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May 24, 2005

Hamill Inquiry Teams Visits Scene

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 05/24/05 Hamill Inquiry Team Visit Scene
UT 05/24/05 Hamill Sister In Plea To Police
BB 05/24/05 Hamill Murder Inquiry Adjourned
UT 05/24/05 Sinn Fein 'Bug' In Ebay Sale
SF 05/24/05 Sale Of Bug Shines Light On Activities Of Securorats
IO 05/24/05 Clinton 'A Political Has-Been' Says Paisley
BT 05/24/05 Derry's New Mayor Is IRA Man's Sister
SM 05/24/05 Peer Demands 'IRA-Link' Banker Probe
SM 05/24/05 Durkan Leads Delegation To Downing St
UT 05/24/05 Hain Warning To IRA
IT 05/25/05 SF Nothing More Than IRA Subsidiary- McDowell
BB 05/24/05 Bus 'Swerved To Avoid Accident'
BB 05/24/05 Eyewitness: Country Road Tragedy
IT 05/25/05 Inquiries To Decide Bus Policy
IT 05/25/05 Victims: The Five Teenage Girls Who Died
IT 05/25/05 Late Bewley's Launch Postpones New Finnish Play


Hamill Inquiry Team Visit Scene

By Chris Thornton
24 May 2005

The Inquiry team investigating collusion allegations around the
killing of Portadown man Robert Hamill has already visited the scene
of his fatal attack, the head of the tribunal revealed today.

Retired High Court Judge Sir Edwin Jowitt said his panel made an
announced visit to the scene of the 1997 killing to establish the
sight lines police might have had when the Catholic man was beaten by
a loyalist mob.

As the inquiry formally opened in Craigavon Court House today, Sir
Edwin confirmed that its principal aims will be to establish whether a
police patrol at the scene could have prevented the killing and if
police helped or allowed his killers to escape justice.

"We are very conscious of the many emotions to which the death of
Robert Hamill has given rise and we repeat that our overriding concern
in this inquiry will be to do all we can to ascertain where the truth
lies," Sir Edwin told the hearing.

He also expressed condolences to the Hamill family and Caroline
Maguire, Mr Hamill's fiancee and the mother of his three children.

Their youngest child was born three months after Mr Hamill died.

The judge said the inquiry was opening "without any preconceptions"
about what happened on the night of April 27, 1997 when Mr Hamill and
some companions were attacked in Portadown centre.

He died 11 days later without regain consciousness.

Mr Hamill's companions say they were attacked in sight of an RUC
patrol that did not intervene. Police have said officers tried to stop
the attack but were outnumbered by roughly 50 loyalists.

Full hearings are expected to begin in the autumn in Belfast.


Hamill Sister In Plea To Police

Murdered Catholic Robert Hamill's sister urged police today to co-
operate fully with a major public inquiry into the sectarian mob

By:Press Association

In one of Northern Ireland`s most controversial deaths, the 25-year-
old victim was beaten by frenzied loyalists just yards from an RUC

The tribunal which began today will examine allegations that officers
ignored the attack in Portadown, County Armagh eight years ago, and
decide if detectives failed to carry out a proper investigation.

After the opening session Dianne Hamill told how her family had put
their trust in the inquiry, stressing that witnesses need to reveal
everything they know.

She said: "We would especially like to appeal to any police officers,
serving or retired, who have information about that night ... and the
botched police investigation.

"Come forward, examine your conscience and do the right thing.

"We just want to know why Robert was allowed to be murdered within
feet of four fully armed RUC officers."

The inquiry team disclosed that they have already secretly scoured
Portadown and also plan to examine the police Land Rover used by the
patrol under suspicion.

Chairman Sir Edwin Jowitt said the probe will try to establish if
police could have done more to prevent the father of three`s death.

Evidence will be studied to assess whether any failure or omission on
the part of officers to halt the attack, identify the killers or
properly investigate the murder, was deliberate or negligent, the
retired High Court judge said.

He pledged: "We are very conscious of the many emotions to which the
death of Robert Hamill has given rise and we repeat that our over-
riding concern in this inquiry will be to do all we can to ascertain
where the truth lies concerning the issues raised by our terms of

The Government agreed to set up an inquiry into the April, 1997
killing after the case was examined by former Canadian judge Peter

It was one of four murders in Northern Ireland where he found enough
evidence of collusion to warrant public tribunals.

A probe into the car bomb attack on solicitor Rosemary Nelson opened
last month.

An inquiry into the jailhouse assassination of loyalist paramilitary
leader Billy Wright is also due to begin this year.

And the shooting of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane is to be examined as

Mr Hamill was set upon by loyalists as he walked home from a night out
in his native Portadown. He died in hospital 11 days later, never
regaining consciousness.

Six men were accused of the murder, but charges were dropped against
five of them. The sixth was acquitted of murder and sentenced to four
years for affray.

At the time the town was gripped by sectarian tensions linked to the
Drumcree marching dispute where the Orange Order was demanding to
parade on the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

Sir Edwin revealed that he and his colleagues, the Rev Baroness
Richardson, a former Moderator of the Free Churches Council of England
and Wales, and Sir John Evans, an ex-Chief Constable of Devon and
Cornwall, have carried out a scouting trip.

