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May 13, 2005

SF Demands Speaking Rights For MPs

News About Ireland & The Irish

IO 05/12/05 SF Demands Speaking Rights Demand For North MPs
UT 05/12/05 McDowell Rejects Sinn Fein Demands
SF 05/12/05 Hain Must End Sanctions Programme
SF 05/12/05 EU Interfering In Ratification Process
EX 05/12/05 DUP - Fastest Growing Party On The Island
UT 05/12/05 Blair To Honour Bomb Squad
IO 05/12/05 Judgment Reserved In IRA Membership Trial
BT 05/12/05 DUP Assault Claim Probed
BT 05/12/05 BBC Show Blackout Looming
BT 05/12/05 Ulster Climbers Aim To On Top Of The World


SF Reiterates Dáil Speaking Rights Demand For North MPs
2005-05-12 08:00:06+01

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy has reiterated his party's demand
that the Irish Government gives speaking rights in the Dáil
to the North's 18 MPs.

Mr Murphy won a seat at Westminster in last week's
election, bringing Sinn Féin's representation in the House
of Commons to five.

Speaking yesterday, he defended his party's decision not to
take up the seats, saying the North's elected
representatives should instead have speaking rights in the

The Irish Government had apparently agreed to such a move
in the talks leading up to last December's aborted deal to
restore devolved Government.

Mr Murphy said it was frustrating as an Irish citizen that
he couldn't contribute to Dáil debates that affect his
everyday life.


McDowell Rejects Sinn Fein Demands

Sinn Fein's demands for MPs to have speaking rights in the
Irish Dail parliament were today ruled out by Irish Justice
Minister Michael McDowell.

By:Press Association

Newly-elected Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy last night called
for the 18 MPs in Northern Ireland to be allowed speak in
the Dail and Seanad in Dublin.

The issue was a key element of the province`s power-sharing
agreement which foundered last December.

But today Mr McDowell, Sinn Fein`s harshest critic in the
Irish Government, said the concession was "simply not on
the cards."

He said Sinn Fein representatives had sought election to
Westminster and should therefore take part in its

"Primarily, Dail Eireann is a place for people who are
elected by the people of this State," he said in Dublin.

The minister said the newly-elected five Sinn Fein MPs had
plenty of opportunities to air their views at public
debates in the Republic.

"I went north and spoke at an SDLP event but it doesn`t
allow me to walk into the Assembly in Northern Ireland or
into Westminster and start speaking there," he explained.

He said Sinn Fein MPs could get their views across through
their five elected TDs in the Dail or through the cross-
party Oireachtas committees.

Newry Armagh MP Mr Murphy yesterday defended his party`s
decision to stay out of the Westminster chamber and argued
instead for speaking rights in the Dail in Dublin.

Speaking in London as he collected passes to access
parliamentary facilities, he said: "I have to saw it is
hugely frustrating as an Irish citizen living on one end of
the border that the Irish Government is denying us the
right to contribute to debates which effect our everyday


Hain Must End Sanctions Programme

Published: 12 May, 2005

Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle
Gildernew has called on the new British Secretary of State
Peter Hain to immediately lift the programme of sanctions
and discrimination placed upon the Sinn Féin electorate by
his predecessor.

Ms Gildernew said:

" The recent elections have once again strengthened the
Sinn Féin mandate for change. Despite efforts by the NIO
and the former British Secretary of State Paul Murphy to
try and damage our electoral fortunes through a programme
of sanctions and discrimination the people of the six
counties voted in even larger numbers for our party.

" Sinn Féin will defend our mandate and defend the rights
and entitlements of those who vote for our party but the
British government need to heed the message which is being
sent to them by voters here. The British government does
not have one vote in Ireland. The new British Secretary of
State Peter Hain must now end the sanctions programme
against our electorate and get back to the job of making
politics work and seeing the political process advanced
further in the time ahead." ENDS


European Parliament Interfering In Constitution
Ratification Process

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou
McDonald has accused the European Parliament of
interefering in the Irish ratification process for the EU

Ms McDonald made her comments before both Sinn Féin MEPs
were due to vote on a report in the European Parliament
today. The report by Luis Francisco Herrero-Tejedor is
entitled 'on the implementation of the European Union's
information and communication strategy'.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin will be rejecting this report in the European
Parliament today. This report has a number of good
suggestions on how the EU can reach out and communicate
with the citizens. We support these elements. However the
section on the European Constitution is contradictory and

"In the first instance it suggests that the EU has a duty
to inform citizens 'clearly and objectively' about the
content of the Constitution. In the next paragraph, it
argues that the European Parliament, Council and Commission
have 'the political responsibility to support the
ratification of the Constitution'. Sinn Féin totally
rejects this notion.

