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January 13, 2006

Garrison Cuts On the Way

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News About Ireland & The Irish

BT 01/13/06 Garrison Cuts On The Way
BT 01/13/06 IRA To Melt Away As Peace Breaks Out
DI 01/13/06 Man’s Killers Are Agents
BT 01/13/06 Woman Meets Soldier Who Shot Brother
DI 01/13/06 Calls For Voting Fraud Laws To Be Scrapped
BB 01/13/06 Second Council Row Involving GAA
SM 01/13/06 Sect Probe 'Clears Celtic Players'
EX 01/13/06 EU Directive Poses Threat To Irish Jobs
TC 01/13/06 McGuinness To Meet Tamil Tigers
DI 01/13/06 Opin: Who Was Seán Sabhat From Garryowen?
DI 01/13/06 Opin: State Killers Still Being Protected
DI 01/13/06 Opin: Implement The Democratic Outcome
BB 01/13/06 E-Panel Invite To BBC News Viewers

(Poster’s Note: I posted a story earlier this AM
that involved the death of Brendan Doris from
Tyrone. I had no idea it was the brother of Paul
Doris, the head of Irish Northern Aid. My personal
sympathies go out to Paul & his family in their
time of grief. Brendan (54) was much too young
to leave this earth. Jay)


Garrison Cuts On The Way

Blueprint for Army's size in peacetime to be revealed

By Brian Rowan
13 January 2006

The final shape of the Army's "peacetime" garrison in
Northern Ireland will be known in just a few weeks

A military plan, setting out the sequence for the
closure of around two dozen bases, is almsot

But it is not yet clear if it will be published before
the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) next
reports on demilitarisation at the end of February.

Before then the four-man IMC will give its latest
assessment on the IRA.

That report will be ready at the end of January, and
comes six months after the IRA statement of July last
year which formally ended its armed campaign.

The Army's response to that was to set a target date
of August 2007 to end its long-running Operation
Banner, how it describes its support role to the

Troop numbers will fall from 9,500 to 5,000 and the
home-based battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment will
be disbanded.

The Army GOC Sir Redmond Watt and his senior advisers
at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn are talking to the
Ministry of Defence.

It is now expected that within weeks the geographical
shape of the "peacetime" garrison will be known.

"The military remain committed to supporting the PSNI
for as long as is required," an Army source said.
"Normalisation has been and remains predicated on an
enabling environment."

Soldiers here are currently based at 40 sites but the
Army is committed to having no more than 14 at the end
of Operation Banner.

That means 26 "campaign" bases are to go.

In its February report, the IMC will measure
demilitarisation progress against the latest
assessment of the terrorist threat.

And, before then, the four commissioners will provide
the British and Irish Governments with their latest
findings on the IRA.

Based on intelligence assessments, that report is
likely to say that the IRA structure is intact, but
that the organisation has "fundamentally changed in
its mode of operation".

To quote one source, things are "heading in the right

On demilitarisation, unionists are concerned that such
sweeping security changes are still being planned and
have been particularly critical of the decision to
stand down the Northern Ireland-based battalions of
the RIR.

The Army hopes it will soon have details of the
financial package that will be available to those
soldiers and would hope to make this public around the
same time that news emerges on the plans for base


'Hibernating' IRA To Melt Away As Peace Breaks Out

Gerry Adams once boasted of the IRA: "They haven't
gone away, you know". However, in a few weeks the IMC
will produce its latest account on the progress of
Provo disbandment. Security expert Brian Rowan reports
on what it will say

13 January 2006

The men of the Independent Monitoring Commission have
been in Belfast this week as part of the most
important phase of work they have so far been asked to

At the end of this month, the commissioners – Lord
Alderdice, John Grieve, Joe Brosnan and Dick Kerr –
will produce their latest assessment on the IRA.

They will be in Belfast on January 30 and 31 to
finalise that report.

It will not be a magic wand that makes the IRA
disappear and sources are dismissive of suggestions
that it will be an assessment that gives the
republican organisation "a clean bill of health".

What the Commission will report on is an organisation
in "transition" - an organisation that has
"fundamentally changed in its mode of operation".

The IMC is listening to and will be reporting on "all
of the complexities of that transition process". And
the tone of this latest assessment will be that things
are "heading in the right direction".

It would be unrealistic – unfair even – to expect
anything more definitive at this stage.

The IRA is more than 30 years old in terms of its most
recent existence, and 30 weeks have not yet passed
since its statement of July last year formally ending
its "armed campaign".

"This is not an army that you can give a demob suit
and a cheque and tell it to go home," one source said.

