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March 10, 2005

03/11/05 – MPs Remove SF’s Allowances

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

IT 03/11/04 MPs Back Motion Removing £440,000 Allowances From SF
SF 03/10/05 Decision Was “As Predictable As It Is Undemocratic'
IT 03/11/05 Two SF Men Held Over Pub Threats Claim -V
IT 03/11/05 Nationalists Want IRA To Disband, Survey Finds
IT 03/11/05 Still No Hard Evidence On McCartney
UT 03/10/05 McCartney Family In Fresh Witness Appeal
BT 03/10/05 Trimble Calls Off St Pat's Trip To US
SF 03/10/05 Adams - A Vote For Joe Reilly Is A Vote For Meath
DM 03/10/05 Trial Of Irish Peace Activists Begins In Dublin -V
BB 03/10/05 Job Cuts At Hosiery Firm Expected
IT 03/11/05 Irish Closer To Becoming An Official Language Of EU

PT 03/10/05 Families Voice Anger Over Alleged IRA Killings –VO
PT 03/10/05 McGuinness Defends SF Over Links to IRA Members –VO

Families Beginning To Voice Anger Over Alleged IRA Killings - Michael Heney reports on the emerging calls for justice from families of alleged IRA victims in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster, defends his party over its links to known IRA members


MPs Back Motion Removing £440,000 Allowances From SF

Frank Millar, London Editor

The Blair government has heavily defeated unionist and Conservative proposals to extend the range of financial penalties against Sinn Féin arising from the determination of IRA responsibility for the Northern Bank robbery.

In the Commons yesterday MPs approved the government motion withdrawing parliamentary allowances worth some £440,000 from Sinn Féin's four MPs for one year.

However the government defeated Conservative and unionist amendments seeking to remove that time limit while extending the sanction to include the withdrawal of all Westminster offices and facilities.

The government also defeated a second proposal calling on Northern Secretary Paul Murphy to make necessary arrangements to financially sanction Sinn Féin in respect of salaries and allowances in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the European Parliament and local government by 357 votes to 171.

Leader of the Commons Peter Hain insisted the government motion was a just and proportionate response expressing "the profound disapproval of this House for the activities of the Provisional IRA and the responsibility which Sinn Féin shares for these activities in the estimation of the Independent Monitoring Commission".

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy travelled to London to denounce the decision, which he described "as predictable as it is undemocratic".

However Conservative spokesman David Lidington insisted: "The government did not go far enough." And the SDLP's Seamus Mallon launched a withering attack on Sinn Féin, saying its abstentionist principle had been demeaned by its willingness to accept the Westminster allowances.

Mr Mallon also criticised the two governments for their conduct of the process of negotiation, which he said had "diminished the Good Friday agreement and its chances of success".

The retiring Newry and Armagh MP abstained in the votes because he believed the proposed sanctions contributed to the grievance culture on which republicans appeared to thrive.

He said if governments had wanted to devise a template to destroy the entire centre ground of politics in Northern Ireland, it could be found in the approach to the process of negotiation.

© The Irish Times


Decision To Remove MP's Allowances 'Is As Predictable As It Is Undemocratic'

Published: 10 March, 2005

Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy speaking from London has said that the decision to remove allowances from Sinn Féin's four MPs is as predictable as it is undemocratic.

Mr Murphy said: "Republicans were challenged to take our analysis to the electorate. We did so and as a result Sinn Fein is the largest pro-agreement party in the north and the third biggest party on the island of Ireland. The response of the establishment, North and South, is to move the goal posts and introduce undemocratic sanctions against Sinn Féin, which are based on unfounded allegations.

"It is no surprise that the British parliament should attack and discriminate against an Irish republican political party which challenges it right to rule part of our country.

"The decision today is a further attack not just on Sinn Féin and our political mandate but also on the people we represent.

"Sinn Fein will continue to resist all attempts to disenfranchise Sinn Féin and the hundreds and thousands of people we represent. We will continue to argue and promote Irish reunification and will continue to represent people from communities marginalised by the establishment." ENDS


Two SF members among six held in Co Leitrim - Eileen Magnier, North-West Correspondent, reports on the arrests of six men in connection with an alleged threat incident in a pub in Manorhamilton

Two SF Men Held Over Pub Threats Claim -V

James Fitzgerald

Sinn Féin last night confirmed that two of its members were among those arrested following an incident of alleged intimidation in a Co Leitrim pub where a local couple were given less than a week to leave town.

