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December 18, 2005

Adams: Brits Need To Rein In Dissidents

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News about Ireland & the Irish

SF 12/18/05 British Have To Rein In Dissidents - Adams
IT 12/19/05 Govt Will Not Seek Inquiry Into Spy Allegations
IT 12/19/05 Hain Rejects Claims Of British Cover-Up
TO 12/18/05 Sinn Fein Spy Mystery Deepens
IT 12/19/05 Opin: Spooks & Spies Jolt Republican Confidence
OC 12/18/05 'Ridiculous' For Adams To Resign - Clr Doherty
IT 12/19/05 Conflicting Interpretations
IT 12/19/05 Feeney Given Details Garda File On Connolly
EX 12/18/05 Harney Backs McDowell
IT 12/19/05 Gardaí Condemn McDowell's Reserve Force Plan
IT 12/19/05 Harney Rejects PD Role In Government With SF
BB 12/18/05 First 'Gay Weddings' In Belfast
SM 12/18/05 W Isles Takes Stand Against 'Geidh' Ceremonies
IT 12/19/05 Peace Activist Una O'Higgins O'Malley Dies
IT 12/19/05 Bono Joins Elite Club As Time Person Of Year
IT 12/19/05 Chimney Plan 'Assaults' Boyne Heritage


British Have To Rein In Dissidents - Adams

Published: 18 December, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will tomorrow meet the
British Secretary of State Peter Hain. Mr. Adams asked for
the urgent meeting following the revelation of the role of
Denis Donaldson as a Special Branch agent for 20 years. The
Sinn Féin President will raise with Mr. Hain the "damaging
role of those within the various British policing and
intelligence agencies who are actively working to subvert
and undermine the peace process."

Mr. Adams held a lengthy conversation by phone with the
British Secretary of State on Saturday.

Speaking today Mr. Adams said:

"Sinn Fein has not been alone in identifying elements
within the British system who have been involved for many
years in a planned, systematic campaign to undermine the
peace process. Senator George Mitchell, Chris Patten and
even Hugh Orde have all spoken of those within the British
system working against the peace process and the
implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Despite the intrigues of these dissident elements
significant progress has been made. However more would have
been achieved, and more quickly but for their plotting.

Following the historically significant initiatives by the
IRA in recent months a new opportunity has been opened up
to make progress. The New Year will see important efforts
being made to restore the political institutions. All of
this is at risk because of these dissident elements within
the British system.

The onus to stop this lies with the British government. It
has to take whatever steps are necessary to rein in the
wreckers who are opposing British government policy. And
there has to be an end to political policing.

If we are really in a process in which everyone is
committed to purely peaceful and democratic means then that
must also apply to the British system. If the war is over
for the British government then it has to end the war
mentality and activities of elements of its own system.

Failure to do this condemns the process to a never ending
cycle of crisis." ENDS


Government Will Not Seek Inquiry Into Spy Allegations

Gerry Moriarty, Liam Reid Mark Brennock

The Government has indicated it will not be seeking an
independent inquiry into the Stormontgate spy ring affair
and allegations that a key Sinn Féin official was a British

It comes as the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern
is to raise the controversy with the British Northern
Secretary Peter Hain at a meeting in Hillsborough in
Belfast this afternoon.

Mr Ahern is expected to seek further information from Mr
Hain about recent events, which saw spying charges against
three Sinn Féin Stormont officials dropped for unexplained
reasons, followed last Friday by the outing of one the
three, Denis Donaldson, by Sinn Féin on Friday as a British
agent for the past 20 years.

The reaction of the Government to date has been marked by
incredulity and bewilderment, although it is anxious that
the affair does not divert efforts away from the re-
establishment of democratic institutions in the North.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in the early hours of Saturday
morning set the tone of the Government's approach, when he
said that Stormontgate "never added up to me".

"A large number of police and huge armaments, storming in,
to collect a few clerks and a few files and the TV was in
first. You could throw no light on it whatsoever, none."

Last night on RTÉ Tánaiste Mary Harney described the
controversy and the outing of Mr Donaldson as a spy as
incredible, although she effectively ruled out a public
inquiry into the affair.

"I think the last thing we probably need right now is some
form of inquiry which may not get very far," she said.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will also meet Mr Hain on
the issue this afternoon.

Security sources said yesterday that Mr Donaldson was not
the republican informant who over three years ago alerted
the authorities about the alleged spy ring which led to the
October 2002 raid on Stormont that collapsed the Northern
Executive and Assembly.

They said that Mr Donaldson, while an effective agent, did
not tell his handlers about the alleged IRA intelligence
gathering either to protect other republicans engaged in
spying at Stormont or to prevent the IRA suspecting he was
an agent. They said a second agent acting independently of
Mr Donaldson revealed the alleged spy ring.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams claimed yesterday that
"dissident elements" within the "British system" had
conspired to harm Sinn Féin and wreck the political
process. A senior Sinn Féin figure added that these alleged
"dissidents" had planned that Mr Donaldson would have been
forced to flee the North so that the next Independent
Monitoring Commission report in January could say the IRA
was still active and still a threat.

