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February 16, 2005

02/16/05 – Oireachtas Backs Criticism In Bomb Report

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

IT 02/17/05 Oireachtas Body Backs Criticisms In Bomb Report
SF 02/16/05 Taoiseach Should Call Special Summit On Collusion
IE 02/16/05 S.F. Leaders Coming Regardless
IT 02/17/05 IRA Statement Denies Involvement In Man's Murder -V
IE 02/16/05 Analysis: Is IRA's Demise In Cards?
EX 02/16/05 Murder A Much Bigger Blow To SF Than Belfast Bank Raid
SM 02/16/05 Adams: IRA May Be Bank Raiders £26.5m
SF 02/16/05 Gerry Adams Madrid Remarks Being Represented
IT 02/17/05 Attack On McDowell House Is Widely Condemned -V
IT 02/17/05 US Senate Resolution Honours Hume
PI 02/16/05 Gov Failing To Communicate EU Constitution – SF
IT 02/17/05 Bewley's Planning Decision Appeal
IT 02/17/05 'Big Brother' Auditions Attract 1,000 Hopefuls
IT 02/17/05 St Patrick's Day Dublin Parade To Reverse Direction –V


Oireachtas Body Backs Criticisms In Bomb Report

Joe Humphreys

An Oireachtas sub-committee has accused the British government of breaching the Belfast Agreement by refusing to co-operate with the Barron inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

In its report on the initial findings of Mr Justice Henry Barron, the Sub-Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights said "it seems impossible to reconcile the stance of the Northern Irish or British authorities" with a stipulation under the Belfast Agreement for all parties to address "the suffering of the victims of violence".

The sub-committee also criticised the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, whose argument against the release of official documents had been "totally undermined" by the evidence of Mr Seán Donlon, former secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Murphy had defended the non-release of documents on the basis that it would require "a further major and time-consuming search". However, Mr Donlon told the sub-committee that the Northern Ireland authorities had already sifted and screened their papers in preparation for the release of official documents.

The sub-committee said it would also consider asking the Houses of the Oireachtas to specifically address the issue of the Barron report.

In addition, it recommended that the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, "consider extending the terms of reference of the order establishing a Commission of Investigation into the early termination of the Garda investigations and the missing Garda files in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings".

Justice for the Forgotten, the group representing relatives of victims of the bombings, welcomed the sub-committee's findings, describing them as a "ringing endorsement" of its concerns.

Mr Greg O'Neill, solicitor for the group, said: "It is now clearly a matter for the Irish Government and for the Taoiseach to come out publicly and declare that a Taoiseach of this sovereign nation is going to vindicate the rights of the lives of those who were taken in 1972, 1973 and 1974, by moving every diplomatic process that is available to him, and by taking the proceedings which this committee has recommended."

Ms Bernie McNally, the group's chairwoman, said: "Enough time has been wasted over the years, and we just hope to see these recommendations implemented as soon as possible."

Ms Monica Duffy-Campbell, whose husband, Tom, was killed in a bomb attack in Dublin in December 1972, said she was pleased. "This is not what I thought it might be at the beginning - just [ something] to appease the families. I am really pleased that this is going to go on."

Speaking at the publication of the report, Senator Jim Walsh (FF), a member of the sub-committee, said the British government's "concealment and non-co-operation" sustained suspicions regarding collusion in the bombings.

© The Irish Times


Taoiseach Should Call Special Summit On Collusion With British Prime Minister

Published: 16 February, 2005

Following the publication of the latest Oireachtas Sub-Committee Report on collusion, Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Taoiseach to arrange a special summit meeting on the issue with the British Prime Minister.

Deputy Ó Caolain said, "This report is scathing in its criticism of the lack of co-operation from the British government. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair is found to be acting in conflict with the Good Friday Agreement because of his refusal, in a letter to the Taoiseach, to establish an inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.

"The Report also criticises British Secretary of State Paul Murphy for his spurious claim that a 'further major and time-consuming search' through records was not possible.

"It is now time for the Taoiseach to call a special summit meeting with the British Prime Minister on the whole issue of collusion. He should also ensure that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform establishes a fully comprehensive Commission of Investigation into the Garda handling of the whole range of collusion issues covered by Judge Barron, the Oireachtas Committee and those mentioned in today's report."


