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February 01, 2005

02/02/05 – Talks With US Ambassador on Irish Illegals

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

IT 02/02/05 Talks w/ US Ambassador On Irish Illegals Are Private
IT 02/02/05 NI Human Rights Body Faces Crisis Says Report
IT 02/02/05 Ahern And Blair Say IRA Is Only Obstacle To Settlement
IT 02/02/05 Police Arrest Third Man Over Stabbing
IT 02/02/05 Troops At Dail Had Orders To Shoot - O'Malley
IT 02/02/05 No 'Access To Papers' If UK Has Something To Hide
EX 02/02/05 Opin: I Want My Dad’s Murder Reviewed
IT 02/02/05 Greens - Museum Chief Told Not To Discuss Tara Route
IT 02/02/05 Apartment Plan For Historic Mill Approved
IT 02/02/05 New Abbey Director A Man Of Many Talents
IT 02/03/05 Intl Fund For IRL To Retarget Spending Towards Peace


James C. Kenny
James C. Kenny, Ambassador to Ireland

Talks With US Ambassador On Irish 'Illegals' Will Be Private

TDs and senators have bowed to the US ambassador Mr James C. Kenny's demand that talks about difficulties facing Irish illegal immigrants in the US should be held behind closed doors. Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent, reports.

Last week, the ambassador declined to take up an invitation to speak with the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs once he realised that the meeting would be in public.

Chaired by Fine Gael TD Mr Bernard Allen, the committee discussed Mr Kenny's reaction yesterday, eventually deciding to accept his request for a private encounter.

Clearly unhappy, Mr Allen said he believed that the ambassador had "an obligation to respond to reasonable and valid requests".

However, the committee had agreed to hold the meeting in private because the plight of Irish "illegals" was something that needed to "be pursued".

"It was decided that we should not over-react. The important thing now is to get progress on the issue," Mr Allen told The Irish Times.

However, the Cork North Central TD said it was "ironic that an ambassador from a free and open democracy should want to discuss a vital issue behind closed doors".

The US embassy last night continued to defend its decision, which was mandated by a US State Department ruling.

"Ambassador Kenny has asked the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Houses of the Oireachtas to defer the planned Tuesday meeting to discuss visa issues due to a misunderstanding about the venue and format of the meeting.

"Ambassador Kenny is fully prepared to meet with TDs, senators, and other Irish officials to discuss this and other important issues.

"However, Department of State policy is for ambassadors to meet with parliamentary representatives only informally, and Ambassador Kenny looks forward to meeting with concerned legislators on that basis," said a spokesman.

Before Christmas, Mr Kenny spoke publicly repeatedly about the case of Mr Alan Whelan and his cousin, Cliff, both aged 23, from Waterford, who were arrested in Montana after they overstayed their visa.

Last night, US sources pointed out that a public debate at an Oireachtas inquiry on television could have led to discussion about the private affairs of Irish citizens who have run into trouble.

The purpose of a meeting between the Oireachtas and the ambassador would be to debate in depth the issue. "This could not happen in public," one source told The Irish Times.

The two Waterford cousins, who were finally released before Christmas, were held at gunpoint, clapped in irons and held in a jail alongside murderers and rapists.

© The Irish Times



NI Human Rights Body Faces Crisis Says Report

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is facing a crisis that will only be overcome if it receives wholehearted support from the government and changes its own methods of operation, according to an independent report. Carol Coulter, Legal Affairs Correspondent, reports.

The report was written by Prof Stephen Livingstone and Dr Rachel Murray, of Queen's University Belfast and the University of Bristol respectively, in a project funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Prof Livingstone disappeared off the Antrim coast in March 2004 and is now presumed dead.

The NIHRC is one of the institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement. The establishment of a Human Rights Commission in the Republic was also part of the agreement, and this is now under the chairmanship of Dr Maurice Manning. A joint committee of the two commissions was also provided for by the agreement, although this has been slow to get off the ground.

However, the NIHRC has been riven by internal division, and six of its original members have resigned in the past two years. Its chief commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, is completing his contract this year, and his post has been advertised, but not filled.

The Livingstone-Murray report says that the NIHRC has "demonstrated significant industry and can claim some successes. However, these are overshadowed by its problems.

"Any human rights commission in Northern Ireland would have faced significant problems," it states. "However, the NIHRC has not responded well to these challenges.

