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January 18, 2005

01/18/05 – McGuinness Blasts Malicious Remark

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

DJ 01/18/05 McGuinness Blasts 'Malicious' Remark –V
SF 01/18/05 Dialogue Is Key To Progress
BT 01/18/05 Loyalist Supremo's Death: Two In Court
DJ 01/18/05 Confused SDLP Divided Party- Claims Mitchel McLaughlin
DJ 01/18/05 Woman And Children Attacked Over Celtic Top
IO 01/18/05 Relatives Renew Pressure Over Omagh Report
BB 01/18/05 Scotland: McConnell Urges Parades Overhaul
IO 01/18/05 Sacked Workers Ordered To Train Replacements
IP 01/18/05 Linda Coleman: A Look Back At 2004

RT 01/18/05 Taoiseach Will Engage In Talks With Sinn Fein -VO

Taoiseach Will Engage In Talks With Sinn Fein- David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports on the day's developments in Ireland and the Taoiseach's comments in Bejing

David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports live from Government buildings


See this interview on Hearts & Minds at:

McGuinness Blasts 'Malicious' Remark -V

Tuesday 18th January 2005

Martin McGuinness has hit out at the BBC following a hot and heavy debate on Thursday night last on 'Hearts and Minds' claiming a remark made by programme presenter, Noel Thompson, was 'malicious'

During an interview on the programme about the IRA's alleged involvement in the Northern Bank heist Mr. Thompson asked Mr. McGuinness if the IRA had carried out the robbery.

Repeating comments he has made in a number of interviews following the robbery, Mr. McGuinness said he had gone to senior figures within the IRA and had asked them if they had carried out the robbery. He said they (senior IRA figures) had told him they had no involvement in the robbery and he believed them.

At the point where Mr. McGuinness said "senior figures" in the IRA, Mr. Thompson interrupted asking: "more senior than you?".

A clearly angry Mr. McGuinness retorted "...that was a very malicious comment...".

A spokesperson for the BBC said at the weekend that Mr. Thompson's interview technique followed all the guidelines set down by the broadcaster. She said the interview was neither unfair nor unbiased. "We are confident the interview met all of our guidelines," she added.

A spokesman for Mr. McGuinness said Sinn Fein were never surprised by the sort of questions asked in such interviews. "These programmes don't surprise us. We expect these sort of questions, but the problem is, they never seem to adopt the same questioning policy when it comes to the likes of Ian Paisley," the spokesperson said.

"Noel Thompson's questions say more about the closed mind of certain elements within all sections of the media, except some notable exceptions.

"The media have been making many uncritical claims from so-called security sources without any evidence being produced. It seems when the Chief Constable Hugh Orde gives an opinion, all of a sudden it becomes fact when reported in some aspects of the media."

Mr. McGuinness' spokesman said some of Mr. Thompson's remarks showed the level to which certain broadcasters felt comfortable reporting "unsubstantiated allegations about Republicans".

But Mr. McGuinness' spokesman conceded that Mr. Thompson was only doing his job as a journalist in conducting a "robust" interview. "Noel Thompson has a job to do and as far as we are concerned, he was doing his job."

But he added: "We would like to see the same level of robustness when it comes to letting people express an opposing point of view".


Dialogue Is Key To Progress

Published: 18 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Vice President, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has said that sanctions and the politics of exclusion will not move the peace process forward.

Mr Doherty said:

"Does anyone seriously believe that sanctions, exclusion or discrimination will do anything to move us forward? Of course not.

"Those advocating exclusion are working to their own narrow agendas. They are ignoring the reality that Sinn Fein's right to participation in the political process stems from our substantial electoral mandate. In contrast to Sinn Fein, the British government has no mandate in Ireland and it has no right to sanction or discriminate against those chosen by the Irish electorate to represent them. These are the failed policies of the past.

"Whatever about the current situation the reality is that we will only make progress on the basis of dialogue, inclusivity, negotiation and accommodation." ENDS


Loyalist Supremo's Death: Two In Court

Brother and sister go on trial.

18 January 2005

A brother and sister have gone on trial in Belfast accused of involvement in the murder of Red Hand Commando drug dealing supremo Jim "Jonty" Johnston in the driveway of his luxury Co Down home on May 8, 2003.

The Crown Court heard that 46-year-old Johnston was ambushed by two gunmen who fired 14 times at him, hitting him 11 times as he was closing the gates to his Crawfordsburn home.

