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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
January 19, 2005
01/19/05 – Heist Charge Irks White House
President Bush seems to be rowing in behind Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in blaming the IRA and Sinn Fein for last month's multi-million-pound bank robbery in Belfast.
Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005
IE 01/19/05 Heist Charge Irks White House
IT 01/19/05 Kelly To Visit Washington As US Considers SF Links
IE 01/19/05 Activist Groups Move To Block Thatcher
IO 01/19/05 Belfast Police Make New Robbery Appeal
BB 01/19/05 Raid 'Violated Good Friday Deal'
SM 01/19/05 SDLP Warns Government Over Scrutiny Proposal
IT 01/19/05 SF Had Income Of Over €2m In 2003
BT 01/19/05 Pressure On Murphy To Revive Assembly
BB 01/19/05 MP Queries £53.5m Assembly Bill
SF 01/19/05 Judicial Rvw Of SF Sanctions Decision Begins Tomorrow
SF 01/19/05 British Abuse Photos Will Come As No Surprise
IO 01/19/05 Bloody Sunday: 'IRA Gunfire' Witness To Testify
WT 01/19/05 Scotland's Orangemen Rip March Limits
IE 01/19/05 Immigrant Groups Looking To McCain For Reform Aid
IO 01/19/05 Motorway Plans 'Breach Good Friday Agreement'
IT 01/19/05 M3 Routing At Tara 'Very Odd Decision'
MN 01/19/05 'Ros Na Rún' For US TV
RT 01/19/05 SF Challenges Ahern To Explain Remarks -VO
RT 01/19/05 Michael McDowell On IRA Involvement In Robbery -VO
Sinn Féin challenges Ahern to explain remarks - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports on the worsening political row following the Northern Bank robbery
David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports on the comments made by Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, regarding allegations of IRA involvement in the robbery
Heist Charge Irks White House
President Bush seems to be rowing in behind Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in blaming the IRA and Sinn Fein for last month's multi-million-pound bank robbery in Belfast.
Sinn Fein's visas may be in jeopardy
By Susan Falvella Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Bush White House, in a rare show of public displeasure, alleged possible complicity by Sinn Fein in the pre-Christmas Northern Ireland bank raid. "We are deeply concerned about allegations of Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein involvement in the bank robbery," a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. "We are watching the situation closely."
White House rhetoric on the situation clearly is being ratcheted up even as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sought to mend fences with Sinn Fein while on a trade mission in China. Ahern, after not taking phone calls from Sinn Fein leaders and publicly endorsing the premise put forward by the Police Service of Northern Ireland of Provisional IRA involvement in the £26.5 million Northern Bank heist, promised he would meet next week with a Sinn Fein delegation.
It may not be so easy, however, for President Bush to get over it.
U.S. officials indicated the matter became "personal" because the president himself made telephone calls during the final attempt at Leeds Castle to cut a deal to restart the North's devolved government just weeks before the Dec. 19-20 bank raid in Belfast.
The consequences could hit Sinn Fein in its pocketbook.
The White House appeared this week to reject denials by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and other party leaders of any knowledge of plans for the robbery.
"Gerry Adams does not have a permanent visa to come here and fundraise," the administration official admonished.
Calls to Sinn Fein's Dublin offices for reaction to the White House's statement went unreturned on Tuesday.
Sinn Fein took in approximately €700,000 in one six-month period alone from its U.S. fundraising in 2003.
Irish officials here noted that the controversy does not effect plans for the taoiseach to come for his annual White House visit come St. Patrick's Day.
"The only party the White House is thinking about is the Inauguration -- they're certainly not worrying about who's going to the St. Patrick's Day party," one Irish official said.
"The truth is we firmly expect the Shamrock ceremony to be normal, though obviously they [the White House] could amend the arrangements for the rest of the celebration based on developments in the North."
Reiss asked to stay
The White House and the State Department do want to offer some continuity to the U.S. involvement in the peace process.
Dr. Mitchell Reiss is likely to step down in the next two weeks as head of policy planning at the State Department. It is understood that newly appointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will bring her own head of policy planning to the department.
"Mitch Reiss is being asked to stay on Northern Ireland as special envoy," a State Department official said.
Reiss's suggestion to photograph arms decommissioning was not accepted by Sinn Fein in the final round of talks in December, but many involved in the process thought the proposed compromise helped inch the parties closer to an agreement. President Bush even phoned the parties to accept the Reiss photo plan over Thanksgiving weekend.
Irish and British officials concurred that it would be helpful for Reiss to remain as envoy as the process as efforts again begin to restart devolved government.
