News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

February 15, 2005

02/15/05 – Plea to Blair Over Finucane Inquiry

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BT 02/15/05 Plea To Blair Over Finucane Inquiry
DJ 02/15/05 Bogside Artists Off On Major US Tour
CN 02/15/05 'Now Say Sorry To The Six'
DJ 02/15/05 Like Being Savaged By A Dead Sheep - Mitchel McLaughlin
DJ 02/15/05 'Civil War' Intensifies
BT 02/15/05 SF 'Sees Sense With Murder Plea'
BT 02/15/05 Viewpoint: Finding The Killers Of Mr. McCartney
IO 02/15/05 SF Supporters Protest Outside North's Govt Buildings
BT 02/15/05 IRA 'Setting Up Riots To Keep Killing Unsolved'
BT 02/15/05 Denials Ring Hollow As Fury Grows At IRA Over Murder
BT 02/15/05 'Violence Has Worked For IRA'
BB 02/15/05 Real IRA Leader Challenges Fund
IC 02/15/05 Two Quizzed On Ardoyne Killing
IC 02/15/05 Irish Passport Not Welcome Says City Store
BT 02/15/05 Ulster Teenager In Skiing Crash Horror
BT 02/15/05 Hostage Annetta's Thank-You For Ulster Prayers
BT 02/15/05 Call To Ban All Hunting With Dogs In Ulster
DJ 02/15/05 New Order Will Help Special Needs Children – SF
BB 02/15/05 NI Voters Are Urged To Register
IC 02/15/05 Nuns Of The Falls Road: Making The Bread Of Life
BT 02/15/05 Council Votes Against Funding St Patrick's Day Parade
BT 02/15/05 West Belfast Festival Unveils Spring Dates


Plea To Blair Over Finucane Inquiry

By Chris Thornton
15 February 2005

American Congressmen have written to Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking him to drop new legislation that allows his Government to keep secrets from an inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder.

The letter from 24 members of the US Congress, sent yesterday, calls on Mr Blair to immediately proceed with the independent investigation into collusion in the 1989 murder.

Mr Blair has promised an inquiry, but only after the bill is passed. Ministers will have greater powers to to keep secrets from the inquiry under the new law.

The Finucane family has refused to support the inquiry because of the new restrictions.

The Congressmen said the Government's commitment to the Finucane inquiry "appears to be tenuous at best".

"We note that your government recently announced inquiries into a number of other controversial cases - without waiting for the Inquiries Bill," the letter says.

"Attempting to put the Finucane case under restraints of a new bill has already threatened the public perception and credibility of the investigation's final conclusions."

Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, concluded in 2003 that there had been collusion between the loyalist killers and members of the security forces.

Retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory followed up with a report recommending a public inquiry into the case.

"In light of all the testimony presented to the US Congress, as well as the findings published by Judge Cory, we believe that the prompt holding of an independent public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane is a necessary confidence-building measure for the peoples of Northern Ireland," the US representatives said.

"On behalf of the Finucane family and several international human rights activists, we urge you to push forward under current law, without the controversial changes embodied in the Inquiries Bill pending in the Parliament.

"While we recognise that the peace process has reached its most challenging hurdle to date, we believe that the compelling history of the Finucane case and the concerns and recommendations set out by Judge Peter Cory move this human rights case far beyond ongoing party talks."


Bogside Artists Off On Major US Tour

Tuesday 15th February 2005

Derry's critically acclaimed Bogside Artists are gearing up for a major lecture tour of the United States.

The trio of artists --Kevin Hasson and brothers Tommy and Willie Kelly - will visit Washington DC, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and New York during next month's trip.

The highlight of the visit will be an event at Capitol Hill - the political seat of power in the US where the muralists will deliver a lecture on their work.

They will also host a presentation at the Irish Arts Centre in New York on March 17 - an event coinciding with the world's largest St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan.

Prior to next month's visit, Tommy Kelly leaves this week for a week-long visit to the "festival city" of Savannah, Georgia.

Renowned for its annual St. Patrick's Day celebrations, Savannah is the state capital of the southern US state.

While in Savannah, Tommy Kelly will speak to students at the local art college, address an audience at a synagogue and take part in the city's famous Irish Festival.

However, it's the March trip that the three artists are really looking forward to.

In fact, it is quite possibly the first time ever in their 10 year history that the three artists will, as a group, take part in an overseas lecture tour.

Tom Kelly revealed details of the US trip to the 'Journal' last night.

He said: "The definite highlight of the trip will be the visit to Capitol Hill in Washington DC where we will deliver a lecture at the Rayburn Building of the House of Representatives."

The artists will then depart Washington for the west coast and San Francisco where they plan to project a number of their murals --including its famous 'Peace mural' - onto some of the larger building in the city's downtown district.

While on the west coast, the artists will also host a lecture at the world-famous University of California, Berkeley.

