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January 22, 2005

01/22/05 – Fears Over Assembly Scrutiny

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BB 01/22/05 Fears Over Assembly 'Scrutiny'
BB 01/22/05 Debate Rages On Assembly's Future
IC 01/22/05 Geraldine Rice: Paying The Price For Bank Heist
IT 01/22/05 PSNI Investigates Belfast Paramilitary Attacks
UR 01/22/05 Speculation Hassan Was Victim Of Counterinsurgency
BT 01/22/05 Backlash At Zoe Red Hand Apology
BB 01/22/05 Gritter Lorries May Be Withdrawn
MM 01/22/05 U2 Tour Set To Begin March 28 In San Diego
BT 01/22/05 Irish Tenors To Bring All Old Favourites To Belfast
EN 01/22/05 Fiddler's Friends Plan A Johnny Cunningham Tribute
IO 01/22/05 'Dancing Priest' To Hold Protest Against Defrocking
CN 01/22/05 Play: Frongoch: Rebel Secrets Of Village's Past


Strmnt More Than £50m Has Been Spent On The Assembly Since Its Suspension

Fears Over Assembly 'Scrutiny'

An assembly scrutinising direct rule ministers would be no substitute for full restoration of devolution, the Alliance leader has said.

David Ford was responding after Secretary of State Paul Murphy told MPs the government was considering setting up an assembly without an executive.

Mr Ford expressed strong reservations about such a move.

He told the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday: "I certainly don't want to see that as all we get."

Mr Ford added: "I don't see, at this stage, that a scrutiny assembly looking at direct rule ministers is what we really need.

"I just do not see that as being any long term benefit to Northern Ireland.

"Maybe a short term attempt at that, while we see what else we can establish might have some merits."

It emerged on Wednesday that £53.5m had been spent on the Northern Ireland Assembly since it was suspended in October 2002.

Stormont minister Ian Pearson made the figure public during Northern Ireland Questions in the House of Commons.

He said it comprised £23.2m for costs relating to members and political parties.

Mr Pearson added that £20.2m related to costs for assembly staff and £10.1m for property, accommodation and business service costs.

Mr Pearson said it was important to keep the assembly machinery in place for a time when devolution could be restored.

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: 2005/01/22 10:11:23 GMT


Debate Rages On Assembly's Future

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

The reverberations of the Northern Bank raid continued this week, with Chief Constable Hugh Orde telling Policing Board members he would quit if he turns out to be wrong in blaming the robbery on the IRA.

Sinn Fein and the Irish Government are limbering up for what could be a hot and heavy encounter between Gerry Adams and Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Tuesday.

Looking forward, the secretary of state twice hinted to MPs that with the prospects for a restoration of an all-inclusive executive so dim, he is considering setting up an assembly without an executive.

It is still uncertain what form that might take.

Would all 108 assembly members sit en-masse debating their doubts about the latest NIO initiative?

Or would a series of shadow committees be formed bringing the direct rulers to account in specialised areas?

Interviewed for BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, Alliance leader David Ford did not seem impressed by the idea.

A shadow assembly, he argued, might have been okay for a defined period as set out in the two government's proposals published last month.

But, if such a body was all that was on offer it could serve as an arena for sterile oppositional bickering. There are echoes of the Prior Assembly in the 1980s.

For those of us with shorter memories, images of the old Northern Ireland Forum, which used to sit at the Belfast's Centrepoint in the mid-nineties, come to mind.

Sinn Fein members boycotted the forum which they regarded as a talking shop legitimising British direct rule.

When the Drumcree marching season got hot and heavy, the SDLP pulled out as well, leaving the forum to the unionists and the Alliance.

If a new Stormont "talking shop" is set up, will nationalists give it a similarly wide berth?

The position of the unionists on an assembly without an executive is also intriguing.

Although the DUP would prefer real power they are keen on having something rather than nothing at Stormont.

But the Ulster Unionists are clearly divided on the matter.

Having elicited the information from Finance Minister Ian Pearson that the suspended Stormont has cost £53.5m since October 2002, North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon demanded "the moral justification for continuing to squander £2m per month on a phantom assembly".

She was backed in her approach by the South Antrim MP David Burnside.