S.F. Leaders Coming Regardless

By Ray O'Hanlon

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will be traveling to the U.S. for St. Patrick's Day whether or not he gets invited to the White House. Adams has a full list of engagements spanning a week from March 12. The party president will be in New York and Washington, D.C., and will attend events in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness will be traveling to the West Coast and Canada for engagements in Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix and Calgary, while former Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey is slated for Boston.

Other engagements might yet be included in the trio's itinerary, a spokesman for Friends of Sinn Féin said.


Two dozen members of Congress, headed by New Jersey's Chris Smith and Richard Neal of Massachusetts, have written British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for a full public inquiry into the Feb. 12, 1989 murder of Belfast attorney Pat Finucane.

But any probe would have to be carried out under current law, and not under what the letter writers describe as "controversial changes" embodied in the Inquiries Bill pending in the British parliament.

Even in the current difficult time for the peace process the Finucane case, represented "a separate and critical item your government can address to restore confidence in the rule of law in Northern Ireland," the congressmen wrote Blair.

There was "great concern" that if the Finucane case is considered under new legislation that would grant greater authority to the government, "the standards of independent scrutiny and full public review will not be met, casting additional doubt over this case and the entire process."

However, the signatories also expressed "fear" that the British government's commitment to a Public Inquiry appeared "to be tenuous at best."


PIRA denies involvement in McCartney murder - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports that Robert McCartney's family met with the US Consul General for Northern Ireland earlier

Statement From IRA Denies Involvement In Man's Murder -V

The IRA has denied involvement in the murder of Mr Robert McCartney. A statement last night, signed by P. O'Neill, said the IRA wished "to make it absolutely clear that no one should hinder or impede the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice", writes Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor.

His murder last month was "contrary to republican ideals", the statement said.

Separately, the Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, said he could be wrong about IRA involvement in the Northern Bank robbery.

Speaking on radio during a visit to Madrid, he said "No one knows who robbed the Northern Bank.

"An opinion has been given that the IRA was involved. The IRA has said it was not and I believe them.

"Now, maybe I'm wrong. What I can say categorically is that Sinn Féin was not involved."

Soon after the remarks were broadcast in Northern Ireland, Mr Adams released a statement saying: "Remarks I made in Madrid in respect of the Northern Bank robbery have been misrepresented.

"I made it clear that the IRA has said it was not involved and that I believed its disclaimer.

"Any other interpretation of my remarks is malicious and misleading."

The IRA's statement on Mr McCartney's murder in Belfast is the second from P. O'Neill this month and the fourth this year.

Two weeks ago a statement in O'Neill's name announced the IRA was withdrawing its earlier decommissioning proposals, while in January, a P. O'Neill statement denied the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank robbery.

The IRA's New Year statement on January 6th was also signed P. O'Neill.

Yesterday's statement came just before the PSNI made another arrest in relation to Mr McCartney's death. Mr McCartney was beaten and stabbed after a bar fight witnessed by more than 100 people.

The IRA statement followed an appeal by Mr McCartney's sisters for an end to alleged IRA intimidation of witnesses.

They questioned Sinn Féin's stance on the police investigation. "The call for those with information to go to a solicitor, priest or ourselves raises questions such as, what would this achieve?

"Would this bring Robert's murderers to justice?" the family asked after a meeting with the US consul in Belfast. Sinn Féin's Mr Gerry Kelly said the party was doing "all it can" and accused opponents of using Mr McCartney's murder and his party's response to "bash Sinn Féin".

Speaking in Washington, the SDLP leader, Mr Mark Durkan, said there would not have been an IRA statement were it not for the "valiant" efforts of the McCartney sisters.

© The Irish Times


Analysis: Is IRA's Demise In Cards?

By Paul Colgan

DUBLIN -- The new hard line being taken against Sinn Fein by the administrations in Dublin, London and Washington has prompted soul-searching within the republican movement.

Sinn Fein is in the doghouse. The pan-nationalist front has been consigned to the political dustbin. The political process is at a standstill and the DUP has the whip hand.

Republicans are asking themselves just what is going on.

Just three months ago, things seemed much rosier. The republican leadership had apparently won the internal argument for IRA disbandment and the movement was preparing to move into a "new mode." From this would flow huge electoral rewards for Sinn Fein -- a power-sharing executive in Stormont and, quite possibly, coalition government in the South.

