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November 25, 2005

McDowell Claims Immunity In Daily Ireland Case

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 11/26/05 McDowell Claims Immunity In Libel Case
SF 11/25/05 Durkan Using Victims As Political Footballs
IO 11/25/05 Dublin/Monaghan Bombs Compensation Almost €2m
IO 11/25/05 Unionists Challenge Amnesty For Terror Killers
BB 11/25/05 Court Rejects Omagh Case Appeal
IT 11/26/05 FG Commemorates 100th Anniversary Of Sinn Féin
DJ 11/25/05 Bidders Battle For Bogside Rubber Bullet
IT 11/26/05 Blessed With Soccer Genius But Cursed By Drink
IT 11/26/05 Uncertain Genius Who Became Pop Star Footballer
IT 11/26/05 One Of Greatest Who Gave Pleasure To Millions
IT 11/26/05 'We've All Lost A Wonderful Man'
TE 11/26/05 The Belfast Boy Goes Home For The Last Time


McDowell Claims Immunity In Libel Case

A libel action against Minister for justice Michael
McDowell should not be allowed to proceed because he has
State immunity, it was claimed in court yesterday.

The Minister is being sued in the High Court in Belfast by
the publisher and editor of Daily Ireland, the newspaper
which he strongly criticised shortly before it began
publishing in February.

Publisher Mairtín Ó Muilleoir said outside the court:
"Michael McDowell's Nazi slur against Daily Ireland was a
reprehensible attempt to try to bully the readers, workers
and investors, and this legal challenge is being taken to
allow Mr McDowell to put up or shut up.

"When we announced our intention to stand up to this
bullying, Mr McDowell said 'See you in court'. Today,
rather than come to this court to let a jury decide on the
merits of his Nazi allegations, he is hiding behind the
cloak of sovereign immunity."

Brian Fee QC, for Mr McDowell, said his statement was on an
official Irish Government website; the plaintiffs' letter
of claim was addressed to Mr McDowell as Minister of State;
and their writ was served at his constituency office in
Ranelagh village, with a copy to the State Chief Solicitor
indicating recognition that he would be involved on behalf
of the Government.

"That disposes of the argument, in so far as there is one,
as to whether State immunity applies," said Mr Fee.

He said Mr Ó Muilleoir had claimed that the Minister's
remarks had increased the risk to his life and others in
the newspaper group, although there was no such assertion
by Robin Livingstone, the co-plaintiff and editor of the
Andersonstown News Group.

"We submit that no material has been laid before the court
which indicates a basis for asserting any increased risk to
Mr Ó Muilleoir as a result of this statement," said Mr Fee.

Michael Lavery QC, for the two plaintiffs, said it was
public knowledge that all prominent people in Northern
Ireland engaged in politics might be subject to

"It isn't a very big jump that, by identifying Mr Ó
Muilleoir and Mr Livingstone in the way that he has, it is
bound to heighten the possibility of risk to them," he

Mr Lavery said that by identifying Mr Ó Muilleoir, who had
been a member of Sinn Féin and was now running a newspaper
group, the danger to him had increased.

He described Mr McDowell's remarks as scurrilous and
outrageous and said the Minister had libelled the
plaintiffs as fascists in the manner of the Nazi regime.

Mr Justice Higgins reserved his decision.

© The Irish Times


Durkan Using Victims Of State Violence As Political Footballs

Published: 25 November, 2005

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has accused
the SDLP leader Mark Durkan of cynically using the victims
of state violence to score cheap political points.

Mr McGuinness said:

" The position on the legislation concerning OTRs is
crystal clear. Sinn Fein did not support, propose, discuss
or accept that members of the British state forces should
be part of the process. For this reason we did not argue
for an amnesty.

" The scheme that we negotiated was published by the two
governments at Weston Park in 2001 and related only to
OTRs. It did not include members of British state forces.
We have the papers to prove this. The SDLP if they were
paying attention at all at Weston Park would be aware of
this reality.

"Sinn Fein are opposed to the inclusion of British state
forces in the current legislation. In our view it
represents the latest attempt by the British state to
conceal the truth about its involvement in the killing of
citizens. This proposal is not part of any agreement with
Sinn Féin or indeed as the Taoiseach pointed out in the
Dail on Wednesday with the Irish government either.

"Sinn Fein will continue to confront the British government
on the denial of truth about collusion.

"When the collusion policy was at its height it was our
party activists who were a primary target in this policy of
state murder. When Sinn Féin raised the issue of collusion
publicly the SDLP dismissed it as 'republican propaganda'.
When an unarmed republican was shot dead by British State
Forces in Downpatrick the local SDLP MP expressed his
satisfaction. The SDLP ignored the relatives of those
killed through state violence when they lobbied MPs at
Westminster and MLAs at Stormont.

