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February 22, 2005

02/22/05 – Who Leads IRA? Ahern No Proof – McDowell No Doubt

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BT 02/22/05 Who Leads The IRA? Ahern Has No Proof - But Minister Has No Doubt
IO 02/22/05 McGuinness Launches Offensive Against McDowell
IO 02/22/05 Peace Has Suffered Massive Damage, Admits Murphy –A(2)
IO 02/22/05 Banish SF From Process, Declare Unionists
TH 02/22/05 Sinn Fein Mps On The Rack Over IRA
GU 02/22/05 Comment: Time To Lose The Men In Berets, Gerry
PI 02/22/05 Bk Rev: She Plumbed Her Irish Life For New Yorker Tales

(Poster’s Note: On March 1, 1981: IRA prisoner Bobby Sands begins a hunger strike in the H-Blocks. Jay)


Who Leads The IRA? Ahern Has No Proof - But Minister Has No Doubt

By Gene McKenna, Tom Brady and Conor Sweeney
22 February 2005

The row over Justice Minister Michael McDowell's claims that three senior Sinn Fein figures are on the IRA army council escalated last night despite efforts by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to defuse the controversy.

Mr Ahern said he had no firm proof who was on the army council. He insisted he would still do business with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness but indicated he believed difficulties in the peace process could get worse before they begin to get better.

Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and North Kerry TD Martin Ferris voiced their anger over Mr McDowell's claim, accusing him of "abusing his office". They flatly denied they were leaders of the IRA.

They claimed Mr McDowell had made "unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations" against them, saying that if the Garda shared the Justice Minister's view about their IRA membership, they should be charged.

But Mr McDowell was unrepentant. He said he was "absolutely confident" in his assertion the trio were on the army council.

"I know of no person, anybody in this room for that matter, that doesn't share the view," he said, speaking at Hillsborough, Co Down, where an increased co-operation agreement between the Garda and PSNI was signed.

But the Taoiseach was more circumspect, saying: "I might have my own views on who is on the army council but I don't know."

He also appeared to suggest that Mr McDowell lacked firm proof. Asked if the Justice Minister should go into the Dail and repeat what he had said outside, as Opposition leaders have urged, Mr Ahern said: "I don't think either the minister or myself have personal knowledge of who is on the army council."

He said the minister received intelligence briefings but, while such briefings were one thing, hard evidence was another thing.

"I have been careful in all these things not to make statements if I did not have hard evidence," said the Taoiseach, adding that what he had said about responsibility for the Northern Bank robbery was based on the professional assessment he had got from gardai, based on the evidence they had.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern took the same line as the Taoiseach, saying that while the Government gets regular security briefings from the Garda, he wouldn't name anyone, adding: "These are not issues that should be vented in public."

The Foreign Minister, speaking in Brussels, said he did not know for certain who was on the IRA army council. He claimed the leadership was "intertwined" with Sinn Fein, but said he would not go any further.

The Taoiseach cautioned that the peace process would "continue to unravel" unless republicans started to keep their side of the bargain.

Mr Ahern said he was anxious to keep Sinn Fein involved and was still prepared to talk to its leaders. But, in a reference to Gerry Adams's recent challenge to him, he said: "We have put up. They now have to deliver."

He said the republican movement had to end paramilitarism, fully decommission weapons and stop all criminal activity.

If this did not happen, he said, "we are into an unravelling situation that is serious and is going to continue to be serious, from the knowledge that I have. That will unfold as it unfolds."

Mr Ahern added: "If the republican movement says No and ties the hands of the political leadership, like they did last December and on other occasions, then we have a huge dilemma."

As gardai continued their investigations into money-laundering by subversives, both Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said they could not yet confirm whether the money seized was part of the Northern Bank robbery.

Mr Orde, while standing by his assessment that the IRA was responsible, said: "It's too early to say (about the money). We deal with evidence and we deal with fact."

Last night's Adams-McGuinness-Ferris statement said Sinn Fein was "totally committed to the peace process and to engaging with the Irish Government in these difficult times to find a way forward."

"Despite our anger at attempts to criminalise our party and its supporters we have been measured in our comments," it said.

The three said that in the past they had met with the army council to advance propositions about the peace process, but added: "We want to state categorically that we are not members of the IRA or its Army Council."


McGuinness Launches Offensive Against McDowell
2005-02-22 08:10:03+00

Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness launched a scathing attack on Justice Minister Michael McDowell during a rally of the party's supporters in Belfast last night.

Minister McDowell has claimed Mr McGuinness, Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris are all members of the ruling IRA army council and, as such, are involved in IRA criminality.

However, the Sinn Féin MP said the Justice Minister was deliberately smearing republicans in an effort to undermine their electoral success.

