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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)
December 23, 2004
12/23/04 – Reiss Positive on Ireland Peace
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
ML 12/23/04 U.S. Envoy Positive On Northern Ireland
BT 12/23/04 Police Draw Up List Of Organised Crime Gangs –A
SM 12/23/04 Firebomb Found At Department Store
BT 12/23/04 Loyalist Seeks Police Talks On Unrest
BT 12/23/04 Barron Report: Advert Seeks Public's Support
BT 12/23/04 Book Rev: RUC Records In The Book
RT 12/23/04 FG Concerned About Deportation Of Irish Citizens From US –AO
FG Concerned About Deportation Of Irish Citizens From US
Bernard Allen, Fine Gael's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, outlines his
concern at the manner in which some Irish citizens are being detained and
deported from the US
U.S. Envoy Positive On Northern Ireland
Thursday, December 23, 2004
By JO-ANN MORIARTY
WASHINGTON - The White House's envoy to Northern Ireland, in a briefing
to U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal yesterday, said the country is at peace even
if Protestants and Catholics don't appear they will sign an official
peace agreement by the symbolic deadline of Dec. 31.
Just returning from Belfast, Mitchell Reese, the U.S. envoy to Northern
Ireland, told Neal in a 30-minute briefing he is confident there is a
sustainable peace in Northern Ireland to which Protestants and Catholics
are committed, and that both communities are also committed to sharing a
"He confirmed what I have said repeatedly. The war is over. The IRA
(Irish Republican Army) has done everything it said it would, and the DUP
(the Democrat Unionist Party) is prepared to accept a shared
partnership," Neal said.
"Everything is positive," the Springfield Democrat said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern
had spent a lot of time and energy in Belfast mediating conflicts between
Ian Paisley, the head of the Democrat Unionist Party, the largest
Protestant political party that wants to remain under British rule, and
Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish
Republican Army and the largest Catholic political party that wants to be
unified with the 26 counties that make up the Irish Republic.
Both heads of state had hoped to have a signed agreement between
Paisley's party and Sinn Fein by Christmas or New Year's Eve. The Irish
Republican Army had indicated it would be willing to surrender its
weapons by Dec. 31 if an agreement had been reached between the two
political parties that are about to run a new government together in
A power-sharing government had been established in 2000 after the 1998
Good Friday Peace Agreement was overwhelmingly approved by Irish voters.
That government was disbanded in 2002 after failing to reach agreement on
issues. The executive powers were returned to London. Voters subsequently
replaced those political leaders with more strident leaders of each
The Democrat Unionist Party was the only major political party in
Northern Ireland that refused to participate in peace talks.
In the last two months, its leader, Paisley, has been negotiating with
Catholics through the British and Irish prime ministers.
President George W. Bush personally called on Paisley to advance the
peace process. The president sent Reese to Belfast after the two parties
failed to reach agreement by Christmas.
After spending a week in Belfast, Neal said Reese is confident that
Catholics and Protestants will reach an everlasting and official peace
agreement and will participate in running a new government together.
The sticking point now is that Paisley wants the surrender of the Irish
Republican Army's weapons publicly photographed. That condition is
outside the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Peace accord, Neal said, adding
that the United States, Britain and Ireland agree on that contention.
"They still believe that the IRA did not renege on its agreement," Neal
Police investigation continues into Belfast bank robbery
Alan Murray, security analyst based in Belfast, discusses the police
investigation into Monday's £22m robbery at Northern Bank
Jeffrey Robinson, journalist and author of 'The Laundry Men', assesses
the cash-disposal options open to the robbers
Police Draw Up List Of Organised Crime Gangs -A
Experts scour CCTV tapes
By Jonathan McCambridge
23 December 2004
A team of 45 detectives are today poring over hundreds of hours of
Belfast city centre CCTV footage in a desperate bid to gain clues about
the Northern Bank robbery gang.
Despite speculation over republican involvement, senior police are still
refusing to blame any group for the spectacular heist and have instead
insisted there are organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland without
paramilitary links who would have had the expertise to carry out the
It has now been confirmed that the team of up to 20 robbers looted £22m
from the Northern Bank cash centre's vaults on Monday evening - ranking
it among the world's biggest bank robberies.
The policeman leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Andy
Sproule, has revealed details of the horrific ordeals suffered by the
families of the two bank officials, Kevin McMullan from Loughinisland and
Chris Ward from Poleglass, after the armed gangs turned up at their homes
on Sunday night.
