches like "I'm a uniter not a divider" for
"Americans aren't stupid," they insist.
"No, Americans aren't stupid," I agree.
"Then why? Why is this man president?"
I don't know how to answer them. Besides, I can't possibly answer
for all Americans. After all, I never voted for George Bush or
Arnold Schwarzenegger; yet, I feel as though I'm expected to give
an answer. I can only respond by reminding my European friends that
America is a big, big country full of diverse views. And that many
of the most progressive, humane policies were birthed in our great
country. America was at the forefront of enacting social welfare
programs, labor and child protection laws, public education
reforms, women's rights, civil rights and environmental
Also, I remind people that Americans still remain among the most
generous contributors to charities the world over. Basically, what
I try to reinforce is what Europeans already know -- America is a
I think the dismay over Bush administration policies stems
precisely over the fact that Europeans truly regard us with such
high esteem. Americans are judged by a higher standard, and that's
fine with me. I wouldn't have it any other way. It doesn't matter
if other countries are worse than we are. Just because Britain,
France and other would-be imperial powers have made more egregious
errors on the world stage doesn't in any way excuse or justify our
behavior. America is a country based on ideals, not might-makes-
right hubris. We must judge ourselves based on what we profess to
believe -- regardless of world opinion, pro or against.
The funny thing is, Europeans seem more cognizant of this than we
are. Living here in Northern Ireland, I'm beginning to think that
we Americans have forgotten who we are.
We are not the British Empire, we are not Imperial Rome. It was
frightening to hear Bush in the final debate, in so many words,
state that he felt everyone has a God-given right to be free and
that he feels appointed to bring the world that freedom. American
isn't the Holy Roman Empire bringing the pagan world civilization
at the end of a sword. Yet, to many in the world, this appears to
be exactly what we are doing.
I suppose that is why in a country like Ireland where you'd be
hard-pressed to find people more pro-life and dedicated to family
values, the Bush administration is seen as a scary monster rather
than a guardian angel.
-- Alicia A. Reynolds, of Ventura, is in Derry, Northern Ireland,
teaching in the Fulbright Teacher program for a year. Her "Derry
Diaries" can be viewed on the Web site,
Coca-Cola Eyes Up Co Louth Sites
PLANS by Coca-Cola to merge its bottling operations on both sides
of the border could result in a huge jobs boost for Dundalk. The
company is believed to be actively considering two sites in or near
the Co Louth town as it finalises plans to consolidate its Irish
The company is planning to locate its production, bottle
manufacturing and bulk warehousing in a single state-of- the-art
site as part of a near Â50m investment. It has existing operations
in Dublin, Lisburn, Co Antrim and Co Louth, and this decision
follows a 15-month review of the business.
Coca-Cola is understood to be seeking a site of up to 50 acres for
the new bottling facility and is looking at properties on both
sides of the border. It could take up to two years before the new
facility opens for business.
Dundalk has emerged as the favourite, given its location between
the island's two biggest cities and the improvements in the
motorway network linking Dublin and Belfast through Co Louth.
The drinks company currently employs 1,200 staff on the island,
including 500 in Northern Ireland. Any move will have implications
for a large number of staff.
Reports that the Maze prison has been chosen as the new bottling
centre are described by the company as "premature", while insiders
say they are wide of the mark. One source said the Maze was offered
to the group and was considered but has been ruled out.
On Friday it was reported that the 360-acre Maze has been chosen as
the site of the new national stadium in Northern Ireland. It closed
as a prison four years ago.
Coca-Cola Bottlers Ireland & Ulster declined to comment on any of
the sites under consideration. "When that decision is made, it will
be communicated to our employees first," it said.
Burning The 'Guy'
01:00 AM EST on Saturday, November 6, 2004
National holidays often involve fireworks -- July Fourth here,
Bastille Day (July 14) in France, and so on. In Britain, though,
one holiday's fireworks are accompanied by the symbolic burning of
a person -- a Roman Catholic.
Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Day, which falls on Nov. 5, is not an
official holiday, but it has a similar role. (Yes, we missed it
yesterday, drowning as we were in presumably mandatory post-
election bloviations.) While the United States and France celebrate
freedom, or la liberté, Britain celebrates its freedom from Roman
Guy Fawkes Day commemorates the discovery on Nov. 5, 1605, of a
Catholic plot to blow up Parliament, with King James I and most of
the members present. Word got out, and a search found Fawkes in the
cellar, amid 36 barrels of gunpowder.
He was arrested, tortured until he revealed the names of his 12
conspirators, and hanged, drawn and quartered. That's an English
specialty, involving only partly hanging the subject, then, while
he's still alive, disemboweling him, and finally hacking him apart
-- for public display, as a warning to other miscreants.
