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November 27, 2004

News 11/27/04 - PSNI Swoop On UDA Robbery Gang

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 11/27/04 Police Swoop On UDA Robbery Gang
UT 11/27/04 Sinn Fein Welcome DUP Move
BB 11/27/04 Inching Towards Political Deal?
BT 11/27/04 Hardball Begins In Bid To Get Parties Back On Track
BT 11/27/04 Clergymen Couldn't Tell Semtex From Soap, But...
SF 11/27/04 Decision To Route M3 Through Tara Must Be Overturned
IC 11/27/04 Missing 25,000 Voters
BT 11/27/04 Mallon Will Not Contest Westminster
BT 11/27/04 Mural Aims To Bring History To Life

Police Swoop On UDA Robbery Gang

Eight men held in major operation.

By Jonathan McCambridge
27 November 2004

Police have broken up what they believe is a UDA crime gang on the
verge of staging a major hostage incident, the Belfast Telegraph
can reveal today.

Detectives swooped on the gang, based in east Belfast, while they
were allegedly about to carry out a kidnapping and armed robbery
this week.

Police sources have told this paper that eight men being questioned
in relation to serious crime offences include "major figures" in
the paramilitary organisation.

Police made their arrests following an intelligence led operation
co-ordinated by a number of branches of the PSNI's Crime Operations
department, which deals with serious crime.

Police swooped on Thursday night when they arrested three men in
east Belfast.

A number of house searches were carried out and five more men were

It is understood that the planned operation used significant police
resources involving both plain clothes and uniformed officers and
several police Land Rovers and cars.

Police sources said this indicated their determination to crack
down on organised gangs and to target the major players in serious

The eight men are still in custody and will be questioned again

It is only two weeks since the Government moved to officially
recognise the UDA ceasefire after the organisation indicated it
would move away from criminality to a more community-based role.

This was despite the International Monitoring Commission stating
that the UDA was still involved in a range of organised crimes.

There have been a spate of kidnap robberies linked to
paramilitaries in recent months. In some cases, children have been
held as hostages until large ransoms are paid.

The PSNI have had a number of successes in the last six months
against serious organised crime, including disrupting illegal
dumping, counterfeit crime and cross-border theft of farm

East Belfast District Policing Partnership member Jim Rodgers said
he welcomed this week's police operation.

"People in the community are increasingly concerned about serious
crime, so any operation against it is to be welcomed," he said.

The UDA says it is doing all it can to end criminality within its
ranks, and its political allies have attacked 'Doubting Thomases'
in the political and media worlds.

Last week, Sammy Duddy of the Ulster Politial Research Group, which
offers analysis to the UDA, said in a letter to the Belfast
Telegraph: "The UDA, in conjunction with the UPRG, are determined,
sincere and single-minded in their request for peace."


Sinn Fein Welcome DUP Move

A meeting between the Democratic Unionists and the head of Northern
Ireland's disarmament body could advance efforts to secure the
return of power sharing, a senior Sinn Fein figure claimed today.

By:Press Association

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed the decision of the
Reverend Ian Paisley`s DUP to arrange a meeting on Monday with
General John de Chastelain, the head of the Independent
International Commission on Decommissioning.

As DUP and Sinn Fein negotiators assessed the state of efforts to
secure a comprehensive peace process deal, Mr McLaughlin
acknowledged unionists needed reassurance about any future IRA
disarmament act.

"The Good Friday Agreement has an effective and functional way of
dealing with the issue of putting arms beyond use," the Foyle
Assembly member told PA.

"Hopefully this meeting will lead to a better understanding of that

"People are obviously at this stage offering advice and making

"Some people who do not have the power to deal with this issue are
making demands but the reality is that at the end of the day there
will either be a voluntary initiative (from the IRA) or there

"In terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the IRA has taken
initiatives which have advanced the process in the past and, at
times, have in reality saved the process.

"That track record is there, which is more than can be said for

Efforts to revive devolution have reached a critical phase, with
Sinn Fein and the DUP looking at the latest responses from London
and Dublin to queries about their package of proposals to resurrect
the Assembly.

The DUP insists how the IRA conducts future disarmament will be
critical to any deal.

They want republicans to agree to more visible weapons
decommissioning, with photographic evidence.

The party would also like to see a statement from the Provisionals
indicating the IRA will abandon paramilitary and criminal activity
forever and become, as the Rev Paisley suggested, "an old boys`

Following a meeting of its 80-member executive in Belfast last
night, the DUP said it would analyse throughout this weekend the
latest British and Irish Government proposals.

