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January 27, 2005

01/27/05 – McAleese: Protestant Children Taught to Hate Catholics

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

IO 01/27/05 McAleese: Protestant Children Taught To Hate Catholics -V
UT 01/27/05 Another Taxi Bombed In North Belfast Loyalist Feud
BB 01/27/05 PM, Adams Meet After Raid Claims -V
SF 01/27/05 Ferris Demands The Release Of Martin Doherty
IT 01/28/05 Bobby Sands Was A Criminal - Hayes
IO 01/27/05 NUJ Asks McDowell To Withdraw Daily Ireland Comments
SF 01/27/05 Adams - Would You Trust McDowell With The Peace Process
IT 01/28/05 State May Sue UK Over Bombs Inquiry - McDowell
BB 01/27/05 US Envoy Declines Sinn Fein Meeting
IT 01/28/05 Anti-War Boat Activists Acquitted In Clare
SM 01/27/05 Witness At Bloody Sunday Inquiry Refuses IRA Question
IO 01/27/05 'Ahern To Ask Blair For Guildford Four Apology' -V
BS 01/27/05 2 Different Shows In Worlds Where Terror Is Commonplace
IT 01/28/05 Council Says Bewley's Must Retain Cafe At Dublin Site
IT 01/28/05 Calls For Wild Deer Cull In Kerry


President Mary McAleese

Unionists 'outraged' at McAleese comments - Watch the report

McAleese: Protestant Children Taught To Hate Catholics -V
2005-01-27 19:10:05+00

President Mary McAleese was at the centre of a sectarian row tonight after claiming Protestant children in the North were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis despised Jews.

It provoked outrage among unionists who accused her of vilifying an entire community.

President McAleese assessment came during ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp liberation.

Anti-Semitism that existed for decades had been built upon by the Nazis, she said.

"They gave to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred of Catholics, in the same way that people give to their children an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different colour and all of those things."

Unionists were astonished and incensed by the comparison from a head of state who has cited strengthening cross-community relations as a key aim of her Presidency.

She has held talks with Ulster Defence Association representatives in some of Belfast's most staunchly Protestant districts.

But the efforts of Mrs McAleese, a working-class Catholic once burnt out of her home in the west of the city by loyalists, appeared in jeopardy tonight.

Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist Assembly member, said: "So much for bridge-building Mary.

"Her comments are completely irrational and are designed to insult the integrity of the Protestant community and damn an entire generation of Protestant people.

"Her mask as being a healer of divided peoples has slipped.

"She is spewing out hatred of the Protestant community, whilst accusing those same people of hating Catholics."

Mrs McAleese, who had joined survivors and over 40 heads of state for the memorial ceremonies in southern Poland, has courted controversy in the past.

In 1997, during her first term in office, she stirred up an unholy row by taking communion at Dublin's Anglican Cathedral.

The city's Catholic Archbishop, Desmond Connell, described it as a sham.

Unionist fury is still raw over Sinn Fein claims that the IRA gang who abducted and secretly murdered west Belfast woman Jean McConville were guilty of no crime.

One of the so-called "disappeared", the mother of 10 was seized from her home in 1972 after going to the aid of a wounded soldier.

Her remains were finally found on a Co Louth beach 30 years later.

With Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin insisting Mrs McConville's murder was not a criminal act, Mr Paisley challenged the President to be as critical of IRA violence.

"I don't know of any Protestant community that teaches hatred of Catholics," he added.

"I know of a community that teaches Love Thy Neighbour, even though for the last 34 years they have been tortured, tormented and murdered by violent republicanism.

"The same republicanism that this week said murdering a defenceless woman is not a crime.

"Her silence on Mitchel McLaughlin's definition of the IRA being legitimate is in stark contrast to her wanton abuse of the Protestant people on this issue."

A spokesperson for the President's office tonight declined to make any further comment.


Taxi Bombed In North Belfast

Another taxi has been petrol bombed in north Belfast.

It belonged to a man who used to drive for the firm partly owned by the former PUP man Jackie Mahood.

His cabs have been the focus of a feud between the UVF and LVF over the past week.

He has been forced to close following a series of attacks, in which cars have been petrol bombed and drivers beaten and intimidated.

In the latest incident, the owner was in bed when the car was targeted outside his house shortly after midnight.

His neighbours managed to put the fire out, but the car was completely destroyed.


Gerry Adams
Tony Blair
Adams & Blair

Row between Govt & Sinn Féin intensifies - Brian O'Connell, London Editor, outlines Gerry Adam's comments on the eve of a meeting with the British PM Tony Blair

PM, Adams Meet After Raid Claims -V

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Tony Blair are due to meet for the first time since police blamed the IRA for the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde has said the IRA was behind the raid in December - a charge it denies.

