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December 01, 2005

SF: IMC Unlawful

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News about Ireland & the Irish

UT 12/01/05 Ceasefire Watchdog Unlawful - Sinn Fein Claims
IV 12/01/05 Deportee's Real IRA Links
BT 12/01/05 Victims Post Advice Ignored: SDLP
UT 12/01/05 Paisley To Meet Irish Opposition Leader
NL 12/01/05 Ex-Ruc Man Denies Pension Funds Theft
UT 12/01/05 Sinn Fein Man Angry Over Bomb Probe Arrest
BT 12/01/05 SF Raise Arrest With Ahern
DI 12/01/05 Suspect PSNI Procedure On Claudy 'Suspects'
NL 12/01/05 Opin: Politics Of Suspect Should Not Be Factor
DI 12/01/05 Anti-Collusion Group Wants Unity On OTRs
BT 12/01/05 Viewpoint: Where Is The Strong Arm Of The Law?
IV 12/01/05 How Many OTRs Are There?
BT 12/01/05 Make-Up Of Parades Body 'Unbalanced'
BT 12/01/05 Parades Boss Delighted With Orange Members
NL 12/01/05 Derry's Parade Is Going Ahead Despite Sadness
UT 12/01/05 2nd Man Dies After Cliff Accident
BT 12/01/05 Apology: Liam Neeson
BT 12/01/05 Holy Cross Priest Tells Tale
TT 12/01/05 Despite Conflict, Belfast Beautiful
LA 12/01/05 Breakfast on Pluto: Presto Chango


Ceasefire Watchdog Unlawful - Sinn Fein Claims

A High Court action was launched by Sinn Fein today to have
a ceasefire watchdog in Northern Ireland declared unlawful.

By:Press Association

Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy confirmed papers had been lodged
in the High Court in London accusing the four-member
Independent Monitoring Commission of bias and calling for
its reports to date to be declared null and void.

The commission was set up by the British and Irish in
January 2004 to report on the state of republican and
loyalist paramilitary ceasefires and moves to scale down
security in Northern Ireland.

It has produced seven reports to date, accusing the IRA of
crimes such as the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery.

Its latest in October said the IRA was making encouraging
progress towards implementing its statement in July
declaring an end to its armed campaign.

Mr Murphy today reiterated Sinn Fein`s view that the
commission was established outside the terms of the Good
Friday Agreement.

The Newry and Armagh MP said: "It has proven itself to be
little more than a tool of anti-peace process securocrats.

"The decision to challenge the legality of the IMC is the
latest stage in our legal and political campaign against
the IMC and the cover it has provided for the British
government to sanction and discriminate against our

"In this case we will be arguing that the establishment of
the IMC was unlawful.

"We will be arguing that the IMC should be declared
unlawful on the grounds of apparent bias and lack of any
application of standards of proof.

"We are seeking the reports of the IMC to date declared
void and the reliance on these reports by the British
Secretary of State declared unlawful.

"Sinn Fein have consistently rejected the IMC and their
attacks on our party and electorate.

"It is undemocratic, unaccountable and entirely
unacceptable and our campaign to ensure that the British
government returns to the Good Friday Agreement position on
sanctions against those in breach of the GFA will

The IMC`s members are former Stormont Assembly Speaker Lord
Alderdice, retired Irish civil servant Joe Brosnan, ex-
Metropolitan Police anti-terror unit chief John Grieve and
Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of the United
States` Central Intelligence Agency.

British and Irish governments hope a positive report on the
IRA from the commission in February could provide a solid
platform to persuade unionists to revive devolved
government at Stormont with Sinn Fein.


Deportee's Real IRA Links

By Sean O' Driscoll

A Derry man who was deported from the U.S. earlier this
month is a fundraiser for a Republican prisoner welfare
group which the U.S. government considers a front for the
Real IRA, the Justice Department has confirmed.

Sean Devine, from Dungiven in Co. Derry, told the Irish
Voice last week that he was offered a new home in Portugal
if he became an informer for MI5 and the Police Service of
Northern Ireland.

However, Devine agrees that he fundraised for the Irish
Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA), which is
on the Treasury Department's list of foreign terrorist
groups, as a fundraising front group for the Real IRA.

Members of the IRPWA are banned from entering the U.S., and
U.S. citizens are banned from giving it any "material

In 2001, the U.S. government banned the IRPWA along with
the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the Real IRA's
political wing. The 32CSM later lost a challenge in
Washington to lift the ban.

However, Devine and other fundraisers for the IRPWA have
strongly denied the claim and say that their fundraising is

Devine, a fundraiser for the Derry section of the
organization, was questioned at Newark airport in New
Jersey for over five hours by a five man team lead by the
FBI, the Northern Ireland Special Branch and M15.

He said he was offered large amounts of money to become an
informer and that he was refused contact with a lawyer and
a representative from the Irish Embassy.

Devine agrees that he split from the Provisional movement
in 1997 in protest at the approaching Good Friday
Agreement, which he describes as a "sell out."


Victims Post Advice Ignored: SDLP

By Noel McAdam
01 December 2005

The SDLP today accused the Government of ignoring official
advice over the appointment of Northern Irelands' Victims

Leader Mark Durkan has tabled a parliamentary question
asking what advice Secretary of State Peter Hain availed of
before the selection of interim postholder Bertha

The SDLP's victims spokesperson, Patricia Lewsley said: "We
have heard that the Government was told not to go down the
road it was going over the way it made the appointment."

The party has yet to receive a reply from Mr Hain to its
formal complaint over the appointment of the RUC
reservist's widow which it said appeared to "break every
rule in the book".

While stressing the party wants to work with Mrs McDougall
- who has pledged to work for all victims - the SDLP also
argued one other party, the DUP, had been consulted. The
complaint made clear it was not against Mrs McDougall as an
individual but the procedures used in her appointment.

"The post was not advertised. Nobody was given the right to
apply. And the DUP are actually claiming to have approved
the appointment," Lagan Valley Assembly member Mrs Lewsley

"Clearly, the Government's priority wasn't equality or fair
procedures - but satisfying the DUP.

"That is not good government - it's rotten politics. The
more the Secretary of State throws concessions at the DUP,
the more the DUP will demand."

The Northern Ireland Office initially referred the issue to
the Office of First and Deputy First Minister, where Mrs
McDougall will be based until permanent premises for her
are found.

Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Public Appointments,
Felicity Huston, officially took up office in August this
year after being selected by Mr Hain through a public
recruitment competition.


