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October 04, 2005
Loyalist 'Doris Day' Murdered Outside Home
The body of former high-profile Protestant militant, Jim Gray, lies beneath a shroud on a street in East Belfast. Photo: Paul Faith
Jim Gray - penchant for Hawaiian shirts. Photo: Paul Faith
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News about Ireland & the Irish
SM 10/04/05 Loyalist 'Doris Day' Murdered Outside Home
IO 10/04/05 Gray Murder Thought To Be UDA Housekeeping Act
SF 10/04/05 Murphy Tells Tories Irish Unity Is Legitimate
RE 10/04/05 Murphy Tells Tories He Didn't Regret Bomb
DI 10/04/05 Let The Dead Rest In Peace
DI 10/04/05 Opin: The Sectarian Hydra Grows Another Head
DI 10/04/05 Opin: Pete's Patronising Lessons In Parsimony
IT 10/05/05 Ahern To Meet Blair For Talks On North
IO 10/04/05 Taoiseach Rules Out Release For McCabe Killers
UT 10/04/05 'IRA Fugitives Must Face Courts', Say Tories
IO 10/04/05 Brits Urged To Push Ahead With Policing Reforms
IT 10/05/05 North Bank Raid Inquiry Intense, Says Taoiseach
IT 10/05/05 Human Rights Revolution Needed In Garda
MN 10/04/05 Murray Attacks Kenny Over Disgraceful Comments
BT 10/04/05 400 New Jobs In Pipeline For Derry
TO 10/04/05 Faith Schools Put To The Test
SW 10/04/05 Belfast: The Real Divide
HC 10/04/05 Bog Of Cats Demands Attention
'Doris Day' Hard Man Gunned Down Outside Home
October 5, 2005 - 10:41AM
One of Northern Ireland's most high-profile Protestant
militants - nicknamed Doris Day - has been shot dead
outside his home, police say.
Two gunmen fired several shots at Jim Gray last night after
he answered his door in Protestant east Belfast, his
longtime power base.
Detectives covered his body with a white sheet as they
combed the yard outside his home for forensic evidence.
No group claimed responsibility for his assassination.
Gray, 43, had been free on bail while awaiting trial on
charges of money laundering, concealing stolen property and
other offences connected to his past ownership of two
Belfast pubs and other property.
Gray had been one of the six regional commanders of the
Ulster Defence Association, Northern Ireland's largest
outlawed group, until March 30, when colleagues ousted him.
Police arrested him a week later in a car containing more
than $72,332 in cash.
Gray was both a much-feared and much-lampooned figure. With
his year-round tan, shock of bleach-blond hair and penchant
for Hawaiian shirts, he was known widely - although rarely
to his face - by the nickname "Doris Day".
But those who crossed him could suffer severe beatings or
death. While a UDA commander he often confronted personal
enemies with his bodyguards. An Associated Press reporter
witnessed one such attack in June 2002, when Gray and an
underling bludgeoned a man in full view of thousands of
Gray was grazed in the head with a bullet, but didn't
suffer serious injuries, in September 2002 during a feud
between the UDA and another illegal Protestant gang, the
Loyalist Volunteer Force. Like so much bloodshed in the
Protestant underworld, it was fuelled by rival drug-dealing
The UDA, which has an estimated 2,000 members in this
British territory of 1.7 million people, was founded in
1971 as a loose umbrella for neighbourhood vigilante groups
in working-class Protestant areas. It was responsible for
killing about 400 people, mostly Catholic civilians, before
calling a 1994 ceasefire.
That truce has been repeatedly violated, partly because of
UDA involvement in so many illegal schemes that fuel deadly
feuds internally and with other Protestant gangs.
The UDA, like other armed groups with official truces, was
supposed to have disarmed fully by mid-2000 under terms of
Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace accord of 1998. But
the UDA refused, citing the continued existence of the much
more sophisticated Irish Republican Army, the major illegal
group in Catholic areas.
Despite its large membership, the UDA plays no meaningful
role in on-again, off-again negotiations on Northern
Ireland's future. Its political wing disbanded in 2001
after failing to build a coherent electoral base.
Gray Murder Thought To Be UDA 'Housekeeping Act'
Former Ulster Defence Association brigadier Jim Gray
tonight joined a grim catalogue of leading loyalist
paramilitary figures to be gunned down on the streets of
However, unlike the murders of leading loyalists like John
McMichael and Billy Wright, his murder was not expected to
unleash a wave of violence against the republican
A flamboyant figure in the UDA, Jim Gray had a high profile
in the Northern Ireland tabloid press.
His dress sense and penchant for jewellery earned him the
nickname of Doris Day.
But he also presided over the East Belfast brigade of the
UDA, a ruthless terror organisation also steeped in
As his body lay stretched out behind a car outside the
house where he had been living after being given bail
following his arrest earlier this year, residents in the
Knock Grove area were saying little about the events which
led to his death.
But former associates in the Ulster Defence Association,
which expelled him before his arrest, and others in
loyalist paramilitary circles believed he had been gunned
down as part of an internal housekeeping move by the
"This is different from other shootings," a loyalist source
"Word of the shooting travelled very fast. People knew
within 10, 15 minutes in other parts of the city that Jim
Gray had been shot in East Belfast.
"I heard from someone at the Glentoran [football] match. He
would have had a long list of people who would have wanted
him not to spill the beans about what went on in the UDA."
Another loyalist source said the shooting of Mr Gray
amounted to the settling of old scores.
"This won't have an impact on the wider process," he said.
"This is something which really only affects the UDA.
"There is a sense that things are coming to an end in
Northern Ireland and maybe this is a case of people tying
up the remaining loose ends."
Murphy Tells Tories Demand For Irish Unity Legitimate And Achievable
Published: 4 October, 2005
Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy today became the first Irish
Republican to address an event attached to the annual
British Conservative Party Conference. Speaking at the
'CHAMP' debate which also involved DUP MP Jeffery
Donaldson, UUP member David Burnside and Tory MP David
Lidington Conor Murphy challenged politicians to grasp the
opportunity provided by the IRA initiative and set about
the task of rebuilding the political institutions.
Mr Murphy said:
" The construction of the Irish peace process over the past
decade and more has essentially been a series of steps,
some big, some small, but all in their own way important as
we seek to move away from conflict and into a new future on
" Today with Sinn Féin appearing at the British Tory
conference is another small step upon the road to trying to
build a normal relationship between Ireland and Britain. A
relationship which has been characterised by colonialism,
conflict, misunderstanding and division.
" British policy towards Ireland in the late 1970s and
1980s under the stewardship of Margaret Thatcher, in my
view, contributed to prolonging conflict and division and
preventing the earlier development of the Irish peace
process. She presided over the policy of shoot to kill,
state murder through collusion and the disastrous policy of
criminalisation in the prisons.