A party spokesman confirmed: "DUP leader, Dr Paisley MP MLA and
Deputy Leader, Mr Peter Robinson MP MLA, briefed members on the
progress made thus far within the talks process.

"He outlined the way forward, the obstacles still to be negotiated
and the goal of achieving a fair deal for the people of Northern

"The executive unanimously endorsed the way forward put to them and
offered their continued support to the leader and his negotiating
team in the coming days.

"The party will continue a detailed analysis on the textual changes
in the proposals and scrutinise the responses to the clarification
the party sought.

"The party will engage in a series of meetings next week arising
from consideration of the Government proposals, including a meeting
with the IICD on Monday morning."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and his negotiators were still
monitoring political developments, with the party arranging a
meeting of its national officers in Belfast for Monday.

Party sources stressed the leadership would not be putting its
final verdict on the British and Irish Government proposals to the

Mr McLaughlin confirmed the party was still waiting for a signal
from the DUP that it is willing to share power with Sinn Fein,
adding there were still issues to be resolved.

"We have some fundamental issues which we have managed to reduce to
one or two core issues that need to be closed on," the Sinn Fein
chairman said.

"If there isn`t a holistic deal or we cannot endorse it, we are
happy for the two governments to publish their proposals.

"If we can endorse the proposals and the DUP can`t, the governments
should publish.

"But let it be clear: if we get a deal which departs from the Good
Friday Agreement, then count us out."

US President George W Bush called the Rev Paisley yesterday
offering his help and is expected to contact Gerry Adams during the

President Bush said on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, that he was
trying to encourage both sides "to get a deal done to close the
agreement they`ve been working on for quite a while."

He vowed to do "anything I can do to keep the process moving

Mr Adams also met former South African President Nelson Mandela in
London yesterday.

Inching Towards Political Deal?

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

It's not every week George Bush takes time out of his Thanksgiving
holiday on his ranch in Texas to phone a Northern Ireland

But that's what happened when Ian Paisley got the call from the
most powerful man in the world, urging him to go the extra mile for

The DUP leader responded by endorsing the Whitehouse's policy on
terrorism and claiming he was just trying to apply it closer to

Gerry Adams expected a similar call - one presumes he would be too
diplomatic to mention to the president that some of the murals on
the Lower Falls now portray him as America's greatest failure.

Back at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, the president confirmed to
waiting reporters that he stands ready and willing to help.

London and Dublin will no doubt have had a hand in this attempt to
pile on the pressure.

The message is that the president expects every politician to do
his or her duty.

But George Bush slightly undermined this by giving the impression
that he was far more interested in the burger he was about to eat
than the minutiae of the Northern Ireland process.

The discussions are complex, but if one crunch issue has emerged
it seems to be the business of photographs being taken of any
future IRA disarmament

We appear to be only days away from the moment when the British and
Irish Governments will have to make a judgement call on the
negotiations about restoring Stormont.

The discussions are complex, but if one crunch issue has emerged it
seems to be the business of photographs being taken of any future
IRA disarmament.

Ian Paisley says seeing is believing - republicans have called it
an "attempt to humiliate" the IRA.

On Friday evening, one Irish source told the BBC he believed
republicans were up for the photographs in some shape or form, and
the essential problem now was whether the DUP was psychologically
ready for a deal.

However, later that same night a spokeswoman for the Irish
Department of Foreign Affairs was at pains to clarify that it was
not Dublin's official view that photographic evidence was no longer
an issue.

Speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, Sinn
Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin appeared to slightly soften his party's
line on the photographs.

Despite being given several chances to do so, the Sinn Fein
chairman didn't rule out the possibility that any future IRA
disarmament might be captured on camera.

Nor did he describe it as humiliating - a term he used on the same
programme just a few weeks ago.

Instead, he repeated that it was up to General John De Chastelain
and the armed groups to work out their own mechanisms.

A hint or just a holding line? We may be wiser once Ian Paisley
meets the general.

The DUP leader is reiterating to colleagues that if there are no
photographs there is no deal.

Matter of presentation

Something else the DUP appears to want is a clear differentiation
between the Joint Declaration drawn up last year with its
associated proposals for demilitarisation and the return of
paramilitary fugitives, and any paper he will endorse.

The DUP is thought to object to some language in the government's
latest suggestions which could tie them to what they have tried to
portray as "Trimble concessions".

This may be a presentational matter, rather than one of substance;
just like last October, we could expect to see a series of
different papers being issued, with the parties assenting to some
proposals but not to others.

The word in political circles is that the two prime ministers had
been prepared to fly to Hillsborough last week if all had gone
according to plan.