Six men were arrested and questioned in connection with the incident, which happened on Monday night in O'Mahony's bar in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim.

They were held under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, with two being detained in Sligo, two in Manorhamilton and two in Carrick-on-Shannon. They were all released last night without charge. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Chief Supt Michael Staunton, of the Sligo-Leitrim area, indicated that the men were questioned in relation to public order issues under the Criminal Justice Act, as opposed to the Offences Against the State Act, which is used to question those suspected of IRA membership.

"That indicates the direction the investigation is going," he said.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said that the "fairly minor" incident had been blown out of proportion and did not deserve the sort of attention it was receiving.

"We certainly would not condone the alleged activity, but it was a relatively small thing that happened where verbals were exchanged in a pub. It didn't warrant headline news," he said.

A spokesman for the bar in question refused to comment last night, but it is understood that on Monday night a small group of men burst into the pub and confronted a middle-aged couple who were drinking inside.

According to a witness, the men were very drunk, and one was carrying a hurley, although it is not thought that there was any physical contact during the incident.

"The men accused them of being drug-dealers and then they just gave them an ultimatum. They said they had to leave town by midday on Saturday or else," said the witness.

It is thought that one of the men had a previous falling-out with the man in the couple outside a different pub in the town.

According to locals, the couple in question are well known in the area and are regular customers of O'Mahony's. "We have known them a long time, and they are not involved in any way with the drugs trade," said one man.

"These guys were just bullies full of drink, looking for someone to abuse on the night. Nothing like this has ever happened here before, and I don't think it will happen again, judging by the reaction around here," he said.

A Sinn Féin spokesman last night played down the seriousness of the incident and suggested that, had the men been members of any other political party, it would not have received the same attention.

© The Irish Times


Majority Of Nationalists Want IRA To Disband, Survey Finds

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

A clear majority of nationalists believe the IRA should now disband, according to an opinion poll carried out this week in Northern Ireland.

Some 60 per cent of all nationalists, including 44 per cent of those who identified themselves as Sinn Féin supporters, told pollsters it was time for the IRA to stand down.

Support among nationalists for immediate total decommissioning of all IRA weapons was higher - at 70 per cent, with 59 per cent of Sinn Féin supporters backing such a move. The opinion poll, carried out for BBC Newsnight and the Belfast Telegraph, also illustrates a significant gulf between unionists and nationalists about the future direction of the peace process.

The poll's key findings also show: the clear widening of the gap in support between the Rev Ian Paisley's DUP and the Ulster Unionists; growing unionist hostility to the restoration of the Assembly, even in the event of IRA decommissioning and/or disbandment; a general dissatisfaction with the Sinn Féin leadership's response to the murder of Robert McCartney and deep scepticism among nationalists that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery.

The party standings show some slippage in support for Sinn Féin since the Assembly election in November 2003. Gerry Adams's party is down 3.5 points to 20 per cent, whereas the SDLP now also stands at 20 per cent, up 3 points from 17 per cent.

The DUP is showing even more strongly at 28 per cent, up from 25.6 per cent at the last Assembly election. David Trimble's UUP looks to be in further significant trouble with support down to 16 per cent from 22.7 per cent in November 2003.

The poll uncovered 47 per cent dissatisfaction among Catholics about Sinn Féin's handling of the Robert McCartney controversy.

The survey's 1,010 respondents were questioned on Monday and Tuesday, before the IRA said it offered to shoot republicans directly involved in the killing of Mr McCartney.

© The Irish Times


Still No Hard Evidence On McCartney

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

PSNI detectives investigating the murder of Robert McCartney still have not received any eyewitness evidence that could convict his killers, according to security and McCartney family sources.

Neither has anyone admitted direct involvement in the killing despite the arrest on Wednesday of one of the three men expelled by the IRA for their alleged participation in the murder, sources added.

And despite the IRA's offer to the McCartney family to shoot, and possibly kill, those centrally involved in Mr McCartney's murder and despite the organisation "ordering" those implicated in the killing to come forward, no substantial progress has been made, they said.

"In terms of getting evidence to convict those who killed Robert, we were informed the investigation is as far on as it was on day one," The Irish Times was told yesterday Ms Catherine McCartney, sister of the murdered father of two young children.

