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January 11, 2005

01/11/05 – Reflection Before PMs Meet

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BT 01/11/05 Reflection Before Premiers Meet
IO 01/11/05 Blair To Meet DUP & SF To Discuss Fall-Out
BT 01/11/05 SF 'Angry And Perplexed' At Ahern Comment
IO 01/11/05 Call To Minister Over Paramilitary Ceasefires
BT 01/11/05 Bloody Sunday Families In Plea For Republican
BT 01/11/05 Family Mourns As Conor Body Found
BT 01/11/05 Crime The Reason SF Will Not Accept Policing: SDLP
BT 01/11/05 Neighbours Fearful As Adair Takes Up Residence
BT 01/11/05 Freed Adair Goes On Run In Fear Of Vengeful UDA
BT 01/11/05 Is The Party Over For Johnny Adair?
IO 01/11/05 Belfast Loyalist (Ihab Shoukri) Wants To Remain In Jail
BT 01/11/05 Bogside Vandal Alert
IO 01/11/05 2,000 Submissions Against Tara Motorway


Reflection Before Premiers Meet

By Brian Walker
11 January 2005

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have decided to meet in three weeks' time to decide what should be done about the political process, thrown into turmoil since the Chief Constable last week pointed the finger of blame at the IRA for carrying out the Northern Bank robbery.

Downing Street is making it clear that Tony Blair shares Bertie Ahern's "concern" that republicans must have known about the IRA's role in the robbery at some stage, despite Sinn Fein's affronted denials.

"The Prime Minister said he required not 80% or 90% compliance with non-criminality but 100% compliance two years ago and he meant it," said his spokesman.

However, both premiers are stopping well short of trying to suspend Sinn Fein from the process immediately, as the DUP are now demanding.

"Inclusivity" remains the bedrock of their policy; in other words, if Sinn Fein cannot be included in government, then there will be no government at all.

Mr Blair welcomed Mr Ahern's absence in China for ten days to create a "period of reflection" for the parties, Sinn Fein especially, to reach reality about future prospects.

The SDLP, who are now pressing the governments to take the Good Friday Agreement forward "at minimum" through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Council, are no keener than before on entering a voluntary coalition with the DUP, despite their scathing criticism of the IRA.

The political road seems firmly blocked. Indeed, pressure is even building up on the governments from all other parties belatedly to end the pattern of concessions to republicans, which helped win them the commanding position they enjoy with nationalist voters.

As a senior SDLP source put it: "The governments must face up to the fact that the IRA have decided they want criminality."


Blair To Meet DUP And SF To Discuss Fall-Out From Belfast Raid
2005-01-11 10:30:03+00

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to meet DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin today to discuss the fall-out from last month's £26.5m (€37.8m) bank heist in Belfast.

Mr Paisley has already called for Sinn Féin to be excluded from political life in the North following the PSNI's decision to publicly blame the Provisional IRA for the December 20 raid.

Northern Secretary Paul Murphy is due to outline the British government's response to the IRA's alleged involvement during a speech in the House of Commons today.

There is speculation that Sinn Féin's Westminster allowances may be cut as punishment for the raid.

Meanwhile, in a House of Commons motion, hardline Ulster Unionist MP David Burnside has called on the PSNI to arrest Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness for questioning about the robbery.


SF 'Angry And Perplexed' At Ahern Comment

By Louise McCall
11 January 2005

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness angrily criticised Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday for suggesting that he and colleague Gerry Adams sat down for peace talks last month while aware of a plan to rob the Northern Bank.

Mr McGuinness said he was "angry and perplexed" by Mr Ahern's comment that he was convinced republicans were aware of the plan during intensive political talks in December.

Mr Ahern was responding on Friday to confirmation from the North's police chief Hugh Orde that, in his opinion, the IRA were behind last month's £26.5m heist, despite denials from republicans.

The Sinn Fein MP said Mr Ahern's comments were inaccurate and untrue.

"I reject absolutely any suggestions whatsoever of double-dealing or dishonesty by Gerry Adams or myself," he said.

"I remind people that we in Sinn Fein represent on this island around 340,000 voters and we are not, under any circumstances, going to allow that mandate to be set aside by anyone."