He told the hearing at Craigavon Court House in County Armagh: "To
prepare ourselves for the inquiry we visited Portadown on January 26
this year, when we walked around the streets forming the crossroads
where, or near to which, Robert Hamill received his injuries.

"We looked particularly at sightlines from various points. We also
drove out to the grounds of the rugby football club to see where they
lie in relation to the town centre.

"We did not announce our visit because we wished to see the site
without attracting attention and without distraction."

Sir Edwin added that the tribunal wanted to study the police Land
Rover used on the night of attack to assess what could be seen and
heard from it in different locations outside.

"We are all comparative strangers to Northern Ireland and in
particular to Portadown and its ethos," he said.

"I had never visited Northern Ireland until after my appointment to
this inquiry."

As well as the dead man`s family, representatives of two Human Rights
groups, the Committee for the Administration of Justice and the
British Irish Rights Watch, were also present.

During a brief submission, Jane Winter, director of BIRW expressed
concerns about any possible immunity from prosecution.

"In particular in relation to holders of high public office we believe
there may be an issue in this particular investigation," she said.

Sir Edwin assured her no immunity applications had been received by
the inquiry and that the issue would only be addressed when a request
was made.

The tribunal, which will relocate to Belfast to hear testimonies of up
to 100 witnesses, was adjourned until later this year.

Sinn Fein Assembly member John O`Dodd said tonight that the inquiry
team must leave no stone unturned to get at the truth and secure
justice for the family during the tribunal.

The Upper Bann MLA also urged the three member inquiry team to look at
the similarity between the case and the murder of Stephen Lawrence in

"I spoke with the Hamill family today and I know that they have mixed
emotions in terms of what this inquiry will deliver," Mr O`Dodd said.

"What Robert`s mother, sisters and brothers are seeking is simply
truth and justice.

"It has taken eight years for them to get this far. It is time that
the family`s request for the truth to be told is finally met and I
would hope that this inquiry will achieve that."

The Sinn Fein MLA also called on Prime Minister Tony Blair and
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to give a public commitment to
the Hamills and the inquiry team that the entire report on the
tribunal will be published in full and immediately after its

Nationalist SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly also said it was
essential that the inquiry reached the conclusion that the family
needed and justice demanded.

"This is a very important day for the family of Robert Hamill," she

"We all hope that this will be the beginning of a process that will
confirm the truth of what happened to Robert."


Hamill Murder Inquiry Adjourned

A public inquiry into the murder of County Armagh man Robert Hamill
has opened at Craigavon courthouse.

Mr Hamill, a 25-year-old Catholic, died in hospital after being
attacked by a loyalist mob in Portadown in 1997. No one has been
convicted over his death.

Armed RUC officers were stationed in a Land Rover near to the scene
but allegedly failed to intervene.

The inquiry has now adjourned and will not sit in public again until
November at the earliest.

The inquiry is one of four in NI recommended by ex-judge Peter Cory,
who was tasked to probe alleged collusion.

The others were into the deaths of Rosemary Nelson, Billy Wright and
Pat Finucane.

We are very conscious of the many emotions to which the death of
Robert Hamill has given rise and we repeat that our overriding concern
in this inquiry will be to do all we can to ascertain where the truth

Sir Edwin Jowit

Up to 100 witnesses are set to testify at the public inquiry into Mr
Hamill's death, which is being chaired by former High Court judge, Sir
Edwin Jowitt.

Evidence will be studied to assess whether any failure or omission on
the part of officers to halt the attack, identify the killers or
properly investigate the murder was deliberate or negligent, the
retired High Court judge said.

Sir Edwin said the inquiry would look at a number of issues.

Among them, it will consider whether or not the RUC "could or should
have done more" to avert Mr Hamill's death on the night he was

'List of recommendations'

It will also examine whether RUC officers at the scene could have done
more to identify, or facilitate the prosecution of those who carried
out the attack.

The RUC's follow-up investigation will also be scrutinised, with the
inquiry seeking to establish whether or not the police could have done
more to investigate the murder.

The inquiry will also look at whether there was any attempted
obstruction of the investigation itself.

Finally, it will issue a list of recommendations it believes should be
made in light of its findings.

"We are very conscious of the many emotions to which the death of
Robert Hamill has given rise and we repeat that our overriding concern
in this inquiry will be to do all we can to ascertain where the truth
lies," Sir Edwin said.

Solicitor Barra McGrory, who is representing the Hamill family, said
he hoped the inquiry would get to the truth.

"It is hoped and anticipated that the tribunal will hear a lot of
detail about the circumstances of this murder, which has not been
heard in the general public, by the general public, before," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/24 12:50:36 GMT


Sinn Fein 'Bug' In Ebay Sale

Part of a bugging device which Sinn Fein claims to have been planted
in its Belfast headquarters by MI5 was put up for sale on eBay today.

By:Press Association

A chunk of the device, carefully mounted on a plinth, is accompanied
by a framed letter of `authentication` from party president Gerry

Near the end of day one of the 10-day listing there had been 42 bids
with the top reaching US 1,025 - about £560 -and it has not reached
the hidden reserve yet.