Mr Hain rejected Sinn Féin conspiracy allegations insisting
the IRA ran a spy ring at Stormont.

© The Irish Times


Hain Rejects Claims Of British Cover-Up

Gerry Moriarty

Reaction:Northern Secretary Peter Hain has rejected
claims by both Sinn Féin and the DUP that the British
government was involved in a cover-up over the disclosure
that senior republican Denis Donaldson was a British agent.

Mr Hain, who is to separately meet Sinn Féin president
Gerry Adams and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern
today, described the revelations around Mr Donaldson and
Stormontgate as "spectacular" but denied any British

Mr Adams claimed that "dissident elements" within the
British security and governmental system were behind the
Donaldson disclosures, while DUP MEP Jim Allister said
British prime minister Tony Blair had serious questions to

Mr Hain rejected their comments. "Last week the DUP was
accusing me of residing in a state cover-up to protect Sinn
Féin. This week Sinn Féin are accusing the state of
hounding them and (being) engaged in some kind of
conspiracy. Neither event is true, both can't be right,
both are actually wrong," he said yesterday.

He told ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme that "something
like 1,000 documents were stolen from the Northern Ireland
Office" ending up in west Belfast. He said the PSNI was
praised by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan for how they
handled the investigations into the alleged IRA spy ring at
Stormont in 2002.

He added that in relation to the original spying charges
against Mr Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciarán Kearney and
Stormont civil servant William Mackessy, "events unfolded
and the prosecution felt that they could not proceed in the
public interest".

Mr Adams claimed there were elements "within the British
system who have been involved for many years in a planned,
systematic campaign to undermine the peace process.

"The onus to stop this lies with the British government. It
has to take whatever steps are necessary to rein in the
wreckers, who are opposing British government policy. And
there has to be an end to political policing," he added.

"If we are really in a process in which everyone is
committed to purely peaceful and democratic means then that
must also apply to the British system. If the war is over
for the British government then it has to end the
activities of elements in its own system."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said there must be an
inquiry. "The prime minister is the ultimate head of
security. He must, therefore, know that Donaldson was an

SDLP justice spokesman Alex Attwood said there was a
"growing sense that people in the British system and
Provisional movement are up to their necks in all of this

© The Irish Times


Sinn Fein Spy Mystery Deepens

By David Sharrock

Why was a 'British asset' in Republican ranks unmasked –
and are more revelations imminent?

PRESSURE was growing on Tony Blair last night to make a
public statement on the confession by a senior Irish
republican that he had spied on the IRA and Sinn Fein for
the past 20 years.

Denis Donaldson, who is believed to be in hiding in the
Irish Republic with his family, has lifted a corner of a
lid that until now has been kept tightly in place on the
shadowy underworld of Northern Ireland's intelligence wars.
While the Provisional movement, led by Gerry Adams, has the
most to lose from the affair, the Government will regret
the unmasking of one of its best placed "assets" deep
within the republican leadership.

So far the Stormontgate affair has thrown up more questions
than answers. How did Donaldson manage to stay so high in
the republican leadership for so long without being
discovered? How and why was he unmasked now? And who has
the most to gain from his exposure? Just over a week ago
Donaldson was basking in the republican limelight after the
case against him and two others collapsed, with Sinn Fein
insisting this was proof that the IRA spy ring at Stormont
never existed and the Government claiming the opposite.
Yesterday all of Northern Ireland's political parties —
with the notable exception of Sinn Fein — were calling for
Mr Blair to give an explanation for the highly unusual
events of the past ten days.

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, will meet Peter Hain,
the Northern Ireland Secretary, today to urge him to curb
what he claimed yesterday were "dissident elements within
the British system" undermining the peace process.

Mr Hain denied the charge but admitted that the affair had
been "a turbulent event". He said: "Something like 1,000
documents were stolen from the Northern Ireland Office.
They disappeared. They were stolen."

Alex Attwood, of the nationalist SDLP, said: "Elements in
the British system and Provisional movement are partners in
a dirty peace. They spy on each other and they cover up for
each other."

Nigel Dodds, the Democratic Unionist MP, said that Mr Blair
had to state what he knew. The North Belfast MP said: "The
DUP will be pursuing this matter in the Commons this week."

Stories circulated feverishly over the weekend that another
top Provisional was about to be revealed as a British

But it would be a far greater surprise if it was discovered
that the intelligence services had not managed to
infiltrate any more agents.

