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January 30, 2005

01/30/05 – Uneasy Parallels Between BS & Iraq

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

SF 01/30/05 Uneasy Parallels Between Bloody Sunday & Iraq
SL 01/30/05 Judge Who Probed Bloody Sunday May Have Had Alzheimer's
SL 01/30/05 Children Suffer: 15-Yr-Old Girl Placed On UVF Hit-List
SL 01/30/05 Little Hope Of End To Taxi Wars
SL 01/30/05 Bid To KO Shoukri Fight
SL 01/30/05 It's Sinn Fein For A Double Posting!
SL 01/30/05 Carbon-Copy Bank Raid 'Wasn't IRA'
SL 01/30/05 300 'Spies' In Ulster Lose Jobs
HC 01/30/05 Perfect Robbery Led Officials To Look At The IRA
UT 01/30/05 IRA In ' Fresh Recruitment Drive'
SM 01/30/05 Soldiers Defuse Supermarket Bomb
SL 01/30/05 Racists Ignore Warnings From BBC's Legal Team
SL 01/30/05 Paddy Whacked!
ND 01/30/05 Tom Phelan: Finding His Vocation
TM 01/30/05 TV Helps Cut Through Irish Accents


Imposing Democracy on the World

Uneasy Parallels Between Bloody Sunday And U.S. Occupation Of Iraq

Peter O'Neill
Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraqis go to the polls today in an imposed civics lesson on democracy, courtesy of President George W. Bush. Few are betting on its success.

Today also marks the 33rd anniversary of a tragedy with disturbing parallels to those in Iraq -- Bloody Sunday, when members of the British Parachute Regiment gunned down 14 unarmed civil-rights marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland.

I was there that day, just two weeks after I turned 18, and I saw and heard the slaughter up close. Ten of the victims were shot within 20 yards of where I lay, trembling with fear, behind a 3-foot wall.

A committed pacifist before Bloody Sunday, overnight I, like many others who belonged to the North's Catholic minority, became a supporter of militant Irish republicanism and of its right to bear arms against the British Army.

At the very least, Bloody Sunday was the result of poor political judgment. An outbreak of civil-rights marches in Northern Ireland -- patterned after those that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had led in America -- had angered hawks in the government of Edward Heath, then prime minister of Britain. They urged a tough line against the marchers, and Heath heeded their call.

Thus the Parachute Regiment, one of the most lethal in the British Army, was sent that Sunday into a situation that required negotiation, not brute force. Bedlam resulted, and Northern Ireland fell apart.

It took nearly three decades of needless death, but finally the British government and its nemesis, the Irish Republican Army, began to work for real peace in Northern Ireland. While there have been setbacks, I believe the peace process eventually will prevail, if for no other reason than that all now agree on the futility of pursuing a military victory.

If only British Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with Bush, had applied such lessons to Iraq. That dire situation is the result of the poorly thought- out policies from arrogant politicians who failed to understand what any student of Northern Ireland's "troubles" could have told them: Without careful preparation, an occupying force likely will become the insurgents' greatest recruiting tool. Early in the occupation, a tragedy not unlike Bloody Sunday helped make sure this would be the case in Iraq.

Late in April of 2003, U.S. troops who had just commandeered a school opened fire on demonstrators, killing 16 civilians and wounding 75. At the time, I had visions of young Iraqis lining up to join the fight against occupation, just as Irish youths had after Bloody Sunday. We now know this was exactly what happened. And the place where the killing occurred -- Fallujah -- became such a hotbed of Iraqi insurgency that Marines have all but razed the town.

Even today, the story of Bloody Sunday has not ended. Britain had tried to close the book quickly, by means of the official inquiry of Lord Widgery, serving as the most senior British jurist at the time. But his report, which excused the shooters and blamed the victims, came to be so discredited that in 1998, Blair ordered a new inquiry. Seven years, 900 witnesses, and $290 million later, the commission headed by Lord Saville adjourned. Few hold out hope that its report, expected sometime this year, will expose the leaders who sent the paratroopers to Derry.

That, too, is not unlike what is taking place in Iraq. American troops are sacrificing their lives on account of the sins of hawkish politicians and armchair generals who thought little of starting a war for which they were ill- equipped. Overworked soldiers are being asked to perform jobs they were not trained to do. It is they who are prosecuted when things go wrong -- when prisoners are abused or unarmed civilians killed -- while the Rumsfelds, Wolfowitzes and Bushes of this world continue to act without fear of judicial rebuke.

It is the lesson of Bloody Sunday that, from Fallujah to Nasiriyah, from Mosul to Baghdad, we can expect violence every day that foreign troops remain on Iraq's soil. We can hope for no positive change without a full withdrawal of coalition forces -- a solution called for this week by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma -- so that Iraqis may take the lead in their own affairs. Based on Bush's second inaugural address, however, we can look only to four more years of unlearned and ineffective policy. And so we can muster no optimism about today's elections in Iraq.

Peter O'Neill is a Ph.D. candidate in literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a survivor of Bloody Sunday.


 Lord Widgery
Lord Widgery

Judge Who Probed Bloody Sunday May Have Had Alzheimer's

By John Hunter
30 January 2005

Lord Widgery - the senior judge who chaired the controversial first Bloody Sunday Inquiry - may have been suffering from Alzheimer's disease at the time.

Medical evidence now suggests that the former Lord Chief Justice was suffering from early-onset dementia, when he led the probe into the 1972 killings in Londonderry.

Widgery died of advanced Alzheimer's, in 1981.

Medical experts say that, nine years earlier, he would probably have lacked the intellectual ability to conduct the inquiry effectively.

