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December 26, 2005

Nelson Inquiry Call By US Trio

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News about Ireland & the Irish

NH 12/26/05 Nelson Inquiry Call By US Trio
YN 12/18/05 Illegal Irish Immigrants In US Dwindling
UN 12/18/05 Arsonists Set Fire To Five Houses In Portadown
BT 12/26/05 UK Will Be First To Monitor Every Car Journey
BT 12/26/05 Mystery Man Baffles US
ST 12/26/05 McDowell's Our Hero . . . Orange Order Marchers
ST 12/26/05 Opin: Ghosts & Marley Show McDowell Right Path
ST 12/26/05 Opin: Matters The McDowell Did Not Clear Up
ST 12/26/05 Opin: McDowell Will Remain A Powerful Force
ST 12/26/05 Opin: Cicero’s Sympathetic Grin For McDowell
DI 12/26/05 Opin: Take Five: Getting On With It
NH 12/26/05 Opin: North Has Different Outlook Than Anywhere
NH 12/26/05 Opin: Asinine Law Makes Ass Out Of Politicians
BT 12/26/05 Opin: SF In Spin As Dirty Washing Tumbles Out
IE 12/26/05 Opin: U.S.: Ireland Still A Priority
ST 12/26/05 'At End Of Every Day A Priest Is Totally Alone'
ST 12/26/05 It's Time To Rethink Relevance Of Celibacy
IT 12/26/05 Taoiseach Pays Tribute To Tsunami Response
ST 12/26/05 Landmark Pubs And Hotels Breach Ban On Smoking
ST 12/26/05 Pull Your Own Pints For Less Than €2
IT 12/26/05 Christmas Day Swimmers Take The Plunge


Nelson Inquiry Call By US Trio

(Irish News)

Three influential Americans who visited Northern Ireland
for the opening of the inquiry into the murder of Catholic
solicitor Rosemary Nelson have expressed dismay at the
delay in public hearings.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that a public inquiry
into Mrs Nelson's killing was to be postponed by a year.

The inquiry team blamed a massive workload for its decision
to delay the hearings, scheduled for next spring, until
January 2007.

Mrs Nelson, a mother-of-three, was killed in a loyalist
car-bomb attack outside her Lurgan home in March 1999.

Prior to her killing she alleged that her life had been
threatened by members of the security forces.

In a letter to the inquiry team earlier this week Ned
McGinley, national president of the Ancient Order of
Hibernians, Thomas Burke and Edmund E Lynch, both of the
Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland, called for the
hearings to be convened in the spring.

All three men travelled to Craigavon, Co Armagh, earlier
this year, for the opening of the inquiry.

Their letter to the inquiry team said: "We have genuine
concern that this latest delay will have a negative effect
on the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry.

"Such delays tend to generate a public perception that the
goal of the inquiry is to postpone the day of accounting
for those responsible for this tragic crime against a
courageous solicitor and attack upon the rule of law in a
divided society. We believe that the inquiry must undertake
an energetic effort to open hearings in... spring of 2006."

December 26, 2005

This article appeared first in the December 24, 2005
edition of the Irish News.


Number Of Illegal Irish Immigrants In US Dwindling

Sun Dec 18,10:44 AM ET

YONKERS, United States (AFP) - The number of illegal Irish
immigrants living in the United States has steadily
declined in recent years, in large part because of tough
security restrictions imposed after the September 11, 2001

While it is difficult to quantify the exact number of
undocumented Irish immigrants in the country, it is
estimated that between 25,000 and 50,000 currently live in
the United States -- the majority in the New York, Boston
and Philadelphia areas.

Brian O'Dwyer, an attorney and chairman of the Emerald Isle
Immigration Center in New York, told AFP that most of the
so-called New Irish who came to the United States in the
1980s and '90s to work underground in the construction and
hospitality sectors came to the New York area. He estimated
their number at 20,000.

Many, however, have been forced to leave the country in
recent years as a result of tough security measures imposed
on illegal immigrants in the wake of the September 11

The new measures prevent people without a valid Social
Security number from applying for a driver's license or
seeking a job.

Officials at social and immigration centers that cater to
the Irish community say this has translated into disaster
for many who have lived and worked in the United States for
20 years or more and have become outcasts overnight.

"Many of these families and individuals were paying taxes
through fake Social Security numbers or tax identification
numbers and, every year, they feel more and more trapped
because of the legal provisions adopted," said Patricia
Grogan, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community
Center in Yonkers, just outside New York City.

"These are not people that were shirking their
responsibilities as residents of the US," she added. "These
are people that want to be legal, that want to work, that
want to pay taxes and want to stay in this country, but
their ability to do so is being eroded every month."

One hope for the illegal immigrants is pending legislation
that would grant them temporary work visas if they can show
proof of employment and a clean criminal record. The bill
would also allow them to eventually apply for citizenship.

A group called the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform was
launched in New York earlier this month to pressure
lawmakers to resolve the plight of undocumented Irish

According to the 2000 US census, 35 million Americans claim
to be of Irish descent, and some 160,000 were born in
Ireland. Most of those who were born in Ireland live in the
tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.


Arsonists Set Fire To Five Houses In Portadown

13:30 Monday December 26th 2005

Arsonists in Portadown have set fire to five houses in
what's feared to be a sectarian attack.

It happened following permission for a Christmas Day Orange
Order parade along the catholic Garvaghy Road was turned

Flammable liquid was set poured through the letterboxes of
five homes in the early hours of Christmas Day.

One woman woke to find her front door on fire and doors in
four other neighbouring homes were also burning.

There were no injuries but the doors were all burned and
the house interiors smoke damaged.

Don MacKay from the Fire Service said ten people were led
to safety.

Sinn Fein councillor Brian McKeown said those responsible
were "intent on causing mass murder" and had terrified
people aged from ten months to an elderly lady of 80.


UK Will Be First To Monitor Every Car Journey

By Steve Connor
26 December 2005

Britain is to become the first country in the world where
the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A
new national surveillance system will hold the records for
at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read
every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge
database of vehicle movements so that the police and
security services can analyse any journey a driver has made
over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV
cameras which are being converted to read number plates
automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all
motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports
and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the
Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will
store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per
day. These will include time, date and precise location,
with camera sites monitored by global positioning

Already there are plans to extend the database by
increasing the storage period to five years and by linking
thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to
100 million number plates can be fed each day into the
central databank.

Senior police officers have described the surveillance
network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology
of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of
DNA fingerprinting.

But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried
that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will
soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer
database for years.

The new national data centre of vehicle movements will form
the basis of a sophisticated surveillance tool that lies at
the heart of an operation designed to drive criminals off
the road.

In the process, the data centre will provide unrivalled
opportunities to gather intelligence data on the movements
and associations of organised gangs and terrorist suspects
whenever they use cars, vans or motorcycles.

The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of
Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and has the full backing of
ministers who have sanctioned the spending of £24m this
year on equipment.

More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to
allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic
cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The
data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police
communications network.

Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering
agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and
petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras
into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number
plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the
Police National Computer, the national data centre will
also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed,
insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.

"Every time you make a car journey already, you'll be on
CCTV somewhere. The difference is that, in future, the
car's index plates will be read as well," said Frank
Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of
the Acpo steering committee on automatic number plate
recognition (ANPR).

"What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a
vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was
or wasn't at a particular location, and the routes taken to
and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are
associated vehicles," Mr Whiteley said.

The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of
cars, vans or trucks to see who is driving alongside a
vehicle that is already known to be of interest to the
police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a
lawful vehicle, steal a car and then drive back in convoy
to commit further crimes "You're not necessarily interested
in the stolen vehicle. You're interested in what's moving
with the stolen vehicle," Mr Whiteley explained.

According to a strategy document drawn up by Acpo, the
national data centre in Hendon will be at the heart of a
surveillance operation that should deny criminals the use
of the roads.

"The intention is to create a comprehensive ANPR camera and
reader infrastructure across the country to stop
displacement of crime from area to area and to allow a
comprehensive picture of vehicle movements to be captured,"
the Acpo strategy says.

"This development forms the basis of a 24/7 vehicle
movement database that will revolutionise arrest,
intelligence and crime investigation opportunities on a
national basis," it says.

Mr Whiteley said MI5 will also use the database. "Clearly
there are values for this in counter-terrorism," he said.

"The security services will use it for purposes that I
frankly don't have access to. It's part of public
protection. If the security services did not have access to
this, we'd be negligent."

