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March 23, 2005

Former RUC Man Stands For Sinn Fein

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

IO 03/23/05
Former RUC Man To Stand For Sinn Féin
IT 03/24/05 DUP To Press For Excluding SF From Government
SW 03/23/05 Eamonn McCann on: What’s next in Northern Ireland?
IO 03/23/05 Sinn Féin Embroiled In New Row Over Man's Death
IT 03/24/05 Ahern Criticises Dearth Of Evidence
BB 03/23/05 More Resign Over Education Cuts
BT 03/23/05 Mayors Not To Stand In Poll
BT 03/23/05 Hume Bows Out Of Commons
BT 03/23/05 City Name Storm For Court
IT 03/24/05 SF Got $760,00 From US Supporters In 2004
DI 03/23/05 Fake £10 Notes Flood The North
DI 03/23/04 Father Calls For Inquest
IT 03/24/05 Pub With No Beer: Work Halted On 'Quiet Man' Bar Transformation

NW 03/23/05
Nationwide visits the Mind, Body, Spirit Exhibition

Nationwide visits the Mind, Body, Spirit Exhibition at Dublin's RDS - Watch the entire show as Mary Kennedy takes in some of the highlights of the exhibition, Alasdair Jackson delves into the world of aura reading and Róisín Ní Eadhra tests the powers of a number of psychic readers


Former RUC Man To Stand For Sinn Féin
2005-03-23 21:30:03+00

Sinn Féin has selected a former member of the RUC as a Westminster candidate.

Billy Leonard, who defected to the party from the SDLP, will stand in East Londonderry

His party colleague Francie Bolly claimed the one-time Protestant lay preacher would make a perfect candidate. "He works tirelessly in advancing the peace process, on the street at grassroots level where it really matters."

The former police reservist became the first Sinn Féin member of Coleraine Borough Council last year.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists have chosen their candidate to challenge for Ian Paisley's Westminster seat. .

Rodney McCune, 28, from Ballymena, will be the UUP's youngest candidate when he stands in North Antrim.

Mr McCune said: "I know that I will have a very difficult fight on my hands but I am sure that my opponents will feel the same way."


SF Supports Inquiry Into Murder Of RUC Officers

Michael O'Regan

There were heated exchanges as Sinn Féin backed a Government motion setting up a tribunal of inquiry into the murder of two RUC officers.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said the tribunal would inquire "into suggestions of collusion in the brutal and callous murders of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and RUC Supt Bob Buchanan by the Provisional IRA in 1989".

Mr McDowell said he had full confidence that the Garda, as well as any other institution of the State, would be forthcoming in its engagement with the tribunal.

"There is, however, one organisation that could provide full answers to the tribunal and that, of course, is the IRA," he added.

Sinn Féin and the IRA could not have it both ways, he said. "They cannot clamour for justice and truth regarding other barbaric acts that Judge Cory has reported on and in respect of which he has recommended tribunals and not co-operate with this one," Mr McDowell added.

Sinn Féin's Dáil leader, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said his party was in favour of a process of truth recovery but criticised the absence of public inquiries into the murder of Pat Finucane, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and other incidents.

"There has been an attempt by the Minister for Justice, by his fellow unionists and by sections of the media to equate the alleged collusion of a garda in the killing of these two RUC officers with the widespread and systematic collusion between British forces, including the RUC, and the loyalist paramilitaries," he added.

Replying, Mr McDowell said: "I am an Irish republican and I know what Irish republicanism means. It does not involve, in this day and age, killing, shooting or bombing anybody, robbing banks, breaking people's legs or extorting money."

Martin Ferris (SF, Kerry North) said that Toby Harnden was one of the sources for the claims that there was collusion involving members of the Garda in the killings.

"He has already been castigated by Judge Peter Cory for failing to substantiate that claim. Cory said his interviews with both Harnden and Kevin Myers revealed how little these gentlemen relied on fact and how much on suspicion and hearsay," Mr Ferris added. "Harnden has already been found to have made an unsubstantiated allegation that those killed oBloody Sunday in Derry had been involved in violence that day.

"It would appear that Harnden distorted a statement given to him by one of the paratroopers involved in that event. Kevin Myers, who repeated the allegations made by Harnden, has already reacted in his usual manner, by attacking Cory, comparing him to Homer Simpson.

"There has been speculation that both Myers and Harnden will attempt to avoid giving evidence to the tribunal, further proof of the shallow nature of their claims."

© The Irish Times


DUP To Press For Excluding SF From Government

Frank Millar, London Editor

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson has suggested that power-sharing with Sinn Féin could be off the unionist political agenda for a generation.

At the same time he and other senior party sources are predicting a DUP victory over the Ulster Unionist Party by at least 9 seats to 2 in the British general election expected on May 5th.

Mr Robinson was speaking to The Irish Times ahead of publication next week of a new DUP policy document entitled Moving On.

In it the DUP will press the case for a voluntary coalition of unionists and nationalists to resume devolved government at Stormont without Sinn Féin.

