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January 13, 2005

01/13/05 – Robbery Is Being Used To Kill Peace

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

IT 01/14/05 Robbery 'Is Being Used To Kill Peace Process' –V
IT 01/14/05 Adams Says Phone Calls To Taoiseach Are Unanswered
IT 01/14/05 McDowell Accuses SF Of Lying About Crimes
IC 01/13/05 New Mystery Over White Van
IA 01/13/05 San Francisco Labor Council Supports Mcallister Family
IN 01/13/05 Ban Mark Thatcher From U.S.
BB 01/13/05 Interpol Seeks Colombian Three
IT 01/14/05 Omagh Inquiry To Be Scrutinised
IT 01/14/05 Washington's 'Lawless Example' Condemned
SO 01/14/05 No Surrender To The Censors
IT 01/14/05 Donegal Ceramics Plant To Close
IT 01/14/05 90 Jobs To Go As Textile Plant Closes
IT 01/14/05 An Taisce Criticises One-Off Holiday Homes
IT 01/14/05 US Driver In OCuiv Crash Charged With Dangerous Driving
IO 01/13/04 Pupils Have 'Lift Off' For Irish Astronaut Project

RT 01/13/04 Nation mourns the murder of Robert Holohan –VO (3)

Nation mourns the murder of Robert Holohan - Rita O'Reilly attempts to figure out what happened in the final hours of the life of the 11-year-old Midleton boy and consequently in the days following his death

Asst Commissioner Tony Hickey speaks at tonight's garda press conference

Denis Ring, Principal of CBS Secondary School, Midleton, Ralph Riegel, Southern Correspondent, Irish Independent and Rachel O'Connell, Forensic Psychologist, University of Central Lancashire, discuss issues surrounding the tragedy and the investigation into it


Brendan Wright reports on the widening rift between Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáíl


Robbery 'Is Being Used To Kill Peace Process' -V

The Sinn Féin leader answered a series of questions on the recent bank robbery at a press conference in Belfast yesterday.

Northern Editor Gerry Moriarty reports

Q Would you expect the IRA to tell you the truth about the Northern Bank robbery considering that they at first denied killing Det Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare in 1996? Can we believe their denials?

Mr Adams: Well, it's a matter for you whether you believe it or not. The IRA has said it did not do it. In my opinion the IRA is telling the truth. Hugh Orde said "in my opinion"(the IRA did it).

He has his opinion. I have my opinion. He may be putting forward his opinion based on intelligence, maybe based on whatever information he has.

Is this the same intelligence which started the war in Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction? Is this the same intelligence that put the Guildford Four or the Birmingham Six [ in prison] or refused to co-operate with the Barron Commission?

He may in good faith be saying that. But he may be wrong. I believe what the IRA is saying.

Q There is a fundamental [ political] implication about who is believed?

Mr Adams: I don't care whether you believe me. I don't care whether anybody listening to me believes me. Of course, I would like people to. I don't care. The reason I don't care is this: this incident is being used to kill this peace process.

This incident is being used to have a gang-up on Sinn Féin.

This incident is being used to try and impinge upon the integrity of the Sinn Féin leadership.

So all we can do is give our opinion. And you are entitled to believe or not . . .

But there are other questions. What happens if and when it emerges the IRA weren't involved? Do you all apologise to me? Does Hugh Orde come out and say, 'I am sorry, I got it wrong?' I have as much right to be believed as Hugh Orde.

You remember that. I have as much right for people to give me the benefit of the doubt as for any other . . . I have as much right to be believed in stating honestly my opinion on this issue.

Q You believe the IRA did not do it. Why has P. O'Neill not issued a similar statement?

Mr Adams: No, I can't give an answer to that.

Q Do formal IRA statements not normally require the P. O'Neill "imprimatur"?

Mr Adams: Just take my advice on this, the next time I read in your paper of record [addressed to The Irish Times] that 'government sources say', I would like you to take the same forensic approach as this. It is quite clear that the IRA deny involvement, that's quite clear.

[ Leaving] that to one side it is also quite clear that we in the Sinn Féin leadership believe what the IRA tell us.

Q Is there any possibility that this was an unsanctioned or unofficial act?

Mr Adams: If they didn't do it, they didn't do it.

Q Have you any idea who did it?

Mr Adams: I don't want this to run as a line or as a suggestion, but out of the sort-of-credit being given that the IRA might have done it was that no one else could have done it . . . Well, there are lots of disgruntled former RUC officers who could have done it.

You have for people of my generation the memory of the Littlejohns [self-proclaimed British agents Kenneth and Keith Littlejohn, who were convicted in 1973 of the biggest bank robbery until then in Irish history - £67,000 in October 1972 from a Dublin bank. They said the purpose of the robbery was to have the IRA blamed].

We have the unresolved issue of operations which were blamed on the IRA but were later found out to be by loyalists or MI5. So I can't tell you who I think did it, but I don't think that the IRA is the only group of people who have the capacity to do it.