"We have a so-called Minister for Justice, a minister that I describe as a minister for smear, for allegations and for by-passing justice, challenging my credentials, Gerry Adams' credentials and Martin Ferris's credentials," he said.

"Martin Ferris has done more work for the peace process than Michael McDowell will ever do."

Mr McGuinness also told the Sinn Féin rally that the republican movement was opposed to criminality in all its forms.

"No republican worthy of the name can be involved in criminality of any description," he said.


BBC: The Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy wants to punish Sinn Fein for its supposed involvement in the Belfast bank robbery.

BBC: The Northern Ireland Secretary, Paul Murphy, on what he thinks should be done about Sinn Fein for its alleged involvement in the Belfast bank robbery.

Peace Has Suffered Massive Damage, Admits Murphy –A(2)
2005-02-22 09:10:03+00

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy today said the peace process had been "very seriously damaged" by the events of the past weeks.

He said the onus was now on Sinn Féin and the IRA to stop criminality.

Mr Murphy told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that penalties he could impose would be symbolic because the Northern Ireland Assembly was not sitting.

"Nothing, of course, can compensate for people who are murdered, nothing can really compensate for all the issues ... but all that remains to us at the moment, because of the absence of the assembly which sits in Northern Ireland, is to consider financial sanctions," he said.

Mr Murphy declined to say if the British government believed Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were on the IRA army council.

"We have never got into names as a government," he said. "What we have always said is that Sinn Féin and the IRA are inextricably linked, that they are both sides of a coin, as it were, and clearly if there is a perception...there is this linkage, then I think the onus again rests upon the leadership of the republican movement to make themselves very clear on this."


Banish SF From Process, Declare Unionists
2005-02-22 07:20:03+00

Sinn Féin should be banished after new financial sanctions are imposed for the multi-million pound Northern Bank heist, unionists said today.

The Northern Secretary Paul Murphy is expected to slap cash fines on the republican party, based on a paramilitary watchdog's damning assessment that the IRA was behind the raid.

Secretary Murphy is due to announce in the Commons that all four SF MPs should be stripped of their Westminster allowances worth up to £500,000 (€724,000).

It follows the Independent Monitoring Commission's dossier of major robberies blamed on the Provisionals, culminating in the December 20 looting from the Northern's Belfast HQ.

Even though Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds backed the decision to hit Sinn Féin in the pocket, he insisted it would have little impact on republican coffers swollen by the spectacular raid.

He declared: "Allowances and finances should be withdrawn, but the main issue for us is political sanctions.

"We have to move on without them, that's the main thing that must happen. All democratic parties should be allowed to get on with governing this place without being held up by gangsters."

The four-member IMC's report backed up the guilty verdict delivered to the Provisionals from police chiefs on both sides of the border.

Sinn Féin has rejected the commission's findings, claiming it is not a properly independent body.

As the pressure on republicans intensified, they staged rallies in Belfast and Derry last night.

Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, pledged to resist all attempts to tar them as criminals.

But the movement is facing a huge crisis brought on by the bank robbery allegations, a brutal murder in Belfast blamed on the IRA, and a major police operation to smash an alleged multi-million pound money-laundering operation.

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy revealed yesterday his detectives were prepared to go international on the cash trail.

Both Mr Conroy and Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde refused to confirm if any of the cash seized during raids in Dublin and Cork last week was part of the record Northern Bank haul.

The commissioner said scientific examinations of the notes was about to begin in order to confirm his suspicions.

But as his force steeled itself for an investigation that will take months and lead it into the heart of Ireland's financial and business sectors, the Garda chief disclosed how far he was prepared to go.

He said: "Prior to the recovery of the monies we have recovered in recent weeks we did conduct investigations which led us in certain directions.

"It's a bit too early at this stage to go into details on that,


Sinn Fein Mps On The Rack Over IRA

CATHERINE MACLEOD, UK Political Editor February 22 2005

SINN Fein is facing unprecedented pressure to make a decisive split from the IRA as both the British and Irish governments step up demands that republicans abandon any links with criminal activity.

In the Commons today, Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, will question the payment of parliamentary allowances to Sinn Fein's four MPs as well as recommending the continued suspension of their Stormont allowances when the present suspension – imposed because of earlier misdeeds – runs out in April.

Since MPs on all sides have complained that the four have claimed £827,000 in expenses and allowances over the last three years although they do not attend the Commons, parliament may be minded to move against the republicans.

Mr Murphy's recommendations will be made during the government's response to the International Monitoring Commission's assessment of the Northern Ireland bank raid. The government is trying to negotiate its way across a political tightrope to keep the Northern Ireland peace process intact – and Sinn Fein on board – but it is adamant the time has come for republicans to choose between the democratic process and criminality.

