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March 12, 2005

03/12/05 – Loyalists Accused Over Murder

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

UT 03/12/05 Loyalist Paramilitaries Accused Over Murder
WT 03/12/05 Sinn Fein Leader Begins U-S Tour In Cincinnati
BH 03/13/05 IRA Atrocity Triggers Teddy's St. Pat's Snub
WP 03/13/05 Maybe Shame Will Disarm The IRA
AB 03/13/05 Sinn Fein's Adams Says IRA May Cease To Exist
BB 03/12/05 McCartneys Appeal To SF 'Witness'
IO 03/12/05 McGuinness Refuses To Comment On Groogan Revelation
BB 03/12/05 For The Love Of Robert
TO 03/12/05 Focus: Laundering Probe
TO 03/12/05 Focus: Republicans Feel Tide
TO 03/12/05 Focus: Turn On Every Front
MS 03/12/05 Fall From Grace
TO 03/12/05 Set To Take On Ahern In Dublin
TE 03/12/05 I'll Never Deal With Adams Again, Says Bush
IO 03/12/05 Royal Win For McEntee In By-Election


Loyalist Paramilitaries Accused Over Murder

Loyalist paramilitaries have been accused of involvement in the murder of missing shop assistant Lisa Dorrian.

By:Press Association

Walls have been daubed with graffiti in the village where she disappeared during a late night party.

Her body has yet to be recovered but as police intensified their search, the Loyalist Volunteer Force was blamed.

Ms Dorrian, 25, disappeared after a party at a caravan site at Ballyhalbert on the Ards Peninsula almost two weeks ago.

Messages painted on the entrance of the village`s Moatlands Estate say `PSNI: ask the LVF where Lisa is` and `LVF drug-dealing scum`.

Even though her body has not been found, the massive hunt for the shop assistant has been turned into a murder inquiry.

Police returned today to carry out house to house inquiries in the Co Down village. They asked householders if they noticed any suspicious people in the area on the night she disappeared and also appealed for caravan owners to return to the park where she was last seen.

Ms Dorrian, who lived 10 miles away in Bangor, went missing after leaving the party in the early hours of February 28.

Two men arrested and questioned about her murder were released without charge yesterday.

Air and land searches have been carried out along the Co Down coast, with police divers also brought in to strengthen the effort.

The detective in charge of the inquiry, Chief Inspector Mark Dornan, said: "It has been necessary for police conducting the investigation to open some caravans with the permission of site wardens.

"However, as far as possible we want to work with caravan owners."

Inspector Dornan, commenting on the graffiti, said police were concentrating on solid lines of inquiry.

"Speculation isn`t helpful in this case. It isn`t helpful for the family or for the police inquiry.

"What we want to deal with is facts and evidence."


Sinn Fein Leader Begins U-S Tour In Cincinnati

CINCINNATI The leader of Sinn Fein (shin fayn) has begun a weeklong trip to the United States.

Gerry Adams urged supporters in Cincinnati to lobby President Bush and members of Congress on behalf of his party and its role in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland.

Adams' visit is being overshadowed by a controversy over the I-R-A's killing of a Catholic man. Adams condemned the death of Robert McCartney outside a Belfast bar in January, calling it "a disgraceful murder."

Sinn Fein members have been accused of helping destroy evidence and intimidate witnesses. Adams said he's suspended seven party members.

Adams will be in New York and New Jersey on Monday, then Philadelphia, Washington and Cleveland. He has not been invited to the White House or any official government function.


IRA Atrocity Triggers Teddy's St. Pat's Snub

By Andrew Miga
Sunday, March 13, 2005

WASHINGTON - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [related, bio] yesterday abruptly reversed course and joined the White House in canceling his St. Patrick's Day meeting this week with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

The Irish Republican Army's role in a brutal Belfast barroom murder and other recent outlaw acts have stirred worldwide outrage, threatening Northern Ireland's fragile peace process. Sinn Fein is the IRA's political arm.

``Senator Kennedy has decided to decline to meet with Gerry Adams, given the IRA's ongoing criminal activity and contempt for the rule of law,'' Kennedy spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner said.

As late as Friday night, Kennedy had been planning to meet with Adams, whom he vowed to hold accountable for the IRA's acts.

The White House, citing IRA violence, two weeks ago yanked its invitation to Adams and other parties in Northern Ireland to attend its annual St. Patrick's Day ceremonies.

Kennedy, who lobbied the Clinton administration a decade ago to grant Adams a visa to jump-start the peace process, is taking a harder line now against Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Adams has come under heavy public fire at home and abroad recently in the wake of the IRA's murder of Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old Belfast forklift operator, in a barroom brawl. Dozens of witnesses allegedly were threatened by the IRA.

IRA leaders sparked further outrage last week with a mafia-like offer to kill its members who fatally beat McCartney - a cold-blooded offer of vigilante justice.

``The IRA murder of Robert McCartney and subsequent calls for vigilante justice underscore the need for IRA violence and criminality to stop and for Sinn Fein to cooperate with the police service of Northern Ireland,'' Wagoner added.

The victim's sisters have spoken out against the IRA, and will be honored at the White House. Kennedy and congressional leaders also will meet with the McCartney family members.

The McCartney murder comes on the heels of charges that the IRA staged a spectacular $50 million bank heist.

The incidents have forced Adams into a political vise as even some Catholics have turned against the IRA, charging it has morphed into a largely criminal enterprise.


Maybe Shame Will Disarm The IRA

By Glenn Frankel
Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page B01


Can a paramilitary organization ever leave behind its violent past and reconcile itself to becoming just another voice in a country's political power structure? That's the question that has hung over the Irish Republican Army and its political wing, Sinn Fein, for nearly a decade -- but never more starkly than since Robert McCartney, a Sinn Fein supporter, was killed in a Belfast pub brawl six weeks ago.

McCartney's five sisters publicly and loudly blamed IRA members for his stabbing. So when Sinn Fein gathered eight days ago for an annual conference it holds in Dublin, party leader Gerry Adams could not ignore the whispers about the IRA's plummeting standing both in the North and across the border in the Republic of Ireland. McCartney's death had dented the republican movement's support and left Adams's party with a stark choice: remain chained to an increasingly discredited and thug-ridden outlaw paramilitary organization, or leave behind the IRA's bloodstained history and attempt a final leap to modern, bourgeois, democratic politics.