The device was first put on display by Sinn Fein at its HQ at Connelly
House in Andersonstown last September, just before the party headed
for crunch talks with the Government and other Northern Ireland
parties at Leeds Castle in Kent.

The eBay site says it is a "unique opportunity" to obtain a
"historical item" the likes of which has never been sold before.

In the accompanying letter Gerry Adams writes that MI5 has admitted
bugging the Sinn Fein office.

The site makes it clear the item is only part of the bug planted, no
longer working and could not be modified to do so. It was being sold
solely as a historical artefact.

The bug went on the auction site on the day republicans were heavily
criticised in the latest International Monitoring Commission report
which said the IRA was still recruiting and training.

Side-stepping any accusation it was an attempt to divert attention,
Sinn Fein general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin said it was "part of a
serious attempt to shine a light on the ongoing activities of British
security agencies in Ireland."

He said after lengthy correspondence with various elements within the
British system "it was confirmed in January 2005 by the head of MI5
Eliza Manningham-Butler that her organisation was behind the spying
operation in Connolly House."

He said there was no doubt the discovery of the device and others like
it had caused embarrassment for the British agencies which had planted

"The appearance of this bug on the internet will obviously add to
that," said Mr McLaughlin.

Sinn Fein said the "bug" was located at its bookshop in Dublin and
that money raised by its sale would go towards its campaign for a
united Ireland.


'Bug' found at Sinn Fein offices

7.12PM, Tue Sep 14 2004

A bugging device has been discovered at Sinn Fein's offices in west
Belfast, the party has said.

The allegation comes two days before crucial talks billed by the
British and Irish governments as a last chance to salvage the 1998
Good Friday peace agreement.

Republicans said the bug was found at Connolly House, one of the
party's main offices in Mr Adams's west Belfast constituency, after
staff searched all premises following an earlier discovery at the home
of a party member.

Martin McGuiness, Sinn Fein's deputy leader, said: "We got people to
sweep a lot of party offices after the first one was found."

He blamed Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy for authorising the
first alleged surveillance plot.

The party said the device was planted in the attic of a flat in the
Andersonstown district of west Belfast where a woman who works for Mr
Adams's constituency lives. The party is now demanding answers from
the Government.


Sale Of British Bug Attempt To Shine Light On Activities Of Securorats

Published: 24 May, 2005

Speaking today in Belfast Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel
McLaughlin said that the decision to sell part of the British bugging
device uncovered last year in Connolly House on the internet was part
of a serious attempt to shine a light on the ongoing activities of
British security agencies in Ireland. The link to the sale is
available from the Sinn Féin Bookshop

Mr. McLaughlin said: "This device was discovered in September 2004
just prior to the commencement of the talks at Leeds Castle. It was
the second such device found within ten days in Belfast. Part of the
device was returned to Tony Blair during the Leeds Castle talks the
remaining piece has now been made available for sale on the internet.

"After lengthy correspondence with various elements within the British
system it was confirmed in January 2005 by the head of MI5 Eliza
Manningham-Butler that her organisation was behind the spying
operation in Connolly House.

"The decision to place this item on the internet for sale is a serious
attempt to shine a light on the ongoing activities of British security
agencies in Ireland. These agencies have consistently opposed the
development of the Peace Process and have consistently tried to
undermine efforts to advance the process at particularly sensitive

"There is no doubt that the discovery of this device and other similar
devices in recent times has caused embarrassment for these agencies
and the appearance of this bug on the internet will obviously add to
that. However the fact remains that they are continuing with their
operations in Ireland and this is unacceptable as we try and move
forward in the time ahead." ENDS


Clinton 'A Political Has-Been' Says Paisley
2005-05-24 18:40:04+01

Former US President Bill Clinton was tonight denounced as a political
has-been by the leader of the Democratic Unionists, the Reverend Ian

Mr Paisley launched a savage broadside at Mr Clinton after the former
US President challenged, during a visit to Dublin, Mr Paisley's claim
that the Good Friday Agreement was dead.

Mr Paisley said: "The discredited ex-President of the United States of
America, Bill Clinton, simply revealed his unmitigated cheek in going
to a country that wants to destroy Ulster's place in the United
Kingdom and then lectures us that our democratic expression of our own
future must be set aside to conform to the will of the country that
claims supremacy over it.

"The Belfast Agreement, which in itself is devoid of democracy, has
made it clear that we must have a new beginning, and that beginning
must close and bar the gates of its government to terrorists of
whatever side they come from.

"Clinton cannot have his way to force IRA / Sinn Féin terrorists into
the government of this part of the United Kingdom, as I told him to
his face when he was in Belfast."

Mr Clinton, who is in Dublin to help launch a national suicide
prevention scheme for young people in the Republic, insisted that
there was no viable alternative to the Good Friday Agreement.

He said he did not agree with the DUP leader's claim outside Downing
Street last Thursday that the 1998 accord was dead, but he also stated
his belief that the next move to reinvigorate the political process in
the North was in the IRA's court.

"If they were to give up their arms and criminality, I think it would
put a lot of pressure on Mr Paisley and others," the former President

Mr Clinton added that the Good Friday agreement was fair to everyone
in Northern Ireland.

"I hope it can still be revived."

