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December 31, 2005

SDLP Urges Abandoning OTR Legislation

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IO 12/31/05 Brits Govt Urged To Abandon Amnesty Legislation
II 12/31/05 Adams Accused Of Crimes Against Good Manners
DI 12/31/05 1975: Tensions Over IRA's 1975 Ceasefire
EX 12/31/05 Opin: Elections-Time To End Unionist Stalling
BT 12/31/05 Opin: Few Rays Of Hope In A Difficult Year
BT 12/31/05 Opin: The New Year, Peter Hain And The Nutters
BT 12/31/05 Opin: Let Happiness Ring Out Chimes Of Nw Yr
BT 12/31/05 Belfast Girl Is Rocky's Latest Moll
UT 12/31/05 Two Rescued Off Antrim Coast
BT 12/31/05 Lord Haw-Haw On Radio Again
BB 12/31/05 U2 'Tension' Over Bono Campaigns
IO 12/31/05 Irish Tops For Breaking New Year's Resolutions
BT 12/31/05 New Year: Party Piece


British Govt Urged To Abandon Amnesty Legislation

31/12/2005 - 12:54:37

The British government faced new demands today to abandon
controversial legislation which would grant amnesties to
paramilitary fugitives.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who has labelled the Northern
Ireland Offences Bill one of the worst to be produced for
the North, called for victims' rights to be given precedent
over so-called on-the-runs.

In his New Year message, the Foyle MP also called on all
parties to start a countdown towards the restoration of

Mr Durkan has been a fierce critic of the proposed laws and
launched a hard-hitting attack on the Bill following the
completion of its committee stage at Westminster earlier
this month.

He denounced the British government for agreeing to look
again at only one issue - whether people accused of murder
during the Troubles should be forced to take part in
special tribunals considering their cases.

The SDLP leader said: "2006 must be the year that we leave
the past behind on a moral basis.

"The British government must heed the call now made by all
the political parties in the North to withdraw the Northern
Ireland Offences Bill.

"Instead we need to work on positive proposals for truth,
recognition and remembrance that put victims' rights at
their heart."

The Bill proposes that people suspected of offences before
the 1998 Good Friday Agreement can apply for a special
licence to ensure they will never be arrested or sent to
jail in Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Democratic Unionists,
SDLP, Ulster Unionists, the cross community Alliance Party,
victims groups and human rights organisations have all been
fiercely critical of the legislation.

In particular a bitter war of words has erupted between
nationalists, with the SDLP accusing Sinn Féin of
negotiating a scheme which would not just allow on-the-run
IRA members to return to Northern Ireland, but also enable
members of the security forces who colluded in loyalist
murders to avoid jail.

Sinn Féin has insisted it never approved or discussed with
the British and Irish governments the inclusion of Royal
Ulster Constabulary or British soldiers in the scheme.

In his New Year message Mr Durkan also said the people of
Northern Ireland would look back on the last 12 months with
a sense of frustration at missed political opportunities.

He said: "People want to be able to measure progress in
terms of things that have happened and institutions that
are up and running.

"We need to place ourselves firmly on a countdown to

"That means calling the bluff of all those parties standing
in the way of progress and calling time on their delaying

"It means ending the destructive politics of side deals and
concessions that are holding us back and taking us from the
agreement that the people of Ireland voted for."

The SDLP leader urged everyone to work with the Police
Service of Northern Ireland and not to back vigilante
groups who cover up the action of their own members.


Sinn Fein Leader Accused Of Crimes Against Good Manners

Tom Brady
Security Editor

SINN Fein leader Gerry Adams has come under government fire
again - this time for displaying a lack of courtesy.

Mr Adams has failed to respond to a letter from Defence
Minister Willie O'Dea who attacked a Sinn Fein website
selling items featuring the term, Oglaigh na hEireann.

Mr O'Dea wrote to Mr Adams last month telling the Sinn Fein
president : "There is only one Oglaigh na hEireann - it is
the Irish Defence Forces."

Mr Adams opted to ignore the letter and the lack of
reaction has infuriated Mr O'Dea who has now sent another
missive, demanding a response.

He reminded the Provisionals that section 16 of the Defence
Acts 1954 to 1998 provided that "it shall be lawful for the
Government to raise, train, equip, arm and maintain Defence
Forces to be called and known as Oglaigh na hEireann or (in
English) the Defence Forces".

