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February 11, 2005

02/11/05 - Nationalist's War Of Words

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BT 02/11/05 Nationalists In War Of Words –V
DJ 02/11/05 Sinn Fein Protesters Block Craigavon Bridge
4N 02/11/05 Beragh Search Fails To Find Bank Raid Evidence
DJ 02/11/05 Last 30 Years Not 'A Republican Criminal Conspiracy'
BT 02/11/05 Dublin Keeps The Heat On Sinn Fein
BT 02/11/05 Adams: Go Ahead And Arrest Me
BT 02/11/05 Opin: If Your Irish, Stay Out Of Bush's Parlour
BT 02/11/05 Bush's Speech Writer In Irish Gaffe
BT 02/11/05 Viewpoint: Sinn Fein's Great Betrayal Of Trust
DJ 02/11/05 Off-Duty Police On Alert Over Dissident Threats
DJ 02/11/05 Durkan Welcomes Blair Apology
BT 02/11/05 Young Man Dies During Match

(Poster’s Note: Listening to the BBC Question Time is worth the time. Jay)


See the hour long show recorded 02/10/05 at:
(See Martin's reaction to the upcoming royal marriage)

Nationalists In War Of Words -V

McGuinness and Durkan clash in television row

By Noel McAdam
11 February 2005

Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness and SDLP leader Mark Durkan have clashed on national television, accusing each other of lying.

Presenter David Dimbleby threatened to close down the Question Time programme last night as the two senior nationalist politicians shouted each other down.

Mr McGuinness accused Mr Durkan of "never opening his mouth" over the formation of the Independent Monitoring Commission which was outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

But Mr Durkan repeatedly said: "It's lies" and then pointedly told Mr Dimbleby not to keep interrupting him.

The former Deputy First Minister said the formation of the commission had been on the basis of a separate Government paper, along with the issue of the "on-the-runs", and his party had opposed the legislation in Parliament - where Sinn Fein remains absent.

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, also on the programme, said Mr Durkan's version of the issue was right.

The lengthy exchange, which earned a rebuke from the chairman Mr Dimbleby, received a series of critical texts from interactive viewers.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy, also a panel member, said he had not completely made up his mind on the governments' response to the sanctions recommended by the Independent Monitoring Commission report.

He is due to make a statement in the House of Commons the week after next.

In the BBC Northern Ireland programme Hearts and Minds, also shown last night, SDLP Assemblyman Alex Attwood told Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly that there was an essential difference between the two parties over criminality.

But Mr Kelly chided Mr Attwood and said he did not represent a majority on the island of Ireland and should not be attempting to speak as President of Ireland.


Sinn Fein Protesters Block Craigavon Bridge

Friday 11th February 2005

Republican anger following the publication of the IMC report, which claims senior members of Sinn Fein sanctioned the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in Belfast, spilled onto the streets of Derry yesterday evening as several hundred protesters blocked both decks of Craigavon Bridge at the peak rush hour.

The demonstrators were protesting at what they claimed was the attempt to disenfranchise over 345,000 Sinn Fein voters.

Speaking at the bridge, Sinn Fein Assemblyman Raymond McCartney said that the IMC had admitted they had no evidence linking the IRA to the robbery, only "intelligence."

Mr. McCartney claimed it was ironic that this report should be published the day after the British Government apologised to people who had been arrested based on "intelligence."

Yesterday's protest caused traffic chaos and several irate drivers made their feelings known. The protest in Derry was just one of many taking place across the North.

At the time of going to press yesterday evening, the PSNI said it was aware of eight protests taking place across Northern Ireland, including Strabane and Dungiven.

Speaking from Dublin, Sinn Fein's national Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin told the 'Journal' that his party was "angry but not surprised" at the IMC report. He said: "There is nothing surprising in this report when it is remembered that all the socalled intelligence is emanating from the same source.

"The securocrats who are intent on preventing the Sinn Fein advance have briefed both governments and the IMC but have yet to produce one shred of evidence."

Mr. McLaughlin continued: "The IMC has no legitimacy and was set up in complete contradiction of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein will not accept the right of the IMC to impose sanctions on a party that has almost 350,000 voters across Ireland.

"This is an undemocratic body and is merely another weapon in the British Government's arsenal as they attempt to stop the advance of Sinn Fein."

As yesterday's protest continued, drivers sounded their car horns but the protesters were adamant that they wanted to show their anger. The demonstrators maintained that it was a peaceful protest and that they were not seeking confrontation.

