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January 14, 2005

01/14/05 – Adams Tries to Bridge Rift

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BT 01/14/05 Adams Tries To Bridge Ahern Rift
IO 01/14/05 Trimble Seeks Sanctions Against SF Over Belfast Raid
BT 01/14/05 The Thatcher Dossier
SF 01/14/05 Martin McGuinness Reselected To Fight Election
SF 01/14/05 Doherty Comments On Hoax Bomb Against McMenamin
BT 01/14/05 McAleese's Tears Of Sympathy
BT 01/14/05 Ireland Misses Worst Of Tsunami Disaster
BT 01/14/05 Trinity Denies Ulster Quota Claim
IO 01/14/05 Irish-Speaking School In Top-10 List Of Trinity Feeders


Adams Tries To Bridge Ahern Rift

By Louise McCall
14 January 2005

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said there was a "rift" between him and Bertie Ahern since the Taoiseach said he believed republican chiefs knew of plans to rob the Northern Bank.

Mr Adams said he would be seeking a meeting with Dublin and London. He was "seriously concerned" at Mr Ahern's attitude to the assessment by the North's police chief Hugh Orde that the IRA was behind last month's £26.5m (€ 37.7m) heist in Belfast. Mr Ahern's views had inflicted much damage on the peace process, he said.

"His allegation that our leadership was aware in advance of the Northern Bank robbery creates difficulties in the working relationship between the Irish government and Sinn Fein," Mr Adams said. "I reject this accusation totally and I am disappointed that the Taoiseach didn't raise any concerns he might have with me directly."

Mr Adams said the allegation the IRA was responsible was an attack on Sinn Fein and claimed the governments might be preparing "a campaign of discrimination".

In response to calls from unionists that the British government exclude Sinn Fein from power-sharing and impose sanctions against republicans, Mr Adams warned his party and electorate would resist being penalised.

Mr Adams warned republicans to be ready to "resist any attempts to discriminate against them" peacefully.

The governments will discuss growing Commons demands for sanctions against Sinn Fein's continued association with the IRA following the bank raid, writes Bernard Purcell.

The meeting could lead to the party losing its stg£400,000 (€570,000) a year in Commons allowances and facilities, as demanded yesterday by Opposition Leader Michael Howard.

Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern and North Secretary Paul Murphy will next week discuss what can be done to restore partial devolution before the UK General Election in May.

Sinn Fein's four MPs - Michelle Gildernew, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty - each claimed more than £100,000 in parliamentary expenses and allowances last year, despite not taking up their seats.

The rift between Sinn Fein and the Dublin government continued to grow today after the Republic's Justice Minister said the party and IRA have "have lied repeatedly about criminality when it suited them".

Michael McDowell said that in the wake of the Northern Bank robbery it must be made clear to Sinn Fein that "there is simply no way open for any political progress for any party or politician who owes allegiance to the IRA or is in any way connected with it".

His comments came after Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams revealed that the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has not been taking his phone calls since the IRA was blamed for the £26m heist at the bank.

Mr Adams said Mr Ahern had ignored a Sinn Fein request to stop blaming the IRA for the crime without speaking to the Sinn Fein president first.

He also said he has been in daily contact with Mr Ahern's office but the Taoiseach has not spoken to him and has not yet agreed to meet him.

"A lot of people have said that if I was Ian Paisley, the Taoiseach would have taken a different attitude," the Sinn Fein president said.

"I have made it clear to the governments we will not behave like patsies."


Trimble Seeks Sanctions Against SF Over Belfast Raid

14/01/2005 - 10:56:47

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has accused the British government of taking a "softly, softly" attitude towards alleged breaches of the IRA ceasefire.

Speaking about the IRA's alleged involvement in last month's £26.5m Belfast bank heist, Mr Trimble said the British government was making a fool of itself by not ejecting Sinn Féin from the peace process.

The UUP leader said London should withdraw Westminster privileges and allowances from the four Sinn Féin MPs and push ahead with the peace process without republicans.

He also claimed the republican movement had chosen crime over politics and accused Sinn Féin voters of giving republicans a mandate for crime.