Mr McGuinness said whoever carried out the robbery was hostile to the peace process and to Sinn Fein's agenda.

The comments came as the hard-line anti-agreement DUP prepare to meet with British prime minister Tony Blair in Downing Street today. The DUP is likely to call for Britain to move ahead without Sinn Fein and restore the North's power-sharing government.

Earlier, the Ulster Unionist Party issued a statement calling on Mr Blair to get tough with Sinn Fein, exclude them from government and move to cut their Stormont salaries.

But Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris said he accepted the word of the IRA, as delivered to Martin McGuinness, that the republican organisation was not responsible for the Northern Bank robbery.

There was "a bigger game at play" by the parties who sought to lay the blame for the robbery on the IRA and that was to demonise and marginalise Sinn Fein because the Northern security forces and the Dublin government feared the party's electoral gains, Mr Ferris said.


Call To Minister Over Paramilitary Ceasefires

11/01/2005 - 12:11:09

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy was today urged to look rigorously at the quality of all paramilitary ceasefires as he prepared to brief MPs on the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank raid.

As the British government prepared to spell out the consequences for political talks of the IRA being blamed for the robbery, Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson noted there were concerns about the state of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association’s ceasefire as well as that of the Provisionals.

“There is concern over the status of the UDA ceasefire but the real concern today regards the IRA,” the East Belfast MP said.

“It is vital that the Secretary of State looks rigorously at the quality of the ceasefire of all paramilitary groups.

“Under the Northern Ireland Sentences Act 1998, the Secretary of State, in determining whether an organisation should be specified, must take account whether the organisation ‘has ceased to be involved in any acts of violence or of preparation of violence’.

“The Chief Constable has made it clear that all lines of inquiry are focused on the IRA’s role in the robbery and it is clear from Independent Monitoring Commission reports highlighting ongoing IRA activity that, were the Assembly functioning, they may have recommended exclusion.”

On Friday, Northern Ireland’s most senior policeman, Hugh Orde, triggered a fresh crisis in the peace process when he revealed his investigators believed the IRA carried out last month’s record heist at the Northern Bank.

The implications for the peace process have been huge because it means the IRA was planning the heist while Sinn Féin negotiators were talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern about the ending of all criminal and paramilitary activity during recent sensitive talks.

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness has furiously denied the accusation, claiming Mr Orde has not produced a single shred of evidence.

But the party has been stung by the Taoiseach’s comments at the weekend that republican leaders must have known the robbery was being planned while sensitive negotiations to restore power-sharing and end paramilitarism were taking place.

Mr Robinson said today that the role of Sinn Féin in the largest bank robbery in UK history could not be ignored, nor could its implications for the political process in Northern Ireland.

“It is now the moment of truth for the (British) government in how they deal with this,” the DUP deputy leader said.

“Sinn Féin must face the full consequences for their unwillingness to abandon paramilitarism and criminal activity.

“If no action is taken against Sinn Féin then there is no real sanction against paramilitary groups for carrying out this kind of activity.”

Mr Robinson said the Northern Bank raid had also vindicated his party’s insistence during the recent negotiations that there must be a testing period for the IRA to match any pledges it would make with deeds.

“The DUP has been vindicated in our demands for completion, completion, completion. We were not prepared to take the words of the IRA as proof,” he said.

“That is why there was a requirement for a testing period.

“The Ulster Unionist Party was prepared to take the IRA on trust, on not just one occasion but to enter government on three occasions whilst the IRA carried on with their activities.”


Bloody Sunday Families In Plea For Republican

11 January 2005

The Bloody Sunday families today called on Lord Saville to intervene in the case of a Londonderry republican given a three-month jail term for refusing to testify at his inquiry.

John Kelly, whose teenage brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday, said it was "outrageous" that the man is now facing a prison sentence for refusing to co-operate.

The sentence was handed down by Lord Justices Kerr and Campbell at Belfast High Court on Friday, but police in Derry have not yet received a warrant for the arrest of the man, known to the tribunal as Provisional IRA man 9 (PIRA 9).

The man, who has no previous convictions, was held in contempt of the tribunal for ignoring a witness summons to testify.

He maintained he has no evidence to give because he was not there on the day.

