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March 05, 2005

03/05/05 – Adams Address to Ard Fheis

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

SF 03/05/05 Presidential Address To The 2005 Ard Fheis
SF 03/05/05 Martin McGuinness Supports All-Ireland Program
SL 03/06/05 Vote For Paula McCartney Says Paisley Man
NY 03/06/05 Leader Distances Sinn Fein From Crimes –V
SB 03/06/05 SF Bloodied But Unbowed –V
SS 03/06/05 McCartney's Sisters Challenge Sinn Fein
BB 03/05/05 Trimble Rules Out SF Powersharing -V
TO 03/06/05 Bid By Castlerea Prisoner To Attend Ard Fheis Rejected
SB 03/06/05 Short Shrift For The Strand
SB 03/06/05 SF Holds Its Support But Public Is Uneasy
GU 03/06/05 Opin: Sinn Fein On The Edge Of The Abyss
SB 03/06/05 McDowell Should Learn Lessons From History
SL 03/06/05 Jim Spence 'The Untouchable'
TO 03/06/05 ‘Boycotted’ Morrison Play Opens In London


Presidential Address To The 2005 Ard Fheis

Published: 5 March, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP's Presidential Address to the 2005 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis.

A chairde

Seo bliain an chomóradh Céad Bliain ar an tsaol do Sinn Féin.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh gach duine atá anseo inniu, na hoifigigh, an ceannaireacht, na baill uilig agus chomh maith leis sin ár gcairde ón tír seo agus thar lear.

Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh ag baint sult as an chaint agus dióspoireacht thar an deireadh seachtaine.

I want to welcome all of you here to this very unique gathering, the Ard Fheis, in the centenary year, of the only all-Ireland political party on this island.

An Céad - Centenary Year

100 years ago Sinn Féin was founded in this city.

This year Irish republicans will celebrate that event in every part of this island and beyond and begin preparations to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes. It will be a year of education and debate. It will be a year in which we will further advance the work of re-popularising Irish republicanism.

When the idea of Sinn Féin was conceived Ireland was awakening from the nightmare of the 19th century. But even in the midst of these horrors some dared to dream of a different Ireland -- a free Ireland. And from the beginning Sinn Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists, while always asserting that the end of the Union was in the interests of all the people of this island.

It was a time of renewal and rebirth. It was a great period of debate, of exchanges of ideas as leaders and thinkers and activists, dreamers all, met and influenced each other. The result was the 1916 Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, the founding document of modern Irish Republicanism and a charter of liberty with international as well as national importance.

It is our task -- our responsibility -- to see this vision realised.

I want to greet our international visitors, our delegates, members and activists and our Friends of Sinn Féin from the United States, Australia and Canada who do such a great job for us. I want to extend a particular céad míle failte to our team of MLAs, our MPs, our TDs, and especially to all the councillors elected here in the south since our last Ard Fheis.

I want to particularly commend Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, the other TDs and our entire Leinster House team for the sterling service they give to this party. I want to thank you all, particularly those who stood as candidates for our party, whether you were elected or not. Pearse Doherty represents you all. His campaign is proof of what can be done.

And I want to thank everyone who votes for us and all our members and activists for all the work you are doing. There are others I want to welcome to the Ard Fheis. Annie Cahill, here in her own right but reminding us also of our friend and leader Joe Cahill.

A special welcome also to our two newly elected MEPs.You will see that there are changes in our national officer board. I want to thank Robbie Smith for his work as Ard Runaí and welcome Mitchel McLaughlin into that position. And I want to welcome Mary Lou McDonald who will be taking on the challenge of the Cathaoirleach, or National Chair of Sinn Féin.

Comhaghairdeas mór d'achan duine a thug vóta agus cuidíu dúinn sna toghcháin le bliain anuas. Comhaghairdeas d'ár n-iarrthóirí uilig.

I want this evening to deal fairly and squarely with some issues, which are of huge importance to us.

The Murder of Robert McCartney

I want to deal first of all with the dreadful murder of Robert McCartney. His murder was dreadful, not only because of the way he died and not only because it robbed his family of a father, a partner, a brother, a son. His murder was dreadful because it is alleged some republicans were involved in it.

That makes this a huge issue for us.

As President of Sinn Féin or as an individual I could not campaign for the victims of British or unionist paramilitary thuggery, if I was not as clear and as committed to justice for the McCartney family.

I have met with the McCartney family a number of times. And I remain in contact with them. I believe their demand for justice and truth is a just demand. I have pledged them my support and the support of this party.

Those responsible for the brutal killing of Robert McCartney should admit to what they did in a court of law. That is the only decent thing for them to do. Others with any information should come forward. I am not letting this issue go until those who have sullied the republican cause are made to account for their actions.

Republicans Reject Criminality

Twenty five years ago Margaret Thatcher couldn't criminalise us. The women prisoners in Armagh and the blanketmen and the hunger strikers in Long Kesh wouldn't allow her. That was then; this is now.

Michael McDowell has stepped into Margaret Thatcher's shoes. But he will not criminalise us either, because we will not allow him. And we won't allow anyone within republican ranks to criminalise this party or this struggle. There is no place in republicanism for anyone involved in criminality.

Our detractors will say we have a particular view of what criminality is. We have not. We know what a crime is both in the moral and legal sense, and our view is the same as the majority of people. We know that breaking the law is a crime.

But we refuse to criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives. Are we saying republicans can do no wrong? Of course not. We need to be as strong minded in facing up to wrong doing by republicans, as we are in opposing wrong doing by anyone else. But we refuse to retrospectively criminalise a legitimate century long struggle for freedom.

Campaigning for Irish unity

Sinn Féin is accused of recognising the Army Council of the IRA as the legitimate government of this island. That is not the case. The supreme governing and legislative body of Sinn Féin is the Ard Fheis. This is where this party makes its big decisions. This is where we elect our leadership, agree our policies and set in place our strategies.

I do not believe that the Army Council is the government of Ireland. Such a government will only exist when all the people of this island elect it. Does Sinn Féin accept the institutions of this state as the legitimate institutions of this state? Of course we do. But we are critical of these institutions. We are entitled to be.

The freedom won by those, who gave their lives in 1916 and in other periods, has been squandered by those who attained political power on their backs.

Apart from our criticism of the institutions themselves the reality is that they are partitionist and we want to see not only better institutions but open, transparent institutions of government representative of all the people of this island - and we make no apologies for that.

Do we accept partition? No, we do not accept partition. Do we accept British rule in our country? No, we do not. Do we want a United Ireland? Yes.

Last week we launched our campaign for the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity. There is a need for Irish people to engage on the shape, form and nature that a re-united Ireland will take. We want to see a grass roots discussion on all these issues. We want the government to formalise that debate and to fulfil its constitutional obligation.

Ba mhaith linn daoine ó gach cearn den tír seo Doire go Corcaigh, Baile Atha Cliath go Gaillimh, Ciarraí go Crossmaglen labhairt faoi seo.

Our opponents claim that our party is a threat to this state. We are a threat to those who preside over growing hospital waiting lists, a two tier health service, a housing crisis, a transport crisis and much more, all within an economy which is one of the wealthiest in Europe. We are a threat to those who believe that inequality is a good thing.

Partitionism is deeply ingrained within elements of the political establishment. It could not be otherwise after over 80 years. We are a threat to those who want to see partition sustained and maintained, because it protects the status quo. We are a threat to those who oppose the peace process. We are a threat to vested interests. We make no apologies for any of this. The threat we pose is entirely democratic and peaceful.

The threat we pose is the radical, progressive, political party we are building right across the island of Ireland. The threat we pose comes from the genuine allegiance and voluntary support of increasing numbers of people who want a very different society from that envisaged by those in government or opposition in the south or from within the old power blocs in the north.

The Peace Process in Crisis

We are people in struggle. We are a party, which prides itself on our ability to face up to challenges and find solutions. We need to be forthright therefore in recognising the depth of the crisis in the peace process and the shared responsibility for this.

Almost a year ago, speaking in Ballymun I warned that the Irish government was actively considering the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process. I warned that it was actively considering going back to the old agenda - to the failed policies and the crude politics of negative campaigning.

I made a direct appeal to Fianna Fáil members and supporters, and to nationalists and republicans the length and breadth of this island to join with us in reasserting the primacy of the peace process.

Why did I make those remarks at that time? I did so because at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis Minister after Minister lined up to attack Sinn Féin. And it was the same at all the other party conferences.