" Irish Republicans have a legitimate political demand for
the reunification of Ireland and the establishment of a
national democracy on the island. It is entirely legitimate
to demand an end to partition. To demand an end to
sectarianism and to demand an end to discrimination.
" I accept that others share a different view. That others
wish to maintain the status quo. Indeed there are those who
still hark back to the days of the old Stormont regime when
'a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people' was the
war cry. But what I demand is the creation of a level
political playing field to allow nationalists and
republicans to pursue in a peaceful and democratic way
legitimate and achievable political goals. That is what the
Good Friday Agreement is all about. It is about removing a
unionist stranglehold upon all aspects of political ,
social and economic life in the six counties. Essentially
it is about Equality.
" The Good Friday Agreement was also a belated admission by
the British political establishment that what was a
political problem required political solutions. It was an
admission that the policy followed by successive Tory and
Labour governments of trying to defeat Irish republicanism
through state violence and repression had failed. It was an
admission that dialogue was the way forward in resolving
conflict. Crucially it was an admission that Belfast was
not as British as Finchley.
" The Good Friday Agreement has of course also presented
major political challenges for all of us. The Sinn Féin
leadership has sought to rise to these, and also involve a
wide range of nationalist and republican opinion as we
tried to move the process forward. We have also worked hard
to engage in a dialogue with unionists outside the
Sinn Féin amended our constitution to enable us to sit in
the Good Friday Agreement institutions. We attempted to
create the political environment to enable the IRA to take
historic and unprecedented initiatives. We are prepared to
share power with political opponents on the basis of
equality. Like all of the other parties we have placed our
analysis in front of the electorate and sought their
support for our position. Sinn Féin are now the largest
nationalist party in the north and the third largest Irish
political party. Our mandate can no longer be ignored. That
is the democratic way.
" On the other hand unionism has sought to minimise and
stall the process of change demanded by the Agreement. In
short they have adopted a strategy to filter basic rights
and entitlements through the prism of rejectionist and
reactionary unionism. Unionism has opposed the creation of
an accountable and acceptable policing service. They are
fighting to retain a unionist militia in the RIR. They are
trying to prevent the criminal justice system being made
accountable and acceptable. They have sought to stifle the
equality and human rights agendas and continue to rile
against proper funding for the Irish language and the
publication of a comprehensive Bill of Rights.
" Unionism needs to get real. Nationalists and republicans
are no longer second class citizens. Nationalists and
republicans will never accept a return to the days of the
unionist junta in Stormont. If unionism wants to exercise
executive power, if unionism wants to deliver for the
people of the North then they are going to have to do that
alongside Sinn Féin in the power sharing institutions
detailed in the Good Friday Agreement. There is no
alternative plan. The Agreement is as good as it gets.
" And if British Tories do genuinely support an end to
conflict in Ireland, and if they do, as they say, genuinely
support the Good Friday Agreement then they need to grasp
the opportunity presented by the recent historic
initiatives by the IRA and encourage those unionists over
whom they have an undoubted influence to engage with Sinn
Féin and others on the basis of our political mandates and
through a process of meaningful dialogue see the political
institutions re-established. This has to be a political
priority in the time ahead.
" The two governments must make it clear to political
unionism the fact that the only aspect of the Agreement
over which they have a veto is the northern institution.
All other outstanding aspects can and will move ahead as
" We have heard much in recent weeks about a disengagement
from the process by working class unionists. We have
witnessed all of the main unionist parties try and justify
the violence witnessed on the streets of Belfast in recent
weeks on the basis of social exclusion or deprivation. The
violence on the streets of Belfast as with the ongoing
campaign against Catholics over the summer months by the
unionist paramilitaries had nothing to do with deprivation.
It was about sectarianism. It was about the Orange Order
failing to be allowed to march through a catholic area. As
was Sunday's protest at a graveyard in Newtownabby, where
Catholics were abused and threatened as they attended a
memorial service. This behaviour is completely
" The political leadership of unionism needs to wake up to
this reality. If unionist communities are voiceless then
that is a reflection on those elected to represent them.
The figures for poverty and deprivation in the north
indicate that the vast majority of areas suffering social
exclusion and poverty are nationalist. Deprivation needs
tackled on the basis of need - not on the basis of
perception, or to service a particular political agenda.
" The decision of the IRA to formally end the armed
campaign and put its weaponry beyond use is clearly a
landmark moment. I accept that unionism, like all of us,
need a little time to absorb the implications of this move.
But that is not an invitation to evade political
responsibilities. Unionism does not need to trust
republicans, just as republicans do not need to trust
unionists. That is why we have a written contract in the
Agreement. Unionism needs to trust itself.
" We need to put this process back on track. The Good
Friday Agreement provides the road map. The DUP signed on
for the Agreement last December. It is my view that we can,
given the necessary political will see significant progress
made in the time ahead. The IRA have dealt in a definitive
way with any genuine concerns which unionists had about
republican intentions. Now it is time to move ahead. A
process of change cannot stand still. We need to see real
momentum in the coming weeks if the opportunity which now
exists is to be grasped." ENDS
I Didn't Regret Bomb, Sinn Fein Man Tells Tories
Tue Oct 4, 2005 5:35 PM BST
BLACKPOOL (Reuters) - A Sinn Fein politician told a group
of Conservatives on Tuesday he did not regret the IRA's
bombing of the party's annual conference in Brighton 21
The then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet
narrowly escaped the IRA bomb which killed five people at a
Brighton hotel, part of the paramilitary group's 30-year
armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland.
"Do I regret that individual action? At the time I
certainly did not regret it, I'll be honest with you," said
Conor Murphy, the first Irish Republican to speak at a
fringe meeting linked to the Conservative Party conference.
The IRA, responsible for half the 3,600 deaths caused by
bombs and shootings during the "troubles", said in July it
would cease all armed activity and pursue its aims through
That move was widely hailed as a crucial step in efforts to
revive talks on a lasting political settlement in the
province, although Protestant leaders have responded
Also on the platform at the meeting was Jeffrey Donaldson
of the Democratic Unionist Party.
"I think it was part of a war which was a very different
war between the people of the island of Ireland," Murphy
said. "I regret that it came to a situation where people
felt they had to take on violence in order to pursue their
Former Protestant Member of Parliament for the Ulster
Unionists David Burnside, who was in the Brighton hotel at
the time of the bombing, responded angrily.
"You blew up the centre of the democratic movement in the
UK, the elected government of this country, and you have no
remorse or regret that these murders were carried out and
you should lower your head," said Burnside, sitting at the
same table as Murphy.
