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March 28, 2005

SF Set To Face Difficult Decisions

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 03/29/05
SF Set To Face Difficult Decisions - Ó Caoláin
DI 03/28/05 Pro-Loyalist Bail Bias Claim
DI 03/28/05 Adams Accuses Irish Govt of Incompetence
BT 03/28/05 Boys' Parades Mark Start Of March Season –V
IT 03/29/05
IRA Buying Property With Bank Raid Money
SM 03/28/05 McCartney Appeal May Fund Civil Action
BB 03/28/05 Dissidents Blamed For Firebombs
UT 03/28/05 Arrest After Fatal Belfast Stabbing
IT 03/29/05 Father And Son Drown In Clare Quarry Tragedy
IT 03/29/05 Project Proposed For Redundant IRA Men
IT 03/29/05 €10m Worth Of Assets Seized Or Frozen By Agency
IT 03/29/05 1916 Rising Divisions Not Evident, Says Ó Cuív
DI 03/28/05 Ex-PM Legacy Not So Sunny
IT 03/29/05 Unionist Saved IRA Leader From Firing Squad


SF Set To Face Difficult Decisions - Ó Caoláin

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

Restoration of the peace process must entail "more hard choices" for the British and Irish governments as well as for Sinn Féin and the IRA, the party's leader in the Dáil has claimed.

Speaking yesterday at an Easter commemoration in Clones, Co Monaghan, Caoimghín Ó Caoláin echoed a series of speeches over the weekend by other leading Sinn Féin figures.

In another signal that republicans are considering their position on the political stalemate, Mr Ó Caoláin said: "We as republicans are prepared to face up to the difficult decisions we must make, as we have done at every key stage of the peace process."

He added: "Our strategies and our tactics may change, but our basic principles remain the same. They are set out in the Proclamation. Our job is to put it into effect."

Like party president Gerry Adams, Mr Ó Caoláin condemned the murderers of Robert McCartney, accusing them of having "sullied the good name of republicanism".

"Those responsible should own up to their actions. Their continuing failure to do so compounds the outrage of all who proudly proclaim their republicanism this Easter time," said Mr Ó Caoláin.

However, he warned that Sinn Féin would not accept lectures "from the likes of Minister Michael McDowell".

He added: "Neither will republicans accept lectures from the British government. In the current climate, that government has been breathing a sigh of relief as the eye has been taken off England as the primary cause of the conflict in our country.

"Where are the sanctions against the British government for its continuing efforts to thwart any real process of truth and justice for the victims of the policy of collusion - a central part of Britain's war in Ireland?"

He condemned legislation aimed at providing a new framework for the inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

"The British government has brought in a piece of legislation called the Inquiries Bill, which is designed to prevent any realistic inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane or that of any other victim of collusion between its forces and loyalist death squads."

He also criticised the British position on the Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, citing Oireachtas committee findings.

"The committee severely reprimanded the British prime minister for his refusal to establish an inquiry . . . It went further and stated that Blair's action is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The British Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI refused to co-operate in any meaningful way with the Barron investigation itself or with the work of the Oireachtas committee."

© The Irish Times


Pro-Loyalist Bail Bias Claim

Refugees are being held in the North of Ireland’s jails while loyalist paramilitaries facing serious criminal charges are being given bail, a leading human-rights lawyer has said.

Laurence Kincaid (32) was granted bail in the High Court last week despite being accused of possessing class A drugs with intent to supply.

Mr Kincaid, a leading loyalist from north Belfast, is one of several high-ranking loyalists who have been given bail despite facing serious criminal charges.

Five refugees are currently held in the prison on Belfast’s Crumlin Road. People can often be held for months.

Lawyer Pádraigín Drinan, who represents asylum seekers, said the trend was worrying.

“Any inequality in the judiciary has to be a cause for concern, and it seems that asylum seekers are locked up while people with major criminal charges against them are given bail”.

Mr Kincaid has to report to the PSNI twice a week and is free to travel across the North of Ireland.

Among other loyalists to be granted bail are UDA leader Andre Shoukri, who was granted High Court bail while facing a charge of possessing a gun with intent to endanger life.

He had been caught with the gun in a car on the outskirts of north Belfast’s Rathcoole estate during a loyalist feud in January 2003.

The judge ruled the self-confessed Ulster Freedom Fighters leader was “not a danger to the public”.

