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December 09, 2005

Finucane's Herculean Efforts For Justice Go On

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News about Ireland & the Irish

NH 12/09/05 Finucane's Herculean Efforts For Justice Go On
UT 12/09/05 MEPs 'Could Launch Collusion Probe'
IO 12/09/05 Govt Study Raises Corrib Pipeline Concerns
UT 12/09/05 Stormont Charges 'To Save Trimble's Career'
IE 12/09/05 SF Vents Fury As 'Spy-Ring' Three Acquitted
BT 12/09/05 War Of Words As Spy Charges Dropped
BT 12/09/05 PSNI Not Looking For Anyone Over 'Spy Case'
BT 12/09/05 Policy Explaining Why Cases Are Closed Evolving
IT 12/09/05 Handing SF A Propaganda Coup On A Plate
BB 12/09/05 PM Talks To Focus On Devolution
BT 12/09/05 Ulster Catholic Man For Top UK Post In Rome
BB 12/09/05 Two Held As Car Bomb Intercepted
IO 12/09/05 Ruling On McKevitt Appeal Against Conviction
BB 12/09/05 What The Papers Say
DI 12/09/05 Opin: Promotion Of Peace Down Under
DI 12/09/05 Opin: Leaders Take Us To Where We Want To Be
BB 12/09/73 On Dec 9, 1973: Sunningdale Agreement Signed
BT 12/09/05 DUP Vows Action Over School Selection Concerns
IW 12/09/05 IRL's IT Peace Dividend Could Show Way In Iraq
BB 12/09/05 Belfast Hosts Narnia Movie Premiere
DI 12/09/05 Remembering John Lennon
JN 12/09/05 Irish Punk Straight Out Of Yonkers
IT 12/09/05 Missing Turtle Netted On Website


Finucane Family's Herculean Efforts For Justice Go On

(Jim Gibney, Irish News)

As the 17th anniversary of the killing of human rights
lawyer Pat Finucane approaches the family are wondering
when the British government will stop protecting those who
killed him and allow the truth to emerge.

On February 12 1989 loyalist gunmen shot Pat dead in front
of his wife Geraldine and their three children in their
north Belfast home.

For 17 years the Finucane family and their supporters have
campaigned for the truth about Pat's assassination.

Their determination to uncover the truth has been matched
with successive British government's efforts to conceal the

The Finucane family mobilised national and international
human rights organisations to support their cause.

Pat's wife Geraldine took the case to the European Court of
Human Rights. The court censured the British government for
failing to investigate, 'promptly and effectively'
allegations of collusion in his killing.

In June 2005 the Council of Europe's Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights accused the British government of
failing to implement decisions by the Human Rights Court in
relation to the killing.

In April this year the British government sponsored a
motion at the United Nations for the 'protection of human
rights through action to combat impunity' yet protect those
involved in killing Mr Finucane.

The killing has been taken up by the United Nations'
Special Rapporteur on summary executions.

The Irish government, Amnesty International and a range of
human rights and relatives organisations support the
family's call.

The Herculean efforts of the Finucane family and other
campaigning relative's organisations helped create the
situation where public opinion now accepts that collusion
was routinely practised between British forces and
loyalists killing hundreds of people.

In April 2003 Sir John Stevens, one of Britain's leading
police officers, in his third investigation into collusion
said Pat's murder could have been prevented and there was
collusion between the crown forces and loyalists in the

It has been established beyond doubt that four loyalists
involved in killing the lawyer were state agents.

Under relentless pressure from the Finucane family the
British government in 2001 were forced to announce an
invistigation into collusion in six killings including

In 2002 Canadian Judge Cory was appointed to carry out the
investigation. In October 2003 he publicised his findings.

He called for a public inquiry to be 'held as quickly as
possible' saying he found evidence in Pat's killing, which
'constituted collusion'.

The British government had publicly promised to act on
Judge Cory's recommendations and there was an
understandable expectation that an independent public
inquiry would be established.

Such expectation underestimated the determination of the
securocrats in the British military and political system to
protect themselves by hiding the truth.

The British government delayed a year before accepting
Cory's report.

When they did so they abolished the 1921 Inquiries Act and
introduced a new Inquiries Act which allows them control
over all aspects of an inquiry into Pat's killing.

They threw Cory's recommendations out the window.

Under the new act the British government appoints the
inquiry panel, sets their terms of reference, decides who
can attend the hearing, what evidence will be presented,
how much, if any, of the inquiry is public and whether the
inquiry's findings will be published.

The British government already announced that most of any
inquiry will be held in private. Their excuse: 'national

In other words, the truth about the killing of Pat
Finucane, a human rights lawyer, cannot be told for reasons
of British 'national security'.

What does this say about Britain's role here?

Under this new act the truth about who was behind Pat's
killing will be filtered through the securocrats' sieve. In
a letter supporting the Finucane family Judge Cory
described the new act as creating an 'intolerable Alice in
Wonderland situation' and said no self-respecting judge'
would adjudicate at such an inquiry.

The Finucane family have understandably rejected the
inquiry's terms of reference.

This week a family member is in Brussels with other
families lobbying for EU support for a thorough
investigation into collusion which killed their relatives.

Despite all the set backs and dis-appointments the family
are still determined to have an international public
inquiry into Pat's killing.

December 9, 2005

This article appeared first in the December 8, 2005 edition
of the Irish News.


MEPs 'Could Launch Collusion Probe'

A group of MEPs may visit Northern Ireland in the early
spring to investigate the involvement of members of the
security forces in loyalist paramilitary murders, it was
claimed today.

By:Press Association

As An Fhirinne, a group campaigning against collusion,
formed a ring of protesters around Belfast City Hall today,
they said a factfinding visit to Northern Ireland by a
cross-party delegation of MEPs was being planned.

One of the group was Mark Sykes, who was wounded during the
February 1992 Ulster Freedom Fighters attack on Sean
Graham`s Bookmakers in Belfast`s Ormeau Road, which killed
five people including his 18 year-old brother-in-law Peter

Mr Sykes said that if the visit went ahead it would boost
their campaign to highlight collusion.

"Today we have formed a ring of truth around City Hall as
part of our campaign," he said.

"Twenty-five of us also returned in the early hours of the
morning from two days in Brussels where we lobbied all the
main groups in the European Parliament from the Christian
Democrats to the Social Democrats and Socialists, where we
also met Basque and Catalan representatives.

"We had positive vibes coming out of those meetings and
there are real hopes that there is going to be some follow-
up on our trip with a possible fact-finding mission from
the European Parliament, hopefully in the early Spring.

"This would highlight collusion. People look at collusion
now and think it is a historical event.

"It is present day. As a recently as two weeks ago,
hundreds of republicans have been told their details are in
the hands of loyalist paramilitaries following the
disappearance of a security force document from

"People have asked which loyalist paramilitary organisation
has their details and where the details came from but they
have not been given that information."

