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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 24, 2004
News 11/24/04 - EU Grants Irish Official Language Status
News about Ireland & the Irish
EX 11/24/04 EU Grants Irish Official Language Status
SM 11/24/04 Paisley Rules Out Talks Breakthrough
WS 11/24/04 New Efforts To Revive Power Sharing At Stormont
BT 11/24/04 BS: Killings Loom Large But Once Glum City Is Moving On
GU 11/24/04 BS: Rocky Road To Rebuilding Trust
BB 11/24/04 Loyalist's Home To Be Auctioned
SM 11/24/04 Auction Of Luxury Home First For Assets Recovery Agency
CP 11/24/04 Poll: Fianna Fáil Leads All Parties In Ireland
EU Grants Irish Official Language Status
By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent
THE Irish language is set to become the 21st official language of
the EU, employing 110 translators at an annual cost of about Â10
The move was welcomed by Ireland west MEP Seán Ó Neachtain, the
only native Irish speaker in the European Parliament of 732
Discussions are due to begin on the details today in Brussels and
it is expected that the other member states will give the go-ahead
inside the next few months.
It will mean jobs for 110 translators fluent in the language, who
can earn up to Â85,000 a year interpreting speakers in the
parliament and translating all decisions made in the EU into Irish.
There are 20 official languages employing 3,000 people translating
about two billion pages a year at a cost of Â1 billion, or about Â2
per citizen annually.
The Government decided to look for the language to be recognised at
EU level last June after Mr Ó Neachtain and Sinn Féin made it one
of their aims during the elections to the European Parliament.
"I welcome this move and will be delighted to be able to speak my
own native language in the parliament in the future," said Mr Ó
When Ireland joined the EU in 1973, the Government turned down the
option of having Irish as an official language but agreed to have
it used as a treaty language.
As a result, all EU treaties, including the new European
Constitution, have been translated into Irish.
The change will also mean that European citizens may contact the EU
institutions using Irish and expect a reply in the language.
There are an estimated 260,000 fluent Irish speakers in the
country, with about 40,000 who use it as their first language.
There are also three dialects, Connacht, Ulster and Munster.
The Catalans have been pushing for some time to have their
language, used on a daily basis by an estimated 70% of their 7
million population, but so far Spain is reluctant to pursue this.
Following enlargement of the EU from 15 to 25 members last May, the
number of official languages increased from 11 to 20. However,
finding sufficient interpreters and translators has proven
difficult. Maltese is still without its complement of translators
while a shortage in other languages is delaying publication of
Paisley Rules Out Talks Breakthrough
By Dan McGinn, PA Ireland Political Editor
Democratic Unionist leader the Reverend Ian Paisley today ruled out
a breakthrough in talks to revive the Northern Ireland Assembly.
As the North Antrim MP arrived for a breakfast meeting in London
with the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, he insisted there were
still problems in the talks to be ironed out and there would not be
a deal this week.
However DUP sources insisted that they were not ruling out progress
in the days ahead.
Mr Paisley was also due to meet the Prime Minister Tony Blair
today, who also has planned talks with the Irish Prime Minister,
where they will both assess the state of the negotiations since
proposals for reviving devolution and removing paramilitary weapons
were put to Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Mr Ahern is also due to have talks with the Sinn Fein leadership at
the Irish Embassy and with the nationalist SDLP.
Parties were still today insisting the meetings were critical to
the success of the current negotiations and would give an
indication of whether the DUP were edging closer to striking a deal
which would see them share power with Sinn Fein.
However a critical element in that deal would be a disarmament move
by the IRA which the DUP would like to see having some sort of
transparency, with either photographic or video evidence.
A DUP source said: "The gaps in the negotiations are certainly
narrowing but at this stage, I don't think I can call it as to
whether a deal will be struck.
"There is some mileage in this left."
Northern Ireland: New Efforts To Revive Power Sharing At Stormont
By Steve James
24 November 2004
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The British and Irish governments are trying to revive the
suspended Northern Ireland Assembly, now in the third year of its
fourth period of suspension since the Good Friday Agreement was
signed in 1998.