The tradition of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes goes back
centuries. Children make the "guy" out of straw and old clothes,
display it in the streets, and request "a penny for the guy." On
Nov. 5, the guy is placed on top of a bonfire in the garden and
burned, to the accompanment of fireworks.
The bizarre ritual -- imagine if it were a symbolic Muslim or Jew
or Hindu being burned -- underscores the bitter history of
Catholic-Protestant relations in Britain. Going back to King Henry
VIII's break from Rome, in 1534, the history includes the bloody
excesses later in that century; the Civil War, resulting in the
King Charles I's beheading, in 1649; and the periodic uprisings of
Catholic pretenders to the throne -- the most famous being Bonnie
Prince Charlie, in 1745.
Guy Fawkes Day also sheds light on the enduring violence in
Northern Ireland. The origins of that tragedy involve a decision
made by James I on the basis of chapter three of Machiavelli's The
Prince. James opened six of Ireland's northern counties to
colonization, principally by Lowland Scots. It's estimated that
from 1607 to 1697 more than 100,000 Scottish Protestants migrated
to "His Majesty's Plantation of Ulster." There they ruled over the
Catholic minority with an intolerant hand.
Over the centuries, many disenfranchised Northern Irish Catholics
made their way to England to find work. Thus, the modern-day
loyalties to soccer teams in many northern-English and Scottish
places grew along religious lines. Liverpool traditionally had a
Catholic team, while nearby Everton had a Protestant one; in
Manchester, Manchester United was Protestant, while Manchester City
was Catholic. In Glasgow, the rivalry between the Celtics
(Catholic) and the Rangers (Protestant) has always been fierce.
Happily, such rivalries are losing their religious edge, and in
Northern Ireland, demographics indicate that Catholics may soon be
in the majority (in Belfast, they already are). And the fearful
bloodletting of the early 1970s -- the peak was 1972, when 467
Catholics and Protestants died in sectarian violence -- has given
way to negotiation and even a fitful sharing of power.
Meanwhile, though, Roman Catholics continue to be the only
religious group officially banned from taking the British throne,
and the Nov. 5 tradition of burning a "guy" persists. There are,
however, rumblings about modifying the ritual. Many communities are
pushing for a generic bonfire sans guy, on the village green -- a
move encouraged by police and fire departments.
A Hopeful Journey On Derry's Roadways
By Alicia A. Reynolds
November 7, 2004
Driving in Derry, Northern Ireland, is not for the faint of heart.
There is in this land of friendly and gracious people a certain
devil-may-care attitude when it comes to driving. And so when it
comes to driving, the visitor must venture out into the adventure.
It's not just that, for Americans, they drive on the "wrong" side
of the road. It's that their roads are the size of driveways -- I
kid you not.
And if the narrowness wasn't bad enough, they park on either side
of these tiny lanes in any direction they please.
Sometimes, it appears that a driver has simply hopped out of his
car midstream, leaving his vehicle "parked" halfway into what is
suppose to be space for traffic. The result? Driving always
involves playing a game of chicken with oncoming drivers because
there is just barely (and I mean barely) enough room for one small
car to squeeze by.
I became accustomed to driving on the "wrong" side and operating
the stick-shift with my left hand (no easy task). I hit more then a
few curbs thinking I was too far to the center and was at any
moment heading into oncoming traffic. I then had to learn to
navigate the roundabouts. And round and round and roundabout I
There were times I wished I had a large sign attached to my car
warning unsuspecting drivers that they were sharing the road with
an idiot American driver. However. once I made my third lap around
the roundabout, I think most natives figured that one out for
Of course, the perils of Derry were nothing compared to driving in
Donegal (a county west of Derry in the Republic of Ireland).
Visiting the pastoral beauty of Donegal rimmed by scenic beaches is
a must here in Ireland. And I was told by many a Derry folk that in
Donegal "you see the face of God."
Well, I can tell you that many a time winding my way through those
slippery-wet, narrow country lanes where the natives blithely speed
along like Indy-500 racers, I had the frightening feeling that I
would indeed see "the face of God."
Luckily, though, Irish angels accompanied me through the divine
Donegal countryside -- a beauty worth braving those roads to see.
What I love about Ireland and, Northern Ireland in particular, is
its pastoral beauty. The green hillsides are dotted with dairy
cows, sheep, donkeys and horses -- lots of horses. Right outside my
classroom window, I can cast my gaze on a patchwork of farmlands
and grazing pastures where horses run and roll on velvety grassy
hills. I find such views nurture the soul.
Despite Ireland's tumultuous history, there is a gentleness here
both in the landscape and in the people. It's amazing really when
you think about the suffering this people has endured--a suffering
that caused millions to leave this land that is so much a part of
their heart and soul.