On Wednesday the prime minister told MPs he would use Friday's meeting at Chequers, in Buckinghamshire, to send a "straightforward message" to Sinn Fein.

It must use purely peaceful means if it was to have a political role, he said.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Blair was asked if he was going to spell out what sanctions would be introduced against Sinn Fein.

'Another way'

He said he would make clear to Sinn Fein the need for exclusively peaceful means.

This was the only way to secure a political role in Northern Ireland, he said.

"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," he said.

Mr Blair defended the meeting with Mr Adams at his country residence north west of London and added: "It is important that message is delivered and delivered in a very, very straightforward way."

On Thursday, Mr Adams said: "I think it is very fair to say that there is a very deep sense of crisis in the peace process at this time.

'Positive' approach

"It predates the Northern Bank robbery and the accusations that have flowed from it."

He added: "Tomorrow's meeting, I hear it has been characterised... as a confrontation, we are going to be told straight what is happening and so on and so forth.

"We are approaching the meeting positively. No-one should think for one moment that we are going to be at a meeting which will be characterised by the spin.

"Tony Blair knows us well enough, knows what has been achieved, knows his own contribution to it, knows our contribution to it, and knows that confrontation just won't work."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/28 02:52:14 GMT


Ferris Calls On Foreign Affairs Minister To Demand The Release Of Martin Doherty

Published: 27 January, 2005

Sinn Féin TD, Martin Ferris today demanded the release by the British Government of the only man jailed as a result of the activities of the British Army on Bloody Sunday in Derry. Deputy Ferris made his call during a Order of Business in the Dáil this morning and will again raise it in the Dáil with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern this afternoon. Describing it as an "absolute outrage" he said "in this the anniversary week of the murder of 13 civilians by the British Army's Parachute Regiment in 1972 it is a scandal that Martin Doherty is now the only person to have been sent to jail because of his refusal to testify at the Saville inquiry."

Speaking in the Dáil today he said, "Martin Doherty was jailed on the 19th of this month for refusing to testify at the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

"Mr Doherty maintains he has nothing to offer the inquiry as he was not there on the day and now he has been imprisoned for not testifying about events he knows nothing about.

"In this the anniversary week of the murder of 13 civilians by the British Army's Parachute Regiment in 1972 it is a scandal that Martin Doherty is now the only person to have been sent to jail because of his refusal to testify at the Saville inquiry. It is not acceptable and is an absolute outrage.

"I am calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern to demand the release by the British government of Martin Doherty and for him to be returned to his family immediately." ENDS


Bobby Sands Grave
Bobby Sands
Bobby Sands

Bobby Sands Was A Criminal - Hayes

Jimmy Walsh

Seanad Report: Bobby Sands was a criminal, Mr Brian Hayes, Fine Gael leader in the House, said. The complete difference between him and Mrs Jean McConville was that he had chosen the time of his own death.

The 1,800 people killed by the IRA had had no say in the timing of their deaths.

Mr Hayes praised Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, for having given a direct answer when asked recently by a Sinn Féin representative if he considered Mr Sands to have been a criminal. "The fact that he was on hunger strike was his own choice," said Mr Hayes. "It was a terrible tragedy for him and for his family, but it was his decision."

The strong language used by the Taoiseach about the IRA in the Dáil last Wednesday was praiseworthy, but it was also necessary to take strong actions as well, Mr Hayes said.

"We have to redouble our efforts to find out where their arsenals are. We have to put surveillance people on them."

There was a view that because the peace process had been allowed to dominate the agenda, "we had gone soft on them". How many recent large-scale finds of explosives had been made, asked Mr Hayes.

Mr McDowell, who replied to the Second Stage debate on the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill, said it was a matter of great import for the future of Irish democracy that there should be a clear understanding among the public that their democratically-elected politicians uphold the Constitution, the authority of the State and the values and the rights that subtended our Constitution and would not allow them to be swept away by anybody's political project.

"Therefore, I make no apology for taking a strong stance against the attempts by the Provisional movement to pervert the Irish constitutional process and the democratic process on this island and to trample down democratic values and use every means at its disposal, foul and fair, to advance its project without regard to the rights of others and to democratic values.

Mr McDowell said that if people wished to seek election to assemblies north or south of the Border or to represent themselves as people seeking a mandate, they must do so within a constitutional framework and whether it was North or South, that constitutional framework was based on constitutional values.

"There is no room in government, North or South, for anybody under any circumstances who would countenance the use of violence or illegality for political purposes. There is no room for those who, because of their ideological convictions, cannot distinguish between what is and is not an infringement of the law."

