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December 05, 2005

Guidelilnes on CRJ Made Public

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News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 12/05/05 Guidelines On CRJ Made Public
GU 12/05/05 Ulster Community Justice Scheme's In Balance
BB 12/05/05 Durkan To Discuss OTRs With Ahern
SF 12/05/05 Maskey Challenges SDLP Over Special Branch
SF 12/05/05 PSNI Facilitating Loyalist Parade Breach
SF 12/05/05 Doolan Delighted At 16 Moore St Recommendation
BT 12/05/05 Incinerator On Boyne Slammed
SF 12/05/05 Bairbre De Brún Briefs Australians
BT 12/05/05 Prize Winner Converted By Prison Experience
II 12/05/05 Pointless SF Queries Wasting Dail Time -O'Dea
BT 12/05/05 Belfast Rat Alert After City Flooding
DI 12/05/05 Opin: Debating Nature Of Reunification
DI 12/05/05 Opin: Urge To Dock With Ireland Is On The Wane
DI 12/05/05 Opin: Appeal For Equality On Vote For President
BT 12/05/05 I'm Dreaming Of A Nuclear Powered Christmas


Guidelines On Justice Made Public

Justice Minister David Hanson is due to publish draft
guidelines on community restorative justice.

There are 14 community restorative justice schemes
currently in operation in republican areas of Northern
Ireland and five in loyalist districts.

Supporters of the schemes argue that they provide a
positive alternative to paramilitary beatings.

However, critics fear that they could lead to the creation
of a two-tier justice system.

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said the projects
followed similar lines by seeking to bring victims and
offenders together and making offenders undertake community

However, while the loyalist projects cooperate with the
police, those in republican areas do not.


All the projects are currently funded privately, but that
finance is expected to run out in the spring.

Agreement on government guidelines is being seen as crucial
to obtaining official funding.

The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, who is meeting Irish Prime
Minister Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Monday, has expressed
his concern about the need for full protection of human
rights in any community restorative justice projects.

The Policing Board said the government should not push
ahead in this area until all political parties have
endorsed the current policing structures.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the government
would only back the schemes if they adhered to what he
called "strict police principles".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/05 06:45:46 GMT


Ulster Community Justice Scheme's Fate In Balance

Owen Bowcott
Monday December 5, 2005
The Guardian

On the sprawling Twinbrook estate in west Belfast they are
known as "hood huggers" - because they talk to criminals
instead of kneecapping them.

The volunteers and staff who run Community Restorative
Justice (CRJ) stand accused by other critics of operating
an alternative policing system promoting republican
interests. The future of these pioneering schemes, which
sprang up across Northern Ireland after the IRA ceasefire,
could be decided today when the government publishes draft
guidelines about their conduct.

Without public funding the 14 CRJ projects - which last
year dealt with 1,700 cases - are in danger of folding.
Generous grants from an American philanthropist will end
shortly. To obtain official support, however, the
organisation will have to accept some degree of police
involvement, but distrust of the force still runs deep in
the republican community. The issue, moving swiftly up the
political agenda, has sharpened divisions between Sinn Féin
and the rival nationalist Social Democratic and Labour
party. Looming behind is the larger question of whether
Sinn Féin will eventually join the province's policing

The chief achievement of CRJ, which started in 1999, is
that, in close negotiation with the IRA, it helped break
the grim repetition of punishment beatings and kneecappings
by the Provisionals. Police figures show that in the last
six months there were 54 punishment shootings in Northern
Ireland - 50 by loyalist groups, four by republicans. The
republican category includes those carried out by dissident
groups not on ceasefire.

In a sparsely furnished office in Twinbrook, Deirdre
Groves, the local CRJ project coordinator, deals with a
wide spectrum of casework, from window breaking and
children loose on the streets through to violent feuds
between families.

Car theft and joyriding, once the traditional pursuit of
antisocial teenagers, or "hoods", in west Belfast are being
increasingly replaced, she says, by kids driving runabouts
- clapped out vehicles bought for as little as £50. She is
one of four CRJ "practitioners" who have completed an NVQ
course in community justice and community safety. "It's
about resolving disputes," she said. "There is a feeling
here in the community that the police are unacceptable."

Restorative justice schemes, which generally involve
offenders confronting their victims and making amends,
exist in many countries. Jim Auld, director of the CRJ,
said his organisation had already gained acceptance among
many social workers and probation officers.

