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January 15, 2005

01/16/05 – MI5 Admits Bugging Adams

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

ST 01/16/05 MI5 Boss Admits Bugging Adams
ST 01/16/05 Profile: Unleashed Mad Dog Gets Ready To Bite Back
GU 01/15/05 Revealed: Spin Doctors' Handbook
ST 01/15/05 Opin: SDLP/FF Link Can Win Back Soul Of Nationalism
UT 01/15/05 Thousands Mourn Murdered Boy -V(2)
BB 01/15/05 On Jan 16 1981: Gunmen Shoot Bernadette McAliskey
ST 01/16/05 Dublin Pubs Invent The 'Happy Year'
ST 01/16/05 Personal View: Ireland Has To Park The Tour Bus


MI5 Boss Admits Bugging Adams

David Leppard

THE head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, has admitted that British intelligence agents have been bugging Gerry Adams and other top Sinn Fein officials.

Manningham-Buller told a closed meeting of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee before Christmas that MI5 had planted a sophisticated listening device at the head offices of Sinn Fein at Connolly House in Andersonstown, west Belfast.

In the security service’s first formal acknowledgment of the bugging operation, MI5’s director-general told the committee, which monitors Britain’s intelligence services, “they [Sinn Fein officials] had to almost shred the office to find it”.

The 5ft device was found last September hidden in a floor joist at the headquarters of the party, which is the IRA’s political wing.

Sinn Fein said at the time that two live microphones were found, one pointed towards the upstairs office and the other at a downstairs conference room.

When the bugging was disclosed, Downing Street and the Northern Ireland Office declined to discuss the matter. But the find embarrassed Tony Blair who only days later had to face Adams, the party president, and other Sinn Fein officials for talks.

Adams described the bug as “a serious act of bad faith” and “a violation of human rights”. He added: “The British make it very, very hard to make peace when this goes on . . . this is a violation of the peace process.”

Manningham-Buller’s admission of the MI5 bugging operation comes as the peace process is under renewed threat because of the IRA’s alleged involvement in the £26.5m robbery at the Northern Bank last month.

Hugh Orde, the chief constable of Northern Ireland, has said that “intelligence” has linked IRA leaders to the crime.

The Connolly House bug was the latest in a series to have been found in property used by senior Sinn Fein and IRA members.

Just a week earlier, a listening device had been found at the home of Paula McManus, who works in Adams’s west Belfast constituency offices. She is not suspected of any wrongdoing but her home was targeted because of her friendship with Martin Lynch, the adjutant-general of the IRA. He in turn is said to have met Bobby Storey, the IRA’s director of intelligence, at the flat.

That bug consisted of a microphone, six battery packs and a transmitter. It was concealed in the beam in the loft of the flat, which could be accessed from a communal area at the front of the building.

Adams and Martin McGuinness, the party’s chief negotiator, blamed Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, for authorising the surveillance operation.

In 1999, a sophisticated listening and tracking device worth £20,000 was found built into a car owned by Lynch. Adams and McGuinness said the car had been used to take them to meetings with the IRA leadership. The bugging occurred during the review of the Good Friday agreement by George Mitchell, the former US senator.

The intelligence and security committee was set up by an act of parliament in 1994 as a watchdog for the intelligence services.

It is chaired by Ann Taylor, the former Labour chief whip, and comprises senior MPs and one member of the House of Lords. It reports directly to the prime minister on the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping agency.


Profile: Unleashed Mad Dog Gets Ready To Bite Back

Johnny Adair

Days before he was released from prison last week, Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair received a sobering assessment from “Fat Jackie” Thompson, his partner in crime for nearly 30 years. “Look in the mirror Johnny. We are f****** history,” his faithful aide told him.

Still exuberantly boyish at 41, Adair dreamed of a return to the glory days when he, Fat Jack and their “gold team” lived high on the proceeds of their criminal empire. “I’m working on the roads now, laying black stuff,” Thompson explained, letting his former commander down gently.