Then its on to Pittsburgh for another series of lectures before finishing up in New York for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

As Tommy Kelly says: "The entire trip will afford us a unique opportunity to speak about the Bogside, Derry, and our work to a number of very knowledgeable and influential audiences."


7'Now Say Sorry To The Six'

Feb 15 2005

By James Cartledge, Evening Mail

A woman who fought for justice for the Birmingham Six today called for the spotlight to be turned back on to their case after Mr Blair's apology to the Guildford Four.

Sally Mulready was secretary of the Birmingham Six Campaign, which battled for years for their freedom until their convictions for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings were quashed in 1991.

She said she was "delighted" that the Prime Minister had said sorry to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, who were also jailed over 1974 bombings.

Ms Mulready said allegations of prison mistreatment and evidence-tampering needed to be addressed before the Birmingham Six - Paddy Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker - received a similar expression of regret.

"Everyone deserves to have their pain recognised, including the wives and children of the six and the families of all those young people who lost their lives in the tragedy.

"Terrible things happened to the six men in Winson Green after they were picked up. None of the prison warders were ever brought to book for that.

"The few police officers involved in bringing the men in and tampering with the evidence were never punished. I would like these issues addressed first."

Three men from Northern Ireland and an English woman spent 15 years in jail fter police fabricated confessions for the IRA bombing of the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford in 1974.

The Maguire Seven were wrongly imprisoned over the Guildford attack and another 1974 bombing in Woolwich, south-east London.


Like Being Savaged By A Dead Sheep -Says Mitchel McLaughlin

Tuesday 15th February 2005

SINN FEIN chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin has said that when the other parties finally decide to return to the negotiating table his party will be there 'bigger and stronger'.

He was speaking after a weekend of sustained attacks on Sinn Fein from the SDLP at their annual party conference.

Mitchel McLaughlin dismissed these attacks as irrelevant and he said: "If I may paraphrase a well known saying these attacks were like being savaged by a dead sheep.

"I think the major differences between our party and the SDLP can be seen by the party conferences.

"They had a brief conference which would have been even shorter if they had not spent most of it talking about us.

"We will have a three day conference in March and even that may not be enough time to get all the business done.

"We certainly will not spend any of it talking about our opponents nor wil we become fixated with them the way the SDLP seem to be."

Mitchel McLaughlin was asked how would it be possible to rebuild the necessary trust when negotiations begin again.

He said: "This is a genuine concern because at the end of the day we all will have to sit down again around a table to thrash things out.

"We intend to go back to the table and when the other parties come there we wil be waiting bigger and stronger.

Only by sitting down together can we ever sort this thing out."

Mitchel McLaughlin said that he was not surprised at the recent attacks on Sinn Fein.

He said: "This is like a dreary sense of deja vu. In every election campaign over the past 10 years negative campaigning against Sinn Fein has been a feature.

"But this has not stopped the electorate making up their own minds as to which party best reflects their interests.

"There is no doubt that there is a panic among some of the other parties about these elections and the electorate will make their own judgement about which parties are most fearful about the outcome."


'Civil War' Intensifies

Tuesday 15th February 2005

At long last the gloves are well and truly off in the battle for nationalist votes in the forthcoming Westminster General Election.

The 'civil war' within nationalism - as it has been described by one political commentator - intensified at the weekend when SDLP leader Mark Durkan launched a blistering attack on Sinn Fein.

Durkan told his party's annual conference in Derry that 'no nationalist voted for bank robberies" - a clear swipe at the republican movement and its alleged involvement in December's £26.5 million bank heist.

Indeed, the bitterness between the two parties was clearly evident with republican protesters demonstrating outside the conference centre, angry at the SDLP linking the IRA and Sinn Fein to crime.

No doubt mindful of the general election expected in less than four months, and the challenge to the SDLP's Foyle seat from Sinn Fein, Durkan didn't mince his words when he told delegates: "The reason we are in this crisis is because the Provisional movement has let down everybody who made leaps of faith in this process."

Just a few yards from the SDLP conference, Sinn Fein turned up at the Guildhall to criticise their rivals.

Martin McGuinness, the party's chief negotiator, said: "In reality, today's remarks by Mark Durkan are an effort by him to make his party relevant going into the election."

Political commentators are correct when they say that everything uttered by our politicians is now being " filtered through an electoral lens".

And they are also right when they suggest that the SDLP knows that the Westminster election could well be a battle for the party's survival as a serious force in Irish politics.

One other thing is for certain - unionists, of whatever hue, must be rubbing their hands when they all too frequently witness these ongoing very public shouting matches between representatives of the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?


SF 'Sees Sense With Murder Plea'

By Ashleigh Wallace

15 February 2005

The family of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney today said that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' plea for information was an indication that the party had "seen sense".

Paula McCartney said that Mr Adams' public call for anyone with information on the killing of her brother to come forward should act as a "clear indication" there is no threat from Sinn Fein to anyone who can help.

And she welcomed Mr Adams public support for the family's "quest for truth and justice."

