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November 20, 2004

News 11/20/04 - IRA Not The Problem

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 11/20/04 IRA Not The Problem: Pass The Parcel Or Game On? –A
IO 11/20/04 Next 10 Days Are Crucial – Taoiseach -V
BT 11/20/04 SDLP Slams Sinn Fein Stance On Bike Police
BB 11/20/04 Thirty Years As A Bomb Survivor
UT 11/20/04 Meeting Over Bewley's Closure
UT 11/20/04 Space Station Above Irish Skies

West Belfast hills to be made accessible to public - Brendan Wright
reports on the plans to open up the hills around west Belfast to
the public


Hear Martin McGuinness at:
---- /2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4028965.stm

Pass The Parcel Or Game On? -V

By Martina Purdy
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

Have you heard the one about the Pope, the Queen and Lord Snowden?

They are the answer to prayers - and the vexed question: who could
witness decommissioning and who could take the picture?

The Pope and the Queen both head churches and, well... royals like
to keep it in the family.

Such tongue-in-cheek speculation is the stuff of a process that is
in the delicate stages, with more questions than answers.

But the revelations in BBC Spotlight that the IRA is now willing to
allow a Protestant and Catholic cleric witness decommissioning is
one of the most significant political developments in a long time.

The proposal was on the table last year, but it was rejected. It is
now thought despite the spin - and the denials to me just weeks ago
- it has never been off the table.

But will it be enough? Or are we missing the point?

Martin McGuinness certainly thinks so. Sinn Fein's chief negotiator
told Inside Politics that the IRA is not the problem.

Rather, it is friction within the DUP - between those who want to
deal now and those who want to wait until after the Westminster
election next Spring, he said.

"The difficulties," said Martin McGuinness, centre more on whether
or not they want to do a deal now than on whether or not the IRA is
prepared to make an historic or unprecedented contribution.

"I actually think that's where the debate is at. And I think there
is some validity to what we are being told, that there are
discordant notes within the DUP vis-a-vis whether or not they
should go now.

"And if that is the case, it is something of an irrelevance for
those people what the IRA is prepared to do or not do."

The DUP, for its part, insists its party is united - claiming a
unanimous response to the proposals when Ian Paisley briefed the
assembly team.

The DUP acknowledges significant progress has been made - but more
work is required.

The DUP still wants a photograph of decommissioning. One source
claimed such a proposal is in the British- Irish paper - but the IRA
has not agreed.

It would be foolish to suggest the IRA would never agree to this -
given the shifts on decommissioning in the past.

But there are perhaps good tactical reasons from a republican point
of view as to why they will refuse - for now.

There could be fears that a published photograph would surface in a
DUP election campaign. Can you imagine billboards with this image?

While it would certainly boost the DUP - Gerry Adams does not want
his supporters looking at pictorial boasts by Ian Paisley.

Sinn Fein says it still needs change to the proposals to reflect
more fully the Good Friday Agreement.

It is thought these relate to the powers of ministers, and north-
south structures.

Education minister

Sinn Fein has rejected SDLP claims it is prepared to concede
changes to the election of ministers.

The Agreement states that a majority of unionists and nationalists
must endorse the first and deputy first minister on a joint ticket.

The two governments have given the parties until the end of the
month to give their response and some say the game is definitely on
- others say the game is a political pass the parcel

The other ministers are simply selected by party strength. The new
rules would have all the ministers elected together on a collective
ticket by a majority of unionists and nationalists.

The SDLP say this will give the DUP a power they will want - and
need - to use.

An SDLP source claimed: "Had Seamus Mallon conceded it in 1998,
Ulster Unionists would have vetoed Martin McGuinness as education
minister and demanded the party choose someone else in exchange for
its support of the executive."

Martin McGuinness told Inside Politics his party was not conceding
the change. "One thing you can be certain of is we are not going to
change that rule," he said.

The big question is if the governments change it - will Sinn Fein
acquiesce and blame Tony Blair?

