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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 16, 2004
News 11/16/04 - Margaret Hassan Believed Slain in Video
News about Ireland and the Irish
CH 11/16/04 British Hostage Believed Slain In Video
BB 11/16/04 IRA Arms Move 'To Be Witnessed' - V
PI 11/16/04 Ahern's Socialist Claim Cynical & Fraudulent Strategy
LS 11/16/04 McCullough Vows To Reclaim Championship Belt
British Hostage Believed Slain In Video
By MARIAM FAM
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Margaret Hassan, a kidnapped aid worker who spent
decades bringing food and medicine to Iraqis, was believed murdered
after Al-Jazeera television said Tuesday it received a video
showing a hooded militant shooting a blindfolded woman in the head.
Hassan's family in London said the longtime director of CARE in
Iraq was likely the victim, and British Foreign Secretary Jack
Straw said analysis of the video showed Hassan has "probably been
murdered, although we cannot conclude this with complete
CARE said it was in mourning for the 59-year- old Briton, a veteran
humanitarian worker known around the Mideast for her concern for
Iraqis _ particularly during the years of U.N. sanctions, whose
effects on children she vocally denounced.
"To kidnap and kill anyone is inexcusable," Straw said. "But it is
repugnant to commit such a crime against a woman who has spent most
of her life working for the good of the people of Iraq."
In an emotional appeal on Al-Jazeera, Hassan's Iraqi husband,
Tahseen Ali Hassan, said he had heard of the video but did not know
whether it was authentic.
"I appeal to those who took my wife (to tell me) what they did with
her. ... I want my wife, dead or alive. If she is dead, please let
me know of her whereabouts so I can bury her in peace," he said,
his voice choked with tears.
Hassan would be the first foreign female hostage killed in Iraq's
wave of kidnappings. More than 170 foreigners have been abducted
this year, and at least 34 killed. One woman _ a Polish-Iraqi
citizen _ remains captive.
The video shows a hooded militant firing a pistol into the head of
a blindfolded woman wearing an orange jumpsuit, said Al-Jazeera
spokesman Jihad Ballout. The station received the tape a few days
ago but had not been sure of its authenticity until recently, he
"We invited British diplomatic officials to come and view it," he
told The Associated Press. "It's now likely that the image depicts
Ballout said the station would not air the video and would not
broadcast any acts of killing, outside war. Al-Jazeera has been
under pressure not to show videos of kidnapped foreigners.
Hassan was abducted in Baghdad on Oct. 19 on her way to work, the
most prominent of more than 170 foreigners kidnapped in Iraq this
year. Her captors issued a series of videos showing her weeping and
pleading for Britons to act to save her. In one video, she fainted
and a bucket of water was thrown on her to revive her.
In one video, she begged British Prime Minister Tony Blair to
withdraw troops from Iraq and calling for the release of female
On Sunday, U.S. Marines found the mutilated body of what they
believe was a Western woman on a street in a Fallujah during the
U.S. assault on the insurgent stronghold. Officials have not said
if the body has been identified.
Besides Hassan, the only Western woman known to be held was Teresa
Borcz Khalifa, 54, a Polish-born longtime resident of Iraq seized
A Blair spokesman said the prime minister "sends his sympathy to
the family of Margaret Hassan and shares their abhorrence at the
cruel treatment of someone who devoted so many years of their life
to helping the people of Iraq."
CARE said it was "with profound sadness" that it learned of the
video. "The whole of CARE is in mourning," said the group, which
closed its Iraq operations after the kidnapping.
Hassan's four brothers and sisters also said they believe she is
dead, although their statement did not mention the video.
"Our hearts are broken," they said in a statement released by the
British Foreign Office. "We have kept hoping for as long as we
could, but we now have to accept that Margaret has probably gone
and at last her suffering has ended."
The family said, "Those who are guilty of this atrocious act, and
those who support them, have no excuses."
Al-Jazeera reported on Nov. 2 that Hassan's captors threatened to
turn her over to followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-
Three days later, al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq group called for
Hassan's release and promised to free her if she fell into their
hands, according to a message posted on a Web site known for
publishing messages from Islamic militant groups.
Al-Zarqawi and his men have been blamed for numerous deadly car
bombings and the slayings of foreign hostages, including three
Americans and a Briton.
Born in Ireland, Hassan also held British and Iraqi citizenship.