Paisley To Meet Irish Opposition Leader

Irish Opposition leader Enda Kenny is to hold historic
talks with Democratic Unionist Party leader the Rev Ian
Paisley in Belfast tomorrow.

By:Press Association

Mr Kenny will head a four-member Fine Gael delegation which
will also meet DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson at Stormont

The Mayo TD will hold talks later with SDLP leader Mark

Opposition Justice spokesman Jim O`Keeffe, Cavan/Monaghan
TD Seymour Crawford and Seanad leader and Northern Ireland
spokesman Brian Hayes will join the Fine Gael delegation.

"Mr Paisley requested to meet Fine Gael when he last
visited Government Buildings on November 18, but it didn`t
suit our diary," a Fine Gael spokesman said.

"We then agreed to pay a visit to Belfast to meet up."

Sources close to both parties suggested that Mr Paisley
believes the Northern Ireland power-sharing institutions
will not be restored during the lifetime of the current
Fianna Fail Coalition.

"Mr Kenny could well be Taoiseach when it eventually
happens, and this is why the relationship is being
developed." one source said.

Fine Gael said the talks with Mr Paisley will include a
general discussion focusing on the on-the-runs legislation,
proposed Dail speaking rights for Northern MPs and other

"It will be a get-to-know-you session while also
concentrating on some of the current pressing North-South
issues," a party spokesman said.

Mr Paisley visited Dublin for political talks with the
Irish government for the first time last autumn and made a
return trip last month.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams leads a party delegation to
meet the Taoiseach in Dublin later today.


Ex-Ruc Man Denies Pension Funds Theft

Thursday 1st December 2005

A former RUC police reservist went on trial yesterday
accused of fleecing the police service of over £30,000 in
pension funds.

Belfast Crown Court heard that 52-year-old Kenneth Thomas
Hall dishonestly claimed an enhanced pension from police
after being forced to retire after a car crash.

Prosecuting QC David Hunter said that Hall, of Bradford
Gardens, Carrickfergus, claimed the accident occurred while
on his way to work, when it had not.

Hall denies a total of three charges of obtaining property
by deception from the Northern Ireland Police Board between
August 2001 and August 2003.

The jury of seven women and five men heard that about three
hours before he was to have gone on duty at the then
Andersonstown RUC station at 9pm on November 1, 1998, Hall
was involved in a head-on collision.

Mr Hunter claimed Hall, who reported in sick, told police
who investigated the accident that he was on his way to a
garage when it occurred.

The lawyer added that during a "return to duty interview it
was recorded that Mr Hall had sustained his injuries while
he was off duty".

The court heard that because of the " substantial periods"
he was off-duty as a result of the accident, his contract
with the police was not renewed and he was awarded the
"standard medical pension".

However, Mr Hunter claimed that by August 2001 Hall began
writing to the police service allegedly claiming that "his
injuries were sustained while on duty".

The lawyer added that in order to claim "an additional
pension, an enhanced pension" Hall made the case that he
was injured on duty, "as the accident occurred while he was
on his way to duty".

"What the Crown say, and here is the hub of the case, that
was a lie," said Mr Hunter.

The prosecution lawyer claimed that the former policeman
was never entitled to the "duty pension" and should never
have claimed it, or arrears dating back to the date of his
car accident.

The case continues.


Sinn Fein Man Angry Over Bomb Probe Arrest

A Sinn Fein assembly member questioned about an IRA
atrocity that killed nine people today accused police of
ruining his reputation.

By:Press Association

Francie Brolly, who was among three men and a woman
arrested and released without charge by detectives probing
the 1972 Claudy bombing, denied any involvement in the

The East Derry MLA claimed the only reason given for him
being treated as a suspect was that he lived 10 miles from
the scene of the blast.

He said: "I`m really seething with anger. These people
could have come to my house at any time if they wanted to
see me about Claudy.

"The whole charade about the arrest reminded me of

Mr Brolly added: "This has harmed me personally and it has
harmed my family. Apart from the political kind of
undertones, it has been a character assassination."


SF Raise Arrest With Ahern

Adams claims Brolly arrest was 'blatantly political'

By Noel McAdam
01 December 2005

Sinn Fein was today asking Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to
examine the arrest of its Assembly member Francie Brolly in
connection with the 1972 Claudy bombings.

Party president Gerry Adams said he would raise the
"blatantly political policing" which had resulted in the
detention of Mr Brolly, who was released without charge
last night, at a meeting with Mr Ahern in Dublin.

Mr Brolly, an MLA for East Londonderry, is also due to make
a public statement later today. He is expected to claim he
was a "victim of a PSNI Special Branch smear operation".

The main focus of the Dublin talks was the potential
restoration of a power-sharing Executive and Assembly as
early as possible in the New Year.

And they were also anticipated to be discussing Mr Ahern's
proposals for Northern Ireland politicians to have speaking
rights in the Dail, after the plan was recently rejected by
the Irish parliament.

Mr Adams, who was accompanied by senior negotiator Martin
McGuinness and Assembly member Caitriona Ruane, said he
would also be raising "the fact that details of hundreds of
republicans and nationalists were stolen from Castlereagh
PSNI base and handed to one of the unionist paramilitary

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has also initiated a High Court action
aimed at having the Independent Monitoring Commission
declared unlawful.

Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy confirmed papers had been
lodged in the High Court in London accusing the four-member
Independent Monitoring Commission of bias and calling for
its reports to date to be declared null and void. Set up by
the British and Irish in January 2004, the IMC has produced
seven reports to date, accusing the IRA of crimes such as
the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery but also reporting most
recently the IRA was making encouraging progress towards
ending to its armed campaign.

Mr Murphy said, however: "It has proven itself to be little
more than a tool of anti-peace process securocrats. This is
the latest stage in our legal and political campaign
against the IMC and the cover it has provided for the
British Government to sanction and discriminate against our

"In this case we will be arguing that the establishment of
the IMC was unlawful. We will be arguing that the IMC
should be declared unlawful on the grounds of apparent bias
and lack of any application of standards of proof."


Suspect Police Procedure

PSNI decision to issue a formal written statement
attributing 'reasonable suspicion' to those people
'suspected of involvement' in the Claudy bombing must be
regarded as profoundly questionable

Jarlath Kearney

At 8.57 pm on Tuesday night, the PSNI issued a profoundly
disturbing statement on behalf of its organisation – the
implications of which were widely ignored.

Following "the arrest of four people in connection with the
Claudy bomb", the PSNI statement said that as a result of a
Claudy murder investigation review in 2002, "we developed
new lines of enquiry which have subsequently allowed police
to interview those suspected of involvement".

