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February 27, 2005

02/27/05 – Adair Thumbs His Nose @ His Enemy

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

SL 02/27/05 Adair Returns To Shankill To Thumb Nose At His Enemy
SL 02/27/05 'Next Time I'm Back, I'm Back For Good...'
SL 02/27/05 UDA: 'Come Back And Face Your People...'
SL 02/27/05 MI5 On The Job
UT 02/27/05 Book To Feature Castlereagh Pics
SL 02/27/05 Police Warn Shoukri That Republicans Targeting Him
UT 02/27/05 'Hand Yourself In' : McCartney Family
SL 02/27/05 Hand Them ALL Over
SL 02/27/05 SF Support Is Out In The Cold
UT 02/27/05 Republicans' Beyond The Pale' : Robinson
SB 02/27/05 Government Lays Down Rules To SF
SM 02/27/05 Power Sharing Still Possible Says Paisley -A
IO 02/27/05 Republicans Facing Tough Choice, Admits Adams
SB 02/27/05 Sinn Fein Economics For The Provo Riche
SB 02/27/05 Inside IRA plc
WP 02/27/05 Peace Loses Currency In Northern Ireland
SB 02/27/05 Republicans Have Only One Way To Go
BB 02/27/05 Church In Plea Over NI Process
SL 02/27/05 New Body Blow For Trimble
TO 02/27/05 Catholic Church Calls For Religious Audit Of Police
SL 02/27/05 Let The Games Begin...
SB 02/27/05 Starbucks Rumours Brewing

RT 02/27/05 History And Use Of Section 31 – AO

The History And Use Of Section 31 of the old Broadcasting Act - Alex White, lawyer, political representative and former RTÉ Radio producer, looks back on the Oireachtas' former powers to censor radio and television broadcasts


Johnny Adair Returns To The Shankill Road To Thumb His Nose At His Old Enemy

by Stephen Breen
27 February 2005

This is the dramatic moment when ousted terror chief Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair went to the door of bitter enemy and top UDA man Jim Spence.

The ousted terror chief appeared outside the detached home of suspected MI5 double-agent Spence - who denies being the equivalent of IRA superspy 'Stakeknife' - minutes after the Shankill man posed for pics outside his old home, in Boundary Way.

The notorious loyalist's brief return to the province on Thursday sparked outrage among the UDA leadership, who have vowed to step up their efforts to kill him.

Adair was driven to the west Belfast home of Spence, who is suspected of being a spy for the security services by a burly minder and sidekick Gary 'Smickers' Smith.

As soon as the former terror boss had arrived, he stood outside the property in a defiant gesture to his former pal, and the west Belfast UDA leadership.

But when Spence did not respond to his ex-friend's taunts, Adair was soon back in his car again, and on the road to Portadown.

It is not clear if Spence was aware of Adair's presence outside his home.

The pair have been involved in a series of rows, after Adair accused Spence of being a top informer.

But Spence angrily denied the claims, and insisted Adair fabricated the story after Spence refused to back him in his war with the UDA leadership.

Adair also told how the pair exchanged a series of threatening phonecalls, in recent weeks.

Said Adair: "I have said all along that I would visit the homes of the top UDA men to show them that I wasn't afraid to confront them.

"I decided to start at the top with my first visit, and that's why I went to Spence's home.

"There wasn't a peep out of him, and I don't know if he knew I was outside his home.

"Spence has a lot of questions to answer about his role as a double-agent, but I know he won't meet me. He even refused to answer the letters I sent him from prison.

"I went to his home on my own, yet he brought over 40 men with him when he heard I was in Portadown.

"If Spence has nothing to hide, then why can't he meet me and answer the questions I will put to him? He knows I know the truth."

Adair also vowed that he would be making more visits to UDA leaders over the coming months.

Added Adair: "I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I will be making visits to the cowards who tried to kill my family, and placed me under a death-threat.

"The UDA doesn't know what I'm going to do next.

"Talk is cheap - but actions speak louder than words."


'Next Time I'm Back, I'm Back For Good...'

27 February 2005

Freed ex-terror chief Johnny Adair taunted his bitter UDA enemies in the heart of the Shankill last week - declaring: "I'll be back for good next time."

Speaking exclusively to Sunday Life just yards from his old home at Boundary Way, the former UFF godfather branded his return to Ulster as an "act of defiance" to the UDA leaders who have vowed to kill him.

Adair said: "I have always maintained that I would make a return visit to Northern Ireland, and to my home on the Shankill.

"I have returned to show the criminals who've placed my family and I under a death threat that I can, quite easily, breach their security.

"This is my home . . . I may have just made a flying visit this time, but when I come back again, it will be for good."

The drama of Adair's clandestine return unfolded on Wednesday afternoon, when he contacted us to say he'd be visiting his old stomping ground early the following morning.

And, after a series of calls late on Wednesday, we were told to meet him under the shadow of a UDA mural on the lower Shankill.

We travelled to the loyalist heartland where Adair was waiting for us, along with sidekick Gary 'Smickers' Smith, and a bodyguard nicknamed 'Double-top'.

The notorious loyalist then posed for photographs with Smith in front of the mural - just yards from his former home. He then went on to Spence's house, before heading west down the M1 to Portadown, where he was due to meet with a small band of supporters.

Shortly after he left Portadown to catch his Dublin ferry back to Hollyhead, a UDA mob descended on the Co Armagh town looking for him.

The UDA leadership was furious Adair had returned for a brief visit, and his appearance in the Shankill caused much anger among the terror group's rank-and-file.

A senior UDA source told us Adair's brazen appearance in the Shankill made the organisation even more determined to "silence" their former comrade.

Despite this fresh threat on his life, Adair remained defiant.

Said Adair: "There was a big meeting held in the Shankill on Wednesday, and the rapist who controls the UDA in west Belfast said there was no way I would set foot on the road.

"They had men out on the road on Wednesday night, who had orders to ram my car if they spotted me.

"But these people were nowhere to be seen when I returned to my home on Thursday morning - we had no problems breaching their security.

"There was just the three of us, and it was easy for us to drive into the Shankill and show the people that we could return, by having our photograph taken in front of a UDA mural.

"The Shankill is my home - and I've no doubt I will be able to return there for good some day."


UDA: 'Come Back And Face Your People...'

27 February 2005

The UDA in west Belfast last night challenged Adair to return to the lower Shankill area to face angry residents - and try to justify his part in two loyalist feuds, that drove scores of people from their homes.

In a statement issued to Sunday Life, the west Belfast battalion of the UDA said it was prepared to make arrangements for Adair to return to the lower Shankill, to hear at first hand what local people think of him.

One senior UDA source said: "There is anger at his stunts and at what he has said about people, but there is a constructive dimension to it.

"If he would like arrangements to be made, so he can hear what local people really think about him, then that can be done.

"He has engineered two feuds, which saw deaths and scores of people injured, and more driven from their homes in the lower Shankill.

"Instead of turning up for two minutes, he should come for two hours, and hear what people think about him."

The UDA statement asked why Adair had arrived on the Shankill at 7am, last Thursday, and suggested it was to flatter his own ego.

It added: "He said he was greeted and welcomed by local people - was it the milkman?

"He was photographed outside a house - was he going to put a bid in for the house, or confront the occupier? Why didn't he knock the door?

"When the battalion became aware of his presence in Northern Ireland, an effort was made to confront him about allegations he made in relation to members of the UDA.

"We ask Johnny, what was your role in loyalism, and at whose request did you try to destroy loyalism? Why, and at whose behest, did you engineer two feuds on the Shankill?

"We say to Johnny: stick to what you are good at - painting kerbstones and lamp-posts."

