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March 15, 2005

Adams Turns to Old Friends

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

IN 03/16/05 Adams Turns To His Old Friends In New York
IT 03/16/05 No Fundraising As Adams Meets US Supporters
IN 03/16/05 Niall O'Dowd: Irish-Americans Still Bank On SF Leader
IT 03/16/05 Police Deny SF Claim Over Key Suspect
IT 03/16/05 McCartney Death To Dominate Irish Meetings In US –V(3)
BB 03/15/05 Has Gerry Lost Support In The US?
TO 03/15/05 How Murky Finances Keep Sinn Fein Afloat
NE 03/15/05 Irish Prime Minister Visits Syracuse –V
SM 03/15/05 Grieving Sisters Vow To Destroy 'Romantic' IRA Image
GU 03/15/05 Comment: After McCartney
WH 03/15/05 Press Briefing By Scott McClellan
IT 03/16/05 Chinese National Killed In Belfast
BB 03/16/05 On 03/16/88: Three Shot Dead At Milltown Cemetery –V
IT 03/16/05 Drugs To Halt Alzheimer's Disease On The Way

BB 03/15/05 McGuinness on BBC Radio –AO

McGuinness on BBC Radio:


Adams Turns To His Old Friends In New York

By David Usborne in New York
16 March 2005

Gerry Adams was on stage as a guest on Monday night of New York's transport workers' union explaining how comfortable he feels in America, when one of the myriad orange, green and white balloons festooning the hall popped with a loud bang. "That," he said without pause, "also makes me feel at home."

It was a joke that drew easy laughter from his audience, Irish-American members of the union who had gathered for an annual dinner to honour two fathers of the Irish republican movement, James Connolly and Michael Quill. Already, they had given Mr Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, a standing ovation as he had entered the room accompanied by the strains of marching bagpipes and drums.

The recent allegations that Sinn Fein turned a blind eye to violence and crime committed by the IRA - the raid at the Northern Bank and the murder outside a bar of Robert McCartney - have not given Mr Adams any cause to celebrate. Worse, his annual St Patrick's Day week in America has been eclipsed by headlines about political leaders here, from George Bush to Edward Kennedy, snubbing him this time.

But on this night, he was all grins. Eleven years after he was first allowed by President Clinton to enter the United States, Mr Adams was the man of the hour. On stage beside him were the leaders of the city's transport and police unions and, in a surprise appearance, John Sweeney, the powerful president of America's umbrella union organisation, the AFL-CIO, who called him a "courageous hero".

"I always feel uplifted by the people here," Mr Adams said during his 20-minute address, in which he referred only obliquely to what he described as a "huge avalanche of abuse being heaped upon Sinn Fein" back home. Even if he will not be in the White House as usual on St Patrick's Day and even though this year he is not raising money here, there is still succour for him in the US.

The cheering and whistling which greeted him at Monday's rally - one of scores of such events orchestrated for Mr Adams in several states across the US - is evidence that support for him and for Sinn Fein remains barely diminished among grassroots Irish-Americans.

"I really think that in these days when he is being hit from every angle back home and he arrives here to be welcomed like this, then it must really mean something for him," said Patricia Harty, editor of Irish-America magazine in New York. She admitted, however, that scant coverage of Northern Irish affairs in the US press meant that most of his supporters had only a vague notion of Sinn Fein's troubles.

True, there is still an old guard of Irish-American activists in the US who have no time for Mr Adams or the peace process, which they angrily denounce as a sell-out to Westminster. His difficulties today only please them. "Hoisted on his own petard," growled one well-known anti-Adams activist, who preferred not to be named, at Monday's meeting.

But according to Patrick Doherty, one of the authors of the McBride Principles, which set down standards of non-discrimination for US companies operating in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s, the opponents of the peace accord have become increasingly marginalised. "There is overwhelming support among Irish-Americans today for Adams and the peace process going forward," he said. "When Adams says he knows nothing about the bank robbery, they believe him. He has a high degree of credibility."

In another sign of Irish-Americans closing ranks behind Mr Adams, a delegation of community leaders, headed by the powerful Ancient Order of the Hibernians, met in New York earlier this month with Ireland's ambassador to the US, Noel Fahey, to voice concern at attacks being made on Sinn Fein. The group expressed similar frustration in a letter to President Bush.

Supporters of Mr Adams here are trying not to read too much into the snubs from the White House or Mr Kennedy. They hope the crisis will pass. As for his decision not to fund-raise this time, it is not for fear, they argue, that Irish-Americans would seal their wallets. "He would not lose a single dollar," insisted Mr Doherty.

Mr Adams tried to reassure his audience. The squeeze he faces, he insisted, was not because of "any events or dreadful incidents at home" but a result of Sinn Fein's electoral successes. "Most of these problems are created because Sinn Fein is being successful ... not because it is failing."

And he promised to fulfil the promise that most Irish-Americans still expect of him - the achievement of peace and, in their minds, the final unification of Ireland. "We are going to resolve the current difficulties in the peace process and we are going to be moving the process forward," he said. And then, he said, his critics and foes - and by implication, the British - will know they have lost. "The revenge we will have will be in the laughter of the Irish children."


No Fundraising As Adams Meets US Supporters

Sean O'Driscoll in New York

To the strains of The Minstrel Boy and The Wearing of the Green, a pipe band led Gerry Adams on to the stage of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 for his first meeting with Sinn Féin's New York union supporters since the controversy surrounding the death of Robert McCartney.

At the back of the room, volunteers prepared huge piles of bacon and cabbage, and a large poster of James Connolly hung at the side of the stage. Patrick Lynch, president of New York's 36,000-strong police union, whipped up the crowd with a speech that attacked the PSNI.