This had been their disposition since Sinn Féin's gains in the general election of May 2002, and the establishments defeat in the Nice Treaty referendum in 2001. So, they didn't want to talk about hospital closures, the lack of affordable housing, sub-standard schools, Irish sovereignty, the crumbling peace process, or the fact that their republicanism ends at the border.

Níor mhaith leo labhairt fá na scanallacha, fá na clúdaigh donna agus na deacrachtaí dá bpáirtí féin.

They didn't want to talk about endless lists of broken promises. What they were very focused on was the upcoming local government and European Union elections. And it wasn't just Minister McDowell, though he was leading the charge.

Remember the Taoiseach's relief when Nicky Kehoe just missed a seat by only 74 votes - in the Taoiseach's own constituency. That was the election when the PDs said that Fianna Fáil was too corrupt and too dishonest to be in government, before going on to join them in government.

In November 2003 Sinn Féin moved into becoming the largest pro-Agreement party in the north. That followed a lengthy negotiation which commenced after our negotiating team had obtained a firm commitment to a date for the postponed Assembly elections from the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Irish government deeply resented our success in achieving that. Getting the British government to recognise that right was an achievement but it was not the aim of our negotiations. It was a necessary prerequisite for them.

The aim of the negotiations was to get the Good Friday Agreement moving forward, anchored in the political institutions, including the Assembly, and the all-Ireland political infrastructure.

Both governments doubted that David Trimble could be brought to embrace those concepts in the negotiations of that time. But in talks in Hillsborough Castle between the Sinn Féin leadership and the leadership of the UUP Mr. Trimble agreed to do just that. He agreed to play a full part in the political institutions, in the context of the IRA putting arms beyond use once again. And Tony Blair knows this. And Bertie Ahern knows this.

The IRA put arms beyond use - for a third time. And I outlined a peaceful direction for everyone to follow. But as is now infamously known Mr. Trimble walked away from that commitment following General de Chastelain's press conference. Mr. Trimble wasn't on his own. The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister walked away as well.

The Old Consensus

Of course by now Dublin was accusing us of being in a 'power process' not a peace process. The election of Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún and the surge of support for Sinn Féin in the local government contests across this state was the last straw for the establishment. The old consensus re-emerged.

Dhruid siad na ranganna agus thosaigh siad ag díriú isteach ar poblachtánaigh arís, ag ionsaí orthu sa phreas agus sa Dáil.

The leaderships of the Labour Party and Fine Gael have never been comfortable with the peace process. Now they colluded, once again, in a vicious anti-Sinn Féin agenda, and Fianna Fáil Ministers increasingly borrowed the invective of Michael McDowell's rhetoric. At the same time the DUP had emerged as the largest party in the north.

Working for a New Agreement

At Bodenstown last year I pointed out that the only way for Sinn Féin to meet these challenges was through putting together an inclusive agreement. I spelt out the need for republicans to take initiatives to bring about completion of the issues of policing and justice, the issues of armed groups and arms, and the issues of human rights, equality and sectarianism.

I also spelt out the need for full participation in the political institutions by the unionists. Our objective was clear. To restore the political institutions and end the crisis in the process. At that time the governments had bought into a DUP timeframe and put off negotiations until September.

It was left to republicans over the summer months, along with some brave people from unionist neighbourhoods, to keep the peace over the Orange marching season. And we accomplished this because of the courage of our representatives, including Gerry Kelly, even when the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy, the PSNI and the British parachute regiment pushed an unwelcome Orange march through Ardoyne.

I don't think a lot of republicans took me seriously when I pointed up the need for us to push for a comprehensive holistic agreement - and with good reason.

That good reason was Ian Paisley.

Republicans and everyone else, including many within the DUP, could not envisage a scenario where Ian Paisley would want to share power with the rest of us. Our objective was to create the conditions in which Ian Paisley would join with the rest of us in the new dispensation set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

It wasn't that he would want to. Of course, he doesn't want to. Our intention was to ensure that he had no option - if he wanted political power, he had to share it with us. It was also my view that unionism was using the IRA as an excuse to prevent progress in the peace process. I said that in an unrehearsed remark. And I went on to say that republicans needed to remove that excuse from them.

Difficult Negotiations

As November moved into December Ian Paisley, for the first time in his lengthy political career, was being challenged by the willingness of the Sinn Féin leadership to use our influence once again to resolve the problems which he was putting up as obstacles to progress, and as a condition for his participation in the structures of the Good Friday Agreement.

These negotiations were the most difficult that I have been involved in. Not least because of the approach of the British and Irish governments. They bought into the Paisleyite agenda at every turn.

Sinn Féin's approach was two fold. We were trying to get the DUP on board. We were also trying to ensure that any proposals from the governments, and any agreement emerging from these discussions was rooted firmly in the Good Friday Agreement.

At the beginning of these negotiations the governments agreed that if the DUP was not up for a deal then the two governments would come forward with proposals to move the process forward.

Tá muid ag fanacht leis na moltaí sin go fóill.

By this time republicans were starting to get increasingly nervous. Even the cynical and dubious were starting to contemplate the possibility that Paisley might; just might do a deal. That wasn't why they were nervous. They were nervous about the price which was being demanded. They were grappling with the issue of policing alongside other issues.

It is my view that we would have risen to these challenges in the context of an agreement even though they created profound difficulties for us. And what was the contribution from republicans?

The IRA leadership had agreed, in the context of a comprehensive agreement:

· to support a comprehensive agreement by moving into a new mode which reflects its determination to see the transition to a totally peaceful society

· to give instructions to all its volunteers not to engage in any activity which might endanger that agreement

· to conclude the process to completely and verifiably putting all their arms beyond use, speedily, and if possible, by the end of December

· to allow two clergymen to be present as observers during this process to further enhance public confidence.


I also agreed in a given context to ask the Ard Chomhairle to call a special Ard Fheis to consider our attitude to the PSNI. Policing is a key issue. In our view it can only be conducted as a public service by those who are democratically accountable. And while progress has been made over recent years the PSNI has not yet been brought to that point.

Sinn Féin is actively working to create an accountable policing service. We support a range of restorative justice and community initiatives to deal with the problems created by the absence of an acceptable policing service in the north.

Let me digress briefly to make an important point. The policing vacuum cannot be filled by physical punishments, no matter how frustrated communities may be by those who engage in anti-social behaviour. There is no place for so called punishment beatings or shootings. Our party has a lengthy opposition to these. They are counter productive. They should stop.

This party was also prepared to share power with the DUP. That remains our position. There is no reason not to. We respect their mandate. We got them to accept the Good Friday Agreement. For their part the two governments pledged to honour commitments made repeatedly by them in the past on a range of outstanding and important issues of rights, demilitarisation, equality, prisoners and so on. Then it all came unstuck.

Thit achan rud as a chéile, agus tá sé ina smidiríní go fóill.

Ian Paisley delivered his 'acts of humiliation' speech. Mr. Paisley's desire to "humiliate republicans"; to have republicans "wear sack cloth and ashes"; and the DUP's constant use of offensive language, was not and is not the language of peace making. For many across nationalist and republican Ireland this was too much. Especially when the governments supported the DUP position that the IRA be photographed putting their arms beyond use.

Ian Paisley didn't even have to negotiate for this demand. The two governments supported it from the beginning. It was a demand, not surprising, that Sinn Féin could not deliver. A partnership of equals can never be delivered or built through a process of humiliation. The governments went ahead and launched their draft outline of a comprehensive agreement, even though there was no agreement.

New negotiations

You will recall that the two governments gave a commitment at the beginning of this negotiation to find a way forward if there was a failure to get a deal. So Sinn Féin and the British government entered into new talks. The Irish government should have been there. But the Irish government refused to attend. The British government set out their views. They agreed to talk to the Irish government to try and agree a joint government paper and bring it back to us.

We gave the British government written proposals of what we thought was required, and we sent a copy to the Irish government. The British drafted a written response to this and when Mr. Blair met the Taoiseach in Brussels they discussed these matters. But at our next meeting the British told us that the Irish government would not agree a paper with them, did not want them to present any paper to us, and had reservations about this approach.

During this period I was constantly in contact with the Taoiseach's department and the government was eventually persuaded to send senior officials to a trilateral meeting. It was a good meeting even though the officials were only there as observers.

The Northern Bank Robbery

After that meeting we broke for Christmas. Then came news of the Northern Bank robbery. The IRA is accused of that robbery. And of other incidents. It denies this. I accept those denials. Others don't. The truth is that no one knows at this time who did the robbery, except the people involved.

