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December 30, 2005

Alex Maskey Released From Hospital

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IO 12/30/05 Ex Belfast Mayor Discharged After Heart Attack
TA 12/30/05 British Admit Helicopter Landing In North Louth
II 12/30/05 Ahern Banking On 'Clean' IRA In Report
SF 12/30/05 Unionist Refusal To Share Power Is The Problem
SF 12/29/05 Time For Two Governments To Grasp The Momentum
DU 12/30/05 DUP: What Lies Ahead In 2006? – Campbell MP
DU 12/30/05 DUP: New Year's Message From Peter Robinson
BT 12/30/05 Fury Over Colombia Three's Bar Billing
BT 12/30/05 Rights Boss Is 'Winning Over' Unionists
SF 12/30/05 Regret At Death Of Hunger Striker Matt Devlin
II 12/30/05 1975: How Brits Counter IRA Propaganda In US
II 12/30/05 1975: Unionists Feared UK 'Deal' With IRA
II 12/30/05 1975: UK Bombs As Ceasefire Breaks Down
II 12/30/05 1975: Dawning Of Faint Glimmer Of Light @ Talks
BT 12/30/05 Opin: The Lessons To Be Learned 30 Years On
BT 12/30/05 Opin: Who Scored In Their Landmark Year 2005?
NH 12/30/05 Opin: Dated Tactics Have A Negative Impact
UT 12/30/05 'Record High' For Irish Debt
BT 12/30/05 Heavenly Honour For Astronomer
IT 12/30/05 Record Number Of Irish Passports Issued In 2005
BT 12/30/05 Village In Grief Over GAA Hurling Star's Death
DI 12/30/05 Christy Moore & Legends Of Irish Folk


Ex Belfast Mayor Discharged After Heart Attack

30/12/2005 - 12:43:33

A former Sinn Féin mayor of Belfast was today released from
hospital after receiving treatment over Christmas for a
minor heart attack.

South Belfast Assembly Member Alex Maskey suffered the
heart scare on Christmas Day.

He was released from the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast
last night.

As he recovered at home, the Sinn Féin MLA said: "I want to
thank all the staff at the RVA for their efforts and

"I also want to thank the many well-wishers who have sent
messages of support."

Mr Maskey is a senior member of Sinn Féin's negotiating

In January 1994, he survived a loyalist murder bid by the
Ulster Freedom Fighters at his home.

He served as Belfast`s first ever mayor between 2002 and


British Admit Helicopter Landing In North Louth

After months of protracted exchanges the Northern Ireland
authorities have finally admitted that a British Army Puma
helicopter landed in the Rassan area of North Louth at
8.40pm on July 7th last.

The admission came last week in a contact with the
Department of Foreign Affairs.

According to local reports at the time of the incident, two
armed PSNI officers and eight British paratroopers were
dropped off in a field next to the Dundalk/Derry road 3/4
miles south of the border. The helicopter then flew towards
Co. Armagh, leaving the 10 members of the security forces
behind in Co. Louth.

Within minutes, local residents who were alerted by the
noise gathered at the scene and confronted the security
forces. A number of motorists also stopped in the area.
There have been reports that some people threw stones at
the paratroopers.

At this point the Puma helicopter returned, landed in Louth
and collected the soldiers and PSNI officers. The
helicopter then flew further south and hovered over a
house. The lady of the house went to her front door and
witnessed a British paratrooper point his rifle at her
while other soldiers made obscene gestures. The helicopter
then returned to its base in Crossmaglen.

Following the incident, protests were lodged with the
Department of Foreign Affairs and the Minister, Dermot
Ahern immediately contacted the Northern Ireland office.
Initially there was a complete denial that the incident
took place, but after further exchanges the NI office
finally admitted that the incursion did take place.

They apologised for the incident, but declined to offer an
explanation as to why the joint PSNI / British Army patrol
was operating in the area, although they were pressed on
the issue by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Minister Dermot Ahern declined to comment on the issue
other than to confirm that the NI authorities had admitted
that the incursion did take place.

Local Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey who met with
Junior Minister at Foreign Affairs, Conor Lenihan within
two hours of the incident said at the time that he did not
accept that the helicopter was lost or simply off course.
"It flew over a British base at Drummucknavall, a local
school, and the main Castleblayney Road. I believe that the
soldiers were on British army business in Louth, attempting
to either place or remove their own surveillance equipment.
Irish people are well aware of the parachute regiments
track record here".


Ahern Banking On 'Clean' IRA In Report

Gene McKenna
Political Editor

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern is banking on the IRA getting a
clean bill of health next month to support his push for an
early restoration of the Northern institutions.

The most important report yet from the Independent
Monitoring Commission (IMC) towards the end of January will
have a huge bearing on the efforts by the British and Irish
Governments to encourage the parties to share power.

If the report backs up the Provisionals' claim that they
have put all their arms beyond use, Mr Ahern will push for
a speedy return to power-sharing at Stormont. He has said
he hoped to see the suspension of the Assembly and
executive lifted in 2006, "the earlier the better". British
premier Tony Blair and he are expected to meet within the
next couple of weeks to draw up a plan to speed-up the

Mr Ahern said he still hoped to see a united Ireland in his
lifetime, but regarded peace and stability in the North as
a more important objective.

No referendum on unification could practically be held in
the North for at least a decade after the restoration of
the institutions, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Mr Ahern described the IRA's announcement in July of a
cessation of military activities, followed by the act of
decommissioning in September, as "hugely significant

He added: "If the IMC state that that is credible, that it
has happened, then it will allow Tony Blair and myself to
try again to get the parties to enter into meaningful
discussions that will hopefully lead to the restoration of
the Northern Assembly and executive and the North-South

On the chances of getting the DUP and Sinn Fein to share
power, Mr Ahern said: "All we can do is use our powers of
persuasion. The reality is we have moved Northern Ireland
from a place of daily killing. It is now a more stable

"That was done on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement...
parties sharing power together on a cross-community basis,
working to the agenda of the Good Friday Agreement for the
betterment of the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Ahern said he hoped Westminster would pass controversial
"on-the-runs" legislation. He accepted it would not be easy
for the families of those killed to see their loved ones'
alleged murderers walk free.