She met her husband at the university and moved with him to
Baghdad. Friends said she converted to Islam. Before the war,
Hassan mostly worked on projects to provide clean water and improve
education, said Carel de Rooy, a UNICEF representative who once
worked with her there. Hassan was an outspoken opponent of the
U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
See video at:
IRA Arms Move 'To Be Witnessed' -V
The IRA has agreed to allow a Protestant and a Catholic churchman
to witness any future decommissioning of its weapons, the BBC has
It is expected that the IRA offer will be detailed in government
papers to be handed separately to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
and DUP leader Ian Paisley during meetings in Dublin and London on
Making the IRA's acts of "putting weapons beyond use" more visible
has been one of the major sticking points in the negotiations to
restore a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.
According to the BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme,
sources say agreement on having churchmen as witnesses was reached
during negotiations held since the Leeds Castle talks in September.
The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein have been involved in
intensive - though indirect - talks as the main unionist and
republican parties in Northern Ireland.
As an incentive to help bring about an agreement, the IRA has
offered major acts of decommissioning, but the DUP's negotiators
want more evidence than the word of General John de Chastelain, the
head of the independent arms decommissioning body.
The offer of allowing other witnesses to see it is a significant
move by republicans - but it is still not clear whether it will be
enough for the DUP.
However, it would only happen in the event of a comprehensive deal
being reached on a new devolved government at Stormont.
Reporting for Spotlight, the BBC's Northern Ireland security editor
Brian Rowan said there was no agreement yet who the two churchmen
It seems to me there is going to have to be something more than
just General de Chastelain making a statement
Chief Constable Hugh Orde
He added: "So far, none of this had been discussed in direct talks
between the IRA and General de Chastelain.
"Inside the negotiations, efforts are still being made by the DUP
to secure photographic evidence of decommissioning."
Brian Rowan said the British and Irish Governments want to discuss
whether photographs could be taken and if so, could they be
published or shown privately to those who need to be convinced? Up
to this point, republicans have said: "No".
In recent weeks, the DUP has said progress has been made since the
Leeds Castle talks and the agreement on church witnesses seems to
The Chief Constable, Hugh Orde told Spotlight the "visibility
issue" surrounding decommissioning was a difficult one to square.
"It seems to me there is going to have to be something more than
just General de Chastelain making a statement.
"I think there's going to have to be something more visible if
people, if communities, are going to be convinced that this is a
very real event."
Speaking about who might be chosen as witnesses, the Moderator of
the Presbyterian Church, Ken Newell, told the programme: "These
have to be people who are trusted.
"These must be people whose word is their bond - people who are
against any kind of exaggeration or hype because people today have
a great scepticism against the whole spinning industry.
"They want people to speak the truth - to tell it as it is and talk
A DUP spokesman declined to comment on the Spotlight report, saying
it was a matter for negotiations.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "Every negotiation,
particularly as it comes to a crucial point is rife with rumour and
"None of the issues involved in the current effort to find a
breakthrough have been agreed or closed on."
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said: "The approach of using clergy as
witnesses has been mooted before and may take us forward now but
the reality is that previous acts of IRA decommissioning haven't
been done in a way that maximise confidence."
The power-sharing devolved institutions in Northern Ireland were
suspended two years ago amid allegations of IRA intelligence
gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.
Spotlight is transmitted on BBC One Northern Ireland at 2225 GMT on
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/16 18:01:40 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Ahern's 'Socialist' Claim Part Of Cynical And Fraudulent Strategy -
Tuesday, November 16
Statement By Pat Rabbitte TD
Our Taoiseach's claim to be a socialist would be funny if it didn't
reveal a cynical and fraudulent political strategy.
No thinking person will take the Taoiseach's claim seriously,
especially when contrasted with the record of the two Governments
over which he has presided. They have consciously and deliberately
set out to construct a tax system that favours the holders of
considerable wealth, while at the same time starving essential
public services of necessary resources. They have helped to create
and institutionalise a two-tier health service, an education system
where access to income is a determinant of success, and an
increasingly divided society.
"They have misspent the wealth of the nation in ways that are
utterly irresponsible, while studiously avoiding the opportunity to
make the sort of incremental improvements in quality public
services that would improve the quality of life of the community,
and particularly those members of the community who live at the
margins. They cut €58m from the most vulnerable in Irish society
through the Savage Sixteen social welfare cuts. The track record of
Taoiseach Ahern cannot be described, by any stretch of the
imagination, as either socialist or republican.
However, the purpose of this otherwise outlandish claim, repeated
several times over the weekend (and not seriously challenged), does
not arise from the Taoiseach's desire to set out a political
philosophy. Instead he is intent, in the words of former Minister
Ray Burke, on trying to draw a line in the sand, to escape the
judgement of the people for the policies and actions of the past.
This is an exercise in attempted repositioning his Party, damaged
as it has been by seven years of broken promises and harsh,
uncaring policies. It is also an attempt to send out the message
that after the next election, he and his party will be open to
different alliances than the one they presently enjoy with the PDs.
