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December 10, 2005

Stormontgate Fury Continues

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News about Ireland & the Irish

DI 12/09/05 Not Guilty – Stormont Case Collapses
DI 12/09/05 Opin: Stormont 'Spyring' Saga Happily Over
BT 12/10/05 Opin: Stormontgate Case Raises Crucial Issues
DI 12/09/05 What Was Operation Torsion?
DI 12/09/05 Arrests Result Of A 'Political Operation'
UT 12/09/05 Spy Case 'A Lot Of Grief For No Prosecutions'
BB 12/09/05 After 'Stormontgate' Where's The Trust?
UT 12/09/05 Finucane Family To Meet Empey
BT 12/09/05 Clinton In Call For Loyalists To Disarm
BT 12/10/05 DUP Split Over Donegal Visit
SF 12/09/05 SF Honours Contribution Of Republican Women
UT 12/09/05 Equality Commission Criticised
NL 12/10/05 Opin: Prods Must Keep Up Pressure Over Jobs
NL 12/10/05 Victims Of IRA Plan Protest Rally In Dublin
DI 12/10/05 Murder Suspect Is Special Branch Informant
RT 12/10/05 Lobby Group To Help Illegal Irish In US
UT 12/09/05 2006 'Make Or Break' For Northern Ireland
II 12/10/05 Treatment Of Connolly Scandalous - Solicitor
BT 12/10/05 Saturday Interview: Sinn Fein And Hain
BB 12/09/05 Real IRA Chief's Appeal Dismissed
BT 12/09/05 Ex-Civil Rights Head Takes On Top Law Job
II 12/10/05 Opin: The Cruiser: They Might Have No Guns Now
BT 12/10/05 Please, Just Shake On It!
NL 12/09/05 Opin: Ulster 1st As President Meets Queen
DJ 12/09/05 'Bloody Sunday Inquiry - Families Speak Out'
BT 12/10/05 Bks: Inside Story On Ulster As Seen In DC
FT 12/09/05 Lunch With Adams: Charm Offensive
BT 12/10/05 Ulster's Oldest Woman Is Dead
TO 12/10/05 Travel: Dublin Goes Down So Well


Not Guilty – Stormont Case Collapses

Three Belfast men were yesterday found not guilty by
Justice Hart at Belfast Crown Court over allegations
connected with the PSNI raid on Sinn Féin's Stormont
offices in October 2002.

Denis Donaldson, Ciarán Kearney and Billy Mackessy walked
free after the not guilty verdict, which was delivered at a
scheduled hearing yesterday morning.

Each of the defendants had vigorously asserted their
innocence since first being charged after raids in Belfast
on October 4, 2002.

The incident made international headlines after Sinn Féin's
offices in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, were raided by
the PSNI. Within a week of that raid, the PSNI returned the
only two items seized, namely computer disks.

In February 2004, half the charges against the defendants
were withdrawn at a preliminary inquiry in Belfast
Magistrates' Court.

A previous co-defendant had all charges against her
withdrawn in December 2003. Two other people were also
arrested in the aftermath of the original arrests, one of
whom was released without charge. The remaining person
faced two counts which were withdrawn in 2004.

Crown Counsel Gordon Kerr told Justice Hart yesterday:

"The Director has concluded that having regard to the
materials placed before him and his duties as a public
authority under the Human Rights Act 1998, the prosecution
for the offences in relation to the accused are no longer
in the public interest."

Justice Hart directed that the defendants should
accordingly be found not guilty and were free to go.

Solicitors for all the defendants heavily criticised the
prosecution case. The PSNI noted the verdict but continued
to publish serious assertions in relation to "the
background to this case".

While republicans attacked the case as an example of
"political policing", the SDLP, Democratic unionist Party
and Ulster Unionist Party all raised serious questions
about the not guilty verdict.

The Northern Ireland Office said that the not guilty
verdict was "solely a matter for the prosecuting
authorities and not for the NIO".

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the verdict vindicated
the consistent claims of innocence by the three defendants.

"This operation was a blatant example of political policing
aimed at collapsing the political institutions," Mr Adams

"Faceless securocrats subverted the democratic wishes of
the electorate North and South who voted for the Good
Friday Agreement.

"The collapse of this case should now focus attention onto
the Special Branch and those responsible for planning,
carrying out and authorising this entire operation.

"Their activities have continued unabated since then to the
detriment of the conflict resolution process, including, of
course, the arrest last week of Sinn Féin Assembly member
Francie Brolly in a Special Branch smear operation," Mr
Adams said.

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness insisted that
"there never was a Sinn Féin spy-ring operating from

"This was a carefully constructed lie created by the
Special Branch in order to cause maximum political impact.

"Its effect politically has been to collapse the
institutions and personally it has damaged the lives of the
four people originally charged and their families.

"This operation is as blatant an example of political
policing as you are likely to find," Mr McGuinness said.

SDLP Justice spokesperson Alban Maginness demanded answers
to the not guilty verdict against the accused.

"We are told that the decision to not bring charges in
relation to this case is not in the 'public interest'," Mr
Maginness said.

"What is required now is a public explanation as to why a
decision not to present evidence in this case was taken.

"The continued existence of non-explained or half-explained
decisions that have a direct and damaging effect on the
political process should not be allowed to continue.

"The evidence should be made public, as should the
explanation for dropping these charges. What is the
reasoning behind today's decision?" Mr Maginness said.

Ulster Unionist Party deputy-leader Danny Kennedy also
called for "a full explanation as to why the case is not in
the public interest".

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley said "the
right-thinking people of Ulster will be totally
flabbergasted at the decision".

Mr Paisley said he had requested an urgent meeting with the
British government to discuss the case.


Opin: Stormont 'Spyring' Saga Happily Over

The release of three men yesterday after charges of
espionage against them were dropped was as welcome as it
was inevitable. Clearly it is a happy time for the men and
for their families, all of whom have undergone harrowing
ordeals over the past three years.

But just as we share their delight at seeing this sword of
Damocles removed from over their heads, we share their
determination to ensure that the political police who
placed them in the dock are brought to an end once and for

Chief Constable Hugh Orde should understand that it is not
just in the interests of those nationalists and republicans
being targeted by his political policemen that this ongoing
charade is brought to an end, it is in the interests of the
PSNI whose credibility in the eyes of all but its most
blinkered supporters is disappearing down the drain.

What can now be appreciated more than ever is the depth of
the determination of republicans to pursue a peaceful
political path. The array of forces lined up against them,
determined to bring down the political institutions and
bring the peace process to an end, was formidable. That the
entire 'Stormont spyring' was a farrago was clear to anyone
with the most basic grasp of the issues, but that was never
the point. The point was – just as it is with the current
Northern Bank arrests charade – to saturate the media with
large but baseless headlines in order to create the
conditions whereby the political aims of those who have
been vehemently opposed to the peace process from the start
could be achieved.

Not that it's only the faceless securocrats who are to
blame in this matter. Shortly after the arrest of these
men, and on the basis of the charges which have now
disappeared, British prime minister Tony Blair invited SDLP
leader Mark Durkan to agree to the exclusion of Sinn Féin
from the political institutions. To his great credit, Mr
Durkan asked Mr Blair to show him some evidence. None was
forthcoming and the SDLP leader refused to join in the
danse macabre.

The response of unionists to the release of the men was
depressingly familiar. They're claiming that the men's
release is part of a deal and a sop to republicanism, but
as Ciaran Kearney so succinctly put it yesterday: "What
part of 'not guilty' do you not understand." As ever, the
outworking of the criminal justice system is to be lauded
and trumpeted when it suits a unionist agenda; the system
is deemed to be corrupted when the innocent walk free.

And then, just to put the cap on it, the Queen of England
pays a visit to the North, displaying the immaculate
political timing for which she has become famed. While most
media outlets didn't dare put the royal visit at the top of
the agenda, some did, while others cleared valuable space
for it.

Welcome to Ulster, ma'am.


Opin: Stormontgate Case Raises Crucial Issues

10 December 2005

Overshadowed though it was by the Queen's visit - and
perhaps deliberately so - the dropping of charges in the
so-called Stormontgate case without an adequate explanation
has worrying implications both for the administration of
justice and for the future of the peace process.

At the heart of the issue is the failure of the Prosecution
Service to give any background to the decision to abandon
the case other than to say that it was "in the public
interest". The studied vagueness of this meaningless phrase
has inevitably fuelled countless conspiracy theories.

Sinn Fein claims that the dropping of the charges against
the three men proves that this was a politically motivated
and trumped up case. But the DUP's take is that the case
has been aborted because it was politically expedient to do

Until further clarification is provided by the Director of
Public Prosecutions or the Attorney General, it is anyone's
guess. Could it be that sensitive information would have
come out had the case gone to court?

The people of Northern Ireland - and in particular the
three defendants, whose names have now been fully cleared -
deserve a fuller explanation as to how the public interest
has been served by the dropping of charges. Otherwise,
confidence in the judicial system in Northern Ireland will
be in jeopardy.

Also at stake is the independence of the PSNI, which
maintains that despite the acquittal of the three men, the
investigation has been concluded, and no further lines of
inquiry are being pursued.

The ramifications of this development are enormous. The
Stormontgate case, which dates from October 2002, brought
down the Stormont executive and now threatens to do further
damage to the prospects for restoring devolved government.

Despite the acquittals, the implication remains that while
Sinn Fein was in government, its sister organisation the
IRA was "actively involved in the systematic gathering of
information and targeting of individuals", to quote the

Three years on, Stormontgate continues to haunt the peace
process. Far from clearing up the matter, the decision to
drop all charges has served only to further muddy the

As this newspaper reported last night, the Criminal Justice
Review - a spin-off of the Good Friday Agreement -
recommended that when a case is dropped, prosecutors should
give as full an explanation as is possible. The Government
accepted the proposal but to judge from this case, the
Prosecution Service has regrettably failed to live up to
the spirit or letter of the recommendation. More
information is urgently required.


