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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 25, 2004
News 11/25/04 - SF Focus On Comprehensive Agreement
News about Ireland and the Irish
SF 11/25/04 Sinn Féin's Focus Is On Getting A Comprehensive Agreement
BB 11/25/04 Governments' Response 'Due Soon'
UT 11/25/04 Robinson: 'IRA Must Wind Up'
UT 11/25/04 UDA Meets De Chastelain
GU 11/25/04 Firebomb Campaign Hits Belfast
IT 11/26/04 Missionary From Clare Murdered Near Nairobi
IT 11/26/04 Swimmers & Canoeists Warned Of Liffey Bacterial Disease Risk
UT 11/25/04 Irish Cigarette Consumption Down
GU 11/25/04 Shane MacGowan & The Pogues: Old Habits Die Hard
Sinn Féin's Focus Is On Getting A Comprehensive Agreement
Published: 25 November, 2004
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning briefed the party's Ard
Chomhairle on the current state of the negotiations with the Irish and
Mr. Adams said: "Some time ago Sinn Féin asked the British and Irish
governments to bring forward proposals bedded in the Good Friday
Agreement, aimed at delivering on its commitments. We also proposed, that
if rejectionist unionism did not come on board, then the governments need
to proceed without them. That remains our position.
"This morning myself and Martin McGuinness updated the Ard Chomhairle on
the current state of the negotiations with the Irish and British
governments. Our negotiations team worked late into the night with Dublin
and London officials on the points of concern which we raised with them
last Wednesday, when we received the governments outline for a
comprehensive agreement, and which we have been discussing with them
"Sinn Féin's focus has been to get a comprehensive agreement. We want to
bring the DUP on board and to ensure that the two governments remain
faithful to the Agreement. If we are to be successful in this endeavour
then the governments have to work with the pro agreement parties and
refuse to give a veto to rejectionist unionism. It also means the DUP
entering government with Sinn Féin, sharing power with republicans on the
basis of equality and mutual respect.
"It is particularly important to remember this at a time when the DUP has
presented the two governments with a range of issues for clarification
and at a time when they are still refusing to give a clear commitment to
work the power sharing institutions with republicans.
"We need to see the outworking of all of this and will continue to work
with the two governments in the days ahead."ENDS
Governments' Response 'Due Soon'
The two governments are hoping to respond to queries tabled by the DUP
and Sinn Fein over the British-Irish proposals on restoring devolution by
This means the DUP will have a response to their concerns in time for
their executive meeting on Friday night.
The two governments have said they are ready to publish their proposals
if the parties do not sign up to a deal.
Meanwhile, the BBC has learned the DUP attended a series of meetings
together with Sinn Fein and the other parties to agree the economic
framework of any deal to restore devolution.
The DUP said the meetings were not political negotiations, but meetings
chaired by business leaders focussing on exclusively economic issues.
Referring to the wider political talks on Thursday, Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern said: "I suspect that it will narrow down to a small number of
issues, as always.
"But we will try and get that done as we go into the weekend."
Earlier, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the DUP was not yet
committed to power-sharing with his party.
He has been updating his party's national executive (Ard Chomhairle) in
Dublin on Thursday over the latest efforts to restore devolution.
The DUP will brief its executive on the ongoing efforts on Friday night.
The briefings follow Wednesday's series of meetings involving the prime
ministers in London.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Adams said that agreement was needed "in the
next very short while".
He said of the DUP: "If they do not come up to the plate on all of this,
the British and Irish governments need to move ahead."
'Unqualified and irreversible'
He said his party had not yet received answers to questions posed to the
Mr Adams said he was not in a position to go to the IRA because no final
deal had been reached.
However, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said the time had come "for
republicans to face up to the decisions they need to make".
"Everyone in this process knows that the IRA must wind up and be out of
business for good. That means an end to the guns and gangsters and the
complete ending of all terrorist and criminal activity," he said on
The DUP's East Antrim assembly member George Dawson attended the
meetings, together with Sinn Fein's former assembly member Dara O'Hagan
BBC NI political editor
"The commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means must be
total, unqualified and irreversible."
