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January 23, 2005

01/23/05 – UVF Blamed For Taxi Campaign

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

UT 01/23/05 UVF Blamed For Taxi Campaign
ST 01/23/05 IRA Arrests 'Soon' On Robbery
IO 01/22/05 Taoiseach To Discuss Northern Bank Raid Fallout With SF
HS 01/23/05 Interpol Issues IRA Warrants
SB 01/23/05 Omagh Accused Confident Of Winning Retrial
ST 01/23/05 Opin: Omagh Tip-Off Claims Merit More Than Brush-Off
SB 01/23/05 Sinn Fein's High-Stakes Challenge
SB 01/23/05 Northern Dilemma Carries The Echoes Of Irish History
SM 01/23/05 Bottles Fly At Republican Protest Rally
BB 01/23/05 Police Station Set To Be Closed
BT 01/22/05 Famous Wall To Get Palestine Flag Mural
GU 01/23/05 Secret Gas Was Issued For IRA Prison Riots
BR 01/23/05 Emerald Isle Rises To The Top Five
SF 01/23/05 Bk Rev: Pearl - She'd Die Her Cause; Mom Won't Let Her

RT 01/22/05 Poll Indicates Desire For SF Negotiations -VO

Poll Indicates Desire For SF Negotiations - Vivienne Traynor reports on the findings of the TNS MRBI poll


RUC Men Patrolling The Streets Of Ulster

UVF Blamed For Taxi Campaign

The owner of a Belfast taxi company today accused loyalist paramilitaries of being behind an orchestrated campaign to force him out of business.

By:Press Association

He was speaking after a number of his drivers had their cars hijacked at gunpoint and burnt out in the north of the city.

Jackie Mahood, owner of Call-a-Cab said: "The police are saying this is a co-ordinated campaign by the Ulster Volunteer Force to put me out of business.

"More than 50 drivers and 12 staff could lose their jobs if we are forced to close."

Mr Mahood, a former member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) which has links to the UVF, was shot in the head twice at his depot in 1997.

His business was also pipebombed in 2000. Both attacks were blamed on the UVF.

The hijackings occurred at around 7pm yesterday in the Ballysillan, Highfield, Glencairn and Woodvale areas of north Belfast.

Seven taxis were burned out in the Woodvale Parade, Disraeli Street and Ardoyne Road areas.

One of the drivers suffered a broken cheek bone when he was beaten about the head.

Mr Mahood said the attacks happened after a taxi and van were involved in an accident in Ballysillan Park earlier in the day.

"It had nothing to do with my depot. It was a taxi from another company," he added.

He said there had been a concerted campaign over the past few months directed against his drivers.

Before Christmas a driver had his car burnt out and in another incident two drivers were pulled out of taxi by gunmen who pumped a number of rounds into the vehicle.

Mr Mahood called on politicians to secure guarantees from the paramilitary group that drivers will no longer be attacked if they return to work.

"Drivers need a guarantee that they can continue without the fear of being attacked or intimidated. It has to come from political representatives," he added.


IRA Arrests 'Soon' On Robbery

Liam Clarke

NORTHERN IRELAND'S police plan to arrest a number of IRA members as part of their investigation into the £26m Northern Bank robbery. Several raids are expected, with some along the border requiring the co-operation of gardai.

The British and Irish governments are convinced that the £26m (€37.5m) heist was carried out by the IRA because of a briefing from Hugh Orde, the PSNI chief constable, in which he gave the names of the suspects. Both the PSNI and gardai observed meetings between republicans they suspect planned the robbery and senior Sinn Fein figures, including Gerry Adams.

Security sources will not give details of these meetings, although they coincided with negotiations last month between the governments and Sinn Fein on a complete end to IRA activity. "It is reminiscent of the 1996 negotiations during which the Canary Wharf bombing was being planned," one British source said.

The PSNI has studied reports from informants, tapes taken from listening devices and telephone taps that indicate IRA involvement. In a briefing, the chief constable said that intelligence gathered before the robbery gained new significance when viewed with the benefit of hindsight and left him in no doubt as to who was involved.

On the basis of this analysis, and of fresh intelligence gathered since the robbery, police have briefed the two governments that it was carried out by the Provisional IRA as an organisation. They have ruled out the heist being the work of a faction or a collection of disgruntled individuals.

It is said to have been sanctioned in detail by the IRA's general headquarters staff, and that the IRA army council is believed to have been aware that a huge robbery was to occur close to Christmas. Both Adams and Martin McGuinness have been accused under parliamentary privilege of membership of the IRA army council and, though the Sinn Fein MPs deny it, police believe they are members.

The governments have been told that the robbery was organised by the Belfast brigade of the IRA with support from other areas, including south Armagh. Southern command, based in the republic, supplied the van used to transport the cash to premises in west Belfast, where it was moved to other vehicles before being transported to south Armagh and north Louth.

The adjutant of the Belfast brigade of the IRA, a relative and friend of Adams, is believed by police to have taken part in the heist along with John Trainor, the intelligence officer of the Belfast brigade. Both men's houses were raided, along with the home of Eddie Copeland, a senior north Belfast republican, after the robbery.

Police have said the raids were not speculative but based on intelligence. They are confident their operations could be justified if there was an inquiry by the police ombudsman.

