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January 25, 2005

01/25/05 – PSNI Rule Out Arrest of IRA Raid Suspects

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BT 01/25/05 Police Rule Out Arrest Of IRA Raid Suspects
IO 01/25/05 Loyalists Attack PSNI With Petrol Bombs In N Belfast
BB 01/24/05 Taxis Targeted In Loyalist Arson Attacks
IT 01/25/05 Hearings Into Barron Report On Bombing
SF 01/25/05 Dialogue, Inclusivity & Respect Needed Now More Than Ever
IT 01/25/05 Sinn Fein To Be Told All IRA Crime Must Come To End –A
IT 01/25/05 Onus On Ahern To Justify Bank Claim – Adams
SF 01/25/05 SF Welcome Opportunity To Discuss Equality With Unionists
UT 01/25/05 Anger Over Red Hand Apology
IT 01/25/05 Taoiseach Criticised For Giving Burke Seat In Cabinet
IT 01/25/05 Ray Burke: An Able Man With A Dark Past –LO
IT 01/25/05 23% Of Irish Population At Risk Of Poverty –V
PI 01/24/05 SF: Poverty Survey Exposes Government Lies
IT 01/25/05 Brennan To Intensify Efforts On Poverty

QA 01/24/05 Do The Irish Now Kick A Man When He Is Down –VO
QA 01/24/05 Should Ahern Be Meeting Adams Tomorrow? -VO
NW 01/24/05 The State Of Horseracing In Rural Ireland -VO

Questions and Answers - 24 January 2005 Presented by John Bowman
Brian Lenihan TD (FF), Minister for Children
Liz MacManus TD (Lab), Spokesperson on Health
Dr Mark Clinton, An Taisce
Peter Quinn, former President of the GAA
Fionnán Sheahan, Political Correspondent, The Examiner

Do The Irish Now Kick A Man When He Is Down (with reference to Ray Burke)?

Should Bertie Ahern Be Meeting Gerry Adams Tomorrow?

A programme on The State Of Horseracing In Rural Ireland, presented from Gowran Park (entire show 25 min)


Police Rule Out Arrest Of Raid Suspects

Tom Brady and Louise McCall
25 January 2005

Police last night denied claims that they had drawn up a list of names of Provisional IRA members they believed to have been involved in the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery.

Senior PSNI officers were reported at the weekend to have supplied the names for secret briefings given to the British and Irish governments in the wake of the robbery.

But the report was dismissed as without foundation and detectives said names being mentioned in the media were based on speculation.

Police also rejected suggestions they were planning a series of arrests of prime suspects this week or that detectives had information showing that the IRA's "southern command" was responsible for acquiring the white van used to remove the massive haul from the Belfast bank.

Management at the Northern Bank yesterday said they were confident that it would now be impossible for robbers to mount a raid on the scale of last month's heist.

The head of business banking, Colin Dundas, conceded that mistakes had been made that allowed the robbers to plunder the vaults at the bank's headquarters in Belfast on December 20.

But Mr Dundas said lessons had been learnt since the raid and changes introduced.

"Security procedures were not as effective as they should have been. What we are doing at the moment is conducting a full review of all aspects of that," he said.

The police have revealed that they have one vital piece of camera footage showing that the van used in the robbery had travelled on the Forkhill-Newry road close to the border two hours before the raid. The white Ford Transit had been fitted with number plates similar to a van which was regularly driven across the border to make deliveries for a Northern firm. However, police said they had no information suggesting that the bogus van had been acquired on the southern side of the border and would be requiring assistance from the gardai in carrying out raids on suspects' homes.


PSNI Officers Attacked With Petrol Bombs In North Belfast

25/01/2005 - 07:37:58

Police officers came under attack in north Belfast last night amid escalating loyalist violence in the area.

The officers were carrying out a search operation in the Ballysillan area of the city at around 6.30pm when petrol bombs were thrown at them by a loyalist mob.

Four PSNI vehicles were damaged in the attack and one person was arrested, but no police were injured.

Tensions have been escalating in north Belfast over the past few days due to a renewed feud between the Ulster Volunteer Force and the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force.

On Saturday night, three men were arrested after a shooting incident linked to the feud, while eight taxis were also set alight and one driver was assaulted.

