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February 07, 2005

02/07/05 – SF Invite To White House ‘A Matter For Bush’

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 02/08/05 SF Invite To White House 'A Matter For Bush'
IO 02/07/05 Minister Presses 'Undocumented Irish' Case In US
EX 02/07/05 Government To Argue For Inclusion Of SF At White House
IT 02/08/05 No Move Expected On NI Process Until Autumn, Says Ahern
BB 02/07/05 Was The IRA Statement A Threat?
BT 02/07/05 Opin: 'War' Or Peace, The IRA Has No Chance Of Winning
IO 02/07/05 Five Charged With Real IRA Membership
EX 02/07/05 Opin: When Adams Attacks, He’s Addressing His Own Ranks
UT 02/07/05 Omagh Victims' Families Fight On Despite Court Snub
BB 02/07/05 Loyalist Faces Murder Charge
IC 02/07/05 Meehan Attacks MI5 Website’s Loyalist
IP 02/07/05 Opin: Linda Coleman - Watch Your Language
IO 02/07/05 Blair To Apologise In Days For Conlon Imprisonment
IT 02/08/05 Ahern To Propose IRA Counter-Motion
IT 02/08/05 No Paramilitary Plot In Belfast Killing, Says PSNI

QA 02/08/05 Has A Policy Of Appeasing SF Backfired In North? -VO

(Poster’s Note: Watch the Q&A show for a ‘lively’ debate on northern Ireland. Jay)

Questions and Answers - 07 February 2005
Presented by John Bowman; Panel:
Willie O'Dea, Minister for Defence
Mark Durkan, SDLP leader
Kathleen Lynch, Labour consumer affairs spokesperson
Dr John Neill, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin
Ger Colleran, Editor, The Daily Star
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator

Has A Policy Of Appeasing Sinn Féin Backfired In The North?


SF Invite To White House 'A Matter For Bush'

Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent, in New York

The question of inviting Sinn Féin leaders to the White House on St Patrick's Day is strictly a matter for "President Bush and his team".

This is the position being taken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, during his visit to the US this week for meetings with top officials and politicians.

After a wide-ranging discussion on UN matters in New York today with the Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, Mr Ahern travels to Washington for a round of talks tomorrow and Thursday with senior politicians and officials. The principal item on his itinerary is tomorrow's meeting with President Bush's special envoy for Northern Ireland, Dr Mitchell Reiss.

The latest report of the International Monitoring Commission is expected to be made public on Thursday, while Mr Ahern is still in the US.

Newspaper reports indicate that the IMC will blame the IRA for the €38 million robbery at the Northern Bank and will recommend sanctions in the form of a pay cut for Sinn Féin members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

At a working lunch in Washington tomorrow, Mr Ahern will brief Dr Reiss about the Government's position on the crisis in the peace process and the two men will review the latest developments. They will hold a press conference afterwards.

As special envoy, Dr Reiss was heavily involved in attempts at the end of last year to bring about agreement between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party. He is moving from his position as director of policy planning at the US State Department back into academic life but will remain as special envoy for the time being.

On the issue of inviting Sinn Féin leaders to the traditional White House reception on St Patrick's Day, a spokesman for the Minister said, "Who gets invited to the White House is entirely a matter for President Bush and his team".

In an editorial at the weekend, the influential Washington Post urged the President to refrain from inviting the "bosses" of what it called "an organised crime syndicate", namely, the IRA, to the White House.

Mr Ahern will also meet key politicians with an interest in Northern Ireland, including Senators Edward Kennedy, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and possibly Patrick Leahy. He will hold talks with Congressman James Walsh, chairman of the Friends of Ireland group, and make a courtesy call on the speaker of the House of Representatives, Congressman Dennis Hastert, who will host a St Patrick's Day lunch next month. The Minister is also expected to meet Irish-American Congressmen Richard Neale and Peter King.

As well as briefing US politicians, Mr Ahern will be interested in hearing from them how recent events such as the Belfast bank robbery are being received politically in the US.

The US State Department last week described as "unwelcome" the IRA's announcement that it was withdrawing its offer to decommission weapons. Mr Ahern has stressed the need for "cool heads" at this juncture in the peace process.

Reflecting his involvement in the relief effort after the tsunami disaster in south east Asia, Mr Ahern will have talks tomorrow morning with Mr Andrew Natsios, head of the main official US development agency, USAID.

The meeting was sought by Mr Ahern and this is the first time in recent memory that an Irish minister for foreign affairs has met a top US development agency official. The purpose of the meeting, according to a spokesman for the Minister, is to "explore ways the two countries' relief efforts might be better co-ordinated".

© The Irish Times


Minister Presses 'Undocumented Irish' Case In US

07/02/2005 - 22:05:45

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern promised to push for the rights of undocumented Irish immigrants tonight as he arrived in the US for a five-day visit.

Mr Ahern met members of the Irish community at the Emerald Isle Immigrant Centre in Queens, New York, and pledged to take their concerns to the highest level with US authorities.

Some 273 Irish citizens were deported from the United States between 2000 and 2004 and Mr Ahern said he would do all he could to get members of the community a sympathetic hearing.

“The Minister is acutely aware of the differences and challenges facing undocumented Irish in America,” his spokesman said.

“His visit to the immigration centre illustrates the difficulties these people are facing.”

However, Mr Ahern acknowledged that after the September 11 attacks the Bush Administration had to stringently address security issues in order to protect its borders.