The two governments have given the parties until the end of the
month to give their response. Some say the game is definitely on -
others say the game is a political pass the parcel.

It is claimed neither Ian Paisley nor Gerry Adams want to be left
holding the blame. We will soon know their bottom lines.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/20 17:28:15 GMT


See video at:

Next 10 Days Are Crucial - Taoiseach

20/11/2004 - 18:56:09

The prospect of restoring the political institutions in Northern
Ireland is too close to call, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said tonight.

Sinn Féin and the DUP are still considering secret proposals put
forward by the Irish and British governments in a bid to restore
power-sharing before the end-of-month deadline.

Mr Ahern said: "Nobody can call it at this stage. An enormous
effort has gone in. The next 10 days are crucial, enormously

He added: "The movements are huge for the parties involved".

Speaking after a rallying address to Ogra Fianna Fáil youth members
in Co Cavan tonight, Mr also praised the efforts of Dr Ian Paisley
of the DUP and Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin.

He said: "They have engaged on every issue and tried to find

Responding to reporters' questions, Mr Ahern also said that
dissident loyalist groups and racketeering would have no place in
the future of Northern Ireland.

He said: "We won't tolerate loyalist dissidents. They will face the
full rigours of the law.

"Neither will we turn a blind eye to racketeering. People who
obtain money illegally are depriving their own communities. It's
their own people that lose out."

In his earlier address to 500 delegates, Mr Ahern stressed that the
Northern Ireland peace process reamined Fianna Fáil's number one
priority and that he fully intended to see out the remainder of his
government's five-year term.


SDLP Slams Sinn Fein Stance On Bike Police

By Brendan McDaid
20 November 2004

THE SDLP and Sinn Fein today clashed over PSNI plans to introduce
bobbies on bikes in Londonderry's nationalist estates.

The row broke out after officers pedalled into Galliagh earlier
this week on yellow mountain bikes to launch the new community
policing scheme.

Foyle Superintendent Richard Russell has now announced his
intention to introduce the bikes to other areas.

Nationalist and republican representatives from the Galliagh
estate, however, today clashed over the move.

Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan branded the initiative "a stunt".

Councillor Hassan claimed: "The facts are that the majority of the
nationalist people have no confidence in the PSNI as a policing

"They will not be fooled into accepting less than they are entitled
to, because the PSNI change their mode of transport."

Mr Hassan said local people had not yet received the new beginning
to policing promised in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The nationalist people have seen the unaccountable nature of the
PSNI," he added.

SDLP Assemblywoman Mary Bradley attacked Mr Hassan's comments while
reiterating her party's support for the plan.

Mrs Bradley said: "For many years we have heard Sinn Fein
criticising the use of Land Rovers in community areas as they were
intimidating to the public.

"Are they now saying that bicycles are also intimidating?

"'Big Chief Durkan and his Indians' as Mr Hassan referred to the
SDLP, are well aware that there needs to be changes made to
policing and we are in there, on the policing boards, making sure
that this happens.

"Surely this initiative by the PSNI is a more community friendly

Mrs Bradley added: "This move is to be welcomed and I am sure that
the majority of the community will see it for what it is, a good
start to a new beginning for community policing and another step
forward to normalisation - which Sinn Fein cry out for at every

****************************************** /2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/4016981.stm

Thirty Years As A Bomb Survivor

by Zoe Gough
BBC News

It is 30 years since two bombs exploded in Birmingham pubs, killing
21 people and injuring almost 200 others. Maureen Mitchell survived
one of the blasts and now helps others cope with similar traumas.

For Maureen Mitchell, her fiancé's coat had become a bit of an

The couple were planning to get married and were saving hard for
the big day - but that had not stopped boyfriend Ian Lord treating

At £60, the trendy new sheepskin jacket seemed a little extravagant
to Maureen - and she planned to discuss it with him when they met
for a date at Birmingham's Mulberry Bush pub.

