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March 24, 2005

Seizure of Loyalist's Assets Biggest Haul Yet

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 03/24/05
Assets Agency In Biggest Haul Yet
BB 03/24/05 McCartneys Will Not Stand In Poll
BT 03/24/05 Shopping Goes On: Junction Outlet To Open Over Twelfth
NH 03/24/05 Electorate To Become More Polarised
BT 03/24/05 Sinn Fein's $760,000 From US Backers
SF 03/24/05 TD & MLA Call For All-Ireland Anti-Racist Initiatives


Assets Agency In Biggest Haul Yet

£5m worth of property is seized

By Jonathan McCambridge
24 March 2005

A suspected international drug dealer with links to loyalist paramilitaries has had almost £5m of property seized in the biggest ever crackdown by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA).

The Agency went to the High Court in Belfast to freeze 49 properties belonging to Colin Robert Armstrong & Geraldine Enda Mallon of Tullynewbank Road, Glenavy following an 18-month investigation.

The properties include their luxury Co Antrim home, several homes in the Portadown area, a property in Dublin & an apartment on the Cote D'Azur in France.

During the court appearance last week ARA lawyers argued that Armstrong is linked to drug trafficking between Belgium & Northern Ireland & that he had links with the UVF & LVF.

The Belfast Telegraph called at Armstrong's luxury Glenavy house yesterday but was told he was not at home.

The case was referred to the ARA by the police.

The High Court granted an Interim Receiving Order allowing the ARA to take control of assets valued at £4.8m.

This includes the assets of two companies, Modern Homes (NI) Ltd & Tudor Road Properties Ltd, & eight bank accounts.

The case involved co-operation with the Criminal Assets Bureau in Dublin.

ARA Assistant Director Alan McQuillan said: "The Agency has alleged that Mr Armstrong was linked to drug trafficking between Belgium & Northern Ireland in 1994 & was involved in importing & selling drugs in Northern Ireland over a period of years.

"We have further alleged that Mr Armstrong has had links with the UVF, & then the LVF following the split between those organisations.

"In the case of Ms Mallon, we have simply alleged that she is Mr Armstrong's partner, that she holds some of the assets in her own name & that she is a director of some of the companies.

"To obtain this order we have convinced the High Court that we have a good arguable case that these assets are the proceeds of crime & may later be forfeited."

It is understood that ARA investigators carried out searches of the premises in the past week. The majority are in the Portadown & Craigavon area.


McCartneys Will Not Stand In Poll

Relatives of murdered man Robert McCartney have decided not to stand in the local or general elections.

Mr McCartney, 33, was killed after a bar row in Belfast on 30 January. His family has blamed IRA members for his murder & intimidating witnesses.

His sister Paula said the family had decided that their energy would be best spent on the campaign for justice.

"If we went into the elections, our attention would be distracted by other issues," she said.


"We want to concentrate solely on resolving the issue of Robert's murder.

"We still have the same momentum, not just as a family - I feel people are very interested in how this is resolved because they feel it affects their future as well."

Earlier this month, Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness cautioned the family against stepping over the party political line.

"To step over that line, which I think is a very important line, into the world of party politics, can do a huge disservice to their campaign," he said.

Last week, the family brought their campaign to Washington, meeting President Bush as well as a number of high-profile US politicians.

President Bush invited the McCartney family to the White House as part of a gesture to all those working towards peace in Northern Ireland.

Three men were expelled by the IRA after the killing, including the two main suspects in the case.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/24 11:16:27 GMT


Shopping Goes On: Junction Outlet To Open Over Twelfth

Manager says it's 'business as usual'

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
24 March 2005

The province's first international outlet shopping centre will be opening its doors again on the Twelfth of July, despite media speculation last year of threatening phone calls marring trade.

It will be business as usual at Junction One, outside Antrim, during the Orange celebrations.

Hugh Black, centre manager, said: "We were open last year over the 12th and, despite media speculation, we had absolutely no problems or threatening calls.

"This year we hope we can continue to cater for a wide range of shoppers from all over Northern Ireland & beyond.

"In fact, we have contacted the local Orange leaders & they have confirmed they have no issue with us opening over the 12th of July period. So it will be business as usual for us."

Junction One opened in May last year with big-name brands including Next, Louis Feraud, Cotton Traders, Levi's & Adidas.

The 50 different factory outlet stores sell a wide range of fashion & home-ware & there is a host of restaurants & free parking seven-days-a-week.

Based on the transatlantic concept of international outlet centres, Junction One's stores offer last season's stock, samples, surpluses & over-runs at savings on high street prices.

However, management at the Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena have decided against opening on the Twelfth - purely for commercial reasons.

Manager Jim McGookin said fear of trouble was not an issue.

"The feeling was that July 12 is more of a leisure day. We open on 'Black Saturday' when the Royal Black Institution parade is in Ballymena & we have a great business day," he said.


Electorate To Become More Polarised

(Brian Feeney, Irish News)

Everybody's back from Washington & after dozens of speeches, acres of newsprint & scores of interviews the political scene remains exactly as it was. The only difference is that the elections, both Westminster & local government, are closer, only six weeks from tomorrow.

