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January 25, 2005

01/26/05 – Ahern Opposed to Punishing SF

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

IT 01/26/05 Ahern Opposed To Punishing Sinn Fein –V(2)
IT 01/26/05 We Will Not Tolerate SF's Inclusion, Says Trimble
IT 01/26/05 SDLP Puts Forward Own Proposals
IT 01/26/05 Taoiseach Failed To Back Up His Claims On Raid, Says SF
IT 01/26/05 A 'Gunfight At The OK Corral' Scenario
IT 01/26/05 Ministers Challenge SF Leaders To Break Deadlock
IT 01/26/05 Ahern Says He Had No Evidence Burke Was Corrupt
IT 01/26/05 PSNI Fears Loyalist Dispute May Escalate
IT 01/26/05 Chinese New Year To Be Marked By Festival In Dublin
IT 01/26/05 Future Of Small Post Offices On Agenda
IT 01/26/05 US President May Have Family Tie To Strongbow

RT 01/25/05 Bray-Based Soundman Inline For Film Award –VO

Bray-Based Soundman Inline For Film Award - Jennifer O'Connell reports on the announcement of the nominees for this year's Oscars

(Poster's Note: An addition to my previous adm note. You should see three images in this posting. Two with the Dublin China Town story & one with the Bush Strongbow story (can you believe that?) Let me know if you can't see the images. Jay)


Sinn Féin warned to reflect on party's position - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, describes this afternoon's 'robust exchanges' between the Government and SF representatives

David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, says there is unlikely to be any meaniugnful progress until Sinn Féin finds a way past this problem

Ahern Opposed To Punishing Sinn Fein -V(2)

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

The Minister for Justice has confirmed that the Taoiseach told the Sinn Féin leadership yesterday he will oppose any move to punish the party or exclude it from the political process in the wake of the Northern Bank raid.

Mr McDowell said Mr Ahern told Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness yesterday that he "is strongly opposed to a policy of exclusion or punishment, because in our view putting people into victim mode is not sensible and doesn't help in the present process". The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, said the Government and Sinn Féin had agreed on the need to move forward with the peace process, but this could only be done on the basis of "exclusively democratic peaceful means".

The Sinn Féin leadership had been asked to "reflect" on the Government's insistence that the issue of criminality be dealt with.

Mr McDowell said the Government's view that the IRA had carried out the bank robbery was based on the assessment of An Garda Síochána, and not just on that of the PSNI Chief Constable Mr Hugh Orde.

Speaking after Mr Adams had said the Taoiseach failed to back up his assertion that the Sinn Féin leadership had prior knowledge of the robbery, Mr McDowell said: "This was not a meeting at which the Government was going to explain itself, at which the Government was going to share intelligence with them, or the Government was going to set out the basis on which it had come to its conclusions."

He said the Government did not think it was appropriate to share intelligence with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

"An Garda Síochána has clearly stated and has briefed me that in their professional assessment of the present situation, firstly the Northern Bank robbery was carried out by the IRA, and secondly that the nature and scale of the operation was such that the carrying out of that operation must have had sanction and approval by the leadership of the Provisional movement."

The Government "stands by its conclusions and it has the backing of intelligence from a number of sources to justify those conclusions".

He said the talks yesterday dealt not only with the Northern Bank raid, but "with a pattern of criminality. We instanced individual incidents of that criminality. You know these cases: The Makro incident [ a major robbery outside Belfast last year], the Gallahers incident [ a major robbery of tobacco products at a Belfast warehouse last year].

"I could reel off the other incidents, for instance the rash of recent punishment beatings, which is a euphemism for tying people's hands together and shooting them through the hands, referred to in Provisional circles as a Matt Talbot punishment. Four of those have taken place since the breakdown in December.

"We brought it to the attention of the Sinn Féin people there that we had monitored closely the pattern of punishment beatings stopping when the political process required it, and resuming when the political process was in abeyance."

Mr Dermot Ahern also said Sinn Féin "have to go back and consider their position". He said the Government would wait and see what the Independent Monitoring Commission had to say about the bank robbery.

Although the Government was opposed to the imposition of sanctions on Sinn Féin, the decision on sanctions was primarily an issue for the British government.

"As you know, Sinn Féin are already subject to sanctions in relation to the Tohill incident and there may well be consequences flowing from the next IMC report."

