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May 18, 2005

SF Determined To Make Progress

News About Ireland & The Irish

SF 05/18/05 Sinn Féin Determined To Make Progress
BB 05/18/05 Loyalists 'May Act Over Murder'
DI 05/18/05 DUP Silent On Harryville Attacks
IO 05/18/05 MEPs Seek To Raise EU Constitution Awareness
BB 05/18/05 Bill To Address NI Parties' Funding
IO 05/18/05 Hain To Meet Dermot Ahern Today
BB 05/18/05 US Envoy To Meet McCartney Women
BT 05/18/05 Pair Released Over Attack On Team Bus
BB 05/18/05 Villagers Protest At Newspaper
DI 05/18/05 Battle Royale For Lough Ownership
DI 05/18/05 ‘Save Leitrim’ To Get Dáil Hearing
BB 05/17/05 Anger Over Irish Salmon Quotas
BB 05/17/05 Wind Farm 'Catastrophic' For Isle
WP 05/18/05 Carramore Road Race A Great Success
TE 05/18/05 A Writer's Life: Neil Belton
OI 05/18/05 Jeanie Johnston To Be Sold To DDA

NP 05/09/05 Irish Village's Push To Keep Gaelic Alive –AO

An Irish Village's Push To Keep Gaelic Alive by Anthony Kuhn -Day to
Day, May 9, 2005 • Modern Ireland's founders hoped that Gaelic, the
native language of Ireland, would remain the country's dominant tongue
throughout history. That hasn't happened in much of the country -- but
Anthony Kuhn profiles one Irish village that's working to keep the
native language alive.


Sinn Féin Determined To Make Progress

Published: 18 May, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this morning led a party delegation
Michelle Gildernew and Gerry Kelly to meet with the US Special envoy
Mitchell Reiss in Belfast.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Adams said:

"We welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr. Reiss and brief him on
the current situation. From our discussions I am confident that the US
administration remains committed to the peace process and to playing a
constructive role in support for efforts to rebuild it.

"Tomorrow we will be in London to meet Mr. Blair. Sinn Féin is intent
on achieving the re-establishment of the power sharing Executive, the
political institutions and the all-Ireland Bodies. I told Mr. Reiss
that while we all await the outcome of the IRA's internal discussion,
others have responsibilities also - not least the British and Irish
governments and the DUP. Sinn Féin is determined to rebuild the peace

"We want to resolve all of the outstanding issues. This will require a
collective effort to move it forward. It will particularly require the
British government to demonstrate to the DUP a determination to push
ahead with the implementation of those aspects of the Agreement,
demilitarisation, equality, human rights, collusion, Irish language
policing and justice, irrespective of that party's attitude to the
political institutions."

The Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams also took the opportunity to brief
Mr. Reiss on the situation in the Basque country. Mr. Adams was there
several months ago and met the President of the Basque region Mr. Juan
Jose Ibarretxe and the leader of Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi.

" It is our view that an opportunity exists to make progress in that
situation and yesterdays vote in the Spanish Parliament, and the
outcome of the recent elections in the Basque country, are further
evidence of that." ENDS


Loyalists 'May Act Over Murder'

The Progressive Unionist Party leader has warned that loyalist
paramilitaries may take the law into their own hands over the Lisa
Dorrian murder.

David Ervine said he feared that unless the police caught her killers
loyalists could take action themselves.

The UVF and the Red Hand Commando have been "investigating" her

He said: "The more they think justice is not likely to happen in that
respect the more they're going to, in their own minds, protect their

Mr Ervine, whose party is close to the UVF, told the BBC's Spotlight
programme that would probably mean killing those they suspected of the

"Much as that is distasteful, much as people wish it wouldn't be the
case," the east Belfast assembly member added.

Lisa, 25, disappeared after a party at a caravan site in Ballyhalbert
in County Down on 28 February.

Her body has never been found. Three men were questioned about the
killing but were later released.

The police are looking at the possible involvement of members of the
Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Her mother, Pat, also told the programme, broadcast on Tuesday, she
would talk to mainstream loyalist paramilitaries if it meant getting
her daughter's body back.

When asked whether she wanted "paramilitary justice", Mrs Dorrian said
she did not.

She added: "If they can help, I would be really grateful".

The family is offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to the
recovery of Lisa's body.

Graffiti in the area following her disappearance suggested a link
between the case and the LVF.