Mr Sykes said the victims of collusion had concerns about
the Inquiries Act which will determine how a tribunal into
the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane will be

A report by former Metropolitan Police chief Sir John
Stevens found evidence of collusion between members of Army
intelligence, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster
Freedom Fighters gang involved in the shooting.

But there has been criticism of the British Government`s
move to hold the inquiry under the new act which will
enable ministers to determine which parts will be held in
public and what information can go to the tribunal.

Critics have included Peter Cory, the retired Canadian
judge who recommended the inquiry, nationalists and human
rights organisations.

Mr Sykes said: "It is a concern for our group and it is
clear from our meetings in Europe, MEPs also have concerns
about it.

"But whatever problems are put in front of us, we`ll take
those on.

"At the end of the day, our campaign is for the truth and
no matter what they put in front of us we will tell our
stories without any fear of contradiction.

"Collusion is a serious allegation to make about anybody,
let alone to claim that a government has been involved in
the murder of its citizens. We are making that allegation
and we are putting it up to the British Government."

Mr Sykes said An Fhirinne also had concerns about the
ability of members of the security forces involved in
collusion to avoid jail under the controversial Northern
Ireland (Offences) Bill going through Parliament.

"If that Bill gets through in its current form, it will
cause severe problems for some people but it is a matter
for the politicians to sort out," he said.


Govt-Backed Study Raises Concerns About Corrib Pipeline

09/12/2005 - 08:12:46

A study commissioned by the Government in an effort to
alleviate public concern about the Corrib gas pipeline has
expressed concerns about the safety of the controversial

The study by a British consultancy firm warns that there is
"potential for people to be harmed" in the event of any
accident involving the pipeline.

The company has recommended that the Government investigate
the implications of a possible accident before allowing the
Corrib project to go ahead.

The study was commissioned by Natural Resources Minister
Noel Dempsey in an effort to alleviate the concerns of
local residents campaigning against the pipeline in north
Co Mayo.

The residents believe many people could be killed in the
event of an explosion at the pipeline and want gas from the
Corrib field pumped to an offshore terminal instead.


Stormont Charges 'Were To Save Trimble's Career'

A Sinn Fein official who had charges dropped against him
over a republican spy ring at Stormont claimed today that
police arrested him as part of a campaign to save David
Trimble's political career.

By:Press Association

Denis Donaldson, who with Ciaran Kearney and William
Mackessy had charges dropped at Belfast Crown Court
yesterday, said he was not surprised at the decision to
drop the case against them.

"I wasn`t surprised because we weren`t guilty," said Mr
Donaldson, Sinn Fein`s head of administration at Stormont
at the time of the arrests in 2002.

"There was no spy ring at Stormont. There never was.

"What it all added up to was politically-inspired charges
which should never have been brought.

"The fact that the media was here on the morning that our
officers (at Stormont) was raided testifies to that.

"It was part of a Save Dave (Trimble) campaign initially
and it was also designed to bring down the (power-sharing)
institutions, which it did."

Mr Donaldson, 55, of Altnamonagh Crescent in West Belfast,
and his son-in-law Mr Kearney, 34, of Commedagh Drive, were
charged with having information which was likely to be of
use to terrorists.

Civil servant William Mackessy, 47, from Wolfend Way in
North Belfast, was also charged.

But in a dramatic development yesterday, the prosecutor
told Belfast Crown Court that it was withdrawing all
evidence against the men and a prosecution was no longer in
the public interest.

With no evidence against them, Mr Justice Hart ruled that
all three should be found not guilty.

Mr Donaldson, Mr Kearney and Mr Mackessy joined Sinn Fein
MPs Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at Stormont today and
were also joined by East Londonderry Assembly member
Francie Brolly who was released last week after being
questioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland about
a triple IRA car bomb attack on the village of Claudy which
killed nine people.

In a statement yesterday the Police Service of Northern
Ireland (PSNI), which arrested the three men and carried
out a high-profile raid on Sinn Fein`s offices in October
2002, noted the decision of the Public Prosecution Service.

The PSNI said: "The entitlement of those three individuals
to the presumption of innocence remains intact."

The police insisted: "The background to this case is that a
paramilitary organisation, namely the Provisional IRA, was
actively involved in the systematic gathering of
information and targeting of individuals.

"Police investigated that activity and a police operation
led to the recovery of thousands of sensitive documents
which had been removed from Government offices.

"A large number of people were subsequently warned about
threats to them. That police investigation has concluded.

"There are no further lines of inquiry and no individuals
are being sought by the police."

Mr Donaldson said today he was not surprised by the PSNI

"I didn`t expect the police to say any less than what they
said or anything different from what they said."

Mr Donaldson, who was previously an IRA prisoner, said the
trio were consulting legal representatives about what
course of action they could follow regarding the police
arrests following their acquittal.

Sinn Fein leader Mr Adams said the collapse of the case
once again underlined the need to face up to elements
within the PSNI who, he claimed, were opposed to political

The West Belfast MP said at Stormont before leaving for
Dublin: "You will remember, because some of you were here
at the time and some of you were here by invitation, that
the raid on this building, the raid on the Sinn Fein
offices, was conducted in a glare of publicity.

"I think that has very clearly become a pattern, a pattern
of political policing.

"Our certain view, and we said this at the time, is that
there are elements within the Special Branch, within the
old RUC, some of whom are active today in the PSNI, who
continue to be at war with Irish republicans, who are
opposed to the peace process."

As Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared to review the state
of the peace process with Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,
Martin McGuinness said he took heart from the fact that the
Dublin Government was saying it would press at the meeting
for the restoration of the power-sharing institutions.

The Mid-Ulster MP, who was the Education Minister at
Stormont when devolution was suspended in 2002 on the back
of the spy ring allegation, said: "We are encouraged that
the Taoiseach, in his meeting with the British Prime
Minister today, has signalled up very clearly that he
intends to push very hard for the restoration of these
institutions early next year.

"What we need to see is obviously the same type of energy
by the British Prime Minister because it has really come
the time when the Democratic Unionist Party and their
leadership need to sit with Sinn Fein`s leadership to work
out the best way forward vis-a-vis the restoration of these

"I think that is the prize that should be in people`s minds
as we move forward."

With Sinn Fein still refusing to endorse or participate in
policing structures in Northern Ireland, Mr Adams confirmed
his officials were in contact with the British Government
about plans to resolve the policing issue.

"Of course we want to see the institutions put back in
place, not just because of yesterday but consistently that
has been our position," the Sinn Fein leader said.

"That, indeed, is why we are taking a case against the IMC
(Independent Monitoring Commission).

"That is why we have campaigned for an end to political
policing. That is why our position on policing is right."

Mr Adams criticised other parties for embracing what he
described as a flawed, dysfunctional policing arrangement
in Northern Ireland.

He added: "There has been progress. I am not denying that.

"But let`s bear in mind that a policing service which
allows unreconstructed elements to carry out their own
political agenda should not be signed up to by either a
government in Dublin or political parties here in the North
(of Ireland)."


