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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)
October 22, 2005
Lee Clegg Put Back Into Front Line Duty
Lee Clegg Put Back Into Front Line
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News about Ireland & the Irish
TE 10/22/05 Lee Clegg Put Back Into Front Line Duty
GU 10/22/05 Let RIR Battalions Go, Says Collins To UUP
ST 10/23/05 Empey Says IRA 'A Failed Force'
BT 10/22/05 Analysis: Empey's Big Ask
SB 10/23/05 Irish Cool Saved Carroll's Life
ST 10/23/05 Ex-RUC Man To Name Police Informants
ST 10/23/05 RUC Widow New Victims' Champion
ST 10/23/05 Bogota Blames IRA For Rockets
SB 10/23/05 Liam Lawlor Killed In Moscow Car Crash
ST 10/23/05 Opin: Time To Ditch Street Corner Politics
ST 10/23/05 Opin: Leading Article: 1916 March A Gimmick
SB 10/23/05 Protestant Schools Are Bursting At The Seams
SB 10/23/05 Saddam Trial Breaches International Law
BT 10/22/05 Ltr: Act's Practical Consequences Still Evident
15 Years After Killing Joyrider, Lee Clegg Is Put Back In
By Sean Rayment
Lee Clegg, the paratrooper who shot a teenage joyrider in
west Belfast 15 years ago, is to return to front-line duty.
Clegg, 35, now a sergeant at the Army Foundation College,
in Harrogate, has been told to prepare to be posted to a
Parachute Regiment battalion in the next few months.
Military sources have revealed that the soldier, who has
just five years left to serve in the Army, could soon be
posted to 2 Para, which yesterday began arriving in Iraq
for a six-month tour.
But it is understood that he is "concerned" at the prospect
of being posted there because he has not served in a front-
line unit since he was imprisoned in 1993.
Sgt Clegg, from Bradford, West Yorks, was convicted of
murdering Karen Reilly, 18, in September 1990, when a
stolen car in which she was travelling sped past a
A subsequent appeal for his release failed and his fight
was taken up by the human rights lawyer Simon McKay. In
1994, Sgt Clegg became a media cause célèbre after the
House of Lords ruled that he should not be freed but in
July the following year he was released on licence by Sir
Patrick Mayhew, the attorney general, sparking rioting in
It is understood that Sgt Clegg was given details of his
pending move by an officer at his base the day after The
Sunday Telegraph reported that the commanding officer of
the Army Foundation College had dismissed bullying at the
recruits' training centre as "high jinks".
Sgt Clegg had been accused by Lt-Col Guy Deacon, his CO, of
assaulting a soldier accused of bullying but the case was
dismissed before it went to court martial. However, it
emerged during a pre-trial hearing that Sgt Clegg had
secretly taped an interview between himself and Lt Col
Deacon. The taping is said to have caused resentment among
officers and men and to have made Sgt Clegg's position
Following his release from prison, Sgt Clegg retrained as
an Army Physical Training Instructor and was based in
Catterick for several years before being posted to the
college where he became the Provost Sergeant, responsible
for security matters. He was acquitted of murdering Miss
Reilly in 2000.
A senior officer said that although Sgt Clegg was a
"special case" there was no legal or military reason why he
could not return to a front- line infantry regiment. "The
bottom line is that Sgt Clegg is first and foremost a
soldier. He has been cleared of murder and in the eyes of
the law is an innocent man. His past experiences should not
impact on his future employment," the officer said.
If Sgt Clegg is posted to a front-line unit it would not be
the first time a soldier convicted of murder has returned
to active duty. In 1995 two Scots Guards, Mark Fisher and
James Wright, shot dead Peter McBride, 18, as he ran away
from a checkpoint near his home in Belfast. Both were found
guilty and imprisoned but were released three years later
and allowed to rejoin the Army, taking part in operations
in the Balkans.
Let Battalions Go, Says Gulf War Hero
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday October 23, 2005
Colonel Tim Collins warned unionists yesterday to stop
getting emotional about the future of the Royal Irish
Collins, who shot to fame with his rousing eve-of-battle
speech to troops before the invasion of Iraq, told the
Ulster Unionist Party that it was 'time Northern Ireland
got in step with the rest of the world' and accepted
changes to the British army.
In response to the IRA's announcement in July that its
'armed struggle' was over for good, and its subsequent
moves towards decommissioning, the British government is
planning to disband the regiment's Home Service battalion.
Both the UUP and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party
have pledged to fight to save it. But Collins, who led RIR
soldiers into battle two and a half years ago, urged Ulster
unionists not to get hung up on their attachment to the
During a debate on the RIR's future at the UUP conference
in Belfast, Collins said a U-turn by Tony Blair 'was just
not going to happen'.
'The British army is stretched across the planet ... If,
for example, there is a mass outbreak of avian flu in
Britain, they will need troops in England to cope with the
emergency. How then can people in Northern Ireland justify
the retention of a Home Service battalion if this squalid
little war is over?' Collins said after his speech. 'It's
time to stop getting emotional because of the way Whitehall
is thinking. They will gladly hand out medals to RIR
veterans tomorrow, but they will not go back on their
He suggested unionists should argue instead for an
expansion of the Territorial Army in Ulster. Collins made
his remarks as the UUP gathered for the first time since it
elected its new leader, Sir Reg Empey.
In his first speech as leader, Empey made a direct appeal
to loyalist paramilitaries to disarm. 'Engage with the
commission ... place your arms beyond use and commit
yourselves to exclusively peaceful and democratic means,'
he told delegates.
Addressing the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence
Association, Empey added: 'The days when you listened and
responded to the blood-curdling speeches of some unionist
leaders in the Ulster Hall are long past.
'Political unionism cannot wash its hands of what happened
20 or 30 years ago, but if you agree that this chapter must
now be closed you will find in me a politician who will
assist in that transition to a better future. My door is
open to you. But you must realise that you cannot continue
as you are.'
