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November 05, 2005

SF In Stand-Off Over Adams' Visa

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News about Ireland & the Irish

ST 11/06/05 Sinn Fein In Stand-Off Over US Visa For Adams
ST 11/06/05 St Patrick's Day Gets A PC Rebrand
GU 11/06/05 Real IRA Blamed As Race Festival Is Wrecked
GU 11/06/05 Parties Unite To Block Return Of IRA Fugitives
TE 11/06/05 Opin: Persecute Soldiers, Pardon Terrorists
SB 11/06/05 Robinson Slams Shocking Human-Rights Record


Sinn Fein In Stand-Off Over US Visa For Adams

Liam Clarke

SINN FEIN and the US State Department are locked in a
Mexican stand-off over Gerry Adams's proposed visit to
America this week.

American authorities insist that the Sinn Fein president
make "positive comments" about policing in Northern Ireland
in return for permission to raise funds. Sinn Fein insists
that Adams would rather stay at home than bow to pressure.

The issue has arisen because, as an IRA suspect, Adams is
barred from entering America and has to apply for special
permission each time he goes there. Last week the State
Department indicated that the Sinn Fein leader could raise
funds only if he made some moves towards endorsing the

A State Department official was quoted in yesterday's
Boston Globe as saying: "All he has to do is say something
positive. The bar isn't 10ft tall."

The newspaper also quoted Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for
the US State Department, as saying: "It is our hope that
Gerry Adams will travel to the US in support of the peace
process. They know exactly what needs to be done."

Adams is booked to speak at a Friends of Sinn Fein dinner
in New York on Thursday. He is due to receive an award from
the national committee on American foreign policy on
Tuesday at a dinner hosted by Bill Flynn, a leading Irish-
American businessman.

Adams is also billed to speak at a fundraising dinner in
Toronto during the same trip; the Canadian government has
placed no restrictions in his path.

Adams visited the US consulate in Belfast last week and
filled in visa application forms. A decision on his visa is
expected tomorrow. While there is no doubt that Adams will
be allowed to enter the country, he may not be allowed to
raise funds.

"If the visa puts a restriction on Gerry attending the
event he won't be travelling to the United States," said
Sinn Fein.


St Patrick's Day Gets A PC Rebrand

Liam Clarke

FORGET the green beer and even the green shamrocks: Belfast
city council is organising a politically neutral St
Patrick's Day festival with neither a drink nor a tricolour
in sight.

The council seems set to approve a £110,000 (€164,000)
budget for a politically correct festival in which the
crowd will only be allowed to wave culturally neutral
rainbow-coloured shamrock or a cross of St Patrick, which
consists of a white cross on a blue background.

Those wearing partisan clothing, such as Glasgow Rangers or
Celtic tops, will be offered large green T-shirts to put
over them. There is also expected to be a ban on people
painting their faces green, white and orange, or in the
colours of the Union Jack.

Plans are also afoot, although at a less advanced stage,
for a parallel and equally PC "Orangefest" to mark William
of Orange's victory at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12,
the key date in the loyalist marching calendar.

The PC Patrick's day, recommended by all parties on the
council's powerful policy and resources committee, would
end years of wrangling over the event, which had become a
political football. The budget will be made up of £75,000
from the council; £10,000 from the Laganside Corporation,
which is responsible for developing and promoting the
city's Waterfront; and £25,000 from the Arts Council.

The event will be held in Customs House Square, a purpose-
built outdoor entertainment area, and will run from 2pm
until 6pm on March 17. Council officials were told last
Tuesday to start booking entertainment, using a budget of
£30,000. Acts being targeted include a Brian McFadden-style
act and a group similar to The Proclaimers.

The planned supporting acts are being picked with a view to
producing a balance between Irish, Scots-Irish and
immigrant cultures so as to appeal to all sides of the

An Ulster-born celebrity such as Eamonn Holmes, John Daly
or George Jones will be sought to compere the event. There
is also likely to be a parade from City Hall to the Customs
House, with historic costumes and floats, in an event part-
funded by the Arts Council. The day will end with a gala
concert at the city's showcase Waterfront.

The council's plans have been worked out in detail by its
good-relations unit, which has consulted widely with
community groups across the city. Carmel Hanna of the SDLP,
who chairs the group, said: "Tricolours don't offend
anybody in Dublin, or New York or most other cities in the
world but we have to accept that in Belfast there are
different sensitivities."

Hanna said that the SDLP had not agreed to the Orangefest
and would want to study proposals closely.

Up until now St Patrick's Day festivities have been
organised on a more modest scale by a carnival committee
based in nationalist west Belfast. The event has been
largely boycotted by Protestants who were unhappy with
displays of tricolours, republican singing, and sectarian
taunts from the crowd.

Connor Maskey, a spokesman for the committee, said: "I am
optimistic in terms of the council motion. The outworking
of that motion hasn't been finalised. Let's hope it goes
well and gets the final stamp."

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has pledged £25,000 in
grant aid to the council provided that it organises an
"Orangefest" on the Twelfth.

An Arts Council official said that St Patrick's Day and the
Twelfth are both key festivals within the city.