Sinn Fein has also been accused by Foreign Affairs Minister
Dermot Ahern of "speaking out of both sides of its mouth"
in relation to its attitude towards America.

He has attacked them for being "anti-America" while here
but of behaving differently when leading party figures
visit the US.

Mr Ahern hit out at the "anti-American rhetoric" of Sinn
Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh, slamming him for "condoning
attacks on US aircraft at Shannon".

The two men clashed in the Dail recently when the minister
was responding to Mr O Snodaigh's questions on the Iraq
War. The minister now says the party has tried to
"deliberately play down" its anti-America stance to Irish-


1975: State Papers Reveal Tensions Over IRA's 1975

State papers released yesterday under the 30-year rule
revealed that there was escalating tension between the
Irish and British governments during 1975.

Then on ceasefire, IRA negotiations with the British were
viewed with concern by the Irish coalition government of
the day led by Liam Cosgrave.

The organisation's ceasefire endured for most of 1975.

Government ministers were suspicious about what the British
Government was discussing and with whom.

The papers revealed that suspicions increased after
contradictory versions of events produced by the British
Ambassador in Dublin over a series of meetings.

The British government was annoyed at the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, Garret FitzGerald, who was trying to
persuade them to agree to a joint study, funded by the EEC,
of the economic effects of partition.

During a visit to Derry in 1975, Dr FitzGerald claimed that
the North was not fully benefiting from European funding
and urged nationalists to lobby for more European cash.

Then Northern Secretary Merlyn Rees wrote to FitzGerald
claiming that his claims were "groundless accusations".

Tens of thousands of official government papers were
released to the public yesterday.

The documentation sheds fresh light on the political
landscape of the Irish state in the mid 1970s.

It was also revealed that secret plans were drawn up to
cater for 100,000 refugees from the North if the Troubles
descended further.

Irish officials were asked to study refugee experiences
elsewhere in the world, including Pakistan, Palestine and

The papers also revealed that military intelligence kept
files on current, previous and future cabinet ministers in
1975, as well as political parties, trade unions, women's
organisations and journalists.

The politicians placed under surveillance included former
Labour minister Conor Cruise O'Brien, who was deeply
critical of the IRA.

A declassified file from the Department of the Taoiseach
revealed that former trade unionist, Phil Flynn, was kept
under surveillance during the IRA kidnapping of Dutch
businessman Tiede Herrema. Mr Flynn had been asked to
mediate in the incident.


Opin: Stormont Elections - Time To End Stalling By

Peter Hain, the Northern Secretary, yesterday threatened to
cancel the next Stormont elections if unionist and
republican politicians do not form a power-sharing
government in the coming year.

He urged both sides to make a concerted effort to restore
devolution in 2006. Otherwise, he said, it would be
pointless to go ahead with the elections planned to be held
in 2007.

The Northern Secretary is due to meet Foreign Affairs
Minister Dermot Ahern early in the New Year to discuss
strategy to revive the power-sharing executive and
assembly, set up under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The executive and assembly were suspended three years ago
amid allegations of IRA spying at Stormont. In fact, the
main spy was a double agent spying for the British.

Unionist stalling over power-sharing goes back much further
than the past three years. It figured prominently as one of
the main issues in the State Papers released this week
concerning the events of 1975. The convention set up then
collapsed over power-sharing and the Irish dimension.

During the 1980s, Ian Paisley led the ultimately futile
resistance to the Irish dimension that was fundamental to
the Hillsborough Agreement. Not only the people of the
island as a whole, but along with them the vast majority in
Northern Ireland accepted the Good Friday Agreement.

If Mr Paisley and his colleagues are to have any
credibility in their claim to being democrats, they must
try to implement the Good Friday Agreement. The IRA has
decommissioned their weapons, and the unionists must now
demonstrate their sincerity after more than 30 years of


Opin: Few Rays Of Hope In A Difficult Year

31 December 2005

On several counts 2005 must go down as another year of
dashed hopes for Northern Ireland. Despite much cajoling by
both the British and Irish Governments, and the upbeat
approach of a new Secretary of State, attempts to revive
devolution and restore the Assembly have remained

Even though this turned out to be the year in which the IRA
finally opted to cease all activity and decommission its
weapons, the scope for political manoeuvre narrowed.
Opinion in both sections of the community hardened, the
result of which was a General Election in which the UUP was
eclipsed while the SDLP held its ground - but the DUP and
Sinn Fein emerged as the two dominant forces.

