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March 05, 2005
03/05/05 - Lee Clegg Facing Court Martial
Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005
IO 03/04/05 Clegg Facing Court Martial Over Assault
SF 03/04/05 Opening Address To Ard Fheis -Martin McGuinness–V(3)
IT 03/05/05 Ardfheis Deplores McCartney Killing
IT 03/05/05 McCartney Family Welcomes Decision To Give Names –V(2)
GU 03/04/05 Visa For Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams Up In Air
IT 03/05/05 SF Loses Credibility, But Voters Still Want Deal Done
IT 03/05/05 Ahern To Wait For SF To Deal With Questions
IT 03/05/05 McDowell Calls On IRA To End 'Regime Of Fear'
IT 03/05/05 2/3 Of Voters Believe Sinn Féin Must Split From IRA
SM 03/04/05 Gerry Adams Facing Intense Pressure
GU 03/04/05 Are Republicans Committed To Peace? Moore & Morrison
EX 03/04/05 Cost Of Flynn’s Government Jobs: At Least €182,635
IT 03/05/05 Hunger Strikers Wanted More Than Vague Promises
IT 03/05/05 Call To Protect Young People Interests In Workforce
IT 03/05/05 Man Said He Stole Car For Omagh Blast, Court Told
IT 03/05/05 Shelbourne Hotel Closes For 18 Mth For Refurbishment –V
IT 03/05/05 Man Who Refused To Pay TV Licence Fee For 21 Yrs Jailed
Clegg Facing Court Martial Over Assault
05/03/2005 - 00:20:14
British soldier Lee Clegg is to face a court martial over allegations that he assaulted a teenager, it was reported today.
The paratrooper, from Bradford, was convicted of murder after shooting two teenage joyriders in Belfast in 1990.
The soldier was accused of using excessive force and firing a fourth shot into the back of the car, which killed passenger Karen Reilly, 18.
He was jailed for life in 1993 and freed on licence two years later. He was cleared following a retrial in 1999.
Now 36, and an acting sergeant, he is reportedly now accused of punching a boy soldier and making him lie about an injury.
The Sun said that if found guilty he faces up to six years in jail and could be thrown out of the British army.
It reported that he is now head of an army police section.
A British Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “He is going to face a court martial in May at the military court in Catterick.
“The charges relate to allegations made by a junior soldier at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.”
The court martial is scheduled to take place on May 16.
McGuinness admits IRA involvement in Belfast killing - David Davin-Power, Political Correspondent, reports that Martin McGuinness got straight the point in his opening address to Sinn Féin's Ard Fheis
David McCullagh, Political Correspondent, details the results of an Irish Times/MRBI opinion poll, which shows that there has been a swing against Sinn Féin playing a part in Govt in the Republic
David Davin-Power discusses the implications of the opinion poll for the republican movement
Opening Address To 2005 Ard Fheis -Martin McGuinness MP –V(3)
Published: 4 March, 2005
I would like to begin by welcoming delegates, visitors and guests to the 2005 Ard Fheis - on this the 100th anniversary of our party.
The last few weeks have been very difficult. Difficult for republicans and difficult for those we represent - the republican communities who have supported and sustained the republican struggle over the years. These communities know, from first hand experience why the struggle was necessary, and they know at first hand, the sacrifices that have been necessary to get us to where we are today.
I want to directly address those communities this evening.
For them, what is important is not the endless debate about whether Gerry Adams and I were in the IRA. Or whether people believe us or Hugh Orde about the Northern Bank robbery.
No. What is important to them is whether they can believe in us -- believe in us when we say we are committed to true equality; believe in us when we say that we are against criminality of all kinds; believe in us when we say that our commitment to the peace process is total and absolute
What pains me the most about the last few weeks is not the criticism from the two governments, our political opponents, the media and those unionists who are so clearly delighted to have an excuse for their intransigence. We are used to that and we can take it
What pains me the most is any suggestion, suspicion or indication that the IRA could be turned into a criminal gang or a tool of individual interest, or otherwise engaged in criminality. And in that context I am both outraged and saddened at the involvement of a small numbger of IRA volunteers, in the brutal killing of Robert McCartney in Belfast 4 weeks ago.
So let me be clear. The murder of Robert McCartney was wrong - and let me be absolutely clear this was a grievous crime. It is wrong, it should never have happened and it is wrong that those who witnessed the murder should be intimidated in any way. And the McCartney family are absolutely right when they say that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions and should make themselves accountable for their actions. I again urge all of those involved in any way to admit their role and to make themselves accountable in court.
We cannot allow republicanism to be diminished in this way. To do so would be a betrayal of our struggle, of our own personal commitment, of the hunger strikers and of those brave republicans who selflessly gave their lives and liberty for a noble and worthy cause.
The speedy response of the IRA to the involvement of its members in the killing of Robert McCartney is in stark contrast to years and decades of cover up by the British government around collusion, shoot-to-kill, torture, Bloody Sunday, the Dublin Monaghan bombings. I could go on and on.
But the lessons of the last few weeks go wider than that -- and painful as it is, we as republicans have to face the reality that there is a crisis of confidence that could destroy the Good Friday Agreement.
In December we got close to a historic agreement that would have put violence behind all of us forever. We were cheated only by the insistence of the unionists on the humiliation of the IRA.
I am not prepared to let our struggle be demonized, or to be caught in a downward spiral that leads inexorably to a return to violence.
Instead, republicans are determined to find a way, however difficult and challenging, to put all conflict and violence behind us all for good; to see all weapons put beyond use; to prevent criminality; to participate in policing on the right terms; and to pursue a purely political, peaceful and democratic path to the Irish unification that every one of us wants to see.
We have had made momentous progress in building towards Irish unity in the 12 months since we last met at an Ard Fheis. One of our most successful moments of the last twelve months was of course the election of two MEPs Mary Lou Mc Donald in Dublin and Barber de Brún in the 6-counties. And of course with Pearse Doherty coming close to taking a third, combined with the massive increase in our representation on local councils across the South positioning our party to make great gains in the next General election in this state sent shockwaves through the political establishment. The radical alternative to the politics of partition and conservatism, north and south that Sinn Fein represents was endorsed by a growing number of people across the island.
Sinn Féin - Céad Bliain d'aois - A century of struggle
November 2005 marks the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin and the Party is planning a year of events to celebrate.
The themes of celebration will be extensive and highlight aspects of struggle that have not previously been sufficiently recognised, such as the contribution of women in the republican struggle over the last 100 years. We will be recognising and incorporating into our celebrations the growing ethnic diversity of our nation and the contribution these new communities have made and will make in the future to Irish society.
