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January 26, 2005

01/26/05 – BS Prisoner Release Rejected

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BB 01/26/05 Bloody Sunday Prisoner Release Call Is Rejected
SM 01/26/05 Blair: No Talks On UDA 'Cash Deal'
IO 01/26/05 Loyalists Attacked PSNI With Petrol Bombs In N Belfast
BT 01/26/05 Police Double Patrols To Halt Taxi Attacks
IO 01/26/05 Oireachtas Committee Hold Hearing Into Dublin Bombings
BB 01/26/05 Adams' Fear Over Party Sanctions
BT 01/26/05 Sinn Fein Lashed As Dublin Holds Its Ground On Heist
BT 01/26/05 Opin: David Ford: Finding A Way Out Of Limbo
WS 01/26/05 Bank Robbery Causes Embarrassment In London & Dublin
BT 01/26/05 Political Process 'Is Now In Cold Storage'
BT 01/26/05 SDLP Leader Tells Of Hope For Future
BT 01/26/05 No Fudge, No Budge On IRA Crime
BT 01/26/05 Opin: World Must Wake Up To The Duplicity Of Sinn Fein
IO 01/26/05 Rebel Republicans Linked To Firebomb Attack
ND 01/26/05 Unanimous Vote For Conor Murphy
RT 01/26/05 SF Team In Meetings In Washington
IO 01/26/05 Omagh: Colm Murphy Release Delayed
IO 01/26/05 Hoax Bomb At US Embassy In Dublin
BT 01/26/05 Ulster Duo Make It On To Shortlist For Oscars


Prisoner Release Call Is Rejected

It would be "inappropriate" for the secretary of state to release a man jailed for contempt of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the NIO has said.

A motion calling on Paul Murphy to secure the release of Martin Doherty was passed by Derry City Council.

He was jailed for three months for refusing to testify to the tribunal investigating the 1972 shootings.

An NIO spokesman said Mr Murphy intervening in "a judicial matter" would be inappropriate.

Doherty, 49, from Fanad Drive in the Creggan area of Londonderry was sentenced to three months for refusing to co-operate with the inquiry.

He was given time to change his mind but when he did not contact the tribunal to make a statement, he was arrested to begin his sentence.

Standing orders

Doherty, who was known in court as PIRA 9, was the first person to be jailed in connection with the tribunal.

During a suspension of standing orders at Derry City Council on Tuesday, Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors passed a motion that the Northern Ireland Secretary should intervene to secure Mr Doherty's release. Unionists voted against the motion.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry has been looking into the events of Bloody Sunday on 31 January, 1972, when paratroops shot dead 13 men.

It is due to sit in London at the end of this month to hear the evidence of a man known only as Witness X.

The tribunal will sit in a video conference room at the Royal Courts of Justice on 27 January with Witness X giving evidence by video link from a different location.

Witness X denies telling the police in 1972 that he was a member of the Provisional IRA and that he fired two magazines from a carbine rifle from Glenfada Park on Bloody Sunday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/26 07:55:33 GMT


Blair: No Talks On UDA 'Cash Deal'

By Joe Churcher, PA Chief Parliamentary Reporter

Prime Minister Tony Blair today denied the Government was in negotiation over a financial package to help a loyalist paramilitary group give up violence.

He insisted that there “isn’t such a negotiation” as he issued another stark warning that the time for groups to choose peaceful means was “long since passed”.

Mr Blair will hold face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein on Thursday – the first since the £26 million raid on Northern Bank for which the IRA has been blamed.

The republican movement has denied involvement but pressure is growing on Mr Blair to move ahead with restoring power-sharing without Sinn Fein.

At question time, he came under fire over attempts to “buy” an end to paramilitarism.

Seamus Mallon said the UDA was demanding £78 million “as their price for ending their violence and criminality.

“Would the two governments finally realise that you cannot buy peace, you cannot buy a political process and that you cannot buy political stability?”

Mr Blair agreed that peace could not be bought but said a way forward had to be found.

“It’s important that we continue to strive to take this forward on an inclusive basis cannot be the case, and frankly time is running out for this decision to be made by those who are connected with paramilitary groups, any longer that there is a process of transition here.

“People have to decide: they are either part of the democratic process or they are not. That moment of decision has long since passed and it has simply got to be clear whether people have made their decision or not.”

David Burnside (UUP Antrim S) also attacked any attempts to strike a deal.

“Since your chief of staff is negotiating a financial package with the UDA to stop their criminality, would you be prepared to set up a British taxpayers’ fund for the widows and orphans of members of the RUC, the UDR, the regular Army and officers in the Prison Service who fought against the IRA and loyalist paramilitary groups over the last 30 years?”

Mr Blair told him: “There isn’t such a negotiation” – adding his “respects and sympathy” to all those who had been bereaved as a result of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Mr Burnside also called the Prime Minister to outline what sanctions he would use against Sinn Fein/IRA “for carrying out the biggest bank robbery in British history”.