"I don't consider them police officers. They are soldiers who are trying to keep our people down for standing up for what's right," he said, to cheers from the audience.

But something was very different about this event. Every year Sinn Féin collects tens of thousands of dollars from American unions, but this event was cash-free, not even a bucket going round for loose change.

"No fundraising will take place to avoid it being made into a contentious issue and a distraction to the necessary work of rebuilding the peace process," said a Friends of Sinn Féin advert in the Irish-American newspapers this week.

Nobody mentions Robert McCartney at this event, but Patrick Lynch does make an oblique reference. "Gerry, remember you are on the right track when all others are saying you are not, when the people you are fighting against are trying to get the masses to fight against you," he said.

Local 100 president Roger Toussaint, a Caribbean emigrant, spoke about the struggle to overcome British colonial oppression. Someone shouted: "Maith an buachaill, a Gearóid," as Gerry took the podium to deliver a speech about former IRA man, Michael J Quill, the founder of New York's transport union.

Gerry complimented Mr Toussaint on his Caribbean brogue, before saying that one terrible event in Belfast could not derail the peace process.

He linked the struggle for union recognition in New York with the 1981 hunger strike and ended with the Bobby Sands quote: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children."

The crowd was on their feet. Darlyne Lawson, an African-American union employee, was delighted. "For a mother like me, the bit about the laughter of the children was beautiful," she said. She has not heard about events in Belfast, but believes Gerry Adams is an honest politician and can overcome his difficulties.

Jeffrey Cullen, retired, was not so sold on the Sinn Féin message. Wearing a green jersey and green baseball cap, he has been reading Irish-American newspapers and is "not 100 per cent" in support of the republican movement.

"There seems to be an older IRA and a younger IRA and the younger guys are causing all these problems. They are not controlled," he said.

© The Irish Times


Niall O'Dowd: Irish-Americans Still Bank On Sinn Fein Leader

16 March 2005

During every Saint Patrick's period, the US media is galvanised to report on the Irish story of the week. The rest of the year, frankly they could care less. After all, Michael Jackson's pyjamas are much more compelling.

This year it is no contest for the sultans of soundbite who run the media. The story of the McCartney sisters bears all the hallmarks of what they are seeking. There are brave women, bad terrorists and a story line that reaches all the way from Belfast to the White House. Hey, even Jo Schmo in Kansas can figure it out.

The McCartney women are in and Gerry Adams is out, out of the White House, out of Ted Kennedy's office and if we are to believe the reports, also out with many ordinary Irish-Americans, except nobody has really bothered to ask them.

Little matter that the media caravan will trundle out of town the second Saint Patrick's Day is over. For now, it is McCartneys all the time. The women have excellent media presence, have suffered a grievous wrong and their story deserves to be told.

Yet by Friday morning, the McCartneys will be very old news. The attention-deficit disorder that inflicts about 95 per cent of the American media will become evident. If it's Friday it must be Martha Stewart, or Michael Jackson or those midget twins on the flying trapeze. Where's the next grist for our mill?

Activist Irish-Americans believe they see through this. They know that the McCartney story is important but the fate of the peace process is far more so in the long run. They believe that the same, maligned Gerry Adams is the only one capable of putting it back on track.

To do so, Adams must get the Irish Republican Army to disband. That is the message that the Sinn Fein leader has received this week from almost every leading Irish-American. There is no other way and Sinn Fein cannot continue to straddle both horses.

The condemnations of Adams and the IRA have been filling the airwaves here, especially in the context of the McCartney sisters. If condemnations could bring peace there would have been no Troubles to begin with. Equally if the acts of two or more drunken psychopaths in a Belfast bar brings down the peace process it is an incredible tragedy.

It is a gargantuan task for Adams to get the IRA to see the only realistic future but it is not beyond him. He and Martin McGuinness pulled off the IRA ceasefire in 1994, which was a remarkable act, and they have continued to advance the process, often in an agonisingly slow manner for the past decade or so. Now Sinn Fein hase lost the initiative and needs to win it back if the process is to be saved. After numerous meetings this week, Irish-Americans are more convinced than ever that Gerry Adams can bring this about. That is the real story this Saint Patrick's Day. Not very sexy for news headlines; those boring old Irish Troubles rarely are.

Niall O'Dowd is the publisher of 'The Irish Voice' in New York


Police Deny SF Claim Over Key Suspect

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

PSNI sources have rejected claims by Sinn Féin that police this week turned away a key suspect and a key witness to the murder of Robert McCartney.

One senior police source accused republicans of engaging in a "sideshow" as Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, said there was growing evidence that the PSNI was holding back on charging suspects in order to damage Sinn Féin.

"Police refute the distractions which have been peddled. Our sole interest is to bring to justice the killers of Robert McCartney, and give closure to the McCartney family," was the official police response to Mr McGuinness's complaints.

Police sources said the PSNI was constrained in responding to specific complaints by republicans because it must not say or do anything that could prejudice any future court cases against those allegedly implicated in the murder.

A senior republican source told The Irish Times on Monday night that a key witness, understood to be Brendan Devine, who was also stabbed and badly wounded on the night of the murder, wanted to give a statement to the police on Monday.

This would have "allowed immediate arrests and charges to be brought", said the republican source.

It is understood, however, that Mr Devine informed police that he had nothing new to add to a recent statement given to police.

The key suspect, according to the republican source, also made himself available through his solicitor to meet the PSNI, but the police did not interview him. This suspect allegedly disposed of the murder weapon and other evidence on the night.

