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March 01, 2005

03/01/05 - Adams Travels To US

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

SF 03/01/05 Gerry Adams To Travel To The US
IT 03/02/05 Opin: Poll Shows SF Survives Bashing By Media
SF 03/01/05 Response To Hugh Orde Comments On McCartney Killing
SM 03/01/05 Police Release Man In Hunt For McCartney Killer –V(4)
SF 03/01/05 SF Seeks To Ensure Council Motion Helps Justice Demand
SM 03/01/05 SDLP: Sinn Fein Words 'Hollow'
SM 03/01/05 Peace Process 'Will Stand Firm'
IO 03/01/05 McCartney Murder 'A Case Of Collusion' Says Ahern
IT 03/02/05 Motion On McCartney Killing Isolates SF
SF 03/01/05 Sinn Féin Challenge Murphy Over Sanctions
UT 03/01/05 'Victims Commissioner Is Waste Of Money'
SM 03/01/05 Failed Devolution Deal 'Bad For Nationalists'
IN 03/01/05 The Women Who Changed The Course Of Irish History
IW 03/01/05 Boys & Girl From County Clare Debut Annual Film Fleadh
IT 03/02/05 Fahey To Face UN On Race Issues

RT 03/01/05 Concerns Raised Over Safety Of Irish In Canaries -VO


Concerns Raised Over Safety Of Irish In Canaries - Ken O'Shea presents evidence of official neglect in the Canaries following crimes against Irish tourists


Gerry Adams To Travel To The US

Published: 1 March, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will travel to the United States on March 12th for a series of speaking engagements and meetings with the Irish-American community, U.S. political leaders and Government officials.

Mr. Adams schedule includes visits to Cincinnati; New York; Washington; New Jersey; Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Mr. Adams will address the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday morning March 14th.

The Party has decided that Martin McGuinness MP, who was also due to travel to the U.S. will remain in Ireland.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: "The political situation is much too grave for both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to be out of Ireland at the same time. Mr. Adams will engage with a wide range of U.S. political and Irish-American opinion. This will provide him with an opportunity to outline Sinn Féin's view of the current situation and our efforts to put the peace process back on track."

The Sinn Féin spokesperson also said that the party decided last week to change planned fundraising events into speaking engagements.

The spokesperson said: "Initially many of the planned events were to be fundraisers. However, the party leadership was concerned that there was a likelihood that fundraising would become a contentious issue for the U.S. government, and a distraction therefore from the necessary work of rebuilding the peace process. The party leadership decided that no fundraising will be done at this time."ENDS


Opin: Poll Shows SF Survives Bashing By Media

Vincent Browne

On two facing pages of last Saturday's Irish Independent (the compact edition) there appeared a column by Bruce Arnold headed "Adams loses direction and pays heavily for it", and on the opposite page there is a chart showing the ratings of the parties in an opinion poll conducted for the newspaper last week.

The poll was conducted in the midst of the most hostile blizzard Sinn Féin has faced in well over a decade. The party was being blamed for the collapse on December 8th of the talks on a restoration of the Good Friday institutions.

Its sister organisation, the IRA, was being blamed for the Northern Bank robbery of December 20th and a massive money-laundering and racketeering operation. Members of the IRA were being blamed for the murder of Robert McCartney in east Belfast a few weeks previously and a consequent mass intimidation of witnesses. For once, the Sinn Féin leadership seemed unsure of themselves and their organisation(s).

If ever there was a time that the party might be expected to dip in the opinion polls, especially in the South, this was it. You could certainly expect Gerry Adams and his party to pay heavily for the public relations debacle of the previous weeks, as the headline suggested.

But looking over at the chart on the facing page, what do we find? Fianna Fáil doing very nicely thank you, recovering to its 2002 level of 42 per cent of support. That was, and is, regarded as a triumph for the party.

Not so good for the Progressive Democrats. Given the high profile of Mary Harney and Michael McDowell in the recent past, and particularly the running McDowell has made on the Sinn Féin issue, you might have expected the PDs to break out of the margin of error territory (given the margin of error in polls such as this is around 3 percentage points, on one reading of the PD rating they have no support at all, although on anther reading they might have 6 per cent). But, no, they are stuck in the margin of error terrain.

After all the hype about a Fine Gael revival they are showing worse than they did even in the 2002 election meltdown - down from 23 per cent to 20 per cent. Actually looking at how Fine Gael has fared in this poll (Millward Brown/IMS) since the last election, it has never rated higher than it did in 2002. Some revival! Labour has also fared very poorly, showing at just 12 per cent.