Why this revolution is only the start

The new national surveillance network for tracking car
journeys, which has taken more than 25 years to develop, is
only the beginning of plans to monitor the movements of all
British citizens. The Home Office Scientific Development
Branch in Hertfordshire is already working on ways of
automatically recognising human faces by computer, which
many people would see as truly introducing the prospect of
Orwellian street surveillance, where our every move is
recorded and stored by machines.

Although the problems of facial recognition by computer are
far more formidable than for car number plates, experts
believe it is only a matter of time before machines can
reliably pull a face out of a crowd of moving people.

If the police and security services can show that a
national surveillance operation based on recording car
movements can protect the public against criminals and
terrorists, there will be a strong political will to do the
same with street cameras designed to monitor the flow of
human traffic.

A major feature of the national surveillance centre for car
numbers is the ability to trawl through records of previous
sightings to build up an intelligence picture of a
vehicle's precise whereabouts on the road network.

However, the Home Office and police believe that the Big
Brother nature of the operation can be justified on the
basis of the technology's proven ability to catch
criminals. "In simple terms criminals use vehicles. If you
want to commit a crime, you're going to use a vehicle,"
said Frank Whiteley, the Chief Constable of Hertfordshire,
who leads the project. " There is nothing secretive about
it and we don't want it to be secret, because we want
people to feel safer, to see that they are protected."

A 13-month pilot scheme between 2003 and 2004 found the
performance of the police improved dramatically when they
had access automatic number plate recognition (ANPR)
cameras. Project Laser 2 involved 23 police forces using
specially fitted vans with ANPR cameras linked to a police
database. It led to a fivefold increase in the arrest rate
for frontline officers.

But these mobile units will constitute only a tiny
proportion of the many thousands of ANPR cameras that by
next year will be feeding more than 35 million number plate
"reads" every day into the new national data centre at
Hendon, north London, the same site as the Police National

Mr Whiteley, chairman of the ANPR steering committee, said
the intention eventually was to move from the "low
thousands" of cameras to the " high thousands".

One camera can cover many motorway lanes. Just two ANPR
devices, for instance, cover north and south movements
through the 27 lanes of the Dartford crossing toll area on
the Thames.

By March next year, most motorways, main roads, town
centres and petrol station forecourts will be also covered.
Some cameras may be disguised for covert operations but the
majority will be ordinary CCTV traffic cameras converted to
read number plates. "What we're trying to do as far as we
can is to stitch together the existing camera network
rather than install a huge number of new cameras," Mr
Whiteley said.

More than 50 local authorities have already signed up to
allow the police access to data gathered from their CCTV
traffic cameras. Northampton, Bradford, Stoke and the City
of London have had ANPR cameras in use for some time. Many
smaller towns, such as St Albans, Stevenage and Watford are
in the process of being wired up.

"We also talking to the commercial sector about their
sites, particular garage forecourts. One of the biggest
truisms about vehicles is that they have got to fill up
with petrol," he explained.

Supermarkets are soon to agree a deal that will lead to all
cars entering their garage forecourts having details of
their number plates sent to Hendon. In return, the
retailers will receive warning information about those
drivers most likely to "bilk" - drive off without paying
their bill.

The plan beyond March 2006 - when the national data centre
goes live - is to expand the capacity of the system to log
the time, date and whereabouts of up to 100 million number
plates a day. "In crude terms we're interested in between
two and three per cent of all vehicles on the roads," Mr
Whiteley said.

"We can use ANPR on investigations or we can use it looking
forward in a proactive, intelligence way. Things like
building up the lifestyle of criminals - where they are
going to be at certain times. We seek to link the criminal
to the vehicle through intelligence. Vehicles moving on the
roads are open to police scrutiny at any time. The Road
Traffic Act gives us the right to stop vehicles at any time
for any purpose. So criminals on public roads are

"What makes them doubly vulnerable is that most criminals
not only burgle and steal, but they also don't bother to
tax their vehicles, insure them and things like that," Mr
Whiteley said.

Early in the new year the National ANPR Data Centre will be
able to cross-check its database against all vehicles
lawfully taxed and insured. All unlawful vehicles will be
flagged and when they pass an ANPR camera their movements
will register as "hits". The Home Office and the police
believe that such a surveillance tool will have a dramatic
impact on crime detection as well as the public's attitude
to traffic policing.

"The first plus is that we can concentrate our resources on
the vehicles we should be stopping. The other plus side is
that the 97 per cent of law-abiding motorists should never
be bothered by that," Mr Whiteley said.

The National ANPR Data Centre is being built alongside the
Police National Computer because of the need to be
constantly updated with lists of suspect drivers and
vehicles. The design of the system will also take into
account future changes to the way cars will be recognised,
such as electronic vehicle identification - when a unique
identity chip is built in to the bodywork.

Identity chips are being considered as part of a new road-
pricing system based on a network of roadside radio
receivers. Such electronic tags would, however, also allow
a car's movements to be recorded without the need of
number-plate cameras.

Asked whether ANPR will be as important as the forensic use
of fingerprints and DNA profiling, Mr Whiteley replied: "It
has the capability to be as revolutionary. I would describe
it as an ubiquitous policing tool. You can use it in all
sorts of different ways."


Fixed cameras at strategic sites

Many thousands of traffic cameras on main roads, motorways,
ports and petrol stations will read car numbers using
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Mobile units

Every force will have a fleet of specially fitted police
vans with ANPR cameras. These will work alongside high-
speed intercept officers

CCTV in towns & cities

Many existing traffic cameras in towns and cities are being
converted to read number plates automatically as part of
the new national surveillance network


Police National Computer

The PNC will supply updates on vehicles and drivers of
interest to the police

Insurance data

Uninsured drivers will be identified from data provided by
the insurance industry

MoT data

Vehicles without a valid MoT test certificate will be

Vehicle licence data

All vehicles without a valid tax disc or with unlawful
number plates will be identified


The new National ANPR Data Centre is to be based at Hendon
in north London, the site of the existing Police National
Computer. It is being designed to store 35 million number
plate 'reads' per day, to be expanded to 100 million reads
within a couple of years. The time, date and place of each
vehicle sighting will be stored for at least two years,
with plans to extend this period to five years. Special
'data mining' software can trawl for movements and



Every police force will have direct computer access to the
National ANPR Data Centre. Intelligence officers will be
able to access data on a car's movements over a number of


The Security Services have special exemption under the Data
Protection Act to use ANPR information for purposes of
national security. Anti-terrorism will be their main


Mystery Man Baffles US

Deceased said he was Sean Angus Donnelly of Omagh

By Ben Lowry
26 December 2005

A Kentucky coroner has made a fresh appeal for help in
identifying a man, believed to be from Northern Ireland,
who was buried as a pauper.

Hopes that the mystery man, who is thought to have been
living under an assumed identity, would be named by
Christmas failed.

The man had told his partner, who lived with him in
Louisville for the last two years of his life, that his
name was Sean Angus Donnelly, and that he was aged 45, but
she never saw documentation to this effect.

The man told her that he was an Irish nationalist from
Omagh who had been shot at one of the Army checkpoints in
Belfast, but she never met relatives of his or heard him
talking to them.

The dead man lay embalmed for a month after he died of
natural causes on October 29.

He was then buried in a pauper's grave at the end of
November because no next of kin had been located. The
service was only attended by a number of staff from the
coroner's office.

The Deputy Coroner for Jefferson County, Jo Ann Farmer, has
now appealed for someone in the PSNI to get in touch.

"At this time of year, we find it very sad to bury someone
with no-one who knows him there, particularly when there is
a good chance that he has family somewhere," she said,

Ms Farmer added: "We can't find anything on him. I wonder
if someone from the police department there could contact
us. I suspect he has probably been arrested and has spent
time there (Northern Ireland).

"If someone from the police department contacts me, then we
will try to get them a copy of the fingerprints and then
maybe we will be able to make a positive identification."

The Belfast Telegraph has been passed this picture of Mr
Donnelly by Jefferson County Coroner's Office as part of
the bid to identify him.

The man was around 6ft tall, spoke with a "thick" Irish
accent and had a Playboy tattoo on his left arm.

Ms Farmer can be contacted by telephone on (00 1) 502 777
87 16.


McDowell's Our Hero . . . Orange Order Marchers

Suzanne Breen Northern Editor

JUSTICE minister Michael McDowell could become the first
ever Catholic to address an Orange order rally in a
historic move by deeply conservative unionists.