Northern Ireland is currently ruled by a British Labour- appointed
proconsul, Paul Murphy, whose efforts to reopen Stormont revolve
around seeking further concessions from Sinn Fein and the Irish
Republican Army (IRA) to appease the right-wing Protestant
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Ian Paisley and the loyalist
paramilitaries of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
A series of proposals were submitted to the leading unionist and
nationalist parties in Northern Ireland last week. Responses are
expected before the latest deadline, set by Irish Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern, for November 26—one year since the last elections. The
proposals themselves emerged after two months of protracted
manoeuvring and horse trading.
The IRA has been in a ceasefire for a decade, while Sinn Fein is in
the process of transforming itself into a potential governing
In return, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 set the framework for
the province to be run on sectarian lines, replacing London rule
and outright unionist hegemony with an assembly in which every
decision had to be approved by political leaders of both unionist
and nationalist "communities," and with a unionist and nationalist
First and Deputy First Minister, respectively.
The Agreement was intended to stabilise political life in line with
the requirements of the British, Irish and US bourgeoisie,
maintaining divisions in the working class while curtailing the
low-level but protracted, expensive and exceedingly bitter
conflict. But this framework has necessarily led to the growth of
the nationalist and unionist parties with a vested interest in
portraying themselves as the most determined defenders of "their"
community—Sinn Fein and the DUP.
The Assembly was finally suspended in 2002 as part of a last-ditch
attempt to prop up the traditional unionist ruling party, the
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and its beleaguered leader, David
Trimble. A minor IRA spying operation in Stormont was used as the
pretext by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Trimble to stall
the Assembly pending some means of accommodating or neutralising
the anti-Agreement DUP—the UUP's most vocal critic within the
The DUP has won support by exploiting the inability of the
Agreement to generally improve living standards and complaining
that only Catholics were getting jobs and projects under the new
Blair's move to avert a DUP challenge to the UUP was a complete
failure. In the intervening two years, the DUP has replaced the UUP
as the major Protestant Unionist party, while Sinn Fein has
eclipsed the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) as the
dominant nationalist party.
The UUP is in a state of collapse. One of its leading figures
described its current condition as a "living nightmare," devoid of
policies or coherence. Only 250 people attended its recent party
conference. Had the elections of 2003 been choosing members of a
functioning Assembly, the DUP's Ian Paisley would now be the First
Minister, with a Sinn Fein leader as his deputy.
Paisley has long been the loudest and most bigoted voice in
Northern Irish politics. His career is one of evangelist anti-
Catholic ravings and provocations designed to enflame unionist
sentiment against any compromise with the Southern republic, or
with Sinn Fein and the IRA.
Paisley has taken some time to accept dealings with Sinn Fein. But
come round he has. Under pressure from a younger and more pragmatic
layer in the DUP, the reverend doctor has visited Dublin, politely
discussed political matters with Bertie Ahern, and generally made
it clear that, public outbursts aside, the DUP is willing to
consider some sort of working arrangement with Sinn Fein.
The deal reportedly being offered is that, should the IRA visibly
disarm, Sinn Fein will, in return, be offered a role in the
policing and justice ministries of a revived Stormont Assembly.
Another carrot being dangled by the Fianna Fail government in
Dublin is the possibility of Sinn Fein joining a coalition
government in the South. Fianna Fail is in electoral disarray and
urgently needs a coalition partner able to broaden the party's
disintegrating support in the working class.
Sinn Fein is therefore being simultaneously offered a ticket to the
top tables in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic provided
IRA disarmament can be delivered.
Haggling over verification of disarmament appears to have resolved
itself into proposals that one Catholic and one Protestant
religious leader would be allowed to photograph the physical
destruction of most of the IRA's weaponry—mostly 1,000 or so
assault rifles and some explosives.
Sinn Fein has strongly indicated that the IRA will accept this
arrangement, although there is likely to be opposition from local
paramilitary groups—many of whom use their armed status in crime
and in policing working class areas.
