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May 09, 2005

Council Vote Count Is Under Way

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 05/09/05 Council Vote Count Is Under Way
BT 05/09/05 DUP Predicts Success In Councils
SB 05/08/05 Moving Centre-Stage
BT 05/09/05 DUP 'Only Party To Increase Vote Share'
BT 05/09/05 Ulster's Voting Enigma
BT 05/09/05 Opin: Unionists' Frustration At Ballot Box
IO 05/09/05 Trimble Explains Resignation Decision
SB 05/08/05 Trimble Defeat Signals Crisis For UUP
BT 05/09/05 Lords Next For Trimble?
SB 05/08/05 Peace Process To Come Dropping Slow
SB 05/08/05 Sinn Fein Scores Twice At Omagh Count
SB 05/08/05 Unionist Shift But Little Change In Natl Voting
SB 05/08/05 DUP Gains From Unionist Anti-Sinn Fein Strategy
SB 05/08/05 Opin: Trimble's Road To Nowhere
SB 05/08/05 Opin: Where Now For A Deal In The North?
SB 05/08/05 Opin: Time To Stop Babysitting The North
BB 05/09/05 MEPs Debate McCartney Legal Boost
IO 05/09/05 DUP Man Threatens To Name McCartney 'Killers'
SB 05/08/05 Opin: Blair Majority With Only A Third Of Vote
SB 05/08/05 Tories Lick Their Wounds As Howard Steps Aside
BT 05/09/05 Poster Row Led To DUP 'Assault'
SB 05/08/05 Coroner To Re-Examine 1976 Murder
TW 05/09/05 'IRA Influence' In Farc Attacks
SB 05/08/05 Ireland Funds Target Super-Wealthy Irish
SB 05/08/05 Lord Inchiquin To Sell Part Of Dromoland Estate
SB 05/08/05 Row Erupts Over World Cup Qualifier Tickets


Council Vote Count Is Under Way

Counting to determine who will claim Northern Ireland's 582
council seats is under way.

A total of 918 candidates are contesting the seats across
the province's 26 council areas.

Last week's general election saw the Democratic Unionists
win nine of Northern Ireland's 18 Westminster seats, while
the UUP returned one MP.

Sinn Fein won five constituencies, while the SDLP took the
remaining three seats in the Commons.

On Saturday, in the wake of the result, David Trimble
announced his resignation as Ulster Unionist leader
following a private meeting with the party's president and

It is expected that it will be at least two days before all
the votes in Northern Ireland's local government elections
are counted and the full results declared.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Peter
Hain is expected to visit the province later on Monday
after holding talks with key political players over the

Speaking on Sunday, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said
he believed the political process could be moved forward.

He said Prime Minister Tony Blair had assured him he was
committed to restoring devolution to Northern Ireland.

"If we can make the progress that we have requested of the
parties to deal with the issues of decommissioning, to deal
with the issues of criminality and the IRA stepping aside,
then we think we can make a lot of progress," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/09 08:06:19 GMT


DUP Predicts Success In Councils

By Noel McAdam
09 May 2005

The DUP was today poised to double up on its electoral
dominance over Ulster Unionism as the council election
counts began.

And the SDLP was hoping to repeat its General Election
performance to remain the biggest nationalist party in
local government.

By close of counting tomorrow, Ian Paisley's Democratic
Unionists predict they will have replaced the UUP as the
party with the largest number of council representatives.

But the UUP argued it would fare far better at local
government level than they had in the first-past-the-post
Westminster battle which saw the party reduced to a single

At the last council election Ulster Unionists were well
ahead with 154 councillors compared to the DUP on 131.

Since then, however, a number of UU councillors have joined
DUP ranks - particularly following the defection of former
Ulster Unionists Jeffrey Donaldson, Arlene Foster and Norah

Neither party was able to provide precise figures last
night, but the gap of 23 from 2001 has already narrowed.

The picture is also blurred by senior councillors from both
parties standing down.

Historically, however, the DUP does not get transfers from
other party supporters to the same extent as the UUP.

Sinn Fein has also suffered in the past because it did not
receive many transfers, although there was some
breakthrough in the last Assembly elections.

One focus of today and tomorrow will be on whether that
trend continues.

Holding both elections on the same day again meant a
turnout of 62.5%.

While this could push up the local government poll, it
could mean the smaller parties and independents being

In 2001, the last double election day, council turnout was
almost 68% - compared to around 56% in the previous two
council-only polls.


Moving Centre-Stage

08 May 2005 By Paul T Colgan

The continued decline of the so-called "middle ground" in
Northern politics represents not a setback for the peace
process but a sign that Sinn Féin and the DUP have both
stolen their rivals' political clothing.

The hammering received by the Ulster Unionists on Thursday,
coupled with a further reduction in the SDLP's overall
vote, has led some commentators to speculate that
nationalists and unionists are now more polarised than ever

Much time was spent over the last four weeks bewailing the
impending success of the parties of Ian Paisley and Gerry
Adams. No less an authority than former SDLP deputy leader
Seamus Mallon put forward the thesis that the North was
poised to become a “Balkanised'‘ society.

However, while the increased mandate for the two main
parties may dishearten those who envisaged the UUP and the
SDLP at the heart of a power-sharing arrangement, the zero-
sum game that is to be played out between Adams and Paisley
was always going to come to this.

The casting of Sinn Féin and the DUP as the villains of the
piece ignores substance for style. The DUP has been sucked
into the political mainstream in the North. It has publicly
endorsed the notion of power-sharing between Catholics and

Iris Robinson, wife of DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson,
said two years ago that the old Stormont one-party state
regime had not worked and that unionists needed to
recognise that shared governance with Catholics was the
only way forward.

Since then, the DUP has entered negotiations with the two
governments and Sinn Féin (albeit at arm's length), and
signed up to a deal that includes power-sharing and all-
Ireland political institutions.

The move to the centre by the DUP is perhaps as remarkable
as the path trodden by the republican movement over the
past 15 years.

The only difference is that, while key figures in Sinn Féin
and the IRA opted for constitutional nationalism some time
ago, the DUP's move to the space occupied by David Trimble
happened much later in the day.

The irony for Paisley and his party is that, having yearned
to be top dogs for more than 30 years, they have finally
done so only when prepared to sign up to things Paisley had
railed against all his life.

Paisley built his reputation around the collapse of the
Sunningdale power-sharing arrangement, having played a
central role in the loyalist workers' strike that brought
the short-lived regime to its knees.

Until quite recently, Paisley remained implacably opposed
to the very idea of allowing northern Catholics into
government. He marshalled tens of thousands of loyalist
protesters at Belfast City Hall in opposition to the Anglo
Irish Agreement screaming “never, never, never'‘ to Irish
government “interference'‘ in the North.

Many nationalists have understandable reservations about
the DUP's intentions.

Catholics will no doubt have shuddered as they watched
successive DUP winners - including Peter Robinson, David
Simpson and Gregory Campbell - thank God and quote the
Bible when accepting their seats. Paisley and Willie McCrea
sang hymns. The return of McCrea in South Antrim will raise
the hackles of nationalists who remember his championing of
LVF leader Billy ‘King Rat' Wright' in 1996.

However, Sinn Féin believes the DUP is now ready to do a
deal. Optimists in the republican ranks suggest that, at
the very least, nationalists now know what they are dealing
with. An emboldened DUP, they suggest, may have the courage
and political strength to cut an agreement.

Trimble's period as the main unionist leader was spent
looking over his shoulder. The endless sniping that
accompanied his forays into uncharted unionist territory
culminated in the embarrassing spectacle in Banbridge
Leisure Centre on Friday when he shuffled off the political
stage to the taunts of DUP supporters.

The lumping in of Sinn Féin with the DUP as an “extreme'‘
party does not tally with the current republican agenda.
Critics of the republican movement will argue that for as
long as the IRA exists, Sinn Féin will forever be outside
the pale, but the party has, in reality, embraced the
SDLP's core objectives.

Sinn Féin knows only too well that revolutionary violence
and politics don't make for a successful mix. It could
never have overtaken the SDLP while the IRA campaign was
being waged. Party support formerly hovered around the 10
per cent mark - the nadir of the “armalite and ballot box'‘
strategy being the defeat of Adams in West Belfast in
1992's general election.

Indeed, some SDLP figures have argued to argue that Sinn
Féin has morphed into ‘SDLP-lite'. A core part of Mark
Durkan's election strategy was to paint Sinn Fein as poor
negotiators. SDLP election literature came with the simple
tag line: “Stronger.”

Durkan attacked Adams during a televised debate last week,
accusing the Sinn Fein president of having been hoodwinked
by the DUP in December. SDLP insiders claimed that Sinn
Féin's negotiating team had been given the runaround and
that the proposed deal played into rejectionist unionists'

Meanwhile, the Irish and British governments must now focus
on the months ahead. With talk that the IRA is to wind down
during the summer, the bona fides of the DUP will, it
seems, shortly be put to the test.

Republicans claim that the IRA will only decommission
weapons in private, denying Paisley his Provo polaroids.
While this would undoubtedly irk the DUP leader, it would
also leave Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair in a tight spot.

Both men weighed in behind Paisley's demands in December
and, according to the Taoiseach's office, Ahern is sticking
by the requirement that the IRA allow photographs of

Republicans are confident, however, that a major move by
the IRA - as long as the two governments are satisfied that
it has genuinely happened - will lead to pressure on the
DUP to move.

If, as Gerry Adams said in this newspaper last week, the
DUP is then prepared “to prove that the Northern state is
not reformable'‘, Paisley's party could be left behind.