Both the key parties are admittedly more centrist and more
moderate than they were a decade ago, but there was
precious little evidence during the year of common ground
between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Compromise does not come
easily in either camp, and the terms on which they want to
see the Assembly restored remain poles apart.

The year started badly with the reverberations from the
December 2004 Northern Bank heist. The IRA was cited by the
Chief Constable as being behind the raid, and the
reverberations were to be felt throughout the year on
political progress.

Unionist suspicions about the republican movement were
exacerbated by the alleged involvement of IRA men in the
murder in January of Robert McCartney. Sinn Fein's attempts
to distance itself from the incident, before eventually
suspending seven members, undermined the party's image at
home and abroad.

In such a context, the muted reaction to the IRA's final
act of decommissioning in September was understandable. The
IRA move had been so long in the making that it was greeted
not by rejoicing but, at best, by a sense of weary relief.

Although independent observers were able to bear witness to
the fact that a significant amount of weaponry had been put
beyond use, the glaring omission of a manifest giving more
detail left outsiders feeling shortchanged.

The shocking Stormontgate affair and the storm over on-the-
run legislation brought down the curtain on a year in which
there have been more setbacks than steps forward. But while
political agreement remains elusive, there were rays of
hope, chief of which is the scaling down of paramilitary
activity in both sections of the community.

As 2005 draws to a close, the missing ingredient is still
the establishment of trust between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
The challenge for the Government in 2006 will be to develop
a working relationship between the parties - and it will
take more than all Peter Hain's worthy optimism to achieve


Opin: The New Year, Peter Hain And The Nutters

By Lindy McDowell
31 December 2005

IT'S that time of the year again - when psychics look ahead
and confidently predict (in a conveniently vague way that
can later be interpreted to mean just about anything) what
the coming months hold for the nation.

This being Northern Ireland it's not the psychics we need
to look to for hints on what may lie ahead.

It's the psychos.

And they're still out there.

Even though the current Mystic Meg resident in
Hillsborough, Peter Horoscope Hain, would try to suggest
that we're but one IMC report short of Utopia.

Sadly, the fact remains that our future still lies in the
hands of paramilitary nutters. But never mind reality when
you've got Government Ministers gazing into their crystal

The signs are that, exactly as predicted several months
back by local political soothsayers, the New Year is set to
bring increased pressure from the two governments for a
return to devolution.

And, true, like world peace and Pete Doherty settling down
with Carol Thatcher, it could happen.

But it would be fair to say that the odds are still stacked
against it.

As longer serving psychics than our Secretary of State will
know, just because you think something should happen,
doesn't necessarily mean that it will.

The signs need to favourable not just in the celestial
sense, but also in a down-to-earth, public-confidence-
building sense.

This requires that in Northern Ireland, we have to
calculate, not just the activity at lunar level, but also
about the activity at loony level.

Which brings us back to those psychos.

For the paramilitary gangs, let's face it, remain the
dominant influences that continue to shape our future.

At the moment, the message from reassuring Mr Hain is that
everything in the paramilitary cycle is being eclipsed by
positive happenings on the political chart.

In the New Year, he foresees dark sinister forces returning
courtesy of the OTR legislation - but insists this is
nothing we should worry about.

Rather than concern ourselves with trivial issues such as
the official exoneration of mass murderers and the return
of the same to our midst, Peter thinks we should focus on
the potential return of Stormont.

Instead of worrying about the Government sanctioning of
paramilitary police, we should be sending out happy, clappy
vibes and getting those institutions up and running again.

And never mind that the omens are hardly what you would
call encouraging.

Never mind that a member of the Irish Cabinet, Fianna Fáil
Minister, John O'Donoghue, has spelt out in recent days
that Sinn Féin still retains a private army.

Never mind that the evidence at street level is of
continuing loyalist paramilitary attacks and paramilitary
extortion, gangsterism and criminality on all sides.

Let's all hold hands and think positive.

And maybe, if the Government sucks up to paramilitaries
enough in 2006 and they all issue more historic statements,
maybe we can kid ourselves that they're not actually out
there anymore.

Forget about that looming big, black cloud you see when you
look ahead.

Peter and Tony and Bertie are psyching us up for yet
another seismic New Year.