Widgery's performance as sole chairman of the inquiry has been relentlessly criticised, and nationalists have branded his report a whitewash.

Much has been made of the fact that when appointed by Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister advised him to remember that "we were in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war, but a propaganda war".

During the inquiry, Lord Widgery himself examined only 15 of 500 eye-witness statements submitted.

Forensic evidence on weapon-handling was inadequately tested and the discrepancy between soldiers' original statements on January 30, 1972 and their testimony at the hearings never surfaced.

Widgery exonerated paratroopers of everything apart from being "reckless", but found there would have been no deaths if there had not been "the illegal march".

In the 1960s, Widgery had been distinguished by his mental clarity and ability on the Bench.

But in the 1970s, until he was finally persuaded to resign in 1980, his handling of cases became increasingly controversial, and it was well known in legal circles that he was suffering from dementia.

Following his death, one year after his retirement, one newspaper obituary bluntly noted that "dementia had rendered him incapable of performing the job" (as LCJ) for some years.

His successor, Lord Chief Justice Lane, was later said to have done "a decent job of clearing up the mess left by Lord Widgery".


Suffer The Children

by Stephen Breen
30 January 2005

A 15-Year-Old Girl Has Been Placed On A UVF Hit-List.

Cops have given terrified schoolgirl Kerrie Cromie, from Ballysillan in north Belfast, her own bulletproof vest after warning her loyalist terrorists are planning to kill her.

They are determined to silence the teenager, after she survived a previous shooting - and vowed to give evidence against the gunmen.

Last night, traumatised Kerrie told Sunday Life: "My family's life is in turmoil at the minute, but I am determined to see the men who tried to kill me in court.

"I know their names and have passed them on to the police. They are now walking the streets, while I am in hiding, because I have been warned these people will kill me."

Sunday Life met Kerrie and her mum Margaret after they decided to go public about their nightmare.

Speaking to us from a secret location, the teenager said the threat against her has nothing to do with the latest feud in north and west Belfast, between the UVF and LVF.

The teenager's ordeal began when a two-man UVF gang fired a shot at a car she was travelling in, on December 2.

Two men were questioned about the shooting, but were later released by cops.

The intended target of the shooting was north Belfast community worker Jim McClean, who is a close friend of her family.

Two weeks later, the UVF was blamed for firing shots at a house, in the Flush Road area.

It is understood the gang had intended to target a property Kerrie regularly visited, but targeted the wrong address.

And the family claims the UVF have also fired shots at Kerrie's older brother.

One of the UVF gun gang members is now believed to be in hiding in England.

Since then, Margaret, Kerrie and her three brothers have been in hiding.

The brave schoolgirl also told how she has:

:: Been kept out of school.
:: Received a panic alarm from cops.
:: Had graffiti daubed, labelling her an informer.
:: Been forced to stay in safe-houses.
:: Become hooked on anti-depressants.

Said Kerrie: "I am no PSNI tout or LVF tout, but I am determined to stand in front of an identity parade and identify the two men who tried to kill me.

"Even though I am living in fear, and my family's life has been turned upside down, I have spoken to my mother, and we are determined to go ahead with this.

"I know who tried to kill me and I told the police who it was, but I can't believe they are still walking the streets.

"My mum was disgusted with the police response to my case.

"I'm just praying for the day when I can see them in court, but until then, my family will have to be on its guard.

"We have no life now, and if it wasn't for our family and friends, I don't know where we would be. I won't rest until these people are behind bars."

David Ervine, leader of the UVF-linked PUP, said he would be happy to meet with the family to discuss their concerns.


Said Mr Ervine: "I have no difficulty in talking to this girl's mother, but I know absolutely nothing about this case.

"I can't imagine this girl being on a UVF hit-list."

A police spokesman said: "We can confirm that two men were questioned about a shooting in Ballysillan on December 2. They were released, pending a report.

"We are not in a position to comment on the individual security of citizens, and would appeal for information about this attack.

"If anyone has a complaint to make regarding a police investigation, they should contact the Police Ombudsman."

The threat against the 15-year-old comes in a week when the UVF was blamed for a series of petrol-bomb attacks in north Belfast, and the intimidation of six families in Ards.

The revelation that a young girl is under a death threat will place even more pressure on the PUP.

Why I'm so proud of my courageous daughter

Brave Kerrie Cromie's mum last night hit out at the UVF thugs who have placed her on a hit-list.

Margaret Cromie (40) has vowed to stand by her daughter's decision to testify against the two men she claims tried to kill her.

Said the mum-of-four: "There's no doubt about it - our backs are against the wall because of this whole thing.

"Why would anyone want to kill a teenager? My daughter is no paramilitary, and my family have never had any paramilitary links.

"The only thing she did was tell the police who tried to kill her, and I am very proud of her for doing this. I will stand by her 100 per cent.

"We have been forced to live in different homes, but that's all we can do at the minute, because we are worried that these thugs could attack us.

"My daughter remains determined to stand in front of an ID parade and tell the police who tried to kill us. It's her decision, and I respect that."

The north Belfast woman also hit out at the police response to her daughter's case.

She said: "I am disgusted with the police investigation into this. I can't understand how two men who tried to kill an innocent girl are still walking the streets - it's scandalous.

"I have lost four stone over this whole thing. People have been put in custody for lesser offences. I know the police questioned these boys, but they should be behind bars, instead of running around without a care in the world."


Little Hope Of End To Taxi Wars

30 January 2005

Feuding loyalists predicted last night that lives would be lost in the bitter in-fighting between the LVF and UVF.

Dubbed 'Taxi Wars' - because of the destruction of cab drivers' livelihoods - few with knowledge of the hatred between the terrorist groups predict a peaceful outcome.