Denying his murder is 41-year-old Robert John Benson Young from Ulsterville Park in Portadown, whose 39-year-old sister Lorraine, of Church Hill, Holywood is accused of providing him with a false alibi for the time of the murder.

A second Co Down woman, 35-year-old Susan Ferguson from Westlink in Holywood, is on trial with them accused of possessing a magazine for a 9mm Taurus pistol found at the scene of the shooting and of having a second magazine found during a search of her home.

Prosecuting QC John Creaney claimed there was "incontrovertible - irrefutable" scientific evidence establishing Young as one of the two gunmen, and that if the court was so satisfied then his sister's written alibi statement was "a lie and calculated to pervert the course of public justice".

Turning to Ferguson, the lawyer said swabs taken from her and from the Tauras pistol magazine were "identical" and the chances of a match being made from any other woman from Northern Ireland was "less than one in 100 million".

Diplock trial judge Mr Justice Higgins was told that the ambush of Johnston was "sudden and sustained" and that he "succumbed to the barrage of shots directed at him" which had "left him no chance of surviving".

As the gunmen left they were spotted by some of Johnston's neighbours, and on hearing one of them calling "police", on a mobile phone, the gunmen fled up the driveway of a house, discarding one of their balaclava masks, before escaping through a wooded area to a waiting car.

The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.


Confused SDLP 'A Divided Party'- Claims Mitchel McLaughlin

Tuesday 18th January 2005

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin has described the SDLP as a 'divided party sending out a confused and contradictory message' after Eddie McGrady suggested a coalition without Sinn Fein.

Mr. McGrady the MP for South Down made his comments at the weekend as the furore continued over the Northern Bank robbery.

But party leader mark Durkan seemed to backtrack when he said that the SDLP would be standing by the Good Friday Agreement.

Yesterday Mitchel McLaughlin said: "This is obviously a divided party sending out a confused and contradictory message. I am sure that the people in the form of the electorate will deal with them accordingly."

He went on: "I think that the SDLP have been paying the price for some time now for their failure of focus and that people feel that Sinn Fein are providing better and more coherent leadership."

On the current political situation Mitchel McLaughlin said that eventually all parties would have to once again address the question of implementing the Agreement.

He said: "My sense of things is that the governments are moving into election mode rather than attempting to put the agenda back together again which is something we cannot do on our own. If it is the election the governments are focusing on then they will not confront unionists on their refusal to share power instead everything wil be focused on stopping Sinn Fein's electoral advance.

"They will not succeed in that and at some stage everyone will have to return to where we were on December 8 and seek to move on until we reach a comprehensive agreement.'

Mitchel McLaughlin reiterated that he believed republicans had nothing to do with the Northern Bank robbery.


Woman And Children Attacked Over Celtic Top

By Claire Allan

Tuesday 18th January 2005

A woman and two young children have been left traumatised after they were attacked on Clooney Terrace because one of the children was wearing a Celtic shirt.

The assault happened just before 6pm on Saturday evening as the lady, who has asked that we do not publish her name, her son and his young friend left the video shop and returned to their car.

"My son's friend, who is just eight, was wearing a Celtic top. We had just got into the car when two grown men, in their late 30s or early 40s walked past and kicked the car," the woman said.

"I got out of the car to ask them what was wrong and I was subjected to a barrage of physical and verbal abuse.

"They punched me, kicked me and slammed the car door into my chest several times.

"By this stage my son and his friend were hysterical in the back of the car. They were crying and screaming and the men continued to shout all sorts of sectarian remarks.

"They told me to 'Get in the car you f***ing Fenian' and called me a 'F***ing Fenian slut'.

"I told them I thought it disgraceful they were getting so riled up over a shirt a child was wearing, but they just replied that I wasn't a child, just a 'f***ing slut'."

The woman, who lives in the Waterside, had to go to hospital for treatment and now says she finds leaving the house traumatic.

"I've never had any bother like this in my whole life and I hope it never happens again. I just think it is totally disgraceful that grown men can act this way towards a woman and children in this day and age.

"I thought we were supposed to have put things like this in the past."

The woman said her son has hardly stopped crying since and insists on having all the doors locked on the car should they go out.

"Nothing would have been said if the wee boy had been wearing a Manchester United top, so why does a Celtic football top bring such a violent reaction? At the end of the day, it's only a football top."


Relatives Renew Pressure Over Omagh Report
2005-01-18 17:10:02+00

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern faced fresh pressure tonight to release a report his Government commissioned on the Omagh bomb after a County Donegal policeman was cleared of six corruption charges.