This year will be about delivering the republican message to every part of the island and the purpose will be to encourage more and more people to take possession of their own destiny in order to bring to a conclusion the journey mapped out by those visionaries who founded Sinn Féin in 1905.
Green Paper - Irish Unity
Sinn Féin launched a discussion paper recently calling on the Irish government to produce a Green Paper on Irish Unity. We are calling on the Office of an Taoiseach to take the lead in this discussion and to include as far as practicable all parties on the island.
We have an historic opportunity for broad civic and political society across this island to address the core issue that has sustained conflict and division, discrimination and second-class citizenship since partition.
Key to Sinn Féin's strategy is developing discussion with the unionist community on the impact of Irish unity. It is imperative that we engage in this discussion, particularly with unionism. Unionists are locked into a historical context in the sense that they have seen change as somehow threatening and not being in their interests.
We want unionists to engage in the debate from their own unique perspective.
A Green Paper commissioned by the Office of an Taoiseach would set the scene for a non-threatening discussion ahead of periodic border polls, which are provided for by the Good Friday Agreement.
This is an issue that the Irish government should take forward. We are not the only party on this island with a stake in this project. But it is, uniquely, our political priority. Other parties, particularly those who define themselves as post-nationalist regarded the 1998 Agreement as a settlement. Sinn Féin sees the Agreement as a transitional arrangement.
Sinn Féin's strategy for reunification will be both persuasive and proactive - persuasive in terms of convincing unionists to embrace the social and economic benefits of a united Ireland and proactive in terms of urging the maximum North-South co-operation in the period before formal unity
We have many challenges ahead of us in the short and medium term. We have four elections pending. Immediately after this Ard Fheis we are into the Meath by-election next Friday. Joe Reilly is our Candidate and we could not have a better or more able representative of republicanism. I have no doubt that Joe will do us proud and set the pattern for strong results in the Udaras na Gaeltachta elections in the South and the Local Government and Westminster elections in the North
All of the Southern parties are already fighting the next General election. They are setting out their agenda and creating the most negative context possible. Remember all of the Parties here have been in government during the period of unprecedented wealth and yet the main legacy that they have created is an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. There is crisis in the Health system, the education system, planning is in disarray, environmental policy is practicably non-existent and we have a growing racism problem as a direct result of Michael Mc Dowell's right wing politics. And what do they do? In the hopes that they will deflect the peoples' attention away from the injustice, inequality and failures of bad government they spread innuendo, smear and false allegations against Sinn Féin. Why? Because they know that more and more people the length and breadth of this island are seeing Sinn Féin as the only alternative to partition and to the corrupt, brown envelop culture that passes for politics in this state. But this is nothing new and in the Northern elections Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the PD's, and Labour will, as they always have, campaign vigorously for our opponents knowing that we, unlike them are an all-Ireland party and our success, north and south is the success of the all-Ireland agenda
We face the mammoth and immediate task of re-building the peace process. We are absolutely determined that the peace process will not fail. The way in which to ensure its success is through increased political strength so each and every republican activist has a mighty task ahead in the coming months. I know that you are up to it and I know that you will all give it 100%. We are willing to face up to the difficult choices but this is not down to republicans alone but we will not be found wanting, in facing up to our responsibilities and in facing down our opponents.
Over the weekend thousands of republicans will gather here to debate and strategise where we go from here. I wish all a very enjoyable but productive weekend.
Go raibth mile maith agaibh
Ardfheis Deplores McCartney Killing
By Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor
The Sinn Féin ardfheis in Dublin last night endorsed an emergency motion tabled by the party's justice spokesman Gerry Kelly deploring the "brutal and criminal" killing of Robert McCartney.
It also called on those responsible to make themselves accountable to the courts, and urged anyone with information to make it available "through whatever channel they deem appropriate".
The murder of Robert McCartney, the Northern Bank robbery and the IRA multimillion money-laundering claims overshadowed the ardfheis last night.
Sinn Féin's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness told delegates that what anguished him most was that republicanism could be diminished by allegations of criminality.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is likely to return to this theme in his keynote speech, which will be broadcast on RTÉ this evening.
Mr McGuinness spent a considerable portion of his address in the RDS, Dublin, insisting that republicans must not be tarnished by criminality.
"What pains me the most about the last few weeks is not the criticism from the two governments, our political opponents, the media and those unionists who are so clearly delighted to have an excuse for their intransigence.
"We are used to that and we can take it," said Mr McGuinness.
"What pains me the most is any suggestion, suspicion or indication that the IRA could be turned into a criminal gang or a tool of individual interest, or otherwise engaged in criminality. And in that context I am both outraged and saddened at the involvement of a small number of IRA volunteers in the brutal killing of Robert McCartney," he added.
Mr McGuinness continued: "So let me be clear. The murder of Robert McCartney was wrong - and let me be absolutely clear this was a grievous crime. It is wrong, it should never have happened and it is wrong that those who witnessed the murder should be intimidated in any way.
"And the McCartney family are absolutely right when they say that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions and should make themselves accountable for their actions.
"I again urge all of those involved in any way to admit their role and to make themselves accountable in court.
"We cannot allow republicanism to be diminished in this way.
"To do so would be a betrayal of our struggle, of our own personal commitment, of the hunger strikers and of those brave republicans who selflessly gave their lives and liberty for a noble and worthy cause."
Mr McGuinness said there were lessons to be learned. "Painful as it is, we as republicans have to face the reality that there is a crisis of confidence that could destroy the Good Friday agreement," he told delegates.
"In December we got close to a historic agreement that would have put violence behind all of us forever.
"We were cheated only by the insistence of the unionists on the humiliation of the IRA," said Mr McGuinness.
"I am not prepared to let our struggle be demonised, or to be caught in a downward spiral that leads inexorably to a return to violence."
Mr McGuinness, who said Sinn Féin was determined the peace process would not fail, accused southern parties of deflecting attention away from injustice, inequality and failures of government by spreading "innuendo, smear and false allegations against Sinn Féin".
A critical debate on policing, which will indicate whether or not Mr Adams and the Sinn Féin leadership are prepared to begin steering republicans towards accepting the PSNI, takes place tomorrow.
The downturn in Sinn Féin's fortunes caused by the criminality claims and reflected in The Irish Times/TNSmrbi poll was not directly referred to by Mr McGuinness, who was the main speaker last night.
But his acknowledgement of how "very difficult" recent weeks have been for republicans indicated how that reversal is foremost in the consciousness of the Sinn Féin leadership.