DUP 'Only Party To Increase Vote Share'

By Chris Thornton
09 May 2005

The DUP and Sinn Fein got one thing completely wrong in
their triumphant General Election campaigns.

Both parties had predicted that Sinn Fein could top the
poll. In the end it wasn't even close.

Almost 70,000 votes separated the DUP and Sinn Fein by the
time counting finished on Friday night, more than four
times the gap that separated those parties in 2003 and
double the distance between them in last year's European

The widening gap reflects the growth of the DUP, which is
in fact the only party to put on votes since the 2001
general election.

This year's election is a water mark for nationalism - with
eight Westminster seats.

In that respect, nationalist voters punched above their
weight. With less than 42% of the vote they captured 44% of
the 18 seats available.

But they have come no closer to the apparent majority that
would force the Government to hold a border poll.

The gap between unionism and nationalism narrowed slightly
- by about 7,000 votes - but that could be somewhat
distorted by the 11,905 votes that independent hospital
campaigner Kieran Deeny received in West Tyrone.

Many of Dr Deeny's votes - perhaps as many as 8,000 -
appear to have come from nationalists, especially SDLP

But tactical voting in the other direction - Ulster
Unionists supporting SDLP candidates against Sinn Fein -
also appears to have been a factor.

Judging by the drop in unionist votes in Foyle and South
Down, more than 3,000 unionists may have voted for the SDLP
- about 2,000 for Mark Durkan and 1,000 for Eddie McGrady.

Those distortions may mean the nationalist share of the
vote on Thursday was slightly higher than the 41.8%
recorded between Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

But without any firm way of knowing, the 42.6% grabbed in
the 2001 General Election remains the recent high point of
the nationalist vote in major elections.


Ulster's Voting Enigma

By Chris Thornton
09 May 2005

These General Election results still haven't solved the
mystery of the missing voters.

The overall number of votes cast on Thursday climbed back
over 715,000 - but was still more than 90,000 short of the
810,000 votes cast in the 2001 general election and the
1998 Assembly contest.

Several factors have pushed those voters out of the polling
booths, including the tighter electoral register and a high
number of spoiled ballots.

There may also be political factors - the definitive
collapse of Stormont the ongoing political deadlock
happened after the 2001 election.

Mainly the loss appears to be bad news for the UUP and - to
a lesser extent the SDLP - because people who once
supported them are staying away in large numbers.

The loss of those voters had a practical effect. In South
Antrim, for example, William McCrea won the seat for the
DUP with fewer votes than he got in 2001, when he lost.

The UUP loss was particularly significant. They have lost
89,500 voters since 2001, with about 60,000 of them going
to the DUP.

But the SDLP has arguably been hurt more by apathy.

They lost 52,000 votes between 2001 and the 2003 Assembly
election. It's difficult to calculate how many of those
votes went to Sinn Fein, since their total from Thursday's
vote is also still lower than in 2001.

But the SDLP managed to claw back some voters it lost 2003.
When as many as 3,000 tactical unionist votes are taken
into account, it appears the SLDP wooed back at least 5,000
voters - enough that Mark Durkan and Eddie McGrady did not
have to rely on unionists to beat their Sinn Fein

The DUP is the only party to make gains in the total number
of votes from 2001. Sinn Fein is close to its 2001 total,
thanks to a gain of 12,000 votes from the 2003 Assembly


Opin: Unionists' Frustration Voiced At The Ballot Box

Fresh impetus: Republicans must signal end to criminal

09 May 2005

The new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain
faces the daunting task of replacing direct rule with
devolution. At first glance the election results provide no
comfort for him, with the unionist community swinging
behind the Democratic Unionists and nationalists divided
between Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

But this province is never what it seems and behind the
stark statistics of apparently polarised politics lies much
more than meets the eye. Firstly, much has changed
irreversibly here in 30 years of reforms and legislations.
All social grievances have not been erased but none exist
today which could possibly justify the violence of the
past. Or the continued existence of terrorist groups now.

Secondly, it would be wrong to interpret the swing to the
DUP has wholesale rejection of the Good Friday agreement.
Certainly, the unionist community has expressed its deep
disillusionment with the failure of the agreement to spell
the end of the republican movement's criminal and terrorist
intent. The fact that the IRA hasn't gone away is really
why David Trimble fell from grace and his party experienced

The agreement guaranteed Northern Ireland's position in the
UK so long as the majority here is in favour ? a powerful
incentive to the unionist population to support the deal
and even to swallow other clauses, unpalatable to some,
such as north-south links and the concept of a fully
inclusive partnership government at Stormont.

Mr Hain is entitled to remind the politicians here that the
price of devolution remains an acceptance of ALL the
elements of the agreement but he should recognise that the
failure to achieve a Stormont administration is down solely
to the fact that it has taken Sinn Fein and the IRA so long
to reach the point of questioning the latter's need to

If Gerry Adams' requirements of the IRA as stated before
the election - to effectively remove this private army from
the equation - can be answered positively in the weeks
ahead, then the atmosphere will be transformed. The
original deal in 1998 was all about trust and that has been
sadly lacking within the unionist community yet can, and
must be restored.

The onus is now on republicans to finally break free from
the shadow of the gun and in so doing create conditions
that have never existed on this island. In winning three
seats last week, the SDLP remains the strong alternative
voice to Sinn Fein and the Irish government must also keep
up the pressure on the republican movement that was so
effective in the weeks leading up to the election.

We have reached a new watershed. In the unionist vote,
Washington, London and Dublin should only see a sense of
frustration and certainly not an unwillingness to share
power with nationalists if conditions are right. Those
conditions centre on the IRA's existence. The sooner Mr
Adams gets a straight answer from his paramilitary wing
about its future, the sooner we can all move forward.


Trimble Explains Resignation Decision

09/05/2005 - 11:07:06

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has said he had
no option but to announce his resignation following last
week's Westminster election.

Mr Trimble said he would be standing down after losing his
seat to the Democratic Unionist Party.

The UUP also lost two other seats in the election, reducing
its Westminster representation to just one MP.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Mr Trimble
said resigning as UUP leader was the only course of action
and added that it had been in his mind for some time.

"The run-up to the election, in party terms, was to lay the
basis for a transition to someone else who could carry on
the task of leading the party," he said.

Mr Trimble also said he had no regrets about negotiating
and signing the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and was certain
that the future development of the North would be based on
that agreement.


Trimble Defeat Signals Crisis For Ulster Unionists

08 May 2005 By Paul T Colgan

David Trimble has gone and is now likely to make way for a
successor as leader of the UUP. His lieutenant, Michael
McGimpsey, was never in the running to win South Belfast.

David Burnside lost his seat in South Antrim to the Free
Presbyterian minister and gospel singer Willie McCrea.

The Democratic Unionist Party's Sammy Wilson wiped out
sitting Ulster Unionist MP Roy Beggs in East Antrim, while
the DUP's Gregory Campbell increased his majority in East

Many unionists, perceiving Trimble's UUP to be in two minds
about where it wanted to go, opted for the stronger
unionist brand of the DUP.

Even Burnside - a constant critic of Trimble and the Good
Friday Agreement - was unable to attract the votes of hard-
line unionism in sufficient numbers.

His colleague in North Down - and the only remaining Ulster
Unionist MP – Sylvia Hermon saw off the DUP's Peter Weir by
attracting support from traditional Alliance voters and
middle-class Catholics.

Trimble, who has clung by his fingernails to the leadership
for years, was swamped by the DUP in Upper Bann.

David Simpson ticked all the boxes as far as the DUP was
concerned. He is an Orangeman, a self-made millionaire and
a gospel singer.

Trimble was simply not up to the job.

A rump of UUP activists and supporters could never bring
themselves to join the Reverend Ian Paisley's party, with
its associated rural fundamentalism, but many of them will
now see no point in remaining in a minority party.

Ironically, Burnside's call for unionism to unite may have
been furthered by his own defeat.

The UUP has been haemorrhaging members for years,
particularly younger, more ambitious ones. Its failed
attempt to paint the DUP as “sell-outs'‘ rang hollow with
unionist voters who initially turned against Trimble after
he entered government with Sinn Féin.

The SDLP, meanwhile, confounded the expectations of many by
maintaining its quota of seats. While it lost Newry and
Armagh to Sinn Féin (SDLP workers admitted defeat there as
early as 9.30am Friday) the stunning success of its deputy
leader, Alasdair McDonnell, in South Belfast will prove
invaluable to the party, which conceded ground to Sinn Féin
elsewhere in the North.

“We've not gone away you know!” was the immediate reaction
of one SDLP insider.

McDonnell said the party was “still here and still

Mark Durkan's success in Foyle, the birthplace of the SDLP
and modern constitutional nationalism, was vital to his
party for symbolic reasons.

The party's other MP, Eddie McGrady in South Down, was the
only SDLP candidate assured of a seat and he romped home
comfortably, albeit with a reduced majority.

The three MPs will help the SDLP to rebuff claims that it
is in terminal decline. SDLP strategists said the party's
core vote remains resilient and provides an opportunity for
the party to rebuild support.

However, the capture of South Belfast and the retention of
Foyle only masks pressing issues that the SDLP urgently
needs to confront.

Durkan will have to build on his win to be assured of
making the seat his own. Aged 44, he does have time on his
hands. Sinn Féin's Mitchell McLaughlin will be in his mid-
60s if he chooses to contest the constituency next time.

McDonnell's victory in South Belfast will have undoubtedly
irked unionists. It is likely that, given the present
trajectory of the UUP, the DUP will be the only unionist
party fielding a candidate there at the next election.

