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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 29, 2004
12/29/04 - Ferry Deported
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
IE 12/29/04 Ferry Deported, But Not Before Airport Fiasco
IE 12/29/04 Echoes Of '04: The Year In Headlines
TA 12/29/04 Bank Loot May Fund Pensions For IRA
BT 12/29/04 Opin: Provos Fooling No One, Except (Perhaps) My Auntie Nora
BT 12/29/04 Apprentice Boys Receive Dublin Boost
IO 12/29/04 Tsunami Survivors Arrive Home
(PN: For several days I have seen rumors in the news that the IRA was
responsible for the Belfast Bank heist. You know…reports attributed to
unnamed sources. But now there are accusations that the IRA did it to
fund their own retirement. Makes senses to me! But for us Americans, we
don't have to fund our IRAs until April 15th. Seriously, the news on
Ciaran Ferry is very sad. Jay)
Ferry Deported, But Not Before Airport Fiasco
By Ray O'Hanlon
In a final, Kafkaesque twist to his longrunning battle against
deportation from the U.S., Belfast man Ciaran Ferry was prevented from
leaving the country last week by law enforcement officials. And this even
as he was in the process of being deported under armed federal escort.
Ferry's flight fiasco began after he reached a deal with federal
The former IRA man agreed to end his appeal against deportation if he was
able to get a flight back to Ireland in time for Christmas.
Ferry's journey back east began smoothly enough. Escorted by U.S.
marshals, he was placed on a plane out of Denver bound for Newark in New
Jersey. The flight landed at Newark where Ferry was to be transferred to
a Continental Airlines flight to Dublin. However, the wheels came off the
flight plan at this point.
According to Ferry attorney Eamonn Dornan, airport security officials
boarded the plan and ordered Ferry's removal.
"Ciaran was under armed escort by U.S. marshals, but the security
officials said he couldn't fly because his name was on the no-fly list,"
The presence of the federal officers did not assuage the officers,
described by Dornan as being from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority.
Ferry was taken from the plane and confined for the night at the Hudson
County jail. Federal agents managed to sort out the situation the next
day and Ferry finally flew to Ireland on Wednesday night, Dec. 23. He was
freed upon arrival in Dublin and was able to spend Christmas with his
family in Belfast.
Meanwhile, Ferry's wife, Heaven, who is a U.S. citizen, and the couple's
American-born daughter, Fiona, spent Christmas in Colorado with family
members. They are both expected to join Ferry in Ireland in the new year.
Last month, a Colorado judge denied Ferry's habeas corpus plea, which had
been before the court for 19 months.
Ferry had argued that his detention violated due process and his right to
equal protection. He said he was denied his rights because he was
prevented from having a green-card hearing following his marriage to
Ferry has been jailed since Jan. 30, 2003. He was detained when he turned
up for the green-card interview with his wife.
Ferry was first held at the Federal Corrections Institution in Englewood,
Colo. He was transferred at the end of February to the maximum-security
wing of Denver County Jail. In September 2003 he was moved to the
Jefferson County Jail in Denver. Hudson County turned out to be Ferry's
fourth place of confinement in less than two years.
Ferry, through his lawyers, argued that he was treated in an arbitrary
fashion by the Department of Homeland Security. He also disputed the
government's position that he posed a threat to U.S. security. He was
supported in this contention by 12 members of Congress, who wrote to the
DHS on his behalf.
However, in his habeas corpus decision, U.S. District Court Judge Edward
Nottingham ruled that while Ferry had been lawfully admitted to the U.S.
under the visa-waiver program, he had, under the rules of the program,
effectively waived his rights to legally fight deportation on any basis
other than a plea for political asylum.
In his ruling, Nottingham noted that such a plea for asylum had been
separately denied by U.S. immigration authorities. Nottingham, in denying
habeas corpus, stated that Ferry was "subject to removal" from the U.S.