Looking ahead, Mr McGuinness predicted strong gains in next week's byelections in the Republic and in the elections in the North in May.
© The Irish Times
McCartney family deems Adams statement 'positive' - Brendan Wright reports on the reaction to the suspension of seven Sinn Féin members
David Davin Power, Political Correspondent, has details of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis taking place this weekend
McCartney Family Welcomes Decision To Give Names –V(2)
By Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor
The decision by Gerry Adams to give the Police Ombudsman names of Sinn Féin members suspected of involvement in the murder of Robert McCartney is of "symbolic significance", the dead man's sisters said yesterday.
Last night Paula McCartney said the IRA should make clear that no person who approached the PSNI was under any threat from them.
The IRA has already expelled three members and Sinn Féin has suspended seven of its members with alleged links to the murder. The PSNI said the suspensions were not enough.
Speaking at the family home in Belfast's Short Strand Mr McCartney's sister said: "The statement by Gerry Adams is viewed by this family as a positive step forward. We welcome and accept Gerry Adams's personal comments that he will not rest until this family receives justice."
She also said the family will travel to Washington DC on March 15th to highlight the case there.
On behalf of the family, she added: "The basic action taken by Sinn Féin in relation to their members involved in Robert's murder is nothing more than what would have been expected from any democratically elected party.
"Although we would have liked this to have happened earlier, as those names have been known to Sinn Féin officials from the outset. The handing over of the names to the Police Ombudsman through a solicitor is of symbolic significance."
She said the family did not know which names the Sinn Féin president supplied to Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.
Addressing the shortage of admissible evidence made available to the PSNI, Ms McCartney said: "Providing a solicitor with a statement to be passed on to the Ombudsman is an inadequate method of gathering evidence."
"Robert's life was taken from him as if it was of no value," the family said. "It is only when those involved are convicted will the value of life be restored." They were speaking after a fresh appeal for information was made by Det Supt George Hamilton, a senior officer investigating the January 30th murder.
He said that those arrested and questioned in connection with the case had not told the police anything. "They have exercised their legal right to remain silent," he said.
"That means us, as the serious crime branch in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, relying heavily upon people who are witnesses to this murder to come forward and provide evidence to us." The Irish Times understands that a central suspect has been absent from his home for some weeks and has not yet been arrested or questioned.
Others who have voluntarily presented themselves to police have remained silent. It was suggested that this could be a tactical ploy by those opposed to the PSNI to portray the police in a bad light, compared with the expulsions and suspensions ordered by the IRA and Sinn Féin.
Det Supt Hamilton confirmed that a protocol with Mrs O'Loan's office had been agreed, whereby witnesses could assist the inquiry. "We need people to provide statements to the police in the first instance and then follow that through and be prepared to give that evidence to a judge in open court," he said.
"Those people also need to feel comfortable that having made those statements, that they can return to their own communities and live in their own homes in safety."
Northern Ireland courts can interpret negatively an individual's decision to remain silent if arrested and questioned, a trusted legal source said.
Mrs O'Loan said yesterday her office would not be compromised by taking statements relating to the murder.
She told RTÉ her office had trained investigators who could take statements. Stressing the primacy of the PSNI, she said her office would assist the community to bring evidence to the police, who would then conduct the investigation.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan accused Mr Adams of duplicity following the suspensions of party members and the passing of names to the Police Ombudsman.
© The Irish Times
Visa For Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams Up In Air
Friday March 4, 2005 11:46 PM
By BARRY SCHWEID
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is expected to be at the White House to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with President Bush, but Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is awaiting word on whether he can visit the United States.
If Adams obtains a visa it will have restrictions, but their nature remains to be worked out, a U.S. official said Friday on condition of anonymity.
Ahern is to present a traditional bowl of shamrocks to Bush at the March 17 ceremony.
While Adams has not been invited to the White House, he wants to come to Washington to meet with members of Congress.
Adams, the leader of the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, announced Thursday the suspension of seven members for alleged involvement in a fight in a Belfast pub that ended with the murder of a Catholic man.
Meanwhile, the White House on Friday issued a statement saying Ahern would meet with Bush in the Oval Office on St. Patrick's Day, followed by a reception attended by ``civil society leaders.'' Adams and other political leaders involved in the Northern Ireland peace process were not among those invited.
The president chose not to invite the political leaders to the White House this year given the lack of progress in the peace negotiations, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
SF Loses Credibility, But Voters Still Want Deal Done
By Mark Brennock
As Sinn Féin delegates meet at the RDS this weekend for their annual ardfheis, they will take comfort that, despite the growing public disbelief in their pronouncements, voters still want the establishment parties to do business with them, writes Mark Brennock.
There is an overwhelming public belief that the IRA robbed the Northern Bank of £26.5 million, and that Sinn Féin and the IRA are in effect the same organisation.
We believe by a 2:1 margin that Sinn Féin is unacceptable rather than acceptable as a government party in the Republic.
The party has lost a quarter of its electoral support since October, while disapproval of Gerry Adams's performance as Sinn Féin leader has risen to a record high.
Yet there remains a remark-able public commitment to the core idea behind the peace process: that negotiations must continue with Sinn Féin until a deal is done in the North and the party is brought into the political process.
The most striking aspect of this poll is the apparently unshakeable public commitment to this strategy, despite all that has happened.
The litany of events contributing to the public disenchantment with Sinn Féin and its leader includes the collapse of the talks in December, the Northern Bank raid, the brutal killing of Robert McCartney, the discovery of a major money-laundering operation and the Sinn Féin campaign for the release of the killers of Det Garda Jerry McCabe. All of these factors have led to a substantial hardening of public attitudes in a short six-week period.
In mid-January fewer than half of voters believed the IRA had robbed the Northern Bank. This was despite the insistence of the Taoiseach, the British prime minister, the PSNI Chief Constable and others that they had done so. Now 64 per cent - almost two-thirds - believe they robbed the bank.
There has been a fall, too, in the number believing Sinn Féin is genuine about its commitment to work towards the end of all paramilitary violence and criminal activity.
Last time 46 per cent believed it was, while 23 per cent thought it was not, with 22 per cent either saying they didn't know or offering no opinion. Now 41 per cent say the party is genuine, 39 per cent that it is not and 20 per cent don't know or have no opinion.
Yet support for the continuation of talks towards a deal with Sinn Féin, even in the absence of a verified ending of IRA activity, remains constant among supporters of all parties, in all age groups, regions and social categories.