Adams chose a dramatic gambit to suggest what choice he himself favored. He invited McCartney's sisters to attend the conference and hear his impassioned denunciation of their 33-year-old brother's killers. The sisters had embarrassed and shamed the party by naming names, so when they entered the hall, an uneasy silence fell over the delegates. Then, one person began to applaud. Others joined in, without much enthusiasm, as the room grudgingly acknowledged the power and importance of the outsiders in their midst.

Brief as it was, that awkward scene captured the republican movement's predicament. It is caught between old and new, a bloody past and an uncertain future. Since the early 1990s, the republicans, who are overwhelmingly Catholic, have engaged in a political process with Northern Ireland's British rulers and its Protestant majority, as well as with its southern neighbors in the Republic of Ireland. But despite many concessions, they have never finished disarming or dismantling the IRA or ceding the option of returning to the violent struggle that killed more than 3,000 people over a 25-year period. Many of their constituents, including the McCartney sisters, want to move on -- a BBC and Belfast Telegraph poll this past week showed 59 percent of Sinn Fein's supporters want the IRA to disarm.

Many countries, in many corners of the globe, have faced similar choices in recent years. In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, moderates in both communities yearn for a settlement that would allow them to pursue prosperity without constantly being yanked back by extremists into a century-old blood feud. White Afrikaners in South Africa, following years of urban unrest, ceded control to a black majority after concluding that they might cling to power by force but at the price of developing a modern, successful state. Countries such as Ukraine, the former Yugoslavia, Argentina and other nations in Latin America have all wrestled with versions of this same conflict, with varying degrees of success.

In most cases, however, the paramilitary organization was either a winner or a loser. The IRA finds itself in a different position. Neither victorious nor vanquished, it has to transform itself from a revolutionary entity into a purely political one. There are few, if any, models to follow.

It may already be too late. Prosperity has arrived in Northern Ireland, making the IRA's way of life seem even more anachronistic. Parts of downtown Belfast are a glossy advertisement for the pleasures of bourgeois consumerism: noontime crowds casually stroll pedestrian malls; the old security gates set up to thwart car bombs and gunmen are long gone; so are the patrols of British soldiers nervously fingering their automatic rifles. The waterfront area is bursting with gleaming high-rise office space, hotels, shopping areas and a convention center.

But in the neighborhoods controlled by the IRA, life remains much the same. Across the River Lagan, in the Short Strand area where Robert McCartney and his sisters were born and raised, the conflict still asserts its malign authority. Berlin may long ago have demolished its wall, but the ironically named "Peace Wall" -- a 25-foot high barrier of bricks, metal rods and webbed fencing -- still severs this Catholic enclave from the Protestant community just across the divide. The local police station, which Catholic residents long saw as an enemy outpost, lurks behind an equally high fence. Although the police force is undergoing a process of reform and transformation, bleak Belfast neighborhoods like the Short Strand still feel like one big prison yard and the police stations with their bristling watchtowers and security cameras look like the protected hideouts where the prison guards reside.

The IRA and Sinn Fein have long ruled these areas, protecting residents from hostile outside forces but controlling them with a ruthless discipline not unlike that wielded by the Communist Party in Fidel Castro's Cuba. The IRA is not just a paramilitary organization but a way of life. Everything from child-care centers to local jobs to youthful misbehavior fall under its purview. Those who stray can be ostracized, expelled, beaten or even shot.

Adams and his deputy, Martin McGuinness, have long sat at the top of both Sinn Fein and, more clandestinely, the IRA. They speak, for outsiders, infuriatingly ambiguous public language: They deplore violence, for example, yet seldom condemn those responsible on the republican side. Adams can create a thicket of words to explain the difference between criminality, which he denounces, and law-breaking, which he says can sometimes be a political act. Last month, when he spoke at a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the death of three IRA guerrillas in the republican stronghold of Strabane, he shared the spotlight with an honor guard dressed in military uniforms and berets -- as if the war against British rule were still raging.

It's easy to forget that it took a leap of faith and personal courage for these two men -- both in their fifties, both of them products of the armed struggle -- to push the IRA into a ceasefire and direct negotiations a decade ago. The process that ensued has been wary, half-hearted and disappointing to all sides at times. The IRA has been accused of staging various paramilitary operations such as spying on potential foes, gun running, guerrilla training (in Colombia) and organized crime. Republican negotiators in turn complain that their British counterparts have often made too many concessions to Protestant hardliners. Still, one overwhelming fact prevails: In recent years the death toll in one of Europe's longest running sectarian conflict has been reduced to nearly zero.

Last fall, the republican movement seemed poised to take the final step and decommission the last of its secret arsenals, thereby effectively going out of business. The deal fell apart after unionists led by Ian Paisley demanded photographic proof of the disarming and an expression of contrition from the IRA. Two weeks later, the chances for compromise collapsed after robbers made off with $50 million from a Belfast bank, a spectacular operation that the British and Irish governments have blamed on the IRA.

The robbery damaged Sinn Fein's growing popularity in the Republic of Ireland, a modern democratic state where bank robbery and other crimes are not viewed as acts of Irish patriotism even when carried out by republicans. In the republican heartlands of the north, the murder of McCartney, a loyal Sinn Fein voter, has been far more damaging to the party's cause.

The IRA's response has been clumsy and confused. At first the organization called for witnesses to come forward, but indicated that they should make statements to third parties, not to the police. Then it announced that it had expelled those responsible for the killing. This past week, the IRA issued its most bizarre statement yet, saying it was prepared to shoot the killers on behalf of the McCartneys.

The horrified sisters rejected this offer.

Adams is a resourceful tribal leader and no one is quite sure what political game he is playing right now. Optimists believe that having failed to close a diplomatic deal in December, he is allowing his IRA comrades to call the shots for a while, anticipating that their failures will give him the upper hand to press for their disbandment, perhaps after the British election in May. Other analysts are more skeptical, arguing that Adams believes he needs the leverage an armed IRA provides him over both the peace process and his own community. These analysts argue that he and his supporters have no intention of shutting the IRA down.