The UVF is outraged that teenage LVF members, particularly in the Ballysillan area of north Belfast, are "torturing" their members, while the LVF is incensed at UVF gun-attacks on their relatives.

And, while some discussions aimed at arranging mediation between the factions have taken place, those involved agree that the city could witness a bloodbath in coming days.

If that happens and UVF members or supporters are killed, the organisation has vowed to launch province-wide retaliation against the LVF.

One senior north Belfast loyalist told Sunday Life yesterday: "The UVF has been planning a massive series of hits against the LVF across the province, if one of their members in north Belfast is killed.

"It wouldn't just be north or west Belfast - it would spread to east Belfast and Holywood, Bangor and right into mid-Ulster, which the LVF regards as its heartland."

While police saturate north Belfast, those attempting to mediate have an opportunity to try to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

But those involved in previous mediation attempts between the two paramilitary elements last year say the prospects of a peaceful resolution are "remote".

Said another loyalist: "The UVF won't recognise the LVF, and has geared up for a war with them.

"Meanwhile, the LVF has these teenagers - virtually youngsters - in north Belfast who the UVF fears are capable of anything.

"They say these kids are high on drugs and absolutely oblivious to the consequences of their actions, and will do crazy things."

None of the senior PUP figures in north Belfast was prepared to comment on the record about this latest bout of feuding.

But one prominent figure said: "If I said what I think publicly, it would only fuel more trouble.

"We are angry at these wee thugs beating people on the streets, running drugs and operating brothels.

"The LVF is out of control - people won't take any more of this behaviour."

Jackie Mahood - a former leading member of the PUP - was forced to close his Call-A-Cab firm, because of repeated attacks on his drivers.

Said Mr Mahood: "I run a legitimate company, which complies with the law, and I am asking the forces of law and order to provide the protection, so I can run my business.

"Twelve of my drivers have had their vehicles destroyed or shot up since before Christmas.

"This isn't a dispute between the UVF and the LVF - it's about people trying legitimately to earn a living and having their livelihoods taken from them, and they associate this action with the UVF."

The latest attacks - on the Standard taxi company's drivers - has increased the misery and danger for cabbies working in north and west Belfast.

Added Mr Mahood: "I have had temporarily to close my business until my drivers get assurances that they can return to operate, without the dangers they have faced over the last month.

"I have been running a legitimate business for 20 years, including when I was in the PUP.

"The business was never attacked then by the UVF, but it is now. Why is that?"

Said another loyalist source: "Jackie's taxi business is getting it at the minute from the UVF, and now other taxi firms are being dragged into it and it looks like 'Taxi Wars'.

"But, at the heart of this, are the two UVF shootings before Christmas at what they saw as LVF targets, and the serious concern the UVF has about that young LVF element in Ballysillan.

"The UVF is very worried about what these young people would do in the future, and they have arrived at the position where they have to make a stand against this element, or they will be wiped out in north Belfast and their supporters, whether they are taxi drivers or tradesman, will be hounded out of the area and won't be able to work there."

The Loyalist Commission is understood to have had tentative discussions with both sides in the dispute, but no solid foundation for a truce formula has yet been devised.

No one from the commission was available for comment this weekend.

The UVF is a member of the Commission, but the LVF, created out of a split within the UVF in mid-Ulster, is not.

Tensions simmering since May

Since the UVF's murder of LVF chief, Brian Stewart, last May, tension has been rising between the two loyalist terror groups.

Although a fragile truce was declared shortly after Stewart's killing, violence has recently flared again in north and west Belfast.

The latest attack happened on Thursday morning, when the LVF was blamed for torching a taxi driver's car, in the Silverstream area.

Although the UVF has been blamed for the most recent violence, the LVF has also been responsible for attacks since October.

At the time, loyalist sources claimed the son of a leading ex-UVF men was attacked by LVF men, after they accused him of breaking into pensioners' homes in Ballysillan.

LVF bosses braced themselves for revenge attacks - and warned they would respond with deadly attacks on top UVF men, but there were no gun attacks.

It was the biggest crisis between the two groups since the UVF killed Stewart.

Just two months later, tension flared between the two paramilitary groups, after the first shooting incident since Stewart's killing.

Local LVF units were furious after two UVF men reportedly fired shots at a car carrying young people - including the daughter of a senior LVF figure - in north Belfast.

The LVF demanded that the UVF dealt with the two gunmen - one of whom, they claimed, was the son of a former senior figure in the UVF.

But a UVF source said the incident related to the LVF pistol-whipping of a UVF supporter, and no action was later taken by the LVF.

In another incident, in December, a taxi-driver was lucky to escape with his life when gunmen hit his car, as Christmas shoppers stared in horror.

North and west Belfast had since remained relatively calm until the latest outbreak of violence last weekend.

Concerns that a bitter feud would erupt again emerged, when the UVF was blamed for throwing tar over a young mother in the Shankill.

Since the attack, the paramilitary organisation was blamed for a spate of petrol-bomb attacks - particularly on cab drivers.

A gun-attack on a north Belfast taxi depot yesterday was also being linked to the feud.

Staff were in the depot - at Ballysillan Road - when shots were fired at the front of the building, around 4.50am. No one was injured. A short time later, a car was found burning at Brae Hill Park, in the Oldpark area.

Police have appealed for anyone with information to contact them, on (028) 9065 0222, or Crimestoppers (0800) 555111.


Andre Shoukri
UDA's North Belfast 'brigadier' Andre Shoukri

Bid To KO Shoukri Fight

30 January 2005

The organisers of a charity boxing night involving north Belfast UDA 'brigadier' Andre Shoukri still hope to stage the event despite a campaign to scupper it.