Mr Robinson said the failed negotiation of last December had persuaded the DUP that Sinn Féin "was not capable of making the transition to peace and democracy".

He continued: "We believe the best option is voluntary coalition and it is in that direction that we will now deploy our efforts."

Reminded that it remained the declared policy of both the British and Irish governments to restore a fully "inclusive" power-sharing Executive, Mr Robinson replied: "We don't believe they (Sinn Féin) will make the transition, so it's no longer in our reckoning. We're saying that that era is past and gone."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble told his party's annual meeting earlier this month that he did not "intend" to rejoin a partnership government with Sinn Féin, while stopping short of saying "never".

Pressed to say whether he ruled out an inclusive government with Sinn Féin even if republicans eventually met the standards required by the two governments, Mr Robinson declared: "If they (republicans) reform at a later stage that's a matter for the next generation to look at."

This pre-election hardening of the DUP's position was underlined in the Commons yesterday when Andrew Hunter, the former Conservative MP who now takes the DUP whip, told Northern Secretary Paul Murphy that "inclusivity is no longer on the agenda".

During Northern Ireland Questions, Mr Murphy repeated that the British government's ultimate goal remained the restoration of an inclusive Executive at Stormont.

Mr Murphy accepted that the prospect of an Executive as envisaged by the Belfast Agreement was "unrealistic at the moment". He reiterated his belief that the majority of people in Northern Ireland wanted government to resolve the issue of republican criminality of the kind which had resulted in the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney.

However, Mr Murphy also found himself under renewed pressure to address what Conservative spokesman David Lidington called the "profound democratic deficit in direct rule" by Westminster. And Mr Murphy was again challenged by Mr Trimble to bring forward the necessary legislation to scrap the existing procedure for appointing an Executive at Stormont, thus enabling "the other parties" to move ahead without Sinn Féin.

Mr Murphy told Mr Trimble he was "more than happy" to consider the alternative proposals put forward by the political parties, while stressing it would be "impossible" to find an alternative way forward even as a temporary measure "unless the parties (both unionist parties and the SDLP) agree to work together."

Pressed by Mr Lidington on whether Downing Street was engaged in continuing discussions with Sinn Féin, Mr Murphy suggested the government had "a single-issue agenda" for any such talks - namely securing an end to IRA paramilitary and criminal activity.

Private polling has apparently increased DUP confidence that it can defeat Mr Trimble in his Upper Bann constituency in the forthcoming election.

© The Irish Times


Eamonn McCann on: What’s next in Northern Ireland?

March 25, 2005 Page 8

THE IRISH Republican Army (IRA) and Sinn Fein, the political party associated with it, are in a deep crisis after a group of IRA members murdered a Catholic man in eastern Belfast. The killing of Robert McCartney--and his family’s determination to speak out against the murder--has caused a storm of controversy in Northern Ireland.

The uproar touched U.S. politics this month during a visit by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. The Bush White House disinvited Adams from a ceremony at the White House and instead hosted Robert McCartney’s sisters. Meanwhile, politicians from across the political spectrum lectured Sinn Fein about holding the IRA accountable and “rejecting violence.”

The media’s shallow coverage neglected the essential fact that the greater violence in Northern Ireland has always come from British occupiers and the right-wing organizations of the Protestant majority, known as Unionists--not from the Republican movement that arose among the oppressed Catholic population.

Nevertheless, the backlash against Sinn Fein threatens its position in the power-sharing arrangement created following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which halted decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

EAMONN McCANN was one of the founders of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, which ushered in the modern era of the struggle against British rule. He is the author of several books, including War and an Irish Town; writes regularly for numerous publications in Ireland; and is a member of the Bloody Sunday Campaign and the Socialist Workers Party. Eamonn spoke to Socialist Worker’s ALAN MAASS about the situation in Northern Ireland today.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CAN YOU talk about the background to the crisis Sinn Fein faces now?

THERE’S BEEN a contradiction at the heart of Sinn Fein politics since the Irish troubles erupted 35 years ago. And it’s become particularly acute in the years since the IRA’s ceasefire in 1994 and the signing of the Belfast agreement--the so-called Good Friday Agreement--in 1998.

The contradiction is very stark and obvious. Sinn Fein and the IRA are part of the same Republican movement, which claims to be a revolutionary movement fighting to remove the British presence from Northern Ireland. But in fact, they have been compromising with British rule for a very, very long time, and this reached its summit with the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Fein agreed that Northern Ireland shall be accepted as part of Britain, part of the United Kingdom. It agreed that this wouldn’t change and that the British presence wouldn’t be removed without the support of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland--not all Ireland, but Northern Ireland, the British part of Ireland. And they agreed that they would use only legal, constitutional--that is, British constitutional--means to advance their cause.

That was what made Sinn Fein acceptable to the American government. The Clinton White House cheered Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders when they agreed to these conditions.

But of course, that left the IRA--this armed, clandestine organization--with no role to play. In areas like the Short Strand, where the McCartney family comes from, or the Falls Road of Belfast, or the Bogside in Derry, from which I’m speaking at the moment--you had a well-trained, well-armed, secret paramilitary force with no political purpose since they had already accepted the Good Friday Agreement.