Detective Sergeant John White from Ballybofey was acquitted today of six charges of making false statements and attempting to pervert the course of justice, on the direction of a Circuit Court judge in Letterkenny.

The courts have still to rule on one other charge against Mr White, unlawful possession of a firearm.

Judge Sean O'Donovan directed the jury today that Mr White should be found not guilty because of inconsistencies in the evidence of the main prosecution witness.

The detective came to the attention of Omagh families when he claimed a Real IRA informer warned him before the 1998 attack about a car which was to be used in a bombing.

Mr White said he passed on the warning to a senior garda officer but it was not conveyed to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

In August 1998 a car bomb exploded in Omagh town centre, killing 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.

Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan investigated Mr White's claim, passing her findings on to former Foreign Minister Brian Cowen.

The Irish Government appointed a team to investigate his allegations which was headed by retired civil servant Dermot Nally.

In December 2003, Justice Minister Michael McDowell told the Dáil that the Nally Report had found no evidence to support any of the claims.

The Government has been criticised by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny for not publishing the Nally Report.

Omagh relatives, who were at today's court hearing, claimed the clearing of six of the charges against Mr White placed a fresh onus on the Government to release the report.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died in the Real IRA bomb attack, said: "What this verdict effectively does is remove the blanket which has concealed the truth up to now.

"We have been denied the right to see this report by the authorities because they have told us the source of these allegations was unreliable and facing charges.

"Following today, he does not look unreliable now.

"There is, therefore, an onus on the Irish Government to publish the Nally Report.

"We are seeking a meeting with Mr McDowell at the earliest opportunity to discuss what the Irish Government will do."


Scotland: McConnell Urges Parades Overhaul

First Minister Jack McConnell has said there are too many contentious parades and marches in Scotland.

Mr McConnell suggested their number could be reduced with the introduction of a new framework for agreeing dates and parade routes.

The move could see the Orange Order and republican organisations working more closely with local communities.

Former Strathclyde Police chief constable Sir John Orr is due to publish his review on marches.

The first minister said communities across Scotland should have a greater say on the number of parades.

"I think there are too many parades," he said.

"Far too many communities are affected too regularly by the kind of parades that you are referring to.

"I think there are many communities across Scotland that would like to see fewer parades and I think if they had more influence over the decisions that were made there would be fewer parades.

"If local authorities and the organisations involved had a framework within which they could reach better agreements then there would be fewer parades too".

Notice periods

Mr McConnell said there were too many parades in the west of Scotland, particularly some parts of Lanarkshire, Glasgow and Ayrshire.

He added: "I hope that that is an issue that the publication of (Sir John's) report and our response to it will address."

Sir John, 58, was given the role in June last year following a number of controversial loyalist and republican marches.

His review has been considering issues such as the period of notice required for proposed marches and the basis for determining when to restrict, refuse or reroute parades.

It has also examined the number of marches and parades occurring in any particular community and the effects these have.

The system for granting parades and the cost of policing processions and marches have also formed part of the review.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/18 14:35:49 GMT


Sacked Workers Ordered To Train Replacements
2005-01-18 18:30:03+00

Workers from a Northern Ireland factory facing closure have been ordered to train the people taking their jobs, it emerged tonight.

Medical equipment firm Rusch, which is based in Lurgan, Co Armagh, announced today it was to close with the loss of 270 jobs.

The move is part of a worldwide restructuring strategy adopted by its American parent company Teleflex Medical, which will lead to plants being shut down in more than 20 locations.

The jobs are being transferred to factories in Mexico and Malaysia in a bid to cut costs.

It emerged tonight that workers from the two countries will be coming over to Northern Ireland to receive training before the company shuts down at the end of the year.

Michael Mulholland, regional organiser of the GMB union, said employees were angry at this development.

"The company wantsemployees facing redundancy to train people who are taking their jobs off them.

"As you can expect, they are taking this very badly. They feel they have been let down. A lot of people have been working here for the past 20 years," he said.

The job losses are part of a restructuring operation that will result in around 1,600 job losses throughout the world.

The company makes a range of medical equipment including tracheotomy tubes and catheters.

In a statement, Teleflex said the decision to move jobs to Mexico and Malaysia was difficult but added it had to become more competitive.

The move has been condemned by politicians from the area.

John O'Dowd, a Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said the whole town was shattered by the jobs blow.

"The workers are not being paid off because there is no market for the product but because the plant owners are moving the people of Lurgan's jobs to Mexico and Malaysia ...

"The Lurgan workers have now been given three months' notice. Where will they find work in an area which has seen it manufacturing industry collapse?" he said.