Again it is understood that police are making arrangements to interview this suspect, but at a time when detectives judge it would be appropriate to the conduct of their investigation.

Police and McCartney family sources have repeated that despite republican protestations of support for the family and notwithstanding Mr McGuinness's comments in recent days, no testimony has so far been produced that could convict the killers.

Legal sources such as SDLP lawyer and Assembly member Alban Maginness have also stated that police must be extremely careful in how they handle the investigation.

Mr Maginness said that if witnesses came forward to give evidence on the instructions of the IRA or Sinn Féin such evidence could be rendered inadmissible.

Mr McGuinness repeated his advice to the McCartneys yesterday - which he said was not a threat or a warning - "that there are elements that are prepared to manipulate the McCartney case for political advantage".

"The PSNI is clearly involved in such manipulation. The PSNI's approach is not about justice; it is about damaging Sinn Féin."

The five McCartney sisters and Bridgeen Hagans, partner of Robert McCartney, flew to the US from Dublin yesterday morning. Before leaving, Catherine McCartney said there was no danger of the family being exploited by anyone.

"We have to be very careful that we're not being used by anybody, and that includes Sinn Féin and all political parties. We're not stupid women."

Meanwhile, relatives of Derry man James McGinley (23), who was stabbed to death in October 2003, have sought a meeting with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

The family claims the man jailed for his manslaughter last month, Bart Fisher, is in the IRA, and that its members intimidated them during the trial.

© The Irish Times


McCartneys to meet President Bush in Washington - Michael Fisher reports on the new momentum in the McCartney family's bid to get justice for their brother's murder

Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, assesses the possible political impact of the McCartneys in Washington

The McCartney family makes a statement on their arrival at Baltimore Airport in the US

McCartney Death To Dominate Irish Meetings In US –V(3)

The political fallout for Sinn Féin from the killing of Robert McCartney by members of the IRA will today dominate the opening of St Patrick's Day proceedings in Washington, write Mark Hennessy in Syracuse and Conor O'Clery in Washington

The dead man's five sisters and his partner will this morning meet leading Democratic senators, including Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, on Capitol Hill. Senator Chris Dodd and Senator Pat Leahy are also to attend the meeting.

The senators are likely to increase the pressure on Sinn Féin at a subsequent press conference. Mr Kennedy issued a direct snub to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams at the weekend when he cancelled a meeting with him which had been due to take place this week.

Tomorrow the McCartneys will meet US president George Bush in the White House and will have a private meeting with Laura Bush. They will be given a high profile during tonight's Ireland Fund dinner in Washington, one of the leading social gatherings of the Irish-American community.

The dinner will also be attended by Geraldine Finucane, whose husband Pat was murdered by the UDA in Belfast in 1989.

The refusal by the British government to hold a full public inquiry into the Finucane killing is to be raised by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern during his White House meeting tomorrow with Mr Bush.

Last night a Government spokeswoman said the Finucane killing had "an iconic status that has affected nationalist confidence in the rule of law" and that the Government continued vigorously to oppose British plans to limit the disclosure of evidence to any such inquiry.

The McCartney family group has become a powerful representative in the US of the victims of lawlessness in Northern Ireland and their presence reinforces unprecedented demands for the end of the IRA from friends and foes of Sinn Féin alike.

Before leaving Ireland to fly to Washington via Baltimore yesterday, Catherine McCartney said they had lined up a number of meetings with politicians for today and tomorrow, including US envoy to Ireland Mitchell Reiss.

Mr Adams will also meet Mr Reiss in Washington today and is expected to face questions about his willingness and ability to bring about an end to IRA illegal activities. Mr Adams has given broad hints in public about bringing about the end of the IRA, telling the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that no one wished to go back to violence and "people want to see the IRA leave the stage in a dignified way".

The McCartney family, Mr Adams and Mr Ahern, who arrives in Washington today, will all be attending the annual American Ireland Fund dinner this evening, where a distinguished leadership award will be presented to Republican senator John McCain.

Ms McCartney also said they would meet an ad-hoc congressional committee on human rights in Northern Ireland which has held hearings on the Finucane murder.

Their focus was simply to get justice for Robert, she said, but they would tell Mr Bush and other Washington politicians they met that "if we succeed in getting justice for my brother, that will have an impact on other cases similar to ours".

The decision by Mr Kennedy to cancel his planned meeting with Mr Adams has not stopped other members of Congress from meeting him. They include congressman Richard Neal from Massachusetts, who said it had been his policy to meet the leaders of all the political parties in Northern Ireland.

Congressman Peter King from Long Island, a friend of long standing of Mr Adams, will join the chorus of voices telling the Sinn Féin leader it is time for the IRA to go.

In a speech in Syracuse, New York yesterday, Mr Ahern said he was looking forward to briefing Mr Bush on recent developments and to expressing appreciation to him and his administration for their ongoing support and encouragement.

He said there was some way to go before the work of implementing the Belfast Agreement was complete.

A number of recent incidents involving paramilitary activity and criminality - including the murder of Mr McCartney - would suggest that some people had yet to fully embrace the agreement's requirements for peace and democracy.

"These destructive activities not only destroy lives and communities," Mr Ahern said, "but call into question a declared commitment to the pursuit of political objectives through exclusively peaceful and democratic means."

© The Irish Times


Has Gerry Lost Support In The US?

By Mark Simpson
BBC News

In America, Gerry Adams is like Jerry Springer - you either love him or hate him.

He's outspoken, he's controversial, he's been accused of stirring up trouble for many years and his critics say he thrives on conflict... that's Gerry/Jerry.