That’s been the situation since 1994. At an accelerating rate, the IRA has become a sort of local militia, heavily involved in businesses, both legitimate and illegitimate, and with an armed paramilitary force protecting all this. The organization has degenerated.

What really happened was that on January 30, a number of IRA people killed Robert McCartney, and discovered that this family wasn’t going to take it lying down--that they were going to speak out. As soon as the McCartney family began speaking out, many other people began coming forward and recounting their own experiences over recent years with thuggery and intimidation by IRA people.

This created a crisis for Sinn Fein, and remarkably, Sinn seems to have been totally unprepared for it.

WHERE IS Sinn Fein headed politically?

MOST OF the media in Ireland and Britain and the United States--the commentators and analysts--have been talking about the development of Sinn Fein from violence to peaceful means. That’s a very, very simplistic way to look at it.

Actually, it’s more meaningful to see Sinn Fein’s trajectory as being from the left to the right--from being left-wing nationalists to being conventional right-wing nationalists.

In the two years in which Sinn Fein was involved in a power-sharing assembly with pro-British, mainly Protestant Unionism in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein ministers held the ministries of education and of health. And in both education and in health, they loyally implemented the privatization agenda of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of Britain’s New Labour government. They made no protest against it of a practical sort.

As the minister for health, Sinn Fein’s Bairbre de Brun refused even to issue a statement clarifying the law on abortion in Northern Ireland--simply to make it plain that there were certain, very limited circumstances in which abortion might be legal in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Family Planning Association had to take the Sinn Fein minister to court in an effort simply to get her to make a statement.

Then there’s the question of job levels and wages and working conditions at the local government level, where Sinn Fein has been very successful. One shop steward told me a couple weeks back that when he went into negotiations, there was a councilor from the Democratic Unionist Party--a very right-wing party led by Ian Paisley--and a councilor from Sinn Fein.

And he said that if he closed his eyes, he wouldn’t have been able to tell which was which. He said there wasn’t the width of a cigarette paper between them. They both talked about how workers would have to tighten their belts, and budgets would have to be balanced, and targets would have to be met.

All this has led to a general disillusionment with the Sinn Fein party, and that, too, is part of the background to the situation that arose when the McCartney sisters went public and began complaining about the murder of their brother.

HOW DO people view George Bush’s harsh rhetoric toward Sinn Fein?

ONE THING that may not be apparent from the United States is this: While Bush may be able to put a lot of pressure on Sinn Fein, the McCartney sisters’ association with Bush and their meeting with him will not have done them any good at the grassroots level back in Northern Ireland.

In working-class areas--particularly Catholic working-class areas, such as where the McCartneys come from--George Bush is probably the least popular person in the whole world.

People are well aware of the grotesque hypocrisy of George Bush saying that the murderers of Robert McCartney must be brought to justice at the same time as he sanctions the slaughter of thousands of people in Iraq.

Many commentators, including those who are not particularly left wing, have drawn attention to the contrast between Bush saying that there must be due process, with people charged in the courts with the murder of Robert McCartney, when the fact is that due process is a dead letter for opponents of the Bush administration in Guantánamo Bay, at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and in the so-called rendition of people across national frontiers. All this is widely known and commented on in Northern Ireland.

The significance of Bush’s intervention lies precisely in the fact that the Sinn Fein leadership has placed such importance on winning the endorsement, first, of Bill Clinton, and then of George Bush.

Some people say, “Aren’t the McCartney sisters hypocrites for looking for justice from George Bush?” But in fact, the path to the White House was paved by the Sinn Fein leadership, and the McCartney sisters have made this point--that they are taking the path that Sinn Fein took to seek respectability.

IN THE U.S., the attacks on Republicanism are coming from across the political spectrum.

There’s a paradox here because the Sinn Fein party leaders talk out of both sides of their mouth--it’s very difficult to categorize them.

For example, young Sinn Fein members have been in the leadership of a Boycott Coca-Cola campaign in the colleges in Ireland. At the same time, Sinn Fein last year accepted a donation of $5,000 for party funds from the Coca-Cola company.

There’s a sharp contradiction in Sinn Fein’s approach to all these matters. Gerry Adams heads a party that claims to be antiwar. But Gerry Adams said just a few months ago that George Bush “hadn’t put a foot wrong” with regard to the Irish situation. This means that they are abstracting the Irish situation from the world situation. Sinn Fein believes they can have a sort of world view that is anti-Iraq war, but an Irish view in which they abase themselves before the people who are prosecuting the Iraq war.

The most obvious example of this came in April 2003, at the beginning of the invasion, when there was a summit between Bush and Blair at Hillsborough Castle just outside Belfast. Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein took the opportunity to stand in line to shake Bush’s hands--and to accept lectures from him about peace in Ireland even as the bombers were revving up to bomb Baghdad.