SDLP Upper Bann Assembly member Dolores Kelly said the announcement was a crushing blow to the area.

"Unfortunately I believe the decision to close Teleflex Medical is reflective of the ongoing instability in the peace process.

"Now more than ever we must achieve political stability so that our local economy can thrive and our local people can be offered opportunities they deserve," she said.

Meanwhile, cigarette manufacturer Gallaher is set to make 80 redundancies among its 850 strong workforce in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

This move is part of a wider restructuring of its European operations which will result in job losses in Cardiff and the closure of two factories in Austria.


Linda Coleman: A Look Back At 2004

The closing days of 2004 brought yet another “crisis” in the peace process, with the press jumping on the British bandwagon to blame the IRA. The mainstream press would have us believe that everything is peachy in the Six, the Agreement is in perfect working order, and everything would be fine if it weren’t for the IRA, always trying to wreck the process by spying, stalling, and stealing.

The latest supposed IRA misdeed is bank robbery, of course. The Sunday before Christmas, 50 million dollars was stolen from the Northern Bank and the headlines are still screaming, “Police Blame IRA for Bank Heist.”

Well, of course, the police blame the IRA. That’s what they always do. What the press fails to explain to its readers is that “Northern Ireland” is still a police state, where the “police” are a big part of the problem. If a tsunami hit Ireland, police would blame the IRA.

Personally, I think the timing of this bank heist is pretty odd. First of all, it was right before Christmas, giving the “Continuity RUC” an excuse to raid people’s homes during what should be a happy holiday season, tearing open wrapped packages and confiscating any “suspicious” presents. Nothing puts the military police into the holiday spirit like making republicans miserable at Christmas.

And, of course, what turns out to be the largest bank heist in British history is perpetrated at the dawn of Sinn Féin’s centennial year. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like a pro-British plot to dig yet another pothole into the road to peace and justice, and to cast a long shadow over what should be year of celebration for Sinn Féiners and their supporters overseas.

It would be easy for us to become discouraged by the latest turn of events. But a look back at 2004 reveals that the Republican Movement took some great strides forward, and that there’s more going on behind the scenes than is covered in the mainstream media.

If I had my own awards show (and goodness knows, that’s what the world needs most—more awards shows), I’d call it The Irish People’s Choice Awards and hand out the following accolades to deserving recipients of 2004:

The “Hands Across the Peace Line” award goes to Billy Leonard, a former member of the RUC who joined Sinn Féin last January. In a press statement, he said, “I believe Sinn Fein is committed to building a just peace,” and eloquently fielded questions from reporters about former RUC colleagues who were killed by the IRA.

“A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then,” he explained. “I am not trying to minimize anyone’s death. They were friends and associates whom I knew well… I also knew officers who were involved in paramilitary activity and some of them went to jail for it. I’ve seen both sides of the coin.” (Jeers to DUP councillor Timothy Deans, who refused to pose for a photo of Coleraine civic leaders alongside Billy Leonard).

The “There Really Are Some Good Judges in the United States” award goes to immigration Judge Rose Peters, who ruled that Sean O'Cealleagh, one of the “Casement Three,” was a political prisoner in Ireland and should remain permanently in the United States.

Though not a member of the IRA, Sean O'Cealleagh spent eight and a half years in Long Kesh for the murder of two British soldiers, before being released under the terms of the Agreement. In 2001, he was granted permanent residency in the United States, but was rounded up again last February by our over-zealous Department of Homeland Security.

At his deportation hearing in April, Judge Peters viewed a video that the British used to convict O'Cealleagh, a graphic BBC documentary of the two soldiers being dragged from their vehicle and beaten. Though the footage was horrifying to watch, Judge Peters stated that there was “a problem” with the original conviction of “The Casement Three,” and commented publicly on the nature of Diplock courts and the controversy surrounding the arrests in this particular case.

“None of the defendants in the ‘Casement Three’ were members of the IRA and none were present when (the corporals) were, in fact, shot.”

Our “with us or against us” anti-terrorism thugs were shocked when Judge Peters dared rule against the government, invoking the name of Osama bin Laden, of course. Judge Rose Peters ruling is proof that not all judges in this country have completely lost their minds: “The court has come to the conclusion that there are problems with this conviction, which leads me to the belief that the conviction was a purely political offense.”