But a witness called Paddy Ward claimed PIRA 9 had been actively involved in the events of Bloody Sunday on January 31, 1972, when paratroopers shot dead 13 men.

The man's solicitor has described Mr Ward's version of events as "a farrago of falsehoods".

John Kelly today appealed to Lord Saville to step in: "Lord Saville should reverse this decision - for an innocent Derry man to be the first and possibly only person to be jailed for what happened on Bloody Sunday is a scandal."

Sinn Féin Leader, Martin McGuinness took a similar line: "He took a decision that this inquiry into the murder of Derry citizens by British troops would not serve the families of the Bloody Sunday victims in particular and the people of Derry in general.

"That the only person to be imprisoned as a result of the murders by British Paratroopers in Derry in 1972 is a Derry republican is a clear indication of the mindset of the British judiciary in Ireland."

Meanwhile, lawyer Greg McCartney said there it was possible PIRA 9 could be re-arrested after his prison term if he refused to obey a fresh summons.


Family Mourns As Conor Body Found

Dental records, DNA samples confirm fears.

By Deborah McAleese
11 January 2005

Distraught family and friends of missing Tyrone man Conor Keightley are in mourning today after his body was found in Thailand.

Conor was officially identified today just hours before his sisters, Michelle McCaughey and Darina Duffy, his uncle, Damien Coyle and cousin Gavin O'Neill, were due to fly home from the disaster-struck region.

The family had been frantically searching the area for information on the 31-year-old from Cookstown when his body was discovered in a mortuary in Krabi.

Dental records and DNA samples were used to confirm it was Mr Keightley.

"It was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make, telephoning Conor's parents to tell them we had found their only son's body," said Mr Coyle, speaking from Krabi this morning.

Conor went missing while on holiday in the Thai resort of Phi Phi after the tsunami struck on Boxing Day and was last seen enjoying a boat trip on Christmas Day.

Throughout their ordeal Conor's family gained strength by clinging to the hope that he would somehow be found alive.

For days they travelled from town to town sifting information about those caught up in the tsunami in a bid to trace him.

The group witnessed the extensive damage the tidal waves had caused as they travelled up and down the coast searching hospitals and police stations.

Mr Coyle said that now Conor's body is found the family can finally grieve.

"Emotions are very raw at the moment. We always said we were going out to Thailand to try and find any information about Conor but right up to the end we still hoped that something positive would happen, that he would be found alive somewhere.

"It is a very difficult time for the family but at least we now know Conor's fate and can begin to grieve."

A statement issued by the Keightley family said: "We know now that Conor was and now is in paradise.

"The family wish to thank those individuals and agencies who have assisted in the search for Conor.

"We thank the people of Ireland and beyond for their thoughts, their generosity and prayers. This has been a pillar of strength for the entire family.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are missing or injured and those who have lost loved ones."

The family members who took part in the search are due to fly home from Thailand later today to be with Conor's parents.

The Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs will make the final arrangements and are due to fly his body home in a week.

Conor is the second confirmed Irish death in the disaster.

Dubliner Eilis Finnegan from Ballyfermot was killed in the same resort as Conor when the tidal wave struck.


Crime The Reason SF Will Not Accept Policing: SDLP

By Chris Thornton
11 January 2005

IRA crime is the real reason Sinn Fein won't join the Policing Board, SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said today as the fallout from the Northern Bank robbery continued to hit the political process.

As Secretary of State Paul Murphy prepared to brief Parliament about the PSNI's belief that the IRA carried out the heist, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness continued to deny any IRA link to the crime.

He warned that Sinn Fein is "a major player" in the peace process, which cannot be pushed aside.

Ulster Unionist Assembly members, however, called for the Government to take the "strongest possible action against republicans in light of their direct involvement in this robbery."

In a statement, the UUP's Assembly group added: "Republicans must see that there are clear political consequences to their action."

Dr McDonnell, a South Belfast MLA, said the robbery had put "beyond doubt" the reasons for Sinn Fein's refusal to back policing.

"Sinn Fein won't sign up for policing because the IRA wants to steal money to benefit themselves," he said.

"Sinn Fein won't accept that if an IRA man is caught red-handed stealing, he should face the law. And it's not just in the north - they won't work with the Garda Siochana in the south, either."

