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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 13, 2004
News 11/13/04 - DUP To Blame For Stalled Peace
News about Ireland and the Irish
IO 11/13/04 DUP To Blame For Stalled Peace, Says SF
BT 11/13/04 Viewpoint: UDA Actions Speak Louder Than Words
BB 11/13/04 Ceasefire Decision 'Worth Risk'
BT 11/13/04 Crossed Wires UUP Without A Voice On Patten Reforms Of RUC
UT 11/13/04 Cranborne: 'Govt Betrayed Trimble'
BB 11/13/04 Can UUP Unity Translate To Election?
BB 11/13/04 Paisley 'Let IRA Off The Hook'
BT 11/13/04 Dead Loyalist's Lawyers In Assets Plea
BB 11/13/04 Missing Fisherman's Body Found
SF 11/13/04 Sex, Life And Liam
DUP To Blame For Stalled Peace, Says SF
13/11/2004 - 14:08:37
The peace process has stalled due the Democratic Unionists undermining
the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin claimed today.
Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin said that as the first anniversary of the
Assembly election approached both the Irish and British governments must
act to ensure the peace process evolves by demonstrating power sharing in
"They must ensure that the approach adopted by the DUP is not allowed to
stall the process of change any longer," Mr McLaughlin said at a meeting
of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle on the progress of the peace process.
"The process has stalled at the present time because the DUP are in a
crisis of confidence in their own ability to lead unionism."
As the Ulster Unionists held their annual conference in Co Down, Mr
McLaughlin said that Sinn Féin was prepared to be patient as long as both
Governments made an assertive defence of the principles of the Good
He said: "Unionists have showed that they are incapable at this point in
time to step forward and make an executive."
At the Ulster Unionists conference, leader David Trimble said the British
Prime Minister Tony Blair had missed the opportunity at the Leeds Castle
talks to find out exactly what the Provisionals were prepared to do to
revive power sharing at Stormont.
He also accused the DUP of conceding to Sinn Féin in the transfer of
policing and justice powers to a Stormont Executive.
Mr McLaughlin retorted: "Leeds Castle was in many ways a rerun of the
negotiations we had with David Trimble himself in April of last year and
then in October, he walked away from that deal and I think was punished
accordingly in the subsequent assembly elections.
"If this is David Trimble working out a recovery strategy for his party
then I have to say that I am not particularly impressed.
"They way forward for us all is for those people who say they are pro-
agreement to demonstrate that in their approach to these negotiations."
Mr McLaughlin said that the DUP's deputy leader Peter Robinson's comments
on ensuring the IRA's decommissioning was "visual" could be addressed
under the appropriate sections of the Agreement.
"Sinn Fein won't shift the goalposts, we say use the section of the Good
Friday Agreement, use your influence as we have used and we will continue
to use our influence," Mr McLaughlin said.
Viewpoint: UDA Actions Speak Louder Than Words
LOYALIST POLICY: The public will wait to see evidence of policy change
13 November 2004
The re-recognition of the UDA ceasefire is a big gamble, for the
government, for the organisation and for the people whom it has been
intimidating for many years. If it succeeds in transforming the UDA into
a welfare association, without guns, it will be a blessing and a pointer
to a more peaceful future; if not, it will shame everyone associated with
Although there was little hint of the move, it should not come as a total
surprise. The government is always anxious to encourage any sign of
moderation in the leadership of paramilitary organisations and, despite
the recent verdict of the Independent Monitoring Commission, it must
think the risk is worth taking.
The IMC concluded that the UDA continued to be heavily engaged in crime
and had - with the knowledge of its most senior members - "contributed
considerably" to violence in the province.
That would seem to have ruled out any engagement with government, but
within days its "brigadiers" were at Stormont, presumably telling Paul
Murphy what was on offer, if their efforts could be recognised. On
Thursday, a senior UDA figure attended President McAleese's inauguration
in Dublin, standing for the Irish national anthem.
The government must believe that the UDA leadership are sincere about
eventually moving away from paramilitarism, although all attempts to
develop a political strategy through the UDP and the UPRG have so far
failed. Any statements that they issue, promising to turn over a new
leaf, will be judged against their actions, which until now have been
destroying their communities.