The IRA is riddled with informers and agents because
intelligence was king in the battle against the "Long War"
conceived by Mr Adams and his "kitchen Cabinet" — which
included Donaldson — back in the 1970s. But the most
intriguing question of all arises out of the nature of the
work of agents within an organisation like the IRA. They
are there not just to pass information to their MI5 or
Special Branch handlers, but also to influence strategy and
direction at the highest level.

In 1994 Mr Donaldson told me at his West Belfast home about
what appeared to be the key to the emerging "peace
strategy" of the Provisionals.

"For too many people the IRA has become the end in itself
and no longer the vehicle to achieve the end for which it
fights," he said.

He meant that the "armed struggle" had become an obstacle
to reuniting Ireland and ending British sovereignty.

Little wonder, then, that Unionists are so paranoid or that
Irish republicans of a greener, more traditional nature see
traitors everywhere — up to and including "the Brit agents
Adams and McGuinness" themselves.


'Spooks And Spies' Episode Jolts Republican Confidence

Analysis: Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor, examines the
conflicting theories on the Donaldson affair

The exposure of Denis Donaldson as a British agent is
deeply embarrassing for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
Sinn Féin and IRA people used to taunt that dissident
republicans such as the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA
were never going to get off the starting blocks as
paramilitary organisations because they were so "riddled
with informers".

There was a certain truth in that claim but now it emerges
that Mr Donaldson, one of the most senior of Mr Adams's
backroom team, was a British operator. This after central
IRA figure Freddie Scappaticci was "outed" as having been
turned by the British. And there is talk of other highly
placed traitors to the cause in danger of exposure. That
must shake the confidence of the republican faithful.

At the weekend Mr McGuinness was sent out to stiffen the
republican backbone and engage in a battle of damage
limitation. There was no republican spy ring at Stormont,
he asserted. If there were dirty tricks at Stormont the
British securocrats were behind it, not Sinn Féin or the
IRA. It was a plot.

A senior Sinn Féin source spent considerable time at the
weekend providing additional background to The Irish Times
on what republicans say Stormontgate was really about.
Security and political sources also spent time attempting
to refute the republican conspiracy theory. Who to believe?
Let's examine the theories.

In a nutshell the Sinn Féin man argued that an inner circle
of senior PSNI Special Branch, MI5 and Northern Ireland
Office (NIO) officials acting outside the knowledge or
authority of PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde, Tony Blair or
Northern Secretary Peter Hain were behind Stormontgate.

"Centrally these are spooks and spies who can't accept that
they did not defeat the IRA," he said. First of all he
contended that these figures were behind the heavy-handed
spy ring raid on Stormont in October 2002 which led to the
collapse of the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Now they were up to their old tricks again with the
exposure of Denis Donaldson as an agent. He said that
uniformed PSNI officers called to Mr Donaldson's west
Belfast home last Saturday week to inform him that he was
about to be revealed as an agent and that it was time he
was spirited away for his own and his family's safety.

This was deliberately done so that Mr Donaldson would be in
an absolute bind: police officers at his door meant the
republican bush telegraph disclosing he was an agent;
therefore he had no option but to flee. In this case,
however, Mr Donaldson decided to stay and admit his
involvement to Sinn Féin, which capsized the "securocrat"
plan. Or so the argument goes.

The Sinn Féin source said: "This is all happening at a time
when the security minister Shaun Woodward is giving the IRA
a clean bill of health [ he told The Irish Times last week
the IRA was not involved in paramilitary activity or
organised crime] and when the next report from the
Independent Monitoring Commission in January is expected to
do the same. But if Denis Donaldson was forced to leave
what will the report say? That people are in danger from
the IRA, that they are engaged in high-level espionage,
that they are still active."

This in turn would scupper the prospects of the DUP and
Sinn Féin coming to an eventual agreement to restore
devolution, and give Ian Paisley an excuse not to engage in
negotiations with Sinn Féin. The source said Sinn Féin
accepted that Mr Blair, Mr Hain and Mr Orde were not party
to this alleged plot.

He also argued that while some people might find this
rather far-fetched, there were semi-autonomous elements -
particularly in Special Branch and MI5 - who would do
anything to damage Sinn Féin and the IRA, even if it meant
destroying the prospects of a political deal at the same

"And there was no spy ring," he added.

But how does this square with thousands of Stormont
documents being uncovered during the October 2002
investigations and the security of hundreds of prison
officers and others being compromised as a result of their

His answer was that nothing incriminating was found in the
Sinn Féin Stormont offices in 2002 and that all the
documentation uncovered was in the west Belfast control of
Mr Donaldson. Therefore as the documents were funnelled
through Mr Donaldson this meant he was acting as a form of
agent provocateur at Stormont to convey the impression of
an IRA spy operation.

So, does that work? No, said the security types at the
weekend. One acknowledged that three years ago Mr Orde
agreed that there were people in his own force who wanted
him to fail, but that since then those officers were rooted
out of the PSNI or neutralised. There was no longer a force
within a force.