When she disappeared, Lisa, a shop assistant, left her handbag and
personal belongings behind her at the caravan park.

A caravan from the site was removed for examination.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/18 06:25:00 GMT


DUP Silent On Attacks

By Ciarán Barnes

A unionist councillor has refused to condemn attacks on cars belonging
to Catholic parishioners attending mass in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

On Saturday bricks and stones were thrown at vehicles parked in the
grounds of Our Lady’s church at Harryville.

The attacks have been condemned by the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP
and Sinn Féin.

However, a Harryville-based Democratic Unionist Party councillor
refused to criticise the stone throwers, claiming he knew nothing
about the incident.

Councillor Martin Clarke said: “I’m not going to condemn anyone as I
don’t know the true facts about what happened at the church on
Saturday night. Once they have been established I will then make a

Local SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan believes that loyalists building a
bonfire in a park next to the church were responsible for attacking

Mr O’Loan said the bonfire can be intimidating for parishioners, a
claim rejected by Mr Clarke.

The DUP man said: “The bonfire has been built there for years, it is
not intimidatory.

“The people who live around the church are decent people, they have
never done anyone harm.”

According to Mr O’Loan the church car park attack is the latest in a
series of sectarian incidents to hit Ballymena in recent weeks.

“Two weeks ago a bus taking a children’s football team back to
Carnlough from Ballymena was stoned,” he said.

“As we approach the summer season everyone needs to be aware that
incidents can feed off each other.

“It’s very important that everyone who is well disposed towards the
wellbeing of this community should act in a very cautious and
considerate fashion.”

Sinn Féin Ballymena councillor Monica Digney said she was disappointed
by the DUP’s failure to condemn the attacks on the vehicles at

She said: “For people who purport to be men of God, you would think
they could condemn an attack on vehicles belonging to parishioners
celebrating mass.”

Although located in a fiercely loyalist district of Ballymena, Our
Lady’s church has escaped serious trouble in recent years.

During the late 1990s it was the scene of bitter sectarian protests
that captured global headlines.

For nearly two years churchgoers were forced to run a gauntlet of
abuse every Saturday night as hundreds of loyalists picketed the

The demonstrations were mounted because of anger at nationalist
objections to Orangemen marching through the nearby village of Dunloy,
Co Antrim.

The RUC and protesters clashed repeatedly during the stand-off, which
ran up a £1 million (€1.47m) security bill.

The picket was eventually called off just weeks after the Good Friday
Agreement was signed in 1998.


MEPs Seek To Raise EU Constitution Awareness
2005-05-18 09:00:09+01

MEPs from various political parties are due to address the Seanad
later today as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the proposed
EU constitution.

The day-long address was arranged in an effort to provoke debate about
the document, which is designed to replace all existing EU treaties.

Those due to give speeches today include one of Sinn Féin's two MEPs,
who oppose the proposed constitution.

The document paves the way for the appointment of an EU president and
foreign minister and also removes the national veto in a range of new
policy areas.

The Government is planning to hold a referendum to let the people have
their say on the changes but the vote may never go ahead as there is
major concern that the French electorate may reject the constitution
later this month.

The euro-sceptic Dutch and British electorates are also due to vote on
the document in the coming year.


Bill To Address Parties' Funding

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

The government is to propose new arrangements to govern the funding of
political parties in Northern Ireland in a bill scheduled to be
introduced in this session of parliament.

The Northern Ireland Election Bill is intended to introduce more
transparent controls on donations to parties.

Last November, the government approved a two-year exemption for local
parties from the controls which apply elsewhere in the UK.

'Increased powers'

This was because of disagreement amongst the parties over the
anonymity of political donors, and how to deal with donations made
south of the Irish border.

The precise nature of any new controls still is not clear.

The bill will also end the current annual canvass of voters in the

This canvass, introduced as part of an effort to combat voting fraud,
has been blamed for "salami slicing" the Northern Ireland register
because people have tended to fall off it over time.

In February, the government reinstated about 70,000 voters by carrying
over the previous year's canvass.

The new bill will allow for less frequent re-registering of voters.
The bill also gives the chief electoral officer increased powers to
access data held by other public sector organisations so the register
can be more accurate and comprehensive.