In particular, with his repeated claim to be a true republican, he
is now trying to set out ground for a post- election alliance with
This strategy indicates just how worried Fianna Fáil is at the
emergence of a real challenge, in the form of an alternative
government, to their tight hold on the levers of power. The
cynicism of the strategy, especially when coupled with the
Taoiseach's inexplicable desire to commence the political
rehabilitation of his former mentor Charles J Haughey, indicates
just how important it is that Fianna Fáil's stranglehold should be
Rejuvenated McCullough Vows To Reclaim Championship Belt
By Jeff Haney
LAS VEGAS SUN
The big fights
A sampling of major fights in Wayne McCullough's career
:: Won silver medal at 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
:: July 30, 1995 -- Won a split decision against Yasuei Yakushiji
for the WBC bantamweight title.
:: March 30, 1996 -- Won a split decision against Jose Luis Bueno
to retain his WBC bantamweight title.
:: Oct. 31, 1998 -- Lost to Naseem Hamed in a featherweight title
:: Oct. 22, 1999 -- Lost to Erik Morales in a super bantamweight
When Wayne McCullough talks about boxing, he talks about blood and
guts, about the importance of having a thick skull, about being a
ruthless warrior in the ring and giving the fans what they want.
He also talks about how the sport saved his life.
McCullough, who has lived in Las Vegas for nearly 12 years, grew up
in a poor section of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He recalls bombs
going off in his neighborhood, innocent people suffering, the
deadly detritus of what the Irish call The Troubles -- the violent
conflict between Catholics and Protestants that can be traced back
"When I came to America, I'd work out in gyms with a lot of
fighters who came from bad neighborhoods," McCullough said. "They
thought I was some rich white kid, until I told them where I came
from. I'd say, 'That's the real ghetto.' "
McCullough feels a deep connection to his homeland, but is dubious
about the peace talks of recent years.
"They say the violence is going away in Belfast," he said, "but at
night, the ghosts come out to play."
Some of his friends from the old days, McCullough said, became
members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the violent Northern Ireland
loyalist paramilitary group.
"We still say hello," McCullough said, when he's back visiting.
"But I'm thinking, 'That could have been me.'
"It was boxing that got me out of it. Boxing saved my life."
It has been more than nine years since McCullough won his first
world championship fight, beating Yasuei Yakushiji in Japan for the
WBC bantamweight title, and nearly eight years since his first
loss, a split decision to hard-hitting Daniel Zaragoza for the WBC
super bantamweight title.
McCullough has not held a world title since, although he has fought
in memorable championship bouts against the likes of Naseem Hamed
and Erik Morales.
Now, working under new trainer Freddie Roach and having signed a
contract with Goossen Tutor Promotions, McCullough is laying the
groundwork for a return to the championship ranks.
After 18 months of inactivity, McCullough, 34, returned to the ring
on Sept. 23 and stopped overmatched Mike Juarez in the second round
at the Pechanga casino resort in Temecula, Calif.
His next fight is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 9, also at Pechanga,
against an opponent yet to be announced. After that, McCullough
plans perhaps two more tuneup bouts, then, if all goes well, a
championship fight next summer at either featherweight (126 pounds)
or super bantamweight (122 pounds).
"George Foreman came back to win a heavyweight title 20 years
later," McCullough said. "I'll win mine 10 years later."
McCullough, who hooked up with Roach in the summer to prepare for
the fight against Juarez, said the partnership is already paying
Roach, one of the finest trainers in the game, was a calming
influence in that fight after McCullough sustained a cut from a
head butt in the first round.
"I remember going back to the corner feeling blood," McCullough
said. "But Freddie was very cool about it; he said to just go back
out there and knock the guy out. That was just what I needed --
someone to give me that kind of confidence."
McCullough and Roach have known each other since 1993 and needed
little time to become acclimated to one another.
"Everything clicked," Roach said from his Wild Card Gym in Los
Angeles. "Training has been going very well, and everything's right
on schedule for Dec. 9.
"I'd like to see Wayne get at least two more fights under his belt,
then we'll make another run at the title."
Promoter Dan Goossen's relationship with McCullough goes back to
the fighter's professional debut at the Reseda (Calif.) Country
Club in 1993. The two have had an on-again, off-again affiliation
"I go back many, many years with Wayne, to his first pro fight,
which we promoted," Goossen said from his office in Sherman Oaks,
Calif. "No matter how close I am to Wayne, if I did not have
complete confidence that he is able to achieve another
championship, I would recommend to him, as a friend, that he give
up the sport. ...
"By the first quarter of next year, or by summer, I feel very
confident we'll get him another title shot."