Q Are you hearing anything on the ground that other republican activists did it?

Mr Adams: No, I am not, but all I am hearing is that people don't know who did it.

Q If somebody is properly convicted of this crime are you happy that you won't be campaigning for their early release?

Mr Adams: I am not going to go up that road with you, because it is a totally hypothetical situation - from the Chief Constable saying that it's his opinion, that you are going take this through the due process, through all of that, and then you are going to ask me am I going to campaign for the release of the people involved. Get real.

Q How do you convince [ Hugh Orde] the IRA did not do it?

Mr Adams: How do I do that? You know, when did I stop beating my wife - let's get real about all of this, and let's deal with the realities of all of this.

You have an opinion from the senior police officer that the IRA was involved. You have the IRA telling senior Sinn Féin people, 'We were not involved'.

You have us saying: 'In our opinion the IRA was not involved.'

Now, we could go over that and over that and over that, and we are not going to change unless something shattering, or new evidence, or something else comes in to make us change our mind.

© The Irish Times


Adams Says Phone Calls To Taoiseach Are Unanswered

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, has complained that his telephone calls to the Taoiseach to discuss the political consequences of the Northern Bank robbery have gone unanswered for the last week, writes Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

Mr Adams said he had phoned every day since Monday, first "more in disappointment than anger" last Friday.

"After 10 years the least I thought, if we are into this serious juncture, is that Bertie Ahern would have lifted the phone, as he has done numerous times, and said, 'Gerry, A, B and C'."

Mr Adams said he was not saying that Mr Ahern refused to take his calls. "I am also told he is on a break at the moment. I am told he hasn't been available for any media whatsoever and I have to believe that. But, as I said to the official, if the Taoiseach wanted to meet me he would meet me. If the Taoiseach wanted to make a call to me, he would make a call to me."

The Taoiseach's spokeswoman said Mr Ahern was on a short holiday break at the moment as he had had a busy working Christmas. He would be flying to China this weekend and would be available to meet Mr Adams on his return.

Mr Adams said he wanted to repudiate the Taoiseach's belief that the Sinn Féin leadership knew during the recent political negotiations with the British and Irish governments of the plan to rob the Northern Bank.

The PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, believes the £26.5 million robbery was carried out by the Provisional IRA.

Mr Adams said he respected the Taoiseach but he had urged him, through an official, not to make his allegations of the Sinn Féin leadership knowing about the planned robbery until he first spoke to him.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, has fired a fierce broadside against Sinn Féin and the IRA. He spoke of a republican project to "rewrite history and to baptise the most brutal, cowardly, blood- soaked, divisive, anti-republican, sectarian, hate-driven and destructive terror campaign as a heroic struggle for peace and human rights.

"The massive untruth at the heart of Sinn Féin is that it claims to operate as an organisation wholly separate from the IRA. In fact, as the Taoiseach has said repeatedly, Sinn Féin and the IRA are two sides of one coin," added Mr McDowell.

He said the Provisional leadership "betrayed the Tricolour and the reconciliation that it symbolises. They have hijacked history. They have put a gun to the head of hope."

© The Irish Times


McDowell Accuses SF Of Lying About Crimes

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

The Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, has accused Sinn Féin and the IRA of lying about criminal activity when it suits them, saying there was no reason to disbelieve that the IRA had carried out the Northern Bank robbery.

Mr McDowell said the moment of truth had now arrived for what he called the Provisional leadership. There was no room in the democratic institutions of the Republic of Ireland or the North for those who could not or would not operate independently of the IRA army council, he said.

Mr McDowell said senior Sinn Féin figures who play a senior role in the IRA were responsible for IRA violence, kidnapping, exiling and torture. "This responsibility must also apply to the recent Northern Bank robbery."

The Minister said he had no reason to disbelieve the PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, when he said he believed the IRA had carried out the robbery. He contrasted the statement from Mr Orde - "a level-headed, professional and honest policeman" - with Sinn Féin's insistence that IRA denials should be accepted unquestioningly.

He said Sinn Féin and the IRA "have lied repeatedly about criminality when it suited them". They had initially denied the Enniskillen bombing, the importation of weapons from Cuba a year after the Belfast Agreement was signed, and having a representative in Cuba when asked about the arrest in Colombia of their representative in Cuba, Mr Niall Connolly.

He quoted a past statement of Mr Adams: "The IRA has denied any involvement and I accept that . . . Crimes like this can play no part in the republican struggle and those who are seeking to blame Sinn Féin know this."

But he pointed out: "The Sinn Féin president wasn't speaking of the Northern Bank robbery when he uttered those words. He spoke those words in June 1996 after a gang of IRA men killed Garda Jerry McCabe while robbing a post office van in Adare, Co Limerick."