He said: "On Sunday night at 10pm three masked men went to a family home
in Poleglass where a mother, a father, two sons and the girlfriend of one
of the sons were.
"They took one of the sons away (Chris Ward), a Northern Bank official,
two men stayed at the house in Poleglass for 24 hours.
"The bank official was taken in a red car to a house at Loughinisland
Road near Downpatrick where his supervisor lived (Kevin McMullan)."
Armed men had already gained access to this house by posing as police
officers and telling the McMullans that a member of their family had been
killed in a road accident.
Mrs McMullan had a gun put to her head and was kept tied up for 24 hours
before she was finally freed when the job was completed.
The two bank workers, who are employed in the basement of the Northern
Bank, were sent to work as usual at midday on Monday.
DS Sproule said that at 6pm on Monday one of the men left the bank on
foot with a hold-all; this contained more than £1m and was handed over to
a man wearing a hat and scarf on Upper Queen Street.
Detectives believe this was a dry run to ascertain if police had been
Over the next two hours a white transit box van, with stolen number
plates RCZ 6632, made two separate visits to the bank's Wellington Street
Police believe that none of the robbers entered the bank at any point but
stayed in the loading area.
On both occasions it is believed the van drove off in the direction of
the Grosvenor Road roundabout after it had been loaded.
DS Spoule said one line of inquiry was that the robbers had "inside
"We are appealing for information from anyone who was in Belfast on
Monday late night shopping.
"Our team of detectives is currently trawling through more than 100 hours
of CCTV videotape.
"An active line of inquiry is studying previous incidents of this sort
and we have 45 detectives working flat out on this.
"We are encouraged by the amount of public support."
Police are hoping soon to have the serial numbers of the £12m in new
Northern Bank notes stolen, which will make it almost impossible to
launder or dispose of.
The haul from this week's £22m Northern Bank robbery included:
• £12m new £10 and £20 Northern Bank notes
• more than £1m £100 and £50 Northern Bank notes
• £5m used bank notes from assorted Northern Ireland banks
Police did not reveal the make-up of the rest of the cash.
• laid end to end, £22m in banknotes would stretch 170 miles
• if the notes were stacked on top of each other, the pile would be 540ft
• that much cash would weigh one and three quarter tons, equal to a Land
Firebomb Found At Department Store
By Ian Graham, PA
Another Northern Ireland store was targeted in an incendiary bomb attack
The partially-exploded remains of a device were found by staff in a
department store in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
It was the latest in a series of attacks in recent weeks which are
believed to be the work of dissident republicans.
Staff at Cameron's department store in Ballymena found the device shortly
after opening up the Christmas shop on the ground floor this morning.
The device appeared to have only partially ignited and was made safe by
an Army bomb disposal expert. Damage is understood to have been minimal.
Nevertheless, police issued an urgent warning to retailers across the
province to check their premises for devices over the next two days, and
especially when shutting up shop for Christmas.
Yesterday, a furniture store in the town was badly damaged in an
incendiary attack in which three devices ignited – the last while the
blaze was being fought by the fire service.
Among other stores badly damaged in recent days were a B&Q branch outside
Lisburn, Co Antrim, and a Homebase DIY store in Londonderry.
Loyalist Seeks Police Talks On Unrest
23 December 2004
A senior loyalist leader is seeking an urgent meeting with police to
discuss the smouldering unrest in Antrim's Springfarm estate.
Ken Wilkinson, the South Antrim chairman of the Progressive Unionist
Party, fears that "lives could be lost" if steps are not taken to
dismantle the estate's growing gang culture.
The PUP man's comments followed a disturbing incident at Tiree Street
when a young woman who was burned out of her flat was given an Housing
Executive property next door - and was promptly attacked again.
Since then the 20-year-old has been given a house in another Antrim
estate, but Mr Wilkinson believes her ordeal was "a fact of life" for all
too many people.
"There is a group of young lads who have terrorised that estate for over
a year now," he said.
"People are frightened to speak out because they know they could be next.
That's simply not acceptable."
His comments echo a plea by community association chairman Seamus Davis,
who was singled out for threats last week.
Graffiti was scrawled on walls warning that his 'time had come', and
branding him a 'loyalist tout'.
"Anyone who knows Seamus Davis knows that is absolutely nonsense," said
the PUP man.
"He is an excellent worker who will meet with anyone who can help him
improve the welfare of the people in the estate."
Mr Wilkinson said he would be raising these issues 'and more' when he
meets with senior police.