Bobby Storey, named in parliament as the IRA's most senior intelligence officer and a planner of the robbery, is another close Adams associate. Storey was instrumental in quashing dissident opposition to the peace process and is regarded by the police as the brains behind the raid on Special Branch headquarters in Castlereagh. He is also believed to have planned other robberies, including one that netted more than £1m at Makro retail centre in Dunmurry last year.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which monitors paramilitary ceasefires on behalf of the two governments, is expected to recommend sanctions against Sinn Fein in a report within the next fortnight. The IMC met last week and was given much of the police's intelligence.

Possible sanctions against Sinn Fein include the ending of government support, such as the money paid to the party in allowances at Westminster and the Dail, and suspension from public office for up to a year.

Last April, following the IRA's abduction of Bobby Tohill in Belfast, an IMC report recommended the suspension of some Northern Ireland assembly allowances. This has cost Sinn Fein £120,000 and last week it challenged the decision in the High Court in Belfast.

A verdict may be delivered this week.


Taoiseach To Discuss Northern Bank Raid Fallout With SF
2005-01-22 16:20:03+00

Sinn Féin is to meet the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern next week in an effort to resolve the fallout from the Northern Bank robbery.

The meeting is expected to go ahead in Dublin on Tuesday morning.

Mr Ahern has accused the party of having prior knowledge of the bank raid in which €38m was stolen.

He has also said the issue of IRA criminality must be resolved before the Government re-enters peace negotiations with Sinn Féin.

An opinion poll in this morning's Irish Times has found that two thirds of voters believe the Irish and British governments should continue to negotiate with Sinn Féin for a deal in the North.

The Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Aengus O Snodaigh said he is optimistic that all parties can cross this latest hurdle in the peace process.


Interpol Issues IRA Warrants

From correspondents in Colombia

INTERPOL has issued international arrest warrants for the three Irishmen convicted in Colombia of training Colombian rebels and sentenced to 17 years in jail.

Warrants were issued at Interpol headquarters in France on Wednesday so the trio could be arrested in any of the 189 member countries, said Oscar Galvis, spokesman for the DAS, the Colombian agency that works with Interpol.

Suspected Irish Republican Army (IRA) members Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and Niall Connolly were sentenced in absentia to 17-year prison terms but are feared to have fled the country.

Colombian authorities say they have not known the whereabouts of the three since June.

The trio were detained in Colombia in 2001 and accused of having trained Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels to make bombs.

Colombian authorities said the rebels had copied IRA tactics.

The defence said the three were in Colombia to observe the country's peace process.

Connolly, McCauley and Monaghan said the charges were part of a Anglo-American plot to destabilise the Northern Ireland peace process.

The three were acquitted in April on the terrorist charges but found guilty of travelling on false documents and sentenced to jail terms of between 26 and 44 months.

They were released while prosecutors appealed against the acquittals.

However, the Bogota Superior Court ruled they were guilty on December 16.

The court sentenced Connolly and Monaghan to 17 and a half years in prison and fined them $US225,000 ($295,000).

McCauley was sentenced to 17 years and fined $US190,000.


Omagh Accused Confident Of Winning Retrial

23 January 2005 By Barry O'Kelly

Colm Murphy, the man whose conviction for the Omagh bombing was quashed last Friday, said he was "fully confident" of winning a retrial.

In an interview with The Sunday Business Post, the Dundalk man said: "I have never been in Omagh in my life and I had nothing to do with the bombing. I am 100 per cent innocent. I'm confident that my name will be fully cleared. There will also be new evidence."

He dismissed claims by Garda sources that it was a technical victory in the Court of Criminal Appeal. The 52-year-old former builder said: "Definitely not. The only evidence was the unsigned statements. How come I didn't sign the statements? Why would you make a statement and then refuse to sign it? I never made any of those statements."

The appeal judges noted that the original judges in the Special Criminal Court found that two of the four gardai who interviewed Murphy had "repeatedly lied'' under oath.

Murphy, currently in Portlaoise Prison, said he expected to be a free man this week when he meets the €50,000 bail requirement. "It will happen around Wednesday because it will take some time to raise the money. I'm on legal aid," he said.

"I have a long way to go to rebuild my life again. I'm in jail three years. I've been divorced.

The divorce ultimately happened because of my incarceration. I've lost everything that would be associated with family life."

In today's interview, Murphy talks for the first time about the mobile phone evidence and the alleged confessions.


Comment: Liam Clarke: Omagh Tip-Off Claims Merit More Than The Brush-Off

Detective Sergeant John White, the whistleblower who accused a senior garda of allowing the Omagh bombing to go ahead, raises such serious issues that he deserves a public inquiry into his treatment. The only inquiry to be held so far, the Nally report, did not take sworn testimony or interview the most important witnesses, and was wholly inadequate.

White made allegations of garda corruption and dirty tricks that culminated in a decision not to report the Omagh bomb car to the RUC and subsequently to withhold information from the bomb investigation. The senior officer who allegedly did not pass on the warning, who now lives outside Ireland, worked closely with MI5 as part of his duties and there are suggestions that the British security service also has secrets to protect.

These are the sort of things you are not supposed to talk about and it is obvious that strong vested interests would like White to go away. Only last week an effort to discredit him and, if possible, to jail him collapsed.

There was little reporting of the case, simply that White had been acquitted on three counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice and three more of making false statements.