Martin McGuinness and I were accused by the Taoiseach of having prior knowledge. That is untrue. But one thing is for certain activities like this have no place in the peace process. The rest is history or what passes for history in these McCarthyite times.

Sending a Clear Message

Just two months ago the process was close to a deal which many thought was not possible. Now the momentum is going the other way. As a first step in trying to move the process out of this crisis I want to send a very, very clear message to everyone. That message is that the peace process is the only way forward.

I do not underestimate the depth of the crisis or the difficulties. But I am absolutely certain that there is a way beyond this crisis.

Níl aon bhealach eile, is cuma cé chomh deacair is atá sé, caithfidh muid an phróiseas a chur le chéile aris.

The peace process is our struggle

Republicans must make sure that we recognise failures in the process quickly; that we assess them; that we criticise ourselves were necessary; that we learn what has to be learned and emerge stronger and more able to fulfil our historic mission. It is by learning from failures that we will find the way forward. We will learn to improve and strenthen our struggle. And let me make it clear the peace process is our struggle.

It is as a result of our tenacity that the balance of forces has changed on this island to the extent that the conservative parties are now seeking to stunt and to stop the growth of the main vehicle of republican struggle - that is Sinn Féin.

I am also very conscious that a lot of the effort to damage Sinn Féin is through targeting me and others in our national leadership. Our opponents are trying to damage my credibility on the premise that your credibility and our ability to pursue our objectives, will be damaged also.

In the normal cut and thrust of party politics let me tell you that I would not put up with these highly personalised attacks. I would not put up with the campaign of vilification by those who are interested only in petty or narrow-minded party political concerns. It isn't worth it. But this isn't about me, it is about the peace process. I have no personal political ambitions. That is not a criticism of those who do

But the peace process is bigger than party politics. So is the right of the people of this island to live together in freedom and in peace and with justice. That is why I am an Irish republican. I believe the people of this island - orange and green united - can order our own affairs better than any British government. That is our right. That is our entitlement. That is why I have given my life to this struggle. That is why I take my responsibilities so seriously.

The national responsibility of the Irish government

There is a heavy responsibility on the Irish government. It needs to demonstrate that it is as committed to change as its rhetoric implies. The Taoiseach needs to consider whether the invective of his own Ministers and some of his own remarks are creating the atmosphere necessary for constructive engagement. He needs to consider whether his government's current strategy is the right way to go forward. Such approaches were tried in the past - they failed.

We have always worked in good faith with the Taoiseach - for over a decade now. I have acknowledged his contribution and I do so again. The peace process was never above politics but it should always be above party politics. Every party has their own view of how things could go forward - inside and outside the negotiations. That's fair enough.

Of course there are disagreements. But there was a sense of nationalists working together. That while we may disagree on tactics we were going in the same direction. All that has changed. Because in the script written by the Irish and British establishments Sinn Féin was never meant to be anything more than a bit player.

The fact that we are now the largest pro-Agreement party in the north and the third largest party on the island has changed the dynamic of politics here. Of course the government wants the process to succeed, but now its trying to do this solely on its terms.


The British and Irish governments are seeking to reduce all of the issues to one - that is the issue of the IRA - even though it knows that the IRA is not the only issue. Historically and in essence the Irish Republican Army is a response to British rule in Ireland. It is a response to deep injustice.

In contemporary terms it is evidence of the failure of politics in the north and a consequence of the abandonment by successive Irish governments of nationalists in that part of our country. And let me be clear about this.

Our leadership is working to create the conditions where the IRA ceases to exist. Do I believe this can be achieved? Yes I do. But I do not believe that the IRA can be wished away, or ridiculed or embarrassed or demonised or repressed out of existence.

Hundreds of IRA Volunteers have fallen in the struggle. There is justifiable pride among republican families about the role of their loved ones. When people decided to take up arms it was because they believed there was no alternative. But there is an alternative. That is a positive. It is in tatters at this time. But it can be rebuilt. That is another positive. The IRA cessation continues. That also is a positive. The IRA has demonstrated time and again its willingness to support genuine efforts to secure Irish freedom by peaceful means. Another positive. I do not underestimate the difficulties.

I take nothing for granted. But let no-one ignore, diminish or belittle the progress that has been made.

Republicans are up for the Challenge

Thug sé dóchas agus ardú meanma do glún iomlán de muintir na h'Éireann -- thuaidh agus theas.

The peace process has been one of the greatest achievements of this generation. And I'm not just talking about the republican contribution - though that should not be undervalued or dismissed. As Irish republicans we believe in independence and self-determination for the people of this island. So we see beyond the process to that achievable goal.

But we take pride also in our achievements thus far. And we are determined to play a positive role both in the process and in the political life of this nation. Sinn Féin wants to tackle the problems now. It has never been in our interest to prolong the peace process. It does not serve those we represent or the country as a whole.

A process as protracted as this one runs the risk of being undermined by those who are against change. Elements of the British system, elements of unionism and unionist paramilitaries, elements on the fringes of republicanism, do not want this process to succeed.

Sinn Féin is battling against all these - day in and day out in parts of the north. And we're not about to give up. We know that as long as we make progress toward the achievement of our goals those who fundamentally disagree with those goals will resort to foul means or fair to deny us the possibility of moving forward.

So this is not a time for republicans to be inward looking. It is a time for forward thinking. Our opponents now have a project. Despite their protestations it is not about tackling criminality. It is about eroding our integrity and credibility among those people who are thinking of joining this party or voting for us. It's as cynical as that.

Sinn Féin has used our influence with the IRA in a positive way. I believe there is merit in us continuing to do this. But we cannot make peace on our own.

We cannot implement the Good Friday Agreement on our own. We cannot establish a working viable power sharing government on our own. We cannot resolve the outstanding issues of policing, and demilitarisation, and equality and human rights on our own. The British and Irish governments and the unionists have their parts to play. Whatever else happens the peace process is our priority.

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

Those who want fundamental change have to stretch the furthest and take the greatest risks. Let us continue, despite the difficulties -- to reach out to unionism to build a just and lasting peace on our island.

Ian Paisley says he is willing to share power with us. Let us test him. Again. We know it will be a battle a day. We know as the leading nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party, that there are huge responsibilities on us. We are up to that task.

Building an Ireland of equals

Fundamental to Sinn Féin since its foundation has been the belief that the Irish people have the capacity to shape our own society, to build our own economy and to govern our own country to suit our needs and our character as a nation.

The past decade has seen an unprecedented growth in the Irish economy. But the management of that economy by the Government in this State has not challenged the deep-seated inequality in Irish society. This inequality exists at many levels.

For example, people with disabilities have no legislative rights, and the Celtic Tiger stops at the border. The north survives on susbsidies from the British Exchequer and with some of the highest levels of poverty in Western Europe. Throughout the rest of Ireland the gap between rich and poor has widened.

It is a scandal that 15% of children under 15 in this State suffer from poverty - in other words they live in households that struggle every week to provide the basics such as food, clothing and heating.

The public services which working people pay for through taxation have been mismanaged, badly planned and neglected by successive Governments.

Our health services are limping from crisis to crisis, especially in the disgraceful state of accident and emergency units. Because of underfunding and lack of resources our education system is struggling to cope.

Children with special needs are not provided with the facilities they require. The Fianna Fáil/PD government has no housing policy. It leaves it all to private developers to reap big profits as housing prices spiral beyond the reach of people on average incomes. Those with a mortgage face decades of debt.

Many find themselves in badly planned new housing estates without schools, public transport or childcare.

The government has not used the prosperity wisely for the benefit of the maximum number of people. In fact the court recently ruled that deductions taken from old peoples pensions in state homes is illegal. This practice was defended by the Tanaiste but in truth all the other parties allowed it as did successive governments over the years. It is still not clear how much was robbed from these senior citizens but the government's own estimates put it between 500million and 2billion EURO.

So the government has not invested in the people or in the future.

Chuir siad na milliún punt amú le cúig bliana déag anuas.

It's time for Change. But we all know this. We know the failures of successive governments - the point is to find the solutions.

And that is what Sinn Féin is about. We are working with people to bring about real change for the better in the here and now - not at some distant time in the future. And we measure our success by the amount of positive change we have brought about.

For example, after Sinn Féin's success the Government has rediscovered its social conscience. Or at least it now recognises the key social and economic issues that Sinn Féin has been campaigning on.