What that means is that the IRA is still out there. It
recently issued a New Year statement. It still has a
structure, including a leadership, and it is, to quote
a recent intelligence assessment, an organisation in

The IRA in its new mode is waiting for political
progress and for the proof that there is a viable
alternative to its "armed struggle".

It is a very different organisation - different
because of the activities it has ceased and because of
the decommissioning acts of last September.

These were hugely significant developments, but the
DUP is not yet ready to do political business with
Sinn Fein, although there now seems to be an
inevitability that business will eventually be done.

The question is no longer if but when.

In the meantime, the security landscape is changing -
an indication that at the most senior levels of the
police and the Army, there is a belief that the
republican "war" is over.

When it completes its latest report on the IRA and
other paramilitary groups, the IMC will then turn its
attention to demilitarisation or normalisation, as
others prefer to call it.

At the end of February it will give an assessment of
developments - a report on progress measured against
the current terrorist threat.

The Army here in conjunction with the Ministry of
Defence is finalising plans to end the decades-long
Operation Banner.

The target date for that is August 2007, and, between
now and then, there will be a further significant
shrinking of troop numbers - from 9,500 down to 5,000.

Another two dozen bases will close. No more than 14
"core" sites will be needed to house the soldiers who
stay in "peacetime" Northern Ireland.

And that means that over the next 18 months, the Army
will close 26 "campaign" bases.

The fine details of that plan - the "sequencing" of
those closures - is now very close to being finalised.

It will be published soon, but it is not yet clear if
it will be ready in time for inclusion in that IMC
assessment in February, although one imagines that the
Army would want to see it there.

When it does emerge, what the plan will show us will
be the final shape of the "peacetime" garrison - a
picture of the planned army presence beyond Operation

So, there will be significant progress to report in
those IMC assessments in both January and February.

The stories to tell will be of an IRA that is melting
away and of sweeping security changes as part of a
"war" that is ending.

Then the commissioners of the IMC will be back in
April to write and speak again on the world of the

It will then be nine months since the IRA statement of
last July, and there will have been a further
significant period of time to judge how that
organisation is evolving.

As one source put it: "The more time you've got, the
more you can point to the changes."


Man’s Killers Are Agents

McColgan killers are ‘untouchable’

Ciarán Barnes

A priest yesterday said it was believed the loyalist
killers of a 21-year-old Catholic postman have escaped
justice because they are police informants.

Speaking to Daily Ireland on the fourth anniversary of
the murder of Daniel McColgan, Fr Dan Whyte described
as ‘appalling’ reports the gunmen are being protected
by elements within the PSNI.


A priest yesterday said it was believed the loyalist
killers of a 21-year-old Catholic postman have escaped
justice because they are police informants.

Speaking to Daily Ireland on the fourth anniversary of
the murder of Daniel McColgan, Fr Dan Whyte described
as “appalling” reports the gunmen are being protected
by elements within the PSNI.

Mr McColgan was shot dead on January 12, 2002, as he
went to work in a mail sorting office in the loyalist
Rathcoole estate on the edge of north Belfast. The Red
Hand Defenders, a cover name for the Ulster Defence
Association (UDA), said it carried out the killing.

Within days of the murder, the names of two senior
loyalists from southeast Antrim were being linked to
the murder. One of them, now the UDA’s leader in the
area, is reported to be a Special Branch informant.

Fr Whyte, whose St Mary’s on the Hill parish the
McColgan family live in, said the feeling in the
community is that the killers are being shielded.

“The names of the people who murdered Daniel are known
among this community, that’s the feeling around here,”
he said.

“The other common understanding is that the police
know who was involved in the killing but they have not
been touched because they are in positions as

“These are the genuine concerns my parishioners have.
It is absolutely appalling that the guys who did this
are walking the same streets. They have committed
murder, yet nothing has been done.”

Fr Whyte urged the PSNI to renew their efforts to
bring Mr McColgan’s killers to justice.

He said that despite the murder occurring four years
ago police chiefs should plough as much resources as
possible into the investigation.

A spokesman for the PSNI said 12 people have been
arrested in connection with the murder but there have
been no charges.

He said detectives remain resolute in their
determination to bring Mr McColgan’s killers before
the courts.

Danny McColgan was one of four young men murdered by
loyalists in southeast Antrim during a 12-month period
between July 2001-02.

The others killed were Ciaran Cummings, Gavin Brett
and Gerard Lawlor. The PSNI has yet to charge anyone
in connection with these deaths.