He was asked whether he agreed with the assessment of Gerry
Adams that he would live to see Irish unification.

Mr Ahern said: "Of course I would like to see a united
Ireland in my lifetime. But what is more important is that
we see peace and stability and people working together in
Northern Ireland.


"The way I look at this is that it is not important that it
happens in the short run.

"I have said that the constitutional issue in Northern
Ireland is now fixed and change can only be made by the
wishes of the people of the North," he continued. "To have
that kind of election now or in the next few years would be
entirely unhelpful. What happens in a decade's time or
later on is another thing."

"What we need now is to have the institutions working and
then people can make their own judgment in their own time."

North Secretary Peter Hain last night challenged unionists
and republicans to put direct rule ministers out of work
during 2006. He urged both sides to make a major new push
to restore devolution during the next 12 months -or else
planned elections to the shelved Stormont power-sharing
regime would be pointless.

He said: "It is essential that there is real political
movement in 2006, if the Assembly elections due to be held
in 2007 are to have any meaning."


Hain Knows That Unionist Refusal To Share Power On The
Basis Of Equality Is The Problem

Published: 30 December, 2005

Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has said
that Peter Hain knows what needs to be done to get the
institutions back up and running and challenged the British
Secretary of State to tackle unionist refusal to share
power on the basis of equality head on.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Peter Hain knows that the real problem is the refusal of
unionists to share power on the basis of equality. It is
this reluctance that the British Secretary of State needs
to tackle head on.

"The British government could, and Sinn Fein have argued
should, lift their unilateral suspension of the
institutions tomorrow. This would put immediate pressure on
unionists to engage.

"It is this sort of leadership that is required.

"It is not nationalists or republicans who are reluctant to
move forward but unionists.

"There are important decisions being taken everyday by
British direct rule ministers that are not being taken in
the best interests of local people but in the interests of
an agenda set in London and Whitehall. This is why we are
being short changed and threatened with water charges and
huge rates increases.

"Unionists know that the only way to get rid of direct rule
is to engage in getting the institutions back up and
running." ENDS


McGuinness -- It's Time For The Two Governments To Grasp
The Momentum

Published: 29 December, 2005

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said "It is
time for both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister
to grasp the momentum created by the IRA ending its armed
campaign and decommissioning its weapons. They need to
bring forward a plan in early 2006 to see the restoration
of the power sharing institutions in the north."

Mr. McGuinness said:

"Given the enormous events of this year with the IRA's
decision to formally end its armed campaign, there is an
expectation among the people of Ireland, that the Irish and
British Governments will bring forward a plan in early 2006
to see the restoration of power-sharing institutions in the

"Sinn Féin wants to see the political institutions
restored. We want to be there with the other parties
working in the interests of the people and being
accountable and answerable to the electorate. There are
huge problems to be dealt with across the economy and in
the delivery of public services and it is time that the era
of day release Direct Rule Ministers is brought to an end.

"It is time for both the Taoiseach and the British Prime
Minister to grasp the momentum created by the IRA ending
its armed campaign and decommissioning its weapons during
2005. It's time to lift the suspension and bring back the
political institutions."ENDS


What Lies Ahead In 2006? – Gregory Campbell Mp

DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell today said,

"As 2005 fades into memory and the New Year beckons there
will be many who will look forward with some little hope
but much apprehension. The last twelve months were
bizarre at times with the Provos still trying to come to
terms with the changing international environment. They
knew that there had to be a major move on the arms issue
by them and they also knew that to create some confidence
among our community they had to do it with openness, they
failed. Just as in previous attempts they wanted to get
maximum return for minimum transparency. The difference
this time of course is that there is a Unionism with a
major league political mandate that will not jump into
power with Sinn Fein at the merest hint of movement away
from violence. We are determined that pressure will
continue to be applied so that the entire community gets
the permanent peace they deserve. We are equally adamant
that the nature of society here classifying Unionists in
second-class citizenship roles must cease, some progress
has been made but there is much yet to do.

I have no doubt the incoming year will prove a trying one
for many. The Provisional Republican Movement have twisted
and turned over the years in an effort to reach their goal
of uniting the two countries of Northern Ireland and the
Republic. Their impossible mission has been littered with
the bodies of the thousands they have slaughtered in
pursuit of the fantasy. They now find that one of their
long time trusted administrative staff members has in fact
been working for their hated foe for over twenty years.
Welcome to the real world.

If they thought last year was hard then they would need to
prepare for the next as more hard choices will have to be
made by those in the Republican Movement. Bank Robberies
or Budget announcements, but they cannot have both.
Killing outside a Belfast Bar or Creating a Better Economy,
but not both. It won't just be assurances from repeat
offenders that they have stopped or reports from the IMC
to confirm that for the moment they have, it will be the

incontrovertible evidence of the passage of time that will
confirm this for us. If the Provos are in a hurry we
aren't. If other large scale gangsterism and criminality is
in the offing we need to see it stopped or apprehend those
who carry it out. No amount of pressure, real or imagined
will change our determination to get it right.

There is much work that the Assembly can do as we analyze
the permanence or otherwise of the 'peaceful intent' of the
Provos. Our people are looking for certainty and we want
to ensure they get it."


New Year's Message From Peter Robinson

Commenting DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson said,

"The Government banked that following their concessions to
republicans the resultant decommissioning and IRA statement
would have brought about a sense of positive momentum
towards devolution. They expected that unionists would
have been so impressed with the IRA moves that they would
have welcomed Sinn Fein into government.

They did not play three other factors into their
evaluation. Firstly, the IRA Bank robbery and involvement
in the murder of Robert McCartney poisoned the political
process as everyone saw that the commitment of republicans
to peace and democracy was imaginary. Secondly, the one-
sided nature of the process had very substantially
destabilised and alienated the unionist community.
Thirdly, the unravelling of the Stormont spy-ring scandal
would bring about an unparalleled level of uncertainty and
disbelief. The outcome is that there is less trust at the
end of 2005 than there was at the beginning of the year.