" The SDLP members of the Policing Board have abjectly
failed to deal with the issue and in particular those PSNI
members who were centrally involved in collusion. Their
lack of action in response to the passing of PSNI files on
400 republicans to loyalist death squads is evidence of

" Mark Durkan is using the victims of state violence as
political footballs to try and score cheap political points
against Sinn Féin instead of confronting the British
government on their policy of collusion and cover up.

" Sinn Fein will continue to support the victims of
collusion and state violence as we always have done. We
will not allow Mark Durkan or anyone else to divert
attention away from the real issue which is the continuing
efforts by the British state to conceal the truth" ENDS


Dublin/Monaghan Bombs Compensation Almost €2m

25/11/2005 - 17:46:27

Almost €2m has been paid out in compensation to the victims
of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and their families, it
emerged today.

In a reply to a question by Dublin North Central
Independent TD Finian McGrath, Minister for Justice Michael
McDowell said a total of €1,982,339 had been paid out to
the victim's families, those injured and support services.

A total of 37 people were killed in the atrocities between
1972 and 1974.

Three bus employees died in two explosions in Sackville
Place in Dublin in December 1972 and January 1973.

In May 1974 three separate car bombs killed 26 people and
an unborn baby in the capital, while seven people died in a
fourth blast in Monaghan town on the same day.

Mr McDowell said that in the wake of the Good Friday
Agreement a review of the arrangements to meet the needs of
people who had suffered as a result of violence in the
Northern Ireland conflict had been undertaken.

"As a result of this review, the Remembrance Commission and
the scheme of acknowledgement, remembrance and assistance
for victims in this jurisdiction of the conflict in
Northern Ireland was established on October 29 2003. The
scheme was further amended in October 2004.

"Payments which are made to victims or their families in
accordance with the terms of the amended scheme are in
respect of a death, economic hardship grounds, medical
expenses and also towards the provision of counselling

"In addition the commission funds support groups working
with victims of the conflict and their families.

"To date over €3m has been allocated from the scheme and
paid to victims, to bereaved families and to victim support
services as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

"This includes a donation of €1.25m to the Northern Ireland
memorial fund.

"In addition to money paid out under this scheme, awards
were made in the past to victims of the Dublin and Monaghan
bombings and their families by the criminal injuries
compensation tribunal, which was established in 1974.

"Taken together, the total amount paid to date in respect
of those who were either killed or injured in the 1972 to
1974 Dublin and 1974 Monaghan bombings and also to the
support services dealing with the victims and their
families, is €1,982,339," Mr McDowell said.


Unionists Challenge 'Amnesty' For Terror Killers

Unionists have launched a new bid to have murderers banned
from a British government scheme to allow terrorist
fugitives back into Northern Ireland without facing jail.

Even though the House of Commons has passed the latest
stage of a bill which has provoked outrage, the DUP has
tabled 55 amendments in an effort to thwart the

Their proposals also involve forcing those who benefit from
the plans to serve at least a third of their prison
sentence and for all inquiries into alleged security force
wrongdoing during the conflict to be halted.

Other amendments include fixing a six-month time limit on
applying for a certificate, and ordering applicants to
attend a special tribunal.

Democratic Unionist MP Peter Robinson said: "This is a
piece of legislation that we cannot support in any form as
it is an affront to justice and an insult to the victims of
the Troubles.

"Even if all of these amendments were passed, the Bill
would still represent an unacceptable step for the
government to take. But at least it would be an improvement
on the total immorality of the current bill.

"We will use every Parliamentary opportunity to do all we
can to block the passage of this legislation and the
Government will be given a rough ride at every stage of

Up to 150 so-called 'On The Runs' wanted for often horrific
crimes committed before the April 1998 Good Friday
Agreement would benefit from the scheme which the British
government hopes will advance the political process in
Northern Ireland.

Suspected terrorists who have been in hiding for years
would have their cases heard by a special tribunal.

If convicted they would be given sentences but released on
license without being imprisoned.

Although Sinn Féin has demanded their return to the North
under what many have labelled an amnesty, republicans
insisted police officers and soldiers who colluded in
terrorist murders should not be included in the plans.

Their nationalist rivals in the SDLP, who opposed the bill,
accused Sinn Féin of championing legislation that sets
state killers free.

The party also claimed loyalist paramilitary drug dealers
will be able to skip prison because the legislation refers
to offences committed before April 1998 connected with
terrorism, whether committed for terrorist purposes or not.

Alex Attwood, the SDLP's policing spokesman, said: "It
means that people who dealt drugs to raise money for
loyalist paramilitaries will be eligible.

"If they are ever charged, they will not have to turn up in
court. They will not have to face a single day in prison.

"Drug dealing and racketeering done to raise money for
Loyalist Volunteer Force, Ulster Volunteer Force or Ulster
Defence Association godfathers will therefore be covered.

"The same goes for IRA bank robbing and other crime before
the Good Friday Agreement."

The Northern Ireland Office stressed the eligibility of
individuals and what offences are included would be down to
the Certification Commissioner.