We appear to be inching forward, but it is not yet quite time for
the helicopter pilots to fire up their engines.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/27 16:59:48 GMT

'Hardball' Begins In Bid To Get Parties Back On Track

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
27 November 2004

The DUP, Sinn Fein and the two Governments were today locked into
hardball negotiations as the prospects of a deal on Northern
Ireland's future remained delicately poised.

DUP leader Ian Paisley made clear "obstacles" remain as Sinn Fein
president Gerry Adams said he would not seek IRA approval until a
comprehensive package has been agreed.

Efforts to restore a power-sharing Assembly and Executive are
facing a critical week with both the British and Irish Governments
warning they will have to make a call on the prospects for an
imminent deal.

American President George Bush was expected to speak to Sinn Fein
president Gerry Adams following a telephone conversation with DUP
leader Ian Paisley.

A senior republican source said today: "The two Governments appear
to want to try to bounce both ourselves and the DUP into accepting
a deal but that is not going to happen.

"I am still not sure the DUP are up for it. They are in the
negotiating arena but they appear to be in two minds, so it's
probably difficult to call.

"Certainly if the DUP buy into power-sharing, republicans are going
to do the deal but you have to remember Gerry Adams has gone twice
to the IRA in the past and asked them to make moves, which they
then did, only to see unionism walking away.

"He is not going to go back to the IRA now and ask them for moves
which the republican community is concerned about just to see the
same thing happening."

The 80-strong DUP Executive last night unsurprisingly unanimously
endorsed the party leadership as the two Governments gave their
detailed response to around 40 points of clarification.

Party officers and the negotiating team said they would continue a
detailed analysis on the textual changes in the proposals and
scrutinise the responses to the clarification sought by the party
over the weekend.

Mr Paisley is thought likely to meet Tony Blair on Tuesday but it
remains unclear whether the party will be in a position to give a
definitive 'yes' or 'no' to the Governments' blueprint.

Mr Adams has also confirmed his party will respond to the latest
amended proposals early next week but said that as yet he had no
plans to go to the IRA.


Perspectives: Clergymen Probably Could Not Tell A Stick Of Semtex
From A Bar Of Soap, But...

27 November 2004

Religion Correspondent Alf McCreary reflects on the role of the
Churches in the Troubles

The recent speculation as to whether the clergy could play a role
in verifying arms decommissioning by the Provisional IRA may or may
not be ended by the time you read this.

Only a fool would predict what might actually happen if and when
the major political parties agree on a peace strategy, and there
have been so many slips in the past that nothing would surprise the
people of Northrn Ireland either way.

Yet another last-minute hitch cannot be ruled out, but a permanent
peace would be welcomed by the vast majority on all sides. The
situation has improved incomparably in the past few years, and it
is ironic that the political extremes of the DUP and Sinn Fein seem
most likely to do a deal.

This, of course, is a classic "post-colonial" situation but who
would have thought that the Rev Ian Paisley, the arch conservative,
could be the man to help deliver peace on the unionist side before
he eventually and inevitiably retires from public life?

I have been particularly intrigued by the suggestion that clergy
from the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities might be asked
to play a part in verifying arms decommissioning, if that
eventually transpires.

Clergymen probably could not tell a stick of semtex from a bar of
soap, but nevertheless the paramilitaries seemed prepared at one
stage to allow them to play a role.

All of which underlines that, contrary to the opinions of many
commentators, Church leaders do retain credibility in the community
at large.

There is, of course, a degree of nonsense about the whole issue of
arms decommissioning.

Even the dogs in the street know that paramilitaries who give up
arms could buy replacements within a few days if they decided to
return to war. However, as with so much of political and community
life in Northern Ireland, symbolism is all-important. So it is
considered vital by unionists that the Provisional IRA is seen to
be decommissioning.

General John De Chastelian, though a very honest soldier, is not a
good man at selling himself or decommissioning in general, as we
found out last time round. So the received wisdom is that we need
someone else to deliver the good news more clearly.

Just think what Archbishops Eames or Brady or the Moderator, Dr Ken
Newell, could do with the announcement by the Provisional IRA of a
significant arms decommissioning. These men, and other clergy, are
used to looking for any silver linings which dark clouds might
produce, and they have a track record for sincerity and

This is not an inconsiderable achievement in our society where the
Churches have been blamed, in my opinion unfairly, for not doing
enough to bring about peace.

Many observers, including those journalists who do not understand
how Churches operate, have looked for the grand gestures, as if
sermonising and dramatic public statements actually lead people to
make significant changes, and in many cases lay down their arms. On
the contrary, the work of the Rev Roy Magee, for example, shows how
patient and painstaking liaison with loyalist paramilitaries over a
long period can make much more of a difference.

