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February 11, 2005

02/11/05 – AI: UK Govt Should Act on Finucane Promise

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

AI 02/11/05 Govt Must Withdraw Inquiries Bill & Act On Promise
SF 02/11/05 Adams - Stop Making Malicious Allegations -V
TO 02/11/05 Bush To Pull Red Carpet From Under Sinn Fein
BB 02/11/05 SDLP Leaves Little Wriggle Room
SF 02/11/05 SF Welcomes IHRC Enquiry But Qs Govt Commitment
IO 02/11/05 O'Rourke Takes Part In SF- Women's Conference

RT 02/11/05 Arthur Miller Dies Aged 89 –VO
RT 02/11/05 Lassie Movie Set For Ireland -VO

Arthur Miller Dies Aged 89 - Samantha Libreri reports on the death of the playwright at his home in Connecticut

Lassie Movie Set For Ireland - Robert Shortt, Washington Correspondent, reports on the big-budget remake that will be filmed in Ireland


AI Index: EUR 45/003/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 034
11 February 2005

UK: The Government Must Withdraw The Inquiries Bill And Act On Its Promise

On the eve of the 16th anniversary of the murder of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane, Amnesty International is reiterating that only a public independent inquiry can deliver the truth about his death and ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

"Only a public inquiry established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 will be able to shed light on collusion by state agents with Loyalist paramilitaries; on reports that Patrick Finucane's death was the result of state policy; and on allegations that different government authorities played a part in the subsequent cover-up of collusion in his killing," Amnesty International said.

The UK government has reneged on its promise to act on the recommendation of Justice Cory, a former Canadian Supreme Court judge, that a public inquiry be held in the case of Patrick Finucane. Instead it has stated that Patrick Finucane's case would be the subject of an inquiry under the new Inquiries Bill now going through parliament. The government has also stated that the Bill aims to take account of "the requirements of national security".

Amnesty International believes that the UK government is trying to eliminate independent scrutiny of its agents' actions by introducing the new Inquiries Bill. The organization is concerned that the enactment of this Bill would mean the repeal of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921.

"An inquiry under the Inquiries Bill would not be effective, independent, impartial or thorough. Nor would it provide for public scrutiny of all the relevant evidence," Amnesty International said.

"This Bill will affect not only Patrick Finucane's case, but also other major incidents which would warrant public scrutiny of the actions of the state. For example failures of public services, deaths in prisons, rail disasters, army deaths in disputed circumstances, etc."

Amnesty International fears that, if enacted, the Inquiries Bill would represent the death knell of any possibility of public scrutiny of and accountability for state abuses. In addition, any inquiry under this legislation would fall far short of the requirements in international human rights law and standards for effective remedies for victims of human rights violations and their families.

Amnesty International calls for the withdrawal of this draft legislation and for the government to engage in a serious consultation process about any future changes in the running of public inquiries. Public inquiries are one of the most critical mechanisms to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are upheld.


Patrick Finucane, an outspoken human rights lawyer, was shot dead in his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 12 February 1989 by Loyalist paramilitaries. In the aftermath of his killing, prima facie evidence of criminal conduct by police and military intelligence agents acting in collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in the killing has emerged. In addition, allegations have emerged of a subsequent cover-up by different government agencies and authorities.

In May 2002, the UK and Irish governments appointed Justice Peter Cory to investigate a number of killings in which official collusion was alleged, including in the killing of Patrick Finucane.

In April 2004, the UK authorities published Justice Cory's reports but refused to announce a public inquiry into Patrick Finucane's case despite the unequivocal conclusion that in his case "only a public inquiry will suffice".

On 16 September 2004, Kenneth Barrett, a former loyalist paramilitary, was convicted of, and sentenced for, the murder of Patrick Finucane.

Instead of announcing a public judicial inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, the government has hastily put forward the Inquiries Bill to Parliament. There was no consultation prior to the publication of the Bill in the form of a white paper or concrete proposals.

Under the Inquiries Bill:

the inquiry and its terms of reference would be decided by the executive; no independent parliamentary scrutiny of these decisions would be allowed;

the chair of the inquiry would be appointed by the executive and the executive would have the discretion to sack any member of the inquiry;

the decision on whether the inquiry, or any individual hearings, would be held in public or private would be taken by the executive;

the decision to issue restrictive notices to block disclosure of evidence would be taken by the executive;

the final report of the inquiry would be published at the executive's discretion and crucial evidence could be omitted at the executive's discretion, "in the public interest".

Public Document

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web:
For latest human rights news view


6.1 News: Brendan Wright reports on the escalating row between Bertie Ahern and the Sinn Féin leadership over the former's assertion that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness knew in advance of the Northern Bank robbery

Adams - Taoiseach Should Stop Making These Malicious And Untrue Allegations -V

Published: 11 February, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking in Belfast this afternoon said "I am prepared to sit down with the Taoiseach today, tomorrow at any time to try and sort these matters out. It is important that when we get to that point that genuine dialogue should be conducted in an atmosphere which makes success possible. That is one of the reasons why we are so vigorous in defending ourselves from these accusations."