Adair is an ugly man with piercing eyes, a shaven head and a Bluto-like torso that strains to burst out of his clothes. He shined his bald head up with furniture polish in jail, where he also supplemented his exercises with horse steroids. His arms are emblazoned with tattoos, including one of Mickey Mouse. His laugh is high-pitched, yet other men find his enthusiasm infectious.

Gold rings dangle from his ears and nipples and a former girlfriend told his biographer, Hugh Jordan, that the loyalist hardman always wet the bed with excitement after a killing. And there have been plenty. Adair’s gang has killed up to 40 Catholics and unleashed two loyalist feuds — though he himself has murdered only one disabled man.

Last Monday Adair was flown from Northern Ireland aboard a military helicopter to Bolton, in Britain, where he will hide from former colleagues in the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) who have pledged to kill him. Adair, who sees the bright side of everything, was elated as he clambered aboard the chopper. “I’ll be back,” he shouted triumphantly.

He now lives in a rented terraced house in Chorley New Row, Horwich, with his wife Gina (Georgina), who is recovering from breast cancer, and their three children Natalie, 17, Chloe, 8, and Jay, 4.

Their eldest son, Jonathan, was jailed with his friend Benjy Dowie and a number of other loyalists for dealing crack cocaine and heroin last year. The judge reduced the sentence in recognition of the fact that Jonathan, known inevitably as “Mad Pup”, had had a harsh upbringing and had been shot in the le g in Northern Ireland — a punishment carried out by Thompson and authorised by Adair Sr.

For the good citizens of Horwich, the Adairs are neighbours from hell. Two years ago gunmen dressed as Rangers supporters opened fire on the couple’s home. Now that Adair is home, To Let signs have gone up on houses on either side of his.

John James “Johnny” Adair was born in Fleming Street off the Shankill Road, West Belfast’s loyalist heartland, on October 27, 1963. The friends he would rely on in his life of terror and mayhem were made when he was young. One, John White, became a knife murderer who dismembered his victims and then later became Adair’s “political spokesman”.

As a young boy, Adair loved to help his father Jimmy tend his pigeons. But Jimmy couldn’t take his son to meetings with other fanciers because of the boy’s anti-Catholic bigotry. “I’ve got two boys at home who are bad bastards,” he told a Catholic friend, adding that “their mother made them like that”.

Young Adair found kindred spirits when he started at Somerdale Secondary School in 1975. Ken Barrett, who would later murder the nationalist solicitor Pat Finucane and turn police informer, was a little older than him. His classmates included Sam “Skelly” McCrory (later Adair’s cell-mate in the Maze prison), Donald Hogen and Fat Jack Thompson, who used to guzzle the stock at his father’s sweet shop. They fought on the buses, bullied anyone they could and vowed revenge on the Catholics who threw stones at their school bus as it passed Ardoyne. The gang used to shake down pensioners for money to buy cider.

The Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the largest loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland, offered antisocial youngsters a choice between joining its ranks and paying a fine, or taking a beating. Adair joined the UDA, assured that it would “give him some discipline”.

At the time, the UDA’s West Belfast “brigadier” was Tommy “Tucker” Lyttle, a wily, philosophical man who ran a bookies, raced greyhounds, kept the rackets ticking over and judiciously passed information to the police. Lyttle had the sense to keep “Mad Johnny” in the background, sending him on errands, using him as a petty thug and getting him to polish his car. Adair also played a supportive role in what killings there were, hijacking a taxi and holding the driver hostage for use in the February 1989 murder of Finucane.

Adair’s chance to gain power came from an inquiry into loyalist security force collusion which was sparked off by the lawyer’s murder. Sir John Stevens’s men succeeded in jailing Lyttle for seven years on charges of threatening to kill a witness in an extortion trial.

With Lyttle’s old guard discredited, Adair and the young Turks got their head and pushed the killing through the roof. Police and colleagues say Adair’s only personal victim was Noel Cardwell, a man with a mental age of 14 who was shot dead as an alleged informer in December 1993. However his gang is credited with up to 40 murders. He boasted to one journalist that she was the first Catholic he had had in his car who wasn’t dead.