But Sinn Féin, the party of Gerry Adams who has paid heavily for losing direction, is showing at 9 per cent. And don't take my estimation of this rating, look at what the Irish Independent's own poll commentator, Michael Marsh of Trinity College, said about it: Sinn Féin "will be delighted to see its vote holding up well". And so it should be. The party got 7 per cent in the 2002 election and the poll now shows it at 9 per cent. At the very least what one can say about Sinn Féin and this poll is that the party shows no sign at all of paying any price, certainly not paying "heavily" as a result of the recent hostile publicity.

Bruce Arnold has an explanation for this. He writes: "The supporters of Sinn Féin-IRA in the areas targeted by the party members seeking votes are motivated by self-interest". He goes on to explain that voters in disadvantaged areas don't care about the great issues to do with the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Apparently they are so selfish that they care only about disadvantage. I promise you, I am not making this up. (His actual words are: "What Sinn Féin-IRA has done to frustrate the restoration of an executive in Northern Ireland is hardly going to concentrate the minds of people living in disadvantaged areas".)

There is a sense in which Bruce Arnold is dead right. The disadvantaged are so alienated from the political establishment down here that they see no option but to vote for the party they perceive as furthest outside the establishment, Sinn Féin, and they couldn't care less how many banks Sinn Féin and their friends rob or how much money they launder and the more Michael McDowell fulminates about Sinn Féin, the more they like Sinn Féin.

I have a fear, however, that the people who now support Sinn Féin are being duped. Again. Not because Sinn Féin is secretly planning to impose a fascist dictatorship here which will imprison us all. Nor because Sinn Féin is essentially a massive criminal enterprise, using politics for criminal purposes, nor because they are planning to return to war.

It is because the Sinn Féin long-term agenda is to respectabilise itself. To ingratiate itself with the respectable elements of society, North and South. To join government with one of the respectable parties and, when in government, show how respectable and responsible it is on every front: on fiscal rectitude, on the prudent management of public expenditure, and, wait for it, law and order.

The disadvantaged shouldn't be fooled by bank robberies.

© The Irish Times


Response To Hugh Orde Comments On McCartney Killing

Published: 1 March, 2005

Responding to comments made by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde today regarding the position of Sinn Féin in relation to the killing of Robert McCartney, South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey this afternoon said:

"The Sinn Féin position regarding this killing is very clear. We have repudiated it in the strongest possible terms.

"In relation to those who have information or evidence relating to the killing they should bring it forward through an avenue of their choice.

"Some people may well chose the PSNI as that avenue while others will choose to bring forward any information they may have to the family, a solicitor or some other authoritiy or reputable person or body.

"The PSNI themselves have recognised this reality when they produced a poster relating to the re-investigation of the killing of Sean Brown in Bellaghy calling on potential witnesses to adopt this approach." ENDS


Pressure mounts on Sinn Féin over McCartney murder - Michael Heaney reports from Belfast's Short Strand area where Robert McCartney was murdered

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly and the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell discuss how people should report information they may have on Mr McCartney's murder

Man arrested in McCartney murder probe - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, outlines the latest developments following the murder of Robert McCartney

David McCullagh, Political Correspondent, explains the political response to Mr McCartney's murder

Police Release Man In Hunt For McCartney Killer –V(4)

By Gary Kelly and Alan Erwin, PA

A 29-year-old man was tonight released by detectives investigating the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney.

The man had walked into a city centre police station alone to meet with detectives as the Government demanded more action by the IRA to turn in the men who slashed the victim’s throat. After being questioned for several hours, the man was released without charge.

Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership are facing a major political crisis over the horrific killing.

Belfast City Council tonight overwhelmingly backed an SDLP motion condemning the murder and calling on witnesses to pass on information to the police. Sinn Fein abstained during the vote after their amendment calling on people to come forward through whatever avenue they chose was heavily defeated.

Sisters of the dead man, from the Short Strand district of the city, have staged a determined campaign to bring his killers to justice. They allege that witnesses have been intimidated by republicans attempting to thwart the police investigation with a wall of silence.

Outside Belfast City Council chamber Mr McCartney’s sister Catherine said the fight to get justice for her brother would continue. She added that 15 to 20 people were involved in the clean up of the bar and everybody knew who they were.

“The issue for the family is clear cut, we want to see these people brought to justice, she said. “These people are accountable to no one.”

The IRA said at the weekend that three of its members were expelled following an internal inquiry.


Sinn Féin Seeks To Ensure McCartney Council Motion Helps Justice Demand

Published: 1 March, 2005

Speaking before tonight's meeting of Belfast City Council in which the SDLP are tabling a motion on the killing of Robert McCartney demanding that people bring information to the PSNI Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell said that his party would seek to amend the motion in order to ensure that it reflected the reality that many within the community who wish to help the family in their quest for justice simply will not come forward with information to the PSNI.