Many Irish living in New York are unable to go home to visit their families as they would be unable to return.

The US has also clamped down on the issuing of documentation such as driving licences, demanding proof of legal residency.

Mr Ahern will raise the matter with senators including Edward Kennedy, John McCain and Hillary Clinton on Thursday.

Tomorrow the Minister will meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to discuss the UN summit to take place in New York in September and the findings of the recent independent interim report on the Oil for Food scandal in Iraq.

He is expected to suggest Ireland, as a neutral country, plays a central role in pushing for UN reform.

“He believes in a better regional balance for the Security Council,” his spokesman said.

The Minister will also travel to Washington where he will update senior Bush Administration officials on recent developments in the peace process and meet US special envoy Dr Mitchell Reiss.

Mr Ahern said it was an important time to brief US politicians and contacts on recent developments in Northern Ireland.


6.1 News: David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports on developments in the latest crisis in the Northern Ireland peace process

9 News: David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports ahead of tomorrow's Cabinet meeting
---- WirIStPSk.asp

Government To Argue For Inclusion Of SF At White House

By Harry McGee, Political Editor THE Government will argue for the inclusion of Sinn Féin at the White House St Patrick’s Day ceremony despite the round of denunciations the party will face later this week.

Three days ahead of the International Monitoring Commission's (IMC) report on the Northern Bank robbery which blames the IRA for the raid and for recent punishment shootings Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern acknowledged that it would cause further damage to the process.

However, as he departed for a visit to the US, Mr Ahern said that he would urge the White House not to exclude Sinn Féin from US President George W Bush's "shamrock ceremony" on St Patrick's Day.

"The thing that I will be saying is that all parties should be treated equally and (none) should be excluded," Mr Ahern told RTÉ yesterday.

While it has not yet made any decision on inviting Sinn Féin to the White House St Patrick's Day ceremony, the Bush administration last week described the two IRA statements as "unwelcome." In a further sign of increasing US antipathy to the Republican movement, an editorial in the Washington Post yesterday described the IRA as an organised crime syndicate. The Government also confirmed last night that it will not back a Fine Gael-sponsored motion in the Dáil tonight that is highly condemnatory of Sinn Féin and the Republican movement.

The Cabinet is expected to approve a counter-motion at its weekly meeting this morning to that proposed by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be the main speaker for the Government.

According to its spokesperson, the Government does not take issue with any of the criticisms raised in the FG motion, but is concerned that it does not make reference to the continuing efforts to find a way forward out of the current impasse.

The Cabinet will also discuss the IMC report this morning ahead of its simultaneous publication by the Irish and British governments on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, in Belfast yesterday, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams accused the Government of sending out "mixed messages" about his party's status.


No Move Expected On NI Process Until Autumn, Says Ahern

Patsy McGarry

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, has said he does not expect further developments in the Northern peace process until the autumn. Emphasising the need to be positive after a month of negativity, he said yesterday: "It is time to stabilise things, to get on with it."

"Through the Good Friday Agreement itself, Weston Park, the joint declaration and the comprehensive agreement of last December, there is ample context for everyone to move forward. The issues are now clear. What needs to be done is clear."

Speaking at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin, at the launch of the 2005 booklet of the Centre for Cross-Border Studies, he said the Government would "continue to engage with the British government and all parties to advance all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement".

"Ultimately we will have to come around to the starting line again. Everyone may not get to it again. History says that's the way it always was. History is usually right." He said the people he did not expect at the starting line again were those supporting the physical force tradition; that this was a feature of Irish history. They would "drift off", he said.

He had anticipated the failure to reach agreement last December. "I saw it coming last year. In April 2003 and October 2003 we got very close to the line. The issue was the same. I am not going to say very much about it, though it is not fully understood by the wider audience. The same issue, the same specific issue created difficulties for the negotiations." He confirmed later the issues were decommissioning and criminality.

Meanwhile, the Government looked forward "to working intensively over the coming months to ensure that the momentum of North-South co-operation to mutual benefit - and I stress that it must continue to pass that test - is maintained and developed".

Referring to past relations he quoted a description from the booklet by former editor of The Irish Times Mr Conor Brady of "the great, icy silence" between North and South in the 1950s.

"Measured against that backdrop, what had happened to North-South relations in the almost seven years since the Good Friday Agreement has been remarkable." He said he looked forward to the day - and he strongly wished it to be soon - when representatives of the Northern Ireland parties were back in the North-South Ministerial Council.

It was also "essential that North-South co-operation is not the exclusive preserve of the politicians or the public sector". The private sector, trade unions, the farming sector, the voluntary and community sector, the universities and other educational institutions, all had a critical role to play also in the process, he said.

It was where the role of the Centre for Cross-Border Studies was " so important and valuable". He thanked its "tireless director, Andy Pollak, who I know gets great support from the board and his colleagues". He was pleased they shared their Armagh premises with the Joint Secretariat of the North-South Ministerial Council.

© The Irish Times


Was The IRA Statement A Threat?

By Brian Rowan
BBC Northern Ireland security editor

The IRA spoke last week - using the voice of "P O'Neill" - to tell the British and Irish governments not to underestimate the seriousness of the current situation.

Only hours earlier, there had been another statement in which the republican organisation withdrew its offer to put all its arms beyond use.

This was the IRA speaking after another failed political negotiation and after it had been linked to the £26m Northern Bank robbery in Belfast. As the dust settles on these latest republican words, what are we to read into them?

