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December 11, 2005

Sinn Fein Challenge to Govts

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News about Ireland & the Irish

UT 12/11/05 Sinn Fein Challenge To Govts
IT 12/12/05 Minister Defends Connolly Stance
IT 12/12/05 Statement: Minister For Justice McDowell
IT 12/12/05 'Love Ulster' Parade Planned For Dublin
IT 12/12/05 Military Business Booms At Shannon
IT 12/12/05 Public Entitled To Know Full Extent Of Cover-Up
IT 12/12/05 Tales Of Torture From An Leftist Fantasyland
IT 12/12/05 Decision To Refuse Hotel In Connemara Upheld
BB 12/10/05 U2 Awarded Human Rights Accolade
TO 12/10/05 Travel: Widdecombe Winds Down In A Spa


Sinn Fein Challenge To Govts

Sinn Fein today challenged the British and Irish
governments to spell out how they intend to resurrect the
devolved administration in Northern Ireland.

By:Press Association

Vice President Pat Doherty said his party wanted to know
what the governmental plan was for a restoration of the
institutions of government early in the New Year.

He said: "In recent days the two governments have indicated
that they wish to see an intensive effort made early in the
new year to put the political institutions back in place.
Sinn Fein have been calling for such an effort for

"We need to hear from the two governments exactly what they
have planned and the route they are now going to take."

It was now five months since the IRA had taken its historic
decision to end its armed campaign, he said, and three
months on from the IRA decommissioning its weapons.

He said there now needed to be political progress:"The two
governments cannot continue to allow the rejectionist
position of the DUP to dictate policy.

"The Good Friday Agreement is not an optional position. It
is an international treaty endorsed overwhelmingly by the
people of Ireland."

Sinn Fein, he said , was ready and willing to play its part
in ensuring the institutions were put back. But the
governments had a "massive responsibility" to drive the
process forward.


Minister Defends Connolly Stance

Carol Coulter, Legal Affairs Correspondent, and Martin Wall

The Minister for Justice has responded to criticism of
his handling of allegations against Frank Connolly by
claiming the security of the State was at stake.

This meant the normal protections afforded to individuals
under Article 38 of the Constitution, with regard to due
process and proof beyond reasonable doubt, did not apply,
Michael McDowell said in a statement yesterday.

"In particular, in matters relating to the protection of
the State's security and the prevention of subversion of
democracy, which sometimes involves making the public aware
of underlying facts and allegations, it would be very wrong
of a Minister for Justice to fail to take action or to
speak out on the sole basis that the subject matter was
incapable or unlikely to be established beyond reasonable
doubt in the criminal justice process."

The statement did not say how State security or democracy
were threatened by Mr Connolly.

Fine Gael spokesman on justice Jim O'Keeffe said: "It is
very clear the Minister has to take the security of the
State into account. But there isn't an obvious issue of the
security of the State here. You have to go beyond Frank
Connolly the individual. The fundamental principles of our
democracy, of fair play and due process, should be upheld."

Last night Mr Connolly said he believed huge numbers of
people were coming to the view that Mr McDowell had abused
his position. "The Minister's contention that I am a threat
to the security of the State is patent and absurd nonsense.
He has also denied me my constitutional right to due
process," he told The Irish Times. He declined to comment

© The Irish Times


Statement: Minister For Justice Michael McDowell

I am concerned that some public commentary, relating to
actions taken by me regarding Frank Connolly's role in the
Centre for Public Investigation, is informed by a
fundamental misunderstanding of the proper role of the
Minister for Justice.

The Minister for Justice is, in Irish law, the member of
government given special responsibility, along with the
Minister for Defence, for the security of the State and the
prevention of subversion.

An Garda Síochána, established by law as the national
police force, is also one of the State's security and
intelligence services. It is given responsibility in this
area, which is by no means confined to investigation with a
view to criminal prosecution at the suit of the DPP under
Article 38 of the Constitution. Their security role is also
pre-emptive and preventative, not merely investigative.

It is simply wrong to imagine that the security of the
State falls to be defended solely through the process of
Criminal Justice, in accordance with the requirements of
Article 38 (relating to due process, proof beyond
reasonable doubt and judicial adjudication).