But then Lady Sylvia's party colleague David McNarry - a strong supporter of shadow committees - angrily demanded to know when the Ulster Unionists adopted the closure of Stormont as party policy.

The old divide within the UUP used to be between its pro-Agreement and anti-Agreement wings.

But now the battle lines may be drawn between its Westminster and Stormont camps.

The debate over the way forward within parties and between parties and the governments has some way to go.

However, the electoral clock is ticking with the Northern Ireland Office's decision to switch the local elections to 5 May apparently providing yet more confirmation that this is the day on which Tony Blair will call the General Election.

NIO officials may be kept busy assessing the options.

But with the election looming it's hard to imagine that Downing Street will be able to devote much time or enthusiasm to Northern Ireland's search for plan "b".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/21 18:38:46 GMT


Political Platform

Paying The Price For Northern Bank Heist

Cllr Geraldine Rice

ANOTHER year begins with Northern Ireland still stuck – unsurprisingly – in political limbo.

Thanks to the apparent IRA robbery of the Northern Bank, politics is in cold storage this winter, and the thaw may not even come this year.

It is a depressing situation, and many like myself have felt both anger and disappointment at the thought of the Assembly not being restored soon while direct rule by the remote control ministers from Westminster continues.

Now we are stuck in a situation where even the Irish and British Governments seem unsure about where to go.

In a sense, we are lucky this is all we have to worry about. Look at the tragedy in those countries where the Indian Ocean tsunami hit, or the daily death toll in Iraq – suddenly we seem better off already, and our petty differences seem almost pathetic in comparison.

Northern Ireland is no longer at the centre of world attention. It is time we got on with the job. But sadly, that cannot happen at present, because an inclusive government in Northern Ireland means that democratic parties are still waiting for the republican movement to commit itself to completely peaceful and democratic means.

Simply put, that means ending all paramilitary and criminal activity. The Assembly was very much based on the parties in the Executive trusting and having confidence in each other. When trust is destroyed, it means that the whole thing falls apart and we enter another crisis.

Despite the problems that the IRA and unionists have caused, Alliance continues to seek a way forward. Throughout the talks over the past year, Alliance worked hard to bridge the gaps between the DUP and Sinn Fein and to create the space for movement.

At the moment, Sinn Féin is politically isolated, with few friends. It is difficult to see how people who feel conned by Sinn Féin’s words while the IRA plotted a robbery will ever accept anything they say at face value again.

While there is no sign of an end to IRA paramilitary and criminal activity – which continued with the shooting of a man through the hands in South Belfast recently – democratic parties still need to demonstrate that politics, not violence, works.

The creation of a voluntary ‘coalition of the willing’ would allow those parties that wish to move ahead and restore democratic and accountable power-sharing government to do so.

It is not like a mandatory or enforced coalition government which is inclusive and which can be brought down every time the IRA decides to rob a bank or engage in other criminal activity.

Voluntary coalition would be a much more stable form of government that could survive a crisis like the Northern Bank heist. The idea of a coalition is not to exclude Sinn Féin, but to provide for more coherent and effective cross-community government. It is entirely possible for Sinn Féin to be part of such arrangements, as long as it can meet the same standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law as other parties.

However, if Sinn Féin is not prepared to do so, it removes the republican veto and allows other parties to move forward. Unless there is a real commitment to human rights and the rule of law by Sinn Féin, and that is borne out in word and deed by the mainstream republican movement, they are only excluding themselves.

Even some members of the SDLP are now so frustrated by the IRA’s ongoing threat to the peace process that they do not want their party to rule out exclusion. This major shift clearly illustrates that there are some nationalists who want the IRA to step out of the whole equation, or let democrats get on with the job.

Although the SDLP leader appears to have determined that there will be an all-inclusive Executive or nothing (and nothing seems favourite at present), there are clear signs that the merits of a voluntary coalition have attractions for some leading members of that party, as well as Alliance and many unionists.

Voluntary coalition is how governments are formed, at regional and national level, throughout Europe. The Dáil and the Scottish Parliament are good examples of stable coalition governments. It would provide more efficient, effective and cohesive government. It would encourage greater co-operation among parties, and better promote the concept of all parties working for the common good, rather than simply for narrow interests.