The senior loyalist added: "We also have to ask the PSNI why, if they had knowledge from the Irish authorities that Adair was travelling north, they didn't stop and detain him.

"They have a duty to inform those he has threatened to kill, or harm, that he is in the jurisdiction."


MI5 On The Job

27 February 2005

MI5 spymasters are to vet applicants for new jobs in the Northern Ireland Information Commissioner's office.

The post of Information Commissioner exists to provide the public with the right of access to previously barred information - in spite of official bureaucracy.

The revelation that MI5 has a veto on sensitive appointments will spark widespread concern - particularly in the nationalist community.

One senior civil service source told Sunday Life: "These are public appointments paid for by the taxpayer. But, currently, Sinn Fein supporters and loyalist community workers would be unlikely to survive the vetting procedure."

MI5 - headed by director general Eliza Manningham-Buller - has figured controversially in some of Ulster's worst political rows during the Troubles, from Bloody Sunday, so-called 'shoot-to-kill' cases and alleged collusion in loyalist murders.

Since January 1, freedom of information laws say that previously barred insider details from public bodies should be available on application.

There are exemptions - one of them covers the intelligence services.

But, when information is denied, applicants have the right to appeal to the Commissioner's Office - which is currently recruiting senior officials in Belfast.

According to job adverts, 'complaints resolution officers' will be involved in "making judgments on whether information should be released when the parties involved cannot agree".

But the detailed job specification for the Northern Ireland posts states that "the post-holder must be prepared to be put forward for security clearance".

In practice, this means approval from MI5.

Operating out of the NIO at Stormont, the agency has previously been behind swoops on Sinn Fein. In contrast, the England and Wales job specification simply says that new employees "will be asked to complete a criminal declaration form".

If they cannot provide proof of identity and UK nationality on the first day at work, new officers face being barred from the commissioner's office.

Northern Ireland officials will handle "politically-sensitive" cases, involving complaints from MPs, Assembly members and other prominent public figures.


Book To Feature Castlereagh Pics

The secrets of an infamous interrogation centre where Northern Ireland's most hardened terrorists were held are to be revealed for the first time.

By:Press Association

Veteran photographer Bobbie Hanvey`s new book, a tribute to the end of a policing era, features exclusive pictures of the Castlereagh compound.

Beds and chairs chained to walls of the centre where detectives tried to break the resistance of loyalists and republicans have been captured.

Hanvey, who spent six months touring Royal Ulster Constabulary stations before the force was rebranded as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said he was the first to gain access to the anti-terrorist HQ.

"It felt so creepy inside it," he recalled.

"There`s a lot of ghosts in that place and to be the first allowed to photograph it throughout all the years of the Troubles was an eerie experience."

Up to 150 pictures, taken during 2000-01, were selected for Hanvey`s labour of love.

One of the most striking images of the collection, titled Last Days of the RUC - First days of the PSNI, adorns the front cover.

A frail woman in her 80s stands outside her tin-roofed Co Tyrone cottage, flanked by policemen holding machine guns.

"Sarah Primrose lives up in the wilds on her own in a house that has hardly changed since the 1850s" Hanvey recalled.

"Inside was like going back to the days of the Famine.

"I heard about her from police in Clogher who told me they went up to check on her.

"Those guys in the picture were the local community police but they had to take guns because its a pretty dangerous area."

Hanvey, 59, compared the significance of the RUC`s passing away to the final days of the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1922.

Even though republicans loathed the force, the Co Down-based freelance photographer claimed they supported his efforts.

"A top Sinn Fein man who I won`t name told me this was a good idea as everybody`s history should be recorded," he said.

Hanvey, who also presents a folk history programme on local radio, managed to get Northern Ireland`s last four Chief Constables to pose for his project: Sir Jack Hermon, Sir Hugh Annesley, Sir Ronnie Flanagan and the man currently in charge, Hugh Orde.

"Sir Jack said he would love to bring back internment for the sole purpose of locking me up," he quipped.

An exhibition of Hanvey`s work, which toured Northern Ireland, is to be handed over to the RUC Historical Society at the book launch in Belfast on March 10.


Police Warn Shoukri That Republicans Targeting Him

27 February 2005

UDA boss Andre Shoukri has been warned he's being targeted by republicans.

The top terror chief was visited by cops last Tuesday and warned to vary his routine because of "republican interest" in his movements.

Shoukri refused to comment on the warning to Sunday Life.

But we have learned that police are taking republican threats more seriously, since the issuing of an IRA statement earlier this month.

In Britain, the threat of an IRA attack has been raised from 'Level 4' to the higher 'Level 3'.

Senior police and military figures, and some politicians, have been advised to be more security-conscious.

The warning to the UDA's north Belfast 'brigadier' didn't specify whether the threat relates to mainstream or dissident IRA. It's understood other loyalists have received similar warnings in recent days.

Although police aren't anticipating a return to widespread terror attacks by the IRA, there is concern about isolated terrorist incidents designed to destabalise the situation.

Said one senior security source: "A one-off hit with a clean gun could be blamed on another republican group, or even on the IRA, and it would make little difference politically, because there is a political vacuum.

"Warnings are relayed to individuals when threats become known about, and there were several issued before the IRA statement. But there's a feeling now that the risk is higher, and people should take the advice given much more seriously."


'Hand Yourself In' : McCartney Family

The killers of Belfast father-of-two Robert McCartney should do the patriotic and honourable thing by handing themselves in, his family told a rally today.

The sisters of Mr McCartney, who was beaten and stabbed last month during a brawl in a Belfast bar in an attack blamed on IRA members, received a warm ovation from hundreds of people who gathered in the nationalist Short Strand to back their campaign for justice.

The family carried placards emblazed with the slogans `Murdered - who`s next?` and `Where`s my daddy?` and were cheered as they prepared to address the rally.

Among those who attended were Sinn Fein`s South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey and councillor Joe O`Donnell.

Nationalist SDLP deputy leader Dr Alastair McDonnell also turned up to hear Mr McCartney`s sister Paula and Bloody Sunday campaigner Eamonn McCann speak.

Paula McCartney told the crowd: "Without the support of this community and others, we believe that our cry for justice would have gone unheeded like so many others.

"We hope and pray over the coming days and weeks those responsible for Robert`s murder and in the cover and clean-up operation will do the patriotic and right thing and hand themselves over and tell all they know truthfully.

"If not, they should be pressurised to do so.

"If these men walk free from this, then everyone in Ireland should fear the consequences. Justice must be done."

On Friday, the IRA announced it had expelled three of its members after an internal investigation into the fatal attack on Mr McCartney at Magenniss`s Bar in Belfast City Centre.

The Provisionals said one of the three had gone to a solicitor to make a statement after the incident while the others had been asked to take responsibility.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams also said yesterday had he been in the bar, he would have gone to a lawyer with information.

However, Sinn Fein has not asked people to go to the police because the party does not support the police service.

The McCartney family have insisted up to 20 people hold the key to getting the truth about Robert`s murder and they want a case to go before court.

Paula McCartney told the rally that her family would do everything in its power to get justice for her brother.

"No matter how long it takes and wherever it takes us, only when justice has been achieved will we feel that humanity and dignity has been restored and we, the people, can be free of being murdered by those who claim to work in our name," she said.

"We ask you to support us in this struggle - justice for Robert."

Mr McCann compared the cover-up in the wake of Mr McCartney`s murder to attempts by the British Army to cover up what happened on Bloody Sunday.

The civil rights campaigner and journalist noted that the murder had coincided with the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry during which 14 civilians were shot dead by soldiers.

He told the rally: "We are told, and I believe, that some of those directly involved in the murder of Robert McCartney had come from marching in Derry demanding justice for the Bloody Sunday families.

