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January 17, 2005

01/17/05 – Dermot Ahern Must Raise Bugging With Murphy

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

SF 01/17/05 Dermot Ahern Must Raise Bugging Admission W/ Murphy
UT 01/17/05 IRA 'Certainly Behind Bank Raid'
SL 01/17/05 McGrady's 'Drop Sinn Fein' Call Sparks War Of Words
SF 01/17/05 SDLP Should Distance Itself From McGrady Position
BT 01/17/05 Paisley Hardens Stance Over IRA And Talks
BT 01/17/05 SF & Blair Provide Proof Is Not Election Necessity
UT 01/17/05 Half Of Province's Police Stations Face Axe
PB 01/17/05 LaBute, Friel Works Set For Ireland; McPherson NY-Bound


Dermot Ahern Must Raise MEP Bugging Admission Report With Paul Murphy - De Brún

Published: 17 January, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern to raise the bugging of Belfast Sinn Féin offices with Paul Murphy at their meeting later today.

Ms de Brún made her comments after a Sunday newspaper revealed that the head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller admitted her organisation had bugged the Sinn Féin offices at Connolly House in Belfast. The report says that Manningham-Buller's disclosure came at a closed meeting of the Westminster intelligence and security committee before Christmas. The discovery of the device came at a critical time in the peace process.

Speaking this morning, Ms de Brún said:

"Reports of head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller's admission that MI5 bugged the Sinn Féin offices in west Belfast, including my own, will shock even those who have become hardened to the fact that the nationalist community has been spied upon and harassed for the past 35 years by these same shadowy organisations.

"We in Sinn Féin said at the time the bugging device was found that British Secretary of State Paul Murphy must have authorised the surveillance operation. In the light of this very disturbing report, I have asked Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, to raise the matter urgently with British Secretary of State Paul Murphy at today's meeting.

"Both myself and my colleague Mary Lou McDonald will also be raising this matter once again in the European Parliament at the highest levels.

"Sinn Féin raised this issue in the European Parliament back in September 2004 after the discovery of the bugging device. European Parliament President Josep Borrell raised the matter with the British Government, who gave the stock answer that they do not comment on individual cases.

"Given this highly disturbing report, the British government must now provide a satisfactory reply to the European Parliament, to the Irish government, and most importantly to the voters whose rights have been infringed.

"Time and again undercover British securocrats have created difficulties in the peace process, culminating with the closure of Stormont after unsubstantiated allegations of a spy-ring. These are the same people who have admitted responsibility for spying on republicans ten years into a peace process."ENDS


IRA 'Certainly Behind Bank Raid'

The British and Irish governments are 100% certain the IRA carried out the £26.5m Northern Ireland robbery, ministers said today.

As the Rev Ian Paisley heightened pressure on Downing Street to restore the Stormont Assembly without Sinn Fein, Secretary of State Paul Murphy and the Irish Foreign minister Dermot Ahern said there was no doubt about who was to blame for the bank heist and derailing the peace process.

When asked after talks in Dublin if they were 100% confident that the IRA were behind the record heist, Mr Murphy and Mr Ahern both defiantly replied: "Yes."

They ruled out any immediate political sanctions against Sinn Fein but said the issue could be revisited after Independent Monitoring Commission published its next report.

Mr Ahern stressed that talks between the governments and the parties continue in coming days but real progress was only possible if paramilitarism ended.

He said: "As far as the Irish government is concerned, it`s not business as usual.

"There has to be a total closure to the spectre of paramilitary and criminal activity.

"Both governments remain firmly committed to achieving inclusive political agreement in Northern Ireland.

"But we are very unlikely to achieve that outcome in the very near future."

Mr Murphy said: "The world has changed in terms of how we deal with the process now.

"The mutual confidence, mutual trust and mutual faith has been damaged very seriously"

"The raid and the political implications represent a very serious blow to the political process."

Earlier DUP leader Mr Paisley hardened his stance and called on the British government to shun Sinn Fein in the talks process until the IRA verifiably abandons all criminality.

He said: "Until action on these matters is taken, the British Government must declare categorically that IRA/Sinn Fein have put themselves outside the negotiations and can have no place whatsoever in the executive government of Northern Ireland."