"Nine people were murdered and many more were injured in
the bomb attacks in Claudy. Where police have reasonable
suspicion it is their duty to investigate and try to bring
to justice those responsible for such atrocities.

"As a police service we are mindful of, and always uphold
and protect the human rights of any individual we arrest.
Every person has a right to be deemed innocent until proven
guilty and the Police Service is careful not to publicly
disclose the names of those suspected of involvement.'"

The PSNI statement also claimed "the support of the
community in taking forward this investigation".

While the PSNI did not specify what "community" it was
talking about, it is fair to say that the mood among
Northern nationalists was extremely angry.

The day started with the PSNI issuing a press statement
that four people had been arrested. At 9.20am, the PSNI
released the following information on record: "Detectives
from the Claudy bomb investigation team have arrested three
men and a women this morning".

The statement continued by giving the ages of the people
arrested and indicating that two men were taken from
Dungiven, one man from Portglenone and and one woman from

Of course by 9pm on Tuesday night, the identities of two
people – those arrested in Dungiven – were already being
widely trailed through the media.

The best-known of the two Dungiven men was Sinn Féin
assembly member Francie Brolly. Sinn Féin publicly
criticised Mr Brolly's arrest and several dozen party
members protested outside Dungiven PSNI barracks on Tuesday

Later in the day, news reports were broadcast showing Mr
Brolly's Dungiven home. Reporters bombarded Mr Brolly's
home with requests to speak to his wife Anne, also a Sinn
Féin councillor.

It must be stated that the Brolly family are people whose
credentials throughout the Northern nationalist community
as both gaeilgeoirí and Gaels are impeccable.

Francie and Anne Brolly have been proud and vocal
proponents of non-violent, moral methods for change in the
Northern state for over three decades. Their family are
regarded far and wide as a shining credit to the new-found
confidence of a nationalist community which got off its
knees in the late 1960s.

Even after he was interned like hundreds of other young
nationalist fathers in the early 1970s, Mr Brolly
diligently pursued his Irishness through quiet, dignified
and inclusive activity – generating a reputation for
integrity across his cultural, social and political
dealings. The Brolly family have been consistent bridge-
builders – sometimes quietly, sometimes publicly – in the
battle to transcend artificially fostered differences
between the people of the North.

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness confidently
predicted on Tuesday that Mr Brolly would be released
without charge.

Regardless of that distinct possibility, the PSNI took a
decision to formally label those who were arrested as
"suspected of involvement" in the Claudy bomb.

In that context – and with people's names already being
widely retailed in the media – the PSNI's decision to issue
a formal written statement on Tuesday night attributing
"reasonable suspicion" to those people "suspected of
involvement" in the Claudy bombing must be regarded as
profoundly questionable.

For the past number of years, the PSNI has been dogged by
allegations of orchestrated media leaking in relation to
other politically sensitive cases. These have resulted in
periodic suggestions that leaks would be investigated, with
Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan previously indicating that
she is fully aware of the relevant issues.

Yet, despite asserting the PSNI's intention not to
transgress the human rights of people arrested, the actual
effect of the organisation's official exercise – coming
after names were already publicly circulating – was similar
to previous unofficial leaks in this sense: the PSNI
directly associated identifiable people with serious
allegations of the utmost gravity.

For several years, intensive concern has been expressed by
Sinn Féin representatives about a series of PSNI
operations, all of which shared similar patterns.

Sinn Féin's general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin has used
the latest arrests to recall the details of the so-called
"spy-ring", allegedly run by republicans at Stormont. He
has also cited the cases of those republicans arrested
after the alleged Castlereagh burglary in March 2002 who
were quietly released without charge.

Republicans have previously pointed to other similar
incidents, such as the arrest of two Police Fund employees
in November 2002 whose case was subsequently dropped; or
Hugh Orde's allegations that the IRA abducted dissident
republican Bobby Tohill in February 2003, before arrested
individuals had even been charged; or the recent spate of
raids and arrests since last December's Northern Bank
robbery which have proved largely fruitless.

Even the case of Belfast man Michael Rogan who was last
week acquitted of causing the 1996 Thiepval Barracks
bombing in Lisburn, Co Antrim, has similarities. Mr Rogan
had skipped bail in 1997 and – even if convicted – would
have been eligible under the Good Friday Agreement early
release scheme. Despite this, Spanish authorities acting on
foot of a PSNI warrant arrested Mr Rogan on holidays in
Tenerife last November in a blaze of publicity, only for
him to be acquitted last week.

There are several other controversial examples relating to
anti-Agreement republicans, which fall into a similar
bracket over recent years.

Without question, all of these cases – including the arrest
of Mr Brolly – have shared similar characteristics, such as
high-profile arrests, alleged media leaks and politically-
sensitive overtones.

Many nationalists are now asking serious questions not just
of the PSNI, but also of the Police Ombudsman, the Policing
Board, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the
Irish government in relation to these cases.

For instance – apart from the overt pattern outlined above
– what else do all these events have in common?

What action has the Police Ombudsman or the Irish
government taken to examine the prima facie patterns in
these cases?

Has the Policing Board launched an inquiry into the PSNI's
handling of the remarkably high proportion of these cases
which have collapsed?

In the view of the Human Rights Commission, how human
rights compatible is the PSNI action – official or
unofficial – of publicly associating identifiable people
with serious allegations?

And – even accepting that policing reaches the threshold of
'a new beginning' – how could such practices continue by
the PSNI, and yet command the support of the majority of
nationalists and republicans?

While these and many other questions remain unanswered, the
majority of Northern nationalists will need much more
evidence than currently exists, that real political powers
are available to root out the serious problems afflicting
policing in the North.

Last night the PSNI told Daily Ireland that, on the general
issue of naming suspects, it is opposed to identifying
individuals under questioning. A PSNI spokesperson said
that Tuesday's night's statement "pretty much sums it up"
in relation to the organisation's position.


Opin: Politics Of Any Suspect Should Not Be A Factor

Thursday 1st December 2005

The hostility from Sinn Fein to policing in Northern
Ireland is a most corrosive element in the political
process here, with the ridiculous and outrageous claims
being made by Gerry Adams and other senior republicans
about the direction of inquiries into serious crime.

Republican accusations about " political policing" by the
PSNI have no substance in fact, yet Adams and company
continue to trot out their black propaganda every time
arrests are made in connection with crimes that were
carried out by the Provisional IRA.