Last night - after party colleague Gerry Kelly visited Mr McCartney's family - the Sinn Fein president spoke for the first time about the murder of the 33-year-old father of two and allegations senior republicans were involved.

The West Belfast MP said: "There are allegations that Robert McCartney was killed by republicans. I want to make it absolutely clear that no-one involved acted as a republican or on behalf of republicans.

"People with reservations about assisting the PSNI should give any information they might have either to the family, a solicitor or any other reputable person or body."

Ms McCartney said: "It's obvious they have now seen sense. To be truthful, I don't think Sinn Fein were aware of the full facts and now they know the full facts, no human being could do anything other than support us.

"I would take what Gerry Adams says as a clear indication there is no threat."


Viewpoint: Finding The Killers Of Mr. McCartney

Broad Appeal: Sinn Fein's stance will assist in the search for murderers

15 February 2005

The republican movement is facing one of its most difficult tests - not over criminal activity like the bank heist, but over the brutal murder by republicans of a fellow nationalist. The death of Robert McCartney, a well-loved father of two, has provoked a storm of protest, not just from his family but from the Short Strand community and other areas normally sympathetic to Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams's response has been to call on the many people who saw a fight involving known republicans and two victims - one of whom has survived - to supply whatever information they have. Those who had reservations about assisting the police, he added, should contact the family, a solicitor or any other reputable person.

Such advice is so unusual, coming from the Sinn Fein president, that it is a sure indication of how worried republicans are about the nationalist community's reaction to the murder. Funerals of victims have been shunned, in the past, but there was a full attendance at St Matthew's church and at a candlelight vigil later.

While many, including Mr McCartney's family, would be natural supporters of Sinn Fein, they have reacted with disgust and anger at the way the local IRA leadership has tried to cover up the crime.

No one is accusing the IRA of authorising what appears to have been a drink-fuelled dispute that went horribly wrong, but there is little doubt that members have threatened witnesses and removed evidence, in order that a chief and his accomplices should escape the law.

There was no justice about stabbings, beatings with rods and kickings that resulted in one 33-year-old man dying and another being gravely injured, with savage cuts to his neck and body. Naturally, people would want the culprits caught, but the IRA men involved are relying on fear preventing witnesses coming forward.

There could hardly be a more graphic illustration of how putting power in the hands of unprincipled people can bring a community down, if it yields to such pressure.

Those who sympathise with victims' families, in their plight, must show it by facing down the intimidators and helping to bring them before the courts.

Mr Adams has given the word that the republican movement regards the Belfast murder, in the wake of a Bloody Sunday commemoration, as an unpardonable crime. That should be enough for anyone to supply a vital clue that would result in a fitting punishment.

There is a danger that some may portray the hunt for the killers, to be pursued by Mark Durkan in Washington this week, as an anti-Sinn Fein tactic. It is a pro-justice, anti-criminal initiative, against lawless elements answerable to no one. It must succeed.


SF Supporters Protest Outside North's Govt Buildings

15/02/2005 - 13:37:38

Several hundred Sinn Féin supporters are demonstrating outside British government buildings in Belfast and Derry today.

The demonstrations were arranged to protest at the possibility of financial sanctions being imposed on Sinn Féin as punishment for the IRA's alleged involvement in the Northern Bank robbery.

The Independent Monitoring Commission, set up to oversee paramilitary ceasefires, has recommended that such sanctions be imposed by the British government.

The doors of one government building in Belfast were chained shut for 45 minutes during this morning's protests.


IRA 'Setting Up Riots To Keep Killing Unsolved'

By Sean O'Driscoll
15 February 2005

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has accused Sinn Fein of setting up riots to hinder the investigation into the murder of Robert McCartney, which the SDLP and others have blamed on the IRA.

He also accused Sinn Fein of trying to pose like characters of the hit US series West Wing while adopting the low criminality of the Mafia series The Sopranos.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at a reception to celebrate John Hume's political career, Mr Durkan built from comments he made at the weekend, in which he said that Sinn Fein and the IRA had developed a "Sopranos culture" in which they felt they could commit crimes with impunity.

He accused the party of setting up riots and then arranging for Sinn Fein spokespeople to arrive on the scene to condemn the police, instead of dealing with the real issue of IRA brutality.

"There are contrived riots which are then covered by Sinn Fein spokespersons who arrive to condemn the police.

"Mr McCartney's killers are being protected by their position in the IRA and some have worked as bodyguards for Sinn Fein politicians," he said.

He accused Sinn Fein of being more interested in trying to get into the White House for St Patrick's Day than they were in dealing with IRA members committing crime.

"Irish Americans are used to representatives of the Provisional movement appearing before them here and posing with the high values of West Wing when what they are imposing at home is the low violence of the Sopranos," the SDLP leader said.

However, he added that none of the Northern Ireland parties should be allowed at the White House St Patrick's Day celebrations if Sinn Fein were not allowed in, because the Bush administration should maintain equal dealing between the parties.

