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February 08, 2005

02/08/05 – McGuinness: Brits Have No Right to Sanction SF

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

DJ 02/08/05 McGuinness:'Brits Have No Right To Sanction SF'
BT 02/08/05 Ahern Says IRA Needs To 'Drift Off' For Deal
GU 02/08/05 Security Tightened As IRA Warns Of Crisis
IO 02/08/05 Court Upholds Arrest Of Suspected IRA Gang
IO 02/08/05 Parties Call On Republicans To End Violence
ST 02/08/05 Opin: IRA's Hint Of Violence Most Likely Just A Bluff
BT 02/08/05 Stab Death Killers Evil Says Priest
DJ 02/08/05 Voter Registration Legislation
BT 02/08/05 Councils' Group Suggests Reducing Number To 15
BT 02/08/05 Last Of 'Skins' Dies At 105

Morning Ireland: David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, looks at the Government's views following the crisis arising from the Northern Bank robbery

IMC report expected later this week -Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, explains the makeup of the Committee, and previews its report

MacArthur breaks round the world sailing record - Ellen MacArthur speaking just after she crossed the finish line last night

Daphne Skinnard of BBC Radio Cornwall previews the welcome home for the sailor; Tom MacSweeney, Marine Correspondent, assesses her achievement


'British Have No Right To Sanction SF' - Warns McGuinness

Tuesday 8th February 2005

Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, last night told the 'Journal' that no British government which he said had not secured a single vote on this island - has the right to sanction any Irish political party, not least the largest nationalist party in the North.

He was speaking ahead of the publication of the IMC report which is expected to recommend sanctions against Sinn Fein in the aftermath of the Northern Bank robbery.

As the peace process continued in crisis yesterday Mr. McGuinness said it looked likely that the British government would try and impose sanctions on his party.

He said: "The IMC which is in itself outside the Good Friday Agreement will apparently recommend sanctions against the biggest nationalist party in the North and the biggest pro-Agreement party in Ireland.

"The IMC, which the SDLP did not strenuously oppose, even goes beyond the powers of the British Government's own Diplock Courts in terms of their judgmental ability. "Basically what the British Government has done is hand power to three spooks and a British lord. "Paul Murphy, a British minister who has not secured a single vote in Ireland has no right to sanction any party here."

Mr. McGuinness said he believed that the process was now in severe difficulties but that these could still be overcome.

He said: "The difficulties we face would be more easily overcome if the two governments abandoned their current strategy of focusing on the IRA to the exclusion of the unionist leaders' refusal to share power and participate in all Ireland institutions alongside representatives of the nationalist and republican people."

When asked why he believed the Irish government had adopted this strategy Mr. McGuinness said: "I have been thinking about this and comments made by Liz O'Donnell and member of the PDs and a former junior minister in the government a year or so ago came to mind. "After the Assembly elections Ms O'Donnell said that there were elements in the Irish establishment and in the Irish government who still had not come to terms with the changed situation in the North.

"Coupled with this has been the reaction of some sections in Dublin to Sinn Fein's recent success in the European elections.

"If that is taken in conjunction with the DUP's refusal to do a deal this side of a British general election there seems to be a belief within the Irish government that they have the luxury to attack Sinn Fein now and some sort of deal wil be resurrected after the British election.

"However, this is a high risk strategy which takes no account of the damage such a move may cause in the long term."

Martin McGuinness said that before Christmas the Sinn Fein leadership had convinced the IRA to deal with their arms but that this had floundered on Ian Paisley's demand for 'sackcloth and ashes.'

He went on: "As regards the Northern Bank we have to keep in mind that all the allegations are coming from British intelligence sources who have been opposed to this process from the start. "If it is remembered that one of the chief securocrats from the NIO said in the US that the British Government's biggest fear was Sinn Fein becoming the biggest party we can see there is an agenda to prevent Sinn Fein's continued growth.

"The Northern Bank is the excuse but the campaign of attacking Sinn Fein had been begun by the SDLP immediately after the breakdown in early December and before the Northern bank robbery."


Ahern Says IRA Needs To 'Drift Off' For Deal

Trust is damaged, insists taoiseach

By Chris Thornton
08 February 2005

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has underlined that the IRA needs to "drift off" before the political process can get back to the starting line.

As his Cabinet prepared to review the Independent Monitoring Commission's special report on the Northern Bank robbery today, Mr Ahern told a cross-border think-tank that the issues "are now clear" but that progress is unlikely to happen until the autumn.

"What needs to be done is clear," he added.