SF Vents Fury As 'Spy-Ring' Three Acquitted

By Dan McGinn

THE acquittal in Belfast of three men accused of operating
a spy ring at Stormont shows the spirit of the RUC's
Special Branch still exists, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness
said yesterday.

Following the decision at Belfast Crown Court to drop
charges against Sinn Féin's head of administration Denis
Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant
William Mackessy, Mr McGuinness said the allegation of a
spy ring was concocted in 2002 to destroy political

"We said very clearly at the time of that event that this
case would fall apart," the Mid Ulster MP said.

"There was no evidence whatsoever to sustain it and we have
been proven correct. This is a shameful episode, a damning
indictment of the fact that the spirit of the RUC Special
Branch is effectively alive and well within the PSNI.

"There never was a spy ring operating at Stormont."

Mr Donaldson, aged 55, and his 34-year-old son-in-law had
been accused of having documents of use to terrorists.

A third man, 47-year-old civil servant William Mackessy,
was charged with collecting information on the security

In a dramatic development, prosecutors told Belfast Crown
Court that no further evidence would be put forward and the
prosecution was no longer in the public interest.

Mr Justice Harte said a verdict of not guilty had to be
returned and he told the men they were now free.

Police raided Sinn Féin's offices at Stormont when
allegations of a spy ring surfaced.

The accusations plunged the North's power-sharing
institutions into crisis, with unionists threatening to
collapse the executive with resignations.

The British government suspended devolution, embarking on
three years of direct rule.

In a statement after yesterday's hearing, Ciaran Shiels, of
the Madden and Finucane law firm which represented Mr
Donaldson and Mr Mackessy, said both men believed they were
the victims of a political operation by elements within the
security forces.

"Our clients are of the clear view that they were victims
of a political operation by elements within the security
forces who deliberately used their position to hamper
political progress," Mr Shiels said.

Democratic Unionist Policing Board member Ian Paisley
Junior said the decision was deeply disturbing and a sop to
Sinn Féin.


War Of Words As Spy Charges Dropped

By Noel McAdam
09 December 2005

The Government has firmly denied putting any political
pressure on the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop the
'Stormontgate' charges.

Direct Rule Minister David Hanson also suggested, however,
the DPP "could reflect" on whether it might issue a further
public statement on the case.

As the controversy spiralled today, with DUP leader Ian
Paisley demanding talks with Secretary of State Peter Hain,
the three men who were acquitted in the unlisted Crown
Court hearing yesterday made a public appearance with Sinn
Fein President Gerry Adams.

Prosecutors said it was no longer in the public interest to
pursue a case against the party's head of administration
Denis Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil
servant William Mackessy.

Mr Adams said: "This operation was a blatant example of
political policing aimed at collapsing the political

"Faceless securocrats subverted the democratic wishes of
the electorate north and south who voted for the Good
Friday Agreement.

"The collapse of this case should now focus attention onto
the Special Branch and those responsible for planning,
carrying out and authorising this entire operation."

Mr Hanson said, however, he had "noted" the PSNI's
assertion that their assessment at the time of the raid on
the Stormont offices of Sinn Fein had been correct.

North Antrim MP Mr Paisley, however, alleged the decision
was taken because it was politically expedient.

The DUP leader said: "The right-thinking people of Ulster
will be totally flabbergasted at the decision taken to drop
all prosecutions on the IRA spy ring at Stormont because
after a three-year delay it has been decided that it is not
in the public interest."

A solicitor for Peter Kelly, who was charged with
witholding information likely to be of use to terrorists in
connection with the Northern Bank raid - and who was also
freed by Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday - drew a
connection between the cases and yesterday's Royal visit by
the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

Niall Murphy said: "It seems more than a coincidence that
the Public Prosecution Service has chosen to drop the
charges against my client when the media's attention will
be concentrated on a royal visit. Some cynics will say that
it is a good day to bury bad news."


PSNI Not Looking For Anyone Over 'Spy Case'

By Debra Douglas
09 December 2005

Police said last night that they are not looking for anyone
else in connection with the Stormont spy-ring case.

In a statement released after the dramatic end to the case,
reckoned to have cost the taxpayer in the region of £30m,
the PSNI said it understood the reasons for withdrawing the

The statement added: "The entitlement of those three
individuals to the presumption of innocence remains intact.

"The background to this case is that a paramilitary
organisation, namely the Provisional IRA, was actively
involved in the systematic gathering of information and
targeting of individuals.

"Police investigated that activity and a police operation
led to the recovery of thousands of sensitive documents
which had been removed from Government offices. A large
number of people were subsequently warned about threats to

"That police investigation has concluded. There are no
further lines of enquiry and no individuals are being
sought by the police."

Meanwhile, the solicitor's firm representing one of the men
acquitted of charges in relation to the spy ring last night
insisted their client was "completely innocent".

In a statement issued on behalf of Ciaran Kearney, Kevin
Winters and Co said the decision to drop the charges was
"long overdue". There was never an evidential justification
to bring this case.

"It was brought against a background of hype and publicity
which resulted in the removal of the Stormont Executive.

"There can be no suggestion that Mr Kearney is technically
not guilty. He was and remains completely innocent of any

Last night, the NIO defended the decision of the Director
of Public Prosecutions to acquit the three men.

In a statement, the NIO said the decision took into account
the facts and information presented to the director by the
police and his duties as a public authority under the Human
Rights Act.

The statement added: "It is also a matter of record that it
was the actions of paramilitaries in gathering and removing
these documents and the damage that was done to political
confidences as a result that led to the suspension of the
NI Assembly.

"The Government is determined that confidence will be
rebuilt and that devolved government in Northern Ireland
will be restored."


Policy For Explaining Why Cases Are Closed 'Evolving'

By Chris Thornton
09 December 2005

The decision to drop the Stormontgate charges without a
full explanation has recharged a debate about prosecutors
giving details about why a case has been closed.

The Prosecution Service said yesterday that the case
against three men had been dropped "in the public interest"
- a catch-all phrase that does little to actually inform
the public about what is in their interest.

Attempts have been made to require prosecutors to give more
detail, but they have not been fully embraced by the

The Criminal Justice Review, a by-product of the Good
Friday Agreement that was published in 2000, said that when
a case is dropped prosecutors should give as "full an
explanation as is possible without prejudicing the
interests of justice or the public interest".

The Review team said it recognised there can be problems in
releasing information that might impugn people who have
just been officially cleared.

But they said that the prosecutor's "presumption should
shift towards giving reasons where appropriate".

The Government says it has accepted that recommendation
"with qualifications" and promised to review the position.

DPP Sir Alasdair Fraser told the Belfast Telegraph earlier
this year that his policy on giving reasons was "evolving".

He said explanations are given in general terms - like "the
public interest" - not because prosecutors have "any sense
of being defensive, but there are issues of rights and
concerns of individuals in society".

