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February 24, 2005

02/24/05 – McAleese In Belfast Minus Shankill

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

UT 02/24/05 McAleese In Belfast - Minus Shankill
SF 02/24/05 Gerry Adams Calls On People Of Meath To Make History
IT 02/24/05 Leaders Join In Winter Sport At Meath Hustings
IT 02/24/05 McCartney Killers Known, Says Ahern
BB 02/23/05 McCartney Family Meets Minister
IT 02/24/05 People Are Afraid To Speak, Say Sisters Of McCartney
BT 02/24/05 Adams Must Come Clean Over McCartney Murder – Kenny
IT 02/24/05 'No Further Chances' For SF-IRA Says Dodds
UT 02/24/05 Bulgarian Link To Money Probe
GU 02/23/05 Sinn Fein: Forward Not Back
BT 02/24/05 IRA Shoots Itself In The Foot. What's Going On?
BB 02/24/05 VIPs On Heightened Security Alert
BT 02/24/05 Omagh Bomb Victims Travel To Colombia
IT 02/24/05 Achill Residency Will Welcome Writers, Artists
IE 02/24/05 Selling By The Lot: Legends Of Camelot
IT 02/24/05 Pearse's Unconditional Order To Surrender For Sale


McAleese In Belfast - Minus Shankill

Irish President Mary McAleese was today making her first official visit to Belfast since apologising for controversial comments about anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland.

By:Press Association

The Belfast-born President had to pull plans to visit a primary school on the loyalist Shankill Road after she compared the prejudice of Nazis against the Jews with those who raised their children to hate Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The comments, made as ceremonies marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, angered unionists who claimed they were clearly directed at the Protestant community.

Mrs McAleese later said she regretted the comments she made in a radio interview and realised sectarianism was a shared problem.

The Irish President is due to visit Belfast City Hospital, a community centre in Hannahstown on the outskirts of west Belfast and St Malachy`s College in the north of the city today.

However she had hoped to go to Edenbrooke Primary School on the Shankill Road but earlier this week changed her plan amid fears that her presence might spark protests.

The decision was welcomed by Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey who believed she would eventually be able to visit the area.

He said: "I think it would not have been sensible for her to come right now because I don`t feel it would have helped the cause of reconciliation.

"The time is not right just now but when the thing has resolved a little, that would be the time to reissue an invitation."

President McAleese and her husband Martin have reached out to loyalist communities in recent years, inviting local leaders to their official residence in Dublin`s Phoenix Park.

Last February, she met Assembly member David Ervine, the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party which is linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando during a visit to east Belfast.

The Irish President has also met the political representatives of the Ulster Defence Association.

During last February`s visit she also attended a Presbyterian church service in Holywood, Co Down and met pensioners in a loyalist community in Bangor.


Gerry Adams Calls On People Of Meath To Make History

Published: 23 February, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and the party's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness MP, joined Councillor Joe Reilly in handing in his nomination papers for the Meath by-election today. Mr Adams said "The people of Meath can elect Joe Reilly as the Sinn Féin TD for the county. He is a central part of Sinn Féin's negotiating team and an active local representative. The party is standing on our record in the peace process and seeking an endorsement of Joe Reilly's contribution nationally and locally."

Mr Adams said:

"Sinn Féin is working to bring about change now. We are working to build an alternative to the kind of government which can preside over one of the wealthiest economies in the EU yet fail to provide ordinary citizens with effective public services, in health, in education, transport, housing, youth facilities and childcare. That means reforming the tax system, investing in social and affordable housing, and having a cohesive public transport system.

"The people of Meath can elect Joe Reilly as the Sinn Féin TD for the county. He is a central part of Sinn Féin's negotiating team and an active local representative. The party is standing on our record in the peace process and seeking an endorsement of Joe Reilly's contribution nationally and locally.

"People increasingly recognising and valu Sinn Féin's leading role in the peace process, our work on local councils and within local communities. Sinn Féin offers the only real alternative - we are about building an Ireland of equals, where corruption, neglect and inequality are things of the past. We have a record of making a difference in communities throughout Ireland.

"Sinn Féin has a substantial electoral mandate. We are using that mandate to bring about change in the peace process, in political bodies and in local communities. The opportunity exists for the people of Meath in the coming weeks to strengthen our hand and help move beyond the current difficulties and forward into the negotiations which are badly needed to have the Good Friday Agreement implemented in its entirety.

"Sinn Féin is standing in this election on our agenda for change, our leading role in the peace process, and our record of hard work on the ground in communities across Meath. We will be bringing these issues to the doors and seeking a mandate for change." ENDS


Leaders Join In Winter Sport At Meath Hustings

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

SF campaign: The Sinn Féin leadership came under fire yesterday in Trim, Co Meath, thoughthe volleys were launched by youths throwing snowballs.

"Trim says snow," quipped SF's chief negotiator, Mr Martin McGuinness, as he joined in throwing some back, along with SF president Mr Gerry Adams.

The duo travelled to Trim to accompany the party's candidate in the constituency, Cllr Joe Reilly as he handed in his nomination papers in the local courthouse.

Once the snowballs were thrown, though, it was back to business, and the message: "We are looking for support to continue the work of the peace process," said Mr Adams.

"We are an all-Ireland party, a united Ireland party. This gives the electorate the opportunity to show their view of that," he declared.

"Meath is a constituency on the cusp of Dublin that is being used almost as a dormer suburb of Dublin. Health services are in tatters," he went on.

The result in Meath will be critical for Sinn Féin in the wake of the blows it has received since the Northern Bank robbery in December, which has been blamed on the IRA by the PSNI and the Garda Síochána.