What Was Operation Torsion?

The only detailed account about Operation Torsion is
contained in a book by the BBC's Security Editor Brian

Although he first exposed the existence of Operation
Torsion in BBC news reports on November 12, 2002, Mr Rowan
printed a much more detailed version in his book, An Armed
Peace, which was published in September 2003.

According to Brian Rowan, the raids on October 4, 2002,
took place only after Special Branch tapped phones,
installed listening and tracking devices, engaged in
widespread surveillance, relied upon the role of an agent,
covertly broke into unidentified private premises, and even
handled, removed and replaced evidence – supposedly central
to the prosecutions.

Despite all of the defendants now being declared innocent
and with the allegation of a so-called 'Stormont spy-ring'
in tatters, the information revealed by Brian Rowan about
Special Branch's activities leaves many unanswered

Mr Rowan's version of Operation Torsion suggested that a
plan was hatched by the PSNI after the apparent burglary at
Castlereagh Special Branch offices on St Patrick's Day,

According to Mr Rowan, within days of the apparent
Castlereagh burglary, the so-called "security assessment"
shifted emphasis from

investigating the "inside job" theory to focussing on
blaming the IRA's alleged 'Director of Intelligence'.

Mr Rowan referred to this figure as a "West Belfast man
with a big republican reputation". After this person was
arrested amid widespread allegations of media leaks, along
with five others on March 30, 2002 – the PSNI released him
without charge. Republicans called the arrests a
"propaganda exercise" and a "fishing expedition". One man
was subsequently convicted on unrelated charges.

Mr Rowan alleged that Operation Torsion was then conceived
by the PSNI and subsequently managed by Belfast Special
Branch Head, Chief Superintendent Bill Lowry, who allowed
it to "breathe" in the hope that "the IRA Director of
Intelligence would walk into his surveillance net".

"Seven months before the public revelations of alleged IRA
intelligence-gathering inside Castle Buildings, the Special
Branch had been embarrassed by all that had happened inside
Castlereagh. But Operation Torsion had allowed Lowry an
opportunity to return the serve on the IRA and he did so,
he claims, against the wishes of the British security
services," Mr Rowan wrote.

With confirmation yesterday that the remaining defendants
have been found not guilty, significant questions still
remain about Operation Torsion.


Arrests Result Of A 'Political Operation'

Solicitors Madden and Finucane acting for Denis Donaldson
and Billy Mackessy yesterday said both men were "of the
clear view that they were victims of a political

Speaking on behalf of both men, solicitor Ciarán Shiels

"This morning verdicts of 'not guilty' were entered by the
court against my clients. Since October 2002, our clients
have had extremely serious charges hanging over them.

"Both of them vehemently denied the allegations against
them. Their arrests had not only serious consequences for
themselves and their families but also for the wider
community in the sense that their arrests led to the fall
of the power-sharing Executive at Stormont.

"Our clients are of the clear view that they were the
victims of a political operation by elements within the
security forces who deliberately used their position to
hamper political progress in this country."

Asserting that the prosecution "should never have been
brought", Mr Shiels referred to Operation Torsion.

"In particular, we learned on 12th November 2002 that there
was a now notorious Special Branch operation known as
'Operation Torsion' which was designed to incriminate

"Its details did not feature once in any of the thousands
of pages of documents which were eventually served on us by
the DPP.

"According to informed sources, this operation involved
house break-in, widespread bugging and the use of at least
one police agent provocateur."

Mr Shiels said that on April 1, 2004, Madden and Finucane
requested "all material arising out of or in connection
with Operation Torsion".

He also questioned who was responsible for authorising
Operation Torsion.

"We submitted that disclosure of this material would show
who placed the rucksack in Denis Donaldson's home. When
nothing was disclosed and the DPP gave notice that a Public
Interest Immunity Certificate (PII) gagging order was to be
asserted in relation to the case, we made submissions that
without prejudice to the fact we should have access to this
material, the court should give consideration to appointing
a Special Independent Counsel to consider all of the
sensitive material and advise the Court on matters of

This application resulted in the appointment of a Special
Counsel for the first time in the North.

"After completing his task this summer, the court ordered
that the Crown consider its position three weeks ago. Today
the Crown formally offered no evidence at court and, over
three years after our clients' ordeals began, charges have
been withdrawn," Mr Shiels said.


Spy Case 'A Lot Of Grief For No Prosecutions'

Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expressed his bafflement today
at the collapse of the Stormont spying trial.

Mr Ahern made little attempt to hide his anger over the
prosecution of three men, which led to the suspension of
the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland in 2002.

Speaking after talks with Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street,
the Irish premier said the affair had caused massive
problems both for him and the British Prime Minister, but
had now "vanished like snow in June".

A judge at Belfast Crown Court yesterday acquitted Sinn
Fein official Denis Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran
Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy after the Public
Prosecution Service said it would offer no further

The three men were arrested in October 2002 at the time of
a police raid on Sinn Fein`s offices at Stormont.

At a Sinn Fein press conference today, Mr Donaldson claimed
the prosecution was "a political policing operation"
designed to save the position of then Ulster Unionist
leader David Trimble.

Mr Ahern said he was unaware of the Sinn Fein conference.

He told reporters: "This brought down the institutions and
created huge grief for me and for the Prime Minister.

"We had hundreds of troops descending on the Stormont
building for what we were told at the time was irrefutable

"It vanished yesterday with no prosecutions. It was a lot
of grief for no prosecutions.

"I think it is all very interesting and I don`t quite


After 'Stormontgate' Where's The Trust?

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland Political Editor

Remember Jo Moore?

She was the Labour adviser who resigned several months
after suggesting that 9/11 might have been a good day for
the government to bury bad news.

Her name was on Northern Ireland journalists' lips this
week when many correspondents, myself included, found
ourselves hanging around outside Hillsborough Castle
waiting to cover the symbolic first meeting on the island
of Ireland between the Queen and Irish President Mary

As we stamped our feet trying to keep warm at Hillsborough,
the news was breaking back in Belfast that the so-called
"Stormontgate" case had collapsed.

In a surprise hearing, the prosecution decided to drop
charges against three men accused in relation to
allegations of IRA spying within the government back in
October 2002.

The prosecutor told the court that pursuing the case was no
longer in the public interest. After three years, they were
all found not guilty.

So was this "public interest" a general view that the case
could prove damaging to the political process?

Or was it a decision by the prosecution that disclosing
sensitive documents could be damaging to national security

The defence had demanded the disclosure of any material
related to a 2002 police operation codenamed "Torsion"
which targeted the IRA's intelligence gathering effort.

Interviewed by the BBC in June this year about the delay in
the Stormontgate case, the Northern Ireland DPP Sir
Alasdair Fraser said the prosecution needed to take its
time to make the correct decisions in what he described as
"a complex case".

He specifically referred to the need to disclose relevant
material to the defence.

Since dropping the charges, the Public Prosecution Service
won't clarify its thinking on the "public interest", so,
for now, we are all left twisting and turning - which
incidentally is roughly what the word "torsion" means.

Republicans argue that the collapse of the case proves
their point - that it was built on sand from the start.

They denounce it as an example of "political policing" and
call for a new form of "civic policing for a civic

Unionists accuse the Public Prosecution Service of
maintaining an "arrogant silence".

They say they will pursue the matter via parliament by
pressing Attorney General Lord Goldsmith for details.

Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman David Lidington,
believes there is a possible precedent back in January
1988, when former Attorney General Sir Patrick Mayhew made
a statement to the Commons about the decision not to
prosecute police officers as a result of the
Stalker/Sampson investigations into shoot-to-kill

Sir Patrick acknowledged that evidence had been uncovered
of police officers perverting the course of justice.

The strange end to the 'Stormontgate' case has left plenty
of room for the conspiracy theorists on all sides and
little evidence of the trust necessary to move forward

Mark Devenport

But he said that the DPP had decided it would not be proper
to bring proceedings after consulting on the public
interest and national security.

However, Sir Patrick's statement didn't exactly clear the

The then Irish Foreign Minister Gerry Collins claimed the
attorney general had given the IRA a new lease of life and
the Labour backbencher Ken Livingstone was suspended from
parliament for five days after accusing Sir Patrick of
being an accomplice to murder.

With that in mind, will the current Attorney General Lord
Goldsmith provide a statement or, like the Northern Ireland
DPP Sir Alasdair Fraser, will he maintain a stony silence?

The SDLP's Alex Attwood says that if the government and the
Public Prosecution Service believe they can bury their
heads and wait for the issue to go away they are "seriously

After noting the latest developments, the Northern Ireland
Office said its ministers would work tirelessly to rebuild
political confidence.

However, the strange end to the "Stormontgate" case has
left plenty of room for the conspiracy theorists on all
sides and little evidence of the trust necessary to move

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/10 10:54:14 GMT


Finucane Family To Meet Empey

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane are
to meet Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey MP next week
for the first time to discuss their case, they revealed

By:Press Association

The talks with the former Stormont Economy Minister are
part of a series of meetings across the political spectrum
in and outside Northern Ireland.

A spokesman for the family said they would raise the
controversial Inquiries Act during their talks at UUP
headquarters on Monday.

The Act will be used to set the terms for a inquiry ordered
by the Government into the 1989 murder of the Belfast
solicitor in front of his family.

Mr Finucane was shot dead by a loyalist Ulster Freedom
Fighter gang.

However a team headed by former Metropolitan Police chief
Sir John Stevens believed he was a victim of collusion
between members of the security forces and loyalists.

Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended separate
inquiries into Mr Finucane`s murder, and three other
controversial killings which resulted in the death of
solicitor Rosemary Nelson, leading loyalist Billy Wright
and Catholic father of two Robert Hamill.

The Finucane family, human rights campaigners and
nationalist politicians, as well as Judge Cory, have
expressed alarm at moves by the British Government to
ensure the tribunal into Mr Finucane`s murder is held under
the Inquiries Act which was passed this year.