While the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable
doubt on the basis of admissible evidence is appropriate to
the trial of offenders under Article 38, that standard is
not applicable to many other aspects of public and private

In particular, in matters relating to the protection of the
State's security and the prevention of subversion of
democracy, which sometimes involves making the public aware
of underlying facts and allegations, it would be very wrong
of a Minister for Justice to fail to take action or to
speak out on the sole basis that the subject matter was
incapable or unlikely to be established beyond reasonable
doubt in the criminal justice process.

There are public as well as private rights and duties in
our Constitutional order. And it is the clear duty of the
holders of governmental office to balance these rights and
duties and to act - sometimes pre-emptively - to protect
the authority of the State mentioned in Article 40.6.

When there are substantial reasons to believe that a threat
to the State's democracy and authority exists, it is the
right and duty of a Minister for Justice to act in the
interests of the State. The rights of a citizen to his or
her good name must always be carefully balanced against the
public's right to be protected from subversion. The
fundamental duty of loyalty to the state involves Ministers
and private citizens alike.

I, and other members of the Government have spoken clearly
about the dangers of subversive activity and, on occasion,
about subversive criminality. We have done so because it is
vitally important in a democracy that every aspect of
public affairs should be open to scrutiny, not just those
aspects which are governmental.

The public should expect nothing less from its government.
December 11th, 2005

© The Irish Times


'Love Ulster' Parade Planned For Dublin

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

A Love Ulster parade featuring Orangemen and loyalist
bands will take place in Dublin's city centre towards the
end of January, according to William Frazer, head of the
Protestant victims' group, Families Acting for Innocent
Relatives (Fair).

Mr Frazer said yesterday the parade would highlight the
plight of victims of republican violence and expose Irish
Government "double standards" in relation to the peace

Mr Frazer said that the Love Ulster organisers were in
touch with the Garda, who had raised no objections about
the event apart from ensuring that it would be peaceful and
properly marshalled and organised.

"We are working with the guards to find a Saturday,
probably towards the end of January, that would cause
minimum disruption. They are being very helpful."

In October up to 5,000 people took part in a Love Ulster
march and rally in the Shankill area of Belfast, with
further events planned for next year. Love Ulster was
established this year to campaign against what the
organisers see as moves to force the North into a united

The campaigners, comprising Protestant victims' groups, the
Orange Order, other loyal order members, and loyalist
activists, are highlighting what they contend are a
diminution of the North's union with Britain and a list of
"unremitting concessions to republicanism".

Mr Frazer said he expected at least 1,000 people at the
Dublin parade. The route was yet to be finalised but he
expected it would be from O'Connell Street to Leinster
House where the parade organisers and some DUP and Ulster
Unionist politicians would address the crowd.

"We plan to have a couple of hundred victims on the parade,
several Orangemen, some of them carrying banners displaying
details of people murdered by the IRA, and at least six
bands," he told The Irish Times yesterday.

Mr Frazer said the Union Jack and the Ulster flags would be
flown as well but that there would be no loyalist
paramilitary flags or trappings. He was confident there
would be no trouble as a result of the parade. "Unless
somebody attacks the parade, everything should pass off
peacefully," he added.

© The Irish Times


Military Business Booms At Shannon

A legitimate tool in the war on terror or just another
abuse of human rights? Paul Cullen examines what is
happening at Shannon

It gives the term "Shannon stopover" a whole new meaning -
thousands of American troops passing through an Irish
airport each day on their way to and from Iraq, plus visits
by an unspecified number of planes chartered by the Central
Intelligence Agency - destination, occupants and purpose

Last year, flights carrying US troops accounted for 6 per
cent of business at the Co Clare airport; by the end of
this year, this proportion is likely to have doubled.
Business with the military is booming just as most other
areas of business in Shannon are in decline; income from
this source is expected to top €30 million by the end of
the year.

But at what cost? Has Ireland been co-opted, involuntarily
and largely unsuspectingly, into the "War on Terror"? And
is it now implicated in covert and illegal CIA practices,
including torture, as alleged by some journalists and peace

These questions are more than academic. Fundamental human
rights issues are involved, but in addition to this, Irish
support for the US war effort, however unwitting, could
make this country a target for terrorist attacks. Arguably,
it already has, given the amorphous nature of the war being
waged on the West by Islamic extremists.