Mr Durkan added that the issue of IRA criminality was not just a contrived obstacle placed in Sinn Fein's way by unionists, but was a real problem "that affects the lives or ordinary, decent people".

Mr Hume, SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell and the former US ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, were among those who attended the function at the Mutual of America headquarters in Manhattan.


Denials Ring Hollow As Fury Grows At IRA Over Father's Murder

By David McKittrick
15 February 2005

The IRA and Sinn Fein are facing serious and mounting embarrassment over a bar brawl two weeks ago in which a man was stabbed to death outside a Belfast city centre bar. Although the IRA as an organisation was not involved, a number of its members took part in the incident, in which a second man was seriously hurt. One of the attackers was a former commander of the IRA in Belfast.

The family of the victim are publicly accusing the IRA of protecting the republicans involved, and of intimidating witnesses. Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, attempted to distance the republican cause from the attack last night by condemning those who carried it out.

The dead man was Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old forklift driver and pub bouncer who had two children. He came from the strongly nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast, where his family is respected. His sister, Catherine Arnold, said yesterday: "It has been an absolute nightmare. We haven't had time to grieve for him yet. We're hoping the police will be able to charge these people with Robert's murder."

The killing apparently stemmed from a late-night argument in a pub beside the Belfast law courts. Mr McCartney had allegedly insulted a woman. His friend, Brendan Devine, had his throat cut and suffered other wounds. When Mr McCartney helped him outside they were set upon by a gang of men, one of whom had a knife, possibly obtained from the pub's kitchen. Mr McCartney was stabbed and died later.

Mrs Arnold said of his attackers: "I don't think they were hunting him down that night; I just think they came across the opportunity. I don't think it was premeditated but I don't think, when they were stabbed, that they intended to leave the two of them living."

In a radical departure from long-standing tradition in the neighbourhood, Mr McCartney's five sisters are appealing for witnesses to contact the police. They say, expressing a belief that is widespread, that the IRA moved quickly after the killing to intimidate witnesses to stop them making statements or giving evidence. It is also thought that there was a clean-up of the bar by the IRA to remove scientific evidence.

This is further embarassment for the IRA, which has come under heavy political fire for the £26m bank robbery in Belfast in December.

Eight people have been arrested for Mr McCartney's killing but released, including the senior IRA person and several other members of the organisation. Others who have been questioned have no apparent IRA connections.

Last night, Mr Adams said his party supported the victim's family in their search for justice and urged anyone who knew his killers to contact the authorities. "There are allegations that Robert McCartney was killed by republicans," he said. "I want to make it absolutely clear that no one involved acted as a republican or on behalf of republicans. I repudiate this brutal killing in the strongest terms possible."

The McCartney family has strong nationalist credentials, several members saying that Robert voted for Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is against the Northern Ireland Police Service, and its supporters are seen as anti-police. The McCartney family is thus breaking new ground with its statements.


'Violence Has Worked For IRA'

Terrorist expert says peace was never the real intention

By Ben Lowry
15 February 2005

An academic expert in terrorism said today that it had "been apparent for years" that the Provisional IRA had no intention of abandoning violence or criminality such as the Northern Bank raid.

James Dingley, of the University of Ulster, said that there had been an "understandable reluctance" to hear some truths about paramilitarism in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is not surprising that, in yearning for peace after 30 years, people have been reluctant to hear a negative interpretation of the peace process.

"Many people hoped that the IRA would be hooked on politics, but that expectation forgets that instability suits the IRA.

"Violence or the threat of it is their major political weapon and it has been seen to work successfully over 30 years.

"It is central to their existence. This has been apparent for years."

Mr Dingley, the only Northern Ireland academic who lectures on terrorism, added: "The debate over whether the bank raid should lead to sanctions that the IRA would consider minor, or no sanctions at all, will confirm the IRA's belief that events revolve around them, and that there is no real will to confront them."

Mr Dingley was speaking in the wake of the Independent Monitoring Commission's report that the IRA, including senior Sinn Fein members, sanctioned the £26.5m heist and other raids last year worth £3m.

Mr Dingley, who has been studying terrorism for 20 years, said that the Provisional IRA Army Council, including some Sinn Fein leaders, was "pretty unified" so that opponents of the IRA should not raise their hopes of a split.

"PIRA have never stopped buying and making weapons, targeting, recruiting and training."

In the autumn, amid rising expectations of a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP, Mr Dingley was predicting that the IRA would be able to produce a major act of decommissioning with ease because it had been relentlessly buying weapons.

"Mortars are so easy to make, as are home-made bombs.

"Even more sophisticated weaponry like assault rifles and assault machine guns - they are happy to get rid of them, particularly those that have forensic fingerprints.

"They can decommission such weapons and then use totally clean ones."

Mr Dingley gathers information from talking to political and paramilitary sources, members of the security forces, and journalists.