He said Sinn Fein's stance means "nationalists are the losers", because unionists get extra seats on the Policing Board.

"Sinn Fein is standing in the way of everyone working together with the police to get us protection from these crimes."

But Mr McGuinness said his party still has hopes for the paralysed peace deal that would have seen them take a step towards acceptance of policing.

"We have invested huge time and resources in the peace process, as have others, and we will not allow unsubstantiated allegations to deflect us in our work," he said.

"Sinn Féin is a major player in the peace process because over 340,000 people voted for us. We will not allow our mandate to be set-aside on anyone's behalf.

"I am not dismissing the difficulties that this robbery has caused because even before this incident there were difficulties created by the DUP's refusal to share power with Sinn Fein.

"Instead of responding to an agenda set by those who oppose the peace process and use every opportunity to undermine it, political leaders need to examine the facts, defend the Agreement and move on."


Neighbours Fearful As Adair Takes Up Residence

Former UDA boss moves from jail to house in Bolton

By David Gordon
11 January 2005

Bolton neighbours of Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair were today said to be living in fear of the consequences of his arrival in the district.

Adair was released from Maghaberry prison yesterday and flown by military helicopter to England to meet up with his wife, Gina.

As expected, he is now staying at the terraced house in Bolton's Harwich area where his family have been living for almost two years.

The privately-rented house was targeted in a gun attack in April 2003. Eight months later, there was a security alert in Bolton when a device was placed under the car of a leading Adair ally, John "Fat Jackie" Thompson.

Horwich residents today said they were fearful of further attacks on the renegade loyalist grouping, following Adair's arrival.

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "It's worrying that this man has come and people want to kill him.

"If they shot at his wife and children and tried to bomb his friends, heaven knows what they will come and do to him.

"He has as much right to be here as anyone but we need to be protected."

Adair's new home was last night visited by a string of people - believed to be members of his exiled faction who settled in the town after being forced out of Northern Ireland by the UDA.

The former Shankill UDA boss was flown into Manchester yesterday morning, released from prison three days early.

He is under a death threat from former UDA associates over his faction's murder of rival loyalist chief John Gregg in February 2003.

Prison chiefs yesterday said the military helicopter flight was arranged for Adair's safety and to prevent a breach of the peace.

On arrival at Manchester, he was transferred into a car where his wife, who is suffering from ovarian cancer, and police were waiting.

The officers warned him not to break the law while staying in the area.

The vehicle was escorted by two black, unmarked saloons to the family's Harwich house where he slipped in through the rear entrance to avoid photographers.

Dressed casually and carrying a black holdall, Adair smiled as he went into the property and only emerged briefly in the afternoon.


Freed 'Mad Dog' Adair Goes On Run In Fear Of Vengeful UDA

By Louise McCall and Bernard Purcell
11 January 2005

Residents of a quiet suburb of greater Manchester were last night coming to terms with having Northern Ireland's most notorious loyalist terrorist as a neighbour after Johnny Adair was freed from prison into their midst.

Their worries may soon be over, however, as loyalist sources predicted the ex-UDA chief would soon leave Britain to avoid assassination. Mr Adair (41), was released from Maghaberry prison outside Belfast yesterday and flown by RAF helicopter to Manchester before joining his family in a rented house in Horwich, Bolton.

Last night some of his sworn enemies were saying it was just a stop-off on his way to a new life.

Former paramilitary associates bent on killing him would be unable to resist an assassination attempt if he ever set foot in Northern Ireland again and might pursue him to England, senior loyalists warned.

One who suspected Mr Adair may have agreed to inform on their operations in return for protection predicted he will gather his cash and head for Spain.

He said: "If Johnny has done the deal everyone assumes, he will not even stay in England for long. He'll be out of the country if he has any sense."

Mr Adair had been held in near solitary confinement for his own safety at Maghaberry. He travelled to Bolton to be reunited with his wife Gina, reported to be recovering from cancer.

Amid deepening fears in the town that his presence could trigger rising crime, police warned him against establishing underworld connections.

Bolton Chief Superintendent Dave Lea pledged to use intelligence networks to protect the public against any surge in racketeering.