The justice minister has become an unlikely hero for
traditionally anti-Catholic Orangemen and is to be invited
to speak at the gathering of Orangemen and victims of IRA
violence in Dublin.

Catholics are barred from joining the Orange Order and,
until now, only Protestants have spoken at similar
gatherings of IRA victims in the North.

But Willie Frazer of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives
(FAIR), who is organising the Dublin march, said his group
was very impressed with the Justice Minister for "standing
up to Sinn Fein/IRA" in the Republic.

"He might have a nationalist background, and his
grandfather might have been elected a Sinn Fein TD after
the 1916 Rising, but Michael McDowell is a firm opponent of
Sinn Fein/IRA terrorism, " Frazer said.

Other speakers will include DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, and
Ulster Unionist Assembly member Danny Kennedy.

The Rev Ian Paisley has also been invited to address the
demonstration outside Leinster House.

Frazer said the rally details would be finalised next month
when he travelled to Dublin to meet senior gardai, but
provisional arrangements were for marchers to leave
O'Connell Street around midday on Saturday, 4 February.

Frazer said that by inviting McDowell, the rally organisers
hoped to show they weren't anti-Catholic. "There will be
Orangemen on the march, and bandsmen might beat Lambeg
drums, but it's nothing for the ordinary people of Dublin
to be afraid of.

"We're not anti-nationalist, we're just anti-Sinn Fein/IRA.

We're not going down to be provocative or offensive. We
hope to show people in the South that we don't have two
heads, that we're just ordinary folk like themselves."

Frazer said around 30 Orange bands wanted to take part but
the organisers had decided to limit it to six "so the march
won't be perceived as intimidatory".

Frazer believed that, if he accepted the invitation,
McDowell would receive a warm welcome from the crowd: "He
is held in high regard by many people in Northern Ireland
for the courageous stance he has taken.

"He actively opposes Sinn Fein/IRA in a way that places him
well above most other politicians in the South, and plenty
in Northern Ireland too.

He isn't afraid to put his head above the parapet. We have
the utmost respect for him."

Frazer added: "He truly believes that terrorists should
face the full rigours of the law.

I met him a few years ago and although we had different
opinions on some political issues, I'd not hold that
against the man."

Frazer also praised the justice minister's "uncompromising
stance" on the Frank Connolly affair. "There has been a lot
of pressure on him from all quarters but he has stood his
ground. Michael McDowell won't be bullied.

It's a shame there weren't more like him on both sides of
the border."

He said he was unconcerned by any likely nationalist
protests. "People have every right to protest against our
march. I've every faith the guards will do their job and
the day will pass peacefully."


Opin: 3 Ghosts & Bob Marley Show Ebenezer McDowell The Right Path

Diarmuid Doyle

'T WAS the night before Christmas, and all around Ranelagh
not a sound could be heard. In his home, Ebenezer McDowell
put down the very informative biography of Goebbels he'd
been reading, took off his glasses and turned in for the
night. He hated Christmas, did old Ebenezer. All that good
cheer, all that goodwill-to-allmen guff got on his nerves.
If he read another article about homelessness in the
papers, he'd scream.

Did people not realise that inequality was part of the
world they lived in, that it was good for a society?

He'd been saying that for years, and he knew he was right.
He knew. He knew what he knew.

It hadn't been a bad year for Ebenezer. He'd done his bit
to help Ireland become one of the most unequal societies in
the world, and although he wasn't the most popular man as a
result, he thrived on the brickbats, the jeers in the
street, the screeching of the lefty media.

This was a sentimental world he lived in, and of the many
thousands of things he couldn't abide, sentiment was up
there near the top. It was his mission to fight it.

People should be more like Montgomery Burns, he always
said, and less like Lisa Simpson.

A few hours later, he was awoken from a deep sleep.

He had been dreaming a delicious dream, in which he was
receiving a back massage from Sam Smyth, and it took him a
while to register the dark presence at the end of his bed.
But, from the wild dreadlocked hair on the apparition and
its green, red and yellow apparel, he soon recognised it.
It was Bob Marley's ghost.

Beside him, Ebenezer's wife screamed in terror. "No woman,
no cry, " said Marley's ghost in soothing tones. "It's your
husband I am here for.

His selfishness and hostility to his fellow man and woman
has been noticed and unless he repents he will spend
eternity in torment, or in opposition at least, regretting
all the mistakes he has made in this world.

"But he has one last chance to mend his ways.

Before the night is out, he will be visited by three
ghosts, who will show him the error of his ways. How he
responds is entirely up to him." And with that, the
apparition disappeared into thin air, with only a faint
chorus of 'I Shot The Sherriff ' remaining to remind
Ebenezer of his creepy visitor.

Ebenezer fell back into a fitful sleep for what seemed like
only 10 minutes before he was again awoken, this time by an
almighty racket. He looked up to see a woman dressed only
in Dunnes Stores underwear, with Newbridge Silver knives
and forks attached to her skin, clattering and banging off
each other. It looked like Samantha Mumba.

"I am the Ghost Of Christmas Past, " said the apparition.
"You will come with me." She grabbed Ebenezer by his
shaking hand and it seemed as if his life up to now was
passing before his eyes. There he was as a child in
Gonzaga, always last to be picked for the rugby team. He
knew nothing about sport, admittedly, but the humiliation
he underwent at the hands of his schoolmates made him
determined never to show weakness again. He remembered how
he had determined to have views on any given topic, no
matter how insignificant it was and no matter how ignorant
he was of it. He'd show them: one day, he might even write
about rugby for the Sunday Tribune.

Other images flashed before his mind . . . throwing beer
over the woman who would become his wife, conversations
with his old boss, Mr Fezziwig, or Garret The Good as he
was known.

He'd parted from Fezziwig because the old guy was too soft,
too full of foolish optimism about people and their
potential. Ebenezer had needed a harsher, more intolerant
philosophy to follow. The PDs had come at just the right

Before disappearing, the ghost took him back to his room,
where he lay awake awaiting what he knew was the inevitable
third visit of the evening. "Hello, Ebenezer, " a voice
said presently. "What have you to say for yourself now?"

"Is that you, Tiny Tim?", Ebenezer said to the diminutive
creature in front of him.

"Just call me Ivor, the Ghost Of Christmas Present, " said
the apparition, whose strange visage seemed simultaneously
sinister and benign. "Let our journey begin." And again,
Ebenezer McDowell saw scenes from the world around him, and
realised the contempt in which he was held by the 95% of
people who would never vote for the PDs, and knew deep down
that he would never be more than the joker in the pack of
Irish politics, the Duracell Bunny of gratuitous headline

Not since Charles Haughey had called him the nastiest piece
of work ever to sit in Dail Eireann had he felt so

Before leaving him, Ivor, the Ghost of Christmas Present,
opened his robe to reveal the clinging presence of two of
the most hideous looking children Ebenezer had ever seen.
"These are the two chislers you'll never see on my
Christmas card, " said the ghost. "They are called Want and
Ignorance and you should beware them both.

Beware particularly of Ignorance, especially when it comes
to how the Yanks are using Shannon airport."

Ebenezer sat on the edge of his bed, waiting for the third
ghost promised by Bob Marley. When it appeared it was, for
some reason, wearing an anorak and a pair of garish yellow
trousers, and holding a pint of Bass.

"Howya, " said the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come. "I have
a few tings to show ya."

And again Ebenezer was bombarded by images, this time from
the future. There was the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, meeting
President Hillary Clinton at government buildings; there
was Tanaiste Pat Rabbitte chairing a meeting of European
justice ministers; and there, scarily, was Ebenezer
McDowell at his desk in the Law Library, bogged down in the
minutiae of the details of the country's longest ever
employment law case.

"That's the future", said the Ghost of Christmas Yet To
Come. "It's up to you whether you want to change it or


Opin: Matters The Minister Did Not Clear Up

IT HAS been a strange week for peacetime. After 20 years,
senior Sinn Fein officer Denis Donaldson has been outed as
a British spy. He did it, he said, because he was
compromised and the risks he took are flabbergasting. Had
he been caught he would probably have been killed.

He still might be.

Justice minister Michael McDowell went into the Dail and
onto the airwaves to justify his outing of Frank Connolly
as the man who allegedly travelled to Colombia on a false
passport. It was a matter of national security, the
minister said.

On RTE's News at One he said he would not be browbeaten
into silence.