They have yet to properly address these issues but they have been moved. So too on the National Question. The growth of Sinn Féin has forced most of the parties to rediscover their nationalist or republican roots. That reflects public support for these concepts.

Sin an fath go bhfuil muid ag guí ar muintir iomlán an oileáin seo. Is cuma cén páirtí ina bhfuil sibh cuidigí linn ag brú ar aghaidh d'Éire Aontaithe.

Public support for the peace process will bring them back to that process as well. But progress demands more than rhetoric from these other parties.

Sinn Féin needs to continue to grow. Our goal is to have a Sinn Féin cumann in every electoral ward across Ireland. We have to open our party up to women and to people who will bring their own life experiences and values.

There is also a need to build a national mood for positive change, which can harness the creative power of what people do best in society - the imagination and energy of children and young people; the commitment of parents and carers; the dedication of those who work tirelessly in the voluntary, and community sector; or in the health services; the skills and talents of workers in many fields.

All those who seek political progress must mobilise that good will and turn that desire for a better society into an unstoppable movement for genuine equality. Sinn Féin has no copyright on this. There is plenty of work and lots of space for everyone. So let us move the struggle forward in the widest sense possible. Let us move it forward also by building our party.

In the time ahead we face many party political challenges -- four election campaigns -- the Meath by-election, toghchain Udaras na Gaeltachta and Local Government and Westminster elections in the north. We will also face a referendum on the EU Constitution.

There is a lot of organisational and recruiting work to be done and I want to appeal to people to join Sinn Féin. I particularly want to commend Ógra Sinn Féin for their dedicated work and also the staff of An Phoblacht.

A lot of my remarks today are aimed at other political parties. The British government scarcely gets a mention. That is a sign of these times. I am conscious also of conflicts and famines and disasters in other parts of the world. I am conscious of efforts to resolve problems in the Middle East. I salute these efforts and I salute Palestinian Ambassador who is here with us today.

Meanwhile the imperatives of Irish domestic politics tear the Irish peace process asunder and Sinn Féin is savaged as the British government is let off the hook.

Is that what the republican and nationalist people of this island want? I think not. I think they want us to face up to our responsibilities and others to do likewise. And I think they want Sinn Féin to continue to be a persuasive voice in this process.

Níor chúlaigh muid ó dúshlán riamh ní bheidh muid ag cúlú ón dúshtán seo.

So let us all get our act together. Let us find a fair and equitable accommodation with unionism. It is my conviction that the DUP and Sinn Féin will be in government together.

Let us put it up to the British government to do the right thing by Ireland. The most important thing we all have to do at this time is to rebuild the peace process

We are up to that task. Turning back is not an option. We're moving forward -- forward to a better future.


Martin McGuinness - Supporting Motions 240 and 241 on behalf of the Ard Comhairle

Sinn Féin has a political agenda. It is an agenda of change and at the heart of that agenda is our all-Ireland program and strategies.

The all-Ireland Agenda requires a new type of political activism. We need to avoid the partitionism that characterizes every other party on this island.

The Peace Process opened up political space for Republican and all Ireland politics. The Good Friday Agreement was not a Republican document: but it does provide the opportunity to build towards Irish unity through our all-Ireland agenda.

Let us take an example, the GFA talked about affirming rights through Bills of Rights, North and South and through the potential for an All-Ireland Charter of Rights. The joint commission of the two Human Rights committees established by the two Governments came out in favour of those rights being legally enforceable. That would require something approaching an all-Ireland court, a sharing of judicial authority on an all-Ireland scale. Obviously, pushing this agenda forward would be of huge significance in advancing to political unity.

Our opponents know this and that is why they are stalling. Their delay disadvantages those most in need, the disadvantaged, the disabled, non-English speakers, ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly and workers generally. Sinn Féin wants to see meaningful social and economic rights enforced on an all-Ireland scale. That is why the party has engaged in a consultation with the social partners, from grassroots to national level, with the aim of building a broad front demanding the implementation of this promise.

Republicans need to link their work for Irish unity with the demand for meaningful social, economic, cultural and personal rights. We need to go out there and engage with people to build a demand for all of this from all those groups who would benefit from a move towards real equality.

Similarly, the party has produced a Green Paper calling for the Irish Government to start building towards Irish Unity. The imperative of Irish unity is clear from a business perspective and from a social perspective. Given the failure of others to engage in this work, it is all the more necessary for Sinn Fein to engage with communities, trade unions, business interests and NGOs in building this demand at all levels.

And of course we must continue to engage with unionists in a way that allow them to feel comfortable and to participate in this debate on their own terms. Significantly the DUP, in the negotiation running up to last December, signed up for the all-Ireland agenda set out in the Good Friday Agreement and began a constructive engagement with the Irish government and with nationalist opinion for the first time. I welcome these tentative but significant first steps.

The opportunities for developing all-Ireland approaches to planning for economic and social development are all about us and they are relevant from Derry to Kerry. Only a united Ireland with popular democracy can guarantee all of these issues are effectively addressed but by campaigning for all-Ireland approaches we are also campaigning for unity.

Delivering on all-Ireland social and economic integration, the removal to obstacles to further integration and the adoption of all-Ireland policy planning frameworks undercuts the political basis of partition.

The basis for partition was sectarian domination and political inequality. Driving forward the equality agenda in an all-Ireland framework will undermine the historical, the social and the political basis of partition. Through advancing social and economic integration we move ever closer to political unity.


Vote For Paula, Says Paisley Man

06 March 2005

The DUP has urged its supporters to vote for the sister of 'Gentle Giant' IRA murder victim, Robert McCartney.

The shock call was made by Assemblyman Sammy Wilson after Sunday Life revealed that Paula McCartney was considering standing as an Independent in May's local government elections.

Urging DUP voters to use their transfers to support Paula, Mr Wilson said: "I think people have been amazed by the McCartney family's courage.

"Paula McCartney is better placed to take on Sinn Fein than me - that's why DUP voters should support her if she decides to stand."

Robert's family received a three-minute standing ovation after they accepted an invitation to attend Sinn Fein's annual conference in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Wilson's call comes after it emerged that other members of Mr McCartney's family are also considering standing for election.

Although Paula is still weighing-up plans to stand in Belfast's Short Strand, a pal told Sunday Life that the family is also considering fielding candidates in south and west Belfast.

From page 1

We can also reveal that the SDLP will NOT be standing in the Short Strand, if Paula opts to contest the election.

Paula said last night that her family was looking at "all the options" in their quest for justice.

These latest developments come after Sinn Fein suspended seven of its members, on Thursday, over the horrific killing.

Three IRA members were also expelled following the brutal murder.

Mr McCartney's sisters will also be visiting the US next week in a bid to raise awareness of their campaign.

They will be joined by Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was butchered by a UVF gang, in 1997. Mr McCord met the McCartney family last week to offer his support.

Added Mr Wilson: "Good on Paula McCartney. People who have the guts to take on violence and intimidation have to be admired.

"I don't want to make her task more difficult, because of my politics. But I would have no problem with DUP supporters voting for someone who can hurt Sinn Fein.

"What people do with their transfers is ultimately up to them.

"However, I would urge my party's voters to seriously consider transferring their votes to Paula McCartney."

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell also vowed to back the family if they decide to field candidates against Sinn Fein.

"The SDLP feels very strongly about the campaign that has been launched by the McCartney family, and supports their efforts to establish the truth and obtain justice.

"If one or more of the McCartneys decides to contest the elections, then we will do our best to accommodate them.

"If Paula McCartney decides to stand in the Short Strand, then we would be inclined to withdraw a candidate."


Adams's strong message for McCartney killers - David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports that the presence of the McCartney family was applauded bny Sinn Fein delegates

Leader Distances Sinn Fein From Crimes -V

Published: March 6, 2005
By The New York Times

DUBLIN, March 5 - Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, used his keynote address at the party's annual conference on Saturday to reiterate that the party rejects criminal activity. His statement came after months of allegations linking the I.R.A. - and Sinn Fein - to crimes including a bank robbery, a money-laundering ring and a killing.

"There is no place in republicanism for anyone involved in criminality," Mr. Adams said. He promised the family of the man who was killed, whom he had invited to the session, that the killers would face charges.

"We know that breaking the law is a crime," he said, but in a nod to his hard-line supporters and to the party's history, he added, "But we refuse to criminalize those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives."

The thrust of his remarks, though, seemed intended to convince the Irish public that Sinn Fein had distanced itself enough from crime and paramilitary violence to warrant trust and political support.