(c) The Irish Times


NUJ Asks McDowell To Withdraw Daily Ireland Comments
2005-01-27 16:30:03+00

The National Union of Journalists has written to the Minister for Justice asking him to withdraw remarks about a new national newspaper.

Michael McDowell likened the Daily Ireland to a notorious Nazi propaganda publication in the 1930s during recent criticism of Sinn Féin and the IRA.

A meeting of the NUJ's executive council described the comments as a serious threat to press freedom and a danger to staff at the paper by associating them with terrorists and Nazi's.


Michael McDowell

Adams - Would Any Sensible Irish Person Trust Michael Mcdowell With The Peace Process

Published: 27 January, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is in London this afternoon briefing British MPs and the international media on the peace process. Accompanying Mr. Adams are Martin McGuinness MP, Michelle Gildernew MP and Cllr Joe Reilly. The Sinn Féin delegation will meet with Tony Blair tomorrow morning.

Responding to questions from the media today Mr. Adams said:

"It is obvious that electoral and party politics, plus a view that no progress is possible before the upcoming elections, is impacting on the behaviour of the Irish government and the outrageous commentary which we have witnessed from them in recent days. By taking up the Michael McDowell line, the Taoiseach is sending a clear signal of how he sees the future of the process at least in the short term.

"The Taoiseach, of course, has to stand over his remarks but he will know that the tremendous progress achieved thus far in the Peace Process flowed from a general consensus among parties with a broadly nationalist outlook. That meant that party political and other differences were subordinate to the national interest.

The process has been in greatest difficulty when disunity among Irish parties allowed the British system and it‚s allies in Ireland to set the agenda. That is what is happening at this time.

When the integrity of the Sinn Féin party is being attacked we will defend ourselves robustly. When the rights of our electorate are being threatened, Sinn Féin will defend those rights.

We have no apologies to make to any political party or leadership for our stewardship of the Peace Process. We have never said we had all the answers. If others think they can do better then they are welcome to try. But would any sensible Irish person trust Michael McDowell with the Peace Process?

"The Taoiseach may have deflected media and opposition attention from the Ray Burke affair, but he needs to consider where this takes the process in the longer term."ENDS


State May Sue UK Over Bombs Inquiry - McDowell

Olivia Kelly

The Minister for Justice has not ruled out taking legal proceedings against the British authorities in the European Courts for their failure to co-operate with the Barron inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Mr McDowell told the Dáil sub-committee considering the findings of the Barron inquiry that the question of whether the State should take legal proceedings against the British authorities was something he would have to reflect on.

The Minister was responding to questions from the Independent TD, Mr Finian McGrath, in relation to attempts by the families of the bomb victims to force the British government to co-operate with the inquiry by taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr McGrath asked the Minister if he thought it was acceptable that the families represented by the Justice for the Forgotten group had to take on this action themselves.

"If the implication is that a state versus state action should be taken, I would have to think long and hard about the wisdom of that," Mr McDowell said.

However, he added: "If the suggestion is that the Irish State should commence legal proceedings against another sovereign state, that is something I would have to reflect upon."

Mr McDowell said that Mr Justice Barron had "possibly not received as much co-operation as he would have wished" from the British authorities.

The Irish Government could not itself force the British to comply with requests to provide information and files to the inquiry, or provide spokespeople or representatives of law enforcement agencies, he said. "We have to remember that we're talking about a separate sovereign state. We can attempt to persuade, but we cannot demand."

Mr McDowell said that both he and the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, had raised the issue on a number of occasions with the British government.

The British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, had earlier this month given an assurance that all potentially relevant information would be given to the Irish authorities. However, he qualified this with the phrase, "consistent with our responsibility to protect national security and the lives of individuals", Mr McDowell told the sub-committee. "We will do our level best to ensure that the British interpret that particular clause in a generous way."

At the time of the bombings, and still today, the minister for justice would never "shadow" or "second guess" the gardaí.

"It follows therefore that any documentation within my Department on the various Garda investigations constitutes only a small subset of the information obtained or generated by the gardaí."

He hoped that the Remembrance Commission would give some recognition of the effects of the events of the 1970s.

"I deeply regret it was not done at an earlier stage."

(c) The Irish Times


US special envoy Mitchell Reiss declined a meeting

Envoy Declines Sinn Fein Meeting

The US special envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, has declined to meet Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, US sources have told the BBC.

Mr Kelly was visiting the State Department on Tuesday, but was granted a meeting with lower level officials.

The MLA is in America to give Sinn Fein's perspective on the political scene since the £26.5m bank robbery.

Police have blamed the IRA for the raid at the Northern Bank on 20 December, but republicans have denied this.

However, Sinn Fein has said Mr Kelly had never expected to meet Mr Reiss in Washington, but had the meeting he expected with State Department officials.