On Sunday night, meanwhile, two women had black paint thrown over them at their home on the Shankill Road and were told to leave the area within 12 hours.

Protestant clergymen are hoping to set up talks later today to quell the violence, while the PSNI is putting extra patrols on the streets.


A car belonging to a taxi driver was burnt out
A car belonging to a taxi driver was burnt out

Taxis Targeted In Arson Attacks

Two more taxis have been set on fire in north Belfast.

The cars were burned at Carnan Street and Westway Gardens in Ballysillan on Monday shortly after 1900 GMT.

At the weekend, a number of other taxis working for the same company, partly owned by prominent loyalist, Jackie Mahood, were also set alight.

Police carrying out searches in the Ballysillan area on Monday were also attacked with petrol bombs.

Four police vehicles were damaged. No-one was injured and one person was arrested.

It is thought the incidents are linked to a feud between the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the rival Ulster Volunteer Force in Belfast.

The police have confirmed that paramilitaries were behind a number of attacks on taxis - and that they will be putting more patrols on the streets of north Belfast.

Jackie Mahood told the BBC the attacks were part of an orchestrated campaign to destroy his business.

Taxi driver Colin Houston said: "What people keep saying to me is that this was to do with a paramilitary feud.

"What I want to say to the people who did this is: 'I am in no paramilitaries.'

"I'm a born again Christian. As far as I'm concerned, my car was done because I'm a soft target."

Meanwhile, two women were attacked and covered in paint after masked men broke into their west Belfast home at about 1850 GMT on Sunday.

Three hooded men smashed the front windows at a house in Hopewell Crescent in the Shankill area.

They threw a jar of black paint over the women. They then entered the house and threatened them.

One of the women, Louise McKay, said she thought she had been blinded with tar. In fact, the gang covered her with black paint.

Ms McKay said she did not know why she had been targeted and why her sons had been put at risk.

She has blamed the Ulster Volunteer Force for the attack. The Progressive Unionist Party, which has links to the UVF, has denied this.

Chief Superintendent Mike Little said police would meet local representatives to try to prevent more trouble.

"We can confirm organised criminality with paramilitary links is behind the co-ordinated incidents involving taxi cabs," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/25 07:07:33 GMT


Dublin Bombing
Dublin Bombing

Hearings Into Barron Report On Bombing

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

Figures who were prominent Republicans in the 1960s and 1970s have been asked to attend hearings of an Oireachtas sub-committee which is examining a report into bombings in Dublin in 1972 and 1973.

The chairman of the subcommittee of Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, Mr Seán Ardagh, said he was "not impressed at all" with the failure of the British authorities to co-operate with the subcommittee or with Mr Justice Henry Barron, who compiled the report.

"It is of particular regret that the British authorities did not co-operate with Mr Barron when he was writing his report, nor have co-operated as yet with us in our consideration of the report."

He noted that the British authorities had failed to respond positively to a request for a for- mal investigation under the Wes- ton Park protocol into allegations of British collusion in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of 1974.

In proceedings beginning this morning, which will be broadcast live from on TG4, the committee will hear from relations of the three men killed in bomb attacks at Sackville Place in December 1972 and January 1973 and those injured in the attacks.

The sub-committee is also examining Mr Barron's finding that republican subversives "more likely than not" to have been responsible for a bomb attack on the Film Centre at Burgh Quay in November 1972.

It is understood that the president of Republican Sinn Féin, Mr Ruairí Ó Bradaigh, the former Workers' Party leader, Mr Tomas MacGiolla, and the former Workers' Party official, Mr SeáGarland, have been asked to attend hearings next week which will examine that attack. According to secret Garda records which were released in 1998, Mr Ó Bradaigh, Mr MacGiolla and Mr Garland were all members of the IRA army council in 1966. Mr Garland was described as "chief of staff" of the organisation in September of that year.

Mr Ardagh did not name the three individuals at a press conference yesterday but said he was hopeful that "people of a high profile" in Republican circles would assist the sub-committee.

He said the sub-committee will consider the context in which the bombings took place. It will also examine four other incidents, in Co Derry, Co Donegal and Co Cavan in 1972-73, in which six other people died and many others were injured.