"In making decisions the commissioner will take account of
information provided by the police and intelligence
agencies," a spokeswoman said.

"The legislation sets out strict criteria for the
eligibility of individuals, referring to the behaviour of
applicants - both terrorist activities and convictions for
other serious offences - and the status of any organisation
he or she supports."

She added that the criteria was similar, if not stricter,
to that drawn up for the early prisoner release scheme
under the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Commissioner will have to consider whether an offence
is connected to terrorism," she said.

"It's at present unclear whether charges would be brought
against individuals for historic offences of the sort


Court Rejects Omagh Case Appeal

A bid to have the £15m Omagh bomb compensation case
dismissed has been rejected in the Court of Appeal.

Two defendants - Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly - claimed
alleged irregularities by solicitors representing the
families meant it should be thrown out.

The 1998 Real IRA bomb killed 29, including a woman
pregnant with twins.

Earlier this year Mr Justice Morgan dismissed an
application by Murphy and Daly to strike out the claim and
Friday's decision upheld that.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, said one of the
grounds advanced on behalf of Murphy and Daly, two of the
five defendants, was that the writ did not comply with
court rules because the London legal firm of H20 had no
business address within Northern Ireland.

Sir Brian said a Belfast firm of solicitors had agreed to
allow their offices to be used as an address for service
but were unwilling to be named as agents of the plaintiffs'
solicitors for security reasons.

He said that if a local address was necessary, "we consider
that the circumstances of the case justify our refusal to
set aside the proceedings on account of that irregularity".

Sir Brian added: "Because of the nature of the case the
plaintiffs have found it impossible to engage solicitors in
Northern Ireland.

"To require the present solicitors to establish business
premises here simply to secure technical compliance with
the rules would not be in the interests of justice."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/11/25 17:28:23 GMT


FG To Commemorate 100th Anniversary Of Sinn Féin

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

Fine Gael is to hold a special commemoration to mark the
100th anniversary of the founding of Sinn Féin tomorrow, in
the latest attempt by a party in the Republic to recapture
its republican roots.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is to host a public meeting at
the Mansion House in Dublin tomorrow to pay tribute to
Arthur Griffith, who founded Sinn Féin in 1905.

He was also the founder of Cumann na nGaedheal, the
precursor of Fine Gael, which merged with Sinn Féin in 1905
before re-emerging following the Civil War in 1923.

Mr Kenny said that the founding of Sinn Féin in 1905 was "a
historic event for our party and our country". He said it
was "both Fine Gael's duty and pleasure to celebrate the
founding of this nationalist movement which sought freedom
by political means".

"To honour the political memory of Arthur Griffith and to
enhance the political awareness of young people on our
island, it is vital that we rediscover and celebrate the
true, inclusive Sinn Féin."

He said some of the party and its ethos had been hijacked
by a certain section of Irish nationalism to achieve its
own narrow ends.

The commemoration is the latest attempt by a traditional
party to reclaim its republican heritage, and follows the
announcement last month by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that the
State would reinstate military parades to mark the 1916
Easter Rising.

Fine Gael began its campaign on recapturing its republican
legacy last month with the establishment of the Collins 22
Society by some members of the party, which is dedicated to
preserving the memory of Michael Collins.

Arthur Griffith, one of the first TDs to be elected for
Sinn Féin in 1918, engaged in the Treaty negotiations of
1921 and took the pro-Treaty side afterwards.

He became president of the second Dáil in January 1922
after Eamon de Valera stepped down in protest over the

He died in office in August 1922, aged 51, following a
stroke, 10 days before Michael Collins was shot dead at
Béal na mBláth.

© The Irish Times


Bidders Battle For Bogside Rubber Bullet

Friday 25th November 2005

A rubber bullet fired during an early riot in the Bogside
has gone on sale on e-bay, the Internet auction site.

The 37mm rubber bullet - or baton round - as they were
described by the RUC, is up for grabs with bids starting at

The seller tells those interested that they are bidding on
a piece of Irish history that is "incredibly historical for
those interested in Irish history".

The description adds: "Rubber bullet fired by the Army or
police during the Battle of the Bogside in Derry, N.
Ireland, in the early seventies.

"A piece of genuine historical value from a troubled period
in Irish history. Bullet was actually fired during a riot
in the Troubles... Totally inert and can't be fired or
used. Solid rubber and in excellent condition."

The RUC was first issued with rubber bullets in the early
seventies to quell growing unrest on the streets of Derry
and across the North.

The weapon was specifically developed as a 'minimum force'
weapon to provide the security forces greater leverage in
dispersing crowds in riot situations.

They were designed to bounce off the ground and strike at
knee level but in practice they proved unpredictable and
resulted in three deaths and many severe injuries.

Thousands were fired during disturbances in Derry in the
early years of the Troubles.

Despite the seller's claim, none were fired during the
Battle of the Bogside which flared in the summer of 1969.