The Thatcher Dossier

Yet again, Mummy appears to have saved Mark Thatcher, paying his fine and playing a key role in the plea bargain, according to South African police sources. Kim Sengupta and Karyn Maughan in Cape Town report on the latest chapter in the career of the former premier's only son

14 January 2005

Sitting in the cockpit of the Allouette helicopter as it banked over the South African veldt last March, the vista must have looked golden to Sir Mark Thatcher. He was about to embark on a great adventure and the prize was no less than control of an African nation's oil wealth.

The plan was to use the helicopter as a gunship in a coup that would overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea and replace him with an opposition leader. The reward for the kingmakers would be millions of dollars in oil concessions.

But by yesterday, the dreams of fabulous wealth had crashed. Sir Mark Thatcher sat frowning, clutching his worry beads, in Cape Town High Court. A banner hanging from a building opposite read " Save Me, Mummy", while a small group of protestors standing at the entrance shouted: "Shame, shame, shame."

Asked whether he agreed to the prosecution deal which spared him a jail term, Thatcher's voice shook as he bobbed his head and repeated: "Yes, I do. Yes, I do." By the time he had emerged from the courtroom, however, Baroness Thatcher's son had regained some of his composure. Adjusting the knot of his tie, he declared: "There is no price too high for me to pay to be reunited with my family and I am sure all of you who are husbands and fathers would agree with that."

In London, Baroness Thatcher said: "This has been a difficult time for all of the family - obviously I am delighted that it has been brought to an end. I know that what matters to Mark is now to be reunited with Diane and the children as soon as possible." But this attempt by mother and son to paint a picture of noble sacrifice for the sake of family did little to disguise the shoddy reality - that what was left of 51-year-old Mark Thatcher's reputation now lies in ruins.

It is unclear whether, with a felony conviction, Thatcher will be allowed into America. The US embassy in London said last night that British citizens with such a conviction have to apply for a visa, and "each application would be decided on a case-by-case basis".

Time and again, Thatcher has been accused of shady business practices and shamelessly milking his mother's name to clinch lucrative commissions on arms and construction contracts in the Middle East. Each time he denied the claims, and Baroness Thatcher stood by her son. Their closeness was evident when she broke down in public after he got lost in the Sahara while taking part in the Paris-Dakar car rally in the 1980s.

Now Thatcher has pleaded guilty in court, abandoning his pretence that he knew nothing about the conspiracy to take over the government of Equatorial Guinea, and has admitted contravening the country's Foreign Military Assistance Act by acting "recklessly".

Yet again, Mummy has saved him. According to South African police sources, Baroness Thatcher, who was in Cape Town over Christmas and New Year, played a key role in getting the administration to accept the deal and her son's plea of dolus eventualis.

This means that Thatcher has been spared prison, incurring, instead, a four -year suspended jail sentence and a fine of 3m rand --- around £ 265,000. It is believed Baroness Thatcher will pay the fine - just as she paid for his bail.

The deal has caused anger among some of the officers of the Scorpion unit in charge of investigating the coup. Only last week they were leaking details of how the case against Thatcher had been strengthened by new and damning evidence. Their sources were three of the men who plotted the coup - Crause Steyl, Harry Carlse and Lourens Horn. All had faced lengthy terms in prison, but in return for testifying against Thatcher, this was reduced to fines.

The crux of the case against Thatcher lay in $275,000 he had paid to charter two helicopters. According to yesterday's court plea, he originally paid the money in the belief that they would be used for an air ambulance service. He had found out subsequently that they were going to be used in the coup, but had still continued with the deal. However, Steyl, a pilot, told the police that Thatcher had known the true purpose of the helicopters all along, and had had taken them on test flights to gauge their suitability.

Steyl gave details of meetings Thatcher had attended where the plot was said to have been formulated, and he is also said to have provided tape recordings of phone calls that incriminated the former Prime Minister's son. The Scorpion unit had telephone records of their own, of dozens of calls that Thatcher made to, and received from, others implicated in the plot. These calls grew in volume in the days before the ill-fated coup attempt.