They all insisted that an IRA spy ring was operated at
Stormont and that more than Mr Donaldson were involved. "If
he were an agent provocateur, wouldn't it have made more
sense that the documents were found in the Sinn Féin
offices at Stormont rather than in Donaldson's home?" said
one source.

The contacts also insisted, as reported on Saturday, that
Mr Donaldson was not the IRA mole who alerted the British
to the alleged spy ring in 2002: that it was another
British agent in the IRA who tipped them off. They said
while Mr Donaldson had provided useful information to his
handlers, he baulked at revealing the spying operation
because he either felt to do so would make the IRA
suspicious of him or because he did not want to incriminate
others involved in the Stormont intelligence-gathering.

They said the argument that Mr Donaldson all alone created
the "fiction" of an IRA spying operation just wasn't
credible, and that his assertions to this effect were part
of the price he had to pay to the IRA and Sinn Féin for his
own security. They added that the Police Ombudsman Nuala
O'Loan accepted that the Stormont 2002 raids were

Republicans will believe the Sinn Féin scenario; unionists
won't: the rest of us will have to decide for ourselves
which is the most credible.

A Government insider, peering through all this smoke,
admitted his continuing confusion but found something
sensible, positive and - oddly in this case - perfectly
understandable to say: "Well, at least Denis Donaldson is
alive; he's not lying tied up and naked along some lonely
Border road somewhere."

The point the Dublin source was making was that these are
changed times: that in a sense this is history or the
natural dirty outworkings of the Troubles: nobody's dead as
they would have been not so many years ago: so let's move
on and deal with real politics.

© The Irish Times


'Ridiculous' For Adams To Resign - Clr Doherty

Dec 18, 5:37 pm

Donegal SF clr Pearse Doherty has branded calls for Gerry
Adams' resignation 'ridiculous'.

Today, the Vice-Chair of the SDLP Eddie Espie is calling on
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to resign, saying he has
lost people's confidence.

The SDLP also say they want a full inquiry following
revelations that senior party official Denis Donaldson was
a Special Branch agent for 20 years.

Gerry Adams will meet Northern Secretary Peter Hain

He says he requested the meeting to discuss the 'damaging
role of various British policing and intelligence agencies
who are actively working to undermine the peace process.'

But Clr Doherty says that Mr Adams still has full
confidence from the party.


Conflicting Interpretations

What the two sides are saying

SINN FÉIN argues that the exposing of Denis Donaldson as a
British agent was part of a high level PSNI, MI5 and
British government inner circle plot to wreck any chances
of devolution being restored. The theory is that he was
exposed as an agent so that he would be forced to flee
Northern Ireland and that therefore the next Independent
Monitoring Report would say the IRA was still active and
still a threat to life and the security of these islands.
Therefore there could be no deal between the DUP and Sinn

SECURITY SOURCES say Denis Donaldson, while a British
agent, did not alert his handlers to the alleged Stormont
spy ring, that this was done by another IRA informant. They
say that despite Sinn Féin denials that a number of IRA or
Sinn Féin members were involved in a Stormont spy ring, and
that Sinn Féin allegations of Denis Donaldson acting as an
agent provocateur to damage Sinn Féin and the IRA just
doesn't stand up.

© The Irish Times


US Billionaire Given Details Of 20-Year Garda File On Connolly

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell provided American
billionaire Chuck Feeney with details of Garda files held
on Frank Connolly going back more than 20 years. The
information included reference to one serious alleged
incident in the files.

The details were given to Mr Feeney during the meeting on
September 2nd at which Mr McDowell also provided
information on the alleged use of a false passport by Mr
Connolly to travel to Colombia in April 2001.

In the following week Atlantic Philanthropies, Mr Feeney's
charitable foundation that was funding the Centre for
Public Inquiry (CPI), was given further details by the
Department of Justice of a suspended sentence Mr Connolly
received in 1983 for his part in a riot at the British
embassy, Dublin, which took place in July 1981.

Earlier this month, Atlantic Philanthropies cut its €4
million funding of the CPI, in the wake of the allegations
surrounding Mr Connolly, the executive director of the

The board of the centre has accused Mr McDowell of making
unsustainable and totally untrue allegations against the
CPI and its director, Mr Connolly.

At the September meeting with Mr Feeney, Mr McDowell
claimed that Mr Connolly had been involved in Revolutionary
Struggle, a Marxist organisation dominated by students,
which was active in Dublin in the late 1970s.

No charges were ever brought in relation to the alleged
serious incident in the Garda files, but a number of
students and activists were arrested and questioned at the

Mr Connolly did not return telephone calls from The Irish
Times last night. The Department of Justice also declined
to comment on details of the September meeting, stating it
was private.