"For example, if I said 'I'm not going to prosecute an
individual because I find the following persons not capable
of belief', that would be an inappropriate thing for me to
say," Sir Alasdair said.

"Those persons, I recognise, would not have due process to
protect them.

"Now, if there is a request for more detailed reasons, then
we look at the case on an individual basis and we measure
how far we can go in assisting the person who is making
that request by providing greater detail. That is rather
different from saying 'the Director doesn't give reasons'."


Handing SF A Propaganda Coup On A Plate

How does the Prosecution Service decide what is in the
public interest, asks Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

No matter from what direction you examined the Stormontgate
affair yesterday it was impossible to avoid the whiff of

The alleged IRA spy ring was the incident that collapsed
the Northern Executive and Assembly in October 2002. Since
then the North's snail-pace, frustrating political business
has been about restoring that shaky edifice.

The three men - Denis Donaldson, Sinn Féin's then head of
administration at Stormont; his son-in-law Ciarán Kearney;
and William Mackessy, a former Stormont porter - now enjoy
the presumption of innocence, as the PSNI rather grudgingly
conceded yesterday.

With some degree of irony the men are due to speak with
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams at a press conference at
Stormont today. It's a hand-served propaganda coup for Sinn
Féin. Martin McGuinness has already blamed the
"securocrats" for the whole affair. "There was never a spy
ring," he said.

The PSNI, backed up by a supporting Northern Ireland Office
statement, insisted however that notwithstanding the men's
acquittal the IRA did operate an intelligence-gathering
operation at Stormont. They had recovered "thousands of
sensitive [ NIO] documents" to establish this as fact,
police said.

Last year too, the then NIO security minister Ian Pearson
said that included in these documents were the personal
details of 1,426 prison staff. This led to the rehousing of
454 prison officers, improved security arrangements for
others, and numerous claims for compensation for stress.
The overall cost to the exchequer was likely to be £30
million, said Mr Pearson.

The North's Public Prosecution Service (equivalent of the
DPP in the South) decided that the case should fold because
"prosecutions for the offences in relation to the accused
are no longer in the public interest".

If the director of the prosecution service explained what
"no longer in the public interest" meant we would be wiser
about this intriguing and murky case.

The Irish Times asked the service for elaboration but a
spokesman said he could not go beyond what was said in

Unionist parties and the SDLP have the strong suspicion
that this somehow was part of an NIO deal to get the IRA to
end its armed campaign and decommission. The prosecution
service spokesman said neither would he be commenting on
this suggestion. Yet if these parties made such a direct
charge against the Public Prosecution Service they would be
likely to receive a response that this office was
independent of the NIO. "I can say absolutely there was no
deal," said an NIO spokesman yesterday.

One possible reason relates to security source claims
shortly after the arrests that the breaking of the alleged
spy ring was assisted by a police agent operating "deep
within the IRA", and that proceeding with the case would
compromise the agent.

Another curious element in the case is that the then
Northern secretary, John Reid, was informed by MI5 of the
alleged IRA spy ring months before police Special Branch so
cack-handedly raided the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont in
October 2002.

It was explained by well-placed sources that the MI5 and
Special Branch reason for not immediately cracking down on
the IRA spy ring at the time was because there was more to
be gained by allowing the IRA to continue its operations.

MI5 and the RUC were also hoping that in this manner they
could nab the IRA's Belfast-based head of intelligence, it
was claimed. They didn't. Sources said the police moved
only when it was learned that the IRA was aware it was
observed and that the IRA was planning to destroy the
stolen documents.

Another deeper conspiracy theory is that MI5 took it upon
itself to move against the IRA to try to protect David
Trimble. Shortly before the raids, Mr Trimble, on the
instructions of the Ulster Unionist Council, signalled that
he would collapse the Northern Executive and Assembly in
January 2003. This theory runs that by making the arrests,
the "spooks" were shifting the blame for the Executive's
collapse on to the IRA rather than the former UUP leader.

There are other conspiracy theories out there but no
definitive explanations. It all rather reeks to high
heaven, doesn't it? Lots of questions, no real answers.
People will believe whom they want to believe. The Public
Prosecution Service talks about its version of the public
interest but here it would seem genuinely in the public
interest that the service should lift the veil and reveal

© The Irish Times


PM Talks To Focus On Devolution

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern is expected to hold talks with
the UK prime minister in Downing Street.

Both leaders are expected to discuss EU matters and touch
on the latest developments in the political process.

Irish sources said the taoiseach would be pressing for
progress early next year on the restoration of the devolved
government at Stormont.

Mr Ahern met Tony Blair in October, with both leaders
seeking ways to restore devolution in Northern Ireland.

At that time, Mr Blair said there had been "a genuinely
significant change in the politics of Northern Ireland".

It followed a statement by the IRA in which it said it had
put all of its weapons beyond use.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/09 06:41:00 GMT


Ulster Man For Top Post In Rome

Down man is first Catholic

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
09 December 2005

An Ulster man has been appointed to a top diplomatic post
at the Vatican.

Francis Campbell, from Rathfriland, Co Down, was given the
eminent position as Her Majesty's ambassador to the Holy
See earlier this month and is taking up the appointment
this month.

He is the first Irish Catholic to become a British
ambassador since the South of Ireland was granted
independence in 1921.

Mr Campbell (35) is also the first ambassador appointed by
open competition after the position was publicly advertised
in national newspapers.

The final decision was taken through Foreign Secretary Jack
Straw, Sir Michael Jay, head of the Diplomatic Service,
then ratified by the Prime Minister and finally approved by
the Queen and agreed by the Vatican.

Speaking about his appointment to The Tablet newspaper, the
farmer's son said: "It's a wee bit surreal."

On a recent visit back home to see his widowed father, he
said: "I told some people in the village who live down the
road that I was going to be an ambassador.

"I thought the lady understood what I was saying but then
she shouted across to her husband that I was coming back to
work in the Ambassador Cafe in Newry. It is very strange."

Of his new job, he added: "There is a duality in terms of
the role. On one hand it is to explain British Government
policy to the Holy See and NGOs aligned to it. Even now
there will be some areas where there will be a difference
of perspective and view, and sometimes the circle cannot be

The Most Reverend John McAreavy, Bishop of Dromore, said
the appointment was an honour.

"Francis is a highly able young man, a man of deep and
practical faith and a man totally unspoiled by the many
high positions he has already held.

"I have known Francis for many years and I know that he
will bring his many talents and charm to his new role."

South Down SDLP MP Eddie McGrady added: "I believe he will
embrace his new position with great enthusiasm and

One of Mr Campbell's first duties will be to officially
represent Great Britain at the Vatican's Christmas

Mr Campbell, who is fluent in French and has a good grasp
of Italian, graduated from Queen's University Belfast in
politics and scholastic philosophy.

He went on to post-graduate studies at Trinity College,
Dublin, as well as universities in Belgium and the US.

He worked at the Foreign Office in Whitehall before being
seconded to the Private Office at Number 10 where he
remained for four years.


