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December 26, 2005

Alex Maskey Suffers Heart Attack

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IO 12/26/05 Alex Maskey Suffers Heart Attack
GU 12/26/05 Hain May Offer Deal To Win Backing For Amnesty
BB 12/26/05 Ten Escape Following Arson Attack
TO 12/26/05 Tories Refuse To Back 'On-The-Run' Amnesty
EX 12/26/05 1,000 Visitors To Best Grave Every Day
GU 12/26/05 Belfast Ponders Memorial To Best
EX 12/26/05 Wren Boys Festival Comes Of Age After 21 Years


Alex Maskey Suffers Heart Attack

26/12/2005 - 17:37:33

Former Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey has suffered
a heart attack.

The 54- year-old is in a stable condition in hospital.

He has previously survived two assassination attempts.


Hain May Offer Deal To Win Backing For IRA Amnesty

Michael White, political editor
Tuesday December 27, 2005
The Guardian

The government is braced to make new year concessions on
its controversial bill to give an amnesty to on-the-run IRA
suspects in order to win the support of enough MPs and
peers at Westminster to get the measure onto the statute

It is not yet clear what changes will have to be made. But
the source of most criticism and anger is that - as the
bill stands - none of the suspects involved would even have
to make a court appearance.

Victims and their families have been offended by that
prospect and Paul Murphy, the former Northern Ireland
secretary, told MPs last month: "I would have a great deal
of sympathy with such an amendment." Without Liberal
Democrat backing the bill will not get through the Lords.
Ministers are privately exploring renewed cooperation with
the new Conservative leadership of David Cameron, although
constructive exchanges between the current secretary of
state, Peter Hain, and Mr Cameron hit a bumpy patch in the
road yesterday after a critical interview given by Mr Hain
was belatedly published.

Mr Hain's call for a return to the kind of bipartisan
approach to the Northern Ireland peace process which
characterised the support Tony Blair gave John Major a
decade ago prompted a sharp response from David Lidington,
the Tory spokesman, who accused the minister of picking a
fight "on very weak ground".

The Northern Ireland Offences bill, which would allow
terror suspects - who have never faced court for alleged
outrages committed before the 1998 Good Friday agreement -
to escape jail, got a Commons second reading last month.
But the 310-272 majority failed to convey the depth of
anger expressed by opposition parties and had even Mr
Hain's immediate predecessor, Mr Murphy, acknowledging
sympathy for some changes.

Sinn Féin, the one party to have backed the bill as
removing a roadblock to a restored Stormont administration,
last week withdrew support after its supporters realised
that an amnesty would also apply to British soldiers who
may have been involved in illegal killings.

The ePolitix website yesterday published an interview with
Mr Hain in which he complained it was a "great shame" that
the Tories had been so harsh on the on-the-run bill,
compared with Labour's broad support for Mr Major's

Mr Lidington later retorted that he tried to give ministers
the benefit of the doubt: "But on this bill we are looking
at something that would allow people who have committed
barbaric murders, things like the Enniskillen Poppy Day
massacre, to go free without serving one day in prison or
even appearing themselves in court."

The Hain interview was given earlier this month, the day
before Mr Cameron went to Belfast and made supportive
remarks about the need to trust the government's
explanation for abandoning the "Stormontgate" prosecution
over the alleged IRA spy ring against rival parties.


Ten Escape Following Arson Attack

Ten people had to leave their homes on Christmas day
following an arson attack in County Armagh.

Flammable liquid was set alight outside a house in Obins
Street, Portadown.

At about 0400 GMT, a woman in her 80s awoke to find that
her front door was on fire. Doors in four other
neighbouring homes were also burning.

There were no injuries but extensive damage was caused to
the doors and there was smoke damage to the interior of the

The woman who was awoken by the fire, went to her
neighbour, Paul Grimley.

"I went to help her. The three houses were on fire. It
looked as if the whole row was going to go up," he said.

"She was totally distressed. We got the fire out at her
door, ran to the next door got it out and got the two
people out, went to the next house and got the guy up

"We just did our best to put the fire out until the fire
brigade came.

Mr Grimley said the attack was "an act of madness".

"People who did that have no concept of being human,
especially to a pensioner at 80 years of age."

People who did that have no concept of being human,
especially to a pensioner at 80 years of age

Paul Grimley

Don MacKay from the Fire Service said 10 people had to be
brought to safety.

"The Fire and Rescue Service led a family to safety, the
age range was about from 10 to the mid-eighties. This fire
could have had very, very serious consequences," he said.

Police have appealed to anyone with information about the
attack to contact 0845 600 4000 or Crimestoppers 0800


Sinn Fein councillor Brian McKeown said the attacks had
shocked the community.

He said those responsible were "intent on causing murder".

"There is clearly no other way to describe the actions of
those responsible for putting flammable substances through
the letterboxes of homes in the early hours of Christmas
morning," he said.

Mr McKeown said it was fortunate that no-one had been

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/26 12:34:49 GMT


Tories Refuse To Back 'On-The-Run' Amnesty

By Rosemary Bennett, Deputy Political Editor

THE Conservatives said yesterday that they would not
sanction an amnesty for fugitive Northern Ireland
paramilitaries despite accusations that they were breaking
cross-party co-operation.

