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March 02, 2005

03/03/05 – Fine Could Give Illegal Irish Right To Stay in US

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

IT 03/03/05 Fine Could Give Illegal Irish Right To Stay In US
SM 03/03/05 Blair And Ahern Assess Peace Process
RT 03/02/05 North Leaders Not To Attend White House
IT 03/03/05 SF Cancels Fundraising In US During Holiday Week
IT 03/03/05 SF Fails To Amend FG Motion On Murder
IT 03/03/05 O'Loan Intervenes In Murder Inquiry
IO 03/02/05 Fine Gael Motion Carried As McDowell Denounces IRA
BT 03/02/05 2,427 Non-Catholics Rejected For PSNI Jobs
IT 03/03/05 IRA Not In Control Of Castlerea – Ahern
EX 03/02/05 Ahern Convinced Cork Haul Linked To North Bank Heist


Fine Could Give Illegal Irish Right To Stay In US - Envoy

Thousands of Irish immigrants living illegally in the US could get the right to stay by paying a fine if proposals from President Bush are implemented, US ambassador James Kenny has indicated, writes Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent.

The ambassador yesterday briefed the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee, which had complained about a series of recent arrests of Irish people in the US.

Under the proposal, he said, Irish "illegals" would have to come forward, admit their wrongdoing, show a clean record and pay "a fine".

The meeting with the Foreign Affairs Committee took place in private at Mr Kenny's insistence. He said he did not want to discuss individual cases in public.

According to several sources, Mr Kenny said during the meeting that President Bush's proposals to change immigration laws could benefit Irish "illegals".

Under the Bush plan, which has yet to reach Capitol Hill, illegals could first get temporary three-year visas and then apply for permanent residency.

However, the proposal is being fiercely opposed in some quarters, where there are fears that it could encourage further illegal immigration from Mexico.

Speaking to TDs and senators, Mr Kenny warned the legislation would be stillborn if it came to be regarded as "an amnesty". The legislation could benefit up to 10 million people, and may play a major part in the Republican Party's efforts to woo the Hispanic community.

Efforts last night to get additional information on the scheme from the US embassy in Dublin were unsuccessful.

The US Citizen and Immigration Services said in 2000 that it believed 3,000 Irish people were living in the US illegally, though Irish immigration centres regarded this as a low estimate.

The tightening of immigration rules after the September 11th attacks led to the deportation of 273 Irish citizens, while 10 more are awaiting deportation. Some have been held in jail for up to eight weeks for immigration violations.

Tighter rules mean that Irish "illegals" are now unable to apply to renew their driving licences and other official papers because of the fear of discovery.

Meanwhile, the ambassador defended the operation of the J-1 visa scheme, which has for years granted short-term stays to Irish students. The numbers of Irish travelling on the programme has fallen substantially since September 11th, partly because of the much stricter vetting process.

Many students had complained to Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen that they had been met with "arrogance and rudeness" by US embassy visa staff.

The continuing attractiveness of J-1 visas was highlighted by the large number of applications from Irish students for 500 Canadian J-1s.

© The Irish Times


Blair And Ahern Assess Peace Process

By Dan McGinn, PA Ireland Political Editor

Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern will assess the state of the peace process in London today as pressure grows on the IRA to end all criminality.

British Government sources said both Premiers would discuss intelligence on both sides of the Irish border about the brutal murder last month of Belfast father-of-two Robert McCartney, and last December’s £26.5 million Northern Bank heist.

They are also adamant that republicans must respond to demands from unionists, nationalists and both governments for total disarmament and an end to all IRA criminal and paramilitary activity.

“Both leaders will take a general overview of the political situation right now,” a Downing Street source said.

“We want to compare notes on what we are being told by our respective police services on the investigations (into the Northern Bank and the murder of Robert McCartney’s murder).

“It’s worth remembering what the Prime Minister said when they last met in Downing Street.

“We need to hear from republicans that all criminality and paramilitary activity is at an end. It is all down to that single issue.”

December’s £26.5 million Northern Bank raid, which police on both sides of the border believe was the work of the IRA, plunged a peace process coming to grips with another talks failure into deeper crisis.

