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December 20, 2004

12/20/04 – Colombia 3 Rule Out Domestic Appeal

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

EX 12/20/04 Colombia 3 Supporters Rule Out Domestic Appeal
IT 12/21/04 DUP To Resist Moves For EU Involvement
MS 12/20/04 Changing The Face Of Politics In Northern Ireland
IT 12/21/04 €250m Leisure Complex Planned For Athlone
CM 12/20/04 Neeson Plans Another Political Biopic (Paisley)

RT 12/20/04 Over 50,000 Irish Believed Living Illegally In US –VO
QA 12/20/04 Does Ireland Have World's Highest Quality Of Life? -VO
QA 12/20/04 Commerce Replaced Church At Heart Of Christmas? –VO
NW 12/20/04 Pantomime Queen Maureen Potter Is Remembered –VO

Over 50,000 Irish Believed Living Illegally In US - Jim Fahy
reports from Boston on the plight of illegal Irish immigrants in
the United States

Q&A Panel:
Willie O'Dea, Minister for Defence
Diarmuid Martin, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin
Prof Kathleen Lynch, Director, UCD Equality Studies Centre
John Waters, Irish Times columnist
Simon Coveney, Fine Gael Munster MEP
Does Ireland Have The World's Highest Quality Of Life? - Panel and
audience respond

Has Commerce Replaced The Church At The Heart Of Irish Christmas?
The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, responds

Pantomime Queen Maureen Potter Is Remembered - Mary Fanning takes a
look back at the career of Irish theatre's queen of comedy, Maureen
Potter, who passed away in April


Colombia Three Supporters Rule Out Plans For Domestic Appeal

By John Breslin

SUPPORTERS of three fugitive Irishmen facing 17 years in a
Colombian jail yesterday ruled out attempting to appeal the
decision domestically.

Catriona Ruane, speaking ahead of a press conference in Bogota,
said it is not an option because the process could take three to
six years.

Ms Ruane made the comments without speaking to the three men, Niall
Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley.

She claimed that neither the men's lawyers nor their families have
been in contact with them for more than six months since they left
prison following their initial acquittal for training left-wing

Ms Ruane, a Sinn Féin assembly member in the North, and fellow MLA
Gerry Kelly flew to Colombia on Sunday and consulted with the men's
lawyers yesterday. Supporters have described the ruling as
"political and farcical".

Interpol is understood to have issued a formal arrest warrant for
the three men after they failed to surface following last week's
successful appeal against the acquittal. Three judges overturned
the original verdict and sentenced them to 17 years in prison.
Colombian authorities have vowed to do everything possible to make
sure the three serve their sentences.

The whereabouts of the three men is not clear, though it is claimed
they left Colombia some time ago, possibly fleeing to neighbouring
Venezuela. Ms Ruane said she has no idea where the three men are.
"The last time I saw the men was the morning we took them out of
the jail. . . I don't know what their next move is going to be."

Before the three went into hiding after leaving the La Modelo
prison, they discussed their legal options with the lawyers, whom
she described as among the best criminal defenders in the country.

While the lawyers have discussed the various domestic legal moves
open to the trio, they are not really options, said Ms Ruane.

All of them, including an appeal against the conviction, will take
three to six years, she claimed, suggesting that the three were not
prepared to willingly spend that length of time in a Colombian

A more likely option is that an international campaign will be
launched and that the three men will remain in hiding while that
continues. Ms Ruane said the men's case will be taken to
international fora, including the European Parliament.

Government legal representatives are to study the 120-page appeal
court judgment, after it is delivered here and translated.

Ms Ruane ruled out linking the Colombia Three with the Northern
peace process and the issue of "on the runs", fugitive IRA men who
are likely to be given an amnesty under any final agreement.

One "on the run", wanted in connection with the death of Garda
Jerry McCabe and living in Venezuela, is reported to have helped
the three men flee Colombia.


DUP To Resist Moves For EU Involvement

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

The DUP has pledged to resist a plan by campaigners for the so-
called Colombia Three to bring their case to the European Union.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Ms Caitríona Ruane, who, with party
colleague Mr Gerry Kelly, is in Bogota consulting with Colombian
lawyers about the 17-years prison terms imposed by the Colombian
courts on the three men, said she would be seeking the support of
the EU.

The DUP MEP, Mr Jim Allister, however, responded by launching what
he termed a "counter-offensive in Europe" against attempts to
enlist EU support for the men.

Mr Allister has written to the President of the European
Commission, Mr José Manuel Barroso, urging him to support the DUP
campaign to have the three men - Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and
Martin McCauley - brought "to justice".

Mr Allister has already spoken in the European Parliament on the
IRA's alleged involvement in Colombia , and e-mailed every MEP with
information supporting this claim. He has also written in similar
terms to the British Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, to urge him
to ensure the European Union is "not engaged on behalf of

In his letter to Mr Barroso he wrote: "No amount of Sinn Féin
propaganda can conceal the reality that their activists were
plainly engaged in assisting the drug-funded Marxist guerrillas of

© The Irish Times



Changing The Face Of Politics In Northern Ireland

by Roisin Ingle

When businesswoman, fundraiser and mother of two Maureen Murray
began planning a dinner party in honor of Sinn Féin leader Gerry
Adams, she had no idea the positive impact her political soiree
would have on the future of women in troubled Northern Ireland.

