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December 12, 2005

Hain Threatens To Scrap The Assembly

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News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 12/12/05 Hain: We Have To End This Charade
DU 12/12/05 Robinson - Crucial Time For Political Process
IO 12/12/05 McDowell Urged To Resign Over Colombia Claims
DI 12/12/05 Media Condemned For 'Deliberate Disinformation'
DI 12/12/05 Human Pain Behind Claims
NH 12/12/05 Family Seek Ahern Meeting Over 'Collusion'
BB 12/12/05 UUP Leader Empey Meets Finucanes
BT 12/12/05 Windfall In Community Cash On Way To N Belfast
ST 12/12/05 What's A Terrorist, What's A Freedom Fighter?
NL 12/12/05 Government Must Come Clean Over Court Ruling
BB 12/12/05 Ormeau Residents Protest For Flood Money
SF 12/12/05 Flooding Liability Issue Must Be Dealt With
BH 12/12/05 O'Boy! Irish Eyes Smilin' Over Brady Cover
BT 12/12/05 Celtic Lifestyle Is Key To Longevity
IO 12/12/05 Buffs Preparing For Shooting-Star Spectacular


Hain: We Have To End This Charade

Secretary Of State Threatens To Scrap The Assembly

By Noel McAdam
12 December 2005

The Government last night threatened to scrap the Assembly
if a devolution deal is not worked out before the next
election in the province.

Secretary of State Peter Hain said there would be no point
in the "charade" of electing politicians to an Assembly
that does not exist.

His warning effectively set a deadline for a successful
conclusion to new negotiations on the restoration of
Stormont and a power-sharing Executive this side of the
next Assembly elections - due in May, 2007.

But his comments came as controversy over the alleged 'spy
ring' scandal charges being dropped continued, with
unionists insisting the development makes the achievement
of an acceptable devolved administration more rather than
less difficult.

But Mr Hain insisted: "We've really got to end this
paralysis and get things up and running.

"We cannot have (the politicians) standing again for a
suspended Assembly."

The Secretary of State said MLAs are doing constituency
work but were not fulfilling the legislative function for
which they were elected.

"It isn't a threat, it is a statement of fact," he told the
BBC Politics Show.

Speaking from his constituency in Wales, Mr Hain argued it
would be inconceivable if candidates in a May, 2007
election were standing for an Assembly that did not exist -
as had already happened at the last election.

To do so would only undermine public confidence.

Mr Hain also slammed unionist and republican reactions to
the collapse of the 'Stormontgate' allegations - unionists
suspecting his or Prime Minister Tony Blair's hand in the
affair and republicans viewing it as a huge conspiracy
theory - as "absolute fatuous nonsense".

But Mr Hain also revealed he had been told about the
decision not to proceed with the case "in the public
interest" a few days before the unlisted Crown Court
hearing last Thursday.

He had not been consulted, however, and it was now a matter
for the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to decide whether
or not he should make a further statement - but Mr Hain
expected he would want to stand by the prosecution service
and the Crown Court judge.

"The good name of the prosecution service for Northern
Ireland, launched in June, should not be called into
question by politicians or, dare I say it, journalists," Mr
Hain added.

Mr Hain also scoffed at suggestions the hearing had been
deliberately timed to coincide with the Queen's visit to
the province which included her historic first meeting with
Irish President Mary McAleese on the island of Ireland.

"We have an independent judiciary and it acted
independently," he said.

The DUP meanwhile suggested it would pursue the affair
through the courts as well as attempting to persuade the
Attorney General to make a further clarification.


Robinson - Crucial Time For The Political Process

Speaking today DUP deputy leader and East Belfast MP Peter
Robinson said,

"The next few months represent a crucial time for the
political process and the prospect for any return of
devolution. Over the last number of months some people
have indicated their increasing frustration at the slow
pace of political progress. Indeed some unionists are in
danger of throwing all caution to the wind in an attempt to
encourage unionism into the early establishment of devolved

It is absolutely vital that unionists learn lessons from
the past. No reliance can be placed on the words of Sinn
Fein/IRA. Never again will we find ourselves in the
situation where republicans are elevated into government in
the Province while at the same time continuing their
criminal and terrorist activities. Those who chose this
path in the past have found, to their cost, the folly of
such a pursuit.

It is in the interests of all of the people of Northern
Ireland that those who comprise the government of Northern
Ireland are committed to exclusively peaceful and
democratic means. The DUP has remained consistent that
there can be no place in the Executive of Northern Ireland
for parties who retain links to terror and criminality.

The decision to establish an Executive cannot be taken
lightly. Being consistent with our mandated position and
the necessity to ensure there is no fudge between democracy
and terror, we must be absolutely certain that terror and
criminality has ended. We will not allow republicans to
sit in an Executive by day while continuing with
criminality and terror by night.

There can be no acceptable level of criminal activity. The
history of this process teaches us that republicans will
seek to determine how little they have to do in order to
achieve their ends. Make no mistake about it, if we, as
democrats, settle for less than zero tolerance of IRA
terror and criminality then we are condemning ourselves to
what will be seen as an acceptable level of activity for
all time. That will be the inevitable outcome if Sinn Fein
gain access to Government before all terror and criminality
is over. With every month that passes there is a greater
opportunity for an ongoing and detailed assessment of
whether the IRA has given up its war and dismantled its
criminal empire.

Even the IMC accept that a few weeks or even a few months
is no basis to judge the bona fides of a terrorist
organisation. The IRA has proved in the past that they can
turn on and off paramilitary activity. We will not be
rushed into judging whether or not they are for real. We
will not be told to do by London or Dublin but will make
our own judgements. We will not be taking people at their
word or taking chances with democracy in Northern Ireland.
Decisions on the validity of the IRA position cannot be
made overnight.