Cllr. O'Donnell said:

"Sinn Féin supports the McCartney family in their quest for truth and justice. I have repudiated this brutal killing in the strongest terms possible. And furthermore no one has any right, as has been claimed, to prevent anyone from helping the McCartney family.

"I would also wish to commend the communities in the Short Strand and Markets who have supported the McCartney family and repeat my call again for anyone with any information which can assist the family in their quest for justice and truth to bring it forward.

"As someone who lives within the republican community and have first hand experience of policing I recognise the reality that there are many within our community who for good reason do not trust the PSNI and simply will not bring forward information to them. This reality cannot be ignored by people if they are serious about delivering justice for the McCartney family.

"Indeed the PSNI themselves recognised this reality when they began the re-investigation into the loyalist killing of Sean Brown in Bellaghy. The PSNI poster itself encourages people to use a named firm of solicitors or the Pat Finucane Centre to bring forward information as an alternative to dealing directly with the PSNI. This is exactly the sort of pragmatic and realistic approach which is necessary to deliver justice in this case also.

"The motion as it stands is excluding any information which people in this category have from the search for truth and justice and therefore if this motion is passed, rather than assisting the family, would in my view set the search for justice back. If this is not the intention of the proposer then I believe that the amendment as put by Sinn Fein should be accepted." ENDS


SDLP: Sinn Fein Words 'Hollow'

By Gary Kelly, PA

Republicans were tonight accused of moral redundancy in trying to spin their way out of responsibility for the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney.

Belfast City Council tonight overwhelmingly endorsed a motion by the SDLP condemning the brutal stabbing and calling on those with evidence to co-operate with the police.

Sinn Fein, which was severely criticised during the debate, abstained after their amendment which called on people to come forward through an avenue of their choice was defeated.

SDLP Councillor Pat McCarthy who put forward the motion said the McCartney family which has been campaigning to bring the killers to justice had shown great leadership and courage.

“They have delivered a clear unequivocal message to these murderous thugs – beware the risen people.”

Mr McCartney, 33, was murdered in the street after a row broke out in Magennis’s Bar near the Markets area of Belfast.

The IRA has admitted its members were involved and last weekend expelled some of those who took part.

But the McCartney family have insisted that the intimidation of potential witnesses has continued.

In a hard hitting speech Mr McCarthy said Sinn Fein’s words of support for the McCartney family rang hollow.

He added: “They pay lip service to the outcries of the community in their attempt to spin their way out of further evidence that sinister forces continue to walk our streets, live in our streets, take over our streets and they wish to rule us from the cradle to the grave.”


Peace Process 'Will Stand Firm'

By Senan Hogan, PA

The deepening crisis in the Northern Ireland peace process will not stop the Good Friday Agreement being doggedly implemented by the British and Irish governments, it was claimed today.

Irish foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern today co-chairs a crucial meeting in Dublin of one of the East/West bodies set up under the landmark 1998 accord.

The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) is set to discuss the continuing fallout from the brutal murder of Robert McCartney, the Northern Bank robbery and alleged IRA money laundering.

Mr Ahern said of the meeting: “It underlines the continuing commitment by the two Governments to honour the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and carry out the work of its political institutions.”

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the fact that the BIIGC is functioning and meeting regularly was an important endorsement of the Agreement.

He said: “Not everything is dependent on Sinn Fein and the IRA. As long as people see the Agreement is still working, they will realise how much the Provisional is stalling progress.”

The British Government will be represented at today’s meeting by Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy along with Minister of State John Spellar and Under Secretary of State Ian Pearson.

Justice minister Michael McDowell will also join his Irish Cabinet colleague in other discussions on cultural matters like the entry into Northern Ireland of Co Galway-based Irish language television channel, TG4.

When the Stormont Assembly was suspended in October 2002, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern vowed to work closely together via the BIIGC “in a way which reflects the principles of the Agreement and which protects and develops its achievements“.

The political institution, which held its first meeting in December 1999, is one of the East/West bodies seen as Unionist concessions to hold ties with the UK.

A British-Irish Council also promotes co-operation between Britain, Ireland and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.


McCartney Murder 'A Case Of Collusion' Says Ahern
2005-03-01 22:10:06+00

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern tonight accused the IRA of collusion in protecting the killers of Belfast man Robert McCartney and of oppressing his family and local community.

Ahern told a Dáil debate that witnesses must fully co-operate with the PSNI before truth and justice can be achieved.

Speaking on a Fine Gael private motion, Mr Ahern said: "The case of Robert McCartney is a case of collusion. To avoid justice. To escape the truth. To protect the killers.

"Until the killers are brought before the courts, no member of the Provisional movement can utter the words truth or justice with any credibility."