The Department of Justice also provided details to Atlantic
Philanthropies of a June 1983 conviction against Mr
Connolly where he received a two-year suspended sentence at
the Special Criminal Court after pleading guilty in
relation to a H-block riot in July 1981. He was also
ordered to pay £250 into the Garda Benevolent Fund.

Tánaiste Mary Harney last night defended Mr McDowell. She
said he had a duty to provide information when asked in his
written parliamentary reply on December 6th, where he
outlined allegations that Mr Connolly had travelled to
Colombia on a false passport.

© The Irish Times


Harney Backs McDowell

By Harry McGee, Political Editor

TÁNAISTE Mary Harney yesterday accepted that Justice
Minister Michael McDowell would be in a difficult position
if his allegations about Frank Connolly were unfounded.

And Ms Harney also accepted that her Progressive Democrats
colleague did not confide in her before leaking
documentation about a false passport application to the
Irish Independent.

However, in a strong defence of Mr McDowell on RTÉ's The
Week in Politics, Ms Harney said he had been fully
justified in the manner he released the information, given
the "exceptional circumstances" of the allegations and of
Mr Connolly's position as the head of the Centre for Public

And the Tánaiste went further than Mr McDowell by making
more serious allegations against the former journalist.

"Mr Connolly was involved as CEO of an organisation that
was going to inquire into matters (of public interest) and
at the same time that individual was in Colombia training
FARC in technology know-how that had been acquired by the
IRA," she alleged.

Presenter Sean O'Rourke challenged this allegation saying
there was no evidence to back it up.

In response, Ms Harney said that Mr Connolly had had an
opportunity since 2002 to say where he was in April 2001,
the period where it is claimed by Mr McDowell he travelled
to Colombia using a false passport. Mr Connolly has refused
to state publicly where he was during that month.

Pressed by O'Rourke on whether or not she would sack Mr
McDowell if his allegations turned out to be groundless, Ms
Harney accepted that if that were the case, it would pose
difficulties for the Minister.


Gardaí Condemn Mcdowell's Plan For Reserve Force

Conor Lally

Garda sergeants and inspectors have strongly criticised
plans by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell to establish
a reserve Garda force, saying the proposal will result in
confidential intelligence being leaked to subversives and
organised crime gangs.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has
described the plan as a "Mad Hatter scheme".

It believes full-time gardaí will have to "babysit"
reservists and that they will have to "clean up after
botched arrests and other incidents involving reservists".

The association's president, Joe Dirwan, has accused Mr
McDowell of implementing his plan without consultation.

He said the Minister had acted in an "underhand fashion"
after previously stating legislation providing for the
reserve force was "enabling legislation", which could be
used at some point in the future. The legislation providing
for the establishment of a reserve force is contained in
the Garda Síochána Bill.

Reservists with 24 hours training would have access to the
Garda's Pulse computer database, which contains details of
all ongoing investigations and intelligence.

Mr Dirwan is fearful that this accessibility will result in
criminal elements putting their associates into the reserve
force in an effort to stay ahead of Garda investigations.
He also believes the reserve force may attract unsuitable

"We fear that the reserve will become a haven for people
who are attracted by the idea of having police powers over
their neighbours and of settling old scores under the
pretence of police action," he said.

"It would suit the Minister far better to properly resource
the Garda Síochána, which still has far fewer members per
100,000 of the population than the European average. It
would be more cost-efficient if sufficient sergeants were
appointed to supervise the members that are in place now.

"It would suit him better to provide the Garda Síochána
with a proper radio system to replace the beat-out,
antiquated system we have now. When we meet him we will
spell out the real position for him in stark terms."

Mr McDowell has said the reserve force will be operating by
September next year, at which point he hopes it will have a
full strength of 900 members.

These will not receive payment for their work but will be
reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses. It is envisaged that
reservists will work 24 hours each month.

They will be deployed on high-visibility duties including
Garda checkpoints, on the beat in residential areas and at
public order flashpoints. They will have all the powers of
full-time gardaí, including the power of arrest. However,
unlike full-time members of the force, they will not have
these powers when they are off duty.

Their training will be carried out over 24 hours; two hours
over 12 weekends. Applications will be open to any member
of the public aged from 18 to 57.

A spokeswoman for Mr McDowell said the Garda Commissioner,
Noel Conroy, and not the Minister, would formulate plans
for the implementation of the reserve force. She said such
a force had been used successfully in other common law

© The Irish Times


Harney Rejects PD Role In Government With SF

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

Tánaiste Mary Harney has ruled out the involvement of the
Progressive Democrats in any government that relied on Sinn
Féin support in any form.

The PD leader again reiterated that her party was open to
forming a coalition government with parties other than
Fianna Fáil, and said any decision would be based on
ensuring her party's policies continued.

"We're not going locked into a coalition deal in advance of
the next election with anybody, but we've had an
extraordinary successful coalition with Bertie Ahern and
Fianna Fáil for the past eight years."