He said these words underlined and re-echoed Mr Adams's recent theme that IRA members do not commit crimes. "Note also that those who attributed blame to the Provos for that vicious crime are, as usual, themselves accused of bad faith. The constant implication is that they are hostile to the peace process.

"Now reconcile his claim that such crimes can play no part in the republican struggle with the nauseating posed photographs by Sinn Féin's TDs with the McCabe killers and their publication in the Sinn Féin newspaper."

He then quoted Mr Adams's strikingly similar comments about the Northern Bank raid: "The IRA has said it wasn't involved. I believe that to be the case."

The Minister said: "Does any sane person believe that the IRA or Sinn Féin would now acknowledge that it had carried out the Northern Bank robbery?"

He contrasted the credibility he said attached to Mr Orde's statement with the lack of credibility he suggested attached to Sinn Féin and the IRA.

"The degree of trust which he has earned contrasts completely with the gross degradation of trust by those who criticise him most and who now impugn his motivation."

He challenged Mr Martin McGuinness's statement this week that "Gerry Adams and I work on the basis that you can't tell lies within the peace process. If you tell lies you get caught out and then irreparable damage is done".

But, he went on, Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness "have made a career in the peace process of overpromising and underdelivering".

He said they had told Mr George Mitchell and Mr David Trimble in 1999 that IRA decommissioning would happen after the Northern Ireland Executive was first set up - by January 30th, 2000 - but it didn't.

"In early 2003, the Irish Government was led to believe that it was the intention of the Provisionals to hold the requisite army conventions to end IRA paramilitarism." This hadn't happened.

"The massive untruth at the heart of Sinn Féin is that it claims to operate as an organisation wholly separate from the IRA. In fact, as the Taoiseach has said repeatedly, Sinn Féin and the IRA are two sides of one coin.

"The Independent Monitoring Commission concluded that there was an overlap at senior leadership level between the IRA and Sinn Féin.

"That confirmed what I had previously said about the presence of household names on the army council," he said.

"It follows that the senior Sinn Féin figures who play a senior role in the IRA are responsible for the pattern of violence, kidnapping, exiling and torture which the IMC is satisfied are under the control of the IRA's most senior leadership.

"This responsibility must also apply to the recent Northern Bank robbery."

He said Sinn Féin and the IRA were not republican and that Irish people, North and South, must stand up to "the deceptions, deceits, propaganda and stratagems of the Provisional movement.

"There is no room for the army council in Ireland's future".

© The Irish Times


New Mystery Over White Van

We never said it went up Grosvenor, say cops

The PSNI last night moved to distance itself from a blizzard of press reports in the immediate aftermath of the Northern Bank raid which claimed that the white van said to be carrying the money made its escape along the Grosvenor Road.

A spokesperson said that at no time had cops claimed that the van had made its way along the Grosvenor Road after the robbery, although a huge number of stories in the days after the heist attributed just such a claim to the PSNI.

The spokesperson claimed that the PSNI statement had only said that the van had headed “in the direction of the Grosvenor Road/Westlink”. But because Belfast city centre is a one-way system, as the van made its way along Howard Street after leaving the bank, it could have been headed for any part of the city.

Confusion has been further heightened by the lack of CCTV footage from the battery of cameras surrounding Grosvenor Road barracks.

Mystery last night surrounded the escape route of the white van the PSNI says was used in the £26.5m Northern Bank raid.

A torrent of stories in the print and broadcast media in the days and weeks after the robbery claimed that the van left the scene and proceeded up the Grosvenor Road. That information was attributed to the PSNI.

Yesterday we asked the PSNI: “Does the PSNI have any evidence that the white van involved in the Northern Bank robbery made its escape afterwards along the Grosvenor Road?”

A PSNI spokesperson responded: “The Senior Investigating Officer heading up this investigation has said that on leaving the bank the van travelled towards the Grosvenor Road/Westlink. Evidence relating to any live investigation is not made public for obvious reasons.”

Earlier, the PSNI told us that at no time had they ever claimed that the van made its escape along the Grosvenor Road. The PSNI say what they actually said was that in the course of making their escape the robbers travelled along Howard Street, in the direction of the Grosvenor Road. But since Belfast city centre is a one-way system, the van could have been making its way to any part of the city.

Widespread media coverage claiming the robbers made their escape along the Grosvenor Road was a powerful indicator that the robbers were making their way back to West Belfast – and from this it was widely deduced that republicans were behind the heist.

There are two high-tech cameras mounted on a post across from Grosvenor PSNI station and directed at traffic driving up the Grosvenor Road and into West Belfast. There is also a battery of powerful surveillance and monitoring equipment located inside and on the perimeter wall of Grosvenor Road barracks. It’s also believed that the barracks is equipped with a sophisticated registration plate identification equipment similar to that used by Andersonstown barracks before it was abandoned.

And yet the only photograph of the white van published so far is a poor quality image taken by a PSNI CCTV camera as the van made its way along College Square East, past Inst, on its first run on the night of the robbery.