Were they really intended as a threat?

Is the ceasefire really under pressure?

Does the IRA think the situation could be improved by going back to "war"?

Or is all this about clouding the fact that most believe that the IRA lost the"whodunnit" argument on the bank raid, and is it now threatening to "get its big brother" for those who refuse to believe their denials? That the IRA failed to explain what it meant by the "seriousness of the situation", has raised fears of the worst - that maybe the republican leadership really is thinking about the future of the ceasefire.

Sinn Fein has taken up a position of refusing "to interpret, explain, rationalise or contextualise" what the IRA is saying.

But others have to try to provide that analysis.

And while the Northern Ireland Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, accepts that the IRA still has the capacity to return to "war", he does not believe that is the intention.

Another source spoke of "general disquiet and morale problems" inside the IRA, "but nothing to suggest even a taster of violence".

That internal disquiet is the combination of a number of factors.

There is the failure of the political negotiations at the end of last year, when the IRA offered complete decommissioning and a "new mode" in an attempt to hook Ian Paisley into a power-sharing government and to bring about sweeping security changes and further progress on policing.

That negotiation failed on the DUP's demand for photographic proof of decommissioning - failed on what republicans believed was an attempt by Mr Paisley to humiliate the IRA.

The republican view is that the two governments should have pushed on with implementing those parts of the deal which they had control over, but that did not happen - and then came the bank raid. In the fall-out, the governments have said the IRA is the only obstacle in the way of progress, but republicans disagree.

"On the back of what the IRA offered in December, on the back of Paisley's sackcloth and ashes, they (the governments) need to get real," one source told me.

"They are filtering things through a unionist agenda," he said.

And it is because of this, the source believes, that a mood of internal disquiet has now emerged in the recent utterances of the IRA and the Sinn Fein leaderships.

There is a widely-held view that maybe the IRA sanctioned the bank "job" to manage its internal difficulties and to deal with those problems of morale.

But if that was the case, then it has backfired.

Why? Internally, the republican denials have meant there can be no celebration, and externally, everyone else now has the IRA in the political dock.

Internal problems have become external ones.

The government also believes that the denials from P O'Neill and from Messrs Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are adding to the current difficulties, because they are not believed.

"The credibility issue is now much bigger than the robbery," one source said.

"We have no reason to believe that certain people (Adams and McGuinness) didn't know," another government source said. "Whether they had full details is another matter.

"My feeling, and it's no more than that, (is) they may have known in general terms and not in particulars. We do not believe that they knew nothing," the source continued.

The source said the republican leadership had "miscalculated" both in allowing the robbery and, then, in how it had responded and denied its actions afterwards.

But republicans are dismissive of all this. They say these intelligence assessments are being made by the same people who "lied" about the murder of Pat Finucane and about security force collusion with loyalists.

This week marks the 16th anniversary of the killing of the Belfast solicitor.

One of the things we know the police did after the recent Belfast bank raid, was to look again at the intelligence information they had on republican meetings in the period before the robbery - meetings attended by both senior Sinn Fein and IRA figures.

But, in terms of trying to assess whether it was at one of these meetings that authorisation was given for the robbery, no-one can be that definitive.

Across the republican movement many issues were under discussion at this time - decommissioning, the movement of weapons for that purpose and a new IRA statement as part of the republican contribution to trying to get a new political deal.

The government holds the view that the IRA would know that a bomb would blow the republican political project apart

For now, neither side is backing away from its position. The police and the governments are convinced the IRA was behind the robbery, republicans say they were not.

And, it is in this stand off, that the IRA has warned of a serious situation.

In the past, the police and the other intelligence agencies have read the IRA's intentions wrongly.

The Canary Wharf bombing which ended the original ceasefire in February 1996 is one example of that.

But who would look foolish if that were to happen again?

Would it be those who have assessed that republicans are still committed to the peace process and that Adams and McGuinness are still in control, or would it be those who might consider triggering another bomb?

Hugh Orde is as sure as he can be that the IRA is not going back to "war", and the government holds the view that the IRA would know that a bomb would blow the republican political project apart.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/07 17:34:15 GMT


Opin: Be It 'War' Or Peace, The IRA Has No Chance Of Winning

Malachi O'Doherty

07 February 2005 The Provisional IRA may or may not be going back to the ungainly slaughter it calls an "armed struggle" but if it is not, then it will either have to concede defeat or redefine radically the underlying philosophy with which it approaches the peace process.

In their first main statement last week the IRA showed no sign of doing either. If I was feeling like somebody else's idea of a legitimate target, I would go back to looking under the car again in the mornings.

I'm sorry but that is the plain logic of the current stand-off.

The statement reminds us that when the peace process is perceived by the IRA to be going against it then it reaches for a bomb and a target list.

If the IRA decides against that now it will be in a new mode after all and under greater humiliation than even Ian Paisley had in mind.

Yet the IRA loses either way. If it does not go back to war at the next reversal, then its bluff will have been called. If it goes into the next two years and more of likely stalemate without raising a threat, then it will have been neutered.

From the point of view of many, this will be proof of the success of the peace process. From the perspective of republicans it will be proof of its failure. Hell slap it into them.

If they don't resume their campaign of murder and sabotage they will lose the argument, by default, that political stalemate produces violence.

That argument was most recently rehearsed in last week's statement, the one that many journalists told us we didn't need to worry about.

