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February 01, 2005

02/01/05 – Brits Considering Less Role For Assembly

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

IO 02/01/05 'British Govt Considering Scrutiny Role For Assembly'
IO 02/01/05 IRA Crime 'Sole Obstacle To Peace' –V
SF 02/01/05 Sinn Fein To Hold Meeting With Paul Murphy
IO 02/01/05 IRA Accused Had SF Posters In Car, Court Hears
UT 02/01/05 Police Stoned Again In The Markets
UT 02/01/05 Election Register Rise Hope
BT 02/01/05 SF MLA Ruane Fined Over Road Tax
BB 02/01/05 Moves To Rescue Historic Lifeboat
UT 02/01/05 Website Cancer Diarist Inoble Dies At 37


'British Govt Considering Scrutiny Role For Assembly'

01/02/2005 - 16:12:12

The British government could consider giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a role which just falls short of full blown devolution, a former Stormont minister suggested today.

After a meeting in London with Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson said the British government was considering interim measures for the Assembly.

However the East Belfast MP also called for a series of sanctions to be applied against Sinn Féin, including freezing it out of a restored power sharing executive, following police claims that the IRA carried out the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank raid in December.

“We told the Secretary of State that there is massive disillusionment in the unionist community that after all this time, when both governments acknowledge the IRA carried out the robbery and Sinn Féin was aware of it, no measures against that party have come forward,” the former Stormont Regional Development Minister said.

“The DUP is also adamant that genuine democrats should not be penalised for what others have done.

“My clear impression from today’s meeting is that the (British) government is looking at interim measures which fall short of devolving powers.

“That could mean some role where the Assembly scrutinise and advise.

“You could have a legislative Assembly, where in the absence of the executive and in the absence of a partner, namely the SDLP, to exclude Sinn Féin, Northern Ireland Office ministers would bring legislation to the Assembly for approval and there would be some form of scrutiny.

“Assembly members would also be able to initiate legislation on their own.”

Mr Robinson was commenting as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern received a Downing Street briefing from senior police from both sides of the border.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde and the commissioner of the Irish Republic’s police force Noel Conroy were expected to take both leaders through the intelligence which informed their assessment that the IRA carried out the heist on the Northern Bank’s Belfast headquarters.

Mr Blair was also due to meet nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan afterwards.


Ahern & Blair warn IRA to end crime - Brian O'Connell, London Editor, reports on today's talks between Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair

IRA Crime 'Sole Obstacle To Peace' -V
2005-02-01 17:10:07+00

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair today warned the IRA that it must give up all criminal activity if there was to be any return of power sharing in Northern Ireland.

Following talks in Downing Street the two men said the IRA's continuing criminal and paramilitary activity was the sole remaining obstacle to a peace settlement in the North.

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern were briefed by Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy on the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank raid.

They said they accepted the conclusion of both police forces that it was the work of the Provisional IRA.

"The obstacle now to a lasting and durable settlement in Northern Ireland is the continuing paramilitary activity and criminal activity of the IRA," Mr Blair said.

"It has got to stop. It has got to stop in its entirety. There cannot be any compromise with that.

"If it is given up the process can move forward on an inclusive basis."

His words were echoed by Mr Ahern who told reporters in No 10: "The reality of the situation is that until we have got an end to criminality we cannot win the trust and confidence of the collective parties to move forward."

Mr Blair acknowledged that the bank raid may have been the result of divisions within the republican movement.

However, he said Sinn Féin and the IRA were now alone in not accepting that there must be a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means if the process was to move forward.

He said the unionist community now accepted the principle of power sharing with nationalists provided they abandoned criminality and paramilitary activities.

"There cannot be any going back on that," he said.

Mr Blair said he hoped there would be a period of "hard and difficult reflection" by the republican leadership.

"There is almost a simplicity about the present situation," he said.

"There is no way forward by compromise, fudge, ambiguity on this issue any more.

"There is only one way forward. Everybody gets on to the democratic bus and goes forward on that track or not."

Mr Ahern added: "The questions are very clear. They are very simple. If they (republicans) are prepared to engage and are prepared to move forward we can get on but we need that response back from them."