Campaigners claim that the Act will suppress the truth
about what happened, giving Cabinet Ministers power over
the tribunal judges and enabling them to decide what can be
heard in public and what evidence will be made available.

The Finucanes have met the leader of the loyalist
Progressive Unionist Party, David Ervine, to discuss the

There have also been talks with the US Consul General Dean
Pittman, nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan, Sinn Fein
president Gerry Adams and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot


Clinton In Call For Loyalists To Disarm

By Sean O'Driscoll in New York
09 December 2005

Former US president Bill Clinton has said that loyalists
must decommission all their weapons following the IRA's
decision to destroy its arsenal.

Speaking at an Irish American Democrats event in New York
to fundraise for Senator Hillary Clinton's re-election
campaign, Mr Clinton waved his arm emphatically while
telling the audience that the IRA decommissioning must be
matched by the loyalist groups.

Mr Clinton also said that policing in Northern Ireland must
be a cross-community issue if there is to be further

Earlier at the $$500 per person event at a Service
Employees International Union penthouse, construction union
bagpipers played "Sean South of Garryowen" while a drummer
beat out the rhythm on a Lambeg Drum with the words
"Tiocfaidh Ar La" printed on the side.

A union official said that the pipe band was formed at a
"very different time" and that members supported peace in
Northern Ireland.


DUP Split Over Donegal Visit

10 December 2005

THE DUP in Ballymena has split ranks and allowed an SDLP
councillor to attend a conference in Co Donegal.

Councillor Roy Gillespie, the DUP group leader on the
council, which the party controls, , tried to block Declan
O'Loan from attending an event by the Colmcille Heritage

Seven DUP councillors voted against Councillor O'Loan
attending but a number of DUP councillors failed to back
Councillor Gillespie's bid for the council not to attend
the event.

When Councillor Gillespie asked for no action to be taken
on a conference entitled 'Are special interest pressure
groups undermining democratic government in Ireland?',
Councillor O'Loan said: "There are certain people here who
undoubtedly have a political agenda on the location of a

But the DUP did succeed in stopping Ballymena Council being
represented at another conference in Donegal, this time by
the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland.

SDLP councillors were joined by Ulster Unionists in
proposing representation at that event but 14 DUP
councillors voted against.

Again in this case, Councillor O'Loan wondered if a
political point was being made but Councillor Davy Tweed
(DUP) asked him where the evidence was that it was a
political decision.

Councillor O'Loan replied that it was just a "suspicion"
and Councillor Tweed said that if it is unfounded he hoped
that he would withdraw the remark.

Councillor William Wilkinson (DUP) denied it was a
political decision and said it was because the agenda at
the conference was of limited relevance to Northern
Ireland, although he said the DUP stood for co-operation
between both sides of the border "through the due


Sinn Féin Centenary Event To Honour The Contribution Of Republican Women

Published: 9 December, 2005

Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane has today said that the
contribution made by Republican women over this last
century was one of "bravery, endurance and an inspiration
to those in struggle around the world."

Ms Ruane made her comments as she gave details of an event
to honour the contribution of women from across Ireland to
the freedom struggle since 1798, in this Sinn Féin's
centenary year. The launch of "Mná na hÉireann - Unfinished
Revolution Volume 1" will take place this coming Monday
12th December at An Chúlturlann, Falls Road Belfast at 12
noon by both Party President Gerry Adams and Céad Bliain
Chairperson Caitríona Ruane MLA.

Speaking today Ms Ruane said:

"The launch of a commemorative set of cards celebrating and
outlining the role played by Irish Republican women
involved in all aspects of the struggle. This is our own
small way of celebrating the contribution of women from
across Ireland and throughout all generations. In many
respects, the role played by women has largely been written
out of history, and the launch of these cards is an attempt
to redress this.

"Women have played various roles over these past number of
years - soldiers, mothers, political and trade union
activists. Women like Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz,
Mother Jones, Maire Drumm and Mairead Farrell have all made
important contributions to the freedom struggle.

"While this is volume 1, we anticipate future volumes
highlighting the role of republican women of our history. I
want to take this opportunity to invite the general public
to Monday's launch in Belfast to celebrate the bravery,
endurance and the self-reliance of women who became an
inspiration to people in struggle across the world." ENDS


Equality Commission Criticised

The Equality Commission today came under fire from
unionists and republicans over its findings on the
religious make-up of Northern Ireland's public and private
sector workforces.

By:Press Association

Chief commissioner Bob Collins was accused by Sinn Fein of
underplaying Catholic disadvantage in his organisation`s
latest report.

But he was also accused by the Rev Ian Paisley`s Democratic
Unionists of being too slow to address the under-
representation of Protestants.

According to the Equality Commission`s 15th annual report
on the religious composition of the monitored workforce in
2004, the proportions of Protestants and Roman Catholics
were 57.7% and 42.3% respectively.

This matched the proportions of Protestants and Catholics
available for work which was 57.3% and 42.7% respectively.

Protestant employment in the public sector increased by
2.3% during the year (2,283 employees), while the number of
Catholics rose by 5.9% (4,284).

The number of Protestants employed in the private sector
fell by 0.6% during the year - a net loss of 1,019

Catholics increased their share of jobs by 1.3% overall, a
net gain of 1,595 employees.

Mr Collins said it was important to understand the context
in which the changes in the workforce had occurred.

He explained: "During 2004, a growth of Protestant
employment in the public sector was offset by a decline in
private sector jobs, most notably in manufacturing
industry, where Protestants were traditionally strongly

"In that sector, between the 2003 and 2004 monitoring
reports, a net loss of 4,092 full-time employees occurred,
of which 78.3% were Protestants."

Sinn Fein Assembly member Catriona Ruane said while there
was disadvantage in both the Protestant and Catholic
communities, these problems had to be dealt with on the
basis of need.

"The fact remains that across every single indicator of
disadvantage and multiple disadvantage that Catholics fair
far worse," the South Down MLA responded.

"Whether in terms of Catholic men still being twice as
likely to be unemployed as their Protestant counterparts
despite decades of fair employment and equality
legislation, or indicators of housing need or health
inequalities the evidence shows that there has not been
enough progress to justify misleading statements about the
significant differential between Catholics and Protestant.

"A greater percentage of Catholic children are in workless
households (21% compared to 11.8%), they are also more
likely to achieve no qualifications (5.9% compared to 4.7%)
or achieve no GCSEs (6.6% compared to 5.1%).

"Sinn Fein`s greatest concern is that this is part of a
wider agenda driven by the civil service and unionist
politicians to rewrite history and, just as seriously, to
default on existing equality commitments."

The DUP`s Gregory Campbell said the commission was much too
slow in coming forward with pro-active measures to combat
the under-representation of Protestants, particularly in
the public sector.

The East Londonderry MP said: "Over a period of many years
this area of concern has been raised with them, the figures
for recruitment across the public sector demonstrate the
nature of the problem, what has not happened however is the
Commission showing Northern Ireland people what they intend
to do to about it.

"It is totally unacceptable that this report mentions the
issue they spent so many years denying the existence
thereof, and when they do refer to the problem, they
attempt to rationalise it rather than dealing with it.

"They must bring forward solutions for those public sector
bodies where they have categorical proof of the scale of
the problem affecting Protestant under-representation.


Opin: Protestants Must Keep Up Pressure Over Jobs

Saturday 10th December 2005

THE Equality Commission has revealed that the religious
imbalance in the workforce has all but disappeared.

According to its 15th annual report on the religious
composition of the monitored workforce, the proportions of
Protestants and Roman Catholics were 57.7 per cent and 42.3
per cent. This matched the proportions of Protestants and
Catholics available for work.

The new Chief Commissioner, Bob Collins, highlighted areas
of concern for the Protestant community.

He warned about the impact of educational under-achievement
in socially- disadvantaged areas, particularly for boys and
especially in the Protestant community.

"Linked to this is the issue of undergraduate migration out
of Northern Ireland and, in this regard also, those leaving
are disproportionally Protestant," he said.

"These issues merit the serious attention of all those
involved in and with an interest in public policy and the
commission will actively engage in that process."

The DUP's Gregory Campbell has criticised the commission
for being too slow in coming forward with pro-active
measures to combat the underrepresentation of Protestants,
particularly in the public sector.

The East Londonderry MP said he had raised this area of
concern with them over many years.

"It is totally unacceptable that this report mentions the
issue they spent so many years denying the existence of
and, when they do refer to the problem, they attempt to
rationalise it rather than dealing with it. They must bring
forward solutions for those public sector bodies where they
have categorical proof of the scale of the problem
affecting Protestant under-representation."

Mr Campbell is absolutely right to raise the issue and our
political representatives must keep up the pressure on the
relevant authorities.

Fortunately, our unemployment queues are now much smaller
than a decade ago but this is not the time for complacency.
Worrying trends have been identified and everything must be
done to correct them before they become very serious

Ulster on march

IRA victims, Orangemen and flute bands plan to march
through Dublin in protest at the direction of the peace

Around 1,000 supporters of the Love Ulster Campaign are
preparing to visit Dublin in January.

They say that they want a peaceful protest and are working
with the Garda to ensure that it goes according to plan.

Other marches are planned for London and Brussels.

As long as they continue to work and co-operate with the
relevant police and other authorities this will be an
important way of spreading unionism's message.


Victims Of IRA Plan Protest Rally In Dublin

Saturday 10th December 2005

A PROTEST rally consisting of IRA victims, Orangemen and
flute bands is planning to converge on Dublin city centre
next month.

The News Letter has learned that around 1,000 supporters of
the Love Ulster campaign are preparing to march through the
Irish capital next month to voice their anger at the peace

They have already informed the Garda of their plans.

The protestors hope to walk along the main Dublin
thoroughfare of O'Connell Street on a Saturday in January
and hold a rally outside government buildings or the Irish

Rallies on a smaller scale are also planned for London and
Brussels - targeting the parliaments there.