That decision was still in appeal before the Tenth Circuit Court of
Appeals when Ferry decided to end a legal battle, which had the potential
to go on for years.
When he appeared for his green-card interview, Ferry was questioned about
a prison term he served in Northern Ireland for IRA-related activities in
the early 1990s.
Ferry was arrested in Belfast in 1993 after two guns and ammunition were
found in a car in which he was a passenger. He was sentenced to 22 years
but was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.
Ferry, when he first entered the U.S., did not reveal that he had been in
prison. He did, however, admit to IRA membership on his subsequent green-
This story appeared in the issue of December 29, 2004- January 4, 2005
Echoes Of '04: The Year In Headlines
By Ray O'Hanlon
JANUARY Familiar faces and stories pass seamlessly from one year into the
next. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warned that unless all the political parties
in Northern Ireland worked together, there was a risk of another period
of conflict. The Echo moved from its longtime offices on Fifth Avenue to
new digs on 47th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues in Manhattan.
The paper lost an old friend when former GAA correspondent and columnist
John Byrne passed away at age 90. In the early days of the election year,
President Bush outlined a plan for changes in immigration law, but while
jobs were promised there was no mention of green cards.
The McAllister family celebrated another Christmas in New Jersey and
early in the New Year won a reprieve from deportation. The Colombia Three
continued to await a verdict in Bogota. Rugby ruled the roost in Irish
sport with Ulster, Leinster and Munster all posting successes.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that any review of the Good Friday
agreement had to be short and sharp.
Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark attacked the Bush
administration's record on Northern Ireland. With a bunch of Ulster
Unionist Party defectors, including Jeffrey Donaldson, now on his side,
the Rev. Ian Paisley had the David Trimble-led party right in his
A financial relief package was drawn up to bail out the troubled rose of
Tralee contest. World War II Marine Corps veteran Tommy Gleason was named
as grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade. At the tail
end of the month, Belfast man Ciaran Ferry, fighting deportation from the
U.S., marked a year in various Colorado prisons.
Mike Rafferty was named the Echo's top traditional musician for 2003.
Plans for the Bertie Bowl stadium in Dublin took a nosedive after a rival
plan for a revamped Lansdowne Road was unveiled.
Former taoiseach John Bruton was tipped to be the new European Union
ambassador to the U.S.
Democratic presidential favorite John Kerry had an Irish statement but it
was somehow lost in all the growing primary hubbub. As a result, his
campaign came out with a bigger, better and bolder version. Irish
American Republicans shot back at Wesley Clark's criticism of the Bush
record on Northern Ireland. In rugby, Munster advanced to the quarter
final of the European Cup but Leinster's hopes bit the dust.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was on the hot seat as his Fianna Fáil party was
roiled by a new round of corruption and sleaze allegations. John Hume,
for many a figure of heroic stature in Northern Ireland politics,
announced his retirement. In GAA, Mayo gave early warning of their intent
by beating Dublin in the National League.
The art world was stirred when Italian art experts questioned the
authenticity of Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ," on display at the
National Gallery in Dublin. The long-running Bloody Sunday inquiry wound
up after hearing testimony from the 919th witness. Undefeated Derry Boxer
John Duddy's career hit the canvas when U.S. immigration authorities
denied him a visa.
Tragedy struck in Dublin when a runaway bus killed five people on a
sidewalk by the River Liffey. Mercurial soccer star Roy Keane hinted at a
return to the Republic's team. The Irish rugby team went down badly to
France in their opening Six Nations championship game in Paris but
quickly bounced back by trouncing Wales in Dublin.
The review of the Good Friday agreement hit a snag when UUP leader David
Trimble walked out. The Irish sports world was stunned by the sudden
death of Tyrone football captain Cormac McAnallen. Plans for a visit by
President Bush to Ireland in June gathered momentum. There was concern
that the visit would be disrupted by protestors.
