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February 13, 2005

02/13/05 – Adams For USA With Or Without Invite

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

SL 02/13/05 Adams For USA, With Or Without Invite To White House
SL 02/13/05 London Denies Durkan Claim
SL 02/13/05 Orde Set To Branch Out
TO 02/13/05 Whistleblower Attacked In Bar
TO 02/13/05 IRA Supporter Invited To Bigotry Summit
SL 02/13/05 'My Dad's Murderer Is Back'
SL 02/13/05 Like Father, Like Mother, Like Son
SL 02/13/05 Tea-Only Hunger Strike For Adair's Pal
SL 02/13/05 KO For Shoukri Charity Fight
SL 02/13/05 Evidence Finds Puppies Used To 'Blood' Killer Dogs
SL 02/13/05 Rats: Breeding Menace
IO 02/13/05 IRL - 2nd Highest Number Of Single Mothers In W Europe
SL 02/13/05 Why Yell Wan Tay Spake Norn Iron...
UT 02/13/05 Shannon Stop Over To End
SL 02/13/05 Liam Neeson: A Beacon Of Light In Gloomy Belfast

RT 02/13/05 Gulf Between Govt & Sinn Féin Widens –AO
RT 02/13/05 Reynolds Gives Assessment Of The Current Impasse -AO
RT 02/13/05 SDLP Is Political Victim Of Sinn Féin Growth -AO

Gulf Between Govt & Sinn Féin Widens - Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern respond to a report blaming the IRA for the Northern Bank raid

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds Gives His Assessment Of The Current Impasse in the peace process

SDLP Is Political Victim Of Sinn Féin Growth - SDLP leader Mark Durkan discusses Northern Ireland's current political climate


Adams For USA, With Or Without An Invitation To The White House

By Alan Murray
13 February 2005

GERRY Adams is set to travel to Washington next month - even if he is snubbed by the White House on St Patrick's Day.

The Sinn Fein president is planning an eight-day visit, starting with a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on March 14.

There is speculation the council, headed by former NI special envoy Richard Haass, will grill Adams over alleged IRA criminal activity, including the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery.

The US Consul in Belfast is making no comment on reports that Sinn Fein - and possibly all the Northern Ireland parties - could be frozen out of the annual March 17 bash, hosted by the President.

A senior aide to Gerry Adams said: "We are aware of the rumours but have no direct knowledge of any arrangements. It is a matter for the US administration, but we wouldn't rule out interference from the British or Irish Governments, especially the Irish, because they are on a charge against Sinn Fein at this moment.

"We wouldn't rule out the possibility that they would ask the Americans to do their dirty work, but we would point out that British ministers have no problem sitting in television studios with senior Sinn Fein figures."

Meanwhile, the DUP's Peter Robinson said barring all local political parties from the White House would be an "outrageous punishment of the innocent along with the guilty".


London Denies Durkan Claim

No Blair pressure on SDLP to 'freeze out' Shinners: No 10

13 February 2005

DOWNING Street last night distanced itself from claims by SDLP leader Mark Durkan that it canvassed the party vigorously on forming a devolved Executive that would freeze out Sinn Fein.

As SDLP members attended their annual conference in Londonderry, Mr Durkan claimed Tony Blair pushed him on the issue of entering a voluntary coalition with unionists, during a meeting in January.

He said: "He (Blair) pushed us very strongly in the direction of voluntary coalition, or exclusion - call it what you will.

"He was quite prepared to accept those terms as being interchangeable."

The idea of a voluntary coalition at Stormont has been promoted by the DUP and Alliance, but the SDLP has been reluctant to sign up to it.

But a Downing Street spokesman said last night that the Government did not have a fixed idea on the way forward for Northern Ireland.

"The Government's position is that it has to explore all the options being put forward by the various parties," said the spokesman.

"That does not mean it has decided on a particular one option."


Orde Set To Branch Out

Drive to recruit former elite RUC cops to plug 'intelligence gap'

Exclusive by Alan Murray
13 February 2005

CHIEF Constable Hugh Orde has launched a drive to recruit ex-Special Branch officers in a bid to smash the IRA's Northern Bank robbery team.

The ex-RUC veterans are being brought in on short-term contracts, as cops desperately try to crack the top Provo gang suspected of a series of high-profile raids.

Security sources say the ex-Branch investigators have been given a brief to resurrect former touts, and gather intelligence about the plans and activities of paramilitary groups.