On Tuesday, the PSNI said at the press conference that they “were aware” that the white van had been spotted crossing the border at around 5pm on the day the bank was stripped. The PSNI added that the white van made its way into Belfast city centre via the Westlink and Grosvenor Road. But, again, no images have been produced and cops did not say on what evidence they are basing this assertion.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Irish American Unity Conference
San Francisco Chapter
248 East Poplar Street
Stockton, California 95202
Phone - 415-244 3036

For Immediate Release January 13, 2005

San Francisco Labor Council Supports Mcallister Family

SAN FRANCISCO- In a unanimous vote that brought members of the crowded hall to their feet, the San Francisco Labor Council passed a resolution supporting the granting of asylum to Malachy Mc Allister and his family.

The resolution, which was passed at the Labor Council’s monthly meeting in December, calls on the Bush administration to grant asylum to Malachy Mc Allister and his family. The Mc Allister family fled Northern Ireland after an unsuccessful assassination attempt by a loyalist death squad. The killers arrived on an evening when Malachy and his late wife Bernadette were not at their Belfast home, and instead turned their guns on the Mc Allister children and their grandmother who was babysitting for them.

As the death squad forced their way into the family home, the children and their grandmother barricaded themselves on the second floor. Unable to reach the family, the attackers poured over two dozen rounds from an AK 47 submachine gun through the ceiling of the home narrowly missing the family huddled upstairs. With that, the Mc Allisters fled Northern Ireland to seek asylum in this country. Amazingly, in a case that would be a model for political asylum, their petition was denied.

As the case for their deportation wound through the Immigration Courts, one decision would have granted asylum to the family while deporting Mr. Mc Allister, and in a perverse reversal of that decision, would have deported the family while allowing Mr. Mc Allister to pursue his request for asylum.

Although Mr. Mc Allister was granted bail by the immigration court, the family home was invaded by the Department of Homeland Security, in November, 2003. Soon after, and no doubt hastened by the stress of this situation, Bernadette Mc Allister fell into a coma and passed away in May, 2004.

In July 2003 a similar resolution was adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council, supporting Ciarán Ferry. Ciarán a former Irish political prisoner, who spent seven and a half years in Long Kesh prison before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Following his release, Ciarán came to the United States in 2000 with his American citizen wife after his life was threatened by loyalist paramilitaries. Mr. Ferry was in what is known as a “period of lawful presence authorized by the Attorney General,” when he was arrested in Denver Colorado, in January 2003. However, unlike every other alien in similar circumstances, Ferry was denied a lawful hearing on his “green card” application, ordered deported and incarcerated without bond. Mr. Ferry had been in a Denver jail for over 700 days. Ciaran Ferry was deported before Christmas on December 23rd.

Jerry Path, the delegate from the Sign and Display Union Local 510, introduced the McAllister Family Resolution to the San Francisco Labor Council, and was followed by John Fogarty of the Irish American Unity Conference whose brief words brought home to the Labor Council members that we all must be ever aware that the rights given to us all, by the United States Constitution are slowly being eroded away.

George Trainor
Vice President
Contact: George Trainor


Irish National Caucus
Press Release

Ban Mark Thatcher From U.S.

Apply Bush Doctrine

Capitol Hill. Thursday, January 13, 2005 ---- Irish-Americans feel that --- if there is to be a fair and balanced policy -- Mark Thatcher should not be allowed to enter the U.S., having pleaded guilty to involvement in the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt.

" Such an attempt surely comes under the heading of international terrorism", said Father Sean Mc Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus. " If Irish persons have been banned from entering the U.S. for far lesser reasons, then surely this would- be mercenary should be banned, too? ' If you harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist', is the Bush doctrine. Then President Bush should apply it to Thatcher and bar him entry to the U.S.

Fr. Mc Manus went on to explain: "President Bush has already shown a double standard by funding a terrorist, Tim Spicer, with a $293 Million contract in Iraq.

He must not now compound his error by giving safe harbor to Thatcher, a buddy of Spicer."

"Both Thatcher and Spicer belonged to a gang of English white guys out to plunder Africa, 'white man's burden and all that'. Spicer, now moved to Iraq, is plundering the American tax payer to the tune of $293 Million, with the blessing of President Bush"


Father Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. Box 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20003-0849


Interpol Seeks Irish Trio Warrant

Interpol in Colombia has asked its head office to issue an international arrest warrant for three Irishmen convicted of training Marxist rebels in the country.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were sentenced to 17 years after an appeal court reversed their earlier acquittal on the charge.

The men vanished while on bail awaiting last month's court of appeal decision.

They could be arrested in 182 countries if a "red notice" is issued by Interpol for their capture.

The men, who had been accused of being IRA members, were found guilty in the April trial of travelling on false passports.

They were acquitted of training Farc guerrillas, but the Colombian attorney general appealed against that decision.