"The people of Meath can elect Joe Reilly as the Sinn Féin TD for the county. He is a central part of Sinn Féin's negotiating team and an active local representative. The party is standing on our record in the peace process and seeking an endorsement of Joe Reilly's contribution nationally and locally," said Mr Adams.

Mr Reilly, who served a 13-year prison sentence for IRA membership and a foiled escape attempt, increased the party's vote in Meath from a paltry 641 in 1992, to more than 6,000 in 2002.

© The Irish Times


McCartney Killers Known, Says Ahern

Marie O'Halloran

There is "no mystery" about who was involved in the murder of Belfast man, Mr Robert McCartney, but the issue is to get people to co-operate with the PSNI, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Mr Ahern also said that "there are people who can resolve the McCartney murder very quickly.

"Not only were these people present at the scene of the crime - this is known - but they also had the audacity to go back to the scene of the crime to sweep the place clean. It is bad enough killing people but to do that is horrendous."

The names were well known and were "freely spoken about in the Short Strand.

"I will not mention names but I have talked to several people who told me who was involved. It is well known. There is no mystery about it," Mr Ahern added.

During Opposition leaders' questions which focused on the peace process, he said that "dealing properly with the PSNI" was the only way to stop the "bully boys and thugs".

He was speaking in advance of a meeting between the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ahern, and the sisters and partner of Mr McCartney who was killed when he was stabbed in a row in a pub in the Short Strand area of Belfast, three weeks ago.

Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, who heard the family interviewed on RTÉ Radio yesterday morning said that their fundamental point was that comments made by the leadership of Sinn Féin, principally the president, Mr Gerry Adams, "have no impact on the ground because that is the way they are".

Mr Kenny said that Sinn Féin "should at least dissociate itself from the killers of Robert McCartney, for example by expelling them from the republican movement".

If Sinn Féin wanted to "make the hard decisions" and dissociate itself from criminality "they could in the first instance speak to the IRA person in Belfast of republican leanings who issued the instruction to murder Robert McCartney, who was an innocent man".

Socialist Party leader, Mr Joe Higgins, said that "we must categorise as vacuous doublespeak the words about Robert McCartney's murder by the leaders of republicanism". He said the reality "behind the seemingly sincere words of republican leaders is the screaming silence of the 50 witnesses who are terrified to speak out, to bring the murderers to justice, because of the intimidation coming from the very associates of those leaders, who say they want justice".

He said that Mr Adams "has a problem going to the police. Does he have a problem in going to the Short Strand unit of the provisional IRA - call it the local SS unit for short - and demanding that it present itself to justice".

He said the McCartney family had reported that Sinn Féin MLA Mr Gerry Kelly refused to call a public meeting in the Short Strand.

Labour leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, said the family had described "the gruesome, Mafia-style killing and the swagger of those bully boys who dominate working-class nationalist communities through terror, fear and punishment beatings".

He said it was "important that this issue be clarified once and for all.

"We should regard this as an opportunity to do so rather than as a betrayal of the peace process".

© The Irish Times


McCartney Family Meets Minister

The family of a Belfast murder victim have met the Irish foreign minister in a bid to win support for their campaign to bring his killers to justice.

Robert McCartney, 33, was stabbed in the city centre on 30 January.

Dermot Ahern said the Irish government fully supported the family.

"I can understand why people with jaundiced eyes might say this is being used for a political purpose but I can assure you from our point of view it is not," he said.

"We will raise this case at every opportunity with the people who we think are relevant to raise it with, just as we have done with the cases of Pat Finucane and others."

Paula McCartney said her family were pleased with the outcome of the Dublin meeting.

"We wanted to know that we had the support of the Irish government in our quest for justice and after meeting with them we now can go home content in the knowledge that they are supporting us," she said.

The McCartney family also intend to hold talks with Enda Kenny, the leader of the main opposition party, Fine Gael in Belfast on Wednesday.

Speaking in the Dail, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that a test of Sinn Fein's stated opposition to criminality would be to turn in the killers.

No-one has been charged in connection with the killing, although it is believed there were up to 70 witnesses to the crime.

The McCartney family has accused republicans of pressurising witnesses not to talk to the police, although they have welcomed an IRA statement urging Robert's killers to take responsibility for their actions.

After meeting the family in Belfast, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the IRA's approach to the killing would be an "acid test" of the sincerity of the republican movement.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/23 14:28:44 GMT


People Are Afraid To Speak, Say Sisters Of McCartney

Conor Lally

The sisters of Robert McCartney, the Belfast man allegedly murdered by members of the IRA, have said fear of the IRA was playing a bigger part in keeping witnesses silent in the case than any difficulties nationalists had with the PSNI, as had been cited by the Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams.

At Government Buildings in Dublin, after a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ahern, Ms Paula McCartney said on behalf of her family: "People haven't come forward for probably a combination of things, but mostly because people are afraid, that is just the genuine truth. People are afraid of repercussions if they do come forward."

Ms McCartney said Mr Ahern had assured her and her four sisters - Catherine, Clare, Donna and Gemma - and her brother's partner, Bridgeen, of the Irish Government's support. They welcomed this.

"We feel that the meeting with the Irish Government has been of tremendous encouragement. And we feel closer now to resolving this matter. We wanted to know that we had the support of the Irish Government in our quest for justice and after meeting with them we now can go home contented in the knowledge that we know they are supporting us."

The family was considering organising a mass public meeting in Belfast's Short Strand. They would "for obvious reasons" not be supporting Sinn Féin again until their aims had been met to their satisfaction.

"A lot of people have expressed their disillusionment, their concern and they have said they won't be voting [ for Sinn Féin]," Ms McCartney said of people from Short Strand. Her family was not concerned that their brother's murder was being used by the Government to damage Sinn Féin politically, as Mr Adams claimed yesterday.

