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January 03, 2006

Alarm Over Tracking of Drivers' Movements

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News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 01/03/06 Alarm Over Bid To Track Drivers' Movements
BT 12/26/05 Background: UK Will Be 1st To Monitor Every Car
IN 01/03/06 'Let Families See Saville Report'
IN 01/03/06 First Funding For Irish Emigrants
DU 01/03/06 Nw Yr / New Jobs Criteria Required - Campbell
SD 12/31/05 Durkan's Hope For Political Progress In 2006
IN 01/03/06 Order May Apply For Early Parade
BB 01/03/06 'Huge' Hits On Murder Victim Site
IN 01/03/06 'Loyalist Murder May Not Be Paramilitary'
TG 01/03/06 Northern Ireland Peace Lines
BT 01/03/06 Opin: Amendments Can Rescue The OTR Bill
BT 01/03/06 Opin: Heroes And Zeros
IR 01/03/06 Ireland Women's 6 Nations
IO 01/03/06 Record Number Of Texts Sent New Year's Eve


Alarm Over Bid To Track Drivers' Movements

By Michael McHugh
03 January 2006

A war of words over police surveillance broke out yesterday
following news that drivers' movements could be monitored
by the security forces.

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff believes the technology -
which can read number plates at locations across Ulster -
will infringe on civil liberties.

But traffic police insist that law-abiding motorists have
nothing to fear.

The UK-wide system, due to be rolled out to Northern
Ireland, will use cameras on the roadside as well as in
petrol stations and car parks.

Information could be held for up to five years in a central

West Tyrone MLA McElduff expressed his alarm, stating:
"This is an invasion of privacy and an abuse of people's
civil liberties.

"What is this information going to be used for and into
whose hands will the information fall?"

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

It will gather data on the movements and associations of
organised gangs and terrorist suspects whenever they use
cars, vans or motorcycles.

Mr McElduff added: "This is Big Brother at its worst. I
think there is always the presumption that government is
right but it can be wrong and in many cases they create the

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

Chief Inspector Douglas Hogg, in charge of PSNI traffic
policing in the rural division, believes the development
offers unprecedented crime-solving opportunities.

"Initially the system will be introduced in relation to
road traffic work like catching people who drive with no
insurance," he said.

"All it really means is an extension of the automatic
number plate readers which we already have.

"It is not to monitor people's movements, it is all aimed
at people with a criminal background."


Background: UK Will Be First To Monitor Every Car Journey

By Steve Connor
26 December 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this revolution is only the start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fixed cameras at strategic sites

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

Mobile units

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

CCTV in towns & cities

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


Police National Computer

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

Insurance data

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

MoT data

Vehicles without a valid MoT test certificate will be

Vehicle licence data

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


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



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


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


'Let Families See Saville Report'

By Seamus McKinney

THE brother of a teenager killed on Bloody Sunday has
called on Lord Saville to make sure the Bloody Sunday
families receive his report before anyone else.

Lord Saville and his fellow tribunal members, Mr Justice
John Toohey and Mr Justice William Hoyt, are expected to
complete their report into Bloody Sunday this year.

The Saville Inquiry closed in November 2004 although it
reconvened last January to hear one witness. The Bloody
Sunday families are now preparing for the release of the
final report.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael (17) was shot dead on
Bloody Sunday, believes some of the relatives of the dead
and wounded are concerned that the report will be made
public before being given to them.

Mr Kelly said he believed Lord Saville would first deliver
his report to Parliament.

"But we should be given it first. I expect it will be a
major document and the Bloody Sunday families and their
legal representatives should be given a chance to examine
it before it is made public," Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly said he hoped Lord Saville's report would be
released as soon as possible.


First Funding For Irish Emigrants

By Staff Reporter

Support services aiding Irish emigrants in Britain,
Australia and Canada will benefit from grants of over
e600,000 (£412,000), it was confirmed yesterday.

Funding for emigrant services is expected to reach e12
million (£8.2million) during 2006 – an increase of 45 per
cent on 2005.

Foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern, pictured, said a
grant was being provided for the first time to a group in
Canada to support elderly Irish citizens living in Toronto.