Arrests have been made over recent days in connection with
two high-profile terrorist crimes - the Claudy bombing in
1972 and the Northern Bank robbery last December, which the
police have attributed to the IRA.

The seriousness of the Claudy bombing, in which nine
innocent civilians (five Protestants and four Roman
Catholics) were killed, and the Northern Bank robbery, in
which £26.5 million was taken, had far-reaching effects on
life in this Province and fresh investigations into these
crimes will be warmly welcomed by law-abiding people of all
creeds and classes.

We must not pre-judge the guilt or complete innocence of
anyone currently under arrest regarding any crime. The
basis of our democracy is that everyone is innocent until
proven guilty in a court of law.

However, it is the duty of the police to impartially pursue
all channels of investigation and, if it is necessary that
certain individuals do need to be questioned, the police
have a statutory duty to act.

In our democratic society, no one is above the law and and
the politics and religion of a crime suspect should not
come into the equation.

Sinn Fein, by its hysterical postering about recent
developments, clearly indicates that it is jaundiced when
it comes to permitting our sole law-enforcement agency in
this society to do its job without fear, hindrance or

To suggest that other policing methods should be adopted,
as is implicit in the republican grandstanding, would be to
take this society down the path to complete lawlessness and
anarchy where paramilitary rule is tolerated.

The law must take its course, with the PSNI, on behalf of
the entire community in Northern Ireland, tasked with
investigating all crime committed in this jurisdiction.
There is no other choice!

Welcome Move

Reports that tattered loyalist flags and graffiti will be
removed in east Belfast ahead of the funeral of soccer star
George Best on Saturday are to be welcomed.

A clean-up of all objectionable emblems and wall slogans is
under way, but does there have to be an event of wider
public interest to motivate this enterprise?

Paramilitary paraphernalia has been a lingering eyesore in
Northern Ireland for too long, and the latest initiative
should be extended to other parts of the Province, not just
in Protestant and loyalist areas.


Anti-Collusion Group Wants Unity On OTRs

By Jarlath Kearney

A leading campaigner for victims of state violence and
collusion in the North last night called for an end to
"party political infighting" over the British government's
controversial Northern Ireland Offences Bill.

Robert McClenaghan of the anti-collusion campaign An
Fhírinne also said relatives would be "deeply disturbed" at
comments by a leading SDLP member in Derry.

During a debate with Sinn Féin councillor Paul Fleming on
BBC Radio Foyle yesterday, SDLP assembly member Pat Ramsey
said: "Rather than blame the SDLP, the British government
have pulled a flanker in negotiations and they [Sinn Féin]
have to take their oil on it."

Tension between Sinn Féin and the SDLP erupted during a
council debate about the new legislation in Derry on
Tuesday night, with both parties complaining about counter-
allegations by each other. The SDLP walked out of the
council alleging that a specific allegation had been
levelled at one party member by a Sinn Féin representative.
Sinn Féin reacted angrily, pointing out that the SDLP has
been publicly accusing the republican leadership of
collusion with the British government.

Despite the fact that it was only supposed to deal with
those people who were 'on-the-run', under the new law the
British government tried to give its agents and agencies a
blanket indemnity.

"No political party can be held responsible for British
government duplicity in trying to cover-up their mass
murder campaign of the last 35 years," Mr McClenaghan said.

"Rather than political parties fighting each other, we
would advise that they focus their attention on the root
cause of this problem, which is the British government and
its agents and agencies who organised a mass-murder
campaign through the rearming and reorganisation of the
UDA, UVF, and Ulster Resistance.

"What is needed is maximum consensus and unity to force the
British government to admit the truth about murder and
state violence," Mr McClenaghan said.

Despite An Fhírinne's plea for consensus, SDLP leader Mark
Durkan yesterday sustained his party's attacks on Sinn Féin
over the British government's legislation in Westminster.
Accusing republicans of colluding with the British
government, Mr Durkan said: "Sinn Féin and the British
Government have to take responsibility for this. All Sinn
Féin have to do is call on Tony Blair to call the whole
thing off and go back to the drawing board – as the victims
of collusion are demanding."

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness repeated his
party's view that the British government has again breached
its commitments.

"As both the British and Irish governments have admitted,
the inclusion of British state forces in the current
legislation was never discussed with Sinn Féin. It was
never agreed by Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin has made clear to the
British government that the legislation should apply only
to OTRs and not to British state forces," Mr McGuinness

In a joint statement yesterday, Relatives for Justice, the
Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten attacked
the British government's new legislation.

The three groups highlighted a range of concerns about the
proposed legislation including lack of international
involvement; no proper provisions for relatives; and the
arbitrary power of the Secretary of State in establishing
and overseeing all aspects of the process.

Relatives for Justice spokesperson Mark Thompson said the
three groups were united in opposing the legislation.

"Together these groups represent hundreds of families who
have lost loved ones from as far back as 1969 and as
recently as last year, from throughout the North, in the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings, in the Murder Triangle and in
hundreds of other individuals incidents," Mr Thompson said.

"Let no one be fooled, the principal beneficiary is the
British state. They drew up the legislation and it is they
who are pushing it through their parliament. Two principles
must apply.

"The rights and needs of families must be at the core of
any proposal. Relatives have a right and need to know the

"This legislation makes no allowance whatsoever for a truth
recovery process linked to certification.

"The only truth recovery process that will enjoy cross-
community and cross-Border support is one that has
international involvement from the outset," Mr Thompson


Viewpoint: Where Is The Strong Arm Of The Law?

01 December 2005

The arrests of four people, including a Sinn Fein MLA, over
the 1972 Claudy bombings throw into sharp focus the
inexcusable leniency of the Offences Bill dealing with On-
The-Run fugitives. Anyone charged with murdering nine
people would only have to make a formal application to
avoid appearing in person before a judicial tribunal and to
be released on licence.

There would be some relief for the victims, in that they
would feel someone was answering for the crime, but it
would be heavily tempered by the fact that no one would
serve a day in prison. Where is the justice, they and
others like them would ask, when the state is saying it
will not allow them their day in court, to face the

So controversial has been the Bill in the Commons that the
Secretary of State, Peter Hain, has had to indicate that
changes may be made. If amendments have "substantial
support", he said, the government will look at them
sympathetically - presumably adding some conditions to what
looks like a virtual amnesty for those who have escaped

There is no question of the government abandoning the Bill,
according to Mr Hain, but the reality is that if it is not
strengthened, to take account of victims' feelings, it will
be thrown out by the Lords. Even in the Commons, there was
outrage at the way the normal judicial system has been

The government's defence is that it is implementing an
agreement to deal with the unfinished business of fugitive
offenders, arrived at as long as four years ago. When
convicted terrorists were given early releases, following
the Good Friday Agreement, there was mounting pressure from
Sinn Fein to make special provision for those who were
wanted for crimes prior to 1998.