Yet, the dilemma is not one that impacts upon the
government alone. The failure to achieve the level of
trust necessary for executive devolution to return leaves
Northern Ireland with a vicious unrepresentative and
unresponsive Direct Rule gagging to impose unpleasant
decisions on our community. No-one doubts that the
aggressive and destructive nature of the Direct Rule
decisions is intended to place pressure on local
politicians to start up devolution. However, as there is
now no prospect in the foreseeable future of establishing
the trust essential to re-activate executive devolution in
either a mandatory or voluntary form, local politicians
must calculate whether they mark time hoping that somewhere
in the distant future we will find the circumstances needed
to propel us to that level of belief and conviction in
which executive devolution can survive and flourish or
whether we should attempt to get devolution off the ground
by establishing a non-executive form of devolution within
which local decisions can be taken while we test the
paramilitary and criminal activity of republicans, curtail
the excesses of the Labour government and start building
the political confidence from the ground up.

We cannot wait until the IRA's credentials are
satisfactorily assessed or the clearing up from the "dirty
war" is done.

To proceed, even on this more limited basis, the government
mustl bring equality and fairness to the process and
recognise the need to build confidence with and in the
unionist community.

I feel it is vital that realism is injected into our
political process and we seek to attain the achievable
rather than chasing moonbeams."


Fury Over Colombia Three's Bar Billing

Trio may appear together in pub

By Jonathan McCambridge
30 December 2005

Three was outrage today following reports that the Colombia
Three could be set to appear in public together - in an
Irish pub.

A notice has appeared in the window of The Wolfe Tone bar
in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, advertising a forthcoming
appearance by The Colombia 3 with a date to be set.

The gardai would not confirm or deny today whether they
will arrest Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James
Monaghan if they do appear in public.

It would be the three men's first public appearance
together since going on the run from Colombia in 2004.

They were initially arrested at Bogota airport in 2001 on
suspicion of training members of the terror group FARC.

The men were cleared in court, but the verdict was
overturned after an appeal by the authorities in Colombia.
Monaghan, Connolly and McCauley then skipped bail and went
on the run.

They resurfaced in Ireland earlier this year and have been
interviewed separately by the Garda. A file has been sent
to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Republic.

One of the three, James Monaghan, appeared at a Sinn Fein
rally in September.

The men have always denied any wrongdoing and insisted they
were merely in Colombia to observe the peace process.

Unionists have called for the men either to be extradited
to Colombia or to serve their sentences in Ireland.

A Garda spokeswoman confirmed that they have already
interviewed the men but said she would not comment on
police action regarding any public appearance.

The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contact the Wolfe Tone
bar today but there was no response.

The DUP's Ian Paisley jnr, who recently visited Colombia,
said the men should have been arrested and charged long

"It would not surprise me in the least if they were to
appear in public because they have been clearly audacious
in everything they have done to date.

"The only surprise is that they have stayed underground for
so long because clearly they like to rub people's noses in

"The onus is on the Irish Republic to either extradite
these men or to charge them with passport offences.

"The credibility of the Irish authorities is in the dock."


Rights Boss Is 'Winning Over' Unionists

By Deborah McAleese
30 December 2005

The head of Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission has
claimed she believes she is finally winning over unionist
support, after months of hostility.

However, unionists say that former Womens Coalition leader
Monica McWilliams still has a long way to go to gain the
full backing of their community.

There was concern among unionists over the appointment of
Dr McWilliams as chief commissioner in June.

They claimed that she was "hostile" to their position and
said that her appointment was a clear sign of the
government's "disregard for the view of unionists in the

However, Dr McWilliams last night said that unionist
politicians are becoming more supportive, particularly
following the Commission's opposition to the controversial
Offences Bill dealing with 'On-the- Runs.'

The Commission regards the legislation in its present form
as incompatible with international human rights standards
and called for it to be scrapped.

"The Bill raises a number of human rights concerns in
respect of effective investigation of deaths, the rights of
victims in the process, the right to a fair trial, freedom
from arbitrariness of criminal justice system and the
independence of the judiciary from the executive," said Dr

She added: "Unionist support has gradually been increasing.
I hope the concerns some people initially had have been
alleviated now they have the opportunity to see our work."


Mitchel Mclaughlin Expresses Regret At Death Of Former
Hunger Striker Matt Devlin

Published: 29 December, 2005

Sinn Féin General Secretary and MLA for Foyle Mitchel
McLaughlin, has this evening expressed his sorrow at the
death of former hunger striker Matt Devlin.

Speaking this evening Mr McLaughlin said:

"It is with deep regret that I learned of the death of
Tyrone Republican and Hunger striker Matt Devlin today.
Matt was on both the blanket protest and the hunger strike
in the summer of 1981.

"On behalf of Sinn Féin I want to extend my deepest
sympathy to Matt's family and friends." ENDS

Matt Devlin will be buried in Ardboe, County Tyrone on
Saturday after 11 o clock mass.

Mr Devlin had been a former Sinn Fein candidate for
Westmeath County Council in the Dail.

In 1981, he spent 60 days on the republican hunger strike
led by IRA prisoner Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison which
resulted in ten inmates starving themselves to death.


1975: How British Were Keen To Counter IRA Propaganda In

THE importance of countering IRA propaganda was discussed
by the NIO Information Policy Committee at a meeting in
Stormont Castle in January 1975. A memo by an official, T M
Roberts, noted that Fred Corbett who oversaw the NIO's
Foreign Desk had concerns that "IRA propaganda is on the
increase, particularly in America". Part of the reason for
the increase, according to Mr Roberts, was to counter
"strong criticism of those who supply funds to the IRA and
its American front organisations (notably Noraid) by Dublin
ministers such as Garret FitzGerald".