"How dare they? The hardest thing that I can say about them is that they have brought themselves and the organisation which apparently some of them were a part, they have brought themselves to the level of the British paratroopers in the Bogside.

"What an irony that is."

Mr McCann said it would be hypocritical for those who demanded justice for the Bloody Sunday families not to also press for justice for Mr McCartney`s family.

He said the family`s campaign was not intended to be divisive nor was it directed at any particular party.

"It is a positive campaign for justice, a continuation of a campaign which has had nobility on its side down through the years," he said.

The campaigner added that unless they achieved justice for Mr McCartney`s family, it would cast a long, dark shadow on all other campaigns down through the years."

Before the rally began Mr Maskey said his party was there to give its backing to the McCartney`s in their quest for justice.

He accused others of launching a major political onslaught against Sinn Fein.

But the former Lord Mayor of Belfast refused to comment on whether support for Sinn Fein would slide as a result of the murder and other allegations against republicans.

"What we are doing here is supporting the McCartney family as we told them we would do," the South Belfast MLA said.

"People can make their own opinions about whether there will be sliding support or not. Usually the best way to do that is at election time."

Dr McDonnell said after the rally ended that people had turned out because of the courage and dignity of Mr McCartney`s relatives and, in particular, his sisters.

The South Belfast Assembly member added that while Sinn Fein was calling for cooperation in its public statements, the reality on the ground in the Short Strand was different.

"Gerry Adams can mouth all the platitudes that he likes, but friends on the ground are mouthing a different story," he said.

"People are being intimidated, but I think basically people are angry, people feel let down.

"They have been under pressure by this gang for a long time and this murder was just the last straw."

Dr McDonnell again called for cooperation with the family and the police.


Hand Them ALL Over

by Stephen Breen
27 February 2005

Under-fire Provo warlords were last night poised to boot out up to NINE more IRA members over the senseless slaying of 'Gentle Giant' Robert McCartney.

Senior security sources told Sunday Life that more expulsions are expected to follow the terror group's shock decision to throw out three top republicans on Friday.

One of that trio was arrested yesterday afternoon in connection with Mr McCartney's murder.

Our revelation comes after the victim's family and community representatives urged the IRA leadership to ensure that ALL his killers are brought to justice.

Mr McCartney's heartbroken sister, Paula, told Sunday Life: "We welcome the fact the IRA has accepted unequivocally that their members were involved in my brother's cold-blooded murder.

"But only when all those involved - that is, those IRA members and others - are charged, tried and convicted, will we as a family be able to bring closure to this horrific ordeal."

Mr McCartney (33) died after he was subjected to a frenzied knife-attack by a republican gang outside Magennis's bar in Belfast city centre. Up to nine IRA members are set to be disciplined - including those who battered the dad-of-two after he had been stabbed, and others who threatened staff and removed CCTV footage from the pub.

One of the senior IRA figures 'cashiered' last week is understood to be the Provos' officer commanding (OC) in south Belfast, while another is a high-ranking republican terrorist.

It's understood the top terror boss expelled had previously been "disciplined" by his superiors - but was later allowed to rejoin the organisation.

It is also believed IRA chiefs have now undertaken a review of all their units in south and east Belfast, with a new OC for the area expected to be put in charge this week.

Added Ms McCartney: "We welcome the fact that the IRA has accepted its members were involved in Robert's murder and the subsequent cover-up and clean-up operation. We also welcome their assurances in relation to the intimidation of witnesses, and hope that this will bear fruit.

"The version of the events of January 30, as outlined by the (IRA) statement, is not one the family accepts as fact.

"The accuracy of this will only be confirmed or rejected when a trial takes place."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the expulsion of the three republicans did not go far enough.

He said: "When Robert McCartney was viciously murdered, the SDLP was clear that IRA members carried it out. Sinn Fein and the IRA have been trying to divert the truth and pervert justice - trying cover-ups and telling awful lies.

"Sinn Fein and the IRA had to move because of the dignity and courage of the McCartney family.

"It is to the credit of the McCartneys that they have stood strong, and forced the Provisional movement to act.

"But, the bottom line is: this IRA statement is only a begrudging advance - it does not represent a full and proper outcome because it still does not resolve the fundamental issue of how the McCartney family are entitled to justice through the courts for the brutal murder of Robert."

Anatomy of a brutal, senseless, pathetic episode...

Q. What exactly happened on the night of the attack?

A: The family of Belfast man Robert McCartney say he and his friend, Brendan Devine, were drinking in a city centre bar on January 30 when they got into a row with members of the Provisional IRA. Mr McCartney was beaten and fatally stabbed while his friend was also seriously assaulted. The family claim the bar was forensically cleaned and customers in the packed pub told not to ring the emergency services. They also allege people have faced pressure not to come forward to the police to assist with their investigation.

Q: Why do republicans traditionally oppose co-operation with the police?

A: Sinn Fein says that, even though the force's name may have changed from the RUC to the PSNI, and more Catholic recruits have joined, they are not convinced the reforms measure up to the Patten Report's recommendations.

Q: How has this affected the debate over Mr McCartney's killing?

A: When police initially raided homes in the Markets and the Short Strand, they came under attack from stone-throwing youths and were accused by Sinn Fein of heavy-handed behaviour. However, the McCartney family and friends have condemned Sinn Fein's stance. The party has come under criticism in republican areas, and there's widespread belief that the IRA was protecting members who carried out the murder, and was intimidating witnesses.

Q: Does the IRA statement relax the pressure on republicans?

A: With two by-elections for seats in the Dail this month and a probable General Election and local government elections in May, Sinn Fein is likely to still face a barrage of criticism. Unionist and nationalist opponents have dismissed the statement as a face-saving exercise. As revealed in Sunday Life, the McCartney family is also considering fighting Sinn Fein for a council seat in Belfast.

Q: What does all this mean for the peace process?

A: All sides are pessimistic about the prospects of a resumption of power-sharing this year. Opponents of Sinn Fein insist the IRA must end all paramilitary and criminal activity. Gerry Adams has accused opponents and the media of ganging up on his party, but Sinn Fein is anxious about the impact of a drip-feed of stories about the Northern Bank robbery, IRA criminality and money-laundering activities.


SF Support Is Out In The Cold

27 February 2005 By Paul T Colgan

As Sinn Féin's Meath by-election candidate Joe Reilly and his team of canvassers took to the Northbound platform of Laytown train station in the Meath on Thursday, some might have been tempted to dig out a tired 'peace-train' analogy. It's been a hard couple of months for Sinn Féin and there is little sign of a let-up.

In the wake of the Northern Bank heist, the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney and the discovery of an IRA money laundering ring, Reilly could be forgiven for feeling under pressure.

Reilly will most likely be an onlooker as bookies' favourite Shane Cassells of Fianna Fáil battles it out with Fine Gael's Shane McEntee.

However, his vote will be scrutinised for signs of a drop in support for Sinn Féin. Reilly narrowly missed out on a Dáil seat in 2002, coming sixth in a five-seat constituency. His vote increased tenfold from 641 in 1992 to 6,042 in 2002.

He claims, however, that the Sinn Féin core vote will hold up well despite the controversies. He points to the willingness of the party's leaders to put time into bringing out the vote.

The party's president, Gerry Adams, and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness engaged in a snowball fight in Trim last Wednesday while chairman Mitchel McLaughlin was on hand to assist canvassing on Friday.

But Reilly anticipates that Sinn Féin has already lost some of those voters who may have considered plumping for the party this time out.

“I'm not silly enough to think that the recent attacks on us are not going to affect the thinking of people who were considering voting for us,” he said. While he said that 97 per cent of the issues being raised by constituents were local ones, many had mentioned the McCartney killing.