In fact, the farce played out in a Letterkenny courtroom was like a scene from The Irish RM, Somerville and Ross's satirical take on court life in rural Ireland in the 19th century. Witness statements were a joke, times and dates were wrong, and in the end the whole thing was slung out by the judge after he concluded the main witness was incapable of testifying accurately.

One female witness had signed statements claiming she had met White three times in McBrearty's bar in Donegal. In the box she said that she had only been in the bar once in her life and that the main thing she could remem- ber was that the music had been very good.

The star turn was the unfortunate Bernard Conlon, a man with a long criminal record who had signed a 27-page statement for the gardai prosecuting White. That had been lucid and rich in detail, but poor Conlon ended up telling the judge that he couldn't tell the difference between guilty and not guilty.

Things had started to go wrong even before Conlon was sworn in. Asked to raise his right hand, he repeatedly raised his left and was eventually allowed to proceed in that unorthodox fashion. When he was asked to repeat the oath, he was unable to do so. The court learnt that Conlon's evidence collapsed in much the same way in another case last year in Sligo.

If he had managed to get past the hurdle of swearing to tell the truth, Conlon's evidence would doubtless have fallen apart a little later.

He claimed to have met White in a Sligo court on a day when the court was closed and White's work sheets showed he was on leave. He further claimed to have been given lifts in police cars to the court case when all the records showed he hadn't. He said he had made phone calls which he hadn't.

Conlon's allegations were ludicrous and they didn't stand up to any sort of scrutiny but they did have one important effect. They allowed White to be suspended from duty since 2001 and, in all that time, ministers who have been asked about his allegations of garda wrongdoing have been able to say that it is sub judice.

The charade goes on. Other charges of planting a weapon, which are equally threadbare, remain on the files and allow for further delay and prevarication before White's allegations about an Omagh tip-off are fully examined.

It is just the sort of thing that the Irish government finds intolerable when the British do it, for example in the case of the murder of Pat Finucane where a public inquiry was held back in case it would prejudice future court cases or frustrate an attempt to prosecute the murderers.

White's story is very simple. Like many detectives before him, he found his career, and his life, dominated by a single important informant. The spy was Paddy Dixon, a bent motor dealer who controlled a network of car thieves and was supplying vehicles to the Real IRA.

The story is outlined in statements to Nuala O'Loan, the Northern Ireland police ombudsman, whose investigators were impressed by White's account and passed it to the Irish Department of Justice.

Dixon allowed a number of cars that he was supplying to the terrorist outfit to be fitted with tracking devices and intercepted by MI5-trained garda specialists. After a time, the RIRA in South Armagh became suspicious and started an inquiry into the leaks. Dixon was, for a time, frozen out of the circle of knowledge and Garda Special Branch risked losing their key means of monitoring the emerging RIRA.

In the account given to the ombudsman, a senior garda officer decided to allow the next car Dixon was asked to provide to the RIRA for a bombing to proceed to its target unmolested. They reasoned that it would preserve Dixon's cover and that, on past form, the RIRA would probably make a mess of it. Even if they succeeded, the argument went, the explosion would only cause damage to property.

Instead the car bomb went off without adequate warning in Omagh on August 15, 1998, killing 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins. In 2001, White was suspended from duty in an apparently unrelated investigation and Dixon went straight, establishing himself as a car dealer and ending his work as an informant.

In 2002, months after O'Loan issued a report condemning the RUC's handling of the Omagh bomb investigation, White travelled north and made a statement to her investigators. After checking it against the RUC/PSNI records on Omagh, O'Loan accepted White's account as accurate and forwarded a report to the Department of Justice in Dublin, suggesting that it should take action.

At this point it was obvious that the PSNI would want to interview Dixon and that the truth was likely to emerge if events took their course. Instead Dixon was inadvertently compromised when his role as a garda informant against the RIRA was revealed in court documents prepared at Garda headquarters. As a result, he was put into protective custody, given a new identity and so made unavailable to gardai for questioning.

The Nally inquiry ordered by Michael McDowell, the justice minister, rejected O'Loan's finding and held that the claims were without foundation. The investigation was held in private and conducted by retired civil servants rather than independent outsiders. Dixon himself was not questioned. The investigators accepted that he did not want to speak to them although he told White that he had no difficulty in doing so.

In a conversation, taped by White on January 10, 2002, three days before Dixon entered the witness protection programme, the retired informant said: "They [the Real IRA] had got a car and they [the gardai] knew it was moving . . . They knew it was moving within 24 hours at that stage. The Omagh investigation is going to blow up in their faces."

The strangest twist of all came on July 21 last year when Dixon, travelling under a false identity, was stopped at Cardiff airport coming off a flight from Dublin with a briefcase full of money and a large quantity of cigarettes. He was held for four hours before he explained who he was and said the gardai had given him the money to aid his resettlement.

When he first moved to Britain he stayed until autumn 2002 in accommodation provided by the London Metropolitan police, an arrangement made for the gardai by MI5 who debriefed him fully. He then moved into garda protection and has since been relocated outside the UK and so beyond the reach of the Omagh bomb investigation.

In Britain whistleblowers such as White are generally subjected to a campaign of character assassination. It is suggested they are crooks or Walter Mitty-type characters, and they then face years of expensive litigation to clear their names. It is the sort of thing that Irish papers and politicians are very active in exposing. Let's hope they are as vigilant when the injustice occurs nearer to home.