From April comes another award winner—the “Presbyterian Peace Maker” award goes to Ken Newell, who was elected Moderator of the Presbyterian Church. Described as a “risk-taker” for the sake of peace, he engaged in secret talks in the 1990s with both republicans and loyalists. At a time when most people on his side of the peace line considered Gerry Adams to be the most frightening individual on the planet, Rev. Newell agreed to meet him to start a dialogue with republicans. “I've always believed dialogue opens doors, so it was an act of faith,” he told David McKittrick of the Irish Independent (April 26, 2004), indicating that he intends to be involved in peacemaking for as long as it takes. “One day we're going to have a very different country,” he stated in his interview with McKittrick. “It's not going to happen overnight but you know you'll see the crocuses and daffodils.”

And speaking of seeing signs of Spring on the horizon, the “Don’t Let The Door Hit You on the Way Out” award goes to two recipients, David Blunkett and John Ashcroft, co-signers of the infamous U.S./U.K. Treaty, who both resigned in the final months of 2004. Ashcroft resigned shortly after the election (November 9), and U.K. Home Secretary Blunkett resigned on December 15 after revealing that was having an affair with another man’s wife, and used his status as Home Secretary to put the woman’s Filipina nanny on the fast track towards residency in England. With Blunkett’s help, the 12-month application process was completed in a matter of days.

Although those two are gone, the U.S./U.K. Extradition Treaty still looms on the horizon and Bush will likely re-introduce this treaty to the new Senate. So let’s get out the letters we sent to our Senators last year and send them to my next award recipient—“U.S. Political Newcomer of the Year” Barack Obama! Why send to Barack Obama? Because he’s been assigned a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee! The new Illinois Senator doesn’t have an email address yet, so just send him a letter the old fashioned way in care of United States Senate, Washington, D.C., 20510.

Awww…I know what you’re thinking. You’re still a bit discouraged, thinking to yourself, “What good does it do to write all these letters?”

Just for you, I offer the final Irish People’s Choice Award for 2004 (give me a drum roll, everybody).

The “Letters Really Do Make a Difference” award goes to all of you who wrote your member of Congress in opposition to the anti-immigrant portion of H.R. 10 (the 9-11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004), which would have allowed the government to deport Irish immigrants—including U.S. citizens—for saying anything the government claimed was an endorsement of terrorist activity. If you wrote a letter against this dangerous undemocratic provision, give yourself a big pat on the back, ‘cause this portion of H.R. 10 was not included in the final bill.

Related to this award is the “Come Together Right Now” prize, which I give to the co-signers of the letter to Representative Pete Hoekstra and Senator Susan Collins, which begins, “The Irish American community is extremely concerned about the extraneous provisions in House Bill HR 10 that go beyond the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations. We write to express our strong opposition to these controversial provisions, which directly threaten the Irish in America.” Seven organizations came together to write this brilliant and effective letter: Irish Northern Aid, Irish American Unity Conference, Irish Deportees of America Committee, Irish National Caucus, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland, and Global Exchange.

The new year may not be off to the best start, and the road ahead of us is sure to be full of wrong turns, speed bumps and dead ends, but that’s no excuse to sit down and give up! Get up, put on your hiking boots, and don’t forget to bring your map, your compass, and a strong flashlight for shedding some light into the dark alleys. Back on the one road, everybody!


'Battle Of The Bogside' Film For Germany

Tuesday 18th January 2005

Award winning Derry film, 'Battle of the Bogside' has been nominated for yet another gong after being selected in the 'Best Documentary' category at a German Film Festival.

The film's nomination at the 'Wurzburg International Film Festival' comes hot on the heels of its recent success in the 'Irish Film and Television Awards' when it won 'Best Documentary'.

Producer and director Vinny Cunningham, who will fly out to attend next weekend's festival, is chuffed about the latest nomination.

"It's great to be in the running for another award. "'Battle of the Bogside' won 'Best Documentary' at the Irish Film and Television awards last October and has been shortlisted for number of other awards. Hopefully we'll be able to add another to the list next Sunday," he said.

'Battle of the Bogside', produced by Derry-based Perfect Cousin Productions, will be screened at the Wurzburg festival on Thursday.

On Sunday Mr. Cunningham will be in attendance to introduce the film and conduct a questions and answers session afterwards.

Later that evening he will find out if the film has won 'Best Documentary'.

'Battle of the Bogside' takes viewers behind the barricades and into the corridors of power at Stormont and Westminster as Derry was engulfed by rioting in August 1969.

It was these pivotal events that saw the introduction of British troops to Northern Ireland.

Screenings of the film planned for Chicago, New York and England during 2005.

Mr. Cunningham is currently planning a follow-up film on the events in 'Free Derry' during 1969.

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005
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