So far 12 people, most of whom were in or near Magennis's bar on the day of the killing on January 30th, have been arrested by police investigating the murder.

A number went voluntarily to the police accompanied by their solicitors after IRA and Sinn Féin calls for people to come forward to help bring the killers to justice.

The most potentially significant arrest was on Wednesday when one of the three men expelled by the IRA came forward to the police with his solicitor. He was released shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

All the other 11 arrested people were released unconditionally but this man was released "pending further inquiries". In the North, people who are released without being charged can be released in a hierarchy of three separate ways.

They can be simply released, as happened the 11. They can be released "pending further inquiries", as in the case of the expelled IRA member, or they can be released on police bail.

While this man faces further inquiries, security and family sources said he had provided nothing evidential to the police. The nature of his release, however, indicates that PSNI detectives believe he remains central to their investigation.

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde has stressed on a number of occasions that, notwithstanding the show of co-operation, the police gained nothing evidential from the 12 arrests.

Members of the McCartney family have repeatedly stated that, while the IRA and Sinn Féin have pledged support to the family, fear and intimidation in the Short Strand and the nearby Markets - the areas where most of the witnesses come from - are still preventing people providing useful information to the PSNI.

The IRA statement which revealed it offered to shoot those implicated in the killing - an offer rejected by the McCartneys - said only four men were directly involved. The family say up to 10 more men were involved in the subsequent clean-up and cover-up.

© The Irish Times


McCartney Family In Fresh Witness Appeal

The sister of murdered Belfast father of two Robert McCartney tonight issued a fresh appeal for witnesses to come forward as police tried to break down the wall of silence over his brutal killing.

By:Press Association

Following the release last night of another suspect, Catherine McCartney spoke of her family`s frustration that intense political pressure to get the killers to appear in court was not being matched by eyewitnesses coming forward to the police.

Speaking after another family meeting with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, she told PA: "Things are frustrating right now.

"There seems to be an awful lot of political activity but very little is happening on the ground despite all the appeals that have been made in recent days.

"There has to be more tangible evidence for the investigation to go to court.

"Our family`s bottom line is that the people responsible for murdering Robert have to appear in court. The only way that will be done is people on the ground coming forward."

Sinn Fein and the IRA has been under intense pressure during the past month over Robert McCartney`s brutal murder on January 30 outside Magennis`s Bar in Belfast city centre.

The Provisionals expelled three of their members for their role in the killing after the family alleged their brother`s murderers were being shielded by the organisation and witnesses were also being intimidated.

Sinn Fein has also suspended seven members, with Gerry Adams passing their names to a solicitor to hand over to Northern Ireland`s Police Ombudsman Nuala O`Loan.

International interest in the McCartney family`s campaign for justice is also beginning to pick up, with the sisters scheduled to appear live on CNN when they visit Washington next week.

With American interest high, Sinn Fein will be anxious to ensure its standing with Irish America is not damaged as the McCartneys prepare to take their case directly to the White House, Capitol Hill and on coast to coast news programmes.

In a savage Boston Globe editorial today the Republican Movement was compared to the Corleone family in Francis Ford Coppola`s gangster movie, `The Godfather` and urged to disband the IRA publicly and irrevocably.

In another blow to Sinn Fein tonight, MPs backed a Government proposal to strip the party of around £440,000 in House of Commons allowances.

A new opinion poll in Northern Ireland tonight also claimed almost half of Sinn Fein supporters want the IRA to disband.

The survey by Millward Brown Ulster for the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC`s Newsnight programme said a stunning 44% of Sinn Fein voters and 60% of the nationalist community wanted the Provisionals to wind down.

The poll of 1,010 adults also found 61% of people surveyed believed Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde`s assertion the IRA carried out the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in December.

The Protestant community was the most convinced with 88% believing the IRA was involved.

The Catholic community was more split over the Northern Bank with 32% agreeing, 25% disputing the claims and 44% undecided.

And on the crucial question of whether people were satisfied with Sinn Fein`s response to the Robert McCartney murder, the poll by Millward Brown Ulster for the BBC`s Newsnight programme and the Belfast Telegraph found 29% were happy with the response, 47% were dissatisfied and 23% undecided.

