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December 13, 2005

Must Be Progress in The New Year - Adams

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News about Ireland & the Irish

SF 12/13/05 There Must Be Progress In New Year - Adams
SF 12/13/05 SF: Hain Come Clean Over Inquiry Delay
BT 12/13/05 Wright's Father Boycotts Tribunal
BB 12/13/05 'Government Slowness In Inquiry'
IT 12/14/05 Flood To Ask Feeney To Reconsider
IT 12/14/05 Charges Unlikely To Be Brought Against Connolly
SF 12/13/05 If McDwll Doesn’t Resign Bertie Should Sack Him
EE 12/13/05 McDwll Duty-Bound To Publicise Colombia Claims
IO 12/13/05 Opposition Dismissive Of Mcdowell's Allegations
EX 12/13/05 McDowell As Deep Throat Was Something Irregular
IT 12/14/05 McDowell Accused Of Acting Like Mugabe
IN 12/13/05 Opin: Mc Dowell A National Disgrace
EX 12/13/05 McDowell Controversy - A Dangerous Precedent
IT 12/14/05 One-Man Band Out Of Tune With Various Critics
FG 12/13/05 US-Irish Group Welcome For Undocumented Irish
IE 12/13/05 Echo Editorial: The Plot Thickens
IT 12/14/05 US Mom Urges End Military Stopovers At Shannon
IT 12/14/05 Six CIA Aircraft Landed At Shannon Many Times
BB 12/14/05 Four Admit City Centre Abduction
IT 12/14/05 IRA Sticking To Commitments, Says NI Minister
DU 12/13/05 Paisley Jnr Attacks Woodwards IRA Comments
DU 12/13/05 "National Anthem Should Not Be Banned”-Robinson
BB 12/13/05 Minister Speeds Up Flood Money
IO 12/13/05 Community Justice Plan 'Full Of Holes'
EE 12/13/05 Victims Commissioner Meets Omagh Group
BB 12/13/05 Investment Boost For North West
BT 12/13/05 Opin: Time Fading For Parties To Cut Deal
CS 12/13/05 Backstory: Belfast Murals Reflect Change Of Art
IT 12/13/05 UCD Chief Warns Of Brain Drain To UK
IA 12/13/05 No Nay, Never…Enough Already!
IT 12/14/05 Golden Globes: Irish Nominees

On Dec 14, 1918 – Women in Britain vote for the first time
in a general election and are allowed to stand as
candidates; first to be elected was Irish nationalist
Countess Markievicz of Sinn Fein, who could not take her
seat as she was in prison;


There Must Be Progress In New Year - Gerry Adams

Published: 13 December, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking today at the
launch of 'Mná na hÉireann, Unfinished Revolution' a series
of cards outlining the positive role played over the past
200 years by Irish Republican women, said that: This year
has witnessed significant initiatives by republicans to
create the conditions for forward progress. While
republicans remain ready, willing and able to play our full
part in advancing the political process the onus to break
the current stalemate rests with the two governments and
the DUP'

Mr. Adams said:

"The IRA announcement to formally end its armed campaign is
now five months old. The weapons issue was also decisively
resolved several months ago.

Republican initiatives have cleared the way and removed any
excuses for delay. Immediately after the Christmas period
Sinn Féin believes it will be long past the time for the
two governments to make a real effort to see substantial

Between now and then the challenge for the DUP is to decide
whether or not it is up to working with Sinn Féin and the
other parties to manage the political, social and economic
affairs of the people of this part of Ireland in their

The Church leaders, business people, civic unionism need to
use this time to send a clear message to the DUP that
further prevarication is not acceptable.

Direct rule is a failure - a costly political and financial
failure. The onus is on the DUP to ensure that the tough
decisions that have to be taken on health and education and
rates and water charges and all the other matters which
affect peoples daily lives are taken by politicians here
and not by unaccountable direct rule Ministers.

The governments must make clear to that party that there is
only one way forward and that is through the Good Friday
Agreement. The British government especially cannot allow
the rejectionist position of the DUP to delay, frustrate or
block progress."ENDS


Sinn Féin Challenge Hain To Come Clean Over Inquiry Delay

Published: 13 December, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Truth, North Antrim MLA Philip
McGuigan has challenged the British Secretary of State
Peter Hain to state clearly his government's approach to
the issues of truth, healing and closure.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Today's further postponement of the Billy Wright Inquiry
is further evidence of the British Government's contempt
for those trying to shine a light into the past.

" The irony of it is that this isn't even an independent
inquiry but rather one being held under the discredited
Inquiries Act which this government introduced in order to
limit the scope of any investigations into the past. It is
also of course further irony given the fact that many
believe that Billy Wright and his gang were working for
many years closely with the British State in a campaign of
sectarian murder and terror.

" Just as we witnessed during the Saville inquiry, the
Barron Inquiries and any number of attempts to uncover the
truth about the past, the British Government will use any
number of tactics and excuses to frustrate the search for
historical clarification.

" Yesterday we learned that documents relating to the
state-sponsored Miami Showband massacre may not be
accessible due to their being held in a building containing
asbestos. And today we have the British Law Lord appointed
to head an inquiry complaining about a lack of cooperation
from the Prison Authorities and other State Agencies." ENDS


Wright's Father Boycotts Tribunal

New secrecy rules to face court action

By Chris Thornton
13 December 2005

The father of ex-LVF chief Billy Wright boycotted today's
resumed inquiry into his son's murder as he prepared a
legal challenge to controversial new secrecy rules.

David Wright refused to attend because the preliminary
hearing marked the first time the Inquiries Act has been

Mr Wright's move came as inquiry chairman Lord MacLean
announced full public hearings have been delayed until
September as Government departments have been slow in
providing them with material.

The new law - which allows the Government to determine what
evidence stays secret - will be challenged in the New Year.

Mr Wright has threatened to pull out of the inquiry
entirely, but sources close to the family say he has not
made that decision yet. His participation may depend on the
outcome of his court case against Secretary of State Peter
Hain, challenging his decision to use the Inquiries Act.

Lord MacLean, however, again said the inquiry team believes
the Inquiries Act will give them greater scope for
investigating whether any state agencies had a role in
Wright's killing.

During today's hearing he revealed the three-man tribunal
is "concerned at the slow response of a number of
Government departments to our requests".

He said their intention to begin full hearings next spring
could not be realised and added hearings are now scheduled
to begin in September 2006 and will "last well into 2007".

Lord MacLean said another factor in the delay was the four
months it took Mr Hain to agree to employ the Inquiries

He also noted "material of a highly sensitive nature" will
be blacked out of any documents before they are released.

Lord MacLean said this should not "give cause for concern"
because the secret material will be taken into account by
the tribunal when writing their report.

He also said Mr Hain has indicated "he has no present
intention" of using the secrecy powers available to him
under the Act.

The controversial Act has also raised objections from the
family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane.

Mr Finucane's family was due to meet Archbishop Robin Eames
today as they discuss their concerns about the law with
unionist and Protestant leaders. They met UUP leader Sir
Reg Empey yesterday and also hope to meet the DUP.

The family has mounted a successful global campaign to
discourage judges from taking up the planned inquiry into
the Finucane murder while it remains under the Inquiries

The Act, rushed through Parliament earlier this year,
allows the Government to decide what evidence may be heard
in public and what may be excluded from inquiry reports.

Previously those decisions were at the discretion of the
inquiry chairman.

The Wright and Finucane murders were among four collusion
cases former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory
recommended for public inquiries.

Wright's case attracted suspicion as his INLA killers were
able to smuggle guns into the Maze Prison and avoid
security to carry out the murder.

In the 1989 Pat Finucane murder, a police investigation
established collusion took place between his UDA killers
and security forces.


'Government Slowness In Inquiry'

Difficulties in receiving information from the government
has delayed the inquiry into a leading loyalist's murder,
the panel chairman has said.

The second preliminary hearing in the inquiry into the
murder of Billy Wright has taken place in Belfast.

Wright was shot dead by INLA prisoners in the Maze Prison
on 27 December 1997.

Inquiry chairman Lord MacLean said he was "concerned at the
slow response of a number of government departments to our

He said it was now anticipated the public sessions would
begin next September and continue into 2007.

They had been expected to start next spring. The first
preliminary hearing was held in June.

Where there has been the death of someone in the custody of
the state, any inquiry set up to investigate that death
must seek to ensure, so far as possible, that it beings the
full known facts into the public light

Lord MacLean

Lord MacLean said: "I will not, at this stage, give
specific examples of the extent of co-operation which the
inquiry team has or has not received from the parties we
are charged with investigating, namely the prison
authorities or other state agencies."

