News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

August 14, 2005

Unionist Fear Move Away From Military Economy

To Index of Monthly Archives
To August 2005 Index
To receive this news via email, click HERE.
No Message is necessary.

News about Ireland & the Irish

SB 08/14/05 Unionists Fear Move Away From Military Economy
SB 08/14/05 Opin: Harney Digs A Deep Hole For McDowell
SB 08/14/05 Opin: Harney Act Made Fiasco Worse
SB 08/14/05 Everyone Loses With Return Of The Three Amigos
ST 08/14/05 Colombia Dusts Off The Treaty Of 1888
ST 08/14/05 Harney's Last Stand
KT 08/14/05 Opin: Difficult To Close The Book In N. Ireland
IO 08/13/05 Police Praise 'Peaceful' Derry March
SB 08/14/05 Wake-Up Call For FF In Mayo
ST 08/14/05 Bloody Sunday Rifle Found In Sierra Leone
ST 08/14/05 Hollywood Rewrites Script After IRA Statement


Unionists Fearful Of Move Away From Military Economy

14 August 2005 By Colm Heatley

When the US government withdrew servicemen from its
military bases in Thailand following the end of the Vietnam
war in the late 1970s, it caused a panic within the Thai
economy. A civilian workforce and a plethora of businesses
had grown dependent upon the US military presence and was
soon forced to seek out other financial opportunities.

While the North's economy may be considerably more advanced
than Thailand's, the British government's demilitarisation
policy has frightened sections of the Protestant community
who have grown not only politically but economically
dependant on the British military presence in the North.

A small "army'' of civilian workers, almost exclusively
Protestant, rely upon the British military for their

Most of the British military's major training camps, such
as Ballykinlar, Ballykelly, Palace Barracks, and its
headquarters in Thiepval, just outside Lisburn, have
provided employment to neighbouring Protestant communities
since 1969.

In addition, the soldiers and their families, garrisoned
for months at a time, are a captive market for local
traders and businesses, eager to service their demands, and
in some cases reliant upon them.

Ballykelly British Army base, three miles from Limavady in
Co Derry, has around 800 soldiers and their families
stationed inside at any one time.

Although the town is mostly nationalist, with a Sinn Féin
mayor, the local Protestants provide the bulk of the
civilian infrastructure which supports the base. In an area
of high unemployment this is a valuable economic resource.

The British Army's almost complete isolation from the
nationalist community meant bases became virtual self-
contained "cities'', complete with bars, fast-food outlets
and entertainment facilities, with civilians often working
as internal couriers.

When off-duty soldiers visit local restaurants or bars,
they are invariably Protestant-owned and frequented.

Some estimates put the civilian workforce at Ballykelly at
more than 200. Not surprisingly, the fears of these
workers, and their co-workers spread across "garrison
towns'' in the North, has been tapped into by unionist

Perceived not only as a political and military ally, the
British Army has also been an economic boon for

The British government's plans to disband the RIR, with its
3,200 members, reduce the number of British Army bases from
40 to 14 and potentially make redundant almost 2,000
Ministry of Defence workers has signalled tentative steps
to move the North away from a war economy.

However, unionists are resisting demilitarisation, on not
only political, but economic grounds.

George Robinson, a DUP MLA for east Derry and a Limavady
councillor, worked in Ballykelly barracks for more than 40
years. He said civilian workers at the barracks and local
traders were concerned over the cuts.

"A lot of people rely on Ballykelly for employment, local
people do a whole range of jobs in it and local business
will certainly notice the impact on trade," he said. "It
has been something that has come up time and again,
families rely on this place for their livelihood. We need
these barracks to provide employment. You have local food
processors who will see a huge drop in demand once the
troops go."

Although Ballykelly will almost certainly be among the 14
bases to be retained, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said
it was likely that the troop levels inside the barracks
would be reduced.

The North's economy is already heavily dependent on public
sector employment; of 690,000 people in full-time
employment 220,000 are employed in the public sector.

That is well above most European averages.

However, Michael Smyth, an economist and lecturer at the
University of Ulster, said the impact of demilitarisation
would be confined to host communities and would be short-

"We have to put the proposed changes in the context of what
has been happening since 1997," he said. "Since then, there
has been a huge structural shift in the economy away from
the military.

"It has been handled well so far. People who take early
retirement have been retrained and absorbed into the
economy. Normalisation will benefit us all. Without it, the
economy cannot hope to grow at the pace needed.
Normalisation will create the space that is needed for the
economy to thrive. Ultimately, those people who have been
involved in the military economy will have to retrain and
rethink their future."

So far, the price of buying the support of the Protestant
community for peace-time changes has been financially high.
When more than 1,100 prison officers in the H-Blocks were
faced with redundancy following prisoner releases, they
were given a lump sum settlement of stg£110,000 each, with
an additional pension of stg£13,500 per year.

Already there is talk of generous redundancy settlements
for the 3,200 RIR members and 2,000 MoD employees. The fate
of the local "cottage industry'' which services the British
Army in the North is unclear.

The removal of British Army bases has opened up new
opportunities for nationalist areas in the North, freeing
land for badly needed housing and business projects.
Protestant areas, with ageing populations, have far less
need for new housing.

Within the unionist heartlands, the removal of military
bases signals not only a new beginning for the North but
the beginning of the end of a profitable relationship with
the British students must do a minimum of two
hours' study during the day.


Opin: Harney Digs A Deep Hole For McDowell

14 August 2005 By Vincent Browne

The vigour and relentlessness with which Tánaiste Mary
Harney digs holes for herself is impressive, but what a
cavern she has created for Minister for Justice Michael
McDowell when he returns from his holidays in Australia!

One way or another, she wants the Colombia Three behind
bars for a very long time, either here or back in Colombia.

Neither the facts nor legal constraints may get in the way.

The facts are these. The Colombia Three were charged,
convicted and sentenced for using false passports in
Colombia. James Monaghan and Martin McCauley used false
British passports, while Niall Connolly used a false Irish

There is no evidence that they used false passports other
than in the circumstances that gave rise to their
conviction in Colombia. They may well have used other false
passports to get themselves back to Ireland, but there is
no evidence of that.