The DUP is being encouraged to accept changes to the functioning of
the Assembly, primarily the means through which the First and
Deputy First Ministers are elected. This is intended to allow the
DUP to work with Sinn Fein without appearing to compromise its
The British-Irish Council will also be elevated to appear of
comparable weight to the cross-border North-South Ministerial
Council, established as part of the Agreement. Whether the DUP will
accept either of these proposals is not clear. The party campaign
in the 2003 election called for a renegotiation of the Agreement to
exclude Sinn Fein entirely, until such time as the IRA had
completely disappeared from the scene. The DUP's response hinges on
whether the party believes it can extract still more concessions by
Sinn Fein has repeatedly called for the British and US governments
to pressure the DUP into accepting some form of the current
proposals. There appears to be a degree of optimism in London and
Dublin that this will ultimately be successful.
Another component of a new settlement involves the loyalist
paramilitary groups—currently more active than their nationalist
opponents and with fingers in most areas of criminal activity. Sinn
Fein has consistently pointed to the threat the UDA poses to
working class Catholic areas as one reason for its reluctance to
disarm the IRA.
The British government has removed its ban on by far the largest
loyalist armed group, the UDA, and is investigating means through
which the organisation can transform its primarily criminal
activities into more legitimate security firms. Other loyalist
groups, such as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and its political
wing the Progressive Unionist Party, are being marginalised.
Over the course of "the Troubles," the UDA's assassination wing,
the Ulster Freedom Fighters, was responsible for more than 400
killings, and the organisation was, and presumably still is,
riddled with police and intelligence agents.
The UDA has asked Paul Murphy for £3 million in assistance with its
new lines of business. The response must have been favourable to
some degree, since, on Murphy's cue, the UDA claimed to be willing
to "enter a process which will see the eradication of all
Both Sinn Fein and the DUP represent aspiring layers of the petty
bourgeoisie hoping to land a share in the exploitation of the
working class. With the collapse of the UUP and SDLP, both feel
their time has come. Both hope to see Stormont revived from the
standpoint of securing corporate investment and developing tourism
in Northern Ireland. Part of this necessarily involves a continual
deepening of relations with the South—a point of which the DUP are
as aware as Sinn Fein.
Should a new agreement be reached between Sinn Fein and the DUP,
therefore, it will no more hail a new era of "peace and prosperity"
than the original 1998 deal, for which a majority of both unionists
and nationalists voted. Rather, it will represent a further drawing
together of Irish nationalist and Ulster unionist political forces
to best manipulate sectarian divisions for the purposes of
extracting wealth from all sections of working people in Northern
Killings Will Always Loom Large But Once 'Glum' City Is Moving On
By David McKittrick
24 November 2004
By day Derry's Guildhall has been the scene of the Bloody Sunday
inquiry, which has spent years poring over how paratroopers came to
kill 14 people in that fateful incident in 1972.
But just outside the building the city's young people have spent
those same years partying so hard that they have given it a
reputation as one of Ireland's most exuberant centres of night-
In the eyes of the world, Derry as most residents call it, city has
become inextricably linked with Bloody Sunday. That event will
always loom large in its history, yet much of the city is today
barely recognisable as the scene of that event.
The changes are both physical and attitudinal. According to one
professional woman: "I was eleven in 1972, and young people today
are not as political as I was when I was a teenager.
"I knew all about politics but now my teenagers don't give it a
moment's thought - they're too busy having a good time. They know a
bit about Bloody Sunday but that's maybe because of the inquiry."
Even before Bloody Sunday Derry had a surfeit of history,
exhibiting it in the most eye-catching way. The city is dominated
by the well-preserved 17th century walls which played such a
pivotal role in Irish history.
The walls helped Protestant defenders repulse Catholic attackers in
1688: many things have changed since then, but the basic model of
religious competition is as well-preserved and intact as the walls
The many cannons which still line the ramparts make the additional
point that the contest has often been settled by force rather than
But although the walls have remained as formidable as ever the city
itself has grown and developed remarkably since Bloody Sunday. The
multi-storey flats which provided the backdrop to the shootings are
long gone, as is Derry's reputation as a glum city.