A judge had ordered the men to remain in the country pending the outcome of the appeal.

Airport arrests

McCauley, 41, is from Lurgan in County Armagh, Monaghan, 58, is from County Donegal and Connolly, 38, is from Dublin.

The three had been detained at Bogota's El Dorado airport in August 2001 as they were about to board a flight out of the country.

Their arrest led to speculation that Irish republicans had formed links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

The main charge against them was that they had been teaching the rebels urban terrorism techniques.

The Irishmen strenuously denied this, saying they were in the area to monitor the fledgling peace process as well as being eco-tourists.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/13 17:10:17 GMT


Omagh Inquiry To Be Scrutinised

Part of the Omagh bomb inquiry is to be investigated by the North's Police Ombudsman, Ms Nuala O'Loan, it was confirmed last night.

Her office is to look into the circumstances surrounding an anonymous telephone call which warned of an attack in the town on the day of the atrocity.

The Ombudsman will be seeking details after it emerged that a former Special Branch officer is to be interviewed by detectives attempting to establish the source of the call.

It was made to police on August 4th, l998, 11 days before the bombing, but the information was never passed to officers.

Relatives of some of the 29 people killed had urged the Ombudsman to carry out her own investigation into the phone call.

Her spokesman confirmed last night that her officers, headed by the executive director, Mr Dave Wood, were on the case.

"The Police Ombudsman's office is now investigating all the circumstances relating to this matter," the spokesman said.

A male caller contacted the CID office in Omagh at 10 a.m. on August 4th, 1998, when he spoke to a detective constable.

He named two men who he claimed would be bringing across the Border four dismantled AK47 rifles and two rocket-launchers belonging to the Continuity IRA which, he said, would be used in an attack on police in Omagh on August 15th.

At the time, the CID officer believed the caller to be genuine, briefed the senior detective on duty and then travelled to Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, where he informed Special Branch officers. They allegedly told him there was nothing in the information and that the two men named were ordinary criminals.


Washington's 'Lawless Example' Condemned

US: The United States has done "enormous damage" to the global system of human rights by its use of torture and other coercive interrogation techniques, according to Human Rights Watch, the largest independent human rights organisation based in the US, reports Conor O'Clery from New York

In its 15th annual world report, Human Rights Watch also castigates the US and other countries for not taking steps to end the slaughter in Darfur.

In a scathing indictment of the Bush administration over the Abu Ghraib scandal, it charges that Washington's "lawless example" has weakened human rights worldwide.

Abu Ghraib is the prison in Baghdad which US forces took over and turned into a detention and interrogation centre after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. In May 2004, photographs of the ill-treatment of people held there in US custody shocked the world.

"To make matters worse, the Bush administration has developed outrageous legal theories to try to justify many of its coercive techniques," the report states. "Whether defining torture so narrowly as to render its prohibition meaningless, suggesting bogus legal defences for torturers, or claiming that the president has inherent power to order torture, the administration and its lawyers have directly challenged the absolute ban on abusing detainees."

The US embrace of coercive interrogation had moreover given countries like Egypt, Malaysia, Russia and Cuba cover for their own violations of human rights.

"The US government is less and less able to push for justice abroad, because it is unwilling to see justice done at home," said the organisation's director, Mr Kenneth Roth. "Washington can't very well uphold principles that it violates itself."

The report calls on Mr Bush and the US Congress to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate responsibility and to establish a fully-independent commission of inquiry.

The unlikely prospect of that happening was underlined by a report in yesterday's New York Times that the White House successfully urged Congressional leaders last month to drop part of a bill that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of torture and inhumane treatment.

In a comparison likely to infuriate the White House, the report concludes that the two fundamental threats to human rights in the world today are the ethnic cleansing in Darfur and the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Each has an insidious effect, one involving "indifference in the face of the worst imaginable atrocities", the other emblematic of "a powerful government flouting a most basic prohibition".

Washington's disregard for international standards is "senseless" and "counterproductive", said Mr Roth. When the most vocal advocate of democracy deliberately violated human rights "it undermines democratically inclined reformers and strengthens the appeal of those who preach more radical visions."

The report notes that although Mr Bush vowed wrongdoers in the Abu Ghraib scandal would be brought to justice, no one above the rank of sergeant has faced prosecution. It challenges the finding of the US Schlesinger report that abuses at Abu Ghraib resulted from "management failure".

They were rather the direct product of "an environment of lawlessness" created by policy decisions taken at the highest levels of the Bush administration and supported by "a chorus of partisan pundits and academics" in the US who were "all too eager to abandon the principles on which their nation was founded", says the report.