British and Irish officials, who are bitterly disappointed that Adams and the republicans have not delivered on final disarmament, have been scathing in their comments during the past several weeks. They are enraged that Adams and McGuinness were negotiating peace while the IRA was putting the finishing touches on the bank robbery plan. But no one wants to return to the bad old days of large-scale sectarian violence. Officials understand that they themselves can't force the republican movement to make the final leap.

Perhaps the righteous anger of the McCartney sisters -- and of the movement's fed-up constituents -- can.

Author's e-mail:

Glenn Frankel is The Post's London bureau chief. He first reported on the Northern Ireland conflict in 1989.


Sinn Fein's Adams Says IRA May Cease To Exist


Mar. 13, 2005 - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, in his first stop during a week-long visit to the United States, stressed his belief on Saturday that the Irish Republican Army will one day cease to exist.

Adams reiterated what he told a Sinn Fein party conference a week ago that, "We in Sinn Fein want to see the IRA ceasing to be. I have said that I do think we'll see the day when there is no IRA."

The head of the IRA's political ally began his visit under fire on both sides of the Atlantic over his party's ties to the guerrilla group, which has been accused of robbing a bank and shielding the killers of a Roman Catholic man in Northern Ireland.

But Adams said he was unaware that a State Department official called on Friday for the political party to make a "clear break" with the IRA to restore the progress made toward a united Northern Irish government, based on equality between Catholics and Protestants.

Adams is scheduled for a meeting with that official, special envoy Mitchell Reiss, in Washington on Wednesday.

Reiss said the party must sever its links to the outlawed group, which remains armed despite its cease-fire, telling Reuters "It hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party."

"I'd be surprised if he did make that a condition for achieving progress in the peace process, but I'm looking forward to meeting with him," Adams told a news conference.

He said he was disappointed but not offended that he was not invited to meet with President Bush at the White House on Thursday, St. Patrick's Day, when the president traditionally gets together with Irish government leaders.

But he sidestepped any public denunciation of the IRA, saying Sinn Fein stands for peace and harmony among all Irish people.

Adams told a social gathering of about 100 Irish-American supporters in Cincinnati that the recent murder of a Catholic man in Belfast, purportedly by elements of the IRA, was a "heinous, disgraceful act" He said Sinn Fein stands firmly in support of the family of the victim.

At the get-together at a downtown hotel penthouse bistro, Adams appealed to his audience to use all of its influence to get the U.S. government involved in helping restore a dialogue between the two sides.

Adams took issue with the notion in some quarters that Sinn Fein is losing popularity with many of its former backers. He said a by-election in a suburban Dublin district on Friday showed that the party is actually gaining in support, even though its candidate ran third.

Noting that this is the 100th anniversary year of the founding of Sinn Fein, Adams said that the party's foes recognize that "Sinn Fein is a growing vehicle" and the majority of Irish people support its objectives.

The IRA and Sinn Fein, which draw their support from the British province's Catholic minority, have been plunged into crisis by the fatal stabbing of father-of-two Robert McCartney by a gang which included IRA members outside a Belfast pub.

The killing occurred weeks after the IRA, which called a cease-fire in its campaign against British rule in 1997, was widely blamed for robbing Northern Bank's headquarters in Belfast.

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures


McCartneys Appeal To SF 'Witness'

A Sinn Fein assembly election candidate who was in a Belfast bar on the night of Robert McCartney's killing must speak to police, his family says.

Mr McCartney, 33, was stabbed to death near Belfast city centre after a row in Magennis's bar on 30 January.

Cora Groogan says she was there when the row began but saw nothing. She has given her solicitor a statement.

Sinn Fein says this was passed on to the police ombudsman, but the McCartneys say this is not enough.

The family has accused the IRA of shielding the killers.

Earlier, Ms Groogan, who stood in Mid Ulster in November 2003, said: "I got to the bar about 10pm that Sunday. I was there for a short while.

"There was a commotion in the bar but I witnessed nothing and left shortly after 11pm. I have given a full statement to my solicitor."

Ms Groogan was among about 70 people in the bar.

One of Mr McCartney's sisters, Catherine, said: "Sinn Fein says she [Ms Groogan] has given a statement to a solicitor to pass on to the police ombudsman.

"However, we believe she should give that statement directly to the police or the police ombudsman.

"Giving statements to solicitors is not really what is needed. A statement should be given to people with the proper investigative skills who can help to bring those responsible to court."

Court justice

During the attack, Mr McCartney's friend Brendan Devine also suffered serious stab wounds.

Since Mr McCartney's death, a political campaign for justice by his family has forced the IRA to expel three people and embarrassed Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams into suspending seven party members, BBC correspondent John Thorne says.

The IRA offered to shoot those involved in Mr McCartney's killing, but this was rejected by his family who said it was only in court that justice would be done.

The family claims as many as 12 IRA members were involved in the cover-up following the killing.

They had a meeting with IRA leaders on 5 March but say the organisation could not give them any reason why Mr McCartney was killed.

On Friday, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said he "did not care" who was in the bar on the night of the killing as long as they helped the family's bid for truth and justice.

The Mid Ulster MP said: "I'm not going to talk about any individual. It doesn't matter who they are.

"People have a duty to help the McCartney family achieve the truth and justice that they deserve."

The family, which will travel to Washington to meet President George W. Bush next week, is now considering whether to open a campaign office.

Last week, police officers posted fresh appeals in the Short Strand area - where Mr McCartney lived - for people with information to come forward.

In total, 11 people have been arrested over the murder but all have been released without charge.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/12 23:53:34 GMT


McGuinness Refuses To Comment On Groogan Revelation
2005-03-12 14:40:02+00

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said today he didn't care who was in Magennis's bar the night Robert McCartney was murdered as long as they gave information to the authorities.

Refusing to comment specifically on the revelation that 2003 Sinn Féin Assembly election candidate Cora Groogan was in the bar that night , he said: "I'm not going to talk about any individual. It doesn't matter who they are.