As Gerry Adams was doing that inside the castle, I was on a platform outside the castle denouncing the Iraq war. And among the other speakers was the Sinn Fein leader Mitchell McCloughlin. He was outside denouncing Iraq war, while Gerry Adams was inside, praising George Bush for his contributions to peace in Ireland.

All this goes back to the Clinton years. Because he wanted a foreign-policy success and because it suited him to get some Irish-American politicians onside before he was elected in 1992, Clinton made a promise to involve himself in the Northern Ireland issue. It no coincidence that the IRA ceasefire came two years after Clinton’s election--with promises from Clinton that helped convince Sinn Fein and the IRA that the political path would lead them as far forward as the armed struggle.

And of course, this meant that when Clinton bombed Sudan and Afghanistan, the Sinn Fein leaders sat dumb about it and wanted to keep on the good side of Clinton. So they’ve been compromised by that going back a long way.

SINN FEIN also has some supporters among congressional Republicans, don’t they?

JAMES WALSH is one--a Republican who represents a district from upstate New York. He’s an open and frank right-winger--a man who’s said that the invasion of Iraq should serve as a model for the future and who supports an aggressive military posture by the United States abroad.

But he’s also got a bit of an Irish constituency around Syracuse, and he’s of Irish extraction himself. So he’s a big supporter of Sinn Fein. Last year, his guest on St. Patrick’s Day in Syracuse was Martin McGuiness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator. McGuinness and Walsh marched shoulder to shoulder on St. Patrick’s Day.

How anyone reconciles that with Sinn Fein’s alleged antiwar stance is a mystery to many of us, but what was interesting was that when Bush, on the advice of Tony Blair, took a hostile attitude this year toward Sinn Fein, Walsh and Peter King from New York--another Republican congressman who’s been a very strong supporter of Sinn Fein--followed suit.

Sinn Fein was deeply damaged by this. But the point is that if you seek out the friendship of creatures like James Walsh and try to use what credibility they can confer on you, you run the risk that they’ll change--and withdraw their support. Walsh couldn’t have damaged Sinn Fein if Sinn Fein hadn’t abased themselves before in previous years.

WHAT DO rank-and-file Republicans in Northern Ireland think about the situation?

MANY MEMBERS of Sinn Fein went along with the compromises made by the Sinn Fein and IRA leadership over the last 10 or 12 years because they wanted to keep their movement united, and they thought that it was all in the interests of the struggle against British imperialism in Ireland. And now they discover that they are left isolated. So many of the rank and file of Sinn Fein and the IRA are looking for an alternative.

The way this matter is conventionally presented in the mainstream press is that either they go down the path of armed struggle, and if they do that, they’re going to be isolated from the White House and from right-wing and respectable society in Britain and Ireland. Or, the alternative is to ditch armed struggle and become--this is the theory that’s presented--conventional, centrist politicians implementing the neoliberal agenda, which is the most important thing of all about Northern Ireland to the Blair government.

This is an agonizing choice for many rank-and-file Irish Republicans: isolation on the one hand, or a sellout to the right on the other. Socialists must make the point to them that these are not the only alternatives--that there is another option.

The other option is to recognize that armed struggle by a clandestine organization was always elitist and undemocratic--that a clandestine army like the IRA, whatever its usefulness in guerrilla warfare, cannot be accountable and operate openly before the very people in whose name it fights.

Some Irish Republicans now say that things were fine until the ceasefire in 1994--that before that, we were honest, we were fighting the British, we were involved in a guerrilla war. But of course, the elitism of the IRA was as present back then as it is now.

So when Bush and Blair and the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern say to abandon armed struggle and embrace conventional conservative politics, the left should be saying that’s not the reason you should abandon armed struggle. You should abandon armed struggle in order to contribute to the building of a mass working-class movement of resistance to neoliberalism, to imperialism, to the war, for equality.

Sinn Fein is a party that finds itself between a rock and a hard place, and the tragedy of the situation may be that there isn’t a strong enough and coherent enough left in Ireland, and particularly in Northern Ireland, to act as a different pole of attraction to discontented rank-and-file Republicans. That’s the necessity for socialists at the moment--that’s what we have to be saying.


Sinn Féin Embroiled In New Row Over Man's Death
2005-03-23 18:20:07+00

Republicans were tonight accused of abandoning the family of a hit and run victim knocked down and allegedly driven over by at least three cars in Belfast.

Engineer Stephen Montgomery's relatives accused Sinn Féin of ignoring appeals to help identify the people they say killed the father-of-three.

His mother Josephine Milnes claimed party representatives could have done more to aid their quest for justice over an attack in the city's staunchly republican Ardoyne district.

"Before my son's body came home this house was crawling with Sinn Féin members pressing my hand, saying how sorry they were for what happened," she said.

"I asked them to help me find out who did it, and whether Stephen was still conscious when he was found. I asked them for help.

"But they hadn't heard anything and nobody in the community had heard anything.

"When they came back it was to ask what had the police told us.

"I think they might have been protecting someone in the community and wanted to find out what we knew."

