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February 26, 2005

02/27/05 – PSNI Intervened In Tsunami March

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BB 02/27/05 PSNI 'Intervene' In Tsunami March
UT 02/26/05 Amnesty Founder Dies
BB 02/27/05 McCartney Family To Hold Rally
SH 02/27/05 Bush Cancels Party & Tells Adams You’re Not Wanted Here
ST 02/27/05 IRA Blocked Deal To Save Hunger Strikers
SH 02/27/05 Rebel Hell
ST 02/27/05 Opin: Sinn Fein Spin Must Be Making Murphy Dizzy
ST 02/27/05 Opin: McDowell-Minister Extraordinaire-According To Him
GU 02/27/05 Opin: Sticks And Stones



PSNI 'Intervene' In Tsunami March

Police have said they "intervened" in a loyalist band parade in the Whitewell area of north Belfast.

They say a suspected breach of the Parades Commision's determination over the route occured.

The parade by the Whitewell Defenders Flute Band was held on Saturday afternoon in aid of the tsunami disaster appeal.

Chief Superintendent Mike Little said that files would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"The organisers of today's parade have been spoken to by police and evidence has been collected," he said.

In a determination on Wednesday the Parades Commission gave permission for the march to go ahead, but put limits on the route, citing sectarian tension and division in the area.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

Commission rulings restricting marches by the Protestant loyal orders, which are opposed by nationalist residents, have led to calls by unionist politicians for the body to be scrapped.

Last week it was announced that the commission was to be given greater powers to restrict the actions of people supporting or protesting against loyal order marches.

The new laws announced by Security Minister Ian Pearson will be in place for this year's marching season.

Clashes between nationalists protesters and loyalists following a parade in Ardoyne last July led to calls for the commission's powers to be strengthened.

The legislation will be in place by the end of March to apply from 14 May.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/26 16:54:07 GMT


Peter Benenson
Peter Benenson

Amnesty Founder Dies

The founder of Amnesty International, Peter Benenson, has died at the age of 83, the human rights organisation said today.

Mr Benenson set up Amnesty International in 1961 after reading an article about the arrest and imprisonment of two students in a cafe in Lisbon, Portugal who had drunk a toast to liberty.

Irene Khan, secretary general of the organisation, said that "his vision gave birth to human rights activism".

"Peter Benenson`s life was a courageous testament to his visionary commitment to fight injustice around the world," Ms Khan said. "He brought light into the darkness of prisons, the horror of torture chambers and tragedy of death camps around the world.

"This was a man whose conscience shone in a cruel and terrifying world, who believed in the power of ordinary people to bring about extraordinary change and, by creating Amnesty International, he gave each of us the opportunity to make a difference.

"In 1961 his vision gave birth to human rights activism.

"In 2005 his legacy is a world wide movement for human rights which will never die."

Mr Benenson died last night at Oxford`s John Radcliffe Hospital.

He initially set up Amnesty International as a one-year campaign but it went on to become the world`s largest independent human rights organisation.

Currently, it has more than 1.8 million members and supporters worldwide.

Amnesty International is to hold a public memorial service in his memory.


McCartney Family To Hold Rally

The family of Robert McCartney, who was killed in Belfast last month, are to hold a public rally in the city.

A man was released without charge by police investigating Mr McCartney's death on Saturday night.

It is understood he had handed himself in at Musgrave Street PSNI station and was accompanied by his solicitor.

On Friday the IRA said it had expelled three of its members over suspected involvement in the killing, which followed a row in a bar in the city.

The McCartney family, who will hold the rally on Sunday, have welcomed the expulsions, but have also said the move does not go far enough.

The 33-year-old father of two died in hospital after being stabbed.

The rally will be held in the Short Strand area of East Belfast, where the McCartneys live, and will call on people to provide information and turn themselves in.

Mr McCartney's sister Catherine, said all of those involved in the killing should now come forward.

"The IRA investigation was carried out behind closed doors therefore we are not accepting or confirming that outline," she said.

"The only way the family will know the truth is if we can hear witnesses' statements in a court.

"We believed that between 12 and 20 people were involved in the events of that night. Not all of them, we understand, were IRA members but we want all people to be encouraged or persuaded or to hand themselves in."

'Pretend purge'

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said "any self respecting republican" had a responsibility to come forward if they witnessed the fatal assault.

"Had I found myself in Magennis's Bar and was caught up in these dreadful events, I would now be making myself available to the court as the McCartney family have asked," Mr Adams told the BBC's Today programme on Saturday.