(c) The Irish Times


We Will Not Tolerate SF's Inclusion, Says Trimble

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

Unionists in Northern Ireland will neither endorse nor tolerate an administration that included Sinn Féin for the foreseeable future, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mr David Trimble, said yesterday.

Speaking before his meeting with the Taoiseach and his Ministers at Government Buildings yesterday, Mr Trimble said that in the wake of the Northern Bank raid, "there is no question now of the old game continuing". The Northern Bank raid was a significant factor in this, but was not the only one, he said.

"One of the main reasons why we have come here today is to make clear to the Irish Government the very changed situation we are now in."

Referring to the bank raid and other criminal activity, he said: "It is our considered view as to the result of these actions by the republican movement that it would be impossible as things stand, and I think also for the foreseeable future, to have a situation where the majority of the unionists elected in Northern Ireland would be prepared to endorse or even tolerate an administration that included Sinn Féin.

"It has to be appreciated that we are now in quite a different situation than the situation even two months ago during the final stages of the DUP-Sinn Féin negotiation. We are now in quite a different situation, and we are here to see if minds are prepared to focus on where we go as a result of that."

Speaking after the meeting, UUP MLA Mr Michael McGimpsey said the meeting had been cordial, but "clearly the situation is very serious. We cannot conceive of a situation in which unionists would share power with Sinn Féin in a devolved executive for the foreseeable future. We think that the Northern Bank raid was basically the straw that broke the camel's back. We have had a number of incidents like this, and I think that that has done serious damage to the situation where we have a paramilitary army and we have its political wing.

"It seems to us that the resolute response we require from both governments is to respond to the paramilitary army. They are the ones who are doing the damage.

"They are the ones who are causing all of the problems and Sinn Féin and Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness are merely their obedient nodding donkeys who are wheeled out whenever the IRA do something that they shouldn't do and are there to excuse the IRA."

He claimed that senior republicans were "making fortunes out of all sorts of criminal activity". The Northern Bank raid was merely the latest such action.

On Sinn Féin he said: "It seems to us that you can't do business with their political wing while their military wing is still in operation."

Sir Reg Empey said that inaction would mean everyone was being punished for the actions of one group. "That is not consistent with the agreement which says that everybody has to be committed to exclusively peaceful means."

He said that if the Governments did nothing they would effectively be punishing the democrats and destroying the Assembly because of a bank robbery.

(c) The Irish Times


SDLP Puts Forward Own Proposals

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

The SDLP gave the Government its own proposals yesterday that it believes would lead to political progress, saying the recent strategy of concentrating solely on getting a deal between Sinn Féin and the DUP had failed.

The SDLP leader, Mr Mark Durkan, said yesterday that there had been "certain flaws in how the process has been conducted and managed" and said these should now be addressed. The process should now become "a process of equals.

"We surely now have come to the end of the line of a process of trying to manage the problems surrounding the agreement focusing exclusively on one or two parties."

Mr Durkan's remarks after his meeting with the Taoiseach and two Ministers yesterday reflect SDLP frustration at being sidelined in the political process for much of last year while the British and Irish governments sought to reach an agreement between the largest unionist and nationalist parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin.

His party would shortly send the Government more details of its proposals.

He said there were those who put forward "forms of exclusion" but the SDLP would not go along with this. DUP proposals before Christmas had opened the possibility of exclusion of some parties, he said.

"We underlined our determination to still see progress made consistent with the Good Friday agreement."

He said the Taoiseach had told the SDLP delegation that he would not be revising the clear view he had stated in relation to the Northern Bank raid.

"He made it very clear that those views are based on what Irish intelligence sources are telling him, and not just on what Hugh Orde has said.

"He also underlined to us his determination that this problem, and the serious concerns that it gives rise to, won't be used to derail the process. He, like ourselves, is committed to taking things forward."

He said drift and stalemate were not an option and that the two governments had to act, "and exercise good authority, and they can do that under the agreement using the British/Irish intergovernmental conference".

This body would meet next month, he said, and the Taoiseach had given them "certain commitments as to how the Government would approach that meeting".

(c) The Irish Times


Taoiseach Failed To Back Up His Claims On Raid, Says SF

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

Mr Gerry Adams said the Taoiseach failed to 'stand up' his claim that the Sinn Féin leadership had advance knowledge of last month's Northern Bank robbery in the course of a 90-minute meeting at Government Buildings yesterday.