The Echo marked 75 years of continuous publishing with a special
anniversary issue. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed "Irish Echo
Day." In their first game after Cormac McAnallen's death, Tyrone showed
their mettle by beating Mayo. In one of the biggest rugby upsets in
years, Ireland shocked world champions England, beating them at
St. Patrick's Day was marked by parades and parties all across the world,
war-torn Iraq included. In Washington, D.C., Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
presented the traditional bowl of shamrock to President Bush. In New
York, the parade was led under snowy skies by grand marshal Tommy
Meanwhile, in Savannah, Ga., where America's second largest parade takes
place, eight spectators were injured by a runaway car. Ireland braced
itself to embrace a new smoking ban in public places, including pubs.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton offered her support to the McAllister family
and their effort to avoid deportation. Ireland continued with winning
ways in Six Nations rugby by beating Italy.
As the month closed, there was a sharp intake of collective breath in
Ireland as something long thought unthinkable actually happened:
cigarette smoking was banned in pubs and all other public buildings.
Political reverberations continued in the wake of an ad in the New York
Times taken out on behalf of Sinn Féin. President Bush's North envoy,
Mitchell Reiss, lambasted the ad and Sinn Fein responded angrily to the
criticism in the main Irish-American papers.
Undocumented Irish immigrants were becoming increasingly worried over
plans to tighten up the rules for obtaining driver's licenses in New York
and other states.
The Irish banking industry in the U.S. lost a respected member with the
death of AIB's Brian Oliver in New York. Fordham University's "Ceol na
nGael" marked 30 years on the airwaves. Ireland beat Scotland in rugby,
securing the Triple Crown and finishing runner-up in the Six Nations
Gerry Adams dubbed the North political talks a farce. Uproar followed the
British government's rejection of a full public inquiry into the 1989
murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane. The inquiry was recommended by the
Cory Report on collusion.
The Republic's soccer players defeated the always rated Czechs, 2-1, in a
friendly at Lansdowne Road. The win was soon followed by news that Roy
Keane would indeed agree to wear the green jersey again.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave evidence to the Mahon tribunal, which
continued its probe into planning corruption. Irish activist and U.S.
citizen Sean Mackin was detained by police while on a visit to his native
Belfast. He was later released. The McAllister family faced a new
struggle as Bernadette McAllister was diagnosed with cancer.
Munster's rugby heroes made the semifinal of the European Cup, but that
was as far as they got. The new North American GAA season got under way.
Padraig Harrington did not win the Masters at Augusta, but he did score a
final round hole-in-one at the famed 16th.
The number of U.S. troops passing through Shannon airport surged. And
President Bush would soon be among their number as plans were revealed
for a presidential visit to County Clare in June. The Colombia Three were
cleared of the most serious charge they faced in Bogota, that of aiding
the FARC guerrillas. But they remained in custody pending an appeal by
the Colombian government.
May brought Mayo footballers to Gaelic Park in the Bronx. Their presence
turned out to be a little too warm for New York, who went down to the
visitors in a Connacht Championship clash. A hoped-for Irish-American
museum in Washington, D.C., began to gather political support.
Judge Peter Cory came to Washington, where he repeated his view that
there should be a full inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Still-
grieving families marked the 30th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan
bombings. Galway defeated Waterford in the National Hurling League final.
After years battling deportation proceedings alongside her husband,
Malachy, Bernadette McAllister succumbed to cancer on her 46th birthday.
The month of May was to be a particularly tragic time for the Irish Echo.
The paper lost part of its present and past. Jack Holland, senior editor
and longtime columnist, died from cancer at age 56. And former editor-in-
chief John Thornton also died from cancer. He was 72.
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen met with President Bush in the White
House. An appeals court confirmed a lower court denial of political
asylum to former IRA man Ciaran Ferry.
New York's hurlers entertained Down at Gaelic Park. The home side
impressed but couldn't match the power of the visitors. Former Rep. Bruce
Morrison became embroiled in the debate over citizenship and the Irish
Constitution in advance of an upcoming June 11 referendum in the
The Republic beat Romania in a soccer friendly in Dublin. But the result
was less of a headline than the return to the Irish team of Roy Keane.
