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January 07, 2005

01/07/05 – McGuinness Insist IRA Did Not Carry Out Robbery

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

IT 01/08/05 McGuinness Insists IRA Did Not Carry Out Robbery
IT 01/08/05 Words Of IRA 'No Longer Have Any Currency'
IT 01/08/05 Mood In No 10 Said To Be Angry And Despondent
IT 01/08/05 Levels Of Trust Damaged - Ahern
GU 01/08/05 Did Maverick Provoa Risk Big Final Hit For Retirement?
IT 01/08/05 Serious Setback For Political Process In North
IT 01/08/05 Opin: Any Chance Of Deal In 2005 Torpedoed
IT 01/08/05 IRA Must Demonstrably End All Criminal Acts, Says Ahern
IT 01/08/05 Two Gardai Charged With Perjury
IT 01/08/05 Youth (16) Is Killed As Pit Collapses On Farm
IT 01/08/05 Cork Launches European Capital Of Culture 2005
TE 01/07/05 New Programme Of Walking Tours In Belfast


McGuinness Insists IRA Did Not Carry Out Robbery

Gerry Moriarty Northern Editor

Sinn Féin response: Sinn Féin's chief negotiator Mr Martin
McGuinness has stated that the IRA was not behind the £26.5 million
Northern Bank robbery and challenged PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde
to provide evidence to back his claim blaming Provisional

Mr McGuinness expressed confidence that no member of the IRA,
either acting individually or under the authorisation of the IRA,
was involved.

When asked did Mr Orde "make up" his claim blaming the IRA, Mr
McGuinness replied: "What I say to that is, produce the evidence,
and I think that is a fair question to ask.

"Hugh Orde's comments are nothing more than allegations and
politically biased allegations at that. He has not produced one
scrap of evidence and those tempted to think that an allegation
equals evidence should re-evaluate what justice is all about," said
Mr McGuinness.

"Within days of the robbery at the Northern Bank, and following
media speculation and PSNI briefings, which suggested IRA
involvement, I went to the IRA and asked them about this and was
assured that they were not involved," he added.

"I believe we are witnessing a renewed attempt to undermine the
peace process. We all need to think long and hard about who is
setting this agenda and why. This is more about halting the process
of change which Sinn Féin has been driving forward than with
anything that happened at the Northern Bank," Mr McGuinness said.

Asked what he thought of an organisation that abducted and
threatened two families and robbed £26.5 million, Mr McGuinness
responded: "I am horrified at any family being put through any sort
of an ordeal like that. Sinn Féin, under no circumstances, would
condone that type of behaviour." He said Sinn Féin would resist any
attempts to isolate the party and again blamed "securocrats" for
attempting to politically damage Sinn Féin.

"The campaigns to smash Sinn Féin, to criminalise and marginalise
the republican struggle all failed. We represent the majority of
nationalists in the North and the securocrats and the DUP need to
come to terms with this political reality," he said.

He said a senior Northern Ireland Office official was fond of
briefing people in the US that the British government's goal was to
prevent Sinn Féin from becoming the largest party in the North.

Mr McGuinness also alleged that the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul
Murphy, on a current trip to the US privately briefed people in
Boston that the Sinn Féin vote was on loan and that "once people
see what Sinn Féin is really about it will disappear and it will be
the same in the South".

Responding, Mr Murphy said Mr McGuinness's comments were an attempt
to create a "diversion" from the robbery, and that in his comments
in Boston he was quoting a third party, and that "every party's
vote is on loan".

(c) The Irish Times


Words Of IRA 'No Longer Have Any Currency'

Unionist reaction: The Democratic Unionist Party leader, the Rev
Ian Paisley, said the announcement by the chief constable
vindicated not taking the IRA on trust alone during the recent

"They must positively prove to everyone beyond all shadow of a
doubt that all of their arms have been decommissioned, and that all
of its illegal activities have ended for good," the DUP leader

"Their words no longer have any currency. Mr Adams's assertion that
a republican can't be a criminal is as hollow as it is laughable.

"When we were engaged in the talks process, the (British)
government informed us that Sinn Féin/IRA wanted to move towards
ending its paramilitary and criminal activity. This is clearly not
the case."

The party's deputy leader, Mr Peter Robinson, claimed the IRA's
involvement in the bank robbery had raised the bar for republicans
in the process.

