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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 23, 2004
News 11/23/04 - Annetta Flanigan Released
News about Ireland & the Irish
IO 11/23/04 Family 'Overjoyed' At Annetta Flanigan's Release -V
BT 11/23/04 Christmas Hope For Power-Sharing In Northern Ireland
BT 11/23/04 All Parties Working In Good Faith On Talks, Says Ahern
IO 11/23/04 Talks Over Cash Deal To Bolster Peace
IO 11/23/04 UDA Ceasefire In Doubt After Councillor Threatened
BT 11/23/04 Sinn Fein Leads Protest To Keep Bewleys Open
BT 11/23/04 Dublin Parents Warned On Danger Of Deadly New Game
BT 11/23/04 GAA 'Must Recognise Law Of The Land'
BT 11/23/04 British Could Command Irish In EU Force
BT 11/23/04 Woman On Man's Lap In Salthill Club Raid
See video at:
Family 'Overjoyed' At Afghan Hostage's Release
23/11/2004 - 09:22:34
The family of a Northern Irish UN worker who was held captive in
Afghanistan for nearly four weeks said today they were "overjoyed"
at the news of her release.
Annetta Flanigan was freed overnight along with two colleagues who
were also kidnapped and was said to be in good health after
undergoing medical checks, UN officials said.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "delighted" and
"relieved" that the three UN workers had been released as they had
"no quarrel with any Afghan".
Ms Flanigan, of Richhill, Co Armagh, has now been reunited with her
husband, Jose, after her ordeal.
She was seized at gunpoint with fellow workers, Philippines
diplomat Angelito Nayan and Kosovan Shqipe Hebibi, in the capital
Kabul on October 28 and had been shown pleading in tears for her
freedom in a video.
Her family expressed their "sincere gratitude" to everyone who
helped to secure her release and said it was an "incredible relief"
to know she was safe and well.
A statement from them read: "I wish to state that we are all
absolutely overjoyed at the confirmed news that Annetta and her two
colleagues have been released.
"After all the terrible anxiety of the last 27 days it is an
incredible relief to know that Annetta is safe and well and now
reunited with her husband, Jose.
"We wish to express our sincere gratitude to all those who have
worked so hard to secure Annetta's release."
They added they were looking forward to seeing the couple when they
return home to Northern Ireland in the near future.
Reverend David Coe, their minister and rector of St Matthew's
Parish Church in Richhill, had visited Ms Flanigan's mother Esther,
who lives in the village with her son Niall, her sister Elaine and
brother Andrew, every day since her daughter was taken captive.
He said: "It's a huge relief for her. The entire village has been
praying for her release and thank God it's happened. It will be a
happy Christmas for the family after all."
Mr Straw said that the case was particularly appalling because the
three workers had been helping the people of Afghanistan.
"Kidnapping, whoever the victims, is an appalling crime. In this
case, the three victims had for several months been working, as
part of the UN presence in Afghanistan, to ensure the success of
the country's elections.
"They had no quarrel with any Afghan, only a desire to help the
country's people build democracy. The determination of those
committed to rebuilding Afghanistan remains as strong as ever".
Mr Straw has been in contact with Ms Flanigan's family throughout
He added at an international conference on Iraq in the Egyptian
resort of Sharm El Sheikh: "I know that this will be a tremendous
relief to the family who have been to hell and back. Let us thank
God they have been released."
It is believed the trio were abandoned at a location in Kabul at
around 6am today.
The militant group Jaish-al Muslimeen, or Army of Muslims, had
claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to kill
the trio unless their demands for UN and British troops to withdraw
from Afghanistan and for Muslim prisoners to be freed from US jails
The ordeal ended after US and Afghan forces raided two houses in
Kabul and detained 10 people in connection with the abductions.
Most of the detainees were released after being questioned, an
Afghan intelligence official said, but it was not clear if the
arrest of a doctor who worked at a UN clinic in the city had
hastened the hostages' release.
Afghan officials believe a criminal gang carried out the
abductions, and have said that negotiations centred on a ransom
But Silvestre Afable, a spokesman for Philippines President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo, said: "There has been no payment of ransom."