The IRA said one of those expelled made a statement to a solicitor and called on the others to take responsibility.

Two of the men dismissed were described by the IRA as "high ranking volunteers".

The expulsions came after what the IRA called "an investigation" into last month's killing.

DUP assembly member Ian Paisley Jnr said: "No one should be fooled by this diversionary tactic of a pretend purge of the IRA ranks."

And SDLP leader Mark Durkan said that, whilst he welcomes the IRA shift in position, he does not believe it will lead to justice being done in court.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey said unless the expulsions were accompanied "by the names of the individuals involved in a way that will lead to police prosecution", the statement would be viewed as little other than "a cynical face-saving exercise".

The IRA statement came 24 hours after Mr Adams met the McCartney family.

The family had accused republicans of pressuring witnesses not to talk, although they welcomed an earlier IRA statement urging his killers to come forward.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/27 03:09:22 GMT


'Let's Move on Without Republicans'

By Dan McGinn, Ireland Political Editor, PA

Republicans have placed themselves beyond the pale and must be left behind in the bid to drive political process forward in Northern Ireland, the Government was told tonight.

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 Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach 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 Prime Minister 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.


Bush Cancels St Patrick’s Day Party And Tells Adams: You’re Not Wanted Here

By Ed Moloney in New York and Torcuil Crichton

US President George W Bush is expected to announce in the next few days that this year’s St Patrick’s Day party in the White House will be cancelled in response to allegations that Sinn Fein members, including leader Gerry Adams, authorised December’s £26.5 million IRA bank robbery in Belfast.

The White House snub will further isolate Sinn Fein from the political mainstream, and comes as a man surrendered himself to police in connection with the IRA murder of a Belfast man that has thrown the organisation into crisis.

The man’s arrest, following the IRA’s expulsion of three members over the cover-up of the fatal stabbing of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar, is seen as an attempt by the Republican movement to regain credibility with disillusioned core supporters.

Both the murder case, in which witnesses have been intimidated into silence, and the bank raid have ensnared Sinn Fein and the IRA in charges of lurid criminality and uncovered tensions within Republican ranks that had been buried by the peace process.

The White House party was cancelled as a result of lobbying by the Irish government and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who is furious over what is widely believed to be Sinn Fein’s complicity in the December bank raid.

By persuading the White House to cancel the whole event Ahern believes he has denied Adams the opportunity for political martyrdom, a usual Republican tactic when excluded from the political process.

Other political parties in the Republic of Ireland are wary of the progress being made by Sinn Fein and want to crush the party with allegations of criminal involvement.

This will be the first time that Adams and other leaders of the Northern Irish parties involved in the peace process will not be guests of a US President on March 17. The usual ceremony in which Ahern will gift a bowl of shamrocks to President Bush will go ahead, but without the reception that would normally follow it.

Other parties that would have taken part are likely to complain loudly on the grounds that they are being punished for no reason.

Officials in Washington are furious that when President Bush phoned Adams during December’s peace talks to urge him to accept a new deal the Sinn Fein leader was, according to the Irish government, already aware of the bank robbery plan.

27 February 2005


IRA Blocked Deal To Save Hunger Strikers

John Burns

THE IRA rejected a government deal to end the 1981 hunger strike by republican prisoners that could have saved at least five lives, according to a leading republican.

Richard O’Rawe, the IRA spokesman in the Maze prison during the hunger strike, reveals that he and the IRA prisoners’ commanding officer accepted concessions offered by the Foreign Office on July 5, 1981, just before Joe McDonnell, the fifth prisoner, died.

They were overruled by the IRA army council, which refused to call off the hunger strike until 10 prisoners had died. O’Rawe suggests that the IRA wanted to use continuing sympathy for the hunger strikers to win a by-election.

O’Rawe is disclosing details of the secret offer made by Margaret Thatcher’s government despite a threat from a senior IRA member that he could be shot if he criticised the army council’s role in public.

His claims, in a new book, Blanketmen, An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, to be published by New Island tomorrow, will greatly embarrass Sinn Fein at a time when it is already weakened.

Senior party figures have been accused of sanctioning the £26.5m robbery of the Northern Bank, which police believe was carried out by the IRA. The party is also implicated in an investigation in the republic into IRA money-laundering.

The concessions offered to end the hunger strike were put to Gerry Adams, now the Sinn Fein leader, by a Foreign Office intermediary known as “the Mountain Climber”. His identity remains a mystery.