SF Election Poster

Sinn Fein's High-Stakes Challenge

23 January 2005 By Pat Leahy

Sinn Féin's financial reserves of €2.3 million will provide a massive war chest for the Westminster elections this year and the next general election in the Republic.

The money will enable the party to launch an unprecedented challenge for seats in the next few years. Sinn Féin's electoral rivals now face the prospect of being outspent by the party's candidates in constituencies across the country in the next general election campaign.

Political parties have known for many years that spending large sums of money in election campaigns dramatically improves a candidate's chances of being elected.

That proposition was confirmed by research carried out by academics at Trinity College Dublin after the 2002 general election, which found a direct correlation between spending on election campaigns and electoral success.

"Increased spending directly increases a candidate's chances of winning a seat'' was the unambiguous finding of Trinity College political scientists Michael Marsh and Ken Benoit in a paper on election spending published in 2003.

Party election strategists duly took note. Sinn Féin, though a relative newcomer to the professional campaigning that now dominates Irish elections, was no exception.

The party's declared spending returns for last year's European and local elections, and from the 2002 general election, show that, whatever about Sinn Féin's attachment to the traditional socialist - some would say Marxist - ideals and rhetoric, it certainly has no embarrassment about spending large sums of money trying to get its representatives elected.

Figures from Sinn Féin's accounts - published last week in The Sunday Business Post - showed that the party is sitting on a pile of cash in advance of general elections in Britain and the Republic.

The party's reserves of €2.3 million include €400,000 cash in the bank, and it has relatively insignificant borrowings.

When spent in election campaigns, this cash will increase the chances of returning Sinn Féin candidates to the Dáil and to Westminster.

The size of Sinn Féin's war chest has surprised its rivals.

Parties generally raise money before elections and spend it quickly. Six months before the 2002 general election Fianna Fáil was boasting that it already had a fighting fund of €250,000, an amount that is dwarfed by Sinn Féin's cash reserves.

Previously, Sinn Féin election campaigns were small-time affairs that spent little money and had low visibility.

An examination of the statutory spending returns from last year's local and European election campaigns shows the lesson that electoral spending is important has been well learned.

For example, the party spent particularly heavily on Mary Lou McDonald in the Dublin constituency during her successful European campaign last June.

McDonald was targeting the seat held by outgoing Green MEP Patricia McKenna. The Sinn Féin candidate out spent the Green by €25,000, spending €112,000 in total during the course of the campaign, according to election spending statements lodged with the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The spending power of the central party was vital to McDonald. Her own election agent accounted for €51,000 of her total expenditure.

(McDonald declared no donations, suggesting this was her own money). However, the central party apparatus spent more than €60,000 on her behalf.

By contrast, McKenna spent about €80,000 of her own money, but the Green Party could only spend €6,000 on behalf of her campaign - a tenth of the amount that Sinn Féin head office was able to give McDonald.

Sinn Féin was prepared - and had the resources - to spend heavily backing all its candidates. Election spending on the European campaigns by the party head office was €240,000 - larger than head office spending by both the Green Party (€54,000) and even the Labour Party (€187,000).

The total Labour spend - by both the party and the candidates combined - of €715,000 was more than double the total Sinn Féin spend (€313,000), although this is not a status quo that Labour bosses can be sure will be maintained.

In the local elections, Sinn Féin candidates did not lag behind in the spending stakes either. Examination of one local authority area - Dublin City Council - where Sinn Féin was spectacularly successful (ten out of 16 candidates were elected), further confirmed the impression that Sinn Féin's electoral success coincided with increased campaign spending.

The average Sinn Féin candidate spent just under €5,000 - just a few hundred euro behind the average spend for all candidates of under €5,800.

But it is the spending statements for the 2002 general election that show how serious Sinn Féin is about spending serious money on getting candidates elected.

There are strict limits on what any candidate can spend in a general election campaign - €25-€38,000, depending on the size of the constituency.

The central party apparatus takes a part of each candidate's allocation to spend on the national campaign - it is typically about half for Fianna Fáil. However, Sinn Féin candidates who were in serious contention for seats did not allocate any of their spending to the central party.

Consequently, in three (Louth, Dublin South Central, Kerry North) of the five constituencies where they won seats, the Sinn Féin candidate was the highest spender.

For example, Arthur Morgan in Louth spent €24,000; his Fianna Fáil rival (and minister) Dermot Ahern spent under €10,000.

In the two other constituencies where Sinn Féin won seats (Cavan-Monaghan and Dublin South West), the party's candidates were the second highest spenders, and in both cases were only a few hundred euro behind the top spenders.

Analysis of the 2002 spending returns also shows a strict hierarchy in spending allocations - candidates with little hope of success generally spent (or were allowed to spend) under €10,000.

Those engaged in building their profiles in advance of last year's European and local elections - for example, Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty - spent around the €15,000 mark. Those seriously challenging for Dáil seats spent over €20,000.

It should be added that Sinn Féin's rivals consistently - but without hard evidence - dismiss the veracity of their accounts and their spending declarations.

They have more posters, more offices, more leaflets, they say; and would a party that supported and assisted in a campaign of violence for 25 years have any scruples in hiding money from the Standards in Public Office Commission?

They also point out that many Sinn Féin candidates work for the party in advance of their election drive, building their profile and effectively campaigning full time for election.