Following controversy over the event last week, both the Elim Pentecostal Church and the Hospice for Sick Children withdrew their support for the fight-night, planned for the Ballysillan Leisure Centre next month.

One of the fiercest critics of the project, Belfast Alliance councillor, Naomi Long, was unrepentant yesterday.

"I think this is a distasteful event and has no merit," she said.

Ms Long said she didn't question the integrity of the church, or the Hospice, but added: "I would encourage people to give money to the Hospice, but the money being offered comes with a price and that price is too high.

"The issue is whether or not this is being used to sanatize the image of someone associated with loyalist paramilitaries.

"How would the families of victims feel?"

Pastor Brian Madden of the Elim Church, in Alexandra Park Avenue, accused some elements of the media of misrepresenting the church's role in what was to be a fundraiser for the Children's Hospice.

"The event was planned in good faith by a local businessman," he said.

"It is our view that the giving up of something to help the needy is for all, and not just a selective few, and this has always been the case in Northern Ireland charitable events and elsewhere.

"Unfortunately, on this occasion the good intentions of many have also been misrepresented," he said.


It's Sinn Fein For A Double Posting!

By Sunday Life Reporter

30 January 2005

Sinn Fein is expected to take the post of lord mayor, in Belfast, for the second time later this year - and there will be no furore over the appointment.

For city councillors are edging closer to adopting in full the d'Hondt system of proportionality.

The system is designed to ensure that places on committees, as well as chairmanship and deputy posts, are based on proportional principles.

But, it now seems likely that, for the first time in the council's history, d'Hondt will be extended to cover the top three posts of lord mayor, deputy lord mayor and high sheriff.

And, if there is broadly the same party representation on the 51-member council, after the local government elections in May, then Sinn Fein, as the largest party, would automatically land the role of first citizen.

One councillor told Sunday Life: "This has been further discussed, and agreed by the policy and resources committee, so it will now go back to the full council next week.

"It will, of course, all depend on the strengths of the party groups, after the elections.

"But if adopted, it would mean that in the four-year life term of the new council, all 12 posts could be filled at the very outset.

"It would certainly remove the controversy that seems to surround the lord mayor's appointment every year."

But, the proposal could leave the minority parties, like the Alliance and PUP, out in the cold, in relation to the top posts.

Alliance councillor, Naomi Long, admitted: "We're not in favour of using d'Hondt.

"When we supported Sinn Fein for the lord mayor's post, in 2002, we did so on the basis of the ceasefire, and how they conducted themselves that year.

"Under this system, if the Northern Bank raid were to have happened this May, it would not impact on Sinn Fein taking the lord mayor's post."

She added: "In fact, it would take only a slight shift in the balance of power for Sinn Fein to have two lord mayors' in the next council term.

"There are other systems, which I believe should be considered ahead of d'Hondt."


Carbon-Copy Bank Raid 'Wasn't IRA'

30 January 2005

A criminal gang - and NOT the IRA - is suspected of carrying out a copycat Northen Bank heist in Downpatrick.

The DUP pointed the finger at the IRA, after the robbery of a security guard as he made a cash delivery to the town's Northern Bank, last Tuesday.

South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells is demanding an early statement from the police on whether the Provos were involved.

His claims follows strong south Down involvement in two major heists blamed on the IRA - the raid on the Northern Bank's Belfast HQ, in which a woman was held hostage at Drumkeeragh Forest near Castlewellan, and an £500,000 robbery last September, when the family of a Securicor guard were held hostage at home in Downpatrick.

But security sources suggest the latest robbery was carried out by a locally-based gang that has struck across the south Down area over the past four years.

Last week's raid was a carbon-copy of a robbery outside the same bank in October 2001.

The getaway car used in the heist was driven for a few hundred yards before it was abandoned by the gang, which made off with less than £3,000.

The area's SDLP MP, Eddie McGrady, said the raid was "a reminder of the criminality on our doorsteps".


300 'Spies' In Ulster Lose Jobs

By Sunday Life Reporter
30 January 2005

Police and M15 commanders have axed up to 300 undercover agents across Ulster, since last summer, Sunday Life can reveal.

Security sources have revealed the full extent of the cutbacks, which have saved around £1.25m per year.

The agents, who were supplying information on terror groups, were receiving an average retainer of around £350 per month, plus bonuses for key information.

Critics say the cuts have seriously weakened the ability of the security forces to gather information on paramilitary gangs, including the IRA, which has been officially blamed for the Northern Bank heist.

Sunday Life understands that senior PSNI and MI5 commanders took the decision to 'deactivate', or stand down the agents, late last summer. The move followed a reduction in terrorist activity, and last year's relatively peaceful 'marching season'.

But, sources claim that a lack of available finance was the major factor for the cuts.

Undercover agents are commonly known in intelligence circles as Covert Human Intelligence Sources or CHIS's.

It is understood the majority of axed agents were operating within paramilitary organisations, in the Greater Belfast area.

Others are understood to have infiltrated groups in the Londonderry, Ballymena, Craigavon and Omagh areas, where they provided information on a range of terrorist activities, including drug smuggling and fuel laundering.

The decision to dump the agents has angered a number of Special Branch officers.

One retired police officer described the move as "premature and ill-judged".

"The CHIS's is an essential tool of Special Branch and MI5," said the ex-officer.

"The axing of some 300 sources, and the loss of the intelligence they provide, is a massive blow. Some of these people have been working for years."

A spokesperson for the PSNI said:

"While we do not comment on details of intelligence, the PSNI, like all police services, continually reviews its sources of intelligence to ensure they are fit for purpose."