The fears about restorative justice practices in Northern
Ireland focus on the CRJ's relationship with the IRA and
alleged attempts to resolve more serious cases, such as
sexual offences.

Mr Auld, who was interned at the start of the Troubles,
spent years working with young offenders to wean them off
joyriding. He acknowledges the CRJ emerged following talks
with the IRA and that some members are ex-prisoners. He is
adamant that it does not deal with sex offences.

Case study

'There has to be respect'

When Paul was 16 both his ankles were broken by an IRA
punishment squad wielding sewer rods. He had been accused
of joyriding and drug dealing.

Local republicans forced him to leave his west Belfast
home. He was allowed back on to the estate a year ago.
Deirdre Groves at the Community Restorative Justice project
helped to negotiate his return.

Paul (not his real name), now 19, signed a contract
promising he would not steal cars or get involved with
criminals. His mother and Ms Groves signed too.

"We had several meetings with local IRA officials," she
explained. "I made it clear [to Paul and his family] that
when they were in here their safety was guaranteed. We had
one person speaking at a time. There has to be respect.
There is no justification for hurting these people."

Paul is about to move into a new house with his girlfriend
and young baby. "There was a feud between our family and a
republican family," he recalled. "I was accused of being
menacing. But now I have been back here for a year and I
have changed my behaviour."


Durkan To Discuss Otrs With Ahern

The SDLP's concerns about "on-the-runs" will be raised at a
meeting with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in Dublin on

A spokesman said the delegation, led by Mark Durkan, would
demand the withdrawal of legislation which "lets state
killers off the hook".

"We want to see... a process which serves truth and
victims," he said.

The party will also seek "full protection of human rights"
in restorative justice schemes.

The spokesman said the SDLP would also be "pushing our
north-south agenda," and looking at strategies to "get the
Good Friday Agreement up and running in its entirety".

"We will be voicing our concerns about the composition of
the Parades Commission," he said.

Special tribunal

The Northern Ireland Offences Bill, or "on-the-run"
legislation, covers up to 150 people wanted for crimes
committed before 1998.

They would have their cases heard by a special tribunal,
and if found guilty, would be freed on licence without
having to go to jail.

The government and Sinn Fein argue that it clears up "an
anomaly" left by the release of those already in jail after
the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The proposed law would set up a two-stage process. First a
"certification officer" would decide if someone was
eligible for the scheme.

This could be a paramilitary on-the-run, someone living in
Northern Ireland who is charged with an offence before 1998
or a member of the security forces accused of an offence
committed when they were combating terrorism.


The case would then go to a special tribunal, consisting of
a retired judge sitting without a jury. The tribunal would
have all the normal powers of the Crown Court but the
accused would not have to appear for their trial.

If found guilty they would have a criminal record but would
be freed on licence. They would have to provide
fingerprints and DNA samples to be granted their licence.

The scheme will be temporary but a precise cut-off period
is not specified in the bill - instead its expiry is linked
to the lifetime of the chief constable's historic cases
review team, which is looking at unsolved murders during
the Troubles.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/05 07:20:36 GMT


Maskey Challenges SDLP Over Special Branch Agenda

Published: 4 December, 2005

Speaking at the Volunteer Martin Savage commemoration over
the weekend in Dublin, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex
Maskey accused the SDLP of protecting the political
detectives in the PSNI Special Branch who are determined to
halt further policing and political change.

Mr Maskey said:

" In recent times on the major issues in the peace process
the SDLP have been found standing side by side with the
rejectionist unionists of the DUP. In order to justify
flawed decisions like jumping too early on policing, the
SDLP, part of a new policing establishment, is now
determined to prevent further necessary change in order to
justify their position.

" Sinn Féin is determined to continue to defend the
nationalist and republican interest. We are determined to
achieve further political and policing change. The SDLP
decision to leave that road will not alter our
determination to succeed.

" In the course of recent days the PSNI Special Branch have
embarked upon a series of politically motivated raids
accompanied by the usual media briefing. Sinn Féin have
been targeted. Ordinary nationalists and republicans have
been targeted. The GAA have been targeted. We can only
presume that the SDLP enthusiastically back the PSNI in all
of this.