By 1974, an estimated 55,688 rubber bullets had been fired
upon the civilians of Northern Ireland, causing death,
disability and great distress.

By 1975, rubber bullets were withdrawn, apparently for
humanitarian reasons. The were replaced with plastic ones,
however, these also maimed and killed.

A new version of the plastic bullet, the Attenuating Energy
Projectile, was introduced in the North earlier this year.

The arrival of the weapon, which was endorsed by the
Policing Board without the support of the SDLP, is said to
pose less of a risk than its predecessors.


Belfast Boy Blessed With Soccer Genius But Cursed By Demon Drink

Peter Byrne

Obituary: George Best, the former Northern Ireland and
Manchester United player who has died in London at the age
of 59, will be recalled as a flawed footballing legend who
held an enduring fascination for the media.

Best, at 22, the youngest to win the European Footballer of
the Year award following his contribution to Manchester
United's European Cup success over Benfica at Wembley in
1968, effectively ended his career in first-class football
when he parted company with the club five years later.

There followed an assortment of less fashionable alliances,
first with American clubs and later with some modest
English and Scottish teams, which did little to enhance his
reputation as one of the most gifted players of his

Such were his excesses off the field of play as he fought
an increasingly futile battle with alcohol, as well as
involving himself in numerous extra-marital affairs, that
his name continued in the headlines long after he had
called time on his playing career.

He was born in Belfast's Royal Maternity Hospital on May
22nd, 1946, the eldest of six children in a working-class
Presbyterian family. His father, Dickie, a shipyard worker,
was active in junior football in Belfast in the 1950s,
while his mother, Anne, who worked on the production line
in the Gallaher tobacco factory, only narrowly failed to
attain international status in women's hockey.

The family would later recall that it was as an onlooker at
the hockey games in which his mother played that the
toddler first revealed the nimble footwork that would
become his trademark as he dribbled a tennis ball between
the pockets of spectators standing on the touchlines.

Growing up in the Cregagh area of Belfast was an experience
to tax the capacity of even the most imaginative. There
were few recreational facilities to attract the younger
set, but that was no problem to the boy who spent long
hours kicking a tennis ball against the big garage doors at
the end of his street.

"We never had any problems finding him in the evenings,"
his father would recall. "He'd still be there, banging the
ball against the garage, after all the other kids had gone
home. So even at that early stage we ought to have had an
inkling of what was to follow."

Another significant factor in developing his love of
football was the proximity of his grandfather's home to the
Oval stadium in east Belfast where Glentoran FC played
their home games. Young George spent a lot of time there,
and grew up on the folklore of the great Glentoran players
of the past, as well as those of Wolverhampton Wanderers,
the club he supported in England.

Not all of his time, however, was devoted to honing his
football skills. Although schoolbooks took second place to
match reports of Glentoran and Wolves' games, he was sharp
enough academically to win a scholarship to Grosvenor
Grammar School.

The problem was that they played rugby, not soccer, at
Grosvenor, and while he showed distinct promise as an
outhalf, it wasn't enough to compensate for his first love.
Another difficulty was that in returning home after classes
he had to pass through a Catholic enclave in which the
Protestant emblem on his blazer attracted unwelcome
attention. Apart from trading verbal insults, George had no
bad memories in growing up in a mixed area.

Still, those verbal exchanges were reason enough to
persuade his parents to allow him to rejoin his old friends
at an adjacent secondary school. And that also helped in
the train of events which eventually saw him join
Manchester United as an apprentice at the age of 15.

On his own admission, he was small and disturbingly thin
for his age, and it was perhaps these physical limitations
that scared off some of the professional scouts working in
the city for English clubs. He was never rated good enough
to play for the Northern Ireland international schoolboy

Thanks to that addiction to tennis balls and garage doors,
however, his legs were strong, strong enough to convince
Bob Bishop, Manchester United's veteran scout in Northern
Ireland, that he was an exceptional talent who deserved at
least a trial at one of the most celebrated of British

In time they responded with an invitation for Best and Eric
McMordie, another highly- rated Belfast lad, to put their
talent on display for the approval of those in charge of
the club's youth programme.

Neither had ever been out of Ireland previously, and after
a long boat and train journey there was nobody to meet them
when they eventually arrived in Manchester in July 1961.

A subsequent taxi ride took them mistakenly to the Old
Trafford cricket ground instead of the football stadium
nearby, and when they eventually met up with those who had
invited them the glamour of joining a big English club had
already begun to wear thin.

It can scarcely have surprised club officials when they
discovered the next day that, unannounced, their guests had
upped and returned to Belfast. Best subsequently received a
telegram to return, this time by air, but Dickie Best was
so upset by the treatment his son received that he advised
against an immediate response.

He had already secured an apprenticeship for George in the
printing trade in Belfast, and, given the high failure rate
among the Irish youngsters who had gone on trial to British
clubs, he wasn't unduly anxious to send him back to

In the end it was George himself who took that decision,
thus beginning a partnership that is destined to figure
prominently in any comprehensive history of the club.