Last month the British and Irish Governments believed they had come close to a landmark deal with Sinn Fein and the DUP to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland and force Republicans to abandon paramilitarism and criminality for ever.

The deal stumbled over the IRA`s refusal to allow future acts of disarmament to be photographed, a key demand by the DUP.

Any lingering hope that agreement could be reached before the next British general election was shattered earlier this month when Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde said he believed the IRA carried out the Northern Bank raid.

Sinn Fein leaders have maintained that Mr Orde has produced no evidence to back up his assertions.

In recent days there has been considerable pressure on the two Governments to impose political sanctions on Sinn Fein as a result of the record-breaking heist.

Mr Murphy also had a meeting with Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell tonight.

Afterwards, Mr McDowell said: "I reject completely that the governments are discriminating against Sinn Fein.

"Sinn Fein is not the victim in all of this. If there is any discrimination, it is self-discrimination

"The fact that the Provisional movement couldn`t sign up to respect the safety and rights of others (in the Governments` draft proposals) speaks volumes.

"There can be no room for ambiguity on this matter."

Earlier, Mr Ahern said that the evasion and denial by the IRA and Sinn Fein had deepened the gulf of mistrust in the political process.

The Irish premier and British Prime Minister are due to discuss the latest obstacles when they meet at the Inter-Governmental conference on February 1.

North-south co-operation, policing, criminal justice and the Cory Inquiries will also be on the agenda.

Mr Ahern said the partnership between both governments remained very firm.

Mr Murphy added: "Our aim is to ensure we deal with criminality and don`t have a situation where banks are robbed and people are held hostage."

The SDLP said tonight that it put the Good Friday Agreement before coalition with any party.

Speaking after a meeting of his assembly group in Stormont, party leader Mark Durkan stated: "The SDLP does not have to line up behind the DUP or Sinn Fein. We are lined up, as we always have been, behind the Good Friday Agreement.

"We put inclusion into the Agreement. We still believe that that is the best way forward."

Mr Durkan called for the Governments to appoint 10 civic administrators to run the Stormont departments until an inclusive Executive is up and running.

He added: "Sinn Fein have a credibility problem. They are not just disputing Hugh Orde, they are disputing the Taoiseach and Irish Government intelligence."


McGrady's 'Drop Sinn Fein' Call Sparks War Of Words

17 January 2005

SOUTH Down MP Eddie McGrady sparked a bitter war of words yesterday by suggesting the SDLP should consider going into government without Sinn Fein.

Mr McGrady said all options should be explored in the wake of the security assessment that the IRA was behind the £26.5 million raid on the Northern Bank - including the possibility of a new coalition.

"The democratic process must not be held up by the decisions of the IRA 'army council'," he said.

But Sinn Fein MLA Catriona Ruane - who will fight the South Down seat in the next Westminster election - accused Mr McGrady of being prepared to abandon the "politics of inclusiveness" espoused by former SDLP leader John Hume.

"Many nationalists will be horrified that Mr McGrady is prepared to contemplate the politics of discrimination and exclusion.

"Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist and largest pro-Agreement party in the North, and we will not allow the rights of our electorate to be undermined by the SDLP."

However, Mr McGrady angrily denied he was breaking ranks with the leadership of his own party.

"I totally subscribe to the principle of inclusivity, but we have a situation whereby people do not want to conform to requirements of democracy," he said.

"If people want to stay out of something because they don't want to accept the rules of the game, then that's their decision."

DUP leader Ian Paisley welcomed Mr McGrady's comments, saying they could be "the genesis for a breakthrough that the people of Northern Ireland deserve".

Mr Paisley is now seeking an urgent meeting with the Government to try to implement Mr McGrady's suggestion.


SDLP Assembly Team Should Distance Itself From McGrady Position

Published: 17 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has urged the SDLP Assembly team meeting today in Stormont to distance themselves from weekend remarks by Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell indicating that the party should accept the DUP proposal of a voluntary coalition.

Mr Kelly said:

" The DUP proposal for a voluntary coalition is about replacing the Good Friday Agreement and undermining the equality and inclusivity principles which underpin this process. That is why it was rejected out of hand in the negotiations last year and that is why Ian Paisley has given the weekend remarks by Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell such a warm welcome.

