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January 10, 2005

01/10/05 – Adair Freed From Prison

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BB 01/10/05 Loyalist Leader Freed From Prison
BT 01/10/05 Can Orde Bank On His Success?
BT 01/10/05 Paisley Calls For SF To Be Left Out In Cold –A
BT 01/10/05 Viewpoint: Sinn Fein Is Now Out In The Cold
BT 01/10/05 Murphy Faces Hostile Grilling Over Bank Raid
BT 01/10/05 Door Still Open To SF 'Despite Views On Bank Raid'
BT 01/10/05 Provos Blamed As Man Shot In Hands
BT 01/10/05 Analysis: How Robbers Have Raised The Political Stakes
BT 01/10/05 Opin: What If Catholics Vote Party Of Robbers & Spies?
SF 01/10/05 SF Welcomes Non-Participation In EU Battle Groups
MN 01/10/05 Can We Adhere To Geneva Rules And Win?
BT 01/10/05 Patrick Kavanagh: Poet Honoured
BT 01/10/05 Irish Among The Happiest People On Earth
BT 01/10/05 Why We're No Longer Top Of The Bill For US Tourists

RT 01/10/05 Robbery: Excerpt From The Taoiseach's Remarks –A
RT 01/10/05 SF: Mr Ahern's Attitude Is Unworthy - A
RT 01/10/05 IRA Only Group Well-Enough Organised For Robbery -A
RT 01/10/05 Governments Have Corrupted Democratic Standards - A

Row over Northern Bank raid rumbles on - Excerpt From The Taoiseach's Remarks on 'This Week'

Mitchell McLaughlin, Sinn Féin chief negotiator, says Mr Ahern's Attitude Is Unworthy

Bill Lowry, former head of RUC Special Branch, argues that the IRA Is The Only Group Well-Enough Organised To Carry Out The Robbery; Mitchell McLaughlin rejects this

Stephen Collins of the Sunday Tribune defends his view that the two Governments Have Corrupted Democratic Standards


Loyalist Leader Freed From Prison

Convicted loyalist leader Johnny Adair has been released from prison in Northern Ireland.

He was taken to RAF Aldergrove and flown by helicopter to Manchester.

Adair has served two-thirds of a 16-year sentence for directing terrorism by the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

The loyalist, from the Shankill area of Belfast, was due to be freed on Thursday. But a prison spokesman said he had been given a period of pre-release home leave.

It is understood Adair was met and interviewed by a representative of the Greater Manchester Police when he arrived on Monday.

Adair is expected to join his family who have settled in Bolton after fleeing Northern Ireland during a loyalist paramilitary feud two years ago.

Chief Superintendent Dave Lea of Greater Manchester Police warned Adair that criminal behaviour would not be tolerated.

He said his force would act "robustly" to deal with any criminal or anti-social behaviour.

Adair was expelled by the Ulster Defence Association leadership in late 2002.

It is the third time Adair has been released from prison since his conviction in 1995.

He was previously returned to prison for breaching licence conditions in August 2000 after being released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement a year earlier.

On 15 May, 2002, he was released from prison having reached the 50% point of his sentence.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy ordered Adair to be sent back to prison in January 2003 at the height of a vicious power-struggle between his "C Company" faction and the rest of the UDA.

Days later, John Gregg, a member of the UDA inner council, was shot dead near Belfast docks as he returned from a Glasgow Rangers football match.

Members of Adair's brigade blamed for the killing were later routed and forced to flee their Shankill Road powerbase.

The family's attempts to remain anonymous were disrupted when Adair's teenage son, Jonathan, was sentenced last year for drug offences.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/10 12:56:16 GMT


Can Orde Bank On His Success?

The investigation into the £26.5m raid at the Northern Bank, will, says Chris Ryder, be a defining element in assessing Hugh Orde's role as Chief Constable of the PSNI

10 January 2005

Hugh Orde's high reputation in the Metropolitan Police was largely built on his detective skills. They were what caused Sir John Stevens to choose him to carry on his long-running investigation into security forces' paramilitary collusion, a secondment which first brought Orde to Northern Ireland. Then, in 2002, he surprisingly emerged as chief constable of the PSNI at the tip of an uneasy compromise between John Reid, then Secretary of State, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and the new Policing Board.

Factions there were determined not to appoint the strongest local candidate, Alan McQuillan, so, to avoid major confrontation, Reid pragmatically approved the appointment of Orde.

His advancement thus owed more to the happenstance of his lack of a local track record and willingness to be drafted rather than any outstanding ability or suitability. Many more suitably qualified mainland officers snubbed the post as the ultimate poison chalice and HMI was extremely guarded in his assessment of Orde, merely stating that he was capable of doing the job.