The party took place back in the summer of 1998, when leaders of
the North's main political parties were touring the U.S., garnering
Irish American support for the Good Friday Agreement, the historic
deal brokered between the political parties the previous Easter.

Sinn Féin had contacted Murray because of her Irish American
credentials and, more crucially, her access to corporate and
political leaders, the cream of whom she assembled for dinner in
her New York home.

That night, seeds were sown for the New York-based Northern Ireland
Women's Initiative (NIWI) and the DemocraShe program, a pioneering
venture that six years later continues to open political doors for
increasing numbers of women in Northern Ireland.

"We sat down for dinner, my then-husband and I, and all these
famous, important businessmen and politicians. I was the only
woman, a situation I had been in for much of my life in business
and politics," recalls Murray , her blue eyes twinkling as she sips
tea in a hotel suite on Manhattan 's Upper East Side .

"As we sat down to the table, I said, 'I would like to welcome you
all to this gender-balanced meal,' and everybody burst out
laughing. That's when I saw my opening."

Murray began to speak, telling Gerry Adams and her other guests
about the success story of EMILY's List, the organization that has
raised millions of dollars to support the election of pro-choice
Democratic women to office in the U.S.

With her background (an Irish mother, Bridget, and father) and her
career as a political consultant, Murray had kept an eye on the
Good Friday Agreement talks — and was "appalled at how badly women
taking part were treated by some of the men.

"During dinner, I told Gerry Adams that what was needed now was an
organization that would raise money to get women elected and
involved in political life. I told him I was certain that women's
participation would change the face of politics in Northern Ireland
forever. As I talked, there was silence. I had just laid out for
the first time this vision of DemocraShe."

A few weeks later, Adams wrote to Murray suggesting she move on her
idea by visiting Northern Ireland. Murray took up the invitation,
and met with members of the new political party, the Women's

These women had endured jeers from some male participants of the
talks, who had suggested they should be home minding minding their
husbands and making tea. After this meeting, Murray was positive
that an EMILY's List-style organization would be of benefit.

"The women I met in Belfast were so committed to making politics
work," she says. "I knew from the outset that any initiative to
involve more women in politics would have to be nonpartisan, with
women from all parties, even those who were anti-Agreement, such as
the Democratic Unionist Party."

Murray wasted no time in hiring the former deputy director of
research from EMILY's List, Alex Lange, who suggested Bronagh
Hinds, a founder of the Women's Coalition and staunch advocate of
women in public life, to head the Northern Ireland Women's

As a negotiator at the talks, Hinds had been involved in "the right
of women to full and equal political participation" clause being
written into the Good Friday Agreement.

"I remember Maureen being skeptical — rightly so — about whether
that part of the Agreement would actually be implemented," says
Hinds, over lunch in her office at the Institute of Governance at
Queen's University of Belfast, where she now works.

"The name DemocraShe just dawned on me one day. It seemed to sum up
everything we were working for. And luckily Maureen felt the same."

Support for DemocraShe came from such political heavyweights as
then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator George Mitchell,
as well as from actors Liam Neeson and Roma Downey.

Senator Clinton sent a letter of support when NIWI was launched in
Stormont, the home of the Belfast Assembly: "Democracy in which
only half the adult population fully participates is a
contradiction," she wrote. "This program recognizes the need for
women to become full participants in the political life of their

During six-week training programs tailored to the different
parties, the women learned everything from how to write a press
release and conduct television interviews to how to move forward
within their party and strategize effectively.

In the first election cycle, which began in 2000, NIWI trained 102
women from parties across the political spectrum. All of these
women went on to be active in the local and Westminster election
campaign: 31 ran for office and 15 of these were elected, including
three MPs to the Westminster Parliament in London.

In the second cycle, 18 women were elected to the assembly
elections (compared to 14 in 1998) although the Women's Coalition
failed, by a small margin in each case, to retain either of its
seats. No woman trained by NIWI lost her seat, and while the
assembly has since been suspended, DemocraShe will ensure
participation of more and more women in the years ahead.

"We are working with all parties and want to develop a trusting
relationship with them," says Hinds, who praises Murray for
structuring DemocraShe according to what the women actually need
rather than what she thought they might need.

"We want women to get into strategic positions in their party so
they can get nominated for election and are successfully elected.
It's a continuous, holistic process, and it seems to be working."

While Hinds works on the ground in Belfast, Murray is based in New
York, where she fundraises and mines her vast contacts in business
and politics. Originally from a blue-collar background, her
feminist and political sensibilities developed, Murray says, as
early as age 15.

She put herself through college in Baltimore before obtaining an
M.A. in public policy from the Johns Hopkins University. Her stint
as media advisor on the 1984 Mondale-Ferraro presidential campaign
and her time on the 1988 Al Gore For President campaign further
inspired her.