“The Northern Bank job comes up occasionally but people are able to joke about it - they ask me do I have any sterling on me. But in the case of the Robert McCartney killing, they recognise the need for his family to get justice,” he said.

The commuters of Laytown were largely uninterested in Reilly and his team. Most were happy to pocket a pamphlet but few, if any, took the time to look at it or make conversation.

The constituency, said Reilly, now resembles a suburb of Dublin. The population growth in the county has been dramatic in recent years, particularly in areas such as Ashbourne and Dunboyne.

He said that transport infrastructure had failed to keep pace with the needs of such towns and that many people commuting to Dublin were being subjected to up to 25 hours a week travelling.

He dismissed claims that the decision to split the Meath constituency into two smaller three-seaters was designed to prevent the growth of Sinn Féin. “You could say that, but for Sinn Féin to be a growing force it has to start taking seats in three-seat constituencies,” he said.

High on Reilly's agenda is the proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork and plans to route the M3 near the Hill of Tara. Reilly is opposed to the siting of the incinerator and, though not opposed to the M3, believes the road should be routed away from the historic site.

He said that Sinn Féin had been emboldened in the current campaign by the level of criticism coming from Government Buildings and the media.

“I haven't seen republicans as angry about anything in almost 20 years,” he said. “Particularly about the Northern Bank robbery where we've had allegations thrown around like snuff at awake.

“It's been a huge motivating factor for republicans. That's why they're here on a bitterly cold day in a small train station - we had 20 canvassers out in the snow yesterday.

“They're coming out in defence of our role in the peace process.”

He said that Sinn Féin's outrage should neither be treated as a “tantrum'‘ or “under-estimated'‘ but that personal feelings would need to be put aside at some stage.

Reilly, a former republican prisoner, has gone on the record as saying proof of IRA involvement in the Northern Bank robbery would have “serious political consequences'‘ for him.

He's sticking to that line but maintains that a deal on IRA disarmament is still on the cards. “We need to get back to where we were before Christmas,” he said.


Republicans' Beyond The Pale' : Robinson

Republicans have placed themselves beyond the pale and must be left behind in the bid to drive political process forward in Northern Ireland, the British government has been told.

By:Press Association

In a tough talking speech to colleagues in Omagh, Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson said recent events in the peace process had shown that IRA words were valueless.

And he also criticised Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy for failing to echo claims by the Irish Justice Minister that senior Sinn Fein members such as Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris are members of the IRA`s army council.

The East Belfast MP claimed: "The Secretary of State is placing Adams and co above the law because he wants to keep them around in the forlorn hope that he can revive the Government`s `inclusive` agenda.

"For progress to be made the Government must come to terms with the reality that republicans have placed themselves beyond the pale and have demonstrated no desire to conform to peaceful, democratic standards.

"Let`s move on without them."

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde`s assertion last month that the IRA carried out December`s £26.5m Northern Bank heist in Belfast and the murder of 33-year-old forklift driver Robert McCartney have resulted in Sinn Fein facing allegations of criminality.

Unionists have insisted that following the Northern Bank raid, they will not consider going back into a power sharing administration with Sinn Fein if the IRA remains active.

DUP leader the rev Ian Paisley has insisted all paramilitary and criminal activity by the IRA must end and the organisation must fully disarm in a verifiable way.

However, efforts last year by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern to revive power sharing involving DUP and Sinn Fein stumbled when the IRA refused to give in to demands from the Mr Paisley that the completion of the provisionals` disarmament programme should be photographed.

Mr Robinson said the DUP`s other demands that there should be a testing period to see if republicans were genuine in the event of any deal had been vindicated by events following the collapse of last year`s potential deal.

"Republicans ended up on the wrong side of the negotiations last year with the governments supporting the DUP position on guns, terrorism and criminality," he said.

"It is for this reason and this reason alone that the provo spin dispenser is now working overtime.

"Having established that the IRA was responsible for the robbery of the Northern Bank combined with the confirmation that the theft of goods worth millions over the last year was the work of the IRA, there is now no escaping the fact that Sinn Fein/IRA is rooted in criminality and gangsterism.

"No longer will there be any credible argument against the course of action that demands Sinn Fein/IRA tangibly demonstrate terror and crime is history.

"Those who in the talks process urged us to accept the bona fides of Sinn Fein and who insisted that clear words from Sinn Fein would signal the end of criminality have had to acknowledge that such an analysis was folly."

Mr Robinson said Tony Blair`s government had failed to give leadership in the process in recent weeks and was adopting a minimal approach.

He said this stood in stark contrast to the robust, if belated, approach by Irish government ministers towards republicans.


Government Lays Down Rules To SF

27 February 2005 By Paul T Colgan and Pat Leahy

The government will only meet Sinn Féin representatives to discuss the ending of paramilitarism and criminality and to hear plans for IRA decommissioning.

This is according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern.

“If any further meetings are to take place, it has to be on the basis that there will be an end to those two issues,” Ahern was reported as saying on Friday.

The Taoiseach's spokeswoman agreed. “That is the only next meeting,” she said this weekend.

Ahern was also reported as saying that future meetings between the government and Sinn Féin would only happen if the republican movement first offered to disband the IRA.

“Our door will be open obviously to further discussions, but it has to be on the basis that there has to be a clear and demonstrable move towards full decommissioning and an end to paramilitarism and criminality,” said Ahern. “We can't help in any way,” he said. “It is up to them.”

Republican sources reacted cautiously to Ahern's comments, but stressed that the political process could only be moved forward through face-to-face meetings.

“If that's their position, then fair enough,” said a republican source. “It's a matter for their own judgment.

“But the generally accepted wisdom in this process is that the best way to work out difficulties is through dialogue. If they decide to close down dialogue, then that's their decision.

“We're ready and willing to discuss all issues with the government.”

Meanwhile, the British government has indicated that it will be prepared to meet Sinn Féin following the Westminster elections, which are expected later this spring.

Northern Secretary Paul Murphy said that, while any solution to the political impasse was unlikely before the elections, the British government “must keep talking to all the parties'‘.


Paisley remains crucial figure in North's political future - Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, talks to Northern Editor Tommie Gorman about his health, recent events in the North, and how those same events have affected the political landscape

Power Sharing Still Possible Says Paisley -A

By Michael Brennan, PA

DUP leader Ian Paisley today said he would share power with Sinn Fein if there was ‘no arms and no crime’.

The 78-year-old signalled that there was still a realistic prospect of devolved government for the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, despite the fallout from the alleged robbery of the Northern Bank by the IRA.

“I have made it clear that as a democrat if people turn up with a mandate and if that mandate does not depend on criminality, does not depend on armed revolt and rebellion... I would face up to the fact that I would have to do business with them.

Mr Paisley told RTE Radio that there could be an ‘an old boys association’ for retired IRA members, as proposed by former Irish Premier Albert Reynolds.

He added that he believed there would be ‘rethinking’ among Republicans in the aftermath of the Northern Bank raid and the operations against IRA money laundering in the Irish Republic.

The British and Irish Governments failed to agree a power sharing deal between Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party, and the DUP, the largest unionist party, last Christmas.

However, there were also conciliatory signals from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams today at a commemoration speech for IRA Volunteers in South Armagh.

He said there was a need to take more risks for the peace process to succeed.

“Inevitably that will mean more hard choices, more hard decisions for Irish republicans as we push ahead with our political project and as we seek to achieve a united Ireland,” he said.


Republicans Facing Tough Choice, Admits Adams
2005-02-27 15:10:02+00

Republicans will face hard choices as they push ahead with their political plans and attempt to achieve a united Ireland, Gerry Adams said today.

At a commemoration for two IRA members Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley in south Armagh, the Sinn Fein leader again stressed that his party rejected criminality and believed no republican worthy of the name could be involved in criminal acts.