However, Mr Paisley said when Mr Clinton was in the White House he
would not have allowed the Oklahoma bombers to take posts in his

"Rather, he threatened them with the almighty punishment of his
government, yet he dares to dictate to the free people of Northern
Ireland that they must have such terrorists in their government," the
veteran MP, who has been buoyed by the strong general election
performance by his party, said.

"Don't do what I do, but do what I say - that is the hypocritical way
of Bill Clinton, a has-been."

Mr Paisley also launched a vigorous attack on SDLP leader Mark Durkan
after he insisted the DUP should not be allowed to dictate the pace of
political progress in the North following the recent elections.

The Democratic Unionist claimed Mr Durkan had been mixing for far too
long with 'fascists in Sinn Féin.'

He stressed: "The people of the Irish Republic have no say in the
destiny of Northern Ireland. Unionists no longer will tolerate the
dictation of Dublin and its lackies.

"Unionism reawakened, reinvigorated and revived will take the SDLP on
any day. Their united Ireland is a dream never to gain reality.

"They can either sleep on like fools or waken up to reality and make a
proper contribution to an Ulster that is determined to give fair play
to all its people."


Derry's New Mayor Is IRA Man's Sister

Sinn Fein woman beats UUP nominee

By Brendan McDaid
24 May 2005

The sister of an IRA man ambushed and killed in controversial
surroundings by the SAS has been elected Mayor of Derry.

Waterside councillor Lynn Fleming became the second consecutive Sinn
Fein Mayor after defeating UUP councillor Mary Hamilton's bid by a 22-
6 vote.

Ms Fleming's brother William was one of two IRA men killed in an SAS
ambush in the grounds of Londonderry's Gransha hospital on December 6,

William Fleming (19) from Gobnascale and Daniel Doherty (19) from
Creggan were armed when attacked. It was reported at the time they
were attempting to target an off-duty member of the UDR who worked at

Soldiers fired 59 shots at the two IRA men, neither of whom had opened
fire and the jury at the inquest found that the men should have been
arrested rather than shot.

DUP spokesman Gregory Campbell was quoted at the time as saying he was
"delighted" that the two IRA men were intercepted and executed by the
undercover army squad.

Nationalist representatives meanwhile have repeatedly questioned the
use of force in relation to the killings.

Mr Campbell last night nominated unionist colleague Mary Hamilton for
the mayorship after Ms Fleming was proposed for the role by Sinn Fein
party colleague Maeve McLaughlin.

Ms Fleming received the first citizen chains from party colleague and
outgoing councillor Gearoid O'hEara at last night's AGM.

Her election was greeted with cheers and whistles from around 100
republican supporters who filled the chamber.

In her inauguration address, the 48-year-old former shirt factory
worker and mother-of-four said she envisioned problems from certain
unionist quarters during her year in office.

"I am honoured to be the first republican from the Waterside to hold
this post," she said.

"There are those involved in political unionism who will seek to
create problems and barriers for those in their own communities who
want to play a full part in the life of their city.

"Throughout my year as Mayor I will continue to reach out to the
unionist community and provide them with every opportunity to play a
full role in the life of our city."

Ms Fleming said she would work to alleviate disadvantage and
deprivation faced by women and children across Derry.

"For years women were the backbone of the workforce, they sweated in
the shirt factories to ensure that their families had food and

"Then in a climate of economic recession those who exploited their
labour moved on to Third World countries to exploit other women."

She also announced plans to campaign for a "fitting monument" for the
female workers of the city's once booming shirt factories.

Mr Campbell however said he expected the new Mayor to "live down" to
her predecessor's contribution to the city.


Peer Demands 'IRA-Link' Banker Probe

By Andrew Evans, PA Lords Staff

Sinn Fein has an undue influence over Ireland's ruling Fianna Fail
party "through a combination of money and blackmail", an Ulster
Unionist peer claimed today.

Lord Laird called, during continuing Lords debate on the Queen's
Speech, for a police inspection of the Bank of Scotland's Belfast loan
book as part of their probe into last year's £26 million raid on the
Northern Bank.

And, using the cover of Parliamentary privilege, he made a series of
allegations linking the former chairman of the Irish branch of the
Bank of Scotland, Phil Flynn, to senior members of the IRA.

Lord Laird was detailing what he described as "the most serious breach
of financial security by terrorists that has ever occurred within the

He alleged that Mr Flynn, a vice-president of Sinn Fein from 1980 to
'85 and a senior adviser to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, had met
Slab Murphy, the IRA Army Chief of Staff "on a regular basis".

During 2002 and 2003, Lord Laird went on, the Irish police had
observed an active member of the IRA Army Council, Brian Keenan,
"staying for some time at Flynn's home in Dublin".

Lord Laird added that Mr Flynn had been prosecuted for IRA membership
in 1974. "The police understood that he had been their chief finance
officer," he said. Mr Flynn had last year become a management
consultant to Sinn Fein.

He said money from the Northern Bank raid – for which Ulster's chief
constable has blamed the IRA – was "immediately smuggled into the
Irish Republic, to be cleaned in a well-established laundering

Referring to police raids in February, Lord Laird went on: "A company
of which Flynn was a director was found with £2m in plastic bags in a
wheelie bin in the managing director's garden."