"It was a clear and unambiguous statement from the chief constable
which points the finger directly at the republican movement," said
the East Belfast MP.

"They will not be able to dodge or duck the consequences."

It also causes problems for future DUP involvement in talks
involving Sinn Féin.

"The implications of this, not just for us but others in the talks,
are huge," a party source said.

"What this effectively means is that, at a time when Sinn Féin were
talking to the British and Irish governments about an end to
physical force republicanism, their colleagues in the IRA were
planning this heist.

"It causes considerable problems for us.

"If we're to go into talks in the future involving Sinn Féin,
what's to stop some people saying: 'When you took part in the
process with them the last time republicans were secretly planning
the raid on the bank'?"

The Ulster Unionist leader, Mr David Trimble, accused the Sinn Féin
president, Mr Gerry Adams, of having "betrayed the prime minister

A British government spokesman said: "The prime minister takes this
development very seriously.

"He has made it repeatedly clear over the past two years that the
political institutions in Northern Ireland can only be restored if
there is a complete end to paramilitary activity by those involved,
and that includes all criminal activity. He fully supports the
chief constable in his efforts to bring those responsible for this
major crime to account."

(c) The Irish Times


Mood In No 10 Said To Be Angry And Despondent

Frank Millar, London Editor

Westminster reaction: The British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair,
gave his full backing to the PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde,
yesterday as he prepared to face a chorus of demands for political
sanctions against Sinn Féin.

The DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, will meet Mr Blair in Downing
Street early next week to press for the creation of a power-sharing
government at Stormont without Sinn Féin, following Mr Orde's
conclusion that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank

And the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, will face
Conservative and Unionist demands for the withdrawal of Sinn Féin
facilities at Westminster when he makes a statement to MPs about
the robbery, and the political fallout, on Tuesday.

The call for a Commons statement came from Conservative spokesman
Mr David Lidington, who also asked if information now available to
ministers and the police about the bank robbery would justify
recalling to prison any persons released on licence under the
Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act passed as part of the Belfast

In a letter to Mr Murphy, who is due to return to Belfast from
America on Monday, Mr Lidington also signalled a tough new approach
to the existing government agenda for the resumption of devolved
government at Stormont.

He wrote: "Ministers have repeatedly said that Sinn Féin and the
Provisional IRA are 'inextricably linked', a verdict supported by
the reports of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).

If PIRA was responsible for the bank robbery on 20 December, senior
members of Sinn Féin must have known about or even authorised the

Mr Lidington continued: "I hope you agree with me that any
political party inextricably linked to an active and organised
criminal gang is unacceptable in government in Northern Ireland.

"Nor could I support the devolution of policing or criminal justice
to a devolved Executive unless all parties in that Executive had
committed themselves unreservedly, in both word and deed, to
support rather than undermine the police and the rule of law."

As Downing Street confirmed that the robbery and Mr Orde's
statement would be referred to the IMC, Mr Murphy - speaking in
America - insisted this was not the end of the political process,
while conceding the two governments would not now see devolution
restored before the British general election.

However, the mood in Number 10 was said to be angry and despondent.

With Mr Murphy due to meet the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr
Dermot Ahern, next week, Downing Street confirmed that Mr Blair
will meet the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, when the Taoiseach returns from

(c) The Irish Times


Levels Of Trust Damaged - Ahern

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

Dublin reaction: The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, expressed concern
yesterday that the Provisional IRA was planning the £26.5 million
Northern Bank raid when he was conducting political negotiations
with Sinn Féin.

Mr Ahern will speak this weekend with his British counterpart, Mr
Tony Blair, after the PSNI chief constable, Mr Hugh Orde, said he
believed the IRA was responsible for the robbery.

The two leaders are also expected to meet in the next fortnight.

Yesterday, Mr Ahern made a point of saying his greatest concern was
that an operation of this magnitude was "obviously being planned at
a stage when I was in negotiations with those that would know the
leadership of the Provisional movement".

"The thought that when we were trying to negotiate a comprehensive
deal that others, and perhaps others who were closely associated,
were getting ready to have one of the biggest Christmas robberies
that ever took place does nothing to help anybody's confidence," Mr
Ahern said.

"This makes it difficult because it damages the levels of trust and
confidence that we are trying to develop."