Mr. Adams also tried to assuage fears that the I.R.A. might return to the violent and explosive campaign against Britain's rule in Northern Ireland.

"The peace process is the only way forward," he said. "I do not underestimate the depth of the crisis or the difficulties. But I am absolutely certain that there is a way beyond this crisis."


Voters want 'signal' from IRA before talks - Watch details of the Sunday Business Post poll

Bloodied But Unbowed -V

06 March 2005 By Pat Leahy

What a difference a year makes.

On this weekend last year, Sinn Féin gathered in the RDS for its annual ard fheis in confident mood. Anticipating (correctly) that the party was on the brink of significant breakthroughs in the European and local elections, the meeting was more a triumphal political rally than a policy-making forum.

Gerry Adams - then the most popular party leader in the country - addressed middle Ireland in their living rooms on prime time Saturday night television. The future was so bright, the delegates almost had to wear shades.

Twelve months on, the picture is vastly different.

While recent opinion poll findings - confirmed by today's Red C/Sunday Business Post poll - show that the party appears to retain its lock on the support of about 9 per cent of the electorate, politically Sinn Féin is in the midst of its most serious crisis since the Peace Process began.

The party's talking heads will mount a strong defence this weekend.

“We are not in crisis, make no mistake about it,” MEP Mary Lou McDonald told a press conference last week.

“Come to the ard fheis and see.”

But whatever way you look at it, they are in some sort of a crisis. Not in the sense that the party's core support is in freefall or anything like that - in fact, their core support has remained remarkably resilient in the face of an unprecedented media barrage - but because the Peace Process is in crisis, and Sinn Féin needs the Peace Process, like oxygen.

Just as the weekend began, Sinn Féin took the highly significant step of suspending the seven party members alleged to have been involved in the killing of Robert McCartney, and passing their names to the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan.

A strong statement issued by Gerry Adams, contained references to “the legal process'‘ and the “courts'‘ as the way of dealing with the McCartney killing - a deference to the justice structures of the Northern state which would have once been anathema for republicans.

The suspension of the men is an assertion of the authority of the political leadership, but also an acknowledgement that Sinn Féin is feeling the pressure, not just from the unrelenting and largely monotone assault from the Dublin political and media establishment, but from within their own support base after the McCartney killing. In political and public relations terms, you can't fight grieving women.

“We stand on hard work in communities and on our programme,” said Mary Lou McDonald last week.

But, of course, that's not all that Sinn Féin stand on. They stand on their ambiguous relationship with the IRA and on the clout that the IRA's continued existence gives them.

That's what had Sinn Féin leaders in Downing Street, in Government Buildings and in the White House.

Nowadays, it's the activities of the IRA that are keeping them out of the White House.

The IRA's activities mean that there's only one way that they're getting back into Government Buildings for the sort of meeting they want - by giving the government satisfaction that paramilitarism and criminality will be brought to an end.

And while Bertie Ahern strives to give signals that he wants to be able to secure a settlement with Adams and Martin McGuinness - encouraged, if that's the appropriate word, by justice minister Michael McDowell - the Taoiseach is equally adamant that republicans have to produce the goods on ending paramilitarism and criminality, at least as we now know them.

This weekend, Sinn Féin will take some comfort - though not as much as they pretend - from the fact that their core voting support is largely holding up.

And there is, to be sure, something of a gulf in perceptions of Sinn Féin, between the almost complete uniformity of the political and media establishment and the population as a whole. For instance, less than half of the electorate agrees with McDowell that Adams and McGuinness are members of the IRA army council.

There's no doubt that Sinn Féin has taken a hit among the general electorate. But there is also evidence of internal softness in that section of the electorate that remains loyal to them.

While 72 per cent of the electorate as a whole said they were concerned with possible IRA activities such as money laundering, the figures also show that two thirds (66 per cent) of Sinn Féin's own voters also say they are concerned.

In addition, over half of Sinn Féin voters believe that the government should insist on a distinct signal from the IRA, such as an act of decommissioning, before fresh negotiations start.

Richard Colwell, head of Red C, said that there was some evidence that Sinn Féin's support is “on a knife edge'‘.


McCartney sisters attend Sinn Féin Ard Fheis - David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, summarises Gerry Adams's speech, including the call for the McCartney killers to 'own up'

Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports on the family's attendance at the conference in Dublin, at the invitation of Gerry Adams

McCartney's Sisters Challenge Sinn Fein

Nicholas Christian

THE sisters of murdered Belfast father-of-two Robert McCartney yesterday attended Sinn Fein’s annual conference in Dublin, challenging the party to help them get justice for their brother’s murder.

They challenged Sinn Fein to ensure that condemnations of violence by the Republican leadership meant there would be less Republican violence on the ground.

The Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, accused the party’s opponents of trying to smear them by linking the Republican movement with criminality.

McCartney was stabbed and beaten after a row in a Belfast city bar on January 30.

The IRA has expelled three members following an internal investigation into claims by the family that Provisionals killed the East Belfast man, covered evidence up and intimidated witnesses from going to the police.

Last Thursday Adams suspended seven members of the party amid claims that they were involved. The suspensions could become expulsions if the members are found guilty in any legal process arising from the case.

But Republicans have been reluctant to go to the police with information about the killing because of Sinn Fein’s refusal to endorse Northern Ireland’s new police service.

Catherine McCartney said they hoped that their presence at the conference would help efforts to get justice. She noted Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness’s insistence at the party conference on Friday night that Republicans were outraged by the murder.

"It does appear Republicans are beginning to address this," she said. "However, at the end of the day it is what happens on the ground that really matters over our brother’s murder.

"We need a situation where what the Republican leadership are saying reflects what is being done on the ground."

Adams, meanwhile, called on Republicans to test again whether the Rev Ian Paisley really is willing to share power with them in Northern Ireland.

In an address to his party conference, he accused opponents of trying to demonise his party with allegations of criminality.

He also rejected claims that Sinn Fein regarded the IRA Army Council as the legitimate government of Ireland or that it had a warped view of what criminality was.


Trimble: SF cooperation out for foreseeable future - Brendan Wright reports from Belfast on the Ulster Unionist Council's centenary meeting

Trimble Rules Out SF Powersharing -V

Ulster Unionists will not re-enter an assembly which includes Sinn Fein, party leader David Trimble has said.

He was speaking at the annual meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, being held in Belfast.

Mr Trimble said if asked by Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams how to restore unionist faith in the Executive, he would say he had no idea how this could be done.

The Ulster Unionist leader also used his speech to launch one of his strongest attacks yet on the DUP.

'Green card'

He said the DUP had given republicans a "green card" to continue criminal activity in the failed political negotiations before Christmas.

"No wonder republicans thought they could get away with the Northern Bank raid," he added.

Speaking about the possibility of an electoral pact with the DUP, Mr Trimble said his party would not be driven off the political battlefield.

He warned the DUP that if they contested the South Belfast constituency in the next general election and handed the seat to a nationalist they would be "condemned as anti-unionist".

"We can fight at local government level, but Westminster seats must not be thrown away," he said.

"The man in the street can see that there are unionist seats that could be lost to nationalists and republicans on a split unionist vote."

Mr Trimble said the DUP had failed to get decommissioning and had conceded to an all-Ireland Assembly of MLAs and TDs.

"They also conceded a structured role for northern nationalist MPs and MEPs in the Dail, an immediate deal on the devolution of policing and justice, and turned a blind eye to the release of the killers of Garda McCabe," he added.

He also said the DUP should join with his party and "other democrats" to ensure there would be no deviation from the constitutional settlement enshrined in the Agreement.

He said: "I believe that it (the Agreement) should unite unionism.

"I ask the DUP and others to support it, and I have to say to them that they would do better to support this than to continue to send signals to republicans that they are just waiting until after the elections to get back into bed with them."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds described Mr Trimble's remarks about his party as "pre-election posturing".

"The DUP will not take lectures from the UUP on giving away concessions to republicans," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/05 16:43:43 GMT


Bid By Castlerea Prisoner To Attend Ard Fheis Rejected

Stephen O’Brien, Scott Millar and Richard Oakley

AN application by a republican prisoner for temporary release to attend the Sinn Fein ard fheis this weekend was turned down by the Irish government.

Michael Nugent’s request for weekend release from Castlerea prison was co-signed by Kevin Walsh, one of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe. Walsh is the “officer commanding” the IRA prisoners in Castlerea. Walsh co-signed the letter as “Kevin Walsh OC”.