"I don't care who was in the bar that night. People have a duty to help the McCartney family achieve the truth and justice that they deserve."

Ms Groogan insisted she saw nothing inside the bar and confirmed she had given a full statement to her solicitor.

The Sinn Féin member said: "I got to the bar about 10pm that Sunday. I was there for a short while. There was a commotion in the bar but I witnessed nothing and left shortly after 11pm. I have given a full statement to my solicitor."

The family of Robert McCartney have in recent days expressed concern that while there is a lot of political activity around efforts to bring the killers before the courts, not enough information is coming on the ground to the police investigation.

Police have also confirmed that people arrested and questioned about the murder had exercised the right to silence.

Detective Superintendent George Hamilton, the senior investigating officer, has also voiced concern that some witnesses are still reluctant to come forward because of fear about reprisals in their own community if they help detectives.

Catherine McCartney said today: "We are adamant that people who know what happened should give that information. It is frustrating that there has been a lot of political activity around this issue over the past few weeks and yet very little information is coming from the ground.

"It is frustrating that despite appeals from Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams for people to provide evidence, that is not materialising and the family would urge everyone to help this investigation and give as much detail as possible."


For The Love Of Robert

By Mark Simpson
BBC Ireland correspondent

Inside the McCartney family house there are two constant noises - the dull ring of the telephone and the background chatter of a 24-hour news channel.

For the McCartney sisters, it all feels unreal. What is even more surreal is when their pictures appear on the TV, on the hour every hour.

"Sometimes I wonder to myself 'is this all really happening?'," says Claire, the youngest of the five sisters.

But this is not a dream, it is a recurring nightmare. The McCartney sisters have lost two brothers in the space of four years. First Gerard aged 28, then Robert, 33.

Gerard took his own life after a period of depression. Robert was stabbed and kicked to death in the centre of Belfast. The gang which killed him included at least three members of the IRA.

No ordinary family

He died only yards away from the Hilton Hotel where he and his fiancee Bridgeen were hoping to have their wedding reception in July.

Now their two young sons Conlaed, 4, and Brandon, 2, are left to wonder why daddy does not come home at night. What is also confusing is why so many cameras and microphones are being shoved in front of their mummy.

Brigdeen has told them that their father has gone to heaven. As for the international media presence, in some ways that is more difficult to explain.

The boys are too young to understand the political significance of a Catholic family from a hardline republican area daring to challenge the IRA.

No one needs to explain it to them, but if anyone did try to put it in their language, it would be a bit like the seven dwarfs deciding to take on the Power Rangers.

The IRA are self-styled super-heroes, not used to their authority being questioned by ordinary folk in republican areas. But the McCartney sisters are no ordinary folk.

Strong, courageous, bold, articulate, tenacious and formidable - just some of the adjectives used about them in recent weeks.

Gemma, a 41-year-old nurse, is the eldest. Next comes Paula, who is perhaps the best known of the sisters, because she has done most of the media interviews. A mother of five children, aged 19 to three, she is a mature student at Queen's University, doing women's studies.

'Matter of persistence'

She hasn't been at many lectures recently. In the six weeks since her brother died, Paula's modest home in the republican Short Strand area of east Belfast has become the unofficial headquarters of the campaign 'Justice for Robert'.

Wooden placards litter the porch, leftovers from the recent protest rally urging the killers to give themselves up. In the living room, an old family photo of Robert sits on the TV, which is continually tuned to 24-hour news.

The phone sits in the hall and rings every five minutes. It is normally a journalist. Family members take it in turns to threaten to throw it out the window. No-one ever does.

In the kitchen, cups of tea are drunk as if they are liquid oxygen. Look for a puff of smoke and you will usually find Catherine McCartney, the one with the glasses, and the straight dark hair. Close by her will be a red folder with vital pieces of information, such as the schedule for the planned four-day trip to Washington.

It is all neatly written in a ring-bound file. It is not hard to guess which of the sisters is a teacher.

She teaches history and politics - subjects which now swamp all aspects of her life. Catherine understands why the IRA was reluctant to admit its link to her brother's murder, she realises the historical reasons why the IRA did not hand over the killers to the police, but that does not mean she thinks it was right. Quite the opposite.

Donna is the middle sister. She runs a sandwich shop in Belfast. She has kept on working in recent days but it has not been easy.

The youngest sister, Claire, 26, is a teaching assistant. Like the others, she is a confident speaker. She summed up the family's determination to find their brother's killers by calmly telling BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "It is just a matter of persistence."

They have lost count of the number of interviews they have done. The Irish state broadcaster RTE talked to them for an hour last month on the prestigious Mariane Finucane programme. There were tears followed by laughter followed by more tears as they talked about their memories of Robert.

"Ah, we spoiled him," remembers Gemma, "with kisses mainly, because we didn't have any money."

'Famous Five'

They are an open family. Open enough to admit that many of them used to support and vote for Sinn Fein, including Robert himself.

They are also a close-knit family, and they will need to be. Like all families, there are tensions, strains, differences of opinion but - so far - they have managed to stay united.

In Belfast, 'the McCartneys' has entered the political phrase book. It does not have the same ring as 'the Clintons' or 'the Kennedys' but there is a connection.

In Washington next week, the five sisters are due to meet Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Hilary Clinton. They will also see President Bush. It is a measure of how much international support they have gathered.

Much as they appreciate the attention, the bottom line is that these sisters have been catapulted into the international spotlight because their brother was stabbed, kicked, beaten and punched to death.

They've become Belfast's Famous Five, but for all the wrong reasons.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/12 14:29:43 GMT


Focus: Laundering Probe

THE name of a key figure in the garda’s investigation into IRA money laundering emerged last week, writes Dearbhail McDonald.

John Sheehan, a Cork businessman, has been revealed as the person who surrendered more than £170,000 (€243,000) to police at the height of the probe.

Sheehan, a security operator, is an associate of Ted Cunningham, the financier at the centre of the garda investigation.

He is understood to have told gardai he was given the money to mind by Cunningham, his tenant at the Westpoint Business Park in Ballincollig.

Sheehan, who won millions in lucrative state contracts to protect courthouses and disused army barracks, said the money was being held for legitimate purposes.