Thatcher’s government effectively conceded four of the IRA demands including the abolition of prison uniforms, more visits and letters, and segregation of prisoners on political lines. Prison work for IRA men was to have been widely defined to include educational courses and handicrafts. The only point the government refused to concede was free association of prisoners on the IRA wing.

“I thought the offer was sufficient for us to settle the hunger strike honourably,” writes O’Rawe, who was serving eight years for robbery. “In fact, the British had gone further than I had considered possible. I felt it was almost too good to be true.”

Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, the IRA prison commander, agreed the deal was acceptable. But the army council ruled that the hunger strikers should hold out for more. The protest was eventually called off three months later, on less favourable terms, after five more deaths.

“I make no apology for saying now that the army council acted in an inexcusable manner. A generous interpretation is that they disastrously miscalculated on all fronts,” said O’Rawe. “A more sceptical view would be that perhaps they didn’t miscalculate at all.”

Bobby Sands, the first IRA hunger striker to die, had been elected the MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone and the republican movement was keen to retain the seat in the subsequent by-election. Owen Carron, the Sinn Fein candidate, was elected in August, on the day that the 10th striker died.

Two days after the IRA rejected the government’s offer, McDonnell died. Mountain Climber was in touch again two weeks later, but Adams told the prisoners in a smuggled message that nothing new was on offer.

O’Rawe says the IRA gave the impression that the prisoners were in charge of the hunger strike and were determined to get the full five demands from the government, but this was not the case.

“Omission, rather than lies, was the order of the day. The leadership never told the hunger strikers’ relatives of Mountain Climber’s intervention and they washed their hands of any responsibility for making or breaking the deal,” he says.

O’Rawe fears that McDonnell and the hunger strikers who died after him “were used as cannon fodder”. He said: “No matter which way one views it, the outside leadership alone, not the prison leadership, took the decision to play brinkmanship with McDonnell’s life. If Bik and I had had our way, Joe and the five comrades who followed him to the grave would be alive today.”

O’Rawe says that when he discussed his reservations with a senior republican in 1991, he was warned he could be killed. “I would be wise, he told me, to stay silent about those events and that I ‘could be shot’ for speaking my thoughts in public. I heeded the warning, and let down the hunger strikers.”

O’Rawe said yesterday that he no longer fears being attacked. “The war was still on in 1991, and things have moved on a long way since,” he said.

Adams declined to comment until he had read the book, but Danny Morrison, a former republican publicity officer, said O’Rawe’s claims were wrong. He questioned the authenticity of the deal offered by the government and claimed the IRA army council did not run the hunger strike. “The prisoners were sovereign, it was their call.”


Rebel Hell

Embroiled in scandal following the IRA’s brutal murder of Robert McCartney and their high-profile £26.5m bank robbery, Gerry Adams is fighting to save the Republican movement and his political life … or is he?

By Ed Moloney

One would have to go back more than 10 years to the bad old days of the worst IRA violence, to the Enniskillen or Warrington bombings for example, to find a period which has been so uniformly and overwhelmingly bleak for Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and their colleagues in Sinn Fein as the first two months of 2005.

Last December it all looked so good for them. Opinion polls placed Adams as the most popular politician in the south of Ireland; Sinn Fein, the party he leads, was on the verge of being accepted as a government partner in Dublin and a deal to copper-fasten the peace process in Northern Ireland was tantalisingly within reach.

All that was needed was agreement on IRA decommissioning with the fire and brimstone preacher, the Rev Ian Paisley, and Sinn Fein would be sitting at the cabinet table in a power-sharing government with Unionists in Belfast. After 10 years of IRA ceasefire, Adams and his colleagues were on the brink of wielding government power in both parts of Ireland, testimony to the startling success of his peace process strategy. Everything the Sinn Fein leader touched seemed to turn to political gold.

Last week all that changed. The latest opinion poll showed that Adams’s popularity had crumpled, falling by a staggering 20 points and making him the least popular political leader in Ireland. The front page of one of Dublin’s newspapers told the story: it was filled with a picture of Adams’s face overwritten with the headline ‘Liar!’ in large, bold typeface. The Irish media had turned on Adams and his colleagues with a breathtaking ferocity.