" The political detectives in the Special Branch who plan,
control and deliver this sort of political policing feel
under no pressure from the SDLP. In fact the blank cheque
handed to them by the Policing Board only serves to protect
these individuals at a time when their agenda of subverting
the peace process should be consigned to history." ENDS


PSNI Accused Of Facilitating Loyalist Breach Of Parades Determination

Published: 3 December, 2005

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff has accused the
PSNI of facilitating a Loyalist breach of a Parades
Commission determination in respect of the return of
marches in Castlederg and attacking nationalist protesters.

Mr McElduff said:

"The PSNI not only facilitated Loyalists breaching the
Parades Commission determination they turned on
nationalists, who were legitimately protesting, with

"The PSNI brutality witnessed in Castlederg today and the
partial way in which they facilitated Loyalist law breaking
only underlines the reasons why many nationalists and
republicans have little or no confidence in this force.

"It appears clear that the actions of the PSNI in
Castlederg are driven by a political agenda that is about
brutalising nationalists and allowing Loyalists to act with

"I raised the issue of policing in Castlederg with both the
British Secretary of State Peter Hain and Irish Foreign
Minister Dermott Ahern in recent talks." ENDS


Doolan Delighted At 16 Moore St Recommendation

Published: 5 December, 2005

Sinn Féin's Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment
Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today welcomed, "Dublin City
Council's recommendation to list 16 Moore Street as a
Protected Structure."

Speaking ahead of tonight's City Council meeting, Cllr.
Doolan said:

"I am delighted that the Council's report concludes that
this historic building will now be protected from the
grubby hands of private developers. I will certainly be
supporting this report in the strongest possible terms at
tonight's Council meeting. I must also pay tribute to to
all those who were involved in 'Save 16 Moore Street' and
who were so successful in bringing this campaign to

"The next step of course is to carry out a detailed survey
of the building which will give us all greater insight into
what actually happened during the last few hours of the
rebellion. This was a huge event in our country's history
and any knowledge gained from the exploration of this
building must be documented, recorded and made public for
all to share.

"This building could well be the corner stone for an
historic quarter in this part of Dublin. The G.P.O., Moore
St, 16 Moore St itself, Moore Lane and surrounding streets
all witnessed momentous events during Easter Week 1916. To
develop the area into an historic quarter would be a
fitting tribute to all those who fought and died during the
1916 Rising."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on, "the Minister for
Environment Dick Roche to now take City Council's lead and
declare 16 Moore Street a national monument. It is only
fitting that this building receives the national
recognition it deserves."


Incinerator On Boyne Slammed

By Michael McHugh
05 December 2005

The decision to grant an incineration company a license to
work near the Battle of the Boyne site has been lambasted
by local Orangemen.

Billy Armstrong, UUP MLA and a leading member of the loyal
order, expressed his disappointment at the news that the
Republic's Environmental Protection Agency was to grant
Indaver Ireland a licence for the controversial facility
near Drogheda in Co Meath.

The decision follows months of consideration and opposition
from a group of campaigners and Orangemen anxious about the
impact on their hallowed turf.

Mr Armstrong said he was calling on people to lodge
objections to the decision, which would allow large
quantities of waste to be disposed of without resorting to
a landfill site.

"As things stand, the large municipal waste incinerator
would literally be built right on the footprint of the
battle of the Boyne site and just minutes from Newgrange
which has World Heritage status due to its archaeological
importance," he said.

"I remain convinced that the Boyne region could become the
core of a Williamite Trail stretching from Carrickfergus
through the Boyne Valley and on towards Limerick in the

"The tourist potential for sites along the way could be
substantial and would not only generate income but could
provide an educational experience that would allow visitors
and the two main cultures a better understanding of this
period of history."


Bairbre De Brún Briefs Australian Parliamentarians On Peace Process

Published: 3 December, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has been briefing Australian
parliamentarians about the current state of the peace
process in Ireland. Ms de Brún said that there had been a
"great deal of interest in Irish affairs, and in
particular, the on-going peace process".

Ms de Brún embarked on a tour of both New Zealand and
Australia as part of Sinn Féin's centenary celebrations to
promote the peace process and to lobby the case for renewed
financial support for peace and reconciliation through the
International Fund for Ireland. In recent days she has
taken part in a range of events in Canberra, Sydney,
Brisbane and Melbourne.