I understand, and share, the frustrations of those who wish
to see their own locally elected representatives taking
decisions about the needs of our Province but no-one will
thank us for acting with haste and settling for less than a
completely peaceful and democratic foundation upon which to
build our future.

The date for any return to devolution is not simply a
matter of being satisfied that the IRA terror machine is
gone once and for all, but of ensuring the Government meets
the needs of unionists. Devolution must be seen to
underpin future prosperity and stability. Having witnessed
a decade of concessions to the IRA it is not unreasonable
that unionists are treated with equality and respect.

To date this Government has shown little interest in
seriously addressing the lack of confidence that exists in
the Unionist community. Indeed, Government itself has done
much to contribute to the feeling of anger and frustration
in the Unionist community. If Mr Blair wishes to see the
return of devolution while he is still resident in Downing
Street then he will have to turn his mind to reaching out
to unionists and demonstrating that he is in fact capable
of delivering what is needed.

While any serious analysis of the concessions given to
Republicans over the last year will support the conclusion
that they are concessions made by the UUP during the period
the UUP was negotiating for unionism they are now being
delivered because they were dependant on the IRA taking
certain steps which they were never forced to take by the

There will be times when nobody will be able to stop the
government making concessions to the IRA just as nobody was
able to stop David Trimble making concessions. However we
have control over whether we make any concessions. Unlike
the UUP, we will not acquiesce and support the government's
concessions. The Government should be under no illusions.
There will be no possibility of any political process until
the unionist community is convinced that it is getting a
fair deal. Half measures and fudge will not suffice.

While we welcome the initiatives taken by the Government on
the Victims Commissioner and other announcements relating
to culture and rates relief they are but a small part of
the paper we have presented to the Government on the theme
of building confidence within the Unionist community.
Significant advances will be required if there is to be any
appetite for a return to devolution at Stormont. There
will be no progress until these issues are addressed.

The creation of a new parades regime, addressing the needs
of deprived unionist areas, and the delivery of a fair deal
for the Royal Irish Regiment will be required if the
Government wants to seriously tackle the lack of confidence
that currently exists.

Devolution is in the best interests of the people of
Northern Ireland but the DUP, as the leaders of Unionism,
will not go back into a system that brought about
instability and inequality. That is why it is vital that if
devolution returns it is done on a basis that is stable,
effective, efficient and completely democratic. The DUP
can move devolution forward but only when the vital pieces
of the jigsaw are put into place."


McDowell Urged To Resign Over Colombia Claims

12/12/2005 - 11:48:18

An Independent TD today called on Justice Minister Michael
McDowell to resign after he linked journalist Frank
Connolly to an alleged IRA plot to sell terrorist know-how
to Colombian guerillas.

Calling on the minister to stand down, Dublin North Central
TD Finian McGrath said he had abused his position in the
Dáil and his role as a member of the Cabinet.

"He has trampled on the rights of a citizen," Mr McGrath

"He has abused Dail privilege. I asked him a question about
the Centre for Public Inquiry he refused to answer about
the centre, but used the opportunity to take out someone he
disagreed with politically.

"Not only should he resign he should first of all apologise
to Frank Connolly, and secondly to the citizens of the
state for abusing his position, and if he had any honour
and dignity then he should resign."

McDowell has insisted he was protecting the security of the
state by claiming in the Dail that Frank Connolly travelled
to Colombia on a false passport.

In a written reply to a Dail question tabled by Mr McGrath,
the minister claimed that Mr Connolly was linked to an IRA
plot to provide Farc terrorists in Colombia with bomb-
making information in return for cash.

Mr McGrath has lodged a complaint over the matter with
Ceann Comhairle Rory O'Hanlon TD. And he said he would
raise the matter with the Committee for Procedures and
Privileges to decide whether Mr McDowell had abused his
position as a minister.

The experienced journalist, who now heads the CPI, has
denied he ever visited the Latin American state and accused
the minister of joining a witch hunt against him and the

But following the allegation American businessman Chuck
Feeney pulled the plug on a multi-million dollar funding
programme to keep the CPI running.

Mr Feeney's investment engine, Atlantic Philanthropies,
issued a statement which said it could no longer
financially support the watchdog, which has published
reports on Trim Castle and the Corrib Gas project.

Mr McGrath accused the minister of breaching the
fundamental principles of the office of the Director of
Public Prosecutions.

And in a further criticism of Mr McDowell, who is President
of the Progressive Democrats, the Independent TD said it
was part of a broader campaign by the party to discredit
the CPI.

"They seem to have a problem with a body funded by Chuck
Feeney investigating sleaze and corruption in Ireland," he


Sections Of Media Condemned For 'Deliberate Disinformation'

Jarlath Kearney

Billy Mackessy was a turmoil of emotions last night.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Ireland, the former porter in
the Northern Ireland Office said he was "both delighted but
angry" following the conclusion of the Crown case

Mr Mackessy was arrested on October 4, 2002, and by noon on
that Friday, explicit media leaks were already being
reported as facts by news broadcasters across the globe.

The news reports included a central, unsubstantiated
allegation that Mr Mackessy had unlawfully stolen documents
for the IRA as part of a so-called 'spy-ring'.

Yesterday, Justice Hart directed that Mr Mackessy was not
guilty of any charges.

"We already had a preliminary trial date for February, and
then all of a sudden this week, got a phonecall to say we
all had to be in court on Thursday morning.