Regrettably, the SDLP’s official position is to take pressure off Sinn Féin by ruling out consideration of a voluntary coalition.

It is demanding that the British and Irish Governments face down the DUP and Sinn Féin, but does not seem prepared to back up tough rhetoric with any action.

The SDLP talks of not giving either the DUP or Sinn Féin a veto, but – by insisting that no political progress can take place on anything other than a fully inclusive basis – it does just that.

There seems to be a certain reluctance on the part of the British government to challenge Sinn Féin. The Irish Government is more pro-active, perhaps due to electoral considerations, but Tony Blair appears to have decided to do nothing to upset Sinn Féin, regardless of the consequences for the rest of this community.

Perhaps Gerry Adams’ threat that republicans should be prepared to ‘resist’ any efforts at exclusion is preying on his mind.

PSNI Investigates Belfast Paramilitary Attacks

Last updated: 22-01-05, 13:09

Detectives were today investigating three paramilitary-style shootings in Belfast.

The first happened in West Belfast, where a 17-year-old youth was shot in both ankles. He was found lying in alleyway last night in Servia Street, off the Falls Road.

A 26-year-old man was shot in both legs in the Shankill parade area at 8.15 p.m., while another man was shot in both legs in the Glencurran walk area at 10.30 p.m. A PSNI spokeswoman said both men had been taken to hospital.

© 2005


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Hersh Adds Credibility To Speculation Margaret Hassan Was The Victim Of A Counterinsurgency Operation

Kurt Nimmo
January 18, 2005

On November 17 of last year, I speculated that CARE director in Iraq, Margaret Hassan, was abducted and presumably killed as part of a counterinsurgency operation—a victim of phony terrorist groups created by foreign intelligence—on the part of either the United States, Israel, the British, or a combination of thereof, a dirty trick in the dirty war against the Iraqi insurgency ( . One journalist wrote to say I had no evidence of this, I was in fact conspiracy mongering, and such speculation is a basically disservice to others opposed to war for it essentially makes the antiwar movement out to be wild-eyed crackpots. I wrote my blog entry, subsequently reposted widely on the internet, after doing considerable research about the history of counterinsurgency. I quoted from and summarized several articles—written by Andrew Rubin, Julian Borger, Richard Sale, and Seymour Hersh—to make the case Hassan was the victim of a counterinsurgency op engineered to make the Iraqi resistance look bad. In addition, I quoted Michael McClintock:

US military (and CIA operative) officer Major Edward Geary Lansdale’s “psy-war tactics” used in the Philippines against the Huk. Lansdale’s methods “centered on measures of deception similar to those employed in the British and French colonial campaigns in Kenya and Indochina,” including the creation of bogus guerilla units used to discredit the enemy.

Further research turned up little on the Kenya counterinsurgency program—that is until I read Seymour Hersh’s latest installment on the Strausscons (The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon can now do in secret: published by the New Yorker and posted on their website. Quoting John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, California, Hersh includes the following:

When conventional military operations and bombing failed to defeat the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya in the 1950s, the British formed teams of friendly Kikuyu tribesmen who went about pretending to be terrorists. These “pseudo gangs,” as they were called, swiftly threw the Mau Mau on the defensive, either by befriending and then ambushing bands of fighters or by guiding bombers to the terrorists’ camps. What worked in Kenya a half-century ago has a wonderful chance of undermining trust and recruitment among today’s terror networks. Forming new pseudo gangs should not be difficult.

As I noted, Lansdale adopted at least some of the British counterinsurgency tactics in the Philippines and was considered “eminently qualified to advise on unconventional warfare and the American role in Indochina” and elsewhere in the Third World, as Michael McClintock notes ( He also writes:

Only in 1961, when a presidential demand was made for a purpose-built counterinsurgency establishment, was the Special Forces/Special Warfare Center development of unconventional warfare adopted across the board as the foundation of a military doctrine of counterinsurgency. The military core of unconventional warfare, the organization, tactics and techniques of America’s covert CIA and Special Forces “guerrillas,” provided a nucleus for the new doctrine of counterinsurgency.