Star gazing

BACK in 1975, with the Troubles at their height, the
Government apparently toyed with the suggestion that one
way to help promote peace and harmoneee was to send in the

Or, in our case, Morecambe and Wise.

The idea was that the pair could bring us sunshine at a
time when sectarian slaughter stalked the land.

True, it wasn't seized upon by the then Secretary of State,
Merlyn Rees (the one with the short, fat, hairy legs.)

But interestingly, a few decades down the line a similar
sort of wheeze in the interests of feelgoodery was employed
by the late Mo Mowlam who brought, inter alia, Elton John
to entertain us at Stormont.

Back in '75, among headline acts also suggested as
potential performers at Parliament Buildings was Ole Blue
Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Given his Mafia connections, Frank would have felt right at

Would it have made any difference to the Troubles, though,
if he'd done it his way on the Stormont steps?

I doubt it. Some things are just too complex to sort with a
chorus of New York, New York.

But oddly that doesn't stop politicians still looking to
the big names of the day to sprinkle a little stardust on
their manifestos. David Cameron this week called in Bob
Geldof, hoping presumably that Sir Live Aid will help the
Tories appear sound on world poverty. Makes you think . .

Instead of trying to project sobriety, directional
leadership and meaningful policies in order to placate his
own party, maybe Charles Kennedy should throw caution to
the winds and call in the Pussycat Dolls.

Could be a surer way of getting those critics to Stickwitu,

Twelfth night?

NO, it's not the Eleventh night come early. Or an Orange
reveller who's been struck by a low-flying pigeon.

It's a Viking-style Hogmanay bonfire in Edinburgh where
thousands of people are due to descend this evening for the
annual celebration.

Wherever you decide to see in the New Year, I hope it's a
great one.

To all those who have sent me cards, emails and letters in
2005, I'd like to express my thanks - and my regrets that
due to the volume, I don't always get around to replying. I
love hearing from you though, and I'm grateful for all your
comments, opinions, suggestions - and even the advice about
why I need to get my head seen to.

But my thanks particularly to all those people who say nice

Happy New Year!

Best of belfast

COURAGE takes many forms and for me one of the prime
examples in the past year was Peter Corry's and Brian
Kennedy's stunning performances at the funeral of George
Best. Given the emotion of the occasion, and with the eyes
of millions of television viewers upon them, the pressure
was truly immense, yet both were faultless.

For Peter Corry in particular, that opening rendition of
Bring Him Home was surely a challenge to the nerves. He was

The charity CD of the songs featured at Best's funeral is
now a runaway bestseller in Northern Ireland and is tipped
to soar in the national charts. That's a brilliant tribute
not just to Best.

But also to Corry and Kennedy - that great double act of
Belfast Boys.


Opin: Let Happiness Ring Out The Chimes Of New Year Gongs

By Barry White
31 December 2005

ACTION Man of the Year 2005 must be Peter Hain, for coming
from South Africa, via Wales, to get his revenge for the
Boer War.

Others deserving of Happy New Year honours include:

Denis Donaldson, winner of the Just Rewards trophy,
sponsored by grateful Ulster estate agents, for doing to
Sinn Fein - and MI5 - as they have done to others, for a
good 20 years.

Prince Charles, the Proper Charlie, for proposing to call
himself King George. Would that be in memory of George I,
who never learned English; III, who went mad, or IV, who
locked his wife out of his coronation?

J.K. Rowling, the About Time Too shield, from children's
writers around the world, for announcing that her last book
will be published in 2006. Also a Don't Stop Now plea from
Gordon Brown, to Britain's leading exporter.

James Nesbitt, the PR industry's premier award, for
services to television, movies, telephone directories and
turning up at every celebrity event to have his picture

Mary McAleese, the gift of her own flat at Hillsborough
Castle, for receiving the Queen when she comes to visit and
saving on security and hotel bills.

John O'Donoghue, the Republic's Martial Arts and Culture
Minister, the Double Standards pennant, for banning Sinn
Fein from government until the IRA disbands, but letting
them govern here because Northern Ireland is "a failed
entity". Huh?

Tony Blair, again topping the poll for the king of
escapology, getting away with continuing unrest in Iraq,
Northern Ireland, Europe and Westminster. Only one life
left, which he is passing on to Gordon Brown, the master of

David Cameron, the Cheshire Cat ribbon, for a winning smile
and no visible means of support or ideology.

