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)

November 24, 2005

Irish Govt Asked To Monitor PSNI In Town

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

News about Ireland and the Irish

DI 11/24/05 Irish Govt Asked To Monitor PSNI In Town
SF 11/24/05 Poverty Inexcusable In Affluent Irish Economy
IO 11/24/05 Adams Urged To Move Over 'On-The-Runs'
IO 11/24/05 Exiled Republicans Must Contact Communities
NL 11/24/05 Peers Will Oppose Bill In Lords
TO 11/24/05 Opin: Lacking Conviction
GU 11/24/05 Opin: Need Ethicist, Not Blathering Secretary
SM 11/24/05 Court Finds Al-Qaeda Suspect Guilty Of Terror
BB 11/24/05 Colonel Tim Backs US On Weapon
BB 11/24/05 Legend Best 'Enters Final Hours'
TE 11/24/05 Best Of Times


Irish Government Asked To Monitor PSNI Behaviour In Town

Connla Young

The Irish government has been asked to monitor the behaviour of the
PSNI towards nationalist residents of an isolated Border town.

For several months, nationalist politicians in Castlederg, which sits
close to the Tyrone/Donegal border, have been critical of the PSNI's
behaviour when dealing with local youths.

The PSNI's conduct has led to claims that some officers are
deliberately involved in a campaign to criminalise nationalist youths
in the bitterly divided Border town.

In a number of serious incidents, nationalists living in the town have
reported being physically assaulted and by PSNI men armed with CS

Concerns about the PSNI in the Co Tyrone town were raised last
week when a high level Sinn Féin delegation met with Irish and
British government representatives, including foreign affairs minister
and British secretary of state Peter Hain.

West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff, who took part in the talks, said a
series of loyalist parades in the area during the summer were being
used to "assert their supremacy over nationalists".

His comments come on the same day as the Parades Commission is
set to rule on a controversial Apprentice Boys' parade scheduled to
take place in the town early next month. He also raised the question
of parades during last week's high-level talks.

"I took the opportunity at the talks to highlight the proliferation of
loyalist parades in the town of Castlederg and how they disrupt the
social and commercial life of Castlederg. With a new parades
commission being appointed in early January, I asked the two
governments to pay close attention to the campaign by loyalists to
assert their 'supremacy' over the nationalists of Castlederg by
consistently seeking to march in the Ferguson Crescent area of the

The Parades Commission will decide later today if Mitchelburne
Apprentice Boys' Club will be allowed to parade through the
nationalist Ferguson Crescent on December 3.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said: "Police have been even-handed in
their investigations of incidents in the area. Anyone who has a
genuine complaint about the actions of officers should contact the
Police Ombudsman's office."


Level Of Poverty Inexcusable In Affluent Irish Economy Of 21st Century

Published: 24 November, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has said the level of poverty in
Ireland is "inexcusable given the affluent Irish economy of the 21st
century." Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's Budget Priorities
2006 document 'Putting Children First – Time for Government to
Deliver' in Dublin today he said "very modest attempts" by the
Fianna Fáil / Progressive Democrat Coalition to rectify inequality in
the last couple of budgets was "a direct response to the challenges
they faced at recent elections – not least the challenge posed by
Sinn Féin."

Mr. Adams said, "The level of inequality and consistent poverty in
this part of Ireland today is testament to the fundamentally flawed
approach of the over their eight and a half years in office.

"Yes, they may have made some very modest attempts to rectify that
inequality in the last couple of budgets. This was a direct response
to the challenges they faced at recent elections – not least the
challenge posed by Sinn Féin.

"Indeed it has been somewhat amusing to see the steady stream of
republicans and socialists emanating for the Government parties
over the last couple of months.

"However, for Sinn Féin the real test is not rhetoric but the putting
into effect of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It means
"cherishing all the children of the nation equally" in practice.

"But it is clear that the Fianna Fáil / Progressive Democrats
government has failed that test.

"Numerous studies have shown that despite the unprecedented
economic growth that this State has benefited from over the last
decade that far too many people are still living in poverty. Those
studies show that one in seven children, (or 150,000), live in
consistent poverty and a further 242,000 children are at risk of

"This level of poverty is inexcusable given the affluent Irish economy
of the 21st century. Record budget surpluses have been achieved
year after year, yet the opportunity to move towards an Ireland of
Equals has been squandered." ENDS


Adams Urged To Move Over 'On-The-Runs'

Sinn Féin was today accused of selling out on the families of victims
of alleged state murders and collusion in the North.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan also called on Sinn Féin party president
Gerry Adams to withdraw his support for the controversial
legislation involving so-called on the runs which is passing through

Under the proposed new laws, members of the security forces
allegedly involved in killings would not have to stand trial - a deal
with the republican leadership agreed with the British and Irish
governments, according to Mr Durkan.