Nugent, who was imprisoned for planning a punishment shooting in Cork, wrote to a senior official in the prison service seeking permission to attend the party conference so that he could deliver a message of support from republican prisoners to the party leadership on their handling of the peace process. Michael McDowell, the justice minister, rejected Nugent’s application last week.

Approval of temporary release requests does not routinely fall to the justice minister, but applications from high-profile or long-stay prisoners are usually referred to his office.

A senior government source said: “This is just one more manifestation of the overlap that is the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA. The idea that they would seek this release after all that has happened in the last couple of months is mind-boggling.”

Nugent was convicted three years ago of possession of firearms for an unlawful purpose outside Mitchelstown, Co Cork, in January 2001 and sentenced to four years in prison. He was one of four men wearing boiler suits and carrying three loaded pistols, ammunition, baseball bats and an iron bar when their car was stopped by a garda traffic patrol.

One of the men admitted they were going to “sort out some fella” in a punishment beating.

Nugent wrote the letter on February 23, a few days before Dermot Kinlen, the inspector of prisons, reported his concerns that IRA prisoners in Castlerea appeared to have a big say in running the complex of bungalows where they live.

Walsh and the other four republicans convicted in relation to the killing of McCabe in 1996 are held in The Grove. The IRA gang opened fire on a garda car escorting a post office cash delivery van in Adare, killing McCabe and seriously wounding his partner, Detective Ben O’Sullivan.

At yesterday’s conference Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, said IRA criminality was not the only issue holding up the peace process. In his presidential address Adams accused the British and Irish governments of seeking to reduce all the issues to one, “that is the issue of the IRA”.

The event was supposed to be one of the highlights of Sinn Fein’s centenary but instead Adams had to deal with the party’s links to criminality, and republican involvement in the killing of Robert McCartney.

He struck an uneasy compromise: “We know that breaking the law is a crime. But we refuse to criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives.”

He added: “There is no place for so-called punishment beatings or shootings . . . They are counter-productive. They should stop . . . Our leadership is working to create the conditions where the IRA will cease to exist.”

He accused the British and Irish governments and the DUP of being responsible for breakdowns in the peace process.

He also said incidents such as the Northern Bank robbery had no place in the peace process and reiterated his position that neither he nor Martin McGuinness had prior knowledge. “No one knows who did the robbery,” he claimed.

While the IRA was generally referred to yesterday as an organisation removed from Sinn Fein, the loudest applause of the day was for Barry McElgin, a Tyrone delegate, who asked of the taoiseach: “Is there any truth to the rumour that your da was in the ‘Ra.”

Joe Reilly, the party’s candidate in this week’s Meath by-election, could bear the brunt of public anger at Sinn Fein’s continued link with criminality.

“I fully realise that the current problems will affect us, but isn’t that the whole point?” he said yesterday. “What really matters to people are local issues. Less than 5% of people on the doorsteps raise issues of crime and when they do, many just want to know what has gone wrong.

“Republicans are often the most angry about the horrific killing of Robert McCartney; it is their cause that has been sullied.”

The only real debate at yesterday’s proceedings was on the issue of gender quotas. Summing up the debate, Mitchell McLoughlin said: “I would defy anyone to say we don’t have a problem and we must maintain the quota system to overcome this.”

Mary Lou McDonald, the Dublin MEP, was elected unopposed as chair of the ard chomhairle, Sinn Fein’s executive.


Short Shrift For The Strand

06 March 2005 By Anne Cadwallader

People are undoubtedly angry about the IRA in the Short Strand area of Belfast - but it's not anger at the intimidation of witnesses who might finger those who killed Robert McCartney at a city centre bar on January 30. Far from it.

The anger is directed at the IRA for what many see as its expulsion of a senior member after he was, in their view, wrongly accused of being involved. Resignations from Sinn Féin and the IRA are expected as a result.

Gerard ‘Jock' Davison is believed to be one of three IRA members expelled by the organisation or “hung out to dry'‘, as locals in the tightly-knit Short Strand were putting it last week.

As one eyewitness in Magennis's Bar, where the brawl took place, said: “If Jock hadn't had to go to hospital, McCartney would still be alive today. He was actually calming things down.”

That eyewitness, along with many others, said he was prepared to give evidence to the police, but - on the advice of his solicitor - is waiting until they come looking for him.

Like many others in the Short Strand, he is wondering why no police officer has approached him yet, as he is a well-known regular at Magennis's.

Gerry Adams took an unprecedented step last Thursday when he suspended seven party members, who may have evidence on the killing, and passed their names via a solicitor to the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan.

The McCartney family gave this a half-hearted welcome, adding that this was no more than would be expected from any democratic party and was an “inadequate'‘ method of gathering information.

Local Sinn Féin sources in the Short Strand said there was “no turmoil or outcry'‘ in the ranks as the seven people suspended had already come forward voluntarily and given statements to the police on what they know.

From what can be gathered locally, said one republican, at least 30 people from the Short Strand, the nearby Markets area and others from north Belfast have voluntarily come forward, on top of the ten arrested by police.

The whereabouts of the two main suspects, however, is still unknown.

“They are coming under huge pressure from the republican movement as well as the local community and the police,” said one local resident.

Had it not been for the IRA ceasefire - and the McCartney family's appeal for due process - the two individuals believed to have been involved in the murder would, many believe, have been discovered dead by now in a hedge in south Armagh.

As it is, they are believed to have been taken away by the IRA for five days last week for ‘debriefing'. Many in the Short Strand expect them to turn themselves in to the police before long.

Politicians lecturing the 3,000 inhabitants of the small Catholic enclave in east Belfast about their civic duty, as well as those reporting on events, are singing from a very similar hymn sheet. The tune is one that people in the Short Strand reject as both inaccurate and unfair.

They say they do not recognise the official account, that they live under the oppressive yoke of the IRA, and one ‘rogue' unit in particular, which has imposed a rule of fear since the ceasefire. Accounts of ‘IRA godfathers' and ‘gangs' causing people to cower are treated with derision locally.

There have been several remarkably detailed newspaper accounts of an event that could only have been witnessed by those directly involved - and none of these has yet spoken publicly.

The reported accounts claim that McCartney and Brendan Devine, who was injured on the night of the murder, had angered a local ‘IRA godfather'.

By this point Davison had already been shipped to hospital, bleeding badly from arm injuries. He said he played no further role in the incident, and was still in hospital when McCartney was stabbed.

Back in the city centre - the official account goes - up to 15 people were involved in the murder. Other accounts, however, say that at most two men were involved in the killing, which no one inside the bar knew was taking place about 100 yards away.

A third man, who had left the bar with McCartney and Devine, returned to tell others that the pair had run off home. Those in Magennis's assumed the brawl had ended, as most do, in injured dignity but nothing worse.

They carried on drinking, while bar staff cleaned up the broken glass and blood from the initial bottle-throwing incident.

There can be little dispute, however, that later that night, one of the two men directly involved in the killing did return to steal the security tape from a camera.

The official account continues that when the police tried to get evidence from eye-witnesses, every single one of them was too fearful of the gang to come forward.

In fact, more than 30 people have so far voluntarily made statements to police, in addition to the other seven arrested.

The reluctance of the overwhelmingly republican community in the Short Strand to speak to police, coupled with their fear of being found guilty by association, led to a delay in witnesses coming forward.

Writers who know little about the Short Strand wrote authoritative-sounding pieces bemoaning its oppression and praising the McCartney sisters' bravery in standing up to the IRA.

Politicians have not been slow to comment either. In the upcoming British election a major policy battle will take place between Sinn Féin and the SDLP over policing.

Constitutionally, Sinn Féin can only endorse policing arrangements with the approval of a special ard fheis.

This storm has broken over the heads of the people of the Short Strand, many of them now hurt and angry.

It didn't start out that way.

After the McCartney murder, and the subsequent heartrending appeals from his sisters, their heads were down.

The community was confused, shamed and demoralised by details of the horrific murder, and they turned out in force for the first vigil as well as for McCartney's funeral.

But as the weeks have dragged on, hearing themselves described as a cowed community, the mood has changed.

Residents said that many who attended last Sunday's rally came from outside the area.

“We're no angels here, we know that, but we have our dignity, and we're fed up with having our noses rubbed in it,” said one resident.

In the past, the chorus has often been joined by the Catholic hierarchy.

Intriguingly, on this occasion, there has been no belt from the crozier, though Archbishop Sean Brady urged anyone with information to contact the PSNI.