An IRA mob are believed to have knifed the father-of-two to death outside a Belfast city pub on January 30 and later cleaned up the crime scene and intimidated witnesses.

The victim's sisters and partner have waged a courageous campaign against the IRA to seek truth and justice.

Fine Gael said some of the 12 people involved in the murder were IRA members and others were Sinn Féin activists who played important roles in the Assembly election campaign for Alex Maskey in November 2003.

In a hard-hitting address, Enda Kenny added: "These people carried out a truly brutal crime which has been compared to the notorious activities of the Shankill Butchers.

"It was a savage murder of a totally innocent man and any attempt to dilute the seriousness of what happened must be completely rejected."

Mr Kenny also claimed that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was in the company of one of the murderers at the funeral of IRA veteran Joe Cahill in July 2004.

The Labour party said the McCartney murder had proved that the IRA was now the oppressor, not the British.

Party leader Pat Rabbitte said: "What the McCartney family and the people of the Short Strand want is a police investigation, a Crown prosecution and a trial in a court of law.

"They want normal lives and normal freedoms - freedom from the demands of swaggering louts and wide boys and all those other parasites that thrive on abnormality, crisis and fear."

Earlier Sinn Féin said it broadly supported the motion but was disappointed that Fine Gael would not accept an amendment aimed at people who didn't want to give information directly to the PSNI.

Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caolain said: "The reality is that there are many within the nationalist community who for good reason do not trust the PSNI and simply will not bring forward information to them.

"This reality cannot be ignored if we are serious about delivering justice for the McCartney family."


Motion On McCartney Killing Isolates SF

Michael O'Regan

Sinn Féin is expected to be isolated in the Dáil tonight as the Government and other parties support a Fine Gael motion deploring the killing of Robert McCartney and calling on witnesses to co-operate with the PSNI.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said he subscribed to the motion without hesitation. "Our approach underlines the unanimity amongst every deputy in this House who believes in justice and the rule of law."

Sinn Féin will attempt to amend the Fine Gael motion, which will be voted on tonight after a resumed debate. Dáil Sinn Féin leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that while his party supported its thrust, the final paragraph restricted the means by which information might be brought forward to help bring the killers to justice.

The paragraph in the Fine Gael motion "calls on all public representatives to actively encourage those with knowledge of this crime to come forward and give statements to the investigating police so that the justice in the courts sought by the McCartney family can be achieved".

The Sinn Féin amendment to it reads: "or, for those who do not support or trust the PSNI, to bring forward any information they may have to the family, a solicitor or any other authoritative or reputable person or body".

During last night's opening debate, Mr Ahern said the only information which would help put the killers of Mr McCartney behind bars was information given directly to the PSNI, information leading to statements which could be used as evidence in a court of law.

"The question is not whether Gerry Adams would testify in court. The question is whether he would offer a statement to the PSNI. That would certainly be an implication of his recent statement, but given the allegations of witness intimidation, it would be helpful if he could clarify that point."

He said he agreed with the Taoiseach and the McCartney family when they said the IRA had also a role in ensuring the killers were brought to justice.

Introducing the motion, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the time had come for Sinn Féin to break its link with criminal associates once and for all.

"They do not need to look very far to find the perpetrators of the murder of Robert McCartney. The gang involved are republican activists with direct links to Sinn Féin.

"This gang, which has been nicknamed 'C-Company' after the notorious gang run by Johnny Adair on the Shankill Road, has been terrorising the people of the Short Strand for too long. They inflict the most horrendous physical injuries on youths in the area whom they have deemed to have stepped out of line."

Mr Kenny said it had been put to him that youths falling foul of the gang had appointments made for them at the local Sinn Féin advice centre, from where they were transported to receive their punishments.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said the people the IRA had pledged to support and defend had risen. "They have, in the words of Pearse, been harried and held, bullied and bribed by tyrants, hypocrites and liars. They are sick and tired of it. But their oppressor is not the British. It is the IRA itself."

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin Challenge Murphy Over Sanctions

Published: 1 March, 2005

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has revealed that the party have written to the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy challenging him on his decision to impose sanctions on the Sinn Féin electorate in the wake of the latest report from the IMC.

Mr McLaughlin said:

" Last week in the British House of Commons Paul Murphy a man with no votes or no mandate in Ireland chose to impose sanctions on democratically elected Irish politicians. He invited Sinn Féin to make representations to him regarding this matter.

" Sinn Féin have now written to Mr Murphy challenging him to produce a shred of evidence backing the claim that Sinn Féin have been in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. We have also taken this opportunity to make it very clear to Mr Murphy the reality that the IMC operates entirely outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and should have no role whatsoever in the political process.