They all follow the successful Love Ulster rally on the
Shankill in October.

The aim is to spread the message of unionist and loyalist
discontent beyond Ulster - explaining the Protestant
community's anger and frustration with the peace process.

The elevation of terrorist demands over victims' concerns,
the On-the-Runs legislation and other issues will be

A Love Ulster spokesman said: "In Dublin, the focus will be
very much on Bertie Ahern and his policy of appeasement of
the IRA and Sinn Fein.

"We will highlight his double standards, in supporting the
amnesty for OTRs and hundreds of other terrorists in the
Province, while bowing to public pressure - albeit rightly
- to refuse such a pardon to Garda Jerry McCabe's killers.

"We will also point out that he won't accept Sinn Fein in
an Irish government but believes it is okay for Northern

"We want people in the Irish Republic to think about the
injustices their government seek to impose on us."

He added: "There are other factors too, in the recent
political process. The release of Shankill bomber Sean
Kelly, the dropping of the Stormontgate case and other
concessions to republicans, on the back of more IRA words.

"And all the time it is unionists, Protestants, IRA victims
who are asked to swallow hard for the greater good; to
forget the past and even support the overturning of the
rule of law and order.

"We must get our message and our feelings out to people
beyond Ulster. "Too often unionism has not projected its

"We believe our message is strong, true and just."

Love Ulster member and victims' campaigner William Frazer
confirmed: "The Garda has been informed of the wish for a
Dublin march. We wish to co-operate fully with them so as
not to cause disruption.

"There will be around half-a-dozen bands, though many more
were interested in taking part.

"In the region of 200 to 300 victims will go and Orangemen
too. We would expect to take around 1,000."

A Garda spokeswoman said: " Initial contact in terms of
arrangements for a march early in the New Year has been
made. Requirements in terms of traffic disruption are being


Chief Murder Suspect Is Special Branch Informant

A loyalist taxi driver has emerged as one of the chief
suspects in the sectarian murder of a north Belfast woman
in 1993.

The south Antrim Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) member, who
has been shot himself, drove the getaway car used in the
killing of Sharon McKenna.

The 30-year-old was murdered as she made dinner for an
elderly Protestant friend at his home on the loyalist Shore

The UVF man who shot her is a Special Branch informant, who
has been involved in more than a dozen murders.

Until recently the identity of the driver of the getaway
car was not widely known.

Sources with detailed knowledge of the McKenna killing
confirmed to Daily Ireland that the paramilitary is
currently working for a cab firm in south Antrim.

He too is a long-standing Special Branch informant but,
unlike the gunman, was never arrested about the McKenna
murder for fear he would break under questioning.

The man's Special Branch handlers repeatedly blocked the
RUC's Criminal Investigations Department's (CID) attempts
to lift him in the weeks after the murder.

A source with intimate knowledge of the case said: "If CID
had got to him, the McKenna murder would have been solved
in no time.

"The Special Branch protected him from arrest because they
knew he would crack under questioning.

"It disgusts me that the men who murdered Sharon McKenna
have been allowed to get away with it."

Daily Ireland understands that the PSNI's historical case
review team is particularly keen on revisiting the McKenna

The Special Branch man who ran the UVF informants who
killed her took early retirement two years ago.

The men no longer have his protection, and they have both
recently fallen foul of their former UVF colleagues. Since
their relative's death, the McKenna family has campaigned
vigorously to have her killers brought to trial.

Family solicitor Kevin Winters said they are considering a
number of issues and are liaising with the Police
Ombudsman's office.

"We are consulting with the PSNI's historical enquiries
team, but these lines of enquiry do not preclude us from
taking whatever other proceedings on behalf of the family
that we feel necessary to pursue what amount to an
appalling failure to properly investigate this crime," said
Mr Winters.

The McKenna case will be included in a Police Ombudsman's
report on allegations of collusion between the Special
Branch and a UVF gang based in the Mount Vernon estate in
north Belfast. The highly sensitive report is to be
published in the new year.

It is expected to recommend prosecutions against the
Special Branch detectives who ran the UVF men who murdered
Sharon McKenna and eight others in north Belfast and south
Antrim between 1993 and 2000.


Lobby Group To Help Illegal Irish In US

10 December 2005 08:17

A new independent lobbying organisation has been set up in
the United States to secure working visas for an estimated
25,000 illegal Irish immigrants.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is currently meeting
in New York.

Earlier this month, US President George W Bush laid out his
blueprint for immigration reform.

Proposals have also been published by Republican Senators
John Kyl and John Cornyn.

The Dáil has officially backed plans by Democratic Senator
Ted Kennedy and Republican John McCain.

It is likely that elements of all three will go into
legislation aimed at tackling the biggest immigration
problem the US has ever faced.

There are estimated to be 11 million undocumented workers
in the US, amongst them an estimated 25,000 Irish.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform pulls together
prominent Irish American businessmen along with former
Congressman Bruce Morrison, author of the Morrison Visas,
and publisher Niall O'Dowd.

Its aim is to ensure that Irish immigrants do not get left
behind in any deal which may emerge.

It is expected that immigration reform will become one of
the biggest domestic issues on President Bush's agenda next


2006 'Make Or Break' For Northern Ireland

Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today said that 2006 would be
a "make-or-break year" for the devolved institutions in
Northern Ireland.

Speaking after talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair
at 10 Downing Street, Mr Ahern said both premiers were keen
to see progress on the restoration of devolution early in
the new year.

He acknowledged that there were "a number of difficult
issues" to be resolved, but said he wanted to see power-
sharing revived at Stormont over the coming months.

The Northern Ireland Assembly and other Good Friday
institutions were suspended in 2002 following claims that a
republican spy ring was operating at Stormont.

But hopes for their restoration were fuelled by the
completion of Provisional IRA disarmament in September.

And another obstacle to the return of devolution was
removed yesterday when the trial of three men charged in
connection with the spying allegations collapsed.

Ceasefire watchdog the Independent Monitoring Commission is
due to report in January, and both London and Dublin hope
that this will be the trigger for the return of devolution.

Following his hour-long talks in Downing Street today, Mr
Ahern told reporters: "We have been reviewing how we work
our way through the early period of 2006.

"The IMC report is due in late January. What we want to do
is get as much momentum after the Christmas break as we

"Two thousand and six will be a make-or-break year in terms
of getting the institutions up.

"There are a number of difficult issues, as there always
are. I think they are being dealt with. I think we now have
to come to conclusions and make progress on this and turn
momentum into action early in 2006."

Mr Ahern played down the significance of the controversy
over an amnesty for paramilitaries on the run, saying it
was "just an issue to deal with".

He added: "The main thing that we want to do is to try to
deal with restoring the institutions."


Treatment Of Connolly Was Scandalous, Claims Solicitor

Anne-Marie Walsh

A SOLICITOR has described Justice Minister Michael
McDowell's treatment of Frank Connolly as "scandalous".

James McGuill said Mr McDowell should not have used the
instruments of the State for his attack on the executive
director of the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI).


He also said that parliamentary privilege should only be
used in certain circumstances and not in attacks against
private individuals, while garda records should only be
used to make a prosecution.

Mr McGuill is a Dundalk-based solicitor who has represented
a number of prominent Republicans including Michael

He also acted as chairman of a group of solicitors
representing some 2,000 people who had lodged complaints of
abuse against state and religious institutions.

His comments come after Independent Senator David Norris
spoke of his worries about the Mr McDowell making material
from garda sources available to someone's employers.

Sen Norris also expressed concerns about the way the
minister named someone in the Dail, and said it was
convention not to do it unless the individual was given the
opportunity to defend themselves in parliament.

Mr McDowell has claimed that Mr Connolly used a false
passport and was linked to an IRA plot to sell information
to Farc guerillas. After the Taoiseach expressed his
concern about the CPI at a meeting with Chuck Feeney in the
summer, the minister showed Mr Feeney documentary evidence
supporting allegations about Frank Connolly.

He was shown a fraudulent application for a passport
containing a photograph of Frank Connolly and other
documentary evidence including the forged signature of a
Belfast priest.

The minister commented in the Dail that Frank Connolly had
a lot of questions to answer about his travels to Colombia
under an assumed identity with a subversive.

The CPI has since lost its sponsorship from US billionaire
Chuck Feeney's charitable trust.

Mr McGuill said: "I think it's scandalous.


"Here you have a cast-iron example where material is being
presented as authoritative by an officer of the State using
the instruments of the State, when an individual has not
even been charged.

"It obviously has been very damaging. You can't make a
benefactor pay against their will.

"There obviously have been examples of people using the
instruments of the State in the past," he said.

"But when someone informally tells employers 'you don't
want to have anything to do with him', it is very difficult
to prove."


Sen Norris said that he was worried about Mr McDowell's
actions "despite the fact that I have deep suspicions about
the Columbia Three and all the ramifications".

"I am also concerned about proper procedures being
followed, and people being innocent until they are proved

Mr Connolly has accused the Minister for Justice of joining
in a witch hunt against him.

He said the allegations were made to detract from the
centre's inquiries on Trim Castle and the Corrib Gas

Theologian Enda McDonagh, broadcaster and writer Damien
Kiberd, solicitor Greg O'Neill, and UNICEF's Thora Mackey
serve on the board of the centre with chairman, retired
judge Feargus Flood.


Saturday Interview: Sinn Fein And Hain

By Brian Walker, London Editor
10 December 2005

"I'm dealing with the Government's most difficult bill",
Peter Hain told me, just after we'd spent 40 minutes
coursing through the OTRs Bill and other current objects of
political wrath. What? even more difficult than Charles
Clarke's Terrorism Bill withits controversial detention and
expulsion powers and Ruth Kelly's schools reforms that are
threatening to split the Labour party? "Yes", said Hain
firmly, and you can see what he means. Since the IRA's July
28 statement ending the "war", Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern and
their lieutenants have been facing a growing backlash of
all the other parties against too many concessions to Sinn

Other recent examples would be the limp putting-out to
consultation on whether to allow members of paramilitary
organisations to take part in restorative justice schemes
without even taking a preferred line and the sudden
dropping of the "Stormontgate" charges.