One way or another, there is no evidence that either
Monaghan or McCauley broke any Irish law regarding

So how could they be arrested and charged here for passport

In the case of Connolly, there is no evidence that he
committed any crime in relation to an Irish passport, other
than the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced,
for which he served a term of imprisonment in Colombia.

Is it being suggested that he be charged, convicted and
sentenced for the same offence, that he be punished twice
for the same thing?

I don't think the Irish Supreme Court would buy that one.

On the terrorist training charge, it is true that they were
convicted on this charge by a Colombian court, that they
absconded from the Colombian jurisdiction to avoid serving
the 17-year sentences that were imposed, and that the
Colombian authorities want them returned.

But the question is: was that conviction fair? Was it
arrived at in accordance with rules of justice we could
stand over?

Were proper legal procedures applied?

The men were found not guilty by the judge who heard all
the evidence, assessed the testimonies and reliability of
the various witnesses and entertained all the legal
submissions from the parties in the case.

The evidence against the men was threefold:

forensic evidence of traces of explosive substances on the
men's belongings immediately after they were arrested,
having flown from the Farc-controlled zone in Colombia

the evidence of a witness who said he saw the three men
training in January 2001

the evidence of a second witness who said he saw the men
training Farc operatives on various dates in late 2000 and
early 2001.

The forensic evidence was given by a 'consultant' at the US
embassy, who was the first person contacted by the
Colombian military on the arrest of the men.

He conducted two tests. The first found traces of
explosives and cocaine on the men's belongings; the second
found traces of only explosives.

This man did not show up to give evidence at the men's
trial. Colombian forensic experts who tested the men's
belongings immediately after the American did so found no
traces of explosives.

An English forensic expert who gave evidence for the
defence described the American's evidence as "rubbish''.

The American had failed to calibrate properly the forensic
equipment he was using, and simply did not have the
knowledge or expertise for the tests he purported to

So no go on that front.

As for the witness who saw the men training Farc operatives
in the use of explosives in January 2001, there was also a
problem there.

Connolly was able to show that he was in Cuba in January
2001.While there, on January 17, he attended a dinner in
Havana hosted by the first secretary of the Irish embassy
in Mexico, Sheila Murphy.

Also at that dinner were three Irish parliamentarians: Jim
O'Keeffe TD, the Fine Gael justice spokesman; Clare Fine
Gael senator Madeleine Taylor-Quinn and former Fianna Fail
TD Ben Briscoe.

Monaghan was able to show that on all the dates specified
by the other witness he was in either Dublin or Belfast.

He had video footage to prove that. In one instance, he
even had video footage of a seminar - as it happened, on
Colombia - attended by two Irish women who had lived in
Colombia, and one of whose sons had been murdered by Farc.

There was some discussion on Farc; no one expressed any
sympathy for the organisation.

Subsequently, questions arose about the date of this video,
and there were suggestions that it had been tampered with
to disguise the date.

But in the course of the videoed discussion, a person
referred to that day's newspaper and cited a particular
article, again on Colombia, which anchored the date of the
video conclusively.

So no go with either of the two witnesses.

The judge, having heard all the evidence, observed the
witnesses and heard the submissions, found the men not
guilty on the terrorist training charges.

Not only that, but he was so unimpressed with the evidence
of the two witnesses that he ordered an inquiry into
whether they had committed perjury.

By our standards of justice, that is enough. Once a person
has been tried and acquitted by a competent court, that is
it, over and done with. But not in Colombia, or the mind of
Mary Harney.

The case was appealed to a three-judge court. The three
judges consulted the transcripts of the original trial.

They heard no witnesses or submissions, and were in no
position to evaluate the credibility of any witnesses or
follow through with questions of their own to the

On the basis of their private deliberations, they concluded
not just that the men were guilty, but that this was a
certainty. The certainty test is required in Colombian law
for acquittals to be overturned.

So certain were the judges that one of them said he was not
certain at all and that the original acquittal should

The two other judges insisted that the witnesses who the
trial judge thought might be perjurers had to be believed,
and the discrepancies in their evidence could be explained
by the fact that they had lived outside "civilisation'' for
so long that they did not know what day it was.

On the basis of their belief that the witnesses were
credible, the judges said that the contention of the
Colombia Three that they were in the Farc area simply to
observe the peace process was simply not credible.

Of course, the men's contention that they were in Colombia
to observe the peace process and smell the roses is hard to
believe. I, for one, can't believe it. I suspect they were
there for other purposes. But unsubstantiated suspicions
have no place in our legal system.

Defendants are convicted on the basis of evidence, not of
suspicion, and in this case there is no reliable evidence
to substantiate the terrorist training charges. Neither do
the procedures of the appeal process of Colombia command
any respect or trust.

For a court to overturn an acquittal without having heard
any evidence or submissions or examined the key witnesses
is a travesty of fair judicial procedures.

Harney's insistence that the verdict of this court should
now be validated by the Irish legal system is the cavernous
hole that awaits the Minister for Justice when he returns
from his summer frolics.

McDowell's already low estimation of Harney's political
skills will not have been improved by her performance over


Opin: Harney Act Made Fiasco Worse

14 August 2005 By Tom McGurk

What on earth have members of the Irish judiciary and legal
profession been making of 'acting' Minister for Justice
Mary Harney's performance on the Colombia Three? Acting is
the operative word, I might add.

Of course, the three men, Niall Connolly, James Monaghan
and Martin McCauley, were about as welcome home to the
post-IRA peace process as a kneecapping, but that said,
there is finally major business to be done here.

Who needs these diversions?

Diplomatically, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern moved quickly to
handle the black hole that was opening up. He rushed back
from holiday, was briefed by Rory Brady, the Attorney
General, and then initiated a quiet round of diplomacy with
the US and Britain to explain the potential publicity
fiasco and legal quagmire that was opening up.

(Presumably, at these meetings when the participants are
discussing matters of international justice, nobody
mentions Guantanamo.)