In December 2003, Ihab Shoukri, a brother of Andre and a leading Ulster Defence Association figure, was granted bail while facing charges of murdering the loyalist Alan McCullough as part of the loyalist feud.

In December 2004, Gordon Hutchinson was found guilty of possession of information of use to terrorists.

He received a suspended sentence.

A few months before Mr Hutchinson’s conviction, a Real IRA member was found guilty of a similar charge and sentenced to six years.

Other leading loyalists to receive bail while facing serious charges include Gary McKenzie and Tommy Potts.

Earlier this year, a drug dealer based in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and linked to the Loyalist Volunteer Force received a four-year sentence after being found guilty of possessing £1 million (€1.4 million) of cocaine.

Nationalist politicians and community leaders have expressed concern at the leniency that courts have shown towards leading loyalists.

It has been suggested that some loyalists are shown leniency because they are PSNI and British army informers.


Adams Accuses Irish Govt of Incompetence

As republicans commemorate Easter 1916, Gerry Adams accuses the Irish government: “Partitionism, self-interest and incompetence”

SINN Féin leader Gerry Adams yesterday accused the Irish government of ‘partitionism, self-interest and incompetence’ in its approach to the peace process”.

Mr Adams was speaking in Derry where he addressed a large crowd during the annual Easter commemorations.

He insisted that the problems in the peace process could not be reduced simply to the existence of the IRA and claimed the Irish government had put political self-interest before the peace process in recent months.

The West Belfast MP said: “The process is in serious difficulty. Much of this is being driven by an Irish government fearful of the growth of Sinn Féin and our determination to challenge the mess the establishment parties in Dublin are making of the economy, of health, of education and of the peace process.

“Partitionism, self-interest and incompetence are the factors underlying the Irish government’s current approach to the process.

“Too often Irish government ministers have behaved like junior partners to the British government; frequently dismissed or ignored by London, and forever desperate to facilitate the unionists, even when it is obvious that such an approach smacks of weakness and reinforces unionist intransigence.

“Since December, the British and Irish governments have sought to reduce all of the issues to one - that is the issue of the IRA - even though they know that the IRA is not the only issue.

“What about policing? Demilitarisation? Human rights and Equality? The political institutions?”

Mr Adams also accused the Dublin government of having a “shallow and short sighted” approach to the peace process and launching “vitriolic” attacks on Irish republicans, which had eroded confidence in the peace process among nationalists.

Sinn Féin would, he said, meet Taoiseach Bertie Ahern after Easter to discuss all of the issues for the peace process.

But he warned the Taoiseach his party would not be dancing to an agenda set by his ministers nor would it be lectured to.

With an expected Westminster election and local government elections just weeks away, the Sinn Féin leader said republicans also had to think beyond May’s electoral contests.

“The fact is that those who want the greatest change have to take the greatest risks,” he said.

“Time and time again we have demonstrated our willingness to do this.

“Are we ready to do that again? Are we ready to take more risks, to step up to the plate and demonstrate again the courage and tenacity which is the hallmark of Irish republicanism?

“I believe we are. I believe we must. I intend to return to this issue in the short period ahead. Our preparedness to act as the dynamic for change has brought the peace process thus far.”

“Sinn Fein’s peace strategy and the initiatives Irish republicans have taken are what have made the progress of the last ten years possible.”

He urged colleagues to give serious and calm consideration to the current political situation and discuss among themselves where they were, how they got there and where they must go in the future.


Loyalist marching season begins in North - Michael Fisher reports from Belfast on the first day of the new marching season

Boys' Parades Mark Start Of March Season –V

Commission rules on most contentious rally

By Noel McAdam
28 March 2005

The build-up to the annual marching season began without trouble today as Apprentice Boys staged their traditional Easter Monday parades.

The most contentious route - involving the Belfast Walker Club from Ballynafeigh in south Belfast - was again prevented from marching into the flashpoint Lower Ormeau area by a Parades Commission determination, but the march passed off peacefully with a minimal police presence.

A second contentious route by the Ligoniel Walker Club past the Ardoyne shops also passed off without incident.

Superintendent Gary White, operations manager for north Belfast, praised the work undertaken by both sides of the community prior to this morning's "peaceful passage."

He said: "We had the lowest police presence for many years and this reflects the work undertaken by both communities.

"We would like to see all events in the area policed in this manner and would hope that dialogue in the coming months would help facilitate this."