Conservatives are traditionally closer to Northern
Ireland's protestant groups.
Let The Dead Rest In Peace
Áine McEntee and Jarlath Kearney
"It's a matter about respect for the dead. If we were to
lose our respect for our dead, well, then, we really have
lost it. Cemetery Sunday is a remembrance day. You'd know
the outcry if any other remembrance day was disrupted.
There'd be a huge outcry" – Fr Dan Whyte
A Protestant minister whose church has suffered sectarian
attacks last night condemned a loyalist protest at a
blessing-of-the-graves ceremony in Co Antrim.
However, the Democratic Unionist Party mayor of
Newtownabbey has refused to condemn Sunday's protest.
Catholic families trying to pray at their loved ones'
graves were verbally abused and threats were made that
Catholic graves would be desecrated.
DUP councillor William De Courcey said he believed everyone
had the right to protest but added that he "definitely
condemned people saying they were going to urinate on
The annual event, known as Cemetery Sunday, had been
postponed from taking place on September 18 by St Bernard's
parish priest Dan Whyte following loyalist rioting in
However on Sunday, dozens of loyalist protesters gathered
close to Carmoney Cemetery in Newtownabbey, on the
outskirts of north Belfast, as hundreds of Catholics
gathered to hold their service.
"I think everybody has a right to protest," the DUP mayor
"But I definitely condemn people who said they were going
to urinate on graves or desecrate them.
"I don't hide the fact that I'm an Orangeman and I am in no
way against people exercising their civil rights. I just
want everybody to have their human rights respected."
However, the protest was last night condemned by a local
Branding the situation "deplorable", Reverend Peter Mercer
insisted that every community should be permitted to
Rev Mercer's Greenisland church was last week struck by
paint-bombs in an attack that is widely believed to have
"I have known Fr Dan since I was based further up the road
in Mossley and we worked together in the Church
Fellowship," Rev Mercer said.
"Everyone – no matter what their theological position –
should be free to worship in whatever manner they like, in
the spirit of a free and democratic society
"The whole thing of Carnmoney is unfortunate. I feel that
the Catholic church should be able to carry out that
ceremony as they wish," Rev Mercer said.
Mr de Courcey's comments last night prompted Newtownabbey
Sinn Féin councillor Briege Meehan to call for his
Describing Mr De Courcey's remarks as "an absolute
disgrace", Councillor Meehan pointed out that, "as a
gesture of goodwill" republicans decided not to protest at
Orange marches in nearby Glengormley this year.
Fr Whyte told Daily Ireland that relatives, some of whom
had travelled from as far as Derry to attend the blessing,
were told graves would be 'urinated upon' or 'dug up' by
Fr Whyte said he was bitterly disappointed at the protest.
"I am so disappointed. It's so sad, the whole business," he
"People have enough to put up with without walking into all
"Graves have already been interfered with here. The last
thing people wanted was to open up that whole nightmare of
a few years ago."
The clergyman said he felt the matter was a "human issue"
rather than a political one.
Opin: The Sectarian Hydra Grows Another Head
Maria McCourt (Editor)
Just when you think you've seen and heard it all, the hydra
of sectarianism grows another head on its already corrupt
body. The sight of so-called protesters who claim to be
Christians of the Protestant denomination trying to
blockade the Catholic grave-blessing ceremony and
intimidate the relatives and friends of the deceased is
quite simply a blatant exercise in bigotry and
intimidation. It must be condemned by anyone who considers
themselves to be a civilised human being of any or no
One would imagine that any prayers said in remembrance of
departed loved ones would be welcomed by all whose
relatives lie buried at Carnmoney.
If dressing up your hatred in a spurious protest for civil
rights wasn't bad enough, threats were also made that
graves would be desecrated.
Bereaved relatives were told the last resting places of
their loved ones would be urinated on and bodies dug up.
Past acts of desecration at the same cemetery leave us in
no doubt that there are some individuals who are hate-
filled and bigoted enough to carry out such threats. There
is simply no excuse for such behaviour, no cause which can
justify it and political, religious and community leaders
everywhere must make that plain and stop indulging in
mealy-mouthed excuses for this annual hate-fest.
There is nowhere in the world that would tolerate the
scenes we saw on Sunday and people within the Protestant
and unionist community must reject these bigots and tell
them they do not speak on their behalf, otherwise what else
can the rest of the world think.
It's high time for clear leadership. But who is going to
provide it? Or can we look forward to another round
sectarian vitriol next year.
- Welcome coalition
While the disgusting scenes at Carnmoney show up the lack
of intelligence needed to seize the chance of political
progress in the North, there was one shaft of light in the
Every major political party declared its solid support for
the campaign against water charges, and rightly so.
Not only will every household, have to pay hundreds of
pounds every year, especially hitting the least well-off,
there is no guarantee that the income raised will be spent
on the North's infrastructure. Judging on past experience
it's more likely the money will end up in the British
Exchequer to buy more bombs to drop in Iraq.
If only the less progressive parties could analyse every
issue with such logical clarity and realise the way to
tackle them is to get the Assembly up and running. Now.
Opin: Pete's Patronising Lessons In Parsimony
Whatever Gerry Adams' aspirations for Ian Paisley's late
conversion to common sense, Peter Hain looks set to be
master of all he surveys for the foreseeable future – at
least for the day-or-so a week he actually works at
When the DUP finally catches itself on and settles into the
new political landscape, we will be able to turf out our
part-time secretary of state. In the meantime, it's as
well to pay close attention to the runes set out in his so-
called "keynote" speech.
When you think about it, the scriptwriter could have been
penning a sketch for the Hole in the Wall Gang.
"Northern Ireland," he said, (his term, not mine) had to
break free from "paramilitarism, grisly feuding, rioting,
racketeering, sectarianism and organised crime," Goodness.
He used the word "great" seven times in his penultimate
sentence, promising to "take the tough decisions" and equip
Northern Ireland for a "great" future.
Leaving aside the patronising tone, does he think we are
taken in by all this?
After 25 years covering squillions of very similar
speeches, you will forgive me for being a trifle sceptical.
I've been listening to British ministers blathering on like
that since 1981.
I think I can remember Chris Patten promising, as Peter
Hain did this week, to reform education. By the way, by
"reform" he means close down schools which should earn him
some brownie points with the British treasury.
Politically, it was a predictable speech, covering all
bases, giving unionists a pat on the head here, a spank on
the bottom there.
The people into whose back he really sank a stiletto were
republicans. Presumably he feels it was a worthwhile bone
to throw the loyalists and that republicans don't listen to
anything he says.