As stated previously, I believe the CIA (and military intelligence) is busy at work discrediting the Iraqi resistance with such tactics, although of course I cannot prove it. As John Arquilla writes, forming “new pseudo gangs should not be difficult,” especially in the chaotic environment of Iraq (and soon, as Hersh points out, Iran).

Obviously, the U.S. military realizes it cannot defeat the Iraqi resistance through conventional military means, as the British were unable to defeat the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya. Considering the long and violent history of the CIA—and the fact the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed creating fake terrorist groups to discredit Cuba (Operation Northwoods) as a pretext to invade Cuba and depose Castro—I find it entirely plausible that Hassan, who was against Bush’s invasion and occupation (and influential as the director of a high-profile NGO), was kidnapped and possibly murdered, although her body has yet to be found. It makes infinitely more sense for a “pseudo gang” of Iraqi terrorists—possibly criminals, paramilitaries from the Allawi government, or freelance mercenaries under the direction of U.S., Israeli, or British intelligence—to engage in such vile behavior, not the Iraqi resistance who would only lose from committing such horrendous violence against those striving to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

* * *

As if to lend credence to the assertion that the Allawi government consists of people of the sort who would kill innocent people—exactly the sort of people the Strausscons need in Iraq—the Sydney Morning Herald reports that a “former Jordanian government minister has told The New Yorker that an American official confirmed to him that the Iraqi interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, executed six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station last year". ( Note the word “suspected,” not convicted criminals.

“A well-known former government minister told me that an American official had confirmed that the killings took place, saying to him, ‘What a mess we’re in—we got rid of one son of a bitch only to get another one’,” writes Jon Lee Anderson for the New Yorker. The Sydney Morning Herald adds “that Anderson was present during an interview conducted by the Herald’s chief correspondent, Paul McGeough, in late June, with a man who said he witnessed the executions by Dr Allawi.”

“The man,” writes Anderson, “described how Allawi had been taken to seven suspects, who were made to stand against a wall in a courtyard of the police station, their faces covered. After being told of their alleged crimes by a police official, Allawi had asked for a pistol, and then shot each prisoner in the head. [One of the men survived.] Afterward, the witness said, Allawi had declared to those present, ‘This is how we must deal with the terrorists.’ The witness said he approved of Allawi’s act, adding that, in any case, the terrorists were better off dead, for they had been tortured for days.”

No doubt it would be a guessing game to speculate who tortured the suspects—Allawi’s thugs or “our” thugs, the same thugs who rape children and beat people to death at Abu Ghraib.

One thing is for certain—Allawi is precisely the sort of “son of a bitch” the Strausscons need in Iraq, not that it will ultimately make much difference because eventually Allawi will be living in Miami or swinging from a lamppost in Baghdad.

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Backlash At Zoe Red Hand Apology

Unionist fury over BBC's retraction

By Ben Lowry
22 January 2005

Blue Peter was facing a unionist backlash today after apologising for the use of the Red Hand of Ulster symbol by its ex-Miss Northern Ireland presenter Zoe Salmon.

A prominent nationalist politician also played down the controversy surrounding on-air comments by the former beauty queen, who suggested earlier this month that the symbol would make a good choice for a new airline tailfin design in a children's competition.

A week later, the 24-year-old model selected a design of a map of Ireland, covered in the Union Flag, as one of her favourites.

Head of Blue Peter Anne Gilchrist issued an apology to David Miller, professor of sociology at Strathclyde University, who complained, comparing the Red Hand to the swastika.

Patsy McGlone, SDLP Assembly member for Mid Ulster, today said: "I would not have been that upset about the reference to the Red Hand on its own.

"The most offensive bit for me would be the Union Jack superimposed on the image of Ireland. Zoe Salmon should been more than aware of the sensitivity surrounding that."

UUP Assembly member Michael Copeland described the Blue Peter apology as "political correctness gone mad".

"The Red Hand symbol is as precious to all Ulstermen as the Lion is to Scotland and the Dragon to Wales.

"It appears in the symbolism of both the unionist and nationalist communities."

Former UUP Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers said: "We must not allow the Red Hand to be surrendered to paramilitaries.

"If you read carefully what the head of Blue Peter has said, she points out that the Red Hand is the official symbol of Ulster which consists of nine counties.

"I understand that this programme, which has millions of viewers, got four complaints."