“No one needs to tell us that what happened to Bert [McCartney's name in the locality] was utterly and completely wrong,” said one Short Strand resident.

“We don't need the British newspapers or the SDLP to tell us that Bert should not have been killed, that those who carried out behaved disgracefully and should be brought to justice.”

However, residents are upset at the public image of their community, and this may discourage them from giving information to the police about the murder.


SF Holds Its Support But Public Is Uneasy

06 March 2005 By Pat Leahy

Support for Sinn Féin is holding firm, despite the Northern Bank robbery and the killing of Robert McCartney. However, attitudes among non-Sinn Féin voters are hardening against the party.

This is according to the findings of today's Red C/Sunday Business Post opinion poll. Fianna Fail has staged a dramatic recovery since last June's local and European elections. If a general election were held now, according to the results of the poll, it would be politically impossible to form a government without Fianna Fail. The national survey comes before two by-elections in Meath and Kildare North on Friday.

Fine Gael's support has declined since June; the party has returned to the level of support it had at the time of the 2002 general election, although voters say a Fine Gael-Labour-Green Party coalition is their preferred choice for government, but there's not enough support to bring them to power.

Sinn Féin's support, at 9 per cent, is 1 point up on its local election result last year and 2 points up on the general election result of 2002. However, there is evidence to show that a majority of the party's own supporters say they are concerned about reports of IRA activity, including money laundering in the Republic.

A Sinn Féin-Fianna Fail government is viewed as unacceptable by almost 70 per cent of all voters.

The poll is good news for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Since last year's catastrophic mid-term local and European elections, when Fianna Fail received less than 32 per cent of the vote, the party's support has recovered and stands today at 37 per cent.

While this is still behind the 41.5 per cent the party won at the 2002 general election, it is a vital reversal of the downward trend and puts Ahern in the driving seat to win a third term.


Opin: Sinn Fein On The Edge Of The Abyss

The world has turned a blind eye to IRA violence as long as it stayed within Ireland. Now the game is up

Henry McDonald
Sunday March 6, 2005
The Observer

This was meant to be the year of Sinn Fein's Big Push. Capitalising on the party's centenary, Sinn Fein strategists planned Ireland-wide rallies, debates, culture nights, and a concert later this year in Dublin. The aim was to raise the party's game in the Irish Republic, to start winning the hearts and minds of the southern middle classes and ultimately a place in government by 2007.

Sinn Fein strategists labelled this as the 'reconquest of the south'. Instead this year has turned into Gerry Adams's 'annus horribilis'. The reason for Sinn Fein's setbacks can be summed up in three letters: IRA.

As Sinn Fein holds its annual conference this weekend, the party is under pressure as never before. Two killings - one in Belfast, the other in Derry - have been laid at the door of IRA members who have been accused of acting like judge, jury and executioner in their communities. The deaths of Robert McCartney and James McGinley - both slain, according to the murdered men's families, by IRA activists, although not on the orders of the organisation - has focused international attention on the inherent contradictions within the republican movement. Two more families have joined the McCartney sisters to demonstrate that they will not be intimidated. The party that preaches peace and justice while its military wing attacks its own voters now faces the prospect of a people's revolt in republican areas of Northern Ireland.

At the beginning of last December, Number 10 and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs were frantically briefing the world's media that a historic deal was in the offing. London and Dublin spun a fiction that Ian Paisley - firebrand born-again Christian defender of traditional unionism - was about to do a deal with his mortal enemy Adams. Yet even as spin machines on both sides of the Irish Sea were working overtime it seems some of the most senior figures in the IRA were planning the biggest bank robbery in European history.

Three months later, the political process lies in ruins and Sinn Fein is making one PR gaffe after another. Since the bank heist there has been the savage murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar, the subsequent campaign by his sisters for truth and justice, and the Irish police chasing after the IRA's hidden millions in the Republic. In every instance it is the IRA's actions that have left Sinn Fein reeling. So why do Adams and McGuinness not only sit on the IRA's ruling body, the Army Council, but also defend its right to continue in existence?

Over the past decade the IRA has been a paradoxically useful tool for the Adams-McGuinness leadership and their strategy of nudging the republican movement away from physical force. Because there is huge overlap between Sinn Fein and IRA membership, the latter is used as an internal disciplinary force. Thus 'volunteers' are handed down a party line at IRA meetings all over Ireland that ensures there is no serious debate or dissent at Sinn Fein annual conferences like the one being held in Dublin this weekend.

So, for example, motions from radical branches in the Republic calling on the party to support abortion rights for women will be voted down with a collective show of hands from delegates under IRA army instruction.

In the wider republican community the IRA is used to quell external dissent, brutally 'police' working-class Catholic areas of Northern Ireland and raise millions through robberies, rackets, smuggling, scams and other illegal activities. Since the IRA's violence was supposed to have ended in 1994 the organisation has actually killed dozens of 'transgressors', whether drug dealers, dissidents or simply men who got the better of Provo foot soldiers in fist fights.

The terror group imported hundreds of handguns from Florida in 1999 because it needed forensically clean weapons just in case it had to shoot enemies on the streets of Belfast or Dublin. No gun used in these killings could then be traced to old IRA weapons.

Both the Major and the Blair government entered into a Faustian pact with the IRA. They signalled to the Provos that if they stopped bombing Britain and assassinating police officers and British solders they could do what they wanted in the areas under their control.

The Clinton administration also played its part in this policy. FBI officers investigating the Florida gunrunning plot, for instance, received phone calls from the White House during their inquiry urging them not to state that the IRA smuggling operation had been in any way 'sanctioned' by the organisation's leadership. Even some human rights activists and progressives colluded in this arrangement. Like the governments in London and Dublin, they turned a blind eye to on-the-ground breaches of the cease-fire. Only now the photogenic McCartney sisters are beginning to take on the IRA are these transgressions beginning to be more widely challenged.

In a sense this policy was the Anglo-Irish version of the 'white man's burden': in this case, the troublesome Paddies would have to be allowed a criminal phase in its democratic evolution as if there were never any democratic tradition rooted in Ireland. That policy has now rebounded both on the governments and the political ambitions of Sinn Fein.

If the IRA is allowed to exist then it cannot, to use its own words, remain quiescent. As long as it remains a player, the IRA has to remind its enemies that it can still shake things up. Last week I spoke to a senior IRA man who has served the movement for 30 years. He is convinced his former comrades robbed the Northern Bank in order to prevent something much more disastrous taking place - a bomb in Britain. The IRA leadership, under pressure from militants, chose the robbery as a message to the British rather than put at risk a decade of Sinn Fein achievements with a short bombing campaign.

Sinn Fein 100 years ago was a very different political beast. Arthur Griffith's Sinn Fein wanted a monarchy for Ireland and contained an eclectic band of oddball mystics, Gaelic revivalists and anti-Semites. Over the next 100 years the party split on five different occasions, three of which resulted in bloodshed. Ironically, those splits enhanced Irish democracy because they produced new political forces and forced old revolutionaries to become pragmatic politicians.

This will undoubtedly be a watershed year for Sinn Fein but in a way that Gerry Adams could never have imagined. He and his comrades face a stark choice: do they hold on to the IRA and remain out of government on either side of the border for the foreseeable future, or does the republican leadership finally dissolve their military wing? Taking the latter option will inevitably result in a split because there is nowhere else for most IRA members to go.

Following the Anglo Irish Treaty, Michael Collins had a new police force and army for the majority of his men to enter; this is one of the reasons his side won the Irish civil war. Gerry Adams, without a state and with the partition of Ireland still a reality, has no such options except to risk a fresh schism in republicanism. Given his record and his fear of fomenting divisions, the chances of the IRA standing down and handing the guns over are extremely slim.


McDowell Should Learn Lessons From History

06 March 2005 By Brian Feeney

Nearly 50 years ago, the British government arrested Archbishop Makarios, the Greek Orthodox primate of Cyprus, and exiled him to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

Makarios was not only the spiritual leader of Greek Cypriots, but was also their political leader. He had been campaigning for enosis, or union with Greece.

In 1957, British intelligence bugged his phone and discovered that he was in league with Colonel Grivas, leader of Eoka, the military organisation fighting to expel the British from the island.

When Makarios refused to condemn Eoka, the British exiled him. The result was an upsurge in Eoka activity across Cyprus, requiring reinforcements of British troops. By 1958, Makarios was back negotiating with the British and, two years later, he was president of Cyprus.

No doubt a man of Michael McDowell's erudition is well aware of the role Makarios played, and the similar roles of men like Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun in Palestine.