Party strategists salivated at the prospect of Sinn Fein power-sharing ministers meeting their Dublin government counterparts at North South summits. The party would advance its pursuit of an independent Ireland through sheer practical example.

Meanwhile, the SDLP would have been finished off, unionists would be working the political institutions, the British army would have left the North and republicans would be helping to run criminal justice and policing.

However, everything has changed utterly. The message from Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair and the DUP is a stark one: "disband the IRA and decommission its weapons and then we might do business." The Northern Bank robbery has unleashed new forces. Gone are the old dynamics that sustained the political process through previous traumas.

Republicans are reevaluating the political landscape. Sources say that a debate is under way in republican circles. While dismissing talk of splits or a return to IRA violence, they point out that many grassroots republicans are deeply unhappy with the events of recent weeks.

Just what this means for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness is unclear. The two men have staked their political reputations on "delivering" the IRA.

The political forces that helped bring republicans in from the cold in the 1990s are gone. The Irish government is no longer prepared, it says, to turn a blind eye to ongoing paramilitarism. The SDLP now speaks of usurping Sinn Fein. It claims the party has botched up the political process and tarnished the "good name" of Northern nationalism. The British government is towing the DUP line.

Just how republicans get around the current difficulties remains to be seen. Republican options are limited.

Does Sinn Fein wait around for the current furor to die down in the hope that things will get back to where they where last year? Dare it, as Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern suggested, break from the IRA? Should it withdraw from the political process and struggle on through elections with the albatross of the IRA around its neck? Or does it convince the IRA to stand down unilaterally, thus freeing the party in one single bound?

Some observers are tempted to believe that the vitriol toward republican emanating from Leinster House will subside and the Irish government will eventually again sit down with Sinn Fein in order to hammer out a deal.

However, the DUP feels under no pressure to go back to the negotiating table anytime soon. It is also calling for immediate IRA disbandment. Once this happens, replete with photographic evidence, the DUP will then "monitor" developments before considering talks with republicans. Not even the most optimistic could envisage the DUP watering down this demand in the coming months.

A "break" from the IRA cannot even be contemplated by Sinn Fein. The party insists that the two organizations are entirely separate. Such a move would be dismissed by unionists as a stunt in any event.

To walk away from the political process would be an explicit acknowledgement that the entire Sinn Fein strategy had failed. The party would struggle to expand its vote given the continued existence of the IRA.

The notion of unilateral IRA disbandment holds some attraction for nationalists and republicans.

Many nationalists, though angry with the anti-Sinn Fein onslaught in recent weeks, recognize that so long as the IRA exists Sinn Fein will remain on the back foot.

The Northern Bank heist and, more recently, the allegations surrounding the murder of East Belfast man Robert McCartney two weeks ago, have ensured that Sinn Fein spends most its time deflecting criticism. The party's days are now consumed with counterspin, such are the forces ranged against it.

With no sign of a significant softening in tone from the two governments, Sinn Fein will have to sit out the difficult summer months and the inevitable problems that come with the marching season.

The Westminster elections, which are expected to be called for May, will probably enhance the Sinn Fein mandate. However, Dublin and London claim that this mandate does not supersede concerns about paramilitary activity. An extra Sinn Fein MP or two is not likely to change the political situation dramatically.

According to nationalist historian Brian Feeney, the IRA will disband -- perhaps as soon as the autumn. He says it is not a matter of if, but when. Feeney, who recently authored a landmark book on Sinn Fein's 100-year history, said that the republican movement had no other option but to stand down the IRA.

Advocates of such a strategy point out that such a move would call the DUP's bluff. Forgotten in the maelstrom of recent months is the fact that the DUP turned down IRA disbandment over the issue of photographs. Many suggest that it was simply unprepared to go into government with republicans and contrived an escape route. If it were to now balk at IRA disbandment, they say, republicans and nationalists could justifiably argue for the two governments to move on without the party.

Republican sources are skeptical of Feeney's analysis but concede that the notion of unilateral action cannot be ruled out.

Observers in the South believe that the trenchant approach being adopted by Bertie Ahern stems from his belief that the republican movement remains relatively unified.

Having received assurances from republicans last year that IRA disbandment could be speedily carried out in the event of a deal with the DUP, Ahern believes that there is no reason why it cannot be done now. Hence, his speed in deflecting the recent IRA statements that warned of dangers to the political process. Dublin does not fear splits or a return to violence.