The party said Mr Reiss had previously spoken to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams on the telephone.

Mr Adams is due to hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair at his country residence at Chequers on Friday.

The prime minister has defended the meeting, but said he would make it clear to Mr Adams the need for exclusively peaceful means.

Meanwhile, the BBC has also been told that the White House has not yet finalised the arrangements for this year's St Patrick's Day festivities.

There has been some speculation that the festivities could be downgraded to include only a shamrock ceremony involving the US President and the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern.

US sources said they believed there would be a Northern Ireland aspect to the festivities, but a final decision would not be made for another month.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/27 14:12:38 GMT


 Edward Horgan
Edward Horgan

Anti-War Boat Activists Acquitted In Clare

Gordon Deegan

Three anti-war activists, who entered a temporary exclusion zone in the Shannon Estuary during President Bush's visit last June, were yesterday acquitted on all charges.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Joseph Mangan dismissed charges against former commandant Mr Edward Horgan (59), Castletroy, Limerick, Ms Eibhlín Ní hÍr (21), Quigley's Point, Co Donegal, and Mr Aaron Baker (26), Athlone, Co Westmeath.

The defendants had denied entering a temporary exclusion zone and resisting the orders of a garda at Iniscullen Point on the Shannon Estuary contrary to Section 8 of the Public Order Act. In the District Court yesterday, each retained two counsel to defend their actions.

The court heard that personnel on board the LE Aoife located in the estuary last June 25th were notified that a boat had entered the exclusion zone. Two boats were launched to intercept the craft, while a Garda helicopter hovered overhead.

Sgt Mark McKeown told the court the three activists were arrested for failing to obey a Garda instruction to leave the exclusion zone.

On behalf of Mr Horgan, Mr Roderick O'Hanlon SC said: "Do you remember Mr Horgan telling you that he was there to exercise his constitutional right to peacefully protest?"

Sgt McKeown said he didn't remember Mr Horgan saying that, but he understood him to be speaking for all three.

After hearing the State's case, Judge Mangan dismissed the case against Mr Baker and Ms Ní hÍr, stating there was no evidence of any refusal by them to comply with Garda directions.

Regarding Mr Horgan, Mr O'Hanlon said that Section 8 of the Public Order Act relates to loitering in a public place. He pointed out that Mr Horgan was not loitering but was there to protest peacefully.

Judge Mangan said: "I don't consider Mr Horgan stating that he was there to peacefully protest as a refusal to leave the area and I am holding with the defence on all points."

Earlier, the judge had dismissed the charge of entering the exclusion zone without permission when he rejected a State application to amend the charge in each case.

The three anti-war activists were accompanied by a small group of supporters yesterday. Mr Horgan said afterwards: "I am very pleased that the court has recognised our constitutional right to peacefully protest by dismissing both charges.

"It is a huge concern to us that we were successfully prevented from protesting and that this exclusion zone was unlawfully established. It is a contradiction to have an exclusion zone in a public place."

The charges were dismissed before Mr Horgan had an opportunity to give evidence in court.

He said: "We will not continue to remain silent as long as Shannon continues to be used in this war against humanity, where 158,000 US troops went through the airport last year."

Asked what his intentions were on the day, Mr Horgan said: "We launched the boat at Bunratty and had travelled five miles before being intercepted. The tide was on its way out and we were going to sit there in the boat in the mud to protest at the arrival of President Bush before leaving the area."

Mr Horgan declined to say how much the court proceedings have cost the three defendants.

(c) The Irish Times


Witness At Bloody Sunday Inquiry Refuses IRA Question

By John-Paul Ford Rojas, PA

A man who allegedly admitted opening fire during Bloody Sunday tonight refused to deny he had ever been a member of the IRA.

Witness "X" was giving evidence at the inquiry into the shooting dead of 13 people by British troops during a civil rights march in Londonderry.

He has denied telling police that he was a Provisional IRA member who opened fire in the Glenfada Park area of the Bogside on January 30, 1972.

Witness X told today's inquiry session that he had not gone to the area that day as he had been told by his parents to stay away from the march.

He also denied belonging to either the Provisional IRA or the Official IRA at that time, but refused to say whether or not he has ever been.

The long-running inquiry into the events of that day reconvened this evening at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Witness X gave evidence by videolink from another location and was screened from view to protect his anonymity.

Under cross-examination from Alan Roxburgh, counsel to the inquiry, he said: "I was not a member of either wing of the IRA on Bloody Sunday."

Pressed on the question he added: "I was asked to come here and give evidence about the day of Bloody Sunday and that is what I am here to do."

Later Edmund Lawson QC, who represents a number of soldiers, asked him why in his statement to the inquiry he had denied ever being a member of either organisation.