"We believe it is important to reach a lasting settlement for peace in Northern Ireland and we will continue to work with the governments to achieve that," a White House official said.
"This is not just going to be a rap on the knuckles," insisted one British official who believes the White House will not only take away fundraising from Sinn Fein but will ban its leadership from obtaining visas to enter the U.S. because of the bank robbery.
Irish diplomats pointed out that U.S. officials want to maintain the framework of the peace process, which would require Sinn Fein to be involved in rather than barred from negotiations.
Kelly To Visit Washington As US Considers SF Links
Conor O'Clery, North America Editor, in Washington
Senior Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly will be in Washington next week but no meeting with administration officials has yet been confirmed.
The visit comes as US officials digest the fall-out from the Northern Bank robbery, which US officials believe, on advice from Dublin and London, was carried out by the IRA.
While the administration is clearly watching to see how the Irish and British governments conduct future interaction with Sinn Féin, the idea of denying visas to Sinn Féin leaders is described here as "not realistic".
On fundraising, no decision is likely to be taken on whether to continue to allow permission - first granted 10 years ago - until a Sinn Féin leader applies for a visa to come specifically for a fund-raising event. Each visa application in future is expected to be treated "on its merits" regarding the purpose of the visit.
The main fall-out from the current situation may be the annual meeting of the president with Northern Ireland party leaders, including Sinn Féin, which has been a feature of St Patrick's Day events in Washington since 1995. The attitude in the administration is that last year President Bush met the party leaders because the White House was then engaged with the British and Irish governments in a process to bring the DUP and Sinn Féin to agreement, which climaxed with Mr Bush's telephone calls to party leaders. Since the process has now "run its course" and the bank robbery has occurred, the St Patrick's Day events are being reconsidered.
Dr Mitchell Reiss, head of policy planning in the State Department, is understood to be "definitely" considering recommending changes in the format but has not made final recommendations to the White House. The shamrock ceremony with the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and President Bush will nevertheless go ahead. If the reception for party leaders is cancelled the administration would not want it to be seen as a sanction against Sinn Féin, as this would mean the other parties were also being "punished".
However, if only Sinn Féin were to be disinvited, it would mean going back to the pre-ceasefire days a decade ago when the US excluded the party from contacts.Bush officials noted Mr Ahern's remark on Tuesday that his sense was "that non-engagement has never worked in my lifetime", and that he would resume contacts with Sinn Féin next week.
Mr Kelly is expected in Washington on Tuesday. Normally he would meet either Dr Reiss or senior State Department official Mr Eric Greene. However, no meeting has yet been scheduled. Mr Reiss is said to be furious about the bank robbery and is unlikely to agree to a meeting.
(c) The Irish Times
Activist Groups Move To Block Thatcher
By Ray O'Hanlon
With the fate of Belfast man Ciaran Ferry fresh in their minds, Irish-American activists this week were closely watching the increasingly bizarre situation surrounding Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Thatcher last week reached a plea bargain agreement with South African prosecutors in which he admitted to being an unwitting participant in an alleged plot to topple the government of the oil-rich West Africa state of Equatorial Guinea.
"Irish-Americans feel that if there is to be a fair and balanced policy, Mark Thatcher should not be allowed to enter the U.S. having pleaded guilty to involvement in the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt," Father Sean McManus of the Washington, D.C.-based Irish National Caucus said.
According to British newspaper reports, Thatcher was this week back in London with his mother, now Baroness Thatcher.
He had earlier flown from Cape Town to Frankfurt, Germany, from where he was hoping to rejoin his American wife, Diane, and the couple's two children, who are living in Dallas, Texas.
But his U.S. visa was found to have expired. Reports indicate that Thatcher is now to secure a renewal. This could take some weeks and the fact that Thatcher now carries a criminal conviction could stymie his trans-Atlantic travel plans.
The INC's McManus said that the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt "surely comes" under the heading of international terrorism.
"If Irish persons have been banned from entering the U.S. for far lesser reasons, then surely this would-be mercenary should be banned too," he said in reference to Thatcher. "If you harbor a terrorist you are a terrorist is the Bush doctrine. President Bush should apply it to Thatcher and bar him entry to the U.S."
McManus accused the president of already applying a double standard by funding former British army officer Tim Spicer with a $293 million private security contract in Iraq."
"He must not now compound his error by giving safe harbor to Thatcher, a buddy of Spicer," McManus said.
Spicer, who commanded the Scots Guards regiment in Belfast when unarmed teenager Peter McBride was shot dead in 1992 by soldiers under his command, has been linked in reports to the investigation of the coup plot.
