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April 01, 2005

Red Tape Robs 40,000 Of Right To Vote

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Apr 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

DI 04/01/05
Red Tape Robs 40,000 Of Their Right To Vote
DI 04/01/05 LVF 'Must Come Clean' On Lisa Murder
DI 04/01/05 Chopper Controversy
RT 04/01/05 Orde Warns Over SF Opposition To PSNI
BB 04/01/05 Unionists Discuss Election Pact
BT 04/01/05 Textile Industry Loses Another 108 Jobs
IO 04/01/05 Údarás Candidates Linked To Parties


Red Tape Robs 40,000 Of Their Right To Vote

Sinn Féin has described as a "crisis" confirmation that red tape will prevent more
than 40,000 people from voting in next month's Westminster elections.

The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland said last night that 1,148,486 people had
successfully registered to vote in the upcoming May 5 local government elections and
possible Westminster election.

This figure represents a decline of 42,523 from the 1,191,009 voters eligible to cast
a ballot in the same elections in 2001.

However, the number of unregistered eligible voters could be as high as 50,000 given
the increase in the North's population over the last four years.

The reason for the drop in voting numbers is the controversial Electoral Fraud Act,
which was introduced by the British government in 2002. The legislation was brought
into force to combat what unionists and the SDLP claimed were cases of multiple voting
in previous elections.

According to Sinn Féin, all that the disputed legislation has achieved is to deny the
most vulnerable members of society their basic human rights.

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said: "This is a crisis, and I have very serious concerns.
The people not on the register are mostly young, nationalist and working-class.

"More than 40,000 votes spread across the North's 18 Westminster constituencies will
have a major difference on which parties are elected.

"I am repeating calls for the Electoral Fraud Act to be scrapped."

According to Mr Doherty, the number of voters missing from the electoral register
would have topped the 100,000 mark had the British government not given in to Sinn
Féin calls for the introduction of a rolling register.

New legislation was introduced last month to allow the return of the names of 70,000
people who were registered in September 2004 but who were missing from the latest

Denis Stanley, the chief electoral officer for the North, said: "This should ensure
that everyone entitled to vote in the forthcoming election is able to exercise their
franchise in May, even though they failed to re-register at last autumn's canvas or

North Belfast SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness said: "The elections that have
taken place since the EFA was introduced have been the only free and fair ones held in
my memory.

"It is distressing that 42,000 are missing from the register but it cannot be blamed
on current legislation. Electoral fraud in Northern Ireland was previously rampant."

The constituencies with the biggest shortfall in voting numbers are in urban areas.
The worst hit are north, west and south Belfast and Foyle.

Electoral Office figures also reveal that people living in rural communities have a
much better record of registering than their city-based counterparts.

In the 2001 Westminster elections, Sinn Féin candidate Michelle Gildernew beat Ulster
Unionist rival James Cooper by just 53 votes.

In the same vote in east Antrim, Ulster Unionist candidate Roy Beggs had a 128-vote
victory over the Democratic Unionist Party's Sammy Wilson.

The fact that more than 40,000 voters are missing from the current register could have
major consequences for these two electoral areas.

The same applies to the Foyle constituency, where the fight between the SDLP's Mark
Durkan and Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin is expected to be extremely close.


LVF 'Must Come Clean' On Lisa Murder

Pressure is mounting on the Loyalist Volunteer Force to come clean about its role in
the murder of Lisa Dorrian following an appeal from the dead woman's family.

Patricia Dorrian told Daily Ireland how her family's biggest wish was for her
daughter's body to be returned to the family home.

Mrs Dorrian also said witnesses should come forward but that some people might be
afraid to give evidence because of allegations of LVF involvement.

Lisa Dorrian (25) disappeared from a caravan park at Ballyhalbert in Co Down four
weeks ago.

Despite land and sea searches by the PSNI and coastguard, her body has not been found.

"We just want to be able to bury her. No one can move forward until we get Lisa back.
The whole family is heartbroken.

"We told our youngest daughter Ciara, who is just eight, that Lisa had gone for a walk
in the woods and fallen on a stone.

"We were trying to shelter her from the truth but she started crying in the bath the
other week and we had to tell her the truth.

"It is a living nightmare and we appeal for anyone who has information about Lisa's
murder to come forward and tell the police.