The issue has been bubbling away in the background for some
time without fully grabbing the public's imagination. Less
than three years ago, more than 100,000 people marched in
Dublin in opposition to the Iraq war, which was then
imminent. However, this momentum was quickly lost amid
splits and recriminations in the peace movement, and a
failure to co-ordinate activities between Dublin and

"We've found it hard to get people out again," admits
Brendan Butler of the NGO Peace Alliance. "People felt
100,000 went out and marched and what happened? They feel

Notwithstanding the wider sense of disillusionment, small
groups of peace activists have kept the issue in the public
eye. Marches, vigils and occasional skirmishes with the
gardaí are the staple of Shannon protests, but arguably the
most effective work has been done by those monitoring the
movements of aircraft carrying US military.

While the public has remained largely unaware or
indifferent to these activities, this could change in the
coming weeks and months.

The international drumbeat of allegations of human rights
violations is growing louder by the day; from the abuse of
detainees in Afghanistan to the mistreatment of prisoners
in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and, most recently, claims of
CIA-operated "torture flights" and illegal prisons around
the world.

The overall picture is still patchy and confused, but
credible media reports from the US and elsewhere are
pointing to the existence of a network of CIA-run detention
centres in north Africa, Asia and eastern Europe where al-
Qaeda suspects are allegedly subjected to cruel and
degrading treatment that fairly closely approximates to

THE FIRST SUCH DETAINEE, Abu Zabayda, was flown from
Pakistan, where he was captured in March 2002, to Thailand.
There he was made to stand for hours in a cold cell being
subjected to "waterboarding", an interrogation practice
which simulates the experience of drowning by covering the
victim's face with cellophane and then pouring water on it.

Amnesty International and other human rights organisations
have documented other such cases involving so-called
rendition, by which detainees are transferred from country
to country without legal process:

Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen, was near the
Pakistani-Afghan border shortly after the 9/11 attacks. He
says he was transferred to Egypt, where he was hung from
hooks, beaten and given shocks from an electric cattle
prod. He was moved to Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo
and then released last January.

Maher Arar, from Canada, was flown from New York to Syria,
his country of birth. There he was held in a small
underground cell which he likened to a grave and his hands
were repeatedly whipped with cables.

Ahmed Agiza, a doctor, and Muhammad al-Zari were abducted
in Stockholm in December 2001, and flown to Cairo, where
they say they were subjected to electric shock torture in

The last case has an important Irish angle. A Swedish
journalist investigating the abduction of the two men
received information from local police about its call sign,
N379P. A Google search threw up a single hit, to an article
by peace activists at Shannon who had monitored the same
aircraft, a Gulfstream V typically used by wealthy
corporate executives.

Further investigation showed that this aircraft visited
Shannon at least 16 times in 2002 and 2003, and may also
have landed in Cork.

Further investigation by Amnesty has shown that a second
aircraft involved in the abduction of another man in Italy
was also sighted in Shannon hours after his rendition from
Germany to Egypt in 2003.

The pattern is sketchy but discernible from the jumble of
sightings by plane-spotters in airports such as Shannon and
their blogger friends. It appears the CIA, often operating
through front companies, has employed a fleet of chartered
jets to ferry al-Qaeda suspects in its detention around the
world. As part of this mysterious activity, its aircraft
stop frequently to refuel in Shannon.

Amnesty says it has obtained flight logs for six of these
aircraft, which show a total of 50 landings at Shannon.
However, given claims that the CIA operates a total of 30
aircraft, it believes the actual number of such landings at
Shannon is much higher.

THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT any of these aircraft are
carrying detainees during their Shannon stopovers, much
less that any torture is actually taking place on Irish
soil. Geography would tell us that while Shannon might be a
useful stop for ferrying prisoners from, say, Afghanistan
to Guantánamo, the CIA aircraft currently the focus of
controversy are probably travelling on to or from rendition
work further east.

The Irish authorities take a hands-off approach.
Theoretically, gardaí have the right to search aircraft if
they believe it is being used for commission of a crime. In
practice, governments everywhere are reluctant to interfere
with the passage of foreign aircraft from friendly
countries where assurances of good conduct have been given.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which has responsibility
for foreign military aircraft entering Irish airspace,
normally grants permission under certain conditions, such
as that the aircraft is unarmed and not carrying
explosives. However, the Minister can waive these
conditions in certain conditions.

In any case, the majority of planes carrying US military
through Shannon are civilian aircraft, specially chartered
for the purpose; these are the responsibility of the
Department of Transport. Such aircraft are also prohibited
from carrying weapons, unless exempted by the department;
so far this year, over 1,400 exemptions have been issued.