Sinn Fein To Hold Meeting With Paul Murphy

Published: 1 February, 2005

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP will lead a party delegation including Cllr. Joe Reilly, Pat Doherty MP and Caitriona Ruane MLA to meet with the British Secretary Of State at 11.30am tomorrow morning (Wednesday 2nd February) at Hillsborough Castle.

The delegation will be available to speak to the media.

Speaking today before the meeting South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane said:

"Tomorrow we will be confronting the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy about recent comments he made in the USA concerning our electoral mandate. We will also be seeking answers from him about a briefing given late last year by the leading securocrat Joe Piling when it stated very clearly that the objective of the NIO was to stop the growth of Sinn Fein in the time ahead.

" Joe Piling is supposed to be under the control of Paul Murphy. Either his comments about NIO strategy are the position of the British government or else Mr Murphy has to get a grip of the securocrats running his own department.

" We will also take the oppourtunity to tell Mr Murphy in very clear terms that in our view as a British politician with no mandate either to be in Ireland or from the Irish people he is in no position to discriminate against the majority of nationalists in the six counties through sanctions against Sinn Fein." ENDS


IRA Accused Had SF Posters In Car, Court Hears
2005-02-01 16:41:10+00

Gardaí recovered a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters, including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Aengus O' Snodaigh, from a car in which they also found a stun gun and CS gas canister, the trial of five men accused of IRA membership heard today.

The Special Criminal Court was shown the posters which said:''Sinn Féin No 1 Aengus O' Snodaigh'' and also the stun gun recovered by gardaí from the boot of a Nissan Almera car in Bray in October, 2002.

Another poster found in the car said: "Sinn Féin says no to bin charges''. In the car gardaí also found cable ties, car number plates, a blue flashing light similar to that used in emergency vehicles and a roll of tape.

The trial of the five men, who were arrested in Bray, has heard that gardaí detained the five men after they were seen acting suspiciously by an off duty Special Branch officer.

The five Dublin men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11, 2002.

They are Thomas Gilson (aged 24), of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght; Patrick Brennan (aged 40), of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin; Sean O'Donnell (aged 32), of Castle Drive, Sandymount; John Troy (aged 22), of Donard Avenue and Stephen Birney (aged 30), of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf.

Chief Superintendent Peter Maguire has told the court that he believed the men were members of a Provisional IRA active service unit attached to the Dublin Brigade of that organisation.

He said that he believed that organisation was on ceasefire and he immediately ordered an investigation into what was going on.

Detective Garda Michael Keating, of the Ballistics Section, told the court today that he examined the blue Nissan Almera car at Bray Garda Station. He found a packet of cable ties under the front passenger seat and on the floor a roll of black tape.

Also on the front passenger floor he found a blue light cover and heavy duty battery which was similar to the type of blue light used in garda vehicles.

In the boot of the car he found a bin liner containing a CS gas canister and stun gun. Detective Garda Keating said the stun gun is capable of discharging 40,000 volts when used against someone, and is used to incapacitate people.

He also found four packets of cable ties in the boot and a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters which he showed to the court.

Mr Tony Murphy told the court that he was a member of the Ballyfermot Sinn Féin cumann and that he agreed to allow his transit van to be used for election activities for Sinn Féin.

He said that on October 10, 2002 someone called to his door , indicated he was from Sinn Féin and asked could he have the van for election purposes. He gave the man the keys to the van but the next morning when he went to go to work the van was not there.

Mr Murphy said he believed the van was to be used for "postering". He said that he left a number of personal items such as a driving licence, cable ties, football gear and passport photos in the van.

He said that he was aware that when the van was found by gardaí at Bray it contained a number of other items including a sledgehammer, pick axe handles and balaclavas which had nothing to do with him.

Asked by prosecuting counsel Mr George Birmingham SC if he felt aggrieved that his van was "used in this fashion", Mr Murphy replied: "Sort of."

The trial continues tomorrow.


Police Stoned Again In The Markets

Police investigating a brutal murder in Belfast came under stoning attack by republicans for the second night running tonight.

