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February 13, 2005

02/13/05 – Durkan’s Attacks Against SF Sets Tone

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

IT 02/14/05 Leader's Angry Broadside Against SF Sets Tone
IT 02/14/05 Links To Several SDLP Conference Stories
IT 02/14/05 Talks On McCabe Killers Possible In Future
RT 02/14/05 Protest Over N. Ireland Angers U.K.
TH 02/13/05 McConnell To Lead Summit On Religious Bigotry
IT 02/14/05 Ferry Drifted For Hours In Gale
IT 02/14/05 Ancient High Cross Recreated For US Site

RT 02/13/05 Gardaí Investigate Co Clare Body Find –VO
RT 02/13/05 Man's Body Found In Belfast –VO
RT 02/13/05 60th Anniversary Of Dresden Bombing –VO

Gardaí Investigate Co Clare Body Find - Eileen Whelan reports on the discovery of a man's body in a field near Ennis

Man's Body Found In Belfast - Watch the video

60th Anniversary Of Dresden Bombing - Watch the video


Leader's Angry Broadside Against SF Sets Tone

The SDLP is Mark Durkan's party now. And the undeclared general election campaing which is under way is the next crucial battle, writes Dan Keenan Northern News Editor.

Other SDLP conferences have been jovial get-togethers, some have been emotional farewells, yet others have been celebratory, the odd one from 25 years ago has been despondent.

This one was different. This was angry and determined. It was strident, despite the fact that the SDLP is gearing up for an election more crucial than any previous "crucial" election.

The years since Good Friday 1998 have seen spectacular electoral highs for the party, swiftly followed by stunning reversals and slumps. Some party members still feel aggrieved that having given so much to what little constitutional health the North has, they have been rewarded with so little.

Things feel very different now in the party. Gone is any notion among delegates that the slow death of the SDLP would have been in some way worth it for the success of Belfast Agreement and the development of stable politics.

This weekend saw speaker after speaker denounce the failures of the past seven years, the mistakes of the British (and Irish) governments, and the ambiguity of peace process speak.

Chief offender, according to Mark Durkan and many others down through the party ranks, is what he calls the "Provisional movement".

There was plenty of tough talking about Sinn Féin and the IRA. "And about time too," was the reaction from most on the conference floor.

He accused them of living up to the translation of Sinn Féin and negotiating only in their own interests. He ridiculed their claims to be true republicans and accused them of twisting their electoral mandate. No nationalist voted for bank robberies, the murder of postal workers or of Garda officers, he said.

It was high time for the SDLP "to reclaim the good name of northern nationalism, to reclaim the agreement, to restore the democratic institutions and to return to the path the Irish people chose".

That good reputation had to be wrested from Sinn Féin and the IRA, who were at various turns, liars, deceivers and hoods.

He protested to a willing audience that the DUP's mandate did not override anyone else's in Northern Ireland just as Sinn Féin's did not override anyone else's in Ireland as a whole. It was fighting talk - which in turn was supported by equally strident stuff from delegates who gave every indication of having had more than their fill of "constructive ambiguity", meaningless transitions, broken promises, unhistoric breakthroughs, stilted choreography and stalled sequencing.

Mark Durkan made it abundantly clear - even to those who accuse him of verbosity - that he wants the assembly recalled and given the chance to form an executive.

If that fails then 10 civic administrators should be appointed to run the North's departments - just as civic appointees have helped make a success of the Policing Board.

He wants the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation recalled in Dublin, a demand promptly endorsed by Mr Ruairí Quinn in equally unequivocal terms.

Those who shout down such proposals are, in effect, arguing for continued suspension and Direct Rule, he said.

Conference found it all stirring stuff, delivered with equal doses of emotion and determination, and they responded accordingly.

No-one disagreed with the call to take their case to the streets where the party was born. But while the motivation to fight vital May elections was not in short supply, there remained unanswered questions about the means of battling for electoral survival, which the next election surely is. A packed and enthusiastic conference hall does not equate to a mass movement of poster-hangers, door-to-door canvassers - the sort of volunteer corps needed to mount a rearguard action to counter the well-populated and youthful Sinn Féin charge.