McDonnell's vote remained static, while the DUP and UUP
fought each other to a standstill.

McGrady is almost 70 years of age and is unlikely to defend
his seat in South Down. Sinn Féin can be patient, knowing
that it is within touching distance of taking out the SDLP
there. McGrady's lengthy incumbency, dating back to 1987,
has left the SDLP with no clear replacement candidate in
the constituency.

Elsewhere, the SDLP's share of the nationalist vote
declined. In seats where no nationalist candidate could
have been expected to win - such as North Belfast and North
Antrim - the SDLP vote fell significantly, while Sinn Féin
made gains.

In West Tyrone, the local party organisation is deeply
split. Its vote there slumped by 5.6 per cent - much of it
going to independent hospital candidate Kieran Deeny.

Despite months of unstinting pressure on republicans
stemming from the Northern Bank robbery, the killing of
Robert McCartney and high-profile interventions by Irish
government ministers, the Sinn Féin vote again increased

Party leader Gerry Adams, who was heavily criticised for
his alleged failure to deal properly with the McCartney
issue, increased his share of the vote in West Belfast.
Liam Kennedy, the anti-punishment beatings candidate, lost
his deposit.

Sinn Féin's improved standing will leave Fianna Fáil in an
awkward position.

Sinn Féin has now been the largest nationalist party in the
North for more than four years. Will Bertie Ahern now
extend the hand of friendship to Adams, the undisputed
leader of Northern nationalism?

Or, given the prospects of increases in the Sinn Féin vote
in the south, will he continue to keep Adams at arm's


Lords Next For Trimble?

By Noel McAdam
09 May 2005

Speculation that David Trimble could be headed for the
House of Lords mounted last night as the Ulster Unionist
Party began the search for his successor.

Amid reports that Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to
make a fresh round of nominations for the Lords in July,
there was an expectation Mr Trimble will be offered the
same elevation as his predecessors - if he wants it.

Mr Blair made clear his high personal regard for the former
First Minister among a series of warm tributes as Mr
Trimble stood down on Saturday.

The 100-strong party executive will next weekend arrange a
full meeting of the ruling Ulster Unionist Council,
possibly early next month, to elect a new leader.

After a meeting with party chairman James Cooper and party
President Lord Rogan of Lower Iveagh on Saturday afternoon,
Mr Trimble made clear he did not want to continue as Ulster
Unionist leader.

He was clearly taken aback at the scale of the DUP's
drubbing of his party in the General Election, losing not
just his own Upper Bann seat but East and South Antrim -
and South Belfast to the SDLP.

Publicly, Mr Trimble blamed both the London and Dublin
governments for indulging republicans and failing to shore
up unionism but privately told colleagues the party's
divisions had also been a factor.

"There have been difficult times, but also times when we
have been able to make a difference," he said.

"I have no doubt that Northern Ireland is a much better
place and unionism greatly advantaged because of our

Mr Trimble said he did not think Tony Blair had been
deliberately deceptive but had wrongly thought emotion and
charm could solve all the problems.

In an interview with the Observer yesterday Mr Trimble also
warned unionists to be very careful about trusting Mr Blair
in new negotiations to restore the Assembly.

Mr Blair said history would show that throughout Mr
Trimble's period as UU leader he showed "real leadership -
vision, courage and a sheer dogged determination despite
all the difficulties involved in the search for peace".

Without Mr Trimble "there would have been no Belfast
Agreement. It would not have been possible to bridge the
deep divide in Northern Ireland," he added.

Mr Trimble had knowingly taken risks because he believed it
was for the greater good and as a result "lives are not
only better, but the tragic litany of death and destruction
that cast a pall over so many years is now receding into
the past," the PM added.

New Secretary of State Peter Hain denied Mr Trimble had not
been given sufficient support and said he hoped to make
progress with DUP leader Ian Paisley.

On the legacy of Mr Trimble, he added: "He brought Unionism
along a new and uncharted road that led to the signing of
the Belfast Agreement and, subsequently, to the initial
establishment of devolved Government in Northern Ireland."


Peace Process To Come Dropping Slow

08 May 2005 By Alison O'Connor

Bertie Ahern will have been pleased on a number of fronts
with the reelection of his buddy Tony Blair, not least that
he's shown you can get re-elected for a third time, even if
the voters think you've been around for too long and you're
not as popular as you once were.

Another reason for Ahern's happiness at Labour's electoral
success concerns the North. Imagine him having to turn
around and explain the events of the last few years to a
new prime minister - the minutiae of Northern politics, the
various personalities involved, and just how incredibly
close things came on so many occasions only to collapse
spectacularly each time.

No, this pair have been through it all together, sharing
the frustrations and the hard-fought victories. Both have
invested so much in the problem they will be determined
that sorting out the Northern question will be writ large
on their political tombstones. Ahern also knows success in
the North increases his feel good factor with the voters -
no harm facing into the next general election with it under
his belt - while Blair's stated intention to stand down
means we know this is his last shot at a successful

Although they've learned the painful way that more haste in
the North usually means less speed, the Taoiseach will
certainly hope for a resolution in advance of the general
election, while Blair will certainly not wish his likely
mid-term successor, Gordon Brown, to share in any of his
hard-fought glory on this one.

But while they have their sights on the ultimate goal, and
a quiet optimism is once again circulating after the huge
disappointment of last December's failure, there will be no
unseemly rush on Monday morning to get everything back on

The Northern election results held no massive surprises for
the two governments having been largely flagged well in
advance. There is a sentimentality among southern political
parties when it comes to the SDLP, and there was general
delight that rather than being wiped out, as was widely
predicted, the party managed to return to Westminster with
three seats. This was the same number they entered the
election with and included party leader Mark Durkan in

The symbolism of John Hume's political heir losing his seat
would have been a crushing blow to the party. But the hard
fought campaign and apparent tactical voting among unionist
voters, who did not wish to see Sinn Féin's Mitchell
McLaughlin elected, saw him keep the seat.

While there is little sentimentality in relation to the
Ulster Unionists, southern politicians do have a sneaking
regard for leader David Trimble, one of the great political
survivors. But last Friday, he finally reached his ninth
political life at the hands of the Upper Bann voters.

In his last party political broadcast before the election,
Trimble asked the Northern electorate if they wanted to see
a “sectarian carve up'‘ or the “centre reinforced'‘.
Clearly they largely opted for the former, but only time
will tell exactly what this means for the peace process.
But whatever the result for the SDLP and the UUP, Sinn Féin
and the DUP have been the key players for some time now and
the hold of those two parties on their respective
communities has certainly been copper fastened by last
Thursday's poll.

For now, in peace process terms, the DUP can simply sit
back, resting on the laurels of its impressive electoral
victory, while it waits for the IRA to move.

There are concerns in some quarters that rather than making
him more receptive to a deal, Dr Ian Paisley's victory will
have the opposite effect of causing him to become even more
hardline. Last Friday at the count centre in Ballymoney he
was certainly playing the hardline card, saying: “We have
to win the war before we can hope to win the peace.”

But having seen him up close recently, and got the measure
of him during negotiations, there is a feeling in
government circles that he will return to the table. He
will want a permanent deal to highlight a political legacy
which includes a pivotal role in the disbandment of the
IRA. Since his sackcloth and ashes remark Paisley has been
noticeably more careful in his public utterances.

One government source said yesterday that should he be
considering a return to his previous hardline stance he
must realise that such recalcitrance could end with the
British government implementing some sort of joint
authority in the North. But he knows that the first move is
not up to him. It's up to the IRA to deliver decisively and
unambiguously. Then a deal will be back on the table.

Sinn Féin has been under heavy political pressure since the
collapse of last December's deal in a row centering around
the DUP's need for photographic evidence. The Northern bank
robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney certainly rocked
them back on their heels. The usual public mask of sphinx-
like inscrutability was seen to slip on occasions and the
pressure on the party's representatives was obvious.

On the issue of the bank robbery, Sinn Féin has asked on
many occasions for proof to be produced on IRA involvement.
Interestingly, we have not yet seen any proof that the cash
found in the Republic subsequent to the robbery was that
stolen in Belfast.

Despite this, the Taoiseach is still said to be as certain
of IRA involvement given the other elements of his briefing
from Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has maintained throughout the
election campaign that his calls on the IRA to abandon the
armed struggle and embrace democratic means was not an
election stunt.

He does, it would appear, protest a little too much on

But the two governments are pragmatic enough not to worry
too much about context once this actually comes about.

Thursday was the 24th anniversary of the death of hunger
striker Bobby Sands, so it is almost a quarter of a century
since Adams came to fully realise the power of the ballot
box. Not unlike the Catholic Church, Adams doesn't tend to
look at the timing of things in terms of single years but
in somewhat larger chunks.

The belief is there now that he has come through the “other
side'‘ in terms of the Sinn Féin/IRA relationship. “A
positive decision by the IRA at the end of its internal
deliberations will have enormous significance and impact.
It has the potential to halt the downward spiral in the
peace process and to strengthen our ability to advance our
republican objectives,” he said at the end of last month,
following his earlier statement urging the IRA to fully
embrace peace and democracy.

He revealed last Friday morning, when it was clear that
Tony Blair had been returned to office, he contacted
Downing Street to signal “that Sinn Féin is up for sorting
all of this out'‘.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said he believed
Adams' appeal to the IRA to “go away'‘ would be heard, and
the “sooner the better'‘.

Ahern also said he agreed with Adams' conclusion that the
DUP will sit down in a power sharing executive with Sinn
Féin in due course.