The Commission cited the lack of meaningful contact between the parade organisers and residents as the reason for restricting the Ormeau Road route.

Under the determination, the mid-morning parade was prohibited from crossing Ormeau Bridge at the Annadale Embankment.

The Commission said its decision was set against the background of continuing local community tensionand the possibility of public disorder.

The Commission also pointed out that no measures had been taken to address concerns of the local community.

The Parades Commission had also placed restrictions on the Ardoyne parade and ruled that there was to be no music other than a single drum-beat as the parade passed the shops.

It stated that if the parade went ahead without conditions, there would be "a detrimental impact on fragile community relations and potential for public disorder".

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, former Lord Mayor Martin Morgan and Holy Cross priest Fr Aiden Troy joined a handful of people who stood in silence as the parade passed.


IRA Buying Property With Bank Raid Money

The IRA is using untraceable money stolen from the Northern Bank robbery last December to buy properties for cash in the United Kingdom, the Government believes. Mark Hennessy and Conor Lally report.

The £26.5 million was quickly broken up into "five or six parcels" in the days after the December 20th raid to help the IRA in its effort to "launder" the banknotes.

They believe each parcel was to be laundered separately. The property-buying operation went into action shortly after the bank raid, a senior Irish political source told The Irish Times.

"They are finding properties and then using frontmen to buy them and sign for the deeds," the source said.

In a bid to evade the UK's anti-money laundering legislation, the IRA has concentrated its efforts on cash-strapped property owners who need to sell quickly.

The laundering legislation requires estate agents and others to declare all transactions over £10,000 to the Financial Intelligence Division of the National Criminal Intelligence Service.

The NCIS in 2003 was told of 100,000 such transactions and this number is understood to have increased rapidly since, particularly after the laundering legislation was further tightened in March 2004.

Meanwhile, the IRA also managed to launder a significant element of the bank haul at the four-day Cheltenham races, where up to £1.5 million was bet on each of the races.

The focus of the investigation - which involves the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation - has now broadened considerably as gardaí try to identify businesses around the country which may have been used to launder the money.

Convinced that a number of these companies have been used to launder IRA money, one senior Garda source said existing legislation was "all over the place" with some financial sector companies, including many which offer loans to borrowers unable to obtain them from banks and building societies, facing little or no regulation.

Investigators have identified a substantial number of these companies and each one will be examined closely by gardaí in coming months.

In February gardaí found £2.3 million at a house in Farran, Co Cork, owned by Ted Cunningham, who runs a money lending company, Chesterton Finance.

He was arrested, but later released without charge.

They also discovered a man burning a large amount of sterling banknotes in a back garden in Passage West, Co Cork.

Investigating detectives believe the money was linked to the Northern Bank raid in Belfast.

The Cork properties were searched as part of a Garda follow-up operation into suspected IRA money laundering after three men were arrested at Heuston Station, Dublin, on February 16th.

One of the men had travelled from Cork and was handing over a box containing £54,000 to the two other men, who are from the North, when gardaí moved in and arrested them.

Detectives believe that the IRA had intended to launder some €10 million through a company in Munster, but that the Garda raids in Cork in February derailed the plan.

© The Irish Times


McCartney Appeal May Fund Civil Action

John Innes

THE family of the murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney may launch an appeal to raise funds for a civil action against his killers.

His sister Catherine said yesterday the family was still hopeful those responsible would face criminal charges, but she acknowledged that the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward has forced the family to consider the civil option.

Mr McCartney, 30, a father of two, was stabbed and beaten outside a Belfast city-centre bar on 30 January. A friend, Brendan Devine, was also seriously wounded following a row with republicans.

Ms McCartney told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "We are still campaigning very hard to get the murderers brought to justice, but so far none of the witnesses has come forward and spoken to the [police] ombudsman directly. Nuala O’Loan has said that she has received no direct statements.

"We would wish that people would speak to the police directly, or the ombudsman directly, rather than pass statements [through lawyers].

"These statements are basically saying that people were either in the toilets, didn’t see anything, or were on their mobile phones. We believe that a lot of people, particularly in the bar, saw what happened in the bar that night ... and would have seen a senior republican sanction the murder."

She went on: "We are thinking of a civil suit in the sense that if the criminal legal proceedings do fail us - which we hope it won’t; we haven’t given up on that and we don’t want to be seen to be giving up on that yet - but ... we will be speaking to people in the next couple of weeks about the civil suit.