There was, in any case, no need for a huge intellectual input. The agenda was already laid out by the Patten Commission and Orde has since performed with compulsion rather than vision and competence rather than flair in implementing it.

As the Oversight Commissioner has testified in periodic reports, the bulk of the reforms are now complete although, thanks to a continuity RUC faction within PSNI, key elements have only been implemented in a tardy and begrudging fashion and in key areas, especially civilianisation and training, Orde does not appear to be able to counter delay and often downright obstruction.

The great reform convulsion has caused a significant loss of public confidence in the police. Four out of five people, according to a recent Perceptions of Crime survey, believe there is a little or a lot more crime in Northern Ireland than two years ago, an impression, according to the research, that is reinforced by crime stories in the news media.

Although the actual statistics do not support this view - the 2003-04 figures show a continuing decrease, 10% over the previous year - and there is a marked reduction in Troubles associated violence, Orde's commendably open public profile has not been authoritative enough to win community confidence and challenge misplaced fears.

Similarly, although he consistently complains about unfair media treatment, he seems dazzled and paralysed when it comes to finding ways to make his case more effectively.

In many respects he is a diffident, even shy, man and remains reserved and distant in a formal English sense, apparently without any cronies or special confidantes in Belfast.

But he has performed with singular distinction and integrity in refusing to shirk difficult calls, consistently attributing blame to loyalist and republican factions for events, whatever the political consequences and difficulties that resulted.

So, when faced with the circumstances of the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery and having waited until sufficient factual evidence was established, he did not shrink from pointing the finger at the Provisional IRA.

To anyone able to read the tea leaves, the IRA was publicly fingered as soon as the first follow-up raids began on Christmas Eve. The old days when the police could go on "fishing trips" to create an impression of masterly activity after such a major crime are gone.

Orde and ACC Sam Kincaid, a formidably persistent detective who will not relent until every possible avenue of investigation has been exhausted, only authorised the operations once they were satisfied that the preliminary evidence justified them and that, in due course, given the wider political implications, they would not be subject to criticism or sanction by the Surveillance Commissioner, Police Ombudsman, the Policing Board or the courts.

The police have been subject to much unjustified vilification by many political figures, armchair detectives who churlishly give the impression that it was the police responsible for the raid.

On the contrary, the police have long been exasperated at the complacency of the banks in general to the security of their staff and premises. But despite any weaknesses of the banks' security, political and public expectation that the robbers will be brought to justice now rests with the police. The situation will rigorously test Orde's detective skills and the success or otherwise of the investigation will undoubtedly be the defining element in assessing Orde's reputation after his tenure at PSNI, and influence whether or not he duly moves on to one of the big policing jobs in Britain to which he now aspires.


Leader of the DUP, the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley, on the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's comments that Sinn Fein's leadership must have known about the £26 million bank robbery before Christmas.

Paisley Calls For SF To Be Left Out In Cold -A

By Chris Thornton and Noel McAdam
10 January 2005

Republicans should be barred from Stormont under arrangements from last month's stalled peace deal, DUP leader Ian Paisley insisted today.

"The agreement we came together to reach was that if anybody broke the rules and were not prepared to stick to peace, instead of paramilitary activity, they would automatically go out of the process," he said.

"I think the IRA have put themselves out of the process.

"I cannot hold office with them if they are engaging in violence or criminal activity and are prepared to try to tie in democracy with bombing and killing and murdering."

His comments came as Sinn Fein tried to defend Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern accused the party of double dealing over the Northern Bank heist.

Mr Ahern pushed aside Sinn Fein and IRA denials of links to the £26m robbery, saying the party leadership must have known it was being planned while they negotiated last month's stillborn peace deal.

Sinn Fein chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin, said the rift with Dublin was "a grave blow".

"Many nationalists and republicans will be deeply disappointed that the Taoiseach has chosen to believe the British and to jump onto the DUP bandwagon of blame," he said.

But Mr Ahern said his own security advice was also that the IRA was behind the robbery.

Mr McLaughlin mounted his defence even though Mr Adams used almost identical language to back the IRA over the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe and the Northern robbery. The IRA later admitted the McCabe killing and are pushing for the release of his killers.


Viewpoint: Sinn Fein Is Now Out In The Cold

Raid Fall-Out: Grave accusations amount to an enormous breach of faith

10 January 2005

Despite Sinn Fein's attempts to tough it out, the party is in the dock over the Northern Bank robbery.

No less a figure than the Taoiseach himself Bertie Ahern claims that the political leadership of the republican movement would have been aware of the proposed £26m heist at the time they were locked in negotiations with the British and Irish Governments.

Is it conceivable that the IRA would have been plotting such a major operation without the sanction of the Army Council? And given that the IRA and Sinn Fein are inextricably linked, is it possible that the party hierarchy could not have been aware of what was afoot?