Ian Paisley, the Duracell Marathon Man of Northern Ireland
politics, for keeping going (where?) long after rivals
Gerry Fitt and John Hume have bowed out.

David Trimble, the Richard Nixon of the UUP. Now you see
him, for what seemed an eternity, and now you don't.

Hugh Orde, the North-South Chief Constable of the Century,
for reporting to the Republic's Cabinet on Stormontgate -
and timing it so that ex-RUC men and unionists hardly

Gerry Adams, the Botox Trophy for keeping a straight face
while accusing Special Branch and the Government of dirty

Mark Durkan, the King Canute Bill Clinton Comeback Kid Cup,
for holding back the Sinn Fein tide and getting one over on
Gerry Adams by reading the small print of the On-the-Runs
Bill absolving - how dare they! - the security forces as
well as paramilitaries.

Mark Thatcher, the On-The-Run Personality of the year, for
not being allowed to settle in South Africa, America or
Monaco, because of his criminal record - not because his
mother is Lady Thatcher.

Pope Benedict, the Roman Master of Surprise, for staying
out of the headlines, halting the flow of saints (thanks,
said an overworked St Peter) and welcoming a Newry Catholic
as the British Ambassador to the Vatican.

David Healy, the Golden Boot and Not-Forgotten (never,
ever) Goal award, for beating England, Winston Churchill,
Maggie Thatcher, Lord Nelson, etc. Luckily the BBC don't
pay a fee every time the goal is shown, or the licence fee
would be even higher. Do digital images wear out?

David Hanson, the White Elephant, last awarded to
Craigavon, or Titanic Memorial Trophy, for planning to
build the new multi-sports stadium at the Maze, beside a
prison fun museum. Anyone for Ormeau, or Croke Park?

Down Royal management, coupled with all who keep the square
wheels turning, the Nil Desperandum Perpetual Challenge
Cup, for refusing to let the blankety-blank dissidents and
nay-sayers get them down.


Belfast Girl Is Rocky's Latest Moll

By Maureen Coleman
31 December 2005

A BELFAST actress has landed a leading role in a Hollywood
movie opposite Sylvester Stallone.

Geraldine Hughes, who has been receiving rave reviews in
the US for her one-woman show about life in Belfast, will
play Stallone's love interest in Rocky Balboa, the sixth
and final film in his boxing series.

In the new Stallone movie, she recreates the character of
Little Marie, who appeared in the first Rocky.

The boxer meets up with Little Marie again, who has a son
called Steps.

Marie is down on her luck and Rocky offers her a job in his

He also offers a guiding role to Marie's young son, who is
in need of fatherly advice.

Stallone's own son Sage will not be reprising his role as
Rocky's son for the new film.

Geraldine (34), who is based in Los Angeles, has taken the
States by storm with her play Belfast Blues.

The off-Broadway show features over 20 different
characters, all of which are played by Hughes.

It tells the story of growing up in west Belfast during the
Troubles and touches on childhood memories, violence and
issues such as family and religion.

Her move into Hollywood movies is considered a unusual
departure for Hughes, who began performing on stage as a
schoolgirl in shows like Oliver Twist.

But a Hollywood insider said: "She's done well on stage and
particularly on Broadway, but if you want to make it as an
actor, you need to conquer Hollywood."

Hughes was chosen at the age of 13 out of 2,500 girls by an
American director to star in the 1984 television movie
Children In The Crossfire.

She left her home in Northern Ireland and moved to the
States, which she immediately fell in love with.

After graduating from high school she decided to attend
UCLA's School of Theatre, Film and Television.


Two Rescued Off Antrim Coast

Two anglers have been rescued from rocks off Blackhead in
County Antrim after becoming disorientated and calling 999.

A police helicopter with infrared capabilities, a fire and
rescue unit and police and ambulance attended the scene
following the emergency call at 11.30pm last night.

The Port Muck Coastguard and the Bangor RNLI Inshore
Lifeboat were also requested to launch.

The two men were located by the police helicopter a short
time later. They were taken onboard the lifeboat.

One of the men, who was suffering from shock, suffered an
asthma attack as he was being helped onto the lifeboat.
Both men were taken to hospital by ambulance.

Belfast Coastguard Watch Manager Alan Pritchard said he was
pleased that the men had been located at Blackhead, which
is close to the village of Whitehead.