On the website Slugger O'Toole, which invites comment on Northern Ireland matters, the BBC apology came under fire from a wide range of contributors. Some pointed out that the Red Hand is used by Tyrone GAA.

One contributor wrote: "My mother wore a Red Hand on her Irish dancing costume back in the Forties."

In the letter of apology, Ms Gilchrist wrote: "We can assure you that the symbol was used in good faith and it certainly wasn't our intention to be provocative or promote sectarianism.

"The reason we chose to use the Red Hand was because it is the official symbol of the province of Ulster."

She added: "We take all complaints seriously and after we received yours we did some detailed investigation into it, the result of which is that we realise that the context in which we were referring to the Red Hand was inappropriate and mistaken.

"We'd like to apologise for any upset or concern we have caused."


Attacks Took Place In The Ballysillan & Dundonald Areas

Gritter Lorries May Be Withdrawn

Gritter lorries may be withdrawn from some areas of Northern Ireland if attacks on vehicles do not stop, Roads Service has warned.

Vehicles came under attack from stone throwers in a number of areas of Northern Ireland on Friday night.

The attacks took place in the Ballysillan and Dundonald areas of Belfast.

There was also incidents in Donaghadee, Castlewellan and the Galliagh area of Londonderry.

A Roads Service spokesman said: "The driver, on driving through Ballysillian, encountered a group of people and the gritter came under fire from bricks and stones.

"Thankfully no drivers were injured and the vehicles were undamaged."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/22 11:27:29 GMT



U2 Tour Set To Begin March 28 In San Diego

By: Ray Waddell

Sat Jan 22, 2005 6:47 AM ET

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Irish rock band U2 is set to explode on the road at the end of March, just in time for a beleaguered concert industry desperate for a major buzz-generating tour.

The band will begin its worldwide Vertigo tour March 28 at the San Diego Sports Arena, Billboard has learned. Details will be provided in a Jan. 24 announcement. Tennessee rock band Kings of Leon will open the first leg.

Conservative estimates put the Vertigo tour's gross potential at $225 million-$250 million from as many as 110 shows. U2's Elevation tour in 2001 grossed $143 million from 113 shows worldwide, playing to more than 2.1 million fans.

The first U.S. leg will wrap in Boston in late May. The tour, in support of its latest release, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," is routed to accommodate multiple shows in many markets.

History suggests quick sellouts. In 2001, U2 rang up six sellouts at Chicago's United Center that grossed a combined $9.6 million. The band also notched four sellouts in 2001 at Boston's FleetCenter ($5.6 million) and at Earls Court in London ($4.5 million). Two sellouts at Dublin's Slane Castle drew 157,418 and took in $6.7 million.

Following two months of U.S. shows, the Vertigo tour will hit some 30 European stadiums, beginning June 10 in Brussels. The band will stay in Europe through mid-August, then return to North America for another run of 30 arena dates.

Ticket prices will average $90, with $49.50 at the low end and $165 at the high end. Last time out, the range was $45-$135.

As on the Elevation tour, the arena floor will be general admission for about 1,700 seats, depending on the building. And, again like Elevation, the tour will feature unique production elements.

"This tour will be not unlike the last production, in that the lowest- priced tickets will be on the floor," said U2 manager Paul McGuinness. "The best seats are the cheapest, and we want people to get excited."


Stadium dates were not considered in the United States, partly because of higher U.S. ticket prices, said Arthur Fogel, president of the tour's Toronto-based promoter The Next Adventure, a unit of Clear Channel Entertainment.

McGuinness said another factor was the lack of state-of-the-art arenas in Europe. "The arenas in America are just absolutely ideal for rock'n'roll," he said. "I wish there was one in every city in Europe."

On-sales for North American shows will begin Jan. 29 and a day earlier in Europe. Rather than putting all dates up at once, on-sales will be rolled out over a three-week period.

The tour will carry about 150 crew members and 18-19 trucks on the arena leg, though McGuinness kept details of the show close to the vest.

"Production will be different (from Elevation), but I'd rather it be a surprise on opening night," McGuinness said. "We have always felt it was incumbent on the band to give value for money. We will have a very elaborate but seemingly simple and very stylish production, as before. Then when we go to Europe in the summer, the rules change completely, because what works in an arena doesn't necessarily work in a stadium, so we have to rethink it completely."