Mark Durkan must know too that it takes more than a weekend of finger-pointing at Sinn Féin to halt the stream of electoral setbacks. Being right just isn't enough.

The SDLP, somewhere along the way since 1998, has lost 100,000 voters.

Some have lapsed, others turned lazy and still more have drifted. The party has to get them back.

© The Irish Times


(Poster's Note: More coverage of SDLP Conference. Click the link for full text of each story)

"Time has come for us to reclaim good name of Northern nationalism"
Leader's speech (edited): It is my privilege and pleasure to address conference for the third time as party leader.

Blair praised in moving speech
Conlon address: Mr Gerry Conlon, who received a personal and written apology for his wrongful imprisonment from Mr Tony Blair last week, expressed sincere thanks to the SDLP for its backing.

Call for apology to Birmingham Six
One of the six Irishmen wrongly imprisoned for the Birmingham pub bombings has sent a letter to the British Prime Minister calling for a public apology.

Mallon says do not abandon middle ground
Conference business: The SDLP will not allow the North's middle ground to be abandoned by the Irish and British governments, Mr Séamus Mallon has warned.

Hume calls on SDLP to stand firm against intolerance in final address
Hume address: Mr John Hume welcomed the conference back to Derry for the first time since 1990 and expressed confidence his Westminster seat would be retained by his successor.

Double dose of Durkan does well in Derry
Frank McNally / Conference sketch: You know there's an election in the air when politicians start kissing babies. But it's a sign of his determination that Mark Durkan has gone the whole hog by fathering one on the eve of the expected May poll.


Talks On McCabe Killers Possible In Future

Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

While the release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe was "off the table" for now, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ahern, has not totally ruled out discussions on the issue at some future stage, provided the republican movement took definitive steps on decommissioning and ending paramilitarism.

During an interview at the end of his week-long visit to the US, Mr Ahern was asked if the McCabe killers' release was off the table forever. "Well, I mean, it's off the table," he said.

"There's nothing, in effect, being discussed at this moment in time. Who knows when the discussions will resurrect and come to a final conclusion? Some of the McCabe killers may very well be out in the not-too-distant future, having served their required sentence. So we'll just have to wait and see what happens in that respect."

But the key issues, as far as he was concerned, were still decommissioning and an end to paramilitarism, and the need for republicans to put their verbal commitments into action.

"We're ready, willing and able to engage with anyone at any time. We are not going to throw everything out," he said. While he acknowledged that "huge progress" had been made by the republican movement on the verbal level last December, this had to be translated into deeds: "We haven't seen the action."

The Government had been "prepared to do some very unpalatable things" as part of an overall agreement.

"We indicated that we were prepared to do things that perhaps in normal circumstances we wouldn't want to do, none of us would want to do." He regretted that the discussions had "floundered" over decommissioning and paramilitarism in the end.

"We regret that. We would want to continue to engage. We don't think excluding people from the discussions would be a good thing, but we have to make our position absolutely adamant, quite clear, that they have to deal with these issues before there can be any deals struck. Because this is the kernel, the 64-dollar question. These are the issues that they have to deal with."

The Government remained "absolutely adamant" that the Provisional IRA was involved in the Northern Bank raid.

It had also been given "hard security advice" by the Garda Síochána that the Sinn Féin leadership knew about the raid in advance.

"They are two sides of the one coin, in effect." Although it was put to him by some Irish-American sources that security advice can be mistaken, as in the case of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Mr Ahern would have none of this.

"No, I don't think so. To be honest, all that sort of skirting around the issue and likening it to other things is hogwash in my view."

He also rejected any suggestion that Fianna Fáil was playing party politics. The long-standing engagement in the peace process by senior figures in his party gave the lie to this allegation, which was "totally disingenuous and totally wrong".

On the issue of the St Patrick's Day reception in the White House, he had not given any specific advice to the Bush administration on inviting Sinn Féin.

"I haven't lobbied in any way, shape or form, one way or the other, whether parties should be there at that gig or not. To be honest, it's a bit of a sideshow. The reality is that we will have to concentrate on what the core issues are."