If recent opinion polls are anything to go by, the elections will confirm the status quo established in November 2003, that is, a completely polarised society where the two communities are drifting even further apart. If anything, the elections will show a hardening of attitudes with the UUP likely to lose East Antrim & Trimble's own seat in Upper Bann under threat. On the nationalist side Sinn Féin will gobble up Newry/Armagh & the SDLP leader faces a do or die struggle in Foyle.

Even so, the Irish & British governments will feel they have to 'do something' to break the deadlock. The real danger is that, faced with two political monoliths after May's elections they will opt for a minimal approach to implementing the Good Friday Agreement. The odds are they will give up trying to resurrect last December's collapsed deal & try to tinker with the assembly. There are already rumours that officials in the British administration here are thinking of giving assembly members powers of scrutiny of some of the proconsul's ministerial minions on the odd day they spend here each week.

Pointless of course, but the British seem desperate to keep the assembly intact although it was not supposed to operate without the balance of the agreement's all-Ireland bodies. Now, strangely all the polls show nationalists want the assembly up & running, but only if there's an executive, whereas unionists are very lukewarm about an assembly designed for them & don't want an executive established when SF dominate the nationalist side.

In order to cobble anything together there will have to be negotiations. How can there be if no-one is talking to SF? If SF aren't included in negotiations leading to an assembly with reduced powers, how can it be anything other than an Orange hall unless the SDLP operate it, which they won't because it would mean oblivion at the next election.

The scenario looks exactly like the Prior assembly of 1982 boycotted by both SF & the SDLP. It was wound up after four years with Paisley being bodily carted out by a large number of puffing policemen. The then proconsul, Jim Prior, called his plan rolling devolution. It just never rolled. Talk about back to the future.

If one lesson was learnt from all the fits & starts here under the Conservatives it is that beginning with the minimum, beguiling though that may be, never leads to anything more. Beginning with the minimum requires a series of steps. The snag is there's never agreement on the next step. It's a departure from the whole concept which led to the Good Friday Agreement & looked like reaching a conclusion last December, namely a one-time, all-embracing deal.

There's only one item holding it all up & that's the IRA standing down. They won't do it in the run-up to an election & the marching season, but people forget the decision has been taken in principle. So far it has proved impossible to implement partly because republicans have made clear standing down will only be 'in the context of the full implementation of the agreement'.

One point is obvious & that is trying to set up a Prior-type assembly with no real powers but simply to keep assembly members in employment is going in the opposite direction from implementing the agreement. It does nothing to solve the policing problem, it eliminates the all-Ireland content of the agreement & it demonstrates the political weakness of the parties here. There's nothing at all in it to attract republicans to make the big jump, indeed the reverse.

The worst short term consequence is that it discredits politics itself. The middle-class on both sides have already virtually stopped voting as the figures from 2003 & last year's euro election show. Attaching a life support system to a moribund assembly will simply convince them they were right in the first place to ignore a talking shop.

The British retain real power.

March 24, 2005

This article appeared first in the March 23, 2005 edition of the Irish News
As see on NuzHound


Sinn Fein's $760,000 From US Backers

By Sean O'Driscoll in New York
24 March 2005

Sinn Fein collected nearly $$760,000 from US supporters in the 12 months up to November, 2004, new figures released to the Belfast Telegraph have shown.

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

The largest single 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 Fein's key donors in the US.

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

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

Sinn Fein figures for this year are expected to drop dramatically, as the party did not collect money in the St Patrick's Day season.


TD & MLA Call For All-Ireland Anti-Racist Initiatives

Published: 24 March, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Anti-Racism Alex Maskey MLA & Spokesperson on Justice, Equality & Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD have issued a joint statement during European Week Against Racism calling for all-Ireland anti-racist initiatives including legal harmonisation & for the exercise of greater political will to end racism by all the political leaderships on the island.

Alex Maskey MLA said: "In both parts of this island we have seen an alarming & unacceptable rise in racist hate crime over the past decade. This rise in racism is blighting our society & bringing shame on our nation. It is an island-wide problem, & it needs an island-wide solution. Sinn Féin has broadly welcomed the Irish Government's so-called National Action Plan Against Racism, but this plan must be extended beyond the border to be truly national, as Irish anti-racism initiatives cannot be as effective as we need them to be if they are not coherent & coordinated across both jurisdictions.

"We also need to significantly strengthen the hate crime legislation in both jurisdictions. We propose that it should be harmonised. Indeed, the Good Friday Agreement commitments to equivalent human rights protections north & south requires this. New hate crime legislation should also address the need to fight all forms of hate crime - be it racist, sectarian or homophobic. Incitement to hatred legislation is presently under review in the 26 Counties but this has become stalled under the present Minister for Justice, for whom fighting racism is not a political priority.

"In addition, the fact that two different immigration systems operate on the island is causing all kinds of unnecessary problems & heartache. Sinn Féin also believes that the island should have one immigration policy, & this should be positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant & anti-racist." ENDS

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Table of Contents – Mar 2005
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