"We welcome anyone to Bolton or Greater Manchester if their intention is to lead a responsible law-abiding life," he said.

On previous releases from jail, 'Mad Dog' Adair had been greeted by hundreds of supporters.

Yesterday there was nobody waiting for Mr Adair, now a hate figure to most former colleagues.

Security officials said they would monitor the loyalist, who ordered the deaths of up to 40 Catholics in the early 1990s, in case he tries to recover the personal fortune - estimated by some at millions of pounds - which he is believed to have hidden after years of crime.

The detective responsible for sending him to jail said Northern Ireland would never be safe as long as the loyalist was free.

Johnston Brown, former detective sergeant with the RUC, whose evidence was crucial to Mr Adair's conviction for directing terrorism in 1995, said Mr Adair was probably already planning his return to the North.

Mr Adair would not stay away for long because his ego would not allow it, said Mr Brown.

"Adair will do a little bit of time in Bolton but he is addicted to gangsterism and the turf war that goes with it," he said. "He will try to reclaim his turf. He still has hundreds of people who would follow him."

Mr Adair commanded the UDA's infamous 'C Company' during the early 1990s, heading a team of assassins responsible for dozens of murders. He was sentenced to 16 years in 1995 and originally released as part of the prisoner early release scheme following the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, but rearrested twice after continuing his terrorist activities.

Following his previous release from jail in 2002, Mr Adair plotted to oust his fellow commanders from the UDA and was blamed for the 2003 assassination of John 'Grug' Gregg, head of the UDA's South-East Antrim brigade.

Mr Adair's family have already made their mark since moving to Bolton. His oldest son, Jonathan, was jailed last year for conspiracy to supply drugs.

All references to Mr Adair have been removed from walls in Belfast's Protestant Shankill Road, where he once ruled supreme. A local said: "If he does come back here, the place will probably end up a war zone."

Even after he was convicted of directing terrorism in 1995, the shaven headed, heavily tattooed paramilitary continued to strike fear into the hearts of Catholics.

With two-thirds of his 16-year sentence completed, he was released days earlier than expected when authorities agreed to temporary parole.

It was the third time he has been freed. Under the Good Friday Agreement and again in May 2002 he strutted through the prison gates to a triumphant reception from hundreds of loyalists.

There was no fanfare this time, however, as he slipped out of the country unnoticed.


Is The Party Over For Johnny Adair?

Notorious loyalist Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair is a free man once again. David Gordon examines the prospects of a paramilitary comeback bid by the former UDA chief

By David Gordon
11 January 2005

What a difference 32 months can make.

In May 2002, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair was greeted by hundreds of cheering loyalists as he walked free from Maghaberry Prison.

The entire UDA leadership was there to welcome him and listen as his sidekick John White told the press that Adair would be a "force for good".

A lower Shankill party was then held in his honour, complete with specially labelled C company champagne bottles featuring the terror leader's face.

There was even talk of Adair standing for election to the Assembly.

This time around, however, there was no waiting crowd of admirers when Adair left Maghaberry.

He was whisked away from the jail in secret and flown to Manchester by military helicopter for his own safety.

That's because the UDA chiefs who warmly shook his hand in the jail car-park in May 2002 now want him dead.

One of their number that day was John "Grug" Gregg, who was gunned down by Adair's supporters just nine months later.

"The John Gregg murder will not be forgotten or forgiven," a loyalist source said last week. "That is unfinished business."

One of Adair's allies, Alan McCullough, learned that to his cost in 2003 when he returned to Belfast thinking he had made his peace with the UDA. His body was found dumped in a shallow grave on the outskirts of north Belfast.

Adair had himself stated that on release he would head for Bolton - the Lancashire bolt-hole of his family and closest supporters who were chased from the Shankill by the UDA after Gregg's slaying.

His longer-term intentions are far from clear, and a comeback attempt in the Ulster paramilitary scene cannot be ruled out.

Adair strutted from prison in 2002 wearing a "Replay" t-shirt.

Pretty soon, history was indeed repeating itself as he squared up once again to loyalist bosses he despised.

The police could be forgiven for some nervousness about the prospects of another "Replay", however unlikely it may seem at present.