Catholics in the Boston archdiocese, many of them Irish American, were
shocked to learn that 60 churches would be closed in a reorganization
plan. Dr. James Lyons, a former advisor on Ireland to President Clinton,
accused President Bush of ignoring the North.
Former President Ronald Reagan died aged 93. Reagan had visited Ireland
and his family's native Tipperary in 1984.
Frank Carvill, a popular figure in the tri-state Irish-American
community, was killed in Iraq, where he was serving with the New Jersey
Army National Guard.
The Republic beat Holland in a soccer friendly in Dublin, this time
without Roy Keane.
European and local elections took place on both sides of the border. Sinn
Féin polled strongly throughout the island, while Fianna Fáil in the
Republic and the SDLP in the North lost ground. Voters in the Republic
voted in a referendum to remove the automatic right to citizenship for
those born on the island of Ireland.
James Joyce's Bloomsday marked 100 years of reading, writing and walking.
Bill Clinton's memoirs hit the bookstores. The book revealed how much
high-level opposition Clinton faced over a visa for Gerry Adams.
President Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, flew to Ireland to attend
the U.S./EU summit at Dromoland Castle in County Clare. The visit sparked
protests and also some uproar over a confrontational television interview
of the president carried out before the visit by RTE correspondent in
Washington, Carole Coleman.
The marching season in the North led to rioting in Belfast as Catholics
expressed fury over a decision to allow an Orange Order march through the
Ardoyne area of the city.
A former IRA man, Joe Black, was arrested at Philadelphia airport en
route to a wedding in Pittsburgh. Irish aid groups had to increase their
workload as the situation in war-torn western Sudan worsened. New car
insurance regulations in Massachusetts threatened to take away the
driver's licenses of many undocumented Irish.
The Democratic Party platform paid minimal attention to the North as
Democrats convened in Boston. Pennsylvania's Ned McGinley won a second
two-year term as national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Chris and Mimma Kane, separated by an ocean and more than a year in time
due to an immigration snafu, were emotionally reunited at Kennedy
Airport. Republican Sinn Féin cried foul as it was added by the U.S.
State Department to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Veteran
IRA leader Joe Cahill, who was crucial in selling the peace process to
supporters in Irish America, died at 84.
Westmeath footballers ended a 100-year-long drought by capturing the
Leinster football title at Croke Park in Dublin.
Stung by criticism that their platform statement on Ireland had come up
short, the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards pledged a
hands-on approach to the North peace process. Scandal-tainted former
Taoiseach Charles Haughey gained millions from the sale of his north
Dublin mansion. Most of the money was said to be destined for his four
Thirty-five years after the Battle of the Bogside, the British army was
still visible on the streets of the North. The U.S. North envoy,
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, raised hackles after calling some Orange Order
parades "foolish" and "malicious."
A big dig began in a Philadelphia suburb where Irish railroad workers
from the 1830s were known to be buried. In a sign of worse to come, an
Irish athlete heading to the Olympics in Athens was stopped in his tracks
after failing a drug test. Cathal Lombard was the main Irish hope in the
5,000 and 10,000 meters.
The All-Ireland hurling final had a familiar ring to it with Kilkenny and
Cork making it all the way to the big game. Weeks after being detained on
his way to a wedding, former IRA man Joe Black was deported from the U.S.
In what amounted to something of a high summer shocker, New Jersey Gov.
Jim McGreevey, one of the country's most prominent Irish-American
politicians, announced that he had been involved in a gay affair and
would be resigning from office.
Sonia O'Sullivan faltered in Athens, where medals of any color were
proving elusive for the Irish team. But gold came up trumps at the very
end when show jumper Cian O'Connor tasted triumph. Bill Clinton went to
Dublin to sell his book and play golf.