"I am delighted that increased financial support has also
been made available to groups in the US and Australia that
support our communities there," he said, adding grants of
over e750,000 (£515,000) were given to support groups in
the US last September.

"These organisations provide invaluable support to our
community there, in particular to the undocumented," Mr
Ahern said.

"Today's announcement includes funding to groups in
Australia which is 65 per cent greater than the amount that
they received last year."

The majority of the e8.273 million (£5.7million) spent on
emigrant services funding during 2005 went towards
supporting services for Irish emigrants in Britain.

"In 2006 I look forward to increasing our support for the
critical work of those groups in the voluntary sector that
reach out to the more vulnerable members of our community
abroad," Mr Ahern said.

Around e14,500 (£9,950) was given to the Emerald Isle
Senior's Society in Toronto while over e80,000 (£55,000)
was split bet-ween the Australian Irish Welfare Bureau in
Sydney and in Melbourne.

The funding is used to support the delivery of advice and
information to Irish emigrants by a range of community care

Some of the groups to benefit in Britain included
adolescent centres, advisory services, elderly support
services, homeless groups, GAA organisations, day care
centres and traveller outreach groups.


New Year / New Jobs Criteria Required - Campbell

The DUP's East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has issued a
stinging attack on those who he says are still working on
clichés from the past when they talk of equality of
opportunities in the job market.

"Over many years we in the Unionist community have become
accustomed to hearing Nationalists issue statements about
discrimination. This has become so clichéd that a few token
Unionists have tacitly accepted this approach by their
political opponents. 2006 offers the opportunity to some
politicians, Equality Commission and the Government to
begin anew in examining the entire issue.

It is obvious that when the generation that is now
preparing for retirement were setting out as job seekers
there was no monitoring, no surveying and no equality
watchdogs, so it should be equally obvious that in this era
when we have the most strict fair employment legislation
anywhere in the democratic world that disadvantage should
be less prevalent than then, if it isn't, what is the

This is the question that many will be faced with again and
again this year. With all the checks and balances now in
place, there is still Protestant disadvantage in the
Housing Executive, the largest Civil Service section, Child
Support Agency, Royal Mail and of course the infamous
Policing recruitment where there is deliberate
discrimination via the Minority Protestant Recruitment
process misnamed as 50/50.

The SDLP recently called for more discrimination against
the Protestant community when they met the Head of the
Prison Service and issued a statement calling for the
introduction of 50/50 recruitment in that organisation. It
is inconceivable that they are unaware of the imbalance
that currently exists across much of the public sector, yet
despite this they want more Protestant disadvantage rather
than less. The SDLP, Equality Commission and the NIO will
have to come to terms with what is required to ensure
better employment opportunities for all, the absolute basic
requirement for which is to move away from a formula that
has made the Protestant community second class citizens."


Mark Durkan MP MLA

31st December 2005


Durkan's Hope For Real Political Progress In 2006

SDLP Leader Mark Durkan today reflected on the year that
was 2005 and expressed his longing hope for real political
progress in 2006.

Mr Durkan stated, "As another year comes to an end the
people of Northern Ireland will once again look back on
2005 with some frustration that more has not been made on
the opportunities afforded to us.

"People want to be able to measure progress in terms of
things that have happened and institutions that are up and
running. We need to place ourselves firmly on a countdown
to restoration.

"That means calling the bluff of all those parties standing
in the way of progress and calling time on their delaying
tactics. It means ending the destructive politics of side
deals and concessions that is holding us back and taking us
from the Agreement that the people of Ireland voted for.

"2006 must also be the year that we leave the past behind
on a moral basis. The British Government must heed the call
now made by all the political parties in the North to
withdraw the Northern Ireland Offences Bill. Instead we
need to work on positive proposals instead for truth,
recognition and remembrance that put victims' rights at
their heart.

"2006 must also be the year that everybody accepts the
lawful society. That means working with the police and
accepting that the law applies equally to everybody - not
backing vigilante networks that cover up the misdeeds of
their own members."

"The public want us to make progress without creating new
problems either now or in the future. That is the basis on
which the SDLP will be approaching 2006. Not stirring up
problems, not delaying any prospects - but standing up for
the Agreement that the people voted for."