"They did exactly the right thing by calling 999 and
requesting assistance once they had become disorientated,
rather than attempting to climb rocks in the dark," he

"We did have some challenges with communications since one
of them was deaf, however his companion was able to give us
enough information over the phone to enable us to find

"This was a good example of multi agency working, with
Coastguard, Police, Fire and Ambulance all working together
to ensure a successful conclusion."


Lord Haw-Haw On Radio Again

By Eddie McIlwaine
31 December 2005

I USED to have nightmares about Lord Haw-Haw. It was
illegal to listen to his broadcasts from Germany during the
war - but William Joyce, to give this traitor his real
name, had as many listeners as the BBC in the blackout
evenings of World War II. I must have been one of the

I was only an infant, yet I can still hear that chilling
nasal voice to this day. "Germany calling, Germany
calling," was the way Haw-Haw introduced himself on the air
with his Nazi propaganda from his studio in Berlin.

The task of this Irish-American was to sow fear and
despondency in the hearts of the people of the UK and to
warn them of the Nazi wrath that was to come. He appeared
to know so much about what was going on in UK cities,
sometimes even telling which public clocks were slow or had

The point is that next Tuesday, January 3, it will be 60
years since Joyce, still only 39, was hanged in Wandsworth
Prison after being found guilty of treason. He was buried
in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the jail.

Joyce was captured in a wood near Hamburg in the summer of
1945. He had moved to Hamburg and continued to broadcast
from there as the Allies advanced. His final broadcast was
on April 30, 1945, when he signed off with his last Heil

Joyce was born in New York in 1906, but his family moved to
Co Mayo when he was three and he was educated at a convent
school in Galway.

By the time he was 15, after an unhappy childhood, Joyce
had moved to England and joined Sir Oswald Mosley's British
Union of Fascists who, like him, loved Hitler and abhorred

He fled to Germany in 1939, with war and his internment
imminent, and was appointed speaker for German transmitters
for Europe.

"His broadcasts from Berlin were infamous," says Graham
Pass, producer of Rhythm of the Reich, a documentary series
which is being launched on BBC Radio 2 on Tuesday night
(9.30) and which will include the story of Joyce.

Right until the moment he went to the gallows Joyce was
unrepentant. He had scratched a Nazi Swastika on the wall
of his cell and he remained defiant even as the noose was
being placed around his neck.

A minister who makes you think

HERE'S a yarn that will have you taking a closer look at
the man in the pulpit if you go to church tomorrow morning.

You see, on New Year's Day 1746, according to Mildred
Harvey who reads my column regularly in the Isle of Man,
the Rev Samuel Hagemore in Leicestershire tripped over his
sheepdog, fell into a pond in the manse garden and was

Imagine going under for the third time in a garden watering
hole. Possibly he was drunk or something.

Anyway, after the funeral when mourners were clearing out
his bedroom, they found 30 cassocks, 100 pairs of breeches
and boots, 400 pairs of shoes and eight wigs.

And out in the stables there were 58 dogs waiting to be
fed, 60 horses, 50 saddles, 80 ploughs, 30 wheelbarrows,
200 shovels, 300 pick-axes, 25 ladders and 250 razors.

Would you say that in between writing his sermons this
minister Hagemore was a wee bit of a hoarder?


U2 'Tension' Over Bono Campaigns

Bono is famed for his on-stage "rants" about poverty

U2 frontman Bono has revealed that his campaigning against
global poverty has caused tensions within the group.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that at one stage he
was worried his commitment to the cause might force him to
leave the hugely successful band.

The singer was a figurehead for the Make Poverty History
campaign and Live 8 concert alongside Bob Geldof.

He said his campaigning activities had "raised eyebrows"
among his fellow band-members.

When I do my rant [on stage] on making poverty history, I
have got Larry Mullen, our drummer, behind me looking at
his watch, timing me


Bono, Mullen, guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton
have been in the group since they first formed as Dublin
schoolboys in 1977.

Their front man is famed for making on-stage statements
about global poverty during U2 concerts.

However he said his fellow Irish rockers were "hugely
supportive spiritually and financially of the work I do,
but they are in a rock'n'roll band and the first job of a
rock'n'roll band is not to be dull".

"So we have to be very careful about just letting me go too
far," he said, adding that the band's drummer, Larry
Mullen, times his on-stage "rant" on poverty.

"There was one point when I thought 'I'm going to be thrown
out of the band for this stuff'," he said.