Whatever is the truth, there is no doubting that the republican movement was planning the robbery at a time when its political leadership was sitting around the table involving itself in the most sensitive and crucial negotiations on the future of the Northern Ireland peace process.

There are grave accusations today levelled directly at the Sinn Fein leadership and if there is even a grain of truth about them, they amount to a most enormous breach of faith. The credibility and integrity of Sinn Fein is now at stake to such an extent that no party could engage in serious negotiations with it.

Sinn Fein's denials ring hollow and its leaders may claim that they knew nothing of what was being planned. If that were so then what price their influence in the republican movement today?

One way or another, Sinn Fein is out in the cold. As Tony Blair has reiterated, the republican movement's commitment to giving up crime and violence has to be 100%. Further ambivalence cannot be tolerated.

It remains to be seen what impact this debacle will have on Sinn Fein's fortunes at the ballot box. Will nationalists continue to back a party which is linked to the IRA and its criminal activities, or can the forces of democratic nationalism, as represented by the SDLP, enjoy a resurgence?

The Prime Minister's peace train may have left the station with everyone on board, but at present Sinn Fein are at best hanging onto the buffers, and at worst lying abandoned on the track.

Despite all that has happened, the British and Irish Governments remain unwilling to ditch Sinn Fein altogether, but Northern Ireland still needs to be governed efficiently and effectively over the next few years.

If devolution cannot be restored, then the only alternative is continued direct rule, but in a form that is more accountable to the people of the province. That would mean affording more opportunity to elected representatives here to question decisions taken by direct rule ministers and that will be especially important given that there are major issues ahead on such matters as water charges, education and local government reform .


Murphy Faces Hostile Grilling Over Bank Raid

By Sean O'Driscoll in New York
10 January 2005

Secretary of State Paul Murphy, has said he expects to face a "very, very hostile" House of Commons when he speaks about the Northern Bank robbery tomorrow.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the end of a US visit, Mr Murphy said that the Irish government could also face a similar grilling in the Dail by TDs angry that the IRA may have got away with one of the world's largest ever cash robberies.

"I have to face what I suspect will be a very hostile House of Commons on Tuesday. My Irish counterpart will probably have to do the same in the Dail.

"People will want us to tackle this because you just can't have it in a post-Good Friday Agreement Ireland. You just can't have that happening," he said.

Conservative MPs are expected to seize on the robbery as evidence that the Labour Government is too soft on Northern Ireland paramilitaries and allowing them to build up criminal empires.

Mr Murphy described the implications of the £26m robbery as "colossal" and said it was a "major, major stumbling block" to the peace process.

He strongly rejected claims by republicans that the Government is using an as yet unsolved bank robbery as a way of ending political talks.

"There is nothing political about a bank robbery. It's an old fashioned, pure and simple crime which is of an enormous nature," he said.

He added that he was tired of some republicans blaming "securocrats" for using the bank robbery as a way of excluding Sinn Fein from the political process.

"There is talk about securocrats and all this kind of stuff. I don't know anyone in the Northern Ireland Office or in the Police Service of Northern Ireland who would want to end the peace process.

"There is absolutely nothing in this for anybody to see the end of the peace process."

Mr Murphy had heard the unionist calls for Sinn Fein's expulsion, adding: "I understand their feelings."

"We haven't taken any precipitative action at all. We have to sit down with the Irish government and discuss how we respond to what is a serious setback, let's face it.

"We haven't come to any fix or any quick solutions. We have to think about this and reflect."

He said Sinn Fein's mandate would be respected, although he added that it is necessary for republicans to respect the mandate of the Good Friday Agreement for "a non-violent, peaceful Northern Ireland".

"Robbing banks isn't part of it," he added. "That's offensive to those of us who spend a lot of our lives trying to put into practice the principles of the Good Friday Agreement."

He admitted that the prospects of deal have been "seriously jeopardised by this".

"We were nearly there. But we have to assume that deal was set back by what has happened, that the trust that is needed has been damaged.

"But we also have to keep searching for a way forward."


Door Still Open To SF 'Despite Views On Bank Raid'

By Bernard Purcell and Dominic Cunningham
10 January 2005

Tony Blair yesterday held the door open for a deal with Sinn Fein despite police suspicions the IRA was behind last month's Northern Bank robbery.

Mr Blair claimed progress was still possible in the North but emphasised that all IRA violence must cease.

He was speaking ahead of a Downing Street meeting with Rev Ian Paisley this week when the DUP leader is expected to press for a devolved settlement in Belfast, without Sinn Fein.

The price of a full settlement, Mr Blair said, would be a definitive end to IRA violence and all criminal activity. "I said that almost two years ago, and I mean it," he told the Breakfast With Frost programme on BBC television.

