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December 02, 2004

News 12/02/04 - Paisley Must Accept NI Plan

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 12/02/04 Paisley 'Must Accept' NI Plan
IT 12/03/04 DUP Gets Clarification On Key Issues
UT 12/02/04 Loyalist Charged Over Kidnap Bid Freed On Bail
IT 12/03/04 Early Release Option Defended
IO 12/02/04 McCabe Family Hits Out At Taoiseach -V
SF 12/02/04 Gerry Kelly Briefs US Senators McCain And Graham
IO 12/02/04 Adams Criticises IRA Membership Convictions
IT 12/03/04 SF TD Denies Allegation He Took Part In 'Horrific Act'
SF 12/02/04 DUP Have Reason To Prevent Truth On Collusion From Appearing
IT 12/03/04 Drunk-Driver Pleads Guilty To Killing Clare Teenager
IT 12/03/04 Rival Ferry Gets Aran Islands Contract
ST 12/02/04 Cherish The Ladies Bring Celtic Christmas To Opera House


Paisley 'Must Accept' NI Plan

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has urged Ian Paisley to accept the
proposals which could restore devolution in Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams said both governments were very clear about Sinn Fein's

But he said if the DUP leader believed it was "now or never" for a
deal he should say yes to the latest British and Irish proposals.

"Sinn Fein remains focused on achieving a deal. The work has been
done. It is now time for Ian Paisley to decide."

There have been intensive negotiations between the two governments
and the political parties over the past few weeks.

They have centred on the responses from Sinn Fein and the DUP to
the proposals put forward by the British and Irish Governments
aimed at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on Thursday, a day after Mr Adams met Tony Blair in
Downing Street, he again declined to comment on the details of
decommissioning and photographic evidence which has been demanded
by the DUP.

He claimed this was a matter for General de Chastelain's arms

Mr Adams also said the case of Garda Jerry McCabe's killers needed
to be resolved and should have been resolved under the Good Friday

It was revealed on Wednesday that the killers of the Irish police
officer will be recommended for early release if there is a
comprehensive deal in Northern Ireland.

On Thursday, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told the Irish
Parliament that the political process in Northern Ireland would
stall if the four IRA men jailed for the killing were not released.

Meanwhile, the leader of the moderate Alliance Party has said a
political agreement in Northern Ireland could be reached by the
middle of next week.

Following a meeting at Downing Street on Wednesday night, David
Ford said moves were being made in the right direction.

David Ford said: "I do think we are still on the verge of a
historic agreement, one which would bring an end to all
paramilitary activity and which would see devolution restored.

"But I think that is absolutely dependent upon parties focussing on
the real issue, not getting side-tracked into minor concerns and
continuing to show goodwill.

"I think it is then possible that we could see an agreement by
perhaps the middle of next week."

Mr Paisley met the prime minister on Tuesday to discuss his party's
response to the proposals.

The current negotiations are being conducted through a series of
British and Irish Government intermediaries because the DUP refuses
to hold face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein has said it believes a deal is possible. However, the DUP
has told the IRA a deal was "now or never".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/02 16:42:58 GMT


DUP Gets Clarification On Key Issues

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

The DUP is understood to have received clarification from the
British and Irish governments on key issues relating to a potential
deal to restore devolution.

The Rev Ian Paisley's party and Sinn Féin were provided with
updated texts thought to represent "the best collective effort" of
Dublin and London, during a day of continued intense high-level
contacts, according to a source.

Officials hope yesterday's contacts will set a positive tone ahead
of Dr Paisley's meeting with British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair
on Monday.

British officials in Downing Street and at Stormont were anxious to
avoid the impression that Dr Paisley had been given the
governments' final word on any issue or that Monday represented an
absolute deadline.

"We're not hooked on any particular day of the week," said one.
"But this can't be an open-ended process either." Another said
things were moving "along the right line" perhaps towards "some
sort of conclusion towards the middle of next week".