The same proportion as six weeks ago - 62 per cent - believes the Irish and British governments should continue such talks.
The drop in actual support for Sinn Féin by two percentage points to 9 per cent since six weeks ago is modest, and within the margin of error.
However, combined with the one-point drop between the poll in October last year and that in January, the party has lost three percentage points, or a quarter of the support it had before the Northern Bank robbery and all the subsequent events.
The fact that at 9 per cent it is still above the 7 per cent it received in the 2002 general election is not a cause for comfort. Opinion polls show that parties tend to put on and lose support slowly, so two consecutive polls showing downward movement is a worry for them.
The dramatic drop in the approval of Mr Gerry Adams's performance as party leader is also a cause for serious concern in Sinn Féin.
Over time, a party with a highly-approved-of leader tends to put on support. In addition, the hitherto positive view of Gerry Adams among non-Sinn Féin voters held out the hope that, over time, the party would begin to attract transfers from these voters.
But approval of Adams has fallen steadily over two polls. In October, 51 per cent said they were satisfied with his performance; now just 30 per cent are. In October, 24 per cent were dissatisfied, while 52 per cent now are.
As disapproval of Mr Adams grew, the number giving no opinion on him has fallen to 18 per cent from 25 per cent in October. This is due almost entirely to the supporters of other parties turning against Gerry Adams.
When the peace process was seen to be making progress, many supporters of mainstream parties, while possibly having little time for Sinn Féin, would have seen Mr Adams as doing a good job in leading his party towards a solely democratic modus operandi.
Events of the past two months have clearly shaken their faith in the Sinn Féin leader.
There is also significant disbelief in the long-term peaceful intent of the IRA, with exactly a third of voters believing a return to the military campaign is likely.
In this context it is unsurprising that 56 per cent now see Sinn Féin as an unsuitable participant in a coalition, with just 28 per cent seeing it as suitable and 16 per cent saying they don't know or having no opinion.
Despite this growing scepticism, and indeed hostility, it seems voters remain convinced that, in the words of a Government adviser in the early days of the peace process, talks without Sinn Féin "would not be worth a penny candle".
© The Irish Times
Ahern To Wait For SF To Deal With Questions
By Liam Reid
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he does not expect an answer from Sinn Féin this weekend on Government demands relating to IRA decommissioning and criminal activity.
Speaking in Naas yesterday, Mr Ahern declined to comment on the suspension by Sinn Féin of seven party members allegedly linked to the murder of Robert McCartney and said that was "entirely a matter" for Sinn Féin.
The Taoiseach said he did not believe that people were still being intimidated from co-operating with the police investigation into the murder.
"I don't have any evidence of that, but I think that clearly there is action taking place. We have seen a number of things happening over the last week. But the proof of that, the evidence of that, the commitment to that is what will lead to prosecutions.
"In this case, there's a lot of witnesses. This wasn't something that happened out of the view of people, so there are people who have the evidence."
He said that the McCartney family, who had been "very brave and courageous", wanted clear prosecutions and information which would lead to that outcome. "So whatever co-operation from whomever, and whatever format that can help to achieve those prosecutions, is what we support and what we want to see."
Regarding this weekend's Sinn Féin ardfheis, Mr Ahern said it would be wrong of him to dictate what should happen.
He said that the party and its leader, Gerry Adams, "know that there are a number of crucial issues that we would like to see answered either this weekend or some other time".
Mr Ahern added: "I have said I'm prepared to meet Sinn Féin. I'm prepared to move on. We want to get these hard questions. I know they are difficult. We want to get them dealt with so that we can move on with what is envisioned in the Good Friday agreement.
"That is our position. We haven't changed our position, we are consistent and we are determined that that is the position. We're not going to start making life difficult for another political party. If we don't get an answer this weekend, that isn't the end of the world as far as we are concerned, but we do want to move forward with Sinn Féin."
© The Irish Times
McDowell Calls On IRA To End 'Regime Of Fear'
By Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has urged the Provisional movement to indicate at the Sinn Féin ardfheis that it will bring a definitive end to IRA paramilitarism, crime and thuggery.
While the Minister gave a qualified welcome to the suspension of seven Sinn Féin members in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney, he said the move came very late.
The Sinn Féin ardfheis this weekend would be a moment of truth for the republican movement to bring about a sea change in the way it does business.
In separate remarks, Mr McDowell suggested that Northern Ireland could be "pooled" with the Republic as a single unit for the purposes of its dealings with the EU.
While stating in Maynooth, Co Kildare, that the Garda was operating on the basis that the cash seized in Cork was stolen in the Northern Bank raid in December, he said no other theory was being examined by the force.
On the McCartney murder, he said it was necessary for everyone in Ireland to show utter disapproval at the killing and to stand by Mr McCartney's sisters and partner in their struggle for justice.
"If the implication of the suspension is that Gerry Adams is at last and belatedly responding to the outrage and wave of public emotion going in his direction and in the direction of his movement it's welcome acknowledgment even if it's very little and very late."
Mr McDowell said republicans would have a good opportunity at the Sinn Féin ardfheis to reflect on whether they could bring paramilitarism and "the regime of fear" to an end, because they had gone on for too long.
"I think with the glare of publicity on them, a lot of people will be looking to see whether it is the end for the IRA, whether it is the end for armed violence in our society."
He said any failure to make such a move this weekend would only postpone a decision that would have to be made if there was to be any degree of normalisation in the North or if other parties were to do business with Sinn Féin.
Meanwhile, at a PD lunch in Dublin, Mr McDowell said the island of Ireland could be treated as a single unit within the EU in the medium or long term. Such a development would be without prejudice to constitutional issues related to unionism or the creation of a united Ireland.
While it was ironic that hostility to the EU seemed strongest at both ends of the political spectrum in the North, Ireland's EU membership had been good for both parts of the island.
"Personally speaking, I wonder is it a bridge too far to envisage in the medium term that the people of Ireland could share their future in Europe by pooling Ireland's status in Europe as part of the North-South institutions between the two parts of this island?"
He said the notion sounded radical, but the economic and political interests in the European Union of the North and the Republic were closely intertwined and similar.
© The Irish Times
Two-Thirds Of Voters Believe Sinn Féin Must Split From IRA
By Mark Brennock
A large majority of voters including most Sinn Féin supporters believe the party should now split from the IRA, according to the latest Irish Times/TNS mrbi opinion poll, writes Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent
There has also been a dramatic increase over the past six weeks in the number that believes the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery, and a strong swing against the idea that Sinn Féin could serve in a coalition government in the Republic after the next general election.