Sinn Fein, electorally speaking, has nothing to lose and everything to gain through IRA disbandment.


Pub Row Murder A Much Bigger Blow To SF Than Belfast Bank Raid

By Noel Whelan

SINN FÉIN and the Provisional movement generally are facing one of their most difficult tests ever.

The murder two weeks ago in Belfast of 33-year-old father of two Robert McCartney has unleashed forces within and without nationalism which are much more potent and more troubling for the republican movement’s leadership then those unleashed by the Northern Bank raid controversy.

Details of the horrific murder have been put together second-hand by Robert McCartney’s sisters.

On January 31, he was out for the night with a friend, Brendan Devine. They called into a city centre pub for a pint on their way to a birthday party. In the pub there happened to be some IRA members, including a local commander who had previously had a low level run-in with Devine.

On the pretext of alleging he had insulted some women in their company, a group including the IRA commander picked on Devine and, when McCartney intervened, they were both attacked. They were taken outside and beaten with sewer rods and set upon with a knife. Devine had his throat slit and is still seriously ill in hospital. McCartney sustained a stab wound to the stomach and he died of his injuries the next day.

After they had left the two injured men outside, the IRA group returned to the pub and engaged in some kind of forensic cleaning of the scene of the assault. They also ordered everyone in the pub not to make phone calls - not even for an ambulance - and threatened that if anyone told of what had happened, all would be severely punished.

There were more than 70 people in the pub, many of whom would have been able to identify some of those involved. However, the Northern media say that, to date, no official statements have been made to the police by anyone in the pub on the night.

Neither the family nor the police are claiming that the IRA sanctioned this murder, but they do contend that leading members of the organisation in Belfast were involved and have since been working to frustrate the murder investigation.

In a dramatic and brave move, the sisters of Robert McCartney, and his partner, went public last weekend. In a series of moving and powerful media appearances they have sought to break through a wall of silence which they say the republican movement has built around the event. The family have been unequivocal in calling on anyone who knows anything about the incident to go to the PSNI. They want statements made to the police which can ground evidence in court. They want charges brought, convictions obtained and imprisonment to follow for the perpetrators.

This story has run extensively in media on these two islands while Mark Durkan, who is in Washington this week, has ensured that the story of the McCartney murder has even got prominence in several media outlets on the east coast of the US. The impact of this story, the details of which are only beginning to register with many, has the potential to be very damaging to Sinn Féin.

Even more worrying for the republican leadership is the reaction in the nationalist community in Belfast. In the Sinn Féin heartland there has been growing disgust and anger at the fact that the local Provisional leadership has sought to protect those who perpetrated this murder. McCartney was a well-loved local personality and a vigil followed by his funeral attracted large crowds.

In the days after the murder Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey criticised the searches and arrests conducted as part of the police investigation.

Some have even alleged that Provisional elements were responsible for organising a sham children’s riot and attacks on the police in order to prevent them from accessing items of evidence relevant to the case.

However, this week, the McCartney family’s media campaign has forced Sinn Féin to change its tone. Both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have issued trenchant, if belated, denouncements of those who carried out this murder and have called for anyone who knows anything about it to “pass it on to the authorities”.

I have no doubt that people like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are horrified at the murder of Robert McCartney - one would be less than human not to be. However, although they condemn this barbaric murder, Adams and McGuinness must also realise that they carry some responsibility for it. The events of the night of January 31 are the inevitable consequence of the ganglord vigilante system which the Provisional movement has long operated in many parts of Northern Ireland.

IN the same way as they have condemned the murder of Robert McCartney this week, Sinn Féin and the IRA also condemned the Omagh bombing in 1998 and continue to condemn dissident republican activity today. However, they also bear much responsibility for this activity.

The Provisional IRA, like the other paramilitary groups which have operated in Northern Ireland over the last 30 years, has been responsible for the training, grooming and arming of many violent people. Those who planned and executed the Omagh bombing, for example, did not learn their car bombing skills or their reckless disregard for human life from thin air. Most of the key players in the Real and Continuity IRA learned their gruesome skills within the Provisional movement. That movement today carries some similar responsibility for last month’s murder of Robert McCarthy. The IRA leadership per se may not have sanctioned this murder, but they created the monsters who perpetrated it.