The Taoiseach said the implication of IRA involvement in the
robbery was a major setback for the peace process.

He said the Government was obliged to accept Mr Orde's finding and
said the chief constable was doing a good job and was an even-
handed leader.

"He has been implementing the Patten reforms in a very constructive
way and we've been working very closely with him and the Garda
Síochána have worked very closely with him," he said.

Regardless of the final outcome to the investigation, Mr Ahern said
in a statement that the attribution of the robbery to the IRA was
"corrosive of the public confidence" that the Government had been
seeking to create.

"It underscores the need for compelling commitments - both in word
and deed - that the full spectrum of IRA paramilitary activities
and capability has been brought to a definitive close," he said.

"This must include the necessary assurance in regard to all forms
of criminal activity, which, following the Northern Bank robbery,
clearly remains a major concern."

Mr Orde's statement led the Labour leader, Mr Rabbitte, to claim
that the Republican movement had hoodwinked the Irish and British
governments in the political talks.

Mr Rabbitte said Mr Orde's disclosure added to the significance of
the IRA's refusal before Christmas to give an unequivocal
commitment that its members would not engage in crime.

Senator Brian Hayes of Fine Gael called on the Government to
withdraw its offer to release the killers of Det Garda Jerry McCabe
in return for a comprehensive settlement.

The Green chief whip, Mr Dan Boyle, said the disclosure raised
fundamental questions about the Republican movement but said there
was an onus on Mr Orde and the PSNI to provide evidence and
prosecute those involved in robbery.

While Mr Ahern said the development was very disappointing, he told
reporters he would not stop his efforts to bring about a settlement
in the North.

(c) The Irish Times


Did Maverick Provo Unit Risk One Big Final Hit To Fund Their

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Saturday January 8, 2005
The Guardian

The timing could not have been more explosive. Within weeks of the
IRA talking about putting away their guns for ever, the UK's
biggest ever bank robbery lifted £26.5m from a city-centre vault.

All sides in Northern Ireland knew how delicate a process it was
for the IRA to swallow hard and satisfy the unionists that the war
was over. The core of the IRA volunteers were in their mid 30s to
50s; many had sacrificed the best years of their lives. They would
be wondering what they were left with. Could it be, some
speculated, that the raid was intended to create a retirement fund,
a pension kitty to reward them for their efforts, pay them off and
shut them up.

Yesterday Northern Ireland's chief constable, Hugh Orde, said what
many - with the exception of Sinn Fein - had been whispering for
the two weeks since the robbery: it was the Provos. As one SDLP
politician asked: "Who else but the IRA could have carried out this

The operation, carried out by an armed gang of at least 20, was
meticulously executed. It involved men posing as police, two
families of bank workers held hostage, and repeated trips to the
vaults in central Belfast to remove the cash in a white van.

The criminals would have needed inside knowledge of the bank and
high-level money laundering expertise. Only the IRA, security
sources suggested, had the capability. The finger had been pointed
at the IRA for the audacious theft of over £1m goods from a cash
and carry superstore in south Belfast, and a £1.2m haul from a
cigarette warehouse.

But key questions remained unanswered. As Mr Orde said, no other UK
police force would be expected to announce who they thought carried
out the crime at this stage. Among other things, it could endanger

Some will ask whether by pointing the finger now, the Police
Service of Northern Ireland is admitting they will never be able to
secure convictions. Mr Orde was adamant his officers were working
to put people behind bars.

From the beginning of the investigation, the police have been on
the defensive. They admitted a traffic warden reported two men
acting suspiciously outside the bank after a white van was parked
in a side street. A foot patrol was dispatched but missed the gang
by a few minutes.

Then, during a series of pre-Christmas raids on the addresses of
senior republicans in north and west Belfast, a handgun and
ammunition were stolen from a police car and have not been
recovered. Unionist politicians muttered the words "Keystone Kops".

When two allegedly stolen notes surfaced at an ice rink in a nice
Protestant part of east Belfast, some wondered if the had IRA put
them there as a joke or decoy. The notes turned out not to have
been stolen: there had been a mistake with the serial numbers.

So far, there have been no arrests following the police raids on
homes and businesses in republican areas of north and west Belfast.
Sinn Féin complained that those targeted included health and
education board offices and a children's play group.

Among the people searched was Eddie Copeland, a leading republican
in Ardoyne, who has been arrested on suspicion of various crimes,
including abduction and threatening behaviour, but never convicted.