The Churches certainly made mistakes during the Troubles,
particularly in allowing themselves to be associated too closely
with one or other political philosophy, but many Church members -
laity and clergy - have worked extremely hard to encourage greater
understanding at grass roots level.

It isn't easy to quantify what they have actually achieved, because
much of their work does not lend itself to statistical measurement.
I am convinced, however, that without the restraining influence of
successive Church leaders and laity the situation In Northern
Ireland at the height of the Troubles would have been much worse.

Oddly enough, the Churches now face an even greater challenge to
remain relevant in the hopefully post-violence situation. but I can
think of no greater compliment to the Church at large than the
suggestion that clergy might make an important contribution to the
final stages of creating peace by verifying arms decommissioning.

The still, small voice of those with a higher mission might still
be heard clearly above the din of battle.

Decision To Route M3 Through Tara And Skyrne Valley Must Be

Published: 27 November, 2004

Sinn Féin representative for Meath Councillor Joe Reilly has
described the decision to route the M3 through the Tara and Skryne
valley as misguided and called for it to be overturned. He said
"Even at this late stage I would call on the Department and the
Minister to display some common sense and proceed with the delayed
Dunshaughlin, Kells and Navan bypasses as a matter of urgency and
start to deal with the traffic chaos being endured by the people of
Meath and Cavan every day" Councillor Reilly is attending a protest
in Dublin against the proposed route of the M3 through the Tara and
Skryne valley.

Councillor Reilly said:

"No matter how much the Minister for Transport and the NRA play
down the impact of the proposed routing on the archaeological
heritage of the Tara-Skryne valley, the evidence contradicts these
assertions. Archaeological test trenching proved that there are
many more archaeological sites on the route of the proposed
motorway than initially claimed. Eminent archaeological experts
from Ireland and abroad have testified to the archaeological
importance of the Tara/Skryne valley and have spoken about their
dismay at the proposed routing of the motorway.

"The Government got itself into this mess because it did not
consult adequately with local communities or elected
representatives. It should have learnt by now that taking time to
consult in the initial stages saves time and money in the long run.
The case has been made by many of those campaigning against the
proposed route of the M3 that there are viable and realistic
alternatives where both infrastructure and heritage can be
accommodated. The single 64 kilometre construction contract for the
M3 should be broken up into a number of contracts to ensure work on
the bypasses and non-contentious sections of the route would not be
further affected by archaeological concerns and delays in the
Dunshaughlin to Navan section. The people of Meath and Cavan should
not be forced to endure the current levels of traffic congestion
because of the delays to one section of the proposed motorway. The
best way to address the appalling congestion problems we have heard
about is to proceed immediately with the work on the bypasses.

"Commuters are irate that despite the fact that Meath County
Council approved a plan for a bypass of Kells in 1999, nothing has
happened to date. Public transport in County Meath is seriously
underdeveloped. As well as proceeding immediately with the
construction of the bypasses, the Government must commit the
necessary funding for the reopening of a rail link from Dublin to
Navan. Traffic congestion is inevitable in the absence of proper
public transport alternatives. Navan is one of the fastest growing
towns in the State and a commuter rail service is vital and would
make environmental sense.

"It is proposed that this motorway should be constructed by way of
public private partnership and should be tolled. The Government
arbitrarily upgraded the road, which was to have been a dual
carriageway, to motorway status just to apply a toll. Sinn Féin is
opposed to PPPs as a method of infrastructure delivery. They do not
make long-term economic sense and cost the State more in the long
run. Road tolls are an additional stealth tax on motorists and the
consequences of tolling this route for a person who lives in Cavan
and travels to the southside of Dublin is that he will be ripped
off three times - once between Cavan and Navan, a second time
between Navan and Dublin and a third time by the Department's
modern day highway men who are waiting to fleece him yet again on
the M50 toll bridge."ENDS


Missing 25,000 Voters

The Andersonstown News can reveal that up to 25,000 voters could be
shaved off the latest West Belfast electoral register due for
publication next Wednesday.

The finding comes after the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley
wrote to West Belfast MP, Gerry Adams, in response to a letter from
the Sinn Féin President inquiring into voter registration in his

"Reminder letters and registration forms were sent in early
November to a total of 12,658 individuals in Belfast West whose
names appeared on 1 September Register but had failed to return
completed forms by 19 October," wrote Denis Stanley. "Blank
registration forms were also sent to a further 5,249 homes where
there were no electors registered at 1 September."

With the new electoral register scheduled for publication next
Wednesday the Andersonstown News has learned that a massive
registration campaign – spearheaded by key community activists – is
already gearing up for action.