However, he added: "I will assure everyone, however, that
comment will be made in due course in the report of the
inquiry on some of the difficulties we have encountered in
the process of identification, collation and production of
evidence that may be relevant to our work."

The chairman said it had also taken "a significant period
of time" for NI Secretary Peter Hain to respond to his
request for the inquiry to be converted and be held under
the Inquiries Act 2005 rather than the Prisons Act under
which it had been set up.

'Shot several times'

Lord MacLean said he had requested the conversion of his
inquiry because he did not consider its powers under the
Prisons Act were wide enough.

"Where there has been the death of someone in the custody
of the state, any inquiry set up to investigate that death
must seek to ensure, so far as possible, that it brings the
full known facts into the public light.

"In pursuing that objective, it is important to recognise
that there is a responsibility and an onus on those state
agencies concerned to provide a satisfactory and convincing
explanation on how the death occurred."

Wright, 37, had just got into a prison van to be taken to
the visitors' area of the jail, when the prisoners from the
INLA - a republican paramilitary organisation - climbed
over the roof of the H-block and into the prison yard.

One opened the van door, singled out the LVF leader and
shot him several times.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announced the
public inquiry in November 2004.

Lord MacLean is joined on the inquiry by academic professor
Andrew Coyle from the University of London and the former
Bishop of Hereford, the Reverend John Oliver.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/13 18:57:32 GMT


Flood To Ask Feeney To Reconsider

Paul Cullen

The chairman of the Centre for Public Inquiry, Mr Justice
Feargus Flood, has said he will ask its main donor, Chuck
Feeney, to reconsider his decision to withdraw funding.

Judge Flood told The Irish Times yesterday that he hoped to
arrange a meeting with the billionaire philanthropist
before Christmas. He said there was no point in convening a
meeting of the board of the CPI before the situation with
Mr Feeney had been clarified.

Last week Mr Feeney's charitable trust, Atlantic
Philanthropies, withdrew its funding of €800,000 a year for
the centre after allegations that its director, Frank
Connolly, had travelled to Colombia on a false passport
with a known IRA member. Minister for Justice Michael
McDowell made the allegation in a meeting with Mr Feeney
earlier this year and aired it publicly in the Dáil last

Judge Flood also confirmed that the board had questioned Mr
Connolly earlier this year about the allegations then
circulated about him and had accepted his denial of

"He says he wasn't there, and his denial was accepted. I'm
not there to cross-examine him or anyone else," he said.

After this meeting, board members wrote to Atlantic
Philanthropies expressing full confidence in Mr Connolly,
he said. No advance warning was received of the decision to
withdraw funding.

Mr Justice Flood criticised the allegations made by the
Minister against Mr Connolly as a "drumhead court martial".
Referring to Mr McDowell's action in leaking part of the
Garda file on Mr Connolly to a journalist, he said Mr
Connolly had the right to a presumption of innocence and
due process.

"The citizens of this country are innocent until they are
proven guilty, in accordance with the rules of law," he
told RTÉ.

"The Minister cannot override the Constitution under any
circumstances. The Constitution provides that justice shall
be administered in public, in court."

Judge Flood said he planned to seek a meeting with Mr
Feeney to "see what we can do" about the loss of funding.

"Who knows what will emerge over lunch. I'll do my best to
salvage something for Mr Connolly, a man I have great
regard for. I've no desire to see anyone unjustly treated."

Just €120,000 remained "in the kitty," sufficient to pay
staff and rent until the end of the year, he warned. After
that, staff would have to be let go. The retired judge said
he was "very sad that anyone should be deprived of €500,000
in salary" over the coming five years as a result of the
Minister's actions.

"Mr Connolly is a man with a relatively young family. He's
a firebrand, no doubt about that, but he's a decent man. Mr
Connolly's annual salary of €120,000-€125,000-plus expenses
had been "wiped out".

"I stand four-square behind him [ Mr Connolly] until this
extent: I stand four-square behind all citizens, absolutely
all citizens, however great scoundrels they may be, until
they have been processed through due process of law in a
proper court and not a drumhead court martial."

He also defended the work of the centre. "I don't think
we've done anything wrong. The two reports we have produced
have been absolute findings of fact which leave the readers
to make their minds up," Judge Flood said.

© The Irish Times


Charges Unlikely To Be Brought Against Connolly

A prosecution against Frank Connolly would be difficult
to mount in the light of recent publicity, writes Carol
Coulter, Legal Affairs Correspondent.

Whatever charges may have been in preparation against Frank
Connolly, a trial is now unlikely in the light of the
publicity the allegations against him have received.

The last time a minister commented in relation to criminal
allegations against a prominent citizen it was Michael
McDowell's party colleague Mary Harney.

In 1997 she gave an interview to the Irish Independent
which led to the indefinite postponement of the trial of
Charles Haughey on charges of obstructing a tribunal. The
court ruled she had prejudiced the trial by suggesting he
should be convicted.

If charges were laid against Frank Connolly, it is highly
likely he could contest any possible trial on the same

We do not know whether any charges are in preparation
against him. We do not even know whether the investigation
into allegations that he applied for a false passport, and
other allegations relating to this matter, have been

The public is aware only of a number of allegations put
into the public domain by the Minister for Justice and
others, which have not been subjected to objective
scrutiny. These will inevitably colour any possible future

But even without the intervention of the Minister for
Justice, mounting a successful prosecution would not be

When the DPP receives a file from the Garda Síochána with a
view to mounting a prosecution, he must consider a number
of issues.

According to the DPP's own Guidelines for Prosecutors, the
first of these is whether the evidence is sufficiently
strong to justify a prosecution. The guidelines state: "If
the answer is No the prosecution will not be pursued".

The next question considered by the DPP is whether the
prosecution is in the public interest. This is related to
the strength of the evidence. "It can be said that it is
not in the public interest to use public resources on a
prosecution which has no reasonable prospect of success,"
the DPP has said.

"It is clear that a prosecution should not be brought where
the likelihood of a conviction is virtually non-existent.
Where the likelihood of conviction is low, other factors,
including the seriousness of the offence, may come into
play in deciding whether or not to prosecute."

To mount a prosecution in this case it would first be
necessary to identify what crime had been committed. It is
an offence to forge official documents such as a passport.
But this offence may not be easy to prove.

How many people are really known to local gardaí when they
seek to have their passport application signed? How many
gardaí would remember what the applicant looked like days,
let alone months, later? How could it be proven that the
person who submitted the forged documents was the person
accused of the forgery?

If a person travels abroad on a forged passport no offence
is committed under Irish law. He or she is likely to have
committed an offence against the law of the country entered
with the false passport, but there is no automatic
prosecution in Ireland of offences against other countries'
laws. The question of extraterritorial prosecution then

The legislature can legislate, and has legislated, for
specific offences committed abroad to be offences also in
Ireland. Discussions take place regularly between law
enforcement agencies, especially at EU level, about co-
operation in the prosecution of serious crime.

But being at large in Colombia with a false Irish passport
has not, as yet, been made part of such legislation.

Many of the charges laid against Frank Connolly, therefore,
are not criminal charges, but allegations of political
associations and activities that are opposed by the
Government and, indeed, by many others inside and outside
the Oireachtas.

In particular, Mr McDowell has implied that Mr Connolly was
part of an IRA-linked group that travelled to Colombia with
a view to raising money from the training of Farc

Membership of the IRA is also a criminal offence, for which
the necessary evidence is the opinion of senior Garda
officer. It is also an offence with which Mr Connolly has
not been charged.

© The Irish Times


If McDowell Refuses To Resign Taoiseach Should Sack Him - Ó

Published: 13 December, 2005

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has
again called on the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell
to resign over the leaking of confidential documents to
Independent Newspapers. During a heated debate in the Dáil
this afternoon Deputy Ó Snodaigh said if McDowell does not
resign "the Taoiseach has a duty to sack him."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I charge that the Minister has
acted as judge and jury against a private citizen. He has
violated Articles 38 and 40 of the Constitution, which
provide that no citizen shall be tried, save in due course
of law, and that all citizens shall be held equal before
the law. In what way was the security of this State
threatened in the last few weeks? How exactly did the
Minister envisage that giving confidential Garda files to a
newspaper would address that supposed threat and advance
democracy and the security of this State? He has failed in
his opening remarks to explain exactly how due process was
safeguarded or even observed by his actions. Does he
believe in the presumption that someone is innocent unless
proven guilty?