"Our family has only one concern and that is the capture and conviction of the murderers of our brother," Ms McCartney said.

Mr McCartney was beaten and fatally stabbed outside a Belfast pub on January 30th. His family believe he was killed by members of the IRA and that up to 70 witnesses are too afraid to come forward.

Mr Ahern insisted the Government was not seeking to use the family for political purposes. "I can understand why people might say with jaundiced eye that this is being used for a political purpose, I can assure you that from our point of view it is not."

The McCartneys were a brave family seeking justice for the murder of their brother "that in any normal society would bring a flood of outrage". Anybody with information which might assist the PSNI in its investigations should do the "patriotic thing" and come forward.

"What really is at issue here is the way in which the operation happened after the killing, in such a way as to ensure witnesses didn't come forward and also that any forensic evidence was disappeared.

"We will give [ the McCartneys] every co-operation in assisting them in that quest for justice and I said that just as [ Pat] Finucane and [ Rosemary] Nelson and other names, Garda Jerry McCabe, are on the agenda of Government. . . I have assured the family that the name of Robert McCartney will also be on our agenda in any of the discussions we will have with Sinn Féin and with the British government and others involved in this process."

Earlier Mr Adams had said some nationalists, including himself, had a problem with the PSNI. He said people who did not have such problems and had information on "this person's murder or killing or manslaughter or whatever it happens to be" should go to the PSNI. Those with information but who did not want to deal with the PSNI should approach individuals they could trust.

He also told RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland programme that the Government was trying to use Mr McCartney's murder and the campaign for justice being undertaken by his sisters "in a way against Sinn Féin and also around the whole issue of policing".

Following their meeting with Mr Ahern yesterday morning the McCartneys also met opposition politicians including the Greens, Labour Party and the leader of Sinn Féin in the Dáil, Mr Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin.

They family also met the Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, in Belfast last night.

© The Irish Times


Adams Must Come Clean Over McCartney Murder - Kenny

By Gene McKenna and Senan Molony
24 February 2005

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny last night rounded on Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams for referring to the murder of Belfast father of two Robert McCartney as "manslaughter".

Mr Kenny said Fine Gael had no time for Sinn Fein's "twisted language or warped interpretations of criminality" which appeared to depend on whether crimes were committed by the IRA or not.

"Even this morning on RTE radio we heard Mr Adams quickly correcting himself when referring to the murder of Robert McCartney. His amended description was to downgrade this appalling crime to one of 'manslaughter' or just a 'killing'.

"This slip of the tongue reveals the true attitude of Sinn Fein," said the Fine Gael leader.

It was on the 'Morning Ireland' programme that Mr Adams made his comments indicating that the murder of Robert McCartney may have been a manslaughter.

Mr McCartney died on January 30 after a brutal attack which saw him stabbed viciously outside a Belfast city centre bar, along with his friend Brendan Devine.

Mr Adams said that Justice Minister Michael McDowell was "using this person's killing, this person's murder or manslaughter or whatever it happens to be, in a way against Sinn Fein and also around the whole issue of policing". He added that his party was "totally opposed" to the "murder or manslaughter" of Robert McCartney.

He urged anyone who could help Mr McCartney's family find the truth to do so and said if people had a problem with the PSNI "let them go to other reputable bodies".

He said his party was doing everything they could to get "truth and justice" for the McCartneys.

The Sinn Fein leader hit out at Mr McDowell, accusing him of misrepresenting what Sinn Fein was saying.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain, he said, had been speaking for the party and the leadership when he made conciliatory comments in the Dail on Tuesday.

Mr Adams said elected representatives and supporters of the party were entitled not to be "damned or demonised".

Meanwhile, the Government said yesterday it will put the murder of Robert McCartney at the top of the agenda for future discussions with Sinn Fein and the British government.

But Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern stopped short of insisting that the case would have to be addressed in the course of a comprehensive North peace deal, as Sinn Fein have insisted should be the case with the killers of Det-Gda Jerry McCabe.

He did, however, say that the McCartney case now joined those of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, as well as the McCabe murder, at the top of any talks agenda.

Mr Ahern was speaking after meeting at Government Buildings with the murder victim's sisters - Paula, Catherine, Donne, Clare and Gemma - as well as his fiancee Bridgeen Higgins.


'No Further Chances' For SF-IRA Says Dodds

Frank Millar, London Editor

The DUP has told the British Government there can be "no further chances for Sinn Féin-IRA" and that it will not join any post-election negotiation on the same basis as before.

In the House of Commons yesterday the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, and the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, re-affirmed their desire to carry the political process forward "on an inclusive basis." However, during Northern Ireland Questions, the DUP's Mr Nigel Dodds told Mr Murphy that as far as his party was concerned "there will be no further chances for Sinn Féin-IRA and no further fudging of democracy . . . it's time to move on without them."

Mr Dodds later told The Irish Times this meant "there will be no going back to the process as was". He said the prime minister was mistaken "if the notion is to pick up the pieces and resume where we left off" sometime after this year's general election.

"It's over," said Mr Dodds, who asserted that the DUP would not join in any negotiation "that is going to lead to them (Sinn Féin) coming into the government of Northern Ireland".

While acknowledging that such a prospect could not be ruled out for all time, Mr Dodds said it was pointless to even speculate about how long it would take before the necessary public confidence could be restored. "We're way beyond that," he said. "It's just not on the horizon."

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist leader, Mr David Trimble, accused Mr Murphy of giving the IRA an effective veto over political developments.