But, in a clear response to demands from political opponents for republicans to change tack in the process, he also acknowledged that having taken so many risks to move the peace process forward in recent years, the Republican movement would face even more difficult challenges in the time ahead.

And as the family of Belfast father of two, Robert McCartney, whose murder has led to the expulsion of three IRA members, held a vigil in east Belfast, Mr Adams said he fully supported their demands for the truth of what happened to emerge.

The West Belfast MP told republicans: "Robert McCartney's murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward.

"I want to send my support to the rally which is taking place in the Short Strand this afternoon and which is being attended by Sinn Fein leaders in the city.

"Sinn Fein fully supports the family of Robert McCartney in their demand for justice and truth. I have met the family and I remain in contact with them."

With republicans under pressure to wind down IRA activities following Mr McCartney's murder and December's Northern Bank robbery, Mr Adams acknowledged the political process was in grave difficulty.

But in a reference to recent strained relations with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, he said: "The republican people of Belfast do not need Irish Government ministers to lecture us on our patriotic duties. Nor should they or others in a political establishment in Dublin demonise the good people of the Markets and the Short Strand.

"Sinn Fein is totally and absolutely committed to bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion.

"We are also committed to bringing about Irish unity and independence and to representing all those who vote for us.

"And while we will not shirk in our responsibilities we will not allow politicians, especially those who are glorying in the current difficulties to criminalise those who support us or, more importantly, to set the political agenda."


Sinn Fein Economics For The Provo Riche

27 February 2005 By David McWilliams

What next for Sinn Féin? There seem to be three general theories doing the rounds. The first is that the doves succumb, in their own parlance, to the hawks, and the IRA goes back to war.

The second is that Sinn Féin forces the IRA to disband, in which case Sinn Féin - the nationalist socialist party - is back at the electoral races.

The third eventuality is that they are one and the same group, and that Sinn Féin/IRA always had a peace tactic rather than commitment to a peace process, and that they have been secretly trying to hoodwink all of us as part of a long-term strategy to increase influence and ultimately to gain control in the Republic.

Whichever theory you subscribe to, what happens next will have long-term ramifications for our economy. Strangely, the economic consequences of the peace - to paraphrase the title of John Maynard Keynes' brilliant analysis of the 1918 Versailles treaty - are often overlooked.

There can be little doubt that prosperity and peace go together. The first lesson of economic history is to avoid war at all costs. War destroys everything. Continuously successful countries have avoided wars for hundreds of years. In Europe, Switzerland and Sweden are fine examples.

Although it is hard to prove conclusively, there is an obvious overlap in terms of timing at least, between the end of the war in the North and the blooming of the economy of the Republic.

It is impossible to distinguish chicken and egg. Common sense suggests, though, that given the semi-detached nature of most of Ireland's relationship with the North, the direct impact of no bombs in Belfast on jobs and wealth down here was probably negligible.

But there is no doubt that the ceasefire affected perceptions of Ireland internationally - the vibe, the image, the marketing spiel, the entire background noise was positively influenced by the ceasefires.

What's next? Let's say the doves and hawks theory is correct and Gerry Adams gets pushed aside in favour of hardliners who see fit to go back to war.

The first economic casualty will be perceptions of Ireland in America.

Times have changed, both in the White House and in corporate America, and even a low-level campaign would have serious negative effects on direct American investment.

A second direct casualty would be tourism, the biggest employer in the state. We sometimes underestimate how many people were scared to come here in the bad old days - particularly British visitors, who are our best customers by far.

A third impact would be on Ireland as a place to live. Again we are talking about perceptions here, not reality. Immigrants are attracted to countries for a variety of reasons, one of which is the received wisdom about the place. A renewed IRA campaign - with CNN pictures beamed into living rooms around the globe - would dissuade immigrants from coming here.

All these factors would undermine business, consumer and investor confidence. At the moment in Ireland, confidence is crucial to keeping the whole indebted show on the road and anything that punctures that effervescence would have dramatic consequences.

But what if there is no war and either the IRA disbands or our short memories allow a cynical peace tactic rather than process to prevail? In this situation, Sinn Féin/IRA would continue to win at the ballot boxes.

We then have to consider the financial impact of Sinn Féin's economic policies.

But what are Sinn Féin's economics? A look at their manifestos does not help to give a title to Sinn Féin's economic philosophy. It is certainly not capitalism, nor is it real socialism. It's neither liberalism nor collectivism.

Sometimes the best way to categorise policies is to examine who benefits from them. In the past decade, the main beneficiaries of Ireland's boom have been the much-maligned nouveau riche. But if Sinn Féin's economics were to dominate in the future, the main beneficiaries will be a new class. Let's call them the ‘provo riche'.

At the moment, the provo riche are, allegedly, a bunch of money launderers and bank robbers. But in an era of Sinn Féin economics, the provo riche would proliferate.

The main problem with the provo riche manifesto is that (like its bank robbing genesis) it says very little about creating wealth, but lots about taking wealth.

Here, for example, is the provo riche policy on taxation taken from Sinn Féin's 2005 pre-budget submission: “It is essential to reform and re-weigh the taxation system in favour of the low paid and to increase the overall tax take by targeting wealth, speculative property and corporate profits.”

Measures should include the end of tax avoidance schemes, measured increases in corporation tax and increased capital gains tax for owners of multiple properties and a 50 per cent tax band for incomes over €100,000.

So far so extortionate. So the provo riche's policy is about taking money from the rich, but what does the manifesto say about creating money and wealth? Not a lot, frankly. But back in 2003, at a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, the provo riche had the following to say about your house: “Private property has been and remains an instrument of oppression of people the world over.”

There are those (maybe the 86 per cent of Irish people who own their own homes) who would argue the opposite: that private property and ownership is the very cornerstone of a civilised, law-abiding society, that with property rights come responsibilities - the sort of responsibilities that bind families and communities together.

Once a manifesto deviates from private ownership, at the very least it puts huge faith in the promise of public ownership.

And this is at the core of the provo riche economic doctrine. It believes in the state - the power of the state, the control of the state over people and the primacy of the will of the collective over the rights of the individual.

In some areas there is a benefit to this approach, and, if wealth is generated, most of us support the idea of redistribution to help others. But you need to have a view about creation not just redistribution. And central to wealth creation is the ownership of property, capital and ideas. All these seem to be anathema to the provo riche.

In Putting People First, a serious, wide-ranging and interesting Sinn Féin policy document, the party outlines its views on multinationals, which are crucial to our economy. It states: “Sinn Féin believes there needs to be a fundamental rethink around the role of foreign investment and trans-national corporations in the Irish economy.”

It goes on to suggest that we should be managing trade and investment and increasing tax on these companies. It fails to see the positive side to multinationals and their contribution to our economic health. Throughout its economic publications, Sinn Féin displays ‘national socialist' thinking. This means everything national, small and local is good, and everything, international, big and cosmopolitan is bad.

High tax seems to be an end rather than a means, and the philosophy is predicated on an all-knowing, all-powerful state taking our money and spending it for us in areas the state - that is Sinn Féin - sees fit.

At best, this is the economics of a 1970s student bedsit. If the manifesto were introduced to the letter, the country would risk bankruptcy. All would suffer - except maybe the provo riche.


Inside IRA plc

27 February 2005 By Andrew Silke

Senior figures within the IRA held a crisis meeting in a pub in Bundoran, Co Donegal, in 1981. A major issue facing the group was the chronic state of the movement's finances.

The IRA had received and acquired considerable sums of money in the previous decade, but had been unable to invest or store it away. With no end in sight to the conflict, the group recognised that it needed to stabilise its income and effectively manage the funds which came its way.