Can they make the break with their past and become law-abiding citizens,
as Northern Ireland struggles to agree a new political settlement between
the DUP and Sinn Fein? The atmosphere is far from perfect, but the DUP
has shown a willingness to help, if the UDA's criminality ends.
That will be the test, and all those who have assisted the UDA to reach
this point deserve the public's support. The same criteria must be
applied to the UDA as to the IRA; whenever they undertake "acts of
completion" on arms and paramilitary actions, they will become a
community organisation like any other.
Their lead, if they take it, must be followed by all other loyalist
paramilitaries, now feeling increasingly isolated and disliked in their
own communities. If the IRA do fade away, as the governments hope and
believe, they must respond. Otherwise, the conclusion will be drawn that
they are mere criminals, wanting to protect themselves from the Assets
Recovery Agency, and a blight on Ulster's future.
Ceasefire Decision 'Worth Risk'
The government's decision to recognise the Ulster Defence Association's
ceasefire was a risk worth taking, Security Minister Ian Pearson has
It follows Secretary of State Paul Murphy's announcement on Friday that
he believed Northern Ireland's biggest loyalist paramilitary group was
ready to move away from violence.
Government recognition for the UDA ceasefire was removed in October 2001
because of its involvement in violence. The group declared a new
ceasefire in February this year.
A major announcement from the paramilitary group is expected in return
for the government recognition, which takes effect from midnight on
Mr Pearson told the Ulster Unionist conference in Newcastle, County Down,
that the onus was now on the UDA to prove it was genuine.
"They have got to walk the walk. We expect actions, not words," he told a
fringe security meeting on Saturday.
"I strongly believe it is worth taking the risk."
Senior members of the UDA leadership held talks with Mr Murphy at
Stormont last week.
Since that meeting, senior government officials and loyalists have
remained in contact.
Mr Pearson said the Northern Ireland Secretary's decision to recognise
the UDA ceasefire was based on an assessment of the latest Independent
Monitoring Commission report and discussions with the Ulster Political
He dismissed claims that the government could give the UDA £3m to create
private security firms.
In response to a question from UUP delegate Ross Hussey, he said no money
had been given to the UDA.
He said ministers were trying move the UDA "out of the jungle of
Despite the UDA's latest ceasefire, it has been a "specified"
organisation for more than three years.
The UDA's involvement in feuding, racketeering and other paramilitary
activity meant that the government did not recognise its cessation.
Mr Murphy said his decision to "de-specify" the UDA and the related
Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) was based on a number of factors.
These included its re-stated commitment to its ceasefire and the
organisation's "generally constructive approach" during this year's
The secretary of state also said that there had been some reduction in
paramilitary activity by its members over the past six months, as
reflected in the IMC's recent report.
However, he said that the UDA continues to be involved in "a range of
unacceptable activities which must be brought to an end".
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/13 16:39:12 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Crossed Wires Left UUP Without A Voice On Patten Reforms Of RUC
By Barry White
13 November 2004
If you ever wondered why there appeared to be no unionist voice on the
Patten Commission, trying to hold the line against the root-and-branch
reformers of the RUC, now you know why.
It was because the man whose name was approved by David Trimble and Ken
Maginnis was never asked about his views, nor was he consulted during the
commission's deliberations. He didn't regard himself as a unionist
representative, nor would he have accepted the job if that had been
explained to him.
Unbelievable? It gets worse. The ex-First Minister is quoted in his
latest biography, David Trimble, the Price of Peace, by Frank Millar, as
saying that when the Government asked him to nominate someone, it was Ken
Maginnis who came up with the name of Peter Smith, QC, a former honorary
secretary of the Unionist Council well known to Trimble.
But there is a different account in Dean Godson's monumental book,
Himself Alone. He writes that Paul Bew was the UUP's first choice, but
when he declined for personal reasons, both Trimble and Maginnis - after
discussions with the NIO - accepted (NIO official) John Steele's
suggestion of Smith. "Their choice seemed sound enough from a UUP
In Millar's book, Trimble says that during the Stormont talks he left the
policing issue to Maginnis. It was now admitted there should have been
more regular contact with Smith, and he "may have been left with the view
that he was a free agent".