Mr Blair said he would make clear “yet again” to Sinn Fein that a commitment to exclusively peaceful means was the only way to secure a political role in Northern Ireland.

“If it proves impossible to go forward on that inclusive basis we will have to look for another way forward; it is as simple as that.”

Defending his meeting with Sinn Fein, he said: “It is important that message is delivered and delivered in a very, very straightforward way.”


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.


Police Double Patrols To Halt Taxi Attacks

By Jonathan McCambridge
26 January 2005

Police have doubled the number of officers patrolling north Belfast in response to an escalation of attacks on a taxi firm owned by a leading loyalist.

The area was quiet last night after police stepped up their efforts following a spate of attacks on Call-a-Cab.

The company is part-owned by prominent loyalist Jackie Mahood. He has temporarily closed down the firm until he receives a public assurance from the UVF that there will be no more attacks.

Superintendent Gary White said police were determined to stop the violence.

"There is a fear within the community. I reassure the community of north Belfast the police will do all in our power.

"We're drafting in additional resources; we're bringing in a team of specialist detectives to help us to look at the criminality that's involved here.

"We'll be deploying resources such as CCTV to make sure that we take every opportunity to bring the people who are committing these crimes to justice."

In the latest incident on Monday, two taxis were burned at Carnan Street and Westway Gardens.

At the weekend a number of other taxis working for the same company were also set alight.


Oireachtas Committee To Hold Hearing Into Dublin Bombings

25/01/2005 - 08:02:23

The Oireachtas justice committee is due to hold a public hearing today into the circumstances surrounding two loyalist bomb attacks in Dublin in 1972 and 1973.

Three men were killed in the bombings, which happened at Sackville Place, off O'Connell Street, within 50 days of each other.

The Ulster Defence Association is suspected of carrying out the attacks, but nobody has ever been brought to justice.

Today's public hearing was arranged to discuss the findings of an inquiry into the bombings by Mr Justice Henry Barron.


Adams' Fear Over Party Sanctions

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said he remains concerned that sanctions will be imposed on his party.

It follows police claims that the IRA was behind the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery in Belfast last month.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold talks with Mr Adams at Chequers on Thursday.

He is expected to reiterate demands for the IRA to cease all paramilitary and criminal activity. The IRA has denied involvement in the robbery.

Mr Adams said no one should assume the governments had abandoned the notion of sanctioning Sinn Fein.

He said he thought the International Monitoring Committee, which reports on paramilitary activity, would be called in.

"They will then make some recommendation and, in some way, the governments will try to distance themselves from that by saying: 'This was an independent body and we are simply acting on it recommendations'," he added.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said there would be a very simple message to Mr Adams when he meets the prime minister.

"It is that there can be no deal with republicans unless all activity, paramilitary and criminal, stops. Period. That's it," he said.

"In terms of the way forward with the taoiseach, he is going to have his own meeting with Sinn Fein. The two prime ministers will compare notes and also talk about the positions of the other parties as well."

Security briefings

Mr Adams will also meet Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Tuesday for the first time since the robbery.

He has repeated his demand for an explanation from Mr Ahern over his comments that the Sinn Fein leadership must have known about the robbery in advance.

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has said the peace process is "in a rut" and it was up to the governments to seize the initiative.

After meeting Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy on Monday, Mr Durkan said nationalists did not sign up for the "ongoing illegal activity of paramilitaries".

He also repeated that he did not believe Mr Adams denial about the Northern Bank raid.

The talks follow an assessment by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde that the IRA was behind the raid on the bank head office in Belfast on 20 December.

The BBC understands that the police have a list of suspected IRA figures they believe were involved, names which have been included in security briefings given to government.

However, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said he believed the IRA's denial of involvement in the raid, saying if they were responsible, it was "unacceptable".

Mr Blair is also to hold talks next week with his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern and the SDLP.

Two days later the prime minister will meet Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

Mr Blair also recently met Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley whose party has called for the removal of allowances and privileges at Westminster from Sinn Fein's four MPs.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/24 18:24:51 GMT


Sinn Fein Lashed As Dublin Holds Its Ground On Heist

Taoiseach and ministers take hard line at first meeting

By Chris Thornton
26 January 2005

Tony Blair was left today with a tough precedent for dealing with Sinn Fein in the wake of the Northern Bank robbery after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his senior ministers said republicans could stew indefinitely.

The Sinn Fein leadership, who are due to meet Mr Blair at Chequers tomorrow, were told at yesterday's two-hour showdown in Dublin that the peace process could be put on hold "for as long as it takes" for the IRA to give up criminality.

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell also said Garda intelligence firmly backs Chief Constable's Hugh Orde's assessment that the IRA was behind the £26m robbery.

And he ended up reinforcing the allegation that Sinn Fein wanted withdrawn - saying Garda intelligence indicated that the republican leadership would have been aware of the robbery in advance.

Sinn Fein left the meeting claiming the Irish Government could not stand up the accusation that they had been double dealing during the talks.