Famously, McDonald described her occupation on the ballot paper last June as "peace negotiator''. Last week, a Republican source told The Sunday Business Post that he knew of election candidates getting €30,000 a year from Sinn Féin.

For its part, Sinn Féin says its books are open and it can be audited by the Revenue Commissioners and investigated by the Standards Commission at any time. The commission says it acts on and investigates all complaints of breaches of campaign finance laws, but no party has been audited and no serious breaches of the regulations have been uncovered.

One thing is sure - as money gets more important in elections, Sinn Féin's prospects get better. Sinn Féin may have come relatively recently to competitive electoral politics.

But the party has quickly learned important lessons.


Obsession With Circles

Northern Dilemma Carries The Echoes Of Irish History

23 January 2005 By Tom McGurk

Perhaps there is a subtle subtext in the ancient Celtics' obsession with circles.

Wherever their artistry still survives, in the illuminated manuscripts, the crosses or the beaten gold jewellery, the insistent motif is the circular line. The linear journey sets out and, however fantastically it travels, always returns to its point of departure.

It may well have been allegorical for our journey from birth to death but, equally, these ancient artists may have had our histories in their imaginations.

The sense of the repetitious nature of our history, particularly since the independence struggle, is particularly apt at this moment.

Throughout both the colonial and post-colonial years of Irish history, the dominant political debate was about the relative merits of either the political or militaristic response to the degree of British interference with the concept of the sovereignty of the Irish people.

The militant failure of the Fenians begot the parliamentary struggle for home rule - the failure of which drove a new generation into revolutionary brotherhoods.

Even after the treaty, the triumph of politics could not be secured until two quite separate civil wars were fought in the North and the Republic.

In the North, the newly-established colonial state required the full force of the military wing of unionism to beat the nationalists into at least a quiescent subservience.

In the Republic, those who signed the treaty committed themselves to another armed struggle to impose the degree of independence the British imperial government would then tolerate.

Fianna Fáil emerged out of the ensuing civil war. Two generations later, in the early 1970s, the provisional Republican movement emerged. In many ways each was a political mirror of the other.

Both were products of the political realities that faced them at the end of a period of armed struggle, and both were equally aware of their inability to deliver their political ambitions by armed struggle alone.

In more ways than one, the task that Eamon de Valera faced in the late 1920s was not unlike that which Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness faced in the late 1970s.

They all sought to build political parties out of the remnants of what were essentially paramilitary forces.

Fianna Fáil's emergence was yet another example of the great Irish historical circle from militarism into post-revolutionary politics. It had happened previously to Cumann na nGaedheal. A similar process later created Clann na Poblachta and in turn the Workers' Party, which later joined up with the Labour Party.

It is an Irish historical cycle that the usual suspects who are out this week in full hue and cry about the Provos - as they call them-might usefully reflecton.

An enormous wave of anger is breaking over the Provos' heads in the aftermath of the Belfast bank robbery, and one suspects that those who had to keep quiet in the presence of the building of the peace process are now ready to take their opportunity. It is essentially a 26-county howl of pain that has no concern about the North and where it leaves the Belfast Agreement. Its subtext is that if the Provos think they are going to export their lawlessness and civil disorder to our peaceful Celtic Tiger land, they had better think again.

It's as though the major government party never had a former taoiseach and two senior ministers who faced investigations about money they received.

Or that Irish banks twice pulled off even bigger heists on their customers and the taxpayers than the mystery men who drove the white van out of the Northern Bank in Belfast.

Meanwhile, beyond all this self-indulgence and back at the problem, Adams and McGuinness are facing a truly de Valerian quandary.

In the end, de Valera was unable to bring all the 'boys of the old brigade' with him into Fianna Fáil and they split off to create the seeds that two generations later emerged as the Provisional IRA.

If the IRA did carry off the Belfast robbery, then the current Sinn Féin leadership may be facing a choice of similar historical dimensions. From the outset, the Sinn Féin political leadership was determined to defy the old historical cycle and keep the whole movement united. It has succeeded quite remarkably for ten years, despite the decommissioning demand, which one suspected was always about destroying that unity of purpose.

Adams rightly reasoned that leaving part of the IRA behind would create a scenario that could wreck his political goals. Anyway, what could part of the IRA achieve that all of it didn't in the first place?

Perhaps all sides to this dispute should realise that they are all locked into a Northern historical cul-de-sac, whose only end point is a power-sharing devolved government including Sinn Féin.

The dispute is how long it takes them to get there - and that's actually in their hands.

After the forthcoming British general election in the North, I suspect the same dreary steeples as ever will rise up, with DUP and Sinn Féin representations as big - if not bigger - than ever.

The other great historical cycle will again come full circle and all will yet again face the choice of shared government or no government.

In the aftermath of the Belfast robbery, only the Sinn Féin leadership itself knows the dimensions of the problems it faces with its armed wing. Equally, one must ask how much longer must its voters have to accept that they are voting for a party whose leadership is only partly visible?

The events of the last few weeks have inflicted huge damage on its credibility and on all those in government who have spent long hours attempting to square the old historical circle. For once their future is in their hands.


Bottles Fly At Republican Protest Rally

Bloody Sunday march fury

By Billy Paterson

PROTESTERS hurled bottles at a republican march as city centre shoppers fled in terror yesterday.