He was defending the security of the state against
subversion. "It's not blackening somebody to tell the truth
as you see it, " the minister stated.

As part of this job he leaked the information on the bogus
passport application to journalist Sam Smyth.

Despite the outrage of the opposition and in other
quarters, the reality is that leaks are the lifeblood of
journalism. The biggest scoops in recent Irish history have
been leaked.

Michael Lowry might still be on Fine Gael's front bench but
for a leak to Sam Smyth.

It is unusual for a minister to admit he is the source of a
leak, but ministers or their representatives often provide
unattributed stories or offthe-record briefings to
journalists As McDowell himself stated, that is how the
fourth estate works.

But there are two issues the minister didn't clear up last

Although he sent out the bogus passport application forms
to the media along with his Dail speech, he didn't release
the the passport photograph that accompanied the

And he has refused to do so.

The publication of this photograph could vindicate the view
of gardai and the minister that it was Frank Connolly who
travelled to Colombia on a false passport in 2001 and do
much to reassure those who are alarmed by the precedent the
minister has set.

The other question that remains unanswered is why it took
so long to alert the nation to the threat in our midst. The
decision not to prosecute Frank Connolly was made by the
Director of Public Prosecutions in March 2003, according to
the Centre for Public Inquiry.

In all his explanations last week, the minister has not
told us why he perceived Frank Connolly to be a threat to
the state in December 2005, but not in March 2003 or at any
time since. The trip to Colombia is alleged to have taken
place in 2001, but Frank Connolly was not outed until
almost five years later.

The minister clearly feels he has discharged his
responsibility in the face of subversion. For good or ill,
he believes he has done the right thing for the people of
Ireland by naming Frank Connolly under Dail privilege.

Frank Connolly also has a responsibility to the public. The
threat of prosecution has now been lifted . . .

he was assured of this in a letter last Thursday. As
director of the Centre for Public Inquiry he must be beyond
reproach. If he wants the public to trust the centre's
investigations, he must assure them of his own bona fides,
if he can.


Opin: By Choosing His Enemies Well, McDowell Will Remain A Powerful Political Force

Shane Coleman

WHEN Michael McDowell stood up to make his much anticipated
defence (or should that be attack? ) in the Dail on Tuesday
evening, Labour Party TD Tommy Broughan shouted: "Resign.

The minister should resign."

Not only was there not the remotest possibility of such an
eventuality but, politically, the justice minister enters
the Christmas break very much at the peak of his powers.

The rights and wrongs of McDowell's actions are dealt with
in considerable detail elsewhere on these pages (and it is
difficult not to have serious reservations about the
minister's actions) but in pure political terms, there is
no reason to believe that McDowell has been in any way
weakened by the many attacks on his character, judgment and
motivations in recent days.

Far from it. Anyone perusing the letters pages of the
various national newspapers might believe McDowell is under
monumental pressure, but the reality is very different.

It would be stretching matters (and not a little cliched)
to say that the silent majority backs McDowell's tough
stand, but there is certainly considerable support for the
justice minister.

Anyone who witnessed the clear discomfort on the Fine Gael
benches last week as the main opposition party tried to
walk the political tightrope of berating the minister and
distancing itself from any support of Frank Connolly can be
in little doubt about that.

Fine Gael has been making stirrings in recent months that
it is looking to return to its old law and order roots . .
. last seen when the likes of Paddy Cooney, Paddy Donegan
and Brendan McGahon were in their pomp . . . and here was
McDowell stealing their thunder.

Much of the PD support since its foundation . . . not least
Michael McDowell's own vote in Dublin South East . . . has
come from the traditional Fine Gael base and the justice
minister is doing his level best to ensure that continues
to be the case. Enda Kenny has scored a few points against
the government in recent times in relation to its dealings
with the Republican movement . . .

most notably on the potential release of the killers of
Garda Jerry McCabe and on the issue of on-the-runs . . .
but it is McDowell who has really cornered the 'anti-provo'

It was McDowell who raised the issue of IRA criminality 12
months ago when a deal to restore the Northern institutions
collapsed at the last minute, leaving him in a position to
quickly claim vindication in the wake of the Northern Bank
robbery. He has been remorseless in hammering Sinn Fein and
the IRA ever since.

In his speech to the PD party conference earlier this year,
McDowell said that "the emerging web of money-laundering
and asset-creation by the Provos reveals a frightening
threat to our democracy", adding:

"IRA-Sinn Fein were well on their way to create a state
within a state. . . By violent and criminal means the army
council of the IRA were preparing to transform their armed
wing from a heavily armed private army into a lightly armed
enforcement wing for a revolutionary political movement . .
. half in and half out of the democratic process."

Little wonder that McDowell has become the bete noir, not
just for Republicans, but even more moderate Northern
nationalists. But such language appeals to a significant
constituency south of the border. A recent Sunday Tribune
opinion poll found that around half of the electorate would
not give Sinn Fein a vote of any description, including a
transfer, despite IRA decommissioning.

But it's not just in relation to the Republican movement
that McDowell has, in cold political terms, chosen his
enemy well. The minister has never been Mr Popular with
Fianna Fail TDs. But there was no doubting the support in
the benches behind him last week. Even those who questioned
his judgment . . . in particular for his decision to admit
that it was he who gave the documents to the Irish
Independent . . . were quite happy for him to give the head
of the Centre for Public Inquiry a bloody nose.

The ever-cautious Bertie Ahern would never have even
contemplated doing what Michael McDowell did in the past
couple of weeks.

McDowell, for all his formidable intellect, isn't in
Ahern's class as a political strategist (who is? ) and at
times the minister has resembled a political version of
Dirty Harry, inviting his enemies to 'make his day'.

It seems clear that McDowell doesn't like being questioned
and doesn't always respond in the measured way expected of
a cabinet minister. His intemperate response (to put it
mildly) to Prime Time's report on the proposed new prison
at Thornton Hall and Roscommon county council's decision on
planning permission for his holiday home are just two
further examples of a politician who tends to shoot from
the hip, Harry Callahan style.

But that doesn't mean, as many have suggested, that
McDowell has lost the run of himself. Those who are
convinced that McDowell will ultimately go too far and
bring about his political downfall may grow tired of
waiting. The minister has survived in politics for around
two decades. He has always been controversial and usually
divisive but, while there have always been ups and downs,
there has been nothing that has caused any lasting damage
to his career.

His judgment hasn't always been good, but there is ample
evidence . . . his role in drafting the original PD policy
document and his brilliant PR stunts during the last
general election campaign . . . of a shrewd political

Unlike the Taoiseach, McDowell knows that he doesn't have
to worry about attracting 40% of the electorate. Four or
five percent is more than enough for the party to remain a
highly effective force in politics. It was the minister who
coined the phrase that the PDs had to be "radical or
redundant", and he clearly aims to live up to that slogan
at all times.

While many commentators have, rightly, expressed concern
about the dangerous precedent he has set in his dealings
with Frank Connolly, there will be thousands of voters who
believe that, yet again, the minister is fearlessly calling
it as he sees it. It has also copperfastened his reputation
as one of the most high-profile politicians in the state.

If a general election were held in the morning, he would
top the poll in Dublin South East. For the first time in
his political life, he can be utterly confident of winning
his seat in the next election. He is also the clear front
runner to succeed Mary Harney as leader of the PDs. Resign?
Resign ourselves to the fact that McDowell is going to be
around for a long while to come.


Opin: Cicero Might Have Allowed Himself A Sympathetic Grin For Mcdowell

Richard Delevan

HIS way with words got Cicero elected a consul of ancient

He did one brave and vital thing in office. He stopped a
plot led by Lucius Catilina, an ambitious nobleman, to
overthrow the Republic.

First Cicero, under contemporary Dail privilege, made a
speech so damning that Catilina fled town. But sleeper
agents were left to subvert the city from within while
Catilina raised an army nearby.

These conspirators sent an envoy to wild Gaul, perhaps to
trade expertise in Greek fire for gold; but he was
intercepted. Using this evidence in the Senate, Cicero got
the conspirators to confess and then had them sent to the
Tullianum prison . . . the Abu Ghraib of its day . . . and
hanged without trial. Rome honoured him.

Cicero saved the Republic, which was vital.

But he did it by exceeding the laws of the Republic, which
was brave. Because although he said he acted within his
authority, to protect the security of the state, Cicero
worried that one day he would face punishment for
undermining the very rule of law he secured.

This is a paradox of power.