This would give the electoral authorities the possibility of tracing
voters who have moved through, for example, cross-checking their
national insurance records.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/17 16:50:00 GMT


Hain To Meet Dermot Ahern Today
2005-05-18 08:20:02+01

The new Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain is due to hold his first
meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern in Dublin

The two men are expected to discuss the ongoing deadlock in the peace
process and the prospects for new talks to restore the North's
devolved institutions.

Meanwhile, US President George W Bush's special envoy to the North,
Mitchell Reiss, is due to meet Sinn Féin and SDLP representatives to
discuss the current state of the political process.

The prospects for progress do not look good, however, with the
Democratic Unionist Party telling Mr Reiss yesterday that it would not
be changing its policy of refusing to share power with Sinn Féin.


US Envoy To Meet McCartney Women

The US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, is due to
meet the sisters of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney.

He was fatally stabbed outside a Belfast pub. His family have
maintained IRA members were involved in the killing on 30 January.

Mr Reiss initially met the sisters in America in March when he assured
them of the US administration's support.

The sisters' campaign has led to their nomination for a humanitarian

They have been shortlisted for the annual Robert Burns Humanitarian
Award. Details of the winner are due to be announced in Ayrshire on


The women's brother - a 33-year-old father-of-two - was beaten and
stabbed near Belfast city centre after a row in a bar.

He died later in hospital.

The sisters' quest for justice has taken them to the White House and
the European Parliament, where they have won support from politicians
and leaders.

Mr Reiss is to meet the sisters on Wednesday. Before the meeting he
met Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

After the one hour meeting Mr Adams said he told the envoy that
following the elections there was now an imperative to move the
process forward.

Mr Adams said that while the DUP would have to be part of any revised
institutions it did not have to give its permission for "other
entitlements" including the equality agenda and a bill of rights.

On Tuesday, Mr Reiss had his first meeting with Secretary of State
Peter Hain in London.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hain said America was a "powerful partner" in
the efforts for peace in Northern Ireland.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/18 09:05:32 GMT


Pair Released Over Attack On Team Bus

By Sarah Brett
18 May 2005

Two youths arrested in relation to a stoning attack on a football
team's bus in Ballymena earlier this month have been released pending
further police enquiries.

A PSNI spokesman said: "The youths, aged 16 and 17, were arrested for
alleged riotous behaviour following an incident at Ballykeel on May

That Saturday, the teenage footballers had screamed in terror as their
bus was attacked.

Four people on a minibus carrying Under-16 players belonging to a team
from the mainly nationalist village of Carnlough were injured when a
mob launched an attack as the vehicle left the loyalist Ballykeel
estate after a match.

At the time, Martin McKinley, who was driving the bus, said: "The
children on the bus were screaming, 'get out of here, get out of

"None of them were seriously hurt but a few of them had cuts and
bruises. I couldn't get on to the main road because there were cars

Ballymena police commander, Superintendent Terry Shevlin, said on
April 11, republican youths attacked players of a team thought to be


Villagers Protest At Newspaper

A delegation from Newbuildings in County Londonderry is to protest
outside the Belfast offices of one of Northern Ireland's leading

The residents are angry that an Irish News article asked whether
Newbuildings was "the most sectarian place in Northern Ireland".

The protest is being led by DUP assembly member William Hay.

Mr Hay said the paper's editor, Noel Doran, has agreed to meet the
group and listen to their concerns.

"The people of Newbuildings are rightly aggrieved at the disgraceful
slur against their village," he said.

"I am happy to accompany residents as they travel down to Belfast as
they answer the scurrilous allegations of the Irish News."

The protesters also intend to deliver a petition to the paper.

The controversial article said the "staunchly unionist" village was
"one of the coldest houses of them all for Catholics".

"While often in the headlines, it seldom makes the news for positive
reasons," it said.

"Newbuildings is more likely to come to attention for the regular
attacks on St Mary's Oratory, the local Catholic church, or Derry GAA
and Derry City soccer supporters returning from away games."

It said high profile attacks included the destruction of Catholic
statues and the altar of the local church.

"Mass-goers regularly have their cars damaged while the now deceased
Father Joe Coulter had his home attacked on a number of occasions in
Newbuildings," it said.

"Now the priests serving the Catholic population live at Waterside and
make the five-mile journey daily."

The paper added that most observers agreed that "the problems are
caused by a small hard-line core and that the vast, vast majority of
people are decent living".