The UUP leader also said Father Alec Reid's recent remarks
comparing unionists with Nazis had devalued the last major
act of IRA decommissioning. Reid was one of two churchmen
the IRA chose to witness the destruction of a vast arsenal
of weapons and explosives.
'Father Reid's outburst has shocked and alienated unionists
and done major damage to the credibility of the process.
Confidence in these developments has been severely
damaged,' he said.
Empey Says IRA 'A Failed Force'
SIR REG EMPEY, the Ulster Unionist leader, has described
the IRA as a defeated force and called on loyalist
paramilitary groups to disarm, write Liam Clarke and Jason
In a keynote address to his party's annual conference in
Belfast, Empey said: "The Provos have suffered a military
defeat. No victorious so-called 'army' hands over weapons
to a commission established by its enemy."
The UUP leader described the IRA as a failed force "left
friendless and isolated by the international community in
the wake of September 11" and claimed "we have prised their
fingers from the gun".
Turning his attention to loyalist terrorists, he said: "I
make this appeal to these groups: call it a day. Begin the
job of decommissioning the firepower that has brought such
"Northern Ireland is moving on apace and loyalist
paramilitaries need to recognise that they no longer have
any reason to maintain their structures."
Empey attacked those who "peddled the lie" that the peace
process had been all pain for unionists and only gain for
republicans, and accused Ian Paisley, the DUP leader, of
"leaving a bad legacy of division within unionism".
Colonel Tim Collins, the SAS veteran and former Royal Irish
Regiment officer who served in Iraq, was a guest speaker at
He advised unionists to stop fighting for the retention of
home service battalions of the RIR and instead work for
generous severance packages.
Collins was pointed in his criticisms of Peter Hain, the
secretary of state, saying, "He looks like something out of
Come Dancing." He said Hain had not prepared RIR soldiers
for the disbandment of the battalions and had mishandled
The conference re-elected Lord Rogan as UUP president
against opposition for the Rev Martin Smyth, a more
Analysis: Empey's Big Ask
This year marks the centenary of the UUP. But as delegates
meet today for their annual party conference reasons to
celebrate would seem few and far between. Stephen King
assesses the state of play - and outlines what he feels Sir
Reg Empey must do now
By Stephen King
22 October 2005
To say that the Ulster Unionist Party is in a bind is an
understatement. If it tacks to the right and attempts to
outflank the DUP, it looks incredible. If it hangs left, it
could become dangerously out of sync with a Unionist
population that is barely more enchanted by the idea of
Sinn Fein in government than it was last May. Can Sir Reg
Empey cut through the Gordian Knot today in his first
speech to UUP conference as party leader?
It's a big ask. Sir Reg is hardly an Alexander the Great
figure, not given to dramatic gestures. In the latter
Trimble years, he became increasingly frustrated by what he
saw as the former First Minister's erratic leadership
style. Trimbleistas would contend that Sir Reg, by turns,
was addicted to consensus, memorably defined by Mrs
Thatcher as, "the process of abandoning all beliefs,
principles, values and policies…something in which no one
believes and to which no one objects."
Sir Reg's commitment to broad church unionism is admirable.
Nevertheless, jibes from Lady Sylvia Hermon that UUP policy
under his leadership is little more than 'DUP lite' will
have hurt. There has to be some Orange water between the
two parties and few believe that a slightly arcane wrangle
about the composition of the Policing Board is it.
There are some who believe Sir Reg's task is an entirely
thankless one, that the best he can hope to achieve is to
keep the UUP going as a viable entity until such time as
the DUP trips and falls.
For sure, there is much work to be done on the party's
finances and some associations and branches are not so much
dysfunctional as non-functional, but if the leader allows
too much time and energy to be expended on housekeeping,
his party risks irrelevance.
Sir Reg needs all his strength to elbow his way into
discussions with a Government that increasingly appears to
wish to rule the province according to what the Sinn Fein
leadership will stand while at the same time throwing
worthless sweeteners - peerages and free rates for Orange
halls spring to mind - to the DUP.
If it sounds like a hopeless situation, it is not meant to.
A good third of the unionist population, even under the
most severe provocation from the Government, steadfastly
refuses to allow the DUP to speak in their name.
They might be disproportionately old and middle-class and
female, but they count for something. Moreover, it is worth
remembering that at least half of the unionist population,
even on a bad day, has shown itself to be open to a new
relationship with the nationalist population on the island.
Few were in any doubt that the Agreement meant Sinn Fein in
government, albeit a defanged Sinn Fein. There is also much
anecdotal evidence that some people have voted DUP of late
with considerable reluctance.
Sir Reg could make a start by moving on from the
It's true that unionism could spin this one out for another
10 years. It is entirely fair to point out that the IRA
still exists and is probably lightly armed. The two
governments' communiqué this week spoke of "the recent
confirmation by the IICD that IRA weapons had been fully
and verifiably decommissioned", not 'all' IRA weapons,
Nevertheless, few doubt that decommissioning has been
substantially completed. The agenda has changed. As the IMC
made clear, the IRA is still involved in intelligence-
gathering, assaults, intimidation, extortion and perhaps
even training and recruitment. The Government was
undoubtedly premature to restore Sinn Fein's allowances -
as if they need them!
But who can doubt that the picture presented in January
will be altogether more rosy? Sir Reg needs to anticipate
that likelihood. In future, is it not better if the tap of
violence that the IMC referred to is turned back on for a
credible independent commission to sanction Sinn Fein than
for a pretty unashamedly sectarian brand of unionism to be
seen to do so?
The DUP has given its answer on the question of a future
government with Sinn Fein - 'Never'.
The UUP must not allow itself to be so boxed in; instead it
should set tests for republicans which they have some
prospect of passing.
Just as the DUP were outmanoeuvred over the RIR, they seem
to have no strategy other than a short-term one to delay
the day of reckoning when they are challenged to put up or
shut up. The focus is being lost.
Unless the reasons given for keeping Sinn Fein's fingers
off the reins of power are balanced by reasons in favour of
devolved government, the suspicion will be that some other,
less worthy, agenda is at play.