"Its failure to develop a clear strategy and a unified commission has undermined its ability to act effectively as regards the promotion and protection of human rights for all."

One of the tasks given to the NIHRC was that of drawing up recommendations for a bill of rights for Northern Ireland.

"Nothing demonstrates the combination of external and internal problems more clearly than the bill of rights process," the report comments. "Arguably this was too big a project to give to a commission which already had a number of other difficult tasks, and the NIHRC was certainly inadequately resourced for the type of bill of rights process that may be envisaged."

The report points out that differences over the bill of rights led to a number of the resignations. Nonetheless, it comments, "those remaining on the Commission have still to produce a draft Bill, let alone marshal support for its acceptance."

The report is also highly critical of the British government, which, it says, failed to support and resource the commission adequately. For the future, it should ensure adequate funding and a transparent appointments process, provide the commission with adequate powers and ensure effective engagement with it.

The commission needs to develop a clear strategy and vision, and unite the commissioners, it says. It also needs to engage with all the political parties and be part of the political process as a whole, while retaining its independence of both government and NGOs.

The report was written after extensive research into other human rights commissions, including the South African one, and more than 100 interviews.

It drew up a number of benchmarks for effectiveness of HRCs, which Dr Murray said were also applicable to proposed commissions in Scotland and Britain, and to the existing one in Ireland.

These benchmarks concern the conditions under which a commission is created, including its degree of independence and resources; its performance within these parameters, including its strategic plan and ability to deal with crises; and its legitimacy in the eyes of those with whom it deals.

Prof Dickson welcomed the report and pointed out that the NIHRC had fully co-operated with it. He added that he did not agree with some of its conclusions, but said that the NIHRC would be studying its recommendations closely.

© The Irish Times


Ahern And Blair Say IRA Is Only Obstacle To Settlement

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Blair, joined forces last night to cast continuing IRA activity as the sole obstacle to a political settlement in the North. Frank Millar, London Editor, reports.

Speaking after more than an hour of talks at 10 Downing Street, Mr Ahern suggested that the progress made in previous negotiations in respect of all other outstanding issues was "still there . . . still in place".

However, he said it was not possible to move the process forward on an "inclusive" basis without a final and definitive response from the republican leadership on the issues of IRA criminality and weapons decommissioning.

Mr Ahern was speaking after his first face-to-face meeting with the prime minister to consider the political fallout from the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery.

Both premiers were briefed about the robbery and the ongoing police investigation by PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, and Garda Commissioner, Mr Noel Conroy.

Afterwards Mr Blair told reporters: "The obstacle now to a lasting and durable settlement in Northern Ireland is the continuing paramilitary activity and criminal activity of the IRA." Insisting that "it has got to stop and stop in its entirety - there can't be any compromise with that", Mr Blair echoed the Taoiseach's declared commitment to the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement. "If it is given up definitively and completely, the process can move forward on an inclusive basis."

However, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern faced complaints from the SDLP leader, Mr Mark Durkan, that they "shouldn't send a signal that this process can only move forward when the two governments and Sinn Féin are ready". Leading an SDLP delegation into Number 10 for separate talks following the prime ministerial summit, Mr Durkan said it was possible "to find a way forward without committing the mistake of exclusion" - a reference to his party's proposal for a panel of appointed commissioners to assume the role of the Northern Ireland Executive permitting the restoration of financial, legislative and other powers to the Stormont Assembly.

Following his meeting with Mr Blair, Mr Durkan welcomed the "clarity" of the statements made earlier by the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach. "It is not a matter of sending a signal that we are moving against any one party at this stage, but making clear that we are not waiting until we can all only move forward with the say-so of the IRA," he said.

Mr Blair is likely to explore the SDLP's plan with the Ulster Unionist leader, Mr David Trimble, in talks tomorrow.

© The Irish Times


Police Arrest Third Man Over Stabbing

A third man has been arrested by the PSNI in connection with the murder of a man from the Markets area of Belfast on Sunday night. Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor, reports.

Two others, including a senior republican, are facing police questioning about the stabbing of Mr Robert McCartney (33), a father of two.

Follow-up police searches in nearby nationalist areas on Monday and yesterday led to street disturbances in Upper Stanfield Street, said by residents there to be the worst in years.