A spokesman for the organisers claimed that if there were any confrontations it would not be of their making. The protesters were expected to disperse at 5.30 p.m.


Beragh Search Fails To Find Bank Raid Evidence

Police detectives who conducted a two-day search of land and property in County Tyrone have admitted that they failed to find anything anything of significance.

The search, in connection with the Northern Bank robbery last December, turned up no evidence and yesterday, in a statement, the Donnelly family, who own the land and premises, said that they were at a loss to explain why the search had taken place.

The two-day operation near Beragh in Co Tyrone concluded on Thursday with officers leaving the scene empty handed.

Sinn Fein MLA for West Tyrone, Barry McElduff, said: "They have been searching for, according to this warrant that I have in my possession, vehicles associated with the Northern Bank robbery and notes stolen from the bank on 20 December 2004."

Last month, detectives investigating the £26.5 million raid in Belfast asked members of the public who may have witnessed a coerced bank employee handing over £1 million to one of the robbers at a bus stop at Upper Queen Street to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Andrew Sproule, who is leading the police investigation, released new CCTV footage which showed one the victims employed by the Northern Bank leaving its Donegall Square West headquarters on the evening of Monday 20 December 2004 with a sports bag containing £1 million in cash.

The victim was instructed to make his way to a bus stop at Upper Queen Street in Belfast where he handed over the distinctive sports bag bearing the UMBRO name and logo to an unknown man.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for information regarding the footage or whereabouts of a white van used in the robbery to contact on 028 9065 0222 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.



Last 30 Years Not 'A Republican Criminal Conspiracy'

Friday 11th February 2005

Republican sources in Derry have said that there is now a concerted attempt to portray the struggle of the last 30 years as simply the result of a 'republican criminal conspiracy' and have said that this approach could lead to a confrontation with the British government.

As the peace process continues in crisis, republican sources have said that it was now obvious that both governments were engaging in sustained attacks on the republican movement and that they were trying to hang the 'criminality' tag on the movement.

The 'Journal' was told: "What we are now seeing, and it has to be remembered this goes back even before the Northern Bank robbery, as an attempt to portray the whole republican struggle as nothing more than the result of a criminal conspiracy.

"The break down in the process on December 8 led to the attacks starting, especially in Dublin, using this notion of criminality.

"Republicans were being linked on no evidence whatsoever to various robberies and the like and Michael McDowell especially was calling for a disavowing of this criminality.

"Now of course this is a bit like the man who was asked had he stopped beating his wife, there is no answer that can satisfy.

"Republicans could not disavow criminality because they were not involved in any so they were damned if they did and damned if they didn't."

Republican sources also indicated that they believed that both governments knew that there was no chance of a deal emerging on December 8 but kept up a charade.

They said: "Both governments were made aware that as long as the demand for a photograph remained that no deal was possible yet they persisted on going ahead.

"This could explain why the Irish government went along with the talk of the release of the Castlerea five because they knew full well that no deal was going to happen."

Republicans said that this phase of attacks would not deter the movement from building its electoral base and increasing its electoral strength.

They said: "What is happening now is the result of the rise of Sinn Fein. Ten years ago both governments had this notion that the way forward was to get the Unionists and the SDLP on board and Sinn Fein would be like a poor relation tagging along.

"What was not part of the plan was the rise of Sinn Fein to the position of the dominant force in nationalism.

"Once this happened both governments had to find ways to try and stop the continued advance and this is what we are seeing now.

"But we are confident that we shall weather this storm and our electoral strength will increase."


Dublin Keeps The Heat On Sinn Fein

Process 'can only survive if Provos call time on activity'

By Chris Thornton
11 February 2005

Sinn Fein's relationship with the IRA remained in the political spotlight today as the Irish government continued to insist that the Provisionals must go out of business for the peace process to continue.

After yesterday's IMC report accused Sinn Fein leaders of actually giving the go-ahead to the Northern Bank robbery, Sinn Fein said it was pursuing "business as usual".

But Dublin insisted that the party must use its position at the heart of the IRA to end the paramilitary group's activity.

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said that "household names" in Sinn Fein are also members of the IRA army council.

"As long as Sinn Fein is linked to the IRA and the IRA is carrying out illegal activity, then Sinn Fein can't be admitted to an exclusively democratic process," he said.

However, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said he has "no idea" if the Sinn Fein leadership was aware of the £26.5m robbery in advance.