Was it not extraordinary, Millar asks, that the UUP thought it had
appointed its own man to such a critically important position but nobody
bothered to consult or to tell the individual concerned? Yes, is
Trimble's answer, if Maginnis hadn't spoken to him before his name was
Had he? Millar says it is his understanding that Maginnis did not attempt
to speak to Smith because he felt it might not be appropriate to approach
him as an independent, explicitly non-party member of an international
commission. So the leader and his policing spokesman were hardly on the
According to Godson, Maginnis assumed that Smith would ensure that core
unionist communal and political interests were not ignored, but did not
define them - such as the RUC name and cap badge. Smith, indeed, said he
would have declined the appointment if there had been any attempt to set
the conditions of his service.
So there you have it, two different accounts of how the unionist case
went by default, leaving Trimble shocked at the "total whitewash" on
symbols. He had to decide if it was a resigning matter but, since the
police themselves weren't up in arms, he left it. Not before angry words
with Smith, Godson says.
Millar's book is unique, since it is mainly based on quoted interviews
with Trimble, in which the journalist asks the essential follow-up
questions - and interposes judgments of his own.
You have to feel for Trimble when he admits the hurt that Patten
inflicted on unionists and is asked if it might be said that his
management was "pretty disastrous". I'll spare you the answer, except
that the blame is spread widely and there is the interesting observation
that, although Mandelson had convinced Blair to "do something", the PM
lost heart and caved in when Mandelson lost office.
To be fair to Trimble, he did what Jesse Jackson has begged the DUP to do
- seal the deal with Sinn Fein - and look where it got him. He took the
risk, when to say no to the Agreement would have lost everything,
including the dropping of the Republic's territorial claim to Northern
Ireland. He was let down, but he has a Nobel Peace Prize to say he did
the right thing, on the "big picture".
What a week of revelations. If you wondered why Ohio turned out to be
John Kerry's Waterloo, author Tom Wolfe gave the answer in the Sunday
Times: it was the Ulster Scots what done it. His father was born among
them, in West Virginia, and he understands why Bush appeals to them. He
walks and talks like them and likes guns and stock car racing.
"Their theme song is country music and when people talk about rednecks,
this is the group they're talking about… They're individualistic, they're
stubborn and they value their way of life more than their financial
situation… These people aren't right wing, they're just religious… These
people love to fight." Just so.
Â Can't resist disclosing the connection between Ballycastle and the
Nazis. The town's star actor, Conleth Hill, is winning high praise as the
mad transvestite Nazi, in the West End hit, The Producers, who is hired
to direct the worst musical in the world about Adolf Hitler.
Cranborne: 'Govt Betrayed Trimble'
Northern Ireland will suffer if the Democratic Unionists remain the
leading voice in unionism, a Tory peer claimed today.
The Marquis of Salisbury, Lord Cranborne, told the Ulster Unionist
conference Northern Ireland could not afford the Reverend Ian Paisley`s
party being the main unionist voice.
And he also accused the Government of betraying David Trimble and the
nationalist SDLP, abandoning the centre ground in a doomed bid to
civilise more extreme parties like the DUP and Sinn Fein.
"The (nationalist) SDLP has suffered even more grievously than this party
has," the former Conservative leader in the House of Lords told
conference delegates in Newcastle, Co Down.
"It has been described to me as a party in terminal decline.
"We have seen governments which told us year after year the policies they
are pursuing were dedicated to supporting the moderate centre.
"But we have seen the ditching of the moderate centre in favour of people
who they excoriated as being extremists. There has been no sackcloth and
The Marquis said the DUP was now espousing policies pursued by David
Trimble was the led the main party in unionism.
Northern Ireland, he said, needed to be outward looking and needed a
leader like David Trimble.
"Whoever succeeds as leader of the DUP will effectively be leader of the
Assembly and if that happens I fear Northern Ireland will once again
instead of looking outward will be turning in on itself," he said.
The Marquis also called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to show the same
resolve in Northern Ireland in standing up to terrorism as he had in the
There could be no more fudging on the issues of ending paramilitary
activity and disarmament by the British and Irish Governments, he said.