Mr. Adams said: "Yesterday I asked the Irish government to act on foot of its allegations that Martin McGuinness and I had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery. They have failed to do this. This morning the Taoiseach studiously avoided answering the question I put to him yesterday. The fact is that he has made a claim which he cannot corroborate or substantiate. In an Irish News interview this morning the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde was asked if the Sinn Féin leadership know about the Northern Bank robbery? His reply was that he had 'no idea.'

So, the Taoiseach should stop making these malicious and untrue allegations.

However, I fear his intention is to continue with this because the concentrated assault on Sinn Féin, the spurious and untrue accusation that this party sanctioned robberies, is about criminalising our party and our electorate.

It's about electoralism.

It is about preventing the development of Sinn Féin's radical political alternative to establishment politics on this island. But it seems to me that this torrent of abuse is likely to continue for a considerable time. I regret that. Not because Sinn Féin is not able to defend ourselves. We can. And we will.

But there is ongoing damage being done to the peace process and the reality is that when we come to deal with all of these matters in a constructive and genuine way all of the outstanding issues will have to be resolved. These relate to the responsibilities and obligations of the two governments, all of the equality and other elements of the Good Friday Agreement, and the issue of armed groups.

I am prepared to sit down with the Taoiseach today, tomorrow at any time to try and sort these matters out.

It is important that when we get to that point that genuine dialogue should be conducted in an atmosphere which makes success possible. That is one of the reasons why we are so vigorous in defending ourselves from these accusations.

The process cannot be suspended indefinitely, as it now is. Neither can it be advanced by the methods currently employed by the governments. The priority and focus of Sinn Fein in the time ahead is clear; to prevent any further damage to the peace process and to oppose any possibility of a return to violence."ENDS


Bush To Pull Red Carpet From Under Sinn Fein

From Roland Watson in Washington

GERRY ADAMS, the Rev Ian Paisley and all other Northern Ireland politicians will be banned from St Patrick’s Day festivities at the White House if President Bush accepts a recommendation by his special envoy to the Province.

Mr Bush is said to be furious with Sinn Fein leaders over the £26.5 million bank robbery that has been blamed on the IRA.

He is particularly angry at the idea that the raid was in its final planning stages at the moment he was telephoning Mr Adams during last year’s Leeds Castle talks, trying to nudge him towards a deal during the ultimately fruitless peace push.

The Administration is now determined to demonstrate its displeasure with Sinn Fein, whose leaders allegedly had advance knowledge of the robbery. “We are obviously disappointed that the IRA has been tagged with this and that the Sinn Fein leadership is not stepping forward to solve the crime,” a senior Administration official said.

But the President’s advisers have given warning that banning only Sinn Fein from the annual White House reception would risk sparking a row with the powerful US Irish lobby.

Irish-American leaders would probably argue that Mr Paisley was as much to blame for scuppering peace hopes by demanding that Sinn Fein should don “sackcloth and ashes” over the decommissioning of weapons.

Mitchell Reiss, Mr Bush’s Northern Ireland envoy, has therefore recommended that the President should ban all Northern Ireland parties from the annual festivities. Mr Bush would instead receive the traditional bowl of shamrock from Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, in front of dignitaries from Dublin and London, but not Belfast.

Officials concede that such a decision would be a clumsy compromise. But they believe it would jolt both sides of the peace process, especially Northern Ireland’s republicans who for more than a generation could bank on a warm reception across the Atlantic. It would be the first time Mr Adams had failed to win a White House invitation since first receiving a US visa in 1994.

St Patrick’s Day has over recent decades become a fixed event in the diary of official Washington. Politicians from Dublin and Belfast decamp en masse to the US capital where Ireland’s national day is marked with arguably greater ceremony than anywhere else.

In the 1990s President Clinton used the event to accelerate the peace process by bringing republicans and Unionists together on neutral territory. He threw in Gaelic bands and a tent on the South Lawn.

But Mr Bush has a different outlook, and not just because he avoids alcohol and has less interest in Northern Ireland. Since 9/11 he regards with great suspicion anyone with the faintest whiff of terrorism about them. He also takes breaches of trust personally.


SDLP Leaves Little Wriggle Room

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

After a brief hiatus during the parliamentary break, we shall soon be back to the subject of sanctions, trying to work out where Paul Murphy will perch in his balancing act between those seeking retribution and those who prefer to reward good behaviour and ignore alleged misdemeanours.

The first camp, led by the Conservatives and the unionists, want drastic cuts in Sinn Fein MLAs salaries and an end to the Westminster allowances claimed by the party's four abstentionist MPs.

They would also consider the arrest of Gerry Adams to be a welcome development, albeit a rather unlikely one.

The other camp - led by the Irish government - wants to avoid anything which could enable Sinn Fein to pose as victims of a miscarriage of justice.

They argue that the weaker the sanctions, the less the potential damage to the SDLP's electoral prospects.