Meanwhile, the meetings on the economy attended by Sinn Fein and the DUP
were chaired by a number of leading business figures.
They began in the spring and continued until this week.
BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "They were
designed to agree an economic package which could be part of any
"The package isn't a simple cash handout, but a series of measures
intended to ensure Northern Ireland maintains its government funding and
is able to offer industry attractive grants and tax breaks.
"The DUP's East Antrim assembly member George Dawson attended the
meetings, together with Sinn Fein's former assembly member Dara O'Hagan.
"Also there were Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey, the SDLP's Sean Farren
and the Alliance Party's Sean Neeson."
Mr Dawson told the BBC he did not negotiate with Sinn Fein at the
He said the DUP had taken the view that it should respond positively to
an invitation from the business community to discuss important economic
Peter Robinson said: "The meetings referred to in BBC reports this
evening were meetings involving the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP, the Alliance
Party and Sinn Fein at the invitation of the Business Alliance.
"We are striving in the negotiations for a financial package as outlined
in the paper submitted during the summer by the party to the government."
At the conclusion of intensive political talks at Leeds Castle in Kent in
September, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern said the thorny issues of IRA
disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.
But, 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.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/25 18:03:49 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Robinson: 'IRA Must Wind Up'
Republicans will have to abandon their guns forever if there is going to
be a deal in Northern Ireland to restore power sharing, a senior
Democratic Unionist insisted tonight.
As the pressure mounted on Gerry Adams and the Reverend Ian Paisley to
make their positions clear on proposals to revive the Assembly, DUP
deputy leader Peter Robinson turned Sinn Fein rhetoric around and told
republicans a deal would depend on them abandoning paramilitarism
The East Belfast MP said: "Decision time has arrived for the Republican
"Everyone in this process knows that the IRA must wind up and be out of
business for good.
"That means an end to the guns and gangsters and the complete ending of
all terrorist and criminal activity.
"The commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means must be
total, unqualified and irreversible.
"If we are to see a new agreement achieved it will be on the basis of the
end of terror in a way that builds confidence across the community. It is
time for Mr Adams and republicans to tep up to the mark."
The DUP and Sinn Fein have raised queries with British and Irish
officials about their proposals to revive power sharing and remove the
gun forever from politics.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said today their responses could be
with the parties tomorrow before a crucial Democratic Unionist executive
meeting in Belfast.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams discussed the political situation with his
national executive in Dublin today and emerged saying his party was still
waiting for a commitment from the DUP that they would share power.
The West Belfast MP said agreement was needed "in the next very short
But he added if the DUP did not come up to the mark, the British and
Irish Governments would have to be prepared to move ahead without them.
Devolution has been suspended in Northern Ireland since October 2002,
when unionists threatened to quit the power-sharing executive over
ongoing IRA activity.
Since then Northern Ireland has been ruled by Direct Rule ministers from
There have been two failed attempts to resurrect power sharing
institutions involving Sinn Fein and David Trimble`s Ulster Unionists.
But last year, the Democratic Unionists overtook the UUP in a fresh
Assembly election as their community`s largest party and the biggest
party at Stormont.
The DUP has insisted it will not enter into government with Sinn Fein
unless republicans address the need for complete IRA disarmament and the
ending of paramilitary and criminal activity.
The party has pressed in the negotiations for future IRA disarmament acts
to be transparent.
While it is believed that Catholic and Protestant clergy could witness a
future disarmament move, the DUP would like photographic evidence.
DUP sources have said if a visual aspect to decommissioning is not
delivered, it could be a deal breaker.
Senior nationalist SDLP negotiator Sean Farren said tonight the DUP had
secured a number of concessions during the negotiations and could secure
more if the talks were allowed to drag on.
The North Antrim Assembly member said: "The SDLP has been alarmed at the
concessions already secured by the DUP, including a veto on the
appointment of nationalist ministers. We are working hard to stem this
flow of concessions and limit the damage being done to the Agreement.