If, from the off, the Taoiseach understood that whatever
the three were up to in Colombia, they were not in breach
of Irish law, how come the acting Minister for Justice

They were not 'wanted' here, and whatever they had been up
to in Colombia was evidentially unsupportable here.
Furthermore, there is no extradition treaty between Ireland
and Colombia.

(This is not surprising, given the international reputation
of this infamous Latin American judicial regime - though
I'm sure the US embassy might know more about 'judicial and
extrajudicial arrangements' down Bogota way than any of

In fact, there aren't even any extradition treaties between
Colombia and its closest neighbours. Wonder why?

Worse, the case against the three stank. They had first
been found not guilty of directing terrorism, with the
judge accusing the government witnesses of perjury.

Subsequently, they were convicted by dint of a Colombian
appeal process that was held in secret, without either them
or their legal team being present.

I have no doubt that the Attorney General might have gently
pointed out to the Taoiseach that as kangaroo courts go,
here was one whose conclusions would surely be consigned to
the dustbin by any subsequent European Court of Justice

However, even before all of that could happen, what about
the small matter of the three's legal protections under
Bunreacht na hÉireann and a Supreme Court that is long used
to sorting the wheat from the chaff - and famously used to
separating political requirements from judicial absolutes.

In other words, the Colombia Three were a right pain in the
arse, but given the standards of jurisprudence and human
rights that make us different from, for example, Colombia,
we would just have to put up with the silly season
headlines and not be diverted from the principal business
following the IRA announcement.

Ending wars is a difficult and complex process, and for
those who want to make political mischief, there's always
some detritus lying about with which to do it.

There were also wider political considerations. Given the
crisis the men had already caused for the peace process,
the notion of Ireland or its government attempting to
extradite three of its citizens to a Latin American state
that is by a byword for lawlessness and human rights abuses
would have had incalculable national and international
political consequences, not least with the peace process
and international judicial opinion.

In this context, the early demand by John Minihan of the
Progressive Democrats that the three be extradited at once
- echoing Peter Robinson of the DUP - was simply

This man serves in Dáil Éireann, and is therefore charged
with upholding the constitution and the rights of all its
citizens under it.

Had nobody told Harney, the acting justice minister, the
judicial facts?

Maybe it was the novelty of it all, but she seemed
determined to go on a solo run.

It was not a decision, I suspect, that got her a round of
applause from the patients on trolleys in hospital
corridors, or indeed the thousands awaiting the medical
card fiasco to end.

Over three days, Harney cooked up a storm with press
releases and media interviews. Given the silly season and
the fact that most frontline broadcasters were on holidays,
she had a free run.

Had nobody in the Department of Foreign Affairs shared the
diplomatic briefing with the Department of Justice?

Spotting the Transfer of Execution of Sentencing Bill (an
essentially compassionate measure to facilitate the
transfer of prisoners across international boundaries,
lying undisturbed around the Oireachtas for two years),
Harney told the press that "the Colombia Three could be
required to serve their sentences in Ireland''.

The fact that the bill was unsigned and would require the
Colombian justice regime to sign it, having satisfied
strict Irish and European judicial standards - can you
imagine that? - was neither here nor there.

Even more remarkably, as our courts have recently ruled,
legislation such as this cannot be used retrospectively. In
short, any Transfer of Execution of Sentencing Bill case
was high nonsense, yet Harney persisted with it.


Next, she dragged the Garda Siochána into it, and suggested
that people should help them to find the three men.

(I'll bet that amused the Special Branch, who of course
know exactly where they are.)

She could not explain why they were being sought by the
Gardai, nor could she elucidate what Irish law they might
have broken, apart from being a bloody nuisance. Her
mutterings about false passports is also baloney, since
Irish citizens do not require a passport to reenter
Ireland, and anyway we have had a common travel area with
Britain since the foundation of the state.

Of course, what Harney didn't say last week was the most
significant of all: that if she were really serious about
requiring the three behind bars, the Offences Against the
State Act for IRA membership was only a chief
superintendent's opinion away.

Sadly, the facts of this Colombia Three mess are simply

Nobody, apart from them and their paramilitary associates,
knows what they were up to in Farc-land. Once they were
arrested the possibility of clarifying the facts
disappeared in a wider propaganda war stretching from the
unionists to the Colombian government and its death squads
to the keepers of Guantanamo Bay in Washington. Press
coverage descended into spooks' briefing time across all

In the end, this was not an international judicial battle
at all, but rather a dirty war of disinformation and
propaganda initiated by idiots on their 'revolutionary'

What an extraordinary political calculation by one of our
major Irish political players, that this week - and at this
sensitive time - we needed more of it.


Everyone Loses Out With The Return Of The Three Amigos

14 August 2005 By Pat Leahy

RTE: But as a matter of political opinion, do you think
that these men should be returned to face the courts in
Colombia where they were on trial?

Bertie Ahern: If that matter happens it will be dealt with
by the Irish courts – not by me.

RTE: But do you have a political opinion?

Bertie Ahern: No, I don't have a political opinion.

The excerpt from the RTE television interview with the
Taoiseach from an unbroadcast section of the report is a
testament not just to the Taoiseach's innate caution and
his celebrated propensity for fence-sitting.

It also points to the potential of the Colombia Three's
reappearance not just to cause serious damage (again) to
the peace process, but to destabilise the increasingly
suspicious partnership of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive

If the government was made to look silly in the middle of
the silly season - and it was - the government wasn't
alone; there were no winners when the Colombia Three showed
up in Ireland.

Fianna Fáil ministers insisted all last week that the issue
of the Colombia Three had nothing at all to do with
politics. It was a legal matter, said the Taoiseach. He
doesn't, apparently, even have a view on it.

The government wouldn't be doing anything, said Noel
Dempsey on RTE's Saturday View. It was up to the Garda and
the courts.

"It's easy to make political judgments on matters like
this," said another Fianna Fáil minister, Seamus Brennan.
"But it's not a matter of political judgments. Whether
people go to jail in this country, if that ever became a
matter for political opinion, we'll be in serious trouble."