The chairman of Halifax Bank of Scotland, crossbench peer Lord
Stevenson of Coddenham, had written to Lord Laird , saying Mr Flynn
was "well thought of in Irish financial circles".

Lord Laird commented: "He did not mention that Flynn was a well-known
former IRA man, who was busy restructuring Sinn Fein and associating
again with active IRA criminals and terrorists who were at that stage,
according to the (Irish) Justice Minister, planning the Northern Bank


Durkan Leads Delegation To Downing St

By Dan McGinn, PA Ireland Political Editor

Prime Minister Tony Blair will today sound out members of the
nationalist SDLP about their views on the way forward for Northern
Ireland's stalled political process.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan will lead a delegation to Downing Street for
the meeting, which will follow separate discussions last week between
the Prime Minister and the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and
Sinn Fein.

Devolution in Northern Ireland has been in deep freeze since the
Northern Ireland Assembly and power-sharing executive was suspended in
October 2002.

Unionists, particularly the DUP, which is now Northern Ireland's
largest party, are adamant they will not go back into government with
Sinn Fein unless the IRA fully disarms and ends all paramilitary and
criminal activity.

Their demands have hardened since the failure to reach agreement last
year in talks involving the British and Irish governments, the DUP and
Sinn Fein.

They have also toughened since the IRA was accused of carrying out the
£26.5 million robbery at the Northern Bank last December and the
murder of Belfast father of two Robert McCartney outside a city centre
bar in January.

A report by the four-member Independence Monitoring Commission
published by the two governments yesterday welcomed Sinn Fein leader
Gerry Adams's recent appeal to the Provisional IRA to go in a
different direction by embracing the democratic alternative and
abandoning its campaign of violence.

However, the IMC report also said the Provisionals remained heavily
involved in criminal activity such as smuggling of fuel and cigarettes
and money laundering.

It also claimed the IRA was still recruiting members and training them
in the handling of firearms and explosives, maintaining the
operational capability to mount a full-scale terror campaign should it
wish to do so.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain last night insisted that the
IRA, which is currently debating Mr Adams's proposal, must come back
with a crystal-clear declaration that it is ending all involvement in
criminality and paramilitary activity for good.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern also yesterday told his Parliament
in Dublin that while the debate is taking place within the IRA was
significant, the quality of its response was the thing that most

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern face a considerable task in trying to persuade
the DUP to go into a power-sharing executive again that would include
Sinn Fein.

Mr Paisley's party, which has been buoyed by its success in the recent
General Election, capturing nine Westminster seats, has called on the
Government to stop waiting for republicans to adopt the same
democratic standard as other parties in Northern Ireland.

It also wants the SDLP to sign up to a voluntary coalition at
Stormont, which would freeze Sinn Fein out of ministerial posts
because of its inability to fully embrace democratic and peaceful

Mr Durkin, however, has insisted his party will not abandon the form
of inclusive power-sharing that operated previously under devolution.

The DUP has also insisted that if devolution cannot be restored, the
governments should consider a more accountable form of direct rule
from Westminster, with the Stormont Assembly or local councillors
scrutinising the work of Northern Ireland Office ministers.


Hain Warning To IRA

The IRA will have to be crystal clear it is ending all illegal
activity if it is to gain the confidence of others in the peace
process, republicans were warned tonight.

By:Press Association

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the terrorist group had to
end all paramilitary and criminal activity after a report from the
four member Independent Monitoring Commission revealed that it remains
heavily involved in criminality and is training new recruits.

As the IRA continued to debate Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams`s call for
the organisation to abandon the armed struggle for the democratic
alternative, Mr Hain told the Press Association "There has got to be
crystal clarity from the IRA on the ending of paramilitary and
criminal activity.

"It has to be definitive and credible. The IRA has no cause for
complaint on that demand.

"They put their own motives and intentions in the dock when they
carried out the Northern Bank robbery and the grisly murder of Robert
McCartney within weeks of different parties coming close to an
agreement (to revive devolution) before Christmas.

"I am hopeful that we can find a way out of the impasse but a crucial
staging post in that will be the clarity and certainty of any IRA
statement and some verification of that reality on the ground."

This was the toughest warning yet since Mr Hain took over at the
Northern Ireland Office about what the Government expects from

It was delivered as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern hinted in the Irish
Republic`s parliament that he may soon hold his first talks with Sinn
Fein since January.

Mr Ahern told Opposition leader Enda Kenny of Fine Gael that the IRA`s
internal debate on its future was very significant.

But he also reminded republicans what the IRA said in any future
statement was the most important thing.

"The quality and clarity of the reply is what I have turned my mind to
rather than if it takes one week or two weeks or a month."

In its fifth study of terrorist groups in Northern Ireland, the IMC
welcomed Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams`s appeal to the Provisionals
to abandon the armed struggle for a democratic alternative.

The commission said if Mr Adams was able to deliver an end to illegal
activity that would be "leadership of a high order".

But their report warned that as things stood the IRA had the capacity
to mount a full-scale terrorism campaign should it wish to do so.

The authors claimed the Provisionals were also heavily involved in
criminal enterprises such as fuel and tobacco smuggling and money

The commission confirmed the Provisionals continued to recruit and
train new members "including in the use of firearms and explosives".