Could Paul Murphy end up just rolling over the loss of the £120,000 Sinn Fein party funding at the Assembly - a measure he introduced last April?

Or will he feel the need to deal with the head of steam building up at Westminster by adding the four MPs' £400,000 in allowances as well?

Whichever course the secretary of state takes, the fact, as the Independent Monitoring Commission itself admitted, is that any sanctions will appear paltry set beside the £26.5m taken from the Northern Bank.

The real issue, as the commission pointed out in a concluding paragraph which read rather like a statement from the two governments, is the need for trust to be restored.

And there's no sign of that happening any time soon.

Interestingly, the most angry exchanges of the past week have not been between unionists and republicans, or between Gerry Adams and Bertie Ahern.

Rather, it was the shouting match between Martin McGuinness and Mark Durkan on the BBC's Question Time from Belfast.

Everything is now being filtered through an electoral lens, and the SDLP knows that the general election expected in May could well be a battle for the party's survival as a serious force.

While Sinn Fein is undoubtedly the SDLP's mortal enemy, the party remains hamstrung about how to fight back.

If it joins the sanctions or voluntary coalition bandwagon, it leaves itself open to accusations of being part of some Brit-securocrat conspiracy.

So instead, SDLP leader Mark Durkan clings to his no sanctions, no exclusion approach, championing his idea of non-elected ministers drawn from the community, even though this proposal has gained no support from anywhere else in the political spectrum.

The SDLP position has obviously left the government with little room for manoeuvre.

Voluntary coalition rejected

That was clear from Mr Durkan's interview for Inside Politics, in which he revealed that Tony Blair had unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to enter a voluntary coalition with the unionists.

The SDLP leader told the prime minister that the government would only undermine such a coalition by running a Downing Street-based parallel process focussed on getting Sinn Fein back in.

This prompted Mr Blair to chide Mr Durkan for his "cynicism". The SDLP leader responded by arguing that he would be a "mug" to enter the coalition.

For Mr Durkan, the immediate challenge will be to avoid a mugging at the hands of Mitchel McLaughlin in the Foyle constituency.

Party positions all around may become more malleable on the other side of the general election.

However, I don't think anyone should be holding their breath as they wait for the full implementation of Plan B.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/11 22:16:35 GMT


SF Welcomes Irish Human Rights Commission Enquiry But Questions Government Commitment To Body

Published: 11 February, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the announcement that the Irish Human Rights Commission is to hold its first enquiry, and will examine the implications of present social welfare law and practice for human rights in the state.

However, the Sinn Féin Deputy questioned the Government‚s commitment to the body and asserted that we should be much further on in protecting human rights in Ireland in the seven years since the Good Friday Agreement mandated the establishment of Human Rights Commissions on both sides of the border.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I welcome as a positive development the announcement today by the Irish Human Rights Commission that they are to hold their first enquiry. There are many pressing issues in the state that warrant similar scrutiny including emergency legislation, Garda management and practice, immigration law, the treatment of the mentally ill and disabled, the treatment of people in custody and people in nursing homes, the treatment of Travellers. I believe this is a mechanism the Commission can usefully adopt in reviewing the law and practice in other areas as it relates to peoples' human rights, and I look forward to future enquiries into these other areas of concern.

"The establishment of the two Human Rights Commissions was a welcome outworking of the Good Friday Agreement, and one which Sinn Féin championed. However we are disappointed that seven years after the Good Friday Agreement we haven‚t come nearly as far as we should on human rights in either jurisdiction. There are many areas which the two Commissions should be addressing which they are not. The biggest obstacle in this state, however, is lack of commitment on the part of the Irish Government who have financially starved the Human Rights Commission and whose Minister for Justice has treated it with open contempt.

"We were not surprised by the recent independent report which concluded that the Northern Human Rights Commission is in crisis. But there also needs to be an integrated assessment of the work of the two Commissions to date to see it they are having the desired impact on improving and protecting human rights in Ireland. We also need the two Governments to live up to their responsibilities. So far they have been less than committed to the work of the Human Rights Commissions. This attitude must change." ENDS


O'Rourke Takes Part In SF-Organised Women's Conference

2005-02-11 15:20:02+00

Former Fianna Fáil deputy leader has been lined up to take part in a Sinn Féin conference focussing on women in politics, it was confirmed today.

As her colleague Taoiseach Bertie Ahern continued to trade blows with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams following the Northern Bank robbery, it emerged Senator Mary O'Rourke will take part in a conference in Newry which is being held as part of Sinn Féin's centenary celebrations.

As well as the former Irish Health and Education Minister, Sinn Féin's other guest speakers for the conference entitled 'Unfinished Revolution - from Beijing to Newry' include the African National Congress's Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, Rosaleen McDonnagh of the Travellers Rights Association and German Kurdish MEP Uca Felenkas.

South Down Assembly member Caitriona Ruane said the conference would celebrate the role of women in struggle around the world.

The conference, which will be opened by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, will feature a debate marking the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration on women's rights.

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