But in remarks apparently designed to play down the Government's advance billing of the meeting as a major confrontation, Mr Adams stressed areas of agreement between it and Sinn Féin.

"There is actually quite a lot of agreement between us and the Government on the need to move the process forward and the need to tackle the outstanding issues," he said.

He and Mr Martin McGuinness had told Mr Ahern that his claim that the Sinn Féin leadership had prior knowledge of the robbery had compounded "profound difficulties" in the political process. "And we asked him to 'stand up' that accusation and he could not 'stand up' that accusation. He explained his position, but in my certain view, and we thought about it there before we came out, he did not 'stand up' that accusation." Asked had Mr Michael McDowell put forward any evidence, he said: "None whatsoever.

"The reason why there can be no evidence, there can be no intelligence, there can be no 'standing up' of an allegation that Martin and I had prior knowledge is because we didn't, and that is the truth of the matter."

Showing a desire to move the focus away from this issue, he said: "We need to remind ourselves that the primary issue here is the future of the process, and the need for all of us to play our role. The peace process and the prize of a lasting peace on this island is more important than the Northern Bank [ robbery]." He said he welcomed remarks by the Taoiseach that the Government was opposed to sanctions, or to "exclusion, to demonising, criminalising or any way excluding any section of the people". He said he thought the Taoiseach would make his view on this clear to the British government.

Asked about reports that the republican movement had said it would not sign up to an anti-criminality clause he said the Sinn Féin leadership was prepared to work to find a formula of words that would be accepted by all. "There is on behalf of the Sinn Féin leadership a willingness to get people to do whatever is required to enhance this process and to bed this process down. It is a matter for draftspeople right across the range to work out words" that would give people confidence that criminality was at an end.

Mr Martin McGuinness said the meeting "took place under difficult circumstances, but it was a vitally important engagement". Its aim was to ensure a continuation of the process and get an explanation from the Taoiseach about his remarks on the raid.

(c) The Irish Times


A 'Gunfight At The OK Corral' Scenario

Frank McNally

Gerry Adams cautioned the media not to expect a High Noon scenario. He was right on at least two scores. Sinn Féin's meeting with the Taoiseach was set for 1 p.m. and unlike Gary Cooper - who didn't have Martin McGuinness for company - neither side in this confrontation would have to face the enemy alone.

No, this was more of a Gunfight at the OK Corral scenario. Inside Government Buildings waited the uncompromising lawman, Michael "Wyatt Earp" McDowell, and his friend and ally, Bertie "Doc Holliday" Ahern. No prizes for guessing who would get to play the role of the Clanton brothers, part of a family "Earp" had accused of wide-scale criminality.

The Sinn Féin boys acknowledged that their enemies were quick on the draw. In fact, as Gerry Adams saw it, Bertie and Michael had been a bit too quick when drawing conclusions about the Northern Bank job.

He would be giving them an opportunity to explain "those remarks", and draw again.

With that, the republican brothers strode out into the Government Buildings courtyard, leaving the media in a state of excited anticipation, like the undertakers in Tombstone.

An hour passed, and with it the scheduled end of the meeting, but still the Sinn Féiners did not reappear.

The SDLP delegation arrived for their slot with the Taoiseach, slipping through the cordon quietly - once the leading men, now condemned to be mere extras in the wild-west set. Still, no Gerry and Martin.

At last the Sinn Féiners re-emerged, a smell of cordite in their wake. Despite the earlier attempts to play down the confrontation, it was clear there had been a stand-off.

Gerry Adams used the word "stand" repeatedly. The Taoiseach and Minister for Justice had been unable to "stand up" their claims; Sinn Féin would "stand over" its mandate; and so on. The mood Mr Adams was in, he would have taken a stand at an Ideal Homes exhibition.

His mood was explained an hour later when "Wyatt Earp" came out fighting. At an impromptu press conference, the Minister repeated his claim that the IRA carried out the bank robbery, and that the leadership of the "Provisional movement" sanctioned it.

He had sent the Sinn Féin MPs away "to reflect" on their position.

Maybe it was the early results of that reflection, but earlier, before going away, Martin McGuinness had used a familiar phrase to describe the latest crisis in the peace process. "Much done, more to do," he quipped.

The Government is now looking for the gang that made off with a used Fianna Fáil election slogan, in what everybody agreed was a very slick operation.