Murray has two children, Aiden (9) and Paige (14), with whom who
she lives in New York. At that pivotal dinner party, Paige, then 9,
refused to go to bed until she'd met Gerry Adams.

"She is tough as nails," says her mother smiling. "I don't know
where she gets it from."

Murray had set up Medley Global Advisors with her ex-husband — the
couple divorced last June — to advise big business on how world
political affairs affect their investments.

"We did well enough in business so that I could underwrite the
costs for NIWI, to help the courageous women of Northern Ireland,"
she says.

How does she think DemocraShe has changed the position of women in
Northern Ireland?

"People take women more seriously there now," she replies

"These days, the women who come into politics are very seriously
trained; they have a strategy for getting nominated and for getting
elected. My goal was to make them feel confident in public service,
make them feel like when they step up to make a statement, or to
vote, or to write a letter to an editor, or to do anything to serve
their constituency, that it comes from a base of knowledge and a
base of confidence. We are giving them a framework for analysis,
because as we all know, serious policy makers make serious policy."

Murray and Hinds are currently working on a proposal for the
creation of an institute for women in politics, policy and media
based in Belfast. They hope this institute will translate the
DemocraShe model for other communities in conflict around the

"As a woman you can have those moments of self-doubt — but when I
flip through NIWI files I am amazed by what has been achieved,"
says Murray. "That self-doubt is the reason we train women in
groups, so they can support each other in the same way Bronagh will
regularly bolster me and remind me that we are doing the right

Murray has a lot to say about self-doubt, something she experienced
going through her recent divorce: "It was tough to manage NIWI
during that period."

But when this dynamic woman announces that her next goal is to
raise "2 or 3 million dollars" to set up an institute designed to
improve the lot of women from Belfast to Borneo, doubt does not
seem to enter into the equation.

"If we do anything in this life, we should strive to leave the
world a little different, a little better," says Murray. "If we
just do that, it was worth being here."


€250m Leisure Complex Planned For Athlone

Liam Horan

A €250 million, 8,000-seater stadium - larger than Dublin's Point
Theatre - has been proposed as part of a major development for
Athlone by the proprietor of the Supermac's fast food chain, Mr Pat

The spectacular development on the outskirts of the town, to
include a hotel, restaurants and apartments, could see major rock
groups, West End musicals, and international exhibitions come to
the midlands.

McDonagh is heading a consortium behind the proposed entertainment
venue just off the N6 road that links Galway and Dublin.

Mr McDonagh, a native of Galway, successfully built up the
Supermac's brand over the past 25 years, competing with worldwide
fast food giants such as McDonald's and Burger King.

He has now lodged a planning application for the first phase of the
development, to include a 144-bedroom hotel, a multifunctional
arena, bars, restaurants, medical centre, service station,
residential apartments, office units, and a car showroom. The arena
would have capacity to seat 500 more people than the Point.

"The master plan is based on the concept of a Lifestyle Centre with
a diversity of entertainment, leisure and retailing uses, creating
commercial synergy and an all-day usage of the site," the plans

"The main element of the scheme is the 8,000 all-seater
multifunctional arena. Operators for the arena, including a
Helsinki/Pan European operator and SFX (America), have been
approached and discussions have taken place.

"The arena will cater for a range of cultural, exhibition and
educational events and will help reinforce the 'Gateway' status of

The first phase of the plans has been submitted to avail of capital
allowances for the hotel. Architect Mr Angelo Magliocco said
yesterday that the second phase of plans, including the arena,
would be lodged early next year.

The development will require the site to be rezoned from Light
Industry Technology to Commercial.

A massive tourism spin-off is anticipated for Athlone, where two
new hotels, The Prince and The Radisson, have opened in the past

Another major development - Athlone Town Centre - is currently
going through the planning process, a project that also features a

Athlone Town Council has given this development the go-ahead, but
An Taisce and a local couple have appealed the decision to An Bord

An Taisce says the four-storey and adjacent eight-storey tower
block are too high for the centre of Athlone.

For their part, Mary and Brian Thornton, who live close by, at St
Francis Terrace, have also objected to the lifestyle centre for
several reasons.

"We object most strenuously to our home being transformed from a
quiet, residential area to a traffic island," they said.

© The Irish Times


Neeson Plans Another Political Biopic

Actor LIAM NEESON is desperate to bring another important figure in
Northern Ireland's history to the big screen, following his turn in

The towering screen star portrayed the controversial Irish
Republican Army (IRA) leader in director NEIL JORDAN's film, and
now he's bidding to play Unionist head IAN PAISLEY in a future

Anti-IRA Paisley - described by Neeson as a "dynamic, extraordinary
figure" - has been a prominent voice on Northern Ireland's
political stage for over three decades.

Neeson says, "What an orator. He's from that old school of Bible-
thumping righteousness. I find him very powerful. I'd love to get a
chance to play him."

20/12/2004 17:36

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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