"But we are worried that the longer this process continues, the more the
DUP gets on the Agreement. That`s why the process must not be allowed to
"It`s also why it is strongly in the interests of nationalists that the
IRA leaves no doubt at all about its commitment to end all paramilitary
and criminal activity.
"Any foot-dragging on the IRA`s part will only work to the DUP`s
advantage and strengthen their hand in the negotiations."
Ulster Unionist MP David Burnside was concerned today that the DUP may be
participating in talks which could lead to the British and Irish
Governments exercising joint authority over Northern Ireland.
The South Antrim MP and MLA warned: "The internal affairs of the United
Kingdom are the internal affairs of the United Kingdom, and the
institutions of government that may or may not be established at Stormont
should be the institutions that are agreed by this Government and this
"There should not be a form of joint authority.
"I worry about my own party in this regard, but I also worry about my
friends and colleagues in the Democratic Unionist Party, who appear to
have been sucked into a negotiating position - whether at Leeds Castle or
at Weston Park - that has given the impression that the future of
Northern Ireland is to be d etermined by a form of joint authority
between the United Kingdom and the Irish Government."
UDA Meets De Chastelain
Loyalist paramilitary representatives held new talks today with the head
of the international disarmament body.
Three senior members of the Ulster Defence Association, Northern
Ireland`s biggest Protestant terrorist organisation, met Canadian General
John de Chastelain.
The meeting, at an undisclosed location in Belfast, was the first since
the Government decision earlier this month to recognise the UDA`s
The grouping, which has carried out a series of sectarian killings and
feud-related murders, also declared an end to all violence in an attempt
to restore its tattered image.
But with the IRA facing demands to destroy their weapons in a bid to
break the deadlock in the peace process, UDA commanders have pledged to
hold on to their guns until republicans move first.
One loyalist source said: "It could be hotting up on the Green side and
if so we will just have to take stock."
Gen de Chastelain, who leads the three-member Independent International
Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), has already witnessed three
disarmament moves by the Provisionals.
But the Rev Ian Paisley`s Democratic Unionists want all their arms dumps
emptied and photographic proof before they agree to go back into a power-
sharing administration with Sinn Fein.
As well as confirming IRA weapons have been destroyed, the General has
held a series of talks with loyalists since he first arrived in Northern
An IICD spokesman tonight refused to comment on the latest meeting with
Firebomb Campaign Hits Belfast
Friday November 26, 2004
Police patrols have been stepped up in Belfast city centre after the
fifth firebomb in nine days was found hidden in a shop, sparking fears of
a dissident republican campaign in the run-up to Christmas.
The latest device was found on Wednesday night by staff in Primark on
Belfast's main shopping street. Yesterday afternoon a phone call alerted
the shop to another device, but nothing was found.
The Real IRA, the dissident republican group behind the Omagh bomb in
1998, had admitted planting a device in a wallpaper shop in Belfast last
Wednesday. Army bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion.
On Saturday afternoon, a firebomb partially ignited in a department store
but no one was hurt.
Tom Ekin, the Alliance party mayor of Belfast, said the bombs were meant
to destabilise Belfast's growing commercial life and to coincide with a
delicate phase in the peace process.
Missionary From Clare Murdered Near Nairobi
Police in Kenya are investigating the murder of an Irish priest, who
spent his working life helping the poor in Africa.
The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, led the tributes last night to
Fr John Hannon, who was killed during a suspected robbery at his home 15
miles from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Police said up to 10 men attacked the parish house at Matasia in the
Diocese of Ngong on Wednesday night, having first tied up the night
Fr Hannon (65) attempted to escape but was caught by an assailant who hit
him over the head. He was killed instantly.
"The thugs then went into the house and ransacked it, but it has not been
established what was stolen," a spokesman said.
The spokesman said the police were following specific leads and hoped to
make early arrests.
Fr Hannon, from Killula, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, had been in Kenya
for the past 10 years. Previously, he spent 25 years in Lagos, Nigeria.
Dr Walsh said he was "shocked and saddened" at the news.
"Fr Hannon's death is a reminder to all of us of the extraordinary
commitment and faith of our Irish missionaries throughout the world. It
is hard to believe that the life and ministry of this dedicated priest
could have been ended in such an untimely manner."