"Since then, we have had a visit [to the US] by Seamus
Loughran [a prominent Belfast Republican]." Mr Roberts felt
that the British government "should now take republican
propaganda in the United States seriously and launch a
concerted counter-attack". While the British national
interest could be damaged by IRA allegations, "there is a
unique emotive element to be considered in America: the
strong, active Irish strain which is recognised at the
highest level as a formidable pressure group and is deeply
entrenched in Congress."


The memo continued: "Unhappily few of them have any concept
of what life is really like in Ireland, north or south.
They have never lived here and guilelessly feed on the
myths of their forefathers, myths which the IRA exploit."

Meanwhile, the role of the former Ulster Unionist leader,
David Trimble, in efforts to reach a political agreement in
1975 are highlighted in this year's Stormont releases.

In a memo prepared for the use of Convention officials on
30 September 1975, Professor Bernard Crick, the eminent
political scientist, explained that he had been approached
over the summer by the UUUC Convention party to advise on
committee systems.

"At first I took no notice - since the invitation was vague
and eccentric. But at the beginning of September David
Trimble wrote me sensibly and at some length and William
Craig phoned me and explained the situation. I agreed to go
out to discuss with them a document on minority
participation." He stated that he reserved his right to
talk to people he knew in the SDLP.

"Far from this being an obstacle," said Professor Crick,
"it became clear that Craig was anxious that I should talk
to SDLP leaders and others. And I returned and had long
talks with Craig, Trimble, Fitt, Hume, Devlin and others."


He also spoke to the Convention chairman, Sir Robert Lowry,
and his advisers.

Professor Crick stated that he had talked to Harry West and
Ian Paisley during the week before Craig's voluntary
coalition motion was voted down by the 'Unionist

He was convinced that the Convention was 'worth while' and
that even now an agreement might emerge, given the right

However, "rumours or fears of British withdrawal" were
working against an agreed settlement. He had formed the
impression that the SDLP leaders were able to trust Craig
and would accept his "emergency coalition formula".

They had also gone "very far in allaying old Unionist fears
about Irish unity and Craig appreciated this".

He concluded: "Power-sharing does stick in the Unionist
gullet, coalition not. The SDLP are getting wise to this,
but Hume is still a bit mystical about power-sharing."

The SDLP's major difficulty was in "carrying home to their
people a prize big enough to cut away tolerance of the

Fears of British pull-out dominated the Unionist mind,
according to Crick.

"Everywhere I was asked, 'does the British government
intend to pull out?', I replied that I thought most people
in Britain wished the whole of Ireland would sink under the
waves, but that a pull-out before an acceptable government
had been created was inconceivable."


1975: Unionists Feared UK 'Deal' With IRA

UNIONIST fears of a deal between the IRA and the British
government were raised by the Ulster Unionist leader, Harry
West, with the Convention chairman, Sir Robert Lowry in
August 1975, according to the files released yesterday.

According to a minute by an official, Harry West and the
Official Unionist negotiator, Captain Austin Ardill called
to see Sir Robert on 11 August 1975 at Stormont. They
emphasised their concern about security policy and about
'the recent sightings' of the IRA leaders, Seamus Twomey
and Martin McGuinness and claimed to have learned from a
reliable source of a document that embodied an agreement
between HMG and Provisional Sinn Fein.

They argued that this had a detrimental effect on elected
representatives and on the Convention. The two politicians
were also greatly concerned about the continued release of
'hard core detainees' into an increasingly violent state of

Messrs West and Ardill stressed that it was the Official
Unionists who had discovered the existence of the document.
They had contacted Dr Paisley and Mr James Molyneux at
Westminster but 'owing to some misunderstanding', this move
had not produced the desired effect in Parliament.


1975: UK Bombs As Ceasefire Gradually Breaks Down

Dominic Cunningham

THE year 1975 opened on a note of optimism as the IRA
agreed to extend the ceasefire it had declared following
secret talks with Protestant clergy at Feakle, Co Clare.

However, the UDA warned that any concessions by the British
government would result in an unprecedented escalation of

In January, the IRA ceasefire broke down with bomb attacks
in London and Manchester, prompting peace marches in
Ireland, north and south.

On January 30, the Gardiner Report recommended the phasing
out of special category status for paramilitary prisoners
while, ominously, North Secretary Merlyn Rees announced the
building of H-blocks at the Maze Prison.

In February, following a promise by Rees to reduce troop
levels and phase out internment if the IRA ended all
offensive operations, the Provisional Army Council
announced an indefinite ceasefire. Eighty detainees were
released at once. However, the IRA's demand for a British
declaration to withdraw from Ireland was not forthcoming.

The year saw internal feuding within the UDA and UVF and
between the Official IRA and the Provisionals. In April
five Protestants were murdered by an explosion at the
Mountainview Tavern on the Shankill Road and two Catholics
were shot dead in retaliation. On 28 April, a leading
Official IRA leader, Billy McMillen, was shot dead in
Belfast in a feud between the Officials and the breakaway

In March, the Price sisters, sentenced for their part in
the London bombings of 1973, were transferred to Armagh
Prison from England following a prolonged hunger strike.

In May, elections were held for the promised Constitutional
Convention, set up by the Labour government to consider the
possibility of a political agreement in the wake of the
collapse of the power-sharing Executive. The result was a
sweeping victory for the anti-Sunningdale Unionists in the
United Ulster Unionist Coalition. They won 47 of the 78
seats with the SDLP taking 17.

In the wake of the elections, one of the Feakle clergymen,
Rev William Arlow, claimed the British government had given
a firm commitment to the IRA that Britain would withdraw
from the North if the Convention broke down. The government

The summer saw the gradual breakdown of the IRA ceasefire
with the killing of four soldiers by a Provisional bomb in
South Armagh. On July 31, the UVF ambushed the Miami
showband near Newry, killing three band members; two UVF
men also died in a premature explosion at the scene. A
month later a republican faction murdered four Protestants
at Newtownhamilton Orange Hall. Inter-party talks began at
Stormont. Within days, William Craig, the scheme's main
advocate, had been defeated at a meeting of the UUUC.
Craig's supporters blamed Paisley.