The IRA hit back with several attempts on his life. The most tragic of which was the Shankill bombing of October 1993, when the Provos planted a bomb in Frizzel’s fish shop below the UDA’s offices and killed 10 uninvolved people and injured 47. Adair, who had been in the building earlier, was in the Maze visiting McCrory.

He would reward his men with ecstasy tablets and celebrate killings with three-day orgies of sex and drugs. He whooped and shouted in delight at news of murders and printed “Simply the Best” T-shirts for his C-Company hit squads.

His luck ran out when he was “befriended” by two RUC detectives, Johnston Brown and Trevor McIlwrath. The two expressed admiration for him, calling in to his home for cups of tea and occasionally hinting that they might give him pictures of IRA suspects from police files. Adair was delighted.

“It was dead easy getting him to talk,” says Brown. “You could hardly get him to shut up.” When Adair hinted that a killing was planned, they warned him of increased police patrols and helicopter surveillance. “He would call it off, thank us and ask us if we had any pictures of (the intended target). We’d say we must have left them on the desk; you could save a life that way,” said Brown.

Many of the conversations were taped and, in 1993 they led to Adair’s conviction for directing terrorism. In jail, he lived in a wing with his motto “Kill them all and let God work it out” painted on the wall. But he was a strong supporter of the Good Friday agreement and was freed under its early release provisions in 1999.

Once released, he started a vicious feud with the rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) for control of the Shankill, forcing anyone but UDA supporters out of his Lower Shankill stronghold where he set up several drug houses and extorted local businesses. He used the proceeds for high living, cruising his fiefdom with minders in a four-wheel drive.

Within months, the charade was cut short and he was returned to jail, but released again in 2002 without completing his sentence. This time he talked of going into politics and being a peacemaker, but behind the scenes he plotted to take complete control of the UDA and the drugs trade in loyalist areas.

A vicious gangland feud ensued and Adair was again returned to jail just days before John Gregg, a rival UDA brigadier, was murdered, apparently on his orders. “You have probably saved my life,” he told the officers who arrested him.

He was right. Gregg’s murder united the entire loyalist underworld against him. All his supporters, including Gina and their children, fled to Scotland on the ferry and most are now living in Bolton. There is little doubt that if Adair returns home he will be murdered. Few doubt that that is a risk he is willing to take.


Revealed: Spin Doctors' Handbook

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday January 16, 2005
The Observer

Restricted documents throwing light on how the British government manages bad news from the Northern Irish peace process have been obtained by The Observer.

Titled 'Iceberg Watch 2004', the papers list events that took place in the autumn and winter of 2004 and were circulated to the top 15 civil servants and ministers in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in advance. Next to items considered potentially controversial is advice on how to head off trouble for the government.

This 'comments' section also reveals how the NIO views community organisations it feels have links to republicans and loyalists, as well as its reluctance to reform public bodies unless and until power-sharing is restored.

The documents express the NIO and Downing Street's concern about the reaction of unionists to various reforms and changes designed to appease nationalism, particularly Sinn Fein. In every concession to republicans, such as more money for the Irish language, the comments section advises that there be a reciprocal amount of largesse to unionist causes.

Anticipating the signing of an Irish-British agreement on criminal justice co-operation, the author of 'comments' writes, 'very sensitive with Ulster Unionists who are strongly opposed, although their fears are not well based'. To avoid any controversy prior to the Leeds Castle talks, the writer advises the NIO that it 'can be put off until after the September talks if necessary'.

Projecting ahead to another joint British-Irish initiative on 13 September and concerning a North/South Probation Project, the NIO adviser suggests, 'to minimise its political profile, the launch has been downgraded from a joint ministerial to an official-led event.'