If and when the legislation is passed, several republicans who fled
the North years ago after being allegedly involved in terrorism will be
free to return home without running the risk of going to jail.

Tribunals of inquiry into any charges they could face will be held in
their absence.

Mr Durkan said: "In return for the greater advantage of getting their
on the runs back with no questions asked, Sinn Féin sold out the
families that for years they claimed to fight for.

"They let state killers and loyalists totally off the hook."

Yesterday in London, Mr Adams said no members of the security
forces involved in killings should be free from prosecution.

Mr Durkan added: "But if a panicked Gerry Adams is now changing
position, there is a simple thing that he must do - call on Tony Blair
to withdraw this legislation immediately and entirely.

"That is what Gerry Adams must now do. The British have made
clear that they do not like this legislation. So Sinn Féin should
release them from the side deal and call the whole thing off."


Exiled Republicans 'Must Contact Their Communities'

Republicans banished abroad by the IRA are free to return but must
first contact their communities, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said

The terrorist group has exiled scores of people in the North for
engaging in anti-social behaviour in their localities.

But Mr Adams said today that the IRA no longer posed any threat to
those republicans too fearful to return home.

"Take the recent IRA statement, as I do, in which it said it would
cease all activity. Therefore the IRA is a threat to nobody.

"There is no threat as far as I can see from the IRA.

"Would I encourage people to come back? Let those who were
committing offences within their communities contact their
communities about that."

Mr Adams urged everybody to use common sense when dealing with
the matter.

"Let's be serious about all of this and work this out in a therapeutic

"All of these matters are quite raw. We saw this yesterday from the
television footage of the debate in the House of Commons so let's
deal with all of these matters in as gentle a way as possible."

There were emotional scenes in the British parliament yesterday as
legislation granting an amnesty to on-the-run (OTR) fugitives was
given its second reading.

Under the controversial law, those wanted by police for offences
committed before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998
will be free to return home without any court charges.

The British government, which faced significant opposition to the
proposal from Northern and opposition MPs, said it was necessary
to kick-start the stalled peace process.

But Mr Adams said today that the original proposals agreed at
Weston Park in a statement by the Irish and British governments did
not involve members of the British Crown forces.

"The legislation which was brought forward by the British
government was in breach of commitments made to us, going back
seven years," he said.

Speaking in Dublin, the West Belfast MP said he also wanted to see
all uncompleted aspects of the Good Friday Agreement resolved.

"Hundreds of families have been bereaved through the direct actions
of the British Crown forces and none of those soldiers have been
held accountable.

"And hundreds more have been bereaved through the policy of
collusion pursued as an administrative practice by British
governments for a very long time."


Peers Will Oppose Bill In Lords

Thursday 24th November 2005

Ulster Unionist Peers will mount a vigorous campaign against the
Northern Ireland Offences Bill when it reaches the House of Lords,
Sir Reg Empey said yesterday.

The UUP leader stressed that Peers would do all in their power to
prevent the amnesty for paramilitary fugitives becoming law.

He said: "For the second reading of this Bill to come on the
anniversary of the conferring of the George Cross medal to the RUC
typifies government insensitivity towards victims of the troubles.
This follows on from the Government wanting to impose swingeing
measures to intern terror suspects on the same day as the OTR Bill
went through first reading.

"Now to add insult to injury they have chosen the last day that the
Commons sits before Christmas recess for third reading where they
will be hoping for a low turnout.

"Thereafter the Bill goes to the House of Lords. Our team in the
Lords are focused on bringing the legislation down and will be
lobbying for support across party benches to consign this illthought
out and grossly insulting Bill to the bin.

"If that support is not forthcoming we will be focused on making
significant changes to the legislation. A special meeting of party
representatives is taking place shortly to determine our handling of
the legislation in the Upper House."

Sir Reg dismissed the comparison between the conflict resolution in
Northern Ireland and South Africa.

He said: "There (in South Africa) the perpetrators of crimes had to
personally appear, admit their guilt and do so within a fixed
timetable. The Northern Ireland Offences Bill - or should it be
Offensive Bill - has no time limit and does not require anyone to
make a personal appearance."