That will have retrospective implications for the whole IRA campaign. Republicans tell us that that campaign emerged inevitably from an unresolved constitutional question - as if Gerry Adams, at 18 - couldn't sleep at night for fretting about the border and had no option but to rally the lads.

If the deadlock does not stir him and others in the same way now, then the IRA will go down in history as people who overreacted then and had more sense when they were older.

On the other hand, if they do resume their campaign they will lose other arguments. They will lose the argument that they were not criminal. Ten hunger strikers died to assert that.

Many historians have recorded that the IRA went to "war" in the first place either because of the need to defend the Catholic community against attack or out of a rage driven by discrimination and deprivation. If they go back to "war" without any of these justifications being available to them - and they currently aren't - that will cast a backward shadow on the old campaign and invalidate rationalisations which were a credit to them.

What might tempt them to "war"?

Well, none of the allies they had at the start of the first ceasefire are in place any more. Then they had a Taoiseach, an American President and an SDLP leader vouching for their good intentions. They still have Blair willing to listen but for how long?

Some will argue that they would not go back on the eve of an election.

But the last time they broke their ceasefire was just before the Forum election and with the IRA bombing London, Manchester and Thiepval they fought elections to local government, Westminster and the Dail and on each occasion increased their vote.

The IRA being off ceasefire did not damage their vote then.

Pull that off again and we will have a Catholic majority vote for a Republican Movement at "war."

This would be Sinn Fein's greatest ever political achievement. Adams, for the first time, would have the Mandela defence at his disposal, that he had the people with him.

OK, many will argue that they didn't vote for violence but for peace and justice and that nobody told them that Gerry Adams was on the "army council" of the IRA.

They may similarly say now that they have not voted to reject the police but to help Gerry take republicans on to the Policing Board.

It will be a sad day for the rest of us when our only defence against the argument that the IRA is fighting for the people is that the people are stupid.

If I was on the "army council," seeing that prospect in front of me, I would vote with my thumb down.

Start looking under your car again.


Five Charged With Real IRA Membership 2005-02-07 21:00:06+00

Four men and a woman were charged tonight with Real IRA membership after a firebombs find at a house in Northern Ireland.

They were also accused of possessing the type of devices used by dissident republican terrorists in a developing campaign against shops and businesses across the North.

Police charged the five, all in their twenties, after three incendiary bombs were discovered in Ballymena, County Antrim at the weekend.

British army explosives experts were called to a house at Fisherwick Gardens in the town to defuse the devices during the security alert.

All of the accused are due to appear at a special court in Ballymena tomorrow to face charges of having explosives with intent to endanger life or damage property and membership of a proscribed organisation.


Opin: When Adams Attacks Everyone Else He’s Really Addressing His Own Ranks

By Fergus Finlay

“RESPECT our mandate.” With which political party do you associate that demand? Every political party has a mandate, to a greater or lesser extent.

One political party, Sinn Féin, regularly demands that everyone else should respect theirs.

Isn't it time that Sinn Féin began to respect its own mandate? Maybe, just maybe, Sinn Féin believes that it was given a mandate for whatever level of violence or criminality it decided to engage in. It wasn't.

In every constituency I know, Sinn Féin was given a mandate for peace, for the perception of hard constituency work on the ground, in some cases for the perception that they were willing to go to lengths in relation to drug-pushers that weren't open to other parties. There are bits of that mandate that people like me find hard to swallow.

But what I'm absolutely certain of is that nobody down here voted for Sinn Féin in the belief that the republican movement might, one day soon, be threatening to go back to war. And yet that's what they did this week.

And they did it, it seems, in a fit of pique because the two governments didn't seem to take their first statement seriously enough. How are we supposed to react to an organisation that carries on like that? How are we supposed to react to their threats?

At a meeting the other night, I heard a person associated with the Irish Government saying: "we're coming to the point where we might have to park peace in order to confront the republican movement." And at a function the other day, I met a British government official who told me there wasn't the remotest chance of any breakdown of the IRA ceasefire.

"They lost interest in the peace process years ago," he said airily. "Now the only thing they're interested in is the size of their bank accounts." Because the context of both those remarks was private, I can't name the people involved.

But on the RTÉ News on Sunday, I heard Gerry Adams saying that the only reason the Government had decided to attack Sinn Féin over the Northern Bank robbery and the issue of criminality was because they wanted to hide their own embarrassment over the Ray Burke affair.

The last of these three remarks is easily the most fatuous. I don't carry any torch for the present Government, but it is simply not true to say that they decided to use Sinn Féin criminality as a diversion to try to mask the publicity surrounding the jailing of Ray Burke. Gerry Adams knows that he is making the crudest of propaganda points when he says that.

When he goes on to say that the main opposition parties didn't raise the connection between Fianna Fáil and Ray Burke in the Dáil because they were too busy talking about Sinn Féin, he is asking us to believe in some nutty conspiracy theory that not even his most innocent customers are going to buy.

I notice that a number of political commentators, especially in Northern Ireland, seem to be attracted to the general Sinn Féin proposition that the real reason behind all the criticism of Sinn Féin is fear of their electoral growth.

According to this theory, Fianna Fáil will suffer most if Sinn Féin continue to attract votes and win seats in the way they did in the local and European elections. So Fianna Fáil find it very useful to be able to have a real go at Sinn Féin now over the issue of criminality.

The only problem with this theory, of course, is that whatever balls are being thrown in Sinn Féin's direction, Sinn Féin made them.