Not true, say friends; the real Gerry/Jerry is a peacemaker, a man who uses unorthodox methods to try to resolve unorthodox problems.

Jerry Springer is a talk show host; Gerry Adams is a politician. It's unlikely their paths will cross in the US this week, unless Springer decides to do a show about broken relationships.

The love-in between Irish America and the Sinn Fein president has hit the rocks.

The most potent symbol of that was the decision by Senator Edward Kennedy to refuse to meet Adams during the St. Patrick's week celebrations.

Peace process

Many regard Kennedy as the father figure of Irish America and by slamming the door on Adams he sent out a very symbolic message.

"He's been badly advised" said a Sinn Fein spokesman.

Privately, the party believes that the Irish Government twisted Kennedy's arm to cancel the planned meeting.

In many ways, Kennedy's move was more significant than President Bush's refusal to invite Adams to the White House.

Gerry and George have never been great buddies.

With Kennedy it was different. In the past he went out on a political limb for Adams, particularly in the early days of the peace process, when President Clinton was persuaded to allow Sinn Fein to visit the USA.

It's clear the veteran Senator's patience with Republicans has now snapped. More than 10 years into the peace process he expected the IRA to have gone away by now.

The £26 million bank robbery, a money-laundering scam in the Irish Republic and the murder of Robert McCartney - all have been blamed on the IRA in recent months.

That's why St. Patrick's Day is going to be very different in Washington this year. In political terms, there's nothing to celebrate.

Alarm bells

For Gerry Adams, some doors have been closed - and that's grabbed the headlines - but others have remained open.

The former US envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, invited him to New York on Monday.

At a breakfast meeting, he was greeted by many key players in Irish American relations, including millionaire Bill Flynn, Senator Kennedy's sister Jean Kennedy-Smith and former UN envoy Nancy Soderberg.

The meeting itself went well, but what must have set Sinn Fein alarm bells ringing was when Haass mentioned Adams in the same breath as Yasser Arafat.

The recently deceased Palestinian leader was once hailed as a man of peace but the Americans later came to the conclusion that he was a man of war. Sound familiar?

It's a comparison that Sinn Fein firmly rejects. When I put the Arafat remark to Adams, he brushed it off, pointing out with a smile that he was still very much alive.

We spoke at an Irish theme bar in New Jersey. Adams had just given a speech in the pub, in front of about 150 adoring supporters.

I spoke to a number of them. They all assured me that in spite of Edward Kennedy's rebuff, grass root Irish Americans still loved the Sinn Fein leader.

In the crowd, was one of the tallest men I've ever seen. He could certainly claim the title of Gerry Adams' biggest supporter. We did a quick interview on camera in which he eloquently outlined his support for Sinn Fein, for peace and for democracy.

Half an hour later, as I was leaving the bar, I heard this deep voice calling me back.

"Hey, Mr BBC man... Up the IRA!".

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/15 18:55:20 GMT



How Murky Finances Keep Sinn Fein Afloat

From David Sharrock and Tim Reid in Washington

WHEN Sinn Fein publishes its 2004 accounts in Dublin next month and declares that it has gone into the red for the first time in several years there will be chuckles of derision from politicians on both sides of the Irish border.

The figures will show a deficit of some €400,000 (£278,315), according to a report published last month in The Irish Times, bringing Sinn Fein into line with the Republic’s main political parties which operate on overdrafts.

But as a party inextricably linked to the Provisional IRA — which is accused by the British and Irish governments of stealing £26.5 million from the Northern Bank — and which can call upon an army of unpaid volunteers, a more alarming picture emerges of a movement bloated on concealed wealth derived from a wide range of legal and illegal sources.

The peace process has transformed Sinn Fein into Ireland’s wealthiest party, according to politicians and security experts. As an all-Ireland party it receives €1 million a year from British and Irish government funding, according to a recent investigation by the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post.

“Unusually among political parties, Sinn Fein is in an extremely healthy financial position,” the newspaper said, relying upon the party’s own unpublished accounts which it had seen. However, the newspaper implicitly questioned the value of the documents, since they refer only to the party’s central organisation. Local party units are allowed to fundraise and spend as they see fit.

It produces three sets of accounts: one covering all of Ireland’s thirty-two counties, another for the twenty-six counties of the Republic and the third for the six counties of Northern Ireland.

The Republic’s Standards in Public Office Commission — to which all parties must make an annual financial declaration — is authorised to examine only the 26-counties report and in any case has never conducted an audit of any political party, saying that it accepts the accounts at face value.

But the Sunday Business Post said that it had discovered anomalies between the three sets of accounts, for instance a declaration of “admin expenses” was three times more in one than in another. There were also widely different figures for donations between all three accounts.

The accounts show that one of the party’s greatest strengths is its extremely low running costs. Fine Gael, the main opposition party in the Republic, spends around €1.6 million a year on salaries.

By contrast Sinn Fein pays out just over €500,000 for its all-Ireland operation.

Des Mackin, the Sinn Fein finance director, told the news-paper: “We’re a party with a core of voluntarism. We don’t have to pay anyone to put up posters. We don’t have to pay people to do anything.”

Mr Mackin was the subject of another Dublin newspaper investigation two weeks ago.

Ireland on Sunday described him as a multimillionaire businessman who served a three-year prison sentence for IRA membership and who eluded extradition from the US over the attempted murder of an SAS officer in Belfast in 1978.

The newspaper said he was listed as a director of four Dublin companies — three of which effectively ceased trading before he took up his positions with them. He also owns at least eight properties, worth an estimated €2.5 million.