Fr Hannon's family were said to be "shocked and devastated" yesterday.
Speaking on their behalf, his sister-in-law, Ms Anne Hannon, described
him as "a wonderful man with great energy and foresight".
She said: "Fr John did fear for his safety a little bit. There have been
some murders and shootings in the area he lived in, but he was a fearless
man and very committed to the people he served."
Three years ago, Fr Hannon was attacked by a woman with a knife while
celebrating Mass in Kenya. He required 20 stitches. He also underwent a
quadruple bypass operation but insisted on returning to work in Africa.
Fr Tom Curran, communications director of the SMA, described Fr Hannon as
"an earnest helper of the less well-off. He had a long and proven record
in the building of centres for the training and education of young people
in practical skills."
Fr Hannon was just completing a parish hall in Matasia and had started a
€14,000 project to equip it as a training centre. He organised training
for local Masai people in areas such as domestic economy, secretarial
work, hairdressing, sewing and knitting.
Dr Mike Meegan, an Irish AIDS researcher who lived nearby, said Fr Hannon
was "a gentle and popular man". He was well thought of but violence was
growing in the slum areas where he worked.
Fr Hannon is survived by five brothers and two sisters. The eldest, Fr
Tim Hannon, is a priest in Florida.
© The Irish Times
Swimmers And Canoeists Warned Over Liffey Bacterial Disease Risk
Swimmers and other watersports enthusiasts have been warned to avoid
the Liffey river because of concern about bacterial disease infection.
Issued by the Eastern Regional Health Authority's director of public
health, Dr Marie Laffoy, the warning comes days after the hospitalisation
of three canoeists who were out on the Liffey between Lucan and the M50
The three patients have since recovered and have been discharged from
The disease affects both humans and animals. In Ireland it is usually
picked up from rats, although a milder form can be caught from cattle or
dogs. The infection is spread through contact with rat, cattle or dog
urine or cattle manure.
Leptospirosis is an occupational hazard for farmers, vets and sewage
workers. It is a recreational hazard for campers or those who participate
in outdoor sports in contaminated areas and has been associated in
particular with water sports.
Speaking yesterday, Dr Laffoy said: "We are advising people to avoid
swimming or boating in water which is obviously polluted, as well as
ensuring they cover any cuts or abrasions with a waterproof dressing
while swimming or canoeing."
Swimmers and boaters are also advised to shower thoroughly following any
People in contact with animals or contaminated clothing are also advised
to wash their hands before eating, drinking or smoking.
© The Irish Times
Irish Cigarette Consumption Down
New estimates by the Irish Department of Finance say consumption of
cigarettes in the Republic of Ireland has fallen by 17.6% this year.
The department also estimates that as a result, the Irish Government`s
tax take from cigarette smokers has fallen this year for the first time
It is understood it will come in €128m below the target set in the
Shane MacGowan & The Pogues: Old Habits Die Hard
Twenty-five years ago, Shane MacGowan was given six weeks to live. But
he's still here, and so are the Pogues - back to their original lineup
for a new lease of life. Dave Simpson joins them in Dublin to relive the
bad old days
Friday November 26, 2004
We'll meet again... the original lineup of the Pogues
Shane MacGowan doesn't remember much about leaving the Pogues, except
this: "I was glad to get out alive." It was 1991. The band were in Japan,
in the middle of a gruelling tour that had driven all the members to the
brink of insanity and MacGowan was finding it particularly hard to live
up to his reputation as a "songwriting legend". Sake was his chosen
"We were on a train," remembers mandolin player Terry Woods. "There were
two vans sent to pick us up and Shane was in such a state he had the
second van all to himself. The Japanese are really polite and this guy
ran around to open the door and Shane was so pissed he just fell out in
the street. He was very bloody and knocked himself out. When we took him
back to the hotel they thought he'd been in a car accident."