For as long as the republican movement feels that it alone will decide what constitutes criminality, and what doesn't, and for as long as they feel free to dismiss any and all criticism on that basis, they have no-one to blame but themselves for the criticism they get.

They seem to have entirely forgotten the Proclamation of Independence by which they claim to set so much store. The call to arms in that document ends by calling on republicans to ensure that "no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine."

But at one level it doesn't matter whether the conspiracy theories are daft, or whether the motives being attributed by Sinn Féin to everyone else are honest or not. The fact that they are still willing to engage in such a petulant response, that they seem unwilling to acknowledge the real and deep anger in the community over their behaviour, is dangerous.

Just as dangerous as the blasé and naive way in which the Irish and British officials I quoted above seem willing to dismiss the threat of a deterioration in the peace process.

When Gerry Adams attacks everyone else, of course, he has only one audience in mind his own. The more stridently he attacks everyone else, the more pressure he is feeling from his own ranks. At times like this, you will never hear Gerry Adams offering even the most oblique criticism of the IRA.

Martin McGuinness occasionally sounds like he is capable of criticism, as when he said on RTÉ on Sunday that the people who carried out the bank robbery didn't give a damn about the peace process. But note the dual purpose of that sentence: if it was republicans who carried out the robbery, they deserved the criticism of other republicans; but since the people who carried out the robbery didn't give a damn about the peace process, sure they couldn't be real republicans anyway.

When a political leader is incapable of addressing any audience except his own, there is only one reason fear.

What Gerry Adams seems to be afraid of is a split in the ranks of republicanism. All his utterances and actions, and the willingness to tolerate behaviour within his own ranks that he knows to be damaging, point in that direction.

The last IRA statement, with its crude threat to the peace process, suggests strongly that there are some at least in the republican movement who think there is only one kind of language the rest of us understand. In worrying more about a split than anything else, the republican leadership is hugely underestimating the rest of us. There will be no back-down in the face of a threat; in fact, the rest of democratic politics will close ranks against a republican threat.

In a real sense, and not a derogatory one, this is a time for growing up on their part. We are years past the ceasefire, years past the Good Friday Agreement.

But the maturing of the process hasn't been accompanied by the maturing of all its elements. If they care about the process, if they really believe in their own mandate, the republican movement will get away now from the carping criticism and the bullying behaviour. It's their peace process as much as anyone else's.

They can decide to save it or destroy it. We're overdue an act of generosity and vision by the people who claim a mandate for peace. It's not too late.


Omagh Victims' Families Fight On Despite Court Snub

The families of Omagh bomb victims tonight vowed to press on with a civil action against those they believe to be behind the atrocity. By:Press Association

They suffered a setback earlier today when an application for documents to aid their civil case was rejected at Dublin`s Special Criminal Court.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was one of 29 people killed in the August 1998 bombing of the County Tyrone town, expressed disappointment at the ruling. Michael Gallagher

"The authorities have always been quick to give sympathy and slow to give actual support. The fight goes on and we have faith that justice will be done and we will get a fair trial in the end," he said.

In a written judgment, the three-judge panel said it did not have jurisdiction to agree to release trial transcripts, books of evidence and statements related to the 1998 atrocity.

"Having considered the arguments advanced and the law as we see it applying to this request, and being conscious of the anxiety of the applicants in relation to this issue, the court is unable to make the direction requested by reason of lack of jurisdiction and therefore refuses to accede to the application," it stated.

The families are seeking aggravated damages and individual claims from five men they suspect of carrying out the bombing.

Michael McKevitt, Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna, Liam Campbell and Colm Murphy are being sued for £14 million compensation by the Omagh Victims Civil Action Group.

The case is expected to be heard at the High Court in Belfast later this year.

At present it has reached the discovery stage which includes numerous applications before the Belfast and Dublin courts.

Jason McCue, a lawyer representing the families, said the fundamental right to justice would prevail in the end.

"The Irish court has decided it is not in a position to help out on this occasion, which is a great pity. But we have no doubt that the Belfast court, recognising the lengths they have gone to, will now make the usual and appropriate orders to ensure their Article 6 rights are maintained," he added.


Loyalist Faces Murder Charge

A Belfast man who fled Northern Ireland with loyalist Johnny Adair's 'C' Company is on trial for murdering a man he called "a friend". Wayne Stephen Dowie, 25, appeared in Belfast Crown Court on Monday, accused of the murder of Jonathan Stewart.

Mr Stewart, (22), was shot six times at a house in Manor Street, north Belfast, on 27 December 2002.

A prosecuting lawyer said Mr Dowie was masked when he allegedly murdered Mr Stewart.

However, he said that he was still identified by two former friends.

Mr Dowie, whose address at the time of his arrest was given as Chorley New Road, Bolton, denies the murder.

The prosecuting lawyer also told trial judge Mr Justice Hart that when Mr Dowie, who lived in the same street, fled Northern Ireland with "a number of well-known personalities - who appeared to give allegience to a man called Johnny Adair" - a man who had previously given him an alibi, retracted it.

The lawyer added that Mr Dowie later claimed the man did so after coming "under pressure from the UDA".

The court heard that Mr Stewart had been at the house in Manor Street attending an impromptu party, at which Mr Dowie was also a guest.

The lawyer said that he left the party only to allegedly return, masked and armed, and forced his way into the kitchen where he initially shot Mr Stewart once, then stood over him before firing repeatedly into his prone body.