People-power in the shape of the McCartney sisters threatens to put off Irish-American donors this week during the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, but the accounts of the USregistered Friends of Sinn Fein show that the US has been a profitable source of funding during the peace process.

In spite of its present difficulties, experts on terrorist finance are sceptical that pressure over the Northern Bank raid and Robert McCartney’s murder will make much difference to the party’s murky financial arrangements.

“The top politicians say that you cannot differentiate between the IRA and Sinn Fein and that equally applies to their finances,” an expert source said.

“But there is a lack of political will to tackle this issue. Calls for Sinn Fein to sever its links with the IRA and for the military wing to disband are nonsense.

“The only way for Sinn Fein to become a wholly ‘clean’ normal political party would be for it to close down altogether and start all over again.

“Today the two parts of the same organisation feed one another and feed off each other, with money being channelled into projects such as electioneering or arms buying or members’ welfare as and when necessary.”


Watch Video of Bertie Ahern in Syracuse

Irish Prime Minister Visits Syracuse -V

Updated: 3/15/2005 8:46 PM
By: Bill Carey, News 10 Now Web Staff

In a chapel on the campus of Le Moyne College, the prime minister of Ireland again voiced unanswered prayers for peace in Northern Ireland.

“This generation is closer than at anytime in our history to succeeding in resolving the Northern Ireland problem,” Ahern said.

But Bertie Ahern admits there are now deep problems, six years after the signing of the so-called 'Good Friday' agreement, aimed at bringing peace. In recent months, the Irish republican Army has been tied to a $50 million robbery of a bank, then the brutal killing of a 33 year old at a Belfast bar, Robert McCartney. The two crimes have proven a major setback.

“The issues of paramilitary capability and activity including all forms of criminality will have to be conclusively dealt with if there's to be any prospect of restoring partnership government in Northern Ireland and that's what we all want to achieve in doing,” Ahern said.

A year after the leader of the group Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, came to Syracuse. He has found his welcome less than warm in 2005, left off the list of invitees to the White House for St. Patrick's Day. Syracuse congressman James Walsh, who heads a congressional conference on Ireland says Sinn Fein must learn that the IRA can no longer exist if there is to be peace.

The prime minister of the Irish Republic has begun his traditional tour of the United States for St. Patrick's Week. The first stop, Syracuse. News 10 Now's Bill Carey reports Bertie Ahern was talking about the continuing effort to bring peace to his neighbor, Northern Ireland.

“The IRA is causing problems for Gerry Adams and the rest of the people in Northern Ireland. They're making it very difficult for this peace process to go forward,” Walsh said.

Ahern is aware that the strong Irish American population has some sway overseas, can put pressure on to bring peace to Northern Ireland. That's part of why he's bringing the message here during St. Patrick's week. Irish-Americans who remember stories of the struggle for independence by the Irish republic are being told these are different times.

“To be frank, not of these issues have to do with the old time. These issues are issues around criminality, you know, and people making money. They're not about the old time,” Ahern said.

Bertie Ahern began his day in Syracuse with a prayer for peace. He ended it with a vow to avoid a return to war.

“We have to do it. It's not easy, but we're going to keep at it and try to achieve it over the next year or so,” he said.


Robert McCartney’s sisters and his fianceé, Bridgeen Hagans, second from right, arrive in the US last night on a high-profile justice mission where they will meet George Bush and mix with the cream of Irish America. Picture: PA

Grieving Sisters Vow To Destroy 'Romantic' IRA Image

Alex Massie
In Washington

Key points

:: Sisters of murdered Robert McCartney in US as guest in White House
:: Martin McGuiness issues sisters a 'warning' to stay out of politics
:: Recent highlighting of illegal activities puts pressure on Sinn Fein

Key quote

"We are highlighting that this started off as intimidation and has now taken a sinister twist into an area of secrecy. There is an implication that someone is pulling our strings but the only person pulling our strings is Robert." - CATHERINE MCCARTNEY

THE sisters of the IRA murder victim Robert McCartney flew to the United States last night amid international publicity, vowing to dispel any "romantic ideas" held about the Northern Ireland troubles.

The family also accused the IRA of a cover-up over the killing, and will present a dossier of evidence to George Bush, the US president.

As the sisters arrived at Baltimore Airport, Catherine McCartney said: "We want the people in America to know any romantic vision they have of the struggle should be dispelled.

"The struggle in terms of what it was ten years ago is now over - we are now dealing with criminal gangs who use the cloak of romanticism around the IRA to murder people on the streets and walk away from it."

The five women, along with Mr McCartney’s fiancée, Bridgeen Hagans, are to take part in the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations and their appearance will pile further pressure on Sinn Fein.

During their visit, they will be guests of honour at the White House, where they will present Mr Bush with evidence regarding Mr McCartney’s death outside a pub in Belfast on 30 January.

The high-profile visit is part of the family’s attempts to bring the killers of the 33-year-old father of two to justice.

Two Sinn Fein election candidates and a former party councillor have come forward to say they were in Magennis’s bar on the night Mr McCartney was killed, but claim that they did not witness the attack.

Speaking before leaving Dublin yesterday, Paula McCartney said the situation "stinks of a cover-up". Her comments came a day after Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, warned the McCartneys to be "very careful" and to stay out of politics, after one of the sisters threatened to challenge the party at the ballot box.

Last night, Catherine McCartney said their intention was to make influential congressmen and women aware that people could be murdered and as long as they did not belong to an organisation, no one was accountable.

"We are highlighting that this started off as intimidation and has now taken a sinister twist into an area of secrecy," she said. "There is an implication that someone is pulling our strings but the only person pulling our strings is Robert."