One local wrily observed that the scope for new developments had
come partly from architects and designers but also from Martin
McGuinness. When the Sinn Fein leader headed the city's IRA his
units pulverised so many premises that it looked "as though it had
been bombed from the air".
Eamonn McCann, the Derry journalist who coined that phrase, said
yesterday that the city is now doing well commercially and in terms
of new housing. But he and others pointed out that low wages and
unemployment remain a feature of life.
Nonetheless, the outskirts of the city are dotted with large modern
factories and there are enough retail sector jobs to ensure that
the city's once large-scale economic migration is a thing of the
past. One negative feature however is the religious segregation
which has become almost as rigid as Belfast.
Protestants have steadily migrated from the west bank of the Foyle
river, which holds both the big Catholic housing estates and the
city centre. According to William Hay, a former Democratic Unionist
mayor: "Protestants find it difficult to socialise and shop in the
city centre. They feel very isolated from the life of the city, and
feel their culture is under threat."
Modern Derry clearly has challenges to face as well as improvements
to celebrate: so why the continuing concentration on Bloody Sunday?
From the Protestant perspective Mr Hay was blunt: "It may be harsh
to say it but the unionist community felt it was not their problem,
it was a nationalist problem and let them get on with it. That's
our real, true feeling."
For the nationalist community, however, it was a defining moment.
Eamonn McCann said: "It had such a cataclysmic effect that it was
bound never to be forgotten. It has had such traction, such
Pat McArt, editor of the Derry Journal, explained: "It was probably
the only case in the troubles where those who died were actually
blamed for their own deaths - in other words they were guilty,
rather than the people who committed the crime."
The feeling that Bloody Sunday needed re-investigation was by no
means confined to Derry itself, with the Irish Government exerting
much diplomatic pressure for the present inquiry. The general
nationalist hope has been that the inquiry will bring an element of
closure, though naturally much will depend on what the report
actually concludes when it is delivered next year.
Derry thus continues to grapple simultaneously with its future and
its past. Pat McArt noting: "That old air of everybody feeling down
and out is gone. The vast majority now are looking forward -
thinking of jobs, homes, holidays."
INQUIRY IN NUMBERS
* Cost: £155m
* Cost of moving the inquiry from Londonderry to London: £15m
* Witnesses: 921 (including 505 civilian, 245 military, 49 media
and seven priests)
* Written statements: 1,800
* The inquiry has sat for 434 days since 27 March 2000
* Inquiry runs for about five hours per day, four days a week
* The opening speech by counsel to the inquiry, Christopher Clarke
QC, lasted for 42 days of sittings (Days 1 to 42) over three months
and is the longest in British legal history
* Evidence considered: 35 bundles of evidence each comprising about
150 volumes. It has been estimated that these bundles contain 20 to
30 million words. In addition, about 16 million words have been
spoken and transcribed during the 434 days of hearings; 12 volumes
of photographs, 121 audiotapes and 109 videos circulated.
Rocky Road To Rebuilding Trust
Wednesday November 24, 2004
Why did Tony Blair set up the inquiry?
There was new medical, ballistic and witness evidence relating to
Bloody Sunday, 1972, when paratroopers opened fire on civil rights
marchers in Derry, killing 13 and wounding 14, one of whom died in
Lord Widgery's inquiry in 1972 took 11 weeks to report and was
denounced by some as a whitewash. Papers released 30 years later
cast doubt on its workings and the evidence it heard.
Mr Blair set up the current inquiry in January 1998 after
campaigning by victims' families and a new dossier of evidence
assessed by the Irish government.
Who will report and when?
The law lord, Lord Saville of Newdigate, chairs the inquiry.
William Hoyt, a former chief justice of New Brunswick, Canada and
John Toohey, a former justice of the Australian high court, are
also on the panel. Their report is expected next summer.
Who gave evidence?