"The recent decision by the European Parliament to spend 8
million euros for a purely pro - Constitution campaign
(March 2005) is deeply troubling and reinforces the fact
that the EU is trying to intefere with the national
ratification process in all Member States. Both the
European Commission and many within the European Parliament
are intent on using this money for the sole purpose of
selling their view of the European Constitution.

"Only last month the Taoiseach stated that 'we have an
obligation to passthe European Constitution here'. I want
to reiterate to Mr Ahern, that people in this state are
under no obligation to do anything of the sort. They must
be allowed to make their judgement on this treaty free from
pressure or coercion. Tax payers money, whether in Ireland
or at EU level must be used in an impartial and neutral

"In light of the above, Sinn Féin will be voting against
this report, and will continue to insist upon impartiality
and objectivity as we move closer to the EU Constitution
referendum date. If the EU is serious about reaching out to
citizens, then it must accept and support the citizens'
right to an open debate. Crucially, the decision of the
people must be respected."ENDS


The Fastest Growing Party On The Island? Why, It’s The DUP
Of Course

By Noel Whelan

THE onward march of Sinn Féin has slowed to a stroll. That
is a clear conclusion which can be drawn from the results
of the Westminster elections held in Northern Ireland this
day last week.

The cumulative data just thrown up by the local elections
points to the same trend. SF is still on the advance, but
its continuing electoral growth is not inevitable.

SF had one gain in the Westminster election with Conor
Murphy winning Seamus Mallon’s former seat in Newry and
Armagh, and it was an impressive win. The growth of
Murphy’s vote since the Good Friday Agreement has been

In the 1998 Assembly elections SF had 26%; in the 2001
Westminster elections Murphy polled 31%. On the same day
Sinn Féin candidates in the local elections polled 35%.
Then, in the 2003 Assembly elections, SF polled almost 40%
of the vote. Last Thursday, Murphy upped that slightly,
improving on his 2001 Westminster performance by nearly
11%, and ending up with a majority of more than 8,000.

There is much truth in what Seamus Mallon had to say last
week about how the policy of the two governments has
contributed to a polarisation of politics in Northern
Ireland and has thereby contributed to the growth of SF and
the Democratic Unionist Party.

However, the SDLP has to take some responsibility for its
own failings. For example, it should have selected an
understudy for Mallon earlier and given him or her five
years to build a profile.

However, apart from Murphy’s gain Sinn Féin had much to be
mute about. The performance of its four outgoing
Westminster MPs was mixed. The best was that of Gerry Adams
who increased his vote by 4% in West Belfast where the
party is now almost dominant.

Interestingly, Martin McGuinness’s vote was actually down
compared to his last Westminster run, while the SDLP vote
in his constituency was up slightly. One of the most
striking moments of the election count coverage was
McGuinness on RTÉ radio late on Friday night treating
listeners to a detailed breakdown of the meteorological
conditions prevailing across Mid-Ulster on polling day. The
legendary SF machine, with its supposed near mythical
capacity to get the vote out, was left in the same position
as other parties endeavouring to explain a falling vote in
a constituency by blaming it on the weather. It represented
a normalisation of the language about SF’s electoral

Michelle Gildernew increased her vote in Fermanagh/South
Tyrone by 4% on the last Westminster poll. However, the
strong performance of the DUP’s Arlene Foster means that if
the two unionist parties can agree to run just one
candidate next time (and perhaps even if they don’t), then
Foster is well placed to take Gildernew’s seat.

Pat Doherty’s vote in West Tyrone was also down, by almost
2%. This can be attributed to the distorting impact of the
candidature of the independent MLA Kieran Deeney. Doherty
had a comfortable 5,000 majority. However, if Deeney had
been given a free run against Doherty he would likely have
won the seat, and if Deeney bucks the trend of one-issue
candidates and is still prominent at the time of the next
Westminster election, then this is another SF seat that
could be very vulnerable.