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has already ruled out coalition with
Sinn Féin following the next general election but it has
been suggested by commentators that this does not exclude a
Fianna Fáil-led minority government reliant on the
abstention or votes of Sinn Féin to elect a Taoiseach.

Asked on RTÉ's Week in Politics programme about such a
scenario, she said: "I would not be in a government that
relied for one single occasion on support from Sinn Féin
and that is the position of the Progressive Democrats."

Ms Harney also defended her record as Minister for Health
and said her reforms were beginning to show results. "We've
been working extraordinarily hard. The reform plan is
working. It's not just about extra money. It's about
changing business and innovation."

Ms Harney also defended the Government's policy of
encouraging private hospitals to be established in the
grounds of public hospitals, as a measure to take private
beds out of the public system.

© The Irish Times


First 'Gay Weddings' In Belfast

The first set of civil partnership ceremonies for gay
couples in the UK is due to be held in Northern Ireland.

Two lesbian couples and a gay couple are due to exchange
vows at Belfast City Hall, which already has 20 provisional
bookings for the services.

The new Civil Partnership Act provides same-sex couples
with similar legal rights to married couples.

The first ceremonies in Scotland will take place on
Tuesday, and in England and Wales on Wednesday.

Two women, Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close, will be the
first couple to exchange vows in a ceremony at Belfast City
Hall at 1000 GMT.

Both protesters and supporters are expected to be outside.

At least 1,200 ceremonies are confirmed as being scheduled
across the UK already, according to figures from councils
compiled by the BBC News website.

Special permission

Hundreds of couples across the UK are expected to go ahead
quickly, with Brighton conducting 198 ceremonies before the
end of the year. Overall, the city has taken 510 bookings
for the coming months, thought to be the highest in the

Other cities which have seen strong interest include
London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Two weeks ago a terminally ill man from Brighton received
special permission to go ahead with a ceremony before the
normal 15-day waiting period after registration.

Matthew Roche, who had lung cancer, and Christopher Cramp
held their ceremony hours after the Civil Partnership Act
became law on 5 December. Mr Roche died the next day.

Campaigners say the law ends inequalities for same-sex

Since it came into force, couples have been able to legally
register an intention to form a civil partnership with
local councils.

Legal rights

It means same-sex couples can have their relationships
recognised in law for the first time.

It also provides registered gay and lesbian couples with a
number of legal rights and entitlements already held by
heterosexual couples in civil marriages.

But unlike marriages, the signing of the legal partnership
papers does not need to happen in public.

Last month, Lisburn City Council in Northern Ireland
overturned its policy regarding gay and lesbian unions.

The council had banned the use of its wedding room for
same-sex civil partnership registrations, prompting gay
activists to threaten legal action.

After consulting lawyers, a council committee decided the
ban should be lifted.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/19 02:13:29 GMT



Western Isles Takes Moral Stand Against 'Geidh' Couple Ceremonies

Eddie Barnes

POLITICAL EDITOR Ebarnes@Scotlandonsunday.Com

THE Gaelic language has at least half a dozen words to
describe homosexuals, varying from merely impolite to
obscene. Such is the lack of a non-judgmental term for gay
people that the BBC's Gaelic radio service was recently
forced to invent a word: 'Geidh'.

It is hardly surprising then that councillors in this
deeply traditional society, where the hold of strict
Presbyterianism remains stronger than anywhere else on the
British Isles, have voted to become the only part of the
country to outlaw so-called gay "wedding ceremonies", which
are to be held across Britain starting on Tuesday.

For many islanders, the move is simply an affirmation of
their determination to hold back the onset of 21st century
secularism, and to preserve their belief that marriage
should only involve a man and a woman.

But the move has triggered a backlash from gay campaigners,
who are threatening a human rights appeal against the
council to ensure gay couples on the isles can have the
same rights as those elsewhere.

More than 150 gay couples across Scotland are preparing to
take part in the ceremonies from Tuesday morning, when the
law comes into force. In England and Wales 700 couples are
expected to follow suit when the law is enacted the
following day, including Sir Elton John and his long-term
partner, David Furnish.

It follows the passing of the Civil Partnerships Act at
Westminster last year, which will allow gay couples to
obtain the same rights as heterosexuals in areas such as
employment, pensions and inheritance.

All registry offices will be legally obliged to perform
basic registrations, at which gay couples will sign an
official civil partnership document in front of two
witnesses. Councils are also offering to conduct
ceremonies, similar to normal civil weddings, so the
occasion can be marked.

However, at a meeting of the Western Isles Council's Policy
and Finance Committee last Thursday, councillors decided to
outlaw such ceremonies.

It followed complaints by the council's registrars, who
said they would be unwilling to carry them out.
Consequently, any gay couples on the island will have to
make do with legal registration.