"It is just unfortunate that, at the moment, no-one has come forward, and if no-one does come forward we are not going to get the evidence that is needed really to bring these people to court for murder."

On financing such an action, she said: "We would have to launch an appeal - we certainly don’t have that money. Hopefully, when we do speak to people in that field, we will have an idea of what really we are in for in that respect.

"I don’t think that anybody in Ireland thinks that these people should be able to walk away from what they did, just because 70 people won’t come forward for various reasons."

Asked if Sinn Fein would be asked to contribute, she said: "We will be appealing to a lot of parties and a lot of groups if it does come to a civil suit."


Dissidents Blamed For Firebombs

Police believe dissident republicans are responsible for placing firebombs in two NI shopping centres.

Two fire bombs were discovered in the Forestside complex, south Belfast. Army bomb experts made safe a device at Dunnes Stores on Monday at lunchtime.

On Saturday evening, another device ignited and damaged the Next clothes shop in the same complex.

Also on Monday, army experts made safe an incendiary device at Ards shopping centre in County Down.

Police are appealing to both shop workers and to shoppers across Northern Ireland to remain vigilant.

Nl Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland condemned those responsible for planting the devices which, he said, had put lives and property at risk and caused unnecessary disruption.

"All right thinking people should be appalled by these attacks," he said.

"Some elements of society are intent on causing destruction and putting lives at risk,"

Mr McCausland said the devices were similar to those used by dissident republicans in the past.

'Harmful violence'

DUP councillor in County Down, Jim Shannon, said the situation was very worrying.

"The people of Ards are angry. They are dismayed and disgusted," he said.

"Their answer is to get back to business and for the police and army to take very stern and strict action against those involved."

SDLP assembly member Carmel Hanna also condemned the firebomb attacks.

"I condemn utterly the spate of firebombs at Forestside shopping centre and elsewhere in the north which are a sign that, in the current atmosphere of political stalemate, we are drifting further into a state of low profile but immensely harmful violence," she said.

Police have warned shop owners across the province to be extra vigilant over the Easter period.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/28 17:39:05 GMT


Arrest After Fatal Belfast Stabbing

A man was being questioned by police tonight after Northern Ireland's knife culture resulted in another murder.

The 22-year-old victim was found lying in the street at Twinbrook on the outskirts of west Belfast in the middle of the night. He had been stabbed in the back and was critically ill.

He was taken to hospital but died a short time later despite the efforts of doctors.

The man, who has not yet been named, is thought to have been to a party in a house near where he was found lying in Juniper Park and to have got involved in a row.

Police arrested the suspect soon after launching a murder inquiry.

The murder followed the weekend attack on a 17-year-old youth who was stabbed in the head when he was attacked by four youths in west Belfast while walking home from Saturday night out.

Knives are also being used in an increasing number of street muggings and robberies.

The SDLP Lagan Valley Assembly member, Patricia Lewsley expressed her total dismay and sadness at the latest fatal stabbing.

Ms Lewsley said her immediate thoughts were with the family and friends of this young victim.

"This killing has sent shock waves across the whole of Belfast what type of people can kill a young man with such brutality and force ?

"The killer of killers must be found I appeal to people to come forward with any information, no matter how small, to help police with this investigation," she said.

Sinn Fein local councillor Michael Ferguson said the murder had left people in the area "shocked and horrified."

"I have spoken to the young man`s family and they are traumatised by what has happened. Here was a young man who went out of an evening and end`s up dead."


Father And Son Drown In Clare Quarry Tragedy

Pat Flynn

A 41-year-old man and his young son died yesterday evening in Co Clare after the child fell into a quarry and his father jumped in to try to rescue him.

The tragedy occurred shortly after 6.30pm at Aylroe, near Kildysart, in the south-west of the county.

It is understood the man, originally from the locality but now living in Clonlara in east Clare, was herding cattle when the 12-year-old lost his footing on loose gravel and fell 20ft into the water below.

The boy's father, named locally last night as Michael Cunningham, jumped in to save his son but both were drowned.

Members of the Kilkee Search and Rescue team were called in to assist in the search for the bodies.

Divers from a sub-aqua team based in Athlone, who had been in Kilkee for the weekend, also offered their assistance. It is believed it was a group from that unit which recovered the bodies, at around 7.30pm.

The father and son were pronounced dead at the scene and their bodies removed to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick, where postmortem examinations are expected to be carried out later today.