Those already at the club at the time recall him as a shy,
introverted lad who seldom volunteered conversation, even
on football topics.

For all his reputation back home, Best soon discovered that
he was just another player in an exceptional youth team
which tended to look to David Sadler, later to win four
caps for England, for its inspirational moments.

Gradually, however, his skills came to the fore, and when
United won the FA Youths Cup in 1964, Best's name was
imprinted on the success.

It was at that point, it seems, that Sir Matt Busby, the
man credited with building the club into one of the biggest
in the world, was convinced that he had a rare talent on
his staff.

A year earlier Busby had offered Best a full-time
professional contract, and during the 1963/64 season the
Irishman made the first of his 466 appearances for the club
in a game against West Brom. It wasn't the most convincing
of starts for the man who was quickly to assume cult status
at the club, and in the end it was Sadler who made the
headlines with the decisive goal. At that point he was
ahead of his room-mate in the pecking order but soon the
order would change as Best emerged to challenge established
players such as Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law as the
fulcrum of the team.

Collectively the Blessed Trinity, as they came to be known,
represented some of the most exciting talent in football.
Individually, however, their philosophies on the game and
how it should be played were light years apart. Charlton
and Law were essentially team players who believed that
there ought to be no place in the game plan for the kind of
showmanship Best was bringing to it.

Instead of passing to better-placed colleagues, the
Irishman saw nothing wrong in the risk of running at
defenders in the manner of old-fashioned wingers.

It may have done little to endear him to either of his
senior partners but eventually Best's inclination to "show
boat" won the approval of Busby.

"George is gifted with more individual ability than I've
seen in any other player - at times it's simply
bewildering," he said in a post-match remark which didn't
sit well with either of the players who had done so much to
help the club regain its position of pre-eminence in
Britain after the 1958 Munich air disaster. Even more
distasteful to the senior players at the club were Best's
excesses off the pitch. Not for him the tenets of the old
regime whereby players were encouraged to lead the clean
life to ensure theywere in prime condition to perform for
the team on match days.

More and more, it seemed, he was anxious to burnish his
playboy image. His stunning good looks ensured that he was
never short of female company, and four years into his stay
at Old Trafford he was already acquiring a reputation as a
serious vodka drinker.

In time his late-night binges in the Brown Bull, a seedy
Manchester bar which quickly became trendy because of his
patronage, would consume acres of newsprint as the media
homed in on the newsmaker who by now was as likely to
figure on the front as the back pages of the tabloids.

Yet if the Irishman was flouting convention in outrageous
fashion in the eyes of his critics, it didn't appear to
impact adversely on his performances for Manchester United,
and thanks largely to his skills they won the old First
Division championship in 1965 and again in 1967. Even as
they were bringing their post-Munich revival to full
fruition in domestic competition, the club was acutely
aware of the need to broaden its horizons.

European club competitions were growing in popularity by
the year, and after exasperating failures against Partizan
Belgrade and Real Madrid, Busby sensed they were ready to
deliver in 1968.

Two years earlier Best had found a new stage for acclaim by
scoring three times against Benfica. And after a victory
over Real Madrid in the semi-final of the 1968 European
Cup, United found themselves on course for another meeting
with the powerful Portuguese club, this time in the
European final at Wembley.

With the score deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes,
the game went into extra time. And Best, deriving
inspiration from the importance of the occasion, secured
the most important goal of his career when moments of rich
skill took him around the defence for the score which
opened the way to a 4-1 win.

At international level he found fulfilment a lot more
difficult. Northern Ireland, who had qualified for the 1958
World Cup finals, were in decline throughout the 1960s and
early 1970s, and Best, a modest international player, did
little to help redress the situation.

In all he played just 37 games for

Northern Ireland, frequently withdrawing from the squad for
the most spurious of reasons.

Thanks to the added profile which the European Cup win gave
him, the Irishman quickly became the biggest earner in
British football, demanding substantial fees for product
endorsement, media work and personal appearances. Yet that
Wembley success merely heightened the fall that was to

Against all expectations, Manchester United began to
struggle at local and European level, and Busby's
surprising decision to resign as manager, followed by two
doubtful appointments which saw Wilf McGuinness and Frank
O'Farrell struggle to arrest the team's slide, left Best in
a state of growing disillusionment.

Not unexpectedly, perhaps, he began to lean ever more
heavily on alcohol to the point where friends worried abut
his health.

His mother, who never drank until she was 40, died in 1978
at the age of 54 after becoming addicted to alcohol, and
her plight was, it seemed, another reason for George to
seek solace at the bottom of a glass.

After leaving Manchester United he played for varying
lengths of time with 10 clubs, including Fulham, Hibernian,
Stockport, Bournemouth, Fort Lauderdale, San Jose, Brisbane
and Cork Celtic, for whom he made three appearances.