"For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland,"
said Hain, "Sinn Féin has accepted that Northern Ireland
will remain part of the UK until, and unless, the people of
Northern Ireland (we've got the message, thank you) decide
"For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland
(aaargh!) the IRA have accepted that Northern Ireland
(groan) will remain part of the United Kingdom until and
unless the people of Northern Ireland (gulp) decide
"For the first time in the history of (you fill in the
gap), the principle of consent is enshrined in an
international agreement. Now, anyone who knows the history
of (you know where) and of unionism must appreciate the
significance of this".
To give him his due, Peter Robinson was first out of the
traps on this one, saying he was "surprised" at the
suggestion that the IRA had accepted the union.
"This seems," he said, "to fly in the face of every
statement they have made".
"I am aware of no such comment from them. I would like the
secretary of state to provide us with the text of these
remarks by the IRA on this".
Hmm. Don't hold your breath.
Quite aside from all the political games-playing, the
speech was remarkable in what it promised will be
accomplished by 2009. Some of it was actually desireable
and, if Hain succeeds, I will take my hat off to him. In
fact, I will eat it.
He did promise to slim down our top-heavy bureaucracy – the
26 councils, four health boards, 19 health trusts and five
education and library boards that service a population of
just over 1.7 million.
Only those who think it's a good idea to pay some people
dig holes in the ground and others to fill them in again
could disagree, but do you believe the money saved will be
spent on the poor and deprived?
The money saved by closing down village schools, he said,
would go towards quality, affordable child care. Hmm.
What's that pink thing with the big nose flying overhead?
Water charges, he said, are on the way and a possible
doubling of local rates. Average charges are over £1,200
(€1,768) per household in Scotland, England and Wales. We
pay "only" £546 (€804).
I can see his point on cutting the bureaucracy, but the
near inevitable outcome is that the money saved will not be
spent here and we will descend further and further into an
even shabbier social and economic backwater.
I asked Mr Hain if he really believed he could deliver all
this by 2009? And what did that say about the length of
time that might elapse before the assembly and power-
sharing executive was up and running?
"I've given a pledge today of a kind that has not been
given by any one of my predecessors for understandable
reasons", he said.
"What I am saying now, today, is we will drive ahead with
reforms and implement them."
That all sounds to me like "New Labour-speak" for creeping
privatisation and we know what that means – a few fat cats
and lots more people working harder and getting paid less.
Skills, he said, would be carefully nourished by money now
spent on paying dole. Money would be spent on improving our
health instead of paying for more pills, potions and
"If the elected politicians don't like some of this, or
they disagree with them, well – get into power with each
other and take the decisions yourselves."
So, we're all going to be punished, and the deprived among
us most, for Ian Paisley's refusal to share power with Sinn
Féin. Nice one, Peter.
Towards the end of his speech, he became almost
apocalyptic. "These reforms will be ambitious. They will
challenge the status quo. They will disrupt power bases and
"They will lead to a radical shift of resources from the
back room to the frontline."
He could have been speaking to last week's Labour Party
conference in Brighton. Only trouble is, at least the
British have an option to dump New Labour, and it's their
fault if they don't.
We don't even vote for them.
Ahern To Meet Blair For Talks On North
Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent
The Taoiseach will meet British prime minister Tony Blair
at Downing Street next week, with Mr Ahern insisting
yesterday that talks on restoring the North's political
institutions cannot wait until a report due in January on
the level of IRA activity.
It is understood that the Government has not ruled out a
meeting with the DUP also taking place in London next
Tuesday, although a spokeswoman said yesterday that no
arrangement had been made.
Mr Ahern will meet the SDLP and Alliance Party in Dublin
tomorrow and is to meet DUP and UUP delegations shortly.
The Taoiseach told the Dáil yesterday that he was
determined to make progress in talks about restoring normal
politics in the North before next January's crucial report
from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which
assesses the level of paramilitary activity.
"The next report of the Independent Monitoring Commission
will be published this month," he told the Dáil yesterday.
"This will give an indication of progress on the ending of
IRA paramilitary and criminal activity. There will be a
further IMC report in January.
"I hope these reports will confirm IRA paramilitary and
criminal activity has ended," the Taoiseach added.
He condemned the recent attacks on Dr Paisley's Martyrs
Memorial Church on Belfast's Ravenhill Road, and attacks on
several Orange Halls in Co Antrim.
He said he acknowledged some loyalists felt themselves to
be alienated, but that "we must continue to point out that
the Good Friday agreement is about restoring institutions.
"We should not wait until the second IMC report is
published in January to restore institutions. We must
continue to work and make the effort between now and then."
He said he and Mr Blair had scheduled meetings with the
various parties in Northern Ireland. They will review the
outcome of these meetings at next Tuesday's meeting in
"The second IMC report will be crucial," he told the Dáil.
"If all is not well there will not be too much talking to
"If all is well, however, I hope that we will be able to
get into really meaningful discussions on getting the
institutions up and running," the Taoiseach said.
© The Irish Times
Taoiseach Rules Out Early Release For Mccabe Killers
The Taoiseach told the Dáil today there would be no early
release for the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe.
He was addressing questions regarding on-the-run prisoners.
He also said there was no question of representatives from
the North being allowed to speak in the Oireachtas, which
is a key demand from Sinn Féin.
'IRA Fugitives Must Face Courts', Say Tories
The Conservatives will oppose moves to allow IRA fugitives
from justice to return to Northern Ireland if the courts
are unable to hold them to account for their crimes, the
British government was warned today.
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary David Lidington sounded
the warning in Blackpool at the first ever Tory fringe
event involving a Sinn Fein MP.
While welcoming recent moves by the IRA to boost their
peace process credentials, the Aylesbury MP told a
lunchtime fringe debate featuring Sinn Fein`s Conor Murphy
the British government had to give the courts a role if so-
called on-the-run paramilitaries were to be allowed to
return to Northern Ireland.
While stressing his party would continue to give bipartisan
support on the peace process to the British government
where appropriate, he stated: "There are two matters, one
definitely on the agenda, the other widely discussed in the
media, where you cannot take our support for granted.
"First, on-the-runs. If the legislation you bring forward
this autumn does not contain a proper judicial process that
involves those returning to Northern Ireland appearing in
court and being held accountable for their crimes in the
normal way - we will oppose the legislation.
"Second, policing. We will not be party to any arrangement
that effectively hands over the policing of republican or
loyalist areas to those who have been active in
The issue of on-the-run IRA terror suspects has been a key
negotiating issue for republicans.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is expected to press
British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a meeting in London
later this week for them to be allowed to return to
Northern Ireland without being imprisoned.
Mr Lidington said last week`s announcement that the IRA had
fully disarmed and its July statement declaring an end to
its armed campaign were significant steps.
However the Conservative spokesman insisted two more
hurdles had to be cleared.