A deal was done, so that if the IRA declared an end to its
armed campaign and decommissioned weapons - as it has done
- both London and Dublin would reciprocate. In the
Republic, the few On-The-Runs will benefit from a
presidential pardon, never before offered to anyone

The DUP has already tabled 55 amendments toughening up the
Bill, ranging from the exclusion of murder from the list of
offences to a six-month time limit for applications and a
requirement for remorse to be demonstrated.

The question is how far the government can move, in line
with an agreement which renders the police's work on "cold
cases" like Claudy, and the Cory tribunals, almost
irrelevant, in terms of handing out punishment. Mr Hain
refuses to walk away from an international obligation, but
he must lay down more conditions.



How Many OTRs Are There?

How many on the runs (OTRs) are there in America? OTRs are
the members of the IRA and Loyalist members who skipped
Ireland before their trials, escaped in jailbreaks, or were
just never apprehended.

Given that the Troubles lasted 25 years there are bound to
be significant numbers here, given that the U.S. was a
major destination for OTRs up until very recently.

One has only to look at many arrests made over the years by
the FBI of alleged IRA men hiding out in America. That
would seem to indicate that the number of OTRs would
actually be very high here.

Indeed, it is thought that some of the more infamous
missing IRA men and women are now living here under assumed
names. It could be well over 50 members according to one
observer. They will range in age from the mid fifties down
to more recent "imports."

The issue of OTRs is a major one, and the British and Irish
governments are presently deciding how best to proceed with
resolving the issue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has
made it clear that he wants it resolved, while his Irish
counterpart, Bertie Ahern, has spoken of a presidential
amnesty in the south.

Both are being fiercely resisted by opponents of giving the
OTRs blanket amnesty. However, it is hard to argue with the
fact that prisoners were given a general amnesty after the
ceasefires, so why should the OTRs be treated any

O'Hare a Famous OTR

OF course, one of the more famous OTRs is Sinn Fein's North
America representative Rita O'Hare, who has done an
extraordinary job building up the party in the U.S.

She absconded on bail from her native Belfast while
awaiting trial in 1973 on charges of attempted murder of
British troops. Since then she has been a top level
operative for Sinn Fein in the Irish Republic, including
for a spell being editor of An Phoblacht, the Republican

O'Hare, known as the "Granny of Death" in one lurid
newspaper headline, is immensely popular with politicians
of all stripes, and she had a particularly good
relationship with the late lamented former Northern Ireland
Secretary Mo Mowlam. The diminutive O'Hare lives in Dublin
these days when she is not in the U.S.

There is no question that O'Hare and the many other OTRs,
including several allegedly in Central America, would
receive a massive welcome home in Belfast from Republicans.
The surprise might well be the number of Loyalists who have
also found their way to the U.S. and Canada especially.

How They Got Here

In the early days of the Troubles there were many ways for
IRA OTRs to come to America, but among the most popular
methods was to depend on sympathetic workers at Aer Lingus
who managed to bring several in, or to sneak across the
border from Canada.

Once in America they were faced with a dilemma. Should they
stay away from all Irish activities and friends, or try to
establish new links with trusted Irish associates here?

Some took the latter option. Paul O'Dwyer, the legendary
civil rights lawyer, remembered buying train tickets for
some to the final destination on long distance train
journeys. They got off at the other end and made new lives.

Others stayed close to the community, which was a risky
tactic as the FBI kept pretty close tabs on Irish
organizations throughout the Troubles.

Indeed, the arrest of three IRA escapees in California was
directly linked to someone in the Irish community turning
them in.

Clinton for Irish Fundraiser

An Irish evening with former President Bill Clinton will be
held on Tuesday, December 6 at the penthouse of the
1199/SEIU union on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

The evening will be a fundraiser for Senator Hillary
Clinton for her upcoming Senate race, though it looks more
and more likely that she will be a shoo-in for re-election.

Among the members of the committee who are organizing the
Irish event are Congressman Joe Crowley; attorney Frank
Durkan; Mike Dowling, head of the North Shore LIJ hospital
system on Long Island; former Congressman Tom Manton; union
leader Ed Malloy; Irish American Democrats head Stella
O'Leary; lawyer Brian O'Dwyer and Wall Street's Al Smith.

The campaign is expecting about $150,000 in funds from the
event, an ambitious target but one that is eminently
reachable with the former president as the main guest.
Tickets are $500 a head.

Collins, Biden To Be Honoured

Another fundraiser, this time the annual American Ireland
Fund bash in Washington, D.C. on March 16 of next year,
will feature awards for Republican Senator Susan Collins of
Maine and Democratic Senator Joe Biden from Delaware. Also
honoured will be businessman Jack McDonnell.

Biden does not have an Irish last name, but his mother's
maiden name was Finnegan. Her people were from Derry, and
like many in that city they came across the ocean to work
in the Dupont factory in Delaware. Biden was raised in the
Irish stronghold of Fishtown in Wilmington.

Biden is reasonably active on Irish issues, Collins less
so, but there seems little question that she is becoming
more involved. The Washington bash is annually the biggest
Irish event in the nation's capital.


Make-Up Of Parades Body 'Unbalanced'

By Michael McHugh and Chris Thornton
01 December 2005

The appointment of two Portadown Orangemen to the Parades
Commission leaves the marching body "very unbalanced",
Garvaghy Road residents' spokesman Brendan MacCionnaith
said today.

Nationalists expressed concerns today about the
commission's new line-up, which includes David Burrows, the
former leader of the Drumcree protest lodge, and senior
fireman Donald MacKay, a member of the Portadown ex-
servicemen's lodge.

But new chairman, Roger Poole, said in his first interview
that he was "delighted" to welcome the Orangemen on to the
commission. He said he hoped it would lead to talks with
the Orange Order.

The Order and two other marching organisations said they
were interested to see the new line-up but said the
commission remains "fundamentally flawed".

Mr MacCionnaith said he fears that the commission has
"carte blanche" to change the approach to ruling on

"We have David Burrows and we have two people who are
closely associated with the policing partnerships and no
representation whatsoever from any of the nationalist or
republican communities directly affected by the marching
issue," said the residents' leader, who is also a Sinn Fein
policy worker.