Brennan hardly really believes that calls on the government
to explain its position and intentions on the Colombia
Three are a threat to the separation of powers or the start
of a slippery slope to dictatorship. If the minister does
believe that, then maybe we are in serious trouble.

The government gives directions to the gardai all the time
– on traffic management, drink driving patrols, etc. A
government spokesman stressed that these were policy
matters - all operational matters were strictly for the
garda management to decide. What the government's policy is
on asylum seekers fleeing from Colombia remains undefined.

While the Taoiseach and his ministers remained paralysed by
some ill-defined constitutional alchemy, the Tánaiste
wasn't much more forthcoming. She did, however, manage to
convey a degree of hostility towards the men and towards
the republican movement in general.

We're not quite sure what we can do yet, she seemed to
suggest. We have half an idea about getting them to serve
their sentences here.

But I know what I'd like to do to them.

Everyone else thought: just wait until McDowell gets back.

The government's spokesman was anxious to point out last
week that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were in "constant
contact'' on the issue of the Colombia Three. Quite what
the substance or nature of the contact was remains between
the two leaders.

The spokesman was unaware, however, if the Taoiseach had
spoken to Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams or anyone in the
leadership of the republican movement on the subject.

The gardai, meanwhile, simply refused to say anything.
Never mind that the public might have a legitimate interest
in learning their intentions. None of our business,

But if the government seemed confused, it was becoming
clear by this weekend that Sinn Féin might have bitten off
a bit more than it can chew. The party was most
uncharacteristically taciturn in the past week.

They say in Government Buildings that, when there's a
crisis in the peace process, the Shinners simply turn off
their mobile phones until they can get together and agree
what the official story is. For much of last week, the
official story from Sinn Féin appeared to be that there
wouldn't be an official story at all.

Caitriona Ruane, the MLA who had led the Bring Them Home
Campaign, refused to talk to the media. Other party
spokesmen pleaded that they did not know where the men
were, and could not speak for them.

It's difficult to escape the conclusion that Sinn Féin is
collectively lying about al l this. Insofar as individual
leaders don't know where the men are, that's only because
they choose not to know.

Clearly, the party has been trying to use the men's return
to reassure its own hardline base about the IRA's decision
to stand down and, more importantly, its (apparently)
imminent acts of decommissioning. But there are legal and
political consequences to the men's return which Sinn Féin
can't avoid.

The party no longer lives - or professes to no longer live
- in the twilight world of legality which characterised the
days of the ballot box and the Armalite.

If it wishes to exploit the political potential offered to
it by the peace process, it will have to resist the
temptation of pulling quasi-legal fast ones like producing
the three amigos out of a big sombrero during the silly

It would be difficult to overestimate the fury in
government circles about the reappearance of the men and
the stroke that the government believes it represents.

In part, this fury is prompted by the realisation of
impotence in the face of an emerging consensus that it will
prove legally impossible to send the men back to Colombia,
even if this were to prove politically possible.

"The Shinners win no matter what way you look at this,"
seethed one government insider last week.

Government anger - to say nothing of Labour and Fine Gael's
savage indignation - was exacerbated by last week's Sunday
Business Post/Red C opinion poll which, although taken
before the news of the men's reappearance, showed that
resistance to Sinn Féin is breaking down among the
electorate at large.

Still, when government figures calm down, they'll realise
that the episode hasn't been without cost to Sinn Féin
either. The plan to allow Northern MPs - ie, senior Sinn
Féin figures like Adams and McGuinness - some rights of
audience in the Dáil has been dropped like a hot potato.

Sinn Féin acknowledged that Adams might have been mistaken
in portraying the initiative as a done deal to enable him
to address the Dáil at will, but in actual fact the party
had issued several press releases in this vein.

Some sort of speaking right was clearly something the party
was pressing for - and it would have represented a massive
coup for the party. The most that will happen now is that
MPs might be invited to speak at the odd Dáil Committee
meeting, in the manner of the British ambassador, or Fr
Sean Healy, or the director general of RTE.

What are the other downsides of the affair for Sinn Féin?

Reminding the public of the republican movement's past
activities and international associations with the likes of
ETA and Farc is not part of the current gameplan, which
emphasises the sweet reason of Mary Lou McDonald rather
than the sacrifice of Bobby Sands and bombs in London pubs.

While Sinn Féin's core support did not waiver greatly
during the Robert McCartney and Northern Bank-generated
storm of earlier this year, the party's future
battlegrounds are for the hearts and minds of middle

Polls repeatedly suggest that the vast majority of Irish
people are firmly supportive of the peace process and
broadly tolerant of compromises made to advance it - in
this, as what much else, Bertie Ahern appears to have an
innate feeling for where the Irish people are.

But polls also suggest that the people's patience, like the
Taoiseach's, is not an inexhaustible commodity in this

Ultimately, the decision to unveil the fact of the men's
return cost Sinn Féin in political capital - with the
southern political establishment and with that broad
section of the electorate to which it must extend its
appeal if it is to grow politically.

Other than the three amigos, there were no winners in the
final chapter of the IRA's Colombian adventures.


Colombia Dusts Off The Treaty Of 1888

Enda Leahy

THE Colombian government is hoping that an ancient treaty
with the British government, covering piracy and slave
trading offences, could be used to extradite the Colombia

Lawyers at the attorney- general's office are examining the
1888 "treaty between Great Britain and Colombia for the
mutual surrender of fugitive criminals" to see if it could
be applied to the fugitives.

The Irish government has insisted until now that it has no
extradition treaty with Colombia. But the Colombians
believe that because the 19th-century treaty was signed by
"Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland", the republic is covered.

Legal experts last week noted the irony of seeking to
extradite alleged members of the IRA using a law that
covered "colonies and foreign possessions of her Britannic
majesty", including Ireland.

The three men went on the run last year after they were
convicted of training the Farc guerrillas in Colombia in
the use of deadly weapons. It emerged last week that they
had returned to Ireland when James Monaghan, one of the
fugitives, did an interview with RTE saying he was happy to
be home.

Interpol and the American government have called on Ireland
to pursue the men but, as yet, Colombia has not submitted
an extradition request. Government sources said they
believed that one could be imminent.