The increased mandate brought with it an increased
responsibility to the people who had elected them, said the
minister, the same people who want an Assembly up and

The question remains as to how exactly the IRA's
disbandment of the armed struggle might come about. Given
the recent experiences of failure in Belfast with days that
were meant to end in triumph after “careful choreography'‘
and “sequencing'‘, this time needs to be different.

One scenario is that this will happen outside of a talks
framework with the two governments and the DUP, but
involving General de Chastelain to verify decommissioning.
The governments would accept the general's bona fides, and
Sinn Féin signing up to policing would be the icing on the

Of course there will still be the issue of photographic
proof but if the IRA is seen to take up Adams' offer, the
situation obviously becomes very different and a deal would
be back on the table.

But, as ever with the North - don't hold your breath - it's
likely to be months rather than weeks.


Sinn Fein Scores Twice At Omagh Count

08 May 2005 By Anton McCabe

At the Omagh count, for West Tyrone and Fermanagh and South
Tyrone, the professionalism of the Sinn Féin and DUP
operations was clear to see.

The two parties had tally agents well equipped with
clipboards. The body language said everything. From mid-
morning, Sinn Féin and the DUP were smiling and relaxed.
The Ulster Unionist Party became increasingly ill at ease.
The SDLP was barely visible.

Supporters of West Tyrone Independent candidate Kieran
Deeny were highly visible, wearing large rosettes as they
sat in the canteen drinking tea and coffee and taking
little interest in the count. As the day wore on, rumours
surfaced of the SDLP's meltdown in West Tyrone, with one of
their few tallymen forecasting they would struggle to reach

The UUP also admitted they were under pressure, with
Strabane Town candidate Alistair Patterson saying his
council voters had voted for Deeny as the only Westminster
candidate able to stop Sinn Féin.

DUP director of elections in Fermanagh and South Tyrone,
Maurice Morrow, was initially cautious, but by early
afternoon was reporting that the DUP's Arlene Foster had
clearly outpolled the UUP's Tom Elliott.

DUP and Sinn Féin tallies agreed that Foster had out-polled
Elliott by two to one in Fivemiletown on the Tyrone-
Fermanagh Border. Clearly a political shock was on the way,
with Foster storming Fermanagh, the last bastion of Big
House Unionism.

When returning officer Martin Fox announced the Fermanagh-
South Tyrone vote, the cheers were so loud you'd have
thought Foster had won, instead of being 4,500 behind Sinn
Féin's Michelle Gildernew.

Farmer Paul Robinson, a DUP council candidate in Fermanagh,
said: “This stops the nonsense that this is an Ulster
Unionist Party seat. You don't know what I feel. A lot of
work went into this.”

Gildernew struggled to make herself heard over DUP
barracking during her victory speech.

Her supporters returned the favour for Foster. Elliott got
nearly as rough a ride from DUP supporters as Gildernew.
“The Ulster Unionist Party is here to stay,” he announced.
“We're not going away.”

Nobody bothered interrupting the forlorn speech of the
SDLP's Tommy Gallagher.

With 4,000 votes down on the last election, he began to
speak with only a handful of hard-bitten journalists
staying to listen.

“You'd nearly feel sorry for him,” said a Sinn Féin
election worker.

In West Tyrone, the UUP melted down as well as the SDLP,
with neither party now having anything like an Assembly
quota as their supporters plumped for Deeny.

UUP election agent Ross Hussey was stunned. “You'd never
have expected this, you'd have expected a protest vote, but
it was total meltdown,” he said.

The SDLP's Eugene McMenamin was a reluctant candidate, with
the local party riven between supporters of the leadership
and Omagh-based supporters of Deeny.

“Unfortunately some of the SDLP candidates in the Omagh
area didn't back the party and that situation has to be
sorted out,” McMenamin said.

Sinn Féin director of elections Sean Begley said of the
victory of the party's candidate Pat Doherty in West
Tyrone: “I said 17,000 all along; I knew there was a
protest vote out there.”


Seismic Unionist Shift But Little Change In Nationalist

08 May 2005 By Brian Feeney

The screeching and the groaning in count centres across the
North last Friday evening were not just the sounds of agony
and ecstasy from candidates and their supporters as the
results were announced. They were the noises of the
tectonic plates in unionism scraping against each other as
they shifted.

In its centenary year the Ulster Unionist Party has
imploded. The party which organised resistance to British
plans for Home Rule in 1912 and later ran the North as a
political monolith for 50 years has been reduced to a
solitary Westminster MP. The council results tomorrow and
Tuesday will complete the rout.

With its leader trounced and the DUP polling 65 per cent of
the unionist vote there is no way back for the UUP.

What does it mean for Northern nationalism? At first sight
it might look as if the answer is, very little.

It might seem that there were two elections in the North,
each conducted in its own echo chamber but it's a lot more
complicated than that.

Each community keeps a beady eye fixed on the other. One
reason for the DUP success was that the party managed to
convince unionists that only a strong vote for the DUP
could stop Sinn Féin becoming the largest party in the
North. There was an element of truth in that claim because,
with the continuing decline of the SDLP, Sinn Féin was on
course to out-poll each of the main unionist parties. Not
any longer.

With 241,000 votes and a 34 per cent share of the poll, the
DUP has pulled far ahead of Sinn Féin's 174,000 and its 24
per cent share. The explanation is that while the UUP
collapsed, the SDLP did not.

Against the odds, the SDLP won three Westminster seats and
remains a force in the North's politics.

Certainly the party is still sliding, down to 17 per cent
of the popular vote from 21 per cent in the 2001
Westminster election. It now represents just over 41 per
cent of nationalists to Sinn Féin's 58 per cent.

Sinn Féin with five MPs now has the largest parliamentary
representation of any nationalist party in the history of
Northern Ireland, though, of course, the party does not
take its seats at Westminster.

Compared to the cataclysmic change in unionism however, the
election results have not altered the fundamentals on the
nationalist side. Sinn Féin has reinforced its dominance in
votes and seats and will further strengthen its position as
the major nationalist party when the council votes are
counted. Yet two substantial parties remain on the
nationalist side.

Although it is weakened, the SDLP is still in contention
while the UUP is not. There is now only one major party in

That fundamental change on the unionist scene has serious
political consequences for nationalists.

With nine MPs and a host of extra council seats to emerge
from the sealed ballot boxes, the newly-powerful DUP will
be tempted to resist any effort to re-establish a northern
assembly with an executive.

With nine MPs, they may envisage stronger leverage at
Westminster given Tony Blair's heavily reduced majority and
the propensity of 30 to 40 left-wingers to rebel on
critical issues such as ID cards.

What is certain is that neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin will
return to the Assembly elected in November 2003.To do so
would be to give a leg-up to the political rivals they
defeated yesterday. The suspended Assembly is a snapshot of
the political scene 18 months ago. On last Friday's
showing, neither the SDLP nor the UUP would have ministers
after a new Assembly election. Resurrecting the Assembly
would be to grant the UUP and SDLP the greatest comeback
since Lazarus.

The DUP's triumph has other serious consequences for an
Assembly. As the full scale of their defeat dawns on UUP
councillors and Assembly members, many will defect to the
rampant DUP, perceiving no future amid the ruins of their
own party. The result will be an Assembly dominated by one
unionist party in which Sinn Féin will gain at most three
ministers under the d'Hondt system. It would look nothing
like the pattern which emerged after 1998.

All this assumes the DUP is even prepared to negotiate a
deal in the first place. It's no good referring back to how
close a deal was last December. Many in the DUP look back
on that as a very close shave indeed. It should not be
forgotten that their overwhelming victory in unionism came
largely because their manifesto promised no northern
administration with Sinn Féin until the IRA has been proven
to have disbanded and decommissioned and even then no
executive established on a proportional basis. The DUP well
knows that David Trimble's demise came mainly because he
did a deal with republicans.

Last Friday's results show that unionists are strongly
opposed to the Good Friday Agreement while nationalists are
equally strongly in favour of it.

Unionists are content with the status quo while
nationalists only compete for what degree of radical change
they demand. Unionists voters backed the DUP as the party
most likely to resist change of any kind. Pragmatic DUP men
who negotiated last November and December will not be
anxious to follow Trimble's example.

Despite these considerations there will be an increased
urgency in Dublin and London to restart talks with the DUP
and Sinn Féin as the two major players in any assembly. The
British general election has changed nothing in that
respect. Everything has stalled for five months partly
because of IRA activity, but mainly because no party would
give a hostage to fortune in the run up to an election. In
2006 there will be no election in the North. There is a
small opportunity to concoct a deal and elect a new
Assembly before the Republic's general election in 2007.

Failure to move quickly to press the DUP to negotiate will
look as though the two governments are once again paralysed
in the face of a newly-consolidated unionist monolith which
is Sinn Féin's greatest concern.

Brian Feeney is a leading nationalist commentator and
columnist. He is head of history at St Mary's University
College, Belfast.’


DUP Gains From Unionist Anti-Sinn Fein Strategy

08 May 2005 By Dr Steven King

The people of Northern Ireland, and of the North, have
spoken. “The bastards", some defeated candidates might be
tempted to add. True, the mood is pretty grossly sectarian.
For instance, anyone watching the BBC's coverage will have
seen viewers' text messages running across the bottom of
the screen. Few were thoughtful; many simply wondered why
nationalists would not go and live in the Republic, or
unionists go to England.

At the same time, there is strong evidence that appreciable
numbers of unionists voted across the sectarian divide for
the SDLP in constituencies like Foyle, South Down and West
Tyrone. In all those constituencies the total unionist vote
was down by as much as a quarter.