Northern Ireland’s largest party, the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, failed to reach an historic agreement with Sinn Fein last December to revive power sharing because the IRA would not give in to their demand for photographic evidence of the completion of disarmament.

The DUP has been adamant since the robbery they will not even consider going into government with Sinn Fein until the IRA gives a clear signal it is winding down.

The murder of Robert McCartney outside a Belfast city centre bar last month by IRA members has strengthened that view.

Allegations by Mr McCartney’s sisters that the IRA intimidated witnesses to the murder and shielded the killers have placed the Republican movement on the back foot politically.

Political rivals of Sinn Fein have accused the Provisionals of acting like a mafia, running a criminal empire and ruling communities by fear.

The IRA has been anxious to distance itself from the murder, announcing last Friday that it had expelled three of its members.

But while Mr McCartney’s sisters welcomed the move, they insisted that republicans needed to go further by encouraging other members to give themselves up.

They believe that up to 20 people took part in the murder and cover-up operation.

Sinn Fein has also been under pressure to do a U-turn on its policy of refusing to recognise Northern Ireland’s police service and urging people to go directly to detectives with information.

As Sinn Fein prepares for the start of its three day annual conference in Dublin tomorrow (Friday), marking its centenary, there is also speculation that Northern Ireland’s political leaders could be frozen out of the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the White House this month following the recent series of setbacks in the peace process.


North Leaders Not To Attend White House

02 March 2005 23:07

It has been confirmed that Northern Ireland political leaders are not to be invited to attend St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House.

A White House administration official said the decision had been made to break with tradition, barring all parties from the event.

The decision was taken in the aftermath of the Northern Bank robbery, blamed on the IRA, which has plunged the Northern Ireland peace process into its deepest crisis in recent years.


SF Cancels Fundraising In US During Holiday Week

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

Sinn Féin has decided to cancel fundraising in the US during St Patrick's week, while party chief negotiator Martin McGuinness will not travel abroad this year because of the current "grave" political situation.

But despite the continuing political upheaval, high-level contacts between the Sinn Féin leadership and the British government is continuing, it was reported last night.

British prime minister Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, was in recent discussions with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and Mr McGuinness when the Sinn Féin leadership travelled to London for talks last week, UTV reported.

Both governments have made clear to Sinn Féin that the key to political movement some time after the British general election, expected in May, continues to rest on the IRA decommissioning and ending paramilitarism and criminality.

Mr Adams, who addresses his party ardfheis in Dublin on Saturday, will travel to Washington and a number of other cities during St Patrick's week.

Unlike many previous years, however, there will be no White House reception with President Bush involving Mr Adams or the other Northern political leaders because of the tumult surrounding the Northern Bank robbery, the murder of Robert McCartney and alleged IRA money laundering.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said Mr Adams flies out on March 12th for a series of speaking engagements and meetings with the Irish-American community, American political leaders and US government officials.

His schedule includes visits to Cincinnati, New York, Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Cleveland. On March 14th he will address the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

But, again unlike in previous years, there will be no Sinn Féin fundraising this time. The spokesman said the party decided last week to change planned fundraising events into speaking engagements.

"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 US 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," he said.

Mr McGuinness will not travel abroad this St Patrick's period, the spokesman said. "The political situation is much too grave for both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to be out of Ireland at the same time," he added.

"Mr Adams will engage with a wide range of US 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."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Assembly member Michael McGimpsey said the onus was now on republicans to prove themselves, as unionists "had lost all trust in them and had no intention of sitting in a executive with them again".

"If republicans had done what they were meant to do and stood the IRA down eight years ago, Robert McCartney would still be alive today, the biggest bank robbery in British history wouldn't have happened and the chances are devolution would have been bedded down and politics here would be working," he added.

Mr McGimpsey said it was now up to the British and Irish governments to exert pressure on republicans.

"The two prime ministers know that there is no appetite in the unionist community for a return to the power-sharing arrangements envisaged in the agreement."

© The Irish Times


SF Fails To Amend FG Motion On Murder

Michael O'Regan

Dail report: Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin claimed last night his party had been subjected to a "stream of political invective".

Mr Ó Caoláin expressed sympathy with the family of Robert McCartney, adding that his brutal murder had devastated a family and shocked a local community.