The lawyer said that despite being masked, Mr Dowie was identified by two people.

Mr Dowie was initially arrested three days after the murder, but was released after claiming Mr Stewart was "a friend" and after he had been given an alibi.

He had claimed he had left the party at about 0500 GMT and returned to the house in Manor Street where he lived with another man who initially backed-up his alleged story.

However, the man later retracted the alibi, the court was told.

The murder was linked to a feud between elements of the UDA although Mr Stewart was not a member of any paramilitary organisation.

The trial continues.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/07 18:42:16 GMT


Meehan Attacks MI5 Website’s Loyalist

Sinn Féin has branded an MI5 website that refers to loyalists being “vigilante” groups as “a nonsense”.

The information contained on the web page of the British intelligence community says that loyalists originally came into being to protect their communities from republican attacks. “Loyalist vigilante groups were originally formed in the 1960s and 1970s to defend their neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland against republican violence,” the website says. It goes on to say, “but (they) swiftly developed into terrorist organisations”.

An angry Martin Meehan said, “they are trying to turn history on its head. Everyone knows what happened here in the 1960s, but this so-called British intelligence organisation seems to want it recorded another way,” he said. “What happened to Peter Ward and the assassination of John Scullion. “There was no republican campaign at that particular time.”

John Scullion and Peter Ward were Catholics murdered by the UVF in 1966. UVF leader Gusty Spence and two other men were jailed for their part in the murder of Peter Ward outside a bar in Malvern Street in the Shankill area.

“Then in 1969 it was the UVF who blew up the water pipelines to blame it on republicans and how can you tell the hundreds of Catholic families burned out of Hooker Street, Herbert Street and Brookfield Street that their attackers were vigilantees.

“That side of the Crumlin Road was burned down by B Specials supported by their Orange hordes before any republican campaign.

“These are people who are trying to turn our history on its head.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Opin: Linda Coleman - Watch Your Language

You know our country’s back on the right track when the nightly news does an exposé on the sexual orientation of cartoon characters.

Sure, there was the election in Iraq and the upcoming debate on Social Security, but the real breaking news of the past week was that SpongeBob SquarePants came out of the closet.

“When we come back,” Charlie Gibson promised, at the commercial break, “Is SpongeBob SquarePants gay?”

It’s the biggest news story since the Teletubbies were “outed” by Jerry Falwell.

Well, not all the Teletubbies, of course, just Tinky Winky.

“He is purple -- the gay-pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay-pride symbol,” Falwell warned us in the idyllic days of pre-9/11 America, when there was nothing to threaten our life and liberty except for the strange inhabitants of children’s television. Good thing Falwell was around at the time to determine Tinky Winky’s gender. I had no idea that thing was a “he” until Falwell said so. Since it skipped along carrying a purse, I naturally assumed Tinky Winky was a girl. See how easy it is for innocent people like me to be led astray?

Nice to know the terrorist threat level has diminished to such a point that we can finally get back to what’s really important in the good old U.S. of A., namely saving people like me from the suspicious activities of SpongeBob and his undersea buddies. What would clueless people like me do without the guidance of the religious right? I can barely figure out what those characters are supposed to be, much less the nature of their lifestyle.

The story so far is that a sponge, a starfish, and a crab have recruited cartoon characters from other shows to make a video promoting “tolerance,” a new code word for the “pro-gay agenda,” according to the American Family Association.

Sources say Winnie the Pooh and Big Bird might be involved, along with a cartoon rabbit named Buster Bunny. They’re working on a video for National We Are Family Day, which shows a diverse collection of cartoon birds, crabs, rabbits and other creatures getting along with one another.

“Contrary to what many media accounts have said, this issue is not about SpongeBob being homosexual,” said AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon in a press statement. “It is about an attempt to promote homosexuality to elementary school children.”

So when you’re writing letters this week, watch out for the word “tolerance.” Goodness knows Irish republicans have enough problems without being accused of promoting homosexuality.

Quite by accident, I also discovered a few other words we should be careful about these days, namely “Republican,” “Democracy” and “Freedom.”

While cruising cyberspace recently, looking for debate on Irish politics, I met a fairly reasonable Unionist wanting to discuss the Agreement and the possibility of a United Ireland. This guy (or girl—I couldn’t tell by the name. It was one of those androgynous names that could go either way.) Anyway, this person indicated that “people on the ground” in his (or her) community were interested in the idea of a United Ireland. He/She was willing to discuss the topic with anyone on this particular message board.

Well, I enthusiastically jumped at the chance to present our case for a United Ireland! I introduced myself as a supporter of the Republican Movement in the States, and declared that we were interested in helping facilitate dialogue, restore the Assembly and bring Democracy back to the North, leading eventually to the freedom of an independent 32-county Irish republic.

I was surprised when this person, whom I’ll refer to from now on as T.W., for Tinky Winky, jumped all over me for my honest, friendly pledge of support from those of us in the States. T.W. started lecturing me on how their community won’t be forced into Democracy at the point of a gun—typical rhetoric, I thought at first, to be expected from anyone who lived through “the Troubles.” But as T.W. continued with admonishments against “looking for freedom down the barrel of a gun,” it finally dawned on me what was going on.