Ten years after the first IRA cease-fire, the North was still short of
being able to call itself a normalized society.
The Republicans came to New York for their convention feeling upbeat and
confident. The convention included a floor time speech on Ireland and
events that played up President Bush's record on the North. But
controversy flared when top Bush adviser Karl Rove apparently compared
the IRA to al-Qaeda.
Concern was growing over the health of North firebrand Ian Paisley and
his ability to play a part in the planned talks aimed at restoring
devolved government. Kerry and Mayo reached the All-Ireland football
In soccer, the Republic opened its World Cup qualifying campaign with a
win over Cyprus in Dublin. Three Irish golfers -- Padraig Harrington,
Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke -- made the European Ryder Cup team and
all three played key roles in their team's eventual victory over the U.S.
Cork ended Kilkenny's hopes of three titles in a row by winning the All-
Ireland hurling final at Croke Park.
Former loyalist informer Ken Barrett admitted to involvement in the
murder of Pat Finucane. But the confession failed to quell calls for a
full public inquiry. Former taoiseach John Bruton was confirmed as the
next EU ambassador to the U.S. The population of the Republic topped 4
million for the first time since 1871, census figures revealed. Wall
Street executive and Kerry native Dennis Kelleher was named grand marshal
of the 2005 New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced a cabinet reshuffle. Foreign Minister
Brian Cowen announced increased Irish government funding for immigration
advice centers around the U.S. Controversy swirled around an Ulster
Unionist Party fundraising event in New York. Aer Lingus signaled its
intention of becoming a low-cost carrier over the Atlantic.
And who would be All-Ireland football champs? In the year of a
presidential candidate named Kerry and a Kerry-born New York parade grand
marshal, it had to be the county of the same name. Kerry trounced Mayo in
the final at Croke Park.
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, speaking in New York, said he was heartened by
what he saw as political progress in the North but was still wary about
making bold predictions.
The colorful and sometime controversial executive secretary of the New
York St. Patrick's Day Parade, James Barker, died at 69. Connecticut won
its first-ever New York GAA senior hurling title at Gaelic Park. A row
erupted after Cavan forfeited the football final following the death of a
club member, John Moore.
Nay it ain't so. Cian O'Connor's wonder horse Waterford Crystal failed a
drug test and a shadow fell over Ireland's sole Olympic gold medal.
Ireland drew with France in a soccer World Cup qualifying tie.
The struggle ended for lifetime Irish activist George Harrison, dead at
89. The U.S. ambassador to Ireland, James Kenny, said that ties remained
strong between both countries despite tensions arising from issues such
as the war in Iraq. The Republic's soccer stars continued their winning
ways with an expected World Cup qualifier win over the Faeroe Islands.
Garda William Geary, who battled most of his life to clear his name
following a bribe taking charge -- and finally did so -- died at 105 at
his home in Queens, N.Y.
A report that the U.S.-based Fitzpatrick hotel chain was sold to a
consortium of buyers was denied.
Irish GAA players dominated Australia in their compromise rules series.
Irish-American backers of both the Republican and Democratic parties used
up the last days before the presidential election to boost each ticket's
chances with Irish American voters.
President Bush secured a second term in the White House with a clear
popular vote and Electoral College win over Democrat John Kerry.
North political progress appeared to stall as the DUP stiffened its
demands for "visible" IRA weapons decommissioning. The B blood sample
from Olympic horse Waterford Crystal tested positive for two banned
substances in a test carried out in New York.
In a shocking twist to the practice of taking hostages in Iraq, a
militant group claimed it had executed Irish-born aid worker Margaret
In a sign of uncertainty over the future of Aer Lingus, the top three
executives in the airline said they would quit in 2005. The three had
unsuccessfully attempted a management buyout of the carrier.
The Irish and British governments gave the warring North political
parties a week to agree on a power sharing deal. A Colorado court turned
aside a habeas corpus plea by jailed Belfast man Ciaran Ferry.