"We asked him to stand up those accusations and he could not stand them up," Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said.

He claimed there was "no intelligence or no evidence because we simply didn't have any knowledge".

But the Taoiseach hit back, saying he was never going to agree to Sinn Fein's demand to give them an explanation.

"We had made it clear in the government that this meeting wasn't going to be about sharing intelligence or about giving explanations," he said.

During the meeting, which ran over the allotted time, the Irish Ministers hit Sinn Fein with a list of crimes they have pinned on the IRA, including the resumption of punishment shootings in Belfast after the collapse of talks.

Mr McDowell said: "Sinn Fein in victim mode isn't helpful to the process. This was not a meeting for intelligence or information to be shared with them. We made it clear that they would have to go away and consider their position - for as long as it takes."

The Taoiseach added: "There must be absolute clarity. We cannot continue with criminality being the order of the day, whether that be the Northern Bank robbery or anything else.

"We cannot have those issues affecting the peace process all the time - and they are."

While Mr Ahern had previously referred to Irish intelligence backing the PSNI, his Justice Minister had not. Mr McDowell clearly weighed in behind the Taoiseach yesterday.

"An Garda Siochana has clearly stated and briefed me that, in their professional assessment of the present situation, the Northern Bank robbery was carried out by the IRA and that the nature and skill 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," he said.

"We made very clear that there was no way that the Government was changing or varying its opinion. We stand exactly behind what the Taoiseach has said and there is no change in that whatsoever."


Opin: Finding A Way Out Of Limbo

Opinion by David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party

26 January 2005

As 2005 begins, Northern Ireland remains in political limbo. People have a right to be disappointed and indeed angry. Last year saw insufficient progress and what limited movement there was has been set back by the apparent IRA involvement with the Northern Bank raid.

It is far from clear if the two governments have any idea where to go from here.

The shocking humanitarian tragedy in South Asia should place our own local problems into stark context, and should bring some local parties to their senses.

Alliance started the process of reform of the Agreement. Last January, we published our proposals for reform, Agenda for Democracy. This put forward many radical ideas for improving accountability and collective responsibility within the Agreement, and removing the institutional sectarianism, including the creation of a voluntary coalition power-sharing Executive.

Throughout the talks over the past year, Alliance worked hard to bridge the gaps between the DUP and Sinn Fein and to create the space for movement. We put forward a number of compromise ideas that have been taken up by the governments and other parties.

Nevertheless, we are acutely aware of the limitations of a process that has been based entirely around getting the DUP and Sinn Fein to serve in government together, without much consideration of how any such power-sharing arrangements could be sustained. Not to mention making other reforms to the Agreement to improve the effectiveness of government and to remove its institutionalised sectarianism.

In December, the gaps between the DUP and Sinn Fein seemed superficially narrow but now, in the wake of the Northern Bank raid, there is a deep chasm of mistrust between republicans and everyone else.

The fundamental principles of the Agreement are now defined and accepted by all of the main parties, including the DUP. The DUP is prepared to buy into a reformed Belfast Agreement. The governments and parties have now conceded that reform of the Agreement is not only required, but can take place. These are important developments.

Furthermore, the people of Northern Ireland, and indeed the international community, are now aware of how far the DUP and the republican movements are prepared to go.

Nevertheless, there was over-optimism that a deal is not only now possible between the DUP and Sinn Fein but could actually hold. The basis for this belief was that any deal including the DUP and Sinn Fein could be more secure, as both the parties with the ability to bring the institutions crashing down either politically or through violence would be bound into the process.

A more realistic perspective is to recognise that, while both the DUP and Sinn Fein have moderated to some extent, they remain parties on the relative extremes of the Northern Ireland political spectrum. The lessons of international history are that it is extremely difficult to create and sustain a political process on such a basis.

Unless there is a meaningful attempt to overcome the ingrained patterns of division and to build a united community from the bottom up, disputes over matters such as parades, policing, symbols and who gets more funding are likely to provide plenty of opportunities for these parties to have major rows.

The so-called moderates in the UUP and SDLP have not sought to play a constructive role over the past year, and have thrown up obstacles to progress. When they had their opportunity neither was willing or able to deliver. Both were constrained from acting as they were constantly looking over their shoulder.

The irony is, of course, that that both these parties put in place a system of institutionalised sectarianism that made it inevitable that they would be outflanked by their more hard-line rivals. The SDLP is now complaining about the deepening apartheid in Northern Ireland, when it did so much to reinforce it in the Assembly.

Alliance is committed to finding a way forward over the weeks and months to come, but it is clear that action is required in three regards.

First, it is time for a more fundamental review of the Agreement. The package announced by the two governments in December was billed as comprehensive, but it was not. It addressed all of the issues raised by the DUP and Sinn Fein, but did not deal with matters such as the designation system for MLAs.

Instead of propping up structures that didn't even work very well when the UUP and SDLP were in charge, it is time to examine different mechanisms. We must restore devolution on a basis that will work, rather than make further attempts to resurrect a system that has so obviously failed.