One source claimed the move was designed to "bridge the intelligence deficit", which critics say now exists inside the new-look police service.

The move, which the PSNI declined to discuss, underlines the scale of the problem facing the force's intelligence gathering section, now known as C-3 Intelligence.

Since the signing of the Agreement in 1998, around 400 experienced 'Branch' officers have left the force.

And around 300 informers were dumped last year, in a move to purge the PSNI of touts involved in criminal activities.

But critics say the policy has been exposed as seriously flawed over the last six years, as paramilitary killers on both sides have escaped prosecution.

And they point to a specialist IRA unit based in Belfast, which has pulled off robberies netting millions of pounds worth of cigarettes, electrical goods and cash.

Mr Orde has strenuously denied that the fact police had no prior hint of the Northern Bank heist, revealed shortcomings in its intelligence gathering.

But subsequent searches of homes and business premises have so far failed to uncover the trail of the stolen cash.

One informed security source said: "Experienced former officers have been recruited to help with bridging the serious intelligence deficit currently existing, and which is causing major problems.

"Some have been engaged on six-month contracts and given the task of reactivating former sources, and trying to make inroads into the tight circle of IRA activists who have been planning and carrying out the big robberies."

The police refused to comment on claims that it has recruited former Special Branch officers in a bid to regain the intelligence initiative.

In a statement on Friday, the PSNI would only say that it required individuals with a range of specialist skills to perform its role in the community.

"However, we are unable to discuss appointments to individual posts within the police service," the statement added.


Whistleblower Attacked In Bar

Liam Clarke

A FORMER anti-terrorist detective who exposed Special Branch dirty tricks has been attacked in a Belfast city centre pub. A man assaulted Johnston Brown with a bottle before he was chased from the bar by angry patrons.

The attack happened late on Thursday night. Brown was taken to hospital where he was given 10 stitches in his head.

“The disappointing thing is that the police have so far taken no interest whatsoever in the attack,” said Brown.

Brown and his wife, Rebecca, had been talking to Chris Moore, a BBC journalist, when the attack happened. They had dined together in a nearby restaurant that evening.

Moore gave chase. The bottle from which the attacker had been drinking was recovered. Two local businesses believe they may have CCTV footage of the attack.

Brown’s wife said: “The police told me that when Johnston was feeling better he could come into the station to make a statement.”

Last night, Brown revealed that he had received a letter from the Northern Ireland Office saying security measures at his home were going to be reduced just a day before the attack. The NIO proposed removing a “Hawkeye” monitoring system that allows the family to radio for immediate police assistance.

“They have told me that if I come under attack, I should ring a police station which is about 30 miles away from my home,” said Brown.

Brown is best known for “befriending” Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair, the Ulster Freedom Fighters killer, and persuading him to make a confession which he secretly taped. He also coaxed confessions out of a number of other terrorists including Ken Barrett, the man recently convicted of the murder of Pat Finucane.

Brown has many enemies both within the terrorist groups and the intelligence services.

A PSNI spokesman said: “The matter is actively under investigation and, if a member of the public has a complaint about police handling of their case, then they should contact the ombudsman.”


IRA Supporter Invited To Bigotry Summit

Jason Allardyce

THE first minister has been criticised for inviting an IRA supporter, who has been jailed for inciting people to attack police officers, to tomorrow’s summit on sectarianism in Scotland.

Jack McConnell has asked Jim Slaven, the national organiser of Cairde Na hEireann, a republican organisation described by its critics as “dangerous”, to sit down with church leaders and football clubs to help to work out ways to curb religious hatred in Scotland.

Slaven is an active campaigner on behalf of the three IRA suspects sentenced in their absence to 17 years for aiding terrorists in Colombia.

Slaven, who claims that his organisation’s members have been targeted by Special Branch and MI5, was convicted in 1993 of organising an illegal march by the pro-republican James Connolly Society.

The event led to dozens of arrests and Slaven was convicted of inciting people to attack police officers and resisting arrest. He was fined £350 but was jailed for 14 days after refusing to pay.

Last night members of the Orange Order said that they felt deeply uneasy about sitting round a table with Slaven’s group. “They are a dangerous organisation. What else can you call a group that associates itself with republican violence, led by a guy who has been in prison for these activities,” said Ian Wilson, grand master of the Orange Lodge of Scotland.

Slaven claims his campaigning activities and criminal conviction were a matter of public record and that he, like the IRA, supported a peaceful resolution to religious conflicts.