Republics are occasionally confronted with insidious and
existential threats.

Meeting those threats . . . by changing, stretching or
ignoring their own rules of conduct or by just hoping for
the best . . . is up to the people on whose watch the
crisis comes.

Cicero might have allowed himself a sympathetic grin or two
this week.

First for Michael McDowell. What would Cicero have made of
McDowell's initially covert disclosures from confidential
Garda files about Frank Connolly, first to republicans'
American sugar daddy, Chuck Feeney; then to journalist Sam
Smyth; finally owning up in the Dail?

Cicero might first note the irony. If McDowell or his
predecessors had brought Irish defamation laws up to
Western standards, we'd have a full hearing in the public
arena without recourse to clandestine meetings or Dail
privilege. Under proper Freedom of Information rules, the
files about the Colombia affair could have been opened to
public scrutiny, to everyone simultaneously, including
allegations about Frank Connolly.

Informed public discourse could then influence the decision
of the Centre of Public Inquiry (CPI) . . . the known work
of which is no more threatening than that of Ralph Nader in
the US, and arguably of great benefit . . . to continue to
employ Connolly and of Feeney to fund the group.

And the public would give due weight to the word of a man
with serious questions to answer.

The sanction short of trial and prison would have been loss
of credibility and money at the discretion of the whole
public, not one minister.

But we are where we are.

We have the intolerable situation where a minister is
perceived to have used the power of the state to harm an
individual citizen because of his political beliefs. Not
tortured or hanged, but harmed nonetheless.

Having gone this far, McDowell really must go the rest of
the way: go back into the Dail and state explicitly his
reasons why Frank Connolly heading up the CPI is a specific
threat to the state. Screen the video footage, publish all
the documents, make clear the nature of the threat.

"I know what I know" simply won't do. If this is the
decisive moment to defeat whatever our current Catiline
conspiracy is, if McDowell really wants to stand by the
Republic, he'll make it plain to us plebes.

Cicero's second smile is for the debate on torture and
"extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects.

The "ticking bomb" is the usual defence of torture.

Imagine gardai capture a known terrorist here in Dublin. He
says there is a nuclear weapon in the city set to go off in
two hours, but won't tell them where.

Would torture be justified if it saves two million lives?

The answer is it doesn't matter. If you know two million
lives would, not could, be saved by an hour of one man's
pain, there is no real choice. You save lives and repent

But Senator John McCain, himself a torture victim in
Vietnam, prevailed this week in ensuring that torture is
not given the blessing of law. The next step must be to
ensure that "renditions" . . . outsourcing torture to third
parties . . . are similarly banned. Those who have already
approved or directed such activities must be sanctioned.

Stepping outside the laws of the Republic to save it should
be painful. Citing Cicero, philosopher JeanJacques Rousseau
wrote that dictatorship would sometimes be necessary to
repel existential threats to the state.

Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union during the American
Civil War, but to do it trampled on nearly every freedom
and basic law he wanted to secure. What saved the US was
that it did not give explicit permission for anyone to
repeat Lincoln's example. It reserved the right to judge
leaders whose gambles do not work out so well.

In the end, Cicero did what was necessary to save his
country. And faced the consequences. He was exiled.

Making space within the law for its abuse has been the end
of many a republic, right back to the first one.


Opin: Take Five: Getting On With It

Emer Brennan

It has certainly been an interesting week. Revelations of
spooks and spies in Sinn Féin led to a plethora of
newspaper articles about agents and double agents, a force
within a police force and all sorts of theories about what
is going on.

Much of the debate has focused on whether these revelations
will destabilize the peace process.

The simple answer to that is – only if they are allowed to.

Calls for an inquiry into allegations of spying are surely
a waste of time.

Those familiar with the dark arts of espionage are hardly
likely to own up and tell the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth, now are they?

Even if they did – would or could anyone believe them?

We would probably end up with more questions than answers.

If, as is claimed, the forces behind "Stormontgate" wished
to damage the process then surely the best revenge is to
strengthen your resolve to move it forward.

If those forces wished to deepen the chasm between the PSNI
and Sinn Féin, which is likely, have they achieved their

The worst thing about spies is the deep feeling of betrayal
they leave in their wake, particularly if the individual in
question is an insider as opposed to an undercover
infiltrator. Nobody likes to look foolish or be taken for a
ride but if the result of the past week's revelations is
the prolonging of the current stalemate then everyone

We were all well-warned that this process was not going to
be easy and certainly after early promise, momentum was
lost time and time again through lack of generosity on the
part of the main players.

Despite the fact that it was a momentous move, by the time
decommissioning finally happened the public euphoria and
expectation that existed at the time of the agreement had
long since dissipated.

This time last year we had the drama of the Northern Bank
story and the brutal slaying of Robert Mc Cartney. This
year we have tales of intrigue and double-dealing to match
the best any spy-novel writer could come up with.

No one is sure what is really going on but we seem as far
away from the restoration of the institutions as we were at
the end of 2004.

The two governments certainly want things to move on.

The people certainly do too.

So perhaps it is time for some of that generosity that has
been lacking so often in the past.

Emer Brennan is a Fianna Fáil activist and teaches in a
small rural primary school in north Monaghan.


Opin: The North Of Ireland Has A Different Outlook Than Anywhere Across Europe


The two Goliaths – Sinn Féin and the DUP – are involved in
a game of political chess that is dominating the landscape
of politics here

While there are commonalities across this island of ours I
can't but feel that the North of Ireland is somewhat
different from anywhere else in Europe.

How so you may ask? Well at the moment we are witnessing a
game of political chess being played out on TV and radio
and in the papers.

This game has Sinn Féin on one side and the DUP on the
other. It is a shame that these two Goliaths are dominating
the political landscape at the expense of the likes of the
SDLP, UUP and Alliance Party.

Over the years the centre ground parties struggled against
bigoted and fascist tendencies, often in the face of
threatened or real violence.

The two Goliaths in the form of SF and the DUP were
frequently to be seen and heard behaving like spoilt
children. I want, we won't, you better and the stamping of
feet could be heard for miles around.

While all of this was happening people died and suffered
for no valid reason.

The old game of stubbornness has given way to one-
upmanship. Worse still it is the landlords of the NIO who
are pandering to the immature and childlike politics of the
two largest parties.

Rightly so, some of you may say. I say that this is wrong
and in the end we will all be losers.

The DUP got the Victims Commissioner and Sinn Féin got the

The DUP have destroyed the very essence of the Parades
Commission and Sinn Féin got the case over Stormont-Gate
dropped. Some commentators have claimed this was done to
protect an alleged informer within the IRA or Sinn Féin.

This is clear evidence that a game is being played out by
the two parties with the collaboration of the NIO. God only
knows what the make up of the new Policing Board will look

For a large section of the population the question is why
should the On-The-Runs be treated any differently from any
other criminal?

If I wanted to be cynical about this I could call them
cowards and rather than referring to them as On-The-Runs, I
could refer to them as 'we ran away', brave or what?

The physical conflict is over and at some point we as a
society have to deal with it emotionally. However, justice
should be for all and should not be selective.

Why then could an offender of a so-called non-political
crime (what a joke), having committed a crime prior to
1998, not ask for the same privilege? Why not have
amnesties for criminals?

The answer is simple, that doesn't fit in with the big
picture of appeasing Sinn Féin and the DUP. Every time one
gets annoyed, the landlords come up with an idea for the

We are truly unique in this troubled land and troubled it
will remain as long as such shenanigans occur.

The two parties should be seen for what they really are,
power hungry and selfish in their pursuits of overall
control of the lives and destinies of the people of the
north and in the case of Sinn Féin, of Ireland.

Over the years I have often heard that the more someone
complains then the more that person will get. This is
clearly the case for the two parties.

The DUP have spent the past 30 years whining about anything
that they cannot control or influence. The attitudes of
some of their representatives should have landed them in
court long ago, but then that again doesn't fit into the
bigger picture.

It is not healthy for society to have two diametrically
opposed parties effectively running or at the present
blocking the administration of the north, by local people.

Okay, so the other parties will be there, if they all ever
get their acts together, however, the evidence is there
that rather than being respected for what benefits that
they can bring to us, the other parties will play second

The way forward should look like this. All public
appointments, which they are not at present, should be
tendered out to a recruitment agency and all criminals
should do their time.

Any negotiations about our future should be round table and
include all of the political parties and the game of
political chess for two, which is occurring at present,
should be turned into a debating society for all.