Next week will bring even worse news for Sinn Fein. The Bush administration, which like its predecessors is a player in the Irish peace process, will formally announce that the St Patrick’s Day party this March 17 will be cancelled in order to deny Adams entrée to the White House, the first time he has been excluded from the celebrations since the Irish peace process began a decade ago. As one of those privy to the decision put it: “There is no way I want my President within a hundred miles of that man”.

The reason why Adams’s fortunes have changed so dramatically is not difficult to work out. On December 19, armed and masked men abducted the families of two bank officials and forced the men to rifle the vaults of the Northern Bank in downtown Belfast. Within a few hours they had loaded £26.5 million into a getaway van. The biggest bank heist in modern crime had entered the record books and the stage had been set for unprecedented political drama in Ireland.

It wasn’t just that the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, Hugh Orde or his opposite number in the Irish police, the Gardai, blamed the Provisional IRA for the robbery. That claim surprised no-one who has seen the IRA in action over the last three decades. It was the assertion from Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern that Gerry Adams and his senior Sinn Fein colleagues had known and approved of the robbery while they were supposedly negotiating the nitty-gritty details of the peace settlement that began the political storm.

The Americans reacted in similar vein. If Ahern was correct then at a time when President George Bush was phoning Adams to urge him to take the deal, the SF leader was giving the robbery his go-ahead. “The word betrayal wouldn’t begin to describe our feelings,” said one US government source.

The peace talks had ended in failure with Adams refusing to supply photographs of IRA weapons being decommissioned and complaining that Paisley was trying to humiliate the Republicans. But with Ahern’s allegation, dark questions emerged about Gerry Adams’s bona fides throughout the 10-year-long peace process.

Was Adams’s commitment to the peace process just a cynical sham, merely a clever strategy to push Sinn Fein into the spotlight and help it overtake Nationalist rivals on both sides of the Irish border while never ever really getting rid of the IRA? Was it a device to create crises that would split and divide Unionists and undermine leaders like David Trimble who had tried but repeatedly failed to conclude a final agreement with Adams?

Sceptics pointed out that the Irish peace process had lasted as long as the first and second world wars combined, that empires had been raised and destroyed and the map of Europe redrawn twice in the time that the peace process had taken to travel a relatively short distance – and still there was no end, no final peace in sight.

Despite protests from Adams and others in Sinn Fein that the IRA was not responsible and that Sinn Fein played no part in the robbery the pressure intensified. The Independent Monitoring Commission which oversees the IRA ceasefire and is drawn from the UK, Ireland and the US, agreed with Orde and Ahern and Sinn Fein was fined £500,000 as punishment.

Two weeks ago Irish police launched raids against IRA money-laundering operations. Some £3m was recovered and nine arrests made, including a former Sinn Fein councillor. The police say they are confident a forensic link will be established with the stolen Northern Bank cash and if that happens any remaining doubts about the culprits will dissolve. Adams began changing his tune, admitting that “maybe” he had been wrong to believe the IRA was not involved.

The pressure grew on the political front as well. The Irish government took the lead while Tony Blair, sensibly, stayed in the background presumably on the basis that being bashed by the British would do Sinn Fein nothing but good. The Republic’s combative justice minister, Michael McDowell named Adams, Martin McGuinness and another leading Sinn Fein politician as members of the IRA’s ruling Army Council which would have approved the bank robbery.

Just as it seemed things couldn’t get worse for Sinn Fein, they did. On a Sunday evening in a Belfast bar, an argument started between six or seven senior IRA members and a couple of local Catholics. It spilled out on to the street and one of the civilians, Robert McCartney, was brutally stabbed to death.

The killing was not an IRA operation but afterwards the IRA mobilised its resources to ensure none of its members would be prosecuted. The bar was forensically cleansed, CCTV footage was taken away and some 70 eyewitnesses warned of the consequences if they talked to the police.

The cover-up outraged the community from which McCartney came, the small Catholic enclave of Short Strand which over the years was known for its strong support of the IRA and Sinn Fein. McCartney was a Sinn Fein voter as were his sisters who have led an extraordinary campaign to force the IRA to give up his killers. Their stand against the Republican movement is unprecedented.

Of the two incidents the killing of McCartney held the greater potential to inflict electoral damage to Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. Since the ceasefire was called 10 years ago the IRA has drifted increasingly into criminality and gangsterism and the McCartney killing has become a metaphor for the IRA’s growing oppression of its own people. Failure to resolve the matter would have hit Sinn Fein hard and Friday night's decision to expel three of the killers was a recognition of that.