The murder, the police response and the violence have sparked a flurry of allegations. Sinn Féin accused the police of heavy-handed old-style RUC tactics against a nationalist enclave.

Unionists charge republicans with kicking up a fuss and orchestrating street disturbances to provide a smokescreen for a paramilitary murder which is causing further turbulence in an already charged political atmosphere after the Northern Bank robbery.

Mr McCartney had been drinking at Magennis's Whiskey Café in the city centre on Sunday with two friends when a dispute erupted involving a woman, according to a local source.

"The row may have happened when a woman took offence when none was intended," one source said.

Two other men in the bar, one of them a senior republican, sent for republican paramilitary figures to bring weapons to the bar "to deal with" Mr McCartney and his drinking friends. Both these men are now understood to be in police detention.

Sources say the dispute was later resumed on the pavement outside the bar, and Mr McCartney was fatally wounded with a knife. One of his attackers was also injured and received treatment at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, where he was arrested.

Other members of the five-man group involved in the stabbing, had attended a Bloody Sunday anniversary commemoration in Derry earlier that day and may have had drink taken by the time they arrived back in Belfast.

Police yesterday carried out forensic investigations in the Markets and Short Strand areas and took away a white Ford car for further examination. Officers carrying out the searches came under attack from stone-throwers, and several were hurt and police vehicles damaged.

Mr Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin, an Assembly member for South Belfast, denounced the PSNI.

"It appears that the PSNI is using [ the] tragic stabbing incident as an excuse to disrupt life within this community, and the scale and approach of their operation are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable," he said.

Mr Sammy Wilson of the DUP said: "IRA-Sinn Féin are struggling desperately to minimise the damage to their image after the Markets murder of Rab McCartney at the weekend.

"They have been stung by the public outrage in the Short Strand where friends and family of the murdered man have openly confronted IRA/Sinn Féin representatives in the street, accusing the IRA of murdering Mr McCartney."

Sir Reg Empey of the UUP said Sinn Féin's response was "to reject decency and instead obfuscate, blame others and whip up tensions to protect the guilty".

© The Irish Times


Leinster House
Leinster House (Photographed before Leinster House 2000 was constructed)

Troops At Dail Had Orders To Shoot - O'Malley

Martin Wall

On one occasion in 1972, the Fianna Fáil government stationed hundreds of armed troops at the rear of Leinster House, with orders to shoot to kill if they came under attack, former cabinet minister Mr Des O'Malley told an Oireachtas sub-committee hearing yesterday.

Mr O'Malley, who was minister for justice at the time, told the Oireachtas sub-committee which is holding hearings into the second Barron report on bombings in the Republic in 1972/73 that this period was one of "great tension and fear".

He said that over 500 people had been killed in the North and South in 1972 and that the government in Dublin was facing three separate subversive organisations.

Two of the bombings investigated by Mr Justice Barron took place in December 1972, when the Dáil was debating legislation to give the Garda more powers.

"At one stage during the passing of the Offences Against the State Act, 7,000 or 8,000 people were outside the gates, in a fairly violent frame of mind a lot of the time.

"There were 300 troops here, at the back of Leinster House, at the back of the Department of Agriculture," he said.

Mr O'Malley said the soldiers had orders to shoot to kill, if necessary, and that this was the only basis on which the military authorities would permit them to be there.

Mr O'Malley said he accepted that there was not enough concern at the time for the victims of the bombings. Last week, relatives of those killed and injured expressed unhappiness to the sub-committee at the information they had received from the government at the time and in relation to the Garda inquiries.

Mr O'Malley acknowledged that "there had not been the degree of concern for the victims or relatives that one would think desirable now".

He said that one of the fundamental difficulties with criminal proceedings in this country was that injured parties or victims were often not regarded as being central to events but were considered only as witnesses.

Mr O'Malley said gardaí had made every effort to get to grips with subversives. He said the fact that they were not successful in securing convictions was a matter of regret but that it should not be thought of by relatives and victims as being for the want of trying.

Mr O'Malley said that during this period there had been "a marked lack of co-operation" between the security forces in the North and South.

He said that until the introduction of direct rule in the North, Stormont had had responsibility for security and "they had a hostile attitude towards the South and the authorities in the South".

He said there may have been co-operation between a couple of sergeants who helped each other out but there was little co-operation on a more senior level.