Speaking from Australia Ms de Brún said:

"This week's visit to Australia follows on from the visit
to New Zealand earlier this week where I met with
politicians, members of the business community, and a range
of community activists and groups, and with Ernie Davis,
senior advisor to NZ Minister for Foreign Affairs, Winston

"In the course of my visit to Australia I have held
meetings with Mr 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 the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer. Our meetings took place
at the Federal Parliament in Parliament House in Canberra,
where we discussed a wide range of issues including the
peace process.

"I also met with a range of parliamentarians at the ACT
State Parliament from the Labour Party, Liberal party and
Green Party, with Mr Matthew Cossey, Secretary and Campaign
Director of the Australian Labour Party, with Executive
Members of the Canberra Irish Business Association, and
with other leading members of the Canberra Irish community.

"I also met with the business sector and leading members of
the Irish community in Melbourne.

"I was delighted to have had a welcome hosted for me in the
State parliaments in Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney.

"There is a great deal of interest in Irish affairs and, in
particular, in the on-going peace process. I briefed the
parliamentarians on the need for the re-establishment of
the political institutions and the speedy resolution of all
outstanding political issues. I have urged all of those
whom I have met to continue assisting the search for peace
and reconciliation in Ireland." ENDS


Prize Winner Converted By First-Hand Prison Experience

By Nigel Morris
05 December 2005

Steve Taylor admits that, before he was jailed, he was the
"most right-wing reactionary person you could find".

Four months behind bars transformed him. Appalled by the
"pointless warehousing of people" that he encountered, he
came out dedicated to improving the lot of inmates.

"The bubble had been burst. I had seen the waste of prison,
but I had also seen the potential for prison," said Mr

After gaining a university degree, he became involved in a
project dedicated to driving up standards of education in

For his efforts in forcing an unfashionable subject into
the limelight, Mr Taylor will be awarded the Longford Prize

The award, sponsored by The Independent and named after
Lord Longford, the penal and social reformer who died in
2001, recognises "outstanding qualities of humanity,
courage, persistence and originality".

During the two years that Mr Tayor has headed the Forum on
Prisoner Education pressure group, he has appeared
regularly in the media, given evidence to Parliament and
produced a widely praised report calling for inmates to
receive unrestricted access to the internet.

In addition, he tours jails giving practical advice to
inmates on gaining qualifications as a route out of crime.

Mr Taylor, 29, who declines to discuss why he was jailed,
said: "It's important to me that we spend as much time as
possible talking to people on the ground to see what we can
do to help. I have to make sure we're in the real world. I
can't be bothered with hypothetical carrying-on about
abstract issues."

One of the people who nominated him, a former prisoner now
working as a baker after obtaining a BTEC vocational
qualification, said: "If Steve hadn't got involved, I
wouldn't have my qualification. Steve really helped me and
made a difference to my time in prison when he didn't have

The forum's chairman, Professor David Wilson, said:
"Steve's commitment, organisation, passion and
understanding stem from his direct experience of
imprisonment and his desire to reform the circumstances he
encountered while banged up."

Two other people were also highly commended by the Longford
judges. Marian Liebmann, from Bristol, was recognised for
her pioneering work with prisoners on art therapy and
restorative justice - bringing offenders and their victims
together. Liz Hoyle, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, the
founder of a worldwide network linking prisoners writing
poetry, is posthumously recognised. She died of cancer this
year but her organisation continues to flourish.

The winner last year was Christopher Morgan, the founder of
the Shannon Trust, a charity dedicated to tackling
illiteracy in jails by encouraging educated prisoners to
coach their cellmates.


Pointless SF Queries Wasting Dail Time, Says O'Dea

Tom Brady
Security Editor

DEFENCE Minister Willie O'Dea has accused Sinn Fein of
wasting taxpayers' money by tabling pointless questions in
the Dail.

The combative minister's anger was aroused by a series of
10 questions on the contents of courses at the Defence
Forces Training Centre at the Curragh.

The questions were put down by Dublin deputy Aengus O
Snodaigh, who sought details on courses for international
military observers and staff officers, explosive ordnance
officers and engineers involved in specialist search and
clearance operations.

Mr O Snodaigh also wanted information on the international
mine awareness course, human rights programme, two command
and staff courses and the standard cadet course.

Each question costs €250 for research carried out by civil
servants who prepare the answers, making a total cost of

In a written answer the minister outlined a list of
subjects covered in each of the courses.