After hearing Mr Murphy again say the ultimate goal remained an inclusive power-sharing Executive, Mr Trimble told him: "The position you have adopted is tantamount to saying the IRA are going to have a veto over the resumption of the Assembly and the implementation of the Belfast Agreement. If you continue to adopt that position then there's absolutely no prospect of any progress."

Mr Murphy replied: "I don't think you are accurate when you say I've adopted a position in such a rigid fashion. On Tuesday I said we had ruled nothing out or in, and that we are considering all these different options."

However, Mr Murphy reminded Mr Trimble that any alternative form of power-sharing without Sinn Féin would require agreement of the SDLP which was not forthcoming.

Mr Blair later side-stepped an invitation from Ulster Unionist Mr David Burnside to convene talks with the two unionist parties, the SDLP and Alliance to see if they could agree the formation of "a voluntary coalition." Mr Blair told him: "I still believe the best way forward - it may not be possible - but the best way forward is on an inclusive basis."

Liberal Democrat Mr Alistair Carmichael said the claim by the Minister for Justice, Mr Michael McDowell, that Sinn Féin leaders Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness were members of the IRA's army council had altered the political landscape. "We should therefore be willing to consider new options, including the recall of the Assembly without Sinn Féin in the Executive if they cannot meet the required standards."

The SDLP's Mr Séamus Mallon said one thing that was possible was to require every political party to take part in any future negotiation to endorse the policing settlement in Northern Ireland and join the Policing Board.

© The Irish Times


Bulgarian Link To Money Probe

Senior Bulgarian diplomats are to hold talks with the Irish Government about an alleged international IRA money laundering ring, it has emerged.

By:Press Association

As Irish fraud squad detectives worked with Interpol to smash the dirty money racket, officials from the former Communist state were travelling to Ireland for top level security briefings.

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy has confirmed his officers are going international to chase down all leads in an investigation which has already seen almost £3million seized in raids across the Irish Republic.

With detectives examining thousands of recovered documents in a bid to unravel the money trail, Bulgarian officials are seeking clarification of alleged links with businesses in the eastern European state.

Former senior Irish government aide Phil Flynn admitted he travelled to Sofia last month with leading Cork financier, Ted Cunningham, at whose home detectives discovered £2.3million in cash.

Mr Flynn resigned a number of positions, including his role as head of the government`s decentralisation body, after Mr Cunningham was questioned by officers probing a suspected Provisional money laundering scam.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice confirmed envoys at the Bulgarian Embassy had requested a high level meeting in Dublin to discuss efforts to smash the dirty money racket.

It is understood a special delegation from the former Communist state is due to be briefed on the investigations before reporting back to the country`s Interior Ministry.

More than 100 detectives were involved in swoops on both sides of the Irish border last week as the net tightened on a massive money laundering ring.

Eight people were arrested in Cork and Dublin, including former Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hanlon.

Cork chef Don Bullman was charged with membership of the dissident Real IRA after police allegedly discovered £54,000 stuffed into a washing powder box in a jeep outside Dublin`s Heuston Station, while all seven others were released.

Forensic tests are still being carried out on the recovered notes, although police chiefs in Belfast and Dublin have refused to confirm if any of the money seized in the Republic is part of the record £26.5million haul stolen during the Northern Bank heist.

Fraud squad officers and the Irish Republic`s highly successful Criminal Assets Bureau have been brought in to assist the racketeering investigation that led to the high profile arrests on Friday.

The British and Irish governments have blamed the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery but Sinn Fein has insisted it believes the Provisional`s denial of any involvement.

The December 20 raid and allegations of continuing IRA criminality have left the Northern Ireland peace process in tatters.


Sinn Fein: Forward Not Back

Thursday February 24, 2005
The Guardian

It is a mere two months since the IRA seemed on the verge of signing up to a verifiable form of weapons decommissioning which would at last have brought the hitherto improbable duo of Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists into devolved government together in a restored Northern Ireland assembly. In the event, and not for the first time, the elusive historic compromise between republicanism and unionism slipped through their collective fingers. Ever since, what had at one time appeared a tantalisingly narrow gap has widened ever further - and it is the IRA which is responsible. Today, after the cumulative impact of the Northern Bank robbery, the Belfast murder of Robert McCartney, and the uncovering of the Cork money-laundering operation, the gap has now become a gulf. The balance of political and moral advantage has drained away from Sinn Féin with great speed. In the 10 years since the IRA's first ceasefire, republicanism has rarely been as comprehensively compromised as it is today.

It is wrong, however, to be downcast about the dangers in this unquestionable setback for the Northern Ireland peace process. Throughout much of the past decade, mostly rightly, people in all communities in Britain and Ireland, north and south, Protestant and Catholic, have taken - in varying degrees - a calculated risk. The risk was to extend the political process to include the organisation responsible for so much of the violence that had scarred the country for so long. The larger purpose of this restraint was a proper and even a noble one - to save lives and to end an increasingly unproductive and miserable conflict that had lasted for more than a generation and was going nowhere. At some point in this process, however, this effort demanded a fundamental act of reciprocity from republicanism - an irreversible embrace of peaceful means at the expense of violence and criminality. The moment for that conclusive act seems at last to have been reached. It is make your mind up time for the IRA, Sinn Féin and their supporters. And high time too.

Thus far, the response of Sinn Féin into this challenge has been inadequate. The vow to banish criminality from the republican movement is naturally encouraging, as far as it goes. But it is actions that count, not words. This is especially the case when the twisted theology of parts of republicanism, in which the possibility of a self-proclaimed political movement such as Sinn Féin or the IRA committing any act of criminality is still a contradiction in terms. This is a culture in which, all too often, to stab someone to death in a bar, as happened to Mr McCartney, to threaten witnesses not to talk to the police, or to rob a bank of millions of pounds do not qualify as criminal acts. Gerry Adams may talk of an end to criminality. But when he does so against the backdrop of a uniformed honour guard at an IRA commemoration it is meaningless to the outside world. It suggests that a new generation of republican leaders may be needed to take the great leap into lawful and democratic activity.