"I'm from England and I don't really know anything about paramilitaries.

"People might be scared to come forward because of the allegations but they need to
help us.

"We need to break down this silence."

Shortly after Lisa Dorrian's disappearance, graffiti appeared in Bangor linking the
LVF to her killing.

It has been alleged that two of the men questioned about her murder have links to the

Despite a PSNI appeal for information two weeks ago, just four people went forward.

Local Alliance Party assembly member Kieran McCarthy said the LVF needed to "come
clean" about its involvement.

"The LVF need to say whether or not they had anything to do with this murder.

"They need to clarify their role and allow the investigation to move forward.

"People living here are afraid of what they might find in their back garden. They are
afraid that this could happen again," he said.

However Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Jim Shannon refused to call on the
LVF to say whether or not its members had been involved in the murder.

He said anyone with information about the murder should go forward.

Sylvia Hermon, Ulster Unionist Party MP for North Down, said last week she "wasn't
sure that people are afraid of paramilitaries". She also refused to discuss the LVF's
alleged role in Lisa Dorrian's murder and disappearance.

A PSNI spokeswoman said the investigation was "ongoing".


Chopper Controversy

The British army has come under fresh pressure to close a number of hi-tech spy posts
and military bases along the Border.

The call from local residents came after the crew of a British army helicopter was
forced to abandon a flight at a mountaintop installation in South Armagh yesterday.

The British army claimed the flight was aborted as a precaution after a mail bag
"blew" into the tail rotor of the Lynx chopper while it sat on the helipad at Sturgan
Mountain near Camlough but locals say the chopper experienced a mechanical fault mid-
flight and was forced to divert to the landing site.

Brian Finnegan from the South Armagh Demilitarisation Committee said the incident
highlights the fears experienced by local people and called on the British army to
leave the area.

"Regardless of what the army says this helicopter was travelling over Camlough Lake
when the noise of its engine changed. Local people say it was clearly in trouble and
it diverted to Sturgan Mountain. To get there it had to fly over people's homes and if
it had gone wrong there would have been a disaster.

"People are rightly worried about this. It's long past time they were gone," he said.

"They are serving no purpose in the world. They are under no threat from the
community. But they threaten people by flying around in these machines. These
facilities need to go. We don't know the extent of the damage they are causing to the
countryside or the radiation they emit is causing to people in the area.

"This situation puts a lot of stress on people. People around the country are not
aware of the torture being experienced by people living along the Border. Helicopters
coming and going all day and night."

A spokesman for the British army claimed the downed chopper was not forced to land.

"We can confirm that a postbag was believed to have been caught in a tail rotor of an
army Lynx helicopter when it was sat on the helipad on Sturgan Mountain near Camlough,
South Armagh," said the spokesman.

"The helicopter had landed and still had its engine running when the bag was caught in
the updraft. As a standard operating procedure the pilot turned the engines off and a
technician was flown to the site to inspect the aircraft.

"The aircraft was completely undamaged and a couple of hours later flew to Bessbrook.
No one was hurt in the incident.

"This was categorically not a crash or forced landing."

Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy called for all British army
helicopters to be grounded until the cause of the mechanical fault is discovered.

"There have been serious concerns expressed over a number of years about the safety
record of British military equipment in South Armagh," Mr Murphy said. "There is no
purpose to the continuing low-level flights in the area and no purpose behind the
ongoing presence of British spy posts on our hillsides. Given the nature of this very
serious incident this morning I am demanding that all British military helicopters in
this area are immediately grounded."

Yesterday's incident was the second involving a Lynx helicopter in just over a year.

Last March a similar aircraft was forced to ditch on a beach at Portrush after
experiencing mechanical difficulties. All crew escaped unhurt. In December 2003 a
British army Gazelle helicopter crashed at playing fields in Derry City with the loss
of two crew.


Orde Warns Over SF Opposition To PSNI

01 April 2005 17:23

The PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, has warned nationalists reluctant to join the
North's police force that it would be a tragedy if they were denied the opportunity
because of Sinn Féin opposition.

Huge Orde was speaking at the monthly lunch organised by the Association of European
Journalists in Dublin.

Mr Orde said he understood why some people did not want to apply to the PSNI until
Sinn Féin joined the policing board.