He vowed to make a complaint over the search and is now known
locally as "Imelda" after the police took away 16 pairs of his
shoes. The search also targeted those alleged to work in the IRA's
intelligence operation.

The burning political question remains: who knew about the raid
beforehand and who sanctioned it? Did the IRA's army council have a
role, and were senior Sinn Féin figures in the know as they
negotiated a political deal with the British and Irish governments,
as Bertie Ahern feared yesterday?

The Conservatives said that, in such a regimented hierarchy as the
republican movement, the IRA could not have carried out such an
operation without the knowledge "or even authorisation" of senior
Sinn Féin members.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness accused Mr Orde of "politically
biased allegations". As well as a political football, the robbery
will become a focus of the debate about intelligence and policing
in Northern Ireland. Nationalists warn that such intelligence has
often been seen to have had its own agenda and been proven wrong.
Former special branch sources, many disgruntled at what they see as
the dismantling of intelligence gathering in the wake of the reform
of the police service, have warned of inadequacies in the new force
to thwart the robbery.

The chief constable's announcement will also strengthen the hand of
Sinn Fein's political rivals south of the border. One former
republican, Anthony McIntyre, yesterday suggested the stolen cash
was designed to fund Sinn Fein's growing election ambitions in the
Irish Republic.

In Dublin, this will add to the feeling stressed by opponents that
Sinn Fein is not a normal constitutional party abiding by the same
rules as everyone else.


Serious Setback For Political Process In North

Statement by the Taoiseach: While recognising that the
investigation is ongoing and arrests have yet to be made, the Chief
Constable's comments today regarding the Northern Bank robbery are
a matter of deep concern.

Irrespective of the final outcome of this investigation, the
attribution of the Northern Bank robbery to the Provisional IRA
represents a serious setback for the political process in Northern
Ireland and is corrosive of the public confidence that we have been
seeking to create. It underscores the need for compelling
commitments, both in word and deed, that the full spectrum of IRA
paramilitary activities and capability has been brought to a
definitive closure.

This must include the necessary assurance in regard to all forms of
criminal activity which, following the Northern Bank robbery,
clearly remains a major concern. The proposals for a comprehensive
agreement, published by both governments on December 8th, provided
for these essential commitments, both in regard to the transparency
of arms decommissioning and the ending of all forms of paramilitary
and criminal activity. Recent developments have validated the need
for such demonstrable commitments if the public confidence
necessary to sustain inclusive government is to be achieved.

The Garda Síochána are co-operating fully with the PSNI in an
effort to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime, involving as
it did a gross and callous violation of the rights and safety of
others, are brought to justice as quickly as possible.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) will offer a considered
assessment of the matter in its next report. At political level,
the robbery and its aftermath will reinforce the determination of
both governments to complete the unfinished business arising from
the comprehensive agreement. If stable politics in Northern Ireland
is to be secured, there can be no doubt or ambiguity about the
total commitment of all concerned to exclusively peaceful and
democratic engagement, including desisting from involvement in
criminality in all its forms.

On his return from the Far East, the Minister for Foreign Affairs
will meet the Secretary of State to review matters. Moreover, the
Prime Minister and I will meet in the coming weeks for a full and
comprehensive discussion on how both governments now take forward
the process.

January 7th, 2005
(c) The Irish Times


Opin: Any Chance Of Deal In 2005 Torpedoed

Analysis: There is little prospect of slavaging the NI political
process this year, writes Gerry Moriarty

"In essence this large robbery has become the largest theft of
waste paper in the living history of Northern Ireland."

So said the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde, when attributing the
Northern Bank heist to the IRA. It was a good line, considering
that the Northern Bank's decision to embark on the huge logistical
project of withdrawing some hundreds of millions of its notes and
issuing new ones renders most of the swag worthless. A good line,
but not quite accurate.

The current estimated haul is £26.5 million, of which £22 million
is in Northern Banks notes, much of which will now be unusable. But
there is still at least £4.5 million out there in other untraceable
sterling notes as well as about £5 million in Northern Bank notes,
without traceable serial numbers, that the robbers might choose to
bring to their local bank to exchange for legitimate currency. Fat
pickings either or both ways.