The news comes amid speculation that the British government is
planning to change the registration laws in order to address
widespread concerns about the shortfall in the electoral register.


The Andersonstown News has learned that up to 25,000 voters could
be shaved off the new electoral register for West Belfast which is
due to be published next Wednesday (December 2).

The astonishing revelations are contained in a letter written by
the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley and sent to West Belfast
MP Gerry Adams last week.

News of the potential shortfall comes amidst media reports that the
British government is considering changes to the electoral
registration process following widespread concerns over the drop in
the voting register.

That drop – disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters – was
provoked by new registration policies and restrictive ID methods
introduced as part of the Electoral Fraud Act.

In his letter, dated November 13, Denis Stanley stated that,
"reminder letters and registration forms were sent in early
November to a total of 12,658 individuals in Belfast West whose
names appeared on 1 September Register but had failed to return
completed forms by 19 October.

"Blank registration forms were also sent to a further 5,249 homes
where there were no electors registered at 1 September.

"During the course of this year's annual canvass, query letters
have been sent to 2,166 electors who had returned incomplete or
incorrectly completed forms.

"Of these 438 queries remained outstanding on Monday 15 November,"
wrote Denis Stanley.

When the figures are totalled for both individuals and households,
seasoned electoral observers calculate a possible shortfall in the
West Belfast register of 25,000 voters.

Expressing anger at the revelations, local Sinn Féin Councillor
Gerard O'Neill – who also experienced trouble with his electoral
registration form last month – said the figures "quite clearly
demonstrate that a problem exists in relation to the registration
of people in working-class areas of high deprivation, particularly
in terms of the resources given to an area like West Belfast".

"I am very angry and concerned about these revelations. The
Electoral Office has a responsibility to ensure the maximum number
of people is assisted to secure their democratic franchise, but if
this success rate related to a commercial business – it would fold.

"The Electoral Office has failed and very serious questions are now
being asked about the manner in which the process of registration
is being managed.

"I experienced basic problems with my form last month when I was
told it hadn't arrived even though I had sent it in, but because I
am a councillor, I was able to take the matter up publicly. How
many other residents in West Belfast are going to be faced with a
similar disenfranchisement but won't be able to pursue the matter
the way I did?" asked Councillor O'Neill.

Since the 2001 Westminster election, the electoral register for
West Belfast has already dropped by over 12,000 voters.

Next week's fresh register is expected to confirm that negative and
dramatic trend. In anticipation of that likelihood, key community
activists are already gearing up for a massive registration
campaign throughout the constituency.

• Read next Thursday's Andersonstown News for more details

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

Mallon Will Not Contest Westminster

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
27 November 2004

SDLP Former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon has confirmed he
will not contest the next Westminster election in Newry and Armagh.

Mr Mallon (68), who has been MP for the constituency since he
defeated Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson in a by-election in 1986,
had been expected to stand down.

His decision opens the way for a hard-fought battle between his
party and Sinn Fein, which is likely to select Assembly chief whip
Conor Murphy.

Mr Murphy was just over 3,500 votes behind Mr Mallon at the last
Westminster election in 2001.

The SDLP is expected to hold a selection convention next week with
Assembly member Dominic Bradley reportedly seeking the nomination.

Mural Aims To Bring History To Life

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
27 November 2004

A unique community project in Belfast has created a little piece of
history and helped residents creatively change the appearance of
their neighbourhood.

The Bleach Green History Mural was launched by the Upper
Springfield Development Trust at Bleach Green Court on Belfast's
Whiterock Road this week.

Artist Gerard 'Mo Chara' Kelly worked with the elderly residents of
Bleach Green Court sheltered housing development, young parents and
children from the nearby Bleach Green Terrace, and young people
from the Base Project through a series of workshops to develop the

It came about in response to the elderly residents of Bleach Green
Court and nearby residents of Bleach Green Terrace wanting to do
something positive for their immediate environment.

Working with the Upper Springfield Resource Centre, Base Youth
Drop-in Centre and the Arts Unit of the Upper Springfield
Development Trust, the residents came up with ideas of doing
positive things to change the appearance of their street.

Bleach Green Court, on the Whiterock Road, is built close to the
site of the old Bleach Green, which was there up until the 1950s.

The group explored this and other aspects of local history and some
of the residents even had their own memories of the Bleach Green,
taking the project into reminiscing, story telling and poetry,
which also fed into the mural.

The young people in the group learned about local history from the
older people and it was also a good way to build relationships
between different generations in the community.

This mural project, along with other initiatives, provided ways for
the residents to creatively change the appearance of their

It was officially launched yesterday at a special ceremony and can
been seen from the Whiterock Road.

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