Order May Apply For Early Parade

By Allison Morris

THE Orange Order may apply early this year for a
controversial march through a mainly nationalist area of
west Belfast.

Loyalist violence following the rerouting of a parade on
the same route in September led to some of the worst civil
unrest witnessed for years.

Whiterock LOL 9 was banned from passing through security
gates at Workman Avenue onto the Springfield Road by the
Parades Commission.

A newly appointed Pa-rades Commission takes office this
month headed up by Roger Poole, a former trade unionist
from England.

It also includes former leading Portadown Orange-man David
Burrows, DUP member Donald MacKay and former SDLP MP Dr Joe

The decision to reapply for permission to march along the
Springfield Road is seen as a test of the new commission's
attitude to contentious marches.

Orange Order Belfast County Grand Master Dawson Bailie last
night said he was hopeful of a parade along the Spring-
field early in the year.

"The same anger that existed following the re-routing of
last year's parade is still very much evident among our
community and the plan always was to reschedule the parade
at the earliest opportunity," he said.

"LOL 9 will meet again as soon as the holidays are over, a
decision on any future parade will be made then and the
date of that parade ultimately lies with LOL 9.

"However, speaking as county grand master I would support
the decision and hope it would be organised sooner rather
than later and I will certainly be there to offer my

Last night west Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann
said if the commission were to allow the march to take
place it would send "a clear message to nationalist

"We are already concerned about the make-up of the Parades
Commission itself and if this parade is passed it sends a
clear message to the community that their concerns over
years and years of being forced to stay in their houses
while this parade was pushed through have been ignored.

"The people organising this parade should sit down and talk
to the community," he added.

Speaking about the newly-appointed commission, Mr Bailie
said: "At the end of the day our community had warned that
this anger was erupting, we told the government and we told
the Parades Commission and it was sad that they chose not
to listen.

"We will be waiting eagerly to see if the new year has
brought about a change in attitudes."


'Huge' Hits On Murder Victim Site

A website set up to help find the body of a murdered Bangor
woman has been visited by people "close" to the alleged
suspects, her sister has said.

The family of Lisa Dorrian, 25, who went missing last
February, launched the website before Christmas and it has
already received five million hits.

Her sister Joanne said the family had been heartened by
messages of support.

She said she did not expect any new leads, but hoped for
information which would lead them to Lisa.

Lisa was last seen at a party on a caravan a site in
Ballyhalbert, County Down, on 28 February 2005. Despite
extensive land and sea searches her body has never been

Detectives believe it could have been hidden in water.

"There are probably very few people who know where my
sister is at this moment in time," said Joanne.

"But it's the people around them that are giving in names
and saying: 'I think such and such is responsible, I've
heard this talk, I've heard that talk'.

"Things like that that are going to lead us closer to Lisa.

"It is saying that these people aren't hiding it as well as
they would like to think they are, people around them
believe they are guilty. It is just asking that the right
people who know a bit more, to come forward."

Police believe members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force may
have been involved in Lisa's killing.

The Lisa Dorrian website contains a page where information
about her disappearance can be given anonymously.

It also features information about Lisa, from her childhood
to the day she disappeared, as well as a section for
messages of support for the family.

Joanne said that people were more likely to post
information on the website than go to the police.

"The suspects are there, they always have been there, the
only new information that we would want is where Lisa is..
.that is what the whole focus of this website is, to find
out where my sister is," she said.

"I know most things going on in Lisa's investigation. I'm
able to say if something is just a rumour or may lead to
something else.

"I would like to thank all the people who have put
confidential messages on the board, because they will be
fully investigated."

Joanne said the family had been overwhelmed by the response
to the internet site particularly over the Christmas

"Christmas was extremely hard," she said.

"It meant that on Christmas Day when we were all feeling
low, without Lisa, that we were able to go onto the website
and have a look.

"People actually took the time to go onto the website on
Christmas Day, when they were with their own families, and
leave messages of support for us."

A forensic scientist looking at the cases of the
Disappeared is also working on Lisa's case.

The scientist is being funded by the British and Irish
governments to help locate the remains of five people
abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA during
the Troubles.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/03 10:03:39 GMT


'Loyalist Murder May Not Be Paramilitary Attack'

By Barry McCaffrey

Police had last night still to establish a motive for the
murder of former LVF prisoner Lindsay Robb.