Opin: Lacking Conviction

The Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill should be amended

It is rare indeed for a government to win a vote in the House of
Commons despite the proposal concerned being condemned by
virtually every speaker in the preceding debate. Yet that is what
occurred on Wednesday night when the Northern Ireland (Offences)
Bill secured its second reading. The anger and emotion expressed
by opponents of this measure were sincere and understandable.
Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has to respect
these sentiments and would now be wise to adjust this legislation.

In fairness to the Secretary of State, he has to deal with anger and
emotion from several quarters. He also must be a realist. There
would have been no Good Friday agreement if those serving long
prison sentences for odious crimes had not been released as part of
the package. The present position of the 150 or so "on the runs" is
imperfect. They are beyond the reach of justice today and will remain
there if no new arrangements are made that will enable them, like
those set free in the past, to return home. It has never been likely
that the IRA would agree to the decommissioning of its arsenal while
leaving what it regards as "its people" in a state of limbo overseas.

The issue, therefore, is not whether to to address this question but
how best to implement a solution. The scheme that Mr Hain has
devised is wholly novel. It involves not a formal admission of guilt
before a court of law, in advance of being returned to liberty, but a
petition to a special tribunal, with no obligation to appear in person,
let alone concede wrongdoing.

A de facto amnesty is one thing. Institutional amnesia is another. It is
perfectly possible to utilise the courts and to conduct judicial-style
hearings to ascertain who did what to whom and when, before those
who have been on the run resume normal life in Ulster. It has been
suggested by some that a process of this kind would be deemed to
be "humiliation" by IRA operatives. It should be obvious, however,
that the remedy set out in this Bill is considered to be humiliation by
the families of those killed by the terrorists.

The likes of Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy are not enemies
of the Northern Ireland peace process. Mr Kennedy, especially, has
been content to back the Government on awkward and controversial
aspects of it. The two leaders joined forces on this cause not out of
opportunism but because of shared revulsion; Mr Hain himself wrote
in The Times on Tuesday describing an "abnormal" move, but it is
being done in a fashion that no political party in the Province bar
Sinn Fein cares for. It is not unreasonable to suggest that IRA
members acknowledge what they did in person and at a proper legal

If this Bill is not changed, it will be the subject of a parliamentary
struggle between an aggrieved House of Lords and a reluctant
majority in the House of Commons. This will complicate the task of
restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. Mr Hain's respected
predecessor, Paul Murphy, urged him on Wednesday to accept
"sensible amendments" to this Bill. He should now heed that sage


Opin: We Need An Ethicist, Not A Blathering Ulster Secretary

Can the decision to give an amnesty to 'on the run' terrorists be
right? The government should seek a philosopher's advice

Simon Jenkins
Friday November 25, 2005
The Guardian

We need a chief government ethicist. We have a chief scientist, a
chief economist, a government law officer, an astronomer royal, a
poet laureate, and inspectors of schools and prisons. Why no
ethicist? Socrates said: "There will be no end to the troubles of
states until philosophers become kings and kings become
philosophers." This week I needed an ethicist. All I got was a
blathering secretary of state for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter

Under the powers vested in him, Hain treated parliament on
Wednesday as a colonial official might have treated Victorian
Nigeria. He dispensed political expediency as justice. He decided
that it suited Her Britannic Majesty to issue a de facto amnesty to all
remaining IRA (and other) terrorists still "on the run" in Northern
Ireland. Ministers were busy fighting Muslim terror on the mainland,
he implied, and could not also handle the Christian version in
Ireland. It was like walking and chewing gum at the same time.

Earlier this year the IRA's Gerry Adams suggested to Tony Blair that,
in addition to the prisoners freed under the Good Friday agreement,
he wanted some 150 bombers and killers still on the run to be
"released" and allowed to go home. In return he promised "closure"
to terrorism. Having called London's bluff before, Adams clearly felt
emboldened to call it again. He demanded that his men should not
even have to appear before a court or apologise. They should not be
so humiliated, inconvenienced or laid open to risk of summary
justice from their victims. In return, Adams would again promise
"closure", whatever that is. If Blair refused the deal, the outcome
would be Blair's fault. A presumably terrified Blair capitulated, his
embarrassment reflected in Hain's constant reference to the deal
being an "abnormal ... painful but necessary step".