Its report said: "At the end of September 2004, the police discovered
10,000 rounds of PIRA (Provisional IRA) ammunition suitable for use in
assault rifles, of a type not previously found in Northern Ireland.

"This may have only been part of a larger consignment and it
demonstrates PIRA`s continuing efforts to maintain its preparedness."

The IMC said intelligence it received had led them to believe:

:: Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Belfast
father-of-two Robert McCartney. But it was not sanctioned by the
leadership in advance and it appeared the killers were acting on the
instructions of a local commander;

:: The organisation was involved in robberies such as December`s £26.5
million Northern Bank heist which used violence or the threat of

:: PIRA members were behind an arson attack at a fuel depot in early

:: While the Provisionals allowed some people they had banished to
return to the republican Short Strand district in east Belfast after
the murder of Mr McCartney, there was no indication that other exiled
people could return to their homes in other parts of Northern Ireland;

:: The organisation carried out five shootings and six assaults since
August 2004.

The IMC also revealed that loyalist violence exceeded that of
republican violence and it was concerned about whether the Ulster
Defence Association could realise its stated goal of transforming
itself from a criminal and paramilitary group into an organisation
focussed purely on social and economic issues.

The commission recommended that the Government continue to withhold
Assembly allowances from the Progressive Unionist Party because of its
links to the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando which
remained active.

Mr Hain said he was alarmed by the level of loyalist paramilitary
violence and would consider the IMC`s recommendation about the PUP.

"Loyalist violence is completely unacceptable," he said.

"I am very concerned about loyalist groups. They also have to realise
that paramilitary activity and violence and criminality are elements
of the failed past. The only successful route is the democratic

Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey dismissed the IMC`s findings.

"This report, like the previous reports, is based solely on the
information provided to the IMC by the securocrats," the South Belfast
MLA said.

"It, like previous reports, has little or no credibility and is
neither impartial, fair nor balanced."

Democratic Unionist negotiator Nigel Dodds, however, said the report
showed just how far republicans had to travel to become acceptable.

The North Belfast MP said: "Anyone who thinks that Sinn Fein can be
brought into government at any time in the near future should read
this report and see just how inextricably linked the Provisional
movement is to the world of terror and criminality.

"The government of this province cannot be corrupted by the presence
of Sinn Fein/IRA ministers.

"The DUP is determined that stunts and statements designed to take the
pressure off Sinn Fein/IRA will not be allowed to blur the line
between democracy and terror."


SF Nothing More Than IRA Subsidiary, Says McDowell

Seán O'Driscoll, in Washington

The new International Monitoring Commission report shows Sinn Féin
is nothing more than a subsidiary organisation to the IRA, the
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has said.

Mr McDowell raised the report's findings with the US attorney general,
Alberto Gonzales, in Washington last night during a scheduled meeting
on a possible new extradition treaty between the US and Ireland.

Mr McDowell said the report spoke for itself and that any response
Gerry Adams gives is "a shaving mirror response" to himself as an IRA

"To understand the Provisional movement, you have to understand that
the IRA comes first and that Sinn Féin is a subsidiary organisation. A
decision to curtail or wind up the IRA in a radical way will need a
convention and they haven't done that yet," he said.

Mr McDowell said that until that happens, the IRA and Sinn Féin will
continue to "tweak and adjust" its message while putting the process
on hold. This included Gerry Adams's pre-election appeal to the IRA to
engage in democratic process.

Mr Adams's appeal should be placed in inverted commas because it was
really Mr Adams talking to himself, the Minister said.

He called for an unequivocal statement of disbandment by the IRA and
not just the "shaving mirror stuff" of Gerry Adams as the IMC report
showed that the IRA is still heavily involved in crime, including the
Northern Bank robbery in Belfast in December.

Mr McDowell is on a tour of the US this week to learn about policing
in Boston, Washington and New York.

He met Mr Gonzales last night for a brief discussion about the IMC
findings, as well as more substantial talks about a possible new
bilateral extradition agreement.

Mr McDowell said the US was anxious to have bilateral agreement in
place with EU states and Ireland is very much in favour of mutual
legal assistance.

© The Irish Times


Bus 'Swerved To Avoid Accident'

The bus in which five Irish schoolgirls were killed swerved to avoid
two cars which had crashed in front of it, a pupil on the coach has

Three separate investigations will aim to find out the cause of the

Pupils from four schools were on board when the bus overturned at
Kentstown near Navan in County Meath.

One pupil said: "All I could see was two cars crashing and the bus
driver had to swerve round to avoid one of the cars, because we were
behind it."

She added: "We just turned round and landed in the opposite direction
on the other side of the road, and then we toppled over."

The girls who died were Lisa Callan, 15, Claire McCluskey, 18, Amy
McCabe, 15, Deirdre Scanlon, 17, and Sinead Ledwidge, 17.

The exact cause of the crash is not yet clear. It has emerged that the
bus had not been fitted with seat belts.

The girls who died were aged between 13 and 16 years and were pupils
at St Michael's Loretto Convent School in Navan and nearby Beaufort

All of them were from Yellow Furze, just outside Navan. Six remain
seriously ill.