He was invited to the summit because his organisation represents republican bands in Scotland and he said that he would approach this week’s talks in a positive manner.

The row came as new research suggested religious discrimination in the workplace is not a serious problem.

A study which analysed the salaries of Catholics and Protestants over a decade claims that the slight wage gap between the two groups can be explained by Catholics having poorer qualifications.

The Scottish Economic Policy Network’s research analysed more than a decade of data. Its author Harminder Battu, a senior economics lecturer at Aberdeen University, found that Catholic men earned £10.50 an hour compared with £11 among their Protestant counterparts. There was no difference in women’s earnings.

However, Battu said that a quarter of Catholic men had no qualifications, compared with a fifth of Protestants.


'My Dad's Murderer Is Back'

Kingsmills triggerman returns...

13 February 2005

ONE of the IRA's most notorious killers has returned to Northern Ireland - 30 years after he went on the run, following a series of brutal sectarian murders.

And the son of one of his victims last night threatened legal action, if the security forces failed to arrest the IRA on-the-run.

The gunman, who fled across the border, following the IRA massacre of 10 Protestant workman at Kingsmills in 1976, has been sighted recently in the village of Meigh, south Armagh.

The security forces believe he was part of a ruthless IRA border murder squad in the mid-70s, whose victims included part-time UDR Corporal Bertie Frazer, father of prominent victims' campaigner, Willie Frazer.

Bertie Frazer, who was 49, was ambushed by a gang of IRA gunmen as he reversed his car out of a friend's farm, near Whitecross, on August 30, 1975.

One of the gunmen dragged his body out the car, and the killers then used the vehicle to make their getaway.

Willie Frazer, said last night: "This man was part of the IRA death squad that murdered my father in cold blood.

"The security forces know he is back.

"They also know he is still wanted in connection with numerous murders in south Armagh. He must be arrested and brought before the courts."

Mr Frazer, director of the victims' group FAIR, added: "If the PSNI don't detain this man, we will seek a judicial review of the decision not to arrest him.

"If this man is allowed to go free, then it will be clear the government has already given an amnesty to republican on-the-runs," he said.

The top republican fled his Co Armagh home, before police could question him about his alleged involvement in the Kingsmills massacre, in January 1976.

Police officers also wanted to interrogate him about the sectarian murders of five Orangemen, at Tullyvallen, in 1975.

He was also suspected of involvement in a series of murders of UDR men and RUC officers in the area.

Sunday Life has been told there were at least two sightings of the Kingsmills suspect, near the south Armagh village of Meigh, last week.

On one occasion, he was seen getting into a car in the main street. He was later spotted entering a house, on the outskirts of the village.


Like Father, Like Mother, Like Son

Newest member of DUP dynasty makes his debut

13 February 2005

ANOTHER Robinson is set to enter the Ulster political arena.

Gareth Robinson, son of MPs Peter and Iris, has been selected by the DUP to contest the local government elections in May.

And he will be standing in the same Dundonald electoral area of Castlereagh Borough Council as his mum!

Gareth (26) works as a researcher for his father, who has been a member of Castlereagh council since 1977.

The DUP currently holds four of the seven seats in the Dundonald ward.

Both Peter and Iris Robinson, who are also MLAs, have held the post of mayor of Castlereagh.

One pal of Gareth's said yesterday: "It was inevitable - given the family background - that he would one day go into politics himself.

"Gareth works very closely with his father, but has plenty of friends outside the party."

The DUP is proud to boast of its extensive family involvement in politics.

Party leader Ian Paisley's son, Ian jnr, is an MLA for North Antrim, and daughter Rhonda is a former member of Belfast City Council.

And Diane, wife of North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, was elected an MLA in the West Belfast ward at the last Assembly elections in Northern Ireland.


Tea-Only Hunger Strike For Adair's Pal

Exclusive by Stephen Breen
13 February 2005

A DRUG-DEALING loyalist has gone on hunger strike in England - after jail bosses banned close pal Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair from visiting him.

'Bolton Wanderer' Ian Truesdale - one of the Shankill UDA 'exiles' - has been protesting at Adair's ban with a 'tea-only' diet for the last three weeks.

Truesdale, who helped mastermind a 'dial-a-drugs' operation in Bolton, started the hunger strike at the privately-owned Forrestbank Prison.

The Shankill exile is serving a four-year sentence for supplying heroin, along with Adair's son Jonathan.

The pair tried to move into the drugs market, after the gangland killing of Bolton drugs lord, Billy Webb, in the late 1990s.