The ruling is thought to be unique across the British
Isles. While two Scottish councils - Highlands and East
Renfrewshire - had voiced doubts about conducting the
ceremonies, they have agreed to offer them to couples,
following pressure from the Scottish Executive and gay
rights campaigners.

But the Western Isles council is showing no willingness to
compromise on the issue.

"It is a practical decision: our officers don't want to do
them so we didn't even go into the debate [over morality],"
said Angus Campbell, the chairman of the policy committee.

The move will place fresh scrutiny on the isles, home to
24,000 people, where the influence of the Free Church of
Scotland on the northerly isle of Lewis, and the strength
of the Catholic Church on the southerly isles of South Uist
and Barra, is powerful.

Supporters of the move insist the registrars are simply
exercising their rights.

The Rev Tim McGlynn, of the Free Church of Scotland
(Continuing) in Scalpay, said: "To try and force them [the
registrars] to do something they think is immoral would be
unjust. But that is what is being advanced by people who
are what I call bigoted secularists."

He added: "The position on the isles is that the people in
positions in power are far more likely to personally have a
faith which is guiding the things that they do."

However, gay people living on the islands claim that the
heavy-handed Christian influence has left them living in a
climate of fear.

One gay man, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "I can't
give my name because the islands are the kind of place
where you just can't and it would cause a huge fuss. You
would be regarded as bringing shame on your village and
your island."

He added: "I am very unhappy about what they have decided,
but in a way I'm not surprised, we are years behind the
rest of the country.

"This is discrimination. How come these ceremonies will be
OK in Glasgow and not in Barra? It is absolutely wrong. I
can imagine someone just having a ceremony on one of the
beaches and defying anyone to stop us."

Calum Irving, director of the gay charity Stonewall
Scotland, said the Western Isles council's move could
trigger an appeal under European human rights law.

He said: "I received an assurance from the Scottish
Executive that any couple wishing to have a registration
and ceremony in Scotland would receive one, so it is very
concerning that the Western Isles have taken this stance.

"I would hope that if a gay couple did come forward seeking
a ceremony then the council would have the good sense not
to spoil that happy couple's big day."

John Hein, editor of ScotsGay magazine - who says he has
several subscribers to his magazine in the Western Isles -
added: "How extremely miserable and mean-spirited of them.
It is exactly what you would expect. What a dreadful place
to live."

However, the ban remains superfluous for now - as no gay
couples on the Western Isles have registered their
intention to get 'married'.

Elsewhere in Scotland, dozens of ceremonies are planned for
Tuesday and the rest of the week. The first to sign a civil
partnership are expected to be John Maguire and Laurence
Scott-Mackay, a Scots couple based in Washington DC who are
returning for their ceremony on Tuesday morning.

Neil Fletcher and John Stewart, two Liberal Democrat
councillors in Aberdeen, are also preparing for their big
day on Tuesday, having booked Kings College Chapel,
Aberdeen University.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said it was not aware of any
council that was refusing to hold the ceremonies.


FOR visitors, the most dramatic feature of the Western
Isles is how everything grinds to a halt on Sunday.

The modern Lewis Sabbath dates from the 1830s, when - aided
by newly available Gaelic editions of the Bible and a
series of charismatic preachers - Calvinism took firm root
in the most northerly and biggest of the Outer Isles, Lewis
and Harris.

Locals welcomed the weekly rest as a break from a life of
grim agrarian toil, and the "never on a Sunday" tradition
was established.

Work which may be done on Sunday must fall into the "works
of necessity and mercy" definition, which allows
churchgoers to be nurses, firefighters or coastguards, but
not to open shops, play football or watch television.

Sunday flights to Lewis were only established in 2001 after
years of debate and the ferries to the mainland do not sail
on the Sabbath.

Just one shop opens in Stornoway on Sunday and has been the
centre of controversy ever since. There is no Sunday public
transport and pubs have only opened on the Sabbath since
the 1990s.

While the isles have the highest level of churchgoing in
Scotland, the general decline in religion has hit the
Hebridean churches too. Sabbatarians have had to re-think
their message and pitch it for a secular society by
insisting that the Sunday rest ethic preserves family life
and stops people "burning out".

But some islanders with family or business links to the
mainland claim that the restrictions make their lives
difficult and hurt business.


Peace Activist Una O'Higgins O'Malley Dies

Tim O'Brien

The death has taken place of Una O'Higgins O'Malley (78),
a lifelong campaigner for peace and justice and founder
member of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.

Ms O'Higgins O'Malley was just five months old when, in
July 1927, her father, Kevin O'Higgins, the Cumann na
nGaedheal minister for justice and external affairs and a
leading architect of the Irish Free State, was murdered.

Despite the fact that this happened just four years after
the killing of her grandfather, she was reared in an
atmosphere of forgiveness in which the savagery of the
Civil War was considered a great evil.