"News that Mark 'Scratcher' Thatcher has pleaded guilty in South Africa over his part in an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea will again raise questions about the mercenary network linked to Tim Spicer, former Scots Guards officer in Belfast and friend of the Pentagon," the Pat Finucane Center in Northern Ireland said in its reaction to the Thatcher plea.
"Both Thatcher and Spicer belonged to a gang of English white guys out to plunder Africa, white man's burden and all that," McManus said.
Spicer, he said, was now "plundering the American taxpayer to the tune of $293 million."
Andy Somers, national president of the Irish American Unity Conference, said that his organization would be looking for equality of treatment for Ciaran Ferry should Mark Thatcher be allowed enter the U.S.
While Thatcher's family is in Dallas, Ferry's wife, Heaven, and the couple's 3-year-old daughter, Fiona, are in Colorado.
A onetime IRA member, Ferry was deported from the U.S. just before Christmas after spending two years in a Denver prison.
"We could put Mark Thatcher in a Denver jail for a couple of years while we sort things out," Somers said. "Plotting to overthrow the government of a country is a very violent crime. We feel very strongly about this."
In return for his release, Thatcher paid a fine to the South African authorities and agreed to help in their investigation of the coup plot.
The footage shows a bank employee leaving with a bag
Belfast Police Make New Robbery Appeal
Detectives hunting the gang who stole £25.6m (€38m) from the Northern Bank have established up to 1,000 lines of inquiry, they revealed today.
But with the IRA blamed for the heist in Belfast city centre, officers stressed they were not prepared to make rash arrests.
As new CCTV footage showing one of two bank employees carrying cash out of the Northern Bank's headquarters on the night of the heist, was put on display, the detectives heading the investigation also appealed for the driver of a car who nearly knocked down one of those taken hostage to contact police.
Superintendent Andy Sproule said assistant bank manager Kevin McMullan's wife who was abducted from their home in Loughinisland, Co Down, and held for 23 hours stumbled distressed into the path of the vehicle when she was eventually released.
He also disclosed that his team of officers are working with international agencies in their bid to track down the robbers.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has furiously rejected Chief Constable Hugh Orde's public assessment that the IRA carried out the December 20 raid and challenged police to provide any evidence to back up the claim.
Mr Sproule today refused to provide any of the details that led to the Provisionals being identified but he said: "I don't intend to go through all the inquiries we have done.
"There are maybe a thousand lines of inquiry and we have interviewed hundreds of people."
Raid 'Violated Good Friday Deal'
The £26.5m Northern Bank robbery was a violation of the Good Friday Agreement, the secretary of state has said.
Paul Murphy said unless there was a break with criminality, there would be no restoration of the political institutions.
He was speaking during Northern Ireland Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The PSNI said £26.5m was taken in the raid on the Northern Bank headquarters in Belfast on 20 December.
On Monday, the Northern Ireland secretary and the Irish foreign minister said they were 100% convinced the IRA was involved in the robbery - the UK's biggest cash raid.
It follows an assessment by PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde blaming the paramilitary group.
Requested to report
Mr Orde is to give the Policing Board another briefing on the Northern Bank robbery on Thursday.
He will tell members how the investigation is going.
In a statement issued on Tuesday signed by P O'Neill, the IRA repeated its denial of involvement.
On Wednesday, Mr Murphy told MPs: "In order for an executive to be formed there has to be the trust among parties for that to happen... unless we tackle the criminality we won't get the trust for parties to get together."
He said the International Monitoring Commission would be requested to report before it is due to in April.
"The raid on that bank has had grave consequences for the political and peace process in Northern Ireland.
"The bank robbery in Northern Ireland violated the Good Friday Agreement and the very principles that lie behind it."
He added: "Unless that break comes with criminality then we really have no hope of getting the institutions in Northern Ireland up and running again."
Prime Minister Tony Blair referred to those committing either terrorist or criminal activity.
"There can be no place for that. Unless and until it is absolutely clear that things have changed fundamentally, then it is difficult to see the way forward on that inclusive basis," he said.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said he would be challenging remarks Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made about republican involvement in the robbery when they met.
Assertions that the Sinn Fein leadership had prior knowledge of the robbery were "unfounded allegations against our party leadership", he said.
"What the taoiseach has accused me and Martin McGuinness of doing, is being involved in a conspiracy to be involved in the prior knowledge of the largest bank robbery in the history of these islands. I find that highly offensive," he said.