© The Irish Times


Dialogue, Inclusivity And Respect For Others - Key To Progress Over Last Ten Years And Needed Now More Than Ever

Published: 24 January, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking in Belfast today has said that the dialogue, inclusivity and respect for others - is the key to the progress made over the last 10 years and is needed now more than ever

Mr Adams said:

"Our primary focus in our conversation tomorrow with the Taoiseach and on Thursday with the British Prime Minister is to ensure the stability of the process and continued progress in it. The peace process is too important to the people of this island. It is the most important political development in the past 30 years.

"It is the only way forward.

"That is why our meetings this week are so crucial and why, despite our reasonable concerns at the Taoiseach‚s accusations against Martin McGuinness and I, that we are approaching tomorrows meeting positively.

"We do believe that the Taoiseach has to explain why he said what he said. However, it has been suggested that tomorrows meeting will be confrontational. That is not our intention.

"This process is in serious trouble. Confrontation is not what is needed. Dialogue, inclusivity, respect for others - that is the key to the progress we have all made so far over the last 10 years, it is what is needed now more than ever.

"How do we build on the significant progress that was made before Christmas?

"How do we advance the peace process?

"These are the crucial questions which must be answered." ENDS


The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will meet Gerry Adams today.

Sinn Fein To Be Told All IRA Crime Must Come To End -A

The Taoiseach will tell the Sinn Féin leadership today that the only way of breaking the deadlock in the peace process is for the Provisional IRA to demonstrate that all forms of paramilitarism and criminality have been brought to an end, write Arthur Beesley and Gerry Moriarty.

At what is expected to be a difficult meeting with Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness in Government Buildings at lunchtime, Mr Ahern will say that the involvement of the IRA in the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid leaves the republican movement with no option but to make a definitive commitment to pursue politics by exclusively peaceful means.

As efforts are renewed to break the logjam, the Sinn Féin leaders will hear the same message from the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, in Chequers on Thursday. "In terms of moving forward, there can be no deal with republicans until there is an end to paramilitary activity and criminality. That is the message he gave over two years ago. He meant it then, he still means it," said Mr Blair's official spokesman.

Mr Ahern will meet the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) on Monday, a day before he meets Mr Blair to assess if any political progress can be made in the short to medium-term.

With Mr Adams predicting that the governments will use the IMC to penalise Sinn Féin over the bank robbery, the meeting today will be the Taoiseach's first face-to-face encounter with Sinn Féin since he said Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness knew in advance that the robbery was being planned.

Despite Mr Adams' demand that Mr Ahern justify this claim, the Government is adamant that the responsibility will be on Sinn Féin to provide explanations about the implication of the IRA in the raid.

Mr Ahern's official spokeswoman would not say whether he would adopt a confrontational tone, although she said his message would be in line with that of other Ministers who have expressed considerable anger with the Sinn Féin leadership over the robbery.

The Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, last night said republican complaints that others "don't want a Fenian about the place" smacked of self-pitying deception.

Mr Ahern will also meet today with the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party. Lord Ballyedmond - the former Fianna Fáil appointed senator, Dr Edward Haughey - will be a part of the UUP delegation.

© The Irish Times


Onus On Ahern To Justify Bank Claim - Adams

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, has signalled a strategy of attack being the best method of defence for his meeting with the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, in Government Buildings, Dublin, today.

Mr Adams was insistent yesterday that the onus is on Mr Ahern to justify his claim that the Sinn Féin leadership knew in advance of the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid - rather than for the Sinn Féin president to convince the Taoiseach the IRA was not involved.

What is expected to be a difficult encounter between Mr Adams, Mr Martin McGuinness and Mr Ahern at lunchtime today marks the first of a series of meetings involving the British and Irish leaders and the Northern parties over the coming 10 days.

Moreover, on Monday the Independent Monitoring Commission will meet Mr Ahern in Dublin, with Mr Adams predicting that the governments will use the IMC - the governments' "tame donkey", he said - to penalise Sinn Féin over the Northern Bank robbery.

"Sanctions against our party won't stop our party. Sanctions against our party won't assist the peace process. All it will do is eat up more time," added Mr Adams.

After these meetings, the Taoiseach and British prime minister Mr Tony Blair, who meet next Tuesday, will assess whether in the short- to medium-term there is any way of lifting politics out of its current stalemate.

Government ministers in recent weeks have made it clear that the only possible means out of the deadlock is by the IRA demonstrably ending paramilitarism and criminality.