The documents also reveal UK government plans which they believe will annoy unionists in Northern Ireland. The writer discusses changes by the DVLA to licence plates by late October/mid-November of 2004. The civil servant notes that the flags of England, Scotland and Wales can now be displayed on licence plates but not those in Northern Ireland. 'Very sensitive issue. Restriction of scheme to GB will upset Unionists,' the comments read.

The papers also alert the government to the potential controversy over cross-border policing. In a section on a cross-border crime seminar in September, the writer/adviser states 'may be seen as the thin end of the wedge by some unionist politicians'.

In late November the publication of the Review of Public Administration consultation paper is noted. The comments note that, 'the RPA is set firmly in the context of a return to devolution'.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office confirmed the existence of Iceberg Watch 2004. 'It is a means of looking forward and planning ahead. It's the sort of thing a lot of government departments do when they project for the future. It makes sense,' he said.


Comment: Liam Clarke: SDLP-Fianna Fail Link Can Win Back Soul Of Nationalism

Just when you thought the SDLP was down and out, along comes Eddie McGrady, the MP for South Down, to do battle with the Provos for the soul of nationalism. He fired his first shot in Westminster, calling Sinn Fein “the IRA in lounge suits”, and yesterday went on to suggest that his party should not go into government with them.

There was visible tension between McGrady and John Hume at last week’s House of Commons question and answer session on the Northern Bank robbery. McGrady said that republican denials carried no credibility and that, having killed and maimed for years, “they would not balk at telling a lie”. Minutes earlier Hume had taken a contrary line, asking for more evidence of IRA involvement and recounting how, when he contacted the Sinn Fein leadership, he had received a categoric denial.

For Sinn Fein, Hume’s words were a lifeline. It was the first time their “prove it” mantra had been played back to them by a leading politician in another party, an important moment in their efforts to turn around public and government opinion.

As the SDLP contingent left the chamber, other MPs noticed Hume putting a hand on McGrady’s shoulder. McGrady appeared to shrug it off, but later the two men drifted into the tea room with Seamus Mallon and a discussion ensued. Later Hume issued a statement of “clarification” in which he said that he believed the IRA had carried out the robbery.

McGrady, a parliamentary veteran of 17 years, appeared to have used his elbows and won a change of tack. The tougher SDLP approach has given the British and Irish governments a new card to play in their attempt to force republicans to play by the same rules as other parties. Suddenly, they aren’t firing blanks when they threaten Sinn Fein with sanctions and consequences if they don’t drop criminality. Now Ahern can do something more substantial than refusing to answer Adams calls.

It’s a high-risk strategy for the SDLP, now that it is no longer the largest nationalist party in the province, to take on Sinn Fein. This could see it snuffed out in one fell swoop instead of slowly bleeding to death, as it will do with current policies. If the SDLP does take its courage in both hands, it will need the support of Fianna Fail if it’s to have any hope of winning against a bigger, richer and fresher all-Ireland party like Sinn Fein.

It is not a level playing field. The SDLP cannot raise millions in America, much less in bank robberies, and it can’t fill offices with full-time workers in most big nationalist towns.

The moment of truth could come as early as May when the north’s local government elections are already scheduled and the British general election is likely to be called. The SDLP has three seats at Westminster, and McGrady is the only sitting MP to go forward.

In Newry and Armagh, Mallon isn’t running again, and Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, probably the ablest of the rising generation of party hopefuls, looks like a shoo-in. In Foyle, Hume isn’t standing either, and Mark Durkan, his successor as party leader, will have his work cut out to fight off a challenge from Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein.

McGrady is the SDLP’s best hope. He had a 13,858 majority in the 2001 Westminster election, but the gap narrowed to 3,915 votes in the 2003 assembly election. He is up against Catriona Ruane, Sinn Fein’s golden girl of the moment, a Ms Clean who is getting the five-star PR pampering usually reserved for Mary Lou McDonald. Ruane is seldom seen without Gerry Adams beside her and the Sinn Fein president takes every opportunity to sing her praises.