"The Minister must state how many other requests from
Independent Newspapers for confidential Garda information
have resulted in his leaking material to the media. Is he
the 'Garda source' so often reported in the tabloids? The
Minister has breached the spirit of his own Garda Síochána
Act 2005 by disclosing confidential Garda information. The
criminal offence is punishable by five years' imprisonment.
I call on him to resign. If he does not, the Taoiseach has
a duty to sack him." ENDS


McDowell 'Duty-Bound' To Publicise Colombia Claims

13/12/2005 - 18:24:24

The Centre for Public Inquiry has the capacity to undermine
the authority of the state if it falls into subversive
hands, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell warned TDs in
the Dáil today.

In a statement, Mr McDowell claimed it was his duty to tell
the public about CPI's executive director Frank Connolly's
alleged role in an IRA plot to sell bombing information to
Farc rebels in Colombia.

"Undoubtedly, the Centre for Public Inquiry … is one which
has, in subversive hands, the capacity to gravely undermine
the authority of the state," he told TDs.

"I regard it as my clear and unequivocal duty to bring into
the public domain the central role played in that body by a
person [Frank Connolly] who the gardaí are satisfied
participated in an important way in the series of visits to
Colombia designed to exchange know-how in terrorism and
explosives for massive amounts of cash apparently to be
spent on distorting our democratic process."

The US backers pulled funding from the CPI last week after
Mr McDowell's allegations about Mr Connolly surfaced in a
written reply to a Dáil question.

The issue earlier dominated Leaders' Questions in the Dáil
as opposition party leaders asked the Taoiseach to spell
out what the threat that existed to the state, as claimed
by Mr McDowell, was.

Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe and Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó
Snodaigh both called for the minister's resignation on the


Opposition Dismissive Of Mcdowell's Allegations

13/12/2005 - 19:00:28

The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has told the
Dáil that the visit of the so called Colombia three to
South America was to acquire tens of millions of euro.

He was reacting to questions about the threat that former
journalist Frank Connolly and the Centre for Public Inquiry
posed to the state after Mr connolly allegedly travelled to
Colombia in 2001 using a false passport.

Mr McDowell told the Dáil that money obtained from Colombia
would have but one objective, namely to subvert the state.

The opposition has rejected these statements in an angry
Dáil debate.

Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin dismissed the comments and
said the minister fails to realise that there is a credible
peace process in place on the island of Ireland.


McDowell As Deep Throat Was An Admission Of Something Irregular

By Rónán Mullen

REMEMBER 'A Few Good Men,' starring Jack Nicholson and Tom

Nicholson plays Colonel Jessep, an arrogant military
commander cross-examined by a whipper-snapper military
prosecutor (Tom Cruise) about whether he ordered the 'code
red,' ie, a violent roughing up that killed a soldier.

Eventually, Colonel Jessep snaps - 'You're goddam right I
did.' The case is over. The angry old colonel is led away
for courtmartial.

There was something of Colonel Jessep about Michael
McDowell's revelation that he was unconcerned about a
newspaper getting hold of a false passport application from
Garda files because he himself had given the document to a
journalist, resulting in the claim that former journalist
Frank Connolly had travelled to Colombia on a false

McDowell wasn't goaded into making the admission but, like
Colonel Jessep, was convinced of the rectitude of an act
that was in reality very questionable.

Unlike Colonel Jessep, however, McDowell's head will not
roll. The PDs enjoy a certain amount of autonomy from the
Taoiseach and McDowell's party leader, Mary Harney, is
backing her man.

As Minister for Justice, McDowell enjoys an informal
presumption of acting within the law.

Also, he has a sound instinct for what the public like to
hear, and when it comes to his views on Sinn Féin, he's on
home ground because the political establishment and much of
the public is scared of Sinn Féin right now.

In general, Michael McDowell's excoriation of the
republican movement is very refreshing. He is bang on the
money when he reminds us of IRA criminality and its
appalling consequences for innocent people.

But we must question the propriety of this leak, and to a
lesser extent the decision to use Dáil privilege to claim
that Frank Connolly travelled to Colombia on a false
passport and the briefing given to Irish-American moneybags
Chuck Feeney which led to the withdrawal of funding from
Connolly's Centre for Public Inquiry. Paradoxically, in
this era of transparency and accountability, McDowell's
admission that he gave documents to a newspaper is one of
the key problems. We are all a bit conflicted when it comes
to identifying the precise role that leaks to the media
should play in the exposure of wrongdoing.

We are delighted with the successes of investigative
reporters, and leaks are often crucial to their work. But
leaks and exposés often have serious implications for the
good name of certain parties, at a stage where they have
not yet faced any criminal charges.

What's more, the leaking may involve a self-serving or even
illegal act. McDowell may feel he has every right to leak
stories to journalists, if the public interest requires it.
But does he? Doesn't his role as Minister for Justice
require him to confine his activity to the more official
structures for the investigation of wrongdoing? And let's
be clear: it was a leak on any realistic assessment. There
was no disclosure in the Irish Independent's story that the
information had come from the Minister for Justice.

Ex post facto, McDowell claimed responsibility, but for a
few days he was an invisible presence at the heart of a
major news story, and this is not what you expect from a
minister for justice. For him to announce, so long after
the event, that he is Deep Throat cannot but amount to an
admission of doing something irregular. And even if he
hadn't leaked, but had given an official briefing to media,
there would be the impropriety of doing so on such a
sensitive matter before bringing it to the floor of the

But what of the implications of McDowell's Dáil statement
for Frank Connolly's right to his reputation and due
process of law?

Can Connolly not claim that the DPP might yet decide to
bring charges and that McDowell's actions will have
prejudiced matters in rather the same way that comments by
Mary Harney once scuppered the possibility of proceedings
in relation to Charles Haughey?

Or view it the other way. Couldn't Connolly argue that, so
far, the DPP has decided not to prosecute and that the
Minister for Justice, the man with responsibility for the
criminal justice system, should not otherwise put his good
name in danger by allegations of criminality? McDowell may
argue that the strong defence of freedom of expression in
the European Convention on Human Rights would trump any
consideration of Frank Connolly's good name.

HE might also argue that he is not undermining due process
in any meaningful sense because Connolly's liberty is not
at stake. But the actual ground on which the minister has
staked his claim of rectitude is more shaky.

He cites the Official Secrets Act and says his actions are
designed to protect the security of the State. But how
exactly does the security of the State depend on this
revelation? Are people with alleged republican sympathies
not entitled to set up a Centre for Public Inquiry? Does a
minister who fears that such an inquiry body would further
an extreme republican agenda or subvert the institutions of
State in future have the right to scupper such an
organisation by attacking the reputation of its director
using files which only he can access and which may or may
not incriminate?

We may not agree with an extreme republican agenda, and in
private we might wonder when we see a sibling of a member
of the Colombia Three getting involved in a political
watchdog authority. But does that give us the right to
ventilate allegations that haven't been tested in court?
Where does that stop?

And, in the hands of the wrong minister, couldn't such a
power be used for all manner of thought control? The
supreme irony of all of this is that the Good Friday
agreement was designed to enable SF and the IRA, and all
their supporters, sympathisers and siblings, to buy into
constitutional ways - including active participation in
politics, journalism, think-tanks and watchdog bodies as an
alternative to subversion.

Many people, including McDowell, are trying simultaneously
to encourage this process while arguing that some
republicans may not be sincere about making the transition.
Quite a few people, for that reason, will sympathise with
the minister's general approach and overlook the fast and
loose approach to proper procedures.

But others will be sceptical. The Government's public
noises are all hostile to Sinn Féin and the IRA. There will
be no release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe, we are
told. There will be no free ride for Frank Connolly, even
though he has been prosecuted for nothing, much less

Yet at the same time, that same Government which includes
Michael McDowell is signing up to a process that will allow
terrorists on the run to escape prosecution without ever
having to admit their guilt. It would be a more principled
stand if the Government forced on-the-run terrorists at
least to admit their past wrongdoing before availing of an
amnesty. And leave the leaking alone.


Minister Accused Of Acting Like Mugabe

Jimmy Walsh

Seanad Report: Minister for Justice Michael McDowell had
behaved like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe by claiming that,
because the security of the state was threatened, he could
say what he liked about somebody, said Brendan Ryan

Referring to claims by the Minister about Frank Connolly of
the Centre for Public Inquiry, Mr Ryan said nobody in this
country had to explain themselves because somebody had cast
imputations on them.