Witness X said: "I would say that question was asked of me about Bloody Sunday and that is the truth."

On the question of whether Mr X had ever been an IRA man Mr Lawson said: "The tribunal might take the view that your refusal to answer this question suggests that you became a member of the IRA after Bloody Sunday."

X replied: "That is up to the inquiry."

At the end of the hearing Lord Saville, the chairman of the inquiry, said witness X had not been entitled to refuse to answer questions.

But he said that no purpose would be served by taking the matter further.

In his statement to the inquiry X said he was not and had never been "politically minded" and had "only ever been on trades unions marches".

He said he could remember the evening of Bloody Sunday and was at his parents' house with some of his his brothers and sisters.

"I can remember feeling angry as the news of what had taken place began to come in," he added.

Attached to his statement was an interview note taken by the RUC in 1972 in which he was alleged to have told them he was a member of the Provisional IRA.

It reads: "I was also in action on Bloody Sunday at Rossville Street ... I was firing from Glenfada. I used two full magazines."

In his statement witness X said: "I have absolutely no knowledge of this interview nor the contents of the note."

He admitted to the inquiry today that he had been arrested and interned in 1972 but said he had not told the RUC any more than his name and address and that such swoops would take place on a regular basis in Northern Ireland at that time.

The RUC note also details alleged admissions about his weapons training but in his witness statement X said: "I know nothing about firearms and have only ever fired guns at a funfair."

Tonight's hearing was transmitted to the Guildhall in Londonderry where the bulk of the £155 million inquiry, which was announced seven years ago, has been held.

Late last year, Lord Saville and fellow judges retired to write their final report, which is expected to be completed by this summer.

Witness X was issued with a subpoena ordering him to give evidence last January but he did not attend, citing medical grounds.

Lord Saville reconvened the tribunal today after he was understood to have decided he needed to hear from him.


Conlon family to seek apology from UK government - John Kilraine reports on the campaign for an apology from the UK government

'Ahern To Ask Blair For Guildford Four Apology' -V

27/01/2005 - 19:25:11

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is to ask British Prime Minister Tony Blair next week to apologise to the family of a member of the wrongfully-convicted Guildford Four, it was claimed tonight.

The miscarriage of justice against Gerry Conlon and his late father Giuseppe featured in the 1993 Oscar-nominated movie In The Name Of The Father directed by Jim Sheridan.

Mr Conlon and his mother Sarah met Mr Ahern in Dublin today in his campaign for an British apology along with Mr Sheridan and SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

Mr Durkan said afterwards that Mr Ahern assured the delegation that he would raise the issue with Mr Blair at Downing Street on Tuesday.

Mr Durkan added: "I believe Mr Blair is well-intentioned on the issue and will understand why the Conlon family needs closure for once and for all."

Mr Conlon said that Mr Blair was the first premier with the strength of character to issue a public apology.

"Thirty-one years is a long time to suffer and my mother is getting on in years. Who knows how long she has left?" he said.

"She's heartbroken. We're all heartbroken. We need this to stop."

Mother Sarah said: "A public apology would mean the world to me. Giuseppe went to jail as an IRA bomber and died in jail with people thinking he was an IRA bomber."

Four soldiers and a civilian were killed when the IRA planted a bomb in the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford, Surrey, in October 1974.

In October 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four after doubts were raised about the police evidence.

Giuseppe was arrested along with members of Annie Maguire's family after they were allegedly identified as being involved in the bomb plot in confessions extracted by the police.

Giuseppe, who had a history of bronchial problems, died in prison while serving his sentence in January 1980.

Mr Sheridan, who signed a petition in the campaign, said that Mr Ahern was "emotionally moved" by the pleas of the Conlons during the 30-minute meeting at Government Buildings.

He added: "Guiseppe represented somebody that was fundamentally decent and good.

Mr Sheridan said he felt that the families of the victims of the Guildford bombs would also agree that Mr Blair should issue a public apology.


Two Different Solo Shows Set In Worlds Where Terror Is Commonplace

By Simi Horwitz

"Belfast Blues," evocatively subtitled "One Wee Girl's Story About Family, War, Jesus, and Hollywood," is ultimately a coming-of-age memoir. Set in Northern Ireland during the notorious "troubles" between Roman Catholics and Protestants and filled with eccentric Irish folk, the multicharacter one-person piece, written by and starring Geraldine Hughes, recounts a young woman's struggles with her culture, parents, and, most central, her own impassioned need to escape. "Belfast Blues," which bowed Off-Broadway at the Culture Project on Jan. 20, is about the cost of survival.

Hughes says, "It's a universal story in addition to being about the Irish, church, and class."