"I still think it's possible for us to make progress - but it can't be 99pc giving up violence and it certainly can't be 80pc giving up violence, it has got to be 100pc," Mr Blair said.

"There cannot be a proper comprehensive deal for peace in Northern Ireland unless the IRA clearly and definitively gives up not just terrorist acts of violence, but criminal acts of violence."

Northern Secretary Paul Murphy said the PSNI's preliminary findings meant it was now unlikely a power-sharing deal could be achieved before Westminster elections in May.

Mr Blair emphasised that the Chief Constable would not have said what he did without evidence.

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said the IRA denied involvement in the raid and claimed the Chief Constable had gone to the media on the basis of reports from "securocrats" working to undermine the peace process.

He said there was deep anger among republicans at politically-motivated attempts to criminalise the movement during an emergency meeting of the party's executive in Dublin. "The objective of all of this is to subvert efforts to build on what has been achieved and to halt the process of change," he asserted.

Mr Blair said unionism had accepted that it must share power with republicans and nationalists. "But it is entirely justified in saying that it will not share power unless there is a definitive end to all forms of paramilitary or criminal activity by one of the parties that is associated with a paramilitary group."

Unionists have called on the Irish and British governments to exclude Sinn Fein and press ahead with efforts to restore devolution without them after Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde last week said he believed the IRA was responsible for the robbery.

Mr Blair said unionists had accepted they must share power - but only if there was a total end to paramilitary activity.

"Unionism has accepted now that it must share power with republicans and nationalists," he said.

He said it was still possible to move towards peace.

Sinn Fein said it remained committed to the peace process and would not be deflected by Mr Orde's allegations.


Provos Blamed As Man Shot In Hands

By Deborah McAleese
10 January 2005

The Provisional IRA has been blamed for a paramilitary-style shooting in east Belfast on Saturday night.

A teenager was shot in both hands after he was approached by a gang of men at Seaforde Street in the Short Strand area shortly before 6pm.

The 18-year-old was rushed to hospital where he is being treated for his injuries.

East Belfast UUP councillor Jim Rodgers today said residents told him the attack was carried out by the IRA and called on Sinn Fein to condemn the shooting.

"Regardless of the circumstances nobody should suffer in this way," he said. "This is a breach of the IRA ceasfire and I am calling on Sinn Fein to condemn it."

"We cannot have any more of these incidents."

Detectives at Short Strand are appealing for information.


Analysis: How Robbers Have Raised The Political Stakes

By Chris Thornton, Political Correspondent
10 January 2005

"The IRA has denied any involvement and I accept that," Gerry Adams said in the aftermath of the headline-grabbing robbery.

Crimes like this, he added, "can play no part in the republican struggle and those who are seeking to blame Sinn Fein know this."

The Northern Bank was on no one's mind when the Sinn Fein president made those remarks. It was the gist of what he said after the £26m heist, but the quote is actually much older. He said it in June 1996, after a gang of IRA men killed Garda Jerry McCabe while robbing a post office van in Adare, Co Limerick.

The IRA denied the McCabe killing, and that was good enough for Mr Adams. Afterwards, when IRA members had been charged with the crime the Provos admitted it.

That seems to have been good enough as well because, by late 2003, Sinn Fein was busy negotiating with the Dublin government for the release of Jerry McCabe's killers, pending a final settlement to restore Stormont.

Now, concerning the Northern job, the IRA's been making denials again, and that's been good enough for Mr Adams, too. "The IRA has said it wasn't involved," he said this week. "I believe that to be the case."

Who else will believe? Because in the absence of proof, the question of blame for the Northern heist seems set to sit firmly in the political foreground, at least until the next general election. Realistic talk of a settlement has slipped somewhere over the horizon.

Much of the credibility battle depends on which jury the argument is before. For unionists, the IRA denial is clearly unimpressive. Even before Chief Constable Hugh Orde's finger pointed at the IRA, many unionists had concluded the peace process has been defined by a succession of republican misadventures.

With that general election expected in May, Mr Adams will be more concerned about the jury of nationalist opinion. The Northern Bank accusation could raise some doubts, but in the absence of any arrests, he has ample room to fight back.

This hasn't been the first time police have blamed the IRA in circumstances where the public evidence fails to live up to the gravity of the charge. Some of those accusations have been shown to be true. Others have been inconclusive - the break-in at Castlereagh has been blamed on the IRA, but plans to extradite chef Larry Zaitschek, meant to be the key link to the IRA, from America are now in their third year without a formal extradition application being made.

Nationalist voters will no doubt be reminded about that case, and the lack of an outcome from Stormont spy ring charges as Sinn Fein argues that the Northern Bank claims are politically motivated.

The police accusation about the robbery could well be repeated by the International Monitoring Commission, which is due to report on the state of the ceasefires in April. But the IMC also has a credibility issue.