Tracing those alleged to have formed the core of the conspiracy reveals an extraordinary list of wealthy people, with a core of upper middle-class Britons, many from the political right, who believed they could manipulate the fate of a country. The ruler of Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang, a man accused by his opponents of crimes ranging from corruption to cannibalism, was to be removed and replaced by opposition leader Severo Moto, who had taken refuge in Spain. The leader of the private army of mercenaries which would carry out the mission was Simon Mann, an Old Etonian and former SAS officer.

Mann, who hoped to make $10m from the operation, invited Thatcher - his neighbour in Cape Town - to invest in the venture. At the time, Thatcher was living in a £2m mansion in the affluent suburb of Constantia after emigrating from Britain, via the US, to spare his mother, it was said, further embarrassment. During Christmas 2003, Thatcher held a series of poolside parties at his home. Among those attending were figures from the mercenary world, with Mann a constant presence. The Equatorial Guinea government claims that by this time the coup plot was already advanced.

Despite the Constantia mansion and other overt trappings of wealth, it is unclear just how much money Thatcher had left at this point. There were also persistent rumours that his marriage to 45-year-old Diane, a Texan heiress, was in trouble.

More than $2m was said to have been raised for the coup and the names of the backers were kept in what became known as the "wonga list".

Names linked to the mercenaries included Lord Archer, the disgraced peer and former Conservative Party deputy chairman; David Hart, who was Baroness Thatcher's advisor during the miners' strike and remains close to her; Ely Calil, a millionaire Lebanese-born oil trader, and businessman Greg Wales.

Documents show that a JH Archer ( Lord Archer's initials) paid Mr Mann £74,000 by credit transfer four days before the former soldier was arrested. Lord Archer's representatives say he had " no prior knowledge" of the coup and "now considers the matter closed". Mr Hart, Mr Wales and Mr Calil denied any involvement in the conspiracy.

Through Mr Calil, the name of Peter Mandelson was drawn into the affair. He had offered his flat to the former Northern Ireland Secretary, and current European Union Trade Commissioner, when Mr Mandelson was forced to sell his house in Notting Hill Gate, west London, after admitting he had received an undisclosed loan from fellow minister Geoffrey Robinson.

A report obtained by the South African authorities claimed Mr Calil discussed the projected coup with Mr Mandelson during a lunch at a fashionable Lebanese restaurant, Noura, in Belgravia. The report was written by Nigel Morgan, a former Irish Guards officer and a member of the Tory think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies. Mr Morgan, who knows both Mann and Thatcher, recorded: "Calil recently met with Mandelson about the EG/Moto/Mann issue ... Calil says Mandelson assured him he would have no problems from the British government and invited Mr Calil to see him again 'if you need something done'."

Asked about the meeting, Mr Mandelson responded: "I have consistently denied speaking to Mr Calil about this and he has also confirmed that there has not been any discussion between us ... I have no knowledge of any coup and he [Mr Calil] has not sought advice on it."

However, the matter of just how much the British government knew about the coup was pursued by the Conservatives. In response to questions to Tony Blair and Jack Straw by Michael Ancram, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr Straw was forced to retract denials that the Foreign Office had any prior knowledge of the plot. He revealed that the Government had received detailed reports about the conspiracy from a foreign intelligence service and was bound by a duty of confidentiality not to disseminate the information.

However, news of the coup appears to have been widely leaked, and Mann and his contingent of 66 mercenaries were arrested in Harare on the way to Equatorial Guinea last March. Within 24 hours the EG regime had rounded up 14 men, including a former South African soldier, Nick Du Toit, in Malabo, the capital.

While awaiting trial in Zimbabwe, Mann wrote to his wife Amanda and his lawyers " Our situation is not good and it is very URGENT. They (the lawyers) get no reply from Smelly and Scratcher ..." Colleagues of Mann confirm that "Smelly" refers to Mr Calil and "Scratcher" is Thatcher (the nickname is a legacy of the eczema he suffered from when he was young).

The Equatorial Guinea government began a civil action for damages against those allegedly involved in the coup plot, including Thatcher who insisted that he had no knowledge of the plot. South African police raided Thatcher' home at 6.45am of 25 August last year. He was arrested and charged under Section Two of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act and released on bail of £165,000 - paid by Baroness Thatcher - and his passport was impounded. Diane and the two children promptly left for Texas.