"Nine Parts of Desire" is another multicharacter solo show set in a war-torn country. Now enjoying an extended run Off-Broadway at Manhattan Ensemble Theater, "Nine Parts of Desire," penned and performed by Heather Raffo, presents a portrait of nine Iraqi women from all walks of life -- from the most traditional (indeed, some are overflowing with mythic beliefs) to the most modern, calculating, and cynical; from those who feel that anyone in power is an improvement over the brutality of Saddam Hussein to those who believe that President Bush brought only chaos to the region and ultimately betrayed the Iraqis.

The play is based on a series of interviews Raffo conducted with Iraqi women and is inspired by an aphorism from a Muslim text: "God created sexual desire in 10 parts, then gave nine parts to women and one to men."

Raffo, who inhabits each persona fully, moving from character to character seamlessly, says that whatever their differences, "all the women are united by their desire to live fully. I chose the title because it has a certain resonance. It points to the complexity of these women."

Raffo and Hughes maintain that there is no special pleading in their respective works, each suggesting that her play examines the psychic toll of living in a fragmented society where terror is simply commonplace. Nonetheless, politics are at play, and to that extent it's risky territory for theatre artists -- as well as their producers, who can't afford to alienate the bulk of their audience. There's also the challenge of presenting characters who may be altogether too removed from the American experience. Still, the theatrical potential in both topics is powerfully seductive for the actor.


That said, the two artists contend that their plays were not written as stepping-stone vehicles for themselves.

Raffo notes that the creation of "Nine Parts of Desire" emerged from a much deeper place: her identity and pain as a woman of Iraqi heritage.

"I'm an American, but I became aware of myself as an Iraqi -- had a sense of myself as 'the other' -- for the first time during the Gulf War," Raffo recalls. "I'd walk down the street and overhear people saying, 'Let's go fuck the Iraqis.' I realized from that point on that my cousins in Iraq -- family whom I loved -- would be viewed by many Americans as dark and dirty. I also realized that the only difference between my cousins and myself was the accident of where we were born. That was my loss of innocence and, in a way, the beginning of this piece, although I didn't start writing it until I was in graduate school at the University of San Diego. It was my master's thesis."

Similarly, Hughes developed "Belfast Blues" as an exercise for the Virtual Theatre Project, pulling together a series of short stories about her childhood. From the outset, "Belfast Blues" was for the most part a traditional rite-of-passage tale. Still, the embattled setting of Hughes' youth makes it anything but traditional -- except for Hughes, for whom living with war was natural.

"This is my story, with a little historical background," says Hughes. Indeed, until Sept. 11, Hughes did not think of the piece as particularly political.

But "after 9/11, I realized that I grew up in a country of terrorism and that notions of terrorism in the United States were nonexistent," notes Hughes. "I was a child of war. And over the past couple of years, I started comparing my childhood with the children of Iraq. The soldiers who are sent to Iraq are also children -- very, very young men who carry guns."

Nonetheless, Hughes concedes that the piece does not have the political resonance for most New York audiences -- perhaps with the exception of Irish-Americans -- that it would have for the Irish or British. She describes the intensity of feeling on both sides of the footlights when she performed the piece in London:

"I'd been living in the United States for 14 years," she recalls. "I had never lived in London. But once I was there, all the feelings of paranoia came back. I was almost apologizing for having written 'Belfast Blues.' The third performance was a royal gala with members of the royal family in the audience and it was a profoundly interesting experience. I received a standing ovation. Some audience members said they had no idea what it would have been like for a child growing up like that, and how powerful it was for them to have a taste." She adds, "Of course, there's historical context in England for the piece and perhaps there were feelings of guilt in the audience."

Allan Buchman, founder and artistic director of the Culture Project (a theatre known for its political slant -- for example, "The Exonerated"), argues that "Belfast Blues," paradoxically enough, has an impact on American audiences precisely because the political story may feel somewhat removed: "Because of the distance of time and place, theatregoers feel free to reflect without being reactive, to look at cycles of violence with a longer lens and wonder, 'Don't we ever learn anything from the past?' " He stresses, "A child in a body bag is political wherever it is."

Still, Hughes underscores that her goal is to be a storyteller: "I want the audience to be not unlike a comfortable family member listening to a story. That's the Irish tradition."

"Nine Parts of Desire" is a blatantly political piece and, according to David Fishelson, artistic director of Manhattan Ensemble Theater, "In a time of great international turmoil, it is the role of art to engage in political debate. But if it's art -- real art -- it transcends political debate while at the same time informing debate."

But, curiously, he doesn't find "Nine Parts of Desire" especially controversial. He says its strength -- its centerpiece -- is the depiction of a population that audiences know little about. The characters are women in an Islamic country, but not one of the more fundamentalist countries, he says. They are also trapped in a war.