One local woman, who knows the family, described Mr Cunningham as a "great man for home. He came back home every weekend and was here last Saturday as well. This a terrible tragedy."

© The Irish Times


Project Proposed For Redundant IRA Men

Alison Healy

The chairman of Kilmainham Gaol Historical Museum, Damien Cassidy, has called for a flagship project that would occupy redundant IRA members, in the way hundreds of volunteers worked on restoring the gaol in the 1960s.

Mr Cassidy said that one of the main blocks to the peace process was the need to provide work for redundant IRA men.

The success in restoring Kilmainham Gaol over 26 years proved that a similar initiative could work again.

He said that he, a pacifist, had worked side by side with some of leading members of the IRA in restoring the building.

These included people who had been involved in a bombing campaign in the 1950s, as well as members of the old IRA, commandants from the 1916 campaign and members who had fought the Black and Tans.

The work on the gaol began after a lull in IRA activity in the early 1960s. Close to 1,000 people had volunteered their skills to the project, with Protestants and Jewish people working alongside IRA members.

"These were some of the toughest people, very, very clever people and if they were happy to do this work, then I don't see why it wouldn't work again. We need to give them a focus." He said many of the IRA members went on to take up full-time employment elsewhere.

Mr Cassidy said the restoration of a cross-Border rail link could be an ideal flagship project for these people and would provide a valuable service.

People from Donegal faced a 10-hour journey to Dublin for cancer treatment because there was no train to take them there, he said.

Kilmainham Gaol had become one of the most successful museums in the State and had been nominated as the "place to visit" by a US tourism body that evaluates tourism sites around the world, he said.

Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 and closed in 1924, having detained leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916.

Historical figures such as Robert Emmet, Thomas Francis Meagher, Charles Stewart Parnell and Eamon de Valera have all been associated with the gaol.

© The Irish Times


€10m Worth Of Assets Seized Or Frozen By Agency

In less than two years since it was established the North's Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) has frozen or seized property, possessions and cash valued at about £10 million, from a dozen alleged criminals. Gerry Moriarty talks to Alan McQuillan, of the Assets Recovery Agency, about recent seizures.

Head of the agency Alan McQuillan slugged it out with Hugh Orde for the post of chief constable of the PSNI in summer 2002. Although he lost out on that occasion, Mr McQuillan had the compensation of heading the ARA, making him a sort of Northern Ireland Eliot Ness. He has a staff of 163 comprising lawyers, financial investigators, case workers and support staff. They go about their work covertly and then pounce.

Northern Ireland has an Organised Crime Task Force and the ARA is one important arm of it. The taskforce has a general policy, said Mr McQuillan: "We lock up the criminals and take their money. If we can't lock them up, we take their money. If we can't take their money, we tax the money." Locking up is the responsibility of the PSNI. Much of the rest of the task is for Mr McQuillan and the ARA.

"I love the job," he said last week. Part of his satisfaction stems from the fact that the ARA recorded its biggest success last week, freezing almost £5 million in assets belonging to Colin Armstrong who lives in palatial style in Glenavy, Co Antrim. Mr Armstrong, a former policeman, now alleged to be a major international drug dealer, had links firstly to the UVF and later to the LVF.

Although £10 million worth of assets have been seized or frozen by the ARA, the actual net value is just over £6 million, according to Mr McQuillan, as some of the alleged criminals would have debts owing to the likes of building agencies and insurance companies which must be paid.

Most of those assets are in cold storage because in the majority of cases Mr McQuillan currently can only freeze, but not seize, possessions. That's because of a case taken by Cecil Walsh, who is serving a six-year sentence for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

ARA wants to recover £180,000 of Walsh's possessions with a net value of £87,000. The prisoner, however, has contended that his human rights have been breached.

He has lost two cases and the Court of Appeal refused him permission to appeal to the House of Lords. He can petition the House of Lords, however, and the case could end up in Europe. In the meantime, a queue of cases where assets are frozen is being held up pending the conclusion of this string of appeals.

The ARA has recovered or is in the process of recovering assets valued at about £1.5 million from two murdered loyalist paramilitary drug dealers, Stephen Warnock and James Jonty Johnston. The assets agency was able to come to a settlement with the men's families.

Last week the DUP's Nigel Dodds welcomed the ARA's achievements but queried how come there were so few nationalists or republicans on the list of those successfully dealt with by the agency, especially considering the "Rafia" allegations against the IRA.