"The two festivals balance each other and we will also want
to see a balance within each one of them," she said. "The
question for us is, 'how can we make these events more
inclusive through the medium of the arts?'"


Real IRA Blamed As Race Festival Is Wrecked

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday November 6, 2005
The Observer

Dissident republicans were being blamed last night for
wrecking a two-day racing festival in Northern Ireland when
9,000 racegoers had to be evacuated from the Down Royal
course because of a telephoned bomb warning yesterday

Police and British army technical officers found four
suspicious packages around the premises at the Maze in Co
Down. Organisers immediately cancelled the meeting, one of
the biggest in the Irish racing calendar.

Course chairman Jim Nicholson said: 'We had no option but
to abandon it. It's never happened in the history of the
racecourse. Everyone from every walk of life and part of
society comes here to enjoy themselves.'

Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist MP for the area
where the meeting was to take place, condemned those behind
the bomb threats: 'Their tactics are to cause damage to the
efforts to bring a degree of normality to Northern Ireland.
They tried this at the Oyster festival in Hillsborough in
September. But their tactics will not work.'

The disruption is a new escalation in the new dissident
republican terror offensive. Last Wednesday 2,000 people
attending a UK retail conference had to be evacuated from
Belfast's Waterfront Hall following a coded bomb warning.
Given that the majority of delegates were from other parts
of the UK, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain warned
that such incidents could do long-term damage to the
economy, especially its tourist industry. A senior PSNI
officer told The Observer he believed a group of Real IRA
activists based in West and North Belfast were responsible
for the recent spate of bomb warnings at cultural, business
and now sporting events.


Parties Unite To Block Return Of IRA Fugitives

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday November 6, 2005
The Observer

Plans to grant amnesties to republican fugitives could be
delayed by at least a year thanks to an an alliance of
Tories, Unionists and Liberal Democrats.

The Northern Ireland spokesmen for the Conservatives and
Liberal Democrats, along with Ulster Unionist peers,
confirmed this weekend they intend to hold up Tony Blair's
plans to allow the IRA 'on-the-runs' (OTRs) back home.

Republicans had been planning major welcome-home
celebrations for IRA fugitives. These included Sinn Fein's
former Washington spokeswoman Rita O'Hare, who is wanted in
Northern Ireland in connection with attacks on British
troops in the 1970s.

Allowing the OTRs home was an important concession offered
to the republican movement in secret negotiations between
Tony Blair's envoy Jonathan Powell and IRA leaders that led
to the 28 July statement announcing the republican's 'armed
struggle' was over.

The Northern Ireland Office confirmed last night that
legislation would be introduced at Westminster later this
month allowing for a full parliamentary debate on the OTR
issue. But David Liddington, the Shadow Northern Ireland
Secretary predicted yesterday that the bill would get a
rough ride.

'The Government has acted with indecent haste in granting a
concession that wasn't even part of the Good Friday
Agreement,' he said.

'Before these people are allowed home there should be a
series of conditions attached which includes any "on-the-
run" should be put through the courts and forced to
confront their crimes; subsequently their freedom should be
subject to a license and, just as important, those people
exiled by the IRA should also be allowed to go home.'

Northern Ireland-born Liberal Democrat spokesman Lembit
Opik accused the Blair government of 'taking for granted
the cross-party support' for its policies in Ulster.

'We believe Tony Blair made a deal with Sinn Fein without
the consultation of any other party in Northern Ireland,
which is unfair and contrary to the spirit of the

'When this legislation was drawn up there should have been
provision made for the exiles and guarantees that the "on-
the-runs" will face the judicial system. If necessary we
will support stalling this legislation. No legislation is
better than unjust, bad legislation.'

Lord Laird of Artigarvan said he was also rallying support
in the House of Lords to hold up the OTR bill. The Ulster
Unionist peer promised his party and others would 'ping
pong' the legislation between the two Houses at

'When it comes to the Lords my colleagues and I will be
seeking cross party support to put down amendments and slow
up the process of this legislation. If it takes a year so
be it,' he said.

The Northern Ireland Office and the Police Service of
Northern Ireland have refused to disclose exactly who is on
the IRA OTR list, even though just before its disbandment
an RUC assistant chief constable was given the task of
gathering names of wanted republicans.

These include Owen Carron, the former Sinn Fein MP wanted
in connection with firearms charges, and Leonard 'Bap'
Hardy whothe police want to question about the 1982
Banbridge bombing.

The republican movement's own list of OTRs includes two men
who fled Ireland after the murder in 1996 of Garda Jerry
McCabe. The pair are living in Central America but have
applied to come back to the Republic.

But while the Irish government has urged Britain to move
swiftly to allow OTRs back to Northern Ireland, Dublin has
been reluctant to let the two McCabe murder suspects back


Opin: Persecution For Soldiers, Pardon For Terrorists

(Filed: 06/11/2005)

As we reveal today, hundreds of British soldiers who served
in Northern Ireland during the Troubles face the prospect
of extensive investigations - and possible prosecutions -
for their involvement in past operations in which
terrorists were killed.