© The Irish Times


Protest Over N. Ireland Angers U.K.

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA -- Russia has angered Britain by saying a fact-finding mission should look into the "disproportionate" use of force by police and soldiers in Northern Ireland, according to documents obtained Friday.

Russia's remarks to a closed-door meeting at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna were its latest criticism of what it sees as double standards toward Moscow among Western countries at the OSCE.

Diplomats say Russia dislikes the OSCE's criticism of its democratic and human rights record and feels the organization, Europe's biggest security and human rights watchdog, focuses too much on countries "east of Vienna."

"An OSCE fact-finding mission should be sent to Northern Ireland for the purpose of conducting an in-depth study of all the circumstances surrounding the current exacerbation of this longstanding conflict," Russia's envoy to the OSCE, Boris Timokhov, said in a statement.

Human rights bodies have criticized Russia for its rights record in Chechnya. The EU has condemned what it called "abuses" by federal forces in Chechnya, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture.

Timokhov told the OSCE on Thursday that Russia was concerned at the situation in Northern Ireland after the Irish Republican Army withdrew an offer to disarm earlier this month. The mission should consider "the acts of terrorism and the instances of a disproportionate use of armed force by the army and the police that have occurred there," he said, adding that the findings could help mediators in the province.

Britain's ambassador refuted Timokhov's statement. "There are many problems in Northern Ireland, but use of excessive force is not one of them," British Ambassador Colin Munro said.

While Russia said it was acting out of concern for European security and stability, one diplomat said it was simply angry at the OSCE, which has denounced elections in Russia and neighboring countries as falling short of democratic standards.


McConnell To Lead Summit On Religious Bigotry

ROBBIE DINWOODIE February 14 2005

LEADING figures from Scottish public life will gather in Glasgow today to discuss measures to tackle religious hatred.

The summit on sectarianism at the Kelvin Gallery will be the biggest and broadest gathering of its kind ever assembled.

It comes as part of a determined drive by Jack McConnell, the first minister, to tackle head-on an issue which comes to the fore in the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers football clubs, but which reaches down deep into society, particularly in the west of Scotland.

Mr McConnell will chair the meeting, which will bring together senior figures from the two football clubs along with representatives of churches, local government, business, trade unions, police, youth groups, and the media, as well as both anti-sectarian campaigners and the loyalist and republican organisations who want to uphold their right to march.

"Sectarianism has no place in a modern Scotland. We must do everything necessary to stamp out this religious bigotry," said a spokesman for the first minister, echoing words used by Mr McConnell when he announced the summit last year.

"Changing the culture that exists in Scotland will demand determination and leadership. We need a coalition of politicians, trade unions, sporting bodies, education authorities and religious organisations to make a lasting difference and influence the behaviour of the next generation."

The Orange Order has already expressed concern that it is being asked to get round the table with Cairde na hEireann, the republican group best known for organising marches in memory of James Connolly, the Scottish radical and trade unionist who was wounded during the Irish uprising of Easter 1916 and later executed.

It is expected that representatives of the Catholic Church will use today's discussion to voice its concerns about the wish to protect its distinctive schooling, and also make the point that for as long as the Act of Settlement remains on the statute book barring a Catholic from the throne, religious bigotry is in effect institutionalised in Britain.

Today's event is seen as a forum for discussing more practical, down-to-earth ideas for tackling religious hatred, such as the changes to the rules for giving permission to marches outlined last month by Sir John Orr.


Ferry Drifted For Hours In Gale

Christine Newman

A ferry carrying passengers from Rosslare to Cherbourg drifted for four hours in high seas and gale-force winds yesterday morning after it developed engine problems.

The ferry, The Diplomat, which had its first voyage under new owners Celtic Link two weeks ago, developed a problem with its cooling system, forcing the engines to shut down while repairs were carried out.

The trouble began as the vessel approached the English Channel at about 5.30 a.m. While repairs were continuing, the vessel drifted towards the south-east coast of England.