She has even been made the public face of Cead, the organisation set up, in Adams’s words, to “re-popularise Sinn Fein” in its centenary year. If she beats McGrady, likely allowing Sinn Fein to take all the SDLP seats at Westminster, the political battle in Northern Ireland will be over. And a strong bridgehead will have been built for Sinn Fein ahead of its big fight with Fianna Fail in the 2007 Dail elections and the 2011 presidential contest when Adams may go forward.

At present, Sinn Fein’s position is incredibly strong, and it hasn’t been weakened that much by the Northern Bank robbery. In the absence of a known republican being convicted, the constant drip of denial and outrage from Adams and McGuinness is having its effect. A smokescreen of crazy stories is appearing, blaming everybody from on-the-run Croatian generals to republican dissidents teamed up with English criminals for the heist. Commentators are talking in terms of the banks robbing us all blind anyway, and of the IRA being innocent until proven guilty.

Yet IRA denials, as opposed to those of Sinn Fein, have been fairly weak, amounting to a single call to a BBC journalist. And nobody seems to remember the detailed IRA statement denying the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. “None of our volunteers or units were in any way involved in this morning’s incident at Adare,” it read. The denial was followed by firm televised statements from Adams and McGuinness in which they insisted the IRA didn’t tell lies.

Of course once the offenders were caught they were classified as republican prisoners, Sinn Fein argued that they were entitled to early release under the Good Friday agreement. What had once been a crime now became a political action.

Sinn Fein is good at playing for sympathy in the court of public opinion. Until recently, the temptation for other nationalist parties like the SDLP and Fianna Fail has been to give them a soft ride for the sake of the peace process and to support Adams against the hardliners who are supposedly yapping at his heels.

As things stand, the main effect of the robbery will be to prolong political stasis in the north, preventing the return of devolved power sharing for the foreseeable future. That is something that Sinn Fein can play to its advantage, pointing to it as evidence of the irreformability of the northern state, the intractability of unionism and the need for rapid movement toward Irish unity.

It is not a bad line to pursue over the next year of Ruane-led celebrations, in which they will push the Irish government for a green [sic] paper on how a united Ireland will be achieved. Looked at from that perspective, a failed settlement in Northern Ireland and an IRA that is still there in the wings doesn’t look bad for Sinn Fein — provided there is no return to violence.

Sinn Fein’s big card will be that it is the only all-Ireland party, that it represents the majority of nationalists in the north and that it is the next big thing in the south. The SDLP now looks like a loser and some of its brightest and best young talent, men like Martin Morgan, the former lord mayor of Belfast, are thinking of stepping aside. Its former links with the Irish Labour party, which is already recruiting members on its own account in the north, count for less and less.

Connections with Fianna Fail could change all that. It would certainly attract new members and could halt the haemorrhage of old ones. It would also give Fianna Fail an all-Ireland organisation that could counter Sinn Fein.


Robert Holohan laid to rest in Midleton - Jennie O'Sullivan reports on the tributes paid to the 11-year-old schoolboy

Damien Tiernan, South East Correspondent, reports that the garda investigation is intensifying

Thousands Mourn Murdered Boy -V(2)

Thousands of people turned out today in a small Irish town for the funeral of murdered schoolboy Robert Holohan.

By:Press Association

The Holy Rosary Church in Midleton, Co Cork, was filled to capacity with mourners while thousands more gathered outside.

The celebrant, Fr Billy O`Donovan, said January 4, 2005, the day Robert disappeared, would live long in the nation`s memory. He told the congregation that the schoolboy`s parents Mark and Majella had the support of the whole country.

"They know themselves they must start the long journey of looking to the future, coping with their grief and in time putting their lives back together again," he said.

Robert`s body was brought from the family home along the main street of Midleton as hundreds of people lined the street.

Mark and Majella Holohan walked into the church arm-in-arm, accompanied by two Garda detectives and the family liaison officer.

The family was attended by representatives of the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and President Mary McAleese.