Equally, ‘Trimble's Catholics' stayed loyal, though it was
never going to be enough to make up for the dramatic swing
in the Protestant community to the DUP.

Perhaps only the fact that the two ‘centre' parties, the
SDLP and the UUP, were both in contention for South Belfast
prevented more open appeals for cross-community voting.

In truth, most voting across the divide is purely tactical.
It is designed to deny victory to either Sinn Féin or the
DUP. And even though such votes did not change the outcome
in a single seat this time, moderate unionists, while
bewailing their own party's terrible showing, should take
some comfort from the fact that the SDLP, while weakened,
is still a viable entity.

It went into the election with three seats and came out
with three. It is not simply that Sinn Féin has been denied
the propaganda value of having a monopoly over nationalist
representation at Westminster level. Rather, if Sinn Féin
had taken all the nationalist seats while boycotting the
House of Commons, and the DUP all the unionist seats, the
government in London might have concluded that only a
condominium solution to the problem was possible.

The threat of joint authority - as unionists and some in
the Republic might have seen it - has been averted. Many
unionists will be enraged that a split unionist vote
allowed the SDLP to slip through the middle in South

Equally, many will not care very much whether the SDLP or
Sinn Féin represents Foyle and South Down. Nevertheless,
evidence of at least some tacit acceptance of the
constitutional status quo from nationalism is essential,
given that there is no consent for Irish unity, in this
generation at least.

Where this leaves the agreement is unclear. David Trimble
has finally used up his nine lives, but it's amazing that
he sustained support for it within unionism for so long. He
had to use some ingenious – some would say dubious -
methods. Furthermore, he alienated many nationalists with
his stratagems.

Nevertheless, he struck a far more ambitious deal than
Brian Faulkner did, and got away with it for years longer.
History will record that he kept the agreement sustained
long enough to alter the terms of debate. Even the DUP uses
the Good Friday Agreement to buttress its arguments.
Equally, after the experience of last December, nobody
believes that the DUP is actually seeking to reinvent the
wheel: the changes it would settle for, if it could, are
purely administrative.

The question is, can it settle? Many commentators, mainly
nationalists, have long since tired of the interminable
wranglings within the unwieldy Ulster Unionist Council.
Better a party that could stick to a deal, they decided.

Besides, isn't the DUP just as power-hungry as Sinn Féin?
Isn't it much more ideologically committed to an Ulster
government at Stormont than the UUP? And if you could get
Ian Paisley's signature on a deal, who would dare to
question it?

It's a lovely idea. Theoretically, it has much to recommend
it. There is no doubt either that a UUP-SDLP deal would
always be a fragile one, put under stress as every election
loomed by threats from the extremes. The flaw in the thesis
is, of course, that arriving at the deal in the first place
is that much more difficult.

For large chunks of the period between Stormont's fall in
1972 and the arrival of the agreement in 1998, the gap
between the UUP and SDLP positions was a fine one. Yes,
their ultimate goals were mutually incompatible, but the
basic concept of power-sharing with an Irish dimension was
one both parties could at least tolerate, by and large.

Actually doing the deal, though, took decades. The IRA's
success was in preventing such a middle-ground consensus.
No unionist leader, especially James Molyneaux, was going
to risk fundamental disunity within the unionist community
while there was wide-scale terrorist violence.

Trimble was always much more of a risk-taker. The IRA
cessation, he saw, created new possibilities, especially as
the IRA had been fought to a standstill, well short of its
goal of a British promise to coerce the unionist

He went for the deal, but was disappointed by the unionist
reaction. A bare majority of Protestants voted Yes in the
referendum and, even then, only on the basis of promises of
action by London if there was republican non-compliance.

Given that situation, contrary to nationalist claims, he
did sell the agreement very hard, but only by sticking to a
rigid interpretation of its terms. He did object
strenuously to claims that the agreement contained within
it the seeds of unionism's destruction.

What he never had the luxury of doing was to argue that
including nationalists within the system was a good thing
per se. The agreement's inclusive terms were always
conditional upon a commitment by the IRA and loyalists to
operate by exclusively peaceful means.

Rather than just ‘go for it' and wait for opinion within
the nationalist community to pressure the IRA to wind
itself up, though, he needed IRA compliance before, or at
least very soon after, a start to devolution.

That never happened. Either republicans couldn't move
because of internal dissent or, more likely, wouldn't move
because they privately were never very enthused by the
thought of a devolved assembly within Britain.

What surprised republicans - and his own party occasionally
– was Trimble's own personal commitment to the agreement
and all its terms. They believed he would either be swept
away by unionist hardliners or, having set up the
executive, would quietly forget about disarmament.

By hedging their bets, though, republicans have now ensured
the bar to their entry into government is set sky high.

The governments will try to find optimistic glimmers of
hope in the DUP manifesto. There are some.

But the reality - much to the chagrin of some in the DUP -
is that their victory last Thursday is because the unionist
population simply does not want Sinn Féin in executive
office, period.

Ian Paisley has indeed won a famous victory. His party is
enjoying unparalleled success, not because unionists want
him as their first minister, or because they believe the
DUP will deliver a new and better deal. Rather, the
unionist population swung massively behind the DUP because
it believes that, whatever the nuances of the DUP's
theoretical position, it is the best bet for keeping Sinn
Féin out at all costs.

How high those costs will be in the long term remains to be

Dr Steven King is political adviser to David Trimble.


Opin: Trimble's Road To Nowhere

08 May 2005 By Tom McGurk

When the historical archive of David Trimble's political
life is assembled, the infamous Drumcree sequence will
reemerge in all its irony. It was just a decade ago and
there he was sharing the moment of Orange triumphalism with
Ian Paisley. Hand in hand, they jigged along before the
cheering crowds, having once again forced the march down
Garvaghy Road.

Behind them was a Catholic community outraged and bullied
into submission by a massive security force presence. Both
Trimble and Paisley had instinctively recognised that day
how significant for the Orange supremacy ethos Drumcree
was, and both were determined to be visibly part of it all.

On reflection now that hand-in-hand triumphant jig with
Paisley was a poisonous handshake. In time, Trimble was to
pay an enormous political price for his Drumcree

Of course, it brought him the leadership of the Ulster
Unionist Party a few months later. After Drumcree, powered
by the Orange Order delegates, Trimble was seen as a safe
pair of traditionalist unionist hands.

But from that point on, his political problems began to

The IRA ceasefire and the emerging peace process signalled
the beginning of the new politics. Once again, a Unionist
leader had to lead his party along unfamiliar paths; slowly
but surely, the conflict was drawing to a close and on all
sides, compromise and change would be required.

From the outset too, it was obvious that the Drumcree
sentiments would have to be abandoned. For Trimble, it was
the classic dilemma that all Ulster Unionist Party leaders
since Terence O'Neill in the 1960s have had to face.

After 50 years of single-party rule with a unionist
oligarchy composed of the big house, the Orange and the
Masonic orders, and the overwhelming fact that every
election was no more than just a re-run of the old
partitionist geography, the constituency for change was

Within months of O'Neill's arrival, Ian Paisley had moved
to the sidelines on ‘Lundy' watch. Paisley quickly became
the catalyst against any change, the leader of a
traditionalist reaction that in its time was eventually to
cannibalise the UUP. As Terence O'Neill was followed by
James Chichester-Clark and then Brian Faulkner, each was
politically bled dry by the gathering forces of Paisleyism.

In fact, Trimble himself was a member of the Vanguard
organisation that organised both political and paramilitary
forces against Faulkner. All along, Paisley was suggesting
that there was a political alternative and that he alone
could hold the fort in the face of the growing accusations
of sell-out.

Of course, it was not until last Christmas that Paisley was
finally forced to the conference table to unveil his
solution. As we now know, it was not terribly unlike the
very settlement for which Trimble himself had been so
bitterly condemned by Paisley.

Despite all the bluster and the cat-calling, the political
reality was that, for any unionist leader, the choices were
minimal. With Dublin and London of the one mind and with
the 1998 agreement in place, the choice was either to
settle on that basis or spend another generation without
sharing any political power. Trimble's failure was that he
did not understand that maintaining the institutions of the
agreement was his best chance of survival. Each time he
walked away from power-sharing, he damaged both what he had
achieved and its status in the eyes of the public.

Critically, too, what he also failed to understand was that
battling outside the institutions was actually Paisley's
home territory and Trimble was always bound to lose there.

Imagine the difference it would have made had Trimble faced
into this election with five or six years of the power-
sharing administration up and running. In these
circumstances, he could credibly have contrasted UUP
political success and achievement in contrast to DUP

But all that is now water under the bridge. Now, Trimble
follows O'Neill, Chichester-Clark and Faulkner into
unionist limbo.

So in the long run, the spirit of Drumcree was a pyrrhic
victory for Trimble. In the end, the forces of traditional
unionism that then delivered the leadership of unionism to
him have now taken it away again.

His loss also reduces the Ulster Unionist Party to marginal
status. Again, despite considerable evidence that the party
needed re-structuring and re-organisation, Trimble failed
to act.

For some time, David Burnside, who also lost his seat in
South Antrim, has been suggesting a unification of the DUP
and the UUP.

With leading figures like Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene
Foster already moved into the DUP, the UUP may now begin to
suffer an even greater haemorrhage.

Certainly, it still has Assembly seats - but come Monday,
when the council results come in, the wipe-out factor will
become even more evident.