It is possible some shows will be available as downloads. "We're exploring technology where it might be possible to download the show you've just seen," McGuinness said. "We've been talking to iTunes and the folks at Apple, with whom we have a great relationship, but it's not quite there yet. We're certainly looking at it."

A DVD is also likely, according to McGuinness. "We always do that, but that will come toward the latter end of the tour."

At one point the tour was scheduled to begin March 1 in Miami, but it flipped coasts and was pushed back three weeks. Despite published reports speculating that the tour might be severely delayed or even canceled because of a family illness, Fogel contended concerns were strictly related to routing.

"At a point in time we had to reorganize the tour, but we did it and now we're ready to go," Fogel said. "There were logistical issues to resolve."

Even though last year was brutal for some on the concert trail, McGuinness was confident in U2's ticket-selling ability.

"Nobody's bulletproof, but I'm not worried about the ticket sales at all," he says. "The U2 audience knows that we do great shows, and they are one of the greatest live acts in history.

And they're touring on their biggest-ever album. Simply because of the size of the world and the number of places where they're popular, it's impossible not to underplay."

"How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," released in late November, has sold 2.26 million units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Aha Shake Heartbreak," the new set from Kings of Leon, already out in Europe, is due Feb. 22 in the United States.


Three Irish Tenors

Tenors To Bring All Old Favourites

By Alice McVicker
22 January 2005

The three Irish tenors are warming up their voices for a fabulous concert in Belfast Waterfront Hall on Saturday, February 19.

Hailed as 'Ireland's greatest voices', the three tenors - John Scott, Karl Scully and PJ Hurley - will bring a programme packed with popular favourites including a celebration of the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Known for their vast repertoire, amazing versatility and, of course, their superb voices, the three singers have enjoyed operatic acclaim in Ireland and abroad.

A regular soloist at Dublin's National Concert Hall, John Scott is arguably the most powerful singer in Ireland.

Karl Scully recently won the prestigious John McCormack Cup, while PJ Hurley has starred in a host of operas with Opera Ireland.

They will be joined in Belfast by leading Irish soprano Celine Byrne, National Symphony/RTE Concert Orchestra violin soloist Lynda O'Connor, and pianist Lorna Horan, from the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Tickets are available from the Waterfront Hall Box Office, telephone number: 028 90334455 (Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm), at Virgin and Ticketmaster outlets and also online at


Johnny Cunningham

Fiddler's Friends Plan A Wizard Tribute

Stars to celebrate legend
Joanna Vallely

CELTIC folk stars are to pay tribute to the music of Scottish fiddling legend Johnny Cunningham in New York.

An all-star ensemble of musicians will celebrate the work of the late Portobello-born performer in an event organised by the World Music Institute, to be held on February 5.

Cunningham, who died of a heart attack in December 2003 aged 46, set the standard for Scottish folk bands in the 1970s and 80s with his band Silly Wizard.

The concert, which will feature music written by Cunningham as well as many of his favourite tunes will include, Johnny’s brother, accordionist Phil Cunningham, fiddler Kevin Burke, Seamus Egan of Solas, vocalist Susan McKeown and guitarist Aidan Brennan.

Helene Browning of the World Music Institute said the event was to recognise the contribution Cunningham made to the roots music scene.

"Johnny was very special to us at the World Music Institute.

"We presented him on countless occasions and every concert was a memorable experience.

"When Johnny asked us to present the reunion concert with his brother Phil in October 2003 on just two weeks notice, we knew we couldn’t say no to him.

"It turned out to be his last performance in New York City, and such an incredible one for those of us who were lucky enough to be there."

John James Cunningham was born in Portobello in 1957. He began learning the violin aged six and quickly demonstrated a natural aptitude for it.

He joined Silly Wizard whilst still at school and the young truant quickly gained applause for his lightning playing and impressive technical range.

Cunningham recorded eight albums with the group over the next 17 years and went on to produce records for other groups, such as the all-female Irish-American band Cherish the Ladies.

He also worked in theatre, composing music for Peter and Wendy, an adaptation of J M Barrie’s fairytale staged on Broadway.