In one instance it appears to have accepted PSNI information at face value with a less than rigorous examination on its own part. That information, concerning who was responsible for the murder of a Catholic man in Bangor, later turned out to be wrong - another point Sinn Fein has, and will use, to counter attack.

But the IMC's pronouncement is what London and Dublin are signed up to respond to. And, with unionists writing Sinn Fein off for now, the governments - along with the US administration - may turn out to be the jury that matters.

Unionist calls for Sinn Fein to be excluded from Stormont seem unlikely, at this point anyway, to be met. Even if the SDLP could be persuaded to take part, the move would allow Sinn Fein to claim their voters were being made victims - that a quarter of the electorate was being denied the right to choose the representatives of their choice. Instead, the governments seem resigned to patience, allowing tempers to cool and counting on unionist preference for some government over no government to coax them back for another go.

But that doesn't mean there won't be consequences for republicans. Secretary of State Paul Murphy has said he is satisfied that the Sinn Fein leadership has been serious about doing a deal, but Bertie Ahern - whose government takes the lead in negotiating with the IRA - sounded less sure.

"It's of concern to me that an operation of this magnitude has obviously been planned at a stage when I was in negotiations with those that would know the leadership of the Provisional movement," the Taoiseach said.

"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.

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

Remember it was Mr Ahern's government, under the lead of his coalition partners in the PDs, that was highlighting criminality as one of the unresolved issues in early December. While the DUP and British Government said photographs of decommissioning were what concerned them, Dublin - which has its own electoral concerns with Sinn Fein - noted that the IRA was ignoring a pledge on criminality.

That now seems clairvoyant. Mr Ahern now says a settlement will require more than a pledge - there has to be of demonstrating the commitment. More proof is required.

It's certainly not just about photographs now. The Northern Bank robbers, whoever they are, have raised the bar for republicans.


What If Most Catholics Vote For A Party Of Bank Robbers And Spies?

By Malachi O'Doherty

10 January 2005

Well, I think it is over. Or, at least, to put it more modestly, I don't see the way back. The two Governments appear committed to keeping the peace process going; this despite Ahern saying that he believes that Adams and McGuinness knew about the bank robbery plan even as they were in talks with him.

It is for him to decide how they can recover their credibility with him in the future but the Irish people will be astonished if he takes Adams' word for anything again.

I'm intrigued that some of my colleagues in political journalism are optimistic too. The repeated line is that Hugh Orde's blaming of the IRA for the bank robbery defers a deal until after the election, maybe even until next year. No, this time it is bad.

We wonder how the IRA could have been so stupid but they had got used to getting away with their crimes and the political fallout evaporating before it reached the ground.

Maybe they fell through a trap door into Aladdin's cave and could have survived again if they had not taken so much. If they had expected to get so much money, would they have planned two trips in the van?

The British and Irish Governments and police have been going easy on them. It was, supposedly, the price of peace.

The little reassuring myths are circulating. Some suspect the IRA is building a pension fund for when it stands down. There is one benign reading, founded on nothing.

Sinn Fein has already secured money for the IRA ex-prisoners through European funding and other grants. I don't doubt it could have negotiated more from Blair.

I think Ireland is aghast at what a monster the process has created. Sinn Fein has lost a lot of friends. Even the Guardian dropped them a like a hot potato on Saturday and urged nationalists not to vote for them.

This time it is even worse politically than Canary Wharf.

This time it is impossible to see how Sinn Fein can restore its credibility unless, perhaps, the INLA steps up with the millions and apologises for rocking the peace process.

Before the Canary Wharf bomb, Gerry Adams had warned that the ceasefire would end if political talks were not convened.

Many in the media actually blamed John Major for the bomb. Crucially, the IRA took responsibility for the bomb and dictated its terms. Blackmail isn't moral but it, at least, outlines a course of action.

This time Adams and the IRA refuse to take responsibility or prescribe terms by which future robberies might be cancelled.

The Canary Wharf bomb was a brutal but logical response, from a republican perspective, to a logjam in the peace process. The robbery appears to have had nothing to do with the peace process.

If Sinn Fein won't claim it as their own and if no one believes the denial, then how will they persuade anyone to believe they won't do that kind of thing again?

Crucially, why would Blair court another humiliation?

There is an easier course available to him: roll up the map and go and deal with others who play by the rules.

Of course it won't be that simple. The luvvies will be called on to endorse Gerry Mandela. Friends, wherever they can be found, will be paraded. Some right patsies will fall in line.

And Sinn Fein is not some wee party you can brush off and ignore. It is the elected representative of most nationalists. It will expect access to both governments.

How is Ahern going to manage the next photocall? I presume there is no chance now of Gerry being invited to the St Patrick's Day party in the White House, but British and Irish Ministers will struggle to keep their distance.