Mr Blair's chief spokesman last night made the same point about the meeting between Mr Adams and the prime minister at Chequers, outside London, on Thursday.

"In terms of moving forward, there can be no deal with republicans until there is an end to paramilitary activity and criminality. That is the message he gave over two years ago. He meant it then, he still means it," he said.

Chequers rather than Downing Street was chosen for the meeting to prevent republican "grandstanding" before and after the meeting, said a London source. Mr Blair is also due to meet the SDLP leader, Mr Mark Durkan, in Downing Street on Thursday.

Despite the barrage of criticism against republicans, Mr Adams was in assertive mood yesterday. He said there were just two issues that would dominate today's meeting.

"Our very reasonable request that the Taoiseach should give an explanation for his remarks. And secondly, how we continue to build this peace process. The Taoiseach does have to give an explanation. I am sorry and I am disappointed that I have to say that, but when you are in public life and you make allegations or accusations you have to stand them up, and we are looking for the Taoiseach to stand them up."

He did not want to make any further comment about the robbery. "I am beyond talking about the Northern Bank robbery. Whoever did it? That will come out in due course. The focus has to be on the consequences of this."

When asked would he have anything to say to Mr Ahern to persuade him the IRA did not carry out the bank raid, Mr Adams replied: "The convincing will be for the Taoiseach to do, and the Taoiseach has to give us an explanation as to why he said what he said. There is a debate going on about criminality and so on. What the Taoiseach has done is to have accused Martin McGuinness and I of being involved in criminality, and we want an explanation for why he made those remarks."

Mr Ahern today will also separately meet SDLP and Ulster Unionist delegations, respectively led by Mr Durkan and Mr David Trimble. On Tuesday next, Mr Ahern and Mr Blair will meet in London to take stock of the situation. On Thursday week, Mr Blair will meet Mr Trimble.

Subsequently the two leaders will assess whether there are any options for moving forward.

Meanwhile, the Northern Bank said it is carrying out a review of security procedures to try to prevent any future robberies.

© The Irish Times


Orange Parade
The organisers of loyalist or republican marches, such as this Orange parade, would be hit by the new rules. Picture: Sean Bell

A tangle of red tape to block march organisers

Hamish MacDonell
Scottish Political Editor

Key points

• New restrictions to various marches in Scotland to be introduced
• Numbers per year to be reduced as requirements are tightened up
• Both republican organisations and Orange Order welcome recommendations

Key quote

"My recommendations are not designed to undermine anyone’s legitimate right to march. They are, however, intended to ensure better organised and better regulated and more accountable marches, and, hopefully, a better informed community." - Sir John Orr

Story in full

MINISTERS have unveiled the secret weapon in their campaign to curb loyalist and republican parades in Scotland - red tape.

Jack McConnell has already made clear that he wants fewer marches in Scotland and Cathy Jamieson, his justice minister, brought this a step closer yesterday, by adopting nearly 40 new measures designed to regulate marching culture.

The strictures were recommended by Sir John Orr, a former chief constable of Strathclyde Police, who had been asked to look into every aspect of parades in Scotland. Yesterday, he published his report, calling for new regulations and restrictions on marches that will make it much more difficult for them to take place.

Under his plans, march organisers would have to meet council officials and the police to plan any parade, would have to give a full 28 days’ notice of their intention to march - as opposed to seven days now - and would have to submit a formal notification to the council before the process could begin. They would have to be briefed before the march and debriefed afterwards, would have to provide adequate stewarding and might have to provide a "good behaviour bond" which they would forfeit in the event of any damage or trouble during the march.

Sir John’s plans would also place additional burdens on local authorities and the police to monitor, approve and regulate parades, while marching bands would be held responsible for the behaviour of their supporters in the crowd.

Sir John admitted the end result of his recommendations would probably be a reduction in the number of marches that take place in Scotland every year. But he stressed he did not want to stop people exercising their right to march - all he wanted to do was curb the number of "inappropriate" and unnecessary parades.

"My recommendations are not designed to undermine anyone’s legitimate right to march," he said. "They are, however, intended to ensure better organised and better regulated and more accountable marches, and, hopefully, a better informed community."

Sir John said his aim was to curb what he called "mirror" parades. These are marches which take place along similar routes to other parades, at similar times, with no discernible difference between them. He said: "The public perception is that there are inappropriate parades. They go out early in the morning, you see them again at lunchtime and they then have a mini parade in the evening."