" The actions of the British government in imposing sanctions against Irish political representatives is a denial of the democratic rights of the electorate and at a time when our collective focus should be on putting the political process back on track only serves to deepen the crisis further." ENDS


'Victims Commissioner Is Waste Of Money'

The appointment of Northern Ireland's new victims commissioner is an unnecessary use of public money, a teachers' union chief said tonight.

By:Press Association

Frank Bunting, northern secretary of the Irish National Teacher`s Organisation slammed the British Government for creating another layer of bureaucracy.

"There are better ways of governing Northern Ireland. I don`t think we need commissioners for every single issue that arises.

"There seems to be money for all kinds of political adventures but none for the bread and butter issue of teachers teaching," he said.

The announcement of a commissioner to help victims of the Troubles was made in a written statement by Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, who said it was part of a tailored approach to dealing with the past.

Mr Murphy said the new commissioner, who will be appointed after a period of consultation, would play a pivotal role in promoting the interests of those who have suffered and in setting up a Victims and Survivors Forum.

The commissioner would advise the British government on the funds needed to support the work of victims` groups and would allocate resources to them.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office said that once the consultation was over the British government would want to would move quickly to appoint a commissioner, provided there was cross community support.

Mr Murphy said: "We need to consider carefully and collectively how best to deal sensitively with the needs and expectations of all sections of the community in dealing with the legacy of the past.

"The creation of a Victims and Survivors Commissioner is intended as a major contribution to that work. But it does not mark the end of either of the process or the Government`s contribution to it."

The Rev David Clements, of the WAVE Trauma Centre, called on all victims groups to contribute to the consultation process which will be carried up until June.

"Everyone should do what they can to ensure that this person`s job is to the benefit of all victims and those working with them."

Mr Clements, whose father Bill, a police officer, was murdered by the IRA in 1985, said it was vital to have someone independent of government who would stand up for the rights of victims.

"It will be a difficult job to do and if you asked me to draw up a shortlist of candidates, I would find it very difficult."

Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson backed the appointment, which he said was a key demand of his party during political negotiations.

The Lagan Valley representative added: "We envisage a multi-faceted role for a Victims Commissioner, including monitoring the Government`s victims strategies, acting as a watchdog on all Government legislation relating to victims, advising the Secretary of State on victim`s matters and fulfilling the role of an ombudsman for victims and victims groups."

A review of services for victims announced by Mr Murphy would also help end the neglect, he insisted.

"Funding for victims` groups has paled in comparison to that received by prisoners groups," Mr Donaldson claimed.

The cross-community Alliance Party suggested a commissioner could help people come to terms with the past, and help lay some of the foundations for future reconciliation at the proposed Maze centre for conflict transformation.

Deputy leader Eileen Bell said: "The stories of victims deserve to be heard, and there is still a real need for the past to be dealt with."

The Social Democratic and Labour Party said the commissioner must be an advocate for all victims and have the clout to get results.

The party`s equality spokesperson Patricia Lewsley said: "The SDLP wants to see a Victims and Survivors Forum at which victims and survivors` own voices can be heard.

"We want victims and survivors to be able to design a truth and remembrance process for all victims. That is why any process must be victim led not just independently appointed."

Sinn Fein expressed concern at the British Government`s decision to delay a truth process.

The Northern Ireland Secretary had insisted that in the light of recent events the time was not right to begin a process dealing with Northern Ireland`s past.

Sinn Fein North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said: "Many will believe that the real motive behind Paul Murphy`s decision to put a truth process on the long finger is a desire to try and hide the role of the British state in the murder of citizens here both directly and through its policy of collusion."

Mark Thompson, director of Relatives for Justice, which represents families of people killed by members of the security forces, said Mr Murphy had a statutory duty to consult all those affected by the violence.

"No one affected by British State violence has been consulted with regard to the appointment of any commissioner," he said.

"We note that a consultation on these issues has been released today. However, it is a consultation simply on the role and remit of a commissioner not on whether a `Victims` Commissioner` should be appointed."

He added that families who lost relatives at the hands of the police and army had no desire for a victims commissioner appointed by the British Government.

"Instead families want outstanding issues such as truth and justice to be comprehensively dealt with in an independent, transparent and accountable manner," he added.


Failed Devolution Deal 'Bad For Nationalists'

By Dan McGinn, Ireland Political Editor, PA News

Democratic Unionist leader the Rev Ian Paisley has proved last December’s failed deal to restore devolution in Northern Ireland was bad for nationalists, it was claimed tonight.

During a visit to Dublin, nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan claimed the DUP leader’s comments about the circumstances in which he would share power with Sinn Fein proved his party’s scepticism about last year’s deal was right.