The 38-year-old, who had been a senior member of the UVF-
aligned Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) in the early 1990s
before being jailed for gun running in 1995, was stabbed to
death outside a block of shops in the east end of Glasgow
on Saturday.

Strathclyde police say they have not established a definite
motive for the murder and said part of the inquiry involved
looking at Robb's previous connections with the UVF and

However, it is understood one main line of police inquiries
is that the 38-year-old was stabbed to death after refusing
to hand over money to a drug addict.

Robb, who had been living with his wife Margaret and two
children at Kenilworth Avenue in Airdrie, is understood to
have worked as a building contractor in Scotland for a
number of years.

Kenny McClinton, who was a friend of the dead man, said
that it now appeared that

the murder was not related to any feud between the UVF and

"I spoke to Lindsay's father last night (Sunday) and the
family is absolutely devastated," he said.

"It is a small comfort but it now appears that the killing
was not paramilitary-linked and is more likely to have been
an attempted robbery.

"It is not as yet clear whether Lindsay knew his killer or
whether he was attacked because he may have been carrying a
large amount of money on his person at the time.

"The loss of a life is a tragedy regardless of who it is
and our thoughts are with the Robb family at this time."

In July 1995 Robb was sentenced to 10 years in prison after
plotting to smuggle guns from Scotland to Northern Ireland
on behalf of the UVF.

A senior Scottish Orange Order leader later admitted
attempting to force a witness to withdraw evidence against
the loyalist. In 1996 Robb chose to side with Billy Wright
when he was expelled from the UVF and established the LVF a
year later.

In April 1997 he was transferred from Barlinnie prison in
Scotland to the Maze and became the first LVF prisoner
released under the Good Friday Agreement.

It is understood the former soldier had been questioned
over the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson in 1999 and
the murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan in 2001.


Northern Ireland Peace Lines

By Marjan Farahbaksh
Tuesday, January 3, 2006 Page A9

While there are no restrictions on movement in Northern
Ireland, a series of about 40 walls have been built to
separate the most polarized Protestant and Catholic
neighbourhoods and minimize sectarian inter-communal

The first so-called peace line was built by the British
Army in 1969 as a temporary measure to keep Protestant
rioters out of a Catholic area in west Belfast. When it
proved effective, other barriers were erected, and today
they stretch for a total of about 16 kilometres. They are
made of corrugated iron sheeting, steel or brick, often
topped with metal netting to stop firebombs. They are
generally eight metres high, and range in length from a few
hundred metres to almost five kilometres. The larger walls
have gaps with hinged barriers at roads and pedestrian
crossings, which are unlocked when tensions are low so that
freedom of movement is not too severely restricted.

In 1969, the British Army's then commander in Ulster, Sir
Ian Freeland, said, "This will be a very temporary affair.
We will not have a Berlin Wall or anything like that in
this city."

The peace lines have outlasted the Berlin Wall, and since
the signing of the Good Friday peace accord in 1998, 15 new
walls have been erected.

While there is broad support on both sides for the
barriers, they almost entirely cut off any contact between
the two groups in the affected areas. Surveys carried out
in 2001 among 4,800 households in neighbouring estates
separated by the barriers showed that among 18- to 25-year-
olds, 68 per cent had never had a meaningful conversation
with someone from the other community.


Opin: Amendments Can Rescue The OTR Bill

03 January 2006

All the signs are that the government has decided that
radical changes are needed to the controversial legislation
providing a virtual amnesty for on-the-run (OTR) fugitives
if it is to survive its passage through Parliament. Until
the detail is seen, it is impossible to predict whether or
not its critics on all sides can be placated.

The problem of the OTRs - both those who have never faced
justice and those who escaped serving their full prison
terms - was identified four years ago, when the government
assured Sinn Fein, the main beneficiaries, that it would be
satisfactorily dealt with. Since convicted terrorists had
all been freed in 1998, there was a case for providing
suspects and escapees with a special dispensation, allowing
them to draw a line under their past.