The reaction of Northern Ireland MPs in the Commons on
Wednesday was apoplectic. Some were enraged. Willie McCrea was
in tears. It reminded me of the woman at a Belfast meeting some
years ago who asked a British politician how he would feel if he were
sitting, as she was, with her husband's killer in the seat in front of
her. He had been freed by British ministers. An MP, Kate Hoey, asked
Hain what he meant by the word justice. He was not sure. MPs
shouted, "outrageous and immoral". Hain seemed baffled by such
uppity opinions. How dare these provincial natives show the same
moral scruple as might a God-fearing Londoner?

None of this makes the government's position unreasonable.
Ministers argue that the IRA terror campaign is in effect over.
Terrible things have happened, but after war comes peace and peace
heals wounds. The IRA may still be privately armed and a law unto
itself. But let bygones be bygones. Forgive and forget the men of
violence, be they IRA, loyalist, policemen or soldiers accused of
illegal killings. That way everyone will feel better.

Yet an ethicist would distinguish between what is reasonable in itself
and what, as Kant said, obeys a law of universal application, and
thus can be generally accepted as fair. What of the government's
contrasting stance on Muslim terrorism? Ministers argue that this
terror is still active. It lurks round every corner. There are no Good
Friday deals doable with al-Qaida, no repentant killers susceptible to
atonement. There is no proffered closure. All governments, Hain
implied, must sometimes visit the temple of appeasement and pay a
debt to the god of blackmail.

Or what of the continuing eight-year-old inquiry into the 1972 Bloody
Sunday shootings? This was set up to appease the IRA on the
principle that justice never dies, that every victim is entitled to a day
in court, a ceremony and a QC. If the IRA's 1987 massacre at
Enniskillen is now subject to executive closure, why not the much
older Bloody Sunday massacre? If the latter's paratroops must
attend an inquiry in person, why are the Enniskillen killers excused?

Ulster people have been lectured for 30 years by British ministers
that it is their solemn duty to uphold justice in the province by
handing known terrorists in their community over to law and order.
In this noble cause they had to courageously risk a bomb through
the door and their sons being kneecapped in a back yard. Now they
find that courage has fled Downing Street by the back door and
justice is a matter of dates.

The government claims the right to allocate justice at its own
discretion. Is that the rule of law in parliament ordained, or is it
Shakespeare's liberty "that plucks justice by the nose"? Philosophy
should tell us. In England the government says that the rights of
"potential victims of terror" should enjoy legal supremacy over the
right to habeas corpus, presumed innocence and open trial. In
Northern Ireland government says the opposite. The actual victims of
terror have no right to see their tormentors brought to justice. That
right is rendered subservient to a political expedient called closure.

How would a chief ethicist advise us on these contradictions? Blair
claims a prerogative to show mercy to terrorists on behalf of their
victims. Is this the prerogative or mercy, or rather of power? The
victims of Enniskillen are not asking for an eye for an eye, only for
what Blair has conceded the victims of Bloody Sunday, that justice
be blind to political circumstance. And what value is forgiveness
without atonement?

A political ethicist might see the "on-the-run" law as a political
gesture in a higher cause. Individuals must often take second place
to the collective good. Or ethics might ordain that such a law
pollutes the integrity of the state. Why else were ministers so
obviously queasy in the Commons. Were they nervous of reversing
Eliot's "greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason"?
Were they doing the wrong deed for the right reason?

The legal theorist John Griffith remarked that the British constitution
is "what happens". A government may be able to do anything it likes,
including reneging on international conventions that it has itself
enshrined in law. Blair can, like George Bush, take the view that as
de facto commander in chief he can do anything and call it national

But such ethical relativism, little more than the passing convenience
of power, is not the same as the right thing to do. Nor is that right
thing always easy to discern. All government involves compromise.
The late, great legal ethicist HLA Hart contrasted those who obey
rules because they are right with those who obey them for fear of
what happens should they break them. The present government is in
the latter category, except it has no such fear since it both makes
rules and enforces them.

Any government, said Hart, is accountable. "However great its aura
of majesty or authority, its demands must in the end be submitted to
a moral scrutiny." If democracy cannot offer that scrutiny, history
will. Before the Iraq war the cabinet sought the view of its chief law
officer on whether it was legal. I wonder what view it might have
received from a chief ethicist, asked if the war was moral. One day
we would have consulted a bishop. Now we need philosophers, and
badly, even if they would be sorely overworked.


