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December 16, 2004

12/16/04 - PMs Weigh Up Talks Progress

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

BT 12/16/04 Premiers Weigh Up Talks Progress
BT 12/16/04 McCabe Killers 'Denied Festive Parole'
BT 12/16/04 Cuts 'Could Leave Army Overstretched'
BT 12/16/04 Appeal For Civil Rights Artefacts
IO 12/16/04 Most Services More Expensive In Dublin, Says CSO


Premiers Weigh Up Talks Progress

By Noel McAdam
16 December 2004

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were today due to decide whether to
park the stalled political negotiations to restore devolution until
the New Year.

Amid reports of fresh ideas on the visibility of IRA
decommissioning, the two premiers were assessing the potential for
progress in the next week before the Christmas break.

A week after releasing their proposals for a Comprehensive
Agreement, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern were due to meet on the margins of
an EU summit in Brussels this evening.

Mr Blair's spokesman said: "They will want to keep things moving
forward and assess where things are at."

Asked about the apparent new ideas, he said: "There is quite a lot
of work going on behind the scenes."

As Sinn Fein ridiculed the DUP's warning over the IRA proceeding
with decommissioning, without photographic evidence, as "the stuff
of Alice in Wonderland" it remained unclear what if any new ideas
have emerged. Sinn Fein said there had been none.

Mr Ahern warned that without agreement soon, the restoration of an
Executive and Assembly could face "major delay".

The Taoiseach also urged the parties to "seize this moment of
opportunity and real hope". Another prolonged "fallow" period would
only make the task of building a new society in the province more

While Mr Ahern yesterday effectively backed the DUP position on
photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning, he also gave renewed
backing to Sinn Fein's calls for direct talks with the DUP.

He said: ". . . the process of trust-building can only improve when
direct dialogue is established between the two parties who enjoy
leadership mandates in their communities."

As the DUP continued to insist on the necessity of photographs,
senior Ulster Unionist negotiator, Sir Reg Empey, warned DUP leader
Ian Paisley has been "asleep at the wheel" over remarks on the IRA
pressing ahead with disarmament and speaking rights for Northern
Ireland MPs in the Dail.


McCabe Killers 'Denied Festive Parole'

Dublin set to keep gang in prison for Christmas

By Tom Brady
16 December 2004

The four IRA killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe will not be
allowed out of jail for Christmas, it emerged today.

A decision to keep them locked up will not be made officially until
next week, but authoritative sources revealed that the killers did
not have a "snowball's chance in hell" of seasonal parole.

The McCabe killers are being held in the Grove bungalow complex, a
semi-open unit within the closed confines of Castlerea prison,
where they posed for photographs last year with Sinn Fein's Dail

Gang leader Kevin Walsh and his associates, Strabane man Pearse
McAuley, Jeremiah Sheehy and Michael O'Neill, have been let out of
jail in the past for limited temporary release.

The four have been consistently denied Christmas parole. Three
years ago Tanaiste Mary Harney intervened when it appeared that the
Republic's Government was on the verge of granting them parole for
a few days.

After the latest controversy over Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's
insistence that their permanent release must be part of an overall
peace deal - and disclosure last week that such release was
included in a secret deal with the republican movement - Ministers
believe the timing is not right for Christmas parole for the

Under normal release conditions, O'Neill is due to be set free with
remission for good behaviour in May 2007, Sheehy in February 2008,
and Walsh and McAuley in August 2009.

The four were convicted of the manslaughter of Garda McCabe during
an abortive raid on a post office van at Adare, Co Limerick, in
June 1996, after IRA intimidation of witnesses forced the state to
drop murder charges.

Although the four were excluded from the Good Friday Agreement in
1998, Sinn Fein persuaded the Taoiseach they should be set free
early, using the terms of the Offences Against the State Act.

Mr Ahern said their release was dependent on an end to IRA
involvement in criminal and paramilitary activity. Last week it was
disclosed that the IRA had refused to sign up to a key phrase which
would have meant an end to so-called punishment beatings and other
criminal activity.

The Republic's Justice Minister Michael McDowell is expected to
sanction Christmas parole for around 300 prisoners.

Meanwhile, prison officials have denied a newspaper report
yesterday that McAuley had been let out of Castlerea for a romantic
weekend with his wife in Donegal in the late autumn.


Cuts 'Could Leave Army Overstretched'

By Michael McHugh
16 December 2004

Major cuts in Army numbers could produce long- term military
overstretch in Northern Ireland, the DUP warned today.

1,500 troops are likely to be axed under plans being announced
today by Ministry of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, and Lagan Valley
MP Jeffrey Donaldson is concerned about the implications this could
have for manpower levels in Northern Ireland.

Although reports suggested all four regiments to be merged are
based in England and Scotland, high-level critics of the move claim
that the changes will leave the Army dangerously overstretched.

The MoD argues that the changes will make the force more efficient.

Mr Donaldson said that manpower was the key to an army's fighting
strength and added that he had serious worries about the army's
long-term future in Northern Ireland.

"I do have major concerns about the Government reduction in the
size of the Army. It is getting to the point where the Army may not
be able to respond to all the situations in which it is called upon
to be deployed," he said.

There have been repeated concerns about job threats to members of
the RIR in Northern Ireland and their civilian support staff.

Senior officer, Lieutenant General Felix Spender, briefed troops
based in Ballymena earlier this year about possible redundancy
packages as the demilitarisation process continues.

Further cuts to Army estate in Northern Ireland are planned if this
month's peace process discussions are successful.

A spokesman for the MoD said there was no threat to Northern
Ireland troop numbers and denied that the Army would be under-


Appeal For Civil Rights Artefacts

By Ciaran O'Neill
16 December 2004

More than 15,000 items have already been donated for a museum which
will chronicle the history of the civil rights movement in

However, management at the Museum of Free Derry, which is due to
open next summer, today appealed for anyone with other items to
come forward.

The development office for the museum is based at the new Bloody
Sunday Centre which opens today at Foyle Street.

Museum co-ordinator Adrian Kerr said: "I would like to take this
opportunity to remind people that we are still very much on the
lookout for items for the museum.

"We would be interested in any photographs, documents or artefacts
relating to the civil rights and early Troubles era."

The official opening of the new Bloody Sunday Centre, which was
previously located at Shipquay Street, was performed by Mayor Gerry
O'hEara and Dr Abdul al-Jibouri, an Iraqi living in Derry who has
been a leading critic of the war in his native country.

Commenting on the change of premises, BSC spokesperson John Kelly
said: "It is vitally important that the Bloody Sunday Centre
remains open until the Saville Inquiry fully completes its work and
our new premises are ideal for that."

The centre, at Foyle Street, is open to the public from 9.30am to
4pm, Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 3pm on Friday. For further
details contact 7136 0880.


Most Services More Expensive In Dublin, Says CSO

16/12/2004 - 12:15:42

Consumers in Dublin pay more for basic goods and services than
people elsewhere in the country, according to figures released
today by the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO said that of 73 items surveyed last month during the
compilation of inflation statistics, 48 were more expensive in
Dublin and 24 were less expensive.

It said the prices of 32 of these goods and services were found to
be at least 3% higher in Dublin than elsewhere.

Cinema tickets were found to be more than 16% dearer in Dublin,
while a pint of lager was found to be 13.2% more expensive in the
capital and meat prices were up to 10% higher than in other areas.

On the other side of the equation, food and non-alcoholic drink
prices were found to be generally lower in Dublin.

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

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