Our Prez had just given his Inaugural Address, an expansive declaration about spreading freedom all over the world. Of course, we in the Republican Movement are used to picking up clues from Presidential speeches about how the administration intends to treat Sinn Féin supporters. But imagine, just this once, that you’re an Ulster Unionist. Now, replay this sentence from the Inaugural Address and tell me what you hear:

“Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent…the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors…”

Yikes! When you think of it from their point of view, Bush seems like one of us! Or what they think we are, anyway. To them, Bush is the ultimate nightmare—an unrepentant Republican with an army, ready to impose democracy on anyone without free elections.

Thankfully, Bush’s dad stepped in to do damage control, explaining to the world that he son didn’t mean to sound so militaristic. “It doesn't mean instant change in every country,” Bush Senior said in a press conference. That's not what he intended.”

Thanks, Bush Senior. I passed the word along to T.W. and any worried Unionists who were bracing themselves for the U.S. military invasion of the

Shankill Road .

Unionists can rest assured that when our President is talking about freedom and democracy, he’s not even thinking about British Occupied Ireland. Our President’s usage of the word “republican” is a bit different, too.

All right, now, back to work, everybody—there are letters to be written, explaining that headlines reading “IRA Won’t Disarm, Hindering Peace Process” should read “British Hindered Peace Process for Decade, So IRA Withdraws Offer.” Explain that Irish republicans want peace, we want justice, we want tolerance—or “getting along,” or whatever.


Blair To Apologise 'In Days' Over Wrongful Conlon Imprisonment

07/02/2005 - 19:09:07

British Prime Minister Tony Blair could apologise within days over the wrongful imprisonment of father and son Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon for an IRA bomb attack on the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford.

Sources at Westminster said a House of Commons question on the case of Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon would be put to the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

The Conlon family has been seeking a public apology from the British government for the miscarriage of justice and have compiled a petition which has been signed by tens of thousands of people.

Their case was brought to international attention through the Oscar-nominated movie In the Name of the Father, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Gerry Conlon and Pete Postlethwaite as Guiseppe.

A House of Commons source said: “A question is being prepared by the SDLP for Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday which will provide ample opportunity for public recognition of the wrongs inflicted on the Conlons.

“There have been positive signs in recent days from (Northern Ireland Secretary) Paul Murphy and from Tony Blair that an apology is coming.”

Gerry Conlon was one of four people – Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson – arrested in 1974 and wrongfully jailed for an IRA bomb attack on the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford.

The blast killed five people – four soldiers and a civilian. The four prisoners became known as the Guildford Four.

Gerry Conlon’s father and members of Annie Maguire’s family were also later arrested and jailed for the attack and other bombings in Woolwich, south east London after they were allegedly identified as being involved in the bomb plot in confessions extracted by the police.

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

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

In June 1991, the Court of Appeal also overturned the sentences on the Maguires and Guiseppe Conlon.

Last year in a letter to SDLP leader Mark Durkan, the government privately acknowledged the miscarriage of justice but the family wants public recognition.

Daniel Day Lewis and ‘In the Name of the Father’ director Jim Sheridan have joined with thousands of people who have signed the petition.

Bertie Ahern and Mark Durkan also lobbied Tony Blair directly during Downing Street meetings last week.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy has said he expects the Prime Minister to make a public apology to the Conlons and after the meeting with Mr Ahern last week, Mr Blair said he would comment soon.


Ahern To Propose IRA Counter-Motion

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

The Government will seek to change an Opposition Dáil motion that blames the IRA for the Northern Bank raid and criticises Sinn Féin for its attitude towards IRA criminality.

The final terms of the Government's counter-motion will be put to the Cabinet today by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, in advance of the opening of a two-day debate beginning tonight.

Last night, the Government spokeswoman said the Government did not oppose the Opposition's motion, though it believed that "it doesn't include a way forward. There is no provision for where we should go to next. That is something that the Taoiseach would like to have included," she declared.

The Fine Gael-proposed motion, supported by Labour and the Greens, notes the assessment by the Irish and British governments that the IRA was responsible for the pre-Christmas bank raid. It notes "with deep concern the recent comments by the Sinn Féin leadership regarding its interpretation of what constitutes criminality".

Furthermore, the motion condemns the Provisional IRA's statements last week as "retrograde" and "an implicit threat to the Irish people", and demands that IRA criminality must come to a complete end.

It calls on the IRA to clearly demonstrate its commitment to full decommissioning and to ending all its criminal and paramilitary activity.

The motion also approves of the progress made in the talks that ended in failure in early December and reaffirms the view that the Belfast Agreement offers the best way forward.

It goes on to welcome the Taoiseach's recent statement that his offer regarding the early release of the murderers of Det Garda Jerry McCabe has been withdrawn.

© The Irish Times


No Paramilitary Plot In Belfast Killing, Says PSNI

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

The Belfast man murdered outside a pub was not the victim of a paramilitary plot, the PSNI said yesterday.

Mr Rab McCartney was attacked on a Belfast city centre street after a row flared in a pub where he had been drinking with friends on January 30th.

He died the following day in hospital of knife wounds and a murder inquiry began.

Det Chief Insp Kevin Dunwoody, the senior investigating officer, said yesterday: "At the minute we believe there's nothing to suggest this was carried out by any organisation in pursuance of its organisational aims or objectives."

A senior police source has told The Irish Times that a member of a paramilitary group could still have been involved. However, it was not believed that the 33-year-old father of two died as a result of a planned attack.

Detectives said yesterday they are following up some 500 leads and examining video evidence from CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the murder.