"First, people in Northern Ireland need to see clear
evidence that all forms of paramilitary and other criminal
activities, including intimidation, shootings, beatings,
robberies, smuggling, money-laundering and exiling people
from their homes, have ended for good and that the IRA has
ceased to exist as an organised paramilitary force," he
told the CHAMP fringe meeting.
"We shall be looking to the Independent Monitoring
Commission and others for evidence that the move from
paramilitarism to peaceful politics is genuine, permanent
"Second, we expect republicans to accept the legitimacy of
the police and criminal justice systems, north and south,
and encourage full co-operation with them.
"I recognise that this would require an important
ideological change from the republican movement but I do
not see how it can be right to have people serving as
ministers in Belfast, or for that matter in Dublin, if they
refuse to support the police and the courts."
Mr Lidington said it would be difficult for many in
Northern Ireland who had suffered at the hands of the IRA
and his party to come to terms with the latest
He recalled the IRA attack on former Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet during the 1984 Tory
Party conference in Brighton which killed five people and
also the murders by republicans of MPs Ian Gow and Airey
The Conservative spokesman said there could be no place for
republican or loyalist paramilitarism and he condemned
recent loyalist rioting.
He also said loyalist organisations should follow the IRA
by decommissioning all their weapons.
Ulster Substitute Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson,
who with Ulster Unionist Assembly member David Burnside
also took part in the debate, said scepticism about recent
IRA moves was understandable,
"There is only so much credit that can be given to an
organisation for eventually, unwillingly giving up weapons,
years after they had agreed to - weapons that they should
never have had and could have rid themselves of at any
point in our recent history," he said.
"If it is the case that this is the IRA saying their
violence is over for good, then there is no one in Northern
Ireland who wouldn`t welcome this.
"However the whole community is sceptical because so often
before republicans have promised so much but let everyone
The Lagan Valley MP claimed an opportunity was missed last
week when the announcement of full IRA disarmament was not
accompanied by an inventory of the weapons destroyed.
"People worry why there has to be such secrecy," he said.
"Does someone have something to hide?"
Mr Donaldson said the DUP would not be bounced into forming
a devolved government featuring Sinn Fein on the back of
the Provisionals` recent move.
The DUP, he insisted, would stick to its pledge to voters
that paramilitarism would not be allowed to corrupt
democracy at Stormont.
"If it transpires that the weapons are beyond use, those of
us who have sought to maintain the decommissioning issue at
the top of the agenda have been vindicated," he said.
"The potential for a Northern Ireland free from the threat
of the IRA may prove realisable but our recent history
indicates why IRA words are of little value and why it is
essential that we proceed towards a better future on the
basis of absolute confidence and certainty."
British Govt Urged To Push Ahead With NI Policing Reforms
The British government was today urged to call Sinn Féin's
bluff on policing in Northern Ireland with legislation
allowing the transfer of justice powers to a future
administration at Stormont.
Nationalist SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood told a fringe
meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool
it was hardly conceivable anywhere in Ireland or Britain
that a party could be in government and yet not endorse
The SDLP Policing Board member also criticised the British
government for failing to put it up to Sinn Féin in recent
negotiations over its need to sign up to police reforms.
"Tony Blair must undo the damage," the West Belfast MLA
told the debate featuring Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, the
DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson, the UUP's David Burnside and
Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman David Lidington.
"Fortunately an opportunity to do so is only weeks away.
While others forge ahead on policing, Downing Street has
looked back over its shoulder at Sinn Féin.
"Number 10 must change tack. The British government must
put front and centre that there can be no delays or doubts
about joining the policing structures.
"If the British government have the capacity to do this, a
moment to bring this about arises with the tabling of
devolution of justice legislation in the next few weeks."
In November 2001, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which was
overwhelmingly Protestant, became the Police Service of
Northern Ireland (PSNI) following reforms introduced by the
In a bid to increase Catholic and nationalist numbers, half
of all PSNI recruits are drawn from the Catholic community
while hundreds of RUC officers left the force under a
Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and his
officers are also answerable for decisions to the North's
Policing Board and to local district policing partnerships.
Complaints against the police are also investigated by the
Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's investigative team.
While the SDLP, Irish Government and Catholic bishops have
backed the reforms and the Irish sporting organisation, the
Gaelic Athletic Association, lifted a ban on police
officers playing Gaelic football and hurling, Sinn Féin has
continued to withhold their support.
Mr Attwood today accused republicans of pretending the
transfer of justice powers was a swing issue in persuading
them to get involved in policing.
But he added: "On this occasion, let's take Sinn Féin at
"The tabling of devolution of justice legislation is a
moment to see if Sinn Féin measure up to what they
themselves declare as required for them to change approach
on the issue of policing.
"When the devolution legislation is tabled let the
(British) government provide no hiding place for any party,
to any longer evade their policing responsibilities."
Mr Attwood said loyalists and republicans both had
questions to answer on policing.
These included whether people on either side of the Irish
border would be free to join the PSNI and Gardaí.
He also asked whether they would be encouraged and able to
assist investigations into crime, provide information to
both police services on fuel smuggling, cigarette heists
and robberies and would be allowed to join policing
The West Belfast Assembly member said the Rev Ian Paisley's
DUP also had to convince others whether it was really up
for political progress.
North Bank Raid Inquiry Intense, Says Taoiseach
The ongoing investigation in the Republic into the
Northern Bank robbery is focusing on the money trail,
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dáil.
He said the Government was receiving continual updates on
the robbery, adding that it was being intensely
investigated, and very senior members of the Garda were
"The effort has focused on the money trail, and this
continues to be the case. The matter is complicated, so I
will say no more," he added.
Mr Ahern was replying to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who
said it was quite a long time since the House had been
given any news or information about the matter.
"It is obvious that some high-profile personnel in the
country have been mentioned as being associated with the
Northern Bank raid," said Mr Kenny.
The Fine Gael leader also raised the murder of Joseph
Rafferty, adding that it had all the "sinister qualities of
and similarities with" the murder of Robert McCartney.
Mr Rafferty was shot dead after leaving his apartment in
west Dublin last April.
Mr Ahern said he had confirmed to members of the Rafferty
family that he had raised the matter with Sinn Féin last
month and would do so again at his next meeting with the
He added: "While we must leave all of the legal aspects of
these matters to the investigation, it is always
uncomfortable when everybody seems to know what happened
and everybody gives the same names."
Replying to a series of questions, Mr Ahern said estimates
of IRA arms had been given to the decommissioning
commission by the Army and An Garda Síochána.
"The agreement on all of that, as it is set out, is that at
the end of the period, when decommissioning is finished and
Gen de Chastelain and his team have fulfilled their role,
those issues will be clarified," he added. "They are on the
Mr Ahern said that they could not be sure what loyalists
might do in the future.