"Parishioners of St Mary's often report messages of support after
there has been an attack."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/18 07:57:12 GMT


Battle Royale For Lough Ownership

By Connla Young

The murder of an English earl in France last year is to spark a bitter
battle over ownership of Ireland’s largest lake.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, who until his death held the hereditary title
of the tenth Earl of Shaftesbury, disappeared on the French Riviera
last November. The aristocrat’s decomposed remains were discovered in
the French Alps last month and identified through DNA.

In March Daily Ireland exclusively revealed that the dead earl’s
estate included the bed of Lough Neagh. The earl’s family has earned
millions of pounds over four centuries through their claim to the
fishing and hunting rights on and around Lough Neagh.

However last night fishermen and landowners around Ireland’s largest
lake signalled their intention to claim ownership of the famous lough.

Chairperson of the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Association, Patricia
Campbell, said the lough’s long-term future was best in the hands of
local people.

“Lough Neagh is effectively in the hands of a rent collecting absentee
landlord,” said Ms Campbell. “It is time for the people to demand what
is rightfully theirs. We have a duty and responsibility to ensure that
not only does the fishing industry survive but also that the lough is
protected from polluters and mercantile interest. We need to do this
for future generations.”

Ms Campbell added that over the next few weeks the association would
be finalising their strategy to reclaim the lough for local people and
to preserve its environment.

“Lough Neagh is described as a fresh water lake and the jewel in
Northern Ireland’s crown. Unfortunately it is now well established
that the Lough is one big polluted dump. We are a proactive union not
just fighting to save the fishing industry. Pollution and ownership of
the Lough are high on our agenda. The LNFA feel aggrieved that this
natural resource has not been protected and make the point that
government has failed to tackle the growing problem of pollution.”

Earlier this month it emerged that the Department of the Environment
were advised to buy Lough Neagh from the Shaftesbury Estate in 2003
although to date no formal approach has yet been made.

Staff based in Bangor, County Down, who oversee the running of Lough
Neagh Ltd, administers the Shaftesbury Estate’s business interests.

The company lays claim to the bed of Lough Neagh and a portion of the
shoreline. This claim generates huge amounts of cash annually for the
estate as several sand companies pay for the right to pump sand from
the lough bed.

The Shaftesbury Estate’s claims on Lough Neagh can be traced back to
1661 when Charles the Second granted Arthur Chichester, Lord Donegall,
a 33-mile portion of the Lower Bann river and Lough Neagh as reward
for military service.

Currently the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-Operative Society Ltd, which
holds the lease for eel fishing on the lough, are understood to pay
rent to the Shaftesbury Estate each year for the privilege.

Mr Ashley-Cooper’s claims on Lough Neagh and his title are now set to
pass to his eldest son, also Anthony, who is a successful London
banker. French police has placed both Mr Ashley Cooper’s third wife
Jamila M’Barek and her brother Mohammed under investigation for

No-one from the Shaftesbury Estate was available for comment.


‘Save Leitrim’ To Get Dáil Hearing

By Conor McMorrow

The campaign to save Leitrim from political extinction was given a
welcome boost yesterday when members of the Save Leitrim Campaign were
invited to address a Dáil committee on the issue.

The controversial decision to split the county in two for electoral
purposes, which was made last year, was met with vehement opposition
and a protest campaign was set up.

A report released early last year by the Boundary Review Commission
recommended that Leitrim would be split, with North Leitrim going to
Sligo and South Leitrim to Roscommon.

With the county placed in two three-seater constituencies, the
election of a Leitrim TD would be difficult.

Since then Leitrim people across the globe have come together to back
the Save Leitrim Campaign.

“The reaction within the county has been one of outrage and anger,”
said Cormac O’Súilleabháin, Chairperson of the campaign.

“We sent a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the
Environment and Local Government and we found out today that we have
an oral hearing with them next week,” he said.

“We have been trying to get meetings with them for the past year.

“Previously we have received letters saying that ‘a meeting of that
nature would serve no purpose’ so it was a surprise that we have been
granted this hearing.”

In addition to next week’s oral hearing, the Save Leitrim Campaign has
decided to mount a legal challenge against the constituency reshuffle.

Daily Ireland also recently revealed that they lobbied Irish President
Mary McAleese to convene the Council of State and oppose the bill that
will divide Leitrim in two.