"There must be no dealing with terrorists until they have given up the
bomb and the ballot box," he said.
"They can talk as much as they like about Sinn Fein/IRA becoming a new
green coated British Legion.
"But this is important for Mr (Bertie) Ahern. The Taoiseach (Irish Prime
Minister) may be facing up to 15 or 16 Sinn Fein TDs after the next
election in the Irish Republic.
"Does the (Irish) Republic`s government want to be dealing with a
coalition 15 or 16 of whose members have not given up bombs for the
Can UUP Unity Translate To Election?
By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor
The South Antrim MP David Burnside walked out at an early stage in the
proceedings of this year's Ulster Unionist conference.
He was angered by some criticism directed at him by the conference
chairman James Cooper, who Mr Burnside labelled a "political pigmy".
Aside from that protest, the absence of Jeffrey Donaldson and his
supporters made this year's Ulster Unionist gathering appear a far more
united occasion than the party has seen in recent years.
There also seemed to be rather more young party members in attendance
But will that sense of unity translate into a comeback when the Ulster
Unionists have to fight a Westminster election, probably in May of next
The omens are not good.
Although party leader David Trimble says that with a bigger turnout they
can recover lost ground, the orthodoxy is that the DUP is hard on the
heels of the Ulster Unionists in East Antrim, whilst the party will face
tough contests in South Antrim, Upper Bann and North Down.
Obviously the battle lines will be determined by the state of the
process, deal or no deal, when the voters go to the polls.
However, the Ulster Unionists may have to wait for the DUP to drop the
ball, either in the negotiations, or in a future Executive, rather more
disastrously than they have done so far.
Mr Trimble referred in his conference speech to a government paper which
he believed would soon be circulated, setting out the latest thinking
from London and Dublin on the sticking points.
In the corridors at the conference, the indications were that this paper
would be passed to the parties on Wednesday.
The politicians would then be given about a week to mull over their
options before the DUP and Sinn Fein are invited to give their considered
response to the prime ministers.
If the two biggest parties give a deal the thumbs up, it is likely Tony
Blair and Bertie Ahern would want to get together to put their stamp on
Legal changes to the Stormont rules could be signalled in the Queen's
Speech to Parliament, which is due on 23 November.
However, the DUP's Peter Robinson has reiterated his demand for a "visual
aspect" to IRA decommissioning, something Sinn Fein has so far ruled out.
If the logjam over visual disarmament remains and the parties cannot move
ahead, the governments will have to consider their options.
A reduction in assembly members' salaries seems the least that ministers
Fright or reassurance?
Some predict more radical action, such as closing Stormont down.
However, Bertie Ahern has talked about an opportunity to restore
devolution not coming again until 2006.
Although that comment was no doubt meant to frighten the parties into
action, some have taken it as reassurance that the governments really
intend to go on rolling their rock up the same old mountainside for at
least the next year.
The relatively positive moves from the UDA may have a slight knock-on
effect on the wider process.
But the betting is that the DUP, Sinn Fein and the IRA will make their
own decisions in their own time, based on their reading of what the fine
detail of any deal will do for them.
They will have both next year's elections and the longer term very much
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/13 18:05:32 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Paisley 'Let IRA Off The Hook'
Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists let republicans off the hook at
intensive political talks, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said.
Mr Trimble said the year since the assembly elections had been wasted,
with no sign of the new deal promised by the DUP.
He said if Northern Ireland's devolved assembly was to return, Tony Blair
must nail down the IRA on a commitment to fully disarm and end
Addressing his party's conference on Saturday at Newcastle, County Down,
he said the prime minister had missed an opportunity at the Leeds Castle
talks in September to find out exactly what republicans were prepared to
do to revive power sharing.
Mr Trimble said he suspected that Sinn Fein was "unable to persuade their
grassroots to make what they would regard as big sacrifices".
"Like other parties, we do not know what republicans supposedly offered
to Blair. I suspect the offer was more a bluff than anything else.
"Blair should have nailed it down but, with characteristic optimism, he
rushed at it.
"The DUP could have covered themselves by confronting republicans and
insisting they give clear details. But rather than engage in serious
negotiations, they hid behind other issues.