In London, the Guildford Four were sentenced to life
imprisonment for crimes they did not commit. The year ended
with the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire.


1975: Dawning Of 'A Faint Glimmer Of Light' At Talks

Dominic Cunningham

THE dramatic emergence of the 'voluntary coalition' idea in
talks between the Loyalist Coalition parties and the SDLP
can be traced in files of the abortive 1975 Constitutional
Convention. The series of meetings in late August 1975
between the Convention Chairman, Sir Robert Lowry (the
North's Lord Chief Justice) and the Stormont parties,
witnessed the tensions between the UUUC bloc, led by Messrs
West, Paisley and Craig, and the SDLP over power-sharing.

The Convention had been set up in May 1975, following
elections, and produced a large loyalist majority against
power-sharing and an Irish Dimension.

On August 27, 1975, following an unsuccessful round of
inter-party talks, the Chairman referred to a paragraph in
a UUUC policy document which provided for a voluntary
coalition government for a limited period during an
emergency situation.

He noted that the Vanguard leader William Craig had said
that the SDLP were unlikely to be interested in this since
they were seeking a permanent solution.

Dr Maurice Hayes, one of Sir Robert's advisers, reported
that John Hume had "seen a faint glimmer of hope in
Paragraph 8". The SDLP would be prepared to go for "a 10-
year constitution".

The Unionist leaders declared themselves pessimistic about
the outcome of the inter-party talks "because of the SDLP
recalcitrance on the question of power-sharing at Cabinet

The prospects for an SDLP-UUUC agreement were thrashed out
between the Chairman and the leaders of the Unionist
Coalition, Messrs Craig, Paisley and West.

Sir Robert referred to the rift between the SDLP and the
UUUC on the subject of full power-sharing. However, the
Unionist leaders took the view that there would be no
moving away from these positions. Dr Paisley "wondered how
anyone of integrity could demand the institutionalised
right to be a full part of a Cabinet which had diverse and
opposing ideologies".

The Chairman asked whether in the light of the apparent
impasse consideration had been given to the American system
of government. Dr Paisley, however, was not inclined to
support this on the grounds that, after such a system had
been in operation for even a limited period, the Unionists
would be under pressure to accept it as workable and

The SDLP felt they were offering quite a lot in pledging
the support of the Catholic community for new institutions.
This would mean the SDLP taking on the IRA. They would be
prepared to take a very strong line with the IRA and to put
them down by quite rugged means.

They (the UUC) accepted a voluntary coalition would require
to have the support of all sections of the community.

At the end of the meeting, Dr Hayes noted that the UUUC
delegates seemed sincerely concerned to try to secure "an
acceptable agreement" with the SDLP.

According to a memo prepared for the Irish Department of
Foreign Affairs on November 3, Craig put the coalition idea
to the UUUC at a full meeting on September 8. The
bittermeeting was dominated by Paisley, assisted by Enoch
Powell who strongly influenced the Official Unionist
delegation by insisting the British government would demand
an institutionalised agreement. A motion permanently
excluding the SDLP from any future government was passed by
37 votes to one (Craig) with two abstentions, David
Trimble, a Vanguard member and William Morgan.


Opin: Viewpoint: The Lessons To Be Learned 30 Years On

30 December 2005

Anyone trawling through the Northern Ireland government
papers from 30 years ago in the hope of inspiration is
likely to be in for a disappointment. Like the dreary
steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone, to which Winston
Churchill famously made reference, the same old intractable
problems dogged political progress in 1975, just as they
are doing today.

The principal points of difference identified in the
confidential files were power-sharing, the relationship
between Northern Ireland and the Republic, nationalist
support for the police and what to do about terrorist
fugitives. Most of the names have changed, but the issues
remain depressingly similar.

In 1975, the political parties were coming to terms with
the collapse the previous year of the power-sharing
executive. In what was ultimately a futile bid to kickstart
the political process, the Government launched a
Constitutional Convention.

The question posed by the Government to the Convention is
one which regrettably remains unanswered. It was: "What
provision for the government of Northern Ireland is likely
to command the most widespread acceptance?"

Today, three years on from the collapse of the latest
attempt at power-sharing, Northern Ireland finds itself
saddled with the only system of government that can be
sustained, namely direct rule. But tougher times are in
prospect as the Government makes Northern Ireland pay more
of its way.

Over the years, as various Secretaries of State have come
and gone, and different initiatives have been launched and
then shelved, the people of Northern Ireland have learned
that there are no quick fixes, and that expectations must
be lowered. But despite the political malaise, there are
crumbs of comfort.

Life has changed in many ways but the primary difference
between 1975 and today is that paramilitaries now accept
that violence is not the way forward. Although the
organisations remain in existence, the ending of their
campaigns is a major achievement which has already
transformed the atmosphere.

That said, the abiding impression left by a perusal of the
papers is that 30 years have been wasted, and thousands of
lives lost unnecessarily. The reality is that what is on
offer today is not fundamentally different to the deal that
was struck at Sunningdale.

Nothing can turn back the clock, but lessons must be learnt
from the contents of the 1975 papers. Northern Ireland
simply cannot afford another 30 years of stalemate.

When fresh talks are convened next year, the parties must
adopt a more positive approach than their predecessors


Opin: Who Really Scored In Their Landmark Year 2005?

Two of our major political parties - the Ulster unionists
and Sinn Féin - both celebrated their centenary in 2005.
But while it's been an annus horiblis for them, for the
Irish Football Association, celebrating its 125th
anniversary, there have been reasons to cheer

Chris Thornton on Sinn Féin

30 December 2005

It's a familiar Irish story: after years of looking after a
domineering relative - doing their bidding, cleaning up
after them, defending them in public -Sinn Féin suddenly
find themselves alone, blinking in the sunlight.