In South Down, the Eddie McGrady vote was more than 9,000
ahead of Catriona Ruane. Ruane is a Mayo native and a
former West Belfast activist who, after the profile she
gained on the Columbia Three campaign, was strategically
planted into South Down in advance of the 2003 Assembly.

Since then she has been talked up as a real challenger for
McGrady’s seat, not least because she was prominent as a
supposed part of peace negotiation teams seen with Adams
and McGuinness on their way into Government Buildings and
Downing Street. Last week the party’s vote stagnated in
this constituency. It was up only 1% on the 2001
Westminster election and, in fact, was down on the 2003

SF’s real setback was in Foyle. Early last week the party
was privately telling political journalists that Mitchel
McLaughlin had John Hume’s seat in the bag. They said their
confidence was grounded in canvass returns which, they
claimed, were infallible.

HOWEVER, although the SF vote was up when the votes were
actually counted, it was nothing close to beating Durkan
who comfortably held the seat with 6,000 votes to spare.

In the 2003 Assembly elections SF came within 1,500 votes
of beating the SDLP in Derry. This time, in part by
mobilising the middle ground to register and then to vote,
Durkan put considerable distance between himself and
McLaughlin in the Westminster contest. It was an incredible
SDLP vote in all the circumstances. I suspect even John
Hume would have struggled to match it.

South Belfast, as expected, proved to be the most
interesting constituency. Because the unionist vote was
closely divided between two candidates, Dr Alasdair
McDonnell became the SDLP icing on the cake, taking a new
seat in Westminster. He actually increased the SDLP vote
marginally on 2001. SF here again ran former lord mayor
Alex Maskey, another West Belfast activist supplanted and
groomed for a Westminster seat. Maskey also increased his
vote share slightly on 2001 in this increasingly
nationalist and affluent constituency, but his vote was
still less than a third of McDonnell’s.

That good but patchy SF performance can be contrasted
starkly with the wholesale advance of the DUP whose vote
was up dramatically everywhere. In the local elections the
DUP gained an extra 51 seats in the local councils, while
the SF gain was more modest at 18.

In North Antrim Ian Paisley increased his vote by a
relatively modest 5% as did Nigel Dodds in North Belfast.
In Upper Bann David Simpson took David Trimble’s seat with
an 8% increase in the DUP’s vote. In East Belfast the vote
of the party’s deputy leader, Peter Robinson, was up almost
7% while in neighbouring Strangford his wife Iris’s vote
increased by 14%.

In East Londonderry, Gregory Campbell’s vote was up nearly
11% and Sammy Wilson won a new seat with his vote up 14%.
The story in Lagan Valley is more confused because Jeffrey
Donaldson has switched parties since the last Westminster
poll, but he brought almost 17,000 extra voters with him to
the DUP.

Much of the talk in some media about the rise of SF over
the last decade has been overstated. At its most bizarre
there has been breathless commentary about how SF was on
course to wipe out the SDLP in the North and then seek to
displace FF in the South.

Even SF’s own spokespersons, although usually careful about
managing expectations, lose the run of themselves sometimes
talking about how they are the fastest growing party on the
island and openly speculated two weeks ago that they might
be the largest party of any ilk in Northern Ireland after
these elections.

If SF were ever the fastest growing party on the island,
they are not now. They are being dramatically outpaced by
the DUP. Meanwhile, the SDLP, although it still has much to
do, has withstood the SF tide.


Blair To Honour Bomb Squad

Tony Blair will today honour an elite military unit that
defused thousands of terrorist bombs over three decades in
Northern Ireland.

By:Press Association

The Prime Minister is to present a letter of tribute to
officers from the 321 Explosive Ordnance Squadron at
Downing Street.

Even though there have never been more than 100 soldiers in
its ranks, it is the most decorated peacetime unit in the

Efforts to thwart republican and loyalist paramilitary
attacks have led to nearly 350 honours and awards, most for

Since Northern Ireland was engulfed by disorder in 1969,
the 321 Squadron has responded to 55,000 call-outs and
neutralised 6,000 live devices.

A total of 200 tonnes of explosives have been recovered
safely during operations averaging one every six hours.

By the time of its first ceasefire in 1994, the Army
reckons the IRA had used bombs ranging in size from a few
ounces to 8,000 pounds of commercial, military or home-made

The Provisionals had developed and deployed 15 different
hand grenade types, 16 versions of mortars, as well as nail
bombs, coffee-jar devices, under-car booby-traps, fire
bombs, anti-armour and home-made explosive projectiles.