The Northern Bank can probably stand the loss of that money, but
can the political process? It goes without saying that any chance
of a political deal before the British general election, due in
May, is well and truly torpedoed. And such is the state of this
damaged political ship that the prospects of re-salvaging the hulk
any time this year would seem pretty shaky.

In all times of crisis Northern politicians play the usual
blame/counter-blame game. And so it was yesterday.

Martin McGuinness and other Sinn Féiners focused on the conspiracy
theory by naming a senior NIO official they said was briefing
against republicans in the US, and getting some of the lowdown
about a private briefing the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy,
delivered in Boston.

But it all smacked of one of Alfred Hitchcock's Maguffins, those
plots that the great director liked to introduce to his films as a
distraction from the main story.

Mr McGuinness still had a strong card to play yesterday. "Produce
the evidence," he challenged Mr Orde. Instead, Mr Orde produced the
intelligence. If the chief constable had evidence one or more
people would be arrested and charged by now.

Mr Orde is certain that the IRA was involved. Thereafter it's a
question of whom you believe, Mr Orde or Mr McGuinness? The British
and Irish governments and most everyone else believe Mr Orde. So,
if Mr Orde is correct why did the IRA do it? Because they could,
was the answer circulating yesterday.

A key question here is would the robbery have happened if the
political deal had worked? Some on the extremely cynical wing argue
that even if the DUP signed up to a deal with Sinn Féin, the IRA
would have gone ahead with the robbery to cause almighty
embarrassment to Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson.

Perhaps. But it would only have been for short-term gain, because
even with their red faces the DUP would have quickly walked away
from Sinn Féin and the deal. And despite all the ructions the
governments say they still believe Gerry Adams and Martin
McGuinness want a deal with the DUP.

A more credible scenario perhaps is that it was only after the deal
collapsed that the green light was given for the robbery. Isn't
that the height of duplicity coming after Sinn Féin was in the
midst of negotiations with the Taoiseach and British Prime
Minister? Certainly, but from a republican perspective what was
there to loose? September at the earliest is the next opportunity
for a deal, when the fallout from the robbery may have faded and
politicians may be again compelled to confront the challenge of
trying to share power.

So, with or without the robbery, it will be up to 12 months before
the next push for agreement. Why not line the IRA's coffers in the

Cynical and embarrassing for Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, who
invested such trust in the republican movement, yes, but hardly
surprising in terms of Northern politics and paramilitarism.

(c) The Irish Times


IRA Must 'Demonstrably' End All Criminal Acts, Says Ahern

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor, and Arthur Beesley

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, has said the Provisional IRA will have
to make "demonstrable commitments" to end all of its criminal
activities after the PSNI blamed the paramilitary organisation for
the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid.

As the prospects of early political progress dimmed, Mr Ahern said
the efforts to restore power-sharing in the North had suffered a
serious setback. He will discuss the situation with the British
Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, this weekend.

The Garda Síochána confirmed last night the robbery was being
investigated in the Republic. A spokesman said it was making
"specific inquiries" on foot of a PSNI request. He declined to

After the PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, said yesterday that
he believed the IRA was behind the raid, Mr Ahern said his greatest
concern was that an operation of this magnitude was "obviously
being planned at a stage when I was in negotiations with those that
would know the leadership of the Provisional movement".

"The thought that when we were trying to negotiate a comprehensive
deal that others, and perhaps others who were closely associated,
were getting ready to have one of the biggest Christmas robberies
that ever took place does nothing to help anybody's confidence," Mr
Ahern said.

"This makes it difficult because it damages the levels of trust and
confidence that we are trying to develop."

Mr Orde's disclosure has intensified pressure on Sinn Féin, with
the Government's attention now focused on whether the party figures
who took part in the talks in early December knew the raid was
being planned. If they did not know, their credibility as figures
who can negotiate with the IRA's authority would be questioned.

In Brussels, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern,
said although the robbery represented a setback to the peace
process, "there have been much worse times than this, with people
being bombed and murdered. We have to keep at it. We have a duty to
keep at it, to copper-fasten the relative peace we have in the
island," he said.

Sinn Féin, citing the word of the IRA, has continued to insist that
the IRA did not carry out the robbery and complained of an attempt
by so-called securocrats to "demonise and marginalise" republicans.

Most political representatives in Britain and Ireland, including
the two governments, either simply rejected the republican denials
or treated them with disdain.