Well, not exactly alone. The IRA hasn't gone away, you
know, but with the announcement that they are ending all
"activity" and will henceforth sit quietly at the back,
Sinn Féin's centenary year saw them handed the keys to the
republican movement.

That was, on one level, simple recognition of the way power
had shifted inside republicanism. Over the years of the
peace process, Sinn Féin has gradually become the dominant
side of the house, running the IRA to their ends instead of
the other way around.

This was, after all, the year that Sinn Fein underlined
their dominance of northern nationalism, gaining their
fifth seat in the House of Commons, the year republicans
sent an MP to the Tory Party conference instead of blowing
some of them up.

But on another level Sinn Féin find themselves like that
put-upon relative who is suddenly handed their freedom: the
new way of life can be a lot less comfortable than the old
ways you were used to.

The brunt of responsibility for maintaining "the struggle"
falls on them, and with that comes an increase in scrutiny
and pressures. And all that got a lot more attention than
the party's 100th birthday celebrations.

Take for example, Sinn Féin's criteria for membership in
the party. A couple of years back, it was not much of an
issue. From the outside, it even looked like a fairly loose

This year membership of Sinn Féin, its rights and
responsibilities ended up encompassing a range of problems:
compatibility with the rule of law and internal dissent
among them. By year's end, the loss of membership even
became the ultimate republican sanction for betrayal, some
distance from the more traditional form involving a bullet,
a bag for the head and a convenient road along the border.

2005 began typically enough for Sinn Féin, calling for a
return to Stormont rule, denouncing securocrats and
defending the IRA against the charge that its members
robbed the Northern Bank.

But the murder of Robert McCartney at the end of January
cast a new challenge for the party, highlighting the gap
between their problems with political policing and the need
for ordinary policing.

Mr McCartney was murdered by members of the IRA, and the
initial republican view seemed to be that their position
placed them above responsibility for the crime.

After a slow and clumsy response to the situation Gerry
Adams and his leadership suspended - and later reinstated -
members of the party who were present at the murder scene.
But they did not resolve the fundamental questions raised
by the affair, and they could come back to bother them

Sinn Fein's centenary year improved with the May elections,
but even those results could be described as a mixed bag.

The party gained its fifth MP in Conor Murphy, but failed
to oust the SDLP from their Foyle stronghold.

July saw the IRA's announcement that it was ending
activity, and in September the group was reported to have
completely disarmed.

That laid the basis for progress in the peace process, but
did not guarantee that the rest of Sinn Féin's year would
run smoothly: the party again faced troublesome membership
criticism when they suspended Assembly member Francie
Molloy for disagreeing with the party position on the
number of new councils. That followed the return of Sinn
Féin members who are fugitives from Colombia, Gerry Adam's
spat with the US administration over policing, and the OTRs

The latter point produced a remarkable u-turn from Sinn
Féin: from supporting the Bill when it was unveiled (on the
basis that it would allow IRA members to escape jail for
unsolved crimes), they came to oppose it (on the basis that
it allows police and soldiers to escape jail for unsolved

The consequences of the legislation played as badly among
many grassroots republicans as it had among unionists.

An uncomfortable year ended with another bout of
discomfort, when party official Denis Donaldson admitted
being an informer and was expelled.

Mr Donaldson was said by one of his former colleagues to
have taken part in the battle of St Matthew's - the 1970
gun battle in the Short Strand that helped establish the
Provisional IRA.

His full role as an informer has yet to be explained, but
25 years later it felt like Denis Donaldson played a
significant role in another pivotal year for the republican

David Gordon talks football

Football in Northern Ireland had its fair share of problems
in 2005. But they all faded away into obscurity on a
magical night on September 7. The millionaire stars of
England strutted onto Windsor Park, expecting another easy

A couple of hours later, they sloped off humiliated by a
one-nil defeat.

David Healy's now legendary goal against Beckham, Rooney
and co was the defining moment for football here this year.

Without it, the 125th anniversary of the Irish Football
Association (IFA) might well have been a bit of a non-event
- a time for some nostalgia about past glories and some
over-optimistic hopes for the future.

Instead, 2005 will now go down in history as Northern
Ireland's best on the football field in more than 20 years.

The scale of the victory over Sven Goran Erikson's
superstars can be illustrated by the calculations this
newspaper did before the big game.

We estimated that England's team had a transfer market
value that was £203m higher than Northern Ireland's.

The general feeling was that the gulf between rich and poor
had become so great in football that the result was a
foregone conclusion.

A significant proportion of the Northern Ireland squad was
not deemed good enough for the English Premiership.

But the ear-splitting Windsor Park faithful set the
disrespectful theme for the night, chanting "Who are You?"
over and over again at the big name celebrities in Sven's

Northern Ireland fans have other good reasons to remember
2005 with fondness.

The last game of the year was an impressive 1-1 draw with

For what it's worth, the team moved up from 114 to 101 in
the FIFA world rankings.

Meanwhile, manager Lawrie Sanchez was at one stage linked
with the vacant manager's post at Premiership side

That's an indication of his growing reputation in the game.

No disrespect, but it will be some time before Lawrie's
predecessor Sammy McIlroy is in the frame for a Premiership

The year also saw a string of the world's best players in
action at Windsor Park in both World Cup qualifier and
friendly games.

The list included Michael Ballack (Germany), Cristiano
Ronaldo (Portugal) and Ryan Giggs (Wales) as well as
England's David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard,
Michael Owen and Frank Lampard.

2005 will, of course, also go down in history as the year
the football world said goodbye to George Best.

The emotional and dignified funeral gave him a very fitting

And it was a time for Northern Ireland to be proud as well
as sad.

When IFA chiefs got together to plan the 125th anniversary
year, they could have had no idea just how momentous the 12
months would be.

There were more than enough challenges and difficulties
along the way too.

Attendances at Irish League matches were still pitifully

The big domestic showpiece of the year, a title decider
between Linfield and Glentoran, should have been an advert
for the game but ended with a disgraceful on-pitch riot
involving rival fans.

Meanwhile, past financial management practices at the IFA
were called into question by auditors. Assurances have been
given that the problems are being sorted out.