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, said "decision time" had
arrived for the British and Irish governments and for Dr Paisley.
He said the prime minister realised the importance of Monday's

"This is a hugely important opportunity that should not be missed,"
he said. Sinn Féin had made "its final representation to the
governments on the draft outline for a comprehensive agreement", he

At his Falls Road headquarters Mr Adams told The Irish Times: "I
presume he will seek to persuade Ian Paisley of that.

"But Mr Paisley isn't stupid he must know that he has this
opportunity. Of course he has a difficult job, there are people
within his constituency because change is scary - who mightn't like
what is happening. People within his constituency have been hurt in
the last 30 years.

"But he is a leader, and to be leader-like you have to take
decisions and move forward. I hope he makes the right decision."

Downing Street confirmed: "All sides see this as an important
moment." Difficulties persist over photographic evidence of IRA
decommissioning. Mr Adams claimed that DUP commitment to power-
sharing was also unresolved.

Dr Paisley's position on photographic evidence was seen to have
hardened over the weekend, but Sinn Féin insists the matter can be
resolved "to the satisfaction of all reasonable people" using the
mechanisms provided by Gen John de Chastelain's decommissioning

The highly sensitive issue followed a series of developments which
some unionists saw as concession-granting to republicans. These
included movement on the Northern Ireland electoral register,
demilitarisation, plastic bullets and, significantly, the release
of the killers of Det Garda Jerry McCabe.

In Newry, Co Down, yesterday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr
Ahern, said Det Garda McCabe's killers would not be released early
unless and until paramilitarism had ended.

He agreed prisoners could get early release if a comprehensive
political deal on the North was achieved. He added it was one of
the unpalatable things that might have to be done if the deal was
to be sealed.

Mr Adams refused to be drawn on the possible release of Det Garda
McCabe's killers.

"I'm totally sensitive to the feelings of the McCabe family and
particularly to his widow and therefore I'm not going to get into
any of this. This is a very difficult issue, but it is one that
needs to be resolved and, under the Good Friday agreement, is an
issue which should have been resolved."

© The Irish Times


Loyalist Charged Over Kidnap Bid Freed On Bail

A north Belfast loyalist, charged with attempting to rob and kidnap
a First Trust bank official, has been freed on bail.

Thirty-six-year-old Alan McClean, from Westland Drive, is charged
along with four other men of conspiring to imprison the bank
official and detain him against his will.

They are also accused of conspiring to rob the bank employee, known
as Wittness A, and having an eight milimeter pistol to committ the

The judge told the High Court that conspiracy must rank at the
present time as one of the most serious offences particularly with
a background of organised crime.

The judge asked if it was a paramilitary linked operation, to which
McClean`s counsel replied there is no disclosure to the defence to
suggest that.

Commenting on the granting of bail today, SDLP Justice Spokesperson
Alban Maginness stated:

"The dogs on the street know that there was loyalist paramilitary
involvement in this incident. It makes an absolute mockery of the
Governments recognition of the UDA ceasefire.

The Government is doing everything it can to avoid saying that this
was a breach of that ceasefire.

Trying to save the Secretary of States blushes on this matter does
not hide what nationalists across the North know - that the UDA is
still a very much active paramilitary threat.

I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State to
ascertain what his views are on this increasingly farcical

Sinn Féin Assembly member for north Belfast Gerry Kelly said:"
Republicans know only to well the biased and partisan nature of the
judiciary in the six counties. That is why we made it an issue in
the negotiations which led to the Agreement.

That is why we have devoted so much time and energy since the
Criminal Justice Review in getting this issue right. Policing and
Justice cannot be divorced if we are to create the sort of society
we are aiming for.

" Time and again senior and well known UDA figures appear in court
receive automatic bail and if ever convicted receive paltry
sentences. Contrast this with republicans and nationalists. There
are countless cases of people spending years on remand with no
prospect of bail. There is no comparison between the severity of
sentences handed out to republicans and any other group.

" This well known loyalist receiving bail today is further reminder
for ordinary people just how much work we still need to do to
transform the current system into a system which nationalists and
republicans can have confidence in."


McCabe Killers - Early Release Is A Deal Worth Doing

DOUBTLESS, the public will sympathise, and rightly so, with the
widow of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe over the Government's plan to
give her husband's killers early release from jail.