Police battled to keep loyalists from clashing with more than 1000 marchers in Glasgow.

Trouble flared just days after First Minister Jack McConnell vowed to cut the number of sectarian marches in Scotland.

The event to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of Bloody Sunday set off peacefully from Blythswood Square but protesters tried to disrupt the parade.

Bottles were thrown over the police cordon at the marchers as they passed Dundas Street.

In Queen Street, 50 officers - including eight mounted police and five dog handlers - pushed the protesters back as they surged forward chanting sectarian abuse.

In Buchanan Street, the crowd were held back as they tried to break through police lines.

Others threw missiles while petrified shoppers huddled in shop doorways, shielding their children from the violence.

The marchers - some dressed in paramilitary gear - taunted the loyalist factions with their own sectarian slogans and gestures.

No one was injured.

Once through the flashpoints, the marchers gathered for a rally in High Street car park, which was addressed by Tony Docherty.

His father, Paddy, was one of 13 people shot dead in Londonderry by British paratroopers during a civil rights march on January 30, 1972.

He drew comparisons between the actions of the British Army in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the behaviour of the coalition troops today in Iraq.

Afterwards marchers, who had gathered under the Friends of Ireland banner, dispersed peacefully.

Despite the ugly scenes, Strathclyde Police last night said only three people had been arrested for public order offences.

Former Strathclyde Police Chief Constable Sir John Orr's report on how such parades are authorised in Scotland is expected to be released this week.


The Police Station Is Due To Close On Sunday

Police Station Set To Be Closed

One of the most frequently bombed police stations in Northern Ireland is set to be closed on Sunday.

Demolition of Andersonstown police station in west Belfast will begin in mid-February and then the site will be put up for sale.

Its closure was endorsed by the Policing Board in December 2004, following a recommendation by the local district commander last June.

The station has operated limited opening hours since July 2004.

All community policing has been based at other stations in the area for more than 18 months.

The station has been prominent during 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

In May 1983, a 1,000lb IRA car bomb exploded causing an estimated £1m of damage at the station.

In 2001, an 11-week-old girl was injured after the car she was travelling in was hit by shrapnel during an attack on the station by the dissident republican Real IRA.

Grosvenor Road, Woodbourne and New Barnsley police stations will continue to provide a service to the people of west Belfast, said the PSNI.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/23 10:38:04 GMT


The photo shows Free Derry corner in the old days when people actually lived in these houses, before they were bulldozed and a freeway put in.

Famous Wall To Get Palestine Flag Mural

Move to mark march memorial

By Brendan McDaid
22 January 2005

Free Derry Corner is set to have its historical black and white front painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag, it emerged today.

The move, a departure from the use of the rear of the gable wall to make local political statements, is being taken to mark the beginning of the 33rd Bloody Sunday anniversary commemorations.

It is understood local political activists will be taking part in the painting later today, weather permitting, in a bid to symbolise solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

Veteran civil rights activist Eamonn McCann, who came up with the slogan 'You Are Now Entering Free Derry' in the late 1960's, today welcomed the development.

Mr McCann said: "I would welcome anything that broadens out the meaning and symbolism of Free Derry Wall.

"When I originally came up with 'You Are Now Entering Free Derry', it was intended to refer to freedom across the world."

The wall is to remain painted until after next Sunday's commemorative march from the Bogside to Creggan.

Mr McCann will also take up the role of DJ alongside a host of musicians from home and abroad next week for a night of fund-raising to cover costs of the Bloody Sunday weekend.

The event, organised by the Gasyard Wall Feile, will be held in the Gasyard Centre next Saturday, January 29, from 9.30pm.

Two rooms will be used to divide up the entertainment.

In the main room, An Halla Mor, Cruncher O'Neill will be joined by Eileen Webster, local singer and musician Declan McLaughlin and Gary Og from Glasgow.

DJ One Shot will provide soul music between acts.

In the Gasworks Cafe meanwhile, DJ Paul McCartney will be hitting the decks alongside Joe Mulheron and Mr McCann.


Secret Gas Was Issued For IRA Prison Riots

Craig Morrison and Martin Bright

Sunday January 23, 2005
The Observer

The British government secretly authorised the use of a chemical riot control agent, fired from aerosols, water cannon or dropped from the air, to be used in prisons at the height of the Northern Ireland troubles, The Observer can reveal.

Papers from 1976 released under the government's freedom of information legislation show that the use of 'CR' or Dibenzoxazepine- a skin irritant 10 times more powerful than other tear gases - was permitted from 1973 to be used on prison inmates in the event of an attempted mass breakout.

The documents show that the authorisation was so sensitive that officials involved in organising training with the chemical were told: 'All concerned should be told of the consequences of idle talk.'

The man behind this instruction (in a document from 16 March, 1976, marked 'Secret - UK Eyes A', one of the highest levels of classification) was David B. Omand, a senior official in the Ministry of Defence. As Sir David Omand, he later became head of security and intelligence at the Cabinet Office, one of the most senior posts in Whitehall. He retires this year. The documents show he believed trials should begin immediately 'to correct defects and weaknesses already noted'.

News of the disclosures will further inflame the controversy over the alleged use of the chemical on 16 October, 1974, to quell rioting at Long Kesh (renamed the Maze), something ministers have always refused to discuss. The prison held some of the most prominent IRA men, including Gerry Adams. More than 50 of the prisoners at Long Kesh who claim to have been sprayed with the chemical have died or have developed cancerous illnesses.