The Northern Bank heist is unlikely to have eroded political support for Sinn Fein – in Ireland, as elsewhere, banks are not the most popular institutions. But what it has done is remove the last vestiges of trust in Adams, brought the peace process to a shuddering halt and raised the bar for Republicans if they want to revive it.

While before the robbery the disbandment of the IRA and the full and verified decommissioning of its weapons were goals to work towards, now they have become preconditions for Sinn Fein’s further involvement in the process. On that matter there seems to be unprecedented unanimity, from the Unionists through to the British, Irish and US governments.

Sinn Fein and the IRA now find themselves at a fork in the road. One path keeps them as they are, reviled and excluded and unable to make the leap into government. The other leads back into the peace process and to power but it requires hard decisions to disband the IRA and get rid of all of its weapons.

So how and why did this extraordinary turnaround happen? Some suspect it is a reflection of a split between hardline IRA members and the ambitious pragmatists of Sinn Fein. Neither government nor their police chiefs believe this is the case and observers point out that Adams and his allies have taken the IRA so far down the peace process road without any division, why should internal trouble break out now?

Others say that the IRA carried out the raid because until now both the British and Irish governments were content to turn a blind eye to IRA activity on the grounds that it was part of a difficult transition from lawlessness to peaceful methods. Three other robberies, which netted over £3m, were carried out by the IRA in the weeks before the Northern Bank heist but hardly a word was said about them. The bank was robbed, according to this theory, because the IRA thought it could get away with it. But robbing £26.5m is a crime on such a scale that no government could afford to ignore it. Nobody would have known that better than Adams, the shrewd and clever tactician who has been at the helm of the IRA and Sinn Fein for a quarter of century. He sits on the IRA’s seven-man Army Council and would have both known of and been party to the process of approving the raid. Why then did he sanction the robbery?

The answer to that lies in the tangled origin and journey of his peace strategy. The peace process was always going to involve huge ideological concessions for Irish Republicans.

They would have to recognise the existence of the Northern Ireland state they had tried to destroy with bomb and bullet and they would have to accept that it would stay British until a majority of its people, the Protestants, said otherwise. Republicans would have to become Ministers of the Crown and eventually accept and join the police force. The IRA would have to disarm and eventually disappear.

But if, at the outset of this journey, Adams had spelled all this out to his IRA and Sinn Fein colleagues the process would never have started and he would have been accused of treachery; indeed he would have been lucky to escape with his life.

A cautious and careful man, Adams instead opted for another approach, one which involved placing the IRA in circumstances where its options were so limited it had little choice but to go where he wanted it to go.

The peace process is replete with examples of this tactic but one stands out. This was the use of human bombs by the IRA in 1990, in which a civilian would be forced to drive a car bomb to a military target and it would be detonated with the driver still inside.

It would be difficult to devise a greater PR disaster yet it was approved by the Army Council, on which Adams and Martin McGuinness sat, at a time when both men were repeatedly warning the IRA against operations that endangered civilian life. The effect of the tactic was to whip up outrage throughout Ireland and to isolate and demoralise the IRA. It undermined the use of violence and strengthened those, like Adams and McGuinness, who were arguing for a political alternative such as the peace process. The episode was an important staging post on the way to the IRA ceasefire.

In a similar fashion the decision to rob the Northern Bank has left the IRA with only two options: to stay still or carry on down the road that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have mapped out for it.

lEd Moloney is author of A Secret History of the IRA

27 February 2005


Thomas Slab Murphy
Slab Murphy,,2091-1502440,00.html

Comment: Liam Fay: Sinn Fein Spin Must Be Making Murphy Dizzy

Thomas “Slab” Murphy could have been forgiven for feeling confused last week. The reputed south Armagh smuggling baron and IRA godfather has been receiving contradictory signals from his republican colleagues. They love him, they love him not. They fear him, they fear him not.

One moment Murphy and his shady friends were being lectured by a senior Sinn Fein TD and told that their activities besmirch the name of republicanism. The next, Sinn Fein spin doctors were briefing the press that Murphy was an uncompromising republican purist who would lead a breakaway IRA faction if “moderates” like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were humiliated by the political process.

The contortions into which the Shinners are twisting themselves have become increasingly convoluted in the wake of the Northern Bank heist and the murder of Robert McCartney.

The latest manifestation of Sinn Fein’s twin-track strategy involves the disavowal of figures such as Murphy and the simultaneous deployment of such people as bogeymen to frighten constitutional politicians into cutting maximum slack for Adams and McGuinness. “Be nice to us,” goes the unspoken subtext, “or we’ll unleash the crazies we’ve been keeping locked away in the cupboard.”