Of ARA's 12 cases, which exclude two tax cases, nine of the individuals appear to be from a loyalist background, while only three are nationalist or republican.

Mr McQuillan says it is easier to tackle loyalists because generally they do not have the cohesion or discipline of republicans.

Nonetheless, ARA has investigated deep into republican south Armagh.

For instance they froze assets valued at £400,000, with a net value of over £300,000, of Armagh brothers Gerard and Terence Keenan, who had operations in Keady in south Armagh and in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. They had been accused of excise offences relating to the importation of alcohol.

The most significant of the republican figures so far fingered by ARA is alleged oil smuggler Patrick Belton. He was cleared of killing 29-year-old British soldier Cpl Gary Fenton who was knocked down by an oil tanker lorry at a checkpoint in south Armagh in 1998.

Mr Belton, then with an address at Newry, was shot three times in that incident by another soldier who saw his colleague trapped under the lorry. He escaped across the Border but gave himself up to the authorities two months later.

Mr Belton, who has a luxurious house situated on the Border in south Armagh, has had assets valued £1.2 million (net value £340,000) frozen by the ARA.

The fact that Mr Belton, who was seen previously as almost beyond the reach of the authorities, has had his assets seized gives other alleged major smugglers some pause for thought this Easter.

© The Irish Times


1916 Rising Divisions Not Evident, Says Ó Cuív

Marie O'Halloran

An incorrect impression is given that there was a huge division between those who backed the 1916 Rising and those who fought in the Great War, according to Minister for Gaeltacht, Community and Rural Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív.

Mr Ó Cuív, a grandson of Eamon de Valera, said the Easter Rising had to be taken in the context of the first World War.

"The choices were not whether to fight or not, but whether to fight in the trenches or to fight for Ireland," he said. "But the reality was that the people involved in the Rising - if there was going to be a war - they believed they should be involved in the war at home."

Mr Ó Cuív was speaking yesterday on the Marian Finucane RTÉ 1 radio show, broadcast from the GPO, during a debate on the Rising and its significance for republicanism today.

He said that issues had to be drawn out and members of families fought in the first World War and others in the same family fought in 1916. "There is an impression given that there was a huge division there. There wasn't the clear division that people seem to think there was."

During the programme former taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald said the Rising was a response to the thousands who joined the British army.

Dr FitzGerald, both of whose parents were in the GPO for the reading of the 1916 Proclamation, said the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) "thought that Irish nationalism would be extinct and would only be revived by a Rising when so many thousands joined the British Army".

The 1916 Rising was "a response to the failure of Irish nationality and not an act of continuity over hundreds of years".

He also believed that if the Rising had not happened "we could never have had the successes we had in retrospect".

Prof Eunan O'Halpin of Trinity College, a grandnephew of Kevin Barry, said: "I'm not sure that had there not been a Rising that there wouldn't have been an independent Ireland," he said. He added that the chances were an independent State could have evolved peacefully.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, a grandson of Eoin MacNeill, said they should not moralise about who was right or wrong in 1916.

The IRB had tricked Eoin McNeill. They had a plan and "whether it was right or wrong - to assert Irish liberty in one bloody revolution as they thought - they were immensely brave men". He said the Rising was " the Alamo for Ireland."

Former Fine Gael MEP Mary Banotti, a grandniece of Michael Collins, said: "His own service in the GPO was an extremely important part of his own life, but the tragedy of the civil war and his death did cast a very long shadow over the family."

© The Irish Times


Ex-PM Legacy Not So Sunny

Politicians in the North of Ireland have given a mixed response to the political legacy of former British Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan, who died on Saturday, aged 92.

Sinn Féin said he had left a legacy of failed policies, the SDLP claimed he could have acted better, while the Democratic Unionists described him as a “decent man”.

Portsmouth-born Mr Callaghan — known as “Sunny Jim” — will be best remembered for his decision as British home secretary to send troops into the North in 1969.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said Mr Callaghan had been a politician who failed to face up to the challenges created by partition and the unionist-controlled Stormont government.

“As British prime minister, he was very much involved and responsible for the failed criminalisation policy that led to the 1981 hunger strike.

“He was also part of a government that instigated and played a major role in the collusion policy that led to hundreds of state-sponsored murders,” said the Sinn Féin representative.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan was also critical of the former Labour leader. He insisted that Mr Callaghan should have abolished the Stormont government in 1969.