Like Robert McCartney, the IRA murder victim stabbed two weeks earlier, the 34-year-old was killed after leaving his local pub.

Still grieving over his father's death two days earlier, Mr Montgomery had gone for a late night drink on February 13 at the Jamaica Inn near his Ardoyne home.

Two hours later he was found lying in the middle of the road with fatal head wounds.

Although police said they were treating the death as a hit and run, his family claim he was first beaten up and then driven over repeatedly.

Investigating officers disclosed at least three cars were involved, they allege.

Three men and two women have been questioned over the death, but no charges were brought.

Both Mrs Milnes, 57, and her eldest son, Sean Montgomery, insisted Stephen was not a heavy drinker or likely to stagger out of a bar and into oncoming traffic.

The victim's mother, a marketing officer with a Belfast-based feminist magazine, said: "The reason he was in the middle of the road you can only assume was because he was assaulted.

"If you are on your own you can be targeted there any night of the week by a crowd of young people drugged up or drunk out of their heads.

"It's trophy hunting that goes on. You can give someone a tanking and get away with it."

Mrs Milnes also claimed republicans only offered help after she likened the wall of silence to the McCartney case.

"I told them this stank to high heaven and within 10 minutes they were able to organise a car and have someone at my door who spent the last minutes with Stephen before he was taken to hospital," she said.

"At any point in the two days my son lay here they could have produced this witness."

Telephone callers claiming to be from two loyalist paramilitary organisations said they were responsible.

But after the cross-border Anglo-Irish Secretariat intervened to check the authenticity of the claims, the family received assurances from the leaderships of both the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force that none of their men were responsible.

The family said the loyalist link was an attempt to cloak the case in confusion.

Another brother, 25-year-old Karl Milnes, said: "People within the community are guilty of killing my brother.

"It was people from the Ardoyne made the claims on behalf of loyalists, that's what we suspect."

Unlike the McCartney sisters, who are trying to drag an IRA gang into court, the family have not blamed any organisation for the killing.

But Sean Montgomery gave a withering assessment of how they had been treated.

"The republican movement, who are supposed to be our police force, could be and should be doing a hell of a lot more than what they are doing to help us," he claimed.

As he spoke his dead brother's fiancee, Julie-Ann Hughes, played with her three year-old son.

The mother of two of Mr Montgomery's children also gave a poignant account of her last words with her partner.

"Stephen came into the house at 1am and told me he needed a couple of hours on his own to come to terms with his father's death," she recalled.

"He said with his father being ill he hadn't had any time to spend with his children. He wanted to take them to the cinema the next day and me to dinner for Valentine's Night.

"He gave me a kiss and told me he loved me. Then he got into a taxi and that was it."

Sinn Féin tonight said it had done everything it could to help the family.

North Belfast councillor Margaret McClenaghan said: "The death of this young man is tragic.

"This was a hit and run incident. The family are understandably going through a very difficult time.

"Sinn Féin have met with the family of Stephen Montgomery on a number of occasions and tried to provide whatever assistance is possible."


Ahern Criticises Dearth Of Evidence

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

The Taoiseach has said it is unacceptable that no witness statements or evidence had yet emerged to allow the arrest and prosecution of the killers of Robert McCartney, despite Sinn Féin and IRA promises to co-operate in the matter.

Speaking yesterday after meeting British prime minister Tony Blair on the margins of the EU summit, Mr Ahern said the Government has "no intention of softening our line on the problems that have emerged. We have to deal with them, we want a democratic peace based on the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement."

He said he would be meeting Sinn Féin after Easter to discuss this.

"Gerry Adams said to me last week that he also wants that and that means we have to move to deal with the issues that are outstanding." In relation to Tuesday's IRA statement, he said: "I have no comment on that. Obviously insofar as I comment on it at all, we all want to deal with the outstanding issues and if they do, so do we.

"It is unacceptable that we haven't got any witnesses and evidence has so far not emerged that would allow for the arrests and prosecutions, and that continues to be the focus.

"Sinn Féin and the IRA say they are going to be helpful and all of that but it remains to be seen where we get."

He said there was a British general election expected in May, followed by the marching season in the North.

This year's traditionally tense marching season "is not going to be any easier based on things that have gone on over the past number of months so that is a concern for us", said Mr Ahern.

There tended to be no political progress during the marching season because managing it itself was a difficult task, he said.

© The Irish Times


More Resign Over Education Cuts

More protest resignations over cuts in Northern Ireland education services have taken place.

At least 11 board members have resigned in protest from the Western Education and Library Board.

It has voted narrowly to approve budget cuts of £5.7m affecting special needs children, road safety, school library books and maintenance.

More than 20 members of the five Northern Ireland boards have resigned their posts in protest at cuts.

On Wednesday, councillors from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and DUP walked out of an emergency Western Education Board meeting in Omagh in protest at the decision.

Harry Mullan of the Western Education Board said it was one of the most difficult meetings he had ever attended.

"There was a mood of despair, a mood of disappointment, a mood of sadness," he said.

"We were in a position that there was basically no alternative but to move and realign our service provision in accordance with the funding made available to us."