It was a sad postscript to a career which blazed comet-like
for seven memorable seasons until it began to lose its
momentum in the 1969/70 season at Old Trafford.

He was married twice, to Angie McDonald in the late 1970s
and to Alex Pursey, 26 years his junior, in 1995.

At different times, however, he was romantically linked
with a number of high-profile women who found his charm and
dark good looks an irresistible combination.

The low point in a colourful if erratic life came in 1984
when he was jailed for two months after being convicted of
drink-driving and assaulting a police officer. In latter
years much of his income derived from media work, which he
disliked, and infrequent personal appearances.

His lifestyle led, perhaps inevitably, to problems with his
liver, which manifested themselves in 2000 when he was
treated in Cromwell Hospital in west London.

He received a liver transplant in the same hospital in
2002, but after oft-repeated assertions that he was
finished with alcohol, he was soon in trouble again,
appearing in court on charges of driving while 2½ times
over the legal limit in February 2003.

In an interview on the day before he went to hospital
recently, he said his biggest regret in the last 10 years
of life was the denial of the anonymity he craved. For a
man who went out of his way for so long to court publicity,
it was the final, ironic twist.

George Best: born May 22nd, 1946; died November 25th, 2005.


An Uncertain Genius Who Became A Pop Star Footballer

Assessment: Millions draped their dreams around the
Belfast soccer sensation who epitomised the upheaval of the
Sixties, writes Eamonn McCann

It was Van Morrison who put George Best into proper
context, which was apt.

Too long in exile, sang Van the Man on the title track of
his hugely underrated 1993 album. Just like George Best,
baby . . . just like Alex Higgins.

They were three of maybe half a dozen authentic geniuses of
popular culture to have emerged from Ireland in the last
half-century and they had this in common: they were tight
wee working-class Protestants from 1960s Belfast and they
never learned to be at ease with celebrity.

Had they been Catholics, nationalists, they might have slid
into riches and fame as if this were their natural
environment and begun talking in celeb like native

But there's sometimes an awkwardness about Prods,
particularly Prods from a proletarian background, as they
make their way, if they can, in the upper reaches of the
wider world, sometimes expressed in drunkenness, grumpiness
or uncool outbursts of atavism, perhaps resenting the way
their identity isn't esteemed, perhaps resenting their
identity. Or maybe just confused. Northern Protestants have
never been any good at guff.

George Best left for Manchester in 1961 and made the break
definitive when he signed at 17 as a pro for United in May
1963, the month after the release of the Beatles' first LP.

He was soon to be dubbed "the fifth Beatle", and it's plain
he seized on the soubriquet with alacrity. Pictures from
the period show him modelled on the Fab Four, collarless
jacket, mop-top hairstyle and all.

Back in Belfast in 1963, out-of-time unionist leader Lord
Brookeborough departed for retirement to the fastness of
Fermanagh, replaced by Terence O'Neill, from the drawing-
room school of unionism.

The first stirrings of change were everywhere, but as yet,
no pervasive sense of threat. The youth-quake epicentred on
Liverpool had sent its shudders of anticipation rippling
across to the North, seeming to suggest, as the old order
rapidly faded - or so it seemed - that the young and the
urgent of Ulster might find a new sense of themselves in
rock'n'roll and freedom.

George was the exquisitely timed perfect epitome. No one
who saw him live in the flowering of his genius can ever
forget because it's on permanent play on a loop in the mind
his feint and dribble, his slalom and surge, the way he'd
pause and sway and then spasm in an instant through a
cluster of defenders to arrive as an apparition in the
area, his nonchalance and daring his beauty.

He had such balance, it was observed, it might have made
Isaac Newton think again about his theory on gravity. Plus,
he was a great header of the ball, a great reader of the
game, a great tackler back when he had to.

He was everything a footballer could or should be. He was
brilliant. Millions draped their dreams around him.

In Blessed, published in 2001, sharply intelligent and much
the most thoughtful of his unsatisfactory drafts for an
autobiography, he recalled with wonder the pride of his
neighbours on the Cregagh Estate on the occasions he went
home after making it big-time.

He scored his first goal for United in a Christmas 1963
fixture against Burnley, and was home the next day when the
Belfast Telegraph shouted it out from an exultant back

"[ It] just seemed so unreal to me and to all my mates.
Kicking a ball around in the streets, we had all pretended
to be playing for some big club. Now I had scored for
Manchester United, and there was the picture in the Belfast
Telegraph to prove it!

"There was a sense of disbelief among Tommy, Robin and the
others . . . My goal was a big talking point on the estate.
It was as if I'd scored for them, too, which made me a bit

You have to wonder if he was weepy because he also sensed
this was a sort of goodbye.

The age when footballers came home from the top flight for
the off-season and bought pints for their mates and shared
glory around the neighbourhood were gone, or at least

After that first senior goal, there is no indication that
he ever celebrated another footballing feat as a sort of
communal achievement. Tommy, Robin and the others aren't
mentioned again in Blessed. His visits home became fewer
and fewer.