(c) The Irish Times


Ministers Challenge SF Leaders To Break Deadlock

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

The Government has put the onus firmly on the Sinn Féin leadership to come up with a solution to the political impasse over continuing IRA criminal activity, revealing for the first time that the Garda authorities share the PSNI's assessment that the IRA carried out the recent Northern Bank raid.

The Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, announced separately yesterday that the Garda assessment was the same as that of the Chief Constable of the PSNI, Mr Hugh Orde.

According to the Taoiseach, "Their assessment is this robbery was carried out by the Provisional movement, and an operation of the scale of this would not have taken place without the agreement and sanction of the leadership."

While Mr Ahern stopped short of saying the Garda assessment was that Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness knew about it in advance, Mr McDowell told reporters nothing had happened to change Mr Ahern's view since the Taoiseach said earlier this month that the IRA was involved.

Mr Adams insisted after meeting the Taoiseach that Mr Ahern could not "stand up" this accusation.

Mr McDowell immediately dismissed the claim, saying the Taoiseach and the two Ministers had not sought to do so. "This was not a meeting at which the Government was going to explain itself, at which the Government was going to share intelligence with them, or the Government was going to set out the basis on which it had come to its conclusions," he said.

The remarks, which display the new tension in the relationship between the Government and Sinn Féin since the Northern Bank raid, followed a series of meetings with that party, the SDLP and the UUP at Government Buildings yesterday to discuss the current deadlock.

Mr Dermot Ahern and Mr McDowell said later that they and Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness agreed the Sinn Féin leadership must go away and "reflect" on the Government's insistence that the criminality issue be dealt with.

A further meeting between the Government and Sinn Féin is expected some time after Mr Ahern meets the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, next Tuesday.

The Taoiseach told the Sinn Féin leaders that he would not support the imposition of sanctions on the party should the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) conclude that the IRA had carried out the robbery.

However, Mr Dermot Ahern said a decision on sanctions was primarily an issue for the British government. "As you know Sinn Féin are already subject to sanctions in relation to the Tohill incident, and there may well be consequences from the next IMC report," he said.

The next IMC report is due in April, but the Taoiseach is to meet the commission next Monday. It is understood that the commission has not yet decided whether to produce a special report in relation to the bank robbery before April.

Emphasising the scale of the current difficulty, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mr David Trimble, said on his way into Government Buildings that unionists in Northern Ireland would neither endorse nor tolerate an administration that included Sinn Féin for the foreseeable future.

After what was described as a "frank" meeting - a word typically used to describe a heated exchange - Mr Adams nevertheless sought to stress areas of agreement.

"There is actually quite a lot of agreement between us and the Government on the need to move the process forward and the need to tackle the outstanding issues," he said.

Mr Dermot Ahern agreed that there was "an acceptance that we move ahead with the peace process, but from our point of view it has to be on the basis of exclusively democratic peaceful means".

Mr Adams also struck a more positive note than before on the question of Sinn Féin agreeing to a clause committing itself to working to end criminal activity.

People from different parties could work on drafting something that would give people confidence that the issue had been dealt with, he said.

(c) The Irish Times


Ahern Says He Had No Evidence Burke Was Corrupt

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, has said he had no evidence to prove that Ray Burke was corrupt before he appointed him to his first Cabinet in 1997.

Mr Ahern is set to face renewed opposition pressure in the Dáil today over his appointment of Burke to the prestigious post of minister for foreign affairs when he became Taoiseach.

In his first public comment since Burke received a six-month prison sentence for tax offences, Mr Ahern said he had always maintained that "the law is the law and it must be applied to everybody".

He was aware of the allegations surrounding Burke and had investigated them "so far as I could". However, the Taoiseach said he was obliged to take into account only the information he had to hand about Burke when he gave him the foreign affairs portfolio.

"I investigated so far as I could and I had to go on what evidence I had. And at that stage, he was a minister that I required to do a certain job. I did not have evidence against him," he said.

Burke's conviction has revived the controversy surrounding that appointment, with the opposition claiming it reflected badly on the Taoiseach's judgment and some Fianna Fáil TDs saying in private that the decision was unwise.

They have maintained that the appointment has created avoidable damage for Mr Ahern and the party.

The official spokesman for Mr Enda Kenny, said last night that the Fine Gael leader will question the Taoiseach about the appointment when the Dáil reconvenes today.