Two Held As Car Bomb Intercepted

Two men are being questioned following the discovery of a
suspected dissident republican bomb in a car near Dublin.

The device was found about 2230 GMT on Thursday when Irish
police stopped a car at the Westlink toll plaza of the M50
motorway surrounding the city.

A controlled explosion was carried out on the lunchbox-type
device which included a timer and metal components. Police
later confirmed it was a bomb.

A man was arrested at the scene and a second man was
arrested on Friday.

It is understood the vehicle was stopped as part of an
ongoing garda operation, involving the Special Branch and
members of the elite Emergency Response Unit.

The bomb had been hidden in a baby seat in the car.

BBC Northern Ireland's Dublin correspondent, Shane
Harrison, said: "Security sources say that they believe the
device found in the car was constructed by the Continuity

"It may have been on its way to the west Dublin suburb of
Blanchardstown for possible use in a criminal gang feud.

"It's believed that some of the detectives involved in the
operation may have been keeping an eye on suspected
Continuity IRA extortion rackets in the west Dublin area."

Both men who were arrested are being questioned at
Clondalkin garda station.

They can be held for up to 72 hours before they are either
charged or released.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/09 08:49:47 GMT


Ruling Due On McKevitt Appeal Against RIRA Conviction

09/12/2005 - 07:46:53

The Court of Criminal Appeal is due to deliver judgement
today on Michael McKevitt's challenge to his conviction for
leading the Real IRA.

The 54-year-old, from Blackrock, Co Louth, was jailed for
20 years by the non-jury Special Criminal Court in August
2003 after being found guilty of directing the activities
of an illegal organisation.

His appeal centres on the reliability of evidence given by
the chief prosecution witness, FBI agent David Rupert, who
claimed he infiltrated the Real IRA.

Mr McKevitt's lawyers have argued that his testimony cannot
be trusted because he was a lifelong criminal who had been
paid by around €2m by the US and British intelligence


What The Papers Say

Daily Ireland editor Colin O'Carroll takes a look at what
is making the headlines in Friday's morning papers.

The big story in all the Irish papers is, of course, the
collapse of the case of an alleged IRA intelligence-
gathering operation being carried out at Stormont.

A high-profile and very public police raid was carried out
and led to the suspension of devolution.

Daily Ireland has an exclusive interview with one of the
men aquitted over the allegations who claims the arrests
were "politically motivated to discredit Sinn Fein and
bring down the institutions".

The Irish News links the Stormont "fiasco" to President
McAleese's meeting with Queen Elizabeth, claiming the visit
was "a cover for the decision to collapse the case against
the men arrested in the Stormont raids", not wasting a
picture of the pair at Hillsborough Castle.

The News Letter simply refers to a "spy row" and says Ian
Paisley will now demand a meeting with Northern Ireland
Secretary Peter Hain.


Presumably he will not be asking why the case was brought
at all, but "why those pesky Shinners weren't nailed good
and proper".

The whole affair is coming home to roost for the PSNI,
which is facing growing allegations of a political agenda
being operated.

Daily Ireland also refers to the ongoing Irish Ferries
dispute as does the Irish Times, with a rally in support of
the workers in Dublin expected to draw thousands onto the
streets on Friday.

The dispute is being seen as a marker for the unions to lay
down the way forward, as other employers watch closely to
see what the government will do.

So far, Bertie Ahern has taken the "Pontius Pilate
approach", claiming there is nothing he can do, but it will
be interesting to see if he shifts, as the unions flex
their muscles for almost the first time since the Celtic
Tiger started roaring.

Former junior minister Ivor Callely's demise, which stole
the government's budget thunder, is the focus of the Irish

His passing will be a blow to the press, as he has provided
the best entertainment in the Dail for quite some time.

The Irish edition of the Daily Mirror goes with Status
Quo's Rick Parfitt's apparent battle with throat cancer.

The Daily Telegraph, the Times and the Mail lead with the
headline that the NHS may not treat smokers or the obese.

I hope Rick Parfitt has got private cover.

One cannot help but feel that the bureaucrats only want to
have nice healthy people in their hospitals, not the sick,
because they only clutter up the place.

The papers then qualify the statement by informing us:
"This is only if the lifestyle of the patient will affect
the outcome of the treatment."

What exactly does that mean? Don't fix a runner's broken
leg for example?

The Mail also deals with the Law Lords' decision on
evidence gathered through torture.

'Hot air'

The Guardian devotes its front page to the ruling, which,
according to the paper, "leaves the British government's
anti-terror policy in chaos and could lead to the release
of many people currently held without trial".

The Independent, meanwhile, dismisses the current UN
climate conference as "simply hot air".

Finally, the Irish Independent refers to the psychology
behind Bratz dolls, apparently the must-have toy for girls
this Christmas.

The paper claims the shape of the dolls, with their big
heads, collagen-pumped lips and skinny bodies, are a
reflection of the ideals of the women's lib movement,
according to a child psychologist.

The silly season is truly upon us.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/09 10:04:52 GMT


Opin: Promotion Of Peace Down Under

bairbre de brún

As part of the Sinn Féin centenary celebrations, I
travelled with Dodie McGuinness to Australia and New
Zealand last week to brief parliamentarians, community
activists and the wider Irish community on the current
state of the peace process in Ireland.

The visit took in Auckland, Wellington, Canberra, Sydney,
Brisbane and Melbourne. Although both countries are at the
other side of the world, interest in Irish affairs is as
keen as anywhere else. Interest was not confined to the
Irish community either, with parliamentarians from the
Maori Party in New Zealand showing a detailed knowledge of
the issues. I was also fortunate enough to be able to visit
the Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand and I will
tell you more about this in a later article.

The hectic schedule provided an opportunity to promote the
peace process in meetings with the senior adviser and
parliamentary secretary respectively of the ministers for
foreign affairs of New Zealand and Australia. I was able to
tell them of our hopes for the time ahead and also stress
the importance of reinstating the political institutions,
implementing the Good Friday Agreement and building
positive and constructive relationships between the
unionist community at home and the rest of us across the
island of Ireland.

At the federal parliament in Canberra, I met Kevin Rudd MP,
shadow minister for foreign affairs, Senator George
Campbell, opposition whip in the Senate and chair of the
Parliamentary Irish Group and Bruce Billson MP,
parliamentary secretary to Alexander Downer, the minister
for foreign affairs. Receptions were also hosted for me in
the state parliaments of the Australian Capital Territory,
New South Wales and Queensland. I had a chance to meet the
business sector and Irish community leaders, many of whom
had recently met minister Micheál Martin on his visit down

I urged all of those I met to continue assisting the search
for peace and reconciliation in Ireland, as we know that
the peace process would not have been possible without
international support.

In particular, I lobbied both governments for further
support for the International Fund for Ireland, whose
sponsors include the European Union, United States, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand. The fund has in recent years had
a positive role in assisting peace and reconciliation in
Ireland and I stressed to government representatives that a
financial contribution by the New Zealand and Australian
governments at this time would provide a signal of
confidence in the development of peace in Ireland.