"As the Sinn Féin leadership, locally and nationally, has done many times, I reiterate the call for anyone with information on this murder to come forward with that information and to actively assist the family."

Mr Ó Caoláin was speaking during the resumed debate on a Fine Gael Private Members' motion condemning the McCartney murder and urging those with knowledge to give statements to the "investigating police".

He expressed regret that Fine Gael refused to accept a Sinn Féin amendment, which urged those who did not support or trust the PSNI to provide information to "the family, a solicitor or any other authoritative or reputable person or body".

He added that "if this essential amendment is defeated, we must very regrettably withhold our endorsement of the motion before us and only because it is too narrow in its construction".

When a division was called, Sinn Féin did not have the required 10 TDs to force a vote. Its five deputies were supported by Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins and Independent TD Tony Gregory. The Fine Gael motion was passed without a division.

Earlier, Mr Ó Caoláin said that Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, "who, like so many others, was blinded by his own deep-rooted antipathy towards Sinn Féin", had to do a U-turn and face reality when he said that people could use other avenues than the PSNI.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said the greatest Provo deceit, which had been swallowed by a minority of media commentators, was the suggestion that IRA thuggery and criminality was the sole responsibility of the IRA and that Sinn Féin "was some separate democratic chrysalis, seeking to break out of a paramilitary cocoon and to become an exclusively peaceful and democratic butterfly".

Progressive Democrats TD Liz O'Donnell, who was involved in negotiating the Belfast Agreement, said the whole idea was that Sinn Féin would embrace politics. "It is in all our interest, therefore, that politics works for them in achieving their political goals. But we never for a moment imagined, nor can we accept now, that thuggery and criminality would replace the military campaign as a modus operandi."

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the lesson from the McCartney family was that people could do no other than go to the PSNI.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said the perpetrators of the murder had to be brought to justice regardless of politics. "I also ask that the political parties in this House, and in other places, not use the murder of an innocent man to score political points." A simple solution was for the perpetrators to give themselves up.

Mr Higgins said those involved had not reckoned with the intervention of six formidable working-class women challenging the intimidation of the bullies strutting around the Short Strand and Market areas, thinking they could "literally get away with murder".

While he supported the SF amendment, people coming forward in that way would have effect only if they were prepared to give evidence in court.

© The Irish Times


O'Loan Intervenes In Murder Inquiry

Gerry Moriarty and Mark Hennessy

Northern police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has offered herself as an intermediary between the police and those who may wish to come forward to give evidence against Robert McCartney's killers but are not prepared to go directly to the PSNI.

Mrs O'Loan intervened in the case as Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams insisted the "self-preservation and selfishness" of those who killed Mr McCartney will not be allowed to "prevail" and that they must be made accountable to the courts.

The ombudsman, whose proposal was welcomed by the McCartney family, is to liaise with PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde to establish how this potential gathering of evidence from witnesses might work.

Mr Orde, at a Policing Board meeting yesterday, said he understood how some people felt uncomfortable giving evidence directly to the police.

"We are keen to encourage witnesses to come forward and speak directly to the police service. However, we are clear that in keeping with best practice in the UK, if people do not feel able to do that, we have no difficulty with them talking to third parties as a first step to build confidence," he added.

Two men were arrested in connection with the killing after they individually made themselves available to the police in recent days. Both were released without charge.

Mr Orde believed that some who could provide useful evidence feared they would be targeted some time in the future after the conclusion of any court case.

Potentially, with Mrs O'Loan as intermediary, witnesses could give evidence directly to the ombudsman's trained investigators.

If these statements were then processed and sent on as part of the police file to the DPP, the case could come before the court without witnesses hostile to the PSNI having to deal directly with police.

A spokesman for Mrs O'Loan said that theoretically such an unfolding of events was possible although it might be necessary at some stage for witnesses to engage with police.

What was crucial, however, Mr Orde said yesterday, was that if witnesses would not talk to the PSNI they must be prepared to give evidence in court.

Mr Adams said yesterday he wished to repeat with "absolute clarity" that whoever killed Mr McCartney should come forward and take responsibility for their actions.

"So far, Robert McCartney's killer has not had the courage to do this. Self-preservation and selfishness will not prevail in this case.