Jan. 29, 2005, 6:09PM

'Perfect' Robbery Led Officials To Take Hard Look At The IRA

Irish peace deal leaves terrorists without much else to do these days

New York Times

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - One of the largest bank robberies in these parts unfolded here with cinematic precision and boldness: under the gaze of thousands of Christmas shoppers, robbers drove away with $50 million in cash, without ever setting foot in the bank or leaving so much as a fingerprint.

So blunder-free was the Dec. 20 robbery that investigators immediately focused on the one group they believed had the skill and wherewithal to pull off the job: the Irish Republican Army.

The IRA vehemently denied any involvement, and Sinn Fein, the group's political wing, accused the police of trying to smear the party and undermine the Northern Ireland peace process.

But the accusation, beyond stalling the already troubled peace effort, raised new worries that the IRA had morphed into a flourishing criminal enterprise.

The role of both Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups in organized crime, while always present, has grown considerably since Protestant and Catholic leaders in Northern Ireland signed a permanent cease-fire in 1998, police and other analysts here say.

Organized crime has become so common in strife-free Northern Ireland, in fact, that some now call it Sicily Without the Sun.

No political mission

The reason, says Ed Moloney, a former journalist and author of A Secret History of the IRA, is simple enough. Troubled though it may be, the evolving peace process has stripped the IRA of much of its political mission. "What to do with an army that doesn't go to war?" he said in an interview.

While organized crime may be a logical choice for out-of-work soldiers — particularly in a region already blighted by high unemployment — it is also proving a frustrating and dangerous one, investigators say.

The police say they have had some luck in disrupting crime groups among Protestant Loyalists, which are less tightly organized.

But in the case of the IRA, the discipline and organization honed in 30 years of conflict against the British army have left the group uniquely positioned for post-conflict criminality.

That's an an advantage that is further bolstered by the group's tight control over Republican communities, where the IRA remains both feared and admired.

"They have the expertise of terrorism," said a senior police official for the Police Service of Northern Ireland who spoke on condition of anonymity. "In terms of our role in trying to catch them, it's not impossible, but it's difficult because they are using techniques they have used during the war: a knowledge of forensics, the intimidation of witnesses. Very seldom do you get witnesses."

A November report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, in charge of tracking paramilitary activity, underscored the point as well.

Crime and terrorism

"Seldom in the developed world has this high proportion of the most serious criminals been associated with groups originating in terrorism," it noted, "with an organizational structure and discipline, and the experience of planning, learning and conducting sophisticated clandestine operations, methods of handling money, and with traditions of extreme violence."

Such a history makes it relatively easy for the IRA not only to launder money and smuggled goods, the police say, but also to keep a tight rein on informants, frustrating prosecution.

When Northern Ireland's police chief, Hugh Orde, made his suspicion of the IRA public, he unleashed a cadre of 45 detectives to crack the case and recover the money.

But some investigators with experience in tracking what they say are IRA-linked crimes know it will be a difficult job.

The police suspect the IRA in a number of crimes involving the smuggling of goods, like cigarettes, alcohol and fuel, as well as armed robbery, counterfeiting compact discs and DVD's and extortion.

Scant success

Even with the creation of the Organized Crime Task Force in 2000, a multi-agency group, law enforcement officials say they have met with little success in securing charges and convictions of prominent IRA figures.

The IRA's suspected criminal enterprises are all the more worrisome because of the group's continued ties to Sinn Fein, its powerful political arm, though the precise extent of cooperation between the two remains murky.

"Loyalist gangsters are every bit as hideous," said professor Richard English, who teaches politics at Queen's University in Belfast and wrote Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. "But they don't have a political party that will get the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Education."


IRA In ' Fresh Recruitment Drive'

Plans by the IRA to return to violence were included in the intelligence passed onto the Taoiseach in the wake of the Northern Bank raid, it has been reported.

Garda and Army chiefs are reported to have told Bertie Ahern that the IRA has engaged in a fresh recruitment drive in a bid to halt divisions within the organisation.

The Sunday Independent also reports that teenagers as young as 14 and college students in the Republic of Ireland are among those being persuaded to sign up.

The Taoiseach was also briefed on a new style of punishment attack, called the Padre Pio,

where youths are shot through the palms of both hands.

Meanwhile the Independent Monitoring Commission, the group set up to watch over the paramilitary ceasefires, is also expected to blame the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

The IMC will issue its report within the next fortnight.

It has also been that reported Gardaí are searching 50 garages around the Republic of Ireland in the hunt for clues about the getaway van used in the Northern Bank robbery.

The Sunday Business Post claims that all 26 divisions of the Gardaí are involved in the investigation.


 Fire Bomb
Remains Of Firebomb Was Found In Shop

Soldiers Defuse Supermarket Bomb

By Alan Erwin, PA

Soldiers defused a firebomb planted inside a supermarket in Northern Ireland today.

The incendiary device was found at a Safeway store in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

Police had warned the town was being targeted by dissident republicans planning a new wave of attacks across the province.

The terrorists are also believed to be focusing on Londonderry, Ballymena and Coleraine, according to security intelligence.

Just a week ago a hardware and agriculture store in Strabane was destroyed when a massive blaze caused by a firebomb ripped through the premises.

In the latest attack, a device was found at Safeway on Branch Road at around 2.30am.

After Army explosives experts defused it a number of items were removed for forensic tests.

Police have urged shopkeepers and businessmen in the town to check out their premises and to increase their security.