It is also determined that its actions against Sinn Fein should not divert attention away from the main charge or allow it to claim victimisation.

Downing Street would prefer Sinn Fein to bend to the will of public opinion in Northern Ireland, which has become increasingly hostile to paramilitary activity after the recent fatal stabbing of a Catholic man in a pub brawl in Belfast, since it believes that would be more effective than pressure applied by Britain.

In a choreographed operation in London and Dublin yesterday, Downing Street and Irish ministers said that time had run out for any double dealing in Irish politics.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "What we have consistently said is that we believe the IRA and Sinn Fein are inextricably linked and that clearly has implications at leadership level as well. The time has now come for a choice to be made – either to be involved in politics, or criminality and paramilitary activity. You can't be involved in both. There is no prospect of a deal with the republicans unless they end all paramilitary activity."

In Northern Ireland, Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, repeated allegations that senior Sinn Fein figures, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, were members of the IRA's controlling army council.

Mr McGuiness, who along with other senior republicans is trying to limit the damage inflicted by the linking of his party with crimes including the recent £26m Belfast bank robbery in December, insisted neither he nor his colleagues were on the army council.

He told the BBC's Today programme: "No I am not. I deny that. I reject that absolutely. Michael McDowell, right throughout the course of his political career, has been hostile to Sinn Fein, to Irish republicanism . . . Clearly, this is about electoralism, this is about his concern about the growth of the Sinn Fein vote."

In parallel developments Paul Flynn, forced to resign as chairman of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland) at the weekend because of his republican links, resigned as non-executive director of property firm Harcourt Developments Ltd.

Mr Flynn admitted in the Irish Independent yesterday that he was a consultant to Sinn Fein and advised senior republican figures but denied he was a member of the party.


Comment: Time To Lose The Men In Berets, Gerry

David Aaronovitch
Tuesday February 22, 2005
The Guardian

It's 2005 and there's that man I've come to admire, Gerry Adams, standing there, thumbs on lapels. The Uncle Gerry beard part-closed over the Terry-Thomas overbite is now part-white, and the whole head could be mounted on a classical plinth and passed off as an Aristotle or a Socrates.

But what the hell is he doing still in that company? Behind him and around him are men in combat fatigues and berets, some in the stand-at ease position, one with a flag. Whose army, exactly, are they? Whose taxes maintain them? What parliament or assembly appointed or regulated them? The newspapers call them a "colour party", but what battle honours are on their flags? Enniskillen? The Baltic Exchange? Warrington?

This was part of a republican rally in the town of Strabane last weekend, a rally in which 1,000 marchers paraded through the streets chanting, "IRA! IRA!" It's 2005, the ceasefire is 11 years old, and yet the perverted romance of that pointless and bloody struggle is still being celebrated. And Adams, who the world likes, is there, orating, in the middle of what the world certainly does not like.

Adams got to be Socrates by taking risks for peace. He saw that the IRA couldn't win its objectives militarily, and persuaded its members to enter the peace process. And (I think) he'd become disgusted himself by the consequences of war. Because he and Martin McGuinness were such valuable interlocutors I was always in favour of showing understanding for their position. They needed to take people with them. They were limited in what they could say. They had to be given the benefit of any doubt.

Those days, we can now see, are passing. There has been the seven-year temporising on "decommissioning", there has been a continuation of illegal, vigilante violence in republican areas, there have been murders, there has been money-laundering and now, it seems, a massive bank robbery organised by elements associated with the IRA and Sinn Fein.

One listens to the weaselly formulations used by Sinn Fein spokesmen on radio and TV, and whereas before they seemed part of the game, now they are repugnant. In this era of accountability perhaps they would tell us who is on the IRA Army Council? Then we'll know.

And does McGuinness really expect us to believe - as he has asserted - that chief constable Hugh Orde fingered the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery as part of a concerted campaign to break the peace process? Why should he? The British government, five months from an election, had every interest in there being an agreement. "It is an attempt to smear republicans with the criminalisation slur - straight out of the Maggie Thatcher handbook of dealing with Irish republicanism," McGuinness said. And no one, apart from the most credulous romantic, believed him.

Why, when McGuinness was interviewed on radio yesterday, could he not bring himself to say that the Northern Bank robbery was a crime, but that instead it represented "criminality"? For the same reason, presumably that, following the murder in a Belfast pub - allegedly by senior IRA members - of Robert McCartney, Sinn Fein leaders called upon witnesses to contact a solicitor or a priest, not the police. In other words they still believe that they are - as republicans - somehow beyond the law.

That law is for the rest of us. Sinn Fein and their supporters rightly demand justice for themselves, for Pat Finucane and for those killed on Bloody Sunday, but offer no justice whatsoever to their victims. You can whistle for your inquiry into the murder of so-called "informants". There seems to be no end to republican self-pity. It's in the bloody name, after all - "Ourselves Alone". If only they were.