"Our solicitors were in contact with the DPP late Wednesday
afternoon who gave no indication as to the reason why we
were required in court. We hadn't a clue and then when we
arrived we were directed into the dock and flanked by two
prison officers," Mr Mackessy said.

Mr Mackessy's wife Marie broke into tears when the 'not
guilty verdict' was announced.

"I actually couldn't hear the judge, and then when I did, I
couldn't believe it," she said.

Mr Mackessy said he was "very angry at_the PSNI because
I've always known this was politically motivated".

"The effect of the last three years on our family and our
lives generally has been devastating. I had a gut feeling
that we would get this result.

"Marie was totally devastated when I was dragged off to
Maghaberry, she was in complete shock. Even on the first
visit we eventually got after I was charged, the screws
used the drug dog to make sure we could only have a closed

"The fact is they didn't have any evidence and in my view
just used Denis Donaldson, Ciarán Kearney and myself as
scapegoats to bring down the Executive and try to damage
Sinn Féin.

"While they achieved their objective in disrupting
democracy, they never seemed to produce any evidence at any
stage in the last three years.

"Despite that, people are still going to say there's no
smoke without fire and you must be guilty of something. But
the fact is we're not guilty of anything and it's time we
really knew what's behind all this and what led to
Operation Torsion in the first place," Mr Mackessy said.

The former government messenger stressed that one of his
biggest regrets has been losing touch with former work
colleagues. Questioned as to why he would have been
targeted initially, Mr Mackessy said: "They wanted to get
David Trimble out of a hole and attack republicans.

"They told lies about me over and over and over. I was
simply a Catholic working in the NIO and that was enough to
make me a scapegoat for a wider political agenda."

Mr Mackessy hit out at sections of the media for repeating
security briefings about him which he insisted were
"deliberate disinformation".

He also expressed frustration that the case against him and
his co-defendants had been thrown out without even an
apology from the prosecuting authorities.

Marie Mackessy stressed that her husband "was and remains a
person of good standing and reputation among his family,
friends and community".

"Our life as a family has been put on hold and Billy's life
in particular has been put in danger. When your life is on
hold, it has a terrible effect, because we couldn't go
together to family events, weddings and christenings and so

"We couldn't even go away on holiday together.

"You just had to juggle your life around this case for the
last three years, week in and week out, it has been a
terrible ordeal and burden. It was awful and I never want
to go through anything like that again in my life," Mrs
Mackessy said.

Mr Mackessy said that, despite the fact he and his co-
accused have been vindicated as innocent, the PSNI has
stepped up harassment of his family in recent times.

"Even on Sunday night in Ardoyne, the same peelers as usual
came over to the car outside a friend's house and started
hassling us.

"I'm angry about the whole thing, and I know we can never
get the last three years back. But at least we have our
reputations back and that is something," Mr Mackessy said.

The north Belfast man said he would "never wish what we
experienced on anyone else".

He also expressed gratitude to his legal team of Peter
Madden, Ciarán Shiels and their barristers.


Human Pain Behind Claims

Jane Kearney has a message for PSNI Chief Constable Hugh
Orde: "If he wants to know where the real threat to peace
in the North of Ireland is, then he need look no further
than his own force."

At around 7am on Friday, October 4, 2002, the PSNI put Mrs
Kearney's husband, Ciarán, into a Land Rover and took him
away for three months before he was released on bail.

At around the same time on the same day, the same force put
Mrs Kearney's father, Denis Donaldson, into a Land Rover
and took him away for precisely the same length of time
until he too was released on bail.

Ciarán Kearney and Denis Donaldson, alongside Billy
Mackessy, were both charged with possessing information
that could be useful to terrorists.

On Thursday of this week, the three men were found not
guilty on all counts by direction of Justice Hart in
Belfast Crown Court.

Two other people charged in the interim with alleged
associated offences previously had all the charges against
them dropped.

While much of the focus has been on unfounded PSNI
allegations against the three men about a so-called
'Stormont spy-ring', few have attempted to understand the
immense personal impact of the PSNI's actions over the past
three years against one wide family circle.

Speaking to Daily Ireland last night, Jane Kearney gave a
lucid account of the turmoil experienced as a result of her
family's treatment by the PSNI and prosecuting authorities.
Her mother Alice Donaldson outlined the personal impact on
the health and well-being of innocent people torn apart
from their loved ones more than three years ago.

"This entire episode started for us at 5 o'clock one Friday
morning, when armed men, hyped-up and highly aggressive,
shouting and banging, wearing masks and black boiler suits
smashed their way in to our house and placed us under room
arrest – with no regard whatsoever for the presence of two
small children who were terrified," Mrs Kearney said.

"We were all in shock and I remember asking if I could
phone my parents to get them over to help us, at which
stage the peelers started laughing. But I picked up the
phone anyway and mammy answered and I told her the peelers
were raiding the house and she said they're raiding here
too. I couldn't believe what was happening."

Mrs Donaldson only remembers the PSNI invading her house
"like a herd of cattle" and then receiving her daughter's
helpless phone call.

"I couldn't take it in. I was in shock. I know they placed
us under room arrest and that's about all I can remember
from the raid," Mrs Donaldson said.

Almost simultaneously, father and husband were arrested by
the PSNI and taken away. Mother and daughter were "left
devastated, trying to cope with a completely unreal
situation", Mrs Kearney said.

At the same time, the PSNI raided Sinn Féin's offices at
Parliament Buildings.

Over the following 48 hours, the media published the names,
addresses, ages, and personal backgrounds of all those
arrested. Unsubstantiated and untrue allegations about the
raids and arrests littered the media like confetti both
before and after charges were preferred.