The thugs who directed and carried out the murder of Robert McCartney included experienced Provisional IRA operatives; men who had perhaps gained experience in the use of gruesome violence in punishment beatings or protection rackets or other disciplinary or fundraising activities for the organisation. They did so in circumstances where they felt no fear of any public or state authorities and presumably believed they would enjoy similar immunity for this murder.

For the IRA, and for many in Sinn Féin, the use of violence is seen as justified not only for ‘political’ purposes but also in the enforcement of internal discipline and in order to ‘police’ certain communities.

As a result, for many in the IRA violence has become a way of life. The availability of such regular opportunities for violent activity inevitably attracts or generates psychopaths.

The IRA also gives authority to local commanders over operatives and communities in a defined area and sanctions the use of violence to maintain control therein. In that set-up it becomes almost inevitable that some of those local commanders on occasion will deploy that violence in personal rather than ‘political’ disputes.

The IRA is certainly not the only paramilitary organisation in the North to breed psychopaths, but to a significant extent the murder of Robert McCartney is just the most recent piece of the Provisional movement’s violent legacy. For that reason, and for many other reasons, Sinn Féin must now realise that is it is time to turn off the violence.


Adams: IRA May Be Bank Raiders £26.5m

Gary Kelly

GERRY Adams, the Sinn Fein president, has admitted for the first time that the IRA may have been behind the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid.

During an interview with a Madrid radio station yesterday, Mr Adams repeated that he did not believe the republican terrorist group carried out the 20 December heist. He said: "The IRA has said it was not them. I believe them." However, he added: "But maybe I am wrong."

Despite claims by the ceasefire watchdog, the Independent Monitoring Commission, that Sinn Fein leaders sanctioned the robbery, Mr Adams insisted his party was not involved. He pointed to recent comments by Hugh Orde, the Northern Ireland Chief Constable, that he had no idea whether Sinn Fein members had prior knowledge of the robbery.

Mr Adams conceded that the allegations had soured the political atmosphere, but expressed hope that there could be political progress after the general election.

Ian Paisley jnr, a Democratic Unionist assembly member, yesterday called on Mr Adams to make the IRA hand back the stolen £26.5 million.

He said Mr Adams’s statement could be an attempt by the Sinn Fein leadership to sow seeds of doubt about Sinn Fein’s involvement in the crime: "No-one with any knowledge of Sinn Fein’s grip on the IRA will accept that senior Sinn Fein members are without association to this crime.

"His deliberate attempt to sow these seeds suggests that he is preparing the ground for public acceptance of this crime because he now believes that the IRA has got away with the crime and that convictions are growing less likely.

"That being so, Adams must now insist that the IRA hand back this stolen cash."

Alex Attwood, the SDLP West Belfast MLA, said: "If Gerry Adams now says he could be wrong then it has to be accepted that the Taoiseach, policing chiefs and countless others could be and are right about IRA involvement in bank raids and crime.

"The comments of the Sinn Fein president indicate that whatever denials and deceit, the truth will out about IRA involvement in stealing and smuggling."


Gerry Adams Madrid Remarks Being Represented

Published: 16 February, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking from Madrid this evening has said:

Remarks I made today in Madrid in respect of the Northern Bank robbery have been misrepresented. I made it clear that the IRA has said it wasn‚t involved and that I believe it's disclaimer.'

"Any other interpretation of my remarks is mischievous and misleading." ENDS


Probe into shot fired at McDowell's home

Attack On McDowell House Is Widely Condemned -V

Liam Horan & Martin Wall

Gardaí have said there was no evidence of paramilitary involvement in the shooting incident over the weekend at the holiday home in Co Roscommon of the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell.

They were yesterday continuing their investigations into the gun attack on the house in Lavagh, near Roosky.

A shotgun was discharged through the glass double doors of the property which is still under construction.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the incident yesterday.

A Garda spokeswoman said she was unaware of "an emergency round of conferences" which the Garda Commissioner, Mr Noel Conroy, was reported to have held with senior officers about the incident.

The attack on the Minister's holiday home was condemned yesterday by politicians in Co Roscommon and in the Dáil.

The Mayor of Roscommon, Mr Seán Beirne (FG), said Mr McDowell was "very welcome" to build a house in the county. He was "disappointed and annoyed that the county of Roscommon would be associated with anything like that".

Despite Roscommon County Council's high-profile dispute with Mr McDowell over planning for the house, Mr Beirne was adamant that the Minister would be welcomed.