 Zoe Salmon
Zoe Salmon

Racists Ignore Warnings From BBC's Legal Team

30 January 2005

Fascists who subjected Ulster Blue Peter beauty, Zoe Salmon, to a sick neo-Nazi accolade, last night gave a two-fingered salute to the BBC.

For right-wing extremists - warned by the Beeb's lawyers last week to remove a photograph of the Bangor stunner from the Combat 18 website - posted a fresh, and much bigger image, of the former law student on Friday.

The latest image was uploaded, after we revealed, last week, how fascists had branded her their "ideal Aryan pin-up".

Alongside the latest pic of the TV star, racist literature also appears, describing her as the "beauty of Nordic Celtic-Germanic womanhood".

One of the Ulster woman's co-presenter's on Blue Peter was also threatened on the site.

Last night, the latest image of Zoe (24), on the C18 website, could still be freely accessed.

The BBC's legal team, which vowed to send a letter to the organisers of the sick website, after our revelations, last night vowed to step up their bid to have the images of Zoe Salmon removed.

Said a BBC spokeswoman: "We launched the bid last week to have this image removed, and this is still our priority.

"Our position hasn't changed, and the matter still remains with the BBC's legal team.

"We are shocked at this latest image of Zoe.

"The photo was taken when she was Miss Northern Ireland, and we have also written to the company that has copyright for the image, to make them aware of the issue.

"Zoe wasn't happy at all about this, and she now just wants to leave the matter in the hands of the BBC's lawyers."

The BBC has also written to the company that owns the copyright of the image, to make them aware that neo-Nazis have hijacked it.

Speaking to us, last week, the London-based presenter said she was stunned to learn her photo had been published on an extremist website.

Said Zoe: "I was shocked and horrified when you told me my photo had been posted on this website. I didn't quite know what way to react.

"But, I'm also very unhappy about it, and I know the BBC's legal team will be doing everything they can to remove the photograph from the website.

"I don't know what else to say about this - I'm just disgusted by the whole thing."


Paddy Whacked!

By Sunday Life Reporter

30 January 2005

Council chiefs have laughed off suggestions of an unholy row... over Ireland's patron saint!

The intense rivalry between Downpatrick and Armagh, over St Patrick, has taken a new twist, with the council in Downpatrick apparently laying claim to St Patrick's Cathedral, in Armagh.

Down District Council used a picture on its website of the Armagh Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic Archbishop, Sean Brady, to promote its links to Patrick.

Downpatrick and Armagh have traditionally competed for who has the strongest links to Patrick, with Down claiming that because he began and ended his ministry there, it is the real St Patrick's Country.

But, a spokeswoman for the council said it had been "an unfortunate error".

"The page has been taken down and, as you will see, the website is currently being reconstructed," she said.

"In actual fact, Down and Armagh councils are getting together to work in harmony to promote our joint links with Patrick."

The SDLP's Downpatrick-based MLA, Margaret Ritchie said: "I hope my colleagues in Armagh don't get too annoyed.

"Seriously, we are trying to seek partnership on the whole St Patrick's theme through the tourist board signature project.

"I believe that with a centre devoted to Patrick, in Downpatrick, it is the natural centre for the story of Patrick."


Finding His Vocation

He has been a priest and custodian, but Tom Phelan's true calling is writing about his Irish childhood

By Bob Keeler
Staff Writer
January 30, 2005

A long story lies behind the unusual distinction of the Stewart School in Garden City: a novelist-in-residence. It includes a boyhood in the Irish Midlands, the sad travails of a young priest, a father's love for his twin sons, and a principal's sharp eye for talent.

The novelist is Tom Phelan, who grew up in Ireland, became a priest, encountered strange and even cruel pastors at Catholic parishes in England, fared little better when he first came to Long Island in 1970, left the priesthood, married, divorced, went to work with the grounds crew in the Garden City schools, and later became head custodian at the Stewart School.

"I like to surround myself with people who are highly intelligent," says Marie Braccia, the principal, who hired Phelan and considers him a real "catch." Braccia first learned how good a writer he is when he let her read one of his manuscripts. Now the students get to sit in class and learn about writing from a professional.

"I think we're the only elementary school in America that has a published author as its custodian," says Braccia.

Though it may seem odd for a former priest to be a school custodian, it suits Phelan better than the desk jobs he held after leaving the priesthood. The school is "Tom's farm," says his second wife, Pat: It reminds him of the farm in Ireland, where everyone worked together for the greater good, and the physical labor is the kind of work he grew up doing. In addition, he manages a custodial staff.

And, of course, there's the advantage of time to use his head on his novels while he does his job with his hands. By day, he takes a moment here and there to jot down ideas on pieces of paper and stuff them in his pockets - to be entered later in his notebook. Then he drives home to Freeport, takes a nap, sits at his computer and writes. Pat, a freelance book editor, is right there if he needs a publishing veteran's opinion.

Phelan, 64, has three novels in print and another nearing publication. His style is gritty and lyrical, dark and hilarious, and his eye for detail creates vivid scenes. An admiring reader in Ireland once said that his writing convinced her that Phelan could remember the color of cow dung on the barn wall in winter.

His fans

Like a treasured recipe passed among friends, Phelan's novels are building a small but loyal following. "I love his writing," says Gina Reilly, a Westchester County attorney. "His characters just really come to life for me."

She met him when she was a teenager in Mineola and he was a young priest newly arrived from England. "He really understands people, and I think he always did," Reilly says. "He made me feel smart for the first time in my life."

Recently, Reilly thought of him, typed his name in Google, found that he had become a novelist and began devouring his books. On an airplane flight with her son, she was reading his first novel, "In the Season of the Daisies," a moving tale about the lasting impact of an IRA killing, and cried openly.