The documents confirm that ministers ordered the chemical agent to be moved to prisons in Northern Ireland from July 1974.

Jim McCann, who was in the Maze between 1973 and 1981, has led a campaign for full disclosure of the use of what amounted to a chemical weapon.

'I'll never forget it, there were grown men screaming for their mothers,' he said. 'We'd all had experience in CS gas, which was easy to avoid, but this was something different, you couldn't get away from it. I felt like I was on fire. They just decided to experiment on us like we were guinea pigs.'

Sinn Fein spokesman Richard McAuley, who was also at Long Kesh at the time of the riot, said the chemical had been dropped in capsules from a helicopter and sprayed by soldiers inside the prison.

'It was like a thick fog,' he said. 'People were being sick and their eyes were streaming. It was a very frightening experience. The truth of what happened should be told.'

The use of CR became a priority in 1976 when the government became concerned about a backlash in prison following the removal of 'special-category status' for IRA prisoners. This effectively meant they were no longer political prisoners and were reduced to the level of common criminals. Officials warned ministers that the decision would 'increase the probability of a mass escape considerably'.

The use of chemical weapons and riot gases were limited by international agreement and it was felt that it would further inflame republicans if they had found out.

Further notes from senior officials show that training was carried out in absolute secrecy in a secure training area, in case it raised suspicions. There was 'no way the public could find out about the intention to use chemicals'.

The documents show that Prime Minister James Callaghan authorised the use of the chemical agent at the Maze and Magilligan prisons in the form of an aerosol spray for the personal protection of prison officers and to be fired from water cannon in a device called 'Pigsquirt'. Subject to medical advice, he also authorised the use of a device called 'Pussycat' which fired a polyethylene capsule that threw liquid CR on rioters on impact with the security fence of a prison.

The effects of CR are similar to the more common riot control agent CS gas, except that it also induces intense pain to exposed skin. The affected areas remain sensitive for days and become painful again after contact with water.

Lieutentant-Colonel Nigel Wylde was in charge of a battery brought in as reinforcements to the Maze in the spring of 1977 because of tensions in the prison at the time, but told The Observer he knew nothing about the plans.

'I am incandescent that we were not told about this,' he added. 'We were not given protective clothing or told to bring any. I would expect as a commander of reinforcements brought in to deal with unrest to be told about this if it was part of any plan. My men were given no equipment to deal with it. Being caught in the middle without even gas masks, we would have been rendered useless.'


DUP to run in South Belfast despite voting pact call

22/01/2005 - 16:00:00

The DUP leader Ian Paisley has said there will be a candidate from his party in the South Belfast constituency in the British general election, when the sitting UUP MP Martin Smyth resigns.

The UUP, which is expected to put up the pro-Agreement Michael McGimpsey as its candidate, had asked for a vote pact in the area to prevent Sinn Féin gaining the seat, but Mr Paisley said that could be ignored.

"It is the principles of the election that are important, not the personalities, and if the principle is that a person goes down the road that Mr McGimpsey has in foreswearing traditional Unionism, then the people are demanding that the Democratic Unionist candidate runs in the neighbourhood," he said.



As the Emerald Isle Rises To The Top Five, the lesson is: there are no excuses

January 23, 2005

These days, every economic textbook should finish with four words: "Now go study Ireland."

How so? Because in the past decade, the Irish economy has emerged as the most successful, and therefore the most interesting in the world.

Most people are aware that the Irish have been getting richer. Last week, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) confirmed just how much progress Ireland had made when it released figures on per capita gross domestic product (GDP), based on purchasing power parities for 2002.

The list hadn't changed much since 1999, the last benchmark year, with one exception. Ireland was bumped up a slot, joining the small group of "high income" nations alongside the US, Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg. The OECD flagged that as a "remarkable development".

Let's get this straight. Ireland, which was considered one of the region's poorer nations when it joined the EU in the 1970s, is now among the five wealthiest places in the world.

Maybe it should be even higher. Dan McLaughlin, the chief economist at Bank of Ireland, says Ireland is now wealthier than the US as well. He cites Irish per capita GDP of €36 000 (R280 800) in 2004 compared with the US's $41 000 (R246 000).

Rankings aside, the most striking thing about the Irish success story is that the country possesses no special advantages. The US is a superpower, with the world's reserve currency of choice; Norway has lots of oil, and not many people; while Switzerland and Luxembourg are secretive banking centres. Ireland has little to offer that other countries don't already have. It has even been lumbered with the euro.

So what can Ireland teach the world about how to manage a modern economy?

"The big lesson is that you have to open up," says Danny McCoy, a senior research officer at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. "The Irish economy really liberalised, and there was a lot of encouragement for foreigners to come in."

There are three main lessons that other countries should draw from the transformation of the Irish economy.

Firstly, history doesn't count for anything. Few countries had as dismal an economic history as Ireland. It was dominated by a colonial power and suffered from famine, civil unrest and mass emigration. That hasn't prevented its transformation.

Next, resources and geography don't count for much either.

Ireland has few natural resources to speak of. And its geographic position isn't great. Stuck out on the western fringe of Europe, it's a long way from the region's main markets, and you need a boat or a plane to get there.