Employment Minister Micheal Martin, Minister for Children Brian Leihan, Minister of State Michael Ahern, the Mayor of Midleton Councillor Ted Murphy, the local Church of Ireland bishop Paul Colton and Bishop of Coyle John McGee were all present.

Thousands listened to the loudspeakers outside as Fr O`Donovan delivered his sermon. The emotion became too much for one child who went pale and had to be rushed out of the church and given a drink of water by his parents.

Many cried when he recalled his conversation with a Garda officer who had been guarding the scene where Robert`s body was found. The Garda told him that he wanted Robert`s parents to know that their young son was not alone that night.

"I just wished I had a blanket wrapped around him," the Garda said.

Fr O`Donovan said all the people who had taken part in the searches for Robert were heroes.

"During the past 12 days we`ve witnessed and experienced something very special here and Midleton and the surrounding community."

He paid tribute to the bravery, generosity and sheer goodness of the people who had taken part in the search.

Fr O`Donovan read a message from President McAleese, who said she wanted to convey her admiration for what the community has done to help the Holohan family.

"Midleton has responded with resilience, dignity and sheer goodness."

She said the prayers of the entire nation were with the community. "No-one in Ireland has been untouched by this."

The prayers of the faithful were said by Robert`s cousin Kelly and his hero, Cork hurler Sean Og O`Halpin. "Robert was an inspiration to all of us," he said.

Fr O`Donovan said today could be a day of hope for Robert.

He said people often had a tendency to dwell on lives which are cut short but they should instead remember they had the joy and exuberance Robert had shown in his short life.

Robert`s body was taken from the Holy Rosary Church at 4.25pm in a white coffin and carried by pallbearers to the adjoining cemetery. His father Mark was at the front, carrying the coffin while his mother Majella followed behind.

The procession, which included 20 members of the clergy, walked slowly along to the freshly dug grave. Mr and Mrs Holohan sat together at the graveside with their daughter Emma sitting on her mother`s lap.

Bishop of Cloyne John Magee delivered the last rites as the church bells tolled. Hundreds of mourners stayed behind in the cemetery afterwards under an overcast sky to express their condolences to the Holohan family.


1981: Gunmen Shoot Civil Rights Campaigner

The Northern Ireland civil rights campaigner and former Westminster MP, Bernadette McAliskey, has been shot by gunmen who burst into her home at Coalisland in County Tyrone.

The three men shot Mrs McAliskey, formerly known as Bernadette Devlin, in the chest, arm and thigh as she went to wake up one of her three children.

Her husband, Michael, was also shot twice at point blank range.

Three men are now being questioned by police. They were arrested by members of the Parachute Regiment, who were on patrol nearby when they heard the shots.

The McAliskeys were flown by army helicopter to hospital in Belfast, where their condition is said to be serious, but not life-threatening.

Loyalists blamed

Police say it was a professional attack. The gunmen cut the telephone wires to the house, before breaking down the front door with a sledgehammer.

Loyalist paramilitaries are being blamed for the attack.

Mrs McAliskey has played a leading role in the campaign for Republican prisoners in the Maze, who are demanding "prisoner of war" or political status. They want to be held separately from loyalist supporters in the Maze.

Four other members of the campaign for the H-block inmates have been murdered.

Seven Maze prisoners went on hunger strike before Christmas in support of their demands for political status.

The strike was called off on 12 December after Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey convinced the inmates their families wanted them to start eating again.

In Context

Bernadette McAliskey was the youngest-ever woman MP when she was elected at the age of 21 in 1969.

She served as the Independent Unity member for Mid Ulster from 1969-73.

As an MP, she continued to champion the cause of catholics in Northern Ireland. She was imprisoned for her part in the sectarian riots in Londonderry in August 1969, which led to the deaths of five people and the deployment of troops in the province.

After her marriage in 1974 she faded from public view until her involvement in the H-block campaign.

In October 1993, she gave evidence to a court in San Francisco on behalf of James Smyth, who escaped from the Maze in 1983. He was fighting the British government's attempts to extradite him.