The Irish diaspora deserves to be actively involved in both
the Sinn Féin Céad Bliain celebrations and the unfolding
progress towards a united Ireland.

This trip afforded important such opportunities in New
Zealand and Australia, following recent visits by Martin
McGuinness to the United States and Gerry Adams to Canada.

We also had a chance to thank many individuals and groups
who have consistently supported peace and justice in
Ireland and to give them a sense of the issues still to be
resolved. Some have already undertaken to highlight
continued human-rights concerns and, in particular,
attempts by the British government to block any effective
inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane by introducing the
now infamous Inquiries Act.


Opin: Charming They Might Be, But The Best Leaders Must Take Us To Where We Most Want To Be

BY Jude Collins

I watched a TV documentary on Sunday night, called 'How
Vietnam Was Lost'. It examined two events that occurred on
the same day in 1967, one in Vietnam and one in the US.

In Vietnam, 150 American soldiers were marched in to an
ambush and over half of them slaughtered. In the US,
University of Wisconsin anti-war protesters were set upon
by city police and savagely beaten. The combination of
footage from the time and interviews with those involved
was instructive and moving. Both groups – former GIs and
former students – identified a failure of leadership as
responsible for disaster at home and abroad. In Wisconsin,
the college president was a stupid man who called in the
riot police, transforming a peaceful sit-in into a ruthless
assault; when challenged, he insisted it was in the best
interests of the university. In Vietnam, US military
leaders were shown to have called for a frontal assault
that led to heavy loss of life; rather than admit their
incompetence, they tried to cover it up with systematic

So what is good leadership? Clearly a part of it is the
ability to inspire the devotion and commitment of your
followers, but that's not enough. The soldiers who obeyed
orders in Vietnam, the riot police who cracked skulls in
Wisconsin, believed in the men who gave them their orders –
but that very belief led to actions that were disastrous
for their cause.

Let's try another tack and have a look at some examples of
political leaders today.

In the south of Ireland, recent polls show Bertie Ahern the
most popular leader of a political party, closely followed
by Gerry Adams. What do these men have that excites the
approval of the general public?

Well, both of them have the common touch. When you see them
mixing with ordinary people, they look as though they're
enjoying themselves. It's not just that they smile: the
British prime minister Ted Heath smiled constantly in
public, but it was a clenched-teeth smile, the smile of a
man who hated being stared at, approached, touched. Ahern
and Adams smile when the occasion calls for it and don't
bother when it doesn't. Both men speak in a normal,
conversational tone to the microphone, as if addressing an
individual rather than a mass rally. Some politicians never
learn to talk naturally. Charlie Haughey could make a
remark about the weather sound like a weighty
pronouncement; Michael Noonan (remember him?) made what he
had for breakfast sound like a threat.

The other quality that Ahern and Adams share is that they
rarely get over-awed. Can you bear to recall that buttock-
clenching occasion when John Bruton (remember him?) greeted
Prince Charles on his visit to Ireland, and told the massed
ranks of the press that this was the happiest day of his
life? (Excuse me, I just need to lie behind the couch and
moan.) Garret Fitzgerald (remember him?) at the signing of
the Anglo-Irish Agreement, hovering spaniel-like over
Thatcher, made many Irish hearts long for Charlie Haughey.
Warts he may have had, but Charlie did the fawning thing
for nobody, and especially not Thatcher.

Here in the North, unionist leadership is embodied in Reg
Empey and Ian Paisley. Reg probably has never inflicted
deliberate pain on fish, flesh or fowl, but as leadership
material he's the original empty suit.

To say that Ian Paisley attracts the devotion of his
followers is an understatement. Nobody competes in voting
and affection terms with most unionists, and the thing they
like about him most is his air of certainty and
consistency. Compromise and rethink may be words in his
vocabulary, but he doesn't call on their services much.

However, a successful leader, as the US found out in the
1960s and 1970s, is not just one who looks good and
inspires devotion. He or she must also have policies that
make sense and get delivered successfully. How do Ahern,
Adams and Paisley score under these criteria? Bertie Ahern
would claim credit for much of the wealth generated by the
Celtic Tiger, and he certainly had a hand in it. But he
must also claim credit/take blame for the increasing gap
between rich and poor in Ireland, something the St Vincent
de Paul Society pointed to only last week. Bertie must also
take credit for the rampant capitalism that wants to
dispense with Irish workers on Irish Ferries and replace
them with Eastern Europeans who will be paid peanuts.
Finally, Bertie must claim credit for allowing US planes to
stop-over at Shannon; planes which carry hooded, doped men,
bound for torture-camp at Guantanamo Bay. It's by his
willingness to tackle these issues and resolve them that
Bertie Ahern's leadership will ultimately be judged.

And Ian Paisley? He'll be judged not on whether he gets
improved subsidies from Brussels or whether he persuades
American hi-tech companies to set up shop in the Ballymena

He'll be judged on his success in stopping the slide
towards Irish unity, against which all his life he has been
issuing warnings.

Gerry Adams's leadership will be judged in a similarly
straight-forward manner. Not on whether he gets local
control over the PSNI or strengthens cross-border
understanding or trebles the Sinn Féin vote. He'll be
judged on his success in achieving Irish unity, a project
to which he has given his energies all of his adult life.

Because in the end, it's not enough to inspire devotion in
your followers or harvest bags of votes. In the end, you
have to lead people somewhere worthwhile.

Jude Collins is an academic, writer and broadcaster. His
latest novel is 'Leave of Absence' (Townhouse, £6.99)


On Dec 9, 1973: Sunningdale Agreement Signed

Tripartite talks on Northern Ireland have ended in an
historic agreement to set up a Council of Ireland.

British Prime Minister Edward Heath, Irish premier Liam
Cosgrave, and representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party,
the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Alliance
Party of Northern Ireland, signed the agreement at
Sunningdale, Berkshire.

Under the accord, a "Council of Ireland" will be made up of
a board of ministers, and a Consultative Assembly.

The "Council of Ministers", which will have executive,
harmonising and consultative roles, will consist of seven
members from the Northern Ireland Executive and seven from
the Irish government.

And the Consultative Assembly will be made up of 30 members
from the Northern Ireland Assembly and an equal number from
the Dáil.

The assembly will have advisory and review functions.

The Council of Ireland is aimed at giving the Republic
jurisdiction over issues of joint concern with the north.

This will curb criticism the power-sharing executive body,
founded last month, gave the Dáil no powers north of the

Today's announcement at the Civil Service Staff College at
Sunningdale, where the conference has been held, ends four
days of tense deliberation.


But the road to today's agreement started in March when
Secretary of State William Whitelaw sought an end to IRA

London proposed an 80-member assembly - with unionist and
nationalist representation - to take over the affairs of

Elections held shortly afterwards resulted in the power-
sharing executive established and this announcement is an
extension of this.