Lastly, policy makes a difference. Ireland got a few big things right. It has lowered taxes.

The corporate tax rate is just 12.5 percent, one of the lowest in the developed world. Income taxes are in line with European averages, with a top rate of 42 percent. Overall, government spending in 2003 was slightly more than 35 percent of GDP, about the same as the US and relatively low by European standards.

In its 2005 report on economic freedom, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation ranked Ireland as the fifth-freest country in the world, just behind Estonia, and eight places above the US.

Ireland has also encouraged companies from around the world to base themselves there. "There are no conflicts between capital and labour here," McCoy says. "There is a recognition that we are all in this together."

Low taxes have been combined with excellent education, good infrastructure and a willingness to make global investors feel welcome.

For many years, Ireland had been playing catch-up with the rest of Europe. That phase is over. You can't play catch-up when you're already ahead of the pack.

Over time, the Irish economy may start to slow. The Economic and Social Research Institute is forecasting 5 percent growth for the Irish economy in 2005, with unemployment below 4.5 percent. That will keep it close to the top economic performance in Europe. A few more years of 5 percent growth and Ireland may well be the wealthiest in the world.

The punchiest lesson of the Irish miracle is also the simplest: there are no excuses. If the Irish can work their way into the super-league of the world's wealthiest nations, there is nothing stopping others from doing so. Except maybe themselves. - Bloomberg


She'd Die For Her Cause, But Mom Won't Let Her

Reviewed by June Sawyers

Sunday, January 23, 2005

"Pearl" is a novel of big ideas: love, faith, hope, family, death, politics, religion, fate, the tangled and complex bond between a mother and a daughter, forgiveness, the very meaning of life. It is an ambitious novel. For this, it can and should be admired. But, perhaps because the ideas tend to get in the way of the storytelling, it is not a terribly engrossing novel. In the end, this reader at least didn't particularly care about what happened to its protagonists.

Mary Gordon is a writer who has often used the rituals of her Catholic girlhood in both fiction and nonfiction. Catholicism shaped her family life and, to a great extent, her writing life as well. She has written about the coded language of the church, its oblique customs and rites, a world unto itself. Secrets and their corollary -- the omission of truth -- are something that concerns her. Gordon grew up the daughter of an intellectual Jewish father and an Irish-Italian Catholic mother. "Peasant Catholicism" is how she once described her mother's faith. And so, not surprisingly, Ireland and Judaism are persistent themes in her work, including Pearl.

"Pearl" begins on a cold Christmas night. It is 1998. Maria Meyers is a New Yorker who lives on the boundary between Harlem and the campus of Columbia University. When she returns to her apartment from a Christmas celebration, she notices with a mixture of anticipation and dread that a message has been left on her answering machine. She hopes that the call is from her 20-year-old daughter, Pearl, who is studying the Irish language at Trinity College in Dublin during her college year abroad. It is not. Rather, the voice on the machine belongs to an officer from the State Department in Washington. It seems that Pearl has chained herself to a flagpole in front of the American Embassy in Dublin. She has not eaten in six weeks and has refused all offers of assistance.

Maria herself has been down this road before. During the 1960s she knew a thing or two about demonstrations and protests. And, indeed, the big events and trends of the '60s are referred to in the novel -- the Peace Corps, JFK's assassination, Kent State. Now, decades later and in another country, the tables have been turned. The reasons for the protest this time around are different, though, having less to do with an unjust war and more with bearing witness and making amends. But for what? At least Maria had a cause -- the Vietnam War -- whereas Pearl has chosen to take up someone else's cause in someone else's country.

Pearl, it turns out, inadvertently caused the accidental death of Stephen ("Stevie") Donegan, a young man -- at 15, a boy, really -- who is the nephew of an IRA bomber serving time in an English jail and the illegitimate offspring of Mick, an American sympathetic to the Irish cause, and Breeda, an Irishwoman from the North who has witnessed a lifetime of bloodshed and only wishes for peace. Pearl blames herself for Stevie's death and assumes full responsibility.

But Pearl also believes Stevie was, in his own way, a victim of the Troubles, the centuries-old conflict ostensibly between Catholic Ireland and Protestant Ireland. Yet Gordon is not satisfied with confining her story merely to a regional struggle. She looks instead at the larger picture, of the concepts of goodness and evil, and more than this, of human nature itself: ergo, that the human race possesses the will to do harm.

As she makes clear, Pearl is not a hopeful person, nor does she feel at home in such a harmful world, where bad things can happen at any time and anywhere. Ironically, she rationalizes that her suicide would be transformed into an act of hope. It is her death, not her life, that promises to give her life meaning.

On the verge of death, Pearl is brought to the hospital and, against her will, slowly brought back to life. This last section of the novel is the most compelling, as we observe the struggle between Pearl's desire to end her own life and Maria's refusal to succumb to her daughter's morbid wishes.

Gordon raises important and timely (and timeless) questions: Is there anything truly worth dying for? Is there anything worth living for? And is it always desirable to live? Unfortunately, "Pearl" often reads more like a thoughtful essay brimming with ideas than a fully fledged novel with characters that we care deeply about, which is a shame. Gordon is a fiercely poetic writer, and one who holds dearly to her beliefs. Sometimes, though, rhetoric can get in the way of telling a good story. •

June Sawyers is a writer and editor in Chicago.

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

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