"Off the field in 1964," he wrote, "something odd was
happening. All the old values in life were changing as the
Sixties began to take hold, led by pop groups like the
Beatles and the Rolling Stones . . . I didn't mix with the
other first-team players socially, partly because they were
older and many of them were married. I was part of this new

Part of the price of being the first pop-celebrity
footballer was that he was detached from the start from
players around him, even as he was tugged out of contact
with the people he'd come from.

It was commonly remarked that there was a vulnerability
about him, a sense of him always standing alone, even - or
especially - as applause cascaded upon him.

No guru, no method, no teacher is all very well, except if,
really, you're lost.

In Blessed, George strove to describe his roots in the
Protestant community but managed only to make clear his

He'd spent a mere three of his teenage years on the Cregagh
Estate during the least rowdy interlude in Northern
Ireland's existence. The material realities of Belfast life
affected him lightly. The intersections between politics
and popular culture eluded him.

"In those days, even football support was divided on
sectarian grounds," he wrote. "If you were a Protestant you
automatically supported Linfield, and if you were a
Catholic you supported Glentoran."

Although his father and grandfather were regulars at the
Oval, George didn't get it about the Belfast Big Two; that
while the Glens, unlike Linfield, weren't characterised by
strident loyalism and had some Catholic support, their
fans, too, were overwhelmingly Protestant. He tells that
his family were "Protestant, Free Presbyterians to be
exact". But they were not.

If they had been they'd have had no time for secular
fripperies like football.

There is a startling naivety about his suggestion that "we
used to get a few taunts from the Catholics, calling us
Proddy bastards, and we would call them Fenians . . . It
was a bit like being a member of the Rotary Club or the

These are the observations of a man, not recalling at
leisure the culture which had shaped him, but trying and
failing to imagine what its content must have been. He'd
been exiled too long, too far, too soon, to feel secured by
a real rootedness.

We have to hope that he knew in the end how much he was
loved and that he found in this the solace and validation
which was surely his entitlement for the great joy and
fulfilment which he gave to us all.

© The Irish Times


One Of The Greatest Who Gave Pleasure To Millions

Frank McNally and Gerry Moriarty

Tributes: George Best was "a football genius" who "gave
pleasure to millions" around the world, the Taoiseach said.

Speaking in Hungary, Mr Ahern described the player as "one
of my great sporting heroes" and "a man of great personal

He added: "Not only was he one of the finest footballers
this island has ever produced, but he also one of the best
players the world has ever seen.

"In the days ahead people will struggle with words to try
to describe his talent. In this regard George should be
remembered as the very best at what he did."

President McAleese paid tribute to "a wonderfully gifted
sportsman whose skills on the football field dazzled a
generation of soccer fans".

He would be remembered "as one of the world's finest
football talents," she said.

DUP leader Ian Paisley prayed for comfort for the player's
family, and said Best would probably never be bettered as a
footballer. He was "unique in his football skills, a real
magician on the football field, bringing delight to the
multitudes of his fans".

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said that ever since Best's
Manchester United debut "as a skinny 17-year-old",
successive generations had recognised his genius.

"His balance, speed and toughness marked him out on the
pitch. His skill and eye for a goal chance for himself or a
team-mate made him truly special. Deadly with both feet,
and surprisingly dangerous in the air for a slight
individual, Best really had it all."

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte called Best "an inspiration to
football fans in Ireland, North and South, and throughout
the world". He had left "a remarkable legacy to Manchester
United and to football".

"Tragically he also had some personal flaws that clearly
contributed to his premature death," Mr Rabbitte said.

"However, I believe he should be remembered for his amazing
skill, his charming personality, and the undoubted joy he
brought to so many peoples lives."

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said Best "brought immense
pleasure to millions of people around the world".

Opening a book of condolence in Belfast, the city's Lord
Mayor, Cllr Wallace Browne, recalled "one of the true
greats of the footballing world - a tremendously gifted

He added: "His footballing talent proved an inspiration to
generations of younger players, inspiring them to pull on
their boots and follow their own dreams. I doubt we will
ever see the like of his talent again."

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said Best would be
remembered as probably the greatest football player of all

"He was a wonderful ambassador for, and provided much
inspiration to, the people of the city and throughout
Northern Ireland."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan spoke of his deep sadness at the
player's death.

"George Best's great talent as a footballer is one of the
main reasons why I, like so many others, support Manchester
United.While he was undoubtedly a flawed genius, I hope he
will be remembered as one of the greatest footballers the
world has ever seen.

"For an insight into George Best's affable character, we
need only look to the deep affection in which he was held
by the medical support team that has been with him, not
just in the last few years, but over recent years.

"The greatest tribute we can pay to George Best today is to
remember the joy he brought to millions of people across
the world through his skills."

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent praised the player's
honesty in speaking about his alcoholism but said he would
be remembered as "a man with a dazzling skill that lit up
the lives of so many".