The opinion poll also suggested support for Sinn Fein has dropped 3.5% since the November 2003 Assembly election, with the party running neck and neck with Mark Durkan`s SDLP on 20%.

However opinion polls in Northern Ireland traditionally underestimate the Sinn Fein vote.

The survey also claimed support for the Rev Ian Paisley`s DUP had risen to 28% while David Trimble`s Ulster Unionists fell to 16%, a dramatic drop on the 32.7% it had in the 1997 General Election.

Sinn Fein Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy tonight said his party was adamant witnesses should come forward to help the family receive justice.

Conor Murphy

"I have to say, as Gerry (Adams) said at the weekend, the people who I find are most angry about what happened to Robert McCartney are republicans," the Newry and Armagh MLA insisted.

"They are very firm in their view that there has to be justice for the family.

"The McCartney affair has not just been damaging for republicanism but it has created a huge injustice for that family which has to be resolved as soon as possible.

"We have given clear leadership on this issue. I think the IRA has also been clear in its latest statement that strenuous efforts are being made to ensure witnesses do not feel intimidated coming forward to people with information.

"I am not sure what else can be done but it may be the nature of the community`s relationship with the police is such that people are not comfortable coming forward.

Nevertheless we are very clear that people need to help the family get justice."

The SDLP`s Dominic Bradley said it was clear from the opinion poll that people in Northern Ireland wanted the paramilitaries off their backs.

"They realise that paramilitaries, loyalist and republican, are holding back progress and holding up change for us all," the Newry and Armagh Assemblyman said.

"That`s why 70% of nationalists want the IRA to decommission all its weapons and 60% of nationalists want it to disband.

"For loyalists the choice is also clear: wind down or be shut down. That is what the people want."


Trimble Calls Off St Pat's Trip To US

By Sean O'Driscoll
10 March 2005

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has cancelled his St Patrick's Day trip to America after it emerged that all Northern Ireland parties are to be excluded from the annual celebrations in the House of Representatives.

Mr Trimble, who was due to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, decided to cancel the trip as there is now little left for the Northern Ireland parties to do in the city.

Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph reported that Sinn Fein had been excluded from the annual Speaker's Luncheon at the House of Representatives but it has since emerged that all the Northern Ireland parties are to be left out.

This is the first time in ten years that none of the political parties will be invited to the White House or the annual St Patrick's Day House of Representatives Speaker's Luncheon.

The parties have been excluded from both events because of the huge controversy surrounding Sinn Fein over the killing of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank heist, as well as a general frustration in the Bush administration over the parties' inability to reach a political deal.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will continue with his trip to the US and will be the only Northern Ireland political leader to speak at a press conference at the National Press Club.


Adams - A Vote For Joe Reilly Is A Vote For Meath

Published: 10 March, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking on the last day of canvassing in the Meath by-election said "A vote for Joe Reilly and Sinn Féin in this by-election is a vote for Meath, a vote for the peace process and a vote for a united Ireland. As we prepare to go to the polls I want to appeal to all voters to come out and vote and to vote for Sinn Féin and to transfer to Sinn Féin. "

Mr. Adams said:

"The establishment parties have failed to deliver for Meath in this time of prosperity. Meath has become a residential commuter belt, which lacks basic services and infrastructure such as hospitals, decent educational facilities, integrated transport including a rail link to Navan and childcare. And for almost 30 years these same parties have been robbing the most vulnerable people in this society.

"A vote for Joe Reilly is an alternative to all of that. Councillor Joe Reilly is by far the most active and experienced representative in this contest. A vote for Joe Reilly is a vote for the peace process and for a united Ireland. A vote for Joe Reilly is a vote for Meath.

"As we prepare to go to the polls I want to appeal to all voters in this by-election to endorse this work - to vote for Sinn Féin and to transfer to Sinn Féin."ENDS


Trial Of Irish Peace Activists Opposed To U.S. Military Use Of Shannon Airport Begins In Dublin -V


The trial of five peace activists began Monday in Dublin, Ireland. The five were arrested on February 3rd, 2003 on charges stemming from an action at Shannon Airport - a civilian airport that has been transformed into a pit stop for the U.S military. They face up to 10 years in prison. We go to Dublin to speak with Ciaron O'Reilly, one of the activists on trial and Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. [includes rush transcript]