“Ian Paisley’s eagerness to keep elements of the December deal and use it as a future benchmark shows just how bad that was for nationalists,” the Foyle Assembly member argued.

“It was a good deal for the DUP and that is why he is trying to ensure that as much of it remains as possible.

“His comments also vindicate the SDLP’s position of resisting demands for exclusion (of Sinn Fein) and a voluntary coalition.

“The comments show that Ian Paisley’s preference is for a bad deal which he negotiated with Sinn Fein.”

Mr Durkan was commenting after a series of meetings with political parties in the Irish Republic ahead of a debate on the murder of 33-year-old Belfast forklift driver Robert McCartney allegedly by members of the IRA.

Efforts to revive power-sharing in Northern Ireland have stalled following the collapse of last December’s failed agreement between the British and Irish Governments, Sinn Fein and the DUP.

But they have been further damaged by December’s £26.5million Northern Bank robbery in Belfast which was blamed on the IRA – and by the murder of Robert McCartney.

Relations between the Irish Government and Sinn Fein, in particular, have soured following claims by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that Sinn Fein leaders knew the robbery was being planned by the IRA when negotiations were taking place last year.

Republicans have also been angered by a series of hard-hitting attacks on their party by the Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell, accusing them of criminality and naming senior Sinn Fein leaders as members of the IRA’s Army Council.

Mr Durkan said tonight that he had urged political parties in the Irish Republic and the Dublin Government not to let republicans dictate the pace of the political and peace process.

For far too long, he claimed, the IRA had been indulged in bowling up short on their commitments and then constructing a new negotiating process to get them to do what everybody wanted.

The SDLP leader said nationalists and others in the process were very clear about what they expected from republicans in terms of ending paramilitary and criminal activity.

He added: “Both governments and others in the process should learn from the example of the family of Robert McCartney.

“When we set standards we do not accept anything less than those standards.

“If there are advances, we accept that they are advances but we do not accept them as a satisfactory outcome.”


The Women Who Changed The Course Of Irish History

This week's demonstration against the IRA continues a tradition in a country where the female of the species has often been a greater force for good than the male. David McKittrick reports

02 March 2005

The McCartney family

The family of the murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney have caught the national and international imagination by standing up to the IRA and refusing to be cowed by the organisation.

Their campaign to bring to justice those who stabbed him in a brutal bar brawl has drawn down huge condemnation on the IRA and embarrassed Sinn Fein.

It has also caused generated much unease within republican circles, since Robert McCartney was a respected resident of the Catholic Short Strand ghetto in Belfast, and in republican terms was of good character.

The family has already endured much, losing a brother who killed himself four years ago. They say that Robert was a tower of strength at that time, helping the rest of them through the ordeal. Robert left behind two young sons, aged four and two, and his partner Bridgeen who he was due to marry later this year.

At the heart of the campaign to have his killers dealt with are his five sisters. Only one of them, Paula, still lives in the Short Strand, where the family has been, they say, for a hundred years. Paula is on a women's studies course at Queen's University, Belfast; Catherine runs a feminist newspaper; Donna has her own business in Belfast, while Gemma is a district nurse. Clare is a classroom assistant who intends to go into teacher training next year.

Their rally on Sunday was attended by between 400 and 500 people. Family members carried placards proclaiming "No more lies" and "Evil will triumph if good people do nothing".

Paula McCartney said people all over Ireland had been "sickened and disgusted". In a tough and brave message to the IRA, she called on anyone who knew anything to "hand themselves over and tell all to the police".

The campaign has galvanised efforts to find the killers of Mr McCartney and forced the IRA on to the defensive. Three of its members have been expelled and at the weekend a man presented himself at a police station accompanied by his solicitor. He was released without charge.

Yesterday another man was being questioned by the police.

Helen McKendry

Helen McKendry will be remembered as the woman who broke the silence of decades to tell the world of "the disappeared", the forgotten victims of the IRA who included her mother, Jean McConville.

The case of Mrs McConville is regarded as particularly poignant since her death had such far-reaching effects. A widow and mother of 10 children, she was taken from her Falls Road home in 1972 and never heard of again. Many of the children were taken into care.

The IRA denied responsibility and would give no information about the case until the 1990s, when Helen McKendry launched a campaign to have her mother's body returned. She felt able to speak out only after the IRA ceasefire of 1994.

The IRA eventually admitted killing Mrs McConville and gave information about the location of her body and those of others killed and buried in the 1970s. Searches were carried out in various parts of the Irish Republic but it was not until 2003 that Mrs McConville's body was found buried on a beach.

Mary Ann McCracken

Mary Ann McCracken, born into a Belfast Protestant merchant family in 1770, was a radical who espoused the causes of independence from Britain, equality for women, the welfare of the poor, workers' rights and opposition to slavery.