The anguish, disappointment and pain of the McCabe family, and the
outrage of gardaí, are palpable.

But with his killers' impending release now an integral part of a
comprehensive deal on the North, it is readily understandable why
the Taoiseach is actively pursuing that option despite the
sensitivity of the issue.

Sinn Féin's role in this tragic affair has been typically

Having first denied IRA involvement in the killing, the republican
movement went on to claim the criminal thugs as their own.

The death of Gerry McCabe was an incalculable loss for his family.

But the prospect of lasting peace, if IRA paramilitary activity
were to end once and for all, is too important a prize for the
people of Ireland - North and South - to forfeit.


Early Release Option Defended

Conor Lally

The Government has no option but to release the killers of Det
Garda Jerry McCabe if power-sharing is to be restored in the North,
the Taoiseach has said.

His comments came on the same day that the widow of Det Garda
McCabe, Mrs Ann McCabe, said that the killers should not qualify
under the terms of the Belfast Agreement because they were "common

Mr Ahern told the Dáil that Sinn Féin had made it clear in recent
negotiations that without the men's release there would be no deal.

"If we do not deal with those charged with manslaughter whom we
believe to be involved in the killing of Jerry McCabe, regardless
of what the cases are, and the shooting of Ben O'Sullivan, and if
it arises that there is a comprehensive deal, that issue must be
dealt with. Otherwise there will be no deal. That has been made
clear in the negotiations. It does not arise if we do not get a
comprehensive deal."

Mr Ahern was criticised on Wednesday after he mooted, in the Dáil,
the release of the men before he had consulted Mrs McCabe or the
Garda Representative Association. He said yesterday that he had
made his comments because he was obliged to respond to questions in
the House. It had always been, and remained, the Government's
intention to speak to the McCabe family and the GRA before any deal
was signed.

"I understand that Mrs McCabe and the families will be annoyed with
me. However, if I want to get a comprehensive deal, I do not have
an alternative. It is only on the basis of arms being put beyond
use and new instructions from the IRA that I will contemplate
consulting Mrs McCabe."

It was an issue he would prefer not to deal with, but an issue
which existed nonetheless. The widows of RUC men killed during the
Troubles had in recent years seen their husbands' killers going
free early. In some cases, they had been killed by men who did not
have "any semblance of being freedom-fighters".

Mrs McCabe reiterated her opposition to the early release of the
men jailed in connection with the killing of her husband during the
attempted robbery of an SDS cash van in Adare, Co Limerick. "We
were supposed to be told [ about any possible release], but we
weren't told. And I was totally devastated when I heard this."

Reading a letter on RTÉ Radio 1 from the former minister for
justice, Mr John O'Donoghue, in 1999, she said it stated: "I hope
that the meeting provided you with assurance that there is no
question of granting early release to those concerned, either under
the terms of the Good Friday Agreement or, for that matter, on any
other basis either."

Asked if the latest development was a "slap in the face" for the
GRA, she said: "Oh it is, absolutely. They're devastated by it and
they have been a great support to me. But who is running the
Government? Sinn Féin and the IRA or Bertie Ahern? It looks as if
I'm stalling the peace process. I don't want to go down in history
as stalling the peace process. They committed a criminal act, the
most heinous crime anyone could commit."

A brother-in-law of the late detective, Mr Pat Carney, said: "We
had complete faith in the Government in what they told us verbally
and in writing. It would be a complete blow to the morale of the
Garda if this happens. We trusted Bertie Ahern, we trusted his
Government, and we trusted the word that the two ministers for
justice gave us."

The GRA's executive member for Limerick, Mr Paul Brown, said he had
been in touch with Mrs McCabe in recent days and she had been "very
upset". He added: "John O'Donoghue's letter was very clear. I even
remember him getting up in the Dáil and saying 'Read my lips, there
will be no early release.' When the current negotiations began, the
Government should have told Sinn Féin that they would discuss
anything apart from the release. That is where the mistake was

© The Irish Times


Denis Bradley of the North's Policing Board and Ann McCabe and Pat
Kearney give their reactions to the reports that Det Garda Gerry
McCabe's killers may be released under the Good Friday Agreement

McCabe Family Hits Out At Taoiseach -V

02/12/2004 - 19:02:53

The family of slaughtered Detective Garda Jerry McCabe clashed with
the Government today after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warned no deal on
the Northern Ireland peace process would be secured unless his IRA
killers were freed.