Woman Meets Soldier Who Shot Brother

By Deborah McAleese
13 January 2006

An Ulster woman came face to face with the British
soldier who shot dead her brother in Belfast 35 years
ago during a meeting brokered by peace activist
Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The meeting will feature in a ground breaking
documentary to be broadcast in the spring.

Mary McLarnon, whose brother Michael McLarnon was shot
dead in Ardoyne on October 28, 1971, was filmed
meeting the man who admitted pulling the trigger for
the BBC programme Facing The Truth.

In an interview with the North Belfast News, Ms
McLarnon said she took part in the programme to honour
her brother's memory.

She said: "I did what I did for my parents, for
Michael and for justice. I have no regrets. I wanted
to clear Michael's name and character. He was an
innocent man."

The programme, which will be aired on BBC2 in March,
features five other families and perpetrators of the

It includes a meeting between Michael Stone and the
widow and brother of Dermot Hackett who Stone was
convicted of murdering.

Leading Ardoyne republican Eddie Copeland, whose
father was shot dead by a British soldier on the same
day as Michael McLarnon, declined to take part in the

He told the North Belfast News it was not the right
thing for his family.

He said: "We weren't interested in speaking to the
soldier or coming face to face with him, because you
wouldn't get anything out of some soldier saying, 'I
killed your father', because it goes higher than him.

"It goes higher than his boss and goes all the way to
the top."


Calls For Voting Fraud Laws To Be Scrapped

No one has been prosecuted for electoral fraud over
the past ten years

Ciarán Barnes

DEMANDS were made last night for the Electoral Fraud
Act to be scrapped after it emerged not one person in
the North has been prosecuted for electoral fraud in
the past ten years.

The controversial legislation, which led to 40,000
people being denied a vote in elections last May, was
introduced in 2002 to combat claims of electoral

Condemned by Sinn Féin as “draconian”, it was welcomed
by the SDLP, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and
Ulster Unionists who insisted electoral fraud was

However, Daily Ireland can reveal that official
statistics show that between 1995 and 2005 there were
no prosecutions for electoral fraud.

The figures were quoted in the House of Commons on
Monday by direct rule minister David Hanson, and have
led to renewed calls for the act to be scrapped.

Sinn Féin’s National Director of Elections, Pat
Doherty, said he was not surprised no one has been
convicted of electoral fraud.

The West Tyrone MP said: “Electoral fraud was not
widespread, as continually portrayed by the
reactionary parties and certain sections of the media.

“The Electoral Fraud Act was never about fraud - it
was about disenfranchising whole communities,
particularly working class nationalists and

“It was brought in at the behest of both the SDLP and
the unionist parties in a bid to explain away the rise
in the Sinn Féin vote, and in a failed bid to prevent
further Sinn Féin gains.”

In March 2005, SDLP Assemblyman Alban Maginness told
Daily Ireland those elections held in the North after
the introduction of the act were the only fair votes
he could remember.

Speaking yesterday, he insisted the electoral fraud
prosecution statistics added weight to this claim.

Mr Maginness said: “It was quite evident at the time
of the introduction of the act there were serious

“That there were no prosecutions during that period
underlines the fact that there was a need to reform
that system in order to allow parties and candidates
to participate fairly in that system.

“That we now have a fair system is beyond doubt.
Everyone accepts it is fair and free from any serious
problems in relation to fraud.”

The impact of the Electoral Fraud Act can be seen in
the number of voters who cast ballots in the elections
just before and after its introduction.

In the 2001 Westminster elections, 1,200,000 people
had votes. In the same election four years later only
1,150,000 were eligible to vote.

Under the terms of the act, those wishing to vote have
to register a number of months before the election
takes place.

The areas that have recorded the greatest fall in
voting numbers are working-class urban areas in
Belfast and Derry, which Sinn Féin says contain many
of its supporters.


Second Council Row Involving GAA

Unionist and nationalist councillors in Londonderry
are involved in a row over the Gaelic Athletic
Association (GAA) for the second time in a week.

The council has discussed giving seven acres of land
to GAA club Doire Trasna in the Waterside on a 99-year
lease for a nominal fee.

Earlier this month, it agreed to give land to Sean
Dolan GAA club in Creggan.

Unionists have criticised the moves, saying the GAA
has been given land worth £300,000 in recent days.

The full city council still has to vote on the
decision, but the result is being seen as a formality.


Doire Trasna spokesman Joe McWilliams said: "We
basically are going to carry out something which the
council should be doing.

"It's going to cost us to develop it somewhere in the
region of half a million pounds of which, in that
context, the council contribution of £70,000 is a very
small amount of the overall cost."