Ireland's winning ways in rugby picked up where they left off earlier in
the year with a win over mighty South Africa at Lansdowne Road. The U.S.
Eagles were next on the list of Ireland's victims. In Gaelic games, the
GAA in Ireland gave a thumbs-up to the Randalls Island stadium project in
Marlon Mullings, one of four men accused in the 1999 murder in
Philadelphia of Donegal native Neil Martin McConigley, was found guilty
and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. There was much ado and
critical praise in the music world for the new U2 CD/iPod, "How to
Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."
With a North deal seemingly within reach, President Bush phoned the Rev.
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams and urged them to embrace the plan being
offered by the Irish and British governments.
The Walsh visa program was extended through 2008. The Irish rugby team
continued on the winning trail with a hard-earned victory over Argentina.
Hopes for a North deal collapsed in a standoff over IRA decommissioning
and DUP demands for photos of weapons being destroyed.
With Christmas coming, undocumented Irish immigrants had to decide
whether to stay put in the U.S. or risk a visit to family in Ireland. The
Canadian border, once considered a relative easy exit and entry point,
suddenly looked like a far tougher option as a result of tighter
enforcement by both American and Canadian immigration officials.
The Colombia Three faced jail after the Colombian government won a court
appeal but the three Irishmen were nowhere to be found. Bank robbers in
Belfast netted a record $39 million in cash. Ciaran Ferry gave up his
legal fight and was deported.
The Irish government and aid agencies rushed help to Asian countries
stricken by a huge earthquake off the coast of Indonesia and tsunamis
that raced across the Indian Ocean. Hundreds of Irish and American
holidaymakers were in stricken coastal areas at the time of the disaster,
particularly resorts in Thailand.
This story appeared in the issue of December 29, 2004- January 4, 2005
Bank Loot May Fund Pensions For IRA
David Lister in London
December 30, 2004
THE IRA may be planning a retirement fund for its fighters using the
proceeds of last week's robbery of an Australian-owned bank in Belfast,
security sources say.
Detectives in Northern Ireland suspect the guerilla group, which has been
linked by communication intercepts to last week's daring raid on the
Northern Bank, intends to use some of the money to provide pensions for
Reports have so far put the amount taken at pound stg. 22 million ($55
million), which would be Britain's biggest bank robbery, but sources said
yesterday the true figure might be as high as pound stg. 40 million.
Were this amount to be shared between the several thousand serving and
former IRA members, they could be in line for tens of thousands of pounds
This would be the possible price for the paramilitary group agreeing to
give up its armed struggle in return for Sinn Fein, its political wing,
joining a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland with Ian
Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party.
One British security official said: "If, as now appears likely, this
money has been taken by the IRA, their rank-and-file are going to want a
piece of this.
"A lot of them will be looking at the lavish holiday homes the likes of
(Sinn Fein leaders) Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have in the Irish
Republic, and asking how the leadership can afford to have these homes
and not the rank-and-file."
The source said the biggest problem facing the IRA was how to launder
such large sums of money without being caught. But he believed this might
be achieved by washing the funds through republican bars and clubs and
making untraceable cash payments to IRA members.
As the police investigation focused on a handful of key IRA figures in
Belfast, officers yesterday ended forensic examinations of the homes of
two Northern Bank employees kept hostage by the robbers.
The homes of several prominent republicans have been searched, including
that of John Trainor, said to be the intelligence officer for the IRA's
Belfast Brigade, and Eddie Copeland, been named in parliament as the IRA
chief in north Belfast.