The Americans have responded forcefully to the allegations
from human rights groups.

"We do not render to countries that torture," President
Bush said last week, while insisting on his government's
right to undertake covert operations.

"The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone
torture under any circumstances," US secretary of state
Condoleezza Rice said during her visit to Europe last week.
Renditions are a "vital tool" in combating international
terrorism which have been used by many countries for
decades, she said.

"Renditions take terrorists out of action, and save lives."
In 1994, she pointed out, the French used the process to
bring Carlos the Jackal from Sudan to Paris, where he was
tried and imprisoned. The US used rendition to catch Ramzi
Youssef, who masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World
Trade Centre.

The Government here has accepted these assurances.

"She [ secretary of state Rice] was very categorical that
Shannon has not been used for anything untoward," said
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern after a meeting
in Washington earlier this month. "We fully accept the
categorical assurance of a friendly nation."

But anti-war activists are ill-inclined to accept such
assurances, claiming that what the Americans classify as
"enhanced interrogation techniques" actually amounts to
torture. Shortly they hope to purchase a radar device that
will allow them monitor and identify aircraft movements in

© The Irish Times


Public Entitled To Know Full Extent Of 'Cover-Up'

The Government cannot be trusted on Shannon as new
details come to light about weapons, cargo planes and
rendition flights', argues Tim Hourigan

Having spent the past four years monitoring Shannon airport
through wet summers and cold winter nights, I think I can
speak for the small group of Shannon watchers when I say it
would be nice to be able to trust official assurances.

If we could have trusted Government assurances that Ireland
was not participating in the war, and Minister for Defence
Willie O'Dea's assurance that there was "nothing secretive
or furtive going on at Shannon airport" and subsequent
assurances, then we would have spent more time with our
families, and less time with our binoculars and raincoats.

Unfortunately, we couldn't trust those assurances, and as
concerned citizens in a position to investigate, we felt an
obligation to verify for ourselves what was going on at

Time and again the public were assured that the Government
was not allowing anything unlawful or unusual through
Shannon airport, only to have them change the goal posts as
new information came to light about weapons, cargo planes
and "rendition flights".

In December 2001, when the Government said that the troops
were coming from Germany, it was planespotters with
binoculars who reported that the troops were wearing desert
camouflage. It was planespotters who photographed US Marine
Corps KC-130 mid-air refuelling tankers at Shannon. It was
planespotters who photographed a US troop-carrying aircraft
painted in the Aer Lingus colours, and it was planespotters
who made the eyewitness criminal complaints to An Garda
Síochána about CIA jets landing here.

In late 2002, we found ourselves in the absurd situation of
reading articles in US newspapers by embedded journalists
who passed through Shannon to Kuwait with hundreds of
troops. (Embedded journalists: Ku-Waiting Game by Noelle
Phillips was widely syndicated in US newspapers in November
2002. It even gave details of the bus times and hotels used
by the troops in Co Clare.) Meanwhile, the Irish public
were being kept in the dark about Ireland's facilitation of

In January 2003, a peace camp was set up at Shannon to
monitor and publicise military use of our airport and
airspace. At the time, a lot of people were unconvinced
that the airport was involved in the war. By the time a
High Court injunction closed the peace camp four weeks
later, nobody doubted it. And two weeks later, 100,000
people protested not just against the war, but Irish
facilitation of it.

We have also monitored the level of troop movements through
Shannon, and also the passage of US military cargo

If nobody was keeping an independent count, then there
would be no pressure for the Government to provide accurate
figures in response to Dáil questions, or journalistic
queries. Standing by the fence and taking notes, it's not
possible to uncover everything that's going on at Shannon,
but by noting the aircraft registration, type, and
registered owner, we can provide a starting point for other
people to dig further, to demand answers, accountability
and even to make criminal complaints.

By confirming the existence of a particular suspicious
aircraft, we are in a position to ask if it has ever
furnished a manifest declaring its cargo, if it has ever
been inspected and how many times it has landed here. All
these are questions that should have been asked by the
Government, rather than asked of them.

Even without a camp we have continued to monitor the
airport, and to publish our findings on the internet, and
to inform the media. It was through one of our internet
logs that we caught the attention of a Swedish journalist
investigating the "rendition" of two men from Sweden on a
Gulfstream Jet that we had also spotted at Shannon airport.
By sharing information, it was possible to discover that
the civilian registered aircraft had military landing
clearance and was leased to the US department of defence.