" There are clearly serious leadership issues now for the SDLP. There is a lack of direction and cohesion at the top of that party. However these problems should not be allowed to damage the Good Friday Agreement project. Nationalists and republicans have stood firm with the Good Friday Agreement. They expect their political representatives to do likewise.

" It is therefore important that the SDLP Assembly team meeting today in Stormont are clearly seen to distance themselves and their party from the weekend proposal that the SDLP join with the DUP and abandon the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS


Paisley Hardens Stance Over IRA And Talks

By Chris Thornton
17 January 2005

The IRA must disband and dispose of all its weapons before there are any further negotiations to restore Stormont power-sharing, DUP leader Ian Paisley insisted today.

Instead of the IRA's demise being one of the outcomes of the negotiating process, Mr Paisley says the Northern Bank robbery has made disbandment a precursor.

As the British and Irish governments began meetings to discuss the aftermath of the £26m heist, which has been blamed on the IRA, Mr Paisley said photographs of decommissioning should now be Sinn Fein's ticket into negotiations, not government.

"IRA/Sinn Fein must decommission all its terrorist weaponry in a manner that is totally transparent and with immediate photographic evidence to back it up," the DUP leader said.

"This means that IRA/ Sinn Fein as a terrorist army ceases to exist."

He also demanded "the criminal structures of IRA/Sinn Fein must be totally dismantled and proof of this must be demonstrated, without question, over a substantial period of time".

"Until action on these matters is taken, the British Government must declare categorically that IRA/Sinn Fein have put themselves outside the negotiations and can have no place whatsoever in the executive government of Northern Ireland."

His demand came as Secretary of State Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern talked about their options over lunch in Dublin, and the SDLP was caught in a row over sharing power without Sinn Fein.


Sinn Fein And Blair Provide Proof Credibility Is Not Election Necessity

by Malachi O'Doherty
17 January 2005

The lie, if it is a lie, gets more convoluted as the weeks pass. The first statement from the IRA that it "dismissed the suggestion" that it robbed the bank was obligingly reported by the media as a denial.

Sinn Fein endorsed this denial but there was a curious moment in an interview with Gerry Kelly. He said that the robbery had not been "right".

This in itself called for no great moral insight from him. The intriguing bit was that he admitted he had not intended to say that but had been pushed towards saying it by a reporter.

The logical follow-on question - that so rarely comes - was, why is it difficult to say that?

Noel Thompson on Hearts and Minds had little difficulty with follow-on questions and put it to Martin McGuinness that when he was talking to the IRA he might have had difficulty finding someone of higher rank in it than himself.

McGuinness nearly burst a blood vessel with rage.

The media isn't supposed to ask questions like that. Where would it lead to if that sort of thing was allowed?

"Did you kill many people yourself, Martin, or did you just give the orders?"

No, it's unthinkable that he would ever face a question like that.

The next repositioning by Sinn Fein took McGuinness to saying that the robbery was a criminal act.

So radical was that, if the IRA did it, that it opened speculation that the Republican Movement is splitting.

Jim Cusack had an article in The Sunday Independent yesterday saying that intelligence briefings claimed that a south Armagh man on the "army council" had wanted to bomb London but had been talked into settling for a nice spectacular robbery instead.

Already, the Sinn Fein argument has progressed another step with both Adams and McGuinness now saying that, had they ever known that the IRA was planning such a robbery - which they didn't because it wasn't - it would have produced a crisis in Sinn Fein/IRA relations.

So they are leaving no way back for themselves to any kind of admission and, if they are lying, they are in danger of unnerving even their friends with their dexterity.

Or maybe they will "find out" some day that the IRA did it and effect the appropriate shock and awe.

McGuinness is fond of telling us that the same intelligence service that names the IRA as the robber also said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Not quite right. MI5 was manipulated by Blair into saying things it did not actually believe.

But there is a different lesson in that for Sinn Fein. It is that you don't need credibility to win elections.

Blair's credibility is about as low as their own and it appears to have done him little harm, apart from ageing him.

The rest of us may reflect on this: the IRA that robbed the bank is an IRA on top form.

If it starts to take umbrage with all the sneering and free speculation, and with the Sinn Fein political advance stalled, it will be as dangerous as it wants to be.

Eddie McGrady, that fine man, has shown the SDLP a way forward if it has the gumption.