Syed Khalid, a spokesman for Jaish-al Muslimeen, said today that it
had freed the hostages overnight against an "assurance that the
release of our 24 people would begin today".
His claims could not be verified. Mr Afable insisted there was no
Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said discussions had been
held with the kidnappers, whom he declined to identify, but
insisted no deal was done and that the releases were unconditional.
"There is no deal with the kidnappers. They will be brought to
justice," he told a press conference.
It was the first abduction of foreigners in the Afghan capital
since the Taliban fell three years ago.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad hailed the releases as a "major
defeat to terrorists who wanted to export an Iraq-style of hostage-
taking in Afghanistan".
Christmas Hope For Power-Sharing In Northern Ireland
By Colin Brown
23 November 2004
Hopes of a breakthrough before Christmas in the Northern Ireland
peace process were raised by Downing Street last night before talks
between Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
The Prime Minister's spokesman gave the clearest signal so far that
Mr Blair is determined to press ahead before the end of this week
with plans to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland for the
first time in two years.
Mr Blair and Mr Ahern will meet in London tomorrow to agree their
strategy. Mr Blair will then be calling in the leaders of all the
major political parties in Northern Ireland for talks after his
meeting with the Irish Prime Minister.
The No 10 spokesman added: "We have been in very intensive
discussions with all the major players and will continue to be so.
There is an awful lot of activity behind the scenes. Sometimes our
silence is in inverted proportion to how important and how
significant matters are and that is the case now."
Mr Blair and Mr Ahern believe that a fresh IRA statement offering
evidence of weapons decommissioning is needed to unlock the stalled
talks on restoring the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive.
The IRA is believed to be ready to allow a Roman Catholic priest
and a Protestant cleric to oversee the next step in the destruction
of its weapons to reassure the Democratic Unionist Party, led by
Ian Paisley. They may also offer photographic evidence, for the
first time. Carefully choreographed steps are being taken to
reassure the DUP, including the expression of regret by republicans
for the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974, although this stopped
short of an explicit IRA apology.
Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, has led the
behind-the-scenes talks and Mr Blair has met the party leaders.
Senior officials in Dublin said it was unlikely a final
breakthrough will be achieved tomorrow but Mr Ahern and Mr Blair
are said to have agreed that a decision needs to be reached by the
end of this week.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, said yesterday
that the republicans were seeking a "comprehensive breakthrough by
all parts of the equation". He said that would present difficulties
for republicans but it was less difficult than getting Mr Paisley
to recognise the importance of sharing power with elected
representatives of republicans.
David Trimble, the leader of the official Ulster Unionist Party
beaten into second place by Mr Paisley's DUP in the assembly
elections in December 2003, said last night: "We cannot keep on
drifting. Tony Blair has to get a grip."
The London and Dublin governments will warn the parties that if
they cannot reach agreement, then they will act together to move
the process on. Sinn Fein's president, Gerry Adams, said in The
Irish Times: "If one party adopts a rejectionist position, and
vetoes the institutions, the two governments need to compensate for
this with new, imaginative and dynamic alternatives. This includes
joint responsibility for the areas of government which would
otherwise have been administered on a power-sharing basis."
After talks at Leeds Castle in September the DUP refused to sign a
deal, demanding more proof of IRA decommissioning. General John de
Chastelain, the head of the international arms decommissioning
body, has confirmed three significant such acts by the IRA, but the
DUP say that there is not enough evidence.
Mr Paisley has demanded also that ministers in the assembly,
including Sinn Fein leaders, should be answerable, in effect, to
the DUP. Both governments have made it clear that is not realistic.
Senior Dublin officials said it would amount to majority rule,
which runs counter to the spirit of power-sharing.
In the 2003 elections, the DUP won 30 seats, the UUP 27, Sinn Fein
24, the SDLP 18 and the Alliance six. That left Sinn Fein's
president, Gerry Adams, and Mr Paisley, the two arch- opponents,
holding the fate of Northern Ireland in their hands.