There's no telling yet where the backlash may lead. Either
it's the storm before the relative calm that might produce
meaningful political talks or a new struggle for political
power, now that the IRA have put away the guns. It was
certainly well intentioned of Hain personally to insist to
Downing Street in the late summer that members of the
security forces should be included in the de facto amnesty.

What a pity then, that he didn't come up with a
comprehensive statute of limitations for every class of
offender, rather than tagging the security forces on to the
end of the on-the-runs Bill in a sort of afterthought -
earning for himself a double whammy from all sides for his

But Hain is unrepentant about the principle of letting
offenders who confess go free. And he is surely right to
suspect there is an element of shadow boxing in the
parties' current sound and fury. While he obviously wants
to meet a united opposition half way, part of him itches to
hit back.

"I think I'm in a centrist position on Sinn Fein. I get a
constant barrage from them every week about what I'm doing.
But whether it's on the OTRs or other things, everyone
knows these things were agreed years ago and were key
building blocks that produced the July 28 IRA statement.
Now people have to either face up honestly to that fact and
accept it, or unravel the history of the past few years and
say let's scrub July 28 and go back to where we were. There
have been no more concessions to Sinn Fein than those
pocketed and agreed years ago. It's playing this game of
concession to one side becoming a defeat for the other that
puts Northern Ireland in a time warp."

Going back on the deal on lifting the threat of jail from
IRA OTRs and others "would strip any credibility out of the
governments as serious negotiators", says Hain. And
although he doesn't say this, it could surely blight hopes
of the IRA's final disappearance as an active organisation.
On the principle of the Bill, lifting the threat of prison
and extending the benefits to the security forces he's
adamant, but he's flexible on other details.

On a time limit of around five years for the whole scheme
until the historic cases review is complete "there may not
be a lot of difference."

But forcing after all IRA applicants to appear before a
tribunal and confess in front of victims' relatives would
be more of a problem.

"The principle of the OTRs Bill includes the non-appearance
in court. For me to march into the House of Commons and say
sorry boys, we agreed on something three or so years ago
but are now turning our backs on it would strip any
credibility out of the government as serious negotiators.
It would breach an international agreement with the
Republic as well as with Sinn Fein."

But - and this is a big "but" - the decision doesn't rest
finally with the Government. Labour has only 30% of the
maximum vote in the Lords where the Tories and Lib Dems are
pledged to block the Bill. To release it to fit any
timetable for talks will require changes, although
opponents of the Bill have yet to agree on which changes
they would settle for if they don't succeed in wrecking the
Bill altogether. Hain hints at inevitable compromise.

"I believe we will get the Bill but Parliament in the end
will have the final say. Ultimately any party that does not
take its seats and persuade fellow members of its point of
view on the details - though not on the principle which I'm
confident will be carried - they have only themselves to

A clear warning there to Sinn Fein to prepare for the
possibility of a significant reverse. What Hain really
wants to see is a willingness to settle up old accounts and
get on with a timetable for serious talks next year.

"There's a number of things about the timetable I haven't
said before. I can't conceive of the people of Northern
Ireland agreeing in May 2007 to go along with taking part
in a pure charade of an election for a second time to a
suspended Assembly. It would make a total farce of

"There's public discontent over MLAs doing only the
constituency part of their job. I'm already having to
consider what to do about salaries. The longer this goes
on, the more intolerable it becomes. "On the other hand
there's a whole process of discussion going on, some of it
very private.

"We next have the IMC report that may slip into February
and we'll see what it says. The Ulster Unionists and the
SDLP have asked if the next stage will be inclusive and
I've said yes. This will not be a re-run of the
comprehensive agreement negotiations or a process that
rests on a complicated series of side deals. All the major
parties are players and are in that sense equals. Given
there was no final agreement last December, everything can
be reopened. So I do not see the process as being in any
sense in limbo".

Then came a barely coded warning to the DUP.

"The very much outer limit is the Assembly election in
2007. People who think they can play the whole thing long
and keep ducking the questions and avoiding the issues are
running up against a brick wall, while other parties are
getting on with the discussions."

Hain got into hot water recently over remarks in America
about an "all-island economy". What did he really have in

"Practical co-operation for mutual benefit. Take the very
important announcement of a major investment programme I'm
making in Derry next week. This has important implications
for Donegal. In the north we have a much better skills base
because the economy is not so over-heated. US business
leaders can see a way of outsourcing in the north without
turning their backs on the south.

"In all of this what I'm saying to the people of Northern
Ireland - and so often to its parochial politicians - is to
lift their eyes up to the big agenda terms and not stay
stuck in petty history terms.

"Northern Ireland can get the best of both worlds. Under
the umbrella of the successful UK macro-economy, they can
co-operate with the south."

Why does that mean ruling out allowing a future Assembly to
vary local taxes from UK levels, like for instance, a 12.5%
corporation tax to match the Republic's?

"If you want tax varying powers the Chancellor will say you
are going to raise less revenue to meet the huge £5 billion
deficit and he's going to look at that."

The corporation tax differential is a factor Hain admits,
but it isn't crucial. He cites the boss of City Group which
has just opened a big IT headquarters in Belfast for their
European operations, employing 375 mainly local graduates
and post-graduates.

"For the City Group MD, it was the skills base that
mattered, corporation tax didn't figure."

And in the great "Save Our Grammar Schools" row, now that
the new transfer proposals have just been announced, how
does he protect the institutions that nurture the skills
base he's just been boasting about?

"The grammar schools are not under threat. Increasingly
they are becoming less grammar and more comprehensive
because of falling rolls. People are voting with their
feet. These are decisions for school governors and head
teachers. The change is not about fighting an ideological
battle. It's about giving youngsters a chance to do better,
rather than keeping them out because they have to do a test
on one day when their parents might have been fighting over

At the end of our session, Peter Hain gave me a parting
message about his personal style.

"Personal relations with the parties are excellent but I
sense some surprise in the political class that I tell it

"I think we need a bit of straight talking on everything
from the political future, to the economy to education and
the indefensible over-governed administration. This is all
about getting Northern Ireland into shape to be world
class, to be competitive and to deliver greater prosperity
and more social justice."

"Telling it straight" is what our politicians are
inordinately proud of.

The question for Peter Hain and the rest of them from now
on, is whether each can bear hearing it straight from the


Real IRA Chief's Appeal Dismissed

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt has failed to have
his conviction overturned in the Irish Republic's Court of
Criminal Appeal.

McKevitt was sentenced to 20 years in 2003 for directing
terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation.

His lawyers had sought to have his conviction quashed by
challenging the credibility of David Rupert, the main
prosecution witness.

Mr Rupert was a secret agent for the FBI and the British
secret service.


McKevitt, 54, from Blackrock, County Louth, was the first
person to be convicted in the Republic for the offence
which was introduced after the 1998 Real IRA bomb attack in

The explosion claimed the lives of 29 people, including a
woman pregnant with twins.

He also received a six years concurrent prison sentence for
membership of an illegal organisation which the court said
was the Real IRA.

Mr Rupert was reported to have infiltrated the Real IRA and
attended Real IRA Army Council meetings where McKevitt was

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/09 14:50:17 GMT


Ex-Civil Rights Head Takes On Top Law Job

By Chris Thornton
09 December 2005

A former civil rights leader has taken over one of the top
posts in Northern Ireland's legal profession.

Newry solicitor Rory McShane, who led a crucial march in
1972 that contributed to the fall of the Stormont
government, hosted his first official dinner for Law
Society members last night.

His vice president, who will take over as president next
year, is former UUP chairman James Cooper.

Mr McShane, who was also president of the Queen's
University Students' Union in the late Sixties, led a huge
civil rights march in Newry one week after Bloody Sunday.

He entered the legal profession a year later and since then
the former student activist has served on the Sports
Council, the Consumer Council, and the Law Reform Advisory

"A lot of things have changed in Northern Ireland," he
said. "A lot of those radicals of 30 years ago are now in
high positions in business and the judiciary.

"I used to be known as 'Red Rory' and now some people call
me 'Tory Rory'," he joked, "which I'm not happy about
because I still see myself as a bit of radical.

"But time has moved on.

"We've got a solid legal foundation, available at the local
level. I think that's an entirely valuable thing in this

As the chief representative of around 2,000 solicitors for
the next year, he said that the biggest challenge facing
lawyers will be the Bain Review, a sweeping look at legal
services in Northern Ireland.

Mr McShane said he believes the legal review will be "very
much consumer-oriented".

"As a former member of the Consumer Council, I'm anxious to
ensure that the interests of the consumer are protected -
but that's nothing new to lawyers, who have served the
interests of consumers in Northern Ireland for many years."

The review was introduced in part because of problems with
the complaints system against solicitors in England and

Mr McShane said he expects the review to look at "the
tensions that are there between the regulatory role of the
Law Society and the representative role of the society".

He said the Society will welcome any proposals to give
"more assistance to complainants and a wider definition of

"It's important that the person who complains about the
service has confidence in the process," he said.

But he stressed that there is a "need for change to be


Opin: They Might Have No Guns Now

By Conor Cruise O'Brien

'They haven't gone away, you know" was the notorious
response of a Sinn Fein spokesman some years ago to
optimistic observations by Fianna Fail and some other
politicians as to the supposed gradual fading away of the

Well, they still haven't gone away. It is true that their
sphere of military and political operations has recently
been drastically reduced. This is due not to any
spontaneous change of heart on their part, but to events in
the outside world.

By far the most important change has been the election of
President George Bush for a second term. Very shortly after
his re-election, President Bush took a firm and consistent
line against terrorism, a subject about which his immediate
predecessors had been consistent only in their shilly-

Almost all commentators on this side of the Atlantic had
been happy to dither in their footsteps and go very easy on
the IRA. It is clear that the newly re-elected President
Bush, on a visit to Ireland shortly after his re-election,
and amid a flurry of wild conjectures, quietly conveyed to
his hosts that the previous policy of quiet, shifty and
deniable collusion with Sinn Fein-IRA would have to stop,
because the United States would no longer tolerate it.