The IRA has denied any involvement in the robbery. The Times
Provos Fooling No One, Except (Perhaps) My Auntie Nora
By Steven King
29 December 2004
CHRISTMAS wouldn't be Christmas without Auntie Nora delivering her words
of wisdom. In our family she used to have a reputation for being
particularly hard-nosed. Nowadays, though, she is pushing 90 and very
Like many families, we had a brief discussion of the Northern Bank heist
over Christmas. My Auntie Nora stole the show: "Do you think it was the
IRA, Steven?" It was the way she said it. She might as well have said:
"Do you think it really was little green men from Mars that did it,
Steven?" I replied: "I think it possibly was, Auntie", trying not to
Unfortunately, my Auntie Nora would believe just about anything at this
stage. Gerry Adams would love her. Frankly, I have not met many people
yet - Auntie Nora apart - who don't think the IRA robbed the Northern.
Denials to the BBC, no matter how strenuous, can be discounted
completely. One wonders sometimes why the BBC gives over time to repeat
lies from deep within the bowels of Connolly House. Am I the only one who
finds their style of reporting hilarious?
The gravest tones are used to reveal exclusively that, according to the
most impeccable republican sources, the IRA has never raided a bank in
its entire proud history. Shouldn't the correct tone be: "Warning!
Warning! Cow manure alert! The IRA, a lying, cheating, murderous
terrorist outfit that is involved in a propaganda war with the State has
told us X. Yeah, right"?
Unless and until "P. O'Neill" signs a statement categorically stating
that the IRA was not involved in any way, shape or form in the Northern
job, we can safely assume they had a hand in it. That assessment might
sound a little harsh to those who are forever trying to excuse and
exculpate the Provos but it's not as though the Boys don't have form.
The theories as to why the bank was robbed vary wildly. There is a text
message doing the rounds suggesting that the money was needed by a local
football club so they could sign up David Beckham.
More seriously, it has been suggested that the IRA needed the money to
set up a "war" pension fund.
It is all speculation. The IRA needs money, period. If and when it sees
an opportunity to obtain some, it takes it.
Undoubtedly, the PSNI's handling of the case will be the subject of an
investigation. If indeed the police were tipped off about suspicious
activity in the vicinity of Ulster's version of Fort Knox and did
nothing, then the Policing Board will want to ask pointed questions.
Was it just incompetence, a lack of resources, or was a blind eye being
More immediately worrying was the approach taken in the media.
We were told that as many as five different organisations could have been
There was a distinct reticence to point the finger at paramilitaries.
Perhaps, such caution is right and proper. But the impression given in
the first hours and days after the robbery was that the police were
Is it just nostalgia or was there a time not so long ago when the
paramilitaries were so successfully infiltrated, so riddled with
informers, that the police could tell us in next to no time the likely
identity of the perpetrators of major crimes?
It did not go unnoticed that the homes of various republicans were only
raided after they were effectively named in a national daily newspaper.
But what are the political implications if it emerges that the IRA were
behind the Northern raid? Some were quick to tell us that robbing banks
is not a ceasefire breach.
Wrong. Paragraph 13 of last year's Joint Declaration explicitly ruled out
intimidation. If holding the innocent families of bank workers at
gunpoint for 24 hours is not intimidation, what is it?
You will recall though, earlier this month before the Northern raid, that
sections of the DUP were reticent to latch on to the absence of a
commitment from the IRA not to engage in criminal activity.
While the PDs in Dublin were in open rebellion on the point, the DUP were
reportedly "unperturbed". Their focus was entirely devoted to a worthless
snapshot of decommissioned arms. No doubt, the point was not lost on the
IRA high command.
Then, last week, The Irish Times reported statements of concern about the
Northern raid from the SDLP and the UUP. It pointedly noted that DUP
headquarters had, up until that point, maintained an ever-so-diplomatic
At the weekend, The Sunday Times' front page lead last weekend read:
"Last night Peter Robinson, the deputy leader of Ian Paisley's DUP, said
that, if the IRA were responsible for the raid, this could slow down the
peace process, but did not say it ruled out a deal." At the same time,
Ian Paisley, jnr., has been taking a much more robust line.
We are now entitled to ask: what is the official position of our largest
political party on Ulster being turned into a mafia society? Will the
real DUP please stand up?