The benefits of devolution might seem blindingly obvious to
the political class - salaries, perks, status, patronage -
but these are hardly selling points as far the rest of the
population is concerned. Unless the benefits of devolution
are explained, there simply won't be the momentum to propel
unionism back to Stormont, even if republicans meet the
Sir Reg could hardly be blamed if his heart was not in it,
given that an administration formed tomorrow - largely of
Sinn Fein and the DUP - would be a recipe for sectarian
brutalism. Nor will macho talk that the UUP would stand up
to Sinn Fein more firmly than the DUP cut much ice.
Sir Reg has a duty, therefore, to strengthen the centre.
Too often in the past, building bridges to the SDLP has
started with discussions of voting transfers when that
should really be the end point. Not nearly enough attention
has been paid to co-operation between the two parties. The
personal relationships might be courteous enough but that
is no substitute for offering the electorate a real
Notwithstanding the two parties' different cultures and
aspirations, is it beyond the realms of possibility to try
to work out an agreed social and economic plan of action to
get Northern Ireland plc moving, and seek the electorate's
approval for it?
It would give voters a stark choice and an attractive
alternative to endless friction between extremists.
The UUP leadership election in June might not have given
Sir Reg Empey the ringing endorsement that he would have
hoped for, but the very high proportion of delegates that
turned up that night to vote demonstrated that moderate
unionism is far from dead.
There are thousands of unionists out there looking for a
lead. For that reason, and not merely to dispel doubts
about his first 100 days in post, Sir Reg needs to deliver
the speech of his life today. Above all, he needs to
convince delegates that he has a vision and that his is a
leadership with a purpose.
Irish Cool Saved Carroll's Life
23 October 2005 By David Horgan
Rory Carroll's adventure offers useful lessons for people
working in dangerous locations. The Guardian's Baghdad
correspondent put himself in danger by visiting a family in
a poor district to report on their reaction to Saddam
Most of his colleagues would have skulked behind blast
walls sourcing their material from hearsay sources.
Carroll was in danger to do his job.
This may seem foolhardy, but he got the story he sought,
and bigger stories besides.
He faced danger and escaped unscathed. Every moment must be
sweeter - from the air he breathes to that first beer.
This may seem irrational, but you can become addicted to
adrenalin. According to internet bulletin boards, I have
died on three occasions. It is an odd experience reading
your own obituary.
Carroll escaped because the Irish authorities reacted
intelligently and fast. They had a clear view of an unclear
situation and a contingency plan.
Irish diplomats and consuls are enterprising. They can call
on international goodwill in emergencies.
Our Iranian friends seem to have called in favours: Ireland
has long been blessed with excellent Iranian diplomats, and
vice versa. It is easier to get an Iranian visa in Dublin
Iraqi Shia neighbourhoods are increasingly influenced by
Iran, which has generally acted as a moderating influence.
Irish officials learned from the Bigley tragedy, and they
knew the need to get their account out fast: it was
critical to brand Rory as Irish and friendly.
Views form quickly and are hard to change. Ken Bigley was
seen as an English military contractor with an Irish
mother. Iraqis aren't stupid: they know that former UDR and
RUC officials working as mercenaries for the US-led
coalition forces are entitled to Irish passports.
They know that many British military may choose to hide
behind an Irish grandparent, much as SAS undercover
soldiers may disguise themselves as Arab civilians.
Carroll was positioned as a fair reporter working for an
international paper sympathetic to ordinary Iraqis. They
would have been less sympathetic to the Telegraph or Daily
Developing countries are dangerous. The main hazard is road
For all my close shaves, I was only seriously injured once
- when a car rolled on a dirt road, killing the driver.
In Africa it's common for night-time traffic to drive down
the centre of bad roads without lights.
The second hazard in many countries, especially Africa, is
malaria. No prophylaxis is completely effective, as new
strains develop. Europeans lack the natural resistance of
indigenous peoples. Some workers forget to take tablets,
and fail to wear long sleeves at dusk and use insect
Crime is a serious hazard in many countries. And in many
the authorities themselves may shake you down at the
airport or checkpoints.
In Africa and the former USSR, police and mafia are
Colombian businessmen won't give their names to the
military, as required when travelling to remote locations,
for fear they'll be kidnapped by right-wing paramilitaries
colluding with rogue soldiers.
And how do you survive?
If you are snatched, it's crucial to establish personal
rapport - it's harder to kill someone you know. Carry
photos of a baby, even if it's not your own.
An Aussie who once worked for us had previously been
kidnapped by leftist guerrillas in Colombia who intended to
shoot him on video. He convinced them, in pidgin Spanish,
that he was not American. He even insisted that Americans
hated Australians and they would celebrate his murder.
Eventually they cut a deal whereby he agreed to buy his
freedom with food and medical supplies.
Kidnapping insurance is available, but may become invalid
if you discuss it - supposedly to deter opportunistic
snatches, but maybe just another example of underwriters
wanting their premium while dodging responsibility.
When an abducted executive is taken, the underwriter
retains the right to negotiate.
Unfortunately, his overriding concern is not necessarily to
get you released.
He has a book of business and is keen not to encourage
future abductions. While arguably a social objective, this
may not be your priority while in custody!
No matter what the ideological motivation, cash is
effective at solving problems. An honourable kidnapper is
one who honours the deal. A dishonourable one is one who
kills you anyway.
Given the individuals involved in Rory's release, it is
likely that somebody "said it with cash''.
David Horgan has survived some hairy situations in his work
for Irish exploration companies Petrel Resources and Pan
Andean Resources in Iraq and other danger spots.
Ex-RUC Man To Name Police Informants
THE role of several police agents within loyalist
paramilitary groups will be revealed in a book by a former
RUC detective which is due to be published next week.
One of the alleged agents, referred to as Tommy, may be
unique in the history of the Troubles as he defected from
the Provisional IRA to the Ulster Volunteer Force. Tommy,
who now runs a successful business in Britain, was forced
to flee the province under UVF death threat.