After Denis Donaldson was charged on Sunday, October 6,
2002, his daughter answered her front door the following
day to find an English journalist who called her by name.
She shut the door in his face, only to open it a few hours
later to another PSNI raiding party.

"They came back on the Monday afternoon, and maybe because
the girls were at school and they didn't need me to hold it
together, I was more physically upset. At the time of the
second raid, Mammy had been put on sedatives by the doctor
and was sleeping up the stairs in my house. We just
couldn't believe it," Mrs Kearney said.

"I remember, in particular, someone coming in supposedly to
take carpet fibre samples, yet they weren't wearing any
gloves and there was no attempt to avoid cross-
contamination. They took most of Ciarán's clothes."

Mrs Donaldson said the PSNI "were grasping at straws to try
and keep Ciarán".

"They didn't get any evidence during the first raid and
they didn't get any during the second raid, yet they still
held him for seven days before charging him. I couldn't
believe it. It was terrible."

After being remanded to Maghaberry Prison, both Ciarán
Kearney and Denis Donaldson were kept apart, prevented from
even sharing a cell for over a month.

Their families were deeply concerned that the presence of
loyalists and criminals put their lives in danger.

While trying to manage prison visits in a co-ordinated way,
the families faced consistent and disruptive harassment
from prison warders.

Subsequent High Court bail applications were "a sham", Mrs
Kearney said.

"The PSNI approach was about sullying the reputations of my
husband and my father with some of the most bizzare and
untrue allegations you could ever imagine. Denis was made
out to be Bin Laden's man in Ireland and Ciarán was
supposed to have spoken at a major public meeting in
America. It was ludicrous, but also highly dangerous
because untrue allegations were being made and then carried
verbatim by the media to justify the so-callled 'spy-ring'

Mrs Donaldson was too ill to attend any of the bail
applications but she hit out at the "vindictiveness" shown
against her husband and son-in-law. Despite both men being
eventually released after three months under the terms of
the European Convention on Human Rights, they had to wait
exactly three more years to have their long-held assertions
of innocence vindicated by Justice Hart on Thursday.

"There was absolutely nothing to it apart from dirty tricks
and underhand political policing by Special Branch. They
had no evidence, yet turned our lives upside down for over
three years. And despite the direction of 'not guilty',
there are still people trying to cast a shadow over their
innocence," Mrs Donaldson said.

Mrs Kearney said the families are still waiting to get
large amounts of personal belonging back from the PSNI.

"Ciarán's father, Oliver, was in very poor health before
the arrests and afterwards he deteriorated rapidly. It had
a terrible effect on him and he died a few months after
Ciarán got out on bail.

"The real examination now must be about Operation Torsion
and political policing. If they can tear down a government
and wreck lives once, they can do it again.

"These people think they are a law unto themselves," Mrs
Kearney said.


Murdered Men's Family Seek Ahern Meeting Over 'Collusion'

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

The family of two men who were murdered by loyalist
paramilitaries in a horrific double shooting 30 years ago
is demanding a meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Gerard McErlane's brothers John and Thomas were shot dead
in May 1975.

UVF gunmen singled out 29-year-old John and Thomas, who was
19, and shot them in the head as they sat playing cards
with their Protestant workmates.

The killers also stole money from the game after the attack
at a flat in the loyalist Mount Vernon area of the Shore
Road in north Belfast.

Although two men were convicted of the murders, Mr McErlane
said he was not satisfied that justice has been done.

"This was a well-organised, premeditated killing. It was in
a loyalist area so we need to know if there was collusion.
The only time we had a visit from the RUC was the day
before the funeral," he said.

Mr McErlane said he felt his family had been ignored and
the two murders swept under the carpet.

"I want to highlight the case, and there are hundreds of
other stories out there as well that need to be spoken
about," he said.

"The murders got 17 to 19 seconds of coverage, nobody came
knocking on our door, not the SDLP, not the Irish
government and no newspapers."

Last week, Mr McErlane tried to speak to the Taoiseach in
Poleglass in west Belfast as he visited a youth initiative
programme but Mr Ahern was not available.

"I got ready and went round to try and get a quick word
with him.

"I just want to tell him our story.

"I am not satisfied that justice has been done. I know
there are people out there who had a hand in my brothers'
killings who were never caught. I believe pressure was put
on witnesses to retract statements."

In February 1978 a 22-year-old man from Rathcoole in north
Belfast, who was already serving an 11-year sentence for a
number of armed robberies, was convicted and given life
sentences for the killings.

A second man was also given a double life sentence for the
killings and that of another man.

An Irish government spokesman said last night (Wednesday)
that ministers and officials as well as the Taoiseach
frequently met with victims and groups representing

"We would be happy to arrange for officials to discuss any
concerns that Mr McErlane wishes to raise," he said.

December 12, 2005


UUP Leader Empey Meets Finucanes

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane are
due to meet the Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey for
the first time on Monday.

Mr Finucane, 39, was killed by loyalist paramilitaries at
his home in 1989.

The talks are part of a series of meetings with politicians
to discuss the family's concerns about any inquiry into the
death under the Inquiries Act.

The family have said they do not think an inquiry held
under that act would be able to get the truth.

Mr Finucane's killing was one of the most controversial of
the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly
because of the allegations of collusion between the Ulster
Defence Association and members of the security forces.


Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended separate
inquiries into Mr Finucane's murder, and three other
controversial killings.

These were the killings of solicitor Rosemary Nelson,
leading loyalist Billy Wright and Catholic father of two
Robert Hamill.