Her correspondence is fascinating, in particular the story of how she unsuccessfully tried to prevent the execution of her brother Henry Joy, one of the leaders of the 1798 rebellion when Protestant dissenters rose against the Crown.

Espousing independence from Britain, she wrote that patriots had to accept their fate "whether it be on the scaffold or in the field". She accompanied her brother to the scaffold: "We walked together to the place of execution, where I was told ... that I should leave him, which I peremptorily refused.

"Clasping my hands around him (I did not weep till then), I said I could bear any thing but leaving him ... Fearing any further refusal would disturb the last moments of my dearest brother, I suffered myself to be led away."

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan from Belfast jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1970s for leading a peace movement which for a brief instant raised hopes that the violence could be ended by "people power".

The Peace People, as they were known, went through a euphoric phase in which they brought tens of thousands to huge outdoor rallies. But within a short period the initiative largely fell apart amidst public and internal acrimony. The movement survives, but is now a small-scale organisation which stirs little national interest.

It was born in a wave of anger generated by the deaths of three children in a horrific incident in west Belfast in August 1976, caused by a car chase involving an IRA member, Danny Lennon, who was a close personal friend of the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Lennon was driving a getaway car when he was shot by a soldier. The vehicle went out of control, careering on to a pavement and killing three young sisters.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, the children's aunt, called on people to reject terrorism. The movement quickly snowballed, attracting much international publicity.

But it came under criticism from both paramilitary groups and conventional politicians. As the months passed, the early fervour and hope ebbed, while the generalised desire for peace became complicated as it adopted its own positions on contentious issues.

A period of internal arguments and personality clashes followed, with particularly damaging criticism about how the Nobel prize money should be used. Betty Williams moved to the United States and Mairead Corrigan continues with her peace work in Belfast. Later, the mother of the three children who died took her own life.

When a television company made a programme to mark the anniversary of the movement's foundation, the two women preferred not to appear on-screen together. The Peace People are generally remembered in Belfast as a transient phenomenon which began promisingly but in the end did not deliver peace.

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, who was president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, was the first woman to hold the post. In winning the election and during her term in office, she personified the rapid modernisation of Irish society.

A feminist lawyer associated with women's rights, liberal values and pluralism, she became a powerful symbol of a changing Ireland. Her election surprised many, coming as it did when the campaign of the favourite, more conventional, candidate fell apart.

In office she established a punishing schedule - carrying out 800 engagements in her first year - carving a unique niche for herself and establishing links with a wide range of groups and people.

Although initially regarded as not a natural politician in the Irish mould, lacking the usual glad-handing skills, she expanded the office of the presidency and gained a reputation for sweeping away cobwebs while valuing tradition.

She became an icon almost above criticism, her astonishing 90 per cent approval rating in the polls demonstrating that she had in effect captured the imagination of a nation.

A close supporter said at the time: "The lack of criticism of her is almost eerie. Do you know, the main complaint has been that she doesn't wear gloves or a hat."

Her election was itself a major departure in domestic terms, and one which not only expressed but also helped to accelerate a push for change in Irish society, increasing the momentum for modernisation.

She declined to run for a second term, going on to become United Nations commissioner for human rights.

Grace O'Malley

Grace O'Malley was a 16th-century Irish pirate queen whose swashbuckling adventures captured the imagination and recently have caused some to regard her as a feminist icon.

She married two men and bore four children in a lengthy career which carried on her Co Mayo family's seafaring tradition and extended it to piracy. She eschewed convention in a man's world. Anxious to win control of a strategically placed castle, she is said to have banged on the door and proposed marriage to its owner, Iron Dick Burke. He accepted.

She was also bold enough to go to London to meet Queen Elizabeth I. Her request for the release of her son, and for some land rights, seems to have been granted: legend has it that she got along famously with the monarch.

Like many Irish chieftains, she seems to have been adept at playing both ends against the middle, sometimes confronting the English and capturing their ships and goods, while at other times co-operating with them. She built up considerable territory in the west of Ireland, commanding half a dozen castles and indulging in trade, fishing and piracy, being unafraid to take on Turkish, Spanish and other pirates.

May Blood

May Blood was created a cross-bench peer five years ago after a lifetime in community and co-operative work in the loyalist Shankill Road district of Belfast.

After leaving school in her early teens, she went to work in a linen mill where she became a shop steward and union activist before moving on into community activity. She has been to the fore in issues of housing, welfare and jobs, serving on official and other committees concerned with training, employment and labour relations. She also holds several honorary degrees.

According to Baroness Blood: "My life is about serving this community, particularly young people. For years they have just been fodder for the paramilitaries. We want the next generation to be real people with real futures." She is a member of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, which was active in politics, but she typifies the trend for many women activists to concentrate on community development.