There was "nothing to back it up - it is totally wrong", said Mr Adams.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/19 13:07:51 GMT
(c) BBC MMV
SDLP Warns Government Over Scrutiny Proposal
Nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan warned the Government tonight his party would not support, in the absence of devolution, Assembly committees being given a role to scrutinise the work of Direct Rule ministers.
"The SDLP did not go for an Assembly monitoring Direct Rule back in the 1980s because that fell short of what this country needs," the Foyle Assembly member said.
"We won't be buying a retreaded Prior Assembly from Paul Murphy.
"We want to see the Assembly restored so that all 108 MLAs can do the job we are meant to do in terms of legislation, budgets, policy development and challenging and scrutinising Departmental plans and performance."
The political fallout from the Northern Bank raid continued in the Irish Republic today as Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused Bertie Ahern of damaging the political process with his recent comments about the party.
With Sinn Fein due to meet Mr Ahern next week, the West Belfast MP said: "Some days we are a bit muted in how we deal with these issues, given our relationship with various parties to this process who have played, including the Taoiseach, a very important role in the whole development of the peace process.
"But when it comes down to it, when such an allegation is made with nothing to back it up and it is totally wrong, we need and we deserve both an explanation and some sense of where this path takes us."
Mr Adams was accused of having a brass neck by a junior minister in Mr Ahern's Government.
Fianna Fail TD Brendan Smith countered: "Gerry Adams' bluster is an attempt to avoid answering the questions that he now has to answer.
"These questions are: Does he agree with his party spokesmen Mitchel McLaughlin and Arthur Morgan that the murder of Jean McConville was not a crime?'
"Does he support Mitchel McLaughlin's assertion that the IRA Army Council are the legitimate Government of this country?'
"Gerry Adams' attack on the Taoiseach acts as a smokescreen for the very serious issues he has to address himself."
Opposition Fine Gael Senator Brian Hayes dismissed the latest IRA statement denying involvement in the bank raid.
"We have heard the denials from the Republican Movement before on the McCabe murder, the Colombia Three and the repugnant recent denial that the murder of a mother of ten children was a crime," he said.
"For the good of the process, and to restore some public confidence in the integrity of the talks, Fine Gael is calling for the (Irish) Government to immediately withdraw the concession they made to Sinn Fein in respect of the early release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe."
SF Had Income Of Over €2m In 2003
New audited accounts from Sinn Féin show the party had an income of €2,035,960 in 2003 - a 30 per cent increase on the previous year.
The accounts show a dramatic rise in donations - from €194,394 in 2002 to €464,238 in 2003 - and a boost in state funding in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The party further claimed to have raised £90,000-£100,000 (€130,000-€144,000) in the United States last year, money which is being channelled through the party's Northern Ireland office to circumvent a ban on foreign donations in the Republic. Sinn Féin's director of finance, Mr Des Mackin, told The Irish Times that the figures indicated 2004 was "our biggest year" for fundraising in the US.
The party's efforts were boosted by fundraising dinners in three cities - New York, Chicago and San Francisco - last November.
Sources of income, other than donations, listed for 2003 were (with 2002 figures in brackets): Exchequer funding: €688,546 (€547,376), contribution from MLAs €480,889 (€509,922), Northern Ireland Office funding €216,476 (€147,992), fundraising €90,968 (€136,434), registration fees €25,909 (€10,915), and "other and notional income" €68,934 (€21,911).
The figures are calculated on an all-Ireland basis, and relate solely to money raised by the party's Dublin and Belfast offices.
It is only the second year that Sinn Féin has published audited accounts. The first set of accounts were released just over a year ago amid growing controversy about how the party funds its operations.
Other political parties in the Republic publish accounts on a yearly, biennial or triennial basis, with the exception of Fianna Fáil which said its accounts were a private matter for its trustees.
(c) The Irish Times
Pressure On Murphy To Revive Assembly
Minister urged to go ahead without Sinn Fein
By Brian Walker
19 January 2005
Since its suspension in October 2002 the Assembly has cost £53.5m, junior minister Ian Pearson has told MPs.
Just over £23m of the total was spent on MLAs' salaries, with £20.2m on staff and a further £10.1m on property and services.
But during Commons questions Secretary of State Paul Murphy resisted pressure from both unionist parties to rapidly find other uses for the Assembly, without an Executive which includes Sinn Fein.
DUP MP Nigel Dodds urged him to take action and "not allow Sinn Fein to hold the rest of us to ransom".
The Ulster Unionist whip Roy Beggs questioned the purpose of holding further talks with Sinn Fein.
He said: "P O'Neill is a proven liar" and dismissed the IRA's statement denying carrying out the Northern Bank robbery.