"I did warn the DUP that they were letting republicans away in the smoke.
Unfortunately, they did not listen.
"But that should not obscure the fact that the main responsibility lies
with the government and republicans."
At the conclusion of intensive political talks at Leeds Castle in Kent,
Mr Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the thorny issues of IRA
disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.
However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland
Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists
and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.
Mr Trimble said on Saturday that the negotiations which followed
September's talks had "run out of steam".
"It is said that the government is preparing a paper to put before the
parties. We have advised the government that they first nail down
republicans," he said.
"There must be genuine acts of completion that satisfactorily resolve
decommissioning and paramilitary issues.
"Without that prospect, there will be no progress. With it, there is
something to do and we will be ready."
Mr Trimble said the DUP had not put forward any new deal during the
negotiations and had in fact signed up to the Good Friday Agreement after
six years of opposing it.
Mr Paisley's meeting with Mr Ahern in Dublin was "the most dramatic
reversal of all", he said.
Mr Trimble also attacked the DUP for seeking separate elections in the
assembly for the Stormont First and Deputy First Ministers if devolution
"What is the gain if the DUP is not required to vote for a Sinn Fein DFM
but it is prepared to accept a Sinn Fein DFM voted in by other means?" he
"This is merely stripping out one of the few cross-community provisions
of the Agreement to spare the blushes of a sectarian party."
Mr Trimble said that, with the General Election and local government
elections approaching, unionism could not afford to have five years of
"To an extent not grasped here, the DUP, in a House of Commons completely
dominated by Labour MPs, are held in scarcely concealed contempt," he
"Five years of their sourness will do unaccountable damage to the Union.
"Unionism cannot afford a representation that will make Gerry Adams
appear good before the court of English public opinion."
Mr Trimble also said unionists should not be content with direct rule
ministers running Northern Ireland's government departments.
He said the introduction of water charges as well as proposed education
and local government reforms in the province were all evidence of just
how bad direct rule was for Northern Ireland.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/13 13:25:58 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Dead Loyalist's Lawyers In Assets Plea
By Maureen Coleman
13 November 2004
Lawyers for a murdered loyalist have appealed for help in refuting claims
that all his assets were the proceeds of crime.
Legal representatives for Stephen Warnock, gunned down in September 2002,
have asked for help in relation to his assets.
Warnock, a senior LVF figure and drug baron, was killed after a gunman
opened fire as his terrified three-year-old daughter looked on.
Up to 15 bullets were sprayed into his BMW car by the pillion passenger
on a motorcycyle that pulled up alongside the parked car in Newtownards,
Warnock was hit several times and died at the scene. His daughter, who
was in the back seat, was unhurt.
A legal notice published yesterday disclosed that the "official
solicitor" has been appointed to act as "the representative of the
deceased for the purposes of defending proceedings on the deceased's
It says the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) is alleging that "all assets
traceable to Stephen Warnock are the proceeds of crime".
The notice continues: "Can anyone or anyone known to you assist this
office in gathering evidence which would refute this allegation? The
official solicitor would appreciate any assistance that can be given in
The notice says anyone who can come forward and refute the ARA's
allegations about Warnock should contact the official solicitor within 28
Last month a landmark ruling was used in Belfast High Court to seize
assets from drug dealing and terrorism valued at between £1.2m and £1.25m
from the estate of murdered loyalist godfather Jim Johnston.
Johnston, a leading member of the Red Hand Commando, was shot dead during
a loyalist feud at his north Down home in May.
In the largest ever court order for the seizure of criminal assets in the
UK, the ARA seized Johnston's former home in Crawfordsburn, together with
seven other properties in Northern Ireland, a holiday home in S ligo
and a significant investment portfolio.
Missing Fisherman's Body Found
The body of a missing County Down fisherman has been found by police
Colin Donnelly, 30, went missing after his trawler, the Emerald Dawn,
went down off the coast of Kilkeel on Wednesday.
His friend, Shane Murnaghan, 28, was rescued on Thursday after more than
20 hours on a life raft and is now recovering at home in the town.