The Finucane family, human rights campaigners and
nationalist politicians, as well as Judge Cory, have
expressed alarm at moves by the government to ensure the
tribunal into Mr Finucane's murder is held under the
Inquiries Act, which was passed earlier this year.

They have claimed the Act will suppress the truth about
what happened, with Amnesty International saying crucial
evidence could be omitted from any final report at the
government's discretion.

The human rights group has urged judges not to sit on the
inquiry into Mr Finucane's death.

The Finucanes have met the leader of the loyalist
Progressive Unionist Party, David Ervine, to discuss the

There have also been talks with the US Consul General Dean
Pittman, nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan, Sinn Fein
president Gerry Adams and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/12 06:50:41 GMT


Windfall In Community Cash Aid On Way To North Belfast

By Linda McKee
12 December 2005

A windfall of £1.25m is winging its way to north Belfast,
according to Minister for Social Development David Hanson.

The extra cash is aimed at developing the confidence of
local communities and tackling disadvantage, he said.

It comes on top of Government funding of £2.5m allocated in
2005-06 to support community capacity building.

The Government said the latest tranche of funding would
support the continuation of the work of Community
Empowerment Partnerships which are "raising the ability of
local people to engage more effectively with Government to
improve the quality of life in their areas".

Initiatives range from education and skills programmes,
community relations training and leadership development to
health and wellbeing activities, environmental improvements
and youth work such as sports, cultural awareness and
personal development.

Mr Hanson explained: "Community Empowerment Partnerships
are making real differences to neighbourhoods across north

"I believe that it is important for the momentum of their
work to be sustained. I have therefore agreed to make
£1.25m available to extend funding for the capacity
building programme until September 2006."

The announcement of the extra money also included plans to
review and revamp the work being carried out in north

Mr Hanson said: "The North Belfast Community Action Unit
has now been operating for three years. I have appointed
Dick Mackenzie, a former Deputy Secretary in the Department
of the Environment who has a background in planning and
urban and community development, to lead an evaluation of
its work.

"He will consult widely with a range of stakeholders in
this exercise. The evaluation will make recommendations on
how the work of the unit will be delivered in the future
and how it can complement other government strategies such
as neighbourhood renewal."

Mr McKenzie has been a member of the International Fund for
Ireland Advisory Committee and before he retired was Joint
Secretary of the North-South Ministerial Council.

He is now visiting Professor of Planning at the University
of Ulster and an honorary member of the Royal Town Planning


Opin: What's A Terrorist, What's A Freedom Fighter?

Americans' responses to violent groups are hardly uniform.
Take the Irish Republican Army and Palestinian Islamic

By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN, Times Senior Correspondent
Published December 12, 2005

By March 1999, federal agents were hot on the case of Sami
Al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor
suspected of supporting Palestinian terrorist groups. His
Islamic institute had been shut down and the FBI was
tapping his phone.

The same month, Tampa toasted another man often accused of
terrorist ties - Gerry Adams, head of the political wing of
the notorious Irish Republican Army. On March 14, he gave a
speech at the University of Tampa that raised $50,000 for
his Sinn Fein organization.

He also was guest of honor at a fundraiser in a Tampa pub
co-owned by a federal prosecutor - the same prosecutor
whose division would later try Al-Arian on terrorism

There was nothing illegal or improper about Adams' Tampa
appearances. The State Department had given him a visa so
he could tour America in support of the 1998 Good Friday
peace agreement, aimed at ending 30 years of conflict
between the IRA and British forces in Northern Ireland.

Yet the contrasting attitudes toward Adams and Al-Arian
illustrate the adage that one man's terrorist is another
man's freedom fighter. They also show that the United
States doesn't treat all terrorist groups alike -
especially when domestic politics come into play.

"Since the Northern Ireland story has been relatively
successful, and Sinn Fein has been central to that, it's
been a good news story with which politicians have wanted
to be associated," says Richard English, author of Armed
Struggle: The history of the IRA.

"In contrast, the Jewish lobby has been more powerful in
the U.S. than the Palestinians. And since the IRA has
effectively stopped its violence, while the Palestinians
have not, it's been easier to treat Irish Republican
politicians in a more indulgent way than it has been to
treat Palestinians."

The IRA's longtime goal has been to drive British forces
from Northern Ireland and reunite the province with the
predominantly Catholic Irish Republic. During the
"troubles," the IRA killed an estimated 1,800 people in
attacks on pubs, fish markets and other public places.

English says there are "many similarities" between the
kinds of violence used by the IRA and Palestinian groups
like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Yet even at its
bloodiest, the IRA was tolerated, even openly supported, by
many in the United States.

Jonathan Turley, now a professor at the George Washington
University Law School, recalls meeting a known IRA member
while serving as young page in Congress in the mid '70s.

"He would openly discuss his connection with the IRA and
actively sought to raise money," Turley says. "I remember
him sitting with members of Congress and drinking coffee
and Drambuie.

"I often think back to that - can you imagine members of
Congress introducing pages to members of Hamas who have
access to the House floor?"

The IRA used a political party - Sinn Fein - as a
mouthpiece for its views. Since the 1980s, Sinn Fein has
been led by the tall, charismatic Adams and the shorter,
less polished Martin McGuinness.

Adams, 57, has always denied direct links to the IRA;
McGuinness, 55, acknowledges he was in the group but says
he no longer has ties. However, "both are widely believed
to have served on and still effectively control the secret
seven-member Army Council that governs the IRA," according
to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 1994, the IRA agreed to a cease-fire and President
Clinton lifted a 20-year ban on official contact between
the U.S. government and Sinn Fein. That allowed Adams to
visit the United States.