British people risk missing one of the most important aspects of the current crisis. For it is not just Sinn Féin that faces a hard choice. It is also the people who have traditionally voted for it in the north and those who have begun to vote for it in the south. The revolt against republican violence that has been such a feature of Belfast's response to the McCartney murder is paralleled by a more sedate but no less outspoken or less significant revolt in the Irish Republic, of which Fianna Fail has been quick to take advantage. The closer that Sinn Féin has drawn to peaceful politics, the more outrageous appears any continuing attachment to gangster methods. The Irish people have pointed the way that Sinn Féin must now follow. This is a moment of hope not a moment of fear.


IRA Shoots Itself In The Foot. What's Going On?

First came the £26m bank raid. Then, Provisionals were implicated in the murder of a popular republican. The IRA looks split, and confused,with the peace process in jeopardy

By David McKittrick

24 February 2005

The good news from Belfast is that no full-scale return to conflict is expected: the bad news is that, in most other ways, the Northern Ireland peace process is in bits. Weeks of turmoil and sensational developments and disclosures have rendered what was regarded as a basically sound process, often fraught but generally resilient, into something dangerously close to a quivering wreck.

The years of progress in which the prevailing culture of Belfast politics mutated, step by laborious step, from confrontation to negotiation have come to a sudden, shuddering halt.

A robbery and a killing have cast the process in a new light. This was not in the script: the process was supposed to be about coaxing the IRA and Sinn Fein into conventional politics, not about them corrupting the system.

Are the republicans unreconstructed incorrigibles who have lured everyone into a moral quagmire? Is their ambition not to merge with the political mainstream, but rather to subvert and pollute it?

There is as yet no clear answer to these questions, which have left the peace process in its present disarray. But events have changed the process itself irrevocably and altered its course.

Just months ago there was talk that a political deal, incorporating both Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley, was tantalisingly close. The IRA offered to decommission all its weapons within weeks, while the loyalist leader offered to share power with republicans.

The deal could not be clinched because the IRA refused to agree to the Paisley demand for photographic evidence of decommissioning. London and Dublin were disappointed but were ready for another try.

The lack of a breakthrough was viewed not as a breakdown but as a frustrating failure to slot the last few parts of the jigsaw into place.

Much encouragement was taken from the fact that Mr Paisley had put a lifetime of negativity behind him and agreed to share power. And the IRA, after all the years of the gun, said it was putting its entire armoury on the negotiating table.

Forming a government dominated by these parties would not have been a pretty sight. Mr Adams predicted it would be "a battle a day" while Mr Paisley concurred: "Hell would have been let loose, probably every meeting."

Yet for all that, it would have been a historic achievement, and hopes remained high that those last elusive jigsaw pieces could be located, perhaps even this side of a May election.

But then, during the Christmas political break, came the Belfast bank robbery, netting £26m in the first of a series of developments to rock the process. The IRA said it didn't do it; Mr Adams said he believed them.

But Northern Ireland's Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, said the IRA did it, and many believed him. And then, unexpectedly, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said two things: that the IRA did it, and that Sinn Fein leaders had known about it. In the Dail, he roasted Sinn Fein to a crisp with a controlled vehemence which cast aside years of government policy. Gone was the polite fiction that there was distance between Sinn Fein and the IRA; gone was the toleration of IRA illegality.

There had been previous robberies, he said, and "we in this House took that coolly enough". They had watched as the IRA had controlled the pattern of "punishment" beatings and shootings in Belfast, turning off the tap of brutality during negotiations and elections.

What particularly offended him, he said, was that while the pre-Christmas negotiations were under way so too was the planning for the bank raid.

His devastating intervention convinced many doubters that the IRA was responsible. Republicans had not expected this from the Irish leader, and were particularly scalded by his assertion that Sinn Fein leaders knew about the raid.

By this stage the peace process was in real crisis, with the prospects for a Sinn Fein-Paisley accord put back for months, if not years, and the republican movement under attack from all sides.

Many relished attacking them, but a majority of the critics were simultaneously dismayed by the fact that the robbery and its aftermath had severely damaged not just the IRA and Sinn Fein but also the process itself.

The republican response remains one of dogged, defiant denial: Gerry Adams did not know the IRA would rob the bank. In fact, he said, the IRA had not robbed the bank: somebody else must have done it.

By this stage those who had believed that Mr Adams was for real were bewildered and confused as he insisted the IRA was innocent. Each fresh denial seemed to inflict a further blow to republican credibility: Sinn Fein was in a hole, but it kept on digging.

Republican problems then dramatically multiplied when IRA members, drinking in a Belfast bar after attending a Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry, became embroiled in a brawl.

Robert McCartney, a Catholic man from a respected Sinn Fein-voting party, was surrounded and stabbed to death in an episode involving a high-ranking IRA officer and several other IRA members.

The killing was a spontaneous flare-up but afterwards standard IRA procedures came into play. The bar was cleaned up, the murder weapon disappeared, no film from CCTV cameras was to be found. The word was forcibly put out: nobody is to talk.

But while none of the bar's 70-odd customers have spoken to police, the dead man's formidable and fearless family have talked, telling the world what happened, to the embarrassment of the IRA. Although the murder and the robbery were unconnected, both damagingly associated the organisation with criminality.