But last night Mr O'Dea said he was baffled by Mr O
Snodaigh's decision to submit 10 separate parliamentary
questions on the same subject. "Does he need the material
for a comparative study, I wonder?" he asked.


He said the type of material being sought by Mr O Snodaigh
could be accessed via public websites instead of making a
mockery of the parliamentary questions system and wasting
taxpayers' money.

"It would be more productive for Sinn Fein's backroom
people to put as much effort into answering genuine
questions as they spend asking pointless questions," added
Mr O'Dea.

This is the latest spat between the minister and Sinn Fein
over defence issues.

Earlier this year, he was involved in another row with the
party over Sinn Fein's use of the term, 'Oglaigh na
hEireann' to describe its military wing, the IRA.

Mr O'Dea said the Defence Forces was the only organisation
entitled to use that term.


Stormont Planning Protest

By Michael Drake
05 December 2005

The SDLP took its rural planning problems to Stormont today
when councillors, MLAs and MP Eddie McGrady protested
outside Parliament Buildings at noon.

Speaking before the protest South Down councillor Peter
Craig said: "The SDLP is fighting for the rights of farmers
and people from farm families and this protest is to
demonstrate our complete opposition to anti-rural planning.

"The Planning Service in Northern Ireland is oppressing
rural communities with their increasingly rigid anti-rural
practices and policies.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for farm families to
build houses on their own land, while rural businesses are
faced with an uphill struggle to get planning permission.

"If the countryside and farming communities are to be given
a chance at all then Planning Service must do all in their
power to promote rural development while maintaining all
that is special about our countryside. "

Mr Craig said party members were frustrated by Environment
Minister Lord Rooker's approach to rural planning.

"He has failed to consult fully with locally elected
representatives and this is working to the determent of all
people across the province," said Mr Craig.

"Our party has a number of workable proposals that would
benefit rural businesses and farming families as well as
proposals on applications. We are calling on the minister
to listen to our concerns."


Rat Alert After City Flooding

By Linda McKee
05 December 2005

Flash floods in south Belfast have forced a plague of rats
onto the streets, an SDLP councillor has warned.

He said the vermin fled the sewers as floods carried sewage
and filthy water into almost 50 homes around the lower
Ormeau Road last Thursday.

Manhole covers were blown off as sewage fountained into the
street, Pat McCarthy said.

"There were rats forced up out of the sewers with the flood
so they were a bit of a problem," he said.

"All the water from the Saintfield Road right down the
Ormeau Road ends up here. If it can't get away, the
sewerage system brings it up."

The floods in River Terrace rose to several feet within
half an hour, he said.

The floods came just two years after a £1m scheme to revamp
the sewerage system.

"They (Water Service staff) told us the pumps were working
flat out, but because of the high water in River Terrace it
wasn't clearing it quickly enough," Mr McCarthy said.

"Eventually they dropped the weir and once they'd done that
the water started to go down."

A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said pest control
officers have been working at River Terrace during the
flood to advise residents on dealing with vermin.

"We do bait the sewers on a regular basis on behalf of the
Water Service. But if the sewers overflow rats will
automatically come out," she said.

"If someone sees a dead rat around their home, the advice
is to lift it and put it in their household bin, otherwise
they attract other vermin."

Anyone who has a problem with rats should report it to pest
control officers on 9027 0428.

Residents gathered at the recreation centre on Friday for a
crisis meeting.

Mr McCarthy said people had taken refuge with friends and
family and the nearby Lagan Fold had offered accommodation
for anyone who had nowhere to go.

"There were people who have lost the children's Christmas
presents that they had hidden out of the road, as well as
their furniture and household goods," he said.

Resident Cathy McKeown, who will have to spend Christmas
away from her home, said the family had been led to believe
the flooding problem was fixed.

Plans to build 400 homes behind River Terrace could leave
the sewerage system even less able to cope, she warned.


Opin: Debating Nature Of Reunification

Mary Lou McDonald

Politics is still very much a man's world. We in Sinn Féin
are actively working to address this problem. We want more
women in our party, we want to empower women and elect

So it was with great pleasure that I hosted a delegation of
women from across Dublin to the European Parliament last
week. The delegation which represented various community
organisations from the capital made their way to Brussels
and met with representatives from the European Commission
and various NGO organisations, including EUROCHILD and the
European Citizen Action Centre.