More recently, Mrs McAliskey fought the extradition of her daughter, Roisin, to Germany, where she is wanted for questioning about the IRA bombing of the Osnabruck base in 1996.

Roisin's extradition to Germany was blocked in March 1998 by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, on medical grounds.


Dublin Pubs Invent The 'Happy Year'

Richard Oakley

FORGET the happy hour. Dublin pubs have introduced happy days, weeks, months and even years in a bid to claw back business in the wake of the smoking ban and successive price hikes.

Some have slashed the price of a pint by as much as €1 in a desperate attempt to lure back drinkers. Sales have slumped by up to 25% since last March, according to the vintners’ federation.

Now some of the capital’s bars, traditionally considered the most expensive in the country, have decided to undercut the national average price for drinks in a bid to revive their business. In some cases, charges are lower even than those charged in rural pubs.

In one pub on the quays in the capital, the price of lager and stout has been cut to €3 a pint, making it almost certainly the cheapest pint in the country. The example is being followed elsewhere, suggesting a price war could be looming.

“My business was in trouble after the smoking ban was introduced last March. The numbers drinking here fell and turnover dropped,” said Ciaran O’Connell, the owner of the Croppy Acre, on Ellis Quay, near Stoneybatter.

“We reduced the price of Guinness from €3.70 to €3.45 to see if that would help and it did. Then we ran a number of two-day promotions with all pints for €3. Lager had been €4. The special days went so well we decided to keep doing it. Turnover has doubled.”

At Mischief, a pub in Dublin’s William Street in the city centre, a January sale is now on with all pints selling for €3.50. Shane O’Doherty, the owner, said the promotion had helped to keep the numbers up after Christmas. He said he would consider whether or not to continue it.

At Karma, a pub on Fishamble Street near Temple Bar, a pint of stout is now €3 and a pint of lager €3.50. A barman said the promotion was introduced to attract customers.

In Nemo’s in Dun Laoghaire, pints are selling for €3 each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after 6pm. As this is a fixed promotion that runs all year, it is thought the ban on happy hours introduced in 2003 doesn’t apply.

Late last year, the Submarine Bar in Walkinstown in Dublin cut its lounge prices from €4.10 for Guinness to €3.75 and from €4.50 for lager to €4.20. In the bar, Guinness came down by 15c to €3.50 and lager fell 20c to €3,80. That price cut is still in place and, yestereday, John O’Donnell the general manager, said further reductions were being considered.

“We had to lower the prices because we weren’t getting the numbers and the business was going nowhere. It has worked to a certain degree and we are thinking about doing it again,” he said.

Seamus O’Donoghue, president of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, which represents pubs outside of Dublin, confirmed the average price of pints of Guinness in member premises was €3.50, with lager costing about 20c more.

“Business has come down in pubs by up to 25% since the smoking ban and publicans have reacted to this in different ways. Some have upped the quality of service, some have invested in smoking areas and some have lowered prices. It is up to bar owners to do what they think will help,” he said.

According to drinks company Diageo, sales of Guinness in Ireland fell by 6% in the year ending June 2004.

Not all pubs in Dublin are lowering costs and some well-established ones, notably in tourist areas, charge more than €5 for a pint.

Cafe en Seine, a fashionable city-centre watering hole, charges €4.70 for a pint of Guinness and €5.20 for a pint of lager. After 11pm, these prices rise to €5.10 and €5.60 respectively. A pint of Guinness in Oliver St John Gogarty’s in Temple bar is €4.50. Similar prices are charged in bars or those with a reputation for good food. Surveys have quoted Dublin prices as being 14.5% higher than elsewhere in the country.

James Boyle, the owner of Harry’s Bar in the Earl of Kildare hotel, said: “There is no doubt that the number of customers is down. In some pubs they are down by a third and in others by a quarter. Instead of investing their money in sensible things like nights out and drinking they are squandering them on mortgages and children’s education,” he joked.