Real IRA Leader Challenges Fund

Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt is to challenge the government's decision to give the Omagh bomb relatives almost £750,000 to take a civil court action.

McKevitt and four others are being sued for £14m by the Omagh Victims' Civil Action Group.

Papers lodged in the High Court in Belfast claim legislation allowing the payment was created for an improper purpose and was therefore void.

The Real IRA carried out the 1998 atrocity in which 29 people died.

The Lord Chancellor authorised the payment last year when he directed the newly-formed NI Legal Services Commission to assist the Omagh claimants with £742,702.

It is submitted that the proceedings, far from being compensatory, are intended to be accusatory

Papers submitted in High Court

The money is being used to help fund their multi-million pound compensation claim.

McKevitt - who is serving 20 years in Portlaoise Prison - is seeking a judicial review of the legislation under which the payment was made.

His lawyers are to seek an order quashing the Lord Chancellor's decision.

'Standard of proof'

McKevitt, 54, from Blackrock in County Louth, Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna, Liam Campbell and Colm Murphy - have been refused legal laid to defend the case which led to their lawyers deciding to pull out.

The papers lodged in the High Court state: "It is submitted that the proceedings, far from being compensatory, are intended to be accusatory.

"Though civil in character, the essence is an attempt to establish liability before a court of law for the most serious criminal offences.

"The proceedings are, effectively, a prosecution of the defendants using a civil standard of proof. As a consequence of not having legal aid, the applicant (McKevitt) now has no legal representation and cannot attend the hearing to defend himself.

"The proceedings will proceed without any input from him in circumstances where it is clearly the intention of the plaintiffs to hold the applicant criminally liable in the eyes of the public for the Omagh bombing."

Before a judicial review can be held, a judge has to grant leave and this preliminary hearing is expected to take place shortly.

In August 2003, McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in the Republic of Ireland after being found guilty of directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/15 11:37:53 GMT


Two Quizzed On Ardoyne Killing

The PSNI say two men “presented themselves for interview” yesterday hours after a 32-year-old North Belfast man died in hospital from severe injuries to the head and body. And in a bizarre twist, the dead man’s coat, placed carefully in the driveway of a house just yards from the scene of the killing, was missed by cops investigating the brutal death.

Two men have presented themselves for interview to the PSNI at a city centre station following the death of Ardoyne man Stephen Montgomery in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr Montgomery, 32, from Mountainview Drive, was found lying in Jamaica Road in North Belfast at approximately 3am on Sunday morning with serious injuries to his head and body. He died later in hospital.

Mr Montgomery’s family say they are in shock following the death and feel that they are being left in the dark by police as the circumstances surrounding Stephen’s death are still unknown.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Mr Montgomery’s brother, Sean Montgomery, revealed that he had discovered his brother’s coat in a gateway in Jamaica Road, just yards from the spot where his brother died, hours after cops had visited the scene.

"I went to knock the doors in Jamaica Road this morning [Sunday] to see if anyone knew anything, if anyone could tell me anything, but no one had heard a thing, and I found a coat lying in a gateway,” said Sean Montgomery.

“It was my brother’s coat, lying just beside where he had been found. It had been rolled up and was stuck in between railings. There wasn't a mark on it. I gave it to the police and they have it now.

“We are being kept completely in the dark over this, the police aren't telling us anything.

“We’ve heard speculation that people have handed themselves in over this, and we're hearing all sorts of things now, but we haven't been told anything definite, we just don't know what happened.”

This is the second blow in a matter of days to the Montgomery family who lost their father, Thomas Milnes, to illness just seven days ago.

Speaking about the death of Mr Montgomery, Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan said, “It’s a terrible shock and more so because the young lad’s father was buried last week. This adds to the grief. I have visited the family several times and they are very distraught. They are a large family and very well respected. The heart of everyone in the community goes out to them.”

Voicing his sympathy for the family, Fr Aidan Troy added: “It has been a very tough time for the family. It’s a tragedy that someone should be taken in such circumstances. We have had too much of it in Belfast in recent times.

“Nothing can be said seriously enough about the sorrow felt by the family. They have my heartfelt prayers and sympathy.

“To bury one member of your family and then have to turn around and go through it all again a week later is terrible,” added Fr Troy.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Irish Passport Not Welcome Says City Store

Woman left ‘embarrassed’ in shoe shop

A West Belfast woman has hit out at a city centre shoe shop claiming they are discriminating against Irish passport holders.

Eileen Hackett from Lisfadden Cresent says that she and a friend were humiliated and left angry after a recent experience at the Original Shoe Company store in Donegall Place.

Eileen went to the shoe shop on Thursday at 5.20pm. She was accompanied by her friend, Leanne Vallely.

At the till Eileen says she was asked by a member of staff if she would like to apply for a store card. She was asked to show identification and produced a Bank of Ireland cash card which was refused because it did not have an expiry date.

“I didn’t really want the store card but was told that I would get ten per cent off the shoes I was buying so I went along with it,” said Eileen.