He had spent 20 years fighting for the unqualified right to
silence. It was the way of Robert Mugabe to say that the
security of the state was threatened, therefore one could
say what one liked about somebody.

Ann Ormonde (FF): "This is crazy stuff."

John Dardis (PD), deputy leader of the Seanad, said he
rejected any comparison between Mr Mugabe and the Minister.

Joe O'Toole (Ind) said he did not share the view that the
Minister had abused his right to parliamentary privilege.
"If a minister feels strongly about something he or she
should do what he or she thinks is right," he said.

If people who had been named felt they had not been given
fair play they could make a complaint to the Oireachtas.

David Norris (Ind) said they were entitled to an
explanation by the Minister in view of the assertion by
Judge Flood that Mr McDowell's action had amounted to a
drumhead court-martial. In other words, the Minister had
established himself as judge and jury.

Leader of the House Mary O'Rourke said the whole point of
parliamentary privilege was that one could say things which
one could not say in another forum.

"Look at all the fun I'd lose at the way I can berate a
particular person," she said.

© The Irish Times


Irish National Caucus
Press Release

Opin: Mc Dowell A National Disgrace

And Only Threat to Republic

Americans are increasingly alarmed by the conduct of
Justice Minister, Michael Mc Dowell.

"Just as we thought the bad old Blue Shirt days were over
because of the Irish Peace process, now comes Mc Dowell to
tell us they haven't gone away, you know", said Fr. Sean Mc
Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National

"I have received many calls from concerned Irish-Americans
about Mc Dowell's assumption that he can abuse his
Ministerial position to declare anybody guilty, to indict
newspapers even before they come into existence and to leak
police documents to the media Š and all in the name of
National Security. Mc Dowell himself appears to be the only
threat to the Republic", Fr. Mc Manus explained.

"One of the great dividends of the Peace-Process is that it
ended the Civil War mentality, and also removed hostility
between Irish-Americans and the Irish government. Prior to
the Peace-Process, Irish-Americans had been very
dissatisfied with the different Irish governments, which
they had regarded as negligent on the North, and even
complicit with British injustice against Catholics. But
ever since Albert Reynolds, Irish-Americans have been
pleased by how the Dublin government has worked for justice
and peace in the North Š but now Mc Dowell seems intent on
destroying all this, and casting a shadow over the
admirable work of Bertie Ahern. Mc Dowell is a threat to
justice and democracy in the South, and a menace to the
Peace-Process in the North", Fr. Mc Manus concluded.

Father Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. Box 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20003-0849


McDowell Controversy - Establishing A Dangerous Precedent

THE controversy surrounding Justice Minister Michael
McDowell's allegation that Frank Connolly visited Colombia
on a false passport has been given a new and significant
perspective by pointed criticism of the minister from a
former High Court judge.

Notwithstanding the minister's scornful dismissal of such
criticism in his latest Dáil statement, the assertion by
retired judge Feargus Flood that "the citizens of this
country are innocent until they are proven guilty, in
accordance with the rules of law" is the crux of this

Hailed for his forthright tribunal report on bribery and
corruption in political and business circles, the ex-judge
currently chairs the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) headed
by Connolly.

As he put it, "the minister cannot override the
Constitution under any circumstances. The Constitution
provides that justice shall be administered in public in

Seldom given to rowing back, Mr McDowell claims he was not
only within his rights but has a constitutional duty to
speak out if subversives were undermining the State. In his
view, the threat to democracy lay in the allegation that in
the wrong hands the CPI could have undermined the State.

As he put it, the Irish people would have just cause for
complaint if he remained silent. He also denied information
leaked by him to a newspaper was in any sense confidential
or infringed the rights of any citizen.

Clearly, however, if the minister has proof positive that
Connolly went to Colombia on a false passport with a senior
IRA man in 2001 as part of a plot to train Farc guerrillas,
he should have that proof produced in a court of law by the
DPP for the State.

While Frank Connolly's brother was one of the Colombia
Three, and Connolly himself has been less forthright on a
fundamental point of contention, that does not justify the
minister's blatant bid to put the CPI executive director in
the terrorist frame without proof.

By coincidence, the CPI had recently begun probing the €30
million purchase by the Department of Justice of the
Thornton Hall site in Co Dublin, earmarked for a new prison

Having lost the financial backing of Irish-American
philanthropist Chuck Feeney directly as a result of
allegations uttered under the libel-proof umbrella of Dáil
privilege, the body established to investigate political
issues faces imminent closure.

Holding that corruption lies at the heart of many problems
facing modern society, Mr Feeney funds similar centres in
Washington and Australia. It goes without saying that such
institutions are anathema to governments.

While some people might not like it, Mr Connolly is
entitled to his good name and reputation until proven
otherwise. But there is an onus on him to say where he was
on the dates in question in 2001, when Mr McDowell alleged
he travelled to Colombia on a false passport.

Not surprisingly, Leaders' Question time was dominated by
this controversy as the Government circled the wagons and
stoutly defended Mr McDowell.

According to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the minister acted
properly at all times in relation to his allegations that
Connolly had travelled to Colombia on a false passport.

However, the views of former judge Feargus Flood will fuel
widespread public concerns, articulated by legal experts
and opposition politicians, over the perceived abuse of
ministerial power.

Constitutionally, the criticism levelled at the minister is
perhaps even more serious than the charges facing the
journalist. That a dangerous precedent has been established
goes to the heart of this controversy.


One-Man Band Out Of Tune With Various Critics

Dail Sketch/Frank McNally: He scaled a lamppost before
the last election to warn about the dangers of single party
government. But back at ground-level yesterday, it was
Michael McDowell's own singularity that was judged

In the space of a few minutes in the Dáil, he heard himself
described as a "one-man tribunal", a "one-man star chamber"
and most impressively as a one-man "DPP, judge, jury, and

For all his talent at climbing up things, however, the
Minister for Justice is not so good at climbing down.
Insofar as he was appearing at low altitude, it was not to
apologise for his role in the Frank Connolly affair; it was
only because he had to address TDs at their own level.
There was an early taste of the debate when Enda Kenny paid
a back-handed compliment to Mr McDowell's "formidable
intellect", whereupon the Minister rolled his eyes to
heaven, perhaps in search of a brain to equal his own.

Reviewing his recent actions, the Opposition did find one
human equivalent, albeit from half a century ago, in the
US. The Minister's concerns are not so much reds-under-the-
bed as Provos-under-the-sofa. But the Greens' Ciarán Cuffe
thought there was "a touch of Senator McCarthy" about him.
And when Mr McDowell rounded on his critics by suggesting
some were "afraid of the truth", Michael D Higgins's worst
suspicions were confirmed. "You know who said that in the
1950s?" he spat back.

For the most part, it was an oddly quiet Dáil. You could
tell Fine Gael was uncomfortable at being outflanked on a
law-and-order issue and at having to accuse a Minister for
Justice of over-zealousness in defence of the State. Mr
McDowell wore a blue shirt for the occasion, as if to rub
it in.

When Enda Kenny found himself being cheered on by Finian
McGrath - the Minister's critic-in-chief - it was too much.
He assured the left-leaning Independent that he didn't need
his encouragement. But holding Mr McGrath at arm's length,
while also keeping a 40-foot pole between himself and Mr
Connolly, the FG leader battled gamely, demanding details
of the threat to the State cited by the Minister to justify
leaking material from a criminal investigation.

Pat Rabbitte, too, felt the need of a preface about Mr
Connolly having questions to answer, although he went on to
ask whether the latter's impending investigation into
Thornton Hall had been a motivating factor in the
Minister's actions.

Only Mr McGrath worked up real enthusiasm for the
journalist, praising his "tireless" work to expose sleaze
and accusing the Government of conspiring to "take him
out". The shuffling sound in the background was James
Connolly moving over in the pantheon of republican martyrs
to make room for his namesake.

Meanwhile, Mr McDowell had also found himself worthy
company, even if he had to go back to the 18th century for

"The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men
to do nothing," he said, quoting Edmund Burke. "Get off the
stage," replied Mr McGrath.

© The Irish Times


Saturday, 10 December 2005

US-Irish Lobby Group A Welcome Move For Undocumented Irish – Bradford

Fine Gael Seanad Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Senator Paul
Bradford, has today (Saturday) welcomed the formation of
the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, saying that a
strong, co-ordinated lobby group working in the United
States was the most effective way to secure legislative
change for the undocumented Irish.

"The formation of this group is most welcome news. Past
experience has shown us that the most effective lobbyists
in the 1980s and 90s were the Irish Americans working on
the ground in the United States, in particular the Irish
Immigration Reform Movement.