This work led to admissions by the Irish Department of
Defence that the plane had landed at Shannon more than a
dozen times, before changing registration, and landing
again with a "new identity".

The Irish peace network, Cosantóirí Síochána, intends to
purchase a transponder tracking system which will
automatically (and legally) give us the details of every
aircraft in Irish airspace. We intend to publish this
information regularly so that the Irish people will be
aware of the full extent of the cover-up at Shannon and
inside the Dáil.

Most Irish people oppose the war and occupation inflicted
on Iraq, but even those who support it must admit that
democracy starts at home, and that at the very least, the
Irish people are entitled to know the truth and make up
their own minds.

Tim Hourigan writes regularly for the left-wing website,

© The Irish Times


Tales Of Torture From An Infantile Leftist Fantasyland

All the baseless accusations in the world cannot change
the fact that the US does not torture or condone torture,
suggests George Dempsey.

I know, even before I write this, that I'm being unfair,
but it does take the Irish to create a moral crisis out of
a fantasy. I'm told that, once again, the witless radicals
are out in force (at least, vocally), protesting that, by
allowing official US flights through Shannon, the Irish
Government is complicit in war crimes.

I've been gone from Ireland for some time but all this
moral outrage is familiar from a decade and a half ago when
I was still the political officer at the American embassy
in Dublin. At that time, during the Gulf War, the protests
were aimed at our troop transport landing in Shannon to
refuel en route to the war zone.

In justification of his government's position, Charles
Haughey announced to the Dáil (with some satisfaction it
seemed to me, then, as I sat up in the diplomatic visitors'
area) that all such American flights were being charged
"full commercial rates". Should I mention that tiny
Luxembourg offered not just to waive landing fees for our
aircraft but to refuel them without charge?

Particularly offensive at the time, it seems, was the sight
of American soldiers in combat fatigues walking about on
Ireland's neutral soil - as I remember one protester
putting it, America's "armed mercenaries" (nice one, that)
parading through the aisles of Shannon's duty-free area.
But, then, when the war was over and we brought our
soldiers home, we arranged for them to be cleared through
US Customs at point of embarkation so that, once they
landed in the US, they could go directly from the planes to
their waiting families.

This meant that, for any planes refuelling in Shannon, the
soldiers had to remain on board. The local manager of Aer
Rianta protested indignantly - not just to us at the
embassy but once even buttonholing then-secretary of
defence Dick Cheney on a layover at Shannon - that our
soldiers were being unfairly prevented from spending their
money on Irish goodies. So much for offending Ireland's

This time it seems the brouhaha is about rendition and the
secret prisons which the CIA has, supposedly, been running
in eastern Europe. The subject has dominated Condoleezza
Rice's visit to Europe or, at least, the press conferences.

Are the concerns expressed genuine and grounded?

Or is this just one more tiresome instance of American
readiness to accept moral responsibility being confronted
by European sanctimonious grandstanding?

One German spokesman put it this way: in light of its
terrible past, today's Europe pursues "human rights at any
cost". Think about that for a moment. Then consider this:
"Human rights are secured by the rule of law which is
secured by enforcement." Until human beings turn into
angels, there will be an ongoing need for violence.

This is simple reality. Let's do try to be honest.

Does this mean that, under certain extreme circumstances,
torture is allowed? Absolutely not. Torture remains, under
any circumstances, abhorrent and impermissible.

Does it mean that suspected terrorists can be snatched up
and returned to their home countries for interrogation? You
bet it does.

No American interrogator, however skilled, can be as
efficacious as those interrogators who bring to the job
intuitive understanding of the suspect's culture, specific
knowledge of his associations and family, and the comfort
of not just his native language but his dialect.

Does this demand that the US government monitor renditions
to ensure that what takes place is interrogation and not
torture? Right again. And this is precisely what the US
government does.

Condoleezza Rice could not have been more explicit:
"Torture or conspiracy to torture is wrong. It is a
violation of US law and of America's international
obligations, and the US does not torture or condone
torture. This legal prohibition applies to US personnel
whether at home or abroad."

All the baseless accusations in the world cannot change
these facts and, still, the morally obtuse outrage

In the meanwhile, we hear witnesses at the trial of Saddam
Hussein in Baghdad speaking of being stripped and gang-
raped, of beatings that went on for hours, of shredders
used on humans, of broken bones and backs, of being forced
to watch the torture and execution of fathers and mothers
and brothers and sisters and children.