Doire Trasna currently uses council grounds which it
shares with other sports. Gaelic matches are played
across two soccer pitches.

Unionists, however, have questioned whether it is fair
that two GAA clubs have been given land in just over a

'Nominal rent'

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: "You can't simply have a
Christmas Day giveaway every week, which is what it is
turning into.

"Within two weeks, we have two Gaelic clubs, both in
Londonderry, both getting effectively free gratis,
either land or land at a nominal rent, and other
sporting disciplines have major applications in before
the council that have not yet been decided upon."

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming denied that the
council was giving the GAA preferential treatment.

"It (the land) has been given to two clubs to
facilitate sporting facilities for hundreds and
hundreds of young people in this city," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/13 20:18:45 GMT


Sect Probe 'Clears Celtic Players'

An expert investigation into allegations against two
Celtic players accused of making sectarian chants has
cleared the pair, the football club has said.

Stephen Pearson and John Hartson were captured on
amateur video footage in which shouts of "IRA" could
be heard.

Scotland international Pearson and Wales striker
Hartson both strongly denied taking part in the chants
and received the support of their club.

It called in audio and video experts as part of a
"thorough and wide-ranging investigation".

Club representatives also travelled to Ireland to take
statements from people who had attended the function
at which the footage was taken.

The grainy clip, which has been widely distributed on
the internet, shows the players on stage at the non-
club event with three fans during a boisterous

Both players join in with a rendition of the Irish
folk tune Fields Of Athenry and are cheered on by
figures in the background.

The song, which is a favourite of the Glasgow club's
fans, is punctuated by shouts of "IRA" and "Sinn Fein"
on the video.

Celtic's chief executive Peter Lawwell said: "We are
pleased that the investigation supports the strong
denials which were previously issued by our players.
Celtic Football Club stands firmly against bigotry in
all its forms and will continue to be a club for all."

Celtic have won plaudits from First Minister Jack
McConnell for their campaign to stamp out bigotry.


EU Directive Poses Threat To Irish Jobs

By Jim Morahan

GOVERNMENT Chief Whip Tom Kitt acknowledged yesterday
the proposed EU services directive poses a threat to
Irish jobs.

Some Irish service providers might relocate to lower-
cost destinations to supply the Irish market, he told
trade union members in Dublin's Liberty Hall.

Mr Kitt was speaking at a one-day seminar hosted by
the country's biggest union, SIPTU, which has launched
a public information campaign to oppose the current
draft directive.

SIPTU president Jack O'Connor described the proposed
directive as a blank cheque for exploitation of
workers. In its present form, it would legitimise the
erosion of wages and working conditions.

"A more targeted and humane approach is essential if
we are to preserve, not just labour standards but the
human integrity of the European project," he said.

The directive's "country of origin" principle allows
companies or individuals to provide services in any EU
member state without being bound by local labour law.

Mr O'Connor said this would allow businesses to
compete on the basis of the lowest labour standards in
Europe, with little chance of effective regulation.

Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa welcomed this week's
admission by European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso that the proposal had to be fundamentally

Mr De Rossa said any rewrite of the proposal had to be

High-quality public service provision, labour law and
collective agreements in member states, along with
consumer and environmental protection, had to be "at
the core" of any new proposal for creating an open
market in services.

"Anything less will simply not be acceptable and the
European Parliament will inevitably exercise its
rights as joint legislator," he said.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said such a directive,
which adversely affected pay and conditions of
workers, must be rejected.

"The trade union should look at this and ensure that
it is made part of the negotiations - if there are to
be negotiations - about joining or re-entering
partnership talks," he said.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who replaced EU
Commissioner Charlie McCreevy in last March's Kildare
by-election, asked if the proposed directive was so
fundamentally flawed why was it not abandoned.

Fine Gael MEP Avril Doyle pledged the measure would
never get through in its present form. Her
parliamentary group had already agreed on a "swathe of
amendments" to it.

Green TD Eamon Ryan said all the Green parties were
opposed to the proposed directive and would be
supporting SIPTU'S campaign for serious public debate
on the issues.


McGuinness To Meet Tamil Tigers

Source: Derry Journal - January 13, 2006

Martin McGuinness will travel to Sri Lanka next week
to meet with the country's president Mahinda
Rajapakse, political parties and representatives of
the Tamil Tigers to advise them on how methods
employed in the Irish peace process can be applied to
their own conflict situation.

Speaking to the 'Journal' Mr. McGuinness said he hoped
to impress on everyone the critical importance of
dialogue and negotiation.

"Peace making requires a departure from the mindset of
victory and defeat to a position of compromise and
accommodation with your opponents" he said.