Belfast Court Finds Al-Qaeda Link Suspect Guilty Of Terror Charges


THE jailing of an Algerian man suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda
had removed a "determined terrorist" from Britain's streets, police
said yesterday.

Although tried and convicted as Abbas Boutrab, 27, officers admit
that he has so many aliases they have no idea who the man really is.

Boutrab was found guilty at Belfast Crown Court of possessing
articles for purposes connected with terrorism.

They included 25 computer disks of detailed instructions on how to
make a bomb and how to get on board a plane to blow up the

The Police Service of Northern Ireland sent the instructions to the
FBI in America, who followed them and produced a bomb which,
when tested, blew apart a row of airline seats and tore through the
aircraft skin beside them.

Boutrab had downloaded the information from the internet on a
computer in Belfast Central Library, the trial heard.

He was the first al-Qaeda suspect to be tried in Northern Ireland
under the non-jury Diplock court system, which had only previously
been used for Loyalist and Republican terrorists.

Mr Justice Weatherup delivered three guilty verdicts after
considering evidence during the six-week trial. He said he would
pass sentence on 19 December.

The Algerian, who downloaded the information on 23 January, 2003,
was arrested the following April when the disks were found during
an immigration raid on his home at Whitehouse on the northern
outskirts of Belfast.

The conviction of Boutrab followed a long and complicated
intelligence-led investigation by detectives from the PSNI Crime
Operations department, the security service, FBI and police forces in
the Irish republic, France and Holland.

Detective Superintendent Esmond Adair, who led the investigation,
said last night: "This is an important conviction that has removed a
very dangerous man from our streets.

"Abbas Boutrab remains a determined terrorist who has become
expert in the procurement and forging of false identities.

"I believe he has a strong allegiance to a terrorist group that is linked
to the al-Qaeda network."


Colonel Tim Backs US On Weapon

By Ben Lowry
24 November 2005

Iraq war hero Colonel Tim Collins today defended the use of
controversial white phosphorous, which can burn flesh through to
the bone, during certain types of combat.

The former Royal Irish Regiment battalion chief, who achieved fame
with his rousing eve-of-war address to his troops, says the weapon
is legitimate for troops to use, mainly to generate smokescreens.

He spoke out after the controversy over the use of white phosphorus
by American troops in the battle for the insurgent stronghold of
Fallujah earlier this year.

It was reported that so-called WP had been used as "an incendiary
weapon" during the assault last year on Fallujah, a major bastion of
al Qaida in Iraq.

Collins' defence of limited use of the weapon comes after the
Ministry of Defence said that the chemical was only ever used to
create a smokescreen.

In his autobiography Rules Of Engagement, Colonel Collins
describes how he trained the 1st Battalion RIR for an attack
codenamed Operation Fury earmarked for April 2003 - but the
operation was eventually cancelled.

The former SAS officer, who resigned from the Army last year, said
that he and his soldiers planned to perfect house-to-house fighting
skills in preparation for the battle.

Discussing the weapons to be used in the operation in the Basra
area, he wrote: "The star of the show was the new grenade which
had only been on issue since the previous summer. It absolutely
trashed the inside of the room it was put into.

"I directed the men to use them where possible with white
phosphorus, as the noxious smoke and heat had the effect of
drawing out any enemy from cover, while the fragmentation grenade
would shred them."

Today, however, writing in the Daily Mirror, he says his
autobiography was wrong and the weapon his troops were trained to
use was actually a red phosphorus grenade, which burns less than
white phosphorus.

Mr Collins said in the Mirror that British forces have used white
phosphorus in Iraq, but added: "It is important to stress that using
white phosphorus as a smokescreen does not pose a significant risk
to the civilian population.

"These munitions are not unlawful, but their use is restricted."


Legend Best 'Enters Final Hours'

Ex-Manchester United star George Best is spending his final hours in
hospital after doctors said his deteriorating condition was

Best, 59, could not recover from the internal bleeding that developed
last night, Professor Roger Williams said.

Just before 1300 GMT, he said the former Northern Ireland
international would not survive another 24 hours.

Family and friends have visited Best in London's Cromwell Hospital,
where he has been treated for a lung infection.

Later on Thursday, Professor Williams added there had been "no
change, just deterioration" in Best's condition.

When Best's closest family arrived at the west London hospital, they
asked the gathered media not to film or photograph them as they
went in.