Mr Orde met the Sinn Fein leadership in Downing Street as the robbery was being planned.

The IRA army council is believed to include three Sinn Fein leaders - Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Kerry North TD Martin Ferris.

Mr Ferris' election to the Dail in 2002 was believed to have created a majority of elected Sinn Fein representatives on the seven-man council.

But security sources on both sides of the border said West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty left a short time later, reportedly to avoid criticism that the IRA was becoming an electoral platform for Sinn Fein.

All four of those men have repeatedly denied IRA membership, although Mr McGuinness admits to a brief membership in the past and Mr Ferris was jailed for gun-running.

Gerry Adams reacted with particular anger to yesterday's accusation, challenging the governments to arrest him and saying he had been betrayed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

"I think the Taoiseach has crossed the line and the line that he has crossed - and I took legal advice on this - was to accuse Martin McGuinness and I of conspiracy to rob, and of withholding information. I feel particularly angry about that.

"He has no option but to have us arrested; to shut up or to put up on this issue."

But a spokesman for Mr Ahern replied: "Anybody familiar with the rule of law in this country would know well that the Taoiseach has no power to direct the arrest of anyone.

"Operational aspects of the investigation of the Northern Bank robbery and the other crimes referred to by the IMC report were entirely a matter for the police forces in both jurisdictions."

Mr Doherty, who was meeting Health Minister Angela Smith at Stormont today, said his party intends to go about their business as normal.

"Over 26% of the Six County electorate mandated Sinn Fein to represent their interests," he said. "That is what today's meeting is about.

"From our point of view, and from that of our electorate, and despite the recent media spin and fictions, this is business as usual."


Adams: Go Ahead And Arrest Me

Furious SF leader rounds on Ahern as monitors tie party to bank raid

11 February 2005

Fresh accusations that senior Sinn Fein figures sanctioned the £26.5m IRA bank robbery in Belfast have provoked a bitter new row between the Provisionals and the Irish government.

The gulf between the two sides deepened last night after the International Monitoring Commission firmly implicated Sinn Fein in the lead-up to the robbery and three other serious raids in the North last year.

The commission recommended financial penalties to be imposed on Sinn Fein because of the robbery and warned that the party must make a choice between democracy and continued support for IRA crime.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams dismissed the report as rubbish and rounded on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

He called on Mr Ahern to withdraw his allegation that Sinn Fein leaders had prior knowledge of the December robbery or else produce the evidence to support a charge of conspiracy to rob and withholding information.

Mr Adams declared: "I feel a particular sense of betrayal by the Taoiseach. I think the Taoiseach has crossed the line and the line that he has crossed - and I took legal advice on this - was to accuse Martin McGuinness and I of conspiracy to rob, and of withholding information. I feel particularly angry about that.

"He has no option but to have us arrested, to shut up or to put up on this issue."

Mr Ahern responded that he did not have the power to arrest anybody while Government sources rejected claims that it was engaged in a campaign of embarrassing Sinn Fein for its own political purposes.

The IMC is to decide whether to name the Sinn Fein figures it blamed before it presents its next overall report on criminal activity to the Irish and British governments in April.

One commission member, Commander John Grieve, former head of the London Metropolitan Police anti-terror squad, said the material which led them to their findings was "as strong as anything I have ever seen".

He said the IMC had not reached its conclusions on the uncorroborated word of some intelligence agency but would not elaborate.

The IMC found that Sinn Fein, particularly through its senior members, was in a position to exercise considerable influence on the IRA's major policy decisions, even if it was not in a position to determine what policies or operational strategies the IRA would adopt.

It described the Northern Bank robbery as a complex and high risk crime that required careful planning and said that, apart from the intelligence supplied by the PSNI, it had also undertaken its own independent analysis based on information from official and other sources on both sides of the border.

Last night police investigating the robbery concluded a two-day search of houses, a scrapyard and a pond near the village of Beragh outside Omagh, Co Tyrone. Nothing was found.


Opin: If Your Irish, Stay Out Of Bush's Parlour (Except Bertie, Of Course)

By Lindy McDowell
11 February 2005

To the doubtless unbridled joy of George Bush's speechwriter, it is being rumoured that the annual St Paddy's Day bash in the White House will, this year, be an oddly muted affair. In other words just Bertie and Bush round a bowl of shamrock.