All Parties Working In Good Faith On Talks, Says Ahern
By Gene McKenna
23 November 2004
All parties in the North's talks process to restore the
institutions were working in good faith, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
But he added that if they refused to move their positions then both
governments would have to review the situation.
Mr Ahern was speaking after a 90-minute meeting with SDLP leader
Mark Durkan in Dublin during which the latter expressed concerns to
him about the way the talks process was being "privatised" between
the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Fein.
This was not the first time that had been done, said Mr Durkan,
adding: "We understand what is happening. But every time this has
been done before, deals have come unstuck. We would prefer the
process to work with integrity and with inclusion.
"But we are not here to decry the process - we want to see progress
being made," said Mr Durkan. "Nobody wants progress more than us."
The Taoiseach is to meet DUP leader Ian Paisley in London tomorrow
morning. The meeting is expected to take place at the Irish
This will be the third face-to-face meeting between Mr Ahern and Mr
Paisley this year.
They met previously at the London Embassy and, more recently, Mr
Paisley came to government buildings for talks.
When asked about the governments putting forward their own
initiative if the current efforts end in failure, Mr Ahern said
that he always kept in mind what might have to be done next.
But he said he would prefer to wait until he saw what the position
was at the end of the week.
The meeting with Mr Durkan came as the British and Irish
governments intensify their efforts to restore devolved government
in the North, with Mr Ahern meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair in
London tomorrow. Mr Ahern said the two governments were at
"hopefully the decisive stage" in their efforts to broker a deal.
Mr Durkan, however, added he believed Sinn Fein had spent too much
time looking after the "self-image of the IRA" as far as
decommissioning was concerned and had not spent enough time looking
after the interests of the people of the North.
Meanwhile, Mr Durkan was last night chosen to defend his mentor
John Hume's Westminster seat at the next British general election.
The SDLP leader was chosen
Talks Over Cash Deal To Bolster Peace
23/11/2004 - 07:56:55
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy will today meet Democratic
Unionists and Sinn Féin over proposals that the British government
will pump extra revenue into Northern Ireland to bolster any peace
Speculation has been mounting that the British government is
considering asking Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to
approve a £1bn (Â1.4bn) package to help Stormont ministers tackle
infrastructural problems in the North if power-sharing is resumed.
Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin and Fermanagh and South
Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew were due to meet Mr Murphy in London
about the proposal.
As they prepared for the discussion, Sinn Féin chief negotiator
Martin McGuinness said he believed a peace dividend was a good
"We have consistently in Sinn Féin raised the need for a peace
dividend that would enable us all to tackle inequality," the Mid
Ulster MP said.
"We would have some considerable hope that that could be achieved
if a deal is struck in the overall negotiations.
"How much would that be? It is too early to say."
Republicans have argued that money saved from the scaling down of
police and British army fortifications in Northern Ireland should
be ploughed back into the budget of the Northern Ireland Executive
to help ministers during devolution to tackle disadvantage.
There have been concerns that without a peace dividend, Stormont
ministers could be forced to rely upon raising household rates
bills and water charges to support expenditure.
They believe this would get any new power-sharing executive off on
the wrong foot in terms of public satisfaction.
Sinn Féin Assembly members were today due to meet again at Stormont
to consider proposals put by the British and Irish governments last
week to their party and the DUP to resurrect power- sharing and
complete IRA disarmament.
Both parties are the only Northern Ireland parties to have seen the
However, they both have concerns about some aspects and are
expected to ask for more clarification over the coming days.
DUP leader, the Reverend Ian Paisley, will meet Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair separately in London
tomorrow to discuss the proposals.
Mr Blair and Mr Ahern will also meet in Downing Street tomorrow.
Talk sources said they believed it could still be some days before
a final verdict on the deal is reached.
One DUP source said: "If the deal is the right one, we would have
no hesitation in going for it. What is going on right now is an
attempt to get the right deal."
Martin McGuinness, however, insisted last night that the British
government needed to make it clear to the DUP that it had to reach
a decision soon.
"I think we are in the defining, final moments of these
discussions," he observed.