"So clearly there's an imbalance in this.

"This whole process is overseen by the people within the
security, policy and policing division within the NIO and
we have to ask if those securocrats who have been playing
games with the political process are at their work again.

"One view is that the Secretary of State has given this new
commission carte blanche to do away with all the existing
procedures that have been in place."

Sinn Fein and the SDLP also expressed concerns about the
line-up. Former SDLP MP, Dr Joe Hendron, is the main
nationalist voice on the new commission.

In their statement, the Orange Order and other marching
organisations said they plan to engage with the Government
"and other stakeholders" in the New Year.


Parades Boss Delighted With Orange Members

By Chris Thornton
01 December 2005

The addition of two Portadown Orangemen to the Parades
Commission could help persuade marchers into talks, the
body's new chairman said today.

Amidst deep nationalist doubts about the new lineup, former
trade unionist Roger Poole said he is "absolutely
delighted" to have David Burrows, the former District
Master of the Drumcree protest lodge, and Donald McKay -
who is also a DUP member - on the panel.

Former SDLP MP Dr Joe Hendron is the other prominent
appointee in the new seven-person line-up.

No members of the previous Commission will return when Mr
Poole takes over in the New Year, although three reportedly

In his first interview as the selected chairman, Mr Poole
said he hopes the two Orangemen can "use their good offices
to persuade their friends and colleagues to engage with us,
to talk to us, to come and express a view to us from time
to time".

In a joint statement, three marching organisations said
they believe the Commission remains "fundamentally flawed",
but gave some indication of interest in talks.

The heads of the Orange Order, Royal Black Institution and
the Independent Orange Order said: "It is our intention to
engage with Government and other stakeholders in the New
Year in a positive, constructive and substantive way to
enable a permanent resolution of the issues surrounding
parades in circumstances of mutual respect and tolerance."

Mr Poole promised "a fresh start" in his Commission, with a
heavy emphasis on mediation between marchers and residents'

"Every time we have to issue a decision, I think that's a
failure on our part," he said.

"I don't come with a magic wand. I come here with a very
open mind and the wish to try and help."

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said his party is "deeply
concerned" about Mr Burrows' appointment.

"The Government need to realise that it cannot play
politics with groups like the Parades Commission to deliver
a political sop to rejectionist and negative unionism," he

SDLP member Alex Attwood said he was concerned about the
Government attempting "short term fixes to deep-rooted
problems" and he was disappointed that no former members of
the Commission returned.

UUP parades spokesman Michael Copeland said he would
reserve judgement on the new line-up.

'Sad' football fan captains new team at Commission


AS a senior official in Nupe, he was the public face of
ambulance workers during their dispute with the Government
in 1989-90. He later helped form the new public sector
union, Unison.

A Labour Party member, he is a director of Social
Enterprise London and Business Link for London. He is also
a visiting fellow at Warwick University.

He says he is "not English. I'm Bristolian." He also
confesses: "I'm a very sad individual. I support Bristol


A Drumcree Orangeman who was for years the man beside
Harold Gracey. The Deputy District Master stepped up to
lead Portadown Orangemen after Mr Gracey's death, but
resigned seven months later for "personal reasons",
believed to be related to the break-up of his marriage. He
works in engineering management.


The SDLP politician is the only man to take West Belfast's
Westminster seat off Gerry Adams, winning the seat in 1992
only to lose it again in 1997. A GP for 40 years, Dr
Hendron is an Assembly member.


The second Portadown Orangeman on the commission, Mr McKay
is also a member of the DUP. He was a councillor in
Craigavon between 1993 and 1997 and is a senior fire
officer in the Fire Service, where he has worked for 26
years. He is also a member of the Black Institution.


The former Women's Coalition candidate is a community
relations manager in the University of Ulster since 2001.
She is an independent member of Belfast's District Policing
Partnership. She has an MA in Peace and Conflict studies
from Notre Dame University, Indiana, and an LLB from
Queen's University, Belfast.


A director of a sports ground contractor, she has been a
member of the Independent Monitoring Board for Maghaberry
prison and chairs the Northern Ireland Association of
members of the Independent Monitoring Board.


Magherafelt's Urban Area Development Officer, she also has
a Portadown link. She was previously employed by Portadown
YMCA. Formerly an independent member of Magherafelt
District Policing Partnership, she has been a lay
magistrate since 2005.


Londonderry's Lundy Parade Is Going Ahead Despite Sadness

By Joanne Lowry
Thursday 1st December 2005

The Apprentice Boys of Derry said last night that it was
too late to cancel Saturday's parade following calls for
the march to be postponed out of respect for George Best.

Nationalists have said that they will not be protesting
along some of the parade routes as planned.

Joe Marley, from the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group, said
he hoped the decision would be an indication of
nationalists' willingness to resolve the marching issue.

DUP councillor and senior Apprentice Boys member Willie Hay
said Saturday's event would be going ahead despite calls
from within their own ranks to postpone the parade.

Mr Hay said "only a trickle" of members had asked for the
Lundy Day parade to be postponed.

He added: "We don't have a problem with some of our members
wanting to attend George Best's funeral instead of coming
to Derry. We understand and we don't want to do anything
that would take away from remembering George Best.

"But it would be difficult to cancel at this stage.
Brethren are coming from all over and to cancel could
create more problems than it would solve. I hope people
will understand."

Mr Hay said the Apprentice Boys would be paying their own
tribute to the Northern Ireland footballing legend
including a minute's silence.

He added: "At this minute and time, there isn't a great lot
of pressure from rank and file to have a change of heart."

One Apprentice Boy member, who didn't wish to be named,
said he thought the sporting hero's funeral would be marred
if the Lundy Day marches went ahead.

He said: "It would be quite easy to do it and it's not too
late to do it. Out of respect for George Best, the march
should be postponed and it will also mean the police won't
be as stretched."

Londonderry loyalist community worker Glenn Barr said it
was a matter for the Apprentice Boys to decide and added:
"It would appear they'll be damned if they do and damned if
they don't." "If everyone could agree to postpone it then
that would be nice but, in fairness to them, their brethren
are coming from overseas and I think they would have real
problems trying to rearrange it," he said.

* Londonderry's PSNI commander has appealed for the
Apprentice Boys parade to pass off peacefully.

Around 3,500 people are expected to attend the 317th Lundy
Day march.

Chief Supt Richard Russell said: "I intend to police this
event in a way that will allow city life to continue as
normally as possible and I would encourage businesses to
open as usual. "This will mean that everyone, marchers,
bands, supporters and local people, can mix on the parade
route and I would, therefore, appeal to everyone to resist
the temptation to act in a provocative manner.