Adair may have the odds stacked against him, but he's notoriously unpredictable and not the type to go quietly.

Johnston Brown, the retired police officer who put him behind bars in the 1990s, summed it up well in recent days when he said:"He should not be underestimated or written off. He's not ever going to just go away.

"He's not the sort of person who will end up washing dishes in a pub for a living."

Loyalist and security sources are giving varying assessments of the Adair support base still left in Northern Ireland.

There has been some speculation that he still has up to 200 loyal supporters on the Shankill who have been keeping their heads down while he was inside.

Other sources say any such element has been "cowed" by the mainstream UDA.

It is also believed that there may be pockets of support in some areas including the LVF's mid-Ulster stronghold.

Adair's LVF links have provoked two loyalist feuds in recent years - firstly between the UDA and UVF and then within the UDA itself.

The LVF disowned him over the Gregg murder but some personal and "business" connections may still be in place.

When Secretary of State Paul Murphy sent Adair back to jail in January 2003, he accused him of involvement in drug dealing, extortion and money laundering activities.

Such a cash-rich operation could not be built up without links to crime networks, reaching across Northern Ireland and further afield.

It's not known how much of this empire remains intact.

John White, the most openly wealthy of the old Adair gang, is not in Bolton and his current location is not known.

There have been reports of a rift between Adair and White.

There is also mystery over the current whereabouts of the proceeds of White's business activities, which he famously claimed began with the sale of prison handicrafts.

Adair's family and remaining C company allies are certainly not living in luxury in Bolton.

His wife Gina had £68,890 confiscated from her by Scottish police when she was fleeing Northern Ireland. She subsequently failed in a legal bid to get a council house in Bolton.

An attempt by the Shankill exiles to break into the Lancashire drugs scene ended disastrously last year when a number of them - including Adair's teenage son Jonathan - were imprisoned for dealing in heroin and crack cocaine.

The general consensus is that Adair does not appear to have the resources or muscle these days to take on his loyalist enemies.

But that might not stop him trying…


Belfast Loyalist (Ihab Shoukri) Wants To Remain In Jail

10/01/2005 - 15:32:39

A Belfast loyalist has asked to be kept in jail.

Ihab Shoukri is awaiting trial on a charge of membership of the UDA.

His barrister has said Mr Shoukri did not accept a condition of his bail, that he keep out of Belfast. He claims that the ban is affecting his health as he cannot live with his girlfriend.

Last month, the 31- year-old collapsed in a betting shop in Bangor where he had been living since he was banned from Belfast.


Bogside Vandal Alert

By Brendan McDaid
11 January 2005

Sinn Fein today called on young people in the Bogside to review their actions after a number of windows were smashed.

Youths have been blamed after the windows of several unoccupied flats in Dove Gardens were pelted over the weekend.

Sinn Fein candidate Patricia Logue said: "I want to appeal to young people in the Bogside to stop this activity and to think about the possible consequences of their actions.

"I would like to pay tribute to the Housing Executive who have responded in a prompt and efficient manner to the concerns of local residents.

"Their quick actions in shuttering up the empty flats is to be applauded."

Councillor Peter Anderson said residents had campaigned long and hard to secure the redevelopment of Dove Gardens.

He added: "It would be a disgrace if the results of all that hard work was to become a source of anti-community behaviour.

"I call on young people to desist from behaviour that is putting the safety of local people at risk."


Committee Receives 2,000 Submissions Against Tara Motorway

11/01/2005 - 13:18:11

Heritage campaigners have delivered 2,000 submissions to the Oireachtas Transport Committee opposing plans to build a motorway through the historic landscape surrounding the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.

The submissions were collected by the Save Tara-Skryne Valley group at various locations throughout Ireland over the weekend.

The group is campaigning for a re-routing of the M3 motorway away from the Tara-Skryne Valley, which is rich with archaeology dating back to the Stone Age.

Vincent Salafia, a spokesman for the Save Tara-Skryne Valley group, said the argument against the current route of the motorway was based on economics as well as archaeological protection.

He said lengthy court battles and painstaking excavations mean the M3, in its current form, could not be completed before 2015.

"It would actually be cheaper and delivered quicker if they re-routed the motorway now," he added.

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