The next shockwave came as the authorities in the Republic went with a vengeance after the organisation's money men: the approach of acting "coolly enough" was abandoned.

Everyone knew republicans were into illicit fund-raising and money-laundering, but it all took place invisibly. This time the Irish public gaped at the pictures of large bags stuffed with millions of pounds.

The arrest of a Sinn Fein activist from Cork meant the party's name featured in every report of the large-scale raids. He was released without charge, but the link had been made, adding yet another stratum of damage.

All this has generated great confusion and uncertainty within the republican community itself. The IRA has often put out a kind of samizdat explanation after puzzling events, designed to reassure the faithful that all was well and everything was under control. Such confidential murmurs have been important for an underground organisation. This time it's different.

There is no off-the-record briefing, either for the media or the grassroots, to explain why the IRA robbed the bank. The line is simply an implacable assertion that the IRA didn't do it. Hardly anybody believes this.

In many pubs there were initial republican chuckles about the bravado and daring of the IRA, but smiles faded as the extent of the damage became clear. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness may be reviled in many quarters, but over the long years of both war and peace they have garnered much respect, both for themselves as individuals and for their cause.

The mission, on which they have expended huge effort, is to put Sinn Fein into government in both parts of Ireland. They have gained hugely both north and south, and looked set to win more seats at Westminster and in the Dail. Suddenly there is less confidence that their heady successes will continue unchecked, though everything is still in motion and the electoral effects are impossible to predict. But even if Sinn Fein holds its seats in May, the party has already lost much in the wider world. An internationally known author, an Adams admirer, said this week: "I feel so sad for them, sad they think they could do this thing."

Such perplexity is not confined to republican west Belfast, but extends to the intelligence people as well. They are confident that the IRA did the robbery, but they can come up with no definitive explanation as to why.

They have lots of theories but no certainty. Perhaps, it is said, they were trying to reassure IRA people who were queasy about full decommissioning; perhaps it was a non-lethal "spectacular" designed to show off IRA abilities.

Perhaps it was a last fling, designed to fill the IRA's coffers before it went straight; perhaps it happened because the bank was about to change hands and new security arrangements could mean the opportunity would be lost.

Perhaps "they did it because they could", as one security source put it, trying to take advantage of the fact that previous smaller robberies had been studiously underplayed in both London and Dublin.

"Sheer arrogance" is the belief of some senior people: republicans have handled the peace process so astutely for so long, and benefited so much from it, that perhaps they thought they could get away with just about anything.

One of the few certainties is that, no matter why the IRA did it, they under-estimated the furious reaction and the serious damage it would cause both the IRA and Sinn Fein.

And all of this has been self-inflicted: no one knows why the IRA - which in backstreet "punishments" has shot so many people in the leg - should take such careful aim and shoot itself in the foot.

Republicans have finely honed damage limitation skills, but this time their touch deserted them. The IRA, which generally speaks in terms of lofty dignity, was reduced to rushing out flustered statements which carry diminishing credibility.

Gerry Adams, who for many has developed the aura of a statesman, is accused by Dublin of being on the IRA army council, and he continues to go on television saying things which no one believes.

The shadow of the bank robber lies across his party, which has become firmly identified with large stashes of cash. Above all, no explanations are forthcoming as to how republicans got themselves, and the peace process, into this mess.

The London and Dublin governments have been casting around for an alternative political approach without Sinn Fein, but no convincing alternative to an inclusive process has appeared. Remarkably, Mr Paisley does not rule out the possibility of a future deal.

But the republicans will pay a heavy price to get out of the sin-bin, for no one will do serious business with them in the absence of cast-iron guarantees that the criminality will cease.

Yet the IRA has just saddled itself with a reputation for lying, and any future promises it gives will be subjected to the most thorough testing, with nothing taken at face value.

All this is not the end of Sinn Fein or the end of the peace process, but the image of a consummately cunning and successful republican movement has been shattered and the rules of the game have changed.

In the Dail yesterday Bertie Ahern reflected the new mood, not only of nationalist Ireland but also of the British Government and indeed Unionists. He set out for republicans the new requirements which are now the new reality: "We want no ambiguity, no fudge, no messing."


14 October 2002
The nine week-old Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended and the country returns to direct rule from Westminster, after IRA decommissioning fails to make progress.

4 November 2004
A report by the Independent Monitoring Commission says the IRA remains a sophisticated terrorist grouping, kept in a state of readiness - though there is no evidence of any preparation for a return to violence. Talks between the IRA and DUP on a power-sharing agreement continue.

30 November
An unofficial deadline on talks between Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists passes without agreement.

8 December
Hopes of a breakthrough are dashed, with the DUP demanding photographic evidence of decommissioning and the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, warning that the IRA will "not submit to a process of humiliation".

20 December
The Northern Bank in Belfast is robbed of £26.5m - the biggest bank robbery in the UK. Two senior bank workers assist in the raid after gunmen take their family hostage the previous night and threaten to kill them.

23 December
The IRA denies involvement. Detectives say paramilitary involvement is "a key line of inquiry".

7 January 2005
Police formally blame the IRA for the robbery. Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, says: "In my opinion, the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction." Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, dismisses the report as politically biased: "I asked the IRA about this and was assured that they were not involved."

3 February
IRA withdraws its offer to decommission its weaponry: "We do not intend to remain quiescent within this unacceptable and unstable situation. We are taking all our proposals off the table."

10 February
A new police report says Sinn Fein's leaders sanctioned the robbery. Gerry Adams angrily challenges the Irish authorities to arrest him and McGuinness. Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, says some of Sinn Fein's "household names" are members of the IRA's army council.

14 February
Pressure grows on the IRA as they are accused of protecting the killers of a Belfast man, Robert McCartney, stabbed to death outside a bar. The victim's family accuse the IRA of intimidating witnesses.