Asked about the warning issued to the family by Mr McGuinness to stay out of party politics, she said they would not be used as a political football.

The sisters said the only way their trip to the US would be made worthwhile would be if those responsible for the brutal murder of Mr McCartney were arrested during their trip.

Although the IRA has expelled three volunteers and Sinn Fein has suspended seven members, no-one has been charged over the killing.

Mr McGuinness insisted yesterday he was behind the McCartneys in their quest for justice - and challenged Northern Ireland’s top police officer to explain why an IRA suspect in the case had not been arrested.

He claimed the man, one of three expelled from the Provisionals over the killing, was turned away by investigating detectives.

Mr McGuinness said: "Their explanation that they are making arrangements to interview the suspect is astonishing. They have been raiding homes in Belfast looking for this man, yet when he offers himself for interview they turn him away. Such a course of action is unprecedented."

A key witness - believed to be Brendan Devine, whose throat was cut in the pub attack - also offered to provide a signed statement, republicans said.

Mr McGuinness added: "I publicly challenge [Chief Constable] Hugh Orde to explain the handling of this investigation and why charges have not been brought."

A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "This is very much a live police investigation into a particularly brutal murder and it is not appropriate to discuss specific issues concerning witnesses or suspects."

As well as Mr Bush, the McCartney family are due to meet US senators Edward Kennedy and Hillary Clinton during their visit.

Talks have also been arranged with Richie Neal, a congressman, and Mr Bush’s special adviser on Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss.

The family’s hectic itinerary will see them rub shoulders with the cream of Irish America at lavish events such as the American Ireland Fund Dinner, the Northern Ireland Bureau’s reception and the Irish embassy reception.

By contrast, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, has been refused a meeting with Mr Bush, and Mr Kennedy has also called off planned talks as a direct response to Mr McCartney’s murder and the IRA’s alleged involvement in the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid.

Mr Adams has also been banned from fund-raising while in the US, prompting the cancellation of a number of gala banquets organised by the Irish American community.

Mr Adams admitted that not being invited to the White House was a symbolic "disappointment" for him and his party.

But Mr Adams added: "Do I interpret that as a movement by this administration away from the peace process? No, I don’t.

"In any case, this will not be worked out in the White House. This will be not worked out anywhere else except back on the island of Ireland."

Further pressure was heaped on the Sinn Fein president when one of his main political allies in the US, Congressman Peter King, called on the IRA to disband. He said: "As the political process moves closer to the goal line as I see it, they [the IRA] are not serving any good purpose. Gerry Adams should declare victory and tell the IRA to disband."

Meanwhile, relatives of a man stabbed to death in Londonderry in October 2003 have written to Mr Adams asking to meet him over alleged IRA involvement in the killing.

The family of James McGinley, 23, claim that the man jailed for his manslaughter last month, Bart Fisher, is in the IRA and that members of the organisation intimidated them during the trial. Although Fisher denied involvement with the IRA, Mr McGinley’s mother, Eileen, said last night: "Nobody from Sinn Fein or the IRA has come anywhere near us since we went public with this.

"We know why the IRA got involved in the trial of our son’s killer. We know why he’s being protected and supported by the IRA and Sinn Fein.

"We don’t want answers, we want action. We want Sinn Fein to state clearly their position on this issue and we want them to help us bring this to an end."


THE Provisional IRA has forged an alliance with a network of criminal gangs on the British mainland in a multi-million pound cigarette and fuel smuggling racket, it was claimed yesterday.

A former head of the Special Branch in Belfast said links were built while IRA members and British gangsters were in high-security jails. The BBC reported allegations that the IRA was involved in the laundering of hundreds of millions of pounds, some of which was reinvested in elaborate schemes to bring illicit fuel and tobacco into the UK.

Ian Pearson, the Northern Ireland security minister, told BBC Radio 4’s File On Four that the Provisionals were now "perhaps the most sophisticated organised criminal grouping to be found anywhere in Europe, possibly anywhere in the world".

The report comes as the IRA is under pressure over its alleged involvement in crime, from the £26 million Northern Bank raid in Belfast to money-laundering in the Republic of Ireland and the murder of Robert McCartney.

File On Four quoted police and Customs sources on both sides of the Irish border as saying that the Provisionals were involved in a "significant percentage" of cigarette and fuel smuggling in the UK, much of it originating in south Armagh.

The IRA use some of Britain’s criminal gangs as a distribution network for tobacco on which no duty has been paid, it was claimed.

And they employ expert techniques to "launder" fuel on an industrial scale, removing the marker dyes from low-tax diesel intended for agricultural or central-heating use, in order to allow it to be used illicitly by road vehicles. Irish Customs last month intercepted fuel tankers bound for Liverpool from Dublin docks that had been disguised as trailers carrying timber in order to conceal their illegal cargo, the programme reported.

It is believed that almost five million litres of fuel are being sent across the Irish Sea by one IRA group alone.

Meanwhile, a bureau de change allegedly controlled by the Provos near the border had banked £250 million in suspect cash, some of which was used as "venture capital" to fund criminal activities.

Paper trails linked the cash to criminals around the world believed to be involved in cigarette smuggling, it was reported.


Comment: After McCartney

The Sinn Féin leadership must finally deliver up the IRA hardmen or risk splitting republicanism

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday March 16, 2005
The Guardian

You know things are tricky again in Belfast the moment you get to the airport. There in the arrivals lounge is a cab driver holding up a sign marked "NBC". If American television news cameras are back in town, you know it can't be good.