The charade of political checks and balances is getting us
nowhere. Now is the time for inclusive dialogue and
inclusive processes.

It is only when we achieve this will the North of Ireland
and this island truly enjoy real and transparent politics
and bring with it a real sense of purpose for all of the

December 26, 2005

This article appeared first on the web
site on December 16, 2005.


Opin: Asinine Law Can Make An Ass Out Of Politicians

(Patrick Murphy, Irish News)

"The law is a ass", Mr Bumble, the Beadle, said in Oliver
Twist. While he may not have had a comprehensive grasp of
English grammar, Mr Bumble had the good taste to question
not just the law, but those who make it and why they do so.

Right now he would be in his element in this country, where
we have a long tradition of legislation for political ends
– and a sad history of the subsequent civil unrest it
inevitably generated.

The Special Powers Act and the Flags and Emblems Act, for
example, gave the Unionist government at Stormont absolute
power in defiance of basic human rights.

It is a popular misconception that those days are over.

Recent events here suggest that laws are still being
drafted and selectively applied for specific political

The fine print of the 'On The Runs' (OTR) legislation, for
example, was based on a secret deal between Sinn Féin and
the British. It was a political law for the benefit of both
sides to the exclusion of relatives of the victims of both
sides. Republicans claim they did not know that Britain
intended to apply it to its own security forces.

If Sinn Féin foresaw the legislation being used to absolve
police and army crime, they misled the public. If they did
not foresee it, they were unusually short-sighted. Either
way they focused on their own narrow political interests at
the expense of justice – a practice used by unionists here
for 50 years.

Under pressure from the families of victims of security
force crime, the party no longer supports the proposed law.

British abandonment of the legislation would challenge even
the discerning Mr Bumble. It would mean scrapping a law
because of belated opposition from a political party which
refuses to sit in the parliamentary chamber – but which
sits in the room next door and, of course, in Stormont.

The proposed OTR legislation indicated Sinn Féin's
political influence.

Dropping it would confirm its powers of patronage over
British legislation relating to Irish politics.

Even more intriguing is the fact that should London drop
the proposed law, Dublin will abandon its proposed
presidential pardons for on the runs.

For the first time in history the behaviour of an Irish
president depends on events in the British parliament. It
is, as Mr Bumble might say, a case of English law producing
an Irish ass.

It is not just new laws which are politically inspired.
Existing law can be selectively applied for political
purposes. The dropping of charges in the alleged Stormont
spy ring has now been linked to the British cabinet.
Whether the intention was to protect Denis Donaldson and
others, or to avoid embarrassing Sinn Féin, is unclear.
Whatever the finer detail, the legal decision was political
in origin and intent.

(Both sides were spying on each other in the same way that
the British and French still spy on each other – as much
out of historical habit as contemporary necessity. In
politics it is more important to spy on your friends than
on your enemies.)

If the law is political, then the police, as law enforcers,
are also political.

Sinn Féin's stance on the PSNI is therefore valid. But the
weakness in their position is that they do not want to de-
politicise the police, they simply want to re-politicise it
in their own image.

And it is this attitude which explains Sinn Féin's
involvement in the use of the law as an agent of party
political power. Whereas in 1921 republicans negotiated
openly with the British government on behalf of the Irish
people, in recent years they have negotiated – mainly in
secret – on their own behalf.

Not only have they never made the slightest effort to
represent unionists (whom they see as British), they have
not always worked in the best interests of nationalists who
are not Sinn Féin members.

Despite the popular belief, Sinn Féin does not mean
ourselves alone. But the party's advocacy of proposed and
existing laws for their own political benefit will do
little to dispel this popular myth.

The design and implementation of the law for political
purposes led to 30 years of violence in this country. It
subverted democracy and protected the rich and powerful.
Events in the past 10 days show that little has changed
here and that Mr Bumble's analysis is still largely valid.

What he failed to observe, however, was that support for an
asinine law can make a complete ass out of those who
originally suggested it.

December 26, 2005

This article appeared first in the December 24, 2005
edition of the Irish News.


Sinn Féin In A Spin As The Dirty Washing Tumbles Out

Pól O Muirí

26 December 2005

A tale of Spooks, Stoops and Shinners for Christmas. Things
were bad enough for Sinn Féin - or should that be Spook
Féin? ? with the Denis Donaldson revelation before party
vice-president, Pat Doherty, added to the mix.

Commenting on his party's U-turn over the on-the-runs
legislation, Doherty said it was not what his party had
agreed, accused the Government of a sleight of hand while
Gerry Adams said the party had been double-crossed. (Say it
ain't so, Gerry!)

Neither mentioned, naturally, that what was agreed was
agreed in a secret side deal with the same Government who
had run secret agents in their party.

The U-turn is, of course, totally cynical. While the
Shinners are distancing themselves from the legislation,
they are not actually in a position to contribute to any
campaign against it without allying themselves to the
police, the Tory party, DUP and the dreaded Stoops. It is a
total and utter mess for them.

If anything, their remarks reinforced the message that the
Shinners for all their bluster and swagger still need the
SDLP to hold their hands. Secret deals do not work. It is a
lesson for Sinn Féin, the DUP and, it is to be hoped, the
two Governments.

The episode can also be regarded as a lesson in humility
for Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy. He offered his party's
support for the legislation when first published but has
been notable by his silence over the issue since. Worse, he
has a nasty habit of criticising the former MP, Seamus
Mallon, for his alleged failure to represent the
constituents of Newry and Armagh adequately. Who failed
them big time on this occasion?

The most surprising thing about the OTR legislation is
that, while it has not been shelved as yet, the SDLP have
most certainly come out in front. The party's bullish
stance is in stark contrast to the almost diffident tone
they struck after the general and local elections.

Having been given two electoral kickings by Sinn Féin,
there was every expectation that they would receive
another. And having survived due to hard work, sheer
bloodymindiness and, without question, a slice of good
luck, the party has begun - but only begun - to transform
its fortunes.

Should they succeed in leading a major redraft of the
legislation or stopping it altogether, they might actually
manage to push themselves as a major player in local
politics again.

Indeed, the SDLP may well be the glue that holds any future
Assembly together.

Sinn Féin will weather the Donaldson storm. Their voters
are loyal to Adams and will not desert him but the party is
compromised and any more revelations about high-placed
moles will certainly increase nationalist unease about Sinn
Féin. (Imagine the next election if there were more
unmaskings: "Vote Spy Féin. I am your local candidate Bond,
Seamus Bond").

The DUP too, you suspect, will want the SDLP in any future
coalition when the time comes. It would certainly take the
sting out of doing a deal with Sinn Féin and would provide
a sense of stability and inclusiveness that a DUP/Sinn Fein
coalition on its own cannot.

With friends like these, who needs enemies? No, not Denis
Donaldson again but George W. Bush who has advised Israeli
leader, Ariel Sharon, to eat less and exercise more after
Sharon was admitted to hospital.

It was not a very diplomatic comment from Bush. After all,
this is a man who nearly choked to death while eating a

Let us hope that no other leaders follow Bush's blunt
example of offering unwanted advice. Who knows what would
happen if South American leaders Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales
tell Bush that he should exercise less and read more.

Closing statement of the year goes to US special envoy,
Mitchell Reiss who is of the opinion that: "Parity of
esteem implies parity of responsibility". That is a nice
pithy comment and one that all political parties should
keep on their notice boards throughout 2006.


Opin: U.S.: Ireland Still A Priority

By By Irish Echo Editorial Staff

Irish Americans will be heartened by the 'report card' of
Mitchell Reiss, President Bush's Special Envoy for Northern
Ireland, published in today's edition of the Irish Echo.

At a time when the president and his team have many urgent
matters with which to contend, from the war in Iraq to
shaping a fair immigration policy at home, he has sent a
clear signal: Ireland is a priority, and will remain so in

In his article, Ambassador Reiss raises a series of valid
points. He does not pull his punches. While generally
optimistic about the peace process, he warns that unionist
intransigence and alienation from politics, and Sinn Féin's
reluctance to give full support to the North's police
force, are most worrisome.

Reiss says some Irish unionists can't cope with the fact
that they are no longer able to lord it over the Catholics,
and others are alienated from the peace process because
they are poorly educated and have limited employment

Sinn Féin must stop delaying and support the PSNI, the
North's police, for the sake of its own constituents as
well as the peace process, he adds.