However, the scale of the DUP victory now puts them at the
very centre of political expectation. After the euphoria
dies down, the realities will settle in. It's been
disguised for a long time but it may well now emerge that
there are two wings in the DUP: the Paisley one and the
Robinson faction.

The Paisley wing will be in the ascendant with this result
but, sooner or later, the ambitions of Robinson and company
will have to emerge. Indeed, now that the political
diversion of the UUP and David Trimble is out of the way,
the pressure on the DUP to deliver will be greater.

The political reality that supersedes all of this is that,
as Tony Blair has recently pointed out, the Belfast
Agreement is the only show in town. How long it takes the
DUP to get around this fact is how long it will take to
bring the parties back to the table.

Sinn Féin's increased mandate, particularly in the context
of Gerry Adams' call for the IRA to step aside, must leave
the margin for confusion on their part very small.
Importantly, Sinn Féin's mandate is also a mandate for the
IRA to step off the stage.

Many commentators have suggested that the two extremes have
triumphed on both sides in this election but the other
reality is that, for any agreement to survive, it had to
include the extremes. Now the North has reduced itself to
its political essentials - and no wit faces the ultimate


Opin: Where Now For A Deal In The North?

08 May 2005

Do the election results in the North represent a move to
the "extremes", with Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist
Party emerging as the main winners? Or can these parties
capture the middle ground and broker a deal which will
revive the Good Friday Agreement?

The dust will take some time to settle.

The Democratic Unionist Party victory has left them in a
central position, while the troubles of the Ulster Unionist
Party were personified in David Trimble's failure to retain
his seat.

On the nationalist side, Sinn Féin has increased its vote,
though the SDLP held on to three seats.

Meanwhile, in Downing Street, Tony Blair is re-installed
and will presumably want to cement a deal in the North as
part of his political legacy.

As Dermot Ahern, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed
out in the wake of the election results, the voters in the
North have presumably elected their new representatives in
the hope that they can devolve power back into local hands.

The template of the Good Friday Agreement remains in place
but, in the wake of all that has happened since last
December's talks broke down, progress will be hard won.
Nonetheless, progress under the terms of the agreement
remains the only viable way forward.

Those who voted for Sinn Féin did so after the party
leader, Gerry Adams, had called on the IRA to end its
activities. This must now happen - and include a commitment
to end all paramilitarism and criminality.

Presumably, Adams would not have made the call for a
disbandment of the IRA if he did not know the answer. It is
now time to deliver. If this happens, then the ball would
be in the DUP's court. Last December, the attitude of
Paisley and his followers did much to scupper an emerging

Having shown a willingness to go down much of the road at
the end of last year, will the DUP be prepared to complete
the journey next time around? Much will now depend on how
they see their mandate and their future political strategy.

We are unlikely to see any significant announcements over
the next few weeks.

Instead, talking will go on quietly in the background, as
the governments and the parties try to map out away
forward. Presumably, the governments will not be found
wanting. But what about the parties? When politicians win
elections, it is often referred to as “getting into

The choice for the parties in the North will be whether to
take the leap forward - or to remain in a permanently
disempowered state, with the decisions made by ministers
flown in from London.


Opin: Time To Stop Babysitting The North

08 May 2005

So the British electorate has voted. So too, with
depressing results, has the electorate in the North. The
polarisation of the Northern electorate is approaching
completion. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is now the
master of the unionist political house. Sinn Féin is
similarly master of the nationalist political house.

It's hard to believe but, as recently as eight years ago,
the UUP secured more than twice as many votes as the DUP at
the Westminster elections. On that day in 1997, the SDLP
secured one and a half times as many votes as Sinn Féin.

What is going on and what does it mean for all-Ireland

In theory, the UUP and SDLP were to be the foundation
stones of the institutions set up under the 1998 Good
Friday Agreement. But their combined vote has slipped from
56.5 per cent in 1997 to just 35.2 per cent this week.

At the same time, the outsiders who were to be house-
trained by the Belfast Agreement (the DUP and Sinn Féin)
have seen their aggregate vote rise from 29.7 per cent to
58 per cent.

Criticisms voiced by people like Eamonn McCann - that the
Belfast Agreement would promote sectarianism by
institutionalising it - is looking more and more prescient
with each passing election.

In this state, government coalitions are voluntary.
Irresponsible behaviour by one coalition partner towards
another will be penalised by the electorate.

The thumping that Fianna Fáil suffered at the hands of the
electorate after Albert Reynolds casually discarded the PDs
in 1992 is evidence of that.

But by ensuring that each large party would get automatic
positions in the Northern executive, the Good Friday
Agreement has ensured that unreasonable behaviour goes

In a political context in which all key decisions (which
hospital to close, the retention of the 11-plus exams, etc)
are refracted through a sectarian prism, unreasonable
advocacy of one's own side is actually encouraged.

South of the border, voters are forced to take on the
responsibility of electing a sovereign government. If we
get it wrong - as we have in the past - that government can
bring the country to the edge of national bankruptcy.

As a result, we are forced to take voting in general
elections seriously. As a consequence, we tend to penalise
demonstrably unreasonable behaviour by political parties.

Voters north of the border have no such responsibility for
electing a sovereign government. Whoever they vote for,
they will continue to be showered with billions of pounds
of subsidy by an indulgent London government.

They will also receive intensive political baby-sitting
with high-powered nannies flown in from London and Dublin -
although the further availability of Nurse Blair must be in
question after he secured re-election on just 37 per cent
of the vote.

As a result of their indulgence, voters in the North can
bring themselves to the edge of political bankruptcy
without any cares.

So those voters can reward the demonstrably unreasonable
behaviour of political parties such as the DUP (which
refuses to share power in Ballymena, Lisburn or
Castlereagh) and Sinn Féin (leading members of which are
believed to be leading members of the Provisional IRA) in a
society which needs to reverse sectarianism, rather than
stoke it up.

By giving voters north of the border the luxury of
consequence-free voting, the system encourages perverse
thinking: “The DUP/Sinn Féin may be bastards but they're
our bastards and we need them to keep manners on Sinn
Féin/the DUP. I can't vote for the UUP/SDLP as they're too
soft and too willing to compromise.”

People talk up the Good Friday Agreement by pointing to the
North's economic recovery. However, that recovery is built
on massive public subsidy.

As Garret FitzGerald pointed out recently, with about 30
per cent of the island's population, the North accounts for
only 23 per cent of the economic output.

Figures like that put the potential cost of national
unification into context.

If we say, very roughly, that there are two million people
in gainful employment in the Republic and that the North
receives an annual subsidy from Britain of €5 billion, then
we could be talking about an extra tax burden averaging
€2,500 for every worker down here.

Against that, there's no doubt that Britain would pay an
expensive dowry to be rid of this troublesome child. But
when the party was over, we in the Republic would have to
take this ugly duckling home with us. And, unlike some
recent cross-border adoptions which ran into very public
difficulties, we wouldn't be allowed to hand it back if we
were to find that “it didn't work out'‘.

In the wake of the Belfast Agreement, Articles 2 and 3 of
the Constitution were amended.

Article 3 now states, inter alia, that “a united Ireland
shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the
consent of a majority of the people, democratically
expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island'‘. Note the
words “both jurisdictions'‘.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the Republic were to say “no'‘ at
the very point when Ulster was finally ready to say “yes'‘?


MEPs Debate McCartney Legal Boost

The sisters of a murdered Belfast man are visiting the
European Parliament to hear MEPs debate whether to give
them money towards their legal campaign.

Robert McCartney was stabbed and beaten to death in a
Belfast bar in January.

His family insists members of the IRA were involved and
have led a high-profile campaign to bring the 33-year-old's
killers to justice.

MEPs said the unprecedented debate has been prompted by
revulsion across Europe at Mr McCartney's murder.

'Killers known'

Should it get the go-ahead, the McCartney sisters would be
given funds for a civil action against their brother's
presumed killers, reported BBC Europe correspondent Tim

If the current criminal investigation fails to put together
a prosecution, witnesses could still be compelled to give
evidence in a civil case - where the penalties are less
severe and the burden of proof is lower.

Avril Doyle, the Irish MEP who is leading the debate, said
the names of the killers are well known.

The European Parliament wanted to show its complete lack of
tolerance for this sort of criminality, she said.

One of the sisters, Paula McCartney, told the BBC she was
"absolutely delighted" at the cross-party support from the

And, she said, she hoped the move would lead to far more
information coming out about her brother's murder.

The McCartney family has said in the past any possible
civil action would be similar to the one being brought by
the Omagh families against those suspected of the 1998

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/09 01:06:12 GMT


DUP Man Threatens To Name McCartney 'Killers'

09/05/2005 - 10:04:20

Democratic Unionist Party MEP Jim Allister has threatened
to name those he believes were involved in the attack on
Robert McCartney in the European Parliament this afternoon.

Mr Allister, a barrister, has indicated he would do nothing
to prejudice a criminal trial, but may use his
parliamentary immunity to identify individuals alleged to
have been in the crowd at the time of the attack.

The family of Mr McCartney say they have not been in
contact with Mr Allister and are puzzled by his intentions.


Opin: Blair Majority With Only A Third Of Vote

08 May 2005 By Vincent Browne
What a triumph!

Britain has experienced a longer period of economic success
than it has had for decades, thanks largely to
international circumstances, the opposition party has been
in utter disarray for ten years, the electoral system is
massively biased in favour of the established parties and
Labour only wins about 36 per cent of the popular vote.

A return for Fianna Fáil like that would be regarded as a

Then, without the elected representatives of the people
meeting to decide on who should be prime minister - and
without the winning party even meeting to decide who should
be its leader - the outgoing prime minister is driven to
Buckingham Palace, engages in a fumble known as ‘kissing of
hands' and then out he comes once more as the newly-
anointed prime minister.