These decisions included:

The decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners held at Guantanamo, which ensured that "the gloves came off";

The decision to interpret "torture" narrowly and to "disappear" 11 or more terrorist suspects mainly in Afghanistan where beatings, threats and sexual humiliation were still being reported and six persons died in US custody;

The refusal to prosecute soldiers implicated in two deaths in Afghanistan in 2002 ruled as homicides;

The approval by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to allow interrogation at Guantanamo that violated the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and possibly the ban on torture;

The approval by a Bush administration official of "water boarding" where the victim is made to believe he is drowning;

Sending suspects to Syria, Uzbekistan and Egypt, which practise systematic torture;

The decision to undermine the International Criminal Court;

And the decision "to concoct dubious legal theories to justify torture."

Human Rights Watch also argues that a "warped and dangerous logic" lay behind the use of torture as it was less likely to produce reliable information. The report also faults EU governments Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the UK for returning or trying to return prisoners to countries where they are at risk of torture, and says the UK helped erode human rights standards by allowing foreign terrorist suspects to be detained without trial. This compromised the EU's ability to fill the void left by Washington.

The US is also accused of violating the laws of war in Iraq through killing incapacitated combatants, using unnecessary force against civilians and detaining hundreds of Iraqis "in accordance with no evident law".

The report also accuses the US of domestic human rights violations, including the misuse of a federal material witness law "to secretly arrest and detain Muslim men in the US without charge", and the violation of the rights of immigrants. It notes that harsh sentencing policies mean that the US with less than 5 per cent of the world's population holds 23 per cent of the world's prisoners.

The situation in Darfur meanwhile "is making a mockery of our vows of 'never again'," said Mr Roth, referring to the UN failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda.

The situation "cried out" for international involvement but the US, the UK and Australia were bogged down in Iraq, France was committed elsewhere, Canada was cutting back its peacekeeping commitments and Nato and the EU were preoccupied in Afghanistan and Bosnia so that "everyone has something more important to do than save the people of Darfur."

The US has gone so far as to say that "no new action is dictated" by its determination that genocide was taking place.

The 527-page report also accuses dozens of other countries of human rights abuses. It charges Israel with serious violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza and the West Bank, and accuses the Palestinian Authority of failing to take steps to halt suicide bombings.

It accuses Russia of widespread police torture and of further eroding human rights in the conflict over Chechnya.

© The Irish Times


No Surrender To The Censors

The director of a Belfast photography gallery on a recent spat over ‘blasphemous’ art.

by Pauline Hadaway

Belfast City Council arts subcommittee recently passed a vote of censure against the Vacuum, a local arts and cultural review, following a complaint that it contained material which was offensive to Christians.

According to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor Hugh Smyth, articles published in the magazine, including a 'discussion of exorcism', a 'description of devil proverbs' and an article entitled 'I peed in church', were blasphemous and promoted devil worship. Although these allegations proved unsustainable, the censure motion was passed by a coalition of nationalist, Unionist and Alliance councillors on the basis that the publishers, council-funded arts group Factotum, had distributed material that is 'offensive, in bad taste and contains foul language'.

Sinn Fein, current holders of the arts committee chair, voted against the motion, arguing that 'the council has no right to interfere with the end products of arts organisations we fund'. Nonetheless, the committee subsequently decided to hold back part of a £5000 annual award, requiring Factotum to first make an apology to the people of Belfast. The committee also signalled that it reserves the right to restrict access to future funding opportunities 'if the arts or heritage activity causes gratuitous offence to individuals, groups or communities or contains material that is sexually explicit or racist'.

Factotum responded by inviting individuals and institutions to join it in a day of mass public contrition, where apology could be made for all offence ever given. Belfast's Sorry Day, celebrated on 15 December 2004, included feet-washing, open confession and bottom-spanking in the city's Cornmarket. The council has yet to respond, but reactions among Belfast's Christmas shoppers - ranging from disinterest to amused bewilderment - appear to indicate that even in this most God-fearing of cities, insulting Christians is a far less risky business than offending Sikhs in godless Birmingham (see Curtains for free speech, by Dolan Cummings).

With a long tradition of 'kick the Pope'-style bigotry, Northern Ireland introduced legislation banning incitement to religious hatred back in 1970. In spite of countless provocations, including a city councillor who modestly proposed that Catholic children in Belfast would be better housed in incinerators than schools, fewer than a handful of successful prosecutions have ever been brought.

With public policy orientated towards building and sustaining 'good relations', it is not surprising that the Belfast City Council has given support to arts organisations that reflected these priorities. In June 2002, DUP councillor Nelson McCausland, then chair of the arts subcommittee, listed 'the promotion of cultural diversity' and 'further exploration of positive images of Belfast' as two key benefits of localised cultural activity. In guidelines published in 2004, the council promised to 'extend and enrich participation in the arts' by supporting organisations with 'a track record of demonstrating respect, tolerance and/or undertaking activities which are neither threatening or offensive'.