Mr Murphy replied that he had to talk to Sinn Fein, "not least to emphasise the seriousness of what has happened."
He said a formal meeting of the British-Irish council in a fortnight's time would examine all proposals for improving local accountability.
But he added: "We cannot have an Executive without an end to criminality. We cannot have a voluntary coalition unless there are unionists and nationalists on it."
Earlier this week the SDLP leader Mark Durkan slapped down the DUP's proposal for a voluntary coalition, advocating instead his party's idea of 10 independent commissioners to run the province, appointed by both governments and reporting to the Assembly.
And in the Commons, his colleague Seamus Mallon dismissed another DUP plan - to give the Assembly a scrutiny role over Direct Rule ministers, a proposal similar to James Prior's ill-fared Assembly of 1982 which was boycotted by the SDLP.
Mr Mallon urged the Secretary of State to "resist the temptation to go down the Prior road to an Assembly without authority or responsibility.
"Your efforts should be based on the fact that only the two sovereign governments acting together have the power to deal with criminality, illegal arms and illegal armies."
During PMQs, the Prime Minister hinted at finding some way of going ahead without Sinn Fein, though he indicated that he would still prefer to include them.
He was replying to a challenge from Unionist leader David Trimble, who accused Tony Blair of failing to "develop a coherent response to the Northern Bank robbery, although he has known for some time who was responsible."
Mr Trimble said the Prime Minister was giving "the unfortunate impression" that he would allow Sinn Fein to walk through the doors of Downing St again, "after the biggest bank robbery in British history."
Mr Blair said he was not denying the significance of the robbery.
He said: "I still want to find a way forward that includes everybody," but added that it could not be with parties associated with bodies that commit terrorism or criminal acts.
The challenge was not for the governments but for those who want to be engaged in the process, he added.
" We cannot wait for ever for them to make up their minds."
More than £50m has been spent on the Assembly since its suspension
MP Queries £53.5m Assembly Bill
More than £50m has been spent on the Northern Ireland Assembly since it was suspended in October 2002.
Stormont minister Ian Pearson made the figure public during NI questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
"The cost of maintaining the NI Assembly since suspension in October 2002 until 31 December 2004 has been £53.5m," he said.
This comprises £23.2m for costs relating to members and political parties, he said.
Mr Pearson added that £20.2m related to costs for assembly staff and £10.1m for property, accommodation and business service costs. The figures were revealed during questioning from North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon.
The North Down Ulster Unionist asked Mr Pearson to justify the continuing costs.
"Could the minister just explain the moral justification for continuing to squander £2m per month on a phantom assembly in Stormont?" she asked.
Mr Pearson replied that it was important to keep the assembly machinery in place for a time when devolution could be restored.
He said £15m had been saved during this financial year and matters would continue to be reviewed.
At the conclusion of intensive political talks at Leeds Castle in Kent in September, the British and Irish governments said the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.
However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.
Since that time, a £26.5m raid was carried out on the Northern Bank headquarters in Belfast on 20 December.
PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde blamed the Provisional IRA.
The Northern Ireland secretary and the Irish foreign minister said they were 100% convinced the paramilitary organisation was involved in the robbery.
The IRA has denied involvement.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/19 13:35:08 GMT
(c) BBC MMV
Judicial Review Of Sinn Féin Sanctions Decision Begins Tomorrow
Published: 19 January, 2005
A full Judicial Review brought by Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy into the decision of the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy to impose sanctions upon the Sinn Féin electorate in the wake of the IMC Report into an incident in a Belfast bar last year will begin tomorrow morning in the High Court.
Speaking today Mr Murphy said:
" Last year when Paul Murphy, a British Minister in Ireland with no mandate, decided to discriminate against the majority of nationalists in the six counties Mr Murphy used the cover provided by the securocrats through the IMC for this decision. Sinn Féin said at the time that we would use every means at our disposal to challenge this action.
" One element of this has been to launch a Judicial Review of the decision. We have already overcome the initial legal hearings and will tomorrow proceed to a full hearing.
" Given recent comments by Mr Murphy indicating that he is again exploring ways in which to discriminate against the Sinn Féin electorate further the timing of tomorrows hearing is all the more important." Ends
Editors Note: Conor Murphy will be available to speak to the media at 9.45am tomorrow morning (Thursday 20th January) outside the High Court.