The CIA representatives in Dublin and London rapidly
conveyed the message not only to the Irish and British
governments but also to the Irish and British police and
army leaders. With the full approval of their President,
they informed the most senior officers of the British and
Irish police and armed forces that they would have the full
support of the American armed forces, by air, sea and, if
necessary, financial aid in putting the IRA, as an armed
force, out of business once and for all.

The British and Irish diplomatic representatives in
Washington, having taken appropriate soundings there,
confirmed to their superiors at home that this was a
message that had to be taken seriously.

The bright part of the whole business, from the point of
view of the Dublin and London governments, was that they
themselves did not have to do or say anything in
particular. They had just silently to look the other way
while the British and Irish armed forces happily got on
with the job from which their political superiors had so
long held them back.

The IRA leadership, for which the nominally independent
Sinn Fein is in reality no more than the voluble and
plausible spokesman, were not slow to get the message and
respond to it, craftily indeed - but not, in the changed
circumstances, craftily enough.

They realised that any major attack on mainland Britain -
the threat of which had sustained them for so long - was no
longer even a plausible possibility. If they tried anything
of the kind they would be wiped out, very speedily, by the
British and Irish forces with full logistic and political
support quietly lent by the US.

The IRA response was sweeping and probably impressive to
the many young and ignorant observers, though not to the
relatively few who are well-informed. The Sinn Fein-IRA
response was nominally 'to choose the path of peace' by
handing over large stores of weaponry which were either out
of date or superfluous to requirements in the changed and
now largely transformed circumstances.

The IRA is no longer capable of large-scale military
operations (because of the American factor) but it could
still dominate Catholic loyalties in local Catholic areas


Please, Just Shake On It!

By Lindy McDowell
10 December 2005

IRISH President Mary McAleese and the Queen got up-close
and personal in Hillsborough this week.

Not up-close and personal the way Irish President Mary
McAleese got with UDA brigadier Jackie McDonald - no matey
hug for Her Maj - but still, up-close and personal in a way
that a British monarch and an Irish president have been
unable to get for almost a century. A true handshake of
history. On what we are all now encouraged to refer to as
"the island of Ireland."

The consensus is that Thursday's meeting was a tentative
step towards the Big One - a visit by Her Britannic Majesty
to Dublin.

The last time a reigning British monarch paid an official
visit down south was way back in 1911. Since then the only
British Queen welcomed over the border has been the potato.
Or Elton John.

The very idea of a Royal visit to the Republic is still
seen as so politically sensitive that we have had to have
this silly drawn-out minuet between Mary and Elizabeth. The
carefully choreographed footwork has already involved
meetings in London - where Mary was a guest at Buckingham
Palace - and now Hillsborough. Next stop, possibly, Pettigo
where the pair will be photographed, the Queen on one side
of the border, Mary on the other..

Why don't they just get on with it?

It seems at odds with the confidence and maturity of the
modern Irish state to suggest, as it appears to, that the
possibility of a visit by the Queen needs to be broken to
people very, very slowly. In fairness to both women, who
get on in a civil fashion, neither of them is to blame for
this nonsense.

It's got to do with the caution of advisors and the fear
that, should the Queen go to Dublin, she might not get a
great welcome.

Yet times have changed. It may have taken almost 100 years
for a British monarch to make it to Dublin. But tellingly,
in that time, no end of British institutions have made it
before her . . Marks and Spencers, Debenhams, Laura Ashley
. . .

In the world today it's commerce, not queens, that truly
crosses boundaries.


Opin: Ulster First As Republic's President Meets Queen

Friday 9th December 2005

A visit to Northern Ireland by the Queen is always an
occasion warmly welcomed by the majority of people in the
Province and yesterday Her Majesty was her usual graceful
self as she and the Duke of Edinburgh moved from event to

This was the Queen's 14th visit to this part of the United
Kingdom since her Coronation in 1953 and the enthusiasm
from her loyal subjects for this latest visit was just as

Yesterday's Royal visit to Hillsborough marked an historic
first in Anglo-Irish relations when the Queen met the
President of the Irish Republic Mrs Mary McAleese.

The Queen, as the sovereign head in Northern Ireland, was
officially welcoming the presidential representative of a
neighbouring jurisdiction and no constitutional protocol
was breached.

The meeting was no different than the Queen greeting a head
of state from any other country and the Union was not
weakened by this quite relaxed tete-a-tete.

The two women have, indeed, met on three previous
occasions, albeit on the British mainland, and the
Hillsborough meeting indicated how far relations had
improved in British-Irish affairs on this island over
recent decades.

There is speculation that the Queen may now visit Dublin in
what would be the first engagement on southern Irish soil
by a British monarch since King George V and Queen Mary
arrived at Dun Laoghaire in 1911.

Then, Ireland was one nation under the Crown and much has
happened in the intervening 94 years to make events like
yesterday's meeting, and the possibility of the Queen being
received at Leinster House, delicate diplomatic operations.

The narrow Irish republican lobby in Sinn Fein-IRA will not
have been pleased by the Queen welcoming Mrs McAleese to
Her Majesty's Royal residence in Northern Ireland. But the
Union is constitutionally upheld by the democratically
expressed wishes of the majority of people here and that is
a stark fact of life.

The Government, in the face of overwhelming public outrage
in Northern Ireland, is back-pedalling on its proposals for
water charging in the Province and the suggested model of
reforms has been put back until April 2007.

A Northern Ireland Office report says cognisance has been
taken on two key issues - affordability of the water
costing measures and domestic metering.

But while these moves are to be welcomed, they will not in
any way assuage the concerns of the political parties and
consumer groups who argue that ratepayers are already
charged for household water consumption in their district

The greater number of people in Northern Ireland remain
convinced that the run-down of the water and sewerage
infrastructures was entirely due to Government negligence
and they are not in the mood to pay for the past failings
of Westminster administrations, both Labour and


'The Bloody Sunday Inquiry - The Families Speak Out'

By Julieann Campbell
Friday 9th December 2005

Derry's reaction to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and its
aftermath has been documented in a new book by local man
Eamonn McCann, launched earlier this week here in the city
and in London later today.

The material in this new book, 'The Bloody Sunday Inquiry:
The Families Speak Out' comes directly from those involved
in Bloody Sunday, from those who were wounded on the
streets of the Bogside, to the families of those who were

These recollections and reflections of twenty-one people
directly affected by Bloody Sunday were compiled and edited
by local journalist and political activist, Eamonn McCann.

Speaking at the launch, Mr. McCann explained the importance
of his new book. He said: "We need to hear - not another
spokesperson --but raw, authentic, from the heart, voices
of the people themselves."

He also spoke of the ongoing campaign for truth and justice
and its relevance in a wider, global context, and how the
experiences of the Bloody Sunday families and wounded could
serve as a example for future justice campaigns world-wide.

"Bloody Sunday is not just an issue for Ireland, it's an
issue for everyone. It's important that people understand
when the state murders one of its own citizens, then it's
in the interest of every citizen to hold them to account.
State murder should always be called by its proper name -

Also speaking at the book launch was Damien Donaghy, better
known as Bubbles, who was wounded on Bloody Sunday, Kay
Duddy, whose 17-year-old brother, Jackie, was the first man
shot in the Bogside, and Michael McKinney, whose brother
William was also shot dead.

Speaking of the importance of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry and
the quest for justice, Mr. McKinney told the gathering: "As
long as there is breath in my body - they'll be held to

McCann's book provides a unique insight into the decades of
campaigning, by both the relatives and the wounded, for an
inquiry into the events of the day and recounts the various
hurdles they experienced during their long, arduous Bloody
Sunday Justice Campaign, which eventually led to the
establishment of Lord Saville's inquiry.

Though many books have been written on the subject, this is
the first book that tells the story of the inquiry. Each
chapter documents a different aspect of the campaign, from
the initial reactions of the media and those in power, to
the longawaited announcement of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

The Inquiry, which is the most expensive and and longest
independent inquiry ever undertaken by the British
Government, has heard evidence from a staggering 2,500 or
more witnesses.

Also revealed in McCann's book is the understandable
bitterness at Lord Widgery's now notorious inquiry, held
shortly after the day in question, and later branded a
'whitewash' by all those it affected.

As the relatives wait patiently for Lord Saville's findings
to be revealed at some stage next year, the book details
how they felt about the inquiry as a whole, their
experiences and perceptions of the legal system and the
attitudes of politicians, both Irish and British. The
attitude and role that the media played in the inquiry is
also touched upon.

The book is being launched today in London, with Eamonn
McCann accompanied by contributors to the book - Kay Duddy,
Jean Hegarty, Caroline O'Donnell and Alana Burke.

Mr. McCann said the London launch is important as it
reacquaints the relatives and wounded with people who had
supported them in London throughout the Inquiry. He added:
"There are a lot of people committed to the Bloody Sunday
Campaign in England, as well as in Ireland, so this trip
will be a reunion as well as a launch."

'The Bloody Sunday Inquiry: The Families Speak Out', is
published by Pluto Press and available from bookshops
priced £10.99.


Books: Juicy Trivia ... Plus The Inside Story On Ulster As Seen In Washington

DC CONFIDENTIAL: The Controversial Memoirs of Britain's
Ambassador to the US at the time of 9/11 and the Iraq War,
by Christopher Meyer, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £20

By Steven King
10 December 2005

RECENTLY, Sir Christopher Meyer has been accused of high
crimes and misdemeanours ranging from revealing state
secrets to wearing red socks. As someone who is sometimes
prone to the latter minor eccentricity, I approached
reading his (appallingly-titled) book with a degree of

Let's first of all knock the other allegation on the head:
our former man in Washington has not breached national
security. There is plenty of juicy trivia and some masterly
put-downs of pipsqueaks promoted above their station, but
Osama bin Laden will have learned nothing he didn't already

These memoirs have been just as controversial as their
subtitle confidently asserts, but it's a book that deserves
to be read cover to cover. If you relied upon the extracts
printed in some newspapers, you might not realise this is
an important book about what it is like to be the United
Kingdom's most senior and lustrous ambassador at a time
when the prime minister enjoyed a direct line to the White
House for which there are few precedents.