"I know the British government was exasperated when Clinton
granted Adams a visa," says Anthony Richards, an expert on
terrorism at Scotland's St. Andrews University. "Of course,
the whole idea was that Clinton wanted to persuade the
British government that Sinn Fein had peaceful credentials
and wanted to make the peace agreement work."

In May 1995, the organization's U.S. arm - Friends of Sinn
Fein - held a $100-a-plate lunch at Tampa's Hyatt Hotel
with Adams as speaker. The purpose was to raise money to
further Sinn Fein's "legitimate political ends" - among
them self-determination for the people of Northern Ireland.

Adams' visit came just a week before the Tampa Tribune
broke its sensational story that Al-Arian had "Ties to

Like Adams, the USF professor denied any links to a radical
group responsible for hundreds of deaths. Like Adams, he
portrayed himself as engaged in a legitimate political
cause - in his case, creation of a Palestinian state.

Within less than a year of Adams' visit, the IRA ended its
cease-fire with a series of bombings in Britain that killed
one and injured scores of others. It was not until 1998
that warring factions in Northern Ireland reached the
historic peace agreement that called for Catholics and
Protestants to share power in a new provincial government.

In 1999, Adams made another U.S. visit. After speaking at
the University of Tampa, he went to a fundraiser at Four
Green Fields, a popular Irish pub co-owned by restaurateur
Colin Breen and assistant U.S. attorney Robert O'Neill.

Documents filed with the Justice Department show Breen was
a registered agent of Friends of Sinn Fein from 1995 to
1999. He also contributed $500 to the group, and in a 2001
story in the St. Petersburg Times proclaimed his support
for the IRA and decried British "oppression" in Ireland.

"Am I pro-IRA? Absolutely," he said then.

Last week, Breen said he did not condone violence, and only
meant he "supported the ideals that the British government
should not be running things the way they were."

O'Neill, the federal prosecutor and co-owner of the pub,
said he did not attend the 1999 fundraiser at which Gerry
Adams appeared. He said he had little knowledge of Adams or
his activities beyond the fact he "is a well-known person
in Irish government."

"Do I study this stuff? No. It's not my bailiwick." Nor,
both O'Neill and Breen said, had they ever discussed
Breen's involvement with Friends of Sinn Fein.

As head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's
office in Tampa, O'Neill supervises attorneys who
prosecuted Al-Arian on charges that included raising money
for a terrorist organization.

O'Neill, though, was not involved in the trial, in which
jurors last week acquitted Al-Arian of eight charges and
deadlocked on nine others. The Justice Department has not
decided whether to retry Al-Arian, who remains in custody.
"It's a pretty ironic connection," Turley, the law
professor, said of O'Neill's business partnership.

"While there is nothing legally wrong about this
association," Turley said, "there are some people who would
view Sinn Fein as clearly connected to a terrorist
organization and yet no one would imagine an allegation of
material support alleged against a (Irish-American) bar
owner. But when it comes to Muslim organizations, the U.S.
government has adopted an extremely broad notion of guilt
by association."

Daniel Byman, a terrorism expert at the Brookings
Institution, said such a business relationship could be
viewed as "problematic."

"Your hope is that federal prosecutors are people who are
very careful about appearing in the sort of thing that
would raise eyebrows," he said.

O'Neill said he didn't see any problems co-owning a pub
with Breen. He noted that Breen had registered as an agent
of Friends of Sinn Fein and had informed the Justice
Department about the 1999 fundraiser.

"Do I see a conflict of interest for owning part of a pub
where another owner did something that was authorized by
the United States Department of Justice?" O'Neill said.

Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in
Tampa, said he was "astonished" the St. Petersburg Times
would ask if the office had any comment about O'Neill's
stake in a pub where Sinn Fein's leader appeared at a
fundraiser. Cole said "all of the media" had long known of
O'Neill's part ownership and that many reporters, including
some from the Times, have patronized the pub.

"All of a sudden we have a trial and all of a sudden this
becomes a big issue with you. Why was it not important in

"I think it's a shame that a legitimate newspaper like
yourself would take a swipe at one of finest assistant
United States attorneys in the country. To make any kind of
allegation that he is anything less than an outstanding,
hardworking, dedicated attorney is an outrage."

Although most of Al-Arian's contacts with Islamic Jihad
occurred before it was designated a terrorist organization
in 1995, evidence at the trial showed he was closely
involved with the group's leadership and direction.

In some eyes, Adams also is a terrorist. Although Northern
Ireland has been relatively peaceful, authorities say the
organization continues to be involved in criminality,
including a $51-million bank heist in Belfast last

Even more damaging was the IRA's alleged involvement in
January's fatal stabbing outside a Belfast bar. The
victim's sisters, who have drawn international attention,
claim the IRA has intimidated them and witnesses though
Adams urged Sinn Fein members to cooperate in the

Britain has the IRA on its list of terrorist groups; the
United States does not. Both countries, though, have long
maintained the "fiction" that Adams' Sinn Fein is distinct
from the IRA, Byman says.

"It was useful to have Sinn Fein on the political side of
things because at times there are some groups you want to
talk to and others you don't. There was a sense that not
all terrorists are identical - that you could talk to the
IRA as compared to Islamic Jihad, which is seen as a more
vicious group."

--Washington bureau chief Bill Adair contributed to this
report. Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at


Government Must Come Clean Over Court Ruling

Monday 12th December 2005

SECRETARY of State Peter Hain was totally unconvincing
yesterday with his declaration that there was no political
interference in the decision to drop charges in the alleged
IRA espionage ring at Stormont three years ago.