Shane's mother Rita said on Saturday that she was relieved Colin's body
had been found.
"It's a relief, but we have to live with it too," she said.
"Shane is very traumatised and sedated. His girlfriend, who's a nurse, is
She said Shane was able to pass on details about the location of the
Police divers returned on Saturday to the wreck of the Emerald Dawn,
which lies on the seabed, in about 40 feet of water, five miles east of
Kilkeel, County Down.
They found Colin's body nearby.
The two lifelong friends had been fishing for crabs on Wednesday when
their 11-metre boat sank on Wednesday.
Marine accident investigators have begun an inquiry to establish what
Friends and family gathered again at Kilkeel harbour as Colin's body was
brought on shore and taken to the lifeboat station where a private
religious ceremony was held.
Kilkeel lifeboatman Roy Teggarty said: "The chap who was rescued is
feeling difficult emotions as well because his friend has now gone.
"I am sure, like the others, he is glad to have him home, and now they
can put him to rest."
Mr Murnaghan was winched to safety by a helicopter after being found by a
freight ferry nine miles south-east of the Isle of Man.
He was conscious but suffering from hypothermia.
The search for Mr Donnelly was called off on Thursday evening when the
coastguard said there was "no hope left" that he could be alive after
more than 24 hours in the water.
On Friday, Mr Donnelly's father Bernard said he was glad Shane had
survived: "My son didn't make it to the life raft, but it is better to
have one than have lost two.
"I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Shane is a member of my family
- we are just all one family - though we are not related, but we are
related in every other way.
"He is a friend and a colleague and I am so glad for the Murnaghan family
to have their son home again."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/13 12:33:56 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Sex, Life And Liam
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Toronto -- Usually, the actors I meet turn out to be Lilliputians
compared with their screen image. But Liam Neeson is even bigger than he
appears on film. He's 6 feet 4 with a large, solid frame. The hotel chair
he settles into can barely contain him. It isn't a surprise to learn that
he used to operate a forklift.
When Neeson starts to talk, his voice doesn't fit his imposing
appearance. He speaks almost in a whisper -- creating a mood of intimacy
and making me feel like a co-conspirator, as I lean over to catch every
syllable. A broken- off toothpick dangles from his mouth, an old harmless
habit, he assures me, when I express concern that he might swallow it.
I ask Neeson if he trained himself to talk softly to conserve his voice
during his tenure with Dublin's famed Abbey Theatre. He still returns to
the stage between films. He says no, that he's always spoken this way.
The timbre is just right for his latest role as pioneering sex researcher
Alfred Kinsey, whose discoveries are credited with ushering in the sexual
revolution of the 1960s. Few people can recall what Kinsey sounded like -
- the only lasting image of him is his almost military-style haircut and
trademark bow tie, which Neeson replicates in "Kinsey."
But to get people to disclose intensely personal information about their
sexual behavior, such as how often they masturbate, you wouldn't want to
holler the questions at them.
Bill Condon, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Gods and Monsters" who
directed and wrote "Kinsey," confirms that Neeson's gentle voice and
manner jibe with Kinsey's. The sexual pioneer has been rediscovered
almost 50 years after his death.
A biography, "Kinsey: Sex the Measure of All Things," has just been
reissued, and there's a thinly veiled portrayal of him and his research
team - - known to engage in wife swapping and homosexual relations with
one another -- in T.C. Boyle's new novel, "The Inner Circle.''
"You know Kinsey had this great empathy," Condon says. "He would be
sitting here with you, and you would feel incredibly comfortable talking
about your sex life, probably telling things that you haven't told those
people you've made love to. Liam has this incredible softness and
empathy, too. ''
Neeson also has displayed enormous range in his Oscar-nominated role as
Oskar Schindler in "Schindler's List" and as the title Irish
revolutionary in "Michael Collins." He's so good it's easy to forgive him
for accepting the big bucks to play a Jedi master in "Star Wars: Episode
1 -- The Phantom Menace" and a professor in the forgettable "The
Haunting," parts that somehow seem beneath him.