There was general acceptance last night that the fallout from the
robbery has put beyond possibility the chance of a political deal
before the autumn, or probably before next year.

The PSNI and the Northern Bank have increased the estimate of the
amount stolen from £22 million to £26.5 million.

The scale of the robbery has prompted the bank to withdraw most of
its notes so the gang that stole them cannot use them.

However, about £4.5 million in untraceable sterling notes, other
than Northern Bank notes, and about £5 million in used Northern
Bank notes whose serial numbers are not known, could still be used
by the robbers.

Mr Orde, after meeting the Policing Board yesterday, said he was
confident the IRA was behind the robbery.

"On the basis of the investigating work we have done to date - the
evidence we have collected, the information we have collected, the
exhibits we have collected - and putting that all together and
working through it, in my opinion the Provisional IRA were
responsible for this crime, and all main lines of inquiry currently
undertaken are in that direction," said Mr Orde.

(c) The Irish Times


Two Gardai Charged With Perjury

Two detective gardaí were yesterday charged with perjury relating
to evidence they gave during the trial of a man accused of
involvement in the Omagh bombing.

Garda Liam Donnelly and Garda John Fahy face two counts each of
falsely swearing evidence during the trial of Colm Murphy, who was
convicted in the Special Criminal Court in January 2002 of
conspiring to cause an explosion.

The two detectives, who were part of the Carrickmacross-based team
of officers who interviewed Murphy, were charged with committing
the offences between October 18th and November 15th, 2001.

They appeared in Dublin District Court yesterday where Det Insp
John McMahon said he met the men by appointment. After they were
charged, both replied "Not guilty".

There was no objection to bail, the inspector said.

Ms Clare Galligan, of the chief prosecution solicitor's office,
said the DPP had directed trial on indictment, which means a book
of evidence will have to be prepared for a trial in the Circuit

She sought a two-week remand for preparation of the book.

Judge John Coughlan granted bail to both men in their own bonds of
€100 each and remanded them to appear again on January 21st.

A decision on an appeal by Colm Murphy against the 14-year jail
sentence he received has been reserved by the Court of Criminal

(c) The Irish Times


Youth (16) Is Killed As Pit Collapses On Farm

Liam Horan and James Fitzgerald

The body of a 16-year-old boy was recovered from a disused quarry
last night after a frantic search involving more than 50 people
failed to rescue him from the pit on a farm near Kilbeggan, Co

The youth was named locally last night as Stephen Kelly, of
Cumminstown, Kilbeggan.

At around 5 p.m. yesterday, the boy was with another teenager near
the pit on a family farm at Cumminstown, a townland on the Dublin
side of the town of Kilbeggan. It is understood that as they
played, the pit collapsed and one of the boys was submerged in a
deluge of sand.

The boy's friend managed to escape without injury. He raised the
alarm and within a short time members of the Fire Brigade, Garda,
Civil Defence and members of the public began to search for the
boy. Lights were set up and a mechanical digger was rushed to the
scene. Adverse weather conditions hampered operations.

The pit is about 40ft high and 40ft wide and is located some way
off the main road. Initial reports indicated that the boys had been
using motorcycles in the area but gardaí later denied this, saying
they were just digging near the pit when it collapsed.

At one point during the rescue effort, the digging stopped and the
generators were switched off in an effort to listen for the boy's
mobile phone which was rung. But no sound was heard.

At around 8.30 p.m. the boy's body was uncovered by the diggers
from under several feet of sand.

Emergency services attempted to resucitate him but he was
pronounced dead at the scene at around 9.15 p.m. His body was
removed and taken to Tullamore hospital where a post-mortem will be
carried out. Gardai in Athlone have launched a preliminary

"At this stage, the details are very vague. It is too early to say
for sure what happened but we will know more in due course after
the investigation," said a Garda spokesman.

(c) The Irish Times


Cork Launches European Capital Of Culture 2005

Alison Healy

One of Ireland's biggest parties has been promised by organisers
of today's launch of the Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture

However, Met Éireann has warned that it will be "a real wintry
weekend" in the south with the possibility of some structural
damage from the 70 m.p.h. gusts that were forecast for last night.

More than 360 performers will take to the streets of Cork today to
herald the start of the activities.