Loyalist terrorists have also waged a frightening campaign,
targeting lives and property with improvised explosives.

The unit`s mascot and recognised insignia is Felix, a
cartoon cat renowned for getting into scrapes, having nine
lives and using a bag of tricks to escape trouble.

But the cost of its work has been high for the 321
Squadron, with 20 operators killed and another 24 seriously

Those who died are remembered at Felix Memorial Garden in
Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn, County Antrim.

Today`s recognition comes after relatives of a fallen
serviceman lobbied their MP for such a tribute.


Judgment Reserved In IRA Membership Trial

12/05/2005 - 12:29:37

The Special Criminal Court in Dublin has reserved judgment
in the trial of five men accused of Real IRA membership.

The court reserved judgment until Friday morning, May 27,
after a 20-day trial of three Cork men and two Limerick men
who denied membership of an illegal organisation.

The five men are Ciaran O' Dwyer (aged 50), of Castletroy
View, Limerick; John Murphy (aged 25), of Ashburton House,
Kilbarry, Old Mallow Road, Cork; Ultan Larkin (aged 34), of
The Bungalow, Farranshone, Limerick; Gerard Varian (aged
46), of Bride Valley View, Fairhill, Cork; and Aidan O'
Driscoll (aged 25) of Glenheights Park, Ballyvolane, Cork.

They all pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal
organisation styling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise
the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on December
15, 2003.

Prosecuting counsel Mr John Edwards SC told the court the
five men were allegedly members of the Real IRA.

Assistant Commissioner Jerry Kelly gave evidence during the
trial that he believed the accused Larkin and O' Dwyer were
members of an illegal organisation.

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael McAndrew gave
evidence that he believed Varian, Larkin and O'Driscoll
were all members of an illegal organisation.

Varian, Larkin and O' Dwyer all denied on oath that they
were members of the IRA or any illegal organisation.


DUP Assault Claim Probed

Claim over fracas sparks party rift

By Jonathan McCambridge
12 May 2005

Police have confirmed they have received a formal complaint
about an alleged assault by a DUP politician on a party

It is understood officers are gathering evidence to decide
whether charges can be brought following the alleged fracas
outside a polling station near Ballymoney last Thursday.

Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that
veteran DUP member Robert Halliday (73) claimed he suffered
broken ribs after he was allegedly punched repeatedly by a
fellow member of the party.

The alleged row began following an argument over party
posters being put up outside Eden Primary School polling

Mr Halliday claims his party colleague punched him
repeatedly in the stomach and ribs. He was taken to the
Causeway Hospital where he was treated for two cracked

A police spokesman said last night: "A formal complaint
about an incident at Eden Primary School has now been
received and we are investigating. Inquiries are continuing
and we will be interviewing a number of people."

The politician accused of the assault last night told the
Belfast Telegraph he had "no comment to make about what
happened" before hanging up.

Since the row was revealed earlier this week another DUP
member has come forward to this paper to claim they
witnessed the alleged assault.

One party source in the area said local DUP members were
pressing for the suspension from the party of the man
accused of the assault.

He said: "This has incensed some party members and has
sparked a rift that will take some time to heal."

It is understood that as well as medical and witness
evidence, police could take forensic evidence from Mr
Halliday's tie, which he claims was grabbed during the
alleged assault.

A DUP spokesman said: "At this stage we are not in
possession of the full facts, but if there are criminal
proceedings it is something we will need to look at."

It is believed that the issue will be discussed first at a
local meeting of the DUP in Ballymoney.


BBC Show Blackout Looming

Job cuts dispute could hit top Ulster programmes

By David Gordon
12 May 2005

Angry BBC Northern Ireland staff are aiming to take
flagship television and radio programmes off the air in a
strike over job cuts, it was learned last night.

The evening TV news programme Newsline is expected to be
targeted in an initial 24-hour stoppage, along with radio
favourites including Talkback, Good Morning Ulster and the
Stephen Nolan Show.

Corporation chiefs across the UK are bracing themselves for
a campaign of disruption after members of three unions
representing BBC workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of
industrial action.

The strike ballots were held in response to Director
General Mark Thompson's plan to axe thousands of jobs and
make savings of £355m by 2008.