The gang of four will be released from prison if DUP leader Ian
Paisley and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams can reach agreement on
the revival of the North's political institutions.

Det Garda McCabe's widow, Anne McCabe, questioned whether the IRA
had more power then the Government over plans to free her husband's

"Who is running our Government – Sinn Féin, the IRA, or Bertie
Ahern?" she asked.

She said she was totally devastated that the IRA's four-man gang
could be released, stressing she had written assurances from the
Government that the jail gates would not be thrown open.

Pearse McAuley, Jeremiah Sheehy, Kevin Walsh and Michael O'Neill
are serving between 11 and 14 years for the manslaughter of the 52-
year-old detective, gunned down in a hail of bullets in the botched
robbery attempt of a post office van in Adare in Co Limerick in
June 1996.

"They committed a criminal act, the most heinous crime anyone could
commit," Mrs McCabe said.

"I don't want to go down in history for stalling the peace process.
I'm just very disappointed, but I hope that they won't come under
the Good Friday Agreement and they will serve their sentence."

The planned release would be a slap in the face for An Garda
Siochana, she added.

Mr Ahern told the Dáil it had been made clear in negotiations that
if the issue was not dealt with there would be no agreement on the
restoration of the power sharing institutions.

"This is a request put by one of the parties, the obvious party,
and it was put in that way," he said.

"The issue is this: If I want, if the Government wants, and if we
all want a comprehensive deal, there are many aspects of that deal,
many aspects that affect many people which we have to deal with."

Mr Ahern admitted it was a "highly sensitive" issue which he would
rather not deal with.

But he said the men were the only remaining prisoners in this
capacity left on the island.

"If we want a deal, a comprehensive deal, this is one issue we have
to deal with," he said. "And before that happens we will talk to
the Garda Representative Association and the families to explain
our position."

Pat Carney, brother-in-law of the late detective, accused the
Government of breaking its promise to keep the killers behind bars
for life and claimed the family, the public and even the word of
cabinet ministers was being ignored.

He said the McCabe family were given assurances on two separate
occasions that the release of the killers would not be considered.

"We had complete faith in the Government in what they told us
verbally and in writing," he said.

"It would be a complete blow to the morale of the Gardaí if this

Mr Carney said it was hypocritical for the Government to call on
new garda recruits to implement the law without fear or favour when
they were giving favours to the killers of Jerry McCabe.

"We trusted Bertie Ahern, we trusted his Government and we trusted
the word that the two ministers for justice gave us," he said.

The IRA initially denied involvement, but Sinn Féin has
consistently called for the men to be released under the terms of
the Good Friday Agreement, a position previously rejected by the

Trevor Sargent, Green Party leader, demanded Mr Ahern apologise for
the "callous insensitivity" of not consulting with the families of
both Det Garda McCabe and Det Garda Ben O'Sullivan who was
seriously wounded in the attack.

He said the U-turn may be a breach of legal contract given that a
"no early release" commitment was made by two successive Ministers
for Justice.

Unionist parties in Northern Ireland are also at loggerheads over
the future of Garda McCabe's killers.

Senior Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey called on the DUP to state if
the release would or would not form part of a comprehensive deal.

"The DUP gave an assurance to the people of Northern Ireland that
the concessions had come to an end," the East Belfast MLA said.

"They told people in their manifesto that they didn't want
amnesties for terrorists."

But Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson criticised the
move, insisting it was a part of deal struck last year when the
Ulster Unionists were a main player in negotiations.

"We continue to oppose the early release of terrorist prisoners
today," he said. "As early as May of this year we utterly condemned
this decision and its origins.

"We will not be held responsible for the results of a weak and
deceitful Ulster Unionist Party."