This meeting saw the birth of what one senior police officer called “IRA plc'‘. Experienced accountants, solicitors and businessmen were brought in to overhaul the movement's finances. These people did not always become full IRA members, but often worked as “consultants'‘ who provided expert advice on how the paramilitaries' resources should best be managed.

Certainly, the resources involved have always been considerable. Estimates vary on the IRA's actual income. Indeed, the IRA itself almost certainly does not have a complete understanding of the money its various units and activities rake in. An average annual income as high as €21 million has been suggested, but most security experts place the organisation's typical earning capacity at between €7 million and €11 million a year.

The movement's outgoings, though, are much smaller. The first and most obvious expense facing the IRA is purchasing weapons and munitions, and even in a ceasefire era, the group has spent some effort on acquiring additional weapons. But the cost of these is often not very high, especially as the group is very talented at making its own weapons.

In 1993, a large shipment of weapons from Poland only cost the UVF stg£250,000 (€350,000). This included over 300 assault rifles, 60 handguns, two tonnes of explosives, as well as detonators, grenades and several thousand rounds of ammunition.

Ultimately, acquiring weapons accounts for a very small proportion of the paramilitaries' budgets.

A major drain on resources in the past came from supporting prisoners and their families, but these costs have plummeted with the Good Friday Agreement and prisoner releases.

The remaining finances are used to meet other costs incurred in the day-to-day activities of any reasonably large organisation and relatively small wages are given to members.

A police figure in 2002 estimated that the IRA's annual wage bill was less than €400,000.As a result, most analysts now agree that the IRA has a considerable surplus and that this spare cash has been carefully invested and built up over the past two decades.

The IRA is known to have a very substantial property portfolio. In the Republic alone, it owns more than 20 pubs in the Dublin area and several more elsewhere in the country. It also owns guesthouses, a security firm, video shops, courier services and a haulage company.

Experts believe that there is very little IRA money resting in bank accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. Instead, the IRA has typically gone for more local investment.

Much of the IRA's money has been given to businessmen who are sympathetic to the cause. Up to €300,000 can be invested with a business at any one time, though usually the sums involved are smaller. When money is required by the IRA, it is withdrawn piecemeal: a false invoice is submitted to the company accounts for €100,000 and the money is taken out. The group has been careful to outsource its funds in this way. Taking this approach has ensured that the IRA's funds are remarkably difficult to track down.

Transferring funds overseas has been carried out in a similarly low-key manner. Again, the IRA has avoided secret bank accounts in the tax havens of the Caribbean and Swiss Alps.

Money is traditionally moved in cash and unexpectedly. The practices they have developed are very similar to the hawalla system of underground banking. Credit is built up with a person who will accept deposits from the group. This credit can then be drawn on by other members of the organisation who are based overseas. As a result, anti-money-laundering efforts which focus on the banking industry entirely miss the transactions.

These systems have been built up and carefully refined over the past 20 years. Ever since the 1981 meeting, IRA finances have been very professional and the organisation's “finance department'‘ has been an especially tight-knit section of the movement.

Discipline has been extremely strict in this area and far less IRA money disappears into members' pockets than is the case with other paramilitary groups. However, a major limitation of the IRA's approach is that it cannot handle very large sums of money quickly.

The way the organisation invests and deposits money, often relying on personal contacts, simply cannot cope with an influx as large as the stg£26.5 million (€38 million) from the Northern Bank robbery.

It would normally take four or five years of careful work to squirrel away a sum as large as the proceeds of the December 20 robbery.

Stories of huge sums being set on fire in gardens suggest that the system is desperately clogged, and indicate that the IRA was not expecting to have to handle such a massive windfall.

However, it should not be forgotten that the financing and money-laundering systems set up by the IRA are still by far the most sophisticated and impenetrable of any paramilitary group in Europe.

Almost certainly, tens of millions have already been carefully locked away, to be drawn on when and where the movement needs them.

Andrew Silke is a senior fellow of the University of St Andrew's in Scotland.


Peace Loses Currency In Northern Ireland

By Al Webb
The Washington Times
Published February 27, 2005

LONDON -- The fallout from one of the most spectacular bank robberies in Britain's history has brought the Northern Ireland peace process to a halt and thrown the Irish republican movement in the province into acrimonious turmoil.

Accusations by police in London and Dublin that the Dec. 20 heist at Belfast's Northern Bank that netted the bandits more than $50 million was pulled off by the Provisional Irish Republican Army has focused the public spotlight on the IRA as never before.

In Belfast, John Grieve of the Independent Monitoring Commission told reporters on Feb. 10 that Sinn Fein, one of the key players in the stalled Northern Ireland peace negotiations, was behind the Northern Bank robbery -- the biggest in British criminal history.

Sinn Fein is generally described as the political wing of the IRA, and has steadfastly sought to distance itself from IRA bombings, killings, robberies and beatings, but now Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell has called it a "colossal crime machine."

It was Mr. McDowell, with the almost certain acquiescence of his boss, Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who stunned politicians and veteran Ulster experts by naming Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and his de facto deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, as full-fledged members of the IRA's council.

The claim, which implies their complicity in -- or at least advance knowledge of -- the Belfast bank holdup, is seen as a shocker for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who welcomed Sinn Fein into the negotiations aimed at restoring peace in Northern Ireland on the basis of the so-called Good Friday agreement nearly seven years ago.

No less embarrassed could be the United States, where Mr. Adams has been a White House guest of both President Bush and his predecessor, Bill Clinton. Mr. Adams already is planning another U.S. trip, a multicity tour during the St. Patrick's Day period next month.

A major shift that could help sway American opinion has come in Dublin, where Mr. Ahern's government, once a staunch proponent of the Northern Ireland peace process, now appears to regard both Sinn Fein and the IRA as threats to their own existence.

Mr. Ahern "believes that Gerry Adams ... stabbed him in the back," reported the Times of London, "and Adams is now paying the price for his duplicity."

Veteran analyst and journalist Stephen Glover said "mainstream Irish politicians believe [the Sinn Fein-IRA combination] is in the process of trying to destabilize the elected government in Dublin, and that it is using money gained from various illegal scams to further its aims."

Another analyst said: "There is a real risk that Mr. Adams' party will hold the balance of power in the Dail [Ireland's parliament] after the next election in the republic."

The furor caused by the Northern Bank robbery caught both Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA off guard. Mr. Adams and his deputy, Mr. McGuinness, have flatly denied the Dublin defense minister's accusation that they are IRA command members.

"It's not true," Mr. McGuinness said. "I reject it completely. What he has alleged is totally and utterly false. I'm not a member of the IRA. I'm not a member of the IRA army council."

He and Mr. Adams issued a joint statement, insisting that, "We are not members of the IRA or its army council. Our involvement in the peace process is as leaders of Sinn Fein and as elected representatives.... As part of this, we have met with the army council to put propositions regarding the peace process."

The denials have met widespread disbelief, not least because both are confessed former IRA men.

"I was a member of the IRA many years ago," said Mr. McGuinness, who previously admitted he was the paramilitary organization's commander in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in the 1970s.

Sinn Fein, the two insist, "is totally committed to the peace process and to engaging with the Irish government in these difficult times to find a way forward."

But what has become clear is that the Irish government is more than a little fed up -- and that, coupled with similar disenchantment in Britain, means the Northern Ireland peace process is derailed, with no signs that it will get back on track anytime soon.

If anything, matters are getting worse. Mr. Blair's government in London wants to abolish the $950,000 worth of parliamentary allowances that the four Sinn Fein members of the British Parliament currently receive. That is expected to happen Tuesday, when Parliament votes on the issue.

It was as a concession to Sinn Fein to try to keep the Irish republicans onside in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations that the British Parliament agreed four years ago to give the four Sinn Fein members the same access to office and travel allowances as other members of Parliament.