He became the latest corporate casualty of the investigation when he was ousted as a non-executive board member of Sheehan Security last month. In 2003, he pocketed €8m when the security firm was sold to Newcourt Group.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has taken up residence in the four-star Silversprings Moran hotel in Cork to continue following the paper trail.

The investigation is still into money laundering, rather than the Northern Bank raid. Among its highlights was the arrest of a suspected Real IRA member who was caught with €78,000 in a box of Daz washing-up powder at Dublin’s Heuston Station.

Although £65,000 was seized in Northern Bank notes at Cunningham’s home, forensic tests have not established that they originated from the heist.

In fact, the only money which has turned up from the bank robbery so far is £50,000 found in the toilets of a Belfast leisure club frequented by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

That has led Sinn Fein to accuse gardai and the government of unfairly targeting republicans. Searches at the homes of some Sinn Fein members, including that of Roisin O’Sullivan, a teenage councillor in Cork whose evening meal was “ruined” by uninvited guests from Special Branch, have prompted a storm of protest from party representatives.

Aengus O Snodaigh, a Sinn Fein TD, suggested in the Dail last week that gardai didn’t get much of a haul when they raided the former Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hanlon’s house during the money laundering operation.

Eight members of the Garda Special Branch were involved in the raid, O Snodaigh said. All they removed were “the councillor’s notes on council meetings and business”.


Focus: Republicans Feel Tide

By Scott Millar

UNTIL the recent crisis a seat in Meath was seen as only a matter of time for Sinn Fein. It is still in their top five target constituencies for the next general election but now seems a longer shot.

Its rural towns and farmland, combined with the high number of commuters to Dublin, gave the party an ideal combination of urban and rural voters. Joe Reilly, its candidate, provided the right mixture of politics and paramilitarism, being a hard-working councillor and a former IRA member who served 13 years in Portlaoise prison.

But when The Sunday Times arrived to go on a prearranged canvass with Reilly on Thursday night, the eve of the by-election, the party went shy. Suddenly it was accepted political practice, the party said, not to knock on doors on the night before an election. Reilly and his team would just hand out leaflets instead.

Noticeable was the dearth of Gerry Adams posters. Sinn Fein, allegedly the richest party on the island, usually plasters its target areas with hundreds of images of its bearded leader. Not in Meath.

Party workers explain, that there’s a shortage because the last time they printed Adams posters was two years ago. It is nothing to do with his declining popularity, they insist.

But they can’t completely hide from the disillusionment that awaits on the doorsteps. Matthew Devaney, 28, originally from Dublin, lives in the Spire View estate in Navan with his young family. A commuter to the capital, he is part of the generation Sinn Fein is targeting.

“I would be sympathetic to Sinn Fein because I have seen them attempt to work within communities. Where I’ve lived in Dublin, you hardly see other political parties,” he said.

But the recent scandals involving the IRA had tempered his enthusiasm. “When Sinn Fein came canvassing I did raise the Robert McCartney killing and recent goings-on,” said Devaney. “When it comes down to it, though, local concerns such as amenities and the traffic problems getting to Dublin are the main reason we elect TDs. It is on these issues that I will decide how to vote.”

An older Navan voter, who preferred not to give his name, said he wasn’t going to vote at all as a response to the IRA’s behaviour. “I voted for Sinn Fein the last time but just couldn’t bring myself to do so this time after all the carry-on in the north, killing their own,” he said.

“But who do you vote for? I could never vote for Fine Gael. All my family were Fianna Fail but they’re just in it for themselves as well, and I used to vote Labour but that means you’re voting Fine Gael. Now you don’t know what Sinn Fein is really up to, so I just didn’t bother voting for any of them.”

Before the votes were counted yesterday, Sinn Fein activists knew that the crisis of criminality afflicting the party would reduce Reilly to core support, and very few transfers could be expected from other parties. Making the best of a bad lot, the candidate also voiced his outrage rather than trying to resist it.

“The anger of republicans is island-wide,” he insisted. “The McCartney murder has upset me. I have integrity as a republican activist and when that is sullied I object to it. But that is nothing to the suffering of the McCartney family.”

Reilly is the archetypical local politician. Born in Navan, he has worked diligently as a Meath county councillor since his election in 1999. He is typical of the older generation of Sinn Fein activist, respected more for his local profile than this position on the national question or his political dynamism.

His military credentials and the rising tide of Sinn Fein popularity has served Reilly well. He increased the party’s support from a paltry 641 votes in 1992 to more than 6,000 in 2002.

Reilly’s team, drawn from Dublin and surrounding counties as well as Meath, have been meticulous over the two weeks of campaigning, carefully compiling a record of the party’s support in each area.

Despite the Northern Bank robbery, the money laundering and the McCartney murder, Reilly believes the last two weeks’ campaigning have been another successful stage in the party’s development in Meath.

“We have been building,” he said. “Coming out of this election we have identified a number of areas where we can set up new cumainn (branches). At the moment we have 14 active cumainn in Meath, and we have about 20 groups of three or four active people. They are core groups which we then upgrade. If anything, the present media and Michael McDowell attacks have angered people in that core and energised them.”

Sinn Fein canvassers, mostly young and male, try to give the impression that they, too, are only fortified by the vitriol directed at the party in the media.

Clint Donaghy, an activist who has travelled from Castleblaney to hand out leaflets, said: “We would be here anyway, but all this campaign just strengthens resolve.” Such an attitude is hardly surprising among a support base that has had to rationalise much worse atrocities by the IRA.

A Dublin-based activist said: “Out of 10 people I talked to at length on the doorsteps, two said they would be voting for us because of all the abuse. One even said I don’t like your economic policies but I think McDowell is a ****. One man said he won’t vote for the party now, and most of the rest said they were now less likely to transfer to us.”

So it proved yesterday, when the ballot boxes were open. Reilly’s vote was up slightly on the 2002 general election, giving Sinn Fein something to crow about in public. But privately the party was disappointed. A few months ago it expected to win this by-election, or come pretty close. But that was before the murder of Robert McCartney.