Advert Seeks Public's Support
By Ashleigh Wallace
23 December 2004
A sub-committee set up by the Republic to consider the Barron Report into
the Dublin bombings today issued a call for submissions from "interested
persons or bodies" in Northern Ireland.
In an advertisement which appears in today's Belfast Telegraph, the sub-
committee on the Barron Report is requesting submissions from people in
According to the advert, a series of public hearings into the bombings is
to be held and are due to start late next month as part of its
Three people died and 185 were injured in the 1972 and 1973 bombings in
the Republic's capital. The case was re-opened and investigated by Mr
Justice Henry Barron, who presented his report to the Republic's
Government last month.
The report was then referred to the joint committee on justice, equality,
defence and women's rights who in turn established the sub-committee.
And after submissions - both in written and oral form - are received from
"interested parties and bodies", the advert says: "The sub-committee
will, in due course, submit a report to the joint committee which will,
in accordance with the terms of the motions of referral, report back to
the House within three months."
One of the findings from the Barron report concluded there had been
insufficient assistance from the British authorities on the
investigations into the bombings.
It also ruled that collusion between loyalists and the British military
has not yet been proved - and acknowledged loyalist terror gangs at the
time did have the capability to carry out the bombings, although they may
have had assistance from rogue members of the security services.
Submissions from those interested in Northern Ireland can be made in
writing to The Clerk to the Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the
Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973, Kildare House, Kildare Street, Dublin
Submissions can also be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for receipt of submissions has been set at 5.30pm on
Friday January 14, 2005.
Ian Hill: Man about town
RUC Records In The Book
23 December 2004
Despite the inherent solemnity of the launch of Richard Doherty's book
'The Thin Green Line, A History of the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC' you
could but smile at the arcane photographs ranged like framed cigarette
cards around the RUC George Cross Foundation's boardroom on Knock Road.
Hugh Forrester, curator of the RUC Museum, with Foundation trustee and
former Assistant Chief Constable Freddie Hall, pointed to the shakos and
fixed bayonets of Glenarm's Constabulary of Ireland officers of 1883, the
dashing plain-clothes detectives at Mountpottinger in 1892 and the
moustachios and penny farthing patrol bicycles of the RIC barracks at
Swanlinbar in 1893. But Doherty's history, its title inspired by Irish
war correspondent William Russell's book on 'the thin red line' of the
British Expeditionary Force in the Crimea, is made of sterner stuff,
noted RUC Historical Society archivist Roy Black, formerly of the Fraud
Among those there to welcome it were three officers pictured in its pages
along with the obligatory image of a confiscated poteen still: Sergeant
(later Chief Superintendent Robin Sinclair, first curator of the RUC
Museum; Sergeant (later Chief Inspector) Neil Falkingham, seen
supervising a cycling test at a Londonderry school in 1975 and Constable
(later Chief Inspector) Reggie Semple at the wheel of a Lotus Cortina
Mark II Q-Car. Rosemary Falkingham, Olive Semple, plus the Foundation's
Frances Orr, modestly introduced themselves as 'friends of the authors'.
So too did Clare Best of the Evergreens, the policewomen's association,
Angela Whitla of Banbridge's RUC GCF, plus Charlotte Murtagh and Wilma
Carson of Forgotten Families, the RUC Widows. But like many there,
Caroline Graham didn't talk of past hurts such as her Donegal husband,
then Constable Charles Graham, being petrol-bombed in 'The Battle of the
It was left to Foundation chairman Jim McDonald LVO MBE KCSG KCHS JP DL
to speak of 'holding the centre', of the force's 300-plus dead whose
portraits line his boardroom's walls and whose murders are detailed in
Richard's often angry book. Jim spoke too of the Foundation as "a family
which stays together despite the hurt suffered by recent legislation".
Educated at St Columb's, military historian Richard Doherty, whose 16th
book this is, has reason enough to write it. A trustee of the Museums of
the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Regiment and chair of the
Irish Regiments' Historical Society, he's also a one-time member of both
the Territorial Army and the RUC Reserve who has survived two attempts on
his life by the IRA.
After listening to Richard and Jim several sought the stillness of the
adjoining RUC George Cross Garden. Open by appointment
(email@example.com), its award-winning design is by Queen's
landscape architecture lecturer Peter Hutchinson, its RUC crest sculpted
by Ned Jackson Smyth, its RUC George Cross by fashioned by Eleanor
Wheeler and Alan Cargo, its stone and water memorials wrought by Lisburn
sculptor Bob Sloan.
The Thin Green Line, Pen and Sword Books, £25.