Nestling under the towering Rotunda near the Bull Ring shops, the
pub was a popular attraction for a night out.

And with Christmas not too far away, the couple also needed to
decide how to arrange their party.

Maureen, then 21, remembers tension had grown on the evening of the
bombings because of plans to fly an IRA terrorist out of Birmingham
Airport .

'Shouting and screaming'

"There had been a couple of little explosions in the town," she

"It was often an excuse to get home late, it was a bit of a concern
but nothing made us think we'd better not go into town that night."

But as the couple settled down in the pub with a couple of drinks,
the peaceful chatter was shattered by a huge blast.

She said: "The lights went off, there was a flash and I had the
feeling of being carried through the air.

"I remember landing and there was so much noise, so many people
shouting and screaming."

Maureen had to undergo five operations. A piece of metal had
speared through her hip and lodged in her bowel. She also suffered
leg and arm injuries.

I felt a sense of luck and I still feel that now. Other people say
I was unlucky to be there, but I say I was lucky surviving it

Maureen Mitchell, survivor

She was in such a critical condition she was given the last rites a
few days later.

Fortunately Ian also survived the devastating blast - thanks to his
new sheepskin coat .

About 90 pieces of shrapnel were later discovered in the garment.

Maureen said: "It cost £60 and we were saving all of our money for
our wedding, but if we hadn't bought that coat he could well be

Ian and Maureen both returned to work three months later and were
married the following year. They have a 22- year-old son.

The pair divorced 18 years later but Maureen maintains the bombing
was not the reason and is still friends with Ian, who was best man
at her second marriage to Andy Mitchell.

'Dealt with differently'

Speaking from her semi-detached home in Acocks Green, Birmingham,
Maureen appears philosophical about her ordeal, the only visible
scars are covered by her clothes.

Her father, grandparents and cousins all came from Northern Ireland
and she still has mementos from the country scattered around her
front room.

Both Ian and herself made return visits to the Mulberry Bush soon
after it reopened in 1975.

"We have always dealt with it in different ways. Ian was a lot more
bitter than I was, sort of like 'these people won't stop me living
my life'," she said.

But she says it is only in the last five years, since joining Let's
Involve the Victims' Experience (LIVE), which brings together
victims and survivors of the conflict in Northern Ireland, that she
has fully confronted her past.

"You think you've got over it, it wasn't part of my everyday life,
but when I met the group they had all lost someone and I felt
survivor's guilt," she said.

"But now it is like having a great big extended family. I wouldn't
say I'd go through it again just to meet these people but I have
gained a positive thing."

Through the project she has visited Northern Ireland again and met
several ex-IRA terrorists face-to-face.

"After leaving hospital and seeing the pubs boarded up I felt a
sense of luck and I still feel that now. Other people say I was
unlucky to be there, but I say I was lucky surviving it."

Her only hope now is to be joined by her son at the commemoration
service on Sunday. She says the 22-year-old, who lives with his
father, has only recently discussed the events with her.

"He is a young man now and has more thoughts on it, but he hasn't
asked to get involved before," she said.

"I'd be really delighted if he came."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/20 12:54:40 GMT



Meeting Over Bewley's Closure

A group campaigning to prevent the closure of Bewley's Oriental
Cafe in Dublin is meeting tonight ahead of a planned protest next
week outside Bewley's of Grafton Street.

The Save Bewley`s Cafe group want the closure to be postponed to
avoid undue hardship for employees and to allow time to gather
public support for their campaign.

Spokesperson for the group Damien Cassidy says there is no economic
need to close the cafes at such short notice.


Space Station Above Irish Skies

The international Space Station will be visible in Irish skies this

The most expensive object ever built will pass over the south of
Ireland on its orbit around earth at about 6.15pm.

David Moore of Astronomy Ireland says it will be a hundred times
brighter than any stars and a spectacular sight.

Jay Dooling (
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