Such a process - referred to in official documents as a
"Historic Review" into "unresolved killings" - is already
under way. The Government has set up a specific Army unit
that will work with officers from the Police Service of
Northern Ireland in order to trace soldiers involved in the
operations that fall under review.

The soldiers in question will then be warned that they are
under investigation and duly informed of the "legal
support" package available to them.

In plain language, this means that soldiers who risked
their lives in Northern Ireland - in some cases 20 or 30
years ago - may now be forced through a traumatic legal
process, of highly uncertain outcome, which scrutinises
their past conduct with the utmost suspicion.

The legal value of such a process is highly questionable,
since the recollections of witnesses will inevitably be
heavily clouded and blurred by the intervening decades: it
will, however, undoubtedly succeed in causing the maximum
distress to soldiers and their families.

This initiative comes at the same time as Peter Hain, the
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has confirmed that
dozens of "on the run" IRA and Loyalist terrorists will be
effectively pardoned for their crimes. David Hanson, the
Minister of State for Northern Ireland, has even outlined -
in a letter to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister -
the bizarre, Alice-In-Wonderland manner in which this
pardon will be finessed.

The Government will establish a Special Tribunal and a
Special Prosecutor to "prosecute" the "on the run"
terrorists. The paramilitary defendant, however, will not
actually be required to attend court: if convicted, he or
she will be immediately released on licence.

This costly, pointless pantomime of justice also carries
deeply disturbing implications. By making plans to
investigate terrorist actions and Army operations
simultaneously, the Government is acquiescing in a false
moral equivalence between paramilitaries, who deliberately
orchestrated long-running murder campaigns, and soldiers
who served in Northern Ireland at the behest of the
Government at a time of extreme civil unrest.

On the evidence so far, the Government intends to give
better treatment to terrorists than to its soldiers. The
IRA members who murdered 11 people at a Remembrance Sunday
service in Enniskillen in 1987, for example, would be
effectively pardoned without ever having to attend a court.

No such warm assurances have been extended, however, to the
SAS men who took part in the controversial ambush of an
eight-strong IRA unit at Loughgall that same year. The IRA
men had blasted a hole in the wall of a small police
station - and were about to enter the ravaged station to
gun down any survivors - when they themselves were ambushed
and killed by the SAS.

Although the SAS action was sanctioned at ministerial
level, senior Ministry of Defence officials now believe
that the soldiers involved could face prosecution under the
terms of the Historic Review.

These developments will, no doubt, be presented by the
Prime Minister as an attempt to bring - in popular
psychobabble - "closure" to the Northern Ireland Troubles.
The reality is that they will instead generate bitterness,
confusion and incalculable distress, at a vast expense to
the British taxpayer.

The cost of the as-yet-inconclusive Saville Inquiry into
the events of Bloody Sunday spiralled to £150 million: one
can only imagine the bill for an infinitely more sprawling
Historic Review.

Senior figures in the British Army are deeply alarmed by
these developments in Government policy: they are right to
be. In truth, both the proposed Historic Review and the
amnesty for terrorist "on-the-runs" are flailing attempts
to placate Sinn Fein and shore up a foundering "peace
process" in Northern Ireland.

There is little indication that they will prove effective
in that aim. But the Government has demonstrated - at
precisely the time when it expects British troops once
again to risk their lives in Iraq - that it is prepared to
sacrifice its soldiers on the altar of political
expediency. The lessons from Belfast will not be lost in
the barracks of Basra.


Robinson Slams White House's 'Shocking' Human-Rights Record

06 November 2005 By Marion McKeone

Former Irish president Mary Robinson has sharply criticised
the Bush administration's use of secret prisons and the
torture of detainees in its war on terror.

Speaking on HBO political affairs show Real Time with Bill
Maher last Friday night, Robinson described the debasing of
international human rights as "awful'' and "shocking''.

During a heated discussion on the torture of detainees by
US interrogators, Robinson blamed the White House for the
"dip'' in US standards on human rights.

"As someone who is seeing this from a world perspective,
the US used to be a champion of human rights. America has
dipped its standards. It's awful," she said.

"I don't want to be caught up in criticising the
administration of this country but it's hurting America
that the standards have been so debased.

"It's actually very shocking. In human rights communities,
we're cringing at what America is doing. We are cringing at
the torture.

"As a human-rights person I would say the US gave great
leadership. I want the US to give that leadership again.

"And it has a lot to do."

Robinson also referred to president George W Bush's failure
to attend the funeral of civil rights icon Rosa Parks,
whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man
in Montgomery, Alabama, started the US civil rights
movement and heralded the end of segregation.

"It seems strange that the president wasn't there,''
Robinson said, after praising Parks' contribution to human

Robinson, a former UN Human Rights Commissioner, and
founder of the New York-based Centre for Ethical
Globalisation, questioned the US refusal to allow UN
representatives access to the detainees at its base on
Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"I can't understand why a country that speaks of freedom
and openness won't allow UN representatives to talk to
people in Guantanamo Bay," she said, adding: "The world is

Robinson also joked about the Irish presidency being held
by women since 1990: "Young boys in Ireland were sobbing at
their mother's knees and asking: 'Why can't I be
president?' " she said.

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