Focus: Turn On Every Front

John Burns

America goes cool on 'Irish Arafat'

For Gerry Adams, visiting America is usually highly profitable. It is a bad St Patrick’s Day when the Sinn Fein leader doesn’t collect more than $100,000 (€74,000) for his party.

In the middle week of March, Adams hosts receptions, black-tie dinners, breakfasts and luncheons in Washington, New York, Chicago and elsewhere. Ever since 1995, everyone from construction workers to celebrities has turned up to throw donations of up to $1,000 into the kitty.

Not this year. Adams needs permission from the American government in order to fundraise. After the murder of Robert McCartney, he didn’t even bother to ask. The visa on which Adams travelled to America yesterday allows him only to travel.

The St Patrick’s week circuit of fundraisers had already been organised when the sky fell in on Sinn Fein. The party hurriedly changed them to speaking engagements, starting yesterday in Cincinatti with two Friends of Sinn Fein bashes, including a community event with plumbers. Blue-collar Irish-American workers are the most generous donors to the party.

Not that money won’t be raised. In 1994, the last time Adams didn’t have permission to fundraise in America, they passed the hat around the halls after he left. The White House decided not to make a fuss, saying that the Sinn Fein leader was allowed to raise enough money to defray the cost of his trip.

Back then, the IRA ceasefire had just been called and there was a ban on official American contacts with Sinn Fein. Adams was refused entry to the White House, and not allowed to meet senior officials, let alone President Bill Clinton. He had to make do with a five-minute phone call from Al Gore, the vice-president.

Adams isn’t welcome in the White House this year either, and is also excluded from the traditional St Patrick’s Day lunch on Capitol Hill, which will be attended by President Bush and the taoiseach, as well as politicians such as Senator Hillary Clinton.

Sinn Fein sympathisers on the hill, and there are a few, explain away the exclusion as a sign of the general exasperation in Washington with the Northern Ireland peace process. After all it’s every northern political leader, not just Adams, that is being left out. James Walsh, chairman of the Friends of Ireland congressional group, said the exclusions were intended to push both sides back to the negotiating table.

Adams will meet congressmen and senators after their St Patrick’s Day lunch, but he can expect harsh words from some. Senator Ted Kennedy has said: “There is no place for a paramilitary organisation and criminal activity in a democratic political party, and I will tell Gerry Adams that.”

Even Adams’s supporters promise to talk tough in private. “The time has come for the IRA to disband,” said Congressman Peter King, Adams’s biggest ally on Capitol Hill. “Adams is focusing too much on preventing a split, and can’t see the forest for the trees. The IRA has not been moving along as fast as we thought.”

His comments reflect the groundwork the Irish government has done. Dermot Ahern, the foreign minister, met the Friends committee last month to give his assessment of the McCartney murder and the IRA’s robbery of the Northern Bank. The government is in fierce competition with Sinn Fein for the hearts and minds of Irish America.

There was concern that the collapse of last December’s peace talks, despite Bush’s intervention, would reduce his interest. But officials have reassured the Department of Foreign Affairs that Bush is ready to involve himself again if the process regains its lost momentum.

Instead of Adams, Bush will meet three of the McCartney sisters at a private reception in the White House on St Patrick’s Day. All five of the sisters, and McCartney’s partner Bridgeen Hagans, are pressurising the Americans for passes.

The women have featured in all of the main American newspapers in the past fortnight; now it will be the turn of television to tell their story. They expect to get a slot on Larry King Live, the influential CNN political talk show; the office of Mitchell Reiss, Bush’s envoy to Northern Ireland, is helping to arrange it.

The McCartneys will appeal to American supporters of the IRA to pressurise the terrorist group into bringing the killers of their brother to justice. They are certain of a sympathetic hearing. The IRA’s bizarre offer to shoot the killers of their brother received wide coverage last week, with several leading newspapers comparing them to the mafia and dubbing them the Rafia.

The Boston Globe said the IRA “showed itself no different from this fictional mafia family (the Corleones from the Godfather films) with its offer to shoot the men who killed McCartney”. Using an unfortunate similie, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans said Adams’s poll numbers were “dropping like a kneecapped Protestant”.

The McCartneys are not the only reason Sinn Fein has been getting bad press; Bush’s officials have been giving the newspapers plenty of material. Reiss has bluntly demanded that the IRA disband, while one Bush aide likened Adams to Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader. “Just as the president labelled Arafat not a partner for peace, the same now goes for Adams,” the official said.

Another White House official confirmed that the administration is beginning to think of Adams as “an Irish Arafat”, someone who cannot be trusted in peace negotiations and whose outwardly civil demeanour masks “sinister connections”.

Congressman King insists that the political climate isn’t all stormy. “The White House and Congress also realise how close an agreement was last December, and they are keeping that in perspective,” he points out.

“None of us want to see what Sinn Fein has achieved squandered by a paramilitary force that may well have outlived its usefulness.”

But even if the IRA announced its disbandment and Ian Paisley filmed it on a digicam, America would remain suspicious, according to Robert Mahony, who teaches Irish studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

“I don’t see how Adams and co are going to regain any credibility,” he says. “Sinn Fein is very tight with its rhetoric, but now nobody believes them and they have no Plan B.”

He doesn’t expect the McCartneys to be lionised by the mainstream media, however. In a country used to killings and tragedies on a large scale, what impact can one death outside a Belfast bar have, particularly when the exact details are murky and the perpetrators can’t be named? “I don’t think they will get the publicity they deserve,” he predicted. “They are not being handled by a really savvy PR firm.”

Insofar as Adams raises his head above the American parapet this week, it will be to express solidarity with the McCartney sisters. Unwittingly, Fr Sean McManus, of the Irish National Caucus in Washington, echoes what Americans can expect to hear him say: “In the Irish-American community there is a deep sympathy for the McCartneys and a deep desire to see justice. The fact that the sisters appeared at the Sinn Fein ard fheis helped to get the point across that Sinn Fein is solidly supporting the quest for justice.”

That’s just the holding line, of course. Adams will hope that it’s business as usual when he goes back to America next year.