Mr Ahern said that the time has come to "stabilise things, to get on with it".

"Ultimately we will have to come around to the starting line again.

"History says that's the way it always was. History is usually right."

But he said he did not expect physical force republicans to be at the starting line if progress is to resume.

In the wake of the robbery, the Irish government has led calls for the IRA to give up criminality in advance of any talks.

In a speech to the Centre for Cross Border Studies at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, he said: "We all know that these are difficult times for the peace process. Trust and confidence have been damaged.

"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.

"For our part, the government will continue to engage with the British Government and all the parties to advance all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement."

The IMC report is believed to have blamed the IRA for the robbery.

The British Cabinet will review it on Thursday before it is published.

A crucial point will be if the report recommends sanctions against Sinn Fein. Mr Ahern has already said he is opposed to sanctions.

Meanwhile, Irish opposition parties will today seek all-party support for a landmark Dail motion calling on the republican movement to abandon all violence.

The hard-hitting Fine Gael document blames December's Northern Bank robbery for shattering power-sharing talks and calls on the IRA to immediately decommission and end criminality and paramilitarism.

However, the Irish government is unlikely to support the motion and will instead propose its own amendments before a vote is taken in the Dail chamber tomorrow.


Security Tightened As IRA Warns Of Crisis

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday February 6, 2005
The Observer

Security at ports and airports as well as military and police bases in Northern Ireland has been strengthened following IRA statements last week warning the British and Irish governments about a crisis in the peace process.

Special Branch officers have reappeared at entry points from Ireland into Britain in recent days. Anti-terrorist officers have contacted agents who worked for the security forces inside the IRA. The informers living in hiding have been warned to step up their personal security.

Surveillance of republican suspects on either side of the Irish border has also been intensified as London and Dublin try to determine if the IRA's implicit threat contained in the two statements will be backed up with force.

Last Thursday the IRA withdrew last December's offer to decommission vast amounts of arms as well as tonnes of Semtex explosive in order to boost a deal that would see Gerry Adams sitting down in government with Democratic Unionist leader the Reverend Ian Paisley.

Since that deal broke down the atmosphere in Northern Ireland has been toxic. On 22 December an elite IRA unit is believed to have carried out the largest bank heist in European history. The theft of an estimated £26 million from the Northern Bank led to the fresh crisis in the peace process, which is set to deepen later this week when the international body set up to assess the state of paramilitary cease-fires publishes its next report.

The Independent Monitoring Commission is expected to concur with Chief Constable Hugh Orde's judgment that the IRA was behind the heist in Belfast.

Security chiefs fear that an IMC recommendation of financial or political sanctions against Sinn Fein over the Northern Bank robbery might act as a 'tipping point'.

A security briefing given to Irish leader Bertie Ahern said the robbery was a 'bloodless spectacular', an alternative to bombing Britain.

Ahern was told that after the political talks failed, a minority in the IRA leadership believed the British should have been taught a lesson, The Observer has learned. Instead of bombing Britain, potentially a political disaster in the post-9/11 world, the movement chose instead to pull off the biggest cash theft ever.

The IRA's former southern commander turned informer Sean O'Callaghan said yesterday: 'We are entering a new phase of the struggle, a post-peace process world, that they are thinking post-Blair and the implications of his departure from the scene'.

'I don't think they are going back to outright war but rather will adopt a policy of destabilisation in Northern Ireland. The IRA cannot afford to allow Northern Ireland under direct rule from London to be stable and prosperous. At the same time they cannot go back to bombing Britain because that puts them in the same camp as Bin Laden. But they may consider a policy of street disorder, winding things up in the loyalist marching season.'

The police have been less alarmist about the implications of the IRA's two statements. 'There is no imminent threat of the IRA going back to what they call "war",' Hugh Orde said this weekend.

Yesterday Gerry Adams insisted he did not want to see war return, although earlier the Sinn Fein leader pointedly refused to interpret what those IRA statements meant.


Court Upholds Arrest Of Suspected IRA Gang
2005-02-08 12:30:04+00

The Special Criminal Court today rejected a claim from five men accused of IRA membership that their arrest and detention was unlawful.

The three-judge court found that gardaí did not abuse their powers when arresting the men in Bray, Co Wicklow on October 11, 2002.

Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan, presiding, said: "The court is satisfied beyond any doubt that each of these accused was lawfully arrested on the morning of October 11."

The five men were discovered acting suspiciously in three vehicles by an off-duty Special Branch officer.

The Special Criminal Court has heard that four of the men were seated on the floor of a transit van and two of them were dressed in fake garda uniforms.