"I certainly get a sense from the Taoiseach and the British Prime
Minister that they are not content to leave this on the other side
of the (Westminster) election.
"Mr Paisley has to hear firmly from both of them that it is 'make
your mind up' time now."
He also said the DUP should be told by the governments of the
consequences of not striking a deal to restore power- sharing.
UDA Ceasefire In Doubt After Former Councillor Threatened
23/11/2004 - 10:26:50
The newly-reaffirmed UDA ceasefire is being called into doubt after
threats were made against four republicans in the North using a
recognised UDA codeword.
Overnight, a former Sinn Féin councillor in Belfast was told he
would be killed within 48 hours.
Sean Hayes was visited at his home and informed by the police that
a death threat along with a recognised code word had been
telephoned into the BBC offices in Belfast.
Three other republicans in Belfast, Dungannon and Warrenpoint were
also issued with death threats.
Sinn Fein Leads Protest To Keep Bewleys Open
By Adrienne Sweeney
23 November 2004
A group of protestors will take to the streets of the capital today
against the planned closure of the landmark Bewleys cafes.
The world-famous Bewleys cafes at Grafton St and Westmoreland St
are to close at the end of the month with the probable loss of 234
Sinn Fein councillor for Dublin South East Daithi Doolan is a
driving force behind the 'Save Our Bewleys' campaign which is
promising to put on a display of street theatre, poetry and music
outside the store on Grafton Street today.
"It is imperative that we keep Bewleys open to the public," Cllr
Doolan said. "It has become synonymous with the Dublin we know."
Cllr Doolan said he plans to raise the impending closure with the
Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government Dick Roche in
the hope that he will intervene.
Staff at the company are due to ballot on a redundancy package this
coming Thursday and Friday which offers four weeks pay for every
Dublin Parents Warned On Danger Of Deadly New Game
By Adrienne Sweeney
23 November 2004
A primary school principal has written to parents warning them of a
game in which young people are depriving themselves of air in order
to lose consciousness.
The game, known as 'American Dream', involves various ways of
cutting off oxygen to the brain, the most dangerous of which is
done by tying a string or rope around the neck. According to the
principal of a Dublin school who issued the warning, there has been
a near-fatal mishap with one young person taking part in the game.
"I think it needs to be nipped in the bud," said Fionnuala
Kilfeather, chief executive of the Primary Section of the National
"I wouldn't like to see children thinking that it's anything but
potentially fatal. This kind of thing has been going around for a
while. Some people might remember the trick of putting blotting
paper in your shoes when going to Mass. But this game is very
serious and requires intervention from parents," she said.
"Any parent would be devastated if they found their child taking
part in this but I don't think many Irish children are going to be
caught up in this."
The Labour party's spokesperson on Education, Jan O'Sullivan,
believes anti-bullying measures need to be introduced to minimise
the dangers of these kinds of games.
"I have heard of this type of activity before and the danger of
speaking about it publicly is that you are telling kids about it
but at the same time it's absolutely vital that parents are aware
of it," Deputy O'Sullivan said.
"Parents should let children know just how dangerous it is to
indulge in this. I think the whole point about this is that there
isn't enough emphasis on anti-bullying in schools.
"Researchers at Trinity have drawn up an anti-bullying programme
and are lobbying to have that implemented in schools and I fully
support that. A pilot programme certainly proved it to be a success
and I think the Department of Education should produce the funds to
ensure that it is rolled out in schools across the country," she
Parents are being urged to be on alert for signs that their
children are involved in trying out 'American Dream' and being
advised to talk to their children if they hear any mention of the
"Open dialogue is very important. Parents should take the time to
discuss responsibility and the dangers involved in taking part in
this type of activity," said Fionnuala Kilfeather.
GAA 'Must Recognise Law Of The Land'
By Shane Hickey
23 November 2004
GAA rules will have to take more account of the law of the land so
that there is "no conflict between natural justice and what's in
their rules", a former county football manager said yesterday after
the McCartan assault case ruling.