Best has been in hospital for eight weeks, after initially suffering flu-
like symptoms, but deteriorated with a lung infection on Friday.

[Internal bleeding] has now affected the lungs and other parts, and
there is really no return from that situation

Professor Roger Williams

Professor Williams said: "Mr Best is coming to the end of the long
road of his ill health.

"The situation is that medically the intensive care team and
everybody concerned have managed to cope with pretty well all of
the complications except the one that has happened again during the
night - this bleeding.

"Although [the blood] has been replaced, it has now affected the
lungs and other parts, and there is really no return from that

"It is just not possible to recover from that."

He added: "He is still having standard medical care and treatment
but I have to tell you that his hours are numbered now and it's all
very upsetting."

Family vigil

Professor Williams said: "We have just all been sitting down together
and it's very upsetting for everybody, isn't it - those looking after
him, the family.

"I have talked to them at great length, I think they understand
everything... I think they accept what's going to happen."

Portsmouth Football Club chairman Milan Mandaric, a close friend of
Best, said: "It's not easy for them - Calum [Best's son] loves his Dad;
they are all good people like George."

After visiting Best in hospital, Mr Mandaric told reporters: "What is a
shame is that people who don't know George don't know what a
great man he is. He's got a large heart.

"I just want George to still be around, that would be my hope."

Former team mates Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law also arrived at
the hospital on Thursday.


Best was admitted to hospital on 1 October with flu-like symptoms,
and suffered a kidney infection and internal bleeding before the
latest decline.

Drugs needed after his liver transplant in 2002 had made the
recovering alcoholic more susceptible to infection.

Things had looked more positive earlier in the week when Best was
taken off sedation and regained consciousness.

But then his condition deteriorated once more between 0100 and
0200 GMT on Wednesday.

Best helped Manchester United win the European Cup in 1968 - the
first English club to do so - and he was European Footballer of the
Year that same year.

His style captivated football fans around the world but his playboy
lifestyle degenerated into alcoholism and bankruptcy.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/11/24 19:06:23 GMT


Best Of Times

By Tom Cary (Filed: 25/11/2005)

Your view: simply the Best?

George Best: his life and career in pictures

May 22, 1946 - George Best was born at Belfast Royal Maternity
Hospital, Northern Ireland.

1950s, Belfast - Best admitted to craving attention as a child, often
faking illness. One afternoon he bought a pack of wine gums and
sucked all the red ones until his throat was stained, then told his
parents he was dying of tonsilitis. They sent him to hospital where
his tonsils were removed. "That's the trouble with being a good
actor," he said wryly. Best also claimed he first fell in love in that
hospital. "She was called Nurse Anderson."

Grosvenor High School - "I was sent to a grammar school and hated
it," Best admitted. He would often play truant, kicking a tennis ball
around. Eventually, he asked to be transferred to Lisnasharagh
Intermediate School.

1961 - Best used to boast that the only advice he ever took was from
his coach at Cregagh, Hugh 'Bud' McFarland, who told him he was
weak on his left foot. Still smarting, the next weekend he played with
a plimsoll on his right foot and a boot on his left. His team won 21-0
and Best weighed in with 12 left-footed goals. Manchester United
scout Bob Bishop saw him play for Cregagh and told manager Matt
Busby: "I think I've found a genius."

Sept 14, 1963 - Best signed professional forms aged 17 on £25 a
week. Four months later, the 'fifth Beatle' made his debut against
West Bromwich.

March 1966 - One of Best's greatest games was in a European Cup
quarter-final against Benfica. 'El Beatle', as he was dubbed, scored
twice in a 5-1 win. "I told them to play it tight," Busby said. "George
just went out and destroyed them. He was a law unto himself."

1968 - Named European Footballer of the Year after inspiring United
to their European Cup final victory over old rivals Benfica.

Feb 1970 - Set a club record of six goals in one match during
United's 8-2 defeat of Northampton Town in the FA Cup. For his last
goal, he rounded goalkeeper Kim Book, stood on the ball on the
goal-line and saluted his fans.

Nov 1972 - Forced to withdraw from Northern Ireland's match with
Spain after receiving IRA death threats.

1974 - Played his final game for United against Queens Park Rangers
on New Year's Day 1974. Best would go on to represent, among
others, Ford Open Prison (courtesy of drink-driving and assault

1970s - An oft-recalled (and probably apocryphal) story is that a
waiter once asked, in delivering champagne to his hotel room: ''So,
Mr Best, tell me - where did it all go wrong?' There was £20,000 in
cash scattered on the bed which also contained the reigning Miss

1978 - Married Angie Best (divorced 1984, one son, Calum). Mother
dies of alcohol-related problems.