According to reports the usual Shinner suspects (I use the term loosely) will not be invited because George, Leader of the Free World, does not wish to be seen clasping the hands of those now regarded as having sanctioned the world's biggest ever bank robbery.

But since excluding Sinn Fein alone would inevitably spark the usual cries of victimhood, second class citizenship, Alabama and the back of the bus, the White House is said to have adopted a policy of parity of exclusion.

In other words, nobody from this side of the sheugh is being asked. Bar Bertie.

All this has yet to be confirmed. But currently the odds are that Gerry Adams has more chance of landing an invite to Prince Charles's nuptials than he has of being asked to drown his shamrock with Dubya.

And, as I said, at least the speechwriter will be chuffed.

We know this because one of his predecessors has recently revealed that next to the State of the Union address, the most hated gig on the White House speechwriter's calendar is March 17. How many nice things can you say about the noble Irish race, the speechwriter asks. Or, he could have added, about a peace process that has more sham in it that the obligatory bowl of the Irish emblem?

But never mind the speechwriter, shouldn't the rest of us be cheering too?

The idea that politicians from Ireland, north and south, might now be faced with the disturbing prospect of having to celebrate the feast day of Ireland's patron saint in (gulp) Ireland, has to be good for a laugh.

True, other parties do have a point when they say it would be unfair if they're excluded for the sins of the Shinners.

Since they've done nothing wrong themselves, they argue, why should they be treated as being on a par with Sinn Fein?

The truth is, of course, that they've never been treated as being on a par with Sinn Fein in terms of White House largesse.

Sinn Fein, to coin an American phrase, have always been regarded there as first among equals. That's because politically, the White House bash has been less about paying tribute to Patrick than about toadying to Gerry.

And let's not kid ourselves, that if the Shinners hadn't been hunched over the shamrock, this annual staged Oirish photocall would have attracted anything like the coverage it's had, in the past, in the US media.

It's that faint curl of gunsmoke that hovers still around Sinn Fein that makes them newsworthy.

Do not imagine for a moment that the American media would find just any old, bearded northern Irish party political leader as compelling a subject as Gerry.

Is David Ford a household name in Boston?

It was, we should remember, Bill Clinton who started this White House St Patrick's Day nonsense. That's Bill Clinton, the President with the famously flexible approach to having people in the Oval Office.

Among those invited to the do in the past, were local politicos with less votes than would get you elected to a parish council in England.

Yet here they were being feted like heads of state in the very home of the most powerful man on earth.

Bill, ever the clever politician, had his eye on the sizeable Irish vote when he organised his annual orgy of peace posturing. George Bush just got lumbered with it.

And if he has now decided to pull the plug on the circus, maybe it's shows that the American administration is not really as green as the Hudson River.

Whatever the reason, he'll be doing us all a favour.

St Patrick's Day in the White House has, in recent years been little more than a publicity exercise for Sinn Fein.

And I'm sorry if Ian and Mark and the two Davids feel put out if they don't get their invites this March.

But if it means our local VIPs (very important paramilitaries) have to forego the yearly ego boost of seeing their respective representatives centre stage, I'm all for exclusion.

The rest of us can celebrate our patron saint at home.

So why do our various political representatives feel they have to go grovelling to George? Jockeying for position around the shamrock? Bleating about the Bush?


Bush's Speech Writer In Irish Gaffe

St Pat's Day US event 'boring'

By Sean O'Driscoll
11 February 2005

A former speech writer for President George W Bush has defended his comments that the annual St Patrick's Day greeting to Irish political leaders is one of the most boring jobs a presidential speech writer has to endure.

Matthew Scully, who retired in August as senior speech writer and special adviser to President Bush, said that the annual address to the Taoiseach while accepting a bowl of shamrocks was almost as dreaded as the State of the Union address.

Mr Scully, whose family are originally from Ulster, said that a speech writer could run out of ways to celebrate the great qualities of the Irish people or thank the Taoiseach for the bowl of shamrocks.

In an opinion article in the New York Times, Mr Scully writes: "Almost as dreaded as drafting a State of the Union, for example, are those yearly chores like writing remarks for the St Patrick's Day visit by the Prime Minister of Ireland.

"How many different ways can you accept a bowl of shamrocks, or celebrate the sterling qualities of the noble Irish people?"

However, Mr Scully defended his remarks to the Belfast Telegraph and said he didn't intend to cause any offence to political leaders on either side of the border.