The year has ended with the debate over the best location
for a new Northern Ireland sports stadium still unresolved.

That's one of the key issues for the IFA to tackle in the
next 12 months.

2006 will, of course, see the World Cup finals played in

Northern Ireland will not be there and there are some who
think the days of qualification may never return.

At any rate, it's probably too much to expect that football
here next year will match the glory and excitement of 2005.

The fans will live with that.

And after all, we beat England one-nil.

Noel McAdam on the UUP

On the night Sir Reg Empey narrowly won the Ulster Unionist
Party leadership race, party official Michael Kerr turned
to a senior figure and asked "....Excited?".

"About tonight's line-up?" the representative, a UUP
Westminster candidate, laughed. "(David) McNarry, (Alan)
McFarland and Empey? It's a sad reflection of just how low
we have sunk in our centenary year."

The stinging sentence summed up the plight of a party
pummelled at the polls and all but washed up in the wake of
a peace process it helped to create.

Undoubtedly the May election results - the province's
biggest political party reduced to a single MP, Lady Sylvia
Hermon - were an unmitigated disaster.

But was the party over - or over the worst?

While the hammer blow came this year, UUP Inc had actually
been in decline over a much longer period (although
deterioration set in more sharply under the stewardship of
David Trimble).

Undoubtedly some of the seeds of self-destruction were
planted by the organisation itself. This was the only party
to the Good Friday Agreement whose most significant
opponents were its own members. And even the eventual
departure of Jeffrey Donaldson, Arlene Foster and others to
the DUP still left behind an uneasy camp.

While the analysis will continue, and may need historical
distance, there appears to be a growing consensus across
the party spectrum - from Communications Director, Alex
Benjamin to trenchant Trimble critic, David Burnside - that
the single main cause was the shift from 'no guns, no

Burnside, who lost the South Antrim seat a second time to
the DUP's Rev William McCrea, said in a book written by Mr
Kerr: "...the UUP has been finally paid off by the
electorate, and understandably so...

"...the unionist people didn't trust them and the
leadership was too clever by half. Every time they changed
their tactics, it wasn't just clever, it was dishonest."

Benjamin, again in the book 'Transforming Unionism' (Irish
Academic Press) said: "If (Trimble) had dug his heels in on
that one, I think we'd be in a better position. But he
didn't do it."

For all that, if the party had been able to get the
unionist middle ground sleeping giant out to vote which
would have involved articulating its aims and strategy
better, the electoral meteor shower might just have missed.

It's too early to talk of shoots of recovery. But there
have been some changes. The party's one- day extraordinary
annual meeting and showpiece conference ejected several
'ancien regime' party officers with others standing down.

They were replaced by new people, virtual unknowns even in
some sections of their own party, who some view as showing
promise and others as a 'takeover' bid by the 'fur coat
brigade' of South Down.

Key personnel have gone from party headquarters, including
Trimble aide Steven King and research director Cyril
Donnan, while a new chief executive, Will Corry, is in
place with new chairman David Campbell in a kind of
continuity role.

Sir Reg has attempted to stamp his own mark - putting
parades top of the political priority list long before the
problems of the summer arose, and kick-starting party rule
changes - but still faces a long struggle ahead. Party
finances are in a fairly messy state and some branch
structures virtually non-existent.

"Reg is a really nice guy," says the newly-elected chair of
a Belfast branch, "but he's hardly inspiring. He has a good
political nose and speaks very well but I would still say
he is only an interim leader - and he knows it."

To an extent the fightback is out of UUP hands. It arguably
depends more on how the DUP fares as unionism's first team
- will it prove able to show clear successes across several
areas, including parades? - and whether eventual talks
amount to a renegotiation or are perceived as essentially
Agreement Mark 2.


Opin: Dated Tactics Have A Negative Impact

(Jim Gibney, Irish News)

For years Sinn Féin has been highlighting the existence of
a group of people they dubbed 'securocrats' a word borrowed
from South Africa.

The British government and other political parties to
varying degrees oppose Sinn Féin's claim about the
existence and malign influence of the securocrats on the
peace process.

The Denis Donaldson informer revelation establishes beyond
doubt that this body of sinister and powerful individuals

These individuals operate within the office of the British
Secretary of State and the British Prime Minister.

They derive their power from both sources and are protected
by them.

We will never know if Tony Blair and Peter Hain knew about
Denis Donaldson. Although it is hard to believe they did
not know.

They are familiar enough with the world of spying.

The late Mo Mowlam authorised and publicly defended the
bugging of a car used by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
Gerry Kelly's home was also bugged.

Whether Blair or Hain knew about Donaldson is irrelevant.
They are responsible for the actions of their intelligence

Furthermore they are the only people with the power to end
the intelligence war being waged against the peace process.

Whatever excuses the securocrats used to defend their
existence the removal of the IRA by the IRA from the
political scene in July this year should also herald their
exit from the stage.

The securocrats are fighting an old and waning battle. They
are trying to shape the politics of the future by using
methods, which belong in the past.

There is another group of individuals in the employ of the
state who, like the securocrats, are using failed methods
from the past to try to shape the future.

They are the prison authorities in charge of political
prisoners in Maghaberry prison.

In Roe House 25 republican prisoners are living under a
petty- minded regime, which has all the attitudes and
behaviour of those who ran the H-blocks and Armagh Women's
prison in the dark days of the seventies and early

Belfast republican Michael Rogan was recently released from
Roe House. He spent thirteen months on remand there.

Incredible though it may seem his story sounds like an
account of prison life from the years when republican
prisoners were protesting for political status during which
ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike.

The prison authorities at Maghaberry have created a prison
regime inside Roe House, which is designed to break the
will of the prisoners who have chosen to live there in
segregated conditions.

Segregation was introduced into the prison three years ago
on foot of a recommendation from the Steele Committee set
up by the secretary of state to examine why political
prisoners were protesting inside the prison.

Steele's recommendation was based on protecting the health
and safety of prisoners.