The book provides some valuable insights into British-
American relations. In particular, the chapters on 9/11 and
on the Iraq war are totally absorbing, and often quite

What is revealed is a man whose patience has been so sorely
tried by the "pygmies" whose country he represents abroad
that he no longer can contain himself. The Downing Street-
White House relationship was always the worm in the bud for
the embassy, and by the time of Iraq it became intolerable
to an ambassador who had an unusual taste for the
limelight, an ambassadorial moderniser - nice,
approachable, sociable and very comfortable with the media.

DC Confidential is a tragic indictment of the dysfunction
of 21st century government - the marginalisation of the
Foreign Office and the soaring ascendancy of Blairite
courtiers. Previously, John Major's Press Secretary,
bitterness and resentment pulse through this book once
Blair starts to stalk its pages.

Meyer's version of history is that he and the Foreign
Office were soon jettisoned in favour of the superstar
politicking to which Blair gravitated. It was to particular
end, according to Meyer: Blair failed to take the American
administration to task for failing to flesh out its
rudimentary notions of how Iraq would be administered post-

At the same time, it is useful to be reminded of trans-
Atlantic difference - "think of the US as a foreign country
and you will be pleasantly surprised" - and that President
Bush is a more substantial figure than most on this side of
the Atlantic have come to regard him. Meyer is also, at
times, hilariously funny: "I once had an ambassador who
disconcerted me by farting loudly and repeatedly in my
presence. The Foreign Office handbook on protocol offered
me no guidance. Should I feign indifference; or, on the
principle that imitation is the sincerest form of
flatulence, should I join in?"

Of specific interest to local readers will be Meyer's
reflections on the British Government's efforts to defend
its Northern Ireland policy in occasionally shark-infested

He notes, worryingly for British officials no less than
their French, German and Chinese counterparts, that only
Israel, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and - crucially for us -
Ireland have consistently managed to influence US foreign
policy. Bush, he notes, "has been as good as his word",
doing what he could to help on the Ulster issue while
always eager not to get as involved as Clinton.

While frequently scathing about Tony Blair, Meyer does
accept that he "invested a large chunk of his political
capital in the cause of peace in Northern Ireland."

Glowing tribute is also paid to the early Mo: "In 1997
nobody could have been better suited to the task of winning
a fair hearing in Washington for what Tony Blair was trying
to do."

Meyer first became entangled in our affairs, though, during
his time in Downing Street. He records how the Downing
Street party were able to abandon helicopters for visits in
favour of armoured cars as the security situation improved.

One strange line creeps into the text: "Major became
unhealthily dependent for his survival on the small group
of Protestant Unionist MPs, who could normally be relied on
to support the Conservatives."

If they were so loyally pro-Conservative, why was the
relationship so unhealthy?

Nevertheless, past UUP leaders will smile wryly at Meyer's
observation that they "understood perfectly their leverage
over No. 10."

In Washington, it was a different story: the descendents of
the Ulster Scots "never acquired the same tribal identity
or clout" as the Catholic Irish.

At the same time, unionist representatives were just as
prone to the annual "unstoppable juggernaut of receptions,
meals and parties" that marked the Clinton White House
around March 17 each year.

These were occasionally cringe-making spectacles for Sinn
Fein's "terribly awkward and admirable" opponents, who
didn't have nearly so many friends at court as the

Meyer insists rightly, though, that the original Adams visa
was an unnecessary affront to London: "Adams had already
concluded that the SF/IRA goal of a united Ireland could
never be achieved by force of arms."

Again and again, Sinn Fein resold the ceasefire, leading to
a situation, according to Meyer, whereby "while the British
Government had discharged all its obligations under the
Agreement, the IRA remained in existence." Note the use of
the word 'all', Secretary of State: OTRs were never part of
the Agreement.

Nor did Blair use all his leverage. Despite giving Clinton
a ringing endorsement after the Lewinsky scandal broke
"(Clinton's) debt was never repaid in full, in part because
Blair never pressed him hard enough."

So has Meyer breached the sacred trusts of government,
doing it solely to make money and to settle old scores, in
such a way that his chairmanship of the PCC is now
untenable? I think not.

Some people, it seems, just can't stand criticism.


Lunch With The FT: Charm Offensive

By John Lloyd
Published: December 9 2005 17:42 Last updated: December 9
2005 17:42

I meet Gerry Adams in Westminster, where he has represented
West Belfast for most of the last 22 years but still
doesn't vote or take part in debates. (That would be a step
too far towards recognition of the British parliament's
right to rule in Northern Ireland.) The "Big Lad", as he
was reportedly known in the Belfast Brigade of the IRA
which he never admits to leading, enters the lobby of the
House smiling and chatting with a policeman. You seem to
have a police escort, I say. "No, no, he was just saying he
liked what I said on the radio this morning," says Adams. A

We head for a late, mid-afternoon lunch in the House of
Commons's gloomy, cold Terrace Cafeteria, as a short,
wintry day rapidly closes down for the night. As we decide
on what to eat, I tell him it's a condition of the lunch
that the FT pays.

"This is the first time a journalist has ever bought me
lunch," he says. I say: you should have chosen a better
place, then. He says: "No, no, this is fine." The Sinn Fein
MP (and president) is determinedly cheery, greeting the
women behind the counter as no one else there does -
"Hello, how are you" - the "you" said in the Belfast way,
long and warm, "Yeeew". They chat merrily, the West Indian
accents clashing with the Belfast - "Ah'm fahn, dahlin. You
take care." "Oi wull!". Could it be a flash, for a second,
of the comradeship of two peoples once oppressed by the
Brits, finding their dignity at last? And in the House of
Commons, of all places?

Adams stimulates such silly thoughts. That is because part
of the pitch he has made, for more than 35 years, is that
of the old history of oppression - the love, especially by
Irish republicanism, of victimhood, loss and suffering. But
he doesn't do it now. True, at one point - as he munches
steadily through his side of our lukewarm lunch - he brings
up Wolfe Tone, the (Protestant) leader of the United
Irishmen at the end of the 18th century, whose struggle for
unity and independence ended with his (very republican)
suicide in a Dublin jail. But it is to quote Tone's aim,
that of a "state acceptable to Catholic, Protestant and

Rendered wooden by a revulsion at Adams's IRA past, I begin
the lunch stiffly. We both pay more attention to our plates
than each other. He has never confirmed the charge - put
most forcefully in Ed Moloney's 2002 book, A Secret History
of the IRA - that he belonged to and led the IRA in
Belfast: trying to get at it by noting that, as a peace
processor, he has come a long way since being a radical
member of the IRA, elicits nothing. He answers another
question, or says firmly that that's in the past.

At one point, he observes that though the current peace
process was begun under the premiership of John Major, "he
wasn't the man to do it." I observe that Major may have
been influenced by the fact that the IRA tried to kill him
(by lobbing a bomb into the garden of 10 Downing Street).
"I don't think so, I don't think so," he says, in the tone
of a reasonable man. "I've been on the receiving end of a
lot of that and I still go on. That's just excuses."

A little later, I ask him why Unionists should trust him,
if (as he says many times) he wants to enfold them gently
into a united Ireland. "Well, first of all...does Fianna
Fail (the governing party in Ireland) trust Fine Gael (the
main opposition party)?" No, I say, but there hadn't been a
war between them: that's the main thing, isn't it? "Well,"
he says, "on the big point you make, the Unionists don't
have to trust me - they have to trust themselves. Their
rights should not be at the will of any politician - their
rights should be copper-fast, and in that way the Good
Friday agreement is a guarantee. At the moment the
Unionists would see the Good Friday agreement as a
guarantee of the rights of Nationalists. But it's a
guarantee of the rights of all."

He says he talks regularly to Unionists, especially through
the churches. But they are mostly middle-class Unionists,
he says, with a touch of dismissal in his voice: this is a
Catholic, republican, working-class man who served years of
jail time (as did his father). I say: well, it's not them,
it's the working-class Unionists who are the problem for
you. He's instantly, in a beat, the politician: people are
never a problem, always an opportunity.

At this point, about half-way through the time we have
together and with our plates cleaned, he seems almost to
shake himself and I get the full blast of his charm - which
is formidable. His voice, which is deep, with a big range
from highs to lows, becomes warmer; he uses phrases such as
"to get to your point" or "I think you're right there." And
with it comes the pitch: that Unionists are better off in a
united Ireland than they would be - could be - in a Britain
that doesn't much care for or about them.

"Unionists count for 2 per cent of the British population.
They would count for 20 per cent in a united Ireland. And
they would have an honoured place. Now that can take
generations. I listen to people, like the Orange Order in
Donegal [the most northerly of Ireland's counties, across
the western border of Northern Ireland] who were cut off
from their brethren when partition came in. I listened to
an interview with the Worshipful Grand Master in Donegal...
He's quite comfortable. He supports the Irish football
team, he supports his local Gaelic Athletics Association.
He was asked about the large Orange demos, and said they
pass off without rancour. The interviewer asked why there
was such a bother across the border and none here, and he
said - well, we don't threaten anyone here. So it may take
a long time. It may take generations. They have to feel

But, I say, they feel comfortable being British. That's
what they want. When Unionists have to say, with the Irish
poet Seamus Heaney, "my passport's green" would they feel
comfortable? "'No glass of ours was ever raised to toast
the Queen,'" says Adams, finishing the Heaney quote. "My
view of this is that up to the 1970s, there was no question
of the Unionists being other than the loyal Irish - they
had a sense of Irishness, but were loyal to the British
Crown. Now they say they're British, but I tell you, they
say when they come to London, they're all Paddies.