Classes at the school have been suspended and psychologists are
meeting to discuss what action to take to help pupils and teachers.

Irish police, the Health and Safety Executive and Bus Eireann are all
conducting separate inquiries into the crash. The scene remains
cordoned off.

Forty-six people were taken to hospital.

There is a sense of numbness in this rural community

Shay Grieve

The more seriously injured were taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
in Drogheda, the others to Our Lady's Hospital in Navan. A number of
them have been discharged.

On Monday night, people gathered in the parish church to pray for the
dead and injured.

Tom Mulvaney, a pastoral councillor in Yellow Furze, said the
community had been devastated by the crash.

"My first duty would be to extend our deepest sympathy to the
relatives, I know them all personally," he said.

"I can imagine that it will bring an awful gloom onto the parish."

More than a dozen ambulances were believed to have travelled to the
scene along with helicopters and heavy lifting equipment.

Ambulance crews in Northern Ireland were also put on standby to help
with the injured.

The bus ended up lying on its side on the grass verge. It is believed
there were road works in the area at the time of the crash.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/24 15:50:35 GMT


Eyewitness: Country Road Tragedy

By Shay Grieve
BBC News website in Kentstown

The Bus Eireann coach had picked up the secondary school children at a
number of schools in Navan and headed homewards in the late afternoon.

The Kentstown road is a country road, lined with trees and surrounded
by farming land.

The weather had been mixed, sunshine followed by torrential showers.
At 1629 the fire brigade took a call - a school bus had crashed on the
road. Two cars had also been involved. Local doctors rushed to the
scene. They found a bus full of school children, the bus badly damaged
and lying on its side in a ditch.

The walking wounded were taken to a house across the road. After being
treated for their wounds they were eventually ferried by ambulance to
a number of hospitals.

The road was wet and a few hundred yards back from the scene there was
a sign for road works. The road was being repaired, the machine being
used to lay new tar was visible close to the crash.

Emergency vehicles

The road had been narrowed to single file traffic to allow for the
work to be carried out. Two cars, one silver in colour and the other
dark, lay just past the road works. It appeared they had hit head on
and the dark coloured car was very badly damaged.

Further back a traffic light was visible on the road side. The bus was
travelling in the same direction as one of the cars, it appeared to
have swerved to the other side of the road.

A major incident was declared and ambulances, fire brigades and
helicopters rushed to the area. The narrow roads were cluttered with
emergency vehicles. The whirl of helicopter rotars could be heard for
miles around.

Military helicopters sat in a local field. The roads for miles were
closed off and police officers directed all traffic away from the

Anxious relatives

At teatime five teenage girls were confirmed dead. They were students
at the local convent school. Other children with numerous injuries
were taken by ambulance and helicopter to hospitals in Drogheda and
Navan. Anxious parents tried to make it to the scene but were advised
to attend the hospitals.

There is a sense of numbness in this rural community. Local people and
emergency service personnel have finished their task and stand around
in small groups reflecting on the tragedy. Heavy lifting equipment is
now being moved into place to help lift the bus.

The investigation to piece together what happened on this country road
has now started. Men in bright coloured jackets with clip boards have
begun their work, the road is being measured and surveyed.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/23 18:57:06 GMT


Inquiries To Decide Bus Policy

The Government will not decide on changes to the State's school bus
service until three investigations into Monday's tragic crash in Co
Meath, which killed five schoolgirls, are concluded. Mark Hennessy,
Tim O'Brien and Carl O'Brien report.

The accident dominated yesterday's meeting of the Cabinet, which heard
briefings from the Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin,
and the Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea.

The five girls died when a Bus Éireann school bus crashed about two
miles from Navan, in Co Meath, as it brought more than 50 students
home at around 4.15pm on Monday.

The tragedy led Ministers to postpone a decision on the Critical
Infrastructure Bill, which aims to create a fast-track system inside
An Bord Pleanála for vital infrastructural projects. It had been
expected to receive Cabinet clearance.

As the three investigations into the crash got under way yesterday,
Bus Éireann appointed former Assistant Garda Commissioner Jim McHugh
to chair its inquiry while the gardaí were seeking to interview the
drivers of the three cars involved. Gardaí have already begun
interviews with children who were on the bus.

An examination of the state of the tarmac at the scene of the crash,
which was resurfaced shortly before the accident, is expected to form
a part of the investigation.

Witnesses and schoolchildren yesterday said the bus appeared to skid
on the wet road for several metres. Bernie O'Byrne, whose 13-year-old
son Ruairí was on the bus, said: "The bend has only been newly done.
There was no grip on the road at all. I go that way a lot, it had been
lashing rain."

Some reports suggest the bus turned over and spun 180 degrees while on
its side before colliding with an oncoming vehicle and coming to rest.

During an emergency Dáil debate, the Minister of State for Education,
Síle de Valera, who has responsibility for school bus services,
defended the safety record of the bus fleet.

More than 138,000 children are carried to school every day by the
fleet, which travels 40 million miles annually. "It is a massive
transport operation," she said.

She has been working in recent months on a plan to fit school buses
with warning lights to reduce the number of children who get involved
in accidents as they get on or off buses.

The Department of Education has been in talks with the Department of
Transport to stop the use of overcrowded buses and the so-called "two
seats for three pupils" policy.