Arguably the darkest force in their arsenal, Murphy is believed to have built an estimated €50m personal fortune through smuggling oil, cigarettes and livestock. The owner of a farm that straddles the Louth-Armagh border, he operates with relative impunity and has never been convicted of a smuggling offence.

Murphy became notorious in 1985 after The Sunday Times revealed that he was organising an IRA bombing campaign in Britain. He sued for libel, but lost the case after an 11-year legal battle.

In April 2001, under House of Commons privilege, the DUP’s Peter Robinson named Murphy as a member of the IRA army council.

Though he was not mentioned by name, Murphy must have been in the thoughts of Caoimhghin O Caolain, Sinn Fein’s leader in the Dail, when he made a solemn speech last week calling on all those involved in criminality to leave the republican movement.

O Caolain is the Les Dawson of Irish politics, a po-faced clown whose laughable tirades are rendered all the more hilarious by the deadpan earnestness with which he delivers them. Yet even he must realise that the logic of his position is that the IRA must cease to exist.

However, on the day O Caolain made his Dail comments, the Irish Daily Star was ablaze with dire warnings of a return to war by a south Armagh IRA unit led by Murphy if Sinn Fein leaders consent to further acts of decommissioning. They would take with them, a source assured the paper, all the trigger-happy young guns that Adams and co have, thus far, struggled valiantly to contain.

Nothing illustrates the absence of a split within the republican movement more than the fact it continues to speak with two voices, each calibrated to express equal measures of promise and threat.

Murphy can safely ignore the mixed messages of his brothers in arms. Despite the pious guff, he and his shadowy comrades remain central to the republican project.

Fear and loathing on the Irish equestrian trail

The late Hunter S Thompson launched his career as a gonzo journalist with an essay entitled The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, a tale of intoxicant-fuelled debauchery among devotees of American horseracing.

However, even the world-weary Thompson might’ve been surprised by the drugs haze that surrounds the Irish equestrian sports scene, a world where it’s the horses rather than the punters that seem to be doped to the eyeballs.

Still reeling from the furore surrounding Cian O’Connor, the Olympic gold medallist, the showjumping fraternity was confronted by news of a fine imposed on Jessica Kurten, another Irish Olympian, following a positive drugs test on Libertina in Canada in September. Then came last week’s revelation that Loughnatousa Bart, one of our top showjumping ponies, tested positive for banned substances at an Italian event. Ireland is fast earning a reputation as a producer of four-legged drug mules.

Yet the authorities seem to be in denial. All we’ve heard so far is predictable talk about “accidental contamination” through feedstuffs, medicines etc, — an argument that sounds no more convincing than when it comes from athletes who claim to have mistaken performance-enhancing drugs for flu remedies.

The entire sport seems to be gripped by a form of bunker mania that was also familiar to Thompson: fear and loathing.

It’s a boat. It sank. Get over it. So read a popular T-shirt slogan that encapsulated the backlash to the hype surrounding Titanic, James Cameron’s 1997 movie about the doomed luxury liner. It is advice that should be taken on board by the burghers of Belfast, who remain inexplicably proud of their city’s association with the infamous floating coffin.

The Titanic was built in Belfast’s Harland & Wolff shipyard, and launched on April 2, 1912. Thirteen days later, it struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

Despite the death toll, the link with the disaster remains Belfast’s most cherished boast. The city fathers seem endlessly happy to fund Titanic-related japes and revels. The latest wheeze they’re backing is a tasteful plan to tow an iceberg into the quay from which the ship first sailed. The glacier, it is hoped, will become a visitor attraction, the anchor feature of a dockside redevelopment in what is (inevitably) called the Titanic Quarter.

Though the idea has been taken up by the Belfast lord mayor Tom Ekin and other civic worthies, it was proposed by the artist Rita Duffy. “The iceberg could become a symbol of hope as it melts,” she said. It’s more likely, however, that it will become a monument to a municipal authority so desperate for tourist cash that it’s prepared to, literally, plumb the deaths.

The GAA’s amateur status has many advantages. However, one of the most rarely highlighted is the bullet-proof character reference it provides for violent players who wind up before the courts.

Last Monday, nine members of the Scotstown Gaelic football club in Monaghan pleaded guilty to charges arising from what gardai described as a “mini-riot” in a nightclub. The players viciously assaulted several staff members in the Glencarn hotel, Castleblayney.