Mario Iguaran, the country's newly appointed attorney-
general, said: "International mechanisms do exist that
enable us to issue an extradition request."

Gardai have interviewed several members of the men's
families during the week but have yet to establish the
men's whereabouts. One senior officer said that they could
have left the country again.

The Colombian police made contact with the crime and
security division at Garda headquarters in Phoenix Park
early last week to discuss what they could do to facilitate
an arrest.

A spokesman for the Colombian attorney-general's office
refused to discuss its legal strategy other than to say
that it was actively pursuing extradition, but Colombian
government sources said attention was centred on the 120-
year-old law.

"They've dug up an ancient international treaty and are
examining it to see if they can make the argument to the
Irish government to return them," said the source.

The 1888 law, the "Treaty between Great Britain and
Colombia for the mutual surrender of fugitive criminals"
includes offences such as "piracy", "sinking or destroying
a vessel at sea" and "dealing in slaves". It was drawn up
between the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and the
president of Colombia and stated that "fugitives from
justice, should, under certain circumstances, be
reciprocally delivered up" by either side.

The attorney-general was the Colombian deputy justice
minister and has been involved in the case since the men's
arrest in Bogota in 2001.

Professor Dermot Walsh, a criminal law expert at the
University of Limerick, said that extradition of the three
men, with or without a treaty, was a "non-runner".

"Arrangements under the Extradition Act 1965 would
supersede any arrangements made by the government of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland," said Walsh.
"The pre-1922 deal would still be applicable in Britain,
but even without our secession from the union and the 1965
act it would be hard to try to secure the extradition of
these people.

"The Irish government must protect its constitutional
rights from attack, and that means they should not be
extradited to another country where those rights might not
be protected."


Harney's Last Stand

Mary Harney, the tanaiste, showed a keen appreciation of
the public mood last week when she spoke with controlled
anger about the Colombia Three. Harney rightly believes
that the three men, who have been convicted of terrorist
offences in Colombia, should serve jail time, and floated
the possibility that they could do so in Ireland.

Her toughness was refreshing, and it was important she
should also rule out the possibility that the fugitives
could benefit from any future deals between the government
and Sinn Fein.

The return of the men to Ireland has been an embarrassment
for the government but Harney's stance has prevented real
damage. Sinn Fein and the republican leadership, on the
other hand, have miscalculated. Their decision to bring the
men home was a deliberate attempt to exploit the goodwill
that had been engendered by the IRA's decision to end its
"armed campaign". However, such is the disillusionment with
republican statements precious little existed for them to
cash in on. The arrival of the fugitives was seen for what
it is: a cynical and selfish act of brinkmanship.

The public hostility to the men's return might explain why
they continue to lie low: if they expected the Irish people
to salute their derring do, or at the least turn a blind
eye to their effrontery, they were mistaken. It remains
imperative, however, that the three men are detained and
interviewed by the gardai. Their return to Ireland, despite
the existence of an international arrest warrant, poses
worrying questions for Ireland's security forces and its
border controls. The gardai should not delay in questioning
senior Sinn Fein leaders about the three fugitives'

Whether it chooses to help the police will tell us much
about Sinn Fein's democratic pretensions. It believes it
has a right to form part of Northern Ireland's devolved
government, and remains hopeful of joining a government in
the republic, but it does not appear to grasp that
adherence to the rule of law is a prerequisite for
participation. Sinn Fein cannot retain its links to
subversion and hope, at the same time, to serve in
government alongside parties that accept the rules of

Just a week after the IRA belatedly promised to give some
ground on arms, its political partners had started to claw
back concessions. Within a week, Gerry Adams was demanding
the "right" to speak in the Dail, notwithstanding the fact
that he has not been elected to office by the people.

Then came the Colombia Three. Sinn Fein welcomed their
arrival, showing little concern that the government had
been placed in such an awkward position. Yet again, it
presumed the Irish people would offer unquestioning

Difficult though it may be, Harney must not relent in her
resolve to bring these three men to justice, and she cannot
allow Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, to wobble. If someone
does not call time on Adams and his crew, then we will
discover all too late the corrosive effect their hypocrisy
and arrogance has had on Irish society.


It's Difficult To Close The Book In N. Ireland


14 August 2005

DIDN'T somebody once say that it's not over until the fat
lady sings? Never was this more apposite than when applied
to Northern Ireland. Despite their recent pledge to
renounce the armed struggle the IRA is not going to just
fade away. Neither will the protestant militias. And
certainly not, despite ill health, will the rabid,
protestant preacher, Ian Paisley, of whom it was recently
said, "He is no more representative of Christianity than
Osama bin Laden is of Islam".

He has his son in waiting, just as the IRA will still have
access to fertiliser, just as soon as they feel they are
not getting their due. The extremists are doing better than
they have ever done at the polls, and the province, once
the safest place in Europe to bring up a teenage daughter,
now appears to have an unfailing ability to produce a
steady supply of street thugs.

Most serious of all, perhaps, are the skeletons that are
slowly but steadily walking out of the British government's
closet. This summer was supposed to see the publication of
long judicial inquiry into the events of 33 years ago when
British paratroopers opened fire on a crowd of non-violent
catholic protestors, killing thirteen. Known as the events
of Bloody Sunday, the truth, by all accounts, is going to
be devastating. But the report has been delayed.

Then there is to be another recently announced inquiry,
arguably with an even more explosive content than the
Bloody Sunday one. It concerns the murder of the catholic
civil rights lawyer, Patrick Finucane. A loyalist, armed
group, killed him in February 1989. The evidence to be
considered by the judges seems damning — that army
intelligence worked had in hand with protestant militias to
murder suspected members and sympathisers of catholic armed
groups. However, the family of Finucane and human rights
organisations are now saying they will not cooperate with
this inquiry as it is not going to be truly independent —
under new legislation, governing official inquiries, state
actions can be shielded from scrutiny.