However, with 5,000 applications currently being received every time 270 places are
advertised, he said the force's popularity was now a factor.

Earlier, Mr Orde said that the proportion of Catholic members of the PSNI was now
standing at nearly 19%, up from the 8% in the RUC.

However, he accepted it would take a number of years of 50:50 recruiting before parity
between the communities was achieved.


Unionists Discuss Election Pact

Gareth Gordon

BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

The prime minister hasn't spoken quite yet but he's surely clearing his throat.

And soon we'll all be officially in full election mode - as if we're not there

Perhaps that's why Prince Charles was so grumpy last week - and he's not the only one.

Easter has come and gone and so it would seem is any chance of resurrecting a unionist
voting pact.

Neither the DUP nor the Ulster Unionists are prepared to pronounce the idea dead - but
normal hostilities have resumed - though in truth they've never stopped.

David Trimble has written to Ian Paisley saying his strategy will only serve to boost
Sinn Fein's election chances.

Ian Paisley replies saying Mr Trimble's plan that the two unionist parties should
stand aside in Foyle, South Down and Newry and Armagh, to allow the SDLP a better
chance of ousting Sinn Fein, is like asking unionists to "become united Irelanders."

And then there's West Tyrone where the SDLP are already considering standing aside to
allow the Omagh hospital campaigner Dr Kieran Deeny a free run at Sinn Fein.

Mr Trimble has already spoken about the possibility of both unionist parties doing the
same for "an independent."

Now the party's candidate in south Belfast, Michael McGimpsey, has confirmed on Radio
Ulster's Inside Politics programme that the offer was made about Dr Deeny.

And what did he claim was the DUP's reason for rejecting the proposal? Good old
fashioned sectarianism - a claim hotly denied by the DUP.

Said Mr McGimpsey: "The possible candidate in there is a chap called Deeny who's not
SDLP, who as far as I'm aware is not a nationalist but I have to say to you that the
response they got in the discussions were that...the SDLP, Sinn Fein, Deeny ..all out
of the same sow's litter and that's a quotation.

"What you were actually talking about there is this is a sectarian issue and I think
that's the problem - - Deeny is a Catholic, he's a fenian...."

The DUP's Arlene Foster, said that was "highly offensive".

She continued: "I find it very interesting that Michael has confirmed what I have said
all along that Deeny was the candidate being talked about by his leadership.

"That has grave implications for Fermanagh/ South Tyrone because Deeny is a single
issue candidate about the hospital in Omagh and that's his key issue and that is
against the interests of the people in Fermangh/South Tyrone; and yet he is expecting
his (Fermangh/South Tyrone) candidate Tom Elliot to endorse that."

Arlene Foster and Michael McGimpsey are two candidates who would be directly affected
if the DUP's proposal for a pact in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and south Belfast was
miraculously adopted.

The problem is the Ulster Unionists regard both seats as their own, even though, as
Arlene Foster points out, Fermanagh/South Tyrone is now "a Sinn Fein seat".

Both parties believe they would stand the better chance of winning it should there be
a single unionist candidate.

And in South Belfast Mr McGimpsey says there is a chance the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell
could take the seat if the unionist vote is sufficiently split.

That, says Arlene Foster, is a matter for the voters.

Either way the Ulster Unionists' proposal that they don't fight in the six
constituencies held by the DUP if the DUP don't fight the five seats held by them - in
addition to the DUP standing aside in Fermangh/South Tyrone - was never a runner.

Mr McGimpsey says it was only an opening gambit - Mrs Foster says it was a firm

And so we're back where we started.

The DUP sees each of the Ulster Unionists' five seats as fair game - they will be
disappointed not to pick up at least three of them with the party leader David
Trimble's scalp in Upper Bann the prize they want most.

And if that happened Michael McGimpsey would find himself a strong favourite to take
over - provided of course, he holds out in South Belfast.

Pact or no pact the stakes could not be higher.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/04/01 19:51:19 GMT


Textile Industry Loses Another 108 Jobs

Shock as Zip plant in Claudy to close down.

By Clare Weir
01 April 2005

The North West was today coming to terms with the latest savage blow to the textiles
industry, after Marks and Spencer announced it was closing an operation in Claudy,
with the loss of over 100 jobs.