The principles of the Agreement remain the only basis for movement forward, but the proposals we published in Agenda for Democracy have much greater chance of success than was achieved throughout 2004.

In particular, our proposals for a voluntary coalition are now even more relevant. These were not developed just to exclude Sinn Fein, but to provide for more coherent and effective cross-community government. It is entirely possible for Sinn Fein to be part of such arrangements, provided that it can meet the same standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law as other parties.

However, if Sinn Féin is not prepared to do so, it removes the republican veto, and allows other parties to move forward.

Second, there must be a full and unambiguous commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. There is still a tendency for commitments in this regard to be hedged. The proposed statement from the IRA, even in its fullest form, falls short of what is required.

Third, and most crucially, serious attention must be given to community relations issues.

There is a clear, mutually-reinforcing relationship between the divisions in society and the problems within the political system.

All matters that have the potential to undermine the political process must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Alliance is most disappointed that there was no reference to community relations issues within the governments' package.

It is now imperative that the Northern Ireland Office progresses its work on 'A Shared Future' with some urgency. The community consultation has been carried out and showed a strong commitment to a united community where people can live and learn, work and play, together in safety.

We need a clear commitment from government to this vision, and the new policies to put it into practice. Improving community relations is a necessary requirement for political progress, and vital for the future of this community.


IRA Bank Robbery Causes Embarrassment In London And Dublin

By Steve James

26 January 2005

After a fortnight of nervous speculation, Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) announced that, so far as his force were concerned, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was the most likely suspect in one of the biggest cash robberies in history.

At least £26.5 million was stolen from the Northern Bank, owned by the National Australian Bank, in Belfast in an elaborate and well-rehearsed raid, involving up to 20 individuals, on December 20. Some estimates of the amount stolen are as high as £40 million. The cash haul was so large that the bank has taken the remarkable step of withdrawing all its new banknotes, rendering much of the stolen money worthless. Even so, the raiders will still get away with several million untraceable pounds.

From the outset, speculation focused on the IRA. Few criminal gangs in Northern Ireland operate without some involvement by either loyalist or nationalist paramilitary groups. Both have a network of businesses capable of laundering huge volumes of cash. Only the IRA is considered capable of maintaining its own security over the extended period necessary for planning and following through such a large and complex operation.

The IRA has denied responsibility. Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Mitchel McLaughlin have attacked “securocrats” for trying to “undermine the peace process.” But Orde is a supporter of the Good Friday Agreement which inaugurated power sharing in Northern Ireland. He was appointed by the Blair government to head the reformed Royal Ulster Constabulary, now the PSNI and has consistently followed the line dictated by London.

The raid’s immediate impact was to put an end to any hopes of reviving the Northern Ireland assembly that was set up under the 1998 Agreement and established a system of power-sharing between Unionists and Republicans. Devolution was suspended since 2002 when the Blair government re-implemented direct rule from London.

In the intervening period, the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Ian Paisley has emerged as the largest Unionist organisation and Sinn Fein as the largest nationalist party. The rise of parties perceived as the most aggressive defenders of their respective communities was an inevitable product of the sectarian character of the agreement itself.

Sinn Fein and the DUP took up the talks where previous efforts had stopped. Despite his decades of anti-Catholic ravings and denunciations of all dealings with Dublin as consorting with the evil one, Paisley even took tea with the Irish Taoiseach.

By late last year, discussions had reached a point where Sinn Fein had agreed to decommission IRA arms by Christmas 2004 while the DUP agreed to urge loyalist paramilitary groups to contact the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) of retired Canadian general, John de Chastelain.

Both all-Ireland and Irish/British intergovernmental bodies were to be reviewed and strengthened. Sinn Fein had agreed to join the Policing Board of the PSNI. Full responsibility for “policing and justice” was to be handed over to the devolved Assembly by the summer of 2005.

Other proposals had been aired for substantial one-off payments from the British government to Northern Ireland of up to £1.4 billion, and further radical reduction of British troop numbers to 5,000.

Then the talks stalled over the relatively minor question of how the agreed destruction of the IRA weaponry should be presented to the public.

Sinn Fein insisted that it should be a secret event, monitored by one or two trusted observers. But Paisley demanded that in destroying their arsenal, the IRA should be “humiliated,” forced to wear “sack cloth and ashes”, and the weapons destruction should be extensively photographed and made public. The talks broke up without agreement.

Paisley’s contradictory attitude reflects the basic weakness of Ulster unionism now that Britain, with US backing, is determined to dismantle the Unionist ascendancy and create a political environment that is more attractive to foreign investment.

A significant amount of investment followed the signing of the Agreement. Call centres, software houses, medical and pharmaceutical companies, and financial services industries, mostly from the US, have all set up regional operations aimed at the European market. As of October 2004, according to Invest NI, the local investment agency, 640 foreign owned companies, such as Seagate, Bombardier, Nortel, Abbey, Halifax, Caterpillar and Dupont, were operating in Northern Ireland and employing 74,000 workers.