The government's solution, however, failed to satisfy
anyone - even Sinn Fein, when it was reminded by the SDLP
that the virtual amnesty would apply to the security
forces, as well as paramilitaries.

Anyone could apply to be dealt with by a special tribunal
and would automatically be free to return home on licence,
without even having to put in an appearance.

So great was the opposition, however, that the government
has had to think again, or risk defeat in the Lords. The
speculation is that applicants will now be required to
appear before the tribunal, to answer questions about their
offences and, most importantly, to allow victims to feel
some sense of closure.

A time limit may also be added to the provisions of the
bill, so that unless applications are made before a certain
deadline, the OTRs will always be liable to arrest. Also,
if they fail to mention some offences, they could be liable
to serve up to two years, under the early release terms of
the Good Friday Agreement.

The government must be hoping that such changes will
satisfy enough of the bill's opponents at Westminster -
including Paul Murphy, a former Secretary of State - to
ensure its safe passage, but there is no certainty that
they will. Unionists object fundamentally to any dilution
of the criminal law, while literally hundreds of unsolved
murder cases are under review, and both Sinn Fein and the
SDLP reject any apparent amnesty for soldiers or police
involved in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

There is little attempt, by the government, to argue that
the bill is anything more than a crude device fulfilling a
promise made to Sinn Fein which played an important part in
achieving last year's IRA peace statement and
decommissioning. As originally set out, it went far beyond
the bounds of acceptability, but the right amendments could
yet rescue it from oblivion.


Opin: Heroes And Zeros

Stand back - it's time for Gail Walker's annual New Year
list of heroes and villains from the past 12 months.
Everyone who's anyone - and quite a few nobodies as well -
have all made it into these awards this time round. So,
without any further ado and in no particular order...

03 January 2006


Fr Alec Reid, the priest who managed to shoot himself in
the foot with a decommissioned gun. He picks up the
President Mary McAleese Cup for Most Bigoted Barb of the

Let's hear it again: "The reality is that the nationalist
community in Northern Ireland were treated almost like
animals by the unionist community. They were not treated
like human beings. It was like the Nazi treatment of the

All very confusing when you remember that during the Second
World War it was the IRA who supported Nazi Germany, and
liked their abhorrent practices so much they continued
their own take on them over more than 30 years of violence
in Northern Ireland.

Mind you, this award was a close run thing, with Fr Reid
just managing to pip himself to the post by also bagging
second place.

That goes to his other classic remark that he knew the IRA
had nothing to do with the Northern Bank robbery because
they said they had not, and they never lied.

Unfortunately, Fr Reid can't be with us today to collect
his award as he hasn't been let near a microphone since
uttering those winning offerings.

Bryan "Rotten" Appleyard - the Sunday Times journalist who
was just desperate to find something different to say about
the funeral of George Best. So he did.

With appalling bad taste he described George's stoic,
dignified father Dickie as "absurdly small" and remarked
that George's son Calum looked "sinisterly suited."

As his article proved, Appleyard could dribble on and on in
a most astonishing manner, but failed to score and left
millions unthrilled.

The "disappearers" of Lisa Dorrian: Not content with
murdering this 25-year-old woman sometime between February
27 and 28 last year, these loyalist killers have followed
that well-worn path of paramilitary death squads in
Northern Ireland by refusing to let Lisa's distraught
family have her body back for burial.

While the PSNI have no doubt that Lisa is dead, the agony
continues everyday for her loved ones. And we'd hoped "the
disappeared" was a thing of the past.

Secretary of State Peter Hain: where to begin? First there
was all the guff on OTRs, though we're still none the wiser
why the English think it's right to hunt down the killers
of one of their policewomen while we have to let our cop
killers go free.

More recently, there were his cock-eyed remarks arguing for
an all-Ireland economy because Northern Ireland is not
economically viable on its own.

Er, so does that make Pompous Pete an unviable minister?
Bet you he doesn't think so.

Translink: (three villains in one - Ulsterbus, Citybus and

As the letters column of this newspaper routinely
illustrate, they still aren't getting there - and nor is
anyone else for that matter... Long early morning waits on
draughty platforms, last-minute cancellations and - our
favourite - the non-transferable bus ticket.