There is, after all, nowhere else for the party to go but into negotiations with the DUP on an interim arrangement.

It is an idea which opens the prospect of a full inclusive settlement later on.

The SDLP is in a position to exact a price from the DUP and that could include the terms on which Sinn Fein would be able to take seats in the Executive.

There is, of course, the huge risk that if the SDLP went in with the DUP and the Ulster Unionists, politics here from then on would be dominated by the question of Sinn Fein's return and the SDLP would come to be either identified as an obstacle to that return or as a party with no other agenda than to facilitate it again.

It would have to compensate for a nationalist sense of loss with outstanding achievements in government and real advances in the reduction of sectarianism.

Without such a deal, it is hardly conceivable that devolution will return.

It hasn't sunk in universally yet, but if the IRA robbed the bank, no Irish Government will ever be able to deal with this Sinn Fein leadership again.

It is easier for Blair. In England he looks like a statesman when he is humbling himself to mediate our infantile quarrel.

They would think it almost saintly of him to try yet again. Ahern would look like a fool.


Half Of Province's Police Stations Face Axe

Nearly half of all police stations across Northern Ireland could eventually be axed, it emerged tonight.

By:Press Association

Millions of pounds have also been budgeted for other bases to be built as part of a massive five-year overhaul.

The strategy is to be outlined by senior officers on Friday.

With police commanders under pressure to intensify the war on crime by putting more men and women on the streets, Chief Constable Hugh Orde realises 135 stations is unsustainable.

A policing source confirmed tonight: "A list of just over 60 stations has been drawn up for a viability review and potential closure during the period up until 2010."

All 29 district commanders were consulted in a year-long bid to identify bases that may be surplus to requirements.

Their assessments have been studied and approved by Mr Orde and his top advisers.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton will put the blueprint to the Northern Ireland Policing Board`s finance and general purpose committee at their Belfast headquarters.

The authority has to endorse the proposals, which are expected to involve many smaller stations already operating on a part-time basis.

They must also adhere to the board`s station closure policy, with issues such as costs and security scrutinised.

The strategy will be put out to public consultation as well, with security sources stressing police chiefs would look at community views on every possible closure.

"It`s very much a first step because even if the board does endorse this, the stations won`t close immediately," one insider said.

But based on audited studies of the number of stations in use for a population of just over 1.6 million, it is widely accepted that a big rationalisation programme is needed.

A second strand to the plans involve significant investment in a number of new stations.

It is understood Omagh, Co Tyrone and Musgrave Street in Belfast city centre have been earmarked.

Major refurbishment would take place at other bases, including Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman refused to comment on the numbers under consideration.

She said: "The Police Service keeps its estate needs under constant review.

"It has developed an estates strategy for the period 2005 to 2010 which will be presented to a committee of the Policing Board later this week."


Irish-American Exchange Has LaBute, Friel Works Set For Ireland; McPherson NY-Bound

By Ernio Hernandez
17 Jan 2005

American scribe Neil LaBute will debut Wrecks in Ireland alongside Irish pen Brian Friel's The Home Place, while Dublin native Conor McPherson's Shining City is heading stateside, according to Variety.

LaBute — whose bash and The Shape of Things have been performed in Ireland — will stage his own new solo Wrecks at the Everyman Palace Theatre located in southern Ireland's Cork. The work will appear as part of the European Capital of Culture 2005 program in the fall.

Friel — whose Dancing at Lughnasa was the Tony Award Best Play winner in 1992 — premieres his first full-length drama in eight years, according to the trade magazine. Adrian Noble will direct The Home Place at Dublin's Gate Theatre, starting Feb. 1. The venue will also see a revival of Friel's Faith Healer starring Ralph Fiennes, either later this year or early 2006.

Variety also purports that The Gate is in negotiations to bring Irish playwright McPherson's latest work to New York in 2005. The play, Shining City, has played to positive critical response in London and Dublin last year with the author directing.

LaBute has enjoyed the extension of his recent Off-Broadway work, Fat Pig, and will next see the debut of his This Is How It Goes at The Public Theater, March 8-April 10. He also contributed one-acts to the recent inaugural Tribeca Theatre Festival and the upcoming MCC Theatre benefit.

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005
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