After more than 1,000 written statements, 921 people gave oral
evidence, including 245 soldiers, 505 civilians, 34 paramilitaries
as well as clergy and journalists. Sir Edward Heath, prime minister
in 1972, denounced as "obscene" the suggestion that he had been
more interested in Europe than in murders in Northern Ireland. Sinn
Féin's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, admitted he was the
Provisional IRA's second in command in Derry on Bloody Sunday but
dismissed as "lunatic" suggestions he fired the first shot.
How much have lawyers been paid?
The inquiry is expected to cost at least £155m. The Northern
Ireland Office has footed around 80% of the bill with the Ministry
of Defence picking up the rest. Christopher Clarke QC, counsel to
the inquiry, has been paid over £3m. The London-based solicitors
for the inquiry, Eversheds, have been paid over £12m.
How important is the inquiry to the peace process?
Nationalists say it is essential in rebuilding the fragile trust in
the government and a crucial part of any truth and reconciliation
process being considered. Families have said they want the truth
and a public declaration that the victims were innocent. Nell
McCafferty, the Derry-born feminist and commentator, who was at
Bloody Sunday and gave evidence to the inquiry, said the city
Is this the last inquiry into controversial deaths in Northern
No. Three inquiries examining whether British security services
assisted in or failed to prevent the killings of the lawyer
Rosemary Nelson, the Catholic civilian Robert Hamill, and the
loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Wright, will begin "as soon as
possible" it was announced last week. A further inquiry into the
murder of the Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane has been
Loyalist's Home To Be Auctioned
The home of a loyalist paramilitary leader and drug dealer which
was seized by the Assets Recovery Agency is being put up for
The auction of Jim Johnston's house on Wednesday is the first
public sale of a criminal's property by the Assets Recovery Agency.
Johnston, 45, a member of the loyalist paramilitary Red Hand
Commando, was shot dead in the driveway of his home at
Crawfordsburn, County Down, in May 2003.
The killing was part of a bitter feud between rival loyalist
In September, the agency was granted a High Court order to seize
Johnston's cash and property assets worth more than £1m.
Crime fighting initiatives
It was the first civil recovery order in the UK to exceed £1m.
The agency said at the time that the proceeds would be put back
into crime fighting initiatives.
Alan McQuillan, who heads the agency in Northern Ireland, said one
of its purposes was to stop the assets being recycled back into
other criminal activity.
"This property was recovered as a result of a final settlement with
the family, with the estate of Jim Johnston," he said.
"Most of the clients we are dealing with are very much alive."
Similar sales in the Republic of Ireland have been carried out in
the crackdown against organised crime.
The agency, which began work last year, is modelled on the Republic
of Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau, which was set up in 1996 after
the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.
The agency investigates dirty money, from prostitution to
If it can convince a court that someone is enjoying a lifestyle
which they cannot possibly have earned legally, a judge can order
their possessions to be confiscated and sold.
A 39-year-old man, Robert Young, is awaiting trial. He denies
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/24 07:58:21 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Auction Of Northern Ireland Luxury Home First For Assets Recovery
ASSETS RECOVERY AGENCY News Release (ARA052/A) issued by the
Government News Network on 24 November 2004
The luxury Crawfordsburn home of the late James Herbert Johnston
goes under the hammer tonight in the first auction of assets seized
by the Assets Recovery Agency. The property is expected to sell for
a substantial sum with the proceeds being recycled into crime
The property, part of the forfeited assets valued at between £1.2m
and £1.25m of the late Mr Johnston's estate, was the first
£1million plus Recovery Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The Order was granted to the Agency by the Belfast High Court on 20
Jane Earl, Director of the Assets Recovery Agency commenting on the
auction said: "We are auctioning this substantial property which
was bought with the proceeds of drug dealing and loyalist
paramilitary activity in a very public way. In doing so, we are
sending out a very clear message that crime will not pay.
"We want communities to know that their concerns about people
profiting from crime are being acted on. We want criminals to know
that there can be no hiding place for their ill-gotten gains. We
want everyone to be in no doubt that the Agency will continue to
use its powers firmly and fairly in pursuing criminal assets
wherever and whatever they may be."