This afternoon, the President, Mrs McAleese, will release 2,005
balloons into the air after a civic reception at City Hall at 1.30

This will be followed by an international carnival and street

The emergence of a 600-metre serpent out of the River Lee this
evening is expected to be one of the weekend's highlights.

The serpent will be part of the Awakening ceremony, which has been
devised by the Waterford Spraoi street theatre company. As it rises
from the water, the serpent will span three city centre bridges, in
an explosion of light and fire.

Bob Geldof's event company, Ten Alps, will then stage what is being
billed as Ireland's biggest ever fireworks display.

Some 3,500 kilos of fireworks will be fired from six sites around
the city over a 15-minute period.

Met Éireann has forecast cold and windy weather during the event,
with the possibility of some frost later tonight.

Some 26,000 people have secured free tickets to watch the spectacle
from the quays. It will also be broadcast live on RTÉ One from 5
p.m. and will be shown on big screens around the city centre.

Organisers expect that more than 80,000 visitors will attend the
weekend festivities, while more than 60 European journalists and
film crews will be on standby to capture it all.

Visitors will be able to enjoy street performers from all over the
world, including fire-eaters, circus acts and giant puppeteers.

A series of exhibitions and cultural events have also been planned
in arts centres around Cork today and tomorrow.

The Forty Shades of Green exhibition, showing at the Lewis
Glucksman Gallery, will include ceramics, glass, textiles, wood and

Elsewhere, five young Estonian artists will give their impressions
of the newly-expanded European Union in an exhibition at the Cork
Vision Centre.

Mr John Kennedy, director of Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture,
encouraged people to support the designation of Cork as the prime
focus of cultural activity in Europe this year.

"This will be a great day for Cork and we are encouraging everyone
to embrace the opening events and celebrate the city by attending
the carnival, looking down on the fireworks from the city's hills
or watching Awakening live on RTÉ," he said, adding that the
activities heralded a positive new era for Cork. "It's only a
beginning for the city."

Many Cork streets will be closed between noon and 8 p.m. today to
facilitate the carnival, and people have been advised to use public
transport where possible.

Meanwhile, the city councils of Belfast and Cork yesterday
announced a new cultural partnership for this year as Belfast lost
out in its bid to become the European Capital of Culture for 2008.

Many events have been planned, among them the performance of the
Belfast Circus at the City Hall today, while arts and community
groups from Belfast will take part in Cork's St Patrick's Festival
in March.

For further information on the Cork Capital of Culture events, see

(c) The Irish Times


Catch this

Rosemary Behan Reports On A New Programme Of Walking Tours In

(Filed: 08/01/2005)

How many times have you visited a city and wondered what it's
really like to live and work there? In Belfast, a new programme of
walking tours aims to bring the city alive for visitors, giving
them the opportunity to interact with local people as they go.

Belfast Safaris offers seven walking tours, including the Antrim
Road trail, which starts at Duncairn Gardens, the birthplace of the
artist John Luke, and finishes at Belfast Castle, which was
finished in 1870 and offers panoramic views of the city.

Marian Dalton, of Belfast Safaris, said visitors who had seen
negative images of Belfast on television for the past 30 years had
a huge appetite for a "real" experience.

"We have five tour guides, with interests as diverse as football,
politics, local history and archaeology," she says. "They will
bring visitors into parts of Belfast that are not on the tourist
map, but which are teeming with living history - with the stories
of people's lives. These safaris will enable people to tell their
own stories."

Another trail takes in the Crumlin Road Gaol, which was opened in
1846 during the famine, when destitute people flocked to Belfast.
Children as young as 13 were held here, as were people awaiting
deportation to Australia. In 1914, suffragettes were imprisoned,
becoming Belfast's first hunger strikers. The tour then passes the
Holy Cross Monastery and Church and the murals in Ardoyne,
detailing the lives of Betty Sinclair, a leading Protestant trade
unionist, and Mary McAleese, the first president of Ireland to come
from Northern Ireland.

The City Safari concept was initiated in Rotterdam five years ago
and was designed to stimulate economic growth and employment
opportunities in deprived areas. There are now City Safari
programmes in New York, Chicago, Prague, Amsterdam, The Hague,
Munich, Berlin, Auckland, Cape Town and Pretoria.

Belfast Safaris walking tours cost £8 per person for a standard
tour and £21 for a bespoke tour. For further information, see or call 028 902 22925.

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