"However, in every way possible, we will keep the contacts
we have established. We have some and we will not overstate
that, but we try to keep lines of communication open," he
"Some relatively good contacts have been built up,
"Precisely what way the loyalists will go is a matter to
leave for some time.
"There is a debate as to where all this will go. The more
progress that can be built on the events of last week and
July, the better."
Mr Ahern said it should be understood there was a sense of
alienation in many of those communities.
"Regardless of what flag is flying in an estate, loyalist
or nationalist, the problems are similar. We must seek to
be helpful and supportive in every way.
"The Minister for Foreign Affairs, myself and officials on
the ground always try to balance whatever we do because it
is the best way to make progress," the Taoiseach said.
© The Irish Times
Human Rights Revolution Needed In Garda - Manning
Carol Coulter, Legal Affairs Correspondent
A human rights revolution is necessary at all levels of
An Garda Síochána, according to the president of the Human
Rights Commission. Maurice Manning was speaking to The
Irish Times to mark the launch of the second annual report
of the commission.
"In the coming year the question of policing and human
rights will be an important part of the work of the Human
Rights Commission," said Dr Manning.
"The imminent establishment of a police ombudsman is a
major advance, but of itself will not be sufficient to deal
with the current crisis of confidence."
This could be best achieved, he said, through education at
all levels, through constant monitoring, and most of all,
through an openness to outside expertise and assessment.
"These changes will not be easy, and undoubtedly many of
them will be resisted, but without them, regaining public
confidence will not be possible."
He also called for closer links with Oireachtas committees
in order to scrutinise legislation at its pre-enactment
stage. "Greater engagement at this stage could ensure that
potential human rights difficulties could be eliminated and
that a positive human rights approach be taken."
One of the principal functions of the commission is to
examine proposed legislation to ensure it conforms to
Ireland's international and constitutional human rights
obligations. The report said the only Government department
that routinely sends planned legislation to the commission
is the Department of Justice. The commission had been
assured that other departments would do so, but so far they
The report also said it is concerned that there is "a view
in Government that the commission, in its current form, is
essentially the finished product rather than a work in
If it was to meet the target set for it by the Taoiseach,
"setting rather than following standards of best
international practice in this area", then it needed a
significant increase in resources. At the moment it is
understaffed and underfunded.
© The Irish Times
Murray Attacks Kenny Over 'Disgraceful' TV Comments
report by Michael Duffy
MAYO'S Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray has reacted
angrily to a suggestion from Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny
that Sinn Féin exploited the Rossport Five campaign to
launch an 'insidious campaign' of their own against the
Deputy Kenny made his comments on national television at
the weekend, suggesting that Sinn Féin had targeted him and
his party because of their opposition to the deal done
between the Government and Sinn Féin over the release of
the killers of Jerry McCabe.
"I find the comments made by Deputy Kenny disgraceful,
deceitful and disingenuous. The facts of the matter are all
parties on this island were invited by the families of the
Rossport Five to support their 'Shell to Sea' campaign. We
were the only party to stand on the platform and support
the Rossport community," stated the Charlestown-based
Deputy Mary Hanafin also stated that she felt the campaign
was 'jumped on by politicians for their own purposes' and
Mayo's Fianna Fáil deputy John Carty too made suggestive
"The only part that would worry me a little bit is that
some people have used the campaign for their own advantage
rather than for the men who were incarcerated," stated
Cllr Murray stated that all the comments made by members of
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were 'the worst type of political
spindoctoring by people who know they have let down the
people of north Mayo.'
"Sinn Féin didn't exploit or hijack any campaign. We only
replied to the invitation for support from the Rossport
Five families and the larger community."
Cllr Murray went on to say that from day one the Rossport
Five campaign was a community-based campaign and the
comments of Deputy Kenny were now politicising the whole
"To me it seems like Enda Kenny is trying to create a
sideshow or a red herring to try and take the focus off the
real issue here.
What he should be doing is apologising to the families of
the Rossport Five and the community at large for
effectively supporting Shell and their proposals," added
Meanwhile, other politicians from around the county are now
eager for the release of the men to ignite dialogue in the
hope of a satisfactory resolution to the impasse.
Deputy Michael Ring welcomed the lifting of the injunction
on the Rossport Five and said he was delighted that there
has been a positive response from his calls in the Dáil
last week for a mediator to be appointed.
"I hope now that Shell and the Government will do more
listening to the local people so that this very serious
situation can be resolved. I would like to thank my Fine
Gael colleagues for their support in trying to settle this
matter as they also played their part in trying to get this
resolved. I hope there will be a positive outcome to the
negotiations that will take place, to the satisfaction of
all sides," stated Deputy Ring.
Deputy Beverley Flynn also welcome the release of the five
from Cloverhill prison.
"I am very pleased for the men and their families, and hope
that their release will mark a new stage of dialogue and
understanding between all sides involved in the pipeline
controversy," said Deputy Flynn.
400 New Jobs In Pipeline For Derry
Office scheme for troubled Fountain area
By Clare Weir
04 October 2005
The troubled Fountain estate was today on the verge of a
massive economic boost as plans were unveiled for an office
development that could create up to 400 new Civil Service
DUP MLA William Hay said today that if a proposal from Alex
Properties Ltd is approved by the Planning Service, it will
breathe new life into the Fountain.
The plan involves knocking down derelict houses just off
Carlisle Road to make way for new office buildings beside
the former Welch Margetson factory, now home to a
Government Pensions Centre.
The two new three-storey structures, part of a planned
expansion of the centre, would front on to Hawkin Street
and Fountain Street with courtyard parking behind them.
After initial concerns about the height of one of the
buildings, the application was amended and last night
received cross-party praise at a meeting of Derry City
The Pensions Centre already employs around 200 people.
Pat Ramsey, of the SDLP, welcomed the development.
"Here is a prime example of a local developer taking an old
building and turning it into a modern office," he said.
"We have the prospect of up to 400 public service jobs and
Mr Hay said the plans would "regenerate the entire Carlisle
Road area" and added his support.
He said today: "I have been following and supporting this
project for some time.
"There is the potential of 300 to 400 jobs on top of the
jobs already there and this will open up the whole area and
boost the Fountain when you consider all the offspin from
such a large development."
At the same meeting, he also welcomed a recommendation to
refuse an application for a mews development of six
townhouses at Ebrington Park in the Waterside.
A total of 63 objections were received against Foyle
Property Services over the site, which was freed up when
the Army vacated the area last year.
Local residents had been protesting against the plans,
which planners said would compromise road safety, access,
movement and parking.