Alan McQuillan, Assistant Director of the Assets Recovery Agency
said: "This auction is a very visible reminder that the extensive
powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act are effective in taking the
profit out of crime. This is the first of what will be a continuous
stream of assets taken out of the hands of criminals and used for
the benefit of everyone in the community.
"We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to
ensure that those who attempt to prosper from crime are hit where
it hurts, in their pockets."
Other properties which include seven addition houses in Northern
Ireland, commercial premises in Belfast and a holiday home in
County Sligo in the Irish Republic will be disposed of over the
coming months and the investment portfolio is currently being
Notes for editors:
1. This case was referred to the Agency by PSNI in May 2003. PSNI
and other law enforcement agencies then worked closely with ARA in
building the case. After initial investigations the Agency searched
a number of properties including Mr Johnston's Crawfordsburn
address where they discovered a partially assembled bomb and
2. In September 2003 the High Court agreed to freeze Mr Johnston's
assets. It also appointed an Interim Receiver who carried out an
independent investigation on behalf of the Court. Their report
recommended that all of the property in Mr Johnston's estate was
the proceeds of unlawful activity and was therefore 'recoverable'
under POCA 2002.
3. Had ARA's claim been contested the Agency would have argued in
the High Court that the money in this case had been derived mainly
from Loyalist paramilitary activity and drug dealing in the North
4. Under the terms of the settlement, a Trustee in Civil Recovery
was appointed and took possession of the forfeited assets. They are
making arrangements for all of the properties to be sold and for
the investments to be 'cashed in'. Proceeds will go to the UK
Recovered Assets Incentivisation Fund where they will be recycled
into crime fighting initiatives.
5. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 created the Assets Recovery
Agency and provided completely new powers to allow ARA to seek
civil recovery of the proceeds of unlawful activity by an action in
the High Court.
6. The Agency is playing its part in the multi-agency approach to
deliver the Government's Asset Recovery Strategy. The overall aims
of the strategy are to make greater use of the investigations of
criminal assets in the fight against crime; recover money that has
been made from crime or which is intended for use in crime; prevent
criminals and their associates from laundering the proceeds of
criminal conduct, and detect and penalise such laundering where it
occurs; to use the proceeds recovered for the benefit of the
Media contact: 02890 378275, mobile 0799 115253
Assets Recovery Agency,
PO Box 39992
London EC4M 7XQ
T +44 (0)20 7029 5700
F +44 (0)20 7029 5706
November 24, 2004
Fianna Fáil Leads All Parties In Ireland
(CPOD) Nov. 24, 2004 – The governing Fianna Fáil party is the top
political organization in Ireland, according to a poll by Millward
Brown IMS. 37 per cent of respondents would vote for Fianna Fáil in
the next parliamentary election.
Fine Gael is second with 23 per cent, followed by Labour, Sinn
Fein, the Greens and the Progressive Democrats. The next
legislative election is tentatively scheduled for May 2007.
Since 1997, prime minister Bertie Ahern leads a coalition
government encompassing Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.
Ahern's party suffered a backlash last year after the
implementation of a series of unpopular policies, including changes
to the country's tax structure.
Last month, Irish president Mary McAleese earned a new seven-year
term unopposed, after the deadline for nominations passed without
any candidates securing enough support to challenge the incumbent.
The president is customarily regarded as a ceremonial dignitary in
What party would you vote for in the next parliamentary election?
Fianna Fáil / Soldiers of Destiny (FF) 37%
Fine Gael / Family of the Irish (FG) 23%
Labour Party / Páirti Lucht Oibre (Lab.) 13%
Sinn Fein / We Ourselves (SF) 10%
Green Party / Comhaontas Glas (GP) 5%
Progressive Democrats /Dan Pairtí Daonlathach (PD) 4%
Source: Millward Brown IMS
Methodology: Face-to-face interviews to 1,000 Irish adults,
conducted on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, 2004. No margin of error was