What of the Sinn Fein vote? It will be tested in May in local government elections and the General Election. If it goes up again that will be calamitous.

If most Catholics vote for a party of bank robbers and spies that will reflect on their commonsense and their civic commitment.

On top of that, district policing partnerships will collapse as SDLP members lose their seats and Sinn Fein refuses to take theirs.

Would it be even worse if Sinn Fein did take theirs now?

And how fair will the election be anyway if one party has a fighting fund of secret millions and all the patronage and influence that goes with such wealth?


Sinn Féin MEP Welcomes Announcement On Irish Non-Participation In EU Battle Groups

Published: 10 January, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning welcomed the announcement that troops from the 26 Counties will not be participating in EU battle groups for the foreseeable future. Ms McDonald said that "Sinn Féin had vehemently opposed the formation of EU battle groups, which served the purpose of Europe's military and economic elites and sidelined the United Nations in leading peacekeeping duties".

The Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea made the announcement, citing legal and constitutional difficulties. It is understood that the battle groups would have been expected to go into action on notice of between five and 10 days. The state requires that a UN Security Council Resolution is required before it can take part in overseas military missions, and UN resolutions normally take longer to be decided upon.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:

"I welcome the fact that troops from the 26 Counties will not be taking part in any EU battle groups in the short term. Sinn Féin has consistently cautioned against the deployment of EU battle groups, which we believe serve the purpose of Europe‚s military and economic elites and seek to sideline the United Nations ability to lead peacekeeping missions.

"Let me be clear, the deliberate shift in focus from the UN to the EU is both dangerous and destructive. The EU's clamour to become a regional military power has in turn led to a weakening of the UN's ability to respond to international crises effectively.

"I recognise that this decision was taken because of constitutional requirements, rather than any political decision, and therefore I am calling upon Minister O'Dea to state publicly that troops from the 26 Counties will not be deployed to EU battle groups in the longer term. I am also calling upon the government to state whether or not it has any plans to alter the constitution to allow for participation in the battle groups.

"What is required is a refocusing on the United Nations, to provide it with the resources and political support it requires to undertake peacekeeping tasks including rapid deployment and ensure it is not vying with regional alliances attempting to duplicate its work." ENDS


Can We Adhere To Geneva Rules And Win?

Enemy Has Rules Of Its Own -- Condoning Terror, Murder

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Are members of Al-Qaida entitled to Geneva Conventions protection for POWs? Are Taliban fighters and Iraqi insurgents entitled to those protections, by which soldiers are to give name, rank and serial number, but never to be abused to force them to reveal military secrets?

As Alberto Gonzales is discovering, these are not just legal issues. The Geneva Conventions are international law. They are rules for the conduct of war, agreed to by civilized nations, that assumed wars would be fought between armies whose soldiers -- wearing uniforms -- would respect these rules.

Under the Geneva Conventions, however, soldiers who fight out of uniform or commit atrocities -- murder prisoners or target and kill non-combatants -- may be sent before firing squads.

Wehrmacht soldiers who penetrated American lines in the Battle of the Bulge by wearing U.S. Army uniforms hastily shed them to fight in German uniforms -- or else they could have been shot when captured. OSS agents, dropped behind enemy lines to kill German pilots and Nazi collaborators, knew they were not entitled to the same protections as 82nd Airborne troops dropped behind German lines on D-day.

Here we come to America's dilemma. While the Afghan and Iraqi soldiers who fought the U.S. invasions are surely entitled to Geneva Conventions protection for POWs, what of Al-Qaida? What of the jihadis and foreign fighters who kidnap and behead aid workers?

What of Iraqis who plant roadside explosives or take jobs in security forces to plant bombs in U.S. Army mess halls? Are they also entitled to the Geneva Conventions protection of wartime soldiers?

Should we extend the protection to all captured insurgents? Can we win a war on terror if we fight by Geneva rules, while our enemy fights by the Maoist rules of people's war, which condone terror and murder, and encourage guerrillas to fight out of uniform and kill the enemy anywhere, any time, any way?

In World War II, FDR did not hesitate to execute, after secret trials, six German saboteurs caught on U.S. soil, though they had not killed a single American or exploded a single bomb. They were saboteurs, out of uniform behind American lines, and under the rules of warfare, we had every right to execute them. And we did.

Apparently, while the Geneva Conventions permit us to execute captured Al-Qaida, we may not inflict pain on them to force them to reveal secrets that might prevent another Sept. 11.

But if we are to win this war on terror, we must at least tell Al-Qaida this: If you are caught on U.S. soil, bent on slaughtering innocent Americans, you have no more rights than those German saboteurs, and we will execute you, speedily, after military trials.