The author, former RUC Detective Sergeant Johnston Brown,
says he is willing to face arrest rather than keep silent
about collusion between members of RUC Special Branch and
loyalist terror groups. His book is being published outside
Britain in an effort to circumvent the Official Secrets
Brown is best known for exposing the role of Ken Barrett, a
loyalist he recruited as an informant, in the murder of Pat
Finucane, a Belfast solicitor. Earlier this year Barrett
pleaded guilty to the murder, one of the most controversial
in the Troubles, after an inquiry by Sir John Stevens, the
former Metropolitan police commissioner.
Stevens found that police and soldiers had colluded in the
murder and Brown claims that other collusion-killings
Although Brown lives in Northern Ireland, he placed the
book with Gill & Macmillan, a Dublin publishing house, so
that the manuscript did not have to be submitted to British
authorities for vetting. Gill & Macmillan said it has been
checked by lawyers for libel, but not for breaches of the
Official Secrets Act.
Brown's book, Into the Dark, will discuss the work of at
least four alleged police agents, one of them a woman. They
all operated within the Ulster Defence Association and the
UVF, the province's two main loyalist terror groups.
Contacted by The Sunday Times, Tommy confirmed that he was
in both the IRA and UVF at different times but denied
acting as a police agent. "I knew Brown; I talked casually
to him and other police officers who I met as part of my
work but that is as far as it went," he said.
"I don't mind Brown writing a book giving his views but if
lives are put at risk that is a different matter. This man
signed the Official Secrets Act."
Tommy admits that the UVF suspected him of informing, but
believes they now accept that he didn't. It is understood
he was aware of major UVF arms hides that were not
recovered by police, and he would have been in a postion to
give supergrass evidence against leading terrorists.
A Catholic with Protestant relatives, Tommy joined the IRA
out of youthful idealism and outrage at discrimination
against Catholics. But he became disillusioned with the
Provos after a well-known IRA commander arranged the murder
of one of his Protestant friends.
Tommy joined the UVF in an unsuccessful attempt to have the
IRA commander killed in revenge. He found that the UVF was
unwilling to "hit" high-ranking IRA men. He now opposes the
taking of life.
Brown has a gift for persuading loyalist terrorists to
confide in him. One who regretted doing so was Johnny "Mad
Dog" Adair, the leader of the UDA's C Company. Brown
pretended to sympathise with Adair but covertly recorded
their conversations and Adair was jailed for directing
terrorism as a result. The detective subsequently had to
move house because of a bomb attack by Adair supporters.
When he was writing the book Brown said: "Other killers
could have been put behind bars just as easily but they
were protected by their Special Branch handlers. I intend
to expose that evil."
Air Vice Marshall Andrew Vallance, the secretary of the
Defence Advisory Committee, which advises the media on
matters of national security, said: "He is under no
obligation to consult us but clearly if one of the
ministries felt that (the book) contained information that
was harmful, they might take out an injunction."
RUC Widow New Victims' Champion
THE widow of a murdered RUC reservist will be named
tomorrow as Northern Ireland's first victims' commissioner.
The appointment will cause some surprise because, although
Bertha McDougall has worked on cross-community educational
initiatives, she has had little public profile outside
police circles. Victims groups say they were not invited to
make nominations for the post.
The appointment has been approved by the Democratic
Unionist party, which included it in a 54-page page
shopping list of "confidence-building measures" it
presented to the British government earlier this month.
The party has suggested that if these measures are
addressed and IRA violence and criminality is shown to be
at an end, then power-sharing with Sinn Fein could be in
place in months rather than years.
The appointment will be seen as one in a series of balanced
concessions to unionists and nationalists to pave the way
for power sharing.
Last month the government made two major appointments to
the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the
Equality Commission which were favoured by nationalists and
protested by unionists. It also appointed Ian Paisley to
the Privy Council and plans to elevate his wife, Eileen, to
the House of Lords.
Next month legislation to allow on-the-run fugitives to
return will be tabled at Westminster, a key republican
demand that will remove the threat of imprisonment from all
IRA, Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force
members who committed crimes before the signing of the Good
Friday agreement in 1998.
McDougall's husband Lindsay was shot and fatally wounded by
INLA terrorists as he checked a suspicious car in central
Belfast's Great Victoria Street in January 1981. Harry
Kirkpatrick, a supergrass, later said that he had driven
the car. He named Gerard Steenson, a notorious killer
nicknamed Dr Death, as the gunman.
After being left widowed with three children, McDougall
devoted herself to helping other bereaved police relatives.
She led a successful campaign to bring compensation paid to
police families bereaved before 1982 into line with those
bereaved after that date.
In recent years she has been an active member of the RUC
George Cross Foundation. This organisation helps police
officers hurt or psychologically damaged during the
Troubles and the relatives of murdered and injured
A former primary school teacher, she has also has a
background in cross-community educational initiatives. She
worked for a time for the Northern Ireland Council for
Educational Development where she was a co-ordinator for
Education for Mutual Understanding which seeks to give
Catholic and Protestant school children a better
understanding of each other's faith and beliefs.
As commissioner she will have the task of setting up a new
"victims and survivors" forum for those who suffered in the
Troubles. She will be expected to report on what further
initiatives are needed. An early test will be whether she
can command the confidence of all victims, including those
injured by the security forces.
Last night Alban McGuinness of the SDLP said: "We were not
consulted about this. It does not strike me as a very
imaginative appointment but we will wait to see what she is
Anne Boal, of the Disabled Police Officers' Association,
said: "I am a bit surprised because I thought it would have
been an more independent person. I don't know if other
victims groups will welcome the appointment and it may take
a while for her to be accepted across the board, but we
wish her well and I think she will be capable."
Mairead Kelly, who represents the families of IRA members
shot dead by the SAS during an attack on Loughgall RUC
station, said: "I would be worried about how impartial she
would be to the likes of us but I wouldn't want pre-judge
A study to be published tomorrow shows that more than 54%
released loyalist and republican prisoners felt it was
easier to deal with life in jail than outside it.