Ulster Unionist board member Derek Hussey said: "We are in the mouth of Easter - Barry Gardiner is crucifying education services."

Three other boards have already agreed to make savings which they say will damage children's education.

Eight councillors resigned in protest after the Belfast Education Board voted for a £7m package of cuts.

I am pleased to note that four of the five education and library boards have agreed a budget, and I look forward to examining the details in the next few days

Barry Gardiner

Education minister

The board also passed a no confidence motion in the Northern Ireland education minister.

Members cited the "the impossible financial cuts imposed on the education system and the minister's belligerent manner toward the board".

Tom Hartley of Sinn Fein, who quit the Belfast board along with three party colleagues, three SDLP members, and David Brown of the UUP, said he anticipated further cuts in the next two years.

Job fears

Education Minister Barry Gardiner said: "The fact is that every public body would like more resources - but we all have to manage within the budgets set for us.

"I am pleased to note that four of the five educatiopn and library boards have agreed a budget, and I look forward to examining the details in the next few days."

Trade unions have warned jobs could be lost because of the cuts.

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown confirmed it is to ballot its members on strike action.

Meanwhile, the North Eastern Board voted to close Antrim's Massereene College despite a final attempt by parents and governors to apply for integrated status.

Adrian Watson of the Ulster Unionist Party and Arthur Templeton subsequently quit their posts on the board.

On Wednesday, SDLP councillor Joe McBride announced he had also resigned from the North Eastern Board.

The North Eastern Board has already voted to push through cuts to school services "under severe duress", as it faces a £6m shortfall in money from the department next year.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board has also voted through a package of measures "under duress" to save millions of pounds.

They include major cutbacks in services to special needs children as well as cuts in transport, classroom assistants and support for teachers.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/23 16:56:56 GMT



Mayors Not To Stand In Poll

By Brendan McDaid
23 March 2005

Three former mayors of Londonderry - including Ulster's first ever Sinn Fein Mayor - have announced they are to stand down ahead of the May elections.

SDLP councillors Willie O'Connell and Kathleen McCloskey have confirmed they will not be standing for re-election in the forthcoming local elections.

Former political prisoner and the first ever Sinn Fein member ever inaugerated into the mayoral post, Cathal Crumley, will also be stepping down.

All three have over a decade's experience on the council, with Mr O'Connell the longest standing. HE joined 27 years ago.

Tributes poured in at yesterday's council meeting.

SDLP council group leader John Kerr said the trio had been "a wall of strength" for the council and the people of the city.

He added: "During their mayorship each of the three of them did equally fine work."

The UUP and DUP paid tribute to the two SDLP councillors. The DUP's William Hay, however, would not extend this to Cathal Crumley.


Hume Bows Out Of Commons

By Brian Walker
23 March 2005

John Hume's last political act came in the Commons today when he urged "countries like ours to do more to help developing countries where 24,000 people a day were dying".

On behalf of Tony Blair who was absent from Prime Minister's Questions at a European summit, the former SDLP leader won the warm agreement of deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and loud "hear, hears" from MPs on both sides, who realised this was Mr Hume's final appearance.

The end of a political era had also been marked by an almost record attendance of Northern Ireland MPs for the last question time to the Secretary of State before the General Election.

It's expected Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 7 April.

Mr Hume was flanked by Eddie McGrady, but his former deputy Seamus Mallon was absent.

His wife Pat and his former election agent Berna McIvor watched from the public gallery.

There was a full house of MPs of both unionist parties except for Rev Martin Smyth, the only one of them to retire voluntarily.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy failed to surprise with any flashes of insight on how to take the political process forward.

Inclusive government with Sinn Fein was "unrealistic at the moment" he admitted.

The Unionist leader David Trimble whose future may well be in the balance was irritated with the Government's "passive" attitude to Sinn Fein, compared to Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern's, who had called Sinn Fein "snake oil salesmen".


City Name Storm For Court

Council moves to make it 'Derry'

By Brendan McDaid
23 March 2005

Derry City Council has said it will lodge papers with the High Court within seven days in a historic legal challenge to the naming of the city.

City Secretary and Solicitor Damien McMahon announced the council's intentions following its two year battle to get the name legally registered as Derry through the Department of the Environment.

Mr Mahon said they now expect to mount a strong case to have the name change officially scribed in law.

Heated exchanges arose in the council chambers during discussion of the issue at last night's full council meeting.

Sinn Fein's Barney McLaughlin repeatedly called on the DUP's WIlliam Hay to "show some manners" after he was interrupted.

Mr O'Hagan warned: "You will not shout me down you ignorant man.

"Have a bit of manners and allow me to speak. There can be no unionist veto on this issue."

He added: "The prefix London has been a big colonial stamp on the back of our neck and we are going to get rid of it."

Speaking of the name change earlier, Mr Hay said: "You cannot change history by the stroke of a pen.

"The republican movement would be better handing over the killers of Robert McCartney and dealing with criminality within the republican community than raising this issue."