The new regulations would make it much more difficult for marchers to adopt this kind of haphazard approach, because everything would have to be agreed, in writing, with the authorities beforehand. "If the recommendations are rigorously applied, it would mean that only legitimate parades would take place," he said.

The Scottish Executive will have to introduce legislation to implement some of the changes and this will take place over the next year. However, other measures can be adopted without the approval of parliament and these will be brought forward in the next few months, possibly in time for this year’s marching season.

Every year, there are about 1,700 marches and parades in Scotland. Of these, the biggest number are Orange Order marches. In 2003, there were 853 Orange marches in Scotland, 20 Catholic parades and 839 other marches, ranging from political demonstrations, such as anti-Iraq war protests, to local celebrations involving floats and pipe bands.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland welcomed Sir John’s recommendations and said he had produced "a measured and inclusive report" that balanced rights and responsibilities.

"The recommendations must be seen as a complete package and must not be cherry-picked," Ian Wilson, the grand master, said. "We would now expect any legislation arising from the report to reflect both the spirit and context of Sir John’s report, and we look to ministers to give that assurance at the earliest opportunity.

"For our part, we have no hesitation in pledging ourselves to work with the relevant individuals and bodies to ensure that these recommendations are adopted and implemented."

Sir John’s report was also welcomed by a republican body, Cairde na hEireann. Jim Slaven, its national organiser, said: "Republicans are prepared to work with others, including our political opponents, to resolve this issue. We are committed to playing our part to end sectarianism and anti-Irish racism in Scotland."

One of the potential pitfalls Sir John had to avoid was the placing of unnecessary restrictions on legitimate marches that had nothing to do with either loyalists or republicans. There were concerns that any new regulations would place unreasonable burdens on protestors demonstrating, for example, over the closure of a local factory or swimming pool. But Sir John has insisted on an opt-out, allowing local political demonstrations to avoid the need for a 28-day notice period.

One note of caution was struck by local authorities, who warned it would be difficult for them to take on new responsibilities without receiving more money from the Executive.

Pat Watters, the president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: "Ministers must provide the necessary resources to implement these recommendations - there will be a whole raft of new functions for local government, which we cannot deliver from within existing staff or financial resources, period.

"They must also introduce the legislation councils need to act on community views: at present, we can consult until the cows come home, but the law does not allow us to reach a compromise or re-route marches on that basis - only if the police believes there to be a risk to public safety."

Ms Jamieson said Sir John’s review had struck "the right balance" between the right to march and the right of communities to have a say in how, where and when marches took place. "What we are setting out today, in recommendations and in action, should not be seen as a threat to culture, tradition and free speech," she said.

"This is not about the heavy hand of authority, but it is about how legitimate marches and parades can be planned, notified, discussed and carried out in a modern, professional way."

Ms Jamieson went on: "The First Minister has made it clear that, in his view, there are too many marches in some parts of the country.

"However, he has also made clear that it is for communities themselves - better informed and with more powers - to work with their locally elected democratic representatives in local government to take decisions to change that."

She added: "This package of reforms and the steps we will take to implement them will give communities and local authorities the strength to strike the right balance."

SIR John Orr’s recommendations:

• Organisers should give 28 days notice to councils and the police of any parade - up from the current seven days.

• Some marches, protesting against unforeseen circumstances like a factory closure, will be able to waive the 28-day notice period.

• Councils and the police should set "single gateways" to deal with applications.

• Councils and the police should analyse and assess march applications, taking account of the potential risk to the public, before making any decisions.

• The Scottish Executive should monitor the process to make sure the new rules are properly implemented.

• Councils and the police should liaise to share good practice.

• Councils should prepare an annual diary of processions and update it every quarter so the public know what to expect.

• Communities should be informed about forthcoming marches and given the chance to make their views known.

• Councils should have responsibility for deciding whether marches go ahead.

• Councils should have the ability to impose restrictions and conditions on any march.

• March organisers should meet with council officials and the police before their request is submitted.

• Marches should only be allowed to go ahead once a "permit to process" certificate is received by the organisers, setting out what is expected and required by the council.

• March organisers should take part in de-brief sessions with the police and the council after any parade.