Questioned by the committee about the arrest of Garda Patrick Crinnion, who was found in the company of suspected British intelligence agent John Wyman, Mr O'Malley defended signing an order preventing the disclosure of confidential documents in the subsequent court case.

Mr O'Malley said that "one of the consequences [of the order] was that Crinnion and Wyman were not convicted of more serious charges".

"I was probably aware of this at the time but on balance had formed the view that it was in the public interest to protect the sources of the gardaí," he said.

Mr O'Malley criticised the visits by two Catholic Archbishops of Dublin, Dr John Charles McQuaid and Dr Dermot Ryan, to the then IRA leader Seán MacStiofain while he was on hunger and thirst strike after his arrest in 1972.

© The Irish Times


 Sean Donlon and Joe McCabe
Sean Donlon and Joe McCabe

No 'Access To Papers' If UK Has Something To Hide

Martin Wall

The British authorities have already released a lot of sensitive material under the 30-year rule, and we have to draw certain conclusions if they refuse to provide documents sought by the inquiry into bombings in the Republic in 1972/73, the former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Seán Donlon, told an Oireachtas committee yesterday.

The inquiry into the bombings by Mr Justice Barron was told by the British authorities this time last year that they had not been able to begin "a further major and time-consuming search" for documents .

However, giving evidence to the Oireachtas sub-committee into the second Barron Report, the former departmental secretary said that this was not credible because the British authorities would already have sifted through their records from the early 1970s for release to the public archives under the 30-year rule.

He said that while a lot of security-related material would have been left behind, official British papers for the early 1970s had already been released, and were available on the internet.

Mr Donlon recommended that the Oireachtas committee narrow its search for British documents, and look specifically for material which he identified as the "Laneside papers" and others generated by the Joint Intelligence Committee in Whitehall in London.

He warned, however, that "if the British decide they have something to hide, we are not going to get access to the papers".

Mr Donlon said that Laneside House in the early 1970s had been the base of "a senior British official of uncertain background". This official was a point of contact for paramilitary groups.

He said that on one occasion in 1972, when he arrived at the front door of the residence, he saw members of the Provisional IRA leaving by another exit.

Mr Donlon said that the Laneside papers, if available, could reveal "patterns of correspondence" between the British and the UDA and UVF.

He said the Joint Intelligence Committee, which was chaired in Downing Street by the cabinet secretary or one of his immediate deputies, dealt with all British security operations worldwide.

However, he cautioned that it was unlikely that this material would be forthcoming.

Former taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald told the committee that there was no evidence of British involvement in the bombings, but this could not be excluded.

Dr FitzGerald and former minister for justice Mr Des O'Malley indicated that it would be unrealistic for the Government to believe that there were not intelligence agents from other countries operating in Ireland.

© The Irish Times


I Want My Dad’s Murder Reviewed

THE reported comment by Ms Monica Duffy-Campbell (whose husband Tom was murdered in the 1972 Dublin bombing) that the British and Irish governments engaged in “collusion” concerning the bombings comes as no surprise to the family of Garda Richard Fallon.

For some considerable time now I have been trying to get the Government here to establish a public inquiry into the murder of my father who was killed on duty in 1970.

I believe that the Irish government of the day colluded with members of the gang who killed my father in order to ensure that those responsible never came to justice.

In a recent letter to me, the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, admitted that the “senior civil servant” at the time of my father’s death suspected that the gun that killed my father came from government sources.

Despite this damning public admission, acknowledging for the first time that my suspicions concerning my father’s murder have some credence, the minister still does not see fit to establish a public Inquiry into my father’s death and its aftermath.

Instead, some two and a half years after I first wrote to the minister, after engaging a solicitor and with much lobbying of personal contacts, he finally decided to respond to my correspondence.

The minister’s admission raises huge questions over the behaviour of some gardaí at the time and what steps may have been taken to protect the killers.

In his letter he also invited me and my representative to attend a meeting with him, the Garda commissioner and other senior gardaí in order to discuss my father’s case. I will accept the minister’s extraordinary invitation, though why he sees fit to assemble such a star chamber of members of the police force is beyond me.

Indeed the appropriateness of such a gathering in this context is quite perplexing, to say the least.

At this stage, and given his acknowledgement that the senior official of the day suspected government involvement in at least one element my father’s murder, it is my belief that the only proper course of action is to establish a public inquiry into the matter.