Mr McMahon, however, said the wishes of the majority of citizens and the council to call their city Derry had been repeatedly pressed upon the DoE to no avail.

Outlining a series of correspondence, he said the DoE had given no commitment to intervene and as such the case would have to be taken to the High Court.

Following senior legal advice from Michael Lavery QC, the council will now argue in court that changes to the law in the Local Government Act of 1972 and the changing of the council's name in 1984 to Derry City Council has already resulted in the city's legal name now being Derry.

Mr McMahon said that "no substantial response whatsoever" had ever been received from the DoE to requests over the past two years for advice on how to proceed with the name change "for the removal of doubt".

Unionist councillors have consistently voiced fierce oppositon to the name change, which is supported by both the SDLP and Sinn Fein, and have now called for all documents to be submitted to the High Court to also to be available to councillors.

UUP councillor Mary Hamilton said: "Some people object to London in the name but they are biting off the hand that feeds them."


SF Got $760,00 From US Supporters In 2004

Seán O'Driscoll in New York

Sinn Féin collected nearly $760,000 from US supporters in the 12 months up to November, 2004, new figures show.

The party collected $161,556 in the six months up to November 1st, 2004, which adds to the $597,490 US supporters donated in the previous six months.

The largest donation in the six months up to November was $20,000, given by New York construction company, Eurotech, co-owned by Tyrone man Fay Devlin. The company, which has close ties to Northern Ireland, has been one of Sinn Féin's key donors in the US.

The party also received $5,000 from New York construction giant, Structuretone, and another $5,000 from its Tyrone-born owner, Pat Donaghy.

Mr Donaghy has already donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Friends of Sinn Féin and the US republican support group, Noraid.

They also received $5,400 from an Oakland construction company named 8th and Castro LLC. 8th and Castro is the address of Gerry Adams Way, where Northern Ireland developer Ciarán Scally built an 18-unit residential building and had the street address named in honour of the Sinn Féin president.

Other donations included $5,000 from a charitable foundation set up by Sligo-born construction leader John T White, and his Longford-born wife, Eileen, both living in Palisades, New York.

The $161,000 collected by Sinn Féin up to November is close to the $165,000 collected in the six months up to November 2003, and a large increase on the $92,000 collected in the same period in 2002, when the US economy was still reeling from the effects of the 9/11 attacks.

The sums are included in accounts given to the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires all foreign political parties to supply fundraising figures to the US government.

© The Irish Times


Fake £10 Notes Flood The North

A criminal gang has flooded the North of Ireland with thousands of fake sterling banknotes, Daily Ireland can reveal.

After their counterfeit cash operation fooled scores of shopkeepers in Belfast, the gang is now understood to be printing and selling fake euro notes in the Border area between Newry and Dundalk.

The sterling note that is being sold to criminals throughout the North is the green Ulster Bank £10. For as little as £30 (€43), criminals can buy £100 (€144) worth of the counterfeit cash.

Unlike previous forgeries passed in shops in the North, the fake Ulster Bank £10 is printed on high-quality paper, similar to that used only by banks. The notes cannot be detected by anti-forgery pens but they do not contain watermarks so they can be spotted when held to the light.

Several shops in the greater Belfast area have fallen victim to the counterfeit cash scam. Many members of the public will have the fake currency in their purses or pockets, handed to them by unwitting shop workers. Daily Ireland understands that the gang behind the forged currency has expanded its operation by selling fake euro notes. For a fee of €40 (£27), criminals can buy €100 (£70) worth of fake euros. The counterfeiters employ a small army of petty criminals to sell the notes for them.

Both the Ulster Bank and the PSNI have been made aware of the imitation money scam.

A spokeswoman for the Ulster Bank said it had issued a leaflet to all branches last November. The leaflet was made available to customers and warned about fake currency and how to spot counterfeit notes.

The leaflet said: “If you run your finger along the Ulster Bank title, it will feel raised. The paper should be crisp, not limp, waxy or shiny. Hold the note up to the light and you will see a watermark image running throughout the note reading ‘Ulster Bank Limited’. The note’s security thread will also read ‘Ulster Bank’.”

Other methods that the public can use to spot fakes include tilting notes under a light to see if the gold foil on the note shines and reflects.

Joanne Jennings, manager of the Belfast City Centre Management Company, said counterfeit cash was now a common problem for retailers.

“Businesses of all sizes, from one-person operations to multinational outlets, are continually updating their systems to minimise the impact of what is essentially serious theft.

“Our members receive ongoing information from us and from the PSNI when new threats emerge and our advice to the business community is simple — be on the lookout, check all notes and report anything suspicious to the PSNI,” she said.

With the advances in computer and printing technology, counterfeit cash is now a lot easier to produce.

Criminals trying to get rid of the fake notes recently in Belfast have, in the main, been trying to pass small amounts in shops and bars.

However, people selling second-hand goods through the classified sections of newspapers and used-car magazines have found themselves the victims of larger fake-cash stings.

In recent years, charities have also reported being targeted by criminals who have put fake money into collection tins before taking change in real cash.