• March organisers should consider taking out public liability insurance and, in some circumstances, councils could request a "good behaviour bond" which the organisers would forfeit if there is any trouble.

• March organisers should realise they have a responsibility for the behaviour of onlookers and should ensure they have sufficient stewarding.

• Any bands playing at the parade should name an individual to be responsible for the behaviour of the band and its supporters.

• Councils which do not have by-laws which forbid the drinking of alcohol outside should consider applying for them.

• March organisers should not be expected to meet policing costs.

• Police officers covering marches should be trained in the nature of the march and its history.


Sinn Féin welcome opportunity to discuss equality with Unionists

Published: 24 January, 2005

Sinn Féin South Down Assembly Member Caitríona Ruane MLA has welcomed the response from Dermot Nesbitt who has agreed in principle to enter into a public debate on the equality issue. Ms Ruane recently challenged Dermot Nesbitt to a debate after objecting to recent comments by the Ulster Unionist MLA in which he claimed Catholics living in the north of Ireland do not face discrimination.

Ms Ruane said:

"Part of the current Unionist agenda is to propagate the absurd claim that the Protestant community is subject to increased levels of discrimination while at the same time perpetuating the myth that nationalists suffer little or no prejudices.

"While I accept that many Protestants live with disadvantage and poverty any objective analysis of the facts show that the Catholic community are disproportionately at risk in terms of housing, unemployment and ill health. Attempts to distort this reality only make it more difficult to target poverty, social need and discrimination in urban and rural areas that are in dire need of investment.

"It is a position that is designed to undermine and discredit the equality agenda in an attempt to prevent real and lasting change. I welcome therefore, the chance to debate this issue publicly with Mr Nesbitt which will give us both the opportunity to get to heart of the debate about equality, discrimination and disadvantage." ENDS


Anger over red hand apology

Unionists were tonight pushing for a meeting with BBC bosses after an apology for the use of the Red Hand of Ulster symbol on TV's Blue Peter children's programme.

By:Press Association

Presenter Zoe Salmon, a former Miss Northern Ireland, sparked controversy when she suggested the Red Hand would make a good design for an airline`s livery.

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Michael Copeland described the subsequent apology by head of Blue Peter Anne Gilchrist as "political correctness gone mad".

He has written to the BBC`s Controller for Northern Ireland Anna Carragher and telephoned the Director General`s office in London to arrange a meeting.

The East Belfast representative is demanding they retract

the apology.

"The Red Hand is the symbol of Ulster and transcends religious or cultural boundaries both north and south of the border. To suggest that it is sectarian or could somehow cause offence is a ludicrous proposition," he said.

Miss Gilchrist issued an apology to David Miller, professor of sociology at Strathclyde University who claimed the Red Hand of Ulster was a sectarian symbol.

Mr Miller said: "This symbol has sectarian connotations. It`s used on the loyalist murals by paramilitaries and would cause offence to a lot of people."

Mr Copeland said tonight: "I will be trying to establish what exactly it was they were apologising for.

"It is the equivalent of apologising for the Red Rose of Lancashire and the White Rose of Yorkshire."

Mr Copeland said the BBC`s actions had branded the Red Hand intrinsically offensive.

"The Ulster Rugby team wears the symbol on its shirts.

Does this mean that the next time Ulster matches are shown, this will be the subject of an apology from the BBC?" he added.


Taoiseach Criticised For Giving Burke Seat In Cabinet

Fianna Fáil reaction: Fianna Fáil TDs criticised the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, for appointing Ray Burke to the cabinet in 1997 after the former minister was jailed yesterday for six months for tax offences, writes Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter.

None of the TDs who criticised the Taoiseach's judgement in the affair were willing to do so in public, but they said Mr Burke should never have been made minister for foreign affairs when Mr Ahern was forming his first cabinet in 1997.

While some TDs said publicly that Mr Ahern could not have known about Mr Burke's tax evasion, others said the Taoiseach was unwise to appoint him to the cabinet.

The controversy surrounding Burke's financial affairs had proven costly for Mr Ahern and Fianna Fáil, they said.

"At the end of the day, logic and friendship obviously were not in unison in relation to his judgment," said one TD of the Taoiseach.

There was no comment yesterday from Mr Ahern after Burke received a six-month sentence at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

However, Fianna Fáil's official spokeswoman said the sentence imposed on the former Dublin North TD indicated that "no-one in this country" was above the law.