British Abuse Photos Will Come As No Surprise
Published: 19 January, 2005
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has said that the images of British soldiers torturing and abusing Iraqi detainees will come as no surprise to the thousands of nationalists in the six counties who had to endure similar treatment at the hands of British regiments here.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The recently published images of British soldiers torturing and abusing Iraqi detainees will come as no surprise to the nationalist and republican community in the six counties.
"For decades British Army personnel have routinely abused nationalists and republicans on the streets and in the detention centres. They were also of course found guilty of torture in a number of high profile cases including the one involving the so-called hooded men.
"Claims of denial from the British military top brass will cut little ice with those of us here who know only too well the reality of British military occupation and the human rights abuses it entails." ENDS
Bloody Sunday: 'IRA Gunfire' Witness To Testify
The Bloody Sunday tribunal is to reconvene later this month to hear evidence from a man known as Witness X, it emerged today.
Witness X has denied telling the police in 1972 that he was a member of the Provisional IRA and fired two magazines from a carbine rifle in the Glenfada Park area of the Bogside on Bloody Sunday.
The hearing will take place on January 27 at a video conference room at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Witness X will give his evidence by video link and will be screened from view to protect his anonymity.
The hearing will be transmitted to the Guildhall in Derry, where the tribunal heard most of the evidence.
Late last year, Lord Saville and fellow judges retired to write their final report, which is expected to be completed by this summer.
Scotland's Orangemen Rip March Limits
Edinburgh, Scotland, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Scottish Protestant groups known as Orangemen are denouncing official efforts to limit their marches, the Scotsman said Wednesday.
Jack McConnell, Scotland's first minister, said Tuesday he worries the 850 Orange parades in Scotland every year and 17 republican or Catholic marches are fodder for social conflict.
But a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland accused McConnell of pre-empting the findings of a special committee's investigation into the marches, due next week, and also for failing to air his concerns first with the Orange Lodge.
McConnell has made it clear that he thinks sectarianism and religious bigotry are holding Scotland back. He says the sheer number and scale of the loyalist and republican marches that take place every year are damaging and regressive.
In Northern Ireland such marches have often resulted in violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants
Immigrant Groups Looking To Mccain For Reform Aid
Seamus Brennan, Ireland's social affair's minister, presented a check for €25,000 to be shared among 13 immigrant centers, at least weekend's Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers annual meeting in New York.
By Ray O'Hanlon
Irish immigration reform advocates around the U.S. will be looking closely at the actions and attitude of Arizona's Sen. John McCain as the current congressional year advances. This was the generally held view of delegates who attended the annual general meeting of the Coalition of Irish immigration Centers held over three days in New York last weekend.
The meeting, at the Southgate Towers Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, was jointly organized by the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens and the Yonkers-based Aisling Irish Community Center.
"It was a highly successful three days," said Siobhan Dennehy of Emerald Isle in reference to a gathering that was attended on its opening day by Seamus Brennan, the Irish government's minister for family and social affairs.
Brennan, who presented a €25,000 check from his department to the 13 centers represented at the conference, told the assembled delegates that the Irish government was determined to keep channels of communication open to the U.S. government, be it at presidential or congressional level, in an effort to ease pressure on undocumented Irish immigrants who wanted to become legal residents.
It was, said Brennan, the Irish government's "job and duty" to provide the Irish immigrant community in America with as much support as possible. Brennan said he wanted to "salute" and "acknowledge publicly" the vital work being carried out by the centers.
Speaking after the conclusion of the AGM, Dennehy said that Brennan had been "very receptive" to the concerns and views expressed to him by delegates.
In addition to Brennan, the Irish government was represented at the AGM by Emma Madigan from the New York consulate and by Sean Farrell and Síle Maguire, who together run the recently created Department of Foreign Affairs "dedicated unit," an office intended to coordinate government policy toward Irish immigrants around the globe.
The coalition gathering, which included delegations from San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, as well as the New York hosts, was a formal curtain raiser to a year seen by immigration-reform advocates as being especially crucial for the prospects of relief for undocumented immigrants, thousands of Irish among them.
The chance for reform was specifically addressed in a conference session entitled "The Changing Legislative Context for Immigration Issues."
According to Dennehy, the role of Sen. McCain in the coming months would be crucial if any real reform effort was to gather momentum in Washington.
"There was a lot of emphasis on what McCain is going to do, and also how he might work with both Sen. Edward Kennedy and President Bush," Dennehy said. McCain has been outspoken on immigration problems of late. He appeared on a recent edition of ABC Television "Nightline" and described an immigration situation in his home state that was nothing short of chaotic.