Meanwhile, local DUP MP, Gregory Campbell, expressed
surprise at another application, where planners gave nine
reasons for reccommending refusal.
The proposed development at Culmore Point includes
demolition of an existing detached dwelling, replaced by
Planners cited detriment to the character of the area and
unsatisfactory access and parking among the reasons for
"I have never seen nine reasons for refusal," he said.
"That is very unusual."
However, Sinn Fein's Tony Hassan said that the proposal had
received "far less" objections than others which had been
That application was deferred for ten days.
Letters to the Editor
The Times October 05, 2005
Faith Schools Put To The Test
From Bishop Henry Richmond
Sir, I wrote to you when I was Bishop of Repton saying that
" . . . it saddens me that the churches and the state (in
my native Northern Ireland) continue to acquiesce in the
sectarian divide by allowing aided (faith) schools to
continue" (letter, February 4, 1992).
I was therefore greatly encouraged to read Rabbi Jonathan
Romain's words (Register, October 1):
We ... saw the terrible scenes of Catholic children having
to run the gauntlet of screaming Protestants to reach Holy
Cross School in Belfast. Had those Protestant parents mixed
with Catholic children 30 years ago, they might have grown
up knowing that Catholics are not demons but ordinary kids
who eat crisps and enjoy skateboarding. 30 years later
those Protestants might not have been so fearful or hate-
filled as to man barricades against children.
My hope and prayers are that both politicians and church
leaders will increasingly campaign for schools where faith
is cherished but not isolated.
Belfast: The Real Divide
The gate of one of the segregation walls that divide the
Falls and Shankill roads in Belfast
After last month's riots in Northern Ireland Simon
Basketter looks at what the peace process means for
A pipe bomb exploded at the home of a Catholic couple and
their three year old boy in Ballymoney, County Antrim, last
week. Steel fragments burst through the window destroying
their living room.
Fortunately, the family was asleep upstairs and escaped
unhurt. But the message of the attack was clear — Loyalist
paramilitaries are attempting to drive the family off a
predominantly Protestant estate. Another day of "peace" in
Northern Ireland has suffered a summer of such attacks on
Catholic homes, churches and schools. Catholics in north
Belfast have suffered 358 sectarian attacks so far this
year. This comes on top of a running feud among Loyalist
paramilitaries and rioting breaking out across Protestant
areas of Belfast last month.
The worst rioting was concentrated in the areas of the city
with the highest fatality rate during the Troubles. These
are areas that had suffered the most from the war — and
gained the least from the peace. And far from
coincidentally, they are all areas of severe poverty.
The new Catholics?
"The problem is that politicians and the paramilitaries are
trying to convince working class Protestants that they are
the 'new Catholics'," says James, a Protestant community
worker in West Belfast.
"It's rubbish — we're just all poor. We're living in the
poorest part of Northern Ireland, the poorest part of
Britain — and people are fed up. It says a lot about
Northern Ireland that the increase in the minimum wage
meant 50,000 people got a pay rise.
"The DUP (Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party) is
making a fuss over how many Catholics are on the library
board. I'm more bothered about why so few people get a
Northern Ireland still uses the selective grammar school
system that was largely replaced by comprehensive education
in Britain in the 1970s. Students sit an exam called the 11
plus, with the minority that pass it being creamed off into
James notes that in practice this system effectively
excludes working class children from grammar schools.
"Schools round here don't even bother teaching the 11 plus,
never mind kids failing the exam," he says. This is borne
out by the figures — in the Protestant Shankill area less
than 2 percent of students sit the 11 plus.
"The politics of 'Blame the Catholics' works, because there
is a real anger bubbling under the surface," he adds.
"The rumours rumble on, that Catholics are buying houses
using money from the Northern Bank robbery, or that
Catholics are buying houses just so they can object to the
routes of Orange marches. Of course, there is no proof for
any of this stuff.
"So the political vacuum is filled with violence. The
loyalist paramilitaries are at a loss, and when they aren't
turning on each other, they go back to what they know. The
best way for these guys to assert their authority is to
kick the Catholics."
John, another Protestant community worker, points out, "All
the papers since the riot have been talking about 'why are
poor Protestants angry?' Well, we've been angry for years —
it's just that they didn't notice. Protestants used be able
to get jobs in industry. Even as that declined, they could
get jobs in the security industry. But all that is going
Some 38,000 people used to be directly employed in Northern
Ireland's security forces and prison service. In 2001, this
sector accounted for some 34 percent of male Protestant
public sector workers.
"What's worrying is where this all goes," says John. "What
gets around is that we're losing out — which suggests that
we had something to lose in the first place. I don't want
to be watching repeats of the same thing year in and year
Neil, a postal worker in North Belfast, feels much the same
way. "Sectarianism hasn't gone away you know," he says.
"This summer felt like every other summer — awful. There
were lots of attacks that didn't make the headlines. While
the politicians are playing their games, we are left where
we always are.
"People are complaining that the Catholics are being all
triumphalist — but what's an Orange march if it isn't
triumphalist? On the riots there was a combination of
attacking the cops because they are the new 'Catholic'
police force, together with the fact that people on my
estate have always hated the cops.
"But the real bitterness is just going into a dead end. I
don't think the paramilitaries have anything useful to say,
but do any of the politicians? There are a lot of issues we
should be rioting about — but having Orange marches isn't
one of them."
Some 90 percent of social housing estates in Northern
Ireland are segregated. And the poorer you are the more
likely your estate is to be segregated. There are 17
segregation walls in Belfast — seven of them have been
built since the start of the peace process.
The Short Strand in East Belfast is a long established
Catholic enclave with a wall more or less completely round
it. There are 800 homes in the area, housing 2,500 people,
some 1,000 of whom are under 25. Unemployment is over 40
percent, and across Northern Ireland Catholics are still
more likely to be unemployed than Protestants.
Mary is a nurse who lives in the Short Strand. "Everything
is very expensive for our kids in the Short Strand and the
rest of East Belfast," she says. "So they just hang out,
because they don't have money.
"All the hotels and calls centres are on the doorstep, but
we can't get jobs there. People then exploit that as a
Protestant-Catholic thing. But the real problem is the
class thing and the money thing.
"The whole point of the peace process was to get equality.
We need a leisure centre. There's one five minutes walk
away—but we can't use it because it is in a Protestant
"Our kids don't feel they are part of a community, and that
contributes to the high rate of suicides and the like. But
the Protestant young ones are just as badly off. Everyone
is frustrated because the hopes of the peace process have
"We are very much still a divided society, and all the old
fears remain. It affects our access to basic amenities.
When there's trouble people can't even get to the post
office safely. And even when there's no trouble, the divide
is a barrier to normal life.