The terrorist, pursued and imprisoned by the British, later became Israeli prime minister.

Makarios stood down Eoka after 1960. Begin stood down the Irgun after 1948. Only Makarios and Begin could have done that; the British had tried for years and failed.

So why is McDowell so anxious to out Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness as IRA leaders and undermine their capacity to negotiate politically on behalf of the republican movement?

McDowell must know that previous attempts anywhere in the world to push aside political people in a politico-military movement produced two inevitable consequences. First, the destabilisation of the movement, usually with an increase in violence.

Secondly, there is the eventual return of the political leaders, with their negotiating status enhanced.

Bertie Ahern has been anxious to avoid either of these consequences, with his refusal to identify anyone as an IRA leader and repeated statements of his desire for an “inclusive, comprehensive settlement'‘ in the North. As an experienced negotiator, Ahern appreciates the danger of pushing your opposite number into a corner - particularly when he can deliver something you need.

The central fact, no matter how unpalatable it may be to the minister for justice, is that there can be no inclusive, comprehensive settlement without Adams and McGuinness.

They are both MPs and they are both going to be re-elected in May with increased majorities. Punters can get odds of 100-1 in the Belfast bookies against the SDLP's west Belfast candidate winning 10,000 votes.

So if McDowell wants to discredit and humiliate Adams and McGuinness, who does he want to deal with?

What is his strategy to achieve an inclusive, comprehensive settlement - one, incidentally, to which DUP leader Ian Paisley has said he will sign up?

Thanks to McDowell's self-indulgent grandstanding, few people recall the protocol signed at Hillsborough on February 21 by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and Chief Constable Hugh Orde, permitting secondment of gardai to the North and PSNI officers to the south.

Has McDowell really just found out, as a result of his intelligence briefings, that there is an overlap at the top of the republican movement between the military and political wings?

Why did he think successive Irish governments attached such importance to talking to Adams and McGuinness?

If they are not in charge, who is? And why is the government not talking to that person? Of course, it's an unacceptably slow and frustrating process.

However, more than 800 people might be dead today if Adams and McGuinness had not delivered a ceasefire in 1994.

Republicans have accepted the amendment of articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution; they have changed their own constitution to enable Sinn Féin members to take seats at Stormont; they survived a serious split in 1997; and they have agreed in principle to decommission and stand down the IRA, though not yet in the precise terms McDowell demands.

Perhaps it has never occurred to the self-styled ‘Hammer of the Provos' that Adams and McGuinness are better judges of the speed at which the republican movement can travel than he is.

Does McDowell really want to undermine their authority within a notoriously prickly organisation?

Does he want to boost men who take the traditional republican view that governments don't respond to the force of argument, but only to the argument of force?

McDowell's strategy seems to be to make life as difficult as possible for Adams and McGuinness.

If so, he should be careful what he wishes for, because he might get it.

Brian Feeney, a political columnist, is head of the history department at St Mary's University College, Belfast, and author of Sinn Féin: 100 Turbulent Years.


Spence 'The Untouchable'

06 March 2005

A notorious UDA crime boss has been paid by British spy bosses to plan gun attacks on republicans and cause havoc among fellow loyalists, an ex-Intelligence Service handler has claimed.

Woodvale gangster Jim Spence has been outed by a former handler inside the Army's Force Research Unit - the outfit that ran loyalist double-agent Brian Nelson and the IRA's Freddie 'Stakeknife' Scappaticci.

Speaking to Sunday Life, he claimed Spence (44) is an "untouchable", who has been in the pay of British Intelligence for 20 years - a claim furiously denied by the top loyalist.

But a second former FRU officer last week backed up the claims made by the ex-handler, who now lives in the English Midlands.

The ex-handler, who first worked for FRU, and later the re-named Joint Services Group, told how Spence:

• Was used by British Intelligence to plan attacks on republicans.

• Received documents on Pat Finucane from FRU agent Brian Nelson, and passed them to Shankill UDA man Mo Courtney, before the murder of the Catholic solicitor.

• Was paid to stir up divisions inside the UDA.

• Has been allowed to run criminal rackets with impunity.

Rumours that Spence has been working for British Intelligence have circulated for some time, stirred by Spence's bitter rival, Johnny Adair.

Previously, Spence has angrily denied claims that he is the loyalist 'Stakeknife'.

But, last week, he refused to meet Sunday Life reporters to answer questions about the former Intelligence officer's claims.

The source told Sunday Life that British spy masters had used Spence to organise UDA attacks on at least five republicans.

He linked Spence to the 1989 murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, that also involved security service agents Brian Nelson, William Stobie and Ken Barrett.

Barrett, who is currently in jail for the solicitor's murder, was filmed by BBC's Panorama naming Spence in the planning of the brutal killing.

But Spence later refuted the claims, and accused his former friend of being a "Walter Mitty" character and a "liar".

However, the source claimed Spence's primary role as a paid agent was to spread dissent within the UDA's Belfast command.

"He was the perfect conduit to spread misinformation right to the very heart of the UDA.

"Spence was used to foment dissent and division within the UDA . . . to keep its leaders at each others throats - and that's what he did, " said the source.

"He was good at driving a wedge between them."

The source added that the intelligence services allowed Spence to operate his lucrative extortion, blackmail, sex trade and drugs rackets with impunity.

"That was part of his reward," said the former handler.

"As well as his payments, he was allowed to operate with impunity, as long as he did what they wanted him to do.

"He was using hookers from England in his Belfast brothels, dealing in drugs and contraband tobacco . . . but he was never going to get pulled. He was untouchable."

The source said Spence met his handlers at a number of different hotels in Belfast, London and Glasgow.

He described how, on one occasion, a local taxi driver and fellow UDA man Barrett "compromised" a meeting between Spence and his intelligence handlers, at Belfast Castle.

Later that night, the taxi driver had a number of "visitors" to his Belfast home, who "persuaded" him to leave Northern Ireland immediately.

The source claimed that during the recent UDA feud, Spence had been used by his handlers to encourage Johnny Adair to confront the rest of the UDA leadership.

"Spence and John White encouraged Adair to take them on," said the source.

"They (the security services) wanted Adair out of the picture, and used Spence to achieve that aim. After Adair was jailed, he continued to foment division by opposing the UDA leadership.

"After John 'Grug' Gregg was killed in February 2003, Spence aligned himself with the UDA leadership to oppose Adair. Again, this would have been on the direction of his handlers."

Guess what he calls you behind YOUR backs

Jim Spence has a talent for making up derisive nicknames for fellow UDA bosses, according to the ex-Intelligence Service handler.

The source claimed Spence labelled South Belfast UDA boss, Jackie McDonald, the 'Irish Ambassador', because of his supposed willingness to acknowledge the involvement of the Dublin government in Northern Ireland affairs.

He had also dubbed south east Antrim boss John Gregg 'Grug the Thug' before his murder.

And he branded east Belfast 'commander' Jim Gray and his associates the 'Spice Boys', because of their bleached hair, loud clothes and trendy lifestyle.

A former close associate of Johnny Adair, Spence was the UDA's 'B' company boss in west Belfast for several years.

Ironically, he and Adair came to the fore in the UDA following the murder of Pat Finucane, the flaunting of security force documents by the UDA, and the subsequent Stevens Inquiry, which rounded up many senior UDA figures. He remains an influential presence within the loyalist terror group today.

Security forces believe he is the brains behind the majority of the UDA's money-spinning criminal operations in west Belfast, including racketeering and prostitution.


‘Boycotted’ Morrison Play Opens In London

A PLAY by a former IRA prisoner, rejected by Dublin and Belfast theatres, is due to open in London next week.

The Wrong Man, by Danny Morrison, a drama based on the final days of an IRA informer, will open at the Pleasance theatre in Islington on Saturday for a three-week run.

According to its author, a former Sinn Fein spin doctor, it was boycotted by Irish establishments because of its political content. “It got a reading in the Peacock theatre some years ago but then I heard that it was made clear by management that no play by Morrison will be performed here,” he said. “I also sent it to a leading producer, and a playwright in the north, and they didn’t even bother to reply. It’s ironic that it has to go to London, the centre of the empire, to get an airing.”

Based on his book of the same name, the play draws upon Morrison’s experiences in the IRA. The playwright spent five years in prison after being caught in a house in which an IRA informer was being interrogated.

Ali Curran, a director of the Peacock theatre, denied Morrison’s work was not staged for political reasons. “It just wasn’t the right time,” she said.

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