"The parade and the positive local reaction to it have, in
recent years, become a shining example of tolerance and
continue to provide a great insight into what can be
achieved when communities work together towards a common


2nd Man Dies After Cliff Accident

A man who was critically injured in a fall from a cliff at
Rossnowlagh, County Donegal, on Sunday has died.

Nineteen-year-old Alan Gallagher from Ballyshannon suffered
serious injuries when he fell off the cliff as he
apparently tried to help his friend, Niall Anderson, who
had slipped down the cliff before him and died.

The tragedy happened on Sunday morning as three young men
waited for a taxi.

The third man raised the alarm after his two friends fell.


Apology: Liam Neeson

01 December 2005

On November 7, 2005, we published an article on the Irish
Film and Television Awards which suggested that Liam Neeson
had snubbed the ceremony.

We fully accept that this was inaccurate. Not only did Liam
arrange to make a satellite broadcast from his current film
location in a remote part of the USA in order to express
his gratitude for the honour bestowed upon him, but he also
arranged for his mother-in-law, the actress and
humanitarian, Vanessa Redgrave, to accept the award on his

We are assured that the organisers of the event fully
understood Liam's logistical difficulty in attending the

We unreservedly apologise to Liam and his family for any
embarrassment caused as a result of our report. We have
agreed to make a donation to UNICEF, the charity for which
Liam acts as an international ambassador and has been
closely associated with for many years.


Holy Cross Priest Tells Tale

By Kathryn Torney
01 December 2005

A Belfast priest who hit the headlines during the high
profile Holy Cross Primary School protest in 2001 has
written a book about his experiences.

'Holy Cross: A Personal Experience' by Father Aidan Troy is
to be launched next week by the school's former principal,
Anne Tanney.

The school made international headlines when the
schoolgirls had to be escorted by their parents to school
for months amidst a heavy security presence and loyalists
picketing at the side of the road.

As parish priest, Fr Troy became a regular spokesman for
the school during the daily protests.

He said that the book was written "not to hurt but to

"Those events had a profound impact on all who were part of
them. The protestor as well as the child going to school
was affected by what took place," he claimed.

4Fr Troy is currently involved in a project to build a
cross-community centre on the site of the original Holy
Cross schools.


Arms Around The World: Despite Conflict, Belfast Beautiful

By: Rachel Williams, Staff Columnist

Issue date: 12/1/05 Section: World Traveler
Rachel Williams, Staff Columnist

Belfast, Northern Ireland, is an extraordinary place. Not
for any particularly astonishing museums or monuments of
the sort that draw millions to other European capitals each
year. Tourists seem to breeze through Belfast on their way
to Dublin or smaller towns - the main sights can be seen in
a day or two.

Belfast does have a charming center with beautiful
architecture and a trendy little shopping district. There
are more Asian restaurants than I've found in any other
city in Europe. Beyond the city, green hills cut into the
horizon, reminding you why Ireland is called "The Emerald
Isle." But the most fascinating (and unsettling) part of
the city is what lies between the center and the
surrounding hills.

On the border of one side of the center of Belfast lies the
Protestant ghetto. The change is instantly recognizable; a
mural of a militant clad in a ski mask greets you with the
notice, "You are now entering loyalist Sandy Row heartland
of south Belfast."

As our tour cab drove by, the guide explained that you
could tell someone's religion by which direction they leave
the center from. We drove to the middle of the Protestant
area where the guide pointed out a Protestant militant
headquarters. The surrounding housing area displayed more
murals dedicated to Ulster Freedom Fighters killed in the
conflict. The community center sat behind a high brick and
chain link fence.

As we stood in a field looking at the surrounding murals, a
stereo from the community center could be heard playing the
U2 song "Staring at the Sun." When the song asked, "Will we
ever live in peace?" the view didn't inspire confidence.

Although a cease-fire was signed, it is clear a peace has
not been achieved. We drove through the gate that separates
the Protestant side from the Catholic side. A curfew is
still observed, and the gates are locked each night.

Along the division runs a wall covered in murals in
graffiti, a mixture of political sentiment and pleas for
peace. Clearly the wall can not be built high enough - a
huge strip of green metal stands atop a high brick wall.
The sheet of metal then gives way to chain link and barbed
wire. Damage is still visible where blasts have damaged the

Divisions are so strong that a wall was built 6 feet into
the ground along the cemetery.

On the Catholic side, gardens and memorials have been
raised to remember those killed. A mural on the corner
depicts Bombay Street when it was burned to the ground and
promises "Never Again." All of the streets in this section
are named after former colonies the British lost.

Driving down Falls Road, at the heart of Catholic Belfast,
we passed the headquarters for Sinn Fein, the political
party associated with the Irish Republican Army. On the
side of the building was a mural calling for peace that
depicted Bobby Sands, an IRA member who died in a prison
hunger strike, along with icons like Martin Luther King
Jr., and the Dalai Lama. The association felt very hollow
as our guide explained that the IRA has killed more
Catholics (their own people) in its attempt to unite
Ireland than Protestant militants or British forces

On the edge of the center of Belfast stands the Europa
Hotel. It isn't a particularly striking building. That it
is present at all, however, seems somewhat of a miracle; it
withstood 52 bombings.

Although the opposing forces in Northern Ireland identify
by religious divisions, even the murals make it clear that
they are not fighting over faith, but national identity.
Many Protestants came to Northern Ireland when British
soldiers where given land there.

Groups such as the Ulster Freedom Fighters identify with
Great Britain and want to remain part of the United
Kingdom. Catholic groups such as the IRA view the British
as oppressors and fight for a united, independent Ireland.

Although tensions are still high, Belfast is not a scary
city to visit. The city can be enjoyed if you simply stay
to the center, unless on a guided tour, and use some common
sense precautions: don't walk far at night, and don't talk
about politics or wear anything associated with either

This isn't to say Belfast is a city you can't have fun in.
Enter any pub or restaurant and you will find friendly
locals and a fun atmosphere. You'll leave wondering how
such wonderful people, such a beautiful landscape and such
a violent conflict can coexist. The juxtaposition is

Rachel Williams is a staff columnist for The Traveler. She
is studying abroad in Rome.


Presto Chango

Magic, motherhood and gender morphology in Breakfast on
Pluto and Transamerica


Well, hello gorgeous.