“When the bank card was refused, Leanne said she would apply for the store card and produced her Irish passport. We were told that this couldn’t be accepted because of rules they have,” she added.

Eileen said that the experience was very embarrassing.

“I am in no doubt that we were discriminated against because we had an Irish passport.

“This was really embarrassing and everyone in the shop was looking at us. I just wanted to warn other Irish passport holders that they will be treated the same way if they try to apply for a card,” she added.

When contacted by the Andersonstown News a spokeswoman for the shop said that she was sorry if any offence had been caused.

“We couldn’t take the bank card because it did not have an expiry date,

“Unfortunately we can’t accept Irish passports because our credit company is based in Scotland, and they have no way of checking the validity of the passports,” she said.

“We wouldn’t discriminate. It is just that the credit company can’t check the validity,” she added.

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan


Ulster Teenager In Skiing Crash Horror

Pupil on life support after surgery

By Brian Hutton
15 February 2005

An Ulster teenager was today recovering on a life support machine in an Austrian hospital from serious injuries sustained in a horrific accident on a school trip.

Joe McLaughlin, a 17-year-old pupil at Saint Malachy's High School, in Castlewellan, is understood to have undergone 15 hours of surgery to treat serious facial injuries following the incident on Friday when he is believed to have collided with a snow machine on an Alpine ski resort.

The teenager is thought to be still on a life support machine but doctors in Austria have told his family that they are confident he will survive his ordeal.

It is expected it will be up to a month before he can be transferred back to a specialist unit at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

After that the teenager faces the prospect of months of agonising further surgery in Northern Ireland.

The A-Level pupil, from the Corrigs Avenue area of Newcastle, was one of a group of around 30 students and staff who were due to return from the skiing holiday at Ehrwald in Austria on Saturday.

The boy's mother, Angela, has flown out to be with her son at his hospital bed in Innsbruck, where he was transported for treatment.

The teenager's uncle, Barney McKibbin, said today that his nephew is "unrecognisable" following the accident.

"He's broken every bone in his face. He's completely swollen," he said.

"He's slightly regained some consciousness and has been crying with the pain, but they can't turn off the ventilator yet," he added.

In addition to facial injuries the pupil also sustained severe injuries to his skull and upper body when he collided with what is thought to have been a machine that redistributes snow around the slopes.

Members of the school skiing party, along with the party's instructors, helped pull the unconscious boy from under the machine when paramedics arrived on the scene.

The principal of St Malachy's High School, who is understood to have been on the trip, would not comment on the incident this morning.

Newcastle parish priest Father Albert McNally led his congregation in saying prayers for the teenager at The Mary of the Assumption Church in Newcastle on Sunday.

Fr McNally said today that the teenager, who was due to go to South Africa on mission work with the church this summer, had undergone a lengthy period of surgery.

"Our prayers and thoughts are still with him. He's a young fellow, well known and very active," he said.

The latest incident comes just over a fortnight after another Ulster teenager was seriously injured during a separate school tragedy.

Arthur Kelly whose son Andrew was seriously injured in a school rugby match told the Belfast Telegraph last week that his son is showing great determination to walk again.

The 15-year-old pupil at Ballyclare High School, was injured when a scrum collapsed during a Medallion Shield match against Rainey Endowed School on January 29.

The teenager was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, in a specially-equipped ambulance where he underwent a major operation to repair the damaged vertebrae.


Hostage Annetta's Thank-You For Ulster Prayers

Richhill woman tells of strong support

By Alf McCreary
15 February 2005

The Ulsterwoman who was at the centre of an international hostage crisis last year has thanked people here for their moral support during her captivity.

Writing in the current edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette, Annetta Flanigan thanked everyone who prayed for her and her colleagues.

Ms Flanigan, whose family lives in Richhill, Co Armagh, and a number of her UN colleagues working in Afghanistan, were captured in Kabul and held hostage for several weeks.

During their captivity urgent attempts were made through UN, diplomatic, church and other sources to secure her and her colleagues' safe release.

Throughout the ordeal the rector of Richhill, the Reverend David Coe, and the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Robin Eames, kept in close touch with her family, who are members of the Church of Ireland.

Ms Flanigan wrote: "Most of these people I do not know and will never meet, but I want them to know that during that time I was aware that prayers were being said, and it was a strong support."

Annetta was seized at gunpoint along with two of her election monitor colleagues. After weeks of intensive negotiations, during which several threats were made to kill her, she was released from captivity in late November.

In December she returned to Richhill for a visit with her Spanish husband Jose.

At the time of her release, Dr Eames spoke of how "thrilled" he was at the news.

"The dignity and courage of the Flanigan family during this ordeal have been an inspiration to us all," he said.

A shadowy Taliban breakaway faction called Jaish-al Muslimeen, or Army of Muslims, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

They are said to have "apologised profusely" before releasing the hostages.