Thirteen years later, MacGowan has made it to a Dublin hotel, late and
not exactly unscathed - "I was given six weeks to live, about 25 years
ago!" - but at least he's here. The same can be said of the Pogues,
reunited for the first time in their classic line-up including bassist
Cait O'Riordan, who left in 1985, unable to face any more touring. A
flurry of activity includes the remastering of their entire back
catalogue and live dates in December; there may be more if MacGowan is in
Today his mood is playful. Not entirely sober (but certainly not drunk),
he takes delight in treating the interview like a police interrogation
(something with which he is familiar), deliberately mishearing questions
and firing them back.
"I did it for the money," he says of songs that lit up albums like Red
Roses for Me (1983), Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (1985) and 1988's classic
If I Should Fall From Grace With God. He dismisses his legacy with the
words, "I just wrote a few songs." He points out that he didn't write
Dirty Old Town or The Irish Rover. But he did write A Pair of Brown Eyes,
Sally MacLennane, 1987's Christmas hit Fairytale of New York and many
other much-loved songs. Which raises the obvious question of whether
MacGowan will record new songs with the Pogues. "I wouldn't mind," he
admits, before remembering himself. "Do you think I'd tell you cunts?
Hehehehe!" MacGowan hasn't made a new album since 1997's The Crock of
Gold, with his sometime post-Pogues band the Popes. "I've been tired," he
However, those around him suggest he's emerging from a "dark period" that
included Sinéad O'Connor reporting him to the police in 1999 for snorting
heroin (a wake-up call which, he has claimed, stopped his use of the
drug), the death of Kirsty MacColl, who partnered him on Fairytale of New
York, and a split from his long-term partner Victoria Clarke, muse for
such songs as Rainy Night in Soho. I've been told that mentioning any of
this is likely to upset him.
MacGowan has always been a complex, contrary so-and-so. His songs are
like the man: uncouth, belligerent but with streaks of insight and
sensitivity. The latter wasn't immediately apparent when he had his first
stab at notoriety as Shane O'Hooligan. MacGowan had arrived in the 1976
London punk scene after growing up in a Tipperary farmhouse (where a
large extended family gave him Guinness aged just five) and a scholarship
at Westminster public school that ended in drug-related disgrace after
six months. Then, as now, his diet was literature (Brendan Behan, Ernest
Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, The A to Z of Communism . . .) washed down with
whatever was available.
His first spell in rehab came at just 17, when, after falling foul of
valium, he admitted himself into the notorious Bethlem hospital. "I've
been lucky," he says. "The first band I saw when I walked out of the
madhouse was the Sex Pistols."
He met Spider Stacy, the Pogues' penny whistle player, at a Ramones gig.
Why did they bond? "Bonk?" he gurgles, before comparing the pair to
"punk's Morecambe and Wise".
MacGowan formed the Nipple Erectors and managed Stacy's band the Millwall
Chainsaws. But the energy had dissipated by 1983. To create their own
excitement, they called themselves the New Republicans, taking the stage
at New Romantic night-spot Cabaret Futura performing Irish rebel songs
before an audience of poseurs and squaddies. "A classic gig," remembers
MacGowan, revealing the remains of dental work.
"We were pelted offstage, but a lot of people were interested. The man
who owned the place, bless him, was Irish and he pulled the plug after
six songs for our safety and the club's reputation. He said 'Great show
lads - never come here again.' " They didn't, but within a year they had
formed the Pogues, who took a similar approach to traditional Irish
music. The difference between them and bands like the Dubliners was, as
MacGowan observes, "We played faster and took more speed." Stacy's job
involved playing tin whistle and banging a beer tray over his head. Irish
musician Noel Hill called them "an abortion of Irish music". And so a
generation fell in love. "I remember one gig where this kid's shirt was
ripped straight off his back," chuckles Terry Woods. "He'd no shoes on
and one leg of his trousers was ripped off, and it was pissing down with
rain. I remember thinking, 'How's he gonna get home?' But he was having a
Riotous Pogues gigs were almost like acid house raves before their time
(indeed, MacGowan cites the Pogues' later 1989 Peace and Love album as an
Irish take on acid house). English youths draped themselves in Irish
flags. But behind the mayhem was lasting substance. Arguably their most
substantial contribution was to transform the English view of Irish
people and Irish culture. When the Pogues emerged, a climate of suspicion
saw English schoolchildren taught about the Empire and many people
equated Ireland with the IRA. "It was very difficult growing up London-
Irish in the 1970s," remembers Cait O'Riordan, "having this funny name
and parents who had this funny accent, with bombs going off . . ." But
suddenly, a generation was listening to MacGowan songs such as Birmingham
Six (which was banned, then vindicated when the Six were released) and
wondering whether things really were quite as society painted. "The
climate of racism really did change completely, at a social level, when
the Pogues came along," says Spider Stacy.