"Irish politicians are working very hard on this issue but
it is absolutely essential that a strong, co-ordinated
effort is working within the States where it can ensure
that Irish immigrants are represented at the highest level
and their interests are looked after in forthcoming
legislation. The next six months will be crucial with
various immigration Bills up for debate and it is vital
that we ensure that the undocumented Irish are looked after
and that their status is regularised.

"The President has indicated that he will be cracking down
on immigration but it is essential that the Irish
community, which plays a significant part in the American
economy and society, have their status upgraded so that
they have the flexibility to travel home for visits when
they choose. While Fine Gael and many others have been
working very hard on this issue here in Ireland the missing
piece of the jigsaw has been the existence of a group like
the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and its formation is
very welcome. I hope that the Irish Government will offer
this group every support and assistance, including funding
if necessary, as there is no doubt that it will provide the
most effective voice for the undocumented Irish."


Echo Editorial: The Plot Thickens

The immigration debate is never anything less than a thick
stew into which all manner of groups and politicians lob
their ingredients.

The latest pot is beginning to simmer to the brim with
bills from prominent senators with names such as Kennedy,
McCain, Cornyn, Kyl and Hagel.

On Tuesday, yet another ingredient was added to the House
pot when the Border and Immigration Enforcement Act was
jointly introduced by Reps. Peter King, chairman of the
House Homeland Security Committee, and James Sensenbrenner,
chief architect of a bill earlier this year that added
considerably more rigor to the process of issuing drivers'

Nothing of the upcoming debate is going to be smooth or
easy. Immigration is never less than a highly sensitive
policy issue, one that fires up all manner of emotional
reaction from political leaders.

There are clearly sharply diverging views in Congress over
the future course of a nation that while forged by
immigrants, lately finds it more difficult to assimilate
the millions of people who still want to come here, whether
they have permission or not.

The Irish view of where things should proceed has been made
plain in an official sense by the Irish government, and
indeed by all the political parties represented in the
Irish parliament.

Irish America's view is less clear. Sure, certain Irish-
American politicians have spoken out; the position of the
various immigrant advice centers is no secret, though they
tend to be careful in their words.

But it's fair to say that by no means all Irish Americans
think of the plight of the Irish when somebody raises the
subject of immigration.

The undocumented Irish, though they may number in the tens
of thousands, comprise only a small percentage of a total
undocumented population that runs into the millions.

With that in mind, the emergence of a new Irish advocacy
group, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, is a welcome
development. As with the IIRM in former years, it will be
important to have individuals who can explain to
legislators and the broader media what is at stake for
Irish America as the debate on reform gathers pace in the
new year.

This will not be an easy task for the simple reason that
the debate will not focus solely on immigration law.

Since Sept. 11, the reform issue has become entangled with
concerns over national security to the point where the two
seem inseparable.

The ILIR should adopt as one of its priorities the task of
explaining that whatever else the undocumented Irish amount
to, they do not pose any threat to this nation's security.

Indeed, as with the generations of Irish before them, quite
the reverse is true.

This story appeared in the issue of December 7 - 13, 2005


US 'Peace Mom' Urges Ahern To End Military Stopovers At Shannon

Joe Humphreys

American peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan, who gained
worldwide attention this summer for her vigil outside
George W Bush's Texas ranch, has urged the Government to
withdraw permission for US military stopovers at Shannon

Ms Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq on April
4th, 2004, held a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dermot Ahern in Dublin yesterday at which she also called
for the Government to inspect US military aircraft at

"Ireland has every right to inspect those planes. They are
landing on Irish soil.

"Ireland is not a satellite of America. You are an
independent country and you have to act independently," she
said at a press conference ahead of yesterday's meeting,
which was described as "private" by a spokesman for the

The woman dubbed "Peace Mom" in US for her campaigning work
said members of her government were "known liars". For the
Irish Government to accept their word at face value on the
alleged transport of CIA prisoners through Shannon was "not
only letting humanity down, but letting your country down".

Her son, one of four children born to her, had been just
five days in Iraq when he was killed on a rescue mission in
Sadr City.

Ms Sheehan said: "The longer we stay in Iraq the more
enemies we are making . . . for my children and my unborn

Her protests have drawn criticism from the parents of some
other military personnel killed in Iraq, as well as from
some of her extended family. Her husband filed for divorce
from her last August.

Of this personal toll, Ms Sheehan remarked: "If I cut the
war short by one minute, and save one life, it's worth it."

Ms Sheehan, who wore a badge with her son's picture on her
lapel, said she wanted Mr Ahern "to see Casey . . . I want
him to see the face of a mother and to say that it's not
about right and left. It's not about politics. It's about
flesh and blood, and it has to end."

Asked whether staff at Shannon airport should refuse to
handle planes carrying US troops, she replied: "I can't
tell them what to do . . . but I would hope they would look
at their core values and then decide for themselves what is
right and what's wrong.

"I know that if I was making money off of the death of
individuals I would not be able to do that. I couldn't
accept that."

She noted that her son had stopped off in Shannon en route
to Iraq, describing in his final, unposted letter how he
had bought a soft drink and had been questioned about the
Irish name on his uniform by a local woman.

Tahrir Swift of Arab Media Watch told the press conference,
which was organised by the Irish Anti-War Movement, that
conditions in hospitals in Iraq were a lot worse than
during sanctions under Saddam.

Of the US military presence, the Iraqi said: "Some people
say 'They have to stay the course'. What course? We are
going to become Somalia soon."

Echoing this view, Ms Sheehan said: "George Bush has
unleashed a bull in the china shop of Iraq, and it's not
going to get better while the bull is still there."

© The Irish Times


Six CIA Aircraft Landed At Shannon Many Times

Gordon Deegan and Liam Reid

The Government has released information showing that six
aircraft believed to have been chartered by the CIA landed
and took off on 43 separate occasions at Shannon airport in
the last four years.

In a written Dáil reply to Green Party TD John Gormley, who
asked about six specific aircraft, Minister for Transport
Martin Cullen said the management of the airport recorded
every flight that landed and took off there.

The aircraft in question landed and took off "for technical
purposes, that is, they were technical or refuelling stops"
between September 2001 and September 2005.

"As stated previously in accordance with the 1944 Chicago
Convention on International Civil Aviation, aircraft may
come into Ireland for technical stops such as for
refuelling purposes, without notifying the Department of
Transport," he said.

There had been contradictory information on the aircraft in
question, which are at the centre of a major international
controversy over the US government policy of "renditions",
where the CIA is suspected of moving suspected terrorists
from one country to another for interrogation in that
state. A number of former prisoners have claimed they were
tortured during such interrogations.

There has been no evidence to date that there were any
prisoners on board the flights in question when they landed
and took off at Shannon airport.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Shannon Airport
Authority (SAA) has received an estimated €37 million
generated from the 303,323 US troops that have used the
airport in the first 11 months of this year. This was
almost a doubling of the 158,549 troops that used the
airport last year. However, the Dublin Airport Authority
(DAA) warned yesterday that the income for Shannon from the
US military traffic "is very transitory business and is not
something that the long-term sustainability of the airport
could be built upon".

The DAA is currently seeking up to 200 voluntary
redundancies at Shannon to avoid the airport sustaining an
accumulated loss of €137 million over the next 10 years.

In the "survival plan" presented to workers at the airport
in October, the DAA was forced to revise its forecast for
the airport's financial outlook at the end of 2005 due to
the increasing number of US troops using Shannon. Initially
the DAA was forecasting a €3.4 million loss, but it has
since revised its forecast to a €3 million profit.

The DAA spokesman said any estimated figure of the income
from troops was purely speculative.

However, the €37.4 million estimate is extrapolated from a
confirmed total provided by Shannon airport in 2003 of €9
million, generated from the 73,000 US troops that passed
through the airport in 2002.

© The Irish Times


Four Admit City Centre Abduction

Four men who were accused of kidnapping Belfast man Bobby
Tohill from a city centre bar have pleaded guilty to his

Two of the men, who are all from Belfast, are Gerard
McCrory, 33, from Dermott Hill Road and Harry Fitzsimmons,
36, from Spamount Street.

The other two are Liam Rainey, 31, from New Barnsley
Crescent and Thomas Tolan, 34, from Ballymurphy Parade.

They were released on bail and will be sentenced in the new

The men, who had been captured on security video during the
incident last year, made their pleas at Belfast Crown

They had gone on trial on Monday denying the abduction last
February of Mr Tohill from Kelly's Cellars Bar in Belfast.