They have been indulged because we didn't want to sound like the Unionists. They have been indulged because, bad though it has been, it's been far better than the bloody days of 1970-94. That means that it's been indulged because of the implicit threat that the IRA (and, therefore, others) might return to assassinations and explosions.

There comes a time, though, when the resentment at the implied threat becomes too great. If Adams has been telling the truth and there is no more chance of a return to war, then the time has come finally to put away the berets, the parallel organisations and the fatigues. If he hasn't, and the IRA persists and has never really given up the gun, then maybe the time has come to find out.

Sinn Fein supporters complain that the motivation of those now condemning their party is political. They say that men such as the Republic's justice minister Michael McDowell see Sinn Fein as an electoral threat and are using recent events as a way of attacking its popularity.

There may be some truth in this. But if so, it's hardly unfair. There isn't another mainstream party whose leaders make speeches flanked by members of their own private armies; there isn't another mainstream party whose activists carry out punishment beatings; there isn't another mainstream party whose overt political organisation is covertly interlinked with that of a secret paramilitary organisation. In a normal democracy you can expect just a little criticism for these practices.

No, notice has been served, Adams. If you want to be treated like everyone else then you have to start behaving like everyone else. You have to tell your friends where they can put their bloody black berets.


She Plumbed Her Irish Life For New Yorker Tales

Reviewed by Katie Haegele

Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker

An Irish Writer in Exile

By Angela Bourke
Counterpoint. 333 pp. $25

Angela Bourke's biography of Maeve Brennan - a writer you may well never have heard of - is an account of the many facets of a Dublin woman who, in the middle of the 20th century, was considered by many to be the most important living Irish writer.

Bourke begins by detailing the lives of Brennan's parents, Bob and Una. This at first seems unnecessarily exhaustive. But the Irish history proves fascinating.

Brennan was born in 1917, during the height of Irish nationalism and revolt. Her parents worked closely with Eamon de Valera in the fight for an Irish Ireland. For a time the family lived on a street nicknamed "Rebel Road," though her father often slept at safe houses to avoid the frequent and frequently brutal raids by British police. Maeve's earliest consciousness was of a civil war that Bourke calls "a nightmare of blood and betrayal."

Much of the biography is rooted in place in this vivid, visceral way - in Maeve's early homes in Dublin and Wexford - but many of the descriptions of Brennan's childhood come from her fiction, which Bourke has plumbed with the vigor of an academic (she's a lecturer at University College Dublin). Bourke tells us that many of Brennan's "stories" for the New Yorker were indistinguishable from memoir.

She also tells us that Brennan never wrote about her journey to America, though it was the biggest upheaval of her life. The family moved to Washington when she was in her early 20s because her father was made secretary of the Irish legation. Brennan later moved to New York, where she worked at Harper's Bazaar before going to the New Yorker.

It was only after her move to New York that Brennan began to write about her life in Dublin. "Like Balzac, whom she called The Master, Maeve noticed, remembered, and wrote about the tiniest details of this house and garden."

There's another side to the writer that Bourke explores, though somewhat less explicitly: Brennan the feminist. Bourke shows how, through the exquisite emotional acuity of her fiction - in which the pain was often off the page, as they say, but no less keenly felt - Brennan expressed the experience of being a woman, and in particular an Irish woman, at that time.

In her short story "A Girl Can Spoil Her Chances," Brennan railed against the motherly wisdom of making a careful marriage. By this time, Brennan, now a fashionable member of the New York literati, had become a much different woman than her mother. Una may have been a feminist, writer and freedom fighter, but when the work was done she resumed her quiet place in the home.

Even many well-informed readers may not recognize Brennan's name. Bourke hadn't heard of her until 1997, when interest in Brennan's work suddenly revived. So it's curious that Bourke should write such a doggedly detailed account, when a brisker introduction to Brennan's life and work might be likely to attract more new readers.

The book explores so many facets of Brennan's life - including the devastating mental illness that overtook her late in life - that it could have been broken into a few smaller volumes, each with its own focus. But it is, perhaps, a fair tribute to a woman who was what Bourke calls a "natural chronicler" - who rarely cooked and ate most of her dinners out, alone, watching the scenes around her.

In fact, the chapter that details Brennan's rise to success is called "The Long-Winded Lady Observes." This, of course, is a reference to Brennan's role as a writer who watched from the sidelines, but it also evokes the displacement of this impeccably dressed intellectual, who spent her evenings drinking and debating with the men in her circle, then went home and wrote stories whose spare language was a lovely lacquer covering the hot anger and pain roiling beneath their surface.

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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