According to friends, the rest of the family left South Africa because they were in danger. Thatcher is said to have received threats from one of the mercenaries who wanted him to produce money to help release Mann and others in Zimbabwe. He was told in a telephone call: "We know where your children go to school."

As the weight of evidence mounted, Thatcher was said to have become increasingly despondent. In a recent interview, he protested that he had become a pariah in the business world. He said he felt "like a cork floating down the Colorado". The bail conditions meant he was not allowed to meet Baroness Thatcher at the airport when she arrived to spend Christmas in Cape Town. Leonie Frieda, a gossip columnist who visited the Thatchers with her husband Andrew Roberts, a historian, wrote of: "The world's most famous mummy's boy ... awaiting the extradition papers [from Equatorial Guinea] at any moment, wifeless, childless, and to a large extent friendless ... his sad eyes belied the chipper, breezy chat".

Thatcher's lawyers had repeatedly sought a plea bargain with the South African authorities, but with no success. The police insisted that they had more than enough evidence to convict and put him in prison.

But in the end a deal was done, and Thatcher appeared in court. The South African authorities said he had agreed to help them with their inquiries. However, the overwhelming feeling among senior police officers is that, with the most high-profile of the targets now dealt with, the investigation will now be wound down.


Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness Reselected To Fight Westminster Election

Published: 14 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator, Martin Mc Guinness was unanimously reselected at a Party convention in his Mid-Ulster Constituency tonight to fight the forthcoming Westminster election. ENDS


Doherty Comments On Latest Hoax Bomb Attack Against Eugene McMenamin

Published: 14 January, 2005

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has challenged those behind the latest hoax bomb attack on Eugene Mc Menamin to explain to what on earth they are trying to achieve.

"Everyone has the right to their political opinion and Eugene Mc Menamin and his family should not be the subject of such a squalid campaign of intimidation.

"At a political level, people are at a complete loss as to what the people behind these attacks on Eugene Mc Menamin and other DPP members are hoping to achieve -

"In terms of nationalist/republican demands for the creation of a policing service which is free from partisan political control, accountable, representative and all-Ireland in structure, these attacks are not only futile, but also completely counter-productive.

"They divert the focus of attention away from the core issue of the continued control of and manipulation of policing in the six counties by an assortment of securocrat agencies." ENDS


McAleese's Tears Of Sympathy

By Eugene Hogan
14 January 2005

President Mary McAleese cried as she telephoned Majella Holohan to express her deep sympathy at her son Robert's murder, it emerged today.

Family friends said the President was extremely upset.

She told the grieving mother that the heartfelt sympathy of the nation was with her at this terrible time.

Friends said Majella and her husband, Mark, were deeply touched by the President's gesture.

"It meant a lot to them that the President would take the time to express sympathy at the nightmare they are going through," one friend said.

Meanwhile, prayers seeking comfort for Majella and Mark were offered yesterday as local people gathered in church for the first time since the news they had feared since Robert disappeared.

All week the community had clung to the hope that Robert would be found alive, but yesterday morning, despite the absence of official confirmation from gardai, a prayer service at the Church of the Holy Rosary in Midleton was offered in the belief that the boy's life was at an end.

Leading the prayers, Fr Billy O'Donovan conceded that hope had finally been taken away.

"This morning Robert doesn't need our prayers any more because we believe he is safely in the hands of God, so our prayers turn to Mark and Majella his parents, Emma (sister) and Harry (brother), his grandparents, family, neighbours and friends.

"We pray that God may give them comfort, strength and consolation on this day and in the days ahead."

Fr O'Donovan said Robert's horrific death was already having a life-altering impact on the community.


Ireland Misses Worst Of Tsunami Disaster

By Ben Lowry
14 January 2005

Amid the grief at the death of Tyrone man Conor Keightley, Northern Ireland travellers appear to have emerged remarkably untouched by the tsunami.

Proportionately few victims come from the province compared with the rest of the UK.

The Republic has had a similar escape, with one confirmed death in addition to Mr Keightley who held an Irish passport.