He said that the President's St Patrick's Day remarks were usually left to a junior speech writer who pulled details of St Patrick's life off the Internet.

The junior speech writer would work on the theme and three senior speech writers, including Scully, would spend two or three hours polishing the speech.

"The St Patrick's Day speech could often be on the same day as a really important speech and so it could drift from your consciousness as soon as it was finished," he said.

Scully said he didn't mean to belittle the Taoiseach's visits and was proud of his Ulster roots.

"I missed out on going on a trip to Ireland with the President. I would have loved to have been over there and met the Taoiseach," he said.

Mr Scully also revealed that the spelling of the word Taoiseach was like an annual competition among the speech writers.

"I take pride in saying that I was the only one who got it right year after year without having to check," he said.

Mr Scully comes from a strongly Irish American political background in New York.


Viewpoint: Sinn Fein's Great Betrayal Of Trust

IMC Report: No room in government for any party linked to criminality.

11 February 2005

If Sinn Fein was a normal political party, it would be hanging its head in shame today. The Independent Monitoring Commission's conclusion that some senior members had sanctioned a series of robberies including the Northern Bank heist is a damning indictment of the party.

Although individuals are not named, the IMC report asserts that some senior members of Sinn Fein are also senior members of the Provisional IRA. Sinn Fein, it says, cannot be considered as being committed exclusively to peaceful means as long as it and the IRA continue to be involved in crime.

Predictably, Sinn Fein has rubbished the report and Gerry Adams has angrily challenged its conclusions. But there is no escaping the fact that the Northern Bank robbery has provoked the greatest debate for the past 30 years on the role of the Irish republican movement.

Politicians and the public north and south are becoming increasingly vocal in questioning the need for the IRA's continued existence. With its substantial mandate, why does Sinn Fein any longer need to retain a link to a ruthless paramilitary organisation?

A major ramification of the heist is the fact that it has placed the Sinn Fein leadership emphatically in the opposite corner to democratic parties. It has raised the issue as never before as to why republicans continue to ride two horses.

Besieged as he is, Mr Adams appears to be losing some of his usual cool. He has brazenly challenged the authorities to arrest him, but he knows that is a cheap jibe aimed at diverting attention from the ignominious verdict of the IMC.

The reality is that during the course of the troubles thousands of serious crimes occurred for which nobody was made amenable, even though the proverbial dogs in the street could have named the culprits. Reliable intelligence is one thing, gathering evidence is quite another and the IRA are past and present masters in hindering the course of justice.

Few people in Ireland, north and south, will differ with the IMC's conclusions, but the question now arises as to what action should be taken. Sanctions may salve the conscience of democrats, but would fail to provide an answer to the fundamental problem.

As the IMC says, the answer is for Sinn Fein to choose between continued support for IRA criminality and becoming an exclusively democratic political party. The events of recent weeks have crystallised the challenge facing Mr Adams and his cohorts.

Either Sinn Fein can detach itself from the IRA and all its criminality once and for all, or else the party can retreat back into the hardline and potentially dangerous role from which it began to emerge at the time of the Good Friday Agreement.

If the republican movement is genuinely committed to a peaceful outcome, there is no doubt as to which path it should follow. Sinn Fein can no longer play ducks and drakes with the peace process for it has betrayed the trust of the people of Ireland, north and south, who voted for the Agreement in 1998.


Off-Duty Police On Alert Over Dissident Threats

Friday 11th February 2005

Police officers living in the Derry area have been placed on high alert amid a growing threat from dissident republicans, the Journal has learned.

PSNI personnel in the Waterside and areas around Eglinton were warned this week to remain vigilant after a massive security operation aimed at thwarting attacks on offduty members.

The force yesterday officiallly refused to give more details on their reasons for an increase in security in Derry earlier this week with checkpoints at border crossings, on main roads within the city and on the Foyle Bridge.

A spokesman did say however that there was a serious dissident threat and the force was responding to the threat.

On Tuesday night motorists reported British Army checkpoints at the Culmore Road border crossing and at Coshquin.

On both occasions the British Army seemed to be acting in support of the PSNI who were actually stopping the cars.

Later the same evening there were reports of a major joint PSNI/British Army checkpoint on the Limavady Road.

On Wednesday morning many motorists noticed a British Army/PSNI checkpoint on the Foyle Bridge which led to some delays.

There were also reports of helicopter activity in the Waterside area, again on Tuesday night.