The security video recorded the four men getting out of a
blue van, enter the bar and leave with a fifth man, Mr

Moments later, the van was recorded at traffic lights at
the Millfield and Divis Street junction, where it crashed
into a police car which was trying to stop it.

On Tuesday, a prosecution lawyer said he wanted two further
charges against the men - of false imprisonment and
unlawful wounding - to remain on the books of the court.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/13 18:18:51 GMT


IRA Sticking To Commitments, Says NI Minister

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

The indications are that the IRA is no longer engaged in
organised crime, the North's security minister Shaun
Woodward has said.

The minister said last night that he believed the IRA was
honouring its July 28th statement to end both paramilitary
and criminal activity. "I have no reason to believe that
the IRA is involved in any criminality at all," Mr Woodward
told The Irish Times.

Ahead of publication of the next report from the
Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) in January on IRA
and other paramilitary activity, Mr Woodward said the
security information he was receiving was encouraging.

"All the indications are that when the IRA made that
historic statement in July they kept their word. It's
important to recognise that fact," he added.

The minister held discussions with Minister for Justice
Michael McDowell in Dublin on Monday and in the company of
the UK head of the Assets Recovery Agency, Jane Earl, also
met senior members of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Mr Woodward said he understood that Mr McDowell, the Garda
and PSNI concurred with his assessment in relation to the
IRA and organised crime.

The minister emphasised that he was not pre-empting the
January report of the IMC, which would be the critical
arbiter of whether the IRA had ceased all activity. It was
an issue that would be continually monitored.

"We will have a fuller assessment from the IMC report in
January, and from the IMC report three months after that,
and three months after that, and three months after that,"
he said.

In the meantime, he added, the security agencies in
Northern Ireland and the Republic would step up their
campaign against organised crime, which remained a major
problem on both sides of the Border.

The security agencies would also continue to investigate
allegations of the IRA creating "legitimate" businesses
through money-laundering.

He made his comments as customs and excise in Belfast was
disclosing that it had seized 3,175,400 counterfeit
cigarettes from a container that arrived in Belfast docks
from China. Had they been sold on the market it would have
cost the UK exchequer £500,000 in lost revenue.

Mr Woodward said criminals were operating on a major and
sophisticated global scale. He cited the case of one
successful investigation against a Border bureau de change
which was implicated in money laundering.

He said solving the case involved investigations in South
Africa, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Cyprus, Germany,
Malta, Denmark, Hong Kong, Jersey, Guernsey, the Republic
and the Isle of Man.

Elaborating on the minister's comments, one senior official
source said that, while the conviction was that the IRA was
not now centrally involved in organised crime, individual
IRA members could be, without the sanction of the IRA

He said the fact that shortly after IRA decommissioning the
Assets Recovery Agency in Northern Ireland and Cab in the
Republic had run operations to crack down on alleged money-
laundering operations by Thomas "Slab" Murphy illustrated
that organised crime, from whatever source, would be

Meanwhile, DUP justice spokesman Ian Paisley jnr accused Mr
Woodward of being "in denial" and said it was nonsense to
suggest the IRA was no longer engaged in crime.

© The Irish Times


Paisley Jnr Attacks Woodwards IRA Comments

DUP MLA for North Antrim Ian Paisley Jnr today said,

"For the Security Minister, Shaun Woodward MP to
suggest that the IRA is no longer involved in serious and
organised crime is just nonsense. No later than last week
the ACC for the rural region and soon to be ACC for Crime
Peter Sheridan reported about serious organised crime in
Jonesborough and the links between that crime and

At the weekend a major theft of cigarettes from
Musgraves holdings in Belfast netted those same gangs
£500k. Later today I will be meeting with the Secretary of
State along with a delegation from Gallaher PLC to discuss,
amongst other things, the ongoing security risk to this
major company. Because of IRA threats it continues to send
its goods across to Scotland before ferrying them into
Dublin in order to avoid IRA heists along the border.

It is not only nonsense for Woodward to make these
suggestions but it demonstrates a level of complacency that
is not acceptable in a Security Minister. Also, his
comments suggest that the government is intent on trying to
fix the next IMC report that will focus on IRA criminal

The fact is no one, not even the most optimistic peace
process cheerleader, will accept the statement that the
IRA's criminal activity in organised crime has over night
been switched off. The same personnel who before the July
IRA statement were in crime gangs and delivering resources
to the IRA are as active today as they were then. What is
more, the IRA continues to launder massive amounts of
stolen cash from the Northern Bank, MACRO and Securicor. In
case the security Minister does not know laundering ill-
gotten gain is serious and organised crime.

NIO Ministers have a responsibility to be honest and
demonstrate integrity, Comments so far reaching as those
made by Woodward that are without substance or credibility
only serve to diminish public confidence in the honesty of
the government. The Minister is in some self imposed denial
that only exposes his own weakness in the face of crime."


"National Anthem Should Not Be Banned To Appease The Unappeasable" Says Robinson

Strangford Member of Parliament Iris Robinson has today
reacted angrily to the proposal in a report by Democratic
Dialogue that the National Anthem should be banned from
Northern Ireland football matches. Alderman Robinson also
took exception to derogatory remarks about the Ulster Scots
language made by Robin Wilson from Democratic Dialogue on
the radio. Iris Robinson said,

"Suggestions that the National Anthem should be banned
from Northern Ireland football matches is disrespectful,
out of touch with the opinion of an overwhelming majority
of fans and potentially damaging to the good work done by
football to tackle old problems.

There is clearly a section of the population who will
never attend Northern Ireland matches no matter what
measures are taken. Rampant republicans will never accept
Northern Ireland as a country never mind its football team.
Why, therefore, should steps be taken to appease people who
cannot be appeased? The only effect of banning the
National Anthem from Northern Ireland matches will be to
further alienate the unionist people. The banning of the
National Anthem from graduation ceremonies at Queen's
University served only to further ostracise unionist
students to the point where many students from a unionist
background openly shun the university.

Just as the denigration of the national flag has led to
a proliferation in the flying of the Union flag and other
flags all across Northern Ireland, I predict that where the
National Anthem to be banned from Northern Ireland matches
it would lead to a proliferation in the singing of "God
Save The Queen" by disgruntled fans, perhaps even for the
entirety of the game.

I think the motivation behind Mr Wilson's report was
revealed whenever he made disparaging remarks about the
Ulster-Scots language on the BBC this morning. When he
slated funding for an Ulster-Scots Academy by saying
"nobody speaks Ulster Scots", Mr Wilson's mask slipped. As
someone who represents a constituency where the Ulster-
Scots language and culture is undergoing a revival, I find
comments such as these deeply offensive. It is clear that
Democratic Dialogue has a far from hidden agenda.

Why is there an almost total focus upon football to the
exclusion of all other sports? No one would suggest for a
minute that football is not without its problems but why is
it always put under the spotlight whenever problems
surrounding sectarianism in other sports, most notably
Gaelic Games, are ignored? Football has done a lot to
overcome its difficulties and it should be praised for its
efforts instead of being victimised further.

The fact of the matter is that the National Anthem is
the anthem of Northern Ireland and it should be treated
with more respect that Democratic Dialogue has afforded it
and not politicised for dubious ends. The Irish Football
Association should immediately reject this suggestion by
Democratic Dialogue."


Minister Speeds Up Flood Money

Belfast residents whose homes were damaged in flooding will
not have to wait to get financial help, the government has

NI Minister Shaun Woodward has promised compensation
payments will be given to flood victims in the lower Ormeau
within the next few days.

Payments of between £1,000 and £2,000 will be given to 43

Homeowners in the area have been waiting for payouts since
their homes were flooded earlier this month.

Mr Woodward met residents from the area on Tuesday.

The Water Service had said it could not make payments until
it was sure it was liable for the damage.

However, Mr Woodward said it had now been established that
the flooding had been caused by a number of factors
including a pump failure and a partially blocked downstream

"I sympathise with the obvious distress this has caused the
residents affected and I will ensure that Water Service
will implement a range of measures recommended in the
report," he said.

"I would like to assure residents that a very thorough
investigation has been completed and that I am totally
committed to making the full findings from the report
available in due course."

On Monday, angry homeowners went to Stormont to hand in a
petition demanding compensation for the damage done to
their houses.

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.

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 the last five years.

It could take months for the houses to dry out.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/13 13:45:42 GMT


Community Justice Plan 'Full Of Holes'

13/12/2005 - 18:11:21

British government plans for neighbourhood justice schemes
in Northern Ireland are riddled with shortcomings, it was
claimed tonight.