It is understood Adair, who fled to the north west of England last month, was denied permission to visit the drug-dealer because of "security concerns".

Although Truesdale was transferred to Walton Prison in Liverpool, on Thursday, he has vowed to continue with his self-imposed food ban.

He also claims he went on the hunger strike because his human rights had been "violated" by the police.

Speaking to us from his new cell, Truesdale hit out at the decision to ban Adair from meeting him.

Said the jailbird: "I was looking forward to meeting Johnny when he was released from prison, and I didn't think there would be any problems with the request for a visit.

"We were only told at the last minute that the request had been denied, because of security concerns regarding Johnny's visit.

"But what possible security risk could Johnny have been in a prison? He is a free man now, and I am entitled to visits from whoever I want.

"I have embarked on this protest because it was the only option left available to me, and I'm going to continue with it.

"They put me on the punishment block and then had the riot-squad transfer me, all because I objected to the ban on someone I know visiting me."

A spokesman for Walton Prison refused to comment on the development, saying: "We are not in a position to comment on the welfare of individual prisoners.

"If a prisoner does refuse food, then we would have to address the situation."


KO For Shoukri Charity Fight

Opponent pulls out after UDA attacks on Shankill minister

Exclusive by Ciaran McGuigan
13 February 2005

THE charity boxing match between a UDA 'brigadier' and a born-again pastor has been delivered a fatal blow, following terror attacks on another minister.

Hardman preacher, Michael Cousins, was set to step into the ring with UDA boss, Andre Shoukri, to raise money for sick children.

But the Elim church pastor has pulled out of the fight, after the sick attacks on a Protestant minister, offering help to the family of a UDA feud victim.

Ruth Petticrew, who runs a ministry on the Shankill Road, was subjected to a campaign of terror, after she offered pastoral care to the family of slain Alan McCullough.

It culminated with a petrol-bomb attack on her car, last month.

The UDA was behind the murder of former Johnny Adair ally McCullough, and it is believed that the attack on Ms Petticrew's car, and threats on her life, came from elements within the UDA.

And it is understood the attack was the final straw for church elders, who were already under pressure from their congregation over the controversial bout.

The Children's Hospice - which was originally to benefit from the fight - had also distanced itself from the bout.

One church source told Sunday Life: "The church simply couldn't have any more to do with this fight, because of the UDA connection.

"They weren't going to stand back, and let the UDA attack one minister and, at the same time, get involved in charity events with the very same people.

"So, the whole thing has been pulled.

"It started off with good intentions, but attracted too much bad publicity, and involved too many bad people."

The fight was due to take place at the end of February, in Ballysillan Leisure Centre, and £25-a-head tickets were being snapped up.

The organisers had even secured public liability insurance, to allow the boxing to go ahead.

But a Belfast City Council spokesman last week confirmed that the booking had been cancelled.


Fed to the pitbulls...

Raid Finds Evidence That Pets And Puppies Used To 'Blood' Killer Dogs

By Sinead McCavana
13 February 2005

THIS is the savaged face of a defenceless family pet, after blood-thirsty thugs fed it to a ferocious Pitbull Terrier.

These shocking pictures were taken during the raid of an underground "dog fighting training camp", in Northern Ireland.

Barbaric scum involved in illegal dog fights are stealing much-loved animals from homes across the country, and feeding them to killer Pitbulls for "blooding" .

The USPCA and police found around 10 family pets, including tiny Collie puppies chained up, during this raid beside a housing estate.

They were about to face the most horrific death - being ripped apart by a Pitbull, itself being trained by sick thugs to fight to the death.

Bets of up to £10,000 are won on the fights.

Thankfully, many of the harmless doe-eyed pets were saved.

But it was too late for the timid greyhounds in these photographs, mauled to death for 'sport'.

The shocking extent of underground dog fights in Ulster was only realised when a dossier of death, entitled 'The Irish Champions Year Book' was obtained by USPCA chief, Stephen Philpott.

Sunday Life has seen the sickening Pitbull Terrier's Club annual.

Using codenames, the dog owners outline details about each sickening fight:-

lthe names and weight of the dogs involved.

l how long they fought for - in one case this was almost three hours.

Even the bloodlines of the champion dogs are listed in the shameful log, seized during the raid.

"When I read that, I just couldn't believe it," said Mr Philpott.

"I had heard that perhaps these fights could last an hour, which was bad enough, but imagine what those animals go through for hours on end - until one dies."