Gardaí found a stun gun, a CS gas canister and a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Aengus O'Snodaigh in a Nissan Almera car. They also recovered cable ties, car number plates, a blue flashing emergency light and a roll of tape.

In the van, there were a number of items including a sledge hammer, pickaxe handles and balaclavas.

The five men have pleaded not guilty to the charge of IRA membership.

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

The trial which has now entered its 20th day, is continuing.


Parties Call On Republicans To End Violence
2005-02-08 07:30:02+00

Irish opposition parties will today seek all-party support for a landmark Dáil motion calling on the Republican movement to abandon all violence and fully embrace democracy.

The hard-hitting Fine Gael document blames December's Northern Bank robbery for shattering power-sharing talks and calls on the IRA to immediately decommision and end criminality and paramilitarism.

However the Government is unlikely to support the motion and will instead propose its own amendments before a vote is taken in the Dáil tomorrow.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny insisted that his party's motion was a chance to send out a clear message to Sinn Féin and the IRA that the Dáil supported exclusively democratic politics.

He said: "This motion isn't about party politics. It is about establishing the primacy of democracy as a means to pursue your political agenda, and the Dáil has a central role for that agenda.

"This means we support the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, we reject the use of violence to support the achievement of political objectives and we renounce any links with criminality in any jurisdiction."

Fine Gael Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said: "The Good Friday Agreement must not be allowed to collapse around us. It is time to take a stand on the issue."

The 10-point motion says the party has "deep concern" about Sinn Féin's attitude towards criminality and describes recent IRA statements as "an implicit threat to the Irish people".

Bertie Ahern and his ministers will also today discuss the International Monitoring Commission report at their weekly Cabinet meeting.

The report blames the IRA for the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank heist and is likely to recommend political sanctions against Sinn Féin.

However the Government is not favour of excluding any parties from power-sharing talks.

Mr Ahern said: "The government is not in favour of exclusion and will continue to engage with the British government and all the parties to advance all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement."


Opin: IRA's Hint Of Violence Most Likely Just A Bluff

February 8, 2005
By John O'Sullivan

In the grim humor of Belfast, the latest form of punishment beating by the Irish Republican Army is called "a Padre Pio." The victim is told to clasp his hands in prayer and he is then shot through both palms. It is an economical form of wounding someone since one bullet produces two wounds.

Padre Pio, of course, was the saintly Italian priest whose hands bore the stigmata. These are wounds in the palms like those of the pierced hands of Christ. In addition to this, Padre Pio was rumored to be able to see directly into the souls of those who sought his counsel. More than one pious Catholic remembered a previous engagement when invited to an audience with him.

Today, the British and Irish governments would dearly like to imitate Pio's powers of spiritual insight as readily as the IRA has mocked his imitation of Christ. For the IRA has been hinting that it might resume the "armed struggle" -- that is, murdering and wounding people on a non-discriminatory basis rather than confining such tactics to rebellious and dissident Catholics in the ghetto -- and the two governments want to know if it really means it.

What began this crisis was a bank robbery in which the IRA stole almost $50 million from the Northern Bank. At first the police and the two governments were reluctant to accuse the IRA of involvement since that would further undermine the already collapsing "peace process." Gradually, however, the evidence became too clear to ignore. Of course, the IRA denied everything, but then the IRA had originally denied that the three terrorists training the FARC in Colombia were their guys. They now wage an international campaign for the release of their volunteers.

Eventually, the truth could no longer be fudged. The police and the two governments declared that the IRA had robbed the bank.

In itself a mere bank robbery might not have created a full-blown political crisis. After all, everyone knows that during the Troubles the IRA, as well as planting bombs and murdering policemen, also built up a lucrative series of gambling, smuggling and protection rackets. Boys will be boys.

But this robbery came on top of a series of actions that had caused the two governments and all the other Northern Irish parties to question whether the IRA had really abandoned the gun and embraced democratic politics. These included the IRA's failure to disarm completely and publicly after 11 years of promising to do so, its refusal to declare a final end to the guerrilla war, and just recently its brutal imposition of the Padre Pio on three Catholic youths for -- essentially -- not showing local IRA chieftains the proper respect.

The robbery itself was the final straw that broke the back of the peace process. It removed any early prospect of restoring the power-sharing Northern Ireland executive and assembly that had been suspended because the unionist parties refused to share power with an IRA that was literally sticking to its guns.