The mainstreaming of drag in movies has become a cutesy way
for filmmakers to sidle up to cultural rebellion without
actually confronting homosexuality, which remains a much
more threatening and contested social behavior than
transvestism, or even transsexualism. You can see why:
Cross-dressing is an outré outpost of fashion these days,
while tinkering with anatomy is hardly a radical act. Gay
sex, though, continues to make filmmakers as nervous as it
ever did — even those, like Neil Jordan, who have staked
their careers on transgression. It's no accident that, of
three highly touted movies about gender this season, the
only one with significant sexual activity in it is Ang
Lee's frankly gay cowboy picture, Brokeback Mountain, of
which more next week. Brokeback Mountain also gives us two
characters we can identify with regardless of their
sexuality, which is more than I can say for Jordan's
Breakfast on Pluto, a beautifully shot, unbearably arch
film about an Irish transvestite on the road to London in
search of his long-lost mum.

Jordan took on transvestism with far greater finesse, and
less gingerly evasiveness, in his luminously melancholic
The Crying Game (1992). In Breakfast on Pluto (based, like
Jordan's terrific 1997 film The Butcher Boy, on a novel by
Patrick McCabe), he's trying for a surrealist romp, and
it's as coy and callow as you'd expect from a movie with a
lead character nicknamed Kitten. Jordan has laid on talking
robins, chapter headings and sporadic intertitles to
belabor the troubles of Patrick "Kitten" Braden — played by
the exceptionally pretty young Irish actor Cillian Murphy
(Batman Begins, Red Eye) — a cross-dressing teenage rebel
raising hell in the small Irish town where, after a
fashion, he's growing up. Kitten is the unacknowledged love
child of the local parish priest (Liam Neeson) and his
fetching housekeeper who, since flying the coop, has taken
up residence in her son's florid fantasy life as an elusive
incarnation of 1950s pinup Mitzi Gaynor. Lumbered with an
evil foster mother (Ruth McCabe), Kitten contents himself
hanging out in shiny dresses and full makeup with the usual
crew of "colorful" fellow rejects (a good-natured boy with
Down syndrome, a pregnant young black woman in a white,
Catholic world — that sort of thing), until an incendiary
encounter with the IRA forces him to make a quick getaway
and launches him into Voltaire territory as realized by

One way or another, all Jordan's films are fairy-tale
expressions of terror, desire and hidden truth, the best of
them being the dreamy The Miracle (1991), which also has an
absent mother and much surreal dress-up. You can admire
Murphy's mercurial portrayal of Kitten as an abandoned
waif, a Houdini who can talk his way out of any tight
corner, a cockeyed optimist, a loyal friend and a fashion
plate. Absent an inner life worth believing in, though, his
performance just dangles there, showing off. While most
transvestite movies are sops to liberal sympathy, designed
to make us feel good about how open-minded we are, °©Jordan
gives us nowhere to place our sympathies: not with punk
icon Gavin Friday as a macho rock star who falls in love
with Kitten; nor with Brendan Gleeson as a kiddie-theme
park worker dolled up as a giant Womble; nor with Stephen
Rea as a magician whose routines have an edge of sadism;
and certainly not with Kitten, who turns out to be a
manipulative phony around almost everyone he meets. Kitten
never changes — he merely bends the world to his optimistic
will like the cut-rate Candide that he is, and the world
falls into line. His adventures have little point °©—
there's a creepy moral equivalence between every bad thing
that happens to him, so an explosion in a London pub comes
to rate as no more awful than getting roughed up by a pair
of over-zealous cops. All are merely opportunities for
Jordan and cinematographer Declan Quinn to indulge in
wheeling cameras and visually ravishing set pieces. We're
meant to see Kitten as some sort of sexual radical, but he
displays no interest in sex; this is a boy powered by
nothing more than want of his mummy. Insight and redemption
show up obligingly for the finish, but by then we don't
give a damn.

Until I saw Breakfast on Pluto, I wasn't sure how to make a
case for Transamerica, an awkward yet engrossing first
feature from writer-director Duncan Tucker. The movie's
spuriously inclusive title (it might as well be called We
Are All Transsexuals Now) gives every impression of having
been slapped on by a nervous marketing department, and it
has to be said that Neil Jordan has more technical skill
and imagination in his little finger than Tucker does in
his entire being. But this clumsily executed tragicomedy
wormed its way under my skin, in large part because of
Felicity Huffman's beautifully calibrated turn as Bree (née
Stanley), a Los Angeles transsexual saddled with the
hectoring diagnosis of "gender dysphoria" and working two
lousy jobs to pay for the operation she hopes will put an
end to her loneliness. Bree labors under more character and
plot contrivance than anyone should have to bear, including
the kind of therapist (Elizabeth Peña) who's available for
wisecracking psychobabble night and day, a horribly zany
family, and a teenage hustler son (Kevin Zegers) from a
long-ago hetero fling who turns up and provides a slapdash
excuse for Bree to drive cross-country, through red states
and blue, in search of her best self.

That Huffman triumphs over all this Home for the Holidays
rubbish is a tribute to the uncommon delicacy with which
she approaches a role that, in most movies of this kind,
would be mugged to death by a Robin Williams or a Jim
Carrey. A stuffy conservative whose taste for the exotic is
limited to her erudite knowledge of anthropology, Bree is
forever twitching prudishly at her pancake makeup and
pastel librarian outfits — not for nothing does her son
take her for a Christian missionary — her voice teetering
uncertainly between high and low as she defends herself
with the wry wit, tinged with a quiet hysteria, of one
who's been keeping up appearances for far too long. It's an
intensely physical performance, but for all the situation
comedy that's thrown in her path, Huffman never overplays
her hand. She's not playing a gay man, a transvestite or a
transsexual; notwithstanding some farcical business with a
prosthetic penis and an amorous lunge from an inappropriate
source, Transamerica is about as sexual as The Brady Bunch.
It's about an intelligent woman in excruciating transition
to a new body that will line up with an identity she's held
all along. Like Breakfast on Pluto,Transamerica is about
loneliness and the hunger for family, and like Jordan and
McCabe, Tucker climbs onboard for the romantic notion of
gender elasticity as an expression of the authentic self.
If that's a cop-out, it's one Huffman makes us believe in.
Never in a million years would this fully fledged woman,
housed in the wrong body, agree to be called Kitten.

JORDAN and PATRICK McCABE, based on the novel by McCabe
Released by Sony Pictures Classics At Sunset 5, Monica 4-

TRANSAMERICA Written and directed by DUNCAN TUCKER
Released by The Weinstein Company At Sunset 5

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