With Iraqi insurgents, we face the problem the British army faced in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 and the French faced in Algeria from 1954 to 1962. In Ireland's war of independence, IRA ``flying squads'' of gunmen attacked British troops, then melted away into a supportive population. British veterans of the Western Front, not knowing how to find and fight such an enemy, engaged in reprisals against Irish civilians. Thus, Britain lost the Irish people, and Ireland, forever.

In Algeria, terror attacks on French soldiers and civilians brought in Gen. Massu's ``paras,'' who tortured terror suspects for information to eradicate the FLN. Thus was the Battle of Algiers won -- and Algeria lost.

Whatever we may think of their tactics, the IRA of yesteryear, the FLN, the Afghan mujahedeen of the 1980s and Hezbollah in the 1990s succeeded in expelling those they saw as occupiers. The Iraqi insurgents are using these same tactics, plus the now-familiar car bomb and suicide bomber made famous by Hamas.

Have our Western standards for fighting a just and moral war so tied our hands in this war in Iraq that we cannot defeat the enemy?

Patrick J. Buchanan is a syndicated columnist.


Poet Honoured

By Patsy McArdle
10 January 2005

Poet-author Patrick Kavanagh, whose centenary was commemorated during the past year, is to leave his mark on a new 28.2 million euro bypass which will be opened in Co Monaghan at the end of this month.

Monaghan County Council has decided that it will name the new Carrickmacross bypass, which is on the main Dublin/Londonderry N2 route, as 'The Kavanagh Way'' in an effort to perpetuate the memory of the poet, who was born in Co Monaghan village of Inniskeen.

The road-opening ceremony is due to take place on January 24.


Irish Among The Happiest People On Earth

By Shane Hickey
10 January 2005

Forget about high prices and corruption . . . Ireland is one of the happiest places to live and raise a family.

Forget Barbados, Paris or New York - if you want to find true happiness, Ireland is the place in which to live.

The country has once again been named as one of the world's most contented places in which to be.

First, the Economist deemed it the best place in the world in terms of quality of life; now a survey has identified it as the second happiest place in the world.

Forget about corruption, sky-high prices and a backlogged medical system - this "great little nation" is behind only Denmark, Malta and Switzerland (who are joint first) as the happiest place on earth.

The research, carried out by Dutch sociologist Prof Ruut Veenhoven, couples Ireland with Iceland as the second happiest country.

The extensive research behind the findings was carried out over 20 years by Prof Veenhoven at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

The result is 'The World Database of Happiness', which rates the happiness of 90 nations on a scale of one to 10.

The findings are based on surveys in 112 nations between 1946 and 2004.

Ireland comes ahead of the US, Britain and France, while at the bottom of the scale are Armenia, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

High up, though, is Ghana, which is in third place in front of Canada, Guatemala, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"Happy countries are, typically, rich countries," said Prof Veerhoven. "They are, typically, countries with a lot of freedom, often well-governed and democratic, and they tend to be tolerant."

Prof Veerhoven has spent the last two decades collecting information related to life satisfaction and says that people are happier in moderate climates than in warm ones.

"In the old days, colder climates required that people co-operated, especially men and women, otherwise you couldn't survive. That created the more equal culture that we enjoy now."

Earning more money does not necessarily make people more happy.

However, improving an intimate relationship does, as a fulfilling relationship constitutes between 10 and 15pc of happiness, says Prof Veerhoven.

He says that drinking alcohol moderately and having a hobby make people happier, as does voluntary work.


Why We're No Longer Top Of The Bill For US Tourists

The once mighty US dollar has taken a beating against the euro... so will a distinct lack of spending power and 'sticker shock' stop the Yanks coming to Ireland on holiday? Gemma O'Doherty reports

10 January 2005

As Irish shoppers flock to New York to take advantage of the declining dollar, they might spare a thought for their poor American cousins. US tourists arriving on holiday here are dismayed to find that the bang has gone out of their buck and that everything from a hotel room to a Happy Meal costs more than twice as much as it does back home.

The mighty dollar is suddenly a small fry in the currency league, as Americans are learning to their horror when they land on Irish soil. After a year of record lows against the euro in 2004, their sagging currency doesn't go nearly as far as it used to, leaving our once biggest-spending tourists watching every cent that leaves their pockets.

Since the US election in November, the dollar has plummeted against other major currencies, reaching a record low against the euro, and nearly a five-year low against the yen. Since last spring, it has weakened 13% against the euro, and 47% since January 2002. A year ago the euro was worth $1.18. Now it costs Americans $1.32. A cappuccino worth a couple of dollars back home costs about $4 here while a typical $40 meal bought in the US can cost more than $100.

Floridian Richard Sedlock, on his first trip to Ireland, was taken aback when he exchanged his holiday spending money. "I changed $1,200 and got just €800 in return. I wasn't expecting to lose quite so much. The euro is very expensive for Americans now. Even when you buy a cup of coffee that might cost you $2 in the US, it's costing at least $3 here. It all adds up and I find that I'm not buying the things I wanted, especially things that I know I can find back home."