Around 108 jobs will go at the much-lauded Zip Project plant in Claudy in December,
just three years after it opened. The jobs shock also comes just a fortnight after
Strabane textiles manufacturer Adria announced 175 job losses.

Many of the Claudy workforce come from eight Desmonds factories around the region
which were wound up when the company went into liquidation last year.

For some of the workers, it is the third time they have been made redundant in as many

Ulster Unionist councillor and Claudy native Mary Hamilton said that other businesses
in the surrounding area would also suffer.

"All the money made in Claudy was spent in Claudy so I can see local shops and
restaurants suffering as a result," she said

"The factory supported local schools and provided employment for some of the
generations of people made out of work by other textile companies closing down - it
will be hard for older people to re-train and find alternative employment.

"People here are very upset - there are mortgages and children to think about - these
people are facing a very bleak Christmas."

She added that she hoped another company could utilise the plant when it finally shuts
its doors in December.

"I lived in Claudy for over 20 years and I remember a time when buses used to line the
streets waiting to take people to and from the factories - it is very different now.
It is a great big place and it would be a crime if another employer could not use it."

Last year calls were made by politicians and union leaders to have the North West
declared an economic disaster zone in the wake of around 5,000 job losses in the
textile industry in recent years.

Sinn Fein's Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA today called on the government to make the move
following the latest jobs blow.

"The North West Region should be declared an area of 'exceptional need' with the
required investment in infrastructure to attract inward investment," he said.

Stuart Rose, Chief Executive, Marks & Spencer said he realised it was a difficult time
for the Childrenswear team in Claudy.

"They have made a significant contribution to Marks & Spencer over the last few years
and we will do everything we can to support them through the consultation period,
including looking for opportunities to redeploy them elsewhere," he said.

According to the company there are 15 vacant posts at its Foyleside shopping centre
store in Derry and more at its London offices.


Údarás Candidates Linked To Parties

01/04/2005 - 17:47:29

Candidates in tomorrow's Údarás na Gaeltachta elections will be linked to political
parties for the first time, it emerged today.

Up to 75,000 voters go to the polls in seven Gaeltacht constituencies tomorrow morning
to fill 17 elected positions on the Údarás board.

Under new procedures, candidates no longer have to lodge deposits but they must be
nominated by a political party or supported by 15 registered voters in the

A High Court decision in 2001 ruled that deposits in Gaeltacht elections were

Returning officer for the one-seater Meath Gaeltacht, Liam MacSuibhne said it will
also be the first time that candidates are allowed to display their photographs and
political party logos on the ballot papers.

Previously, candidates may have been members of political parties, but ran campaigns
as representatives of their Gaeltacht communities.

Mr MacSuibhne added: "These procedural changes are new this time around. It's also the
first time for Saturday polling and we're hoping it will encourage a high turnout."

Mr MacSuibhne will have only four staff sorting and counting votes for the three
candidates at the count centre in Rathcairn.

"We should have the result by lunchtime or early afternoon," he added.

Sitting Údarás board member Micheál Ó Scanáill is running in the Cork Gaeltacht, which
includes Muskerry and Cape Clear island.

The total electorate is only 3,000 but turnouts as high as 80% are the norm in the

Mr Ó Scanáill, who is now running for Fine Gael, said: "Údarás candidates were always
elected as independent public representatives to serve the community until this year's
elections when party affiliations came into the equation."

The Ballyvourney career guidance teacher, who has been a Údarás board member for over
18 years, will need to reach a quota of 800 or 900 votes to get elected.

Údarás na Gaeltachta was established as a regional State agency in 1980 to promote the
economic and social development of Gaeltacht areas and to aid the survival of the
Irish language.

About 90,000 people live in the seven Gaeltacht areas which cover extensive parts of
counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Meath and Waterford.

Galway has six seats, Donegal has four, Kerry and Mayo have two each and Cork,
Waterford and Meath are represented by one.

Gaeltacht Minister Eamon Ó Cuiv nominates the remaining three persons to the 20-member
Udaras board.

Sinn Féin is expecting its first-ever Údarás na Gaeltachta seat with candidates
running in each of three Gaeltacht areas in Donegal, Galway and Meath.

The last elections to the Udaras board were held in December 1999.

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Apr 2005
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