He added: "What was special about George Best was the way
you could always sense the tingle of anticipation which
would run through a football crowd when Best took hold of
the ball. Only a very special and unique talent could
instill that type of excitement and expectation."

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Michael McGimpsey said,
"George was a sporting hero and inspiration for a
generation, not just in Northern Ireland but across the
world. He gave people a reason to be proud of Northern

"George is a positive part of our past that we can look to
when shaping our uncertain future. He symbolised the
potential that this great province has yet to fulfil."

© The Irish Times


'We've All Lost A Wonderful Man'

Frank McNally

Speaking outside the hospital where his father died, an
emotional Calum Best told reporters: "Not only have I lost
my dad, but we've all lost a wonderful man."

Best's second wife, Alex, said in a statement that she
would always miss the "love of my life", adding: "He was a
unique and talented person who made a lot of people very
happy. I will always miss him."

British prime minister Tony Blair led the political
tributes, saying: "We all know that George Best was
probably the most naturally gifted footballer of his
generation, one of the greatest footballers the UK has ever

Musician Bob Geldof called Best the "first pop star
footballer" and "the prototype for all the boys we know
about today". The difference, he said, was that Best did
not know what he was doing. "He was just this gorgeous
young, talented kid and he got a lot of money every week,
and could not deal with it."

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke, a lifelong
Manchester United fan, told the ITV News Channel: "He was
probably the best footballer of all time. I remember him
just as a player. Forget about the rest of his life, he was
the most wonderful player, he could do things that no one
else could do. He was just a talent that comes once a

Unfortunately, the pressure told, Mr Dyke added. "Some
players can cope with it, others cannot. As he got older he
did not cope very well with it. The tragedy is that he was
all over really by 27."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said Best was "an
iconic figure who never forgot his roots", and who would
always have a place in the hearts of everyone in Northern

"George was recognised around the world as a footballing
genius and will remain an inspiration to young footballers
from Northern Ireland for generations to come.

"His natural footballing talent brought pleasure to
millions, entertaining fans across the globe with his
unique skill, style and pace.

"He was a larger-than-life character who was Northern
Ireland's most famous sporting son and will be sadly
missed," Mr Hain said.

© The Irish Times


The Belfast Boy Goes Home For The Last Time

By Paul Eccleston

(Filed: 26/11/2005)

Northern Ireland's stubbornly divided communities are
likely to reunite, if only briefly, for the funeral of
their favourite son George Best.

Best never had time for the bigots. Although he came from
the Protestant side of the city, he was loved and revered,
almost uniquely, in equal measure by the Catholic

A mural in South Belfast

In what is likely to prove one of the biggest funerals the
Province has ever seen, Best is to be buried at Roselawn
cemetery in the Castlereagh hills alongside his mother Ann,
who died in 1978.

Thousands are expected to follow the coffin from the family
home on the Cregagh estate in loyalist east Belfast to the
cemetery on the outskirts of the city.

It was on Cregagh that the Manchester United scout Bob
Bishop first spotted Best as a schoolboy playing for a
local youth club. By 1961, the 15-year-old Best was on his
way to Old Trafford. He went on to play 37 times for
Northern Ireland.

The player's agent for the past 25 years, Phil Hughes, who
was praised by the family for his steadfastness as a
friend, said the funeral would "definitely" be in Belfast.

"That's where George told me he always wanted it," he said.
"When the subject came up, his father Dickie said to me he
would like to take him home to Belfast. It was both their
wishes, and there's no one will stand between them."
Arrangements are yet to be finalised, but the funeral is
expected to be held in about a week.

Jim Boyce, president of the Irish Football Association,
said many of the game's best known names, including Best's
United team mates, were expected to attend.

He said: "George is a Belfast boy known throughout the
world as a Belfast boy and it's only right he should be
buried here. There will be people from all over the soccer
world and those who were his friends will want to be here."
Tributes to Best came yesterday not only from former team
mates and rivals but from ex-wives and girlfriends too.

His second wife Alex, to whom he was married for nine years
before their divorce in 2004, said: "He was the love of my

Eva Haraldsted, once famously engaged to Best when he was
only 19 and who sued him for breach of promise when he
called it off, recalled only the happy times and
particularly the kindness shown to her by Best's family. "I
hope they can find the strength to sustain them through
these very sad days," said Eva, now a married businesswoman
in her native Denmark.

"I am sure he will always be remembered as one of the
world's best footballers and I am happy that I knew him
when I did at the top of his career so full of life and fun
to be with. I do feel for his father and for his family."

A statement from Manchester United said: "George Best was
one of the greatest footballers of all time. Naturally
athletic, tough, confident and blessed with genius, his
career was one of the brightest stars of its generation.
His gifts were legendary.

"For the goals, the audacious dribbles and all the
wonderful memories, Manchester United and its legions of
fans worldwide will always be grateful. We feel a deep
sense of loss but his spirit and his talent will live on

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