The investigation team also wants to track down a dark blue car and a silver Corsa vehicle believed to have been in the Bridge Street and Cromac Street area at the time of the killing.

Seven people, including a republican figure, have been arrested in Belfast and Ardglass, Co Down, but all have been released without charge.

The dead man's friend, badly injured in the stabbing, spoke yesterday of the incident in which he had his throat cut and suffered other serious wounds.

Speaking to the Irish News from his hospital bed, Mr Brendan Devine (31), said he and his friend had been involved in a "heated argument" with another person, understood to be a woman, in the bar.

"I walked around the bar and I felt the presence of five fellas around me and was hit over the head with a bottle," he said.

"I remember a hand coming over my face and my throat was slashed a couple of times," Mr Devine said.

Mr McCartney's funeral takes place in Belfast today.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Danny Morrison "The IRA Did It"

There, I've said it. The IRA did it. And as a result of my assertion I suddenly become the bosom pal of many. I am fulsomely quoted and praised by even the DUP for my honesty and integrity. I am reported favorably in the 'Daily Telegraph'. Out-of-the-blue, even my books are posthumously declared excellent reads, such is the reward for conforming to the prevailing orthodoxy: that is, bashing Sinn Féin.

But if I say the IRA didn't do it then I am just a 'mouthpiece for the Provos', to be dismissed by those still fighting the war by other means and aiming to curtail the electoral growth of Sinn Féin.

For the purpose of discussion let us respectfully examine the mindset of the PSNI and the Garda Siochana by which they reached the conclusion that the IRA did the Northern Bank raid.

Firstly, it was incredibly well-planned and executed and involved a large number of people who made a clean getaway. To expect to successfully launder such a considerable sum of money requires a huge organization of sympathizers. Their conclusion: 'only the IRA could have done it, therefore the IRA must have done it'.

We are told that after the event the PSNI and Garda were able to make sense of things they saw and monitored through surveillance and bugs before the event, with broad hints and leaks about senior members of Sinn Féin being seen in the company of senior members of the IRA. Their conclusion: for days beforehand we saw the barn door open but it never occurred to us that one hell of a horse was planning to bolt. Not very bright intelligence officers, nor does this 'evidence' amount to a hill of beans.

The authorities claimed that after the event they received definite intelligence indicating IRA responsibility. Their eyes and ears on the ground – that is, informers – have now confirmed to them that the talk in the bars or among the dogs in the street is that the IRA did it.

This suggests that there is no loose talk in the IRA before an operation, but plenty afterwards. However, the loose talk inexplicably stops when it comes to the location of the white van and the £26.5 million.

Let's examine the reliability of informers. Certainly, a lot of their information has led to the deaths and imprisonment of many republicans and innocent people. But let's examine the only ones who were ever stripped of their anonymity and whose credibility was scrutinized in public. I am referring, of course, to those supergrasses that were used to imprison hundreds of people over a five-year period in the early1980s.

Raymond Gilmour is a representative sample who was described by the Lord Chief Justice as being "entirely unworthy of belief". He was "a selfish and self-regarding man to whose lips a lie invariably comes more naturally than the truth." The then Chief Constable of the RUC, John Hermon, swore by Gilmour's credibility, as he swore by the credibility of thirty others, all of whose evidence was eventually rubbished in the appeal courts. Conclusion: if informers are the main source for the PSNI and the Gardai suspecting the IRA then I fully sympathize with Michael McDowell not making a laughing stock of himself by divulging his 'dodgy dossier' to Gerry Adams.

For several years now media security pundits (quoting the intelligence services) and dissident republicans have jibed that the ceasefire IRA cannot move because it has been infiltrated from top-to-bottom. That the bank heist was not thwarted disproves that assertion for it indicates that the intelligence services had no prior warning, otherwise they would have captured the raiders or monitored their getaway and arrested even more.

All of the above, of course, merely proves the weakness of the case for the prosecution. It does not prove that the IRA didn't carry out the heist.

There are republican supporters who have even taken succor from the IRA denial along the lines of "sure, the 'RA would have to say that". They appreciate that a formal admission would create an even greater crisis but that the operation itself sends a powerful message to Tony Blair that he has been taking republicans and their compromises for granted.

If that were to turn out to be the correct interpretation then we are at a crossroads but not one as bleak as has been made out. The British government factors into its calculations and negotiations that the IRA cannot return to armed struggle without Sinn Féin paying a heavy price electorally. Undoubtedly, because there is a degree of association, Sinn Féin's vote would suffer. However, the reason why a return to armed struggle would be foolhardy is because it would be a return to a military stalemate.

It is obvious that Sinn Féin does not represent nor can it speak for the IRA. Yet, London and Dublin propagate that assumption and exploit it to punish Sinn Féin. Even though the crisis in the peace process was caused by the DUP, prior to the Northern Bank raid, the governments do not punish it. The majority of nationalists in the North rejects and resent this double standard and these attacks on them and their elected representatives. And that is why the SDLP will not be joining a gerrymandered executive led by Ian Paisley - which appears to be one of the crackpot notions being considered by Blair.

If the two governments insist that 'the IRA did it' and punish Sinn Féin then Sinn Féin should refuse to mediate between the IRA and Dublin and London. Let them do a better job. Sinn Féin's mandate derives from the majority of nationalists in the North, people who are denied their full rights by a combination of British rule, which they bear under sufferance, and DUP intransigence. Attack Sinn Féin and you attack those people.

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