"People just openly jeered and I felt like I was a weight
around my band's neck for doing this kind of work." The
singer said he had been concerned that his stance would
"wear out our audience", but he did not think this had

"People are smart out there. They know what you are doing,
they know the compromises you are making, they get it.

"Our audience feels like they have a stronger voice through
me, and the band can see that."

The other band-members now recognise that U2's audience
appreciate what he is doing, he said.

He added the agreements on aid and debt cancellation at the
G8 summit in Gleneagles in July were "a very big step"
towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of
halving extreme poverty by 2015.

But he was less positive about this month's World Trade
Organisation talks in Hong Kong.

He said he was "completely gutted" by the lack of a
breakthrough on fairer trade for developing countries.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/31 11:39:28 GMT


Irish Tops For Breaking New Year's Resolutions

31/12/2005 - 08:37:29

Irish people have topped the pole for making and breaking
New Year's resolutions.

Compared to our European neighbours, Ireland is a nation
brimming with good intentions but lacking the willpower to
stick to those intentions.

According to a survey of seven European countries, our
number one resolution is to improve our fitness and eating

Almost a quarter of those questioned in Ireland admitted
that they will only stick to their diets for about a month
because of peer pressure and lack of support.

The average European though will manage to stick to their
resolutions for about a year.

But only 5% of Irish people will keep their promises for a
year compared to 25% of Germans and 24% of Belgians.


New Year: Party Piece

Ian Paisley, the story-teller, Reg Empey reciting a poem,
Gerry Adams on a runaway turkey and the late Gerry Fitt
playing the harmonica

By Jane Bell
31 December 2005

Who'd want to spend precious time on New Year's Eve with a
posse of Northern Ireland politicians? Singer and
broadcaster Tommy Sands would. And he's inviting the rest
of us to join him on Downtown Radio tonight from 6-8pm to
share in the yarns, the jokes and even, heaven help us, the
carol singing. He tells Jane Bell how he discovered the
human beings behind the sound bites

The threshold of a new year is the best place for looking
forward as well as looking back. and that's just what
singer, songwriter, peace campaigner and broadcaster tommy
sands is inviting listeners to do tonight.

As a year of political stalemate makes way for a year that
could bring ... well, either all we ever hoped for or just
more of the same, the Co Down troubadour pulls up a chair
by the fire for a night's craic.

He promises stories of the festive season, tall tales,
jokes and some unlikely singing voices.

What's truly astonishing is that the source of all this
merriment and fruitful contemplation is none other than our
Northern Ireland politicians.

What's different is that Tommy reckons he has got beyond
the sound bites, the stand-offs and the satire, to the
human beings beneath.

It's not the first time the song man has thrown such a

The show was originally done way back in 1978 but this is
the first time Tommy has revisited the theme in quite the
same way.

He has bridged the gap by bringing Christmas Past and
Christmas Present together. Between the two is more than a
quarter century of our troubled history.

There's poignancy, too, in the fact that some of the giants
of the political stage featured here are no longer with us.
A timely reminder, for voters and politicians alike, that
the time to make a difference is now.

The 'looking back' section of the show features Ian Paisley
telling entertaining stories and the late Gerry Fitt
playing the harmonica.

Current contributions include Sir Reg Empey reciting a
poem, John Hume singing ("he has a very fine voice"), Gerry
Adams telling a tale of a runaway turkey and Jeffrey
Donaldson saying, not singing, a hymn.

What there will be none of is political posturing or
slanging matches. That's not what tonight is about at all.

For a start - and prudently - the politicians were all
interviewed individually. John Hume by the fireside of his
home over a cup of coffee and, in the case of Gerry Adams,
at a huge polished table, the scene of many more formal

In relaxed mode, did these normally alert and wary
politicians let their guard down? We'll have to tune in
tonight to find out.

What Tommy will say is: "They are showing a different side
to themselves, one we normally don't see. The whole idea of
Christmas and New Year is to let the hair down and the
guard down a little bit and move closer to the fire. I feel
I got a lot closer to the human being in each case, beyond
the image of the political master.

"They were all so similar, regardless of the political
banner that they carry. As people, there's not that much
difference between them or us at the end of the day. Very
often we adopt a role and we have to keep up that role
because our profession depends on it, our future depends on
it, or even our life depends on it.

"But I think it's in the nature of Christmas to thaw out
those ice caps that have been put in place by history and
our contemporaries. When you set people round the fire for
a chat, we all have the same hopes, fears and dreams."