May 7, 1983 - Final game Bournemouth v Wigan.

2002 - Best undergoes a liver transplant. Collects a Lifetime
Achievement Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show.


Freddie Gilroy - North Belfast's Greatest Boxing Legend

November 20th, 2005 - by Barry Flynn

Freddie Gilroy is a living legend in the world of Irish boxing and
holds a record which is second to none.

Not only is one of only three men from these shores to hold a
Lonsdale Belt, but he was in his day a triple British, European and
Commonwealth champion, and in 1956 became the second Irishman
ever to claim an Olympic boxing medal.

Born in Belfast's Short Strand area in 1936, Gilroy's family soon
crossed the Lagan and settled in Northwick Drive in the Ardoyne
district. In the austerity of post-war Belfast, Gilroy at the age of
eleven found his way to the St John Bosco boxing club in
Corporation Street and there began his glittering career.

"My first title came as a schoolboy when I won the club
championships at the three stone twelve pounds weight," recalled

"I then progressed on to the Down and Connor championships,
which I won on four occasions, and then claimed the Ulster and Irish
juvenile and senior titles, after that I graduated to the Irish team as a

The highlight of Gilroy's amateur career came at the 1956 Melbourne
Olympics when he claimed a bronze medal at Bantamweight.
However, as he explained, his trip to the Olympics was in doubt due
to a dispute which arose on a misunderstanding concerning his

"I was in New York airport and decided to weigh myself on a set of
scales," he said. "The scales showed that I was two stones
overweight and word got back to the Olympic board that there was
no point in picking me, but I always had difficulty with my weight and
shedding two stones would not have been a problem.

"I was the number one choice at that stage so my manager Jimmy
McAree created a fuss until the board admitted that there had been a
mistake and at the last minute they chose me to represent Ireland in
the bantamweight division." he added.

The Olympic Games, which took place in Melbourne in November
1956, came amid the controversy of the invasion of Hungary by the
Soviet Union. The communist v capitalist ideological battle was in
essence played out at those games and particularly in the boxing

Gilroy had no interest in the political sphere but he hit the headlines
when he knocked out in his opening bout the Russian favourite for
the bantamweight gold medal.

"I remember there was a lot of tension in the air over the Hungary
invasion and my fight with the Russian was being seen as a clash of
east and west," he said. "He was the hot favourite but I caught him
with a sweet left hook and he went down and was not getting up.

"The crowd were going absolutely wild as this was one in the eye for
the Russians but later in the competition I lost to a bad decision in
the semi final to an East German and that was that," he added.

After the Olympics, Gilroy decided to join the paid ranks for Belfast
at the time was a hotbed of professional boxing, thriving on a diet of
two shows a week, eleven months a year.

"I began fighting at bills in the Ulster Hall and I attracted a good
following with the place being packed to the rafters each time I
fought," he said

"I recall I got five pounds for my first bout and seven for the second
but in those days that was nothing considering the money that the
promoters were making.

"Then I was due to fight at the King's Hall in the under card of one of
Billy Kelly's title fights. I was reluctant to fight as the money offered
was peanuts, but I was approached by the Scot Sammy Docherty
who offered me £250 to fight so I jumped at that."

Gilroy went from strength to strength and in 1959 claimed the British
bantamweight title at the King's Hall and the Empire and European
titles duly followed.

The next stage in his progress was a world title eliminator in London
against Frenchman Alphonse Halimi in October 1960. For the winner
a chance to fight world champion Eder Jofre was promised and
Gilroy is still sure that the referee made a monumental mistake that

"I had out boxed Halimi in the fight and I was sure that I had won," he
said. "The two of us were in my corner shaking hands when the
referee came over to raise the winner's arm and I'm sure in the
confusion that he lifted Halimi's by mistake but by that stage it was
too late to change the decision. It was my first defeat and it really
bugged me," he added.

While Gilroy was setting the pace in the bantamweight stakes,
another Olympic medal winner from west Belfast was becoming
prominent in the professional bantamweight division.

John Caldwell of the Immaculata club in Devonshire Street had been
a British and European champion also and a collision course was set
for the Irish boxing clash of the decade. Caldwell had won the
Olympic bronze in the flyweight division in 1956 and his progress in
the paid ranks made a clash with Gilroy inevitable.