"As legislators and as elected representatives of the people, we have a particular responsibility to uphold the laws that we make on their behalf. On a personal level, it is a tragedy for Ray Burke and his family," she said.

She declined to say whether the affair had damaged the party, but said Fianna Fáil in Government had introduced a range of measures and legislation to deal with tax evasion.

"Our position on the whole area of tax evasion has always been very clear. The legislation that was introduced was indicative of that." There was some sympathy for Burke and his family within the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party yesterday, although some TDs said he should have received a longer sentence.

"It's important that the courts do hand down an appropriate judgment. Whether the punishment fits the crime is another issue. I do think he might have got more," said one figure.

However, another TD said the sentence was appropriate and the profession of politics would benefit from the fact a former minister would serve time for tax evasion.

The Laois-Offaly TD, Mr Seán Fleming, denied that the jailing of Mr Burke was a poor reflection of Mr Ahern's judgement.

"It would have been impossible for the Taoiseach to have had any prior knowledge of these matters. The tribunals were set up on the recommendation of a government led by Bertie Ahern," he said.

"The law has taken its course, that's it. It's a watershed alright in Irish political life. There's not much more than can be said either way, other than that the law must be respected."

A similar stance was adopted by the Longford-Roscommon TD Mr Michael Finneran, who said that Mr Burke had not been up-front with Mr Ahern.

"I believe that people in politics have to be up front with their leader. The leader can't be a detective," he said.

"I would feel it's probably a sad episode for somebody who had given a long service to the country and the party, and his father before him."

Another TD said that many people inside and outside politics will certainly remember Burke "for being quite an arrogant individual", although he pointed out that he had a strong reputation within his constituency.

"It's a sad old fate to befall anybody, and it obviously sets a marker for public representatives."

© The Irish Times


Link to further coverage of Ray Burke:

An Able Man With A Dark Past

Burke's life and times: Bully, fixer, liar, cheat, crook, and now prisoner - Ray Burke's fall from grace is finally complete, a full 30 years since suspicions were first aired about his activities, writes Paul Cullen.


23% at risk of poverty finds survey - George Lee, Economics Editor, has details of the findings of the survey on poverty


23% Of Irish Population At Risk Of Poverty -V

Christine Newman

Over 9 per cent of the population is classed as consistently poor, with 23 per cent at risk of poverty, according to a major new survey.

People living on their own and lone-parent households are most at risk of poverty, the EU survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), published yesterday, reveals.

People at risk of poverty are living in households where the income is less than 60 per cent of the average at an individual level.

The survey, covering the last six months of 2003, shows that people living alone are most at risk, with almost 45 per cent below the 60 per cent threshold.

Adults and children living in lone-parent households were also a high-risk group at just over 42 per cent.

Where the risk of poverty was combined with an element of enforced deprivation, the survey showed that 9.4 per cent of people were consistently poor.

This definition meant that their income was below the 60 per cent threshold plus they lacked at least one of eight basic deprivation indicators.

These indicators were, for example, a household unable to afford two pairs of strong shoes, a roast once a week, new clothes, without heating at some stage in the year, or debt problems from ordinary living expenses.

A high level of consistent poverty was shown for children under the age of 15, at 14. 6 per cent.

Children living in lone-parent households showed the highest consistent poverty rate at 32 per cent, followed by those living in other households with children at 16.6 per cent. Households with one adult had a consistent poverty rate of 12 per cent.

For unemployed persons, the consistent poverty rate was 26.4 per cent, compared to 3.5 per cent of those with jobs. The ill or disabled had a consistent poverty rate at just under 21 per cent.

The survey noted that almost 60 per cent of those at risk of poverty did not report deprivation. Over 77 per cent of adults and children living in lone-parent households at risk of poverty reported deprivation.

This contrasted with persons living on their own, where only 27 per cent at risk reported deprivation.

The top income group had almost five times more income than the lowest.

The average weekly gross income of households in the lowest income group was €121.58, with 94 per cent receiving social benefits. This was in sharp contrast to the top income group where almost 97 per cent of the total weekly income of €2,398.70 was from direct income.

The gross annual household income averaged over all households was estimated to be just over €46,000 in 2003, the equivalent to an average of €883 per week. Total disposable households income which is net of income tax and social contributions was almost €36,000 per annum or €688 per week.