McCullough cherishes his reputation as one of boxing's toughest
competitors -- "the granite-chinned Belfastman," the European press
calls him -- and says his Irish roots have a lot to do with it.
In 31 fights -- 27 wins, 4 losses, 18 knockouts -- McCullough has
never been knocked down. The Ring magazine once honored him as
having the best chin in boxing.
"People say to have a good chin, you need to have a thick neck,"
said 5-foot-7 McCullough, long known as the "Pocket Rocket."
"I have an average neck, but I have a thick skull, actually, like
Julio Cesar Chavez."
McCullough likes to draw a parallel between himself and other
Mexican fighters as well -- such as Morales, who outpointed him in
1999 in a super bantamweight title fight.
"He's one of those Mexican fighters who likes to war it out,"
McCullough said. "The Mexicans have the reputation for being
warriors, for going all out, but the Irish are the same way."
Another fighter McCullough admires is "Irish" Micky Ward, the
junior welterweight from Lowell, Mass., best known for his three
fights against Arturo Gatti and for his predilection to bleed on
"I love the old-time fighters, and Ward's like the old-time
fighters, with the blood and guts," said McCullough, an advocate
for the return of 15-round championship fights. "With those guys,
you know they're going to fight their hearts out every time and
give the people what they want."
Although McCullough says Morales is the hardest puncher he has
faced, he says his toughest fight came against Victor Rabanales, a
Mexican bantamweight, in Atlantic City in 1994.
Before McCullough went on to win a unanimous decision in his 13th
pro fight, one shot from Rabanales briefly knocked McCullough out
on his feet.
"He hit me, and for a second I thought I was watching TV back in my
hotel room," McCullough said. "I recovered well, but that was the
fight that made me think professional boxing was a tough sport."
McCullough trains primarily in a gym he constructed in the garage
of his home in a well-appointed Summerlin neighborhood. It's half a
world removed, in every way, from the mean Belfast streets where he
began boxing at age 8.
Though McCullough sometimes spars with former featherweight champ
Kevin Kelley, his constant companion in the gym is his wife and
manager, Cheryl, who guides him through the rigors of a workout as
a recording of a U2 concert blares over the sound system.
As he warms up, McCullough reels off a succession of witticisms as
if they were 1-2 combinations:
"Did you ever notice that all boxing gyms are in bad neighborhoods
.... well, all of them except this one."
"I've told Cheryl, if you ever see me slowing down (mentally), tell
me, and I'll quit (boxing) right away. It's OK to talk to yourself,
but when you start answering yourself, that's when you're in
"After I get a belt at 122 or 126, I'm thinking about moving up to
heavyweight, because that division looks pretty wide-open right
He shifts gears easily, however, to reveal a thoughtful and serious
side. McCullough, who has applied for U.S. citizenship and hopes to
achieve it next year, declares an abiding love for this country,
and speaks of how grateful he is that he's able to raise his 6-
year-old daughter, Wynona, here.
Although he was concerned about the divisive nature of the recent
elections, McCullough said he supports President Bush and the
American invasion of Iraq. He speculated that if the Irish fought a
full-blown war in 1690, perhaps they could have reached some kind
of definitive conclusion rather than having violent episodes linger
"Or maybe Belfast just hardened me," he said.
Only with some prodding, though, will McCullough address the most
painful segment of his career: a medical scare four years ago that
proved unfounded but led to a 27-month layoff.
In 2000, the British Boxing Board of Control canceled a McCullough
fight scheduled to take place in Belfast after an MRI revealed a
cyst near his brain. Subsequent testing in the United States and
Europe determined that it was a water cyst (rather than a blood
cyst), that McCullough was probably born with it and that he was in
no more danger in the boxing ring than any other man.
"I really don't know what went on, the way the British board let me
hang like that," McCullough said. "I was cracking up (mentally),
thinking if I got hit in the head I was going to die."
Although McCullough said he has since been cleared by more than a
dozen neurosurgeons, and was licensed to fight in Nevada for a
comeback bout in 2002, he figures the interruption of his career
cost him at least $1 million in purses.
"It was two years of my career I can't get back," McCullough said.
"It was a bad time, but it's behind me. My head's clear now. I've
got a new trainer, a new promoter, new confidence. I'm looking
For McCullough -- currently ranked No. 10 in the featherweight
division by the WBC -- that could mean a title fight in 2005
against 126-pound champ Injin Chi or 122- pound champs Oscar Larios
or Israel Vazquez.
It could mean big fights in Las Vegas, or Dublin, or the Irish-
American strongholds of Boston or New York.
Goossen said he has no doubt McCullough will find what he's looking
"There are very few stars in our business," Goossen said, "and
let's face it, Wayne McCullough is a star."