"It's one thing to talk about the removal of a tyrant," he says. "It's a very different thing to talk about how babies have been deformed because of the war. The play is in line with the feminist movement in other Arab countries, but in the end it's a humanist statement."

Thanks to the critical praise the piece has received, the audience is demographically broad-based, notes Fishelson: "It is the audience that attends any hit." When "Nine Parts of Desire" played in England last season, it was selected as the best show in London by The Times and as one of the five best plays in London in December 2003 by The Independent.

Still, and perhaps not surprisingly, Arab-American audiences have been the most responsive, Raffo reports: "They come to me at the end of the show with tears running down their faces. They recognize the women I'm portraying. One young man told me he lost eight members of his family because they didn't have a picture of Saddam Hussein on their wall. I had an Iraqi father and daughter come backstage with very different politics. The father kept saying, 'Bush is a miracle, Bush is a miracle.' The daughter didn't feel that at all, but they both loved the show. I don't know what Americans feel," Raffo continues. "They're less vocal, but I think they're enjoying it, with the exception of some middle-aged Republicans who saw it in Edinburgh, didn't get it, and were obviously turned off."

Raffo defines herself as an Iraqi-American, pointing out that the combination served her purposes well in interviewing Iraqi women. Being of Iraqi descent got her in the door, she notes, "and being an American, oddly enough, made it possible for the women to trust me. They felt they could say things to me, as an American, that they wouldn't allow themselves to say to another Iraqi."

Alien Types

Yet in an effort not to create characters who are too foreign to Westerners, Raffo admits presenting the most secular, educated women, "softening the religious aspects, although many Iraqis are Christian, not Muslim." Indeed, Raffo was raised a Roman Catholic.

"I would love audiences to find these women -- many of whom may be alien -- familiar in some way," she suggests. "I'd love to hear an American say, 'That Bedouin woman is just like my aunt.' But at the same time, I want American audiences to walk out a little confused, not able to say, 'Oh, I get it,' but rather to understand how difficult it is to grasp the psyche of people who have lived under Saddam for 30 years with American support, then had a war with Iran, resulting in 1.5 million deaths, followed by 13 years of sanctions and two wars under American firepower."

Hughes was also concerned that her characters might be a tad too Irish for many Americans -- from Eddie, her dad's drinking buddy, with his serious eye tic and heart of gold, to the Irish Republican Army supporter Margaret, a crusty, chain-smoking neighbor whose signature is holding her cigarette high above her head as she flicks ashes onto the floor. "She did that because there were always so many children running around," Hughes explains. "It was her way of not flicking ashes onto the children."

Hughes points out that nobody, at least to her knowledge, has found the characters difficult to grasp, including the character of Sheila, her own mom, who kept on having children despite the family's relentless poverty. Sheila is not unlike Frank McCourt's mother in "Angela's Ashes," his powerful memoir. And like McCourt, Hughes neither apologizes nor accounts for her mother's serial childbearing.

"It's just the way it was," Hughes responds.

Buchman adds, "Being a good Catholic is the undercurrent of the story. Birth control is not sophisticated, abortion is not an option, and they're not going to stop having sex. Being Catholics creates context for these characters' lives. The play speaks to the rules of that game. The play is very much about Catholic guilt."

The presence of the church is not leaned upon but is ubiquitous all the same, perhaps nowhere more pointedly -- and, indeed, comically -- than at Hughes' first communion, a moment in her life that is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying: She is delighted by the significance of her upcoming communion -- not to mention her lovely new dress (which is ruined by a prankster kid) -- and horrified at the prospect of eating the Host. Her belief that she has swallowed the body of Christ haunts her childhood.

But the memory that casts the longest shadow is Hughes' inability to keep a promise that she makes to her father on his deathbed: to stay in Belfast and look after her mother and younger sister. In the end, Hughes knows that if she stays, she will not survive. Her goal: getting to America.

Throughout the play, America in general and Hollywood in particular shape Hughes' and everyone else's imagination. To the Irish, America is a place -- literal and metaphorical -- of endless possibility for growth and happiness. After her father's funeral, 18-year-old Geraldine tells her mother she will be leaving.

"This play is about struggling against social and religious expectations that may not be consistent with the possibilities for hope," says Buchman.

"I want people to leave the theatre hopeful that if they have a dream, they can and should pursue it," comments Hughes. "I also hope that the play stimulates a conversation about the lives of children who grow up in conflict. The troubles in Ireland are just another example of cycles of conflict because one group hates another."

Worlds Gone Mad

Unlike "Belfast Blues," in which Hughes is the central figure narrating her own evolving story, Raffo's role in "Nine Parts of Desire" is less clearly defined. She appears three times in her own persona, but does not really change. Nonetheless, Raffo is the prism through which all the characters have been imagined, even if they are not literally talking to her, Fishelson points out.