Wage rates in Northern Ireland are 20 percent lower than in the rest of the UK, and 7 percent lower than the Republic. Two of the DUP’s leading figures, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds held investment related posts before the Assembly was suspended, and have long campaigned for more investment in the region. The party is not going to prejudice the investment climate, but the DUP hopes to force further concessions out of Sinn Fein and the British government.

The DUP also faces difficulties in preparing its supporters to accept the new power sharing arrangements. Writing in the Guardian, Gerry Adams called for nationalist forbearance, warning that “republican patience with how unionism deals with the political institutions, and with key issues such as equality and human rights would be tested.”

It is unlikely that the bank raid was a deliberate attempt on the part of the IRA to sabotage power sharing from which they have much to gain. It was part of a pattern of criminal activity. The IRA is suspected of involvement in extortion in the building trade, tax evasion, and large scale cross border smuggling of diesel, cigarettes, and tobacco. A long list of robberies has been attributed to the IRA, including a 2 million euro tobacco robbery in Ballymena last October.

IRA members have been jailed in the Republic for heroin dealing and accused of smuggling soft drinks and robbing shipping containers stored in Dublin docks. The IRA is also the prime suspect in two so-called “tiger” robberies in which hostages were taken, as in the Northern Bank raid.

Sections of the press have speculated that the raid was part of efforts to prepare some sort of deal for IRA members who will be asked to retire, get jobs, or act legally as part of the Sinn Fein’s political development.

Political fallout has been remarkably restrained. The DUP fulminated about the “crime of the century” and declared that Sinn Fein “can’t really be involved in politics here.” But reaction from London and Dublin has been subdued and talks on power sharing are set to continue.


Political Process 'Is Now In Cold Storage'

26 January 2005

Irish newspapers today called on Sinn Fein to give firm guarantees that the IRA has stopped committing criminal acts - or a different political process would have to be found.

The Irish Times said the dismal prospect of a two-year political hiatus, thrown up by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in October, was becoming a reality.

"The political process in Northern Ireland is now in cold storage because of the criminal activities of the IRA. All the bluff and bluster by Sinn Fein will not change the fact that security forces on both sides of the Border are convinced ... the IRA planned and executed the robbery," the newspaper said.

The paper's editorial said ambiguity, which in the past had perhaps been a necessary component of the political process, had been "flung back in the face of all democrats.

"The Government ... must have cast-iron assurances from now on that all paramilitary and criminal activity has ended for good. Then, and only then, will the Government be in a position to move forward."

The Irish Independent said the Irish Government does not want to introduce sanctions against Sinn Fein, but has not ruled out that policy if progress is not made.

"Sinn Fein has been told to go away and consider its position.

"Either the guarantees on criminality are forthcoming or an altogether different approach will have to be considered."


SDLP Leader Tells Of Hope For Future

By Noel McAdam
26 January 2005

The SDLP has agreed to produce a detailed paper on how implementation of the Good Friday Agreement can continue despite the political deep-freeze.

The paper is due to be presented to Dublin in time for next Tuesday's British-Irish Inter-governmental Conference (BIIGC).

Leader Mark Durkan said he believed a newly-reinvigorated British-Irish Conference could drive forward change.

After their meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday, Mr Durkan said: "We also argued for a new process of equals to be created instead of the process of exclusion that we have seen in recent years.

"We committed to pass the Taoiseach a detailed paper on the work that the two governments at the BIIGC must do to push the Agreement on."

Mr Durkan said Sinn Fein needed to address the concerns of the other parties - but that the SDLP would not fall into "the exclusion trap".

"That would allow Sinn Fein to pretend that they are victims. In fact, the Irish people have been the victims of this raid and their agreement has been damaged."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said it was now impossible for the forseeable future to see a situation where a majority of elected unionists would endorse or even tolerate an administration including Sinn Fein.


No Fudge, No Budge On IRA Crime

Hint of exclusion as Ahern tells Adams: Go away and think about it

By Gene McKenna and Senan Molony
26 January 2005

The Irish Government yesterday gave Sinn Fein's leaders a blunt warning that the party must end its links to crime and violence if it wants to stay a player in peace process negotiations.

The stern bottom line was laid down by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and two senior ministers, Michael McDowell and Dermot Ahern.

The Government's determination was underlined by Mr McDowell when the Justice Minister later told journalists there would be "no fudge, no budge".

The Taoiseach did not go so far as to threaten Sinn Fein's exclusion from negotiations on the restoration of government in the North. But there was a strong hint that a recommendation for a spell in the sin bin may come from the Independent Monitoring Commission, the body charged with supervising the activities of paramilitary groups.

Foreign Minister Ahern warned: "There may well be consequences for (Sinn Fein) in the next Independent Monitoring Commission report."

Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met the Taoiseach and his two ministers at Government Buildings.

The Taoiseach's team repeated its belief, based on Garda information and assessments, that not only was the IRA responsible for the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery but that the Provisional leadership gave "sanction and approval" for it.