The visit was extremely successful. The women questioned,
debated and received feedback on European policy, and how
it affects Ireland. We also discussed the allocation and
distribution of funding, and how EU funds can be accessed
by community groups.

While it can be difficult to overcome the sheer size and
bureaucracy of the European institutions, it is important
to provide community activists with the opportunity to
lobby European officials and politicians directly.

I hope that the women left Brussels more enlightened and
better equipped to continue delivering first class services
in their communities.

I spent last weekend in the Rebel County. The Kilmichael
Commemoration, which remembers the famous ambush and fallen
IRA volunteers Michael McCarthy, Jim Sullivan and Pat Deasy
was a huge success. The ambush took place on November 28,
1920 and was the first engagement between the IRA and the
feared Auxiliaries in the War of Independence. When word
reached the British that 18 of their battle-hardened
officers had fallen in combat, they could not comprehend
how this could have happened at the hands of those they had
previously dismissed as a 'rabble'.

The British establishment has always underestimated anti-
colonial freedom struggles both in Ireland and across the
globe. Down through the generations those who had the
courage and tenacity to challenge the British establishment
were consistently underestimated. They were demonised in
the media, their families were harassed and forced to
endure considerable hardship.

So it was with a sense of considerable pride and
steadfastness that republicans across Ireland celebrated
the party's 100th birthday at the weekend. The Cead Blain
events throughout the year have provided an opportunity for
republicans and others, to discuss the shape, form and
nature of a reunited Ireland.

In the past months a number of political parties have
rediscovered their republicanism. This is very welcome.
They now need to actively demonstrate their commitment to
Irish unity an their rhetoric must be matched by action.

As we reflect on the past 100 years, we can look to the
future heartened by the realisation that Irish
republicanism is more popular now than at any time since
the 1920s and Tom Barry's famous flying columns.

Sinn Féin is continuing to take practical steps towards
independence and unity.

There is a lot still to be done. We will get there all the
quicker if we work together.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald is an MEP representing the
Dublin constituency.


Opin: Urge To Dock With Mother Ship Ireland Is On The Wane

BY Robin Livingstone

I'm getting bored now with this Republic of Ireland manager
business. If the truth be told, the chronic failure to make
an appointment is symptomatic of the malaise that has
grippped the Free State since it started to make a bit of

The more airgead they have, the more of a balls they seem
to make of everything.

It's not just this manager saga, I've been losing interest
in supporting the Republic for some time now. Don't go
getting ideas and thinking that I'm going to start
supporting the Province or anything – that'd be completely

It's just that every new thing I find out about those 26
counties gives me one more reason to like it less.

It could be a plot, I'm not denying that possibility,
because certainly I'm a lot less interested in a united
Ireland than I was ten or 20 years ago – perhaps the
Republic is deliberately turning into a money-mad, twisted
and weird little place in order to put northern
nationalists off. If so, it's working very well.

Granted, I'm probably more genetically disposed to
antipathy towards Dublin given my elegantly unOirish name
and my Ulster-Scots background, but anyone from the North
who looks at the evidence can only conclude that with every
passing day the urge to dock with the Dublin mother ship is

Think about it...

n They treat the elderly like dogs and illegally charge
them for the privilege;

:: Their bent and useless police force makes the RUC look
like Elliot Ness and the Untouchables.

:: Waiting list of 20 years for tribunals;

:: Politicians who never passed Dundalk in 30 years are now
coming up to bash republicans;

:: Don't even whimper when the Brits tell them to piss off
about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings;

:: 20 per cent of tourists collapse when they discover the
price of things. The other 80 per cent get the next plane

:: A week's wages to see a doctor;

:: Quicker to drive to Newry than wait in any A&E in the

:: Most vicious and reactionary press in Europe.

:: Toll roads;

:: Criminal gangs make the North look like Switzerland;

:: Spend more money on deporting schoolchildren than on
teaching them;

:: Charge householders a fortune for rubbish disposal then
illegally dump it on top of our heads;

:: Brown envelope is god – the rich are richer and the poor
are poorer than anywhere else in the history of

:: Can't estimate the price of a road or tunnel to within
10,000 per cent;

:: First-time house-buyers can't afford a turf shed in

Come to think of it, isn't our Province a great wee place?