The Council of Ireland is expected to be set up and active
from the beginning of next year.

The agreement is expected to enrage anti-power sharing
parties who were excluded from the talks.

A Border Poll in March established popular support for
remaining in the UK rather than joining the Republic.

In Context

The Executive took over the government of Northern Ireland
on 1 January 1974.

There was disagreement between parties in the Assembly and
the role of the Council of Ireland was not made clear.

Hardliners such as the Democratic Unionists' Ian Paisley,
saw the deal as a sell-out.

The majority of Ulster Unionists agreed and an Ulster
Workers' Council strike crippled power supplies and the
delivery of goods.

Loyalist paramilitaries became involved in enforcing
blockades and eventually UUP members of the power-sharing
body resigned.

The institutions collapsed and London imposed direct rule.


DUP Vows Action Over School Selection Concerns

By Kathryn Torney
09 December 2005

The DUP's MPs are working with Conservative and Labour
backbenchers in a bid to reverse plans to scrap academic
selection in Northern Ireland's schools, it emerged today.

DUP education spokesman Sammy Wilson said that the
announcement earlier this week confirming selection would
be banned had angered people across the province.

"My office in East Antrim has been inundated with calls
from concerned parents and teachers," he said.

"The reality of Costello is that grammar schools will be
dismantled with the ending of academic admission criteria,
and voluntary grammars will lose their long established

"Government language of 'catchment areas' and distance from
schools means that geographical location becomes more
important for school admission than academic suitability.

"The Government have even advocated the use of lotteries to
determine which pupils get into oversubscribed schools.

"We support the principle of academic selection, and wish
to retain the best parts of our current system while
improving elements where it is required.

"It is essential that society, and especially the world of
work, recognises vocational qualifications as valid and
valuable, but pupils with academic interests and abilities
must have the opportunity to pursue them in grammar
schools, while those with different talents and interests,
who are no less valued, must be able to secure a place in a
school that will cater for their needs.

"The Democratic Unionist Party MPs are working closely with
many Conservative and Labour backbench MPs who are also
concerned with these changes to our system."


Northern Ireland's IT Peace Dividend Could Show The Way Forward In Iraq

Belfast, Northern Ireland--An imposing length of concrete
still divides much of this city into Protestant and
Catholic zones, and many walls on either side still bear
graphic murals depicting militant images of 'The Troubles.'
But in old stone pubs and newly built office parks, many
residents here are now voicing a belief that Northern
Island's long history of sectarian violence may be at an
end. And it's no coincidence, they say, that this once
strife-torn part of the United Kingdom has achieved
sustainable peace at a time when economic growth is being
fueled by investment from Citigroup, Raytheon, Fujitsu,
Seagate and other global giants that have chosen Belfast as
a site for offshore software development. It all begs the
question--could this miracle be repeated in Iraq?

"People have now learned to leave their political baggage
at the door and go to work," says Martin Mellon, a director
at ASG Software Solutions, a Florida-based provider of
systems management applications and operator of a
development center in Belfast. Or, as one weathered patron
at centuries old White's Tavern told me, "People who've got
a good job have no time for all that other nonsense."

Thanks to Northern Ireland's small, but rapidly growing
presence as a destination for offshore IT work, more and
more residents will have access to those good jobs, giving
peace a chance to take root.

Walking through Belfast's downtown corridor on a recent
Saturday night, the streets filled with young professionals
going to and from vibrant new clubs and cafes, I found it
hard to imagine Northern Ireland's experience could hold
any lessons for the chaos that is present-day Iraq. But
then a police patrol car passes by looking more like an
armored personnel carrier and one remembers that, not too
long ago, this city was frequently compared to Beirut.

What changed is that Northern Ireland and the British
government in London adopted a peace process that included
Protestants and Catholics, Unionists and Republicans. Even
at that, however, it took many years of false starts before
the IRA finally agreed to "dump arms" this past summer and
decommission its weapons.

The political process in Iraq is in its infancy, and
progress there could also take years, if not decades. But
if Northern Ireland is any indication, efforts to forge a
constitutionally-based government that includes Sunnis and
Shiites could ultimately yield stability sufficient to
attract the kind of foreign investment that now has Belfast
looking forward instead of backward.

Will we ever see an IBM or a Microsoft opening a
development center in Baghdad? With almost daily
kidnappings and suicide bombings, that idea appears pretty
far fetched. But not much more so than the thought of a
major U.S. bank like Citigroup offshoring its application
work to Belfast would have seemed in the 1970s, '80s or
even '90s.

Move your software operations to Belfast? "No one would
have believed it possible even five years ago" says Mellon,
a native. One day, the same may be said of Iraq--but only
if its own nascent political process is given a chance to
flourish. Like Northern Ireland, it could take decades, but
what is the alternative?

Posted by Paul McDougall on Dec 5, 2005 at 05:22 PM


Belfast Hosts Narnia Movie Premiere

The magic ice land of Narnia has been recreated in Belfast
for the Irish premiere of the Lion, the Witch and the

The first Irish screening of the story by Belfast-born
author CS Lewis is set to raise about £100,000 for Queen's
University's new library.

The main building of Queen's was transformed into Narnia
for a gala dinner afterwards.

Guests at the premiere included Irish President Mary

Other guests included director Andrew Adamson, academy
award-winning producer Mark Johnson, Walt Disney president
Bob Iger and Queen's chancellor Senator George Mitchell.

"It gives me great pleasure that Queen's University and The
Walt Disney Company have come together for this unique
celebration," said Senator Mitchell.

"CS Lewis has inspired so many children throughout the
world that it is appropriate the Irish film premiere of his
much loved book be held in his home town."

The tables - costing £10,000 each - were snapped up long
ago. The film's world premiere was in London.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were guests of
honour at the premiere at London's Royal Albert Hall, which
was made to resemble an ice palace for the event to match
CS Lewis's classic tale.

Queen's University is paying tribute to Lewis by designing
a special reading room in his honour in the tower of the
new library.

The film's producers have provided the design of the
wardrobe doors featured in the movie for use in the CS
Lewis Reading Room.

Stars of the £62m Disney film include Tilda Swinton and
James McAvoy. Liam Neeson voices the tale's central
character Aslan the lion, while Ray Winstone and Dawn
French provide the voices of Mr and Mrs Beaver.

The fantasy story follows the Pevensie children, who
discover a wardrobe which is a gateway to the frozen
magical land of Narnia.

Aine Gibbons of Queen's said it was "a remarkable
achievement" for the university and for Belfast to have
Disney stage a major film premiere in the city.

"We are delighted that Disney has chosen Queen's to be the
beneficiary of the premiere. The event will be a marvellous
opportunity to showcase all that is good about Northern
Ireland," she said.

"Queen's is very proud of its links with CS Lewis and is
delighted to be putting on a range of activities around the
screening of the film."