Democratic Party support for at least some degree of immigration reform is broadly assumed. The most virulent opposition to any changes in current law is to be found in the GOP, particularly among Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Dennehy described as "scary" some of the ideas being voiced by those who want to either block reform or include additional restrictions aimed at the undocumented.
McCain, it was felt, was the rallying point around which Republican members of Congress, more amenable to legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, would gather in the months ahead.
Dennehy said that delegates to the New York meeting well realized that the direction of reform would be heavily directed by how the current Congress deals with Hispanic lobbying groups.
Tom Conaghan, who represented the Philadelphia center at the meeting, said there was a realization among delegates that help was needed from Irish America in order to get things done.
"We need a good public-relations effort to let Irish America know that we are losing our Irish [born] communities," Conaghan said.
As well as overall reform of immigration law, the meeting dealt with subjects ranging from newly emerging restrictions on the issuing of driver's licenses to health insurance for the undocumented, border security, deportations and the kind of preparations needed in advance on the part of an immigrant planning on returning to Ireland.
A particular focus was placed on the need for the centers around the U.S. to expand social services and mental health counseling.
"The sharing of experience and information in this area was very well received," Dennehy said.
The Southgate meeting was the third of its kind for the coalition. The first was in San Diego in 2002, the second in New York in 2003.
Last weekend's event counted as the 2004 Annual General Meeting even though it crossed into the new year. The centers are hoping to hold their '05 conference in the fall, possibly in Chicago.
"After that we want to have a meeting that is strictly calendar based with one in each year," Dennehy said.
This story appeared in the issue of January 19-25, 2005
Motorway Plans 'Breach Good Friday Agreement'
19/01/2005 - 15:02:29
The Government breached the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement by allowing a proposed motorway route to cut through an historic battlefield, it was claimed today.
An Taisce - Ireland's National Trust - accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of giving tokenistic assurances to Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and the Orange Order.
Dr Mark Clinton said representations were made to the Taoiseach in March 2001 about the significance of the site in Aughrim and the damage that would be done by building the M6 through the historic Co Galway battlefield.
"Cecil Kilpatrick, Archivist of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, warned that the route would run 'through the Command Post of the Williamite General Ginkel, through the position of the right wing of the Williamite Cavalry commanded by Huguenot General Ruvigny and through the site of a Williamite Gun Battery'," he said.
"Finally, the road would obliterate 'Lutterell's Pass"' and so have 'equally devastating effects on the Jacobite positions'.
"At the time, March 7, 2001, Mr. Kilpatrick also forwarded similar correspondence to then First Minister of the Northern Assembly, David Trimble."
Dr Clinton said Mr Trimble then wrote to the Taoiseach and in reply Mr Ahern assured him that "Galway County Council and their consultants are aware of the historical importance of battlefields at Aughrim and you can be assured that full consideration of their significance will be taken into account during route design".
Dr Harmon Murtagh, the historian consulted for the Environmental Impact Statement, told a planning hearing last week that he would prefer if the route passed further north avoiding the battlefield.
"It is now clear that well in advance, both the NRA (National Roads Authority) and An Taoiseach were made well aware as to the damage that would be caused by the M6," he said.
"Equally, given that representatives of Grand Orange Lodge never signed off as being satisfied, it is now clear that the assurances given were, at best, tokenistic.
"As a result of what has been let happen, it would appear that the southern Irish authorities are in breach of the spirit of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement which prioritises "parity of esteem" in terms of respect for the different cultures.
"Equally the Republic's Government is also in breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment directive 85/337/EEC as amended 97/11."
Dr Clinton said the directive required any development with a trans-boundary dimension to secure the approval from the relevant authorities in the other state affected.
"An Taisce notes that the plan to build a motorway through the Aughrim battlefield site has attracted the objections of heritage interests representing all sides of the political spectrum - from the National Graves Association to the Orange tradition," he said.
"Their shared objections are backed by An Taisce as well as the Academy for Heritage, which represents many of the country's historians, including Dr Padraig Lenihan - a leading expert on 17th century Irish military history.
"The M6 scheme is particularly destructive to what historians have described as 'Ireland's Gettysburg'.
"Being the battle with the greatest fatalities (up to 9,000 killed) ever fought in Ireland, Aughrim is home to the country's largest unmarked war grave. What sense was there ever in locating a motorway there?" he added.
M3 Routing At Tara 'Very Odd Decision'
An eminent archaeologist who oversaw previous archaeological work on Tara as part of a Government research programme has described the decision to route the M3 motorway through the Tara/Skryne valley as "strange and odd", and said the current route should be changed.