The book's American publisher offers a similarly bullish assessment. "It's a dynamic prose style," says John G.H. Oakes, whose Four Walls Eight Windows publishing house brought out "Daisies" in the United States. "It's a powerful statement about the devastating effects of violence. I thought it was really a first-rate novel."

So far, however, Phelan's work is flying below the radar of commercial recognition. Only "Daisies" has been published in the United States. Brandon Books in Ireland published "Iscariot," about the corrosive effects of aloneness in the priesthood, and "Derrycloney," which Phelan calls his "Fanfare for the Common Man" evocation of country life. The forthcoming novel, "The Canal Bridge," set in World War I, will be published in November by The Lilliput Press, a small literary house in Dublin. Phelan's work has appeared in translation in France and Germany.


Phelan has many of the narrative gifts of Frank McCourt, whose Irish childhood and emigration fill "Angela's Ashes" and "'Tis." But Phelan has little of McCourt's celebrity. The American edition of "Daisies" came out in 1996, the same year as "Ashes." Phelan's novel drew enthusiastic notices, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and earned a place on the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers list. But McCourt's Pulitzer-winning memoir reaped more publicity and vastly outsold it.

Still, the two authors have much in common. Take poverty. McCourt felt it bitterly in the lanes of Limerick. Phelan saw it daily in school but escaped the worst of it at home.

The Phelans had a 50-acre farm outside Mountmellick, a manufacturing town established by Quakers in County Laois (pronounced leash). One of the farm's staples was barley, sold to the Guinness brewery to become stout. "We worked on the farm from the time we could drag a bucket after us," Phelan recalls. It fed him, his two brothers and two sisters. But many of his schoolmates didn't have enough to eat.

Also like McCourt, Phelan has astonishingly detailed memories. For Phelan, palpable details made a lasting impression - especially the bright colors that stood out from the drab wartime setting. "Everything was navy blue and brown, and the only colors we had were flowers," he says. "I can still remember finding a blue flower in long grass."

Both authors recall the rain and damp. Phelan's yearning for freedom from mud helped shape his notions of priesthood. "As a child, I was in awe of priests, even though they didn't know my name and seldom spoke to me," Phelan wrote in "My Life as a Priest," published last summer in the journal of the American Irish Historical Society. "But the priests were sophisticated, and they lived in warm, dry houses. They always looked so clean."

Religious callings

On the Phelan farm, religious vocations grew. His older sister, Teresa, became a nun and now serves in an administrative role within her order. His younger brother, Con, became a priest and stayed in active ministry until his death from cancer five years ago. But for Tom Phelan, the priesthood became a sad tale.

He was one of 32 ordained in June 1965, at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Carlow, but his pride turned to humiliation when he arrived at his first parish in England and the pastor answered the door. "Oh! I didn't know you were coming," the pastor said. "I have no need for another priest." The pastor sent Phelan to the rectory's attic, to wait until he was needed.That took three months. From the moment of that initial rejection by his first pastor, followed by more petty oppression, Phelan was psychologically "on my way out" of the priesthood.

His next pastor was no better. "I believe in my heart that I was a good priest," Phelan wrote. But the strangeness of his pastors strangled the joys of his ministry. "I did not want to be a priest any longer, not if being a priest meant ending up like these men I had sworn to obey."

On to LI

Then the Rev. Seamus Deegan, a seminary friend serving on Long Island, led Phelan to a temporary assignment in Mineola. From there, he moved to Freeport, where a parishioner tape-recorded his anti-Vietnam War homily and used the tape to create a small media firestorm. (The Diocese of Rockville Centre backed him up but advised him to keep his head low.)

Though Phelan was determined not to let a pastor crush his spirit again, his life with his brother priests remained painfully devoid of true priestly brotherhood. His last parish was St. Edward the Confessor in Syosset, where he finally encountered a kind pastor, the Rev. Harry Palmer, and met a young couple, Ron and Lee Swierski, who loved his homilies and often invited him to their home.

"With the exception of Harry Palmer, Tom was the most straight-shooting priest I had ever known," Swierski says. "He was just such a breath of fresh air to be around. My wife and I loved him dearly." But they sensed his unhappiness.

Despite Palmer's humanity, Phelan was already out of the priesthood, mentally. His first step was a leave of absence. But he soon learned that finding work was not easy for someone with no experience at making a living. "I had six jobs in a year," he says. "It was very scary."

Working as a janitor at the Colonie Hill catering hall in Hauppauge, he was mopping a floor when a couple recognized him. "The woman said, 'Father Phelan, what are you doing here?'" he recalls. "Oh, I just wanted to crawl out of there."

After that painful year, another of his seminary friends, the Rev. Seamus Clarke, told him about an opening for a chaplain at upstate Harriman College. So Phelan went back to ministry, but his heart was not in it. "I was just using the priesthood as a means of making a living," he recalls.

During those years, Phelan spent three summers pursuing a master's in pastoral counseling at Seattle University. In a paper for that program, he wrote acidly about his first pastor. A professor read it and asked if he had ever thought about writing seriously. Up to then, he hadn't.

At Harriman, he taught English, which he loved. But when he decided after two years to leave the priesthood permanently, that cost him his chaplaincy job. For a year, he worked for an upstate doctor and lived above the office.

Night writing

In 1977, his first year as a layman, at age 37, he married a young woman who had been one of his students. They moved to Hartford, and Phelan took a job with an insurance company. By day, he slogged away at a desk job he disliked. At night, he began looking back to his past and writing fiction about it, which became a 900-page manuscript called "Pearls on a Cobweb." It never got published, and he's glad: "It had no voice to it at all."