The University of Ulster research shows that many former
UVF and IRA inmates from Belfast suffer from physical and
psychological illnesses and have problems with personal
relationships. They are stigmatised by their jail records
when it comes to finding work or adopting children.
Peter Shirlow, one of the researchers, said that loyalist
prisoners were more likely to be rejected by the community
on release than their republican counterparts. However,
republicans had a 40% unemployment rate compared to 29% for
Bogota Blames IRA For Rockets
THE Colombia Three's training of Farc guerillas has been
blamed for a planned rocket attack on the presidential
palace in Bogota.
Police discovered nine rockets in metal tubes in a house
about a kilometre from President Alvaro Uribe's office in
central Bogota two weeks ago.
Francisco Santos, the Colombian vice-president, blamed
James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly for
training Farc guerillas in the rocket technology that was
to be used in the attack.
"This shows part of the legacy of our friends from Ireland,
the ones enjoying freedom in Ireland, and whom we hope to
have back here to pay the years in jail they owe us,"
Monaghan, McCauley and Connolly were found guilty in a
Colombian appeal court last December of training Farc
rebels, but fled Colombia while on bail. A 400-page
extradition request was sent to the Irish authorities in
September but government and legal sources say that it has
little chance of success.
Luis Gomez, commander of the Bogota metropolitan police,
said the rockets belonged to Farc guerillas and were in
metal tubes aimed directly at the presidential palace and
He said they became aware of the rockets only after one
detonated in an "accidental grenade explosion" which blew
out windows and doors and collapsed part of the roof of a
house in the impoverished Las Cruces neighbourhood of
Bogota, which overlooks the palace.
Farc guerillas fired rockets at the presidential palace
once before, during Uribe's inauguration in 2002, killing
The Colombian authorities' description of the rocket system
echoed IRA "barrack buster" mortar technology developed by
the IRA in the 1990s, consisting of gas-cylinder tubes
packed with explosives to be fired over a wall using a
remote control mechanism.
IRA bomb techniques have also been blamed for attacks in
Iraq against British soldiers. Eight soldiers were killed
last weekend in Basra when bombs were triggered by camera-
flash units. Such detonators were developed in Northern
Lawlor Killed In Moscow Car Crash
23 October 2005
Controversial former TD Liam Lawlor has been killed in a
car crash in Moscow.
Lawlor, 60, was brought to a Moscow hospital after the
crash, where he was pronounced dead.
The accident happened in the early hours of yesterday
morning on the main road from Sheremetevo airport into the
Lawlor, a politician for almost 30 years, was the subject
of a long-running investigation by the Flood - now Mahon -
Tribunal over planning irregularities.
He was the subject of heavy criticism in tribunal findings
relating to payments from lobbyist Frank Dunlop and was
jailed on three occasions for not cooperating with the
He resigned from politics before the last general election.
The news of his death swept around the Fianna Fáil Ard
Fheis at lunchtime yesterday.
In an initial reaction, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said his
thoughts were with Lawlor's wife Hazel and his family.
Lawlor was first elected to the Dáil in 1977 as a Fianna
Fáil TD for Dublin West, operating from his base in Lucan.
He lost and regained his seat a number of times in the
In 1987 he was appointed chairman of the Oireachtas Joint
Committee on state-sponsored bodies, but resigned in 1989
due to his links with a food company.
He has subsequently been the focus of long-running
inquiries by the tribunal which led to his resignation from
Fianna Fáil in 2000 and his decision not to stand in the
last general election.
Opin: Alan Ruddock: Time To Ditch Street Corner Politics
and start delivering
Something peculiar is taking shape in Irish politics. It
is, or at least should be, abundantly clear that a large
proportion of the electorate is angry with the current
coalition government. That anger has festered since the
last general election when it seemed that the outgoing
Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat government had deceived
the electorate about the state of the economy.
The health service piles its patients on trolleys and
wastes tens of millions on poorly planned and appallingly
managed computer projects; scores more are wasted on
unusable voting machines, roads, flood defences and trams.
The public service is showered with cash, but delivers no
Ten years of economic boom and schools continue to crumble,
patients die needlessly and basic projects, such as
building a second terminal at Dublin's chaotically
overcrowded airport, remain just that: projects.
Yet instead of working out how they can grapple with the
problems of turning a successful economy into a successful
state, the parties are reverting to street-corner politics.
Fine Gael believes it can win the next election, or enough
seats to allow it to form a coalition government, by
concentrating not on policies to fix our problems, but
rather on 30 constituencies in which its party pollsters
believe it can win a seat. And now Fianna Fail has decided
that it, too, must fight a narrow corner and is turning
must turn its firepower on Sinn Fein, calculating that the
battle for marginal seats matters more than trying to use
its power to influence voters through the more challenging
method of governing the country effectively. The people are
angry, but so what? This weekend's Fianna Fail ard fheis
had already set the tone by conducting its business under
the fatuous slogan "unity, prosperity, community". By
putting unity at the top of its agenda, Fianna Fail was
laying out its "republican" credentials. Bertie Ahern, the
taoiseach, announces that he is reinstating a military
parade to commemorate the 1916 Rising, which will "proclaim
the republicanism of the people of this State" and is
1916 Centenary Committee to begin preparations for the
centenary celebrations in 10 years' time. Now there's a
Prosperity is as inane a slogan as unity: what political
party will promise to impoverish us? And community is just
the latest buzzword from last year's socialists. The
government cannot fulfill its promises to put more gardai
on the streets, so instead it wants us all to be nicer to
Policies are difficult: it is much easier to hurl abuse at
your opponents, wrap that green flag around you and hope
that your core vote does not waver in its thoughtless
devotion. So long as the faithful — and there were more
than 5,000 devotees at the ard fheis — hold firm, the
battles need to be fought only at the fringes.
Dublin airport, for example, matters hugely in the Fianna
Fail psyche. The thousands of state workers at Aer Lingus
and the Dublin Airports Authority deliver votes and seats
in north Dublin. The broader public interest — a better
airport and a privatised airline — will always be subverted
to party advantage.