At Harry’s bar, one of the cheapest in Dublin, pints of Guinness were reduced in price after the smoking ban, from €3.80 for Guinness to €3.50 and from €3.90 for lager to €3.60. The pub recently risked a slight increase to €3.60 and €3.70.

“The trick is to offer reasonable and fair prices and this is something a lot of pubs aren’t doing. If you go too low you risk attracting the wrong crowd. You enter the realms of selling fire water to the Indians and sooner or later someone gets scalped,” said Boyle.

“If you keep the price fair, you don’t back yourself into tight margins, staff can be paid good rates and overheads covered. Years ago, every publican was a millionaire no matter how he ran his pub. This isn’t the case any more.”

Donall O’Keefe of the Licensed Vintners Association said it was incorrect to label the price reductions a new trend. “There has always been a range of prices in Dublin because that is how the market operates, and in many cases they have been low,” he said. He added that he was not aware of other pubs offering lager and stout for the same price, as is the case in the Croppy Acre.

O’Connell decided to make the price of stout and lager the same because he pays only €5 more for a keg of lager than Guinness. Other publicans said the difference was greater, thus leading to higher-priced lager.

Hard-pressed customers are bound to welcome the move. Andrew McNamara of the website said the price league tables on its site were among the most popular pages.

“We set it up to let people know where pints are cheap. Punters e-mail us and tell us where the cheapest pints are. There is huge interest in this. At the moment, the cheapest Guinness is in the Irish House on Grove Road for €2.90 and the cheapest lager is in the Croppy Acre,” he said.


Personal View: Ireland Has To Park The Tour Bus

IRELAND is a curious tourist destination. Step back and ask yourself when was the last time you visited a country for 10 days and stayed in seven different places. This statistic comes from Tourism Ireland and it is my guess that not many people can answer yes to that question.

This is the style of holiday that the industry has developed, packaged and presented to the world. It was driven by a demand from millions of Irish Americans who flocked to our shores and helped build a substantial industry throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The US market was supplemented by Europeans looking for the fresh wilderness of western Europe with a special heritage and people. We sold it well, with images of red-haired, freckled-faced people and the promise of a cultural experience. This was exactly what the market was looking for and the number of tourists increased year on year.

Times change and, in our case, markets mature. Since 2000 the level of tourism on the western seaboard has been in decline.

Excluding the thriving city break business, the “touring” visitor is simply not coming to Ireland in appreciable numbers. The result is that small towns along the west coast as well as their hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, restaurants and bars are all suffering.

Tourism in these areas accounts for a significant portion of local revenue given the lack of alternative industries. When tourism is down, everybody, from the butcher to the church, feels the decline.

Despite a plethora of excuses the simple fact is that the “touring” product and Ireland’s image are simply not attractive to the new generation of American tourists and this void is too large to be filled by other markets.

With the dramatic increase in second/holiday home ownership both here and in Britain, the reason for taking a vacation in another country is obvious.

In contrast, second-home ownership in America is not at the same level but with only 10 days’ holidays a year this market segment is cash rich and time poor.

What does the new generation of tourist look for in a holiday? Look through the glossy pages of travel magazines both in the UK and America and it becomes apparent that the blue-sky solitude of sandy beaches, “personal wellness” breaks, cruises and adventure all feature prominently.

The touring product that once graced the same pages with interesting itineraries across Europe seems to have completely disappeared.

This trend has important implications for the future health of Irish tourism. Two main issues need immediate attention — product development and marketing. These need to be developed in tandem to establish a message, image and experience that the market wants.

Examples like Iceland and New Zealand are worth researching. Both have identified aspects to their location, landscape and heritage that is proving attractive.

Through a combination of marketing and product development they have both established substantial growth in their tourist markets.

Ireland has many positive aspects it could sell. All it takes is vision, innovation and focused marketing by the industry in partnership with state bodies. Get the formula right and Ireland can once again look forward to tourism growth.

John Brennan
General Manager,
Park Hotel, Kenmare

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005
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