Mr Philpott would not be drawn on whether paramilitaries were involved, and at this stage declined to give the location of dog fighting camp.

But police sources told Sunday Life last night, that loyalist paramilitaries are heavily involved.

Just last week, it was revealed that children's swings in public parks in south and east Belfast are being used to train these animals.

The USPCA's Stephen Philpott says: "If a dog can savage another animal, what would it do to a toddler?

"Why are these illegal animals on the street - Pitbulls are illegal, and cross-breeds of them are illegal.

"There are more of these dogs roaming the streets than when the ban came in, during the 1980s. What other country would allow this to happen? People are asking why aren't the police doing more, but it's the responsibility of councils' dog wardens, not the police," he stressed.

"We have been telling the council for years that these dogs exist, but they still don't do anything."

Belfast City Council has urged anyone with information about these illegal animals to contact the dog warden.


Rats: Breeding Menace

Rats love Belfast, with its crumbling sewers, litter and warm winters, but for us their increase spells a problem.

By Joe Oliver
13 February 2005

ULSTER is being overrun by rats - according to a shock new report.

The fearsome rodents - one of the animal world's most prolific pests - are breeding out of control.

The shock report found the number of brown rats soared by 12pc last year - and there were 15pc more summer rats.

Across the UK, brown rat numbers increased by 2pc and summer rats by 7pc.

Litter, crumbling sewers and - crucially - warmer winters all contribute to create perfect breeding conditions for vermin.

Ulster-born telly star Eamonn Holmes recently came face-to-face with the filthy conditions responsible for the explosion in rodent numbers, while filming his BBC series, Dirty Work.

John Kilby, deputy head of the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA), who conducted the study, also warned that rats are now bigger and more dangerous.

He told Sunday Life: "We're seeing much warmer winters, and that is extending the breeding season.

"This means that, not only are we seeing more rats, they are also much bigger rats.

"You simply don't have the mortality rate you would with harsh winters."

And he added: "Another factor in the equation is that female brown rats are ready to breed at just 11 weeks, and can give birth to more than 40 offspring a year.

"The speed they multiply makes rabbits look sterile."

Over-feeding of wild birds and careless recycling are also reasons why rats are flourishing.

The statistics are based on information supplied to the NPTA by local authorities across the UK.

The 12pc increase in rats here followed a whopping 34pc rise recorded in the previous year.

Said Mr Kilby: "If they continue to multiply at this rate, then regions like Northern Ireland, Scotland and Yorkshire will have real problems inside the next few years.

"The answer to the problem really rests with local councils, water companies and the general public.

"We need to get litter off our streets, we need better sewers and we need regular baiting of those sewers."

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said that, on average, between 68 and 70 sewers were baited every day.

She added: "For the year ended March 2004, we received 1,366 complaints about rats and we were pro-active in our response."

But Belfast, in particular, could be facing a public health headache with the launch of a massive £100m project, designed to replace sewers that date back to the Victorian era.

Tunnelling work has already started in the Newtownbreda and Lisburn Road areas, and there are fears it could drive the rat population to the surface.

Dennis McKibben, of rodent alert group RAG, said: "The impact of creating a virtually new sewer system could have serious consequences unless strict safeguards are observed.

"All types of excavation or building works will always disturb rats, forcing them to the surface.

"It is, of course, necessary to replace or upgrade sewer systems, but where this has happened in Europe, it has always been followed by a plague of rats."


Ireland Has Second Highest Number Of Single Mothers In Western Europe

13/02/2005 - 10:55:16

Ireland has the second highest number of single mothers in western Europe, according to a new study.

The Conference on Women and the Labour Market in Europe compared data from 14 countries and found that the UK and Ireland have the highest number of single mothers aged between 18 and 35.

The conference focussed on young single parents and although we're in second place, the data shows our single parents are getting older.

Most people claiming lone parent allowance here are aged between 30 and 39, while the numbers aged 24 and under have been falling steadily.

The survey also revealed that Ireland has the most generous social welfare payments for single-parent families. The report's author concluded that there was a direct link between the level of social welfare and the incidence of single parenthood.

Meanwhile, the Government is planning to replace the current lone-parent-allowance with a new child benefit system which would no longer demand that single parents live alone.


Why Yell Wan Tay Spake Norn Iron... top UK search engine goes native

By John McGurk
13 February 2005

CYBERSPACE consumers can now 'shap til ya drap' - 'Norn Iron' style!