So - while such heroic Soviet-era ex-cons as Václav Havel
and Adam Michnik support the war (as does José Ramos-Horta)
- just what precisely are you western Europeans so all het
up about? Bogus accusations out of an infantile leftist
fantasyland. Isn't that just marvellous?

As someone once said, "Plus ça change..."

George Dempsey is a retired American career diplomat and
the author of From the Embassy, a study of anti-Americanism
in Ireland, published in 2004

© The Irish Times


Decision To Refuse 89-Room Hotel In Connemara Upheld

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent

Bord Pleanála has upheld a decision to refuse planning
permission for an 89-room aparthotel in the Connemara
Gaeltacht village of Spiddal due to the adverse impact on
the Irish language.

The board also believes the scheme would result in an
"over-intensive and inappropriate" form of development in a
small village, and would introduce an "incongruous and
discordant element" to the location.

The planned aparthotel was applied for by Jimmy Clancy of
Furbo, Co Galway, on a site behind an existing 16-bedroom
hotel, Ceol na Mara, in Spiddal.

The original proposal was refused permission by Galway
County Council on five grounds, including adverse impact on
linguistic and cultural heritage and inappropriate density.

Galway's county development plan includes grounds for
refusing any development which will have a significant
negative impact on the Irish language in the Gaeltacht.
Recent residential schemes planned for the Connemara
Gaeltacht have included conditions that a percentage of
homes must be sold to competent Irish speakers.

A Spiddal residents' association complained that the same
developer failed to complete their estate "in a
satisfactory manner". An Tulan Cleasach Residents'
Association argued that permission should be refused on the
grounds of a "real and substantial risk" that the new
scheme would not be completed.

However, the appeals board said it had no role in that
matter and that objection could not be considered.

A local organisation, Airdeall, said the developer's
language impact statement was neither complete nor

It said if permission was granted it would have to be
subject to a condition of ownership of the apartments for
at least 20 years to ensure that the developer could not
sell any apartment after construction as "a way of getting
around the language condition".

The group said it was also concerned about further pressure
on the public sewerage system.

Airdeall accepted that hotel occupants did not normally
have a great effect on language usage, but a large number
of English speakers could be attracted to Spiddal for
longer terms.

If the aparthotel was not successful, the owner could be
disposed to sell one or more of the units. The transfer of
81 apartments to non-Irish speakers would constitute a
"coup de grace" to Irish use in Spiddal.

In his ruling, appeals board deputy planning officer
Michael Walsh notes the "merit" of a proposal by the
developer to provide a site and facilities for private
sewage treatment.

He said in due course this could be the location for an new
treatment plant for the village.

© The Irish Times


U2 Awarded Human Rights Accolade

Irish rock band U2 has been awarded a prestigious accolade
by campaign group Amnesty International.

The band have won the 2005 Ambassador of Conscience Award
for their "21 years of commitment" to equality.

The body's secretary general Irene Khan said the band had
shown "leadership in linking music to the struggle for
human rights and human dignity worldwide has been ground-
breaking and unwavering".

U2's Bono is a respected campaigner on global debt issues
and human rights.

Ms Khan said: "From Live Aid in 1985 and Amnesty
International's 1986 Conspiracy of Hope tour, through to
Live 8, U2 has arguably done more than any other band to
highlight the cause of global human rights in general and
Amnesty International's work in particular."

She added: "They have inspired and empowered millions with
their music and by speaking out on behalf of the poor, the
powerless and the oppressed."

Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey said U2 would be
worthy candidates of the award for their music alone.

"With songs like Pride (In The Name of Love), MLK, Miss
Sarajevo, Mothers of the Disappeared, Walk On (written for
Burmese political activist Aung San Syu Kyi)... U2 has
helped spread the human rights message of Amnesty
International to a global audience," he said.

U2 are currently in the middle of a world tour, with dates
in December in the US and in Australia at the start of

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/10 10:35:55 GMT


Widdecombe Winds Down In A Spa

Rain apart, an Irish experience converted spa virgin Ann

When my friends first suggested a weekend at a spa, I
laughed. I have never been one for health farms, thinking
that it is a mark of a disordered mind to pay hundreds of
pounds to eat lettuce leaves when you could do the same at
home for a few pence. I once went to a famous health farm
when participating in a television programme. The guests
wore white bathrobes and crept about the place in a manner
reminiscent of shell-shock victims in Swiss sanatoria after
the First World War.