Sinn Fein, an undoubted threat to Fianna Fail and a
potential source of embarrassment in Ahern's own
constituency, must be squashed, but the chosen weapon is
not the delivery of good government but the embrace of
Will we be fooled? Will the core votes hold, and will the
election be fought in small skirmishes across the country
with barely a new thought, let alone a coherent policy, put
before the people? It is, sadly, very possible.
Brian Cowen, the minister for finance, is right to say
"there can be no debate of ideas and alternatives if the
self-declared alternative government consistently refuses
to explain what they propose to do if elected", but he
compounds the problem by resolutely refusing to articulate
any policies of his own.
His latest ruse was to respond to the public fury at
government waste by announcing a "crackdown". People will
be made accountable, lump-sum contracts will be awarded,
and spending will be monitored and reviewed. "We need a
more accountable, transparent and effectively functioning
public sector," he said. Gosh.
Roll back a year and listen to Cowen in his budget speech:
"More than €36 billion will be available under the capital
envelopes for 2005-2009 . . . I am determined that we
should intensify our efforts to get better value for money
so that we maximise the return from all this investment."
But waste remains as widespread as the apparent Cowen
crackdowns to combat it.
Cowen, like Charlie McCreevy, his predecessor, knows that
the public service does not deliver value for money, and
knows that billions have been squandered because of poor
planning and poor execution, yet after eight years in
government he believes that strongly worded bluster will
make up for perennial administrative failure under his
Tellingly, he does not attach any policy to his crowing. He
talks of more training, better monitoring, but not of
systematic reform. Cowen and his colleagues will wave
through the second round of benchmarking for public
servants who fail to deliver greater productivity, they
will stall on the privatisation of Aer Lingus and allow the
airline to wither and dodge confrontation with the public
sector unions who hold them to ransom. His budget is more
likely to pander to interest groups than lay down a
reforming agenda that could guarantee the prosperity that
his party puts in its slogan. Will he cut taxes, abolish
tax shelters, widen the tax bands and reward the vast
majority who work in an economy that can boast near full
employment, or will he scatter money to those who bleat the
loudest, claiming that his largesse demonstrates how much
this government cares? His timidity, however, is not
evidence of caring but of cynicism. Wilfully he and Ahern
will put at risk the future strength of the economy because
they are interested only in narrow politics, not national
politics. They will not reform, they will appease.
Their obvious short-termism may be logical, but it escapes
scrutiny and ridicule because it is matched by Fine Gael's
refusal to lead an alternative government of ideas. By
opting, too, for tactical politics Fine Gael denies itself
the opportunity of galvanising the electorate's anger.
Sharing and empathising only goes so far: if it wants to
change the government, Fine Gael must show the people how
they can channel their anger to deliver better government.
It will never be enough to talk of change for change sake.
Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader, must demonstrate that he
has the ideas to take the country to another, more
competitive, more efficient and more resourceful level. He
must call Cowen's bluff, for bluff it is, and fight Fianna
Fail on its weakest front.
If he does not, then the opportunity is lost. The public's
anger will fade if it is not stoked and steered, and
government jibes about the "slump" coalition waiting in the
wings will start to take hold.
While Kenny pursues his 30 constituencies, Fianna Fail will
hunt down Sinn Fein and protect its nationalist flank.
Military parades and 10-year preparations for the centenary
may make Ahern look as green as Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein
president, but they also walk him down a very thin line.
Ahern may reclaim Irish nationalism for those who chose not
to spend the past three and a half decades murdering people
on this island, but he may also feed the revisionist frenzy
that seeks to glorify the modern-day murderers as freedom
Almost unnoticed, the country will continue to limp along,
wounded but untreated. Economic growth will slow, inflation
will rise, the public services will continue to fail, the
trade unions will strike and jobs will migrate. It will not
happen overnight, but unless the public sector is reformed
it will drag the economy down in time. Perhaps the
politicians really do believe that all we need is better
management of the existing systems and that elections are
just beauty parades. If they do, we are all in for a
For the moment, public anger is real and it offers an
opportunity for change if any of the parties is brave
enough to gamble with ideas rather than platitudes. By
ducking the challenge and defaulting to narrow politics
they are failing the voters and failing themselves.
Peculiar, perhaps, but also all too predictable.
Opin: Leading Article: 1916 March A Gimmick
Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, has decided that Ireland does
not have enough parades to celebrate its divisions, so from
next Easter he is reintroducing the pomp and ceremony of a
full military march past Dublin's General Post Office to
commemorate the 1916 rising.
On one level, Ahern's desire to reclaim ownership of Irish
nationalism from the blood-spattered hands of Sinn Fein is
admirable. For too long the Provos have been allowed to
besmirch the Irish republic's history by claiming direct
linkage to the men and women who fought and died to give
Ireland its independence. Their sectarian campaign of
murder in Northern Ireland was the antithesis of the
republican ideal outlined by Wolfe Tone and the United
Irishmen and has deepened the divisions on the island that
true republicans seek to heal.
But Ahern's decision, which was greeted by rapturous
applause at his Fianna Fail party's ard fheis in Killarney,
is tainted by political opportunism. He and Fianna Fail
fear the electoral threat posed by Sinn Fein and are
determined to position the party as the real successors of
the 1916 rebels. It is a gamble and a gimmick, and could
backfire spectacularly in the run-up to the centenary
celebrations in 2016. Bizarrely, too, Ahern seems to
believe that those celebrations will require nine years of
planning, and so he is also establishing a centenary
We have seen in the north how parades are used to copper-
fasten sectarian interpretations of history, and how they
become rallying points for division rather than
celebrations of difference. The republic, sensibly,
abandoned its military parades 40 years ago when tensions
started to rise across the border. Ahern has chosen a
delicate time to recreate them. Republican triumphalism and
the pressure for unity it implies will not reassure the
unionist community that the concept of consent — the
guiding principle of the Good Friday agreement — is
understood or likely to be honoured by Irish nationalists.