For the word is out - the age of computer 'craic' has arrived, with the likes of 'bevy' and 'duncher' all entering the vocabulary of a UK-wide internet search facility.

No, we're 'not having yee on'! - an online version of Yellow Pages - now provides lists of shops and businesses by using some local lingo!

So, for example, if you're on the look-out for 'gutties', type it into Yell's search engine and it will come up with details of shoe shops and sports' equipment outlets.

Yell is currently on the hunt for even more colourful Ulsterisms - with the launch of a province-wide competition search on Downtown Radio, from tomorrow.

And local language expert, Dr Alison Henry isn't exactly lost for words when it comes to praising the combination of 'craic' with computers!

The University Of Ulster linguistics professor acted as consultant for the 'Norn Iron' initiative.

Said Alison: "I think that it is a great idea, as local words are, quite often, looked down upon.

"It is really good to see them written down and being used in this way.

"It is a big challenge because, if you think of the printed version of Yellow Pages, traditionally you look for something like 'Doctors', and it says 'please see physicians and surgeons'.

"But this actually reflects the language that people use every day.

"I think that some people might think of this as just a bit of fun.

"But, actually, I think it is nice for people to be able to look up these things on the search engine."

Alison added that there is a "rich flavour" of 'Norn Iron' words, with a mix of Ulster-Scots, Irish and countryside influences such as 'sheugh' - meaning a water filled ditch! But her favourite local word is 'craic'.

The Yell search facility includes other regional dialects, such as Cockney, Scouse and Geordie.

Its ebusiness director, Eddie Cheng said: "Adding local words to will enable our users to search, using words they know and understand - making it easier to find shops and services anywhere in the UK, wherever they are from, or wherever they are."

Cyber certified Ulster terms...

WORDS on's Ulster local lingo list search engine facility include:

BEVVY/SCOOP: drink - listing alcohol wholesalers and suppliers.
DUNCHER: hats and caps - listing hats and millinery outlets.
KECKS: underwear - listing clothes shops, textile manufacturers, menswear, ironing and laundry services and more!
POKE: ice cream - listing ice cream shops and suppliers, dairy and egg producers and food outlets.
OFFEES: off-licences - listing off the counter drinks' outlets.
PURDIE: potato - listing fruit and vegetable shops, market gardeners and supermarkets.
BOG: toilet - listing bathroom suppliers and construction companies.
PIECE: sandwich - listing cafes, delicatessens and prepared food product outlet.


Shannon Stop Over To End

The stop over at Shannon is to be phased out which will allow Aer Lingus to fly directly to three new US destinations.

A deal between Irish and US officials is expected to be announced shortly.

It is thought there will be a three year transition period as apposed to sudden halt to flights landing there.

Local Fine Gael TD, Pat Breen says that `open skies` in Ireland is bad news both Shannon Airport and the national airline.


Liam Neeson: A Beacon Of Light In Gloomy Belfast

13 February 2005

LIAM Neeson was once a struggling, young actor at the Lyric - now he's the theatre's greatest supporter.

The Ballymena-born superstar recently hosted a private dinner in New York for a group of wealthy Irish Americans, asking them to help with fund-raising.

He spoke fondly of the place where he began his profession, back in the Troubles-blighted Belfast of the 1970s.

"Belfast was not a pretty town to be living in," he said.

"There was serious trouble, but the Lyric was like a Belisha beacon of light and hope, six nights a week.

"It will always be precious to me - it is too important to the cultural and social life of Northern Ireland for this building to fall apart," added the star, a patron of the Lyric.

The Lyric also launched the careers of Stephen Rea and Adrian Dunbar, and playwrights like Gary Mitchell.

Following in the footsteps of these famous names are a new breed of local actors, who rely on the Lyric for employment.

Gerard Jordan is one of those - he is now starring at the Lyric in Sean O'Casey's tragic comedy, The Shadow of a Gunman.

He's probably best known as Hoker, in the Pearse Elliott's BBC NI comedy-drama, Pulling Moves.

In Shadow, he plays Tommy Owens, who he describes as "a wee blower that talks too much".

For a struggling actor like Gerard, the Lyric is vital to his survival - especially given the poor state of the city's arts and cultural scene.

"Acting is all I've got, " said Gerard.

"I left school with three GCSEs, so I'm a full-time actor - when the work is there."

He takes a very level-headed approach to his growing career, and would like to remain in Northern Ireland if possible.

"Eventually, I probably will move, but I would rather get a name for myself here."

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Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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