"I will encourage them to view the conflict through
the eyes of their opponents in order to gain an
overview of the causes of the conflict and an insight
as to how to reach consensus on areas of agreement
from which to build an enduring peace process."

Mr. McGuinness added that he will also be emphasising
the need for positive, forward thinking leadership in
order to build confidence in the citizens of Sri Lanka
about the process.

"I am of course humbled, but honoured, to be
considered a person that could have a positive
influence on the conflict that divides the proud
people of Sri Lanka and am looking forward to the
experience," he said.

The Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator will be taking part in
the initiative at the invitation of Sri Lankan peace
mediation group INTACT.


Opin: Who Really Was Limerick Man Seán Sabhat From
Garryowen? We All Really Should Know


Limerick. Celtic Tiger City. Building work all over
the place, new roads, new by-pass… usual Irish crowd
in usual Irish city-centre streets – multi-coloured,
multi-national, multi-lingual…

University City, sports city. Rugby, hurling,
football. Olympic size pool in the Uni. Stab City
once, but now guns are the favoured weapon of the
criminal classes. Drive-bys, especially drive-bys.
Just seem to be particularly fond of them down in

Different, though. Different from Cork, different from
Waterford. Different from Galway. Historical Limerick,
storied town. Patrick Sarsfield and the Treaty Stone
upon which was signed the agreement that lifted the
siege of 1691… Limerick of the business classes,
Limerick of the tourists… poor Limerick, too.
Underprivileged. But young upwardly mobile and flush
types descend on the new Old City…

Just over 49 years ago Seán Sabhat left this city – a
different place, then, but still Limerick all the
same, historical Limerick – to join his comrades in
one of two 15-man flying columns set to raise the
level of the recently launched IRA campaign along the
border. Seán Garland, now president of the Workers
Party and currently sought by the PSNI for the
purpose, according to the posters, of extraordinary
rendition to Guantanamo Bay, was the OC of the column
– which included in its ranks the already legendary
Daithí Ó Conaill - and Seán Sabhat was a section

The tactics were similar to those that worked so well
for Tom Barry and Dan Breen during the War of
Independence 40 years previously. This time round they
were a disaster.

The idea was to blast out the wall of the
Brookeborough RUC barracks in County Fermanagh,
neutralise the police personnel inside and make off
with their weapons. The ‘lorry-load of volunteers’
duly arrived and planted their explosives, but the
mine did not go off. Efforts were made to detonate the
charge but the RUC came out with Sten guns blasting.
Sabhat and Feargal Ó hAnluain from Monaghan were
fatally wounded and died in a barn near Roslea to
which the column had retreated.

Seán Sabhat was not from Garryowen, but from Henry
Street in the city centre. Feargal Ó hAnluain had not
‘just gone 16.’ In fact he was 21 when he died. Both
men have been immortalised in the words of two of the
best known popular ballads of the last century, so I
suppose a certain amount of poetic licence can be look

Last Sunday I travelled to Limerick to attend Sinn
Féin’s Annual Seán Sabhat Commemoration in preparation
for a television programme I hope to make for TG4 this
year about the Limerick man. In fact, it was the third
Seán Sabhat commemoration to be held in Limerick
within the space of a week, with Republican Sinn Féin
staging theirs on the previous Sunday, and a breakaway
group honouring South’s memory in a separate ceremony.

Perhaps next year the various groups will get together
to mark the 50th anniversary of this remarkable young
man in a unified fashion.

Who knows, though. Maybe the Workers Party will decide
that they want to get in on the act and we’ll have
four commemorations!

The problem with being eulogised in a popular ballad
is that while everyone knows your name and how you
died, very few people ever find out anything about the
real person. I grew up hearing and singing Seán South
from Garryowen and The Patriot Game, but always
assumed they referred to events that took place in
1916. Never realised for a minute that the IRA
attacked Brookeborough Barracks barely six weeks after
I came into this world.

I became interested in Seán Sabhat the person when I
saw a poster with a drawing of his face on it and a
quote from his brother Gearóid in which he said that
Seán would never have joined the IRA if the Irish
government had fulfilled its promises regarding the
Irish language.

That brought me to Luimneach, clutching a copy of
Seán’s biography.

Trying to piece together a picture of a truly,
extraordinary young man. An idealist, a soldier, a
poet, a writer, a journalist. Liked the company of
women. Fond of going to Céilís. Mad about the Irish

Almost 50 years later the various republican groups
still remember Seán Sabhat, still draw inspiration
from his memory, still believe in his ideal, his
vision. Still feel his