"I am not letting this issue go until those who have sullied the republican cause are made to account for their action," he said.

Mr Adams added that in urging support for the McCartneys he wanted people who had information about the killing to provide it so that the killers were "brought to justice".

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said yesterday that witnesses to the killing are still being intimidated.Belfast-based Department of Foreign Affairs officials have "quite clearly" reported that none of the witnesses had yet given information that helps the murder investigation.

He was speaking after a meeting in Iveagh House with Northern Secretary of State Paul Murphy, which was also attended by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.

Mr Murphy agreed with Mr Ahern: "Clearly there is intimidation being carried out. We are condemning that intimidation. It should not happen in a democratic society".

© The Irish Times


Fine Gael Motion Carried As McDowell Denounces IRA
2005-03-03 00:00:07+00

The murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney was cowardly and nakedly evil, Justice Minister Michael McDowell said tonight.

Speaking during a parliamentary motion urging witnesses to come forward, he said Irish people were beginning to realise the threat posed by Sinn Féin and the IRA to democracy on the island.

He said that murder, torture and mutilation were the stock-in trade of the Provisional movement.

But he warned that people shouldn't be fooled that the IRA is responsible for the thuggery and criminality and that Sinn Féin "is some separate democratic chrysalis seeking to break out of a paramilitary cocoon and to become an exclusively peaceful and democratic butterfly".

Mr McCartney was knifed and beaten to death in a pub brawl by a drunken IRA mob which later forensically cleaned the crime scene and intimidated more than 70 witnesses.

Mr McDowell added: "The public is beginning to see the shape of the threat to democracy posed by a movement which uses crime on a massive scale to engage in politics. What is on view is but the tip of the iceberg."

He said the IRA never intended to go away but mutate into a "lightly-armed gendarmerie who would in future act as the enforcers for the criminal and control strategy underpinning Sinn Féin's drive for political power".

Praising the McCartney sisters - Paula, Gemma, Catherine, Donna and Claire - and Robert's partner Bridgeen, Mr McDowell said he was lost in admiration for their unique combination of bravery, dignity, determination and hunger for justice.

"These brave women refused to be trampled down by thuggery. They refused to let the light of justice be snuffed out by fear," said McDowell.

Sinn Fein's Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caolain earlier insisted that every avenue must be kept open for witnesses to come forward.

But he said it was "very regrettable" that an amendment to the Fine Gael motion could not be accepted by the party.

"It shows what I can only call a cynical exploitation of this very serious issue for the narrowest of political motives," he said.

Labour Deputy Leader Liz McManus said Mr McCartney was "cut open like a gutted fish, brutally kicked in the head and left to die".

She said the McCartney sisters were ordinary women who had become extraordinary out of their tragedy.

"Tonight the democratic community in the Dáil Éireann stand here with them."

She claimed that the IRA had killed more than the UDA, UFF, UVF, RUC and British Army - and included 400 Catholics among its victims.

Ceann Comhairle Rory O'Hanlon declared the motion carried after the final speaker.

Earlier, Mr O'Caolain repeated Gerry Adams' remarks that those who had sullied the Republican cause must be held account for their actions.

"Sinn Féin supports the thrust of the Fine Gael motion. We do not want to delete one word of it," said the Cavan/Monaghan TD.

But he went on to say that calling on witnesses to contact the PSNI "restricts the means by which information may be given in order to help bring the killers to justice".

Fine Gael's justice spokesman said that the IRA had been the protectors of the people, but had now become their predators.

"The guard dogs have turned into the wolves."


2,427 Non-Catholics Rejected For PSNI Jobs

Recruitment bias measures 'working'

By Brian Hutton
02 March 2005

Hundereds of Protestants have been turned down for positions with the PSNI because of discrimination, the Government has said.

However, Catholics still only account for less than a fifth of the force, despite more than three years of recruitment on a 50:50 cross-community basis.

The latest figures show that 37,957 people applied for the position of trainee constable, since November 2001, when the RUC became the PSNI.

Records show that 2,427 qualified non-Catholics were rejected, of which 408 applicants were rejected as a direct result of positive discrimination towards Catholics.