This is consistent with previous government attitudes. In
1984 John Stalker, a senior British police officer, was
officially appointed to investigate a series of supposed
cover-ups. Stalker alleged he was obstructed from carrying
out a full investigation. Before he could complete his work
he was moved from duty. He was later to state that that he
had uncovered new evidence of unlawful killings by the
police. However because of 'national security and public
interest' considerations no officers were prosecuted.
There were many subsequent such killings. In 1988 soldiers
publicly killed three unarmed people in Gibralter. When
Amnesty International called for an inquiry Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher accused the organisation of being "IRA
apologists". Finally in 1995 the European Court of European
Rights declared that the killings by the British army were

In February 1985, three IRA men were killed by the Special
Air Services (SAS — the army's elite regiment) while
returning weapons to a cache. At the inquest it was stated
that an army patrol had encountered the armed men in a
field and had only opened fire after the men had pointed
guns at them. Yet a pathologist testified that one of them
had been hit by 28 bullets, most of them fired whilst they
lay on the ground. Moreover, all three had a single gunshot
wound to the head, suggesting they had been cold-bloodily
'finished off'.

The torture, brutality and other subterranean practices
carried out by the army, police and secret services cannot
be compared with that inflicted by their counterparts in,
say, Chile or Guatemala. Nevertheless, by the self-imposed
standards of a long-standing mature state, it has been a
serious falling short. Human rights standards are not meant
for periods of harmony in a society, but for situations of
conflict and stress in a body politic. In this light,
successive British governments ignored the gospel they
regularly preach to the outside world. How could a country
that prided itself on its notions of liberality subvert the
law and undermine the worldwide raising of standards it is
always intent on promoting?

One chapter closes. Another opens. Now Prime Minister Tony
Blair, who has done much to bring peace to Northern
Ireland, is talking about amending British adherence to
European human rights law in the light of the recent
bombings in London by Muslim militants. Will the British
government now go down the road of provoking and feeding
the paranoia of Islamists just as it did the Catholics of
Northern Ireland for so long? Are no lessons being learnt?
No wonder the fat lady daren't sing.

Jonathan Power is a London-based commentator


Police Praise 'Peaceful' Derry March

2005-08-13 17:40:03+01

Today's Apprentice Boys march in Derry was one of the most
peaceful in 15 years after only four arrests, police said.

An estimated 10,000 Apprentice Boys and 120 bands took part
in the main demonstration which commemorates the 1688 Siege
of Derry.

Supt Johnny McCarroll said: "It was very successful - I
think it was one of the most peaceful parades that I have
seen in 15 years of policing."

"I am very pleased for the city."

Two people were arrested for drunkenness while another pair
were arrested for disorderly behaviour.

Police also said that seven bands would be reported to the
Apprentice Boys organisation for behaving in a
"deliberately provocative manner".

The loyal order parade commemorates the 13 apprentice boys
who shut Derry's gates at the start of the Siege of Derry
by the troops of the Catholic King James II in December

Earlier, rival groups of loyalists and nationalists
exchanged taunts during the parade.

Local SDLP Councillor Colum Eastwood described the
sectarian chants from band members in Derry today as
'shameful and totally disrespectful'.

Cllr Eastwood said he was glad the parade was peaceful but
added: "I was totally disgusted to watch on as band members
and supporters chanted sectarian slogans.

"These chants were used to incite hatred and provoke

"They were totally uncalled for and in my opinion were
totally disrespectful to the citizens of Derry.

"The town has come to a standstill today as most shops
closed their doors. To be treated with such contempt by
band members and supporters is a grave insult to the
nationalist community."

Cllr Eastwood appealed to everybody to remain calm for the
remainder of the day.

"Those who are taunting and chanting are only showing
themselves up as sectarian bigots with no dignity or no
respect," he added.

Police praised the co-operation of the Apprentice Boys, the
Bogside Residents' Group and Chamber of Commerce during
today's event.

Earlier, police in Society Street were pelted with petrol
bombs as an Apprentice Boys bannerette was being dedicated,
but nobody was injured.

The main demonstration, which lasted for several hours, was
preceded by a religious service and a pageant re-enacting
the siege.

The parade, which has been relatively trouble-free in
recent years, is Northern Ireland's biggest annual loyal
order parade.


Wake-Up Call For FF In Mayo

14 August 2005 By Niamh Connolly

Sinn Féin appears to be reaping rewards from its campaign
against the Corrib gas terminal in Mayo. A local newspaper
opinion poll shows a jump in support for the party from 3
per cent to 11 per cent - though Fianna Fáil disputes the

Support for the main government party has fallen from 40
per cent to 16 per cent, according to last week's Mayo Echo
poll, carried out by Durkan Market Research.

In a general election, such a result could leave Fianna
Fáil's official and unofficial TDs, John Carty and Beverley
Flynn, fighting it out for the last seat with Sinn Féin
councillor Gerry Murray.

While the poll indicates anti-government sentiment in Mayo,
there is some scepticism about local newspaper polls,
especially since the Meath Chronicle was proved
spectacularly inaccurate in its by-election predictions for
Fianna Fáil last March.

But if the Mayo findings were repeated in a general
election, it would result in an unprecedented collapse in
the Fianna Fáil vote.

The poll was carried out before the Minister for
Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey,
instructed Shell to dismantle the onshore pipeline which
was constructed without consent. It also took place
directly after the announcement of IRA decommissioning.

Durkan interviewed 629 people in 10 locations across the
county, which market sources believe is a reasonable sample
for a 111,000 population. Undecideds made up 19 per cent of
the total, and there was a margin of error of 4 per cent.

But a 4 per cent margin could be crucial to the three
candidates predicted to be fighting for the last two seats,
since final transfers will dictate the outcome in a general

Fianna Fáil has criticised the poll on the grounds that it
took place before the party's selection conventions, and it
listed candidates who may not be running.

The party also believes there was an anti-government bias
in the poll, which included a question on the Shell to Sea
campaign, supported by 87 per cent of those surveyed.

Tom Durkan, head of Durkan Market Research, said that while
the selection conventions had not taken place, the company
had carried out its own research on likely candidates. He
said the ballot on party support preceded questions on the
Shell campaign to avoid accusations of bias.

The Galway-based company in operation for two years, is
used by larger polling companies such as MRBI for surveys
in the west.