Setting down their hardline stance in trenchant terms, the ministers left Sinn Fein in no doubt that they would not tolerate any level of criminality. The Taoiseach said: "There must be absolute clarity. We cannot continue with criminality being the order of the day, whether that be the Northern Bank robbery or anything else. We cannot have those issues affecting the peace process all the time - and they are."

Dermot Ahern said they had not been assured by anything the Sinn Fein leaders had said on ending criminality.

The Sinn Fein leaders, who meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair tomorrow, were asked to "go away and reflect" and consider their position before coming back with answers.

For their part, the Sinn Fein leaders were sticking to the line that the Taoiseach had no evidence for his claims about republicans and the bank raid. "We asked him to stand up those accusations today and he could not stand them up," Mr Adams said. "There can be no intelligence or no evidence because we simply didn't have any knowledge."

The Taoiseach said he stood by his earlier claims and said they had never intended that yesterday's meeting would be for "sharing intelligence" or about "giving explanations".

Mr McDowell said: "An Garda Siochana has clearly stated and briefed me that, in their professional assessment of the present situation, the Northern Bank robbery was carried out by the IRA and that the nature and skill 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."

He added: "There is no mandate for Sinn Fein to pursue a political path with violence."

Mr McDowell said: "Sinn Fein in victim mode isn't helpful to the process. This was not a meeting for intelligence or information to be shared with them. We made it clear that they would have to go away and consider their position - for as long as it takes."

While the ministers said political sanctions had not been ruled out against republicans following the December 20 heist, the Government did not want to exclude them or to impose any sanctions.

Mr Adams said the Taoiseach "sought to assure us and he said a number of times in the course of the meeting that the Government is against exclusion, is against trying to criminalise, demonise any party and is against sanctions".

The Taoiseach also met delegations from the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP and will meet the Alliance tomorrow.

Source: Irish Independent


Opin: Steven King: World Must Wake Up To The Duplicity Of Sinn Fein

26 January 2005

The struggle is on for the soul of Irish democracy north and south. Yesterday, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern met with the SDLP and the UUP - and people he accuses of having prior knowledge of the Northern raid.

The question is: will the Republic's Government defend democracy on this island, or will it put in another bravura performance in a remake of that timeless classic, Carry On Regardless?

Put simply, is Dublin prepared to consider a line of political development that does not prioritise keeping the Sinn Fein leadership sweet at everyone else's expense? Democrats could take some comfort last week from the results of an Irish Times poll that found Gerry Adams' approval rating with the southern electorate has fallen by nine points.

You don't need to be a cynic, though, to see worrying portents behind the headline-grabbing figure.

Sinn Fein's poll rating slipped by one percentage point which is statistically insignificant. Just as many southerners are prepared to vote for the political wing of a lying, cheating, bank-robbing criminal conspiracy as they were before Christmas.

It is sobering to recall that only a decade ago, before Sinn Fein was allowed to assume a completely unwarranted significance, only 2% of southern voters were prepared to mandate the IRA's front organisation. Now it is well above 10%.

And while the poll found that non-Sinn Fein voters across the border are not prepared to swallow whole republican denials, less than half believed the IRA nicked the £26.5m. More worryingly still, only a quarter want talks between Ahern and Adams suspended until there is a verified end to IRA activity.

Worst of all, southern voters are evenly divided on the question of whether or not Sinn Fein is fit to be included in the next Dublin coalition? This despite the notion having been rejected by all the leaders of the democratic Dail parties.

It is even scarier when you consider that the current Fianna Fail-led Government is not even arguing that Sinn Fein should be allowed into a functioning Assembly in Northern Ireland, a divided society where Sinn Fein represents most of the minority population. If Sinn Fein shouldn't be in an Executive in Northern Ireland, what business does half the southern electorate believe they have in the government of a settled sovereign democratic State?

The popular assumption might be that business as usual is not feasible, let alone desirable but when political leaders say it will take "many months" for Sinn Fein to rebuild shattered trust, the worst elements in London, Belfast and Dublin take heart. "Thank heaven he isn't talking in terms of years," they say to themselves.

Not that some politicians took much interest in the criminality issue and the IRA's future status back at the beginning of last month anyway. Their only focus was the photographic red herring.

The other big question is, what view does the new American administration take of recent events. The President reportedly felt "betrayed" by Sinn Fein in the wake of the robbery. Yet the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is, at this very moment, working to ensure Gerry Adams is invited to the White House on St Patrick's Day.

US officials are already worried about the direction of the Republic's Government. America has very real interests in Ireland; not merely corporate interests but military interests as well to do with overflights and access to Shannon.

Sinn Fein in government in Dublin, therefore, would be viewed extremely negatively by Washington.

It is a relief, then, that Mitchell Reiss is staying on as US envoy to Northern Ireland. There is some speculation that he will leave the State Department while keeping the Ulster brief.