Mr Hain denied being consulted by the Attorney General or
the Director of Public Prosecutions on the decision of the
Crown to offer no evidence in the case because to continue
was was "not in the public interest".

He said the idea that the DPP would be influenced by any
minister or politician was "preposterous".

Hardly, considering it was Mr Hain who last summer managed
to interfere with the justice system when he went against
police and intelligence advice to release Sean Kelly, the
IRA terrorist responsible for the Shankill bombing of 1993.

Mr Hain dismissed unionist and republican-nationalist
claims, from different standpoints, that Government
conspiracy had resulted in the "spy" case being dropped.

The Government credibility on this issue was seriously
called into question by Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg
Empey last night when he said the Northern Ireland public
have been living on "a diet of the most bizarre legal
decisions which have ever contaminated our process of law".

Sir Reg charged the Government with being closely engaged
in a process with the republican movement in which the
majority of people in Northern Ireland have no part, and he
said serious questions needed to be asked and answered.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds was just as dismissive of the Secretary
of State's predictable spin on the obvious "smoke and
mirrors" intrigue which has centred on Government
decisions, and he challenged Mr Hain to put the truth out
in the public domain once and for all.

Republicans blame the Government and security sources for
instigating police arrests in the so-called Stormontgate
"spy ring" in October 2002 which led to the collapse of the
powersharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

But unionists, patently aware that recent crucial policy
decisions by Government have the blessing of Sinn Fein-IRA,
may have good reason for believing that this is yet another
chapter in the unfolding raft of concessions to

Some take the view that the "spy" charges were dropped
because of a risk of exposing high-level security
informants who would have brought to light data on IRA
terrorist activity.

The PSNI, in its statement on the collapse of the case,
said the entitlement of the three charged individuals to
the presumption of innocence remains intact.

But significantly, it added: "The background to this case
is that the Provisional IRA was actively involved in the
systematic gathering of information and targeting of

Our MPs must now press for a full explanation in the
Commons from the Prime Minister on what precisely was the
"public interest" which prompted the collapse of
proceedings that were ongoing for three years.


Residents Protest For Flood Money

Angry homeowners whose properties in south Belfast were
badly damaged in flooding earlier this month are to demand
compensation at Stormont.

The lower Ormeau residents waiting on house insurance say
they are losing out compared to Housing Executive tenants.

The Water Service said it could not make compensation
payments until it was sure that it was liable for the

Local representatives insist emergency payments have been
made in the past without anyone admitting liability.

The Housing Executive has already replaced its residents'
flood-damaged furniture, but private tenants with home
insurance will have to wait.

They are taking their demands for emergency payments to
replace ruined furniture to Stormont on Monday.

Water Service spokesman William Duddy said on Friday he had
sympathy for the residents but they had to wait on the
results of an inquiry.

"At the moment, I cannot dip into the public purse and pay
out on demand without a proper, balanced investigation," he

"We are talking about taxpayers money here (and) we want to
treat these claims fairly and consistently."

Lower Ormeau resident Marie Lavery said she felt
disadvantaged because she owned her home.

"Because we have house insurance, we have to wait on
cleaners and on loss adjusters to come out to decide
whether to destroy our furniture," she said.

"Some people have already got the go-ahead to get their
stuff out because it's contaminated."

Heavy rain on 1 December led to flooding which washed raw
sewage into about 160 homes and onto streets in lower
Ormeau for the fourth time in recent years.

It could take months for the houses to dry out.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/12 06:44:45 GMT


Lower Ormeau Flooding Liability Issue Must Be Dealt With Immediately

Published: 12 December, 2005

South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has written to the
Department for Regional Development to urge them to ensure
that the issue of liability is dealt with immediately in
relation to the recent flooding of homes on the Lower
Ormeau Road saying, "This is a vitally important question
given that the issue of compensation for residents cannot
be resolved until this issue is dealt with. It is
unacceptable that, two weeks before Christmas, residents
are facing considerable facing hardship".

Cllr. Alex Maskey MLA said,

"Clearly there are serious questions which need to be
addressed in respect of the failure of the water and
sewerage system. This is especially so since substantial
work has been carried out to upgrade the system. Further to
this of course is the fact that the area has been flooded
at least three times in recent years and worse on each
executive occasion.

"I have written to the DRD in order to seek answers to a
number of questions.

"Given that the multi-agency response is now underway there
is one issue which must be dealt with immediately.

"The Water Service has promised to provide a report into
what caused the flooding in the first instance and therein
is the question of liability. The Water Service have so far
not accepted responsibility and consequently the question
of compensation has not yet been resolved leading to
considerable hardship for many of those affected by the
flood damage. While the DHSS has made a number of grants or
loans available from the social fund this is no substitute
for liability being established and compensation made

"There is great and justifiable anger within the local
community that liability has not yet been accepted by Water
Service and many families are struggling to deal with the
adverse consequences. This is especially frustrating and
hurtful so close to Christmas. "The DRD must ensure the
question of liability is dealt with immediately while the
following issues listed below are being dealt with in the
time ahead:

1. Review of how the water/sewerage system failed;
2. Review of Water Service management response;
3. What remedial action is required e.g.

a. emergency re-housing/temporary accommodation
b. decontamination of homes and public realm
c. what repairs to homes have been required
d. what steps were taken to make financial assistance
available to families who lost property, were displaced
from their homes and /or were out-of-pocket for essential
services, food, clothes or vehicles
e. what lessons have been learned from this experience?
This is crucial since the Water Service were unable to cope
with emergency and this had to be co-ordinated by Belfast
City Council. This is despite the fact that the Lower
Ormeau area is on the department‚s flood risk register.