Call To Ban All Hunting With Dogs In Ulster

By David Gordon and Michael Drake
15 February 2005

A call was today made for a complete prohibition on hunting with dogs in Northern Ireland, after the High Court upheld a temporary ban on hare coursing.

A coursing club, backed by the Countryside Alliance, had been seeking to overturn Environment Minister Angela Smith's decision to halt the capturing of Irish hares.

But the judicial review application was yesterday dismissed by Mr Justice Weatherup.

Welcoming the court's decision, Alliance leader David Ford today said:

"The sooner all hunting of mammals using dogs comes to an end, the better.

"I am now writing to the Environment Minister to call for an outright ban on hare coursing, and would urge her to take further action to ban other cruel forms of hunting."

Mr Ford added: "I do not believe that blood sports such as stag hunting can be justified in this day and age, and as more and more people agree, I look forward to the day when they are a thing of the past."

Commenting on yesterday's High Court verdict, the minister said: "This fully justifies my earlier decision to ensure that the Irish hare, a unique and valuable creature in terms of biodiversity in Northern Ireland, is given adequate protection to allow their numbers to increase and is in line with my department's policy objectives for the Irish hare."

Meanwhile, the League Against Cruel Sports has welcomed the High Court ruling.

But it wants the animal granted similar long-term protection which now applies in England and Wales.

Today League chief executive Douglas Batchelor said: "While we welcome the renewal of the temporary ban on this activity, when we look across the water in the same week and see hare coursing being banned in England and Wales we have to ask: 'Doesn't the Irish hare deserve the same level of permanent protection?'"

In England spectators and protesters gathered today for the second day of the Waterloo Cup coursing meeting at Altcar on Merseyside, the last meeting before coursing is banned in England.


New Order Will Help Special Needs Children - SF

Tuesday 15th February 2005

Sinn Fein Councillor Billy Page has welcomed news that people with disabilities will now be integrated into mainstream schools in the North under the new Special Educational Needs & Disability Order.

The Order, which will strengthen the rights of children with Special Educational Needs to be educated in mainstream schools, was the subject of public consultation from 1 March to 28 June 2004 and received strong support from those who responded.

Speaking last night Colr. Page said that having children with disabilities at school and young adults with disabilities in colleges will help break down some of the barriers and prejudices that such individuals face.

"People with disabilities deserve a first class education and making schools and colleges accessible would be a first step in integrating people with disabilities into mainstream education" he said.

Announcing the new Order Education, Employment and Learning Minister, Barry Gardiner said: "This Order will remove the current exemption of the education sector in Northern Ireland from the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, thereby increasing access to schools and institutions of further and higher education for children and young people with disabilities.

"This represents a significant step forward in promoting inclusion and disability rights in schools and institutions of further and higher education. I am firmly committed to the passing of this legislation, which will be of benefit to society as a whole."

A total of £57.8m over three years has been set aside to implement the Order. In addition £19.5m is to be made available over the same period to support children with SEN statements in mainstream schools including costs arising as a result of SENDO.

It is intended that the SEND Order will become law from 1 September 2005.


NI Voters Are Urged To Register

Northern Ireland voters have been urged to be registered before May's local elections.

Successive registers have seen a dip in the numbers of people on the register, according to the Electoral Commission.

More than 200,000 people have failed to register to vote in Northern Ireland, it said.

The commission has launched a campaign specifically targeting "those groups who are most disenfranchised from the registration process".

These include those living in socially disadvantaged areas, ethnic minority groups and young people.

The Electoral Commission said it had embarked on an intensive multi-media campaign aimed at increasing the numbers on the electoral register in time for the local council election on 5 May.

I would urge all those who have not registered to do so as soon as possible

Seamus Magee

Electoral Commission

Local government elections in Northern Ireland were brought forward.

They had originally been due to happen later in May but had been changed to bring the date into line with the rest of the UK.

The move added to speculation that a general election would be called for the same date.

Voting population

Seamus Magee, head of the Electoral Commission's office in Northern Ireland, said: "The campaign uses a variety of media to reach the electorate, including radio and television advertising.

"I would urge all those who have not registered to do so as soon as possible."

He said the number of those people not registered amounted to about 16% of the voting population.

"It is a very significant number. There are many reasons why people aren't registered.

"We have house-movers in Northern Ireland, we have people who are generally apathetic about the political process, we have people who are confused about the individual registration process that takes place on an annual basis.

"The campaign is aimed at targeting those particular groups."

Registration forms are available by calling the Electoral Commission's helpline on 0800 0323 700 or can be downloaded from the Electoral Office website.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/15 09:30:50 GMT


Making The Bread Of Life

Ever wonder where your Communion comes from? Bet you didn’t know that it’s made on the Falls Road

The Sisters of Adoration on the Falls Road had a huge responsibility bestowed on them just over a year ago when they were offered the opportunity to make the Communion bread for the diocese of Down and Connor.

The Falls Road nuns took up the challenge and are now feeding the spiritual needs of parishioners from throughout the diocese in more ways than one.