Indeed, I would go as far as to suggest that the whole period around the start of the troubles is deserving of a public inquiry from the perspective of the South.

We have collusion alleged between the British and Irish governments in the Dublin/ Monaghan bombings. I believe that elements within the state apparatus knew who killed my father and kept them out of jail.

There is the case of Dónal de Róiste whose life has had a shadow cast over it since his unexplained and, in my opinion, unfair expulsion from the army in 1969.

From my perspective, and though I agree with much of what is said, it is strange to see how our Government talks about and behaves towards Sinn Féin while the families of those murdered in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the family of Garda Richard Fallon and Dónal de Róiste have yet to see justice being seen to be done in the Irish Republic.

Finian Fallon
26 Northumberland Road
Dublin 4.


Pat Wallace
Rosemary Canavan and Pat Wallace, Director of the National Museum

Greens Say Museum Chief Was Told Not To Discuss Tara Route

Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter

The Green Party has called on the Government to explain why the director of the National Museum, Dr Pat Wallace, was advised not to attend an Oireachtas Committee hearing on the routing of the M3 motorway through the Tara archaeological complex.

The party's environment spokesman, Mr Ciarán Cuffe, said he had seen a letter to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment in which Dr Wallace said senior officials in the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism had advised him not to attend a hearing today.

Conservationists and certain local campaigners are set against the plans, arguing the proposed motorway route will irrevocably damage part of the complex.

While archaeologists working for the National Roads Authority have identified nearly 40 separate archaeological sites along the controversial section of the route, the authority has said these are not of sufficient significance to necessitate a rerouting.

Mr Cuffe said he had been hoping to ask Dr Wallace to comment on the archaeological importance of the site and the impact on it of the proposed motorway.

He said Dr Wallace told the committee in a letter yesterday that officials in the Department advised him that his appearance would be inappropriate "at this time" given his role as a statutory officer mentioned in the National Monuments Act.

Dr Wallace was not available to comment last night.

However, Government sources said it was their understanding that he had expressed willingness to take up the committee's invitation after he had discharged his statutory obligations under the Act to advise the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche.

Mr Cuffe said he was not convinced that the director's statutory powers prevented him from public comment at this time on the motorway plans.

He alleged that Dr Wallace had been "gagged" by the Government.

In the Dáil yesterday, Labour's environment spokesman, Mr Eamon Gilmore, was ruled out of order when he attempted to ask the Tánaiste, Ms Harney, whether the Government "instructed senior State officials not to appear before a committee".

Mr Gilmore said last night that the Government had a "predetermined agenda" to proceed with the M3 route adopted by the National Roads Authority. "It's to hell with Tara and to hell with heritage," he said.

© The Irish Times


Kilmainham Mill
Kilmainham Mill from The Royal Hospital

Apartment Plan For Historic Mill Approved

Plans to convert a 17th-century mill building in the historic Kilmainham area of Dublin into apartments have been approved by An Bord Pleanála, in spite of strong local objections. Frank McDonald, Environment Editor, reports.

The board ruled that the proposed development would not "adversely affect the historic character, appearance or integrity of Kilmainham Mills ... or the setting of other historic buildings in the vicinity".

Charona Ltd had sought permission for 48 apartments on the site, including 10 in the five-storey mill building beside the River Camac, which is a protected structure under the 2000 Planning Act.

However, the appeals board ordered the omission of a new four-storey block on the South Circular Road frontage because its height, bulk and design would be "out of character" in a conservation area.

It also ordered that another new block must be reduced in height by omitting two apartments and told the developers that they would have to submit full details of a proposed riverside walk on the site.

In granting permission subject to 26 conditions, the board said it took into account the protected status of the mill building and the provisions of a conservation plan for the site prepared by Dublin City Council.

The appeal had been lodged by Mr Damien Cassidy, chairman of the board of trustees of Kilmainham Gaol museum.

© The Irish Times


Fiach Mac Conghail
Fiach Mac Conghail

New Abbey Director A Man Of Many Talents

Fiach Mac Conghail has produced a range of work in theatre, cinema and the visual arts, writes Deirdre Falvey, Arts Editor

Fiach Mac Conghail, director- designate of the Abbey Theatre, has been described as a Jack of all trades.