"In general, the GAA rules will have to be altered to take more
cognisance of the laws of the land," said Eugene Magee, Irish
Independent columnist and former Offaly manager.
"There are quite a few rules in the GAA rule book which appear to
be autonomous as regards the GAA - as if the GAA was operating in a
vacuum. There has always been a rule in the book that no one in the
GAA shall have recourse to law, which, of course, they are not
entitled to do."
The result of the case would act as a "restricting factor" to
players' behaviour on the field, said Mr Magee. He also criticised
the GAA's dealing of the case, saying that the issue had dragged on
for too long.
"As a result of this case, players - and there are only a tiny
minority - who are disposed to hitting someone during a match will
think again because this case has definitely altered the perception
"You can now to go court and get justice even if the GAA does not
give you justice - I think that's the summing up."
And the mantra among players that "whatever happens on the field
stays on the field" was now redundant, said Mr Magee.
British Could Command Irish In EU Force
By Conor Sweeney and Tom Brady
23 November 2004
Irish soldiers could serve under British command as the Defence
Forces prepare to take an active role in the new EU rapid response
units known as battlegroups.
Defence Minister Willie O'Dea left open the possibility yesterday
when he said that, while no decision had yet been taken on which
countries Ireland would join, he would have no problem with Britain
as a military partner.
However, it is thought more likely that Ireland - whose overall
commitment to overseas peace missions is 850 troops, while each
battlegroup is 1,500-strong - will join with the Nordic countries.
Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said last night that, while the first
choice for Ireland would be the non-aligned states, it was
conceivable that Britain could be seen as the best partner.
Ireland has now fallen behind most other countries, with many
already declaring their intended partners to form 13 of the groups
that could be deployed within five to 10 days as a peace
enforcement force in hotspots.
Mr O'Dea held talks on the margins of a meeting in Brussels with
the British defence minister, Geoff Hoon, as well as ministers from
Sweden and Finland.
Mr O'Dea indicated his preference to work with other non-aligned
countries like Finland and Sweden, which have already confirmed
they will work together.
He also said he disliked the reference to battlegroups and said
they should be called "peace brigades" instead.
Britain would also appear to be a logical partner for Ireland,
given both its proximity and its shared language.
Woman On Man's Lap In Club Raid
By Brian McDonald
23 November 2004
Gardai who raided a lapdancing club had difficulty searching for
crucial documentation because many of the dancers were undressed.
A female garda had to be sent behind an area blocked off by
curtains where she discovered a topless young woman sitting on top
of a man on a couch.
Details of the search at Angel's Nightclub in Salthill on June 5
last year were revealed at Galway District Court. Three named
individuals and a company are accused of breaching the Employment
Permits Act of 2003. The State alleges two of the lapdancers at the
club were not in possession of valid work permits.
Pat O'Keeffe of Griffith Avenue, Drumcondra, Dublin, and Michael
Clarke and Danny Kenny, both of Knocknacarra Park, Galway, deny the
charge. Fat Chef Catering Ltd, c/o Niall Megahon and Co Solicitors
of North Circular Rodd, Dublin, also denies the charge
Sergeant Michael Coppinger told the court he spoke to Michael
Clarke and was told there were 10 dancers on the premises.
When he asked for dancers' permits, he was handed photo- copied
documents of passports and Garda National Immigration Bureau cards.
He was not happy with the documentation relating to a Deborah
Miller. This lady had very poor English, even though her photo-
copied passport described her as British. On further investigation
the passport was discovered to have been stolen and the woman's
real name was Ese Osahon from Nigeria.
He had concerns about documentation in respect of a second woman
whose real name he discovered was Charity Ajayioba. There were no
work permits for either woman.
Garda Ann Murphy said she went to an area closed off with curtains.
There were two separate couches each with a man and a dancer on it.
"I approached Charity (Ajayioba)," added Gda Murphy. "She was
sitting on top of him, facing him on his lap. She was topless."
The court was told customers seeking a lapdance had to purchase
tokens, ranging from Â30 up to Â90 per dance. They gave the tokens
to the girls, according to how they danced.
The case continues today.