Condon had another reason besides talent for choosing Neeson. "He's
obviously so comfortable in his own skin and obviously adores women," he
says of his star, who's been romantically linked with Julia Roberts,
Helen Mirren, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Grey and Brooke Shields. "So to
see him as the 26- year-old Kinsey, who was still a virgin fumbling in
bed and really very bad at it, goes a little against people's
Born in 1952, Neeson came of age in the 1960s, although the '60s in his
native Ballymena in Northern Ireland weren't like the '60s in San
Francisco. Still, he was fortunate that his father, Barney, a custodian
at a boys' primary school, and mother, Kitty, a cook at a girls' school,
were relatively enlightened when it came to sex, their Irish-Catholic
"Stuff got discussed when it came up," Neeson recalls. "I didn't grow up
in ignorance. But I did go to school with lots of people who did not know
where babies came from until quite a late age. Traditionally, in Ireland,
sex outside of marriage was a big sin. But I had a very healthy
More so, it sounds, than Kinsey's own. His father was a stern man who
belonged to a Methodist church in Hoboken, N.J., but was strict enough to
have been a Calvinist, according to Kinsey's biographer, Jonathan
Gathorne-Hardy. Not only was Kinsey a total innocent about sex when he
married his beloved Clara McMillen, nicknamed Mac, but so was she.
Neeson's scenes in bed with Laura Linney, who plays Mac, were awkward
because they had to show the couple's difficulty consummating their
"The early scenes are quite painful to watch with adult audiences,
because they know what's happening. It was sort of delicate, and the
creaky bed we were in didn't help," says Neeson, who was put at ease
because he and Linney are old colleagues. They appeared together two
years ago in a Broadway production of "The Crucible.'' "Laura and I have
good chemistry, and we don't overintellectualize stuff," he adds.
The Kinseys treated their initial problem as something that could be
worked out. They discussed it with a doctor and eventually found the way
to pleasure. "They discovered this great joy with each other that they
never knew existed because of their own upbringing," Neeson says.
An entomologist by profession, Kinsey soon became more interested in the
mating habits of humans than insects, leading to his landmark studies on
male and female sexuality done in the 1940s and '50s. By simply asking
the right questions, he and his team discovered that homosexuality and
lesbianism were far more prevalent than had been assumed and that most
men and many women masturbated. The latter finding was particularly
shocking at the time.
Neeson dipped into Kinsey's reports every now and then during production.
"They're tough going, especially all the charts and graphs. But
occasionally, I think, Kinsey was actually a really good writer,
especially on the female report. He's got some lovely paragraphs where
he's talking about the difference between the sexes -- quite flowery, not
at all dry and staid.''
To Neeson, the greatest contribution of the man he portrays was to show
that "we're all a part of the same species and have the same thoughts and
fears and attitudes. He helped thousands of people and helped change or
modulate laws so they weren't as harsh, especially when it came to sex
between consenting adults outside marriage.''
Those in Kinsey's inner circle used themselves as guinea pigs for their
studies. They photographed and filmed themselves in sexual acts to see
what muscle groups were involved and measure perspiration and heart
rates. "It was done in a very crude way, with stopwatches," says Neeson,
who hasn't seen the original photos or footage. "They're locked up in a
As the movie accurately depicts, Kinsey's wife would come in during
breaks with trays of sandwiches and pots of tea. "Everybody stopped and
had their tea and sandwiches, and then would go back to work," Neeson
The onetime ladies' man has been married for 10 years to Natasha
Richardson, the mother of his two sons and the daughter of Vanessa
Redgrave, who, he says, is a very involved grandmother. "She's great at
playing with the boys.''
It isn't yet apparent if his children have inherited the acting gene. "I
would not be disappointed if they decided to be doctors or bankers," says
Neeson, who made his stage debut in 1976 and is all too familiar with the
ups and downs of his profession.
I wondered if while shooting "Kinsey," he'd tell his wife, "My God, you
wouldn't believe what happened on the set today.''
Neeson laughed, quietly of course.
"To a certain extent. On a film like this with a limited budget, your
feet never touch the ground. Every night there was stuff to learn. But I
slept well at nights, I can tell you that.''
"KINSEY" (R) opens Friday at Bay Area theaters.
E-mail Chronicle Senior Movie Writer Ruthe Stein at