During a meeting with Criminal Justice Inspector Kit
Chivers about the British government's community
restorative justice protocol, SDLP policing spokesperson
Alex Attwood MLA warned him he could be compromised by the
government's plans.

"The protocol is full of holes," the West Belfast Assembly
member argued.

"It proposes giving a role to the Criminal Justice
Inspector, a role that is full of holes.

"The SDLP has urged the inspector, Kit Chivers, to pull
back and refuse to allow his office to be compromised by
participation in schemes governed by the protocol."

Northern Ireland Office minister David Hanson's plans for
restorative justice schemes, which bring the perpetrators
of low-level crime face-to-face with their victims to agree
an appropriate penalty, have received a barrage of
criticism from unionists and moderate nationalists.

Supporters of the schemes say they could provide a viable
alternative to paramilitary punishment attacks.

However, critics of the plans fear republicans would like
restorative justice programmes in their communities to act
as an alternative police force.

Under the British government's proposals, the PSNI will
have to be informed if community restorative justice groups
want to handle a specific case.

The protocols envisage most schemes referring a case they
think they should handle to an advisory panel featuring the
PSNI and representatives of the scheme, Probation Board or
Youth Justice Agency.

However in republican areas where people refuse to work
with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), there
would be no obligation on those running schemes to deal
directly with the police.

Instead they can alert the PSNI that they would like to
handle a case by contacting the Probation Board or Youth
Justice Agency who will pass the proposal on to the police.

The PSNI will then consider if there needs to be any action
– such as fingerprinting – before referring the case to the
Public Prosecution Service, which will ultimately decide if
it should be dealt with by a community restorative justice

Mr Attwood identified a number of shortcomings in the plan.

He noted: "There is still no independent complaints system.

"The protocol does not cover what restorative justice
claims is 95% of their work – what they define as 'non-
criminal' and 'anti-social' work.

"Screening of volunteers, training and human rights
requirements are inadequate.

"The proposed relationship with the PSNI is arms-length,
ambiguous and evasive."

SDLP justice spokesperson Alban Maginness MLA said
restorative justice had a role to play in the justice
system but the British government's protocol was too

"Kit Chivers should be a voice for getting things right,
not participating in what is wrong," the North Belfast MLA

"The SDLP is urging the Criminal Justice Inspector to think

"His office is being presented as the guarantor of right
practice. In reality, it runs the risk of rubber-stamping
bad practice and low standards."


Victims Commissioner Meets Omagh Group

13/12/2005 - 20:27:04

The North's recently appointed Victims Commissioner today
had talks with the relatives of those killed and injured in
the Omagh bomb.

Bertha McDougall, who was appointed by the Government in
October, travelled to the County Tyrone and spent more than
an hour-and-a-half in discussion with members of the Omagh
Support and Self Help Group.

Michael Gallagher, whose son was one of the 29 people
killed in the Real IRA car bombing said it had been a very
good and constructive meeting.

"She was very compassionate and said the meeting was one of
a number she was having with victims' groups to familiarise
herself with the issue affecting victims," he said.

Ms McDougall is no stranger to tragedy herself – she is the
widow of an RUC police reservist who was murdered by the
Irish National Liberation Army in 1981.

Mr Gallagher said that was a plus in her new post.

"She is a lady that has at first-hand experienced the
difficulties of people who have been bereaved."

He said they had discussed the Omagh families' demands for
a full cross-border public inquiry into the bombing, the
worst single atrocity in more than 30 years of terrorist

It was agreed the Commissioner would visit the Omagh group
for further discussions in the New Year.


Investment Boost For North West

Three hundred new jobs are to be created at Seagate
Technologies in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Secretary Peter Hain has announced.

The jobs are part of an £83m investment in the company's
plants in Springtown and Limavady. Almost one third of the
money is coming from Invest NI.

Other investments in the area also announced include a
£250m upgrade to the A6 road between Derry and Dungiven.

A further £10m will be spent upgrading and promoting
Derry's city walls.

Mr Hain also said £8m would be spent on Waterloo Place and
Guildhall Square in the city.

"The package of measures I am announcing signals the
government's intention to work collaboratively with the
leadership in this city and the north west region as a
whole in the years ahead," he said.

Mr Hain added that Seagate's decision to invest in the
region was a testament to the skills and abilities of the
local workforce.

"The investment will create significant new quality
employment opportunities in advanced manufacturing in the
north west," he said.

The company manufactures computer hard drives at the two
factories in the north west for a global market.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/13 13:37:19 GMT


Viewpoint: Time Fading For Parties To Cut Deal

13 December 2005

Peter Hain may have been stating the obvious, but his
warning that there will be no election to the Assembly
unless the parties have agreed to form an executive
effectively creates a deadline for a political deal. With
talks expected to begin in the New Year, there will be
little over a year to reach a conclusion before May 2007.

It might have been expected that the next Assembly election
would be due in November 2007, four years after the last,
but Mr Hain obviously wants to exert maximum pressure on
the parties. He has decided on the original election
timetable, although there was a six-month delay in 2003,
awaiting an IRA move on decommissioning.

As the Secretary of State says, there would be no point in
the "charade" of electing politicians to an Assembly in
2007 that did not exist - as happened last time. While MLAs
were doing constituency work, they were not carrying out
the legislative function for which they were elected.

When money is tight for a whole range of public services,
including health and education, there is no justification
for keeping Stormont and its many departments permanently
on ice, at a cost of more than £24m a year. Tony Blair has
issued similar warnings, without effect, but now the
politicians really know time is running out.

Finding an accommodation between the DUP and Sinn Fein will
be as hard as ever - even in view of the IRA's July
statement, its decommissioning and, presumably, another
favourable report from the International Monitoring

The deal that fell through last December is off the table,
now, and in future all four main parties will be
participating, capable of re-opening the most contentious
aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

Clearly the government is hoping that as it embarks on
major decisions affecting the everyday life - and finances
- of Northern Ireland citizens, pressure will grow on the
politicians to cut a deal, so that they can put their own
stamp on future reforms. There may be no going back on such
issues as water charges, council reorganisation, academic
selection and legislation for on-the-runs, but any
executive worth its salt would be promoting its own ideas,
more sensitive to public opinion.

It would also be demanding a detailed explanation for the
Stormontgate affair, which brought down the last executive
in an unprecedented manner, but which has been brushed
under the carpet for reasons of "public interest".

People may doubt whether the DUP and Sinn Fein could agree
on a common approach, but they would at least feel
decisions were being taken closer to home. Now that the war
is over, the politicians must seize their opportunity.


Backstory: Belfast Murals Reflect A Change Of Art

By Brendan O'Neill Correspondent of The Christian Science

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – On a pale wintry morning in
working-class East Belfast, hooded men with guns seem to
follow me. These ghosts from a long-gone conflict lurk on
the walls, peering through the slits of their balaclavas at
kids skipping to school and a woman lugging home her weekly

Protestant terrorists, who fought to defend the Union
between Northern Ireland and Britain during the Troubles,
may be mostly inactive now (give or take the occasional
internal feud). But here, they still stare down from hand-
painted murals at the gable ends of terraced housing, their
masked mugs a permanent, if patchy and fading reminder of
yesteryear's war.

In all of Northern Ireland there are hundreds of these
sectarian murals, done by artists from both sides of the
conflict. The Rev. Gary Mason, a cheery Methodist minister,
wants to exorcise this ghostly presence from East Belfast.
He heads a project to "decommission paramilitary murals"
and replace them with more positive celebrations of
Protestant culture.

"Imagine a wee boy or girl looking out of their bedroom
window and seeing burly guys with rifles. What does that do
to them, psychologically?" he asks. "It doesn't only say
violence is acceptable, which would be bad enough; it says
violence is something to be celebrated in colorful

In oftentortuoustalks that began in 2002 and continue now,
Mr. Mason has coaxed leaders of Protestant paramilitary
groups to give up nine murals which have been painted over
with images of "cultural treasures we can be proud of," he
says. One of the "post-para" murals shows George Best, the
East Belfast boy who revolutionized soccer in the 1960s and
died recently; another shows C.S. Lewis, also born in East
Belfast, alongside scenes from his most famous book - now a
big box office flick - "The Lion, The Witch and the

"Now there's peace, why should we have war on our walls?"
asks Mason. "We've taken the gun out of politics; now we
need to take it out of the murals."