By:Press Association

The trouble flared again as houses in the Markets area were searched by officers investigating the killing of a man who died in hospital yesterday after being stabbed outside a nearby bar on Sunday night, said a PSNI spokesman.

Bricks, bottles and other missiles rained down on officers during sporadic outbreaks of trouble.

A senior republican was one of two men still being questioned by murder squad detectives after being arrested during similar searches in the area last night.

Other searches carried out just across the River Lagan in the nationalist Short Strand area earlier today passed off without incident.

Robert McCartney, 33, from the Short Strand, died of stab wounds after being found unconscious in Cromac Street on Sunday night after a fight broke out in Magennis`s Bar in the neighbouring May Street.

Sinn Fein former Belfast Lord Major Alex Maskey blamed the street disturbances and attacks on police on "heavy-handed" police tactics.

He said police had been in the area from early morning but there had been no trouble until they started to "kick down doors of known republican homes".

He added: "It is very regrettable that what appears to have been a very tragic incident at a bar has been turned into a serious political situation."

Police dismissed the accusation and said searches were being conducted in a "proportionate and appropriate manor".

A spokesman added: "A young man has lost his life in horrific circumstances and police are carrying out a murder investigation.

As part of the investigation a number of searches have been carried out and are ongoing in relation to the murder.

"The searches are being conducted in a proportionate and appropriate manor and it is regrettable that police officers involved in the search in the Markets were subjected to attack."

However, the PSNI said it wished to thank those who had assisted the investigation and urged anyone with information to contact them.


Election Register Rise Hope

Hopes rose today that 80,000 people who dropped off the electoral register in Northern Ireland would be able to vote in future elections.

Democratic Unionist Nigel Dodds welcomed the British government`s announcement yesterday that people who failed to re-register during the annual canvass last autumn would be reinstated under a new bill.

House of Lords leader and Northern Ireland spokesperson Baroness Amos confirmed retrospective legislation would be rushed through Parliament in the next few weeks to tackle the registration problem.

Mr Dodds said the move would address the year on year decline in the number of registered voters.

"Official statistics showed that the electoral register was declining year on year to its current position of only 86% of potential voters registered throughout the province", the North Belfast MP added.

"The requirement to re-register annually has been blamed for a portion of this decline.

"Certain groups in society such as young people, the elderly and students are especially disenfranchised and we embrace any scheme aimed at getting more people on the electoral register."

Last November, Northern Ireland Office minister John Spellar confirmed plans to change the system which forces voters in the province to fill in electoral registration forms every year.

The system has been fiercely criticised by unionist and nationalist parties, with Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty accusing the Government of sanctioning the annual shredding of the electoral register.

Mr Dodds said his party was assured that voters would still have to produce personal photographic identification at the polls as a guard against electoral fraud.

They would also be asked to provide personal information such as a signature and national insurance number in a bid to stop voter impersonation.

The former Stormont Social Development Minister continued: "Whilst this legislation will add an extra 80,000 people to the electoral register, there is still an opportunity for those not on the register to obtain their democratic right.

"Rolling registration continues and anyone wanting to avail of this can contact their local DUP advice centre for help.

"The determination of the people of Iraq to exercise their right to vote in the face of great adversity should act as encouragement to people in Northern Ireland to ensure that their vote is not lost."


SF MLA Ruane Fined Over Road Tax

By Maureen Coleman
01 February 2005

South Down Assembly member and prominent Colombia Three campaigner Catriona Ruane was today fined £1,000 for having no road tax.

Ms Ruane, a Sinn Fein MLA and spokeswoman for the Cambodian Three Bring Them Home Campaign, was also ordered to pay £125 in costs at Belfast's Laganside Magistrates Court.

The MLA, whose address was given as Stockman's Court, Belfast was not in court today to face the charge of having a vehicle unlicensed on April 1, 2004.

The Sinn Fein Assembly member was also the former organiser of the annual West Belfast Feile.

But she rose to prominence when she was appointed spokeswoman for the campaign to release the three Irishmen held in Colombia.


 Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat
The Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat Currently Sits In A Car Park

 Princess Victoria
The Lifeboat Came To The Aid Of The Stricken Princess Victoria In 1953

Moves To Rescue Historic Lifeboat

A County Down lifeboat which went to the aid of the stricken Princess Victoria ferry 52 years ago could itself be saved.

The Sir Samuel Kelly rescued 33 of the 44 survivors of the ferry disaster in January 1953, and helped to save many lives along the coast off Donaghadee for more than 30 years.

Having retired from service in 1979, it now sits on wooden blocks in a car park near the town's marina.

Amid increasing concern that the once proud lifeboat is being allowed to rot away, people in the town are discussing how to restore it to its former glory.

David Gordon, chairman of Donaghadee Community Association, said after a meeting on Monday that there were encouraging signs the boat could be saved.

"We had quite a good meeting where everyone was in agreement that we have to do something about the Sir Samuel Kelly, hopefully within the next 18 months to two years," he said.

"We are talking about moving it onto the sea front near the war memorial - there's a nice area of greenery and we are looking at it becoming a memorial garden for the war dead and those who died at sea as well."

In the 1980s, budgetary constraints meant the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, which owns the boat, was finding it hard to maintain the vessel, so volunteers took it on loan and painstakingly restored it.

However, a lack of funding along with exposure to the elements and vandalism has left it in poor condition.

Billy Lennon, former Donaghadee lifeboat coxswain and chairman of the Sir Samuel Kelly Preservation Society, said it has been difficult to maintain the boat.

"We have tried for 18 years to improve the boat but it's very hard to keep it up to scratch," he said.

Mr Gordon said those interested in restoring the lifeboat included the local council, the town's historical society and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

"Our major help is going to have to come from funding bodies, either in Northern Ireland or in the rest of the UK," he said.

"If you'll pardon the pun, we are going to go full steam ahead with this because there are other developments happening along the sea front over the next couple of years, so we are hoping the Sir Samuel Kelly will be moved as part of that."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/01 10:45:21 GMT


Website Cancer Diarist Inoble Dies At 37

BBC journalist Ivan Noble, who wrote an online diary about his treatment for a brain tumour, has died aged 37.

Readers around the world had followed his progress on the BBC News website since he was diagnosed in August 2002.

Noble died on Monday and leaves a wife and two young children.

In his last post on January 30 Noble wrote: "This is my last diary.

"I have written it ahead of time because I knew there would be a point when I was not well enough to continue.

"That time has now come."

He went on: "What I wanted to do with this column was try to prove that it was possible to survive and beat cancer and not be crushed by it.

"Even though I have to take my leave now, I feel like I managed it.

"I have not been defeated."

Noble said the diary was his way of fighting back against the "powerlessness" of his situation.

Regular emails from readers had given him the strength to carry on, he said.

"The regular feedback from dozens and dozens of people every time I have written has been wonderful, especially in real times of crisis.

"I know that it has kept me going much longer than I would have without it and I am grateful."

And Noble signed off from his last column by urging people to take care of their health.

"I will end with a plea," he wrote. "I still have no idea why I ended up with a cancer, but plenty of other cancer patients know what made them ill.

"If two or three people stop smoking as a result of anything I have ever written then the one of them who would have got cancer will live and all my scribblings will have been worthwhile."

When Noble was first diagnosed, his daughter was six months old.

He subsequently married his partner and their son was born in July 2004.

Towards the end of last year doctors told Noble his cancer was in remission.

But in December he announced to readers that the tumour had begun to grow again and last month he was admitted to a London hospice. His period of remission had lasted four weeks.

Peter Clifton, editor of BBC News Interactive, said: "Ivan`s column and his tremendous spirit have been an inspiration to all of us, to his many readers around the world and to his colleagues at the BBC.

"The dialogue that opened up between Ivan and the readers was remarkable. We will all miss Ivan, and his column, but I think his humour, bravery and compassion will leave a lasting impression on us all."

Born in Leeds, Noble joined the BBC after graduating from Aston University in Birmingham.

He worked as an internet journalism trainer at the World Service before becoming a science and technology writer on the BBC News website.

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

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