"And having said all of that, I think that the big task for
Republicans is to simply listen to what Unionists are
saying. From one point of view you could dismiss Unionists
as behaving in a most irrational way. The Loyalist
paramilitaries opened fire last month on the British Army
and the police service - and fought them for three days.
What sort of loyalty is that?"

Well, I say, they've done it over the years from time to
time (on this occasion, the police and army moved against
Loyalist demonstrations). They feel somewhat betrayed.

"Yes," he says, all sweet reason. "And that's what we have
to understand, these actions are taken for certain
reasons... What these reasons are - they may be what you
suggested earlier: their sense of Britishness, whatever
that is. If Unionists need some sort of assurances about
their Britishness, then they should have it. If that's all
that stands in the way of a peaceful coexistence, we should
reassure them." How? I ask. Adams then tells the story
about the Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey, laying a
wreath on the Belfast cenotaph, in memory of the soldiers
of the Irish regiments, Unionist and Nationalist, who died
(in huge numbers) on the Somme. The Unionist politicians
didn't come, he said, but the veterans did.

Adams, I thought, is probably sincere about giving up the
bomb and the gun: they have got him to where he is, and now
he sees a prize attainable through the ballot box that
cannot be reached through war. The prize is his party
uniting, not just the island, but Irish Nationalist
politics: putting together again a Republican party that
split in 1926, after partition, into Fianna Fail and Sinn
Fein. He has five MPs in the Dail (parliament) in the south
and 24 seats in the Assembly in the North. They will
campaign hard in the next election in the republic -
expected in about a year's time - and most observers see
them at least doubling their seats. "We're the second
biggest party in the north, the third biggest in Ireland.
We can unite the island."

Having helped destroy the Ulster Unionist Party of David
Trimble, Adams's main opposition now comes from Ian
Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, always the hardest
core of Protestantism, now its major voice. He thinks logic
will make Paisley, who refuses to share power with Sinn
Fein, come in from the cold. "Here's a man in his 80th
year. He's spent years looking over Trimble's shoulder. No
one is looking over his shoulder. He could be first
minister of Northern Ireland: what a chance for him! And to
be fair to him [this phrase has been well-used in our talk]
he wants the best for his people. And the best isn't with
Britain any longer."

An aide arrives at the table to tell Adams he must go. We
walk out together, but are blocked by a pair of doors
marked No Exit. "We'll have to go another way," I say. "Aw,
come on," he says, "let's be subversive together." And, his
arm across my back, he takes me through the doors as the
attendants smile, a subversive and an unwilling
subversive's apprentice exiting illegally.

Terrace Cafeteria, Palace of Westminster, London

1 x steamed plaice, mashed potatoes and vegetables
1 x tortelloni
1 x plum pudding and custard
2 x coffee
Total: £7.36


Ulster's Oldest Woman Is Dead

Tributes to 110-year-old 'marvel'

By Ben Lowry
10 December 2005

THE oldest woman in Ireland has died in Co Down, five
months after she celebrated her 110th birthday.

Elizabeth Yensen, who lived in her own flat in sheltered
housing in Holywood, remained mobile and mentally sharp
until the day before she suffered a heart attack.

She was cremated at Roselawn yesterday, after a service
attended by fellow tenants at Spafield Fold, where she was
a popular figure. Most of them had attended Mrs Yensen's
birthday celebrations in July. Her grandson and great
grandchildren had travelled over from Scotland for the

Born in Glasgow in 1895, Mrs Yensen came to Belfast when
her late Danish husband, William, was transferred by his
employer Scottish Life Assurance in the 1930s. Their
daughter Evelyn died in the 1980s aged 62.

In a lifespan touching three centuries, Mrs Yensen was one
of a handful of people globally born several years before
the end of the 19th century who lived well into the 21st.

Sally Walsh, supervisor at Spafield Fold, said: "She has
been here for 22 years, since Spafield opened. I will miss
her terribly, as will all the residents. She was marvellous
- independent and with a great sense of humour. Only in the
past year did she start using a zimmer frame."

Mrs Yensen died days before the UK's oldest person Lucy
d'Abreu, whose life ended on Wednesday aged 113.


Dublin Goes Down So Well

Bel Mooney drinks deep in the literary heart of Ireland

THIS IS CLOSER to heaven than I've been in a while. On a
brilliant, freezing day in Dublin, I'm sitting in the
Gravity Bar atop the Guinness Storehouse (part of the old
brewery, now an imaginative visitor centre) drinking my
first pint of the black stuff — and a free one, too, served
with a shamrock carved in its foam.

The circular glass bar is styled to represent (from
outside) the creamy head on Ireland's most famous export. I
can't imagine any other place where a brewery would
emblazon literary quotations all around on the vast
windows, so you gaze at the panoramic view of this most
beautiful of cities through the floating words of another
great export, James Joyce. I'm sipping contentedly,
oblivious to the happy drinkers, dipping into Dubliners and
Patrick Kavanagh from time to time. And it's all going down
so well — since liquor and literature are twin sides of
Ireland's soul, as well as the thriving tourist trade of
its capital.

Though this is the land of my fathers, I have no real
knowledge of Dublin. In 1967 I slept one night in the YWCA,
after the Yeats Summer School in Sligo. In 1972 I came for
two nights to a depressed city, for a newspaper story about
IRA funds from America, and went under cover to a
republican bar which cheered when the TV announced British
soldiers had been blown up in Belfast. In 1984 I flew in
for a day to interview Seamus Heaney for The Times. But
today's Dublin is enjoying the "Celtic Tiger" economic boom
and is a favourite destination for stag and hen nights.

Modern Dublin is epitomised by the slick style of the
Morrison Hotel. Out there in traditional pubs they're still
singing republican songs, but the lobbies of the Morrison
are darkly fashionable, its clientele prosperous. The
Georgian Merrion Hotel is ultra-elegant, the Clarence lent
extra glamour because of U2 ownership — but the Morrison is
younger and funkier. However, we were in one of the large,
new studio rooms, and what do you know? All style over
comfort. Who decided that a vast, glacially chic bathroom
didn't merit even a heated towel-rail or decent shower-
head, that there should be no drawer or reachable shelf to
stash your smalls, poor lighting, no dressing table, and no
desk light for those of us who need to work?

Hotels do not a city make, when marvels like The Book of
Kells await. The first sight of the graceful buildings and
spaces of Trinity College made me wish I'd studied there.
Students who pass under the bell tower are said to fail
their exams, so it was pleasant to stand there knowing I
would never have to take another exam in my life. But to be
tested on the exemplary exhibition, Turning Darkness into
Light, would be a pleasure. This sets The Book of Kells and
other Irish illuminated manuscripts in context, before you
move through with awe to the thing itself — the miraculous
survivor from about AD800. It would be worth hopping over
to Dublin just for a day to see Trinity College and its
most precious possession, and to walk along the Liffey in
the pink of a winter afternoon.

There are many ways of approaching Dublin — museums (of
course), shopping in Grafton Street, a pub crawl in buzzy
Temple Bar, fine dining. Grafton Street, thronged for
Christmas, disappointed me by being too full of predictable
chain shops, and so I fell with delight on the eclectic
wonders of Wicklow-based Avoca in Suffolk Street (wonderful
clothes, accessories, food, throws and cushions, children's
stuff) and some of the national outlets, such as Kilkenny,
in Nassau Street. When in Ireland, try to buy Irish, for
what's the point of going to Habitat? Mind you, what must
be the most classy Topshop in the West, the new one on St
Stephen's Green, has made a point of showcasing some Irish

"Crossing Stephen's, that is, my green . . ." wrote Joyce,
and literature is my own path into Dublin. What quirk of
sociohistorical chemistry produced so many writers in
Ireland? We made a pilgrimage to the Henry Moore tribute to
Yeats, tucked in a corner of the Green. Characteristically,
the bust of Joyce not far away gazes with a gimlet eye on
the city he so disliked.

You can go to see Oscar Wilde's house and the monument to
Jonathan Swift in St Patrick's Cathedral — or wrap them all
up in one by spending half a day in the Writers' Museum in
a Georgian mansion in Parnell Square. Fascinating though
this is, the displays need updating — there should, for
example, be much more than a bronze bust of the Nobel prize
winner Seamus Heaney.

I thought a Monday-to- Friday visit gave plenty of time,
but you can't stay on your feet for ever — and a day when
we saw Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle and its
brilliant Chester Beatty Library, followed by the National
Gallery (the Yeats family pictures and so much more) was
all but too much. The Ulysses exhibition at the National
Library is the most brilliantly conceived and executed
literary show I have seen, the Museum of Ireland is
unmissable . . . and by Thursday I knew I'd fallen in love
with this city of my blood.

On the final night we brought the two sides of Dublin
together on a literary pub crawl. Upstairs, in the Duke
pub, off Grafton Street, 25 people from Australia, the US,
Scandinavia and England gathered to hear the actors Derek
Reid and Eithne Dempsey do their stuff on literature and
liquor, then segue into an extract from Waiting For Godot.

Later, in the smart club Lillie's Bordello, mixed music
thudded for a mixed group of people: all sequins and
trainers. A British guy who looked about 20 was ordering
champagne at £60 a bottle. Dublin's nightlife wasn't for
me. So we walked back past Molly Malone's buxom statue,
through Temple Bar and over the Ha'penny Bridge, pausing to
look down into the freezing water of "Anna Livia
Plurabelle" — the memory of Eithne's voice enough to drown
the distant shouts of drunks.

Need to know

Bel Mooney flew from Bristol to Dublin with Ryanair
(, which flies to Dublin from 17 regional
airports in the UK. Returns from £19.98. She stayed at the
Morrison Hotel (, where double rooms
cost from £98 a night.

Reading: Dublin (Time Out, £11.99).

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