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May 16, 2005

US Backpacker Killed in Belfast Hostel

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 05/16/05 US Backpacker Killed In Belfast Hostel
BT 05/16/05 H Block Is Granted Listed Status
BT 05/16/05 Drumcree March Talks At Standstill
UT 05/16/05 Thugs Stone Harryville Chapel
BT 05/16/05 New ID Cards Storm On Way
RE 05/16/05 "Tell Me Why" Grieving Father Asks IRA Bomber
UT 05/16/05 Health Officials Urged Over Bird Flu


US Backpacker Killed In Hostel

Detectives have launched a murder inquiry into the death of
a woman at a backpackers' hostel in south Belfast.

The 29-year-old, from the United States, died after
sustaining a head injury in Fitzwilliam Street at about
1900 BST on Sunday.

She is understood to have been staying at a hostel in the
street, off Lisburn Road. One woman has been arrested.

It is understood the victim, who was from New Mexico, first
arrived in Northern Ireland last month.

She had also visited Scotland on her travels since then,
before returning to Belfast.

Other people staying at the hostel were moved to
alternative accommodation while the police continued their

A house in Camden Street, which runs parallel to
Fitzwilliam Street, was also cordoned off.

A post mortem examination was being carried out on Monday.

Police have not yet released the woman's name, although her
parents have been informed.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/16 12:19:40 GMT


H Block Is Granted Listed Status

By David Gordon
16 May 2005

A notorious H-Block within the former Maze Prison has been
granted listed building protection - with a Government
department citing the hunger strikes and murder of LVF
leader Billy Wright as reasons for its historical

H Block Six is now officially categorised as a structure
with "special architectural or historic interest" by the
DoE's Environment and Heritage Service.

The prison hospital where IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands
died has also been listed, along with an administration
block, chapel, perimeter walls and watch towers within the
old jail site.

The anticipated decision was recently confirmed by the DoE
to Lisburn City Council and means demolition of the
buildings would be an illegal act.

It was criticised today by the DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson,
but welcomed by former hunger striker Dr Laurence McKeown
who works for the ex-prisoner support organisation Coiste.

In its official evaluation on H Block Six, the Department
of the Environment states: "The building has heightened
historical interest due to its association with the 'Dirty'
protest, hunger strikes, the 1983 escape and the murder of
Billy Wright."

Republicans had called for the listing of the structures,
as part of a campaign for a prison museum.

The cross-party consultation panel set up to advise the
Government on uses for the 360-acre Maze lands recommended
the retention of part of the jail site within a new
International Centre for Conflict Transformation.

It was argued from unionist quarters that this did not
represent an endorsement of the museum proposal.

The consultation panel also backed a range of other uses
for the massive Maze site, including a 30,000 seater sports
stadium and a centre for rural excellence.

The DoE's evaluation states that H Block Six "represents a
significant development in the construction history of
British penal architecture".

It also points to the hunger strike connections of the jail
hospital and says the structure represents an "essential
element" of the prison.

Mr Donaldson today said: "It would be our preference that
all of these buildings would eventually be removed from the
Maze Prison site.

"Whilst these buildings may have been listed, we will
vigorously oppose any move to create a shrine or museum to
commemorate the hunger strikers, or highlight past
terrorist activity."

Mr McKeown, however, said: "The prison has a special
significance to republicans but this is not about turning
it into a shrine."


Drumcree March Talks At Standstill

Lack of dialogue means no compromise deal on parade

By Michael McHugh
16 May 2005

Hopes of a compromise in time for this year's Drumcree
parade were fading today after both sides to the dispute
said that no progress had been made on the issue since last

Orangemen and Garvaghy Road residents insist that there has
been no mediation between the warring factions since the
July 2004 procession, which ended with Orangemen finishing
their parade on Drumcree hill.

This comes despite PSNI concerns about the resources needed
to police the stand-off and the heightened threat of
communal violence.

This week the Drumcree parish church rector, Rev John
Pickering, warned that the simmering feud had not been
resolved, and most parties agree that the prospects for
conciliation look bleak.

"We want to see a resolution to the problem. The residents
are able to sit back on their hands and the fault lies at
the door of the Parades Commission," Portadown Orangeman
David Jones said.

"It has created a situation which means the residents don't
have to do anything."

Nationalists met with the commission in January and
spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said there had been no
engagement since.

"If people were serious about trying to get Drumcree
resolved, if they were serious about a compromise for
Portadown, they would not have been sitting on their hands
since July of last year," he said.

"The opinion on the ground within the nationalist community
in Portadown is that the issue seems to be resolved. There
have been no parades since July 1997."

Local police chiefs have appealed for an end to the dispute
because of the annual drain on security resources.