4. What measures are required to prevent further flooding
in this area?

He concluded,

"The short term priority must be to ensure that the issue
of liability is dealt with immediately. The DRD has a
responsibility in this and the issue of compensation cannot
be dealt with until this issue is resolved. In the long
term the DRD must ensure that this never happens again.
Clearly, the lesson of the past have not been learned and
this is unacceptable." ENDS


O'Boy! Irish Eyes Smilin' Over Brady Cover

By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa
Monday, December 12, 2005

A studly but scruffy New England Patriots QB/QT Tom Brady
may be this month's Irish America coverboy, but when
queried about his Hibernian heritage, No. 12 fumbled!

"I have to be cued up for this one," said Brady, when
asked at a press conference about his Irish roots. "Well,
my father is all Irish and I'm half Irish. I've seen the
family tree. I actually had to do a family tree when I was
younger. I don't know. I wish I had a better answer."

And the Irish America peeps still put him on the cover!
But since it's Tom, who could blame them???

In the four-page December/January feature story titled
"A Winning Pedigree," which chronicles little Tommy's rise
to greatness, Tom Brady Sr. thankfully recovers the ball
for his All-American son.

According to Papa Brady, Tom's great-grandparents
immigrated to the United States from Ireland during the
Potato Famine. Great-grandpa Brady hailed from County Cavan
and Great-grandmum was a lass from County Cork.

Coincidentally, you may remember that someone near and
dear to No. 12's heart graced the cover of last year's
December-January Irish America: Brady's lady, Bridget
Moynahan. Perhaps Tom was green was envy . . .

Ringing in the season

And speaking of football, disgraced ex-Pats running
back Dave Meggett is offering up the Super Bowl XXV ring he
won with the New York Giants again to the highest bidder on

It's billed as a "rare, one-of-a-kind" tchotchke, but
no one has ponied up the $60,000 "Buy It Now" price — or
the minimum $40,000 starting bid — even though the ring's
been offered up repeatedly. It's currently on the block
until tonight.

"Dave Meggett is offering you this rare opportunity to
own an item that most NFL players can only dream about,"
says the eBay listing. "Mr. Meggett is generously offering
everyone a chance to win this auction of his own free

Well, if he says so . . . .

Of course, it's no secret that Dave has been a little
strapped for cash in the past. In September 2004 he was
tossed in jail in Dedham for failing to pay $191,600 in
back child support.

Meggett, a favorite of ex-Pats-now-Cowboys coach Bill
Parcells, also faced charges in 1998 for beating up a
Toronto hooker. The paid date reportedly tried to stop a
$400 sex romp when Meggett's condom broke. The charges were
eventually dropped, but not before Meggett's NFL career
went down the drain.

Just a thought: Maybe we could take up a collection and
buy Dave's ring for Peyton Manning???


Celtic Lifestyle Is Key To Longevity

By Ben Lowry
12 December 2005

Dividing your life between Scotland and Ireland appears to
boost your chances of reaching great old age - Britain and
Ireland's oldest people, both of whom died last week, did
exactly that.

Their longevity had echoes of another of the UK's oldest-
ever people: a Dungannon woman who moved to Scotland, and
was Britain's oldest person for a while in the 1990s.

Last week Ireland's oldest woman, Elizabeth Yensen, died in
her Co Down flat aged 110.

She was born in Glasgow in 1895, and moved to Belfast in
the 1930s when her late Danish husband, William, was
transferred by his employer, Scottish Life Assurance.

Mrs Yensen died days before the UK's oldest woman, Lucy
d'Abreu, whose life ended on Wednesday, aged 113.

Mrs d'Abreu, who was born in India in May 1892, lived for
60 years in Waterford, before moving to Stirling.

Her husband, a distinguished surgeon called Dr Abundius
Joseph d'Abreu, was a cousin by marriage to the Queen

Similarly, in the 1990s, Annie Scott - a Co Tyrone-born
woman - moved to Scotland and became the UK's oldest

She was born on March 5, 1883, and was recognised by the
Guinness Book of Records as Britain's oldest in September
1994. Ms Scott died in April 1996, aged 113 and one month.

Mrs Yensen, who reached 110 and five months, died several
years younger than Mrs d'Abreu and Ms Scott.

Nevertheless, she was one of the half dozen oldest people
recorded in the United Kingdom, and she was several years
older than anyone else in Northern Ireland.

She was also older than anyone in the Republic, becoming
Ireland's oldest person in December 2004, when Maggie Dolan
from Galway died aged 111.

People who reach 110 are known as super centenarians; - it
is highly unusual to reach such a milestone. In Western
societies, about one person in 10 million is a super

The next oldest person in Northern Ireland is believed to
be Nellie Thompson from Belfast, who celebrated her 107th
birthday in September.

Mrs Yensen remained cheerful when she was admitted to the
Ulster Hospital in Dundonald last Saturday, but died
suddenly the next day.

The Belfast Telegraph twice interviewed the former tea
company secretary, who was unsentimental about old age and
admitted that it could be lonely.

She often laughed at modern life, observing that "there are
flying machines everywhere" - the phrase is a reminder that
she was born eight years before the first flight.


Astronomy Buffs Preparing For Shooting-Star Spectacular

12/12/2005 - 11:12:54

Stargazers are in for a major treat this week, with a cloud
of meteors set to create a spectacular shooting-star
display in the night sky.

The Geminids - named after the constellation Gemini - make
a yearly appearance and will be visible every night for the
next few days.

Some of them may be obscured by the light of the moon, but
Astronomy Ireland's David Moore said hundreds of shooting
stars would still be visible in all parts of the sky.

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