Gerry Kelly Briefs US Senators McCain And Graham

Published: 2 December, 2004

Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast and party negotiator
Gerry Kelly this afternoon met with US Senators John McCain
(Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) in Dublin to brief
them on the current state of the political negotiations.

At the meeting both Senators reiterated their willingness to help
and urged all of the parties to secure a deal.

Speaking after the meeting Gerry Kelly said:

" This was a good meeting and provided another opportunity to
acknowledge the continuing support of the Senators and indeed the
US Administration for the peace process.

" I informed the Senators that we have now made our final
representations to the two governments and that Sinn Féin is up for
doing a deal which is firmly bedded within the Good Friday

" The time for doing that comprehensive deal is now." ENDS


Adams Criticises IRA Membership Convictions
2004-12-02 19:30:07+00

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has described as unsound two
convictions for IRA membership passed at the Special Criminal Court
this week.

Mr Adams has said Niall Binead from Crumlin and Kenneth Donohoe
from Tallaght should not have been convicted.

The republican leader has said the evidence against the two was

"Arguably those people would not have been convicted in any other
state. The basis of their conviction was that the judge looked at
videos of their conviction and made a judgment based upon their
demeanour," he said.

"He also received secret briefings from the Special Branch that
would not be accepted in any courts anywhere else."


Sinn Fein TD Denies Allegation He Took Part In 'Horrific Act'

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

The Sinn Féin TD, Mr Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has said he has no
knowledge of claims aired in the Dáil yesterday in which he was
alleged to have taken part in a "horrific and barbaric act".

Mr Ó Snodaigh denied knowledge of any such allegation after the
Fianna Fáil TD, Mr Noel Davern, said he should make a statement to
the Dáil on the issue.

The Dublin South-Central TD has been urged in recent days to
explain the conviction for Provisional IRA membership of one of his
close political associates, Niall Binéad.

Mr Ó Snodaigh claimed the conviction by the Special Criminal Court
was "very unsafe" after Binéad, who kept surveillance details on
senior Dáil politicians, was jailed for four years with another IRA
member, Kenneth Donohoe.

Mr Davern made a brief reference to an allegation against Mr Ó
Snodaigh in the Dáil yesterday morning, but declined to elaborate
when questioned about his remarks later on.

"I wonder if time could be made available for a personal statement
by Deputy Ó Snodaigh on the allegations that he took part in a
horrific and barbaric act? It is time he made a statement on that
issue," he said in the Dáil.

Mr Ó Snodaigh said he knew nothing of the claims. "I haven't a clue
of what he's talking about. To my knowledge, there's been no
allegations made against me and if there was I would answer them
forthright," he said. He had no intention of responding to
unspecific allegations. "Otherwise, I'd end up running around
answering every rumour and tabloid story that's written about
republicans on this island."

Mr Ó Snodaigh said he was aware of an article in Ireland on Sunday
last weekend which reported that an unnamed "Sinn Féin candidate"
had observed a violent attack on an alleged drug dealer from a
rooftop in the weeks before the 2002 General Election.

Referring to the article, Mr Ó Snodaigh said: "It bears no
relationship to anything that ever happened to my knowledge and
seems like a flight of fancy by the journalist."

Mr Ó Snodaigh said he would do "whatever was required" if specific
allegations were made against him.

© The Irish Times


DUP Have Reason To Try And Prevent Truth On Collusion From

Published: 2 December, 2004

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today said that the DUP dalliance
with Ulster Resistance provided a very real motivation for the DUP
to try and prevent the truth about collusion coming out and
provided a rational for the hysterical reaction of the DUP MEP Jim
Allister to the news that a large delegation of families affected
by collusion will travel to Brussels next week to lobby MEPs.

Speaking today from Brussels Ms deBrún said:

" Jim Allister's reaction while not surprising may well be
motivated by a desire to prevent MEPs from hearing the full extent
of this collusion policy. The six county state was in effect
propped up by a terrifying mixture of British State repression,
discrimination and violence. That is a reality about which many
within political unionism are still in denial.