Protestant Schools Are Bursting At The Seams
23 October 2005 By David McWilliams
Our local Protestant national school has a demand problem.
It is too popular. The same issue is facing many Protestant
national schools in Dublin and, most likely, all over the
country. Not only has the last few years seen an increase
in the Protestant population, but there are many Catholic
parents enrolling their children in Protestant schools.
Let's explode this phenomenon and do a little exercise in
the economics of a Protestant education.
According to the latest census figures, the Protestant
population in the Republic is rising for the first time
since the 19th century.
The rise is being caused by a mixture of conversion,
immigration, re-migration of locals who left in the 1980s,
and the fact that more children of mixed marriages are
being brought up as Protestants. Being a southern
Protestant has never been more popular.
In the past, the local Protestant national school found it
difficult to fill classes. Today, the issue is where to put
everybody. In the main, it can be planned for, but the most
interesting sociological issue is the increase in Catholic
parents registering their children in Protestant schools.
One reason is supply-driven. According to recent reports,
there has been a huge increase in the number of students
going to private schools. Parents are eschewing the
traditional non-fee-paying schools that once formed the
backbone of Dublin's secondary education system.
This appears both bizarre and counterintuitive, but it has
been going on for some time. For example, the Christian
Brothers School in Dun Laoghaire closed down, and there is
now just one school in the principal town of Ireland's
The phenomenon is not limited to south Dublin. Last year,
another long-standing non-fee-paying institution, Belcamp
College, was sold off. Belcamp finally threw in the towel
after struggling for years to maintain student numbers.
Figures for O'Connell's School and 'Joey's' in Fairview
tell the same story.
The Department of Education has revealed that hundreds of
places are unfilled in free education schools in the Dublin
area. There are 13,000 unfilled places in north Dublin
Why is this happening? What are the long-term implications
of the hollowing-out of Dublin's education system? The
easiest answer is that the capital has become amazingly
snobby over the past few years.
Schools that were good enough for Dad are no longer good
enough for junior. But why now?
Perhaps because the new Irish Dream, like the American
Dream, is defined as one where the winner takes all.
Trading up and having it all are the underlying
An increasing gap between the very rich and the poor is the
outcome. Middle-class parents are aware that the difference
between material success and failure is growing.
Every decision they take on behalf of their children is
considerably more loaded than it used to be.
Nowhere is this more evident than in schooling, because the
demand for education is rising exponentially. But what of
supply? Well, the supply of traditionally expensive schools
can't increase, so the fees rise instead.
This is having an amplified impact on the Protestant
schools in particular. As a result of the traditional
position of Protestants in the middle class, Protestant
schools are over-represented among the ranks of middle-
class schools in Dublin.
Because of the feeder school system from primary to
secondary schools, Catholic parentsmust send their children
to private Protestant primary schools to guarantee their
place in the 'right' secondary school. This has the effect
of pushing the fees in those primary schools higher.
As a reaction to the increase in price, 'ethnic'
Protestants - who typically would have gone to these
schools, but might today have more modest salaries than
their Catholic neighbours - are opting to send their
children to free Church of Ireland schools instead.
Thus far, economics can explain the trend of non-
Protestants sending their children to Protestant schools.
But there is something else happening that goes beyond the
rational idea of parents wanting to get the 'best' for
It has less to do with economics than anthropology, and is
infinitely funnier. In the age of abundance that Ireland is
experiencing, money alone no longer marks people out. More
elusive factors, such as taste, appreciation and
uniqueness, come into play.
Wealthy people are trying to find ways to distinguish
themselves from their counterparts. The wealthy want to be
posh, rather than merely rich. No matter how you look at
it, southern Protestants were always posh. They are the
ecumenical equivalent of bouillabaisse. As a consequence,
rich Catholic parents are trying to mark out the
distinctiveness of their children by not sending them to
the local Catholic school, but to the more rarefied
However, this takes a bit of work. The wealthy might, in
the extreme, have to swap sides or, at the very least, nod
in that general direction. People who haven't been to Mass
for years suddenly turn up in Protestant churches.
They are the ones who mime the hymns and use the word
'Vespers' inappropriately. They also commandeer a stall at
the summer fete or take the Brownies enthusiastically up
the Sugarloaf. With the zeal of converts, they out-
Protestant the Protestants.
This creates a problem for the rector. He has to decide who
is sufficiently Protestant and who is not, and who gets
into the national school. Does he reject the children of
the newly observant wannabe Protestants in favour of those
of the totally atheist 'ethnic' Protestants?
Does he dare to second-guess motives and distinguish
between the anthropologically-driven snobs and the
economically-savvy new realists? He needs the wisdom of
Then again, Protestants were always partial to the Old
Saddam Trial Breaches International Law
23 October 2005 By Vincent Browne
Saddam Hussein was quite right to question the presiding
judge at his trial. Under what authority was Rizgar
Mohammed Amin sitting in judgment on the legal president of
Saddam was a tyrant, he manipulated the electoral process
to give feigned legitimacy to his rule but, under
international law, he was - and remains - president of
In contrast, the judge presiding over the trial of Saddam
has no legitimacy whatsoever.
He was appointed by the illegal invaders and occupiers of
Iraq. The court has no basis in the Iraqi constitution or
Iraqi law. It has no basis under international law.
Had the Americans and British wished to engage in a
semblance of legal propriety in the trial of Saddam for
crimes against humanity, there exists a forum for doing
that - the International Criminal Court.
But the Americans don't recognise that - or, rather, they
refuse to engage with it lest, at some point, American
soldiers and politicians might find themselves before it.
They also have a further objection: the International
Criminal Court has no authority to impose the death
penalty, and the Americans are keen on that option.
Saddam certainly committed many crimes against humanity.