The remaining 2,019 applications would have been rejected, irrespective of discriminatory procedures, if appointment from the pool had been on merit only.

The recruitment bias forms part of the 175 recommendations of the independent Patten Report, which outlined the way forward for policing in Northern Ireland, in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

The temporary measure has resulted in a jump of Catholic representation on the force from 8% in 2001 to 17.14% today.

The Government has set a target of 30% Catholics by 2010?11.

Ian Pearson, direct rule minister with responsibility for policing and security, said the measures were "clearly working".

"The Government fully acknowledges that 50:50 recruitment amounts to discrimination, but believes that the provisions are justified as a temporary means of rectifying an acute historical imbalance in the composition of the police service," he said.

SDLP policing spokesman Alex Attwood MLA today described the figures as encouraging.

"The Catholic community has demonstrated continuous determination in joining the PSNI despite the hostile environment created by some," he said.

"Recruitment is now so successful that it is both Catholics and non-Catholics who are unable to join the PSNI because of the large pool of applicants."

He added: "No impediment should exist to future membership."


IRA Not In Control Of Castlerea - Ahern

Michael O'Regan

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern insisted it was "entirely inaccurate" to say that the killers of Det Garda Jerry McCabe were in control of Castlerea prison.

Repeating that they would remain in prison for the duration of their sentences, he said: "I have received no information from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, or from the governor of the prison, that the circumstances have changed since 1999."

He was replying to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who said he understood the killers occupied a separate area of the prison compound known as the Grove, and appeared to operate a veto on the integration process among all prisoners.

"The report of the inspector is very clear that the policy of integration in Unit A is not working, as the Provisional IRA prisoners are effectively using a veto over the duties assigned to working prisoners in the Grove.

"This includes objecting to prisoners serving sentences for sex offences or drugs working in the kitchen or on grounds near the houses they occupy." Mr Kenny said he had already raised the issue of photographs being taken and the sale of goods abroad with the names of those prisoners thereon. Mr Ahern said it was an open prison, although not in any way luxurious.

"The procedures there are obviously less strict than elsewhere. In all prisons, including Castlerea, it is a matter for the governor to determine the duties of the trustees and how that is handled. I have no news of any change in this."

Mr Kenny asked the Taoiseach to confirm newspaper reports that Det Garda McCabe's killers faxed their requirements to the local shop, which were then delivered by taxi.

Mr Ahern said the prison was secure but the regime was that of an open prison.

"Since 1970, the prisoners in Portlaoise got different treatment because of their structures. When the prisoners were moved to Castlerea, they continued to receive different treatment. I do not know about the operations regarding their food and so on, but I am told they should be getting more traditional food."

Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten remarked: "The Chinese takeaways are doing well at any rate."

© The Irish Times


Ahern Convinced Cork Haul Linked To North Bank Heist

By Cormac O’Keeffe

THE Government yesterday said it was convinced some of the money seized in Cork two weeks ago came from the Northern Bank robbery.

But gardaí and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they could not yet confirm the link.

Following a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said the Government was still waiting to hear from the Provisional IRA about what they were going to do about ending paramilitary and criminal activity.

Both Mr Ahern and Mr Murphy accepted the fact that some people might not want to go directly to the PSNI in connection with the Robert McCartney murder and would prefer making a statement to a solicitor.

Mr Ahern said the “litmus test” was whether they would subsequently stand up in court and give evidence.

Mr Ahern said he “absolutely” believed some of the money seized in Cork two weeks ago came from the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in December.

“I am not speaking for the Garda Síochána or the Police Service in Northern Ireland. It is the Government’s view and from our information from the Garda Síochána, they are not pursuing any other line of inquiry.”

Earlier, Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde said police were still not in a position to confirm that the money recovered in the Republic was from the Northern Bank robbery.

“But all indications currently suggest that they are definitely linked,” he added.

Responding to Mr Ahern’s comments, a PSNI spokesman last night reiterated this position.

“While most speculation is moving towards the Northern Bank, the PSNI is not able just yet to confirm this is the case,” said the spokesman.

A Garda Síochána spokesman said: “The position is that no money recovered in Cork has been definitively linked to any specific crime, but tests and checks are continuing.”

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Table of Contents – Mar 2005
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