Last week, the Provisional IRA Army Council reacted by issuing a long and bellicose statement. It reminded people that the IRA had ended a cease-fire before, it accused the two governments and "rejectionist" unionists of seeking to humiliate republicans, and it made vaguely menacing noises about protecting the rights of "our support base."

Given the 30-odd years of Troubles in which the IRA killed most of the 3,300 fatal victims, these threats might be expected to arouse alarm in Dublin and Whitehall. Instead, the mood is relatively relaxed. Analysts calculate that the IRA may huff and puff, but that it won't re-embark on a full-scale guerrilla war. Underlying this calculation are three arguments:

First, public opinion in Northern Ireland -- Catholic as well as Protestant -- is determined to keep the present peace. Neither community would tolerate any resumption of terrorism. Both would support a ruthless campaign of official repression if the IRA started bombing again.

Second, the IRA itself is still dangerous, but it is no longer a hard-edged guerrilla force. It is a rich, fat, lazy, middle-aged mafia raking in millions of dollars from the rackets. If London and Dublin continue to turn a blind eye to control of the Catholic ghettoes -- as they have done to date -- its present leadership will not wish to put its highly agreeable lifestyle at risk.

Third, in the post-9/11 world, Washington and the entire West would support the British and Irish governments in a crackdown on IRA terrorism. And with even Libya anxious to be back in the international community, the IRA would be without friends internationally.

These are all plausible reasons believed by hard-headed people to conclude that the IRA will not return to terrorism.

But some caution is necessary: The IRA has always been contemptuous of public opinion when it has calculated that murder was necessary to force political concessions. And the London and Dublin governments have been all too ready to appease terrorism when it has taken place. So the IRA might well presume that a modest investment in bombing Belfast or the London suburbs would pay political dividends.

Here is how the United States could discourage any such intention.

St. Patrick's Day will occur, as usual, on March 17. It is now an established tradition for the president to welcome Irish politicians of all stripes to the White House for an ecumenical celebration. In recent years Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president, has been among the guests.

To warn Sinn Fein-IRA (and their Protestant equivalents, the Progressive Unionist Party, which is likewise linked to violence) of the consequences of threatening terrorism, President Bush should this year invite all the democratic party leaders on both sides of the Irish border to the St. Patrick's celebrations.

But he should explicitly disinvite Adams, Martin McGuinness, other prominent Sinn Fein figures and their counterparts in the PUP. He should explain why. He should order that their visa waivers to enter the United States be lifted. And he should make clear that they will not be able to enter the United States again until they and their colleagues have finally and permanently abandoned the gun.

Until we can look, like Padre Pio, into the IRA's soul, we have to rely on firm government to deter terrorism.


Stab Death Killers Evil Says Priest

Hundreds gather for father's funeral

By Ashleigh Wallace
08 February 2005

The attackers who knifed Robert McCartney to death were branded "evil" today.

As hundreds of mourners packed into St Matthew's Church, in Belfast's Short Strand, for the funeral of the father of two, a priest spoke of the "devastating and demoralising" effect of his murder on the local community.

And he said the 33-year-old will stand "shoulder to shoulder with his killers" before God.

Republicans have been accused of covering up the involvement of Provisional IRA members in the killing - and orchestrating a riot to hamper the police investigation.

Graffiti attacking "PIRA scum" has appeared in the Short Strand since the death.

Robert McCartney's family has refused to publicly point the finger at anyone, although they have said everyone knows who was involved.

Family and friends of the popular former nightclub doorman, who was due to marry his partner Bridgeen later this year, were united in grief.

Father Sean Gilmore, who preached the homily during today's service, spoke of the many lives that have been changed since Robert was killed over a week ago.

Fr Gilmore said: "Sunday week ago, Robert McCartney dressed up to go out with his friends, to a birthday party.

"They stopped off for a drink before going on to the party.

"Robert ordered a taxi to pick them up, but before the taxi arrived 15 minutes later, Robert lay dying on the pavement and his two friends injured.

"Murder, the taking of a life, has to be the worst action one person can do. A life, once it is taken, can never be given back again."

Saying taking someone's life, particularly due to a disagreement in a pub, was "wrong" and "evil", Fr Gilmore added: "In murdering Robert his killers have not only ended his life but they have changed forever the lives of his partner Bridgeen, his children Conlaed and Brandon who will grow up without the support and guidance of a father.

"They also changed forever the lives of his mother and father Kathleen and Robert, who have lost their second and only remaining son in the space of four years and the lives of his sisters Gemma, Paula, Donna, Catherine and Claire."