However, Mr Durkan did commend the decision to send in the troops in 1969.

Mr Durkan said: “He was also the prime minister who stuck us with Roy Mason and his anti-political security agenda. Subsequent developments proved that there was much more that he could have done to develop Anglo-Irish relations.

“He was avuncular and apparently sincere, so it will always be a disappointment that, on Ireland, he did not act more, act better and act sooner.”

Mr Callaghan was fondly remembered by Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley even if they did not always see eye to eye on the North.

The North Antrim MP said: “He was a decent man. I certainly had a good personal relationship with him. When he was on the backbenches, he was always keen to talk about Northern Ireland. He always wanted to find out what the DUP’s views were on it.”

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern paid tribute to Mr Callaghan.

He said: “In this country, he will be particularly remembered for his visits to Derry at the height of the Troubles and he was, of course, centrally involved both as home secretary and as prime minister in many decisions that had a profound impact on Northern Ireland.

“Despite the dark and turbulent times in Northern Ireland when he was in office, he will be remembered by many as a well-intentioned and decent man.

“Jim Callaghan’s wife Audrey died only last week.

“I express my condolences this evening to the Callaghan family.”

Mr Callaghan’s death at his East Sussex home yesterday came just 11 days after Audrey, his wife of 67 years, passed away. He was the longest-living former British prime minister and the only politician to have held all four major offices of state — prime minister, chancellor of the exchequer, foreign secretary and home secretary.

Mr Callaghan visited the North of Ireland in August and October 1969 as electoral, housing and police reforms were implemented following the demand for civil rights for Catholics.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said Mr Callaghan had been an inspirational figure for many colleagues. “I had known Jim Callaghan for a quarter of a century and he was always kind and supportive of me personally as a fellow Welsh MP and later when I became a minister,” he said.

“Jim Callaghan was a hugely inspirational figure who served his constituents of Cardiff South for 42 years and rose to hold the four great offices of state.

“He was a man of great honour, compassion and dignity. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”


Unionist Saved IRA Leader From Firing Squad

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

A prominent Belfast Ulster Unionist helped save the life of former IRA leader and later tánaiste Seán MacEntee, newly-discovered papers have revealed.

The documents, found in a Belfast attic, show that Mr MacEntee was spared execution for his involvement in the 1916 Rising during which a policeman was shot dead by Irish Volunteers under his command in Castlebellingham, Co Louth.

Direct intervention by an Ulster Unionist member of Belfast Corporation, Mr TE (Tommy) Alexander, who knew the MacEntee family well, influenced the court martial which had originally sentenced MacEntee to death.

He never faced the firing squad for Constable McGee's killing and the reason has only just been publicised.

Historian Eamon Phoenix, writing in yesterday's Irish News, said Cllr Alexander informed the court martial that MacEntee was responsible for enforcing greater discipline over his men than would have otherwise been the case.

Alexander's crucial intervention, depicted in a letter from MacEntee to Daniel McCrea, a former Belfast journalist in 1967, was central to the sparing of the IRA leader.

"Tommy Alexander and my father were for many years the best of friends," MacEntee wrote. "I myself was greatly indebted to Tommy, not only because of his very favourable and impressive evidence at my court martial, but because of his indefatigable efforts to save me from being executed as, but for him, I would have been."

MacEntee was born in Belfast in 1889 and was influenced by the socialist republicanism of James Connolly, joining the militant wing of the Irish Volunteers in 1914.

He held the command of 60 volunteers in Co Louth during the events of Easter week 1916. His men had been ordered to commandeer cars returning north from the Fairyhouse races with a view to converging on Tara in Co Meath.

However, two RIC officers turned up and Constable McGee was shot by MacEntee's men during attempts to disarm them.

After his release in 1917 he was elected a member of the National Executives of both Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers and became Sinn Féin MP for south Monaghan in the 1918 general election.

During the War of Independence he acted as vice-commandant of the Belfast Brigade of the IRA until April 1921, when he was transferred to Dublin to direct a special anti-partition campaign. MacEntee later served as a Fianna Fáil minister in numerous departments before serving as tánaiste from 1959 until 1965.

The recently-discovered papers include his 70-page account of the Easter 1916 Rising and his dealings with Pádraig Pearse, Eoin MacNeill, James Connolly and others.

The documents are understood to be in the possession of "a collector", according to Dr Phoenix.

© The Irish Times

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