" It also has to be remembered that one of the vehicles used to
rearm the unionist paramilitaries was Ulster Resistance. It was DUP
leader and at the time sitting MEP Ian Paisely who set up Ulster
Resistance. We can all remember well the images of the DUP
hierarchy with their red berets in the Ulster Hall.

" It may well be that the DUP have been successful in hiding this
reality from the rest of the European Parliament up until now. But
the families and the victims of the British policy of state
sanctioned murder have every right to tell their story. Sinn Féin
make no apology for standing with the victims' families and
supporting their search for the truth." ENDS


US Drunk-Driver Pleads Guilty To Killing Clare Teenager

Seán O'Driscoll, in New York

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have expressed surprise after a
former US soldier pleaded guilty to killing a Clare teenager in a
drink driving accident.

Mr Joseph Livoti has pleaded guilty to the vehicular homicide of
19-year-old Ennis native Ms Margaret Brohan, who was touring in the
US with the Rhythm of the Dance Irish traditional dance troop last

Mr Livoti is due to be sentenced on February 3rd after prosecutors
insisted that he serve the standard three to six years in prison.
However, Mr Livoti could be released after two years if he is
accepted onto a boot camp programme after one year in a state

Assistant District Attorney, Mr Bruce Beemer, said he hoped the
guilty plea and Mr Livoti's expression of remorse could bring some
closure to Ms Brohan's family. The prosecution expressed surprise
that Mr Livoti had pleaded guilty as the driver of the car in which
Ms Brohan was travelling had also been convicted of drunken
driving. "He could have fought this but he did the right thing.
It's obvious that he was the cause of this accident and he saved
the Brohan family a lot of unnecessary grief," he said.

Livoti had a blood alcohol content of 0.198 per cent when his truck
hit a car in Pittsburgh in November, 2003.

Under Pennsylvania law, a driver is presumed intoxicated at 0.08
per cent.

© The Irish Times


Rival Ferry Gets Aran Islands Contract

Gordon Deegan

Lasta Mara, a bitter rival to a Co Clare ferry company, O'Brien
Shipping Ltd, yesterday won a lucrative Government contract to
provide cargo services to the Aran Islands for the next two years.

O'Brien Shipping has operated the service to the three Aran Islands
over the past 12 years, receiving more than €7 million in
Government subsidies.

However, the controversial contract was the subject of an
investigation and hard-hitting report by the Comptroller and
Auditor General. A separate Government report earlier this year
found that there was dissatisfaction on the Aran Islands with the
quality of the scheduled cargo service provided by O'Brien
Shipping, a finding contested by the company.

The company re-tendered to continue operating the service last

However, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
yesterday announced that Lasta Mara has been awarded the contract,
worth €1.8 million over the next two years. The company is part-
owned by Mr Dick Grant, from Lahinch, who has been involved in a
continuing dispute with the directors of O'Brien Shipping, Mr Bill
and Kevin O'Brien, over passenger ferry services from Doolin, Co

This arises from Mr Grant's involvement in a separate company, Aran
Islands Fast Ferries, which started a passenger service to the Aran
Islands in competition to Doolin Ferries, a second company operated
by the O'Briens.

Last month at Lisdoonvarna District Court, a charge against Mr
Kevin O'Brien of assaulting Mr Grant at Doolin in August 2003 was
withdrawn by the State due to lack of evidence.

Mr Grant said the company would provide a top-class service to the
Aran Islands.

He said the company was investing €2.5 million in a new vessel.

Mr Bill O'Brien said yesterday that he was "not disappointed, but
amazed" over the Department's decision.

"I question the way the whole tendering process was handled. I am
quite happy that we provided a very good service to the Aran
Islands over the 12 years of the contract."

© The Irish Times


Cherish The Ladies Bring Celtic Christmas To Opera House

Bill Livick
Unified Newspaper Group Reporter

STOUGHTON --Since forming in 1983, Cherish the Ladies has earned
international acclaim for their stunning, high energy performances.

In 2002, the five-member all-woman ensemble was named best musical
group of the year by the British Broadcasting Corporation. National
Public Radio's "Thistle and Shamrock" Celtic music show proclaimed
Cherish the Ladies as North America's top act for 2004.