Just 14 per cent of pupils are taken to school in this way, a
department spokesman said, adding that it hoped this number could be
cut entirely within three years.

There are no plans to make the wearing of seat-belts compulsory.

Health and Safety Authority investigators who arrived on the scene on
Monday night continued examining the scene and vehicles yesterday. The
road is to remain closed until further notice.

Announcing its independent board of inquiry, Bus Éireann said members
would have a 10-week period from its initial meeting in which to
report. Any such report, however, is unlikely to be made public until
after the Garda inquiry, because of the possibility of a file being
sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Eight passengers remained in hospital yesterday.

Meanwhile, arrangements were announced yesterday for the funerals of
the five schoolgirls. All will take place locally in Co Meath over the
next three days.

President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as well as British
prime minister Tony Blair and Northern Secretary Peter Hain were among
those who sent condolences to the bereaved.

© The Irish Times


Victims: The Five Teenage Girls Who Died

Victims: The five teenage girls who died have been named as Sinéad
Ledwidge aged 15, Claire McCluskey aged 18, Deirdre Scanlon aged 17,
Lisa Callan aged 15 and Aimee McCabe aged 15.


Sinead had only last week won a gold medal at Santry Stadium in an
all-Leinster competition for throwing the shot put.

Staff at Beaufort College, Navan, where Sinead was in second year,
described her as bright, vivacious and a model student. School
principal John Condon said she was an all-rounder - academic, artistic
and sporting.

He said Sinead wrote poetry in her English class, was excellent at
French and in particular excelled at home economics and art. Sinead
had one older brother.

One local resident who knew her said she was a very good accordeon
player who had played traditional music in a band.


Claire was a senior school prefect at St Michael's Loreto Convent,
Navan and one of four students there to be killed in Monday's bus

Her younger sister, Anita, was travelling on the same Bus Éireann
coach when the crash occurred. However, she was only slightly injured.

Claire was in sixth year and was scheduled to sit her Leaving
Certificate examinations starting on June 8th.

Staff at the school yesterday described Claire as "a very bright
student". They said she was "a bubbly, outgoing and a very friendly


Deirdre was described by staff at St Michael's Loreto Convent, Navan
as a straight-A student. She was a senior prefect in the school and
was also due to sit her Leaving Certificate this year.

Staff said she was "a highly gifted student who was very hard working
and diligent". They described her as someone who related very well to
the younger students in the school.

Deirdre had one older sister, Caitríona, who had left the school a
number of years ago.

One local mother who knew Deirdre said she was a quiet girl with a
lovely personality. Deirdre loved to sing and had been involved with a
folk group in the Beauparc area.


Lisa Callan played bass guitar in a local band and was described last
night as a girl who was "full of life".

Lisa was in third year at St Michael's Loreto Convent, Navan where
staff said she was a very bright student.

She wanted to be an architect and was scheduled to sit her Junior
Certificate examination next month.

School staff described her as a "lovely girl" with long blond hair.

They said she was very bright and loved sport.


Aimee was class captain in the third year at St Michael's Loreto
Convent, Navan.

The middle girl of three from Hayestown, Aimee was described yesterday
by her best friend Marion Sheehy as the leader and the inspiration in
her class.

Marion said Aimee was the person that everyone went to first when they
had a problem to sort out. She said her favourite group was Westlife
and she had written about going to see the band in concert in Irish
class on Monday just hours before the fatal crash. Staff at the Loreto
Convent said she was "a great leader" with great organisational

© The Irish Times


Late Bewley's Launch Postpones New Finnish Play

Christine Newman

Bewley's cafe on Grafton Street, Dublin, is due to open next Monday
after a delayed launch which left a Finnish theatre company booked for
the event without a venue.

The reopening of the premises, including the Bewley's Cafe Theatre,
was scheduled to have taken place last Monday but it was postponed
because construction and building work was not finished.

The Finnish group from the Rakastajat Theatre had come to Dublin
especially to appear at the theatre for 2½ weeks in the world premiere
of a new play by one of its foremost playwrights.

The trip took a year to plan but the actors found themselves without a
theatre to perform the new comedy, Coming Up Roses by Juha Siltanen.

Director of Bewley's Cafe Theatre Michael James Ford said there were
building problems as the work was slowed down because of a High Court
case and five days were lost.

"We don't have a beef with the Campbell Bewley Group. It is a really
big deal for the Finnish and it's a brand new play by one of Finland's
foremost playwrights. It is the first time there has been a premiere
of a Finnish play in Ireland. A Finnish documentary crew have been
over filming it as well."

The group was looking for a place to perform and John Costigan of the
Gaiety stepped in yesterday and made the dress circle bar available
for preview performances tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, starting at

Mr Ford said the world premiere of the play would take place in
Bewley's next Monday at 1.10pm.

He said they had been assured the theatre would be ready by then but
it could be a close-run thing. The play will run until Saturday, June
11th, starting at 1.10pm daily.

A spokeswoman for the Campbell Bewley Group said yesterday that the
whole premises would open next Monday. It will keep the Bewley's name
after a management deal between the Campbell Bewley Group and the
owners of the Cafe Bar Deli restaurant chain.

© The Irish Times
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