Spas are not at all like that, I was assured. They tend to
be run by grand hotels with extensive menus and, unless you
are a multi- millionaire, you cannot recreate what they do
at home. Humph, I said, but I went. I decided to weekend at
a spa because the one suggested was in the depths of the
Irish countryside and I reasoned that if I did not fancy
being pummelled by water I could go for a long, relaxing
walk instead.

I arrived at the Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry, on a
Friday evening, after a long car journey from Cork airport
through glorious, sunny countryside that changed from
fields to woods to hills and back again. Soothed by the
views, I was already in good spirits but the hotel's
location sent them soaring even higher.

Situated right on the edge of town, it appeared to be in
the middle of a moor, with rolling vistas from every window
and huge grounds.

That evening I was shown round the spa and told what the
programme would be for the next day, starting with the
thermal rooms and progressing to a manicure, pedicure,
facial, healthy lunch and a lie-down in the relaxation
room. I departed to the dining room, where I was offered a
range of healthy and more indulgent food, attentive and
prompt service and an impressive wine list. I dutifully
chose fish, freshly caught, spa water and a glass of house

The next day I put on my swimming costume and entered the
thermal rooms at 8.45am. Here the men and women are
separated and, as only one or two people are using the
facilities at any time, there is an impression of space,
privacy and lack of pressure. I spent five minutes in the
warming-up room, acclimatising to higher temperatures so
subtle that I thought nothing was happening until I went
outside and the mild autumn air hit me like a winter blast.
I hastened into the steam room and after 15 minutes I
started to feel that I'd had enough; but I endured a
further five minutes and then escaped to a can of ice,
which I was supposed to rub over myself. It turned out to
be genuinely refreshing and I was ready for the shower

There were three and the first, Irish mist, was so cold it
made me jump what felt like six feet. The tropical rain was
harder and warmer and the third, monsoon, was hot and
furious. I emerged feeling as if I had already had a day's

But it was the next experience that converted me to spas. I
swam into a giant whirlpool bath where jets of water
massaged and pummelled legs, back, stomach and neck. The
back massage was so forceful that I had to grip the rails
to avoid being washed away by the current, but it felt as
if my muscles were being gripped and released, gripped and
released. Anyone with a tendency to lumbago should visit
this spa now. I went around the pool three times and
emerged not immediately energised but so exhausted that all
I wanted to do was to sleep.

As somebody who would never allow herself to be
conventionally massaged all over (modesty forbid!) this was
a brilliant substitute and one that I shall seek out again
when I have the time. I practically nodded off during the
manicure, but was alert enough to realise that this was not
a standard one, the emphasis being on oils instead of
creams and scrubs; the same was true of the pedicure. I
chose different colours for hands and feet and was given a
miniature pot of each in case I needed to touch up later.

The facial was also based on oils, which were even massaged
into my hair. That I did not like,and hastened to shampoo
it out, but my hair looked good afterwards, shiny rather
than floppy as I had expected after so much oil.

I still wanted to sleep, but it turned out that what I had
thought was torpor was but a prelude to an enormous burst
of energy the following day, when I got up determined to
take advantage of whatever was on offer in terms of
physical activity. The hotel offers biking, golf, walking
and tennis and there is riding nearby.

It was raining steadily and I wished that I had gone
walking on the first day, which had been sunny, and visited
the spa on the second day, but I could not have been more
wrong. I jogged half a mile without feeling tired, walked
another three miles in woods and beside water, and found
the rain exhilarating.

It beat all the organised activity that was on offer:
morning serenity walk (I love the wilds of Dartmoor and the
Scottish Highlands, not gentle plods through flower-scented
gardens); meditation and yoga (what the Dickens would I
want to twist myself into those shapes for? I prefer a good
book if I want to be still); and crystal visualisation
(load of superstitious rot).

I came home feeling invigorated from my spa weekend. My
friends tell me that they'll convert me to health farms
next. No chance.

Quality of treatment Excellent
Therapists Good
Ambience Charming and restful

Wallet watch The spa doesn't sell treatments, just time. So
three hours, including an hour of thermal bathing, an
hour's treatment and an hour of relaxation, costs £90

Do it again? Yes

Need to know Park Hotel Kenmare, Co Kerry, Ireland; 00 353

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