One theory for the lower toll is that Irish people, wherever they are in the world, tend to return home at Christmas even if it means a long journey.

Latest Foreign Office figures record 51 Britons confirmed dead and a further 352 highly likely to have been killed, the great majority in Thailand.

There is no breakdown of where in the UK these victims came from, but in a small society like Northern Ireland the media typically becomes aware of missing people.

One Belfast family has anxiously been trying to trace a relative who was probably in this medium risk category. Colin O'Carroll and his sister Fee Conkey have not heard from their dad Thomas (Tom) Concaig (71), who grew up in the Falls Road before he emigrated to Australia.

There are 582 Britons in this second risk category.

Northern Ireland makes up about 3% of the UK population and residents are no less likely to holiday abroad than in any other parts of the UK. Statistically the province might have expected a dozen victims.

The whole of Ireland makes up around 10% of the population of the British Isles, and yet the Republic has two confirmed dead and two high risk missing - 1% of the UK figure.

There are no direct flights from Belfast or Dublin to the Far East, so Irish travellers have to route via London or elsewhere, making it more expensive.

But Doreen McKenzie, of ABTA says many Northern Ireland people still visit Thailand. "They tend to go in the summer and are perhaps less likely to travel there at Christmas than people from the rest of the UK," she said.

Matt Larmer of Trailfinders in Dublin said: "My instinct is that Ireland sells as many proportionately, if not more, holidays to Thailand than the UK, but the patterns of travel may be different.

"For example, Koh Samui, which is on the unaffected east coast, would be more popular with the Irish than Phuket, which is popular among the English."

Among those who had narrow escapes were Mark McBride and Lisa Lavery from east Belfast, who were on a boat that was rocked by the tsunami. The ITN presenter John Irvine and his family also survived when they were caught by the wave on a beach.


Trinity Denies Ulster Quota Claim

College under fire over places

By Claire Regan
14 January 2005

Trinity College Dublin today denied that it had taken a controversial decision to "reserve" places for A-level pupils from Northern Ireland hoping to study on high-demand courses.

The prestigious university has come under fire in recent days from educationalists in the Republic who accused it of saving special places for A-level pupils after a change in the application system.

Accusations of discrimination against Leaving Cert students were sparked by Trinity's decision to introduce an interim revised policy to the CAO points system operated there because of a review of the merits of A-levels and the Leaving Cert last year.

It was decided to reduce the number of points for each top A-level from 190 to 150 - a development that sparked protest from schools north of the border with a strong tradition of sending pupils to the university.

To compensate for the reduction in points, Trinity has, however, decided to retain the old scoring system for the 2005 competition.

The senior lecturer, Professor John Murray, today denied that this amounted to reserving places for undergraduates from Northern Ireland and Britain.

"The policy change is being phased into place to allow for those A-level students who may be disadvantaged by the timing of the new policy," he said.

"However, in order to ensure a more equitable distribution of places across A-level and other EU applications, Trinity will operate the principal of proportionality in 2005... this does not mean that Trinity will be reserving places for A-level candidates."

Professor Murray said, however, that the number of places offered to and accepted by A-level students for high-demand courses is disproportionate.

"For example, 19% of applications to English Studies were from A-level students in 2004, yet over 50% of places on this course were allocated to A-level students," he added.

"This problem arises from the fact that equivalences across qualifications can only be defined in broad terms and cannot take into account the differences in the overall assessment and grading structures between the two examination systems."

Professor Murray added that his university's policy changes were "proactive and positive".


Irish-Speaking School In Top-10 List Of Trinity Feeders

14/01/2005 - 09:04:15

An Irish-speaking school has reportedly joined the list of the top-10 feeder schools for Trinity College Dublin ahead of some of Ireland's best-known fee-paying institutions.

Reports this morning said 20 pupils from Coláiste Iosagain in Stillorgan had enrolled at Trinity last September.

The reports said this was more than the number of students who enrolled in the university from Clongowes Wood, Gonzaga, Wesley College and the two Loreto-run schools in Dublin.

The Institute of Education on Dublin's Leeson Street reportedly sent the most pupils to Trinity, while seven of the top 10 feeder schools were fee-paying.

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005
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