Two thirds of voters - 67 per cent - believe Sinn Féin should split from the IRA, just 12 per cent that they should not, and 21 per cent don't know. Even Sinn Féin voters support such a split with 56 per cent in favour, 22 per cent against and 22 per cent don't know.
Some 64 per cent believe the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery, up 17 points since the last poll just six weeks ago. Just 11 per cent now believe the IRA was not responsible, down eight points, while 25 per cent don't know or have no opinion, down nine points.
The poll was taken last Monday and Tuesday, February 28th and March 1st, among a national quota sample of 1,000 voters throughout all constituencies in the State.
The comparison is with a similar poll taken mid-January after the Northern Bank raid but before the furore over the killing of Robert McCartney and the discovery of a major money-laundering operation in the Republic.
This poll shows that since mid-January scepticism has grown over Sinn Féin's commitment to working towards the ending of all paramilitary violence and criminal activity.
Some 41 per cent believe Sinn Féin is so committed, down five points since January. Almost the same proportion - 39 per cent - believes Sinn Féin is not committed to ending all paramilitary violence and criminal activity, and 20 per cent don't know or have no opinion, down two points.
However, despite recent events, public determination that negotiations with Sinn Féin towards a deal in the North should continue remains undiminished. Some 62 per cent - the same proportion as six weeks ago - believe the Irish and British governments should continue to negotiate with Sinn Féin for a deal in the North.
Just 30 per cent believe they should suspend negotiations until the governments are satisfied that there is a verified end to IRA criminal activity, an increase of just four points, while 8 per cent don't know or have no opinion, down four points.
A third of voters believes the IRA is likely to return to violence, although a larger number believes this is unlikely. Some 33 per cent believe a return to violence is likely, 44 per cent that it is unlikely and 23 per cent don't know.
Opinion has hardened against the possibility of Sinn Féin serving in government in the Republic. Some 28 per cent believe it would be an acceptable government party if there were a general election tomorrow, a fall of 11 per cent.
A majority - 56 per cent - believe it would be unacceptable, an increase of 17 points while 16 per cent don't know or have no opinion, down six points.
Labour supporters see Sinn Féin as somewhat more acceptable as coalition partners than do voters for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
Some 22 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters believe they would be acceptable, 61 per cent that they would not and 17 per cent don't know or have no opinion.
Among Fine Gael voters 21 per cent see Sinn Féin as acceptable participants in government, 68 per cent do not and 11 per cent don't know or have no opinion.
Some 31 per cent of Labour supporters see Sinn Féin as acceptable partners, 59 per cent do not and 10 per cent don't know or have no opinion.
Voters strongly disbelieve the claim that Sinn Féin and the IRA are separate organisations, with just 20 per cent believing that they are, 60 per cent that they are not and 18 per cent don't know.
Supporters of all parties believe this roughly in equal measure apart from Sinn Féin voters, among whom 51 per cent accept the view that they are separate, 31 per cent believe they are not and 18 per cent don't know.
© The Irish Times
Gerry Adams Facing Intense Pressure
By Senan Hogan, PA
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams today faces intense pressure to signal that the party has made a complete break with all criminal activity.
Delegates to the party’s annual conference in Dublin were in sombre mood yesterday as they reflected on the fallout from recent bank robberies, cash laundering rackets and a brutal Belfast murder six weeks ago.
Mr Adams will now have to spell out in clear terms how Sinn Fein can fully commit to democracy in order to join Northern Ireland’s power-sharing talks.
Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness indicated the gravity of the current situation in his opening address yesterday, when he warned of a crisis of confidence in the Republican movement that could unravel the Good Friday Agreement.
Delegates later passed an emergency motion urging suspects in Robert McCartney’s January murder to give themselves up and be answerable to the courts.
A courageous campaign for justice by his family has led to suspects being expelled from the IRA and suspended from Sinn Fein.
Speaking on the McCartney motion, party justice spokesman Gerry Kelly said: “I support the McCartney family in demanding that those responsible should make themselves accountable for their actions.”
Mr McGuinness had earlier said that he was outraged and saddened that IRA members were involved in the murder.
The stabbing of the father-of-two has marked a significant turning point in the public perception of Republican criminality.
Recent opinion polls show that Mr Adams’ personal rating has taken a battering due to criminal links, although core party support has emerged relatively unscathed.
The party has already been snubbed by the White House’s March 17 events and frozen out of power-sharing talks with the Irish Government since January.
A survey in today’s Irish Times shows almost two-thirds of people believe the IRA carried out the pre-Christmas Northern Bank heist.
Over half of respondents (a rise of 17 percentage points in six weeks) are also against Sinn Fein serving in a coalition Government if there was a General Election in the Republic tomorrow.
Party chiefs had planned this weekend’s Ard Fheis get-together to be an opportunity to toast its centenary and to confidently look forward to upcoming Westminster and local elections in May.
Instead, a damaging chain of events has cast a long shadow over proceedings in Dublin’s RDS arena.
A number of lively motions have already been debated, such as the European Constitution, dropping the voting age to 16 and boycotting the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Israel later this month.
All concerned are now waiting to see whether, during his hour-long televised presidential address that starts at 5pm, Mr Adams will confront the tough questions facing his party.
Comment: Bite my bullet
Are Irish Republicans Really Committed To Peace? Charles Moore And Danny Morrison Thrash It Out
Saturday March 5, 2005
Dear Danny Morrison,
For many years, Sinn Féin/IRA have been able to return all arguments about violence and criminality to the evil of "the British state" in Northern Ireland. I'm interested by recent developments, because they seem to have virtually nothing to do with the British state, and everything to do with the people of Ireland, north and south.
As a result of the recent murder of Robert McCartney in a republican area of Belfast, the IRA has been forced to expel members. Do you think that the murderers of Mr McCartney committed a crime? Do you think they should be punished through the courts? One of Mr McCartney's sisters said on RTE: "We now see and we can now hear." What do you think she meant?
I see and hear that Gerry Adams now says he may have been wrong to deny IRA involvement in the raid on the Northern Bank. What do you think? If it is true that we have now entered an era of peace, can there be any defence for criminal activity? Your policy seems to be "not an ounce, not a bullet, not a shilling". How can Irish democracy be built on that? It looks to me, rather like the last days of Soviet rule in eastern Europe, that the people you have been accustomed to control now feel threatened by you, not defended, and they are finding the courage to say so.
It's nice to talk. All those years of demonising and criminalising republicans and refusing to talk only protracted our conflict. When you talk you begin to appreciate the other person's perspective and motivation.