David Lidington, the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary,
said that he would continue to support the Government where
he could, but could not back freedom for so-called on-the-

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has criticised
the Tories' opposition to "essential building blocks" of
the Northern Ireland peace process, saying that the
Government was entitled to the same level of support from
the Opposition that Labour gave John Major when he was
negotiating the first ceasefires in the 1990s.

Mr Liddington said that Mr Hain's remarks were regrettable.
"We continue to operate a bipartisan policy on Northern
Ireland wherever possible, which sometimes involves giving
the Government the benefit of the doubt," he told the BBC
Radio 4 Today programme.

"But on this [Northern Ireland Offences] Bill we are
looking at something that would allow people who have
committed barbaric murders to go free without serving one
day in prison or even appearing in court.

"It was not in the original Belfast agreement. I think Mr
Hain is choosing weak ground on which to try to pick a
major fight and point the finger at us."

The issue of on-the-runs has led to a bitter row between
ministers and mainstream political parties in the Province.
Under the terms of the Bill, prisoners are not even
required to attend a court hearing before being granted an


1,000 Visitors To Best Grave Every Day

MORE THAN 1,000 people a day are visiting George Best's

As weeks pass since his funeral the number paying homage at
the final resting place of the footballing genius shows no
sign of abating.

On the first day after the funeral, Roselawn Cemetery in
the hills above the East Belfast streets where Best grew up
saw 15,000 file past the grave and the host of floral
tributes laid out as a shrine among the nearby trees.

"It's been an absolutely phenomenal response to a legend,"
said a spokesman for Belfast City Council which administers
the cemetery. But now they would like it to return to its
more normal peaceful state. In the New Year councillors
will give consideration to the siting of a permanent
memorial to Best which mean's the grave he shares with his
mother, Ann, and those of others packed closely around, are
no longer disturbed.

It could mean a memorial in the cemetery, or one at Belfast
City Hall or even somewhere nearer his former home in the
Cregagh area of East Belfast.

A council spokesman said: "Some of the members have got
ideas about what they would like to see and at the end of
the day it is going to be down to a decision by the
politicians." But he said: "We need to be very careful
about this. Most important is what the family want."

The renaming of Belfast City Airport as George Best Airport
is being mooted, as is naming a park after him and renaming
Burren Way in the Cregagh.

Progressive Unionist Party councillor Hugh Smyth said he
believed the council would like to see a permanent statue
or sculpture of Best at the City Hall.


Belfast Ponders Memorial To Best

Jon di Paolo
Tuesday December 27, 2005
The Guardian

Belfast city council is to consider a permanent memorial to
football star George Best away from his grave at Roselawn
Cemetery in the east of the city, which attracts more than
1,000 visitors a day.

A spokesman for Belfast city council, which administers the
cemetery, said the separate memorial would ensure the grave
he shares with his mother Ann, and other graves nearby,
have their tranquillity restored.

Best died in November after a long battle with alcoholism.
The day after his funeral 15,000 mourners filed past his
final resting place, and the interest shows no sign of


Wren Boys Festival Comes Of Age In Dublin After 21 Years

By Jim Morahan and Donal Hickey

IT marked the coming of age yesterday for Dublin 4's most
rural event: the Wren Boys Festival celebrated 21 years in
the capital.

Sprightly 90-year-old musician Vincent Cooney claimed the
venerable stakes on age grounds.

Four-month-old Genevieve Collins slept through, watched
over by her mother Deirdre and parents, Mary and Derry

Lord Mayor Catherine Byrne, on her inaugural visit to the
event, was reminded sponsorship is necessary if the Wren
Festival is to survive at Sandymount Green.

But founder member Tom Aherne, from Clane, Co Kildare, was
defiant the Wren tradition is here to stay.

The charity to benefit from the proceeds is the Holy Family
Maternity Hospital in Bethlehem, situated 500 yards from
the traditional site of the birth of Jesus, and run by the
Order of Malta.

Despite all the political upheavals, no expectant mother
has ever been told there is "no room".

Since 1990 more than 25,000 babies have been born there.

Meanwhile, up to 250 colourfully dressed wren boys paraded
through the streets of Dingle, Co Kerry, keeping alive the
St Stephen's Day tradition.

Four local groups, marching to fife and drum music, went
around the town shortly after lunchtime.

The Green and Gold was the biggest group in Dingle. Others
were John Street, Goat Street and the Quay, which was
making a return to the scene this year.

Wren boys were attired in costumes that included old
pyjamas and straw skirts, and all their faces were masked.

The morning was spent getting dressed up in local pubs and
tuning musical instruments.

"We've four very good groups, proving that the 'wran'
tradition is still very strong in Dingle," said Fergus
Flaherty, of the Green and Gold.

"People often wonder why the 'wran' has survived so well
here and the reason could probably be put down to the
healthy rivalry between the groups.

"This is an unbroken tradition dating back to the 1880s at
least, another reason for its survival," Mr Flaherty added.

Most groups collected for charities, but the Green and Gold
raised money for the controversial campaign to have Dingle
known as Dingle/Daingean Uí Chuis rather than An Daingean,
as has been officially decided by Gaeltacht Minister Eamon
Ó Cuiv.

A new 20-strong group in black clothes, wellington boots
and King Kong masks took to the streets of Dingle

Also some of the wren boys visited the local hospital to
entertain patients.

Last night, the action switched to the pubs in the town.

Wren boys were also out in other parts of Kerry, especially
in the Listowel area of the county, and also in west

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