The Journal can reveal however that the main alert centred on the village of Eglinton where British Army helicopters hovered well into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Police personnel living in the area were also contacted and told to step up their personal security at home by reverting to Troubles-style checks on their property and family vehicles.

There is also a real fear that dissident republicans may also have plans for a bomb attack on the village's part-time police station and patrols were stepped up there during the week.

Yesterday the PSNI claimed the heightened security was not in response to a specific incident but was part of a strategy to disrupt dissident republican activity in the area.

A spokesman however confirmed: "The public will be aware that a serious terrorist threat from dissident republicans exists in the North and West of Northern Ireland.

"Vehicle checks using army support is part of the PSNI strategy to prevent these attacks, which have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and cost people their jobs over the last few weeks."

The police also said that the increased security activity was not 'directly linked' to reports they received of two men acting suspiciously in the Eglinton area in the early hours of Wednesday morning

A police spokesman said yesterday they had received reports but that this was not the reason behind the heightened security measures which they claIimed were part of a wider strategy to thwart dissident republicans.

In recent weeks there has been an upsurge in dissident republican activity with firebomb attacks in Derry and Strabane as well as other parts of the North.

There is a fear now however that tactics could change to include bombings and/or gun attacks on security force personnel.


Durkan Welcomes Blair Apology

Friday 11th February 2005

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has warmly welcomed Tony Blair's apology to the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven and their families.

The Foyle MLA said: "Even after their sentences were quashed, a cloud of suspicion has hung over the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. That cloud has now been lifted. These people and their families were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. They deserved to be completely and publicly exonerated.

"I welcome the fact that Tony Blair has given them a full public apology - as the SDLP had asked him to do. He has shown good character and I know that the families concerned are very grateful. I have spoken to them and heard how pleased they are that their campaign has had a successful outcome."

Mr. Durkan also thanked Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who, he said, had helped the families hugely to secure an apology.

He added: "The tragedy is is that Giuseppe Conlon is not alive to hear his name cleared at last. However, it will be a huge comfort to his family that, 25 years on from his death, his total and utter innocence has been affirmed."

Mr. Durkan also criticised UUP leader David Trimble for questioning why a public apology was necessary. "The truth is that, even after their convictions were quashed, there was a whispering campaign against them," said Mr. Durkan. "And the fact that David Trimble couldn't support a public apology shows just why an apology was needed.

"Furthermore, I want to stress that there is nothing unusual in the timing of this announcement. This was simply a case of Tony Blair doing the right thing - and nothing more.

"In fact, I asked Tony Blair to do this last week. However, because it was not possible to get the families to London then, it was put back to this week."

The SDLP, said Mr. Durkan, would continue to work for all victims of the Troubles, to help bring them the closure that they deserve "after years of suffering and injustice." Conlon addresses SDLP.


Young Man Dies During Match

By Debra Douglas
11 February 2005

The heartbroken mother of a young footballer who dropped dead while playing a match said today her family's world had been torn apart by the tragedy.

Paul Maxwell (22), from Hopefield Avenue, north Belfast, had just scored a goal when he suddenly collapsed and died.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, his grief- stricken mother Eileen said: "No words can describe how I feel. It is just gut-wrenching - an emotional roller-coaster.

"My whole world is in a spin and I just can't believe my lovely son has gone. It is like I'm living in some kind of horrendous nightmare.

"I try to sleep but I keep seeing his beautiful face and hearing his voice and when I'm awake, I keep thinking he will walk down the hall again and everything will be OK, but it won't.

"The whole family is heartbroken, particularly his twin sister Gillian - she is devastated. They were the youngest of seven and the rest of his brothers and sisters have taken the news hard.

"His brother Jim and sister Barbara are coming home from Australia this morning."

Paul, nicknamed Maxy by close friends, worked part-time at the local Budget store and was playing football for the works team in Newtownabbey on Wednesday night when tragedy struck.

"When he scored a goal, he jumped up for joy to celebrate and collapsed. It was awful for everyone there. They must have been totally shocked."

Mrs Maxwell said that when she saw her son in hospital, she could not believe he was dead.

"I went into the room and held his hands. I was trying to will for life to go back into him again, pleading with him to come back to me," she said.

She said tests were being carried out on Paul to ascertain the cause of death.

"We are looking at the possibility of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome or something else like that as he had no warning signs that anything was wrong."

Paul's funeral will take place tomorrow at Holy Family Church, Newington, followed by burial at Carnmoney Cemetery.

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