The poll found a transfer pattern from independent TD Jerry
Crowley and Fine Gael deputy Michael Ring to Sinn Féin's
Gerry Murray, who supports the Rossport Five, the five
local men who remain in jail for refusing to obey a High
Court order relating to the Shell pipeline.

Fine Gael party leader Enda Kenny gains at the expense of
Ring, but some of the gains were made in the east Mayo
bailiwick of Jim Higgins, who will not be standing in 2007.

Sinn Féin's support rose by 8 per cent to 11 per cent over
its 2002 general election result, reflecting a trend
revealed in last week's Sunday Business Post/Red C opinion
poll in the wake of the IRA announcement.

Cowley, who topped the Mayo Echo poll, cautioned that
opinion polls were only a snapshot in time, but few doubt
that Fianna Fáil is in disarray in Mayo. The party's
showing would have been influenced, not only by Beverley
Flynn's new independent status, but by local bitterness
towards the recent crackdown on her support base by party

Fianna Fáil headquarters were sceptical of the results, but
said they confirmed the need to copper-fasten the
reorganisation of local cumainn before selecting

The party is split over the issue, with its Mayo
councillors supporting the Shell to Sea campaign against
government policy. Kenny opposes the campaign, with Ring
breaking ranks on the question.

There was some surprise at the extent of the gain by
Murray. The former Fianna Fáil councillor topped the poll
for Sinn Féin in Swinford last year, having switched
allegiance in 2001.

Local sources describe the councillor as a grafter on local
issues, such as the privatisation of water schemes and
waste management services before the Rossport Five hit the
headlines. Sinn Féin hopes to make political gains
nationally over the Shell controversy, with senior party
figures Gerry Adams and Dáil TDMartin Ferris having a
presence on the Shell to Sea marches. One of the five men
imprisoned, schoolteacher Miceál Ó Seighin, was a spokesman
for Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh in last year's
local elections.

But if the Shell gas pipeline is becoming a hot potato for
the government, the Shell to Sea campaign is equally
falling prey to political spin and counter-spin. Murray
rejected claims that Sinn Féin was hijacking the Rossport
Five campaign for its own political ends.

"I would resent any attempt to project this in the
direction of a hijack by Sinn Féin," said Murray.

"This campaign is being led by the families. Any political
party that wants to pledge its support of the Shell to Sea
campaign at any public meeting can do so. Party
affiliations have nothing to do with the issue in hand."

There was speculation this weekend that Siptu chiefs were
growing concerned about the union's involvement in the
Shell to Sea campaign. But Siptu oil rig workers'
representative Padhraig Campbell blamed "mischief-making''
by parties that oppose the campaign.

"I'm not involved in Sinn Féin, and would consider myself
on the green side of Labour, though my father, who was a
solicitor in Galway, would have been from a Republican
background and was in Sinn Féin years back," said Campbell.

The Siptu representative is also chairman of the Campaign
for the Protection of Natural Resources, a body that
includes independent deputies Jerry Cowley and Joe Higgins,
the Green Party's Eamon Ryan and Siptu's oil rig branch
chairman Joe O'Toole.

"Of course there will be people trying to make out a
conspiracy," said Campbell.

"But this campaign includes anyone that supports the
Rossport Five's case for moving Shell to sea, no matter
what party they're from.

"This is a non-party-political banner. It's a local
campaign, not some conspiratorial Shinners' campaign, the
way some people are spinning it''.

Siptu president Jack O'Connor dismissed any suggestion of
concern about the local union's position on Shell to Sea.

"There is a public safety issue here, and there does seem
to me to be merit in the Shell to Sea campaign in relation
to the terms of reference of the safety review. It would be
better to err on the side of caution. Suggestions that I
disapprove of the involvement of Padhraig Campbell would be
untrue," O'Connor said.

Claims that local people had been laid off due to Shell's
decision to suspend work on the onshore gas terminal to
allow time for public consultation, were unfounded,
according to Campbell.

"We cannot find any local people who were laid off, because
they were not working on the project.

"The large proportion of the subcontracted workers, mostly
Scottish and Italian workers, have been redeployed to other
jobs," he said.

Campbell and Murray may not be in the same party, but they
are certainly singing from the same hymn sheet when it came
to criticising Fianna Fáil's deals on tax reliefs and
royalty exemptions for exploration companies.

"Ireland has a huge resource-based industry worth billions
lasting for decades, and Siptu sees this campaign in terms
of gaining maximum economic return with maximum safety,"
said Campbell.

In 1985, Fianna Fáil's Ray Burke significantly modified an
agreement that guaranteed the state a national stake and
financial return from any commercially successful find.

In 1975, Labour minister Justin Keating gave the state the
right to a 50 per cent stake plus royalties of 6 to 7 per
cent in any commercially successful find, and imposed a 50
per cent tax on the companies.

Burke abandoned the government stake against the advice of
his department and abolished payment of royalties. In 1992,
intense lobbying by the oil companies led to a lower tax
rate of 25 per cent under then Minister for Finance Bertie
Ahern. The tax could be written off against commercial
costs over the previous 25 years, including costs incurred
on work in other jurisdictions. 'Frontier licences' were
introduced, allowing oil companies to hold drilling
licences for up to 20 years.

Consultants Wood McKenzie, in a report in the late 1990s,
estimated that Corrib and surrounding areas had gas
reserves of between five and seven trillion cubic feet,
worth about €22 billion in current prices.

The Irish Offshore Operators' Association says the tax
arrangements are essential to maintain exploration interest
in Irish waters, owing to the poor exploitation record to


Bloody Sunday Rifle Found In Sierra Leone

Liam Clarke

WEAPONS used by paratroopers on Bloody Sunday have ended up
in the hands of the army in Sierra Leone, paramilitary
police in Beirut and even in an Arkansas gun shop.

A British police investigation, launched on behalf of Lord
Saville's inquiry into the shooting dead of 13
demonstrators in a banned civil rights march in Londonderry
in 1972, has tracked down some of the guns with a view to
doing forensic tests on them. A 14th man died of his
injuries four months later. The shootings fuelled much of
the subsequent violence of the Troubles.