16 February
Adams admits he "may be wrong" in previously denying IRA involvement in the bank heist.

17 February
Large-scale police swoops in the Irish Republic find more than £2m in stolen bank notes. A former Sinn Fein political representative, Tom Hanlon, is among six people arrested. McDowell accuses the republican movement of being a "colossal crime machine".

18 February
Footage of Martin McGuinness speaking to Hanlon is broadcast. Phil Flynn, one-time Sinn Fein vice-president, resigns as head of a government decentralisation committee and as head of the Bank of Scotland's Irish division, but denies involvement with money-laundering.

20 February
Irish government says Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris are members of the IRA's controlling Army Council.

22 February
Sinn Fein MPs to be stripped of their parliamentary allowances and barred from their Westminster offices.


VIPs On Heightened Security Alert

Politicians and police officers in Britain have been given renewed advice on their personal security measures.

British Government sources are stressing that it is not because of any specific information of any threat to the IRA ceasefire.

It is understood that it is a precautionary measure as a result of the current political uncertainty.

Earlier this month, the IRA said in a statement no-one should underestimate the seriousness of the situation.

BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan said: "It was this statement that wasn't explained that caused some concern.

"And so we have these precautionary steps being taken and this renewed advice being given."

The IRA also withdrew its offer to put its "weapons beyond use" in a statement two days earlier on 2 February.

The police and the two governments have blamed the IRA for a £26.5m robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast last December. The IRA has denied this.

Earlier this week, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murhpy announced financial sanctions on Sinn Fein over the allegations.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/24 09:33:38 GMT


Omagh Bomb Victims Travel To Colombia

Conference to focus on victims of terrorism

By Michael McHugh
23 February 2005

Omagh bomb victims are travelling to Colombia this week to speak at an international conference on terrorism.

Michael Gallagher and Stanley McComb from the Omagh Self-Help group are to meet with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe during the two-day Second International Conference on Victims of Terrorism.

Victims from Spain, France and Israel will be in the South American country, which has been involved in a long-running battle against Marxist guerrillas known as FARC who control part of the country.

This week's meeting follows last year's successful gathering in Madrid and will be addressed by speakers from around the world.

Mr Gallagher said he hoped the conference would help to highlight the experience of the Omagh victims.

"I will be telling the audience how victims of terrorism are treated in Northern Ireland and how victims are an embarrassment to the Government," he said.

"It's important that we meet other victims from across the world and learn from their experiences and how they are coping with the situation.

"We will also be learning what they are doing to put pressure on governments and terrorists alike," he added.

Nobel Laureate and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble caused a stir at last year's Spanish conference when he was reported as saying that human rights groups were "complicit in the murder of innocent victims".

The siting of the conference in Bogota is significant following the ongoing publicity surrounding the FARC controversy.

Irishmen Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were sentenced to 17 years in prison by a Colombian court last year for training the Marxist rebels.

The three men later absconded and there is an international "red notice" out for their provisional arrest.


Achill Residency Will Welcome Writers, Artists

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent

The life and work of a German who played "truant from Europe" on Mayo's Achill Island was recalled yesterday by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue, when he opened a unique residency on the island.

The Heinrich Böll writers' and artists' residency is intended to celebrate the contribution which the Nobel prize-winner made to the Achill community during the more than 30 summers he spent there.

It was in "an exceptionally beautiful part of Co Mayo" below Slievemore mountain that the writer "found the isolation and peace he needed to create his work", the Minister said.

"Here, too, among a community that welcomed him and grew to love him, he found a way of life that helped him to renew his spirituality and to inspire his literary endeavours."

Today, Böll's cottage at Dugort is "more than a shrine to a writer of the past", he noted. Thanks to the generosity of the Böll family and the hard work of many people, it is also a "crucible of new artistic creation".

Heinrich Böll was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1917, and served for six years as a private and corporal in the German army on the Soviet and western fronts during the second World War.

It was through Pádraig Ó Rathaille, then working with Raidió Éireann, that Böll found a retreat where he could record his experiences. Initially, he stayed at the Bervie Guesthouse on Achill Island. His work, Irisches Tagebuch (The Irish Journal), reflects his experiences between 1950 and 1954 in Ireland and has been published many times in his native Germany.

Böll's widow, Annemarie, and his son, Rene, have supported community efforts to have the cottage refurbished and made available for writers and artists to use. The programme will be funded through annual revenue grants from both Mayo County Council and the Arts Council, Mr O'Donoghue said yesterday.

The Böll family is providing the house free of charge and the residency will be administered by a voluntary committee chaired by Dr Edward King.

Writers and artists will be able to avail of the initiative for periods of two to four weeks and a small stipend has been organised to cover expenses.

Applications in writing, including a full CV and examples of work, may be sent to the secretary of the Achill Heinrich Böll Committee, Mr John McHugh, at Abha Teangaí, Dooagh, Achill Island, Co Mayo, or by e-mail to:

© The Irish Times


Selling By The Lot: Legends Of Camelot

The cover of Sotheby's Kennedy auction catalogue.

By Ray O'Hanlon

We should all have yard sales like this. Brisk barely described the pace of bidding in the Sotheby's sales room in Manhattan last Thursday morning as hundreds of odds, ends, artifacts and bona fide Kennedy family treasures went on the block in a three-day auction that was, for Kennedy aficionados at least, as much another sad farewell as it was a sold-out buying spree.

But what was goodbye for the seller, Caroline Kennedy, was a big-bucks hello to hundreds of new owners of Jackie and Jack stuff.