Yes, the IRA dismissed some of its members. It also said there should be no intimidation of or injunction against any witness helping the dead man's family in their quest for justice. This is an encouraging development with ramifications for the recognition by republicans of the Police Service of Northern Ireland [PSNI] and the legal system, once the promised reforms and bill of rights are introduced.
Do you remember that other murder in Belfast of young Peter McBride? Guess what! Despite being found guilty in the high court of murder, the British army refused to dismiss Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher! After serving only six years each, they were welcomed back into the ranks. Furthermore, the British government refuses to cooperate with the Irish government in its investigations into the Dublin and Monaghan car bombs, which killed 33 people. Only 17 pages of the 3,000-page report by the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens into allegations of collusion between British intelligence and loyalist paramilitaries were published. Charles, what is going on?!
Dear Danny Morrison,
You seem to think that, because you are a spokesman for Sinn Féin/IRA, I must be a spokesman for the British authorities. I am not. My point is that current events in Ireland reveal crimes against Irish people by the IRA in what is supposed to be an era of peace. The alleged wickedness of the British state is not relevant to this question, and you do not answer it.
By saying that there should be no intimidation of those who bear witness against Robert McCartney's murderers, do you suggest that, in other cases, witnesses to murders should be intimidated? The McCartney sisters say that up to 12 people were involved in their brother's murder. Will Sinn Féin/IRA insist that they all come forward? I wonder why, shortly after the murder, Alex Maskey hurried down to Short Strand to condemn "heavyhanded" policing. Why didn't Sinn Féin immediately help to hunt the killers?
I mentioned the Northern Bank robbery, but you did not respond. Was the IRA involved, and, if so, do you defend its involvement?
Your position on the British state is well known, but Sinn Féin's attitude to the Irish state is more confusing. Is it a legitimate state? If you do not think it is, how can Irish people accept your good faith in participating in Irish political life? If you think the Irish state is legitimate, why were Sinn Féin Dail deputies photographed visiting the killers of garda McCabe in prison?
Thanks for answering none of my questions. To yours: I am not a spokesperson for Sinn Féin or the IRA. I was director of publicity at Sinn Féin until 1990, and I was an IRA member. I am now a member of neither. In any clubs yourself? I know exactly what you mean by "The alleged wickedness of the British state is not relevant". It never is, comrade.
By the way, it was in the Markets area that Maskey spoke of PSNI heavyhandedness. Would you support the IRA hunting Robert McCartney's killers, arresting them at gunpoint and dropping them off at the nearest barracks? If that isn't what you mean, please explain.
Regarding the Northern Bank robbery: I was convinced initially that the IRA did it to send a message to Blair after it offered - in his words - a historic, unprecedented deal to the unionists, only for Paisley to call for the IRA to be publicly humiliated. Paisley busted the deal and paid no penalty. When Adams and McGuinness robustly denied any involvement, I changed my mind. But that's now academic since Sinn Féin has been penalised for something the IRA may or not have done. Would you support the salaries and expenses of all members of the Labour party being withdrawn because British soldiers were alleged to have murdered or tortured Iraqis? It's the same thing - except the IRA doesn't interfere in the affairs of other nations.
As for the 26 counties: it's a legitimate state, though Britain forced it to pay crippling annuities for years until Dublin told it where to get off and immediately suffered an economic embargo. And, as I said when you were not listening, Britain refuses to cooperate with the biggest murder inquiry in the republic. Incidentally, the IRA people convicted of Jerry McCabe's manslaughter, when the IRA was not on ceasefire and before the Belfast agreement, have been ruled by the Irish high court as "qualifying prisoners", due for release under the agreement. So, my chum, why do you so enthusiastically support the authorities when they renege on their pledges?!
Dear Danny Morrison,
Please don't get so angry. I know you went to prison for falsely imprisoning an alleged informer, but remember that this is a debate, not an interrogation.
My essential point about the McCartney murder is that Mr McCartney's sisters believe that IRA men killed their brother and that the IRA is not doing nearly enough to bring his killers, and those who cleared up the mess to conceal the crime, to justice. Are the McCartney sisters mistaken?
You clearly think that if the IRA did rob the bank, it would have been justified (because it "sends a message"). So I don't understand why you complained, in your first email, about republicans being "criminalised": bank robbery is a criminal act, and one you seem happy to support. You say that the question of who robbed the bank is now "academic", but crime is not an academic question for its victims. In this case, the victims, as well as the bank itself and its depositors, were the terrified kidnapped bank clerks.
How much longer must Irish people suffer IRA crimes? How can these crimes be compatible with democracy?
In a recent BBC vox pop, several Short Strand residents rejected going to the PSNI. This was followed by Paula McCartney (one of Robert's sisters) saying: "If witnesses are unwilling to approach the police, the family would like them to give statements to the police ombudsman." Chief Constable Hugh Orde said: "If people do not feel able to do that [go to the PSNI], we have no difficulty with them talking to third parties as a first step to build confidence."
That is Sinn Féin's position!
Now, the difference between robbing a bank for oneself or for a cause has already been settled by British law, initially in the Emergency Provisions Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act and latterly in the Terrorism Act 2000. Why do you think IRA armed robbers were initially granted political status? The rules of evidence are different and the punishment more severe.
Anyway, it's a bit rich for Britain that robs not banks but entire nations to be lecturing us!
Dear Danny Morrison,
I feel that, if the IRA really wanted the McCartney murder cleared up, it could do it straightaway, and I feel that you know that.
As far as the Northern Bank goes, both Adams and Martin McGuinness have described the robbery as a "crime". So I repeat, why is the republican movement committing crimes? Sinn Féin says it is committed to the peace process, but it seems to be committed to the process, not the peace.
You end: "It's a bit rich for Britain ... to be lecturing us". As I say, I am not speaking for Britain. My question to you is: "Who is 'us'?" The victims of republican crimes are Irish people. You tell me you accept the legitimacy of the Irish state. Sinn Féin's acceptance of the consent principle implies acceptance of partition too. Yet Sinn Féin/IRA still rob and terrorise your fellow Irishmen and women, north and south. Why?
As an Irish republican, I cannot accept that Britain has any right to rule my community and part of my country: it makes me feel vanquished, as it would you were the roles reversed. If you are going to quote concern for this community, then please recognise of which authorities (unionist and Westminster governments) it has been the chief victim, that it has overwhelmingly chosen Sinn Féin under MPs like Adams and McGuinness to represent it, that it desires peace with unionist people and Britain; and that the IRA (which sprang from this community) has compromised and on three occasions put large numbers of weapons beyond use.