Bad choices

My pal's getting married soon and he tells me that the
priest has recommended a CD of liturgical music in a none-
too-subtle attempt to remind him that secular music is now
something of a no-no. Hello monk choirs, goodbye Whitney

He's miffed, but secretly I'm pleased. For every one of us
who ever squirmed in a pew while the bride walked up the
aisle to the strains of Everything I Do (I Do it For You),
this is good news.

I'm old enough to remember the time when a woman was happy
to walk down the aisle to the Wedding March. Now the brides
wear white cowboy hats, the grooms wear Nehru jackets and
the choice of music is just as objectionable.

While the use of secular music in the ceremony is frowned
on, plenty of parishes have their Father Trendies who are
only too happy to turn a blind ear to the musical
atrocities being perpetrated in the house of God.

I have it on good authority that as recently as last month,
a wedding in West Belfast saw the father lead the bride up
the aisle to the sound of

Mariah Carey duetting Endless Love with Luther Van Dross.
An eyewitness tells me the emphasis was very much on the
dross bit.

Another pal of mine, over whose name I shall draw a kindly
veil of silence, got married and things went swimmingly up
to the reception when the DJ invited the happy couple to
take to the floor for the first dance. The song had been
chosen by the couple themselves, and it was Peabo Bryson
and Roberta Flack singing Tonight I Celebrate My Love For
You. A suppressed groan swept through the room like a
Mexican wave; all present strove mightily to keep down the
chicken and ham and some even succeeded.

A bloke in the pub (always the most reliable analyst of
current trends, I find) said when the subject arose this
week that his sister is a wedding singer and she gets
requests for one record more than the others put together.
And that record is, roll of drums please... You Say It Best
When You Say Nothing At All. It's a blessing, Squinter
supposes, that it's not Ronan Keating singing it, but even
so. I liked the version of that song that an impressionist
did on RTÉ not long after Ronan said that he wasn't ruling
out a Boyzone reunion after all...

It's amazing how hate can turn to respect, when you find
out your solo career is feck'd

Clearly, some people don't think the music thing through
when they're planning the wedding. Which is why She Moved
Through the Fair is so popular at weddings these days.
Moving, yes, but appropriate? The engaged couple clearly
get as far as...

She stepped away from me, and this she did say, It will not
be long love, 'til our wedding day... and think, "love,
wedding, day – that's the one!"

Were they to listen on, of course, they would find out that
the bride-to-be in this peculiarly Irish imbroglio comes to
a very sticky end indeed and appears to her lover as a
ghost in the final verse.

Do they just leave this bit out, or do they walt away
regardless and hope nobody notices? Wouldn't take you to be
the superstitious type.

And then there's Dr Hook's A Little Bit More, which,
according to reports reaching me, once soared to fill the
lofty vaults of a west Belfast church. You can just picture
the priest pulling at his collar as the words were belted

When your body's had enough of me and we're layin' right
out on the floor; When you think I've loved you all I can,
I'm gonna love you a little bit more.

A young groom may well mean this quite literally at the
time, but let's be honest, as the years pass it's going to
get more and more difficult for him deliver that particular
promise and he's going to go for quality instead of

It'll be more a case of, When your body's had enough of me
and we're layin' right out on the floor,

When you think I've loved you all I can, you know what...
you're right, love.

And that could lead to some, ah, discord under the duvet,
some mayhem on the mattress, some bad blood in the boudoir.

I must confess to having made a poor choice myself back in
1989 and I won't upset you any further by telling you what
it was.

I do hope, though, to do better next time.


Opin: Appeal For Equality On The Vote For President

Jarlath Kearney

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be asked to intervene after a
West Tyrone assembly member complained that three-quarters
of this year's GAA Allstars are prevented from voting in
Irish presidential elections.

Describing the issue as "disgraceful", Sinn Féin all-
Ireland spokesperson Barry McElduff insisted that Irish
citizens living in the North must be entitled to vote in
future Irish presidential elections.

"If it's good enough for Colm 'Gooch' Cooper, it's good
enough for Stephen O'Neill," Mr McElduff said.

"My concern is that 11 out of 15 GAA Allstars honoured last
Friday night couldn't vote if there was an Irish
presidential election in the morning because they live in
the wrong two-thirds of Ulster.

"I made this case on Thursday morning to a senior Irish
government official in Armagh and I am also writing to
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to make this point, as I have done
on numerous occasions in the past.