This was Camelot by the lot number. And there was lots to go around, 691 of them to be precise, and they ranged from kitchen things to presidential things to artistic things.

And sometimes mere things.

While some might see a doorstop as so much bric-a-brac, the buyer felt more than pleased even after forking over $4,800 for a tangible link to the Kennedy legend.

After all, Jackie might have picked this little treasure up, or she might have nudged it with her well heeled toe.

With the last of five sale sessions in full swing it was clearly apparent that the Kennedy mystique had far from faded with the passing of the years.

Back in 1996, a much bigger sale of the first couple's property went for $34.5 million.

Last week's sale was a humbler affair. At least on paper. Not a few of the items in the catalog had estimated values in double figures. But nobody was paying attention to such low balling.

So up went the paddles and up, up, up went the bids.

Already sold by this ultimate session was the much used and envied wicker-backed rocker.

It was the only chair in the 7th floor auction room that wasn't holding someone.

The rocker was, however, well worth standing to have a closer look at.

It was behind a drawn security tape but the innumerable eyes fixed on its guaranteed worn seat saw only JFK contemplating awesome political and military power, or perhaps just his dinner.

A woman stood and took a photo with her digital camera. She smiled at the chair. JFK, for sure, must have been smiling back, his humor doubtless inspired by the $96,000 paid by the new owner of his old refuge from back pain.

And so it went. Lot items fell like bowling pins to the paddle wavers. One paddle-clutching hand was adorned with a long black glove. A little touch of Jackie.

Bids came in at fast clip over the phones, sometimes winning the race, sometimes not.

All the lots came from five homes once occupied by Jack and Jackie, or Jackie in the years after the president's death and during her marriage to Aristotle Onassis.

These were not the treasures of the Sierra Madre or El Dorado, but of Hyannis Port, Martha's Vineyard, New Jersey horse country, Manhattan and rural Virginia.

There was, of course, more than a whiff of New England about the horde. But there were also traces of old Ireland.

An Irish flag was one of five fluttering over the Sotheby's Upper East Side Front door.

And within the pages of the 380-page catalog there were little Irish touches such as the photograph of President Kennedy and Caroline on St. Patrick's Day 1963, the first daughter sporting a large green rosette.

And there was Lot 113, a group of books relating to the Celts and Ireland valued at between $150 and $250. The bundle fetched $3,300.

Deeper into the catalog, Lot 366 was a Japanese embroidered silk and metallic thread panel depicting a bald eagle perched on Irish and American flags, the Irish one being green with a golden harp and shamrocks.

The buyer? Perhaps a wealthy and nostalgic Irish-American. The panel was valued at $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for a stately $48,000.

With some lots it was easy to see why the prices would soar. Others were a little more puzzling. Was it the piece of driftwood in Lot 625 that inspired the winning $4,750 bid? Or was it the seven miniature penguins?

The combination was valued at only $40 to $60. But, of course, the wood might have drifted up onto that beach at the Hyannis compound where JFK used to walk and run with his dog, or sit in a rowboat with his son.

Nothing was left adrift by the end of the sale. Even a photo of Richard and Pat Nixon estimated at between $700 and $1,000 went for a more salutary $3,750.

It's tempting to imagine what the 37th president might think of his image getting such a leg up as a result of Kennedy provenance.

When the final hammer went down on the last lot it rang up a three-day total of $5,538,040.

Not bad for stuff. But, of course, the stuff of real-life legend.

This story appeared in the issue of February 23-March 1, 2005


Pearse's Unconditional Order To Surrender Emerges For Sale

Christine Newman

A document said to be the surrender order written by Pádraig Pearse after the 1916 Easter Rising has emerged for sale at auction.

The hand-written document, which is being put up for sale by its unnamed owner, says the Provisional Government has decided on an unconditional surrender and instructs supporters to lay down arms.

Prof Eunan O'Halpin, professor of contemporary Irish history at Trinity College Dublin, said last night he did not know if such a document had existed or if there was only one copy. "However, if it is genuine and is the only copy written in Pádraig Pearse's own hand-writing, then it would be significant," he said.

It would, of course, depend very much on the provenance and this would presumably be checked, he said. It was a good sign that it was handwritten.

Prof O'Halpin said that if it was genuine, then it would be significant for symbolic reasons and for the fact of what it was, rather than the content as he would not think there would be any revelations there.

Mr Michael Kenny, keeper of the arts and industrial division of the National Museum, said if the document was what was claimed, then it was of "major, major importance".

"If it is the document, then it is one of the major documents of the rebellion. The Proclamation and the surrender document which brought the rebellion to a close were the two most important," he said.

Experts from State institutions, including the National Museum, will be inspecting the document over the coming weeks to verify its authenticity. If they are happy, it is expected they will bid for it at the public auction at the end of May.

Mr Stuart Cole of James Adam, the auctioneers, said it was the actual surrender document of Pádraig Pearse in 1916 asking all the officers and men to surrender unconditionally. It was written in his own hand in Arbour Hill prison after he surrendered at the GPO and awaited execution.

"It is a very important document. There are a limited number of documents that Pádraig Pearse was allowed to write in Arbour Hill."

The surrender document was taken around to other areas by two Capuchin monks to show to people and tell them to surrender, he said.

The auctioneers now have the task of valuing the document. "Trying to put a value on it will be difficult as we have nothing to compare it with," Mr Cole said.

James Adam sold an original copy of the Proclamation in recent times. They gave it a value of between €100,000 and €150,000 but it sold for €390,000.

"This Pádraig Pearse document is handwritten and the only one," Mr Cole said.

He added: "We have done research to ascertain the document's provenance and genuineness. We are happy with it. The document has an unbroken line of provenance."

© The Irish Times

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