Apprentice Boys Receive Dublin Boost
€40,000 given for Maiden City Festival
By Sarah Brett
29 December 2004
LONDONDERRY'S Apprentice Boys have received €40,000 from the Irish
Government to boost their annual cross-community festival.
The Maiden City Festival was one of 44 organisations in Derry and Donegal
to benefit from a €1.1m windfall from the Department for Foreign Affairs
Reconciliation Fund in the Republic.
Created to extend an understanding of the Protestant culture among all
communities within the city, the festival offers a variety of music,
exhibitions, shows, and talks which culminate in the Relief of Derry
Held in the cityside, the festival has attracted Catholic schools and
community groups from nationalist areas to take part, although certain
events are still patronised by a Protestant majority, particularly the
Relief of Derry parade.
The Irish Government has been instrumental in the success of the event
and has provided financial support through its Reconciliation Fund since
the festival's inception.
"The Maiden City festival has been a huge success both in terms of
encouraging Protestants back across the bridge, where many felt reluctant
and intimidated before, and helping to create an understanding among the
wider community," Apprentice Boys General Secretary Billy Moore said
"It has encouraged good will from everyone.
"The festival simply couldn't happen without the backing of both
governments but their money is well spent because it builds harmonious
relationships and enlightens people about the Protestant culture."
Other Derry groups set to receive a New Year cash injection include the
International School for Peace Studies - €20,000 - and the Pat Finucane
Centre - €20,000.
Creggan Country Park and the Creggan Youth Drop In Centre got €25,000
each, while stress management group CALMS received €20,000.
Tsunami Survivors Arrive Home
There were tears of joy at Dublin Airport today as some of the Irish
tourists fleeing the devastated regions of South East Asia made it home.
Four families spoke of their relief after welcoming back their daughters
- Louise McClean, Adele Curry, Jackie Dunne and Angela Gahan - who were
on holiday on the Thai island of Phi Phi when the waves struck.
Louise, 26, told how the group of friends from Dublin stepped barefoot
over bodies strewn across the sand to escape.
As the group arrived back in the airport they described their lucky
"We are lucky because our bungalow was beside a cliff and that gave us
the chance we needed to get up to higher ground.
"We were asleep and it was like there was a train going over the
bungalow. We didn't know what it was and we looked out the window and the
Thai people were running up to the higher ground.
"By the time we got out of the bungalow we were surrounded by water and
we just had to jump in. We were lucky then the water kind of receded and
it gave us a chance to get up on to higher ground," they told RTE radio.
The four friends said that when they hit the water they thought they
The girls' mothers told how they discovered the friends were missing
after turning on the television on St Stephen's morning.
"I just realised that was where they were staying, so I rang all the
others up to see if they had heard anything or got any text messages or
anything and they said no. As they had been texting us in the days
previous," one of the mothers said.
"That was when I realised that something could be wrong. We were nearly
to the next morning before we found out that they were okay.
"Later on I thought they were really gone, they were dead."
The girls, who are in their 20s, said that as they reached the hill they
saw the injured and the many people who had lost friends or relatives.
They stayed up on the high ground for many hours but when they came back
down "there were dead bodies but not as many, as thankfully, they cleared
most of them away.
"It was horrendous enough."
Adele said they were in their bare feet at the time. She said: "I have
cuts and stuff on my feet they are only superficial cuts, I mean compared
to anyone else they have really bad injuries.
"We have no complaints we are just happy to be back home with our
The friends said: "There's so many other people we don't know if they
made it or not. We are just trying to come to terms with what happened."
Several others have flown into Dublin airport today and yesterday
including Martin Hogan from Kimmage who fled from the resort of Phuket.
He said there was no warning as the tsunamis hit. The Dublin businessman
said he met around five other Irish people, who were missing two of their
Richard Jones, 23, from Kerry, who arrived back yesterday, said he was
unsure if many of his friends that he met while travelling had reached
their destination of Phuket before the waves struck.
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04