Maud Gonne

One of the great romantic figures of early 20th-century Ireland, Maud Gonne is viewed as the muse of the poet W B Yeats. The causes for which she campaigned ranged from land evictions to prisoners and the Boers in South Africa.

The daughter of a British Army officer of Irish descent, she was brought up in Hampshire and educated in France, where she had two children by a lover, later converting to Catholicism.

A suffragette, she supported militant Fenianism and formed an organisation combining feminism and republicanism. After the Easter Rising in 1916 her husband, Sean McBride, was executed. She was arrested but escaped from Holloway prison. She opposed Michael Collins during the Irish civil war and went on hunger strike when imprisoned. She was released after 29 days.

Her son, Sean McBride, a republican activist, won both the Nobel and Lenin peace prizes.


"Boys And Girl From County Clare" To Debut Annual Film Fleadh

by Brian Brooks

The seventh annual CRAIC Film Fleadh will open tomorrow night (Wednesday) in New York with "The Boys and Girl from County Clare," starring Andrea Corr, lead singer of The Corrs, and Colm Meaney, both of whom are expected to attend at the Loews 34th St. theater screening. The feature will launch the annual event which spotlights Irish and Irish-American fair March 2-5, including several New York premieres. Andrew McCarthy's directorial debut short, "News for the Church" will precede the film.

In other festival highlights, Friday night will feature "The Best of Shorts," including award-winning shorts (animated and live action) from both sides of the Atlantic. The lineup includes Irish language shorts "An Duil" and "Fluent Dysphasia," starring Stephen Rea. The film is director Daniel O'Hara's follow up to his short "Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom." Also slated is "Burning the Bed," which stars Aidan Gillen of HBO's "The Wire," as well as Brendan Muldowney's award winning short "The Ten Steps" among others. The after party will be at Slainte (304 Bowery) with live performance by Lancaster County Prison.

Documentary "The Battle of Bogside," screening on the final day of the festival, takes a look at both sides of the barricades during the seminal three-day riot in Derry City (Londonderry) Northern Ireland, which shaped the troubled province for the next 30 years. Feature "Omagh" will close the festival. The film highlights the struggle of a father who fights for the truth surrounding the August 1998 bombing in Omagh, Co. Tyrone.

"We are positioning the festival as a pre-St. Patrick's Day event," said festival director Terence Mulligan in a statement. "It is wonderful to be able to showcase emerging and existing talent with a Celtic connection, and there's no better international stage to launch new talent like New York City."


Fahey To Face UN On Race Issues

Carl O'Brien, Social Affairs Correspondent

The Government will be asked tomorrow to explain why it has not recognised Travellers as an ethnic minority when it is questioned by a UN committee on its record of tackling racism and discrimination.

The Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Frank Fahey, will also be asked about official policies of "segregating" asylum-seekers through the dispersal programme and the deportation of non-national parents of Irish-born children.

The questions arise from the Government's implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

The areas on which the Geneva-based UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will seek information reflect the concerns of more than 40 non-governmental organisations.

In its first report to the UN committee, the NGO alliance outlined a series of concerns relating to the treatment of Travellers, asylum-seekers and immigrants.

The questions to be put to the Government, seen by The Irish Times, will focus mainly on aspects relating to the health, education and welfare of Travellers.

Mr Fahey will defend the Government's decision not to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority and will argue that assertions that they are ethnically different from the majority of the Irish people have not been proven. He is expected to cite the findings of the 1995 task force report on the Traveller community which did not recommend they be identified as an ethnic minority. Officials also suggest he may make reference to research which suggests that the claim of being a separate ethnic group has only been made since the 1980s.

He will accept that Travellers suffer from exclusion, deprivation and discrimination, but will point to the €100 million spent on Traveller-specific programmes to improve their education, health, housing and other sectors,

More generally, the Government will say that the incidence of racism in Ireland is "relatively low" but is also expected to point to a series of measures which would show that it is not complacent about the issue.

NGOs, however, are expected to tell the committee that Travellers may be denied protection under the convention because of the Government failure to recognise them as an ethnic minority.

They will say funding for anti-racism initiatives has been cut and express concern at "institutional racism" at State level. They will also criticise the Government's dispersal and direct provision policy for asylum-seekers.

It will argue that the system has encouraged racism by reinforcing the belief that asylum-seekers are "spongers". The system has also restricted asylum-seekers' access to legal representation, healthcare, education, religious services and nutrition.

NGOs are also expected to restate their concern at the "failure" of the Garda to respond adequately to racist incidents and the lack of anti-racism training among members of the force.

© The Irish Times

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