Even at the time, it was a controversial step because the Sinn Fein four remained adamant in refusing to take their seats in Parliament and refusing to swear allegiance to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

It was Mr. Blair's secretary for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy, who delivered the message: The government wants the allowances cut because it "agreed entirely" on the purported links between Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA, and that Sinn Fein must "bear its share of the responsibility" for the Northern Bank holdup.

Still more embarrassment has surfaced with press reports quoting British intelligence sources that the IRA has used Sinn Fein's headquarters in Northern Ireland to hold high-level meetings for planning terrorist operations and the finances for them.

The same headquarters has been used by Mr. Adams to host international peacemakers ranging from U.S. congressmen to the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu.

In London, the Times quoted one senior source as saying that at meetings in the Belfast headquarters, prominent IRA figures assembled to discuss "everything from forthcoming operations to who was moving to what position."

The bottom line is that these are tough times for Sinn Fein and the IRA. However, London and Dublin have stopped short of completely breaking contact. For the British government, Mr. Murphy, Britain's minister for Northern Ireland, insisted that dialogue must continue if ever an "inclusive power-sharing executive" it to be built in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Ahern echoed that sentiment, saying: "I welcome what Paul Murphy said. The British clearly believe that inclusive means is the only way -- and isolationism is not the way."

Nor is there any clear indication that the IRA, in reaction, will resume the bombings and killings that were its tactics in years gone by.

"They [the IRA] have everything to lose and nothing to gain by going back down that old road again," one security expert said.

But former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds warned that the ongoing waves of accusations and recriminations mean the current situation remains "very, very dangerous."

What is needed, he said, is for the Sinn Fein leadership to "make a big move forward to convince everybody that they are for real in relation to the process and that they always were."

And a good step for the IRA, he added, would be to once and for all "decommission" its weapons and disband.

But there seems little, if any, hope for that in the foreseeable future.

As newspaper analyst Mr. Glover put it, the men that Mr. Blair has been dealing with over Northern Ireland "are the leading lights of a former terrorist organization that ... has not renounced violence."

One wrong turn, he and other experts warn, and the IRA could return to its old, violent ways with the potential for destroying any hopes of a lasting peace in the dispute over Northern Ireland for perhaps decades to come.


Republicans Have Only One Way To Go

27 February 2005 By Tom McGurk

Where now with the peace process? Ten years after the original IRA ceasefire and almost seven years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the plan to establish a devolved power-sharing administration in the North against the background of a new democratic dispensation seems as far away as ever.

This time, the collapse of the political architecture has revealed a fundamental problem in one vital part of the whole construction. The crisis now demands a focus on the democratic credentials of Sinn Féin.

In no uncertain terms, both London and Dublin, the sovereign partners to the new political construct, have signalled that they can no longer do business with Sinn Féin while, as the Taoiseach puts it, “they are two sides to the same coin'‘ - Sinn Féin on one side and the IRA on the other.

The republican movement's subtle construct of a popular political mandate combined with a paramilitary force on ceasefire is now no longer acceptable to the other parties.

The massive Northern Bank robbery and the killing of Robert McCartney, with its subsequent Mafia-like conspiracy of omerta, have signalled an end to any continuing tolerance of paramilitarism.

The leaders of the republican movement have reacted by moving from denial to opening up an historical argument about post-colonial definitions of what constitutes a crime and where freedom-fighting ends and criminality begins.

It might all make for interesting pub talk, but it's hardly what the gravity of the crisis they face deserves. Sinn Féin's new political engagement is at crisis point, and the sooner the leaders pick up that ball and run with it, the better.

The crisis deepens when one considers the complexity of the Sinn Féin-IRA relationship. It's not only symbiotic, given the political ghetto landscape out of which Sinn Féin emerged into democratic politics; it is a cultural whole. Sinn Féin entered constitutional politics in the 1980s as an alternative to paramilitarism, and the central player in that decision was the IRA itself.

The electoral success of the hunger-strikers pointed the way, and with an ongoing war that they could neither lose nor win heading into a second generation, the choice was made to open a second, political front.

At the time it was essentially a tactical ploy, a testing of alternative forms of struggle, but it succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Such was the widespread and popular desire to end violence that Sinn Féin ironically became the benefactor of thousands of essentially anti-violence votes.

Resonating with the 1918 Sinn Féin electoral poster ‘Put him in to get him out', the subtext this time was ‘Vote them in to stop them fighting'.

The problem, of course, was that the IRA remained in existence, plodding quietly along in the background on ceasefire and being extensively massaged for their benevolence on all possible occasions by the republican leadership.

Adams and McGuinness had to maintain unity of purpose and bring this army as a whole along the road to politics. But this was a political conceit much too subtle for a unionist movement trying to come to terms with a rapidly changing political challenge.

Unionist demands for decommissioning brought the IRA back to the centre of decision-making. At that point the republican leadership hit upon the effective tactic of using the continuing threat of the IRA as a method of ratcheting up its negotiating power.

But now, 10 years on, this tactic has exploded in everyone's face. Initially it was responsible for allowing the DUP to supplant the UUP as the major unionist party, but now it has left Sinn Féin as an untouchable within the political establishment.

Two months ago we were on the point of a seemingly impossible deal; now we are left with only the seemingly impossible. The simple truth is that IRA action, real or imagined, has subverted the present Sinn Féin strategy.

What does Sinn Féin do now? What does everyone else do now? The consensus is that Sinn Féin has to cut the IRA adrift - but how can it do this, given its historical and cultural symbiosis?

The IRA position is, apparently, that it would indeed go away, but only when the final deal is done. Since its continuing existence prevents the achievement of a final deal, we have a classic chicken-and-egg conundrum.

Since the republican movement of late has been intent on giving us history lessons, perhaps they might usefully look at the period after the Civil War when, in 1926, Éamon de Valera created Fianna Fáil out of the remnants of the anti-Treaty republican movement. The historical hinterland and the post-colonial territories are different, but the requirement is the same now as then: to harness the political ambitions of a long disenfranchised body of Irish citizens into an effective democratic political alternative.

De Valera recognised two factors that are common to that scenario and today's.

There was an almost universal demand for an end to violence, and there was a new generation of republicans who wanted their time in the political sun.

In less than a decade, Fianna Fáil was to become the dominant political force in the new state. Ironically, the small part of the republican movement that he left behind then was to re-emerge some 50 years later in the North as the Provisionals.

It might be chasing history a little too feverishly to imagine that somehow today's republican movement is the historical lost sheep of yesterday's Fianna Fáil - but in the crisis in which we find ourselves, history lessons pointing away forward are few and far between.

If anything has highlighted the huge difference between political cultures North and South, it has been the southern political establishment's reaction to recent events. The republican movement needs to recognise that after some 80 years of democratic stability, historical sentimentalism is thin on the ground in Europe's fastest-growing economy.

In other words, if the leaders of the lost nationalist tribe of the six northern counties want to seize this historic moment, then they had better recognise, as de Valera once did, that their choices amount to only one.


Church In Plea Over NI Process

The British and Irish governments must restore the "moral integrity" to the political process, the Presbyterian Church has said.

The church's general board said criminality was "deeply ingrained" in republican and loyalist communities.

It also said that December's £26.5m Northern Bank robbery in Belfast destroyed people's trust in Sinn Fein.

Members of the Presbyterian Church and Society Committee met with the party earlier this month.

Committee Convener Dr Alastair Dunlop said they were not impressed by what Sinn Fein had told them.

"We have met with them, we have listened to their denials and to their arguments and we are not at all convinced by what they say, he said.