The same problems
"I feel it most for the young people. You'd almost think
that nothing much has changed over the past 30 years,
because young people are still facing the same problems
their parents faced.
"Aside from all the problems caused by disadvantage, our
two communities haven't really moved any closer to one
another. I grew up with all the hatred being directed at
me, either by the Protestants or the Brits, and there are
times when it makes you feel bitter. But what scares me
more is that my children are growing up in the same old
Sean, her son, is an unemployed teenager. "It's just dead
here," he says. "All the big fancy areas get all the money.
We're not a fancy area—so we don't get money. And so you're
hanging around on corners, waiting for riots."
On the Catholic Falls Road, however, there is more
optimism. "I think the IRA decommissioning will move things
along," Ciaran, a local community worker, told Socialist
Worker. "I think it forces everything forward."
But there is a generational divide, he adds. "My father
just mumbles about Bombay Street," he says, referring an
the area of West Belfast where Catholics families were
burnt out of by Loyalists at the start of the Troubles.
"The problem is we are all sat waiting for Paisely to die.
Instead we should be realising that everyone's life in
Northern Ireland is made worse by the divisions. We need to
be attacking poverty and sectarianism now, not waiting for
the return of Stormont."
There is an growing sense of cynicism about Northern
Ireland politics from both Protestants and Catholics. Since
the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the number of people who
don't support a political party has more than doubled from
12 percent to 26 percent.
Some 37 percent of people support neither Unionist nor
Nationalist parties. One constant figure is that a third of
the people refuse to describe themselves as Unionist or
"I think the majority of people are fed up with the whole
process, the political to-ing and fro-ing of the
politicians," says Conor, a Belfast student. "Young people
turn away from what they see as politics — but at the same
time most people are against the war in Iraq.
"People are angry about things like the introduction of
water charges, but the 'peace process' leaves them cold.
People come together on the anti-war protests, or against
the G8, in a way that cuts against all the attempts to pull
"The Good Friday Agreement was supposed to bring
politicians from the main parties together in a new deal
for peace. But there was, and still is, a huge gap between
the aspirations of working class people for peace and the
aims of the sectarian politicians.
"On both sides, it's those at the bottom of the pile that
are left behind. But the new movements offer an opportunity
to lift our aspirations above the sectarian divide."
Oct. 4, 2005, 3:22PM
Bog of Cats demands attention
By EVERETT EVANS
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
BY THE BOG OF CATS
• When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through Oct. 22; also, 8
p.m. Oct. 17
• Where: Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company, Midtown Art
Center, 3414 LaBranch
• Tickets: $10; 832-418-0973
Hell hath no fury like Hester Swane, the scorned but still
more scornful protagonist of Marina Carr's By the Bog of
Her outlook is perhaps best typified by one of the play's
few relatively light-hearted exchanges, prompted by her
daughter's refusal to brush her teeth.
"What do I need teeth for, anyway?" asks the young Josie, a
playfully teasing challenge. Hester responds with a telling
bit of motherly advice.
"You need them for snarling at people when smiling doesn't
Hester has plenty to snarl about in Carr's modern variation
on Euripides' Medea, making its Houston premiere in an
unpolished but often forceful rendition by Mildred's
Umbrella Theatre Company.
Hester is, first of all, an outcast of nomadic roots,
sneered at by her neighbors in the mysterious,
superstition-soaked bogs of rural Ireland. As a child, she
was deserted by her mother. As a woman, she has been
deserted by Carthage Kilbride, the man she lived with for
years and the father of her daughter.
Despite his long-forgotten promise to marry Hester,
Carthage is now to marry Caroline Cassidy, daughter of a
well-to-do land owner. With a stack of cash to buy Hester
off, Carthage plans to oust her from the house he built for
her and live there with Caroline. Hester fears he may even
take Josie from her, as well.
Even without the ghostly revelations about a gruesome past
crime that binds Hester and Carthage together in guilt and
horror, it doesn't take a crystal ball to realize things
are going to end badly. The wedding banquet is a disaster,
with relatives carrying on like mad things. And that's even
before Hester bursts in wearing her own bridal white,
spewing accusations and threats.
One of Ireland's prominent playwrights (winner of the
Houston-based Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Portia
Coughlan), Carr has blessed By the Bog of Cats with a
protagonist to be reckoned with. Hester's feisty fury is
the play's keynote. Rarely has a heroine spent so much time
and energy vowing to make trouble.
"God's punishing me but I'll not take his blows lying
"The only way I'll leave the Bog of Cats is in a box — and
if it comes to that, I'll not go alone."
When Caroline claims she's not afraid of Hester, the latter
replies, "You should be — I'm afraid of myself."
But then, just about everyone here is belligerent,
vindictive or just plain weird. Carthage's mother tells
Josie: "Don't you dare cry, you need to toughen up."
Caroline's father insists the words "sorry" and "thanks"
never did anyone any good. Then there's the witchlike
Catwoman with her wild mane of gray hair, who eats mice and
laps beverages (even wine at the wedding feast) from a
Carr's script also constitutes a crash course in Grim
Foreboding 101, from the dead black swan (a portent of
doom) Hester drags to its burial at the play's start to
such prophetic utterances as "I feel like I'm walking on
Bog of Cats is so relentlessly bleak, weird and wild that
it sometimes veers to the edge of melodrama or self-parody.
Certainly, some touches are meant to be absurdly funny,
such as the comic grotesques at the banquet. Yet rooted in
the conviction of the heroine, the play's intensity exerts
a strange fascination.
Premiered at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1998, Bog of Cats
has played at U.S. regional houses but made its biggest
stir last fall in London's West End with Oscar-winner Holly
Hunter making an acclaimed London stage debut as Hester.
Mildred's Umbrella's Houston premiere is a rough-hewn, no-
frills rendition, never as atmospheric nor tightly knit as
it might be. Yet director Randy Symank and his cast capture
the play's intensity and willful eccentricity, rising to
its peaks of bleak humor, fierce confrontation and
Most crucially, Michelle Edwards anchors the production
with her very strong performance in the marathon role of
Hester. She's a maelstrom of bitterness, rage and despair,
with an occasional calm of quiet desolation.
Eric Doss acts Carthage with stern conviction and
precision. Christie Guidry's well-meaning, ineffectual
Caroline strikes a useful contrast to Edwards' wrathful
power. Karen Schlag, though sometimes verging on
caricature, is an amusingly awful Mrs. Kilbride; Stephen
Foulard, a cold and remorseless Mr. Cassidy.
Patricia Duran's Catwoman is a show in herself — and scary
as all get out.
Other players are variable; Mike Gibson's backdrop painting
is a moody asset.
But By the Bog of Cats, Edwards' ferocious Hester is
definitely the main event.
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