Mr Kenny has said the Taoiseach has questions to answer about the appointment because he was close to Burke, described him as an "honourable man" and appointed him to a very sensitive post in his first cabinet.

While Mr Ahern made no immediate comment when Burke was sentenced, he told RTÉ yesterday that he had said several times before that he would never have appointed him to the cabinet if he known what the planning tribunal later uncovered.

"Of course, hindsight is great. I'm on the Dáil record several times saying if I had have known that Ray Burke was going to get the kind of report that he got from the tribunal, of course, I wouldn't have appointed him," he said.

Politics was about public service and serving the public interest.

"And when you breach that - we've tough laws in this country - you have to deal with them."

While he knew about the "issues" that were raised about Burke at the time, he suggested that he did not have resources required in the short time before he formed his first cabinet to investigate them fully.

"Of course, now it's easy looking back to say that if we had only known 1 per cent of these things. But seven or eight years on, I didn't have in the short few days, weeks, the kind of resources to do this, but that's been dealt with now."

Mr Ahern said he was conscious that Burke's imprisonment was a "huge tragedy" for him and his family.

Separately, the Minister for Defence, Mr O'Dea, said that any person thinking of evading tax in the future would be deterred by Burke's imprisonment.

He had sympathy with Burke because his financial situation had been ruined and his reputation destroyed.

The public should remember that Burke had a wife and a family who were innocent victims, he said.

(c) The Irish Times


PSNI Fears Loyalist Dispute May Escalate

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

The PSNI last night had 100 officers patrolling loyalist areas of north and west Belfast to try to prevent an escalation of a dispute that senior police officers have characterised as a criminal 'turf war' between loyalist paramilitaries.

Supt Gary White yesterday expressed "serious concern" that a series of shootings, assaults, car burnings, petrol bombings and intimidation involving rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) gangs could escalate into a murderous dispute.

The more powerful UVF and the LVF have long been at loggerheads in north Belfast and in the general Shankill area. This most recent dispute erupted in December and simmered through the Christmas period.

It reignited at the weekend with several alleged UVF attacks on taxi-drivers and counterattacks from the LVF.

Supt White said: "people's lives were being put at risk" which was why he had more than doubled the number of police officers patrolling the area last night from 40 to 100. A specialist detective unit was also involved in trying to end the violence.

The Call-a-Cab company of Mr Jackie Mahood, a leading loyalist figure in north Belfast who broke away from the UVF's political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party in the 1990s, has borne the brunt of the attacks. About seven company taxis were burned out since the weekend.

(c) The Irish Times


Dublin China Town

Dublin Chinatown Festival
Pictured above: The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, at Parliament Buildings - the official anouncement of the Dublin Chinatown Festival

Chinese New Year To Be Marked By Festival In Dublin

Eoghan Morrissey

Dublin will celebrate the Year of the Rooster with the second annual Dublin Chinese New Year Festival at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, from February 9th-15th.

The festival was launched by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue, at the Civic Offices, Wood Quay, in Dublin yesterday.

Last year's festival attracted 127,000 visitors over the four days.

This year's event has been expanded to include a weekend Holistic Fair and an Asian Pavilion featuring exhibitions and speakers on aspects of Chinese culture.

The Red Poppy percussion troupe will headline the live music and entertainment section, which will include demonstrations of traditional Chinese folk music, dance and martial arts.

A film festival will also be held.

Education packs are being sent to schools in the Dublin area to encourage children to get involved in the arts and crafts workshops.

There will be a market comprising over 50 stalls selling regional Chinese food and traditional arts and crafts, and a photographic exhibition.

There are an estimated 30,000 Chinese people living in the State.

Ms Susan Glennon, chairperson of the Dublin Chinatown Festival Committee, paid tribute to the National Museum for hosting the event.

Mr Cian Connaughton, of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the concept of the festival saying it was a good way to entice people to visit the capital.

"It's good that the Chinese community have the confidence to celebrate their own culture.

"The hope would be that Chinese New Year would one day be as big as St Patrick's Day."

Mr Yan Ruhua, a student from Fuijan Province living in Dublin, said he was looking forward to the festival.

"It will give the Irish more insight into Chinese culture. A permanent Chinatown in Dublin would be a great idea.

"There is one in almost every major city in the world. It brings tourists in and it's a place for Chinese people to go.