Bureaucrats hate this kind of semi-detachment but, whereas his predecessor Richard Haass had his own agenda, Reiss is a straight shooter.

Earlier this week Haass, a Republican who some believed had been positioning himself for a position in a John Kerry administration, attacked George Bush's inauguration speech. In a scandalous Washington Post article, he wrote that, "the nature of other societies… should not always be the foreign policy priority," and "the United States simply cannot afford to allow promoting democracy to trump co-operation on what is truly essential."

The contrast with the reaction to the speech from the noted Soviet dissident and gulag survivor Natan Sharansky - who, incidentally, recently sent me a copy of his new book inscribed "To Steven, A true friend of democracy, Yours, Natan" - could not have been greater.

He wept as George Bush told his audience of millions that the spread of freedom is America's mission in the world and wished out loud that his fellow dissident Andrei Sakharov had been alive to hear those words.

There is a lesson here for Northern Ireland. Richard Haass' hard-nosed realism has been tried. It failed. It contributed to the collapse of the Belfast Agreement on his watch.

What we need from America is a little less realpolitik and a bit more democratic idealism and genuine opposition to terrorism in all its forms.


Rebel Republicans Linked To Firebomb Attack

26/01/2005 - 14:10:57

Dissident republicans may be planning a new wave of firebomb attacks across the North, police warned today.

Shopowners in four towns were urged to intensify security checks after a Co Tyrone hardware and agricultural store was destroyed.

Linton and Robinson’s premises in Strabane had to be demolished after a massive blaze ripped through the building on Saturday.

Superintendent Tony Weston, who heads the Operational Command Unit in the PSNI’s Rural Region, suspected terrorists could strike again in the town.

Police believe Derry, Ballymena and Coleraine may also be targeted, he revealed.

Mr Weston said: “These devices put lives and property at risk and cause unnecessary disruption to all. We would advise business owners and managers to review security measures and check premises thoroughly both during and after trading. An extra few minutes could make a difference.”

Incendiary devices were planted in shops throughout the North last month in a bid to cause mayhem during Christmas trading.

And the dissidents’ campaign is showing no signs of relenting, according to the latest assessment.

Although no organisation has been blamed for the attack on Strabane, police have confirmed a firebomb gutted the premises.

Fifty firefighters were needed to deal with the blaze which raged for several hours. Bottles of gas and other flammable materials inside the shop made their task even more dangerous.

As police brace themselves for fresh attempts to disrupt businesses, Mr Weston called for all possible help.

“If you see something suspicious please contact the police immediately,” he stressed. “We would remind traders to be alert to ensure their premises remain secure during peak trading times.”

The Chairman of the Northern West Branch of the Federation of Small Business, John Friel also urged small business owners to be vigilant after the warnings.

He said: "I would also ask those behind these attacks –how will fire-bombing small businesses achieve anything? Firebombing small businesses only destroys livelihoods and jobs, not to mention the damage done to our economy."


Unanimous Vote For Murphy

SINN Fein MLA Conor Murphy was unanimously re-selected as the party’s Westminster candidate for the Newry and Armagh constituency at a packed party convention in Belleeks last week.

The convention, chaired by South Down MLA and Westminster Candidate Caitriona Ruane, heard Mr Murphy, who has played a key role with the Sinn FŽin negotiating team, being proposed by veteran Camloch republican Terry O Hare.

In his acceptance speech Mr Murphy said he was honoured to be carrying the flag for Sinn FŽin in Newry and Armagh and he paid tribute to the dedication and hard work throughout the constituency work of the party organisation.

"Our objective in these forthcoming elections is to consolidate the four Westminster seats that we secured in 2001 and to win additional seats which includes Newry and Armagh. We are not building political strength for the sake of it.," he said.

"We are building political strength throughout this island as part of a strategy to bring about Irish re-unification and true equality for all the citizens on the island.

"All people, all children all communities will have that future that has been denied to them, a future that is not granted by privilege or bought as a commodity to those who can afford it. It will be the future that promises that things can be different, and Sinn FŽin know that we will make the difference. Things can be better and we in Sinn FŽin will make it better. Sinn FŽin, as it celebrates its one hundredth year of existence, is continuing to change the course of Irish history and together we in Newry and Armagh will create new history when we win this seat."


SF Team In Meetings In Washington

26 January 2005 07:33

A delegation from Sinn Féin will hold meetings with US Congressmen today as part of a visit to Washington DC.

Sinn Féin is in the US capital to talk to Congressmen from both the Democratic and Republican parties who form the bi-partisan Friends of Ireland group on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday evening, the delegation, led by Gerry Kelly, met officials from the State Department.

Last night department sources described the meeting as 'a private discussion', but it is understood the issue of the Northern Bank robbery was raised.

Mr Kelly said after the meeting that he had reiterated his party's position that it believed the IRA did not carry out the robbery. He also said he was assured there was 'no issue' over the granting of US visas to Sinn Féin activists.