Over the past 20 years, Belfast has become famous (perhaps
infamous) for its paramilitary murals, visual depictions of
its "troubled" times. In Catholic republican areas, street
paintings celebrated the Irish Republican Army; in
Protestant loyalist areas they paid tribute to a host of
splintered violent outfits such as the UDA, the UVF, the
UFF. Things are starting to change. With the help of
generous city government funding, community activists are
replacing these symbols of war with advertisements for

"The new murals can contribute to the peace process," says
Bill Rolston, a sociologist at the University of Ulster,
who for 20 years has photo-graphed and analyzed this street
art-cum-propaganda (not for nothing is he known as "Mr.

I meet him at the Europa Hotel in the city center, itself a
glass and concrete testament to how much has changed here.
It once had the unenviable title of "the most bombed hotel
in Europe," targeted 11 times by the Irish Republican Army.

"The old murals captured the two communities' aspirations
and anxieties," he says. "The new murals, coming through
slowly and tentatively, suggest that people are keen to
look forward, not back."

The new murals, often funded by local government, come with
conditions attached. There are strict rules about what can
be depicted - and this has some artists and curators
asking: "Well, is it really community art?"


After spending the morning with George Best and C.S. Lewis
in Protestant East Belfast, I take a cab to Catholic West

We drive through the Falls Road, the heart of republican
Belfast - past the Sinn Fein offices, a mural paying
tribute to the IRA hunger strikers who starved themselves
to death in 1981, and graffiti saying "Victory to the CIRA"
(the Continuity Irish Republican Army).

At the offices of the Upper Springfield Development Trust,
Deirdre Mackel explains the thinking behind the new "peace

"Our aim is to get the local community, especially young
people, involved in painting them," she says. "It gives
them a sense of ownership of their surroundings."

She has commissioned some quite stunning work, including
the Whiterock Children's Centre Mural, a celebration of
Celtic myths painted by a professional artist with the help
of local kids; and "Tá ár gCultúr beo" (Gaelic for, "Our
culture is Alive"), a sprawling 60-foot mural that
celebrates the Irish landscape.

But certain things are off limits. "We are censored, yes,"
says Ms. Mackel, whose trust is funded in part by the
Northern Ireland government. "We cannot paint any flags or
emblems, and we have to steer clear of politics." That's
one reason many of the new murals in this part of Belfast
depict mythical events - red-haired beauties on white
horses that are unlikely to offend anybody.

Pauline Hadaway, director of the Belfast Exposed
photography gallery, which recently published a book on the
changing face of murals, worries that making local
communities look nice is "a smoke screen obscuring our
failure to address important social and economic questions"
in east and west Belfast, which are among the poorest
communities in the United Kingdom.


Back in East Belfast, the George Best mural has become an
impromptu shrine to his memory, with locals leaving flowers
and notes of condolence. And this, says Gary Mason, proves
that the new murals are about more than "tinkering with the
way things look."

"They can make a real difference to how people feel. And
companies will be more willing to invest in our communities
if there aren't pictures of gunmen everywhere," he says.
"This kind of art can help to make a better future."


UCD Chief Warns Of Brain Drain To UK

Seán Flynn, Education Editor

The president of UCD has warned that "better resourced"
British universities are targeting the best Irish Leaving
Cert students.

In a presentation to the college's governing authority
yesterday, Dr Hugh Brady revealed that the college will
have an operational deficit of €6 million this year,
compared to a deficit of about €50 million at UCC.

While underpinning the huge opportunities for continued
growth at UCD, the president also identified several
threats to its position, including under-funding relative
to international competitors, better resourced UK
universities targeting the best Irish students and
inadequate building infrastructure.

He also said there are inadequate student supports, housing
and facilities and Dublin house prices make it more
difficult to attract staff.

On the issue of funding, he pointed out how Queen's
University, Belfast, received 50 per cent more funding than
a similarly sized college in the Republic such as UCC.

Independent studies, he said, had shown how UCD currently
produces graduates at greatly reduced cost in comparison
with leading international competitors. He stressed that a
series of management and curriculum changes had been made
at UCD at a net cost of just 1 per cent of budget.

Dr Brady, college president for almost two years, has
pushed through a radical programme of academic

During yesterday's meeting he was questioned closely about
opposition to his plans among staff, but his programme of
change is strongly supported by the vast majority of the
governing authority.

The president said the recent €1 billion budget package
with its emphasis on postgraduate excellence, known as
"4th-Level Ireland", represents a unique opportunity for
UCD as it is the "leading producer of PhD students in

Key priorities, he said, included a new recruitment drive,
investing in infrastructure, establishing the planned
graduate schools to meet the goals of "4th-Level Ireland"
and finalising the process of modularising all
undergraduate and postgraduate programmes

A series of key new appointments were also ratified. Prof
James Heckman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, has
accepted UCD's professorship of science and society.

© The Irish Times


No Nay, Never…Enough Already!

By Mike Farragher

I read a quote in The New York Times Book Review that said
"great writing doesn't soothe a wound, it picks at a scab."

If that's the case, I am in line for the Pulitzer. And my
English teacher and Limerick mammy never thought I'd make
anything of myself!

It would seem that my column from a few weeks ago entitled
"No, Nay, Never Again Please," which addressed the tedious
"same old, same old" in the Irish festival scene with the
same 10 songs played over and over, has raised the ire on
either side of the argument in emails and letters to the
Irish Voice editors these last few weeks.

Apparently, the truth hurts. Some AOH members who organize
some of these blah fleadhs have been trying hard to push
through the pain ever since.

"First of all he admits he joined the festival committee
just to gather material that would be used to betray them,"
complained AOH member Patrick Campbell in a recent letter
to the Irish Voice. "Farragher is a creep! How tacky and
dishonest can you get?"

How dumb can he get? I do believe I stated my intentions
for going to the planning meetings — to try to force a
change in the ho-hum hooley cycle and have a younger voice
in the process so that the festival tradition can continue
into the next generation. Note to self — write slowly and
in crayon for those readers who took the short bus to

"Perhaps the answer is to allow Farragher to write strictly
about Irish rock bands and on alternate weeks, and employ a
person with a knowledge and appreciation of traditional
music," reasons one writer.

"I have always saved the Irish Voice as I go back ever now
and then to enjoy it once more," writes Bill Ashe of
Corona, California in this week's issue.

"But now I think I have found another use for the page with
Farragher's column on it. I found that the page is the same
size as the bottom of me bird cage so I plan to place it
face up with Mr. Farragher's smiling face there to catch
little Liam droppings. And me little bird, Liam, has a
deadly aim."

Beware, Mr. Ashe — petting your bird too much causes

Perhaps the most definitive voice in the debate came from
none other than Larry Kirwan, whose band Black 47 routinely
headlines festivals in places like Cleveland and Chicago.

"I think you are very right in one way but a bit off the
mark in others," he wrote to me in an e-mail. "Even at the
biggest festivals you still hear those same 10 songs over
and over.

"However, the festivals around New York/New Jersey tend to
be the most backward for some reason. But even there, the
organizers are trying to break out of the norm.

"After all, the Sea Girt people brought us in and
immediately the crowd rose 30%, I'm told. You take
festivals like Dublin, Ohio or Milwaukee; they always have
five or six different stages with a variety of music," he

Variety is the spice of life, I always say.

You can catch Larry and the Black 47 boys as they celebrate
their sweet 16 years at Connolly's (121 West 45th Street at
Times Square) this month. For more information, log onto


Golden Globes: Irish Nominees

Michael Dwyer, Film Correspondent

Four Irish actors have received nominations for the 63rd
annual Golden Globes, which are presented annually by the
Hollywood Foreign Press Association and are regarded as
influential in determining the Oscar nominations that
follow a month later.

Two of the Irishmen are nominated for the best actor award
in the best comedy or musical film drama category. Navan
native Pierce Brosnan (below) is on the list for his self-
deprecating portrayal of a washed-up professional assassin
in The Matador, which he produced through his company,
Irish Dreamtime.

Cork actor Cillian Murphy is nominated for his portrayal of
a young transvestite from an Irish Border town in the new
Neil Jordan film, Breakfast on Pluto, based on the Patrick
McCabe novel.

The other nominees are Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line),
Nathan Lane (The Producers), Jeff Daniels (The Squid and
the Whale) and Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate

Another Cork actor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is nominated for
best actor in a TV mini-series or motion picture for his
portrayal of the young Elvis Presley in Elvis. Belfast-born
Kenneth Branagh is nominated in the same category for Warm

The Globes front- runner with seven film nominations is Ang
Lee's Brokeback Mountain. The winners will be announced on
January 16th in Los Angeles.

© The Irish Times

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