Then his life took a painful turn. He and his wife were living in Ronkonkoma, raising their twin sons, Joseph and Michael, and Phelan was commuting to an insurance arbitration firm in Manhattan. As his sons turned 2, the marriage fell apart.

After the divorce, Phelan felt he could no longer commute to Manhattan and still be available to his sons. So he went to work for a carpenter. But a minor medical emergency made him realize that he needed medical coverage for his sons. That's when he took the job in Garden City.

In the evenings, Phelan was writing the manuscript that became "Daisies" and growing into the voice that had eluded him in "Pearls." In the plot, one twin sees his brother killed by the IRA. That reflects Phelan's anxiety about the effect of the divorce on his own twins.

Phelan's life and writing career improved sharply on a Sunday evening when he attended one in a series of talks in Garden City. That night, he met Patricia Mansfield, nearly nine years younger than he. Early in the conversation, he mentioned he was writing a novel, and she said she was managing editor of the college division at St. Martin's Press.

A team

As they dated, Pat worked to get the novel published. She sent it to The Lilliput Press and learned four months later that Lilliput planned to publish it. She broke that news to Phelan about two weeks before their wedding. "Daisies" came out in Ireland in 1993, the year Tom Phelan turned 53.

The division of labor is natural: He has the Irish gift for story, and she has the publishing know-how. She's acting temporarily as his agent, until they find one, and though she had never edited fiction before they married, she knows when a text needs fixing.

Phelan readily accepts small changes, but he can be stubborn on big ones. Take his new novel, set in World War I. It had a subplot about a tug-of-war in an Irish village, mirroring the deadlier game in the trenches of Europe. Pat felt it slowed down the main narrative, but he dug in his heels, and the subplot ballooned to 80 pages. Finally, he cut it all. "Deep down," he says, "I knew Pat was right."

She also accompanies him when he does readings all over the Island and beyond. "Pat says I'm never happier than when I do a reading," he says. His rendition of his own words, in his Irish accent, strikes a chord with audiences. "Writing is a lonely thing," Pat says. "The public's enthusiasm confirms that he is a writer of merit."

Phelan needs that kind of support as he keeps producing good novels with limited sales. Pat theorizes that, in today's more youthful Ireland, it can be hard to sell hip young editors on books like "Derrycloney," about rural life in the 1940s, but that readers will still buy them if given a chance.

Undiscouraged, Tom Phelan keeps writing, and Pat keeps working to market his novels, hoping to turn the corner and get his work the recognition that it deserves. As she puts it: "We dream all the time."

Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.


TV Helps Cut Through Irish Accents

By Samantha Thompson - Couch Potato
Sunday, January 30, 2005 8:14 AM CST

Samantha Thompson - couch Potato

DUBLIN, Ireland - To the untrained ear, Irish accents paint pictures of leprechauns and Colin Farrell, but spend a week or more trying to live in Ireland, and you'll soon find that there are many different types of Irish accents and many different types of Irish phrases.

A recent dinner trip to a pub near my flat (apartment) put me in the path of a friendly Garda (police officer) who casually asked, "Out for some crack are ya?" Taken aback by the officers accusation, we stood silent and unsure of what to do next. He gave a quick smile and asked us why we were so quiet. "I'm only having a piss on ya's," he added as we stood in further stupefied silence.

It wasn't until two days later that we discovered what the officer was saying — crack, meaning a good time, and piss on you, indicating the person was just joking around. While a simple Irish dictionary might solve some of my problems, there are times when even a dictionary wouldn't do the trick.

Although listening to Colin Farrell ramble on would hardly be a challenge, not all Irish — particularly Dubliners — are as easy to comprehend. With sing-songy lift at the end of their phrases and a very light manner of speaking, simply listening to a two-hour lecture by an Irish professor takes some serious focus. Asking for directions is an entirely different level of confusion. At the end of a long day of classes, bus trips and wandering the grocery store looking for a familiar brand name, we've all quickly found a release in the television.

Luckily for the tired Americans, there is less American-Irish accent dilemmas once the TV is turned on. From 6 p.m. on, our screen is filled with "Desperate Housewives," "Friends," "The Simpsons," "ER", "The O.C." and any number of other shows found in the States.

While at first I attempted to immerse myself in the Irish culture by avoiding American programming, I eventually gave up. It's hard enough trying to understand people all day; once in the quiet of my flat, I can't turn down an episode of "Desperate Housewives." Besides, Ireland — being about the size of Michigan — doesn't have a significantly high amount of "Irish shows."

Our Irish-American television experience has been both amusing and confusing. With little understanding of how international syndication works, we find ourselves watching a CBS drama followed by a FOX comedy nearly every night.

The U.S. "Big Brother" has found a counterpart overseas as "Celebrity Big Brother." I can't explain much of the show — we boycotted the show — but it did contain the oddest American reality television star, Brigitte Nielsen. She, again, opted for nudity for far too much of the filming.

The best difference we've found is there is a lack of commercials on Irish TV. It's like having TiVo built into your cable system. Shows typically break only a few times an hour for commercials and then pack a large amount at the end of the episode, leaving plenty of time for a snack and bathroom break.

While it's disappointing that this part of Europe has yet to discover the spy drama "Alias," they do have the Showtime drama "Huff."

Although I will never be able to understand a Dublin bus driver, I take comfort knowing that I can retire for a bit of crack and the knowledge that at the click of a button an American accent is never too far away.

Samantha Thompson welcomes comments by e-mail at

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005
i am the 15 year old kerrie
who was shot at by the uvf and was on there hit list i would just like to say them gun men got away with that and they are scum
there still walking the streets and i see them all the time in the town i still get scared
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