Brendan McCaul of Buena Vista International said it was
"particularly appropriate that our partner in this exciting
venture is Queen's University Belfast".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/08 21:00:48 GMT


Remembering John Lennon

Patrick Ryan

Today marks the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death. He
was gunned down by a crazed stalker, Mark Chapman, as he
returned to his New York home, The Dakota Building.

December 8, 1980 will be a date that is burned forever into
the public consciousness as the day that the world lost an

Granted, Lennon had lost a great deal of his magic at this

His solo career had been more miss than hit, with the
exception of one or two moments of genius - Imagine,
Instant Karma, Mind Games anyone - there had nothing, music
wise, to match the heady heights of his time with The

Nonetheless, he always remained an intriguing individual
who took his own path in life.

From his early days as a Beatle to becoming a househusband
for Yoko Ono, he was always an iconic figure.

Lennon's touch is everywhere, where would the music
industry be with his genre defining influence.

The Beatles were the first pop/ rock stars, there can't be
an act around today who haven't been influenced on some
level by the Fab Four.

You only have to visit New York, the scene of Lennon's
untimely demise to see the impact he had on people.

A quarter of a century later, they are still feeling the
impact of his death.

The Dakota Building is one of the most instantly
recognisable buildings in the world. It has been
immortalised by appearing in films such as Rosemary's Baby.

In New York, the buildings themselves are as much stars
themselves as Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis.

There's little doubt that The Dakota wouldn't be as famous
if it weren't for the tragic events of some 25 years ago.

Bizarrely, Yoko Ono still lives there. Maybe not so
bizarrely when you consider her reputation as an eccentric.
They say she owns most of the building now and is head of
the co-op.

They also say she turned down Madonna's application to live
there, because she feared that the self-styled Queen of Pop
would drag the tone of the area down.

Irony is obviously lost on her.

Then there's Central Park, Lennon's spiritual home, with
Strawberry Fields.

There's a certain magic in the air when you visit there in
the evenings.

A memorial to Lennon is laid out with floral tributes and
messages from fans all over the world.

If you go at sunset you are in for a treat, Central Park is
a beautiful place at the best of times but there's
something special about that time of the evening.

The air is swarming with fireflies; their blinking light is
almost symbolic of the great man himself. A light that
shone so bright that it couldn't be sustained, but while it
lasted it was as breathtaking as it was tragic.

If Lennon had not been assassinated, by a crazed fan, there
is every chance he would have ended up alongside the likes
of Mick Jagger and Ozzy Osbourne playing charity concerts
at Buckingham Palace.

At least this way we get to remember him as a music legend,
not some sad old man trying desperately to stay in the
public eye.


Irish Punk Straight Out Of Yonkers

By James O'Rourke

For The Journal News

If you go …
What: Shilelagh Law Where: T.F. Noonan's, 16 E Central
Avenue, Pearl River.
When: 10 p.m.
Call: 845-735-6427

(Original publication: December 9, 2005)

What do you get when you mix a bit of American influence, a
few "authentic" Irish brogues straight out of Yonkers and a
touch of Polish?

Shilelagh Law — an Irish-American band with a singer named

"Irish music can be fast, fun and can really get people
into it," says Richard Popovic, lead vocalist for the four-
piece band.

Shilelagh Law takes the top off the melting pot tomorrow
night at T.F. Noonans in Pearl River.

The band takes inspiration from punk acts like Murphy's Law
and more traditional Irish performers like The Clancy
Brothers and The Wolfe Tones.

"We wanted to fill a need," says Popovic. "People were
missing that energy that really drives our style of Irish

After forming nearly eight years ago, Shilelagh Law has
been roving from pub to pub and festival to festival
entertaining audiences with its musical blend they describe
as "traditionally Irish with a hard-core, punk edge."

The band formed when school friends Terence Brennan,
Stephen Gardner, and Popovic realized they all had a love
for traditional Irish music.

"We heard the song 'Finnegan's Wake' — 'Shilelagh law was
all the rage' — and we went with that," says Brennan,
quoting the song from which the band derives its name.

"Finnegan's Wake," a song about young Tim Finnegan's death
and the melee that arises at his wake, is fitting for a
band that says their music is the result of a melding of
Irish and American cultures.

Brennan, the band's percussionist, plays an assortment of
instruments including the spoons, the Celtic bodhran and
the African djembe. He, along with Popovic, bassist Gardner
and Denis McCarthy — fiddler, tin whistler, and backing
vocalist — also play original tunes from each of their
three albums.

Traditional songs such as "Fields of Athenry" come from a
time when the poor in Ireland struggled simply to feed
themselves, while tunes such as "When New York Was Irish"
describe a later era when Irish immigrants filled the city,
from street cleaners to prominent politicians.

Originals such as "Christmas in New York," and "Meet Me on
McLean," add some neighborhood flair.

"Meet Me on McLean," written by McCarthy, tell of the bars
and local hangouts in New York and Yonkers where, "New York
City and Ireland meet."

"It used to be that if you wanted music, you had to go see
someone play it," says Popovic. "It's important to us to
carry on that tradition."

"What really makes the show is the energy," Brennan says.
"It's that traditional vibe that you want when you go into
an Irish-American bar."

Shilelagh Law has brought that vibe to bars and pubs as far
as Boston and even Dublin. Nonetheless, the band says that
the hometown crowds at pubs, such as Nugent's in Yonkers,
are still what make them want to play live music.

"It's nice to be something to bring people together and
keep them together," says Popovic. "I look around the bar
and I've known a lot of these people since kindergarten;
that's pretty rare."


Missing Turtle Netted On Website

Anne Lucey

Ocean researchers have regained contact with a giant
leatherback turtle whose journey from Ireland's southwest
coast to north Africa is being tracked on an internet

It had been three weeks since there had been a signal from
the turtle, which was fitted with a satellite tracking
device last August in Dingle, Co Kerry.

Marine biologist Kevin Flannery said he had received
numerous anxious calls, many of them from children who
feared the worst.

The website, , had posted an alert on November
23rd that no signals had been received, but there was still
a chance to remain hopeful.

"It's brilliant that she's back again," Mr Flannery said.

She is now off the coast of Mauritania, leading to
speculation that a new turtle breeding beach is about to be
discovered in this part of west Africa, he added.

The turtle had last been spotted off the Canaries on
November 13th, swimming in waters of 22 degrees Celsius.

Mr Flannery thinks the recent severe weather off the Canary
Islands may have interfered with the satellite connection.

Since getting caught up in lobster pots off Dingle in
August, the 400kg turtle, measuring 2m long, has swum over
2,500 kilometres and dived over a thousand times, once to
depths of 165m. She has doubled back off the north coast of
Spain, probably in pursuit of jellyfish, but her journey
has generally been a straight line, past Madeira and the
Canary Islands.

The project, which is the first tracking of a leatherback
in the north Atlantic, is being sponsored by the EU and is
being run between the University of Wales in Swansea and

© The Irish Times

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