Joanie Madden, leader of the group which will perform at the
Stoughton Opera House on Tuesday, Dec. 7, says she sometimes has to
pinch herself to make sure the group's success is for real.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be making my life
working this way," Madden said in a telephone interview from New
York City.

Madden said this time of year, the group seamlessly performs
traditional Celtic music alongside time-honored Christmas carols,
and it sounds like a natural fit.

"With our show, we take some of the Irish songs that we know from
Ireland and we intersperse them with Christmas carols that we all
grew up with, and then we throw in some jigs and reels and have a
bit of fun with it," Madden said. "Then we have the dancers with us
on the road, and between the dancing and the music and the singing
and the harmonies, people have really grown to love our show.

"Then, people hounded us for Christmas albums after the show," she
added. "We didn't have one, so we made a new one."

Cherish the Ladies began 17 years ago as a way to celebrate the
extraordinary number of young American women involved with
traditional Irish music.

Folklorist and musician Mick Moloney conceived a plan to organize a
three-concert series featuring Irish-American women performing
their music, and Madden was the first he contacted.

That year, 1983, she won first place for her age group in the All-
Ireland music competition for performance on both flute and tin
whistle. She also won a duet championship with fiddler Kathy

"I got three gold medals that year," Madden said. "It was a great
day for me, because it was actually 25 years to the day since my
dad had won the All-Ireland (on accordion)."

She accepted Moloney's invitation to be part of the concert series,
which featured about two dozen performers. After the sold- out
shows had ended, the participants assumed that Cherish the Ladies
was over. But Moloney persuaded the National Endowment for the Arts
to fund an album. Like the concerts, it included over a dozen women
and was a big success. The Library of Congress selected it as one
of the best folk albums of 1985, and the NEA sponsored a Cherish
the Ladies tour.

Organizers turned to Madden to pare the group down to a manageable
size, which she did, with a group of five women.

"We met on Wednesday and went out on tour on Thursday," Madden
said. "When we went out in the beginning days and were on the road,
we always had dancers with us, way before Riverdance or any of
that. We always saw that as an exciting part of our show and people
loved it."

By the time the Celtic tradition took popular culture by storm
around 1990, fueled by such hits as Riverdance and Lord of the
Dance, Cherish the Ladies had established a strong following
throughout the country.

"We were doing this before Celtic was cool," Madden commented.

"Often our tours were a bit like going around and educating people
about our music," she said. "We'd play in places like Idaho and
Montana and Wyoming and Utah, places where they'd never heard Irish
music before. We did that for many years.

"I would never have thought that we would have been part of the
biggest Celtic wave. The band U2 was out there and there was some
incredible music coming out of Ireland, and it was our time for a
chance in the sun."

Like all fads, the Celtic wave began to subside after a few years,
but Madden said so many people had become aware of the music that a
strong base of diehard fans was built. She said Cherish the Ladies
has been voted the favorite Irish-American Celtic band several
times on both sides of the Atlantic.

As the group's music and career has evolved, it has turned to
writing more original material. Madden and longtime band member
Mary Coogan are the group's composers.

"When it comes to written tunes, the trick is to make it sound like
it's been around for 200 years," Madden said. "My dad is a fan and
a great player, and we'd be more worried about what our fathers
would think than what the New York Times critic would say about our

In the band's current formation " Madden on flute, whistle and
harmony vocals, Coogan on guitar and vocals, lead vocalist Heidi
Talbot on bodhran, Mirella Murray on accordion and vocals and
fiddler Roisin Dillion " Cherish the Ladies is no longer primarily
an Irish-American band: three of the five members were born and
raised in Ireland. (Only Madden and Coogan are originally from the
U.S.) While she was born in New York, Madden said her mother is
from County Clare, Ireland, and her father hails from County

But even the Americans in the group have been "steeped" in
traditional Irish music, Madden said.

"Everybody in the group comes from musical families," she said.
"For all of us, there was always music around the house. Even
before we started to learn the instruments, we knew the tunes. We
heard them over and over again. We never went the way of bass and
drums... never thought the music needed that. It was strong enough
on its own."

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