In the subsidised sector, where the space between artistic freedom and public policy has always been contested, artists generally accept the requirement to demonstrate the external benefits of their work, over and above the principle of 'art for art's sake'. Increasingly, artists' pragmatic approach to policy guidelines has grown into an enthusiasm for partnership with policymakers. In Belfast, artists have lobbied long and hard to promote their status as political movers and shakers, bringers of peace, prosperity and progress.

The dispute between Factotum and Belfast City Council is less about blasphemy, pornography or artists kicking against conformity, and more about what happens when these political and cultural partnerships break down. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of the dispute is the sheer inoffensiveness of the contested material, particularly in a cultural context of mainstream TV shows where 'ordinary couples' have sex on camera, or even compared to the average content of teenage lifestyle magazines and tabloid newspapers.

The problem lies with cultural policies that reflect an entirely instrumental view of the arts. Where there is an expectation that arts and cultural activity will always produce specified social benefits, and where artists, arts institutions and policymakers talk the same language, being even slightly 'off message' can be enough to get you into hot water.

You failed to deliver a 'positive image of the city'? You published material that an individual or community found offensive? These are narrow boundaries and unfortunately the ground is further narrowing, as definitions of what is offensive are stretched to include hurt feelings, being upset, or just feeling uncomfortable.

How do policymakers suppose that they can encourage greater participation in public life by restricting thought and speech within the boundaries of inoffensiveness? And how do we propose to cultivate a spirit of solidarity and tolerance across Belfast's lines of difference, by restricting the expression of one community on the basis that another community might claim hurt feelings?

Whatever the quality (or otherwise) of Factotum's disputed artwork, the case shows that artists need to renegotiate relationships with policymakers, standing up for their own interests and recognising the creative value of dissent. Complaints about political interference carry little weight if artists and arts organisations are not prepared to affirm the intrinsic value of their work, one of its principal virtues being a capacity to make people feel uncomfortable.

Pauline Hadaway is director of Belfast Exposed Gallery of Photography. Belfast Exposed focuses on the development and exhibition of contemporary photography, portraying social and political ideas from local perspectives.


Donegal Ceramics Plant To Close

Paddy Clancy

Ceramic goods manufacturer Donegal Parian China is closing its operation in Ballyshannon and moving across the Border four miles away to the plant of its sister company, Belleek Pottery, in Co Fermanagh.

The plant may shed up to 54 jobs, 10 of them part-time.

The firm said redundancies were inevitable but it could not say how many jobs would be axed. It said work would be available for some Ballyshannon staff in Belleek.

A company spokesman said the Donegal Parian brand would continue to be marketed, although it would now be manufactured in Northern Ireland.

Local councillors said yesterday the development marked the end of tourism and industry in Ballyshannon.

Cllr Seán McEniff of Fianna Fáil, who is also chairman of the North West Regional Tourism Authority, said: "I am very disappointed. Ballyshannon is the worst employment spot in the county. Now it has no factory."

He said the Minister for Enterprise, Mr Martin, was certain to face questions from business and community leaders in a planned visit to the area next month.

Cllr Barry O'Neill of Fine Gael, who lives in Ballyshannon, said the closure, scheduled to take place before the end of March, would also mean the loss of thousands of tourists to the Donegal Parian visitor centre.

Mr O'Neill (31), an RTÉ sports broadcaster who entered politics in last summer's local elections, added: "It's one of my saddest days in the past six months."

© The Irish Times


90 Jobs To Go As Textile Plant Closes

Anne Lucey

The Sara Lee textile manufacturing plant in Killarney, Co Kerry, is to stop production in the next few weeks with the loss of more than 90 jobs, a statement from the company announced yesterday.

The plant, which manufactures seamless ladies' underwear for the European market, will cease production between February and March. Mr Daniel Marie, vice-president product sourcing, blamed over-capacity in the seamless knitted product.

"Despite having made considerable progress in operating performance, we do not believe that the market will require this amount of capacity in the foreseeable future," he said.

Sara Lee greatly regretted the job losses and would do all it could to assist its employees in finding employment, Mr Marie said. Meetings with the trade unions, work force representatives and the 92 employees would start immediately and Sara Lee (Ireland) Ltd would be providing an employee support programme including one-to-one consultations with employees.

The factory opened in 1999 in the former Pretty Polly tight manufacturing plant, also owned by the Sara Lee corporation, with the promise of 300 jobs. Some £14 million was invested in the premises, and more than 200 were initially employed. However, it began shedding jobs in late 2001/2002.

Mr Jackie Healy-Rae, the Independent TD, was widely credited with securing the factory for Killarney in 1999 in exchange for his support for the then government. He said yesterday the news was "a frightful blow" and "a bleak outlook for the town after Christmas. He had contacted the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr Martin, and asked him to visit Killarney.

The losses come on top of the announcement that 30 jobs are to go at the Jet AHU factory in Killorglin which manufactures air handling units, Mr Healy-Rae said. Labour TD Ms Breeda Moynihan-Cronin said it was "devastating for Killarney" and was the latest in a series of major unemployment setbacks for Killarney and south Kerry.