Fr Gilmore, who spoke at a vigil in the Short Strand held in Robert's memory last Friday, also spoke of the "devastating and demoralising effect" the man's death has had on the community.

Yesterday, the senior detective leading the murder investigation revealed that Mr McCartney died an innocent man.

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Dunwoody also revealed that officers were investigating around 500 lines of inquiry following the stabbing, which occurred outside Magennis's bar in May Street on Sunday January 30th.

Since the fatal stabbing, seven people - including a senior republican - have been arrested and released.


Registration Legislation

Tuesday 8th February 2005

Sinn Fein Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has given a guarded welcome to the news that the British Government is to rush legislation through to attempt to address the deficit in the electoral register.

Mr. McLaughlin stated: "Over the past few years Sinn FÈin has voiced major concerns that the new legislation brought in at the behest of the other parties here would lead to a disenfranchisement of the electorate.

"This was proven right with over 250,000 people falling off the electoral register over the past couple of years."

He added: "The announcement that legislation is to be brought forward to have those who were eligible to vote on last years register but have not reregistered this year put back on the electoral register is welcome.

"However this does not reverse the legislation that still leaves so many people disenfranchised and Sinn Fein will continue to campaign to have the right to vote brought to as many as possible."

Mr. McLaughlin concluded: "I would urge everyone to check if they are registered to vote and if not to do so before the deadline in early March and that they have the correct identification needed to vote."


Councils' Group Suggests Reducing Number To 15

By Noel McAdam
08 February 2005

Northern Ireland's umbrella local government group today signalled its backing for the reduction of councils to around 15.

The figure falls short of Government indications to cut the current authorities to less than 10 - but would still mean the loss or amalgamation of 11 councils.

The all-party body also demanded substantial increases in council powers, including roles in schools, housing and hospitals.

Its draft discussion paper, obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, argues local government should be recognised "as a sphere of Government in its own right".

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), which includes Sinn Fein and DUP representatives, said the economies of scale which cutting councils could achieve had to be balanced with ensuring local participation and accountability.

"NILGA believes that to achieve an appropriate balance, the optimum number of councils is more likely to be in the region of 15," the paper said.

It comes as firm proposals from the team heading up the review of public administration, which also includes unelected quangoes, are anticipated within the next month.

Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson has signalled an intention to cut the present 26 local authorities to less than 10, although the review team has recently gone back to the drawing board after concerns about protecting local identities within a councils shake-up.

The association - which is due to debate the issue at a conference this month - said the option of 15 councils would protect local identity and provide opportunities for joint working.

NILGA also said the new councils must receive statutory responsibility for area planning, development control and regeneration - and oversight of housing issues at local level.

Councils could be given a neighbourhood renewal function acting as co-ordinators for agencies tackling high local levels of deprivation, crime, unemployment and the environment.

Transferring some of the local management functions of individual schools to councils would lead to a "significant reduction" in the duplication of services.

NILGA also said councillor should be represented on new health bodies: the administration of health and social services should be streamlined with the abolition of the four health boards and creation of new democratic health bodies "co-terminous" with councils boundaries.


Ahern to meet Annan in New York

08 February 2005 10:31

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, is due to meet the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in New York today.

The meeting will take in Ireland's role in the ongoing work of reform within the UN.

Mr Ahern will also discuss the development of civilian rapid response units to co-ordinate humanitarian assistance during disasters like the recent tsunami in southeast Asia.

Yesterday evening the minister met with Irish emigrant groups and heard their concerns about the huge number of undocumented Irish people who are working in the US illegally.

Mr Ahern will discuss this issue with US Senators in Washington later this week.

He is also due to meet US President George W Bush's Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss.

The arrangements for St Patrick's Day at the White House are expected to be discussed. There has been speculation that Sinn Féin may not be invited.

Last night, Mr Ahern said this was entirely a matter for the President and the US administration, but he felt no one should be victimised and all parties should be treated equally.


Last Of 'Skins' Dies At 105

08 February 2005

The last surviving former member of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons has died in a nursing home in England.

George Hardy, who celebrated his 105th birthday last year, was the last remaining survivor of the Army regiment which was created in the 18th century in Enniskillen.

Last year, during the 90th anniversary of the First World War One, a concerted effort was made to establish whether any "Skin" was still alive.

Mr Hardy was traced to a nursing home in south Wales.

The old soldier contracted a chest infection over Christmas and passed away on January 22.

A soldier from the Royal Dragoon Guards played Last Post at his funeral, while a 5th Royal Inniskillings Dragoon guards plaque was placed on his coffin.

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Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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