The Falmouth Coastguard was alerted and raised concerns that the vessel was drifting near to Wolf Rock, west of the Cornish Peninsula.

A lifeboat and two tugboats went to the scene and remained on stand-by to ensure the ferry stayed clear of the rocky coastline. A Falmouth coastguard spokesman, Mr Mick Quinn, said that fortunately the ferry's rate of drift took it past the rocks.

The vessel's crew resolved the mechanical problems without assistance from the rescue services.

The ferry was carrying 70 passengers, 33 crew and 65 freight vehicles and had left Rosslare in Co Wexford at 8 p.m. on Saturday. It was originally due in France at 5 p.m. yesterday. After the repairs were completed, the 16,776-tonne vessel continued its journey and was expected to reach the French port at just before midnight last night, six hours behind schedule.

The vessel, a former P&O roll on/roll-off ferry, was bought by six Co Wexford fishermen, all brothers from Kilmore Quay, in a €10 million deal in January. Yesterday Mr Denis O'Flaherty, one of the owners, said: "The vessel developed a problem in the cooling system and it was decided to shut the engines down while the repairs were going on. This took three hours," he said.

The captain and engineers had decided that it was better to carry out the repairs then, he said.

"There was never any danger to passengers, crew or the vessel. It was all done under controlled conditions.

"It did drift as it was in deep water and there were gale-force conditions but it was all done safely," Mr O'Flaherty said.

P&O Ferries still manages the crew and vessel. A P&O spokeswoman said yesterday that the matter was resolved and there had been no need for the vessel to go to Falmouth.

The coastguard had remained on stand-by and there was never any danger.

The vessel was used by P&O on the Rosslare/Cherbourg route until it closed the route last December. The new company Celtic Ferries Link Ltd, trading as Celtic Link, bought the ship, which sails under the Bermudan flag. It has three sailings a week.

© The Irish Times


Ancient High Cross Recreated For US Site

Marese McDonagh

Donegal sculptor Brendan McGloin has undertaken the daunting task of recreating an ancient high cross which was carved on the banks of the River Shannon 1,100 years ago.

The sculpture, weighing five tonnes and measuring 13 feet high, is to be shipped from Donegal to the west coast of the United States.

Mr David Ó Longaigh, originally from Dublin, and other members of the Irish business community in Portland have selected the piece as a Famine memorial to mark an important chapter in Irish history.

The sculpture, with intricate Celtic, Roman and Greek imagery, is to be a replica of the Cross of the Scriptures, which was erected at Clonmacnois, Co Offaly, around 912 AD for High King Flann.

Mr Ó Longaigh said the Famine coincided with the time of the Oregon trail and in the 1850s, 30 per cent of foreign-born residents of Oregon were Irish.

"We wanted a memorial which would make visitors reflect not only on the potato famine, but also what was and is great about Ireland."

Mr Ó Longaigh, an engineer with the city of Portland, and other supporters of the project have raised over $100,000 towards the cost of having the cross hand-carved and shipped in three parts to Portland.

McGloin (36), from Bundoran, spent four months researching the project and visited Clonmacnois, Co Offaly, four times. He is using digital images, sketches, photographs and a life-size foam replica for guidance.

Reproducing the most famous of three high crosses at Clonmacnois is a labour of love for the sculptor. "Nothing like this has been done before. There are over 20 separate panels on the cross and the sheer scale of the piece creates logistical problems in the workshop. Because of the size and weight, I have to treat it like a baby," he said.

The Cross of the Scriptures features a portrait of High King Flann and, very unusually, the image of a woman, in this case Mary Magdalene. The original cross, now housed in an interpretative centre at Clonmacnois, was made of hard sandstone.

McGloin sourced his sandstone locally in a Donegal quarry. He started work in November and believes the job could take a year. The Portland Irish will be happy to have it installed at the Mount Calvery cemetery in the city by St Patrick's Day 2006.

"I have a romantic idea of having it follow the route of those it commemorates," said Mr Ó Longaigh. "Our vision is to have it go by ship to New York and then by rail to Oregon, following the path of the Irish emigrants."

© The Irish Times

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Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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