Think of it. This guy - or rather his party - gets a little
over a third of the vote. A large section of his party
cannot stand him.

Many of the people who voted Labour did so in spite of,
rather than because of, him, but he ends up prime minister,
with a massive majority. He is now sitting pretty for
another four or five years if he wants to, provided he
doesn't get caught at serial lying - again.

Weird people, these Brits.

Imagine if they'd had Charlie Haughey as leader of one of
the main parties. He never got below 42 per cent of the
popular vote, even when he ‘lost' elections. He would have
been prime minister there forever.

Nobody would have cared about the expansive generosity of
his rich friends. After all, Winston Churchill was
bankrolled for most of his political career by wealthy
people, and nobody - then or now - thinks anything of it.

Bertie Ahern would be given the bum's rush from Fianna Fáil
if he came back with 37 per cent of the popular vote.

Fianna Fáil would be down to fewer than 70 seats. It would
be considered a ‘meltdown'. However, with just 37 per cent
of the votes, under the British system, Labour gets nearly
60 per cent of the seats.

And with nearly a quarter of the votes, the Liberal
Democrats take about 10 per cent of the seats.

When the anomaly of the British electoral system is
remarked upon to British politicians, there is invariably a
weary response, more or less to the effect that
proportional representation is a Roman Catholic fetish
(apparently because something like proportional
representation is used to elect popes).

But, of course, a political society founded on monarchy is
dysfunctional to begin with.

Recently in the North, I asked a prominent unionist if
there were any such species as “unionist republicans'‘.

At first, he was bemused by the question. When I explained
that I meant people who wanted to retain the constitutional
link with Britain but wanted the monarchy abolished, he
said certainly not.

There were no such people, and the idea of republican
unionism was an absurdity.

Attitudes to the European Union are another curiosity.

There are good reasons to be sceptical of the whole EU
project - primarily, in my view, because of the
undemocratic character of what is essentially an
intergovernmental organisation.

Governments use the mechanism of the EU to escape
accountability on a range of policies their electorates
would not tolerate.

The only way around that, apart from dismantling the union,
would be to deepen democracy within the EU by, for
instance, substituting the Council of Ministers with a US-
type senate that was directly elected by the people in all
member states.

But the British are against the EU for purely nationalist
reasons. They don't want foreigners making decisions for
them. This is perhaps anomalous, given that they thought it
fitted divine order for themselves to take decisions for
people around half of the world 100 years ago. They still
think there was nothing odd about that.

They don't want to share sovereignty in institutional
terms, even though they have no option but to share
sovereignty - or to lose sovereignty one way or another -
on most economic issues. The perception is more important
than the reality.

The truth is, of course, that all peoples are dysfunctional
in some respects or other. Not just ‘peoples', but people
are all dysfunctional in some respect or other. Except for

And me.

What is perhaps most curious in the North is that, even
among the community that describes itself as unionist,
there is no overlap whatever with politics in Britain. The
issues that concern British voters don't matter a jot in
the North and vice-versa.

Nobody elected to Westminster from the North will have any
influence on any matter decided at Westminster, apart,
perhaps, from issues directly and solely concerning the
North - and then only because of the separate institutional
arrangements there.

On the nationalist side, nothing that happens politically
here in the south matters at all, except as an issue of
mild curiosity, if even that.

The North is a discrete state, in that it is unique or sui
generis. The people there want it that way, the British
want it that way and we want it that way. Everyone is happy
- or would be happy, if it were that way.

On Friday, I heard Jeffrey Donaldson being asked by Sean
O'Rourke on RTE's News at One if he was hopeful that the
DUP would take ten seats. He began his reply: “That remains
to be seen.”

Whether he was hopeful “remains to be seen'‘?

No wonder most radio presenters develop psychotic
mannerisms that drive them to drink or narcissism, or both.


Tories Lick Their Wounds As Howard Steps Aside

08 May 2005 By Dave Sambrook

For the third time in a row, the British general election
result has been swiftly followed by a Tory leader's
resignation. The difference is that Michael Howard fell on
his sword unexpectedly, whereas it was an act expected of
John Major and William Hague, given the size of their

“I've said many times - since I became leader and during
this election campaign - that accountability matters,”
Howard told an audience in Putney, the first seat that the
Tories won from Labour on election night. “I've said that
if people don't deliver, then they go, and, for me,
delivering meant winning the election.”

Howard, 63, said he would be too old to lead the Tories
into the next election, but added that he would stay on
until a debate over the method of selecting the party
leader had been resolved.

The current system, introduced by William Hague, involves a
ballot of all Tory members as well as MPs. It dragged on
interminably when Iain Duncan Smith won the leadership in
2001. So keen was the party to avoid a repeat of that
particular fiasco, that the other candidates stood aside
when it became clear Howard was the odds-on favourite to
replace Hague.

David Davis, who increased his majority despite the Liberal
Democrats' “decapitation policy'‘, is the bookies'
favourite to succeed Howard. The man whose job is to “man-
mark'‘ deputy prime minister John Prescott is a
Eurosceptic, tax-cutting libertarian, tough on crime and
immigration, and popular with the Tory faithful.

Party co-chairman Liam Fox is another strong contender. The
former GP comes from the Eurosceptic, socially-conservative
wing of the party, but his rumoured past dalliances with
pop singer Natalie Imbruglia may win him some younger fans.

After three election defeats which have seen the Tories
consistently polling in the low 30 per cents, there is an
argument that it is time for a generational change in the
Tory leadership, of the kind which Labour underwent in the
early 1990s. David Cameron and George Osborne are known
respectively as the Blair and Brown of the Conservative

The two prominent members of the so-called “Notting Hill
set'‘ are both still in their 30s and have risen quickly up
the ranks to front-bench positions. Although they are seen
as supporters of Howard's policies, they are said to have
been appalled by his focus on immigration. Whether the
Tories are ready for such a dramatic shift is unclear.

Other potential candidates include former party chairman
Theresa May, the newly-elected (having lost his seat in the
1997 landslide) Malcolm Rifkind, former leadership
candidates John Redwood and Kenneth Clarke, and the
tantalising long-shot Boris Johnson. Shadow chancellor
Oliver Letwin has already ruled himself out.

There are no such problems for Charles Kennedy of the
Liberal Democrats, who has vowed to stay on as leader and
to continue building on the party's success.

“If you look at where we have gained seats in this
election, with a view to the next general election, we are
well poised to begin the task of providing the real
alternative to this Labour government,” he said.

Although the Liberal Democrats only increased their
representation by 11 seats, the next parliament will see
the highest number of Liberal MPs in the House of Commons
since the 1920s.

While the Tories and the Lib Dems focus on the positive
results in Thursday's election, when the post-election
posturing is over they still face five more years in
opposition. And after eight years of a Labour government
with a patently unpopular leader, the fact that neither
party has been able even to run the government close does
not augur well for the future.


Poster Row Led To DUP 'Assault'

By Jonathan McCambridge
09 May 2005

Police are investigating an alleged assault in which a
veteran DUP councillor claims his ribs were broken after he
was attacked by a party colleague.

Long-time Ballymoney councillor Robert Halliday (73) has
described how he was allegedly punched repeatedly by a
fellow DUP councillor at an incident outside a polling
station on Thursday morning.

Mr Halliday said a row began after he turned up at the
polling station at Eden Primary School outside Ballymoney
to put up posters.

He said that he had started to put up two posters for DUP
man Robert Wilson because he was Wilson's agent when
another councillor said he should not be putting them up

Mr Halliday claims he said he would not be staying long
because he was going to go to another polling station and
told the other councillor he was free to go wherever he
wanted, whereupon his alleged assailant bolted at him and
attacked him.

"When he stopped I said he must be very proud of himself
and then he went to take his coat off and had to be held
back," said Mr Halliday, who claims he was hit up to 20
times. He said he was taken to Coleraine Hospital where he
was treated for cracked ribs.

The councillor added: "I have been left in a lot of pain
and have been put on painkillers."

Mr Halliday said he had known the other councillor a long
time and never thought he would be capable of the alleged

Mr Halliday said he would definitely be pressing charges.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police enquiries are continuing but
at this stage no formal complaint has been received."

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the other councillor last
night who said had no comment, and as far as he was
concerned, "nothing happened".


Coroner To Re-Examine 1976 Murder

08 May 2005 By Barry O'Kelly

The 29-year-old murder case of Seamus Ludlow is to be re-
examined by a coroner in Dundalk, amid claims of an
official cover-up on his death by loyalist paramilitaries.

The Co Louth coroner, Ronan Maguire, confirmed this weekend
that he would hold a fresh inquest into the controversial
killing following a campaign by Ludlow's family.

“I have been requested to do so by the Attorney General.
There will be a preliminary hearing at the end of the
month, in advance of a full inquest,” the coroner told The
Sunday Business Post.

The victim's family believes that Ludlow died at the hands
of two members of the British Army's Ulster Defence
Regiment (UDR) and the loyalist Red Hand Commandos in Co
Down. The family's campaign, led by Kevin Ludlow, the only
surviving brother of Seamus, and nephews Jimmy Sharkey and
Michael Donegan, are seeking a public inquiry into his
death and the alleged cover-up afterwards.

Ludlow, 47, a forestry worker from Thistlecross,
Mountpleasant, Dundalk, Co Louth, was abducted and murdered
by loyalists and British soldiers outside the town of
Dundalk on the night of May 1,1976. He was seen thumbing a
lift home from the pub at around midnight before he

“At first, the Garda claimed to the family that Seamus had
been murdered by the IRA because he was an informer,” said
Jimmy Sharkey last week.