If you turn up at Belfast's Great Victoria Street railway
station to find your train is cancelled by, say, civil
unrest, whip round to the adjacent bus station - and you're

But should your bus be cancelled, whip round to the
adjacent train station and it's: "That'll be £4.40, sir, if
you please" - or whatever the fare is.

As wags like to jest, at least Dick Turpin wore a mask ?


Denis "Licensed to spill" Donaldson: What a guy. He rounded
off Sinn Fein's rather, as it turned out, abysmal centenary
year, by revealing himself as a spy extraordinaire.

He admitted he'd been nobbled by the British at a moment
when his bank account was particularly vulnerable - or
something like that.

Apparently there are now plans to market him as the very
latest transformer toy.

One minute he's a republican but, turn his head, and
suddenly he's a British spy.

Unfortunately Denis can't be with us today to collect his

The McCartney Sisters: they may have struck a bum note by
refusing to share a platform with Margaret Thatcher at the
Women of the Year awards (you'd have thought they might
have finally found some common ground - after all the IRA
murdered Maggie's close friends at Brighton and

Still, overall these brave, clever women have played a
blinder when it comes to getting justice for their brother,
Robert, who was murdered by the IRA.

Yes, some might say there is an element of "biters, bit" -
they were republican supporters until republicans killed
one of their own - but they've certainly spent the past
year hitting the Provos where it hurts.

Given their background, that takes even more courage. May
their campaign prosper in 2006.

There's only one David Healy? the brilliant young Northern
Ireland footballer who stuck it in the onion bag in the
73rd minute to give us our first victory over England since
1972. Congratulations to him.

Orlaith McAllister: Since her arrival in the Big Brother
House we've been seeing rather a lot of the north Belfast
model - in fact we've been seeing almost all of her.

Critics carp on about how she's making a right t*t of
herself (and even that's fake) but we reckon she deserves
some credit.

What's the worst she's done? Okay she might keep flashing
her rump for the paparazzi but she hasn't killed anyone.
And, let's face it, not everyone we know here can say that.

Zoe Salmon: the target of English racists who just can't
stand the fact that the lovely Zoe is from Northern

If she's not getting stick over her "sectarian" Red Hand
design for a plane, then she's being given a kicking by
curtain-twitching Middle England for wearing a bikini for
the Blue Peter Christmas special.

Her Ulster predecessor on the show, Caron Keating, also got
dog's abuse at the start - for her Ulster accent. But they
really liked her by the time she died ?

And last but not least, George Jones. After his gut-
spilling interview to this newspaper about how hurt he was
that his Radio Ulster show was being axed in June, 2006, he
was taken off the air for one day and even became a news
item on the BBC.

He may be losing his regular afternoon perch but he won a
whole army of new fans for his tell-it-like-it-is approach.


Ireland Women's 6 Nations

The IWRFU has announced the fixture list for the 2006
Women's 6 Nations

Ireland will play Six Nations fixtures at Donnybrook for
the first time this year when they host Spain in Dublin on
February 4, and Wales on February 25. Ireland's other home
game, against Scotland, will be held in Navan. Ireland will
warm-up for the competition with a game against the USA on
January 25 in Thomond Park. The two sides will meet again
in the Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada this August.

Ireland friendly fixture:

January 25 Ireland vs USA, - Thomond Park 7pm

Ireland Women's 2006 Six Nations Fixtures:

February 4 vs. Spain - Donnybrook 5pm

February 11 vs. France - Montauban, Toulouse, France,

February 25 vs. Wales - Donnybrook 3pm

March 10 vs. Scotland - Navan RFC 7pm

March 18 vs. England - Old Albanians RFC, St Albans,
England, 3pm


Record Number Of Texts Sent New Year's Eve

03/01/2006 - 10:41:36

New Year's Eve set a new record for the number of text
messages sent in Ireland.

More than forty million texts were sent on the last day of
the year, the bulk of them sent as it approached midnight.

Vodafone reported over 16 million texts being sent and
received on the night meaning a profit of €2m for them.

While over 11 million texts were sent and received on
Christmas Day.

Meteor customers sent and received 14 million on New Year's
Eve and New Year's Day.

While the 02 network reported that 10 million texts were
sent on the night meaning a €1.2m profit for them.

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