Details and serial numbers of 29 SLR rifles, used by the
paras, were known because they had been submitted by the
army for forensic testing to the Widgery tribunal, held in
1972 in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

But Saville, who is expected to produce his report into the
atrocity some time next spring, wanted to re-examine the
guns in the hope that modern forensic methods might produce
fresh clues as to which soldier shot which civilian. In
particular, the inquiry wanted to establish whether any of
the SLR rifles, which the army stopped using in 1997, had
been adapted to fire lower- calibre .22 bullets.

Major-General Robert Ford, the British Army commander in
Northern Ireland at the time, had recommended in a top-
secret report that marksmen be allowed to shoot dead
trouble-makers, with rifles altered to fire less powerful
bullets. The tribunal wanted to test if this had been put
into effect on Bloody Sunday, when Kevin McElhinney, one of
the dead, appeared to have been shot with just such a

The "Operation Apollo" team was headed by Detective Chief
Inspector Steve Walters of the West Mercia constabulary and
Detective Chief Superintendent Geoff Nicholls of the
Ministry of Defence police. It scoured the world for the 29
weapons, but succeeded in recovering only a few.

Many were disposed of just days before Saville's inquiry
started on January 29, 1998, with some melted down for
scrap metal and others sold to international dealers. At
least two were destroyed after Saville had asked that they
be preserved.

The Apollo report, some sections of which were obtained by
The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act,
concludes that there had not been a conspiracy to destroy
evidence. "What occurred was a mixture of mistakes, human
error and negligence," it states.

The report also says that there was "evidence of a degree
of contempt and resistance" to the weapons probe.

Orders to "segregate" five rifles were ignored, with the
result that two were sold to a private company as scrap

One memo uncovered made light of Saville's determination to
find the guns, saying: "On Tuesday, the Battle of Hastings
inquiry will want to find the longbow which put Harold's
eye out", a reference to the death of the Anglo-Saxon king
during the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066.

Indentifying arsenal was also difficult. Some weapons had
had new barrels fitted, or in other cases, the serial
numbers given by the army were incomplete. The inquiry
discovered that 50 weapons matched the partial serial
numbers for the 29 guns, a phenomenon referred to as

One gun was tracked to Sierra Leone, where the army had
used it in a civil war. Another was used by paramilitary
police in Beirut and one ended up in Drifters gun shop in
Little Rock, Arkansas.

Greg McCartney, a solicitor acting for the family of James
Wray, who was killed on Bloody Sunday, criticised the army
for failing to preserve the weapons. He said: "Why hold
onto these rifles for 26 years and then begin destroying
them at a rapid rate as soon as the incident becomes the
subject of a new inquiry?" He added: "The family that I
represent will be upset at the prospect of the guns that
were used to murder people on Bloody Sunday being sold
around the world and used in slaughter in Beirut and other

The Widgery tribunal attempted to aportion blame between
marchers and the troops and was widely discredited. Lord
Saville's tribunal was set up as a result. It has lasted
seven years and cost £150m (€218m).


Hollywood Rewrites Script After IRA Statement

Jan Battles

THE IRA may have said it has abandoned its armed struggle,
but Hollywood is continuing the fight.

A film about a hardline terrorist opposed to the peace
process has been shooting in Co Wicklow and moves to
Belfast this week. IRA: King of Nothing tells the story of
Bobby O'Brien, an IRA member who doesn't agree with the
direction the organisation has taken.

Damian Chapa, the director of the film, had been developing
the project for two years. The $1m (£550,000) film,
starring Rachel Hunter and Joe Estevez, a younger brother
of Martin Sheen, was in preproduction when the IRA
announced it was disarming, so the script was hastily
rewritten to incorporate new developments.

"It's about a guy who is finding it difficult to understand
how his life has suddenly changed with the advent of the
peace process," said John Norton of Edge Films, an Irish
company making the film with Chapa's 7 Spirits
Entertainment. "He was involved with the IRA since he was a
teenager and has known no other life. That's why he's
finding it difficult to adapt to modern Northern Ireland
and accept the peace process. He is now 44 years of age and
has lived his life dedicated to the struggle."

Chapa, who has starred in Under Siege with Steven Seagal
and in Street Fighter alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme,
plays the terrorist who joined the IRA after his mother was
killed during the Troubles in the 1970s.

"Because of the political developments (Chapa) actually
rewrote the script last week to suit political events in
the north," said Norton. "It's not just about a renegade
who is opposed to the peace process."

Deirdre McNally, of Edge Films, said: "It's certainly the
grittiest film I've seen about the north in a long time."

Chapa said his goal as a filmmaker was "to create stories
that examine a man's struggle with good and evil, and right
and wrong". He said he wanted to "explore the inner turmoil
and struggles of all the characters involved and take an
in-depth look at this contentious subject from a more
personal angle". Chapa has visited Belfast several times
and is married to Ciara O'Brien, an actress from Belfast
who moved to Hollywood.

Estevez, who has made 125 films, plays Mick, the republican
dove to O'Brien's hawk. "He used to be a terrorist, but he
is for the peace process," said McNally. Sheen, whose
mother, Mary Ann Phelan, was an Irish immigrant with IRA
connections, has been a prominent Hollywood supporter of
the republican cause.

Hunter, the New Zealand-born model who was married to Rod
Stewart, plays a detective, while Lori Singer, who starred
in Fame and Footloose, plays another of O'Brien's love
interests. "It's a love story as well — it's not just all
about the IRA," said McNally.

Cian McCormack, who played a young version of Leonardo di
Caprio's character in Gangs of New York, plays O'Brien as a

In the film, after the IRA announces it has given up
violence, the renegade O'Brien becomes an easy target. The
character gets killed because of a long-running feud with
loyalist paramilitaries. "As a result of the IRA order to
lay down their arms he is no longer protected by the
organisation," said Norton. "He is ostracised because he
doesn't agree with them."

The film will be edited in Los Angeles after shooting in
Belfast finishes this week.

To receive this news via email, click HERE.
No Message is necessary.
To August 2005 Index
To Index of Monthly Archives
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?