“That was the line they put out. It is now known that both
the Garda and the RUC were aware that the killers were, in
fact, loyalists.

“They knew that the killers included at least twolocally
recruited members of the British Army.”

The Police Ombudsman in the North, Nuala O'Loan, has told
the family that police had intelligence on the four-man
gang within a year of the murder, according to Sharkey.

“The killers all came from the Comber and Newtownards areas
of north Down.

“Information which would have identified these killers was
suppressed for more than 20 years, allowing these men to
remain free - and at liberty to kill again.

“The question is: why were these men being protected?

“Why were they above the law?” said Sharkey.

The Ludlow family was given just 45 minutes' notice before
the original inquest in August 21, 1976.

“Kevin [the victim's brother] got a phone call, and he was
working across the border and there was no way he could
make it in time,” said Sharkey.

The current coroner, Ronan Maguire, who was not involved in
the original hearing, said: “The family was not
represented. The only evidence that was given was the
medical report and the identification of the body.”

The evidence normally provided at inquests should include
statements from eyewitnesses, family and friends and the

Maguire said that the family and the Garda would be
represented at the preliminary hearing. “It will then be
decided what evidence should be given at the full hearing,”
he said.

Four loyalists were arrested by the RUC in February 1998.

They were all released without charge, pending a report
being sent to the North's Director of Public Prosecutions

In October 1999, the DPP ruled that none of the suspects
would be charged with any offence, even though two of them
had reportedly signed incriminating statements while in RUC

“The chief investigator in the Ombudsman's office told us
in the company of our solicitor that he was amazed that two
of the people involved were not charged. There was very
strong evidence against them,” said Sharkey.

One of the alleged killers, known as Mambo, was an
informant for the British Army.

“The cover-up was inspired to protect this man and the two
who were in the UDR,” said Sharkey.

“We want to know who gave the orders for the cover-up of
the evidence and the smearing of the victim. Who was being
protected, and why? And why was the Ludlow family excluded
from the inquest?”

The most revealing statement on the affair to date is a
letter to a campaign supporter, Jim Kane, in July 2000.

RUC superintendent RD McCausland wrote: “I am advised that
information relative to the murder of Mr Ludlow was passed
by the Royal Ulster Constabulary to An Garda Siochána in

“I am further advised after a request from the Garda in
1998, the RUC arrested and interviewed four persons in
relation to the murder.

“All four persons were released pending a report to the
Director of Public Prosecutions. On October 15, 1999, the
DPP directed ‘No Prosecution'.

“I can inform you it is not force policy to comment on
matters pertaining to ‘Agents'.

“Police reports to the DPP are confidential documents, as
are forensic/ballistic reports.”


'IRA Influence' In Farc Attacks

Recent attacks by Colombia's Marxist rebels display the
training of IRA members captured in the country in August
2001, an army chief has said.

Gen Carlos Ospina said there was no doubt Revolutionary
Armed Forces (Farc) rebels were using IRA techniques in a
counter-offensive launched in February.

The three Irishmen were convicted of helping train Farc
rebels in explosives and terrorist techniques.

They are now on the run and thought to have skipped the

The armed forces chief said the Farc guerrillas were
employing new technology in the home-made mortars they had
recently used to bomb towns in the south-western province
of Cauca.

Security forces had seized rebel grenades that were copies
of those manufactured by the Provisional IRA, Gen Ospina

The guerrilla actions have caught the military by surprise.

The three Irishmen caught the Colombian police similarly by
surprise when they disappeared after their convictions.

James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley vanished
while on bail in December awaiting the outcome of an appeal
against their 17-year sentences.

Their whereabouts remain unknown and an international
arrest warrant has been issued for them.

Story from BBC NEWS
9 May 2005


Ireland Funds Target Super-Wealthy Irish

08 May 2005 By Gavin Daly

About 500 Irish people with a net worth of more than €100
million each are the next target for the Ireland Funds, the
Irish-American philanthropic body.

Kingsley Aikins, the president of the Ireland Funds, said
the organisation identified the €50 billion in wealth from
discussions with the wealth management units of Irish

“Ireland is an extraordinary case,” he said. “There are
people who have made significant wealth and we want to
encourage them to get involved in philanthropy. They don't
want to give it to the taxman, they don't want to give it
all to their kids and they can't take it with them. As they
say, there ain't no roof rack on a hearse.”

Aikins said that Ireland was a charitable country that
responded to events, but did not have a history of
philanthropy, which involved lifelong giving and
involvement in an organisation.

The American Ireland Fund, which is the largest branch of
the Ireland Funds, last week raised $3.1 million (€2.4
million) at its 30th anniversary dinner in New York.

“We took that in on the door,’' Aikins said. “We don't do
raffles or auctions.”

The dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was attended by
1,450 people. They included Wall Street heavyweights Axa
Financial president and chief executive Kip Condron,
Merrill Lynch vice president Bob McCann and Morgan Stanley
chairman and chief executive Philip Purcell.

Aikins said the Ireland Funds had raised $111 million in
its last five-year funding campaign led by Loretta Brennan
Glucksman, who chairs the American Ireland Fund.

The funds sponsor educational, cultural and peace and
reconciliation projects in Ireland.

“This year is an interim year and we are looking at
[raising] $20 million to $25 million,’' Aikins said. “Then
we will run another campaign.’' More than 100 people are
expected to attend the three-day annual conference of the
Ireland Funds at Hayfield Manor in Cork next month.


Lord Inchiquin To Sell Part Of Dromoland Estate

08 May 2005 By Neil Callanan

Lord Inchiquin, chief of the O'Brien clan, will confirm
later this week that he plans to sell off about 375 acres
of the Dromoland estate near Newmarket-on-Fergus in Co

The land, controlled by Conor O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin,
covers about 600 acres and is home to more than 400 deer.

The site will be sold in either one lot or in three

The property, regarded as a sport and leisure destination,
does not include Dromoland Castle, the five-star hotel
which was sold on in the 1960s and where an EU-US summit,
attended by US President George W Bush, was held last year
as part of Ireland's presidency of the EU.

In 1880, the O'Briens owned more than 78,000 acres across
the mid-west.

However, the land was gradually sold off and the ancestral
estate at Dromoland is divided between the owners of the
castle, the O'Brien family and the Department of Marine and
Natural Resources.

Last year, Lord Inchiquin won an appeal to An Bord Pleanala
to build a new gate lodge on the estate. Clare County
Council had refused outline planning permission because it
would give rise to “ribbon development'‘ and would go
against its stated policy of cluster development.

However, he argued that he had facilitated the council by
allowing a reservoir on his lands as well as a road, and
said that the proposal was prepared to allow for a gate
lodge type property to accommodate a member of Dromoland
estate staff who would monitor visitor access.

The O'Brien clan is descended from Brian Boru, a High King
of Ireland, who was killed by the Vikings at the Battle of
Clontarf in 1014.


Row Erupts Over World Cup Qualifier Tickets

08 May 2005 By Maxim Kelly

A row has erupted between eircom League fans and the
Football Association of Ireland (FAI) over tickets for the
upcoming World Cup qualifier matches at Lansdowne Road. The
fans have claimed that the FAI reneged on a promise to
block book tickets for the home internationals, despite the
fact that they have spent €150,000 on tickets over the past

They learned last week that the FAI was cutting their
seating allocation by 70 per cent for the qualifier against
Israel in June, as the Israeli FA has requested its full
seating allocation.

“We had an agreement with former FAI chief Fran Rooney in
2003 to block book tickets for home internationals,” said
Kevin McDaid of the National League Supporters Association

“The FAI wanted to ensure there would be decent support at
friendlies and low-profile games. In return for attending
these matches, we would be guaranteed our allocation for
the big games.”

FAI officials said that there was no evidence of such an
agreement and their understanding is that the ticket
allocation depended on spare seats being available in the
away section.

“We are working with league supporters regarding
difficulties with their allocation and we're working with
the Israeli FA to see if they will take all their seats,”
said a spokesman for the FAI.

The fans disputed this, pointing to comments made by a
senior FAI official in a memo e-mailed last year to
supporters' groups.

In the e-mail, the FAI said it wanted to seat the fans in
several locations around Lansdowne Road.

“These tickets would then be issued on a block booking and
would be available for all future matches, including the
French and Swiss matches,” stated the e-mail.

The supporters believe this constitutes a guarantee from
the FAI about tickets for future games.

“This was more than a gentleman's agreement made last year
and, on several occasions since, various individual fans
and fans' representatives were in contact with the FAI to
confirm this,” said McDaid.

A meeting between the two parties was cancelled last week.
Another meeting is scheduled for today.

The alleged arrangement agreed between the fans and Rooney
in 2003 came at a time when the FAI was concerned about the
atmosphere at home friendly matches.

At the time, Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr
publicly welcomed the arrival of the Eircom League fans.

The supporters have bought 750 tickets for every
international game since then, in the belief that a failure
to take their seats would lead to the overall allocation
being cut in future.

The arrangement has benefited the FAI as it has secured a
steady income stream for what are usually ill-attended
matches such as those against Canada and China.

“The members of this block booking scheme are the lifeblood
of Irish football.

“They are seen week in, week out, supporting the local game
at stadia across the country,” said McDaid.

“Yet when the FAI needs to find a few extra tickets, we're
the ones who have to suffer. Our support for Irish football
over the years now seems to count for nothing.”
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