The 40-year-old is not an actor, director or designer, nor has he any desire to be, but has produced a range of work in theatre, cinema and visual arts, since 1989. His gift is for bringing creators and artists together, and shepherding a project to fruition.

The Abbey must be hoping that his blend of artistic knowledge and ability, management experience, personable charm and, not least, collaborative way of working, is just what it needs to move forward at a challenging time and a turning point in the life of the National Theatre.

He is a man with his fingers in many pies and with a strong track record. He has been stage manager and administrator at the Gaiety; artistic director of the Project Arts Centre in Dublin (1992-99); Ireland's cultural director at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, and he has managed the redevelopment of the Irish College in Paris as a cultural centre.

He was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship in 2003 and was commissioner of the cultural programme for Ireland's EU presidency last year.

As a film producer he has made three short films for Paul Mercier; other production projects include Marina Carr's Ariel at the Abbey; a play about Malcolm Macarthur, The Book of Evidence, with Kilkenny Arts Festival, and the visual arts projects Medusae by Dorothy and Tom Cross and The Silver Bridge by Jaki Irvine.

On Monday he starts shooting a film version of Paul Mercier's Studs (written and directed by Mercier, starring Brendan Gleeson, to be released later this year), and he will continue until the end of April to work as a part-time adviser to the Minister for the Arts, Mr O'Donoghue.

He has done this two days a week since September 2002.

The son of Muiris Mac Conghail, former RTÉ controller of programmes, he is a native Irish speaker, was born and bred in Dublin, educated in Scoil Lorcáin and Coláiste Eoin and graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1988.

He is married to actress Bríd Ní Neachtain and they have two daughters

Fiach Mac Conghail's skills are both artistic and personal. He is very political, in all senses, has a sure hand, a massive range of contacts and people he has worked with and is well liked and respected.

He yesterday described the job of Abbey director as something he has coveted for years. "When I worked there in 1989 [ as then artistic director Noel Pearson's personal assistant] I aspired to come back, there's no shame in admitting it. Being director of the Abbey allows you to set the agenda, to create new contexts and ways of working."

Mac Conghail says he is well aware of the challenges facing him and is going in "with my eyes wide open".

He went for the job of artistic director when it last came up and was disappointed, but he commented yesterday that "in hindsight, the things I achieved in the five years have added to my strengths as a director. I have more skills now."

His period as adviser on arts has certainly added to those political skills, working in the Department with a Minister new to the portfolio through a period of change - the appointment of the new Arts Council and director, a new Arts Bill, a new policy for traditional arts, a recovery period and budget increases following savage cuts.

Coming in the midst of such a critical period, all eyes will be on him.

© The Irish Times


Int Fund For Ireland

Fund To Retarget Spending Towards Peace

A fund that was originally set up to counter high levels of unemployment and disadvantage in Northern Ireland and the Border counties is now shifting its focus to reconciliation work, because of the economic boom. Alison Healy reports.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) was set up by the Irish and British governments in 1986, after the late US politician, T. P. "Tip" O'Neill, visited his grandmother's farm in Donegal and was taken aback at the high unemployment in Derry and the north-west.

It is funded by governments in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and by the European Union.

Yesterday the IFI reported investment of €36.5 million in more than 300 economic and social projects in Northern Ireland and the six neighbouring counties in 2004.

Its outgoing chairman, Mr Willie McCarter, said reconciliation and cross-community work would be the direction for the future.

"After taking account of the general reduction in unemployment we decided to place greater emphasis on projects designed to promote reconciliation and wider cross-community contact and dialogue," he said.

Last year's investment brings to €768 million the total amount committed to more than 5,500 projects since the fund began in 1986.

Projects that received commitments for funding last year included:

The Leitrim Food Centre of Excellence (€450,000)

The Strabane-Lifford Waterways Project (€400,000)

The Clones Business Technology Park (€400,000)

The Midas digital media project in Dundalk (€331,000)

A youth programme funded 45 projects involving 950 young people. These were placements of cross-community groups in overseas work experience in Canada, the US, Europe and South Africa.

Mr McCarter said the IFI had helped transform social and economic conditions in some of the worst trouble spots in Northern Ireland.

Last night the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, paid tribute to Mr McCarter, who was chairman of IFI for 12 years.

© The Irish Times

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

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