© The Irish Times


An Taisce Criticises One-Off Holiday Homes

Anne Lucey

The Kerry branch of An Taisce claims it has evidence that one-off rural housing being constructed in the county is not traditional, and most houses in scenic areas are being built as holiday homes and not for locals.

An Taisce research shows that at least 70 per cent of rural houses are built in linear fashion beside roads and not in the traditional cluster pattern, Dr Catherine McMullin, honorary planning officer, told the local group's a.g.m in Killarney.

While there is development on the county's main tourist roads such as the Ring of Kerry, much is taking place on rural by-roads and in many coastal areas. These roads are now "crowded" with houses, Dr McMullin said.

Kerry County Council recently said that more than twice the number of houses were being built than necessary for the permanent population. Over 4,000 one-off houses were applied for last year, and most got planning permission.

An Taisce claims it has established through visiting and mapping development on roads in 2004 that in scenic areas on average 60 per cent of houses were holiday homes, and in some townlands almost all the houses were holiday homes.

Dr McMullin expressed concern about the new county development plan which she said did not comply with the draft ministerial guidelines on rural housing published last year because it did not insist on a local connection or link. All it stipulated was permanent occupation, following lobbying by councillors.

Some applications were being forced through by councillors through the use of Section 140 powers, against the advice of council planners and engineers, the a.g.m heard.

© The Irish Times


US Driver Involved In O Cuiv Crash Charged With Dangerous Driving

Anne Lucey

The American driver of the tourist car involved in a collision with the State car of Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr Ó Cuív, on the Ring of Kerry near Killarney last November has been charged with dangerous driving.

Mr John Corbett (56), from St Louis, Missouri, was on his honeymoon with his wife, Ms Teresa Corbett, when he was involved in the crash near Torc Waterfall on November 15th.

Mr Corbett spent three weeks in hospital in Kerry with serious injuries and flew back by air ambulance to St Louis for further treatment in early December.

A former fire-fighter, he now works as a union official and has been president of the Missouri State Council of Firefighters for 18 years. He is still recovering from his injuries. The couple were travelling in a rented car towards Killarney when they were involved in the collision with Mr Ó Cuív's car which was travelling in the opposite direction to an appointment in west Cork.

Five people, including the Minister, who suffered minor injuries and shock, and his secretary, were hospitalised after the crash. Mr Ó Cuív's car burst into flames after the impact.

Fire officers had to use cutting equipment to free the Corbetts from their car which was severely damaged. Ms Corbett, a floral designer, spent 11 days in hospital.

A file had been sent to the DPP and the recommendation was to proceed with the charge. The case is scheduled for March in Killarney. The Garda press office yesterday confirmed that a summons had been issued.

© The Irish Times


Pupils Have 'Lift Off' For Irish Astronaut Project

13/01/2005 - 19:05:48

Schoolchildren today took the first small step towards launching an Irish astronaut into space within the next 20 years.

President Mary McAleese welcomed NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Brian Duffy on their information mission to Dublin, as national job training body FAS worked to tighten links with the US space programme.

John Cahill, manager of the science and engineering project at FAS, said one of the main hopes for the space programme was to ensure that Irish people moved forward in the new technology and science field.

“The intention is to have an Irish astronaut in space,” Mr Cahill said. “That is what the Irish Government want.

“If we can build on this link, we have three astronauts, and a former chief executive in NASA here, these people don’t come without an interest.

“Brian Duffy and Scott Kelly bring an Irish American influence into it. If first generation Irish Americans can do it then why can’t Irish people?” Mr Cahill said.

The NASA astronauts were at the job and education Opportunities Fair in Dublin’s Croke Park where they talked to adults and schoolchildren about their five Space Shuttle missions.

The astronauts will be part of the US Space Shuttle’s return flight next May. Missions were suspended after the devastating deaths of the seven-crew members of the US shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

FAS has been building a science and space programme in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, and the Kennedy Space Centre in the US since 2003.

It is currently operating four projects including graduate internships, apprenticeships and schoolchildren visits.

Mr Cahill said the programmes were aimed at interesting schoolchildren in science and urge graduates to move towards research in engineering and new technology.

Many graduates have gained internships with NASA and companies relating to the US space programme through the FAS initiative.

Interest in the field is rapidly growing with more than 10,000 entries from primary school pupils for FAS’s Science Challenge – a limited 15-place visit to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida later this year.

Mr Cahill said it was the “dream” to ensure that more graduates went on into the science research field.

“The Irish graduate technicians that we are sending out are as good or better than the American ones, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way,” he said.

The FAS manager said the majority of new technology research was still carried out in the United States.

“The idea is to create linkages to research and engineering and new technology ideas to grow them, and give them the opportunity to move forward,” he said.

Mr Cahill said Irish graduates were still “lacking in confidence”.

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