The cost of last year's scaled-down Drumcree presence,
£177,437, was enough to pay for nearly 20,000 hours of
police patrolling in Craigavon. Nationalist residents have
called for Orangemen to foot the bill.

"In English football matches teams have to pay the costs
(of security), so what is the difference between that and
here," Mr MacCionnaith said.

"We learned that there was meant to be a mediation process
from last August. To date there still has not been a
mediation process. If it was resolved there would not be
any need for the police to be there."

The Orange Order has demanded the reform of the commission,
despite a largely positive report by the Westminster
Northern Ireland select committee on its workings.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said: "The
commission continues to encourage everyone involved in
Drumcree to enter into dialogue."


Thugs Stone Harryville Chapel

Thugs have stoned cars parked at a Catholic church in Co
Antrim once held under siege by loyalists, it emerged

By:Press Association

Two vehicles were damaged in the attack outside Our Lady`s
Chapel in Harryville, Ballymena, police said.

Churchgoers discovered bricks and stones had been thrown
after evening Mass on Saturday. No arrests were made.

Although located in a fiercely Protestant district of the
town, the church has escaped serious trouble in recent

During the late 1990s, however, 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 chapel.

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

Police and protesters clashed repeatedly during the stand-
off, which ran up a £1 million security bill.

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

Sinn Fein Assembly member Philip McGuigan condemned the
attacks and called on Democratic Unionist leader, the Rev
Ian Paisley to make his voice heard on the matter.

The North Antrim MLA said: "The motivation behind these
attacks is purely sectarian hatred. This church was of
course the scene of the disgraceful unionist protests a
number of years ago.

"Unionist political leaders in this area including the
local MP Ian Paisley have to make their voices heard and
unequivocally condemn the harassment and attacks on the
local Catholic population in Ballymena."


New ID Cards Storm On Way

Hain claims public support to be 'overwhelming'

By Brian Walker
16 May 2005

A new Identity Cards Bill presents major headaches for
Northern Ireland, even though Secretary of State Peter Hain
vowed yesterday on the David Frost programme that it will
pass the Commons because of "overwhelming" public support.

The Bill is among the most controversial in the long list
of 40 Bills being presented in the Queen's Speech tomorrow
for the forthcoming, mammoth 18-month long session of
Parliament at the start of Tony Blair's third and final

Mr Hain said the Government could look again at some of the
details to ensure they got through Parliament. Earlier
plans to introduce non-jury trials in international
terrorist cases have been dropped.

Phasing in an ID card scheme would begin by 2007-08 and
could be made compulsory by 2010.

Each card would contain a person's encoded "biometric," or
personal physical details. At a cost of around £3bn, ID
cards are intended to deter illegal immigration and
identity fraud and allow the police to track terrorist
suspects more easily. Failure to register is likely to
become a criminal offence.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP are critical of the scheme.

Compliance could be a problem, even though people will not
have to produce their ID on demand and failure to carry one
would not be an offence. Cards would first be phased in
when passports or driving licences are up for renewal.

Northern Ireland people wishing to describe themselves as
Irish citizens would have to register as foreign nationals,
unless the Republic were to introduce ID cards at the same
time and the UK Government were to accord it equal

But a British ID card scheme automatically puts pressure on
the Republic to bring in a similar scheme, where political
opinion is likewise divided.

For foreign immigrants, the Common Travel Area applying
throughout these islands presents a loophole via the
Republic for entry into the UK, because of the absence of a
policed border.

Writing in the Irish Times in December 2003, the UK's then
Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes assured Irish citizens
that their freedom of movement would not be affected. Irish
citizens would be treated exactly the same as British
citizens, she said.

"There is no question of the UK springing this on anyone,"
she added. "If Ireland were eventually to introduce a
similar scheme, then we would want to ensure we co-operate
closely with it."

The UK, Ireland and Denmark are the only EU countries
without ID cards.

The Bill, squeezed out at the end of last session to make
time for controversial anti-terrorist laws to be pushed
through, met with opposition on the details and in
principle from around 30 Labour MPs as well as the main
opposition parties.

Two years ago, opinion surveys in Great Britain showed
about 80% approved ID cards. A consultation exercise in the
province gave 76% approval. Mr Hain said it "remained to be
seen" whether the Lib Dems and Tories would go with the
flow of opinion.


"Just Tell Me Why" Grieving Father Asks IRA Bomber

Mon May 16, 2005 9:35 AM BST
By Paul Majendie

ENNISKILLEN (Reuters) - After 25 years of grieving, John
Maxwell dearly wants to ask the IRA bomber who killed his
teenage son a simple question: "why did you do it?"

Only when he knows the answer can he bury the ghosts from
one of the most notorious Irish Republican Army attacks in
its 30-year fight to oust Britain from Northern Ireland.