The Sisters have been living on the Falls Road since 1981 and have sole responsibility in ensuring that every parish in the diocese is allocated a sufficient amount of Communion bread for the week.

Sister Mary Josephine explained the process: “Basically it is baked in the same way as all bread is, with flour and water.

“We put it through the oven for an hour and a half, it has to be cooled and damped overnight, it is then cut, weighed and packed for delivery.

“Some of the rotating plates in the oven have crosses engraved into them and some don't, but the only thing special about the process is the machine that cuts the bread, and, of course, the great satisfaction that the Sisters get from being involved in the process.”

And the nuns are also acutely aware of the huge responsibility that is on their shoulders when they make Communion wafers for the diocese of Down and Connor.

“When the bread is sent to the diocese it is still bread up until the point of consecration during Mass.

“Once it is consecrated it becomes Jesus and the spiritual food for the whole people of the diocese.”

Sister Mary Josephine is happy at her work. The task of making the bread, she says, is a full-time job but she is quick to add that the Sisters are privileged to have the chance to do so.

“The job unites us with our vocation of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the work is done in the spirit of prayer.

“We get a great sense of satisfaction from the work because it is in tune with our lives, our chosen paths and that makes it all the more special.”

The Sisters took on the demanding job when the Contemplative Good Shepherd Sisters of the Ormeau Road decided to retire in October 2003 after long and faithful service.

“We took it on with great pleasure, we were absolutely delighted to do it,” said Sister Mary Josephine. The multi-talented nuns gave up their previous job of mounting reprints of byzantine paintings onto wooden backgrounds to take on the huge task.

The Sisters came to the Falls Road in the middle of the hunger strikes in 1981 and remain very happy that they can offer refuge to people who want to get away from it all.

"We have been an oasis of prayer throughout the Troubles. People always came to pray even if they had to wait for a lengthy period of time for the road to be cleared of debris and shattered glass from bombs.

“We are with people through their pain, joy and thanksgiving, and we like to think that we live similar to the way Jesus lived for the first thirty years of his life when he lived with Our Lady and Joseph in Nazareth, welcoming and listening to people when they needed it most.”

The Sister added that a lot of the people who come to pray are the same people who help them out on a voluntary basis.

“We have a lot of lay people who come in and help us with our work.

“They come from all walks of life, from different parts of the city and beyond and even though the work may be little, it is God's work and they, like us, get a lot of satisfaction from being involved in the holy process.”

In contrast to local parishes the Chapel of Adoration does not hold Mass on a Sunday – but it does have Masses at noon from Monday to Friday and on Saturdays at 10am.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Council Votes Against Funding St Patrick's Day Parade

By Marie Foy
15 February 2005

Belfast City Council has again voted not to grant £30,000 to this year's St Patrick's Day parade in the city.

Councillors decided yesterday not to overturn an earlier decision to refuse grant aid.

The PUP's Billy Hutchinson voted in favour of council support for the March 17 event but the move was blocked by other unionist councillors who were backed by Alliance.

Unionists said that while efforts were being made to make the event more inclusive, not enough had been done for the council to endorse it.

One organiser, Conor Maskey, said they had done all they could to make sure no offence was caused.

"We as a committee designed an official logo, a multi-coloured shamrock, which would not be offensive to anybody," he said.

"We tried to look at all the issues relating to St Patrick's Day. This might not have been good enough for some people."

Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey said the event was not yet inclusive enough.

"They have yet to prove that they can produce an all-inclusive carnival which would be supported by and could be bought into by both sections of our community," he said.

"Until that happens, I don't think we are in a position to formally fund the St Patrick's Day carnival.

"It happens anyway, but they are looking for us to fund it and endorse it, and we cannot yet do that."

But Mr Hutchinson said: "This committee had come to the good relations committee and put forward a good case for making changes for a family day out.

"We need to have trust in people. We can't wait for this all-inclusive parade. There is no such thing.

"They now will have the event the way they want and not with the restrictions the council would have put on it. I think it is an opportunity that is lost to get the type of events that we want."


West Belfast Festival Unveils Spring Dates

By Andrea Clements
15 February 2005

The West Belfast Festival - Feile an Phobail - was today due to launch its spring programme which includes a concert by Frances Black.

This year's line-up for the festival includes three diverse projects.

Radio station Feile FM launches this Friday and runs until March 17.

Broadcasting on 107.7 FM, the station provides radio shows with different genres of music and debates about current affairs.

For the first time the station will be broadcasting on the Internet.

March 7 sees the start of the 10-day Draiocht Children's Arts Festival, aimed at three to 18 year-olds.

It will include a production of Clown by Travelling Light Theatre Company, inspired by the book by Quentin Blake.

And Feile an Earraigh, which runs from March 10-13 is for those with an interest in traditional Irish music, language and culture.

Bookings for all events and tickets for Frances Black will be available from tomorrow on 028 9031 3440, or e-mail for further details.

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