Father Calls For Inquest

The father of an Irish-American who died five months after being assaulted by the RUC has called on the US government to press for an inquest into his son’s death.

Belfast man Michael Hemsworth was speaking after an appeal court ruling last week denied his daughter-in-law Colette Hemsworth a judicial review of a decision not to award her funding for legal representation in an inquest into the death of her husband.

Boston-born John Hems-worth was assaulted by the RUC on July 7, 1997. His jaw was fractured and he suffered several head wounds.

Mr Hemsworth died from a brain haemorrhage five months later, on December 27, 1997.

Immediately after the 39-year-old’s death, a state pathologist concluded that it could not be linked to the assault on him by the RUC, thus ruling out the possibility of an inquest.

However, subsequent investigations by two leading English medical chiefs drew direct links between the assault and Mr Hemsworth’s premature death.

Since then, the Hemsworth family have fought desperately for an inquest into the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death. Despite the attorney general ruling that an inquest should take place, the courts have consistently stalled attempts to hold one.

Michael Hemsworth has admitted to looking on enviably at the McCartney sisters, who were lauded last week in the United States and whose campaign to get justice for their murdered brother Robert has received international support.

Mr Hemsworth said he did not want to detract in any way from the McCartneys’ campaign for justice.

However, he demanded to know why the US government had not offered his family the same support. He called for answers into the circumstances surrounding his son’s death.

Mr Hemsworth said: “The truth is we have been ignored by American politicians and I don’t understand why.

“John was a US citizen and you would think the government of the country he was born in would be doing all it can to find out why he was killed. But not a single senator has even bothered responding to our letters.”

Mr Hemsworth added: “All I know is John was beaten up by the RUC for nothing and died a few months later.

“I support the McCartneys’ campaign for justice but it is difficult to see American politicians give them so much support yet refusing to assist my son’s case.

“I don’t want to politicise John’s death or detract from the McCartney campaign. All I want to know is why the American authorities are refusing to help us.”

The RUC attack on John Hemsworth occurred on the day its officers forced an Orange Order parade down the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Co Armagh.

On his release from hospital a few days later, Mr Hemsworth instructed his lawyers to take legal proceedings against the RUC.

The RUC responded by appointing an officer to conduct an internal inquiry.

Before this had concluded, Mr Hemsworth collapsed. He later died in hospital.

The initial complaint concerning RUC brutality had been lodged with the Independent Commission for Police Complaints.

Shortly after Mr Hems-worth’s death, the commission closed the case file.

In the two years after Mr Hemsworth’s death, Professor Derrick Pounder of the University of Dundee in Scotland, Professor Helen Whitewell of the University of Sheffield in England, and Amnesty International all said it was highly likely the RUC assault on Mr Hemsworth had been the direct and underlying cause of his death.


Pub With No Beer: Work Halted On 'Quiet Man' Bar Transformation

Tom Shiel

A local authority has halted all work on transforming the fictional "Cohan's Pub" in Cong, Co Mayo - which featured in The Quiet Man film - into an actual public house because planning regulations have not been followed.

The dispute over planning involves Jack Murphy, an extra in the John Ford classic, his sister, Nancy, their nephew, John Connolly and Mayo County Council.

The local authority has halted all works on the transformation of the former souvenir shop at Main Street in Cong to a pub cum restaurant because no planning permission was sought for the change of use of the premises.

With the roof of the building already removed and the interior gutted, this poses an accommodation dilemma for Jack and Nancy Murphy who says they are quite literally left without a roof over their heads.

It's also a major setback to plans by John Connolly to make Cohan's, the fictional pub where John Wayne and Victor McLaglen supped creamy pints in the film, a hostelry in real life.

Mr Connolly, who started work on the refurbishment last autumn, planned to have "Pat Cohan's" open by June next to mark the 52nd anniversary of the Irish premiere of the movie.

The new landlord hoped to have the fixtures and fittings used in the interior shots of The Quiet Man, which were filmed in Hollywood, shipped to Cong, to give the new pub extra authenticity.

Mr Connolly could not be contacted for comment over the past few days but his aunt and uncle, Jack and Nancy Murphy, insisted that the proper planning procedures were followed.

On March 20th, Mayo County Council returned the application for planning permission on the grounds that there was no site notice.

The Murphys insist the planning notice had been prominently displayed in a window but "somebody had come along and put a wardrobe in front of it" when an official from the planning department of the local authority called.

"This is all red tape," Jack Murphy commented. "The roof had to be taken off. It was in a bad state. It is a great inconvenience for us to have to live in a rented house."

A spokesman for the planning office of Mayo County Council said yesterday that Mr Connolly did not have the required planning permission for the renovation of the premises.

"Mr Connolly lodged an application for planning permission in February but this was declared invalid earlier this month," the spokesman said.

A decision on a fresh application for planning permission is due in May.

"He [Mr Connolly] should not have touched the building without the permission of the planning authority", the planning spokesman said.

"This is a prominent structure in a scenic village which is very sensitive from a planning point of view."

© The Irish Times

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