"But I'm really looking forward to the chance of eating some real food from my region," he said.

(c) The Irish Times


Future Of Small Post Offices On Agenda

Eoghan Morrissey

A Dáil committee is to discuss the future of sub-post-offices.

Union representatives, An Post management and the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) are to appear before the Oireachtas Committee for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on February 2nd to discuss the future of many of the offices.

There are 1,390 of them nationwide, receiving 50 cent per transaction from An Post. The company is to take over the collection of fines for speeding and seat-belt and other offences from the Garda from early next year, creating potential additional revenue for sub-post offices.

According to An Post, approximately 1,000 offices do 95 per cent of the business, leaving the remaining 300-450 offices with 5 per cent of the business.

The IPU says 300 smaller offices have had to close over the past three years.

The IPU general secretary, Mr John Kane, said yesterday much of the western seaboard is affected where permanent banking services have been withdrawn.

"We recognise there is a problem, but we're looking for the State to say that post offices have a social function," he said.

At the moment "whole swathes" of offices were closing by default. "We're looking for a proper structure regarding the size of the network," he said.

Mr John McGuinness TD (Fianna Fáil) said yesterday that sub-post offices were often at the heart of village life, run by families who down through generations had played a significant role in the social and economic life of their towns and villages.

According to Mr McGuinness the cost of automating the remaining 450 offices would come to €3.2 million.

A spokesman for An Post confirmed that it was in discussion with the IPU on a range of issues.

(c) The Irish Times


Colombian President Meets With George Bush

US President May Have Family Tie To Strongbow

Liam Reid

Local historians and genealogists in Wexford have discovered evidence to suggest that President George W. Bush is a direct descendant of Strongbow, the nobleman who led the Norman invasion of Ireland.

The president is also believed to be a direct descendant, through 30 generations, of Dermot McMorrough, the King of Leinster, reviled in many Irish history books as the man who betrayed his island for personal gain.

During his first presidential election campaign in 2000, genealogists discovered a direct link between Mr Bush and prominent Norman families in medieval England.

However, in the last month volunteers working on a tapestry of Ireland's Norman heritage discovered a further link with two of the most notorious figures in Irish history.

It had already been established that Mr Bush had one of the most distinguished New England family histories that could be traced back to the first English in America.

One of his ancestors was Anne Marbury Hutchinson, a famous religious non-conformist who arrived in America in 1634 with the Rev John Lothrop's group on the ship Griffin and settled in Boston. She was killed by Indians in 1643.

Hutchinson herself was a direct descendant of some of the most notable Norman families and figures of the 12th and 13th centuries, including Gilbert "the Red" le Clare, the Earl of Hertford. This was well documented as Gilbert the Red had married Joan of England, the daughter of King Edward 1st.

He in turn was the great grandson of Strongbow, Richard de la Clare, the Earl of Pembroke.

Strongbow famously landed in Bannow Bay, Co Wexford, in 1169, at the request of Dermot McMurrough, the King of Leinster, then embroiled in a bitter conflict with neighbouring kings.

With an army of 100 knights and 1,000 archers, he took much of Leinster, including Dublin, and consolidated his power through marriage to McMurrough's daughter, Aoife.

His arrival heralded the beginning of the Norman invasion.

The link between Strongbow and President Bush was discovered by Ann Griffin Bernstorff, who is working on the Tapestry of Ros, an ambitious project to tell the story of Ireland's Norman heritage.

She was researching the history of William Marshal, Strongbow's son-in-law and effective successor in Leinster, who founded the town of New Ross.

"It's all very intriguing really. We had heard rumours that it was a possibility," she said. "Then one of our committee members had a Republican friend in Chicago. We got the genealogy chart from there and made the link to the de Clare family."

The group does not believe President Bush is aware of his famous ancestor, after it made inquiries with the US embassy in Dublin. Officials told Ann Griffin Bernstorff they had no knowledge of any link with Ireland.

While a direct descendant, Ann Griffin Bernstorff does not believe Mr Bush to have any solid claim on the kingdom of Leinster, as the McMurrough line continues to this day through the McMurrough Kavanaghs in Borris, Co Carlow.

The president should be proud of his Irish roots, Ann Griffin Bernstorff said. "It's an ancient Irish family, one of the oldest on the island, stretching back through the mists of time."

(c) The Irish Times

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005

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