For the best part of six years, after the Good Friday agreement, foreign media stayed away, deciding that, bar the odd glitch, Northern Ireland was done, the conflict all but resolved. The last few weeks have prompted a rethink.

It began with the pre-Christmas robbery of the Northern Bank, a £26m raid almost universally blamed on the IRA. But it was the death of Robert McCartney, a Catholic killed by IRA gangsters in a bar, which shook everything up. In their demand for justice, the dead man's sisters and fiancee have blown the lid off what many describe as a culture of Provo intimidation and criminality, bullying Catholics into silent obedience. When the IRA issued a statement offering to shoot the guilty men, it only confirmed the picture.

The result has been more damaging to the republican movement than years of British or unionist invective. The proof came this week in Washington, as two lions of Irish America, Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Peter King, turned their back on Gerry Adams. King, once a romantic admirer of the armed struggle, issued a plain demand - that the IRA be disbanded.

So what's going on here? One very senior British official admits that he doesn't know - and speculates that nor does anyone else: "It's been a downward spiral in which everyone's out of control. Heads are whirling."

After several conversations with key players, two conflicting views emerge of what might be happening inside republicanism. Start with John Kelly, 69 and proud to describe himself as a former IRA volunteer, a man who served eight years in jail - and still a republican.

He is not surprised by the McCartney killing, but he is disgusted by it. He believes that such thuggery has become widespread, with Provo "warlords" ruling their fiefdoms through extortion and violence. The rackets - stealing cigarettes and whiskey and the like - are polluting "the nobility of physical-force republicanism", he says. "They're doing what Thatcher couldn't do - criminalising the republican movement." The Sinn Féin leadership accepts that there are a few "thugs" who are out of line, but insists that's all they are - a few bad apples. Kelly doesn't buy that. He traces the blame all the way to the top, to Adams and Martin McGuinness. "They bred it, they led it - they've become dependent on these warlords," he told me, sitting in the front room of his Maghera home surrounded by republican memorabilia. According to Kelly, it suited the top brass to have the hardmen on the streets, cracking down on dissidents and "policing the Good Friday agreement". In his eyes, there is no meaningful space between the suits and the boots: they are both part of a single, "seamless political cloth".

Other republicans, also appalled by the McCartney killing and the evidence of violent criminality in Derry and elsewhere, take a different view. They do not defend the thuggery, but insist that the leaders of Sinn Féin are pitted against it in what amounts to a struggle for the soul of republicanism.

One well-informed republican believes there is a faction within the IRA opposed to the peace process that is now bent on sabotaging Adams and McGuinness. He speaks of a "shadow IRA within the IRA", centred on two dissenting members of the army council. It was this faction, he believes, that authorised the Northern Bank robbery - with no nod from Adams: "They reckon the peace process is a failed project and they want to get back to the real business." Their hand was strengthened after Sinn Féin and Ian Paisley came tantalisingly close to an agreement last December, only to fail - with republicans taking much of the blame.

My source reckons that these same "rogue" elements were behind the disastrous IRA statement, with its offer of summary executions: "That was a couple of people knocking something out on the back of a beer mat. It was inexcusable." He and others note both the increased frequency and deteriorating coherence of recent IRA statements - a contrast with the terse, deliberate messages of the past - as if new, less shrewd, heads are currently prevailing within the organisation.

That image - of a titanic struggle within republicanism pitting Adams and McGuinness against the hardmen - certainly accords with the impression left by McGuinness. At Sinn Féin's office on the Falls Road yesterday he said no such thing; not explicitly. But that's what came through.

He recalled the December breakdown, citing Paisley's demand that the IRA be humiliated, made to wear "sackcloth and ashes" - and what he sees as London and Dublin's subsequent siding with the DUP leader: "What effect do you think all that has on republicans? Does that make our work easier?" Without saying it, McGuinness implies an ongoing internal argument, in which political progress helps him and Adams, while setbacks help the obstructionists within the IRA.

How might the current crisis affect this battle? The optimists hope that it could, perversely, benefit the leadership. "OK, we've tried it your way," Adams and McGuinness could say to the hardmen, "robbing a bank and killing McCartney - and look at the result". The loss of support, from the streets of Short Strand to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, could be just the shock the naysayers need.

On the other hand, most players agree that Sinn Féin would now need to make a very dramatic gesture to re-enter talks aimed at power-sharing with unionism. The move most people have in mind is the disbandment of the IRA. But, in the words of that British official, "How do you ask the racketeers and gangsters, who drive 4x4 cars and have nice country cottages, to give up all that?" McGuinness locates the problem elsewhere. With more British troops allocated to Northern Ireland than to Iraq, the sky over South Armagh still thick with British helicopters: "Do you fancy going to [IRA] people and telling them 'you're the problem and if only you got out of the way, everything would be hunky dory'?"

Of course he's wary. A republican obsession is unity: the scenario that Adams and McGuinness fear most is a split. The movement has split before, with lethal consequences. So there can be no diktat to stand down - not if there is a risk it might be disobeyed.

Less sympathetic voices wonder if Adams suffers from "Arafat syndrome", if he lacks the courage to make the final break with the past. For the moment, the British government still has faith in him - realising the IRA is not an easy organisation to dominate - and, the polls suggest, so do his own people.

But this situation cannot last for ever. Ultimately, if Adams and McGuinness are to be judged true peacemakers, their job is to deliver their hardmen - not to fight a never-ending battle against them.


Press Briefing By Scott McClellan

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

Q Thank you. To follow up the questions asked yesterday about Northern Ireland, do you consider the IRA and Sinn Fein now to be terrorists? And also, how much time will President Bush spend with the McCartney sisters?