That may be too simplistic a view for some. But commonality
was to be found in the strangest of bedfellows.

Both Dr Paisley and Gerry Adams reflected on their
individual experiences in prison, in Adams' case over a
Christmas period.

"Gerry Adams tells a very poetic story about watching a
fellow inmate rescue an injured seagull from within the
prison confines and letting it fly out over the walls,"
says Tommy.

David Ervine, "an excellent singer" gives a moving
rendition of Fairwell to Dalriada, a song written by his
brother, Brian.

Tommy and John Hume lament the dearth of real characters
today: "I was asking 'Where are the characters today?' and
John said 'They've all become university professors now'.
The characters of the past didn't need education. They had
a greater intelligence.

"John told a story about an oul fella who'd been taken into
hospital with terrible stomach pains. 'You've got acute
appendicitis,' the doctor told him. 'I've come here to be
operated on, not to be admired,' he retorted."

Not being a political correspondent will have stood Tommy
in good stead in finding, to varying degrees in each case,
the man behind the political mask. Yet he is a musician and
singer who believes in using his talent towards effective
peace campaigning.

During the tense Good Friday Agreement talks, his impromptu
performance at Stormont with a group of children and Lambeg
drummers was described by Seamus Mallon as 'a defining
moment in the Peace Process'.

Says Tommy: "I've felt this for years, that both sides are
a lot like two buses meeting on a narrow bridge. Neither
driver wants to give way because they don't want to let
their passengers down. It's only when the passengers get
off and say 'you can go back a little bit because we all
want to go forward' that we'll make real progress."

In December 2002, although the Northern Ireland Assembly
had been stood down, Tommy managed to persuade the Members
to return for a special Christmas musical party together.
As one politican after another joined him on stage for a
song, David Ervine was heard to remark: "Tommy Sands is the
only man, without a private army, who can intimidate me."

The concert, which was recorded for the Sands weekly radio
programme, later received a special award at the World
Festival of TV and Radio in New York.

"Music," says Tommy," is a binding thing, a healing thing.
While you may sing a song your way and I sing a song my
way, we all share the same music. We all dip into the same
well of tunes and melodies with different buckets.

"Words alone can only do so much but words on the wings of
a song can soar higher and search deeper and somehow move
people to another place. Humour has got that ability, too.
Humour is a very serious thing and there's a lot of humour
in this programe."

From the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney comes this succinct
appraisal of Tommy Sands' gifts: "You can trust the singer
as well as the song."

His songs, such as There were Roses, and Daughters and
Sons, have been recorded by the likes of Joan Baez, Kathy
Matthea, Dolores Keane, Sean Keane, Frank Patterson, Dick
Gaughan, The Dubliners and many others. They have been
translated into many languages and are currently included
in the English language syllabus in German secondary

The Sands story began on the family farm in the townland of
Ryan, near Newry, Co. Down, where Tommy, four brothers and
two sisters grew up in a household which was positively
awash with music.

Later, as the Sands Family, the siblings were getting
bookings far from home and Tommy recalls an incident during
their first visit to New York in 1971.

They had been invited to play at a St Patrick's Day concert
in the famous Carnegie Hall and decided, rather than being
split up into different taxis, to walk to the gig together
from their hotel.

But they lost their way, which led to their classic
encounter with a New Yorker, who had probably waited all
his life to reply to the question: "How do we get to the
Carnegie Hall?"

"Practice, practice, practice," he told them, with obvious

But if there was joy and laughter on their travels, there
was also tragedy. The family's blackest day was November
10, 1975, when they were on tour in Germany and their
brother Dino, who was travelling separately with his German
girlfriend, was killed in a road accident.

Devastated, the group had no heart for going back on the
road again, but eventually did so after being persuaded by
friends that that was what Dino would have wanted.

In July 1977 Tommy began his popular and long running
Downtown Radio folk programme Country Ceili, a relaxing two
hours of music and chat on a Saturday night.

Today Tommy lives in Rostrevor with French wife Catherine
and their grown up children Fionan and Moya, both
musicians, who were home for Christmas.

Now that the 1978 show has been revived, he is hopeful that
this special end of the year revue will run and run. "Gerry
Adams has already promised to sing for me next year," he

lThe Songman: A Journey In Irish Music, by Tommy Sands, The
Lilliput Press, £14.99

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