The defence lawyer for the nine made much of the fact that they were not professional sportsmen. They were teachers, factory workers and students, responsible members of society. They had all taken time off work to attend court on several occasions. Though the €14,000 raised by the men as compensation for the victims was deemed “inadequate”, it was regarded as a demonstration of good faith. The nine were given suspended jail sentences. How the well-paid yobs of professional football must envy the perks of the amateur game.


Comment: Sue Denham: Michael Mcdowell, Justice Minister Extraordinaire - According To Him

Michael McDowell is the cabinet’s swot. At the end of last year, the taoiseach told his ministers to draw up a list of their achievements over the past eight years. Most summarised their accomplishments in 10 pages or less but McDowell’s stretched to 30 and he seemed to forget that there was ever a justice minister before he took over.

His report boasts of an increase in garda numbers, the planned reform of the force, and the reduction in crime. It says the minister played a “key role” in inter-governmental and cross-party talks on Northern Ireland and brags that since he took office he has published 34 bills, overseen the enactment of 23 of them — “25% of the bills enacted under this government”; has another 11 before the Oireachtas and a further six being drafted. He is also sorting out the private security industry, the media, the judicial system, courts and prison service, asylum process, and childcare. Phew! If Bertie Ahern issues a report card, it will surely tell McDowell that he needs to get out more.

No mention in environment’s report of e-voting, and none anywhere of Punchestown. But then it was just “achievements” the taoiseach was looking for.

Dana decides its time to address a weighty issue

Sue has always wanted to see less of Dana and now her wish may be about to come true. The former Eurovision winner and MEP aims to lose two stone before her eldest child gets married in July.

Never one to hide her light under a bushel, Dana won’t be hiding her weight under one either: she will appear on The Afternoon Show on RTE Television for the next seven weeks being put through her paces by a fitness instructor. Viewers are being encouraged to snitch on the 11st 7lb chanteuse if they see her cheating. A programme spokeswoman said:

“If anybody sees Dana sneak one bite from a cream bun we want them to call us.” Cameras will also drop in “unexpectedly” on Dana at home, out shopping or visiting friends to check she’s sticking to the diet.

Dana is blaming the Brussels Bulge for her girth. “Five years sitting in the European parliament and sitting behind a desk dealing with constituency problems isn’t very conducive to a fit lifestyle,” she complains. “I don’t want to waddle up the aisle,” she says. So no more eating all kinds of everything.

Not everything is black and white about Casement 'the gay icon'

For years “unrepentant republicans” have claimed that allegations of homosexuality, and paedophilia, on the part of Sir Roger Casement, the failed arms importer and civil servant, were the work of British propagandists. So Sue was somewhat surprised to see him heralded as “a gay icon” for republicans in last week’s An Phoblacht.

In the infamous Black Diaries, which until their recent emergence were dismissed as forgeries by IRA devotees, Sir Roger’s activities are described in graphic detail and were used to justify his execution. But while it now heralds Casement as the Graham Norton of 1916,

An Phoblacht won’t make the final leap, claiming the “authenticity of the diaries has still to be proven”. Wrong. The authenticity of the diaries has been proved well beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Football Association of Ireland isn’t great at sums. It announced last week that the Eircom league prize fund would increase by 400% from €100,000 to €400,000. Er, that’s 300%, folks.

Is deporting illegal immigrants from Ireland just a waste of time and money? It emerged last week that the state has spent €1.4m deporting just 341 people in the past three years.

While some flights involved more than 60 immigrants, a few were clearly bad value. In March 2002 a flight to Nigeria carrying just six people cost almost €250,000. One flight to the Gambia last February — with only one passenger — cost €50,200. They must have gone first class.

If Pat Rabbitte really has studied the works of Stalin, it fails to show in his control of the Labour party. After Michael D’s presidential hissy fit, and with a visit to the Labour Court over staffing issues looming, now comes the decision by the Labour youth wing to campaign against the proposed European constitution. The rebellious youth voted to oppose the party due to the “neo-liberal business interests” they believe are promoting the project.

There was a bit of a culture clash in Kildare North last week when Green TDs Trevor Sargent, Eamonn Ryan and Ciaran Cuffe arrived to lend their weight to the party’s by-election candidate. To lighten the mood, one of the locals cracked a joke about the difference between a G-spot and a golf ball. The punchline was something about most men being happy to spend 20 minutes looking for a golf ball. But Sue refuses to believe the vicious rumour that they’re still explaining it to Trevor.