Indeed, the self-serving painter, a central character in the play, was dead long before Raffo arrived on the scene. "Heather channels her," he says. "This play reflects a well-positioned American subjectivity, although the portraits of each character have a snapshot quality and there is no traditional arc in the storytelling."

Raffo contends, on the other hand, that she as a character does indeed develop, but in a subtle, layered, and unexpected way. Her performances as herself and the eight other women are unwittingly shaped by programming, as it were: who follows whom and in what order. The cumulative effect of what each of the nine women says also has an impact on the audience's experience, Hughes says: There is a momentum.

At the end, as the war escalates and it becomes increasingly difficult to contact her panicky relatives, all the characters, including Heather, begin to disintegrate. On the telephone, they shout to one another, "I love you," "I love you," "I love you." It becomes a cacophony of desperate connection in a world gone mad.

By contrast, the sad Ireland of the mid-1980s in "Belfast Blues" is almost beyond madness: It's just moribund.


Bewleys Oriental Cafe

Council Says Bewley's Must Retain Cafe At Dublin Site

Joe Humphreys

Dublin City Council has given Bewley's permission to redevelop its Westmoreland Street premises, but only on condition that it retain a café and restaurant on its ground floor.

The coffee company had applied for permission to turn the existing café area into a new cocktail bar and restaurant as part of an extension to its hotel on the same site.

However, in one of 14 conditions attached to the planning permission, the council said the middle and garden rooms - the two dining rooms nearest the Westmoreland Street entrance - "shall be used for café and restaurant use only and shall not be used as a public house, or any other form of facility, whose main use involves the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises".

The local authority said it was applying this condition to protect the amenities of what was an architectural conservation area.

The council also stipulated that the stained-glass window by Pauline Bewick "shall be carefully removed . . . and hung from the ceiling of the garden room, adjacent to its current location and back-lit".

This was "to ensure continued protection and retention in situ of an important contemporary feature of the protected structure."

The council said the unit at ground-floor level at 11-12 Westmoreland Street had to be used as a high-order retail outlet, something which also was not in Bewley's plans.

In addition, the local authority turned down requests from Bewley's for a ramp, tables and chairs on the pavement of Fleet Street, saying such works would encroach on to land outside the application site.

It added that, before development begins, Bewley's must submit full details of existing and proposed fixtures and fittings "to protect the historic features, character and integrity" of the building, as well as details on a proposed new doorway to Price's Lane.

The application was the last of three made by Bewley's to the council relating to the site, which is owned by the coffee company. Earlier this month, the local authority granted permission to extend and refurbish the hotel to upper levels in Westmoreland Street.

A company spokeswoman said it was "delighted overall" by the decision, although it described as "excessive" a €43,500 development contribution sought by the council.

Bewley's is in separate negotiations with restaurant and bar-owners on the future of its Grafton Street café.

A spokesman for the Save Bewley's Cafés Campaign said some of the council's conditions were ambiguous, and the campaign was likely to appeal the decision to Bord Pléanála.

(c) The Irish Times


Red Deer
Red Deer

Calls For Wild Deer Cull In Kerry

Anne Lucey

The IFA in Kerry has called for a cull by the Wildlife Service of protected wild deer in Kerry after claims of several accidents and near accidents on roads in the south of the county.

Local farmers also say deer are freely grazing valuable grasslands during the winter months.

There has been "an explosion" of deer, native red and sika, in Kerry in recent years with an estimated 3,000 in the county.

A young man on a motorcycle is still in hospital with broken legs after hitting a red deer in the Moll's Gap area shortly before Christmas.

Details of the incident emerged at a meeting of IFA members and rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Kilgarvan this week.

In another incident, a student at the Institute of Technology in Tralee sustained €180 damage to his car while driving home at night.

There were also accounts of elderly drivers hitting and having near misses with deer.

The majority of accidents involving deer occur during the winter months, when the native large red deer come down from the mountains to graze the lowlands.

The smaller sika deer, originally introduced to this country from Japan and now also protected, are equally a problem at this time of year, the farmers said.

Gardaí in the county have confirmed that there were up to a dozen reports of accidents involving deer in the various districts in 2004. However, not all accidents are reported, they said.

"It's not the deer's fault that he runs into a car.

"Any wild animal blinded by lights will run towards the car," Mr Michael Murphy, chairman of the rural development committee of the IFA in Kerry, said yesterday.

The deer are also availing freely of grassland during the winter, and this was a direct cost to farmers who spent money fertilising those fields, Mr Murphy said.

(c) The Irish Times

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005

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