The emerging scandal of a British spy within the Sinn Féin
leadership, and the PSNI?s highly dubious 'raid' on his
office in 2002 -- which served to provide Britain with an
excuse to abolish the North's government -- have not helped
the case for the police force.

Nationalists now wonder whether British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the head of the PSNI
Hugh Orde, and the police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan, were kept
in the dark by the North's powerful 'securocrats' about the
presence of the spy in the office being 'raided.'

The alternative question is even more sinister: Did these
four know all along, but negotiate or make their subsequent
public statements in bad faith?


Home News

'At The End Of Every Long Day A Priest Is Totally Alone'

Sarah McInerney

FATHER James Dempsey was never too keen on the Catholic
church's rule on celibacy. Even at the tender age of 18, as
he walked towards the seminary, it niggled at him. Went
against his nature and instincts.

But he fiercely wanted to be a priest, wanted more than
anything to serve God and help people. He thought that wish
would be enough. He thought he would learn to accept the
vow of celibacy.

He was wrong.

Pottering around his little pub in Cadamstown in Co Offaly,
Dempsey makes tea and gets quickly passionate about his
subject. "Do you not think it's strange, " he says.

"That the church preaches about intimacy and the importance
of married life and family life, and yet it denies all this
to the priests?"

There's a minor explosion in the corner, interrupting all
conversation. Two tiny people hurtle into the room,
followed at a more leisurely pace by a woman wearing an
apologetic smile. Dempsey's face breaks into a grin of
delighted fascination as he watches his two daughters,
Bridget and Norah, fill every second of silence with noise.

His wife, Lila, settles into a seat with an equally content
expression. The couple's third child, a baby girl, is

"Three children in five years, " Dempsey says proudly.

"Making up for lost time." He pats his wife's knee
affectionately, and they share a smile.

James met Lila in Canada in 1998. At that time, having
worked as a priest for 20 years, James was desperately
struggling with the celibacy rule. " I was finding it very
hard, " he says. "The loneliness and the isolation, and as
you get older it gets worse, not better, " he pauses, and
his voice pleads for understanding.

"We all need to be hugged, " he says. "We all need to be
held and cared for, and have a companion in our lives. At
the end of every long day, a priest is totally alone. Who
is the pastor's pastor?"

It was to resolve these issues within himself that Dempsey
had taken a sabbatical in 1996/97. He returned to Ireland,
and spent some time running the family pub in Cadamstown
before returning to his parish in Canada.

"I went back but I was still very uneasy, " he says. "Not
about the priesthood, I loved what the priesthood was all
about. But I was just getting more isolated and
disillusioned. I think most people want to find their
significant other and have a relationship. And I wanted
that. I craved it."

It was in this frame of mind that James met Lila, who was
instantly drawn to him.

"I walked into my sister's kitchen, and saw this guy in a
Van Morrison t-shirt and shorts and sandals, and he
introduced himself to me as 'Fr Jimmy', " she says,
grinning broadly at the memory.

"We hit it off straight away, and I remember thinking,
'There's someone I'd like to meet again.'

"But it never once occurred to me that he was a potential
boyfriend. I mean, he was a priest."

The pair became fast friends, phoning each other, meeting
each other, occasionally going out together.

Their relationship was intense, but platonic. Then James
decided to move back to Ireland. "I missed him so much, "
says Lila, her hand straying unconciously to her heart.
"When I realised how much it hurt to have him leave, I knew
I must be in love with him."

They talked on the phone for hours. They admitted their
feelings for each other.

And then they made a decision.

In 2000, James wrote his letter of resignation to the
Bishop, and Lila broke the news to her staunchly Catholic
family. The couple were married immediately in a tiny
ceremony in Canada by another 'ex-cleric' who had left the
priesthood to marry a nun.

"My mother told me it was the biggest disappointment of her
life, " says Lila, her voice trembling a little. "Everyone
in my family told me that she was never going to accept

"I remember when I told her I was pregnant with my first
child and she said, 'That's the worst news I've ever
heard.'" Lila pauses, her eyes filling quickly with tears
as if she's just hurt herself unexpectedly. Five years
later, the shock and pain are still fresh.

In Ireland, the couple were given a warmer welcome.

James's mother was initially distraught, but has since
accepted the marriage. For the residents of Cadamstown, a
married priest posed no problems.

"The people who celebrated my ordination here in 1982
celebrated my marriage with me in 2000, " says James. "I
think if I was to say mass in the morning, the vast
majority of people would just be happy to have a priest. At
the moment, we have only one priest in this parish. One
priest, and four churches.

The man is run off his feet, and I'm sitting here, aching
to serve the church, and not allowed to do so."

"We need to change from within. The church is the people.
Not the popes, not the bishops, not the priests.

Change will only come if the people stand up and say, 'No,
we're not going to accept this any more.' I believe with
all my heart that God called me to be a priest and I refuse
to say that my vocation was a mistake."

James stops for a second, just time enough to ask if he
would still think of himself as a priest. He bristles

"Of course, " he says. "I'm not an ex-priest. I'm an
excleric. I'm still ordained, I'm still a priest. Some
people won't accept that. I remember somone once said I was
a 'defrocked priest'. Defrocked, " he laughs. "I never even
wore a frock. Not my style."


1st century: St Peter, the first pope, was married, as were
most of the apostles.

4th century: In 306, it is decided that a priest should not
sleep with his wife the night before mass. In 325, it is
decreed that a priest cannot marry after ordination.

In 385, Pope Siricius leaves his wife to become
pope. It is decreed that priests may no longer sleep with
their wives.

5th century: St Augustine writes on the dangers of women -
"Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man
downwards as the caresses of a woman."

6th century: Pope Gregory says that all sexual desire is

7th century: Majority of priests are still married.

11th century: Pope Gregory VII (ABOVE) says that anyone to
be ordained must first pledge celibacy . . . "priests
[must] first escape from the clutches of their wives".

12th century: Pope Calistus II decrees that clerical
marriages are invalid.

16th century: Council of Trent states that celibacy and
virginity are superior to marriage.

20th century: In 1930 Pope Pius XI says that sex can be
good and holy. In 1980 married Anglican/Episcopal pastors
are ordained as Catholic priests in the US. In 1994, this
trend spreads to Canada and Britain.


It's Time To Rethink The Relevance Of Clerical Celibacy

Sarah McInerney

PRIESTS have not always been celibate. Most of the apostles
were married. Thirty nine of the first popes were married.
Indeed, the rule of celibacy was not seriously introduced
into the Catholic church until the middle-ages.

By that time, sex was seen to be unholy and sinful and an
unfit activity for men offering sacrifice from the altar.

Almost 1,000 years have passed. Things have changed.

In the early 20th century, Pope Pius XI declared that sex
can be good and holy. Later, in the '80s and '90s, married
pastors from the Anglican and Episcopal churches were
ordained as Catholic priests.

This has since spread to the United Kingdom. In Coventry,
former Anglican minister Father Michael Brandon says
goodbye to his wife and three daughters every morning
before saying mass for his Catholic congregation.

The Diocese of Birmingham told Brandon not to speak to the
Sunday Tribune about being a married Catholic priest.
However, he was permitted to release a short statement, in
which he supported celibacy. "My family and I have received
a wonderful welcome, " he said. "I must say, though, I
still remain an evangelical witness of priestly celibacy.
The ordination of married ex-Anglican ministers to Catholic
priests was not intended to set a precendent."

Intended or not, it appears the move towards marriage is
on. Since the second Vatican Council in 1965 an estimated
150,000 Catholic priests have left their vocation to marry.

The Irish Catholic Communications Office was unable to
provide figures for Ireland, but there is nothing to
suggest Ireland has escaped this trend.

With vocations plummeting, and abuse scandals spiralling,
the church is obviously in crisis. More and more, people
are questioning the rules that have governed Catholiscism
for over one thousand years. Last week, the Bishop of
Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, told the Sunday Tribune that he
believed priests should be allowed to marry. There was no
public outcry at this announcement. Does anyone, except the
church leaders in the Vatican, think celibacy is still

Most certainly they do, says Jesuit priest and theologian,
Fr Seamus Murphy. "You could say that celibacy is a manmade
rule, but the bible is a humanwritten book, " he said.
"Jesus was not married. In everything that has been written
about him, you never hear about his wife or children. A
priest is meant to be mirroring the role of Jesus to as
much of an extent as possible. And Jesus was not married."

There are many other reasons for celibacy, Murphy said.