But MacGowan is unconvinced that his band somehow helped lay the
foundations for everything from Irish pubs to the peace process. "You
still think we're drunken Paddies." He's understandably even more
reluctant to acknowledge any responsibility for introducing binge
drinking to the UK's youth: you certainly didn't get that at gigs by
bands like Duran Duran. "That's because nobody in there was old enough to
drink," he gurgles.
Alcohol fuelled MacGowan's creativity but became a problem for the band
once they relied on it to ease the madness of touring. In Germany, with
media eyes on MacGowan, it wasn't reported that Stacy was given three
weeks to live (these days he doesn't touch a drop). Meanwhile, the
frontman hated his own stardom and the expectations surrounding his
writing gifts, becoming so obliterated that he "couldn't remember the
bloody words." "It became really obvious that Shane didn't want to do it
any more, and that was his way of telling us," says Stacy. After the sake
incident, MacGowan was asked to leave. "It was a relief," he says.
Today, MacGowan sits with a double gin and tonic (which he barely
touches) and insists that many of the subsequent stories about his
drinking are exaggerations. "It's a story," he pleads. "Every time I pick
up a drink there's a photographer and it becomes, 'Oh look, Shane's
pissed again.' " Still, he doesn't always fight preconceptions - in the
new Johnny Depp film, The Libertine, MacGowan plays a drunken minstrel.
Last Christmas, a celebrating O'Riordan had just been thrown out of
Dublin's Shelbourne pub when she came across a familiar figure. "I went,
'Shaaane!' " she laughs. "I used to be in your band." Touchingly,
MacGowan said that he has missed the Pogues and wanted to build on a
previous week-long reunion in 2001 (which was without O'Riordan, who he
clearly adores). He won't say whether he misses the way songs once came
to him "bang, bang, bang . . . like from above, as if I was just the
Which brings us back to this apparent creative block. As I tiptoe towards
the "dark period", he refutes any suggestion that he's somehow paying the
price of abuse, particularly of LSD, which for a time was a major
creative tool. "I took my first trip at 14," he snorts. "I've never
stopped taking acid." So why did the songs stop? Finally he snaps.
"Because my fucking girlfriend left me." Can you not put that in song? "I
could, but I'm hoping she'll come back to me." MacGowan looks like he
could punch me. I almost want to hug him.
MacGowan recently moved back to the farmhouse in "Tipp" where he grew up,
and it's been good for him. The black mood vanishes as quickly as it
arrived. He jokes - looking me right in the eye - of "walking in the
fields, shooting trespassers". More candidly, he admits that he has been
unhappy but has been helped by eastern mysticism, and shows me a book
which falls open at the line: "By wiping away ego we can see things as
they are." In May, a new MacGowan composition, Road to Paradise, emerged
on a charity EP in aid of ex-Celtic and Scotland footballer Jimmy
Johnstone, who has motor neurone disease. The situation is further
muddied by Woods' assertion that Shane is happier because he's not under
pressure. "But he does have new material and I know some of it is really
good. He's beginning to come back to what he was."
I ask MacGowan to sign a record sleeve and at first he seems
uncomfortable, saying: "Can't we do it at the gig?" Then he remembers
that he's in a hotel, "the gig" isn't until December and embroiders If I
Should Fall From Grace With God with scrawl. I'm expecting something
offensive, but it reads beautifully, like a lyric: "It's time we began to
laugh and cry about it all again!"
· Red Roses for Me, the Pogues remastered, is out on WEA on December 13.
The tour starts at Glasgow Academy on the same day