Being away from my own home -- a place that defines my sense of
self -- I realize how painful it must be for all those immigrants
who, because of poverty, oppression and war, left their homeland.
This is why I find Ireland's gentleness, which is not to be
confused with weakness, so striking. For such a passionate people
to have not become embittered by rage over the indignities they
have endured is a true testament to their character. I'd like to
think that the softness of the rain, the gentleness of the rolling
hills, the ever-flowing rivers, all of this and more that is
Ireland has kept the raging seas that surround this brave little
island at bay.
As I drive along the countryside, making my share of wrong turns, I
hope I will find my own way in this world full of fury and
splendor. I can't begin to understand Ireland's history, nor guess
at the future that lies ahead for my host country.
Yet, gazing outside my car window, watching the horses at play in
those pastures of plenty, I can't help but feel that hope is our
destination -- hope for Ireland, hope for me and hope for all of us
who call this blue wonder our home.
-- Alicia A. Reynolds, of Ventura, is in Derry, Northern Ireland,
teaching in the Fulbright Teacher program for a year.
Rainy-Day Irish Wedding Ceremony Definitely Takes The Cake
By Alicia A. Reynolds
September 26, 2004
DERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND -- After attending my first Irish wedding,
I now know why the Irish are so famous for their fun- filled
weddings. It's a reputation well-deserved. Marriage and family life
still hold a sacred place among this ancient people. The wonder of
Ireland is that despite its modern trappings with all the amenities
of the states, it's a culture steeped in ancient traditions. And
weddings are no small affair. They are an all-day and all-night
I've been to many a wedding, but this wedding held on a rainy
Thursday in Derry was by far the best. The wedding ceremony was
held at St. Patrick's church in Derry at noon and it culminated in
picturesque Donegal Town sometime during the wee hours of the
What I find so endearing about Derry is the comfort and familiarity
its denizens share. Unlike our Southern California "little house on
the freeway" existence where we often speed by each other with
hardly a passing glance, Derry folk seem to be woven together into
a community quilt of interconnecting friends and family. The
wedding was a perfect place to observe this interconnectedness
The thing that struck me immediately during the wedding service was
how wonderfully intimate the ceremony was despite its large number
of attendees. You could tell that the priest and all in attendance
were very close to one another ... they all knew each other's
stories because they were all a part of each other's history.
This sense of shared community was especially evident during the
wedding when the officiating priest started to speak about the
groom's deceased father. The priest spoke movingly about how proud
the groom's father would have been had he been able to attend this
first wedding among his five children. However, despite his
physical absence, it was clear that all felt his presence, such was
the esteem he held among this community.
It was clear from the priest's homily that those in attendance were
not just there to witness this union, but to enter into it. This
newlywed couple were not just entering into married life, but they
were being newly incorporated into the fabric of the community.
And what better way to be ushered into this new life than with the
blessings of a traditional Irish hymn sung by soloists whose
lilting voice filled the church?
At the end of the ceremony, the groom, his bride and the wedding
party were escorted into their flower-adorned Rolls Royces, while
the wedding guests boarded a "coach" to beautiful Donegal Town to
attend the reception held at the elegant Harvey's Point.
Harvey's Point overlooks Lough Eske, a picturesque lake surrounded
by trees and rolling green hills. There, the wedding party and
their invited guests enjoyed a fabulous five-course meal -- hearty
soups, fresh salads, oysters on the half shell, roasted meats,
crisp vegetables and sumptuous desserts. Spirits and hearts were
After the feast, we were treated to world-class Irish dancers,
including two national champions. Talk about high- stepping. Once
the Irish dancers left the floor, a terrific live dance band played
everything from jamming rock and roll to funky soul.
What was so wonderful about the whole affair was being out among
all the wedding guests dancing their hearts out. The Irish,
regardless of age, love to dance. I absolutely loved all the white-
haired grannies just bubbling with spirit.
These marvelous grannies were out in force among the wee ones
boogieing to the funkiest of beats. They certainly outlasted me. My
high-heeled pinched feet had benched me long before the grannies
stopped dancing. From what I heard, the festivities went on until
well after 2 a.m. But, before I left, I was treated to one
Amid the reeling and reveling, we all had a chance to have that
oft-asked question answered: "What do the Scots wear under their
kilts?" Thanks to the mischievous antics of one wee wain, a
Scottish wedding guest -- dressed in his best Highland attire --
had his secret lifted.
Would you like to know what was under his kilt? Well, you'll just
have to attend a splendid Celtic wedding for yourself. All I can
say is "aye, 'twas grand!"
-- Alicia A. Reynolds, of Ventura, is in Derry, Northern Ireland,
teaching in the Fulbright Teacher program for a year.