BBC's Northern Ireland operations are in line to lose 98
posts, as part of the cost-cutting drive.

Trade union leaders are due to meet in London today to
decide their next move.

It is expected that the three unions involved - the
National Union of Journalists (NUJ), BECTU and Amicus -
will kick off their campaign with a one-day stoppage.

There was also speculation last night that BBC's coverage
of the Wimbledon tennis championships could be disrupted.

A source at the BBC's Belfast headquarters told the Belfast
Telegraph that strike action looked "inevitable".

"We've done everything we can to try and make management
listen," the source added.

Meanwhile, a BBC spokesman said: "Given the scale of the
changes that the BBC needs to make, and that the unions
have not allowed us to talk to them in order to address
their concerns, we are not surprised by the ballot result.
But we are disappointed, because we would prefer to
continue constructive discussions with them."

The NUJ announced yesterday that the ballot of its members
in the corporation had produced an 83.9% majority in favour
of striking.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: "This result is a
reflection of the huge anger at the scale and impact of
Mark Thompson's cuts.

"The cuts package is badly thought out, doesn't add up,
will do irreparable damage to quality and standards and has
been soundly rejected by staff.

"BBC staff have shown that if Mark Thompson and senior
management are not prepared to protect the future of the
BBC, they are. Now is the time for the BBC to stop
lecturing staff and start listening to their concerns."


Ulster Climbers Aim To On Top Of The World

12 May 2005

'Banjo' set to reach new heights with K2 climb

By Marie Foy

An ambitious expedition to the summit of K2 led by Newry
man Terence 'Banjo' Bannon has been launched.

The intrepid team will attempt to conquer the daunting peak
without assistance and without oxygen.

If successful, they will be the first ever Irish climbers
to make it to the top. A previous bid in 1998 ended in

'Banjo' Bannon hit the headlines two years ago when he
climbed Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

But the keen mountaineer says that K2 is a greater
challenge for him.

Speaking at the launch at the Quays retail park in Newry,
he said: "While the summit of K2 is lower than that of
Everest, it is the mountain that all serious climbers dream
of conquering.

"It is known as 'the climber's mountain' because of its
technical difficulty and dangerous conditions.

"We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we are
facing. For every five people that attempt to climb the
mountain, two people do not return.

"But I am confident that we have put together a highly
professional and well resourced team with the right blend
of experienced and novice trekkers."

The expedition is being sponsored by the Quays and
Fairgreen shopping centres.

Quays manager Cathal Austin said: "It is a treacherous and
daring feat that Banjo and the team are undertaking. We
wish them every success on their journey and hope to
welcome them home safe and sound."

The climbers will be at the shopping centre this Saturday
to explain their plans and show children the equipment they
will be using on the expedition.

They will set out on their adventure on June 5 and aim to
reach the summit by the middle of July.

The public can follow the team's progress by logging on to
the expedition website,

Gavin set to celebrate birthday on Everest

By Ashleigh Wallace

A Belfast-based mountaineer is climbing Mount Everest in a
daring solo mission to raise funds for projects in Nepal
and Kenya.

Gavin Bate (36), a former Venture Scout leader, has spent
weeks acclimatising on the world's highest mountain.

He hopes to reach the peak - alone and without an oxygen
bottle - on his 37th birthday on May 21.

Gavin's expedition is in aid of the Moving Mountains Trust,
set up in Northern Ireland to help street children in Kenya
and promote community projects in the Himalayas.

He is keeping in touch with colleagues from the charity in
Belfast via satellite telephone calls.

Earlier this year, Gavin had to abandon an attempt to climb
Everest just 200 metres from the summit after his companion
dislocated his knee.

This time Gavin is going it alone and hopes to raise
£35,000 to install a micro hydroelectric project in the
remote Nepalese village of Bumburi.

The money raised will also pay for refurbishment and
running costs of a hospital in Nepal as well as building a
new wing in a clinic in Kenya which will include an HIV
clinic for children.

These projects will be undertaken over the summer months by
volunteers from across Britain and Ireland as well as the
Moving Mountain team.

Money already raised through the charity in the past has
already helped to build an orphanage in western Kenya.

Speaking before he left Belfast, Gavin said: "If my
expedition to climb Everest can make these projects happen
with the Moving Mountain Trust, then all my efforts will
have been worth it."

Those interested can follow Gavin's progress by logging on

Further information on the charity is available by visiting
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