"We are honoured that the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has a house in Roscommon, and we are very happy that Michael McDowell chose the Roosky area of Roscommon to have a holiday home.

"I have had the privilege of representing the Roosky area for the past 20 years, and the people of that area are hard-working, warm people, who would have no time for any acts of vandalism such as happened at the weekend.

"I understand that the gardaí have ruled out any paramilitary involvement, which is a great relief. But no matter what happened, it wasn't nice. Hopefully it was only someone messing, nothing more serious than that."

The attack was condemned as "scandalous" by the Opposition.

Mr Joe Costello of the Labour Party said: "The Minister is quite a controversial figure, but to threaten his safety and his privacy is a very serious matter."

© The Irish Times


US Senate Resolution Honours Hume

Conor O'Clery, North America Editor, in Washington

Senator Edward Kennedy yesterday honoured former SDLP leader Mr John Hume by tabling a resolution in the US Senate acclaiming his "brilliant achievements in the cause of peace for all the people of Northern Ireland".

Last night the Massachusetts senator hosted a reception on Capitol Hill marking Mr Hume's retirement as MP, attended by Mr Hume, SDLP leader Mr Mark Durkan and deputy leader Mr Alasdair McDonnell.

"In a very real sense, it was John who, in large part, became the glue that held Northern Ireland together, halted the descent into anarchy and civil war, and produced realistic hope for peace and further progress," stated the resolution which was expected to be passed last night. The presence of a heavyweight SDLP delegation in Washington comes at a time when Sinn Féin is suffering a serious PR setback over the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

Several Irish American figures at a reception for Mr Hume in New York, at Mutual of America, said there was growing impatience with the stalled peace process and with Sinn Féin, which they said had been compromised by the allegations made against them by the Irish and British governments that they were implicated.

President Bush is not expected to make a decision on whether to invite Northern Ireland party leaders to a St Patrick's Day reception until he returns from his trip to Brussels next week, when he will have a chance to speak to the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern.

© The Irish Times


Gov Failing To Communicate EU Constitution To The Irish People - SF

Wednesday, February 16

Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today accused the Irish government of failing to properly communicate the content and ramifications of the EU Constitution to the Irish people. Ms McDonald said that "the government had been more concerned with concluding negotiations on the EU Constitution than communicating its content to the people".

Ms McDonald made her comments after a European survey revealed that 67% of respondents 'didn't know' whether they would support the EU Constitution or not. Last month, preliminary findings revealed that nearly 50% of Irish people were not even aware of the existence of the EU Constitution. The survey was carried out by "EU Barometer".

Speaking today Ms McDonald said"

"During Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, Sinn Féin consistently called upon the Irish government to effectively communicate the content and ramifications of the proposed EU Constitution to the people. The results of this survey show that nearly 50% of Irish people are not even aware of the existence of the EU Constitution.

"Considering agreement on the EU Constitution was reached during Ireland's stewardship of the European Union, then clearly this represents a monumental failure on the part of the government. It became increasingly clear during that period that the government was more concerned with concluding negotiations on the EU Constitution than communicating its content to the people.

"The government has a duty to inform citizens in a non-partisan manner regarding fundamental changes which may effect them. It is not good enough for the government to only communicate the contents of this far-reaching document in the period leading up to the referendum on the issue. By that stage it will be much too late."


Bewley's Planning Decision Appeal

Joe Humphreys

The Save Bewley's Cafés Campaign is appealing a decision by Dublin City Council to grant planning permission to Bewley's to redevelop its historic Westmoreland Street premises.

The campaign, which is chaired by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Michael Conaghan, has written to An Bord Pleanála, arguing that the refurbishment of the building's upper levels contravenes the Dublin City Development Plan.

The group is to lodge a separate appeal against related plans by Bewley's to redevelop the ground floor area, where it operated a café for more than a century until its sudden closure last November.

The heritage group An Taisce is also expected to lodge an appeal before next Monday's Bord Pleanála deadline on the grounds that the development undermines Temple Bar's status as a mixed-use area.

In the first of its two appeals, the Save Bewley's Cafés Campaign expressed particular concern about the impact of the development on "the historic and internationally renowned Fleet Room", the café's main seating area.

The group noted that encroachment on this area "took place in the months prior to closure when the current owners altered the use of the Fleet Room to provide for hotel residential dining facilities and disallowed many dismayed customers access to this part of the café".