After adjusting the income figures for household size, the total disposable household income averaged across all persons was €17,800 or €341 per week.

The Republic of Ireland is the first EU member-state to complete the survey.

The data, collated by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), will be used to monitor and evaluate progress towards achieving the targets set out in the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS).

Survey: methodology

The EU-SILC survey replaced the Living in Ireland Survey (LIIS) conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in 2001. The ESRI survey showed that the consistent poverty rate was around 5 per cent. However, the organisations yesterday stressed that the figures could not be compared.

They stated that the methodology used in the two surveys was different. For example, the question format used in EU-SILC was different to that used in the LIIS in that it was a direct question approach. The LIIS was also a panel survey, where the same households were surveyed over a number of years, whereas in the new survey households were interviewed for the first time.

The new survey stated: "In conclusion, there is a major discontinuity between the surveys in the measurement of deprivation and consistent poverty.

"As a consequence of this, no conclusions can therefore be drawn regarding the direction of scale of any real changes between 2001 and 2003."

© The Irish Times


Poverty Survey Exposes Government Lies - SF

Monday, January 24

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Welfare and Community Affairs, Seán Crowe TD responding to the latest figures that indicate that poverty levels in Ireland are much higher than admitted by the Government said, 'this latest survey exposes as a lie the Government's claims on poverty."

Deputy Crowe said, "While the Government was happy to bury its head in the sand, or worse still, wilfully ignore the levels of poverty in the country there are those of us who know only too well from our work in our communities that despite the so-called Celtic Tiger there are still a significant number of people living in consistent poverty.

"It is ironic that this report should be published on the day a former Fianna Fáil Minister is jailed for tax evasion. He was a member of Governments which cut back public services and urged working people to tighten their belts while he and his colleagues took advantage of their political positions for personal gain. Equally scandalous were their policies that led to the closing down of hospital wards, corrupt land deals, dilapidated schools and the degeneration of vital public services, while the monied elite bought and sold Ireland from under its people. We are still living with the legacy.

"This latest survey exposes as a lie the Government's claims on poverty. This report shows that despite all the talk of 'socialism' and a new 'caring sharing' image this Government has not changed from its position of supporting and appeasing the mega rich while treating the less well off in Irish society as second-class citizens."


Brennan To Intensify Efforts On Poverty

Christine Newman

Efforts to introduce an additional "second-tier" payment for children in poverty would be intensified in the light of the EU-SILC report, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mr Brennan, said yesterday.

At a press conference after the results were announced by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Minister said the survey was a message to Government to redouble its efforts to tackle poverty.

He said one of the most disappointing figures was that nearly 15 per cent of children under 15 were living in consistent poverty.

He proposed a second-tier of payments for children in this group and in the "at risk" category. This would be additional to the child benefit. Although he did not have any more detail at present, the second tier would be much more targeted.

"I think I have to intensify my efforts in this regard in the light of the 15 per cent CSO result which is not acceptable," he said.

The child benefit was at present paid to all mothers. The second tier could be worked on a family income supplement basis or extra child benefit.

He said he welcomed the debate on the definition of consistent poverty or at risk poverty.

"I am determined that the academic debate doesn't overshadow the need to act," the Minister said.

He said he did not see how the figure could move from 5 per cent in 2001 to nearly 10 percent in consistent poverty as the allocation for benefits had doubled and unemployment was down.

Asked if the 9.4 per cent figure would now be used with regard to the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, he said: "If that's what the CSO tell me, I presume that figure will be used. I think the new figures require greater focusing. More targeting is now called for," the Minister said.

Employment was a major weapon against poverty, he said. On lone parents, he was looking at how they could return to the workplace, in particular at the amount of money they were allowed to earn before it affected their allowances, he said.

Labour Party TD Mr Willie Penrose said the survey which showed almost a quarter of Irish people were at risk of poverty was indicative of the gross imbalance of Government policy in favour of the better off.

Ms Helen Johnston, director of Combat Poverty, said she welcomed the fact that the survey was published.

She said she was disappointed at the information and that there was no real impact being made in tackling poverty.

The director of Threshold, Mr Patrick Burke, said the figures were embarrassing for the Government in the context of an economy which continued to boom.

© The Irish Times

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