We live in an abnormal society, which was no solution in 1920 and no solution today, and that explains why abnormal things have been done by all sides. I accept moral responsibility for the actions of Irish republicans. I only wish the apologists for the British presence - and you are one - did the same for its actions. In denial you might be, but you will find that though republicans bear continuing British rule under sufferance, we can be great craic and are prepared to love you!
· Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, is a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator.
· Danny Morrison, an ex-prisoner and former director of publicity for Sinn Féin, is a full-time author and commentator; his play about the IRA, The Wrong Man, opens at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, on March 12
Cost Of Flynn’s Government Jobs: At Least €182,635
By Michael O’Farrell
FORMER Government troubleshooter Phil Flynn earned hundreds of thousands of euro in consultancy fees from five Government departments, figures released yesterday reveal.
Mr Flynn, who last month sensationally resigned from all his public positions after being implicated in the garda investigation into suspected IRA money laundering, has frequently been hired as a consultant since 1998.
His work for the Department of Finance, the Department of Enterprise, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Department of Communications earned him at least €182,635 in fees.
In addition, Mr Flynn, as one of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s most trusted troubleshooters, worked extensively within the Taoiseach’s Department.
However, figures for the value of that work were unavailable last night.
According to a series of parliamentary questions tabled by Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton, Mr Flynn’s most lucrative consultancy work came from the Department of Finance, which has paid him €107,487 since 2001.
As chairman of the Government’s Decentralisation Implementation Group, Mr Flynn was paid €39,650 last year.
Mr Flynn had so far this year earned €9,555 for his decentralisation work.
Mr Flynn, a former Sinn Féin vice president and ICTU head, also earned an additional €58,282 in 2001 and 2002, mostly as a member of the benchmarking review group.
According to the Department of Communications, Mr Flynn engaged in consultancy work worth just under €18,000 between 2000 and 2002.
Mr Flynn also carried out industrial relations work for the Department of Enterprise worth €56,079 between 1997 and 1999.
Mr Flynn, who denies any involvement in money laundering, has pledged to clear his name.
Hunger Strikers Wanted More Than Vague Promises
The claim that the IRA's army council was responsible for prolonging the hunger strikes is wrong, writes Danny Morrison.
Your columnist Fintan O'Toole (March 1st) readily accepts Richard O'Rawe's claim in his new book Blanketmen that the IRA army council was to blame for six of the 10 hunger-strike deaths by refusing a deal from the British government.
The 1981 hunger strike was a direct result of the 1980 hunger strike. The British government had said that it would not act under duress but would respond with a progressive and liberal prison regime once it ended. The prisoners called off the fast to save the life of Seán McKenna.
However, the British immediately reneged on their promises. Because of this duplicity the hunger strikers of 1981 were adamant that any deal must be copperfastened.
By early July 1981, and after four deaths, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) became involved in trying to mediate a settlement.
Around the same time the republican leadership was privately contacted by "Mountain Climber", codename for a leading Foreign Office figure, by telephone through an intermediary. This method was not satisfactory given that messages could become distorted, but we had no choice if lives were to be saved.
I was given a special visit with the hunger strikers on Sunday, July 5th, and told them we were in contact with the British. The offer was, of course, less than what the men were demanding.
Both in regard to this offer and the separate initiative undertaken by the ICJP the prisoners' major concern was a mechanism for ensuring the British did not renege.
As was agreed with Mountain Climber I was allowed to send for and meet Bik McFarlane, the IRA OC. I was also allowed the use of a telephone to speak to Gerry Adams in Belfast.
When I attempted to return to the hunger strikers a governor intervened, ordered me out of the prison and snatched the phone from me. We were aware of major differences between the Home Office, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the Foreign Office over the hunger strike, and my being ordered from the prison was worrying.
That night the ICJP visited the hospital. The hunger strikers asked for McFarlane to be present, but the NIO refused. The ICJP offered to act as guarantors, but the prisoners asked for an NIO official to deal with them directly.
In relation to my eviction Mountain Climber explained the delicacy of his operation and that there was major opposition to a settlement. He had been insisting on strict confidentiality.
However, we took a decision to divulge to the ICJP that a more solid negotiation was going on in the background. Because of the ICJP's intervention we felt that the British were postponing doing this potential deal to see if they could force the prisoners to accept less through the ICJP.
An angry ICJP then confronted prisons minister Michael Allison and demanded that an NIO guarantor be sent in to the hunger strikers to confirm a deal.
In Richard O'Rawe's version the IRA's army council sent in a communication ("comm") on Monday afternoon rejecting the proposals. "Bik and I were shattered," writes O'Rawe. McFarlane totally repudiates that account.
The contemporaneous evidence is on McFarlane's side. At 11pm on July 6th, the latter wrote a lengthy comm (which is in Ten Men Dead, David Beresford, 1987) in which there is no mention of an IRA comm. From his demeanour there is clearly no evidence that he received such a missive.
Furthermore, if the NIO had really wanted to do a deal, even one based on the ICJP's proposals, then all it had to do was send in the guarantor to the hunger strikers. Fr Crilly (ICJP) confirmed this on Thursday on BBC Radio Ulster. Six times the ICJP phoned Allison about the guarantor going in, but none ever appeared and Joe McDonnell died on July 8th, followed by five others.
O'Rawe says: "The proposals were there in black and white, direct from Thatcher's desk." They were there through word of mouth. Given previous experience, were not the prisoners right to insist that any deal be guaranteed? How can the hunger strikers or the republican leadership be faulted for insisting on that safeguard?
Laurence McKeown, who was then on hunger strike (surviving 70 days), criticised O'Rawe's version and said yesterday: "We wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of 'regime change'."
O'Rawe claims he wrote the book because the families "had a right to know the facts", yet he did not have the courtesy to forewarn them. He never once discussed with McFarlane if those recollections from 24 years ago were also his, as would be the normal practice. We now know why. O'Rawe's book which relies so much on "Bik and I this and that" would have fallen asunder if O'Rawe had consulted him.
It is telling that not once in the past 24 years has the NIO stated that before Joe McDonnell's death it made an offer to the hunger strikers which was turned down by the IRA's army council. I wonder if Fintan O'Toole would have commented had O'Rawe's book been titled, Blanketmen - Thatcher killed hunger strikers.
Danny Morrison is a former director of publicity for Sinn Féin and ex-prisoner
© The Irish Times
Call For Body To Protect Interests Of Young People In The Workforce
By Michael O'Regan
The ardfheis called for the setting up of a governing body to implement statutory pay and conditions for young people in the workforce. Julie Pakenham, of Cavan Ógra, questioned how many young people were receiving the national minimum wage.