Omagh: Murphy Release Delayed

26/01/2005 - 12:01:23

Colm Murphy, whose conviction for an offence connected with the Omagh bombing in 1998 was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal last week, remained in custody today after a technical hitch held up his expected release on bail.

Murphy will have to go to the Court of Criminal Appeal on Friday for new bail conditions before he can be released.

He appeared briefly at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin today where his counsel Mr Richard Humphreys BL told the court that the Court of Criminal Appeal had set bail terms at a cash lodgement of €50,000 and two independent sureties of €25,000 each.

Mr Humphreys said that one surety was Murphy’s daughter Ms Leonora Murphy with an address at Ravensdale, Co Louth but the second proposed surety was Murphy’s sister Ms Kathleen Tully who has an address at Main St, Belleeks, Co Armagh, which is outside the jurisdiction.

Mr Humphreys said it was proposed that since Ms Tully lived outside the jurisdiction she would lodge the €25,000 in court as part of the bail conditions.

But Mr Justice Diarmuid O’ Donovan, presiding, said that the court did not have the power to alter the bail terms set by the Court of Criminal Appeal. The judge said that Murphy would have to go back to the Court of Criminal Appeal and seek to have the terms of bail altered to allow for a cash lodgement to replace the surety.

The court approved Ms Leonora Murphy as a surety for Murphy and Mr Justice O’ Donovan said that the court would have ``no problem’’ with accepting the new bail conditions and releasing Murphy on bail.

The court also ordered that a building society account held by Ms Leonora Murphy should be frozen and should not be allowed to go below €25,000.

Mr Humphreys said that as part of the bail conditions Murphy would reside at The Plaster, Mountpleasant, Dundalk and he said that his passport had already been surrendered to the prison authorities when he was in custody. Murphy also has to sign on daily at Dundalk garda station.

Counsel for the State, Mr Tom O’ Connell SC, said that Murphy’s retrial could not go ahead until the trial of two gardai for perjury had been disposed of.

The court remanded Murphy until April 5 next when his case will be mentioned again.

Murphy was jailed for 14 years by the Special Criminal Court in January 2002 for his role in the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins, and injured over 300 in 1998.

He was the first person to be convicted in either the Republic or Northern Ireland in connection with the Real IRA bombing, the worst terrorist atrocity in the history of the thirty years of the troubles.

But last week the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial after finding that the court of trial had failed to give proper regard to altered garda interview notes and that there had been ``an invasion of the presumption of innocence'' in the judgement on Murphy.

During a 25-day trial in 2001 and 2002, Murphy,(52), a father of four, building contractor and publican who is a native of Co Armagh with an address at Jordan's Corner, Ravensdale, Co Louth had pleaded not guilty to conspiring in Dundalk with another person not before the court to cause an explosion in the State or elsewhere between August 13 and 16, 1998.

The court found that Mr Murphy loaned his mobile phone and another mobile phone he obtained from Mr Terence Morgan to the people who planted the Omagh bomb.


Hoax Bomb At US Embassy

26/01/2005 - 12:37:33

The US embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin was evacuated this morning after the discovery of a suspect package.

The package was detected during routine scanning of post at the embassy.

The supect device wasx found to have been a hoax bomb by the Army bomb disposal team.


Ulster Duo Make It On To Shortlist For Oscars

Neeson fails to secure nomination

By Alice McVicker

26 January 2005

Northern Ireland's biggest film star Liam Neeson may have failed to secure an Oscar nomination for this year's Academy Awards, but two local film makers did make it on to the exclusive shortlist.

The 77th annual Oscar nominations were announced last night in Los Angeles.

Everything In This Country Must, directed by Gary McKendry, who is originally from Ballyclare, received a nomination in the best live action short film category.

And Belfast-born writer Terry George was honoured in the best original screenplay section for his feature Hotel Rwanda.

Everything In This Country Must was written by Colum McCann and shot in Templepatrick last year.

It is about a young British soldier involved in an accident which kills a mother and child, and was described by its writer as a "coming-of-age story set in the north".

The film will receive its premiere at the Dublin Film Festival next month before going to Berlin.

Speaking from New York last night, Mr McCann gave much of the credit for the movie to the Co Antrim man who directed it.

"I'm really proud of it. Gary did a great job. He put up his own money and just did it."

Hotel Rwanda - the brainchild of Belfast writer Mr George - tells the story of a hotelier who saved hundreds of lives in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

It was nominated as best original screenplay and two of its actors, Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo, are contenders in the best actor and best supporting actress categories.

The nomination is an acknowledgment of Mr George's faith in his project - he fought for three years to get it made, putting up his own money while he filmed in South Africa and waited for the financing to come through.

Mr George, who was interned in the 1970s, has worked with Jim Sheridan on Some Mother's Son, In the Name of the Father and The Boxer, each of which was set against the backdrop of the Troubles.

Despite hopes Liam Neeson's starring role in Kinsey would help him make the shortlist, the actor saw disappointment with his failure to win an award at last week's Golden Globes ceremony.

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