Prof George Eogan, a retired archaeologist who is considered to be one of the foremost experts on Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in Ireland, told the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment that the route was cutting through an area that experts viewed as part of the Tara complex.
He told the committee that with Tara "we're not just dealing with a hilltop, we're dealing with an entire area", which he said stretched for three miles from the hill, all of which he believed should be preserved and untouched.
"The crucial area is a tiny area," said Prof Eogan, who was chairman of the Government's Discovery Programme in the early 1990s, which researched the Tara site.
Describing Tara as "a very very notable site", Prof Eogan said there were references to it dating back 1,000 years.
"To put something as intrusive as a major roadway is very very strange; even I'd go as far as to say a very odd decision."
In a series of presentations to the committee, groups campaigning for a rerouting of the road away from the valley claimed that the current route would destroy the wider Tara site and that, contrary to claims by the authority, the current road went straight through it.
The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society claimed that at a previous committee hearing, the National Roads Authority provided inaccurate and misleading information which downplayed the significance of archaeology along the route through the Tara/Skryne valley.
Ms Julitta Clancy said in June the authority claimed that five archaeological sites were impacted along the valley, whereas less than three months later a report confirmed 38 sites.
She said that the group was "not opposed to the motorway".
"We are opposed to its routing through the Tara landscape which should be preserved for future generations," she added.
Dr Edel Bhreathnach, one of three academics who have researched Tara for 14 years, said the route cut through the royal demense of Tara, and that it would "destroy this immensely important landscape and this destruction will be irrevocable".
She said that if the project proceeded as planned, the Government faced significant extra costs because of delays due to archaeological excavations, European interventions and "lengthy court actions".
"The controversy ensuing from a decision to adhere to the present route will be unprecedented and protracted," she said. "It will undermine Ireland's credibility as custodians of our shared European heritage."
The committee is due to send a report outlining recommendations to the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche. Under the national monuments legislation, he is required to make directions on how the archaeological sites are to be dealt with.
If he refuses to issue licences for their excavation and destruction, the NRA will be forced to seek an alternative route around the valley.
(c) The Irish Times
Máire Ní Thuathail
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'Ros Na Rún' For US TV
Report By Joan Geraghty
TOURMAKEADY native Máire Ní Thuathail was celebrating with her colleagues this week, following the announcement that her popular Irish language soap, 'Ros na Rún' has been bought by an American TV network.
As Executive Producer of the acclaimed TG4 soap, Ms Ní Thuathail predicts that the broadcasting of 'Ros na Rún' on WYBE Philadelphia to a potential audience of 2.9 million households, will reap huge benefits for the west of Ireland.
The American company bought the rights to broadcast the soap, currently in its ninth series on Irish screens, following the end of a run of Ballykisangel on the channel, which proved a major hit with the strong Irish-American contingent in Philadelphia.
"We are delighted because what it really means is publicity for the soap, for the west of Ireland and basically, international exposure," explained Máire, whose film company Eo Teilifís works in combination with Tyrone Produc-tions on the soap,
"The station had been running Ballykissangel for the last couple of years and got in touch with us last year to say they were looking for something to replace it and were interested in us. It's a very unusual development as very few soaps ever sell abroad so it's fantastic for us. We won't get an awful lot of money from it but it is really about exposure on US television, which is invaluable.
'Ros na Rún' is noted for its high standards of production and features natural landscapes and environments in the west of Ireland so it will be a major showcase for the region.
"This is the first major sale of any Irish language series. 'Ros na Rún' is a contemporary drama series which is not afraid to tackle everyday issues head on and the fact that a major US television station will now be screening the programme underlines the quality and success of the show. We are really looking forward to hearing what the people of Philadelphia have to say about the dramatic goings-on in a small village in the west of Ireland."
The WYBE channel is an independent public television station broadcasting to the greater Philadelphia region and it will shortly commence its run of 'Ros na Rún', including english subtitles, starting from 2003 episodes and continuing right up to date.
Máire believes the success of 'Ros na Rún' here in Ireland and now its attractiveness overseas is down to the stories it runs.
"We're very careful that our stories are character driven. We don't do issues. We also try to reflect the reality of the environment around us and there is a lot of humour and some seriousness. 'Ros na Rún' is just like a village in any Gaeltacht and I think that is reflected in the soap.
"We also try and mix the cross-generations and have some brilliant new young actors as well as our established cast. It's a flagship programme for TG4 with a quarter million audience figures each week when it is broadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the omnibus edition on Sundays."
'Ros na Rún' is filmed in a dedicated studio in Spiddal and employs 100 people. It has been on Irish television screens for the last nine years.
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