The trial of five peace activists begins today in Dublin, Ireland. Ciaron O'Reilly, Deirdre Clancy, Damien Moran, Karen Fallon and Nuin Dunlop - were arrested on February 3rd of 2003. They were arrested and face charges stemming from an action at Shannon Airport in Clare County. Shannon airport is a civilian airport that has been transformed into a pit stop for the U.S military. An average of 13,000 U.S. troops stop at Shannon Airport each month. On February 3rd - the activists - known as the "Pit Stop Ploughshares" - broke into a hangar at the airport, and damaged a US Navy war plane that was on its way to Iraq. They built a shrine with rosary and Islamic beads, a Koran a bible and photographs of Iraqi children. The activists face maximum sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Ciaron O'Reilly, Irish peace activist who was at Shannon airport when Bush arrived. He is a member of the Dublin catholic worker community and is awaiting trial for disarming US warplane in Shannon airport in a separate Plowshares action.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Catholic Bishop in Detroit and a longtime peace activist. He joins us on the line from Dublin.


Job Cuts At Hosiery Firm Expected

Substantial job losses are expected to be announced at one of Northern Ireland's biggest textile companies next week.

Strabane-based Adria said that its sales in the first quarter of 2005 were 25% down on the same period last year.

It is thought that about 200 jobs are at risk among its 790-strong workforce.

The province's textiles industry has been badly hit in recent years, with firms struggling to ward off the threat of cheaper foreign imports.

In a statement earlier this year, Adria said it believed 2005 was largely about survival within the global market place, with the prospect of business improving in 2006.

In 2001, the firm cut 165 jobs. It was taken over by a local consortium in June 2002.

Another 55 jobs were shed in September 2003 while 58 employees were laid off last July.

Adria said in a statement on Thursday that following particularly harsh global trading conditions in the first financial quarter of this year it had "experienced a dramatic reduction in turnover, down 25% on 2004 figures."

'Regrettable but necessary'

It added: "Unfortunately this will have a major impact on the profitability of the company across the full financial year's trading.

"This has resulted in the management initiating an urgent review of its business to enable it to return the company to profit."

It said the review had begun and it was "anticipated that job losses would be a regrettable but necessary part of the process".

Adria manufactures ladies, men's and children's hosiery products in Northern Ireland as well as in Turkey, Italy and Colombia.

It is the largest hosiery supplier to Marks and Spencer in the UK and the Victoria's Secret brand in North America.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/10 18:48:54 GMT


Irish Step Closer To Becoming An Official Language Of EU

Denis Staunton in Brussels

Irish has moved a step closer to becoming an official and working language of the European Union after a meeting of EU ambassadors showed broad support for the proposal.

Irish officials are now confident of securing within weeks the unanimous approval of all member-states that is needed to change the language's status.

Ireland's EU Ambassador Anne Anderson told the meeting that the limited translation regime the Government was requesting for Irish would cost less than €500,000 a year.

For a transitional period of four years, the Government is asking only that legislation agreed by both the European Parliament and the 25 EU member-states in the Council of Ministers should be translated into Irish. The Government is not asking for the acquis communitaire, about 80,000 pages of EU laws, to be translated into Irish.

The Government estimates the annual cost of translating such legislation, which runs to between 1,000 and 1,200 pages each year, at €485,000. This would cover the cost of translation and the services of a number of jurist-linguists.

Additional start-up costs in the first year, covering installation of staff and equipment and computer costs, are estimated at €400,000.

The total sum of €885,000 for the first year does not include the cost of interpretation from Irish in the European Parliament and, occasionally, in the Council of Ministers.

The EU now spends about €1.2 billion each year on translation - or €60 million for each of the 20 official and working languages.

Two countries asked yesterday for official EU confirmation of the Government's cost estimate before agreeing to change the status of Irish.

France wanted an assurance that introducing a limited translation regime for Irish would not undermine the equal status of all official and working languages in the EU.

Irish officials expressed confidence that both concerns raised could be addressed satisfactorily within the next few weeks, opening the way for an agreement as early as next month.

Spain's request for an enhanced status for a number of its regional languages, including Basque and Catalan, met greater resistance at yesterday's meeting.

A number of ambassadors warned that such a move could trigger a flood of requests to improve the status of lesser-used languages throughout the EU.

© The Irish Times

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Table of Contents – Mar 2005
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