By remaining celibate, a priest demonstrates his faith in
the words of St Paul and the actions of Jesus. It also
ensures that priests are wholly available to the people in
a way that a married man could not be.

And of course, there is the issue of sex. "It's not that
there's something bad about sex or about women, " he said.

"It's like if you were going to a posh restaurant, you'd
wear a nice dress. You could go wearing a bikini, but it
wouldn't be appropriate. In the same way, it's not
appropriate for a man to have sexual relations with his
wife when he is ministering from the altar."

However, this argument is roundly rejected by theologian,
Gina Menzies. "The idea that two people making love would
somehow taint the celebration of the Eucharist is
abhorrent, " she said. "That is a stunning example of the
church's inability to recognise love where it exists. The
church completely misunderstands human sexuality, and the
rule of celibacy is just one example of that."


Taoiseach Pays Tribute To Tsunami Response

Last updated: 26-12-05, 11:24

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today remembered the victims of the
tsunami which devastated Asia one year ago. Between 250,000
and 300,000 people lost their lives in 13 different
countries and millions were left homeless.

Mr Ahern said the events of December 26th last year had
shocked the world. "In a spectacular reminder of human
kind's vulnerability to the constantly evolving nature of
this planet, without warning a sequence of massive
earthquakes triggered a series of tsunami waves that
radiated across the breadth of the Indian Ocean," he said.

Mr Ahern was speaking as survivors joined national leaders
and foreign dignitaries for memorials in the worst-affected
countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

He said he wanted to honour all the people who died and in
particular the four Irish victims: Lucy Colye, Éilís
Finnegan, Connor Keightley, and Michael Murphy.

"The scale of the devastation wreaked by the tsunami was
such that it seemed almost impossible to begin to think
about rebuilding. However, rebuilding is exactly what is
happening. Across the region people are rebuilding their
lives and their livelihoods."

There were more than 392,000 houses reduced to rubble by
the tsunami and 308,000 are needed to house the survivors.
So far, 46,000 have been built. More than 1.5 million
people lost their livelihoods.

Mr Ahern said the global response to the disaster had been
unprecedented, with more than €10 billion raised for
the relief effort. "Ireland contributed more than
€100 million euro in financial support to the relief
and recovery effort; this is made up of €20 million
allocated by the Government and a further €80 million
in private voluntary contributions. This places Ireland as
one of the most generous nations in the world - a fact of
which we should be most proud."

Mr Ahern paid tribute to the work of Irish aid agencies
such as Concern, Goal, Trocaire and the Irish Red Cross but
added that the path to recovery would be a long one. A year
after the tsunami, an estimated 1.5 million people are
still living in tents, temporary shelters or in the homes
of family and friends across the region.

"Those most affected were, by and large, the poorest and
most vulnerable. However, I am confident that the tsunami
survivors in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Burma
and elsewhere will achieve their goal to build back and to
`build back better'.

"We will assist in this. While 26 December 2004 served as a
reminder of human kind's vulnerability, today, 26 December
2005, serves as an equally strong reminder of human kind's
resilience," said Mr Ahern.

© 2005


Landmark Pubs And Hotels Breach Ban On Smoking

Conor McMorrow

INSPECTORS from the Office of Tobacco Control have stepped
up their investigations into Irish pubs and hotels that are
pushing the smoking ban law to the limit.

The move follows evidence that several high-profile hotels
and pubs in the Dublin area are stretching the no-smoking

Well-known publican Charlie Chawke conceded last week that
one of his smoking areas in the Goat Inn in south Dublin
was not 100% compliant with the smoke-ban legislation while
ASH Ireland, the anti-tobacco lobby group, has condemned
the Clarence Hotel for allowing Irish celebrities to smoke

Photographs of a number of Irish celebrities smoking at a
recent Christmas party in the hotel, which is owned by U2,
were printed in the Sunday Independent last weekend.

The party in the hotel's penthouse suite was attended by
celebrities such as Jasper Conran, Gay Byrne, Brian
Kennedy, Nell McCafferty, Louis Walsh, Kathryn Thomas, and
Diarmuid Gavin.

ASH Ireland has criticised some of the celebrities who were
photographed smoking at the party.

"There are people trying to get around the law but this
appears to be a flagrant breach of the law. They are
deliberately photographed with cigarettes in a hotel. They
are not trying to get around the smoking ban . . . they
appear to be ignoring it, " Professor Luke Clancy, who is
the chairman of ASH, said.

"I find it very worrying that the Clarence Hotel is doing
this. If this is commonplace, does it have an advantage
over hotels who are compliant? If that is the case it
creates an unlevel playing field over other establishments.
The law has to be applied evenly across the country, " he

While hotel bedrooms are exempt from the smoking ban, a
spokeswoman for the HSE told the Sunday Tribune that "any
venue where people are working is covered by the
legislation". Nobody at the Clarence Hotel was available
for comment.

The Christmas party at U2's hotel may also be investigated
by the Advertising Standards Authority. Clancy said ASH is
considering making a complaint to the Advertising Standards
Authority about the photographs which appeared in the

"In my opinion it is illegal and I am ashamed of the Irish
celebrities that were involved in it, " Clancy said. "It is
a shame if celebrities and people in the public eye are
flouting the law and not leading by example."

A spokeswoman for the Office of Tobacco Control confirmed
that so far in 2005 there have been 37 prosecutions for
breaches of the smoking ban and the vast majority have been

"Most of these related to licensed premises, some were
taken against taxi services and one against a retail
premises, " the HSE spokeswoman said.

Given that there were only 13 prosecutions from the
introduction of the ban on 29 March 2004 to the end of that
year there would seem to have been a marked increase in
breaches of the ban in 2005.


Pull Your Own Pints For Less Than €2

Conor McMorrow

TWO Galway entrepreneurs are expecting a festive sales boom
as they offer Ireland's cheapest Christmas pint . . . at
just 1.98 per pint.

Barry Battle and Keith O'Dowd, of Home Kegs Ltd in Galway,
have been overwhelmed with the recent surge in demand for
their temporary home bars. "Business has been absolutely
crazy throughout December.

I suppose it is a great novelty for people to have a keg in
their house over Christmas when people are calling in so
that is why we have been so busy, " Battle said.

Battle and O'Dowd have been delivering beer to customers
across Galway, Mayo, and other counties in the west since
they started business last January. The two Sligo men set
up fully-equipped temporary bars, complete with kegs,
coolers and other equipment. For an additional charge they
will even supply bar staff in their customers' homes.

Home Kegs was established in response to the smoking ban
and the rise in off-license sales as more people opt to
drink at home. "At 1.98 for our cheapest pint we are
offering customers Ireland's cheapest draught pint and if
anyone can better that we would like them to ring us and
let us know."

Meanwhile, the Dublin based Brew Crew, which was
established four years ago, is also enjoying a festive boom
and expects 2006 to be a bumper year with the advent of
'SSIA parties'.

"This is our fourth Christmas in business and it seems to
be getting busier every year.

A lot of families like to entertain with draught beer so
they either have a keg for one big party or they keep it
for their guests over the whole holiday, " Kieran Curtin of
Brew Crew said. Curtin believes that a new party phenomenon
will hit Ireland in 2006. "We have a lot of bookings for
parties early next year and we think that SSIA parties will
be a big hit when the pay out happens."


Christmas Day Swimmers Take The Plunge

Last updated: 26-12-05, 11:50

Mild temperatures helped lure hundreds to take part in the
traditional Christmas Day swim at Dublin's Forty Foot

Swimmers, some wearing Santa hats, defied the warnings
against diving at Sandycove as they leapt into the water
from early morning, watched by dozens of well-clad

Traditional swims took place around the country despite the
warnings from the Irish Coast Guard. A spokesman urged
Christmas swimmers to remember it was winter, with cold
temperatures, rough water, strong currents and swollen
rivers and lakes.

"Is it safe for you to take the plunge? Are you able to
swim? Is your swim properly organised and supervised? Are
you prepared for winter conditions? Are you going to
refrain from drinking alcohol or eating meals before you
take a dip? If the answer is NO to any of these questions,
do not take the plunge this Christmas. Enjoy the holiday
and stay safe," he said.

The Coast Guard urged canoeists, divers and sailors to wear
personal flotation devices and not to go out on the water
having consumed alcohol.

"Never, ever, attempt to go out on ice over any form of
water. This is basic simple advice, which could save your
life and allow you and your family and friends to have
happy memories of this Christmas," he said.

© 2005

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