At the time of his death, Cunningham was on tour with Irish singer Susan Mc-Keown, presenting A Winter’s Talisman, their annual collection of music and poetry. David Francis, a director on the board of the Edinburgh-based Alp Scots Music Group,

said: "He was the first of a new generation of folk fiddlers to make a mark in Scotland and he stood as a role model for a whole host of future musicians.

"I first saw Johnny in the early 70s at a folk club in Dumfries. It was unusual to find a fiddle player like that in Scotland.

"He had an emphasis on speed and showmanship and he was only about 18 at the time, which made it even more impressive."

An accomplished musician, Cunningham was also well-known as a seasoned raconteur, engaging audiences world-wide with his dark Scots humour.

He lived in New York with his long-term partner Trisha McCormick, who has set up a website,, in memory of the late musician.

Martin Hadden, former bass player with Silly Wizard, was sorry he would not be able to attend the New York concert personally.

He said: "People are travelling from different parts of the States and Canada to attend. It should be a great concert.

"He was an incredible musician and it was a great pleasure to play in a band with him for so long.

"He was great to be around. I miss him a lot."


'Dancing Priest' To Hold Protest Against Defrocking

 Dancing Priest
Dancing Priest

22/01/2005 - 08:50:15

Neil Horan, the 'dancing priest' who has been defrocked by the Pope, says he intends to hold a vigil outside Buckingham Palace to publicise what he describes as the unjust way the Catholic Church has treated him.

He says he is surprised he was not given a chance to defend himself first in a Church trial.

The 57-year-old Kerryman dances to publicise his belief that the end of the world is near and grabbed headlines last year by disrupting the Olympic marathon in Athens.



Spotlight On The Rebel Secrets Of Village's Past

Jan 21 2005
Daily Post

IRISH actor Caoimhín " Conghaile is well aware that a dark chapter in a Gwynedd village's history seems to have been all but rubbed out. Fresh from filming as part of a drama project on the birthplace of the IRA, he found it hard to imagine the quiet spot as the "University of Revolution" - so called by Irish MP Tim Healy in 1916.

" Conghaile plays one of the inmates in a prisoner of war camp for Irish rebels in Llwyfan Gogledd Cymru's new multilingual, multimedia play, Frongoch.

The play is about a camp near Bala where Republican prisoners, captured by British troops following the Easter Rising, honed ideas that eventually led to Michael Collins and his rebels winning a partial victory against the British in the war for independence of 1919-21.

The actor visited Frongoch while a documentary team made a film on the genesis of the play, which is touring Wales before crossing the Irish Sea for performances across the Emerald Isle.

He says it is difficult to imagine the remote spot, also the scene of the controversial Tryweryn flooding in 1966, as the place of so many flashpoints of nationalistic struggle.

"You have to have read your history books, otherwise it's just a field," says " Conghaile.

"There's a plaque to commemorate it, but apart from that you wouldn't know what had happened there. It was easier for us having seen the old photographs and drawings of the camp, but all the evidence of it has really disintegrated."

The play involves three main actors on stage - " Conghaile, Welsh Bafta winner Richard Elfyn and Michael Atkinson - and will be performed in Welsh, English and Irish. It also uses video footage, subtitles and 12 other actors.

In Ireland, Conghaile says the story is much more widely known than in Wales. Many of the prisoners suffered terrible diseases during and after their confinement as a result of malnutrition, although some locals were sympathetic to the nationalistic cause and helped in various ways.

"You can imagine why that's something to be proud of from a Welsh point of view," he says. "But from an English or a UK point of view the whole episode's a bit of an embarrassment."

"But in Ireland, anyone with an interest in the rising would know about it. Especially the older generation - some of my dad's friends were there and I've got other relatives who knew people who were there.

"The more I found out, the more I found I knew people who had been involved."

Despite the dark history of the camp, " Conghaile says the play will also reflect some of the freedoms prisoners had in Frongoch.

"The more I read about it the more it seems they had a fair old craic in there," he says..

"They had ceilidhs and hurling competitions and gaelic football. I'm not saying it was all roses in there - they were freezing cold and weren't given adequate food - but they had ways of having a bit of craic."

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005

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