The Leitrim Genealogy Centre maintains that the population of the
county in 1841 was 155,000 and today it is only 25,000.

“There are a lot of Leitrim exiles across the world and between
America, the UK and Australia there could be up to a million second,
third and fourth generation Leitrim people,” said Mr O’Súilleabháin.

“We are trying to get them mobilised to support our campaign.”


Anger Over Irish Salmon Quotas

The Irish government has been criticised for allowing more salmon to
be caught at sea than its advisers recommended.

Conservationists and anglers are angry that the government has gone
against advice from its scientific experts.

The minister responsible argued that he had to balance maintaining the
stocks with the needs of fishing communities.

The annual quota of salmon to be caught by drift nets offshore has
been set at 140,000 - 40,000 more than recommended.

"In 1970, the number of salmon reaching our shores was, according to
scientists, in excess of one million," said Vincent Duigan of the STOP
Driftnets Now Campaign.

"That number had decreased by 2004 to a total of 345,000.

"This decision by the minister is an absolute disaster. It does not
hold out any hope for recovery of the salmon stock."

'Balancing act'

While the government promised to abide by scientific advice, the
minister said the scientists changed the basis of their calculations
at the 11th hour this year. So their recommendations were not

"I have a very difficult job," Irish Marine Minister Pat the Cope
Gallagher said.

"It's a balancing act between the commercial sector and the tourism
and angling sectors. We must, of course, protect and conserve our
salmon stocks. But, at the same time, we can exploit those stocks on a
sustainable basis."

The Irish government's decision has also prompted international
criticism. Fish caught off the Republic's coasts are destined for
rivers across Europe.

So the decision to allow more drift-netting has wider implications.

Mr Gallagher said that growing calls for a complete buy-out of Irish
drift-nets should come with money to provide compensation.

"The simple answer, but I don't know if it is a realistic one, is to
stop drift-netting," he said.

"But it doesn't necessarily follow that it is the right thing to do.
If other countries are of this view, then perhaps these other
countries might well be interested in making funding available for a

Widespread illegal fishing and poaching provides further unknown
pressures on fish stocks off the Republic's coasts, some destined for
rivers in Northern Ireland.

Whichever advice is heeded, salmon trying to swim up Ireland's rivers
face greater obstacles than ever before.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/17 08:13:49 GMT


Wind Farm 'Catastrophic' For Isle

The environmental impact of the world's largest proposed onshore wind
farm could be 30 times worse than expected, a peatland expert has

A report commissioned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
says a massive wind farm on the Isle of Lewis could be "catastrophic".

Richard Lindsay, of the University of East London, said the developers
had undervalued the quality of the habitat.

Lewis Wind Power Ltd said it would not comment until it had read the

RSPB Scotland has submitted a formal objection to the 234-turbine wind
farm. About 5,000 have been lodged in total, opposing the plan.

Mr Lindsay, the university's head of conservation, said the wind farm
on the Hebridean island could have a devastating impact on the
internationally important peatland site and the environment as a

He claims Lewis Wind Power Ltd has also hugely underestimated the area
of carbon-rich peatland which could be affected.

An evaluation undertaken by Mr Lindsay indicates the impact of the
proposed wind farm could be up to 30 times greater than that predicted
in the company's own environmental statement for the site.

Carbon emissions

"We build wind farms in order to reduce carbon emissions, we then
build our wind farms on peat," Mr Lindsay said.

"Yet peatlands represent the one land-based habitat that is a major
long-term carbon store.

"By building the wind farm on peat, we release this carbon store as
carbon emissions to the atmosphere."

He also points out that peat contains less solids than milk and that
if it is built upon and disrupted, it can lead to catastrophic "bog
slides" such as the recent one at a wind farm in Co. Galway, Ireland.

In that incident, 2km of peat hillside poured down across the
landscape for a distance of more than 20km.

In February this year, RSPB Scotland submitted its formal objection to
the Lewis wind farm on the grounds of its likely impact on birds and
the environment.

Commenting on Mr Lindsay's findings, the charity's planning and
development manager Anne McCall said: "The findings of this report
provide the final nail in the coffin for the Lewis Wind Power

"The RSPB strongly supports the need to tackle climate change and
recognises that renewable energy developments will play a critical
role in doing so.

'Sensitive habitat'

"But it makes no sense to allow a development on a site which is
highly valued by local people, internationally important for birds and
made up of a highly sensitive peatland habitat."