MR. McCLELLAN: How much time will he what?

Q Spend with the McCartney sisters.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll let you know then. He looks forward to seeing them. They will -- they have been invited to the White House to attend the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. And I think part of the message that sends is that we remain committed to the efforts of the Prime Ministers -- Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern -- to bring about a comprehensive peace agreement. We share the views of Prime Ministers Ahern and Blair that continued violence is an obstacle to reaching a comprehensive peace agreement. Ongoing paramilitary activity and thuggery stands in the way of a lasting and durable peace. And we want to make it clear to the parties in Northern Ireland where we stand. We stand with those who are working to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement. And there's been a step back from that process by the parties. There's been a lack of progress. And we want to see the parties get back on the path toward a comprehensive peace agreement.

Q Is this a blanket indictment now of IRA and Sinn Fein? Are you saying they are terrorist organizations?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've stated our views on the violence that goes on and the terrorist acts that have continued in Northern Ireland. And we stand with the Prime Ministers who are working to bring about a comprehensive peace agreement. I don't think there's anything to add to what I said.


Chinese National Killed In Belfast

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

Police say they are following a definite line of inquiry following the killing of a man in south Belfast early yesterday .

A PSNI patrol was called to a disturbance at an apartment at Hampton Drive in the Annadale area of the city at about 3am. There they found a man suffering from serious knife wounds. Two other men also had stab wounds.

The seriously injured man, understood to be a Chinese national and a restaurant worker, died from his wounds despite first aid on the spot.

The other men, also Chinese, were taken to hospital, where their wounds were said not to be life-threatening. They were arrested there in connection with the killing.

The police have said they do not believe the incident was linked to either a sectarian or racial motive.

SDLP Assembly member Carmel Hanna said she was concerned about the growing culture of violence in her area.

"There has been a spate of violence in south Belfast in recent years, and the community must stand against those who perpetrate these awful crimes," she said.

© The Irish Times


See video: Grenades were thrown among the mourners

On March 16, 1988: Three Shot Dead At Milltown Cemetery -V

A gunman has killed three mourners and injured at least 50 people attending a funeral for IRA members shot dead in Gibraltar.

It is understood he also threw four grenades into the crowd of 10,000 people gathered around the Republican plot at Milltown Cemetery in Roman Catholic west Belfast.

The casualties have been taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in a fleet of private vehicles and 10 ambulances.

Eyewitness reports describe mourners gripped with panic, screaming and shouting while others collapsed to the floor.

The initial shot was mistaken for an IRA salute as the dead, Mairead Farrell, 31, Daniel McCann, 30, and Sean Savage, 23, were buried.

But shortly after 1300 GMT as the last of the three coffins was lowered into the joint grave, another shot was fired.

Attacks condemned

Another shot was quickly followed by two blasts 50 yards away which is said to have sent black smoke and earth into the air.

Several more shots were fired amid a burst of what is thought to be grenades.

Funeral stewards made repeated appeals for calm as the course of reconciliation in Northern Ireland faced another setback.

There are some reports the man was then pursued by hundreds of youths oblivious to the danger.

The Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King, has condemned the attacks and appealed for calm, echoing calls from other political quarters including Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

But Mr Adams accused the RUC of collusion in the attack.

The RUC had agreed to stay away from the funeral after representations from the Roman Catholic church and political leaders.

The Ulster Defence Association, the largest of the Protestant paramilitary organisations, denied any part in the attack.

It added the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters had no part in today's events either.

In Context

The funerals were for three IRA members shot dead by British special forces in Gibraltar, where they were planning an attack on the British garrison.

A lone loyalist gunman, Michael Stone, was chased by mourners at the cemetery but was arrested by police.

The east Belfast man had been active on the fringes of loyalist para-militarism before the Milltown killings and was ultimately sentenced for a total of six murders when he eventually came to trial.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters member was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years imprisonment by the trial judge.

But he was released, despite massive outrage, after serving 12 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.


Drugs To Halt Alzheimer's Disease On The Way

Eithne Donnellan, Health Correspondent

Drugs which will halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease are likely to be available in less than a decade, a leading expert on the condition said in Dublin yesterday.

Prof Dennis Selkoe of Harvard Medical School said he was optimistic a number of experimental therapies at present at clinical trial stage would turn out to be successful in the next few years. "If there are people now who already have Alzheimer's they might benefit from this during the course of their illness.

"But a more likely beneficiary of this will be people about to get Alzheimer's," he said.

In Dublin for a conference on medical research into neuro-degenerative diseases at UCD, Prof Selkoe added that the new treatments being tried attack the fundamental cause and mechanism of Alzheimer's in contrast to treatments already on the market which were "largely symptomatic treatments" that make symptoms a little better but could not do anything about the progression of the disease.

Alzheimer's affects an estimated 35,000 people in Ireland but that figure is likely to increase dramatically in coming years as people live longer. In 95 per cent of cases the onset of the disease is after the age of 60 but there have been cases reported in younger persons, including an 18-year-old woman in the US.

There are believed to be about 30 million sufferers worldwide.

The disease, Prof Selkoe said, was the eighth most frequent cause of death in the US in 1999, where there are about 4 million sufferers and where up to $100 billion a year is spent on treating sufferers.

"I have no doubt it would be very wise for the Irish public to invest its tax in part in figuring out this disease more quickly.

"You could just let others do it but the more research that goes on in Ireland I think the better the chance that you will have good quality clinical trials that are using cutting edge approaches," he said.

© The Irish Times

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