Additional reporting: Tony Allen-Mills in Washington and Stephen O’Brien


Fall From Grace

A brutal killing shows the IRA's true colors. But will it erode the public's support?By William Underhill

Newsweek InternationalMarch 21 issue - Paula McCartney believes in plain speaking. Six weeks ago her brother Robert was battered and stabbed to death after coming to the aid of a friend caught up in a barroom brawl in Belfast. No one has been charged, but she knows exactly who's to blame. "These individuals are society misfits who have committed heinous crimes from rape and pedophilia to domestic violence," she told NEWSWEEK. "The man who stuck a knife into Robert's chest is a well-known psychopath. Can you imagine a psychopath with power?"

Brave words. The "psychopath" and his accomplices are members of the IRA, de facto masters of large tracts of Belfast's inner city. In their public demands for justice, Paula McCartney and her four sisters have breached the code of silence that has helped the republican paramilitaries enforce their rule. What's more, the sisters have confronted the world with a truth that has often passed unnoticed in Northern Ireland's progress toward peace. Once, the IRA was about armed struggle. At least among its supporters, IRA members could pose as "freedom fighters" for the republican cause. More than a decade into the peace process, however, the IRA looks more like a sinister underground of thugs and racketeers. If further proof was needed, it came from the IRA itself: a macabre offer from the leadership to shoot Robert McCartney's killers without trial rather than hand them over to the police.

The IRA's true colors have long been recognized, of course. People looked the other way for fear of jeopardizing the peace process embodied in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. But since the IRA's suspected involvement in a 26 million pound raid on the Northern Bank in Ireland last December, the largest such heist in European history, that's begun to change. Almost overnight, exasperated politicians have dropped the double-speak and moral fudging—politely termed "constructive ambiguity"—that have clouded dealings with the IRA and its political arm, Sinn Fein. "We are no longer prepared to accept the farce that Sinn Fein and the IRA are separate," says Irish Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.

For Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in particular, it's an abrupt fall from grace. Not long ago he was leader of the fastest-growing party in the Irish Republic, tipped as a future president. He seemed to have put behind him allegations by the Irish and British governments that he was in fact a member of the IRA's ruling council—allegations that he had always denied. Now his approval ratings in the republic have plunged and his prospects are in the tank. In the North, Sinn Fein had pushed past the more moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party to attract the largest share of the nationalist vote. Opinion polls suggest that support is on the slide. Revealingly, more than 40 percent of Sinn Fein voters also say the IRA should disband. And new graffiti have appeared on the walls of the Short Strand district, the Roman Catholic enclave where Paula McCartney lives: ira disband now. no justice. no peace.

The wording suggests that a new sense of reality may be taking hold in Northern Ireland. Ceasefire or not, Northern Ireland has never seen perfect peace or a universal return to the rule of law. Yes, the 35-year cycle of bombings and sectarian murders has ended. But in the run-down housing projects of Belfast and Londonderry, the IRA and its Protestant counterparts have continued to dispense their own brutish form of justice. Over the past five years, police believe, republican activists have carried out 15 killings and more than 250 shootings, often acting as a self-appointed police force. Scores have been left maimed or crippled after so-called punishment beatings that have nothing to do with politics. The assailants rarely if ever come before the courts. After all, who would dare to testify against the IRA? Just look at the McCartney case. Immediately after the murder, IRA heavies barged into the pub and "cleaned up" the crime scene. They removed tapes from surveillance cameras, destroyed forensic evidence—and ordered witnesses to stay silent, or else. As many as 70 people had been drinking at the downtown bar. Not one has come forward to the authorities with useful evidence.

Petty thuggery—even murder with impunity—may be the least worrisome of the IRA's activities. Many of its hoodlums are now redeployed as mafia-style gangsters. Anthony McIntyre, a writer and renegade IRA activist who served 18 years in prison, talks of the emergence of a "Rafia" devoted to organized crime. The charge sheet ranges from the recent theft of a consignment of Easter eggs and the sale of bootleg vodka, to insurance fraud and a massive cross-border smuggling operation that embraces tobacco, livestock and fuel. One in three cigarettes smoked in Northern Ireland is said to have been smuggled by paramilitaries. Some authorities believe the IRA's ill-gotten gains may find their way into Sinn Fein coffers. Speaking in the Dail, or Irish Parliament, earlier this month, Justice Minister Michael McDowell warned that the IRA was amassing "funds for politics and power."

As criminals, the IRA's efficiency is scary. The International Monitoring Commission, which tracks progress toward political normality in Northern Ireland, offers a chilling description of both republican and loyalist gangsters: "Seldom in the developed world has [such a] high proportion of the most serious criminals been associated with groups originating in terrorism [and possessing] an organizational structure, discipline and tradition of extreme violence." For his part, Adams worries that the British and Irish governments will now engage in a witch hunt against the IRA: "We know that breaking the law is a crime, but we refuse to criminalize those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives." No prizes for guessing who defines those objectives.

Such cynicism has brought down a storm of criticism from Sinn Fein's former negotiating partners. "There is no way that we can make any progress in Northern Ireland that includes Sinn Fein unless we can have a complete and total end to violence of whatever kind," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told M.P.s last week. In other words, no IRA—or no Sinn Fein. Washington's envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, sounded a similar note. "It's time for Sinn Fein to be able to say—explicitly, without ambiguity, without ambivalence—that criminality will not be tolerated."

The question now is, what next? Will public anger force authorities to break their pact with the devil—that is, will they go after the IRA more strenuously, and will moral outrage translate into fewer votes for Sinn Fein at the polls? In Northern Ireland's hardscrabble politics, that's doubtful. "There are some people who will always look at the world through party-tinted specs and claim that it's all a media conspiracy," says Richard Sinnott, a political scientist at University College, Dublin. Besides, whatever its faults, diehard republicans still see the IRA as their defense against Protestant aggressors. As for Sinn Fein, Adams and others have worked hard to build a grass-roots reputation for pursuing popular causes in Catholic neighborhoods. "We're all right behind the McCartney sisters," says one longtime Short Strand resident, who refused to be named. But then she adds: "It's a shame for all those Sinn Fein people who have worked so hard for us."