The developers' environmental statement acknowledges that the
development will result in the loss of at least 20 red-throated
divers, 50 merlin and 50 golden eagles due to collision during the 25-
year lifetime of the development.

It also says 350 pairs of golden plover and 314 pairs of dunlin will
be lost to the population due to displacement.

The Western Isles Council meets next week to consider presentations
from local communities and environmental organisations.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/18 07:27:09 GMT


Carramore Road Race A Great Success

The fourth annual Carramore 10km race/walk held in the South Mayo
village on Saturday, May 7th last was again a great success.

Despite blustery conditions, the event once again attracted a large
field of runners, joggers and walkers from all over the West of
Ireland. The event which was sponsored by ‘Temptations Silver and
Giftware’ Claremorris was also the first leg of the SuperValu Mayo AC
Summer League. Funds raised from the race were in aid of
Mayo/Roscommon Hospice and over €5,000 was raised.

The overall race winner was Robert Malseed of Clonliffe Harriers in a
time of 32.51 mins. Mayo AC’s John Byrne from Straide had an
outstanding race to finish second and Mick Fitzgerald of Galway City
Harriers was third.

Breege Blehein McHale had another outstanding run in the Mayo colours
to take the women’s title in a time of 38.23 mins. Her team mate,
Noreen McManamon was second with Michelle Lynch, Galway City Harriers
in third.

The success of the event was due in no small way to the effort of race
director, Christy Heneghan and the way that he mobilised so many
members of the Carramore community to assist in the smooth staging of
the event. Something that was noted and appreciated by all who took


A Writer's Life: Neil Belton

(Filed: 17/05/2005)

The writer tells Nicholas Blincoe how he chose an Austrian physicist
to dramatise the insularity of wartime Ireland.

Many people have love-hate relationships with their home towns, but
few display such a dark ambivalence as Neil Belton in his debut novel
A Game With Sharpened Knives. Yet it is not the present-day suburb of
Clontarf, north of Dublin, that exercises him - it is the Clontarf
during the Second World War.

"It is a murky period," Belton says, "almost a lost subject. Very few
people have written about it. Irish neutrality may have been
politically defensible, but it was morally ambiguous. Ireland received
reports on the true nature of the Nazi regime, but there was an
attitude of, 'well, if the British are telling us that then it must be
wrong', while the IRA was working hand-in-glove with the Germans on
the basis of 'my enemies' enemy is my friend'."

The war period allowed Belton to "write about a world before I was
born, during the Emergency, and imagine the place when there was a
great deal to play for. If the war had gone Germany's way, there is no
doubt that a strain of nationalism would have found an accommodation,
with Ireland ending as a vassal state within a Nazi Europe."

He points out, too, that there was a real threat from Britain:
"Churchill was very concerned by the question of the Irish ports. He
felt he needed them. If Britain had been less restrained, Ireland
could have disappeared. There was no way of taking back the ports
without occupying the country." Yet, paradoxically, the Emergency was
a quiet time. "The fact is, not much happened. At a time when the
state was threatened with extermination, it was actually very sedate."

What makes A Game With Sharpened Knives such a surprise is the way in
which Belton dramatises the precarious insularity of wartime Ireland.
The protagonist is Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel-laureate mathematician
who arrived in Ireland at the personal invitation of the Taoiseach,
Eamon de Valera. Schrödinger was at a low ebb professionally,
politically and personally. He had criticised the Nazi regime, then
backtracked with a humbling apology in order to retain his post at
Graz university. Despite the apology, his tenure was short-lived and
by 1938 his best possible future lay in a weapons programme. "He was
morally opposed to the arms race and to nuclear weapons," Belton says.
"The reason he spent so long in Ireland, 16 years from 1939 to late
1955, is because he was cautious about not getting caught again. He
did not move back to Austria until the Red Army had gone."

Schrödinger would be of limited use to an arms programme. "He was not
an experimenter, a hands-on physicist," Belton says. In the novel,
this is exactly what appeals to de Valera. The Irish leader sees two
virtues in Schrödinger's abstract mathematical approach: it is cheap
and it is pure. Indeed, according to this fictionalised de Valera,
Schrödinger's equations are almost lyrical and, thus, exactly the kind
of science appropriate to his vision of a poor yet poetic Ireland.