"Even their body language, whenever we engage in discussions with them, is saying to us that there is something about this that doesn't ring true."

A statement released by the church on Thursday called for all of the province's political parties to "fully commit" to democracy.

"Until political parties end all connections to criminality, and fully commit to democratic methods alone, there is no place for them in the future government of Northern Ireland, nor in formal negotiations about such government," it said.

Speaking in reaction to the statement, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said he was dissapointed at the church's comments.

"In particular I take offence at the insinuation about the integrity of Sinn Fein," he said.

"The moderator and many of his colleagues know that Sinn Fein has always faced the challenges head on in trying to achieve progress in the peace process."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/25 09:03:52 GMT


New Body Blow For Trimble

27 February 2005

Two Ulster Unionist members are set to quit their seats on Belfast City Council - in protest at David Trimble's continued leadership of the party.

Husband and wife team, Jim and Margaret Clarke, will not seek re-selection to contest the local government poll, on May 5.

The pair have represented the Laganbank and Pottinger wards respectively on the council, for the past 16 years.

Both have also held the post of High Sheriff of Belfast, the first couple in the history of the city to do so.

Mr Clarke was away on council business yesterday, but his wife told Sunday Life: "We think it's the right time to get out.

"The party's last election results were terrible, and no one seems prepared to do anything about it.

"There is widespread disillusionment within the party, and quite a few will be leaving."

Mrs Clarke, who worked as secretary to retiring South Belfast MP, Martin Smyth, for 23 years, added: "It's frustrating, because David Trimble, and those advising him, have taken no cognisance of the need for change.

"All sorts of promises were made, but they have just totally ignored the issues and opinions of many within the party.

"I think its very sad, and I believe quite a few people feel the same."

Mrs Clarke would not say if she and her husband would be resigning from the party.

"I just don't know, that's something we'll have to think about," she said.

But, the decision to step down as council representatives is another blow to Mr Trimble.

It comes as the under-fire leader prepares for the centenary AGM of the party's ruling Ulster Unionist Council, this Saturday.

In his message to delegates in the council's annual report, Mr Trimble says that in both the Westminster and council elections "our objective will be to make gains and restore Ulster Unionism's leading role in Northern Ireland politics".


No early release for McCabe killers

The Garda Representative Association is welcoming An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern's promise that the killers of Detective Garda Gerry McCabe will not get early release.

The Taoiseach was speaking to Live 95FM in advance of his visit to Limerick on Friday.

During the interview he said "the four men would not be released early on his watch".

In a statement last evening , GRA Limerick chairman, Kevin McCarthy, said that, by way of finality on the issue, he welcomed the Taoiseach`s comments.

He also noted similar comments by the Minister for Justice and thanked the many people who expressed support for Anne McCabe`s stand on the issue.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin asked if his comments meant that Bertie Ahern had given up on a deal.


Catholic Church Calls For Religious Audit Of Police

Jason Allardyce

THE Catholic church has called on Scottish police forces to conduct a Northern Ireland-style religious audit of their officers amid fears of sectarianism in the ranks.

Senior figures in the church say they have received complaints from people who claim they have been victims of sectarian discrimination by the police. Police officers are also said to have claimed that they are being denied promotion because of a “stained-glass ceiling” that bars Catholics from top jobs.

The call for an audit, which is backed by the anti-sectarian charity Nil by Mouth, was first proposed during Jack McConnell’s summit on sectarianism earlier this month.

Joseph Devine, the bishop of Motherwell, said: “Information on how successful Scotland’s police service is in creating police forces which reflect the communities they serve in terms of religion, ethnicity and age, should be made public in pursuance of the noble goal of truly representative police forces.”

A senior church source added: “Anecdotally we have heard a huge number of allegations. One is that in some areas it can be difficult for Catholics to get into the police, but the more common claim is that they rarely rise above the level of sergeant.”

In Northern Ireland, the government has introduced reforms aimed at recruiting more Catholic police officers after complaints that the force was dominated by Protestants. Now, 50% of new officers must be Catholic.

A spokesman for Nil by Mouth backed a Scottish audit. “The priority for the police should be that their employment practices are fair and open to all,” he said.

However, police officers maintain that all appointments are made on merit and have nothing to do with religion. They also deny that officers display bigoted behaviour when they deal with the public.

Jim Duffy, the chairman of Strathclyde Police Federation, which represents most officers in Glasgow where sectarian tensions are greatest, denies that officers are guilty of bigotry.

“I believe a long time ago there was the odd occasion where religious beliefs had an impact on how officers progressed, but in 29 years I have not come across a single occasion where someone has come to us and said they have been discriminated against,” he said.

Donald Gorrie, a Liberal Democrat MSP who persuaded the Scottish executive to introduce a new aggravated criminal offence of religious hatred, is also sceptical.

“It might be worth pursuing the issue if only to demonstrate that there is not a problem,” he said.


Let The Games Begin...

27 February 2005

Eight out of 10 Irish people want to see soccer and rugby played at the spiritual home of Gaelic games, a new opinion poll has revealed.

A whopping 80 per cent of those surveyed made a strong point to the GAA - "open up Croke Park to other sports".

There was a warning, too, for the GAA. If the organisation's Congress votes against making the 82,500-capacity stadium available to other codes.

Over half (53pc) of those questioned in the Irish Independent/Millward Brown IMS poll said that the Irish government should withhold funding to the GAA, if Croker's gates remain shut.

The survey comes before the GAA Congress discusses the possible amendment of the controversial Rule 42.

Eleven county boards have submitted motions calling for Rule 42 - which covers the use of GAA property - to be amended at its congress in mid-April.

However, any groundbreaking changes in the use of the huge stadium depend upon two-thirds of the 334 delegates supporting a motion.

There has been increasing pressure on the GAA hierarchy to turn the home of Gaelic games into the country's premier national sports stadium - especially with Dublin's Landsdowne Road venue due to close for redevelopment.

The poll is being viewed in some circles as a strengthening of the hand of reformers within the GAA.

The survey was conducted among a sample of 1,098 adults in the Republic last Tuesday and Wednesday. The majority of Ulster county boards are believed to oppose the opening up of the ground.


Starbucks Rumours Brewing

27 February 2005 By Neil Callanan

American coffee giant Starbucks has set up an Irish subsidiary ahead of a move into the Irish market. Starbucks Coffee Company (Ireland) was incorporated on February 7.

The firm's directors are Cliff Burrows, managing director of Starbucks' British operations; Paul Mutty, a vice-president of the parent company, who specialises in law and corporate affairs; and Jackie Cartwright, with an address at 10 Copenhagen Gardens in Chiswick in London.

“We are excited about the opportunities for Starbucks in the Republic of Ireland, but currently have no announcements to make regarding the market,” said a spokeswoman for the firm.

There are already Starbucks outlets in Ireland at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters and Microsoft in Dublin, but both are run under licensing agreements.

The Seattle-based coffee giant has expanded rapidly over the last 15 years. In 1990 it had 84 outlets; by the end of 1999 this had reached 2,135 stores.

The growth rate has not slowed down since then at the start of this year it had more than 8,337 outlets worldwide.

About 85 per cent of sales in the fiscal year 2003 were made through company-operated retail stores.

Starbucks also sells whole bean coffees through a speciality sales group and supermarkets.

The company is also involved in joint ventures to sell its bottled Frappuccino coffee drink and a line of premium ice creams. It operates a tea company through a subsidiary, Tazo Tea Company.

For the 13 weeks ended January 2, 2005, consolidated net revenues were $1.6 billion (€1.2 billion), an increase of 24 per cent on the same period a year earlier.

Starbucks has been operating in Britain since 1998, entering the market through the acquisition of 65 Seattle Coffee Company stores. This has increased to more than 275 outlets.

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