"How many young people know they are entitled to the wage? Young people today are unaware of their rights and are being taken advantage of in the workplace," she said.
Nine years after the introduction of legislation to protect young people in the workplace more needed to be done.
The call for the governing body was made during a debate on the economy and communications. Pat Traynor, Monaghan, called for an end to the roaming charges on mobile phones which, he said, represented a major problem in the Border area. "Young people use the 'pay as you go' phone, and they, in particular, are being ripped off".
The party's Louth TD Arthur Morgan said Sinn Féin was committed to improving Ireland's competitiveness through progressive social and economic policies.
"Government policies on social spending in the areas of housing, transport infrastructure and childcare in particular are not only bad for the people of this State, they are also bad for the economy".
Mr Morgan said the Nordic countries, which had high levels of social protections and proper provision of housing and childcare, delivered through higher levels of social spending and achieved higher rankings than the Republic in global competitiveness.
He accused the Government of standing over the development of a "bubble" overvaluation in the housing market which was endangering the economy. The Government, he said, had failed to tackle the infrastructure deficit affecting much of the State and had implemented unsustainable planning policies, standing idly by as the State's competitiveness was thrown away.
Mr Morgan said Sinn Féin would promote an economy that served society.
"We will invest in infrastructure, including rail and road and balanced regional development. We will invest in the development of quality affordable accessible childcare and free pre-school for all three-year-olds.
"We will tackle house prices. We will protect essential services, which are vital to the State's competitiveness, such as the State airline and An Post".
Mr Morgan reiterated the Sinn Féin view that competition policy must be driven by a criterion of protecting the public good, that competition must be regulated, that universal service obligations must be maintained and strengthened, that workers' rights must be protected and guaranteed, and that the competition authorities must make tackling cartels a priority.
Self-regulation by the professions, which had long been shown to be anti-competitive, would also be tackled.
"The failure of successive Governments to tackle what are, effectively closed shops in many of the professions, illustrates the selectivity of the establishment when it comes to the issue of competition," he said.
© The Irish Times
Man Said He Stole Car For Omagh Blast, Court Told
A man admitted providing the Real IRA with the car used in the Omagh bombing, it was alleged during a bail hearing in the High Court in Belfast yesterday.
Anthony Joseph Donegan (34), a labourer from Afton Drive, Dundalk, Co Louth, was said to have told gardaí that he had stolen the car at Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, three days before the car bombing. Twenty-nine people died in the Omagh blast on August 15th, 1998, and in the High Court in Belfast yesterday crown lawyer David Hopley said Mr Donegan's admission about stealing the car was made on June 21st, 1999, while in Garda custody.
"He said he had supplied the car to a dissident republican suspect and analysis of his mobile phone at the time shows he made contact with a known dissident Omagh bomb suspect," said Mr Hopley.
"He also was in contact with a known dissident suspect shortly after the explosion was reported."
Defence barrister Peter Irvine said: "It seems utterly surprising, if not incredulous, that that information would not have been provided to the PSNI. So at this stage one must be particularly circumspect about the nature and quality of the evidence against this applicant."
Mr Donegan, who has denied supplying the car, applied for bail in the High Court in Belfast by video link with Maghaberry Prison, where he has been on remand since February 9th.
Opposing bail, Mr Hopley said evidence had to be obtained from the Garda by way of an International Letter of Request and this would take some time.
Lord Justice Campbell said that taking all matters into consideration, he was still not satisfied that on a charge as grave as this the applicant would turn up and therefore he refused bail.
© The Irish Times
Possible 200 redundancies at the Shelbourne Hotel
Shelbourne Hotel To Close For 18 Months For Major Refurbishment -V
By Joe Humphreys
The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin has announced plans to close for 18 months to allow for a major refurbishment.
Hotel operator Marriott announced yesterday that the temporary closure would begin next month, pending discussions with employee and union representatives.
The hotel's 247 staff, some of whom have as much as 40 years' service, were informed of the plans yesterday.
Kieron Connolly, Siptu's hotel and catering branch secretary, said: "We are angry and disappointed that they have gone with this option. This decision is being made without regard for the interests of staff." Mr Connolly said the 18-month closure period seemed excessive.
In a statement Marriott said the hotel's new owners had completed discussions with its key contractors and advisers on the refurbishment programme, "and it is anticipated that contracts for the work will be awarded in the near future".
The landmark hotel, which was founded in 1824 and played host in 1922 to the drafting of the Free State constitution by Michael Collins, was purchased from Royal Bank of Scotland recently for around €140 million by a consortium headed by Galway hotelier John Sweeney.
It has been managed since January 2004 by the international hotel chain Marriott under a long-term lease.
In a statement the Shelbourne said a final decision on closure would be taken following consultation with staff representatives.
All parts of the hotel, including bars and restaurants, are to close during the works with the exception of the gym and leisure centre.
A hotel spokeswoman added that plans were in place to transfer pre-booked accommodation, and weddings and other functions, to "another five-star hotel in the neighbourhood".
Fáilte Ireland last year threatened to reduce the Shelbourne's rating from five stars to four.
© The Irish Times
Man Who Refused To Pay His TV Licence Fee For 21 Years Jailed
A 66-year-old Killarney man who has been refusing to pay his television licence fee for 21 years was imprisoned yesterday after failing to pay a fine for not having a licence.
Richard Behal stood as a Sinn Féin candidate in the 1984 European elections in Munster.
Because of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act then in force, RTÉ did not include a live interview with him on an election programme. All other eight candidates appeared live on the programme.
Behal, who is no longer a member of a political party and describes himself as an "independent republican", claims he was disadvantaged by not appearing live on the programme and has since refused to pay his television licence fee.
He has been involved in a number of court cases on the issue. In July 2003 he failed in an appeal to the Circuit Court against a District Court conviction for not paying his licence fee. Behal argued that he was entitled to withhold his licence fee on account of his treatment under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act.
Judge Carroll Moran refused the appeal in the Circuit Court, saying it was a matter for a higher court, and ordered him to pay €200 in fines and €65 expenses.
Speaking from his home in Killarney, Co Kerry, shortly before being taken to Cork Prison yesterday, Behal said he was prepared to spend up to 15 nights in prison rather than pay "one cent" of the fine.
He also asked family and friends not to pay the fine, saying the issue was "a matter of deep principle" for him.
© The Irish Times
Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005
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