"To me the case is compelling. Bertie Ahern's a good GAA
man who follows Dublin and who can regularly be seen at
Páirc an Chrócaigh and it's no secret that he's a great
admirer of GAA players from the province of Ulster.

"Yet all those football, hurling and camogie players living
in the wrong two-thirds of Ulster, who manage to represent
their counties in All-Ireland competition, their province
in the Railway Cup and their country in compromise rules
are denied the right to vote in Irish presidential

"It's a disgraceful situation, especially when one
considers that section 1, part 6 of the Good Friday
Agreement enshrines the 'birthright of all the people in
Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as
Irish, British or both'.

"Surely, in that context, if Bertie Ahern can get in to a
photograph with the Allstars, he can accept that 11 of them
should have the same rights as the other four," Mr McElduff


I'm Dreaming Of A Nuclear Powered Christmas

Pól Ó Muirí
05 December 2005

Where do you think we should build Northern Ireland's
nuclear power station? The Mournes? The Sperrins or,
perhaps, the Maze? You didn't know we were going to get a
nuclear power plant? Don't you read the newspapers?

Tony Blair has put the question of nuclear power back on
the political agenda. Natural resources used to produce
electricity - coal and gas - are growing ever more scarce
and global warming threatens day and daily.

For once, Blair is not blowing when he says: "Climate
change is producing a sense of urgency." He believes that
nuclear power must be an energy option for the future.

Needless to say, Greenpeace and other environmental groups
disagree and want the emphasis put on renewable sources.

So where does that leave us? Admittedly, nuclear power is
not included in the Belfast Agreement or in much else we
discuss. Still, that won't protect us from dwindling
resources or the effects of global warming.

Few of us like the idea of nuclear power and the row over
Sellafield (or whatever it is called this week) and its
effects on this side of the water is one that has been
ongoing for years.

More often than not, we are passive in the face of these
discussions. They don't concern us, we say, while turning
to our own (often legitimate) causes of concern. Well,
nuclear power and global warming do concern us - and they
will concern our children and our grandchildren even more.

The oddest thing about the global warming debate is,
despite knowing so much, how little we actually do to
remedy the situation.

Take, for example, Christmas tree lights. (Yes, folks,
there is a 'bah humbug' moment fast approaching!) Many
councils in Northern Ireland are enlightened enough to have
recycle centres where ratepayers can take glass, plastic,
organic waste (grass cuttings to you) and other material
and leave them, safe in the knowledge that they will be
recycled and do a little to save the environment.

Some councils even have special bins in which they collect
newspapers, tin cans and the like from individual
households. They are well worth the couple of extra quid on
the rates to save Mother Earth.

Contrast then their sensible approach to recycling with the
numerous Christmas lights councils hang each year.

Bad enough that they use energy and resources that we
should be preserving but many councils light up in November
and don't turn them off until January. Feel the goodwill;
say bye-bye to the global chill (and the ice-caps).

I know it's Christmas and it only comes once a year. But
why bother lighting up street after street for hours on end
when the late-night shopping is over by eight in the

The only people to appreciate the decorations thereafter
are the drunks rolling out of the bars looking for a fish
supper or a kebab.

I will have lights on my Christmas tree like anyone else -
but I turn them off when I go to bed. That's a lot more
than can be said for most councils.

Bah humbug, says you. Fair enough - but don't be surprised
if Santa leaves a nuclear power plant under the Christmas
tree this year.

MALE readers of a certain age will remember when wearing
white socks was enough to get you barred from a club. They
were the sartorial equivalent of the switch blade and
anyone wearing them was supposed to be trouble.

Hoodies are now the new white socks. I have a nice hoodie
from GAP. I like it because it makes me look slim. I feel
like an athlete and I do wear it to shopping centres. Now,
if I could only find the white socks to go with it...

ANOTHER outbreak of eating raw steak in the SDLP. This week
it is Alex Attwood, the party's spokesman on policing.
Commenting on on-the-run legislation Attwood got wired into
Sinn Féin in a very unmiddle-class way, saying that the
Shinners have known since April, 2003, that the law would
cover "State killers" and that loyalist murderers would
also benefit.

Sinn Féin were complicit he said, while happily punching
Sinn Féin's denials in the ribs. Is Alex Attwood the new
Karate Kid?

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