Sticks And Stones

A rock-throwing minority threaten to scupper all-island accord

Henry McDonald
Sunday February 27, 2005
The Observer

I am writing on the rail link between Belfast and Dublin, a journey which during the late Eighties and early Nineties was taxing, sometimes even dangerous. For some reason, the IRA would leave bombs and hoax devices along the rail link. Often this meant travelling by train from Belfast to, say, Portadown or Newry and then taking a bus to Dundalk, as far away as possible from the rail line and the suspect devices.

The repeated attacks on the railway prompted an outburst of people power with the Peace Train Organisation, highlighting not only the immorality of the bombings but also their stupidity and futility. After all, between 1922 and 72 the Stormont Cabinet once discussed severing the rail link to Dublin in order to insulate their Northern Ireland from any economic, cultural or social influences emanating from cross-border travel. Decades later the Provisionals were managing in their moronic way to systematically destroy a crucial all-Ireland institution.

'Republican' Youth of Derry (or at least its stone-throwing section) have now taken up where the Provo rail bombers left off. On Tuesday night their ambush of Linfield fans' buses leaving the Brandywell seriously set back the creation of yet another vital all-Ireland institution - an island-wide football premiership.

Last Friday Derry City's outgoing chairman Jim Roddy was in an upbeat mood. As we walked around the stadium Roddy reflected that the forthcoming clash with Linfield, the first in 35 years, had more riding on it than a cash windfall. He stressed that if Linfield could play at the Brandywell without incident inside or outside the ground it would send a powerful signal that northern based and League of Ireland clubs could face each other anywhere. Like former Derry manager Noel King and ex-Glentoran defender Harry McCue, Roddy believes passionately that Irish club soccer's future lies in an all-Ireland premiership.

Inside the Brandywell the Linfield fans were treated by their Derry counterparts with respect and courtesy; but following the bombardment outside the ground some Blues' supporters wondered if the game had been worth it at all.

So with just a few stones and bottles some of 'Ireland's finest' have endangered another potential cross-border institution. Those in the northern soccer establishment who fear the prospect of an all-island league will undoubtedly exploit the trouble to argue in favour of the partitionist status quo. The yobs outside the Brandywell have handed the north's football reactionaries a propaganda coup: principally that big Irish league sides such as Linfield cannot travel to Derry without being attacked.

None of the above should discourage the spirit of generosity at Linfield FC displayed by manager David Jeffrey's decision to let a west Belfast camogie club train under the Windsor Park floodlights. Now the club should go one step further and help out their friends in the Football Association of Ireland. If the GAA refuses to amend Rule 42 at its congress next month and maintains the ban on soccer and rugby at Croke Park, the Republic of Ireland will be forced to play at least two World Cup qualifiers in Britain. Why, instead, doesn't Windsor Park offer Brian Kerr's team the oppor tunity to stage those ties on Irish soil, albeit in Belfast? After all, they (the FAI) can only say no.

It was also ironic that the issue of cross-border soccer co-operation came back into focus last week, given the recent announcement that the Maze prison site is highly likely to become home for Northern Ireland's 'national stadium'. The prospect of Northern Ireland, the Ulster rugby team and perhaps even some major GAA clashes being played on the ground where the likes of Bobby Sands and Johnny Adair once trod produced an early contender for 'Hyperbolic headline of the year'. The fledgling Daily Ireland newspaper splashed on Thursday last with the headline 'From Gulags to GAA' - a reference to the Maze's transformation from paramilitary holding centre to sports complex.

Whoever wrote those words should get themselves a copy of Anne Applebaum's Gulag - A History of the Soviet Concentration Camps. Unlike the Maze/Long Kesh, millions died in the real gulags and tens of millions were reduced to sub-human levels during the Stalinist and post-Stalinist terror. Nor were prisoners like Alexander Solzhenitsyn able to complain to the NKVD camp commandant that the inmates' sausage rolls were too small, unlike those poor diddums locked up in the Maze. That's because in the real Gulag there were no sausage rolls, no indoor five asides, no central heating, no Christmas parties, no libraries or access to outside academics. In the first decade of the Maze/Long Kesh's existence terrible things did go on, but to compare these with the chain of slave-murder camps stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Caspian Sea is as insulting and ignorant as previous comparisons between the H-blocks and Auschwitz.

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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