There was an expectation that Steele's report would end
conflict inside the prison.

It could have, had the prison authorities not filtered it
through their punitive mind-set as they have done so often
in the past when dealing with republican prisoners.

Daily life inside Roe House involves controlled movement on
the wings with no more than three prisoners out of their
cells; routine humiliating strip searches; regular body and
cell searches. One prisoner Patrick Leonard from Belfast
was searched forty two times in one week!

Prisoners must eat all meals in their cells, which is small
and houses a toilet. Most days they are locked up for
twenty-two hours. Association with other prisoners is

The exercise yard is like a birdcage with no natural
sunlight and the prisoner's use of it is restricted to one
hour a day.

Use of the gym is curtailed as is educational and
recreational classes.

A dog is used to search the visiting area for drugs.
Warders often use its interest in a visitor as an excuse to
end a republican prisoner's visit on the bogus basis of
drug smuggling. Thereafter closed visits are imposed.

The stroke of Peter Hain's pen would sort out petty prison
officials at Maghaberry , as would a P45 form from his
office to the securocrats.

He should do both.

December 30, 2005

This article appeared first in the December 29, 2005
edition of the Irish News.


'Record High' For Irish Debt

Irish debt levels have reached record highs.

The latest figures released by the Central Bank show that
the total amount of loans in Ireland rose by €5.3 billion
during November, the third largest monthly rise on record.

Irish people now owe more than €252 billion to lending

On average institutions gave home owners €1.95 billion in
mortgages every month last year.

November broke all the records: during that month more than
€2.1 billion was given out in mortgages.


Heavenly Honour For Astronomer

By Marie Foy
30 December 2005

An asteroid has been named after Armagh astronomer Dr John

Dr Butler, who worked at Armagh Observatory until he
retired recently, received the honour from the
International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre.

The citation, published in the Minor Planet Circulars,
records that Dr Butler has worked on cool stars, the
effects of solar variability on climate and preserving the
Armagh Observatory's scientific heritage for future

It goes on to say he is well known in the community of
Armagh and for discovering the exceptional flare on HD 6090
(Butler's star).

In the last few years Dr Butler (65) has been foremost in
supervising the restoration of the obeservatory's main
historic telescopes.

Born in Cambridgeshire, Dr Butler gained his PhD from the
University of Dublin. He worked for a number of years at
Dunsink Observatory in Dublin before moving to Armagh in

A heavenly body may be named after someone who has carried
out a significant amount of research on it, but nowadays
most are labelled only by their co-ordinates or catalogue


Record Number Of Irish Passports Issued In 2005

By Kath Kyle Last updated: 30-12-05, 12:22

There was a 12 per cent increase in the number of Irish
passports issued in 2005.

The total number of passports issued by the Department of
Foreign Affairs, through passport offices in Dublin and
Cork and by more than 60 overseas missions, exceeded

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern confirmed that
this is the highest number of passports issued ever -
almost double the number of passports issued as recently as
1998. He also said biometric passports would be introduced
by next October.

The Dublin and Cork offices between them issued more than
575,000 passports, up by over 75,000 on 2004.

"I am particularly happy with the continued success of the
Express Passport Service which is now available at over 60
post office branches in Northern Ireland," Mr Ahern said.

By the end of last year around 28,000 passports were
processed through this service which, like the Passport
Express Service arrangement with An Post in the State,
provides a guaranteed 10 working day return service to

The number of passports issued through this service last
year was over 8,000 more than in 2004 and represents over
three quarters of applications made by citizens resident in
Northern Ireland.

The Minister also commented on the Automated Passport
System which is now in operation in the Passport Offices in
Ireland and in the overseas missions.

"This is part of a complete modernisation of the systems
and processes for managing passport applications and will
lead to an improved service to the public. The new Irish
passport incorporates the most advanced security features
and gives Ireland one of the most modern and secure
passports in the world," he said.

© 2005


Village In Grief Over GAA Hurling Star's Death

Tributes paid to Down man

By Michael McHugh
30 December 2005

Friends of a young hurling star (21), found dead at his
home this week have paid tribute to one of the sport's
brightest prospects.

John Doherty died at his Kircubbin home in Co Down where he
lived with his parents and four siblings on Wednesday

The GAA player, who was a member of the Down senior squad,
represented his county in this year's Ulster Senior

His death has stunned the entire village.

Mr Doherty was a member of a well-known local hurling
family with ties to the Ballycran club. He worked as a

Down Hurling Board chairman Brian McAvoy knew him and said
it was a sad loss.

"He was a big quiet fella. He played particularly well for
the under 21s and was just breaking into the senior team.
He was a real prospect.

"The whole area is devastated. It is an awful tragedy for
the family and our thoughts are with them," he said.

Last year, Tyrone GAA captain Cormac McAnallen (24), and
Armagh schoolboy rugby ace John McCall (18), died within
weeks of each other from a rare heart condition.

This isn't believed to have caused the death of Mr

The player was part of the Down panel which returned to
Croke Park for the first time in 10 years this year.

Schoolteacher and friend of the family Sean McGarty said
the news had come out of the blue.

"It has really taken us by shock. My son was going to go
out with him the night before but was doing some work. The
next thing we knew he got a call yesterday morning to say
John was dead.

"My son and him were planning to go to Australia so this
has come as such a shock. He had a very good season last
year. All the young players who knew him are devastated,"
added Mr McGarty.

Friends and relatives, including his mother Bernie, were
due to attend his funeral today at St Joseph's Church,


Christy Moore & Legends Of Irish Folk

Christy Gets Back to The Point

Christy Moore returns to the Point for a first time in a
decade in support of his latest album Burning Times, with
Declan Sinnott, who also played on the album. December 29-
30, 2005 Tickets €38.50-€49/£26-£34 from

Legends of Irish Folk

Ronnie Drew, Paddy Reilly, Liam Clancy, Finbar Furey and
Jim McCann continue their holiday shows at Vicar Street on
December 29-30. Tickets €41/£28 from

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