Among those which occur to me were the invasion of Iran,
his conduct of that war (in which about a million and a
half people were killed), his use of biological and
chemical weapons in that war, his use of chemical weapons
against the Kurds, the invasion of Kuwait, his assault on
the Marsh Arabs, his slaughter of political opponents in
Iraq and the general cruelty and repressiveness of his
But some of these issues cause problems, at least as far as
the Americans and British - his de facto prosecutors - are
The problems include the fact that the Americans and the
British egged on Saddam in his conduct of the war with
Iran. The Americans gave him intelligence reports on the
deployment of Iranian troops and other data.
The Americans - and others - sold weapons to Saddam (at the
same time, incidentally, as the Americans were arming the
Iranians in return for cash, which the Americans used to
fund terrorists in Nicaragua).
The Americans and the British were not one bit upset about
the use of biological and chemical weapons. Resolutions
were introduced at the UN Security Council condemning the
Iraqis for the invasion of Iran, but the Americans managed
to stall on these for ages. When a resolution was
eventually passed, absolutely nothing was done to give
effect to it.
The whole world knew about the gassing of the Kurds at the
time. Many people were outraged and wanted action taken
against Saddam, but the Americans were not at all perturbed
about it - which is hardly surprising, given their record
in the use of biological and chemical weapons in Vietnam.
Neither were the British particularly upset. Perhaps this
is also unsurprising since it was the British who first
used chemical weapons in Iraq.
But, of course, the origin of the current quarrel with
Saddam - which has nothing at all to do with gassing
people, brutalising his nation or his breaches of
humanitarian law - is the invasion of Kuwait.
From that flowed the 1991 war against Iraq, the sanctions
that led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi
lives, the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, the stand-
off over UN resolutions, the demands for disarmament and,
eventually, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the
chaos that has ensued.
The 'crime' that started it all was the invasion of Kuwait.
On July 25, 1990, eight days before Saddam invaded Kuwait,
he was invited to the presidential palace in Baghdad by the
American ambassador, April Glaspie.
A flavour of the cordial relations that existed then
between the regime of President Bush Senior and Saddam
Hussein can be gleaned from excerpts of the transcript of
exchanges between the two.
Glaspie: "I have direct instructions from President Bush to
improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable
sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the
immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait.
"As you know, I lived here for years and admire your
extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you
need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you
should have the opportunity to rebuild your country.
"We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of
troops in the south. Normally, that would be none of our
business, but when this happens in the context of your
threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us
to be concerned.
"For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you
- in the spirit of friendship, not confrontation -
regarding your intentions, why are your troops massed so
very close to Kuwait's borders?"
Saddam: "As you know, for years now I have made every
effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait.
"There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to
give negotiations only this one more brief chance. [pause]
"When we [the Iraqis] meet [the Kuwaitis] and we see there
is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to
find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not
Glaspie: "What solutions would be acceptable?"
Saddam: "If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al-Arab -
our strategic goal in our war with Iran - we will make
concessions [to the Kuwaitis]. But, if we are forced to
choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of
Iraq [in Saddam's view, including Kuwait], then we will
give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to
keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be.
"What is the United States' opinion on this?"
Glaspie: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts,
such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State
James] Baker has directed me to emphasise the instruction,
first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is
not associated with America."
Saddam smiled, according to the transcript.
The smile is on the other side of his face now, but who
gave him the green light to invade Kuwait?
Who said it had no problem with whatever he did vis-a-vis
It would make you wonder who should be on trial.
Ltr: Act's Practical Consequences Still Evident
22 October 2005
WITH regard to the debate on the Act of Settlement,
Christopher Luke (Writeback, October 15) rightly pointed
out that in Roman Catholic doctrine the Pope is held as an
international authority over all national monarchs.
It was under such a forged papal authority (the Donation of
Constantine) that Ireland was first given away as a gift to
the English, thereby quashing any claims to self-monarchy
it might have aspired to enjoy at the time under either
Rory O Connor or Dermot MacMurrough Kavanagh.
The Protestant doctrine, as Mr Luke also pointed out, is
not nearly as imperial as the Pope's, in that the national
monarch is the supreme governor, next under God, of all
estates in his or her realm.
This doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings was taken over
by the emerging nations-states and their monarchs from the
medieval church. Thankfully, the monarchs, unlike the
Popes, have never claimed to be infallible!
It might interest readers to know that the practical
consequences of these two mutually exclusive positions is
still with us.
When Roman clerics behave criminally, as they do when they
behave as peadophiles, the jurisdictional approaches are
The British Monarch, being head of the Church of England as
well as monarch of all he surveys, dishes out justice to
clerics in the same fashion as it is dished out to every
citizen who breaks the law.
In this sense the King's Peace prides itself in being even
handed and without regard to any other jurisdiction or to
any other code outside the secular criminal law of the
In the Republic, however, as with all pre-Reformation
countries, the State is strangled by the Church, and all
the State can do to investigate such "criminous clerks" is
to ask the Church authorities to comply.
If the Church does not comply but reserves the crimes of
priests to its own canonical jurisdiction - as the Pope has
done for some 40 years in the cases of paedophilia - the
State just complies and the people are not only none the
wiser, but are constrained by their own "secular" leaders
to foot the bill for their criminal clergy.
And even if there was a Catholic on the throne, he would
hardly save the people from such a secret - almost
inquisitional - disregard for secular justice.
How could he challenge the Pope as to the production of
papal files, and the like?
In this sense for Fr Sean McManus of the Irish National
Caucus in Washington, to point out the presence of an
exclusively Protestant succession to the British Monarchy,
is a little like pointing out the Catholic exclusivity of
the Roman Papacy. No Proddies need apply! And as far as
justice in the Republic is concerned, there are now three
jurisdictions: The theatrical one run by the Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern and Michael McDowell, who claim to operate
under a written Constitution; the Papal jurisdiction run by
the bishops and priests who adhere to canon law procedures,
and the jurisdiction of Fr Alec Reid and Sinn Fein/IRA who
adhere to neither of the former jurisdictions but inhabit
some singularly messianic one of their own.
SEAMUS BREATHNACH, Rathnapish, Carlow.
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