The attitude of her mother, Brigid, and elder sister, Maev,
together with her own strong religious beliefs, prompted a
life of relentless campaigning for reconciliation. She even
came to forgive the killer of her father who had said he
had danced on his victim's grave.

In an interview to mark her 75th birthday she told The
Irish Times she only once nearly succumbed to bitterness
when she discovered the killer's claim that he had danced
on her father's grave: ". . . and I got seized with this
awful, awful unforgiving cloud, that I hadn't ever felt as
badly before. I couldn't stop it, it was like this lava
pouring from a volcano. . . I had so often gone to that
grave. That happened on Holy Thursday and I thought, 'So
much for Holy Thursday and Jesus Christ and all that'. I
wanted to throw the whole thing out there and then. But on
Good Friday, I made my way back to the church somehow and
as I put my foot on the church porch, I had this thought:
'Have a Mass said for them all'. And that was when I felt
normal again . . ."

And so it happened that 60 years after the murder of Kevin
O'Higgins, his daughter arranged a memorial Mass in
Booterstown church for him and his killers.

Well-spoken, elegant and calm, Ms O'Higgins O'Malley was
underestimated by the unwary who saw simply her charming,
upper-middle-class upbringing with gracious houses, dancing
classes and children's parties.

But these comforts were matched by rain-sodden protests
outside Sinn Féin offices and constant harassment of at
least four cardinals and a pope.

Perhaps one of her greatest achievements was the co-
founding of the Glencree Centre for Peace and
Reconciliation, which played a quiet but significant role
in the peace process.

© The Irish Times


Bono Joins Elite Club As 'Time' Person Of The Year

Frank McNally

Bono has followed in the footsteps of Joseph Stalin and
Ayatollah Khomeini by being named Time Magazine's Person of
the Year.

The Irish rock star shares the 2005 title - awarded to
those judged to have had the biggest effect on the year's
news - with computer billionaire Bill Gates and his wife,

But unlike some previous winners, including Adolf Hitler,
the latest recipients were chosen solely for doing good.

According to Time's editor-at-large, Nancy Gibbs, Bono was
honoured for having "charmed and bullied and morally
blackmailed the leaders of the world's richest countries
into forgiving $40 billion (€33 billion) in debt owed by
the poorest." Mr and Mrs Gates were recognised for creating
the world's biggest charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates

Bono and Bill Gates have become an unlikely double act
since they first had dinner together in 2002, despite the
Microsoft founder's fears that it might be a waste of time
meeting the singer.

"World health is immensely complicated. It doesn't really
boil down to a 'Let's be nice' analysis. So I thought a
meeting wouldn't be all that valuable," he said. After
realising that Bono "really reads this stuff", he changed
his mind.

The singer himself had no such hesitation. "When an Irish
rock star starts talking about it, people go, yeah, you're
paid to be indulged and have these ideas.

"But when Bill Gates says you can fix malaria in 10 years,
they know he's done a few spreadsheets," he told Time.

The U2 frontman said he was humbled by the recognition.

"There are a lot of people who could be here. What's really
key is, all of us are in agreement, that this can be a
generation that can end extreme poverty."

Time started choosing a "Man of the Year" in 1927, to pick
the "person or persons who most affected the news and our
lives, for good or ill and embodied what was important
about the year, for better or for worse".

Hitler was named in 1938 and Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.
Last year's winner was George W Bush.

© The Irish Times


Chimney Plan 'Assaults' Boyne Heritage

Elaine Keogh

A proposal by Irish Cement to build a chimney stack 125
metres (400ft) high as part of an extension to its plant at
Platin, Co Meath, which is adjacent to the Brú na Bóinne
UNESCO World Heritage site, has been described as "a large-
scale assault on the heritage of the Boyne Valley," by a
cross-Border heritage group.

The Battle for the Boyne group said it was "dismayed" at
the planning application proposals lodged with Meath County

The plans include the "provision of a limestone store,
transport conveyors and transfer station, raw mill
building, raw materials store, preheater tower and stack,
kiln and filter grate cooler and filter, coal mill
building, clinker storage silo and cement mill building.

The development will also include miscellaneous buildings,
structures and services. Irish Cement is part of Cement
Roadstone Holdings (CRH) group.

The plant is adjacent to where Indaver Ireland is building
a municipal waste incinerator, a development the group also
objected to.

A group spokesman said the proposed expansion of the plant
was a threat to important heritage sites of the Boyne
Valley including Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. The plans
will increase the annual capacity of the plant from about 2
million tonnes to 2.8 million tonnes.

The closing date for submissions or objections is this
Thursday. The group suggested the timing of the application
in the run-up to Christmas was inopportune for community
representatives and others concerned with the development
to respond.

The council is expected to make its decision by January

© The Irish Times

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