Maxwell's 15-year-old son Paul was the boat-boy for Queen
Elizabeth's cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten. Both were killed
in 1979 when an IRA bomb exploded on board shortly after
they set sail from the fishing village of Mullaghmore in
County Sligo, northwest Ireland.

Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday accord that brought
an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, hardline prisoners
were released early from jail. Among them was Thomas
McMahon, the bomber who killed Maxwell's son and three

"I would like to meet him. If there is any sign that we
share a common humanity, it would be worth it," the retired
schoolteacher told Reuters in an interview about the trauma
that scarred his life.

"If he could come halfway towards seeing my point of view,
it would be worthwhile," Maxwell said of McMahon, who was
released in 1998 and now lives across the border in the
Irish Republic.

In the province where more than 3,600 people were killed in
three decades of sectarian violence between Protestants and
Catholics, Maxwell brings those grim statistics poignantly

Now 68, white-haired and bearded, he admits it took him 18
years to pluck up the courage to see a psychotherapist and
relive that nightmare day when his son ended up in the
wrong place at the wrong time.

"It was unfinished business. I was holding it all in. I
cried for two hours. That was a big turning point for me,"
he said.

"I got out the cine films of Paul as a boy which I had not
been able to watch for 18 years. That brought him alive."

When the IRA killed his son, Maxwell stood by the shore
sobbing in anguish and asking "What have they done to him?
He is an Irishman. Is this the sort of Ireland you want?"

But at least he has found a fitting epitaph for Paul.

John Maxwell was the driving force behind the first
integrated school of Protestants and Catholics in
Enniskillen, the picturesque border town which gained
worldwide renown as a symbol of forgiveness after a 1987
massacre by the IRA at a war memorial.

Maxwell, who lives down a country lane outside Enniskillen
in a flower-bedecked house looking out over Lough Erne,
vividly recalled that day: "As soon as I heard it, I knew
it was a bomb.

"That was the catalyst for the school project for me. I
felt it was time I did something. I don't feel so impotent

But he did confess to despondency over the triumph of
hardliners in this month's elections.

Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party of Protestant
preacher Ian Paisley both made gains at the expense of

"The extremists have come to the fore. The middle ground
has gone completely," he said of the province currently
ruled direct from London.

Talks on reviving an assembly in which Protestants and
Catholics ran the province's affairs broke down at the end
of last year and show little sign of being revived.

"You have to trust and make a leap of faith," said Maxwell.
"The trouble is that the whole thing is motivated by fear
of the other side taking the upper hand."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Health Officials Urged Over Bird Flu

Health officials on both sides of the border were today
urged to team up for an all-Ireland strategy to deal with a
possible outbreak of bird flu.

By:Press Association

Sinn Fein health spokesperson John O`Dowd called on the
Departments of Health in Stormont and Dublin to draw up an
effective island-wide strategy to deal with the pandemic,
instead of working on their own response.

The Upper Bann Assembly member said: "Emergency plans are
presently being drawn up by the health department to deal
with a potential outbreak of bird flu in the North, which
experts warn could claim many thousands of lives.

"However, it would be a completely common sense and
realistic approach for the Department of Health in the
North to liaise and co-operate with the Department of
Health and Children in the Twenty Six Counties (the Irish
Republic) in order to ensure that an effective all-Ireland
strategy is developed and put in place to properly deal
with this potential threat to health and public safety.

"I have formally asked the North`s direct rule health
minister to commence that process and my colleagues in
Leinster House will also be calling for the development of
action to deal with the threat from a global pandemic on an
all-Ireland basis."

Avian flu was thought to only effect birds until the first
human cases emerged in Hong Kong in 1997.

The virus is passed on through bird faeces, which dries,
becomes pulverised and is then inhaled.

The symptoms resemble other flus, with sufferers showing
fever, malaise, sore throats and coughs. People can also
develop conjunctivitis.

However researchers have also come across a case in Vietnam
where the virus attacks other parts of the body, not just
the lungs.

The virus has killed 36 people in Vietnam and 12 in
Thailand since December 2003 and three people from the
Cambodian Kampot province.

World Health Organisation officials are also concerned at
the ability of the flu to mutate.

Last month, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland
estimated up to 17,000 people in the province could die if
avian flu were to hit.

Mr O`Dowd said: "There is a need for urgency in ensuring an
island wide preventative strategy and response to this
threat because of alerts from the World Health
Organisation, which believes that the bird flu sweeping
South-East Asia could move into the human population next

"This virus carries a 73% mortality rate, so fast
responsive action would need to be taken once the infection
appears within Europe.

"Sars, which hit Asia and Canada last year, revealed how
air travel allows infections to cross the world in days if
proper measures are not taken.

"Viral and other infections do not respect any land-based
boundaries, and the fact that Ireland is an island should
add an impetus to the need for developing a joint strategy
to cover the whole of the country."
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