The dismal truth remains: the IRA and even Adams may be pariahs in the outside world, but paramilitary savagery or racketeering can't shake the tribal loyalties that still dominate the politics of Northern Ireland. Indeed, recent months have seen a drift toward the political extremes, a hardening of attitudes in both the Catholic and Protestant communities that may be apparent in the likely general election this summer. The McCartney affair may limit or check Sinn Fein's growth, but pollsters reckon it won't dent its hard-core support. Indeed, in a special parliamentary election in one Irish constituency last week, Sinn Fein actually raised its share of the vote by a few points, to 12 percent. True believers will stay true to their colors.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.


McDonald Set To Take On Ahern In Dublin

THE Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald is being lined up to take on Bertie Ahern in Dublin Central in the general election, writes Scott Millar.

The party believes that McDonald, a fresh-faced graduate, represents its only chance of a seat in the key constituency.

Its election strategy was upset last year when Nicky Kehoe, a popular party stalwart, indicated that he might not run in the next Dail race. Kehoe, who missed out on a seat by only 74 votes in 2002, is believed to be anxious to spend more time with his family.

However, parachuting in McDonald is likely to cause resentment among activists.

One local member said: “People think Mary Lou is a good leadership member but Nicky is still the main personality for republicans in this area. People are still trying to persuade him to have one last go at the Dail.”

Kehoe was noncommittal. “It’s up to the party to decide. I don’t have a decision made at the moment. There is talk about Mary Lou. I think the people of Cabra would hope that I would run but I have commitments beyond politics,” he said.

Kehoe, a former IRA prisoner who served 12 years for the attempted kidnap of a businessman, is said to be upset by the movement’s treatment of some of his former colleagues.

The Sinn Fein vote in Dublin Central is also under threat from Ciaran Perry, a community activist and left-wing republican who got more than 1,000 votes in the local elections.

Fianna Fail has yet to decide on a running mate for Ahern on the expected retirement of Dermot Fitzpatrick, the current TD.


 Gerry Adams and President Bush in March 2001
Gerry Adams and President Bush in March 2001

I'll Never Deal With Adams Again, Says Bush

By Philip Sherwell in Washington
(Filed: 13/03/2005)

President Bush personally ordered that Gerry Adams be frozen out of official engagements during his visit to America, furious that the Sinn Fein leader had betrayed his efforts to help to re-start the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Bush now views Mr Adams in the same unfavourable light as he did Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, a senior presidential adviser said last night. "At the White House, Adams is now regarded with the same sort of disdain as Arafat," the adviser told The Telegraph. "The President no longer considers Mr Adams a reliable partner for peace. He doesn't want to meet him."

Mr Bush was enraged to learn that at the same time as he was pressing Mr Adams late last year to relaunch the power-sharing deal, Sinn Fein's armed wing, the IRA, was planning the £26 million Northern Bank raid in Belfast. He had telephoned both Mr Adams and Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionists, in an attempt to persuade Northern Ireland's two biggest parties to resume the stalled peace negotiations.

Mr Bush's displeasure has forced Mr Adams to abandon plans to raise money while in America. The United States government made it clear that it would not grant him a visa that permits fund-raising, this newspaper has learnt. Sinn Fein had claimed that Mr Adams had chosen not to raise money "to avoid it being made into a contentious issue''. In reality, he was told not even to bother applying for the appropriate paperwork for the week-long visit, which began in Ohio yesterday. American officials are also demanding major concessions from Sinn Fein, most significantly that the IRA be disbanded.

"It's hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party," said Mitchell Reiss, the US envoy for Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams was invited to a St Patrick's Day reception at the White House by President Clinton in 1995 and given permission to start raising funds three years later. While he and other Irish political leaders are not on Mr Bush's guest list for St Patrick's Day celebrations this Thursday, significantly the President will welcome the sisters and fiancée of Robert McCartney, the Catholic man murdered by a gang of IRA thugs in January.

When he visited Northern Ireland in 2003, Mr Bush welcomed the efforts being made by Mr Adams and fellow political leaders. "They've signed on to a process that will yield peace," the President said.

Mr Bush's snub by will be a financial blow to Sinn Fein, as Mr Adams is the party's star turn in America and had been expected to raise large sums on his tour.

For decades, Irish republicanism has been a source of strain in Anglo-American relations as successive British governments have tried to persuade Washington to clamp down on IRA fundraising in the US. As prime minister, John Major was so angry when President Clinton first granted Mr Adams a visa in 1994 that he refused to take his telephone calls.


Royal Win For McEntee In By-Election

12/03/2005 - 22:10:13

Fine Gael tonight crowned a new Dáil TD in the Royal County after Shane McEntee secured a historic victory in his first ever election.

Fianna Fáil, who were aiming for a record fourth seat in the Meath constituency, were beaten on first preference votes for the first time since 1927.

A lower than expected 40% voter turnout was blamed for affecting traditional party support for pre-poll favourite Shane Cassells.

Sinn Féin managed to increase their vote in the five seater by 30% since 2002, despite recent bad publicity created by criminality links to the party.

Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness described the by-election as one of the most critical for the party in 20 years and said the performance was a springboard for local and Westminster elections in Northern Ireland in May.

It was after 8pm when Returning Officer Maire Teehan declared Mr McEntee elected without reaching the quota after he had outstripped Mr Cassells by nearly 300 votes.

The Nobber publican, 47, was carried shoulder high at the back of the packed count centre in Simonstown Gaels GAA club in Navan.

Senator Frank Feighan led a chorus of “Oh what a beautiful morning” as a tricolour flag with a picture of Michael Collins was hoisted over Mr McEntee’s head.

Mr McEntee said: “I’d like to thank Fine Gael for giving me the chance to contest this election and I promise I won’t let down the thousands of people who I met and who voted for me.”

Party leader Enda Kenny said he was delighted that the party got out its core vote in the sprawling constituency.

“A lot of people did not want to give four seats to Fianna Fáil in Meath,” he said.

The vacancy was created by the departure of former Taoiseach John Bruton to Washington as EU Ambassador last year.

The Labour Party also performed well with over 10% of the vote gained by new candidate Councillor Dominic Hannigan.

The Labour party leader predicted that Councillor Hannigan would win a seat at the next general election when the constituency is redrawn around his home base as East Meath.

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