'Sticker shock', the expression used by Americans to describe their fright when converting euro price tags back to dollars, is a budding phenomenon observed by tourist shops around the country.

"American tourists are much more price conscious than they used to be," says Margaret Dilworth, general manager of the Kilkenny Shop on Dublin's Nassau Street. "They are a lot more on the ball and are working out the prices in their heads. They're not splashing out in the way they used to but buying only what they need."

Another well-known retailer on the American tourist trail has noted a similar trend. Hilary Pratt, of Avoca Handweavers, says: "In the past, when the punt was terrific value for Americans, the Ireland trip was the holiday of a lifetime for them. They would buy Arans for the whole family and money was no object. This year we have noticed a downturn in American business, especially in the West. They have become more price-conscious and they aren't buying in the same quantities."

For Americans who have made Ireland their home, the three-year slide in the dollar is also taking its toll, especially for those paid in dollars - who feel like they've taken a hefty pay cut.

John and Angela Simpson, from Boston, have just arrived here to work on their gap year but their spending money is quickly evaporating. "We can't believe where our dollars have gone. They've just disappeared. The dollar used to be the king of currencies but now Americans are finding out that it won't get you very far at all outside of the country. It's a very nasty wake-up call."

Tourism experts predict the strengthening euro will change the way Americans travel in 2005, booking shorter trips, travelling off-season, spending less and holidaying elsewhere. As it becomes more expensive, Western Europe is increasingly seen as a luxury destination by Americans, who are looking to cheaper holiday spots like Latin America and the Caribbean for next year's annual vacation. The fact that these countries' currencies are largely tied to the US dollar is a major factor in their decision.

This year cheaper European cities like Prague, Warsaw and Budapest will represent strong competition for more traditional US tourist destinations like Dublin, London and Paris.

Changes in the demographic of the average American tourist will also become more evident in 2005.

"What we are really seeing now is the end of the coach tour business that brought retired Irish-Americans here coming back to their roots," says John Brennan, general manager of the Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry. "Quite simply, the blue rinse brigade have passed away and the younger generation don't have the same pull to come here. They also want something different. The young American couple is asking themselves if a touring holiday, travelling in a small car on the wrong side of the road, really is the way they want to spend their precious 10-day annual vacation. They don't want coach tours because they want to be independent.

"We need to repackage Ireland to make it more appealing to young Americans who might choose Hawaii or South America over Europe because of the weak dollar. But Americans want to travel because they have been cocooned for the last few years. Business picked up again last year and so far bookings are looking strong from the US for the coming year."

America's giant trade and budget deficits, which are the main cause of the weak dollar, mean any significant recovery in the currency's strength is unlikely in the medium term. Even sharper falls in the dollar are expected in 2005, with recent forecasts suggesting that the euro would rise to $1.40 over the next 12 months.

However, despite the new financial strain facing American visitors, tourism authorities are upbeat that they will keep coming. After three years of falling visitor numbers from the US, due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic, Sars, the September 11 attacks and the war in Iraq, 2004 saw the first signs of recovery in the market and predictions for this year are optimistic. According to Tourism Ireland, tourist numbers from North America were up 8% for the first nine months of last year.

Similar increases are predicted for this year, with new air routes from Ireland to the US playing a major part in boosting tourism in 2005. In May American Airlines will launch a daily flight from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to Dublin, leading to more competitive prices and greater traffic back and forth.

Belfast also sees its first transatlantic flight take off in the summer when Continental Airlines begins flights to Newark, New Jersey.

If the situation worsens, hotels and tour operators here may have to follow the path of their Continental counterparts who have started to absorb currency losses themselves, offering Americans special deals to protect them against the risk of fluctuating exchange rates. But for now, the tourist trade is cautiously optimistic that cost won't be a factor in turning Americans away.

"In terms of perception by Americans, access to Ireland and accommodation is very good and there is no indication that the weak dollar is affecting booking enquiries," says Pat McCann, CEO of Jurys Doyle hotel group.

"If the dollar weakens much further, then it could be an issue, but Ireland is still a popular choice for Americans and seen as a safe destination, which is very important to them."

Brendan Tours, one of the country's largest tour operators for US tourists, is equally confident that American affection for Ireland will remain intact.

"Anecdotally, we know that their propensity to spend has weakened," says MD Catherine Reilly.

"We would be in trouble if they start going home saying they found even little things like a cup of coffee expensive. But after a couple of very lean years, the market is starting to pick up again. We have to remember that the dollar is weak everywhere within the eurozone so they face the same dilemma wherever they go."

Source: Irish Independent

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