It continued that the proposed future use of the premises as an expanded Bewley's hotel would undermine the objectives of the Dublin City Development Plan, which warned against "large or concentrated public house/ restaurant/nightclub uses" in Temple Bar.

The plan also stated: "There will be a presumption against the granting of planning permission for additional uses of this nature and extension of existing premises for such uses."

A spokeswoman for Bewley's said yesterday it would not be appealing either planning decisions granted by Dublin City Council last month. However, she said, the company did feel aggrieved at certain conditions attached to the decisions, particularly the local authority's refusal to allow Bewley's establish an outdoor seating area on Fleet Street.

She added that Bewley's intended to retain a "café of sorts" at Westmoreland Street.

© The Irish Times


Auditions For 'Big Brother' Reality TV Show Attract 1,000 Hopefuls

Olivia Kelly

Hundreds of Ireland's best, brightest and self-proclaimed fame seekers queued outside the RDS in Dublin yesterday for the chance to become the next stars of the reality TV show, Big Brother.

The producers of the British Channel 4 show held their first ever auditions in the State in the hope of finding "real" and "genuine" contestants to entertain viewers for the programme's 10-week run this summer.

What they got were plenty of teenagers on mid-term break, the odd unconvincing female impersonator and a slew of rejects from RTÉ's You're A Star competition.

While many intended to rely on their personalities to impress the judges, others were bolstering their chances by wearing leprechaun hats, Irish dancing costumes and, in quite a few cases, just their underwear.

Hannah Massey (20), from Belfast, thought she would make an ideal contestant because she was "quite eccentric".

Dermot Hogan said he should be on the show because he was "very outgoing and very funny" and because he was from Cavan. "It would be a shame to miss out on me because I'd put Cavan on the map," he said.

Graham Byrne, from Dublin, was always "the life and soul of the party" and "very charming". Cyril Green was also charming, he said, and was prepared to do "whatever anyone tells me" to be on the show.

Conor O'Dea (18), from Glasnevin, Dublin, intended to impress the producers with his pole dancing.

His friend, Dave McKeown, was confident he would be chosen. "I'm so hilarious, everybody loves me, you couldn't find one person who doesn't like me."

Less concerned about being liked was a 32-year-old salesman from Rathgar, Dublin, calling himself Tim Dim. "I've watched the sort of idiots they've had on the show. I know I was born for this show."

Tim, whose employers understood he was taking his car to be serviced yesterday, was entering the competition for "notoriety" and in the hope of getting "loads of women's numbers".

The programme's producers interviewed some 1,000 prospective contestants yesterday. Around 10 per cent were selected to make a short video diary, a further 10 per cent of those would be considered for selection for the show. There was no guarantee that any of the Dublin candidates would be chosen for the programme, the producers said.

© The Irish Times


Plans for St Patrick's Day festivities unveiled - Sinéad Crowley reports on the plans for this year's festival

St Patrick's Day Dublin Parade To Reverse Direction -V

Olivia Kelly

More than 75 years of St Patrick's Day Parade participants marching proudly through Dublin with the warm Irish sun on their backs has come to an end with the scrapping of the traditional parade route from St Patrick's Cathedral to Parnell Square.

In the parade's biggest break with tradition yet, this year's march will run north-south, from Parnell Square, in order to accommodate the sunlight.

In previous years photographers and cameramen were dazzled by the sun which caused difficulties in getting the best pictures of the participants, according to parade organisers.

"The problem was that the sun was highlighting the cameramen and not the participants.

"This has come up before in several letters to The Irish Times over the years, but this year we decided to do something about it," said Mr Donal Shiels, St Patrick's Festival chief executive.However, Mr Sheils said he believed the public would welcome the new route.

"Ireland has changed a lot over the last 20 years and people are more open to new things, so I don't think there will be any problem changing the traditional route."

The new route will also help to alleviate traffic problems associated with the All-Ireland Club Final matches in Croke Park, by enabling the gardaí to reopen northside roads earlier, he said.

More than one million people, including 250,000 overseas visitors, are expected to attend the festival from March 17th to 20th.

The programme includes theatre, music, visual arts, comedy, dance, family events and Europe's largest annual fireworks display.

A greater area of public space is available on O'Connell Street than in previous years, due to the progress of continuing improvement works, and the central median will host an open-air food and craft market.

© The Irish Times

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