In October, 1962, while the rest of the world watched nervously the
developing Cuban Missile Crisis, Belfast was engrossed in the clash
of the two local boxing superpowers. The meeting of John Caldwell
and Freddie Gilroy captured the imagination of the country as they
met for Gilroy's British and Empire bantamweight titles in the King's
Hall on Saturday, 20th October.

The prize at stake - in theory - was a crack at the Brazilian World
champion Eder Jofre and a record crowd of 15,000 from all classes
and creeds were packed in that evening to witness a fierce and
bloodthirsty encounter.

Gilroy won the fight when the favourite Caldwell was forced to retire
with a cut eye at the end of the ninth round but Gilroy was believed
to have been well ahead and he is adamant that the fight was a waste
of time.

"I didn't want the fight as I felt it was a stupid fight, a needless fight
and it should never have taken place," he said. "It was billed as a
grudge fight between north and west Belfast but John and I were
good friends that had travelled the world together so all the hype
was way over the top.

"The media really built up the clash as at that time there was nothing
else for them to do and I remember the King's Hall was heaving that
night and to be truthful I would have loved to have been in the crowd
that night to have savoured the moment.

"I took time out of work and trained solidly for six weeks to lose four
stones prior to the fight and I was never as fit as I entered the ring. I
knew John inside out and did my homework well as I had every
round clear in my head and I boxed to a plan and it worked out well,"
he added.

The media that Monday was full of praise for Gilroy's performance
claiming that his powerful body shots had been the downfall of
Caldwell. However, an article published in the 'Irish News' that
Monday claimed that promoter Jack Solomons was to seek a
rematch between the fighters and this led eventually to Gilroy's
retirement from the fight game.

Solomons was not surprisingly keen to get a rematch and outlined
his reasons why. "The return would be the crowd puller of all time
and I am aiming to put it on," said Solomons. "Gilroy is a great
champion and will prove to be a great world champion, but there
must be a return, I don't remember seeing a better fight and Caldwell
must get another chance," he added.

Gilroy was unimpressed by the rematch prospect and felt he had
been short-changed. "I was under the impression that the crack
against Jofre for the world title was in the bag, but Solomons wanted
a rematch," said Gilroy.

"I had already said that I thought the fight originally was a stupid
idea and it was a pointless exercise. Solomons offered me £3,000 but
I knew that the bout was a real money spinner so I said I wanted
£10,000 to make it worth my while but they refused to meet me.

"Then the British Boxing Board of Control ordered me to defend the
title against Caldwell and I told my manager Jimmy McAree that I
would have to think about it," he added.

So confident was Solomons that Gilroy would fight Caldwell again
that he organised a press conference in Belfast's Grand Central
Hotel to announce the rematch. However, the most vital person on
the bill never turned up at the hotel as Freddie Gilroy had decided
he'd had enough.

"My manager Jimmy McAree was trying to coax me into the fight and
I had already won one Lonsdale belt and was on my way to claiming
a second, but I just walked away on a point of principle.

Eventually it was Caldwell who claimed the vacant title and Gilroy
retired from the game at the top of his trade.

Gilroy went back to work in his native Belfast and in the early 1970s
bought a bar in Donaghadee. However, the venture soon became a
victim of the Troubles and Gilroy emigrated for four years to
Australia soon after.

On his return to Ireland he moved into his current north Belfast home
and is still at sixty-nine a picture of fitness and health. His living
room bears testament to his career with his Olympic medal
prominent in his display of silverware. However, the much treasured
Lonsdale belt was lost many years ago and he points out with regret
that one was recently sold at auction for £58,000.

Today he keeps fit by working out three times a week in a gym in the
centre of Belfast and forty three years after Belfast's fight of the
century he explained that he is still fondly remembered by the public.

"I would go into the town a couple of times a week and everywhere I
go people are saying hello to me," he said. "So last month I said to
my wife Bernadette that I would keep a count on the number of
people who greeted me during the day. It worked out that seventy-
eight people had greeted me by name and I wouldn't have known
who a quarter of them were," he added.

So it seems that time has not diminished in the eyes of the Belfast
boxing fraternity the achievements of Ardoyne's Freddie Gilroy. He
remains today a symbol of a distant era, of packed, smoke filled halls
where only the shrewdest and fiercest survived and long may he
enjoy his retirement.

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

<< Home

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