Belton's only previous work is The Good Listener, a highly acclaimed
biography of Helen Bamber, the founder of Amnesty International. The
Schrödinger project in fact predated the Bamber biography: the
difficulty, Belton says, was finding a voice for the Austrian emigré.
"But I was fascinated by both Schrödinger and Einstein, the last of
the great classical physicists. Neither man ever accepted quantum
physics. They were the last of a generation."

Schrödinger arrived in Ireland in a state of defeat and his defeat
persisted: he never found a simple way to express the contradictions
and complexities of the new science.

The title is taken from an ambiguous, even sinister, aphorism by
Schrödinger: "Science is a game - but a game with reality, a game with
sharpened knives." Schrödinger clearly had a talent for ambiguities
and paradoxes. I had imagined that he created the paradox known as
Schrödinger's Cat in high glee. Far from it, according to Belton: it
was an expression of his abject sense of defeat.

The paradox suggests that there will be a moment when a cat, trapped
in a box containing a phial of poison triggered by the decay of a
radioactive particle, is simultaneously alive and dead; or, at least,
its state of being will be indeterminate. These two values - dead or
alive - are such extremes that Schrödinger cannot conceive of a world
that could tolerate such ambivalence. The paradox pervades the book:
the metaphor of the indeterminate state stands for de Valera's Ireland
and, especially, Clontarf. It is an exceptionally bleak thought,
carefully conceived and sustained throughout.

Neil Belton talks of the historical reassessments of de Valera that
have focused on "his narrowness, his condemnation of whole communities
to a low-level agrarian existence, his censorship laws, and above all
his responsibility for the massive waves of emigration". Indeed,
Belton sees himself as part of a lost generation: the emigrants. "It
has been devastating for families in Ireland. There have been complete
breakdowns. And without news, the families imagine the worst, that the
missing have gone bad or taken to drink. With the result that they get
written out of family histories."

Belton left Ireland in the 1970s during what he describes as a
particularly depressing time. But his story ended happily. After a
series of disparate jobs - including librarian, bookie and printer -
he began work in publishing. Now an editor at Faber, his list
concentrates on history, biography and politics.

We talk about Alan Rickman's portrayal of de Valera in the film
Michael Collins: the creep versus the hero. Belton believes this has
become the dominant view in Ireland and admits, "my family absolutely
hated de Valera - but it is too soon for a balanced view". Yet Belton
also finds something visionary, as well as mad, in the determination
to create an institute of advanced mathematics at that time.

I tell him that one of my own Irish friends, who loathes de Valera's
legacy, can nevertheless wax lyrical about a statesman who understood
quantum physics. And I suggest there are echoes of Flann O'Brien in
the many descriptions of particle theory and bicycle-riding that
pervade A Game With Sharpened Knives. "Now, that would be interesting
- to see de Valera and O'Brien as an expression of the same spirit.
The Third Policeman is a great novel and I am sure it was working away
in me somewhere."

Which leads to a final question: how will such a radically ambivalent
and, indeed, rather sly book be received in Ireland? "It may not even
be recognised as an Irish book, written by someone who has lived
abroad so long, with a foreign protagonist." I remind him that Irish
literature already supplies a novel written by an expatriate, with an
outsider Everyman: Ulysses. Belton shrugs off the comparison but,
pondering the idea that he has made Schrödinger into an Irish
Everyman, says: "That seems fair enough."

'A Game With Sharpened Knives' is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
at £14.99 (pbk)


Jeanie Set To Be Sold To Dublin Docklands Authority

17/05/2005 - 18:02:10

The sale of replica famine ship Jeanie Johnston to the Dublin
Docklands Authority (DDA) looks set to go ahead, it emerged today.

The DDA has confirmed it is in negotiation with the owners of the
Jeanie Johnston to purchase the tall ship as a tourist attraction for
the river Liffey.

The ship is currently berthed in Cork and is owned by Kerry Group plc,
Shannon Development and Kerry County Council and Tralee Town Council.

A spokeswoman for the Docklands Authority said further details of the
sale would be announced once the negotiations were complete.

The ship is already scheduled to visit the Liffey as part of the
Maritime Festival, which will see 12 historic tall ships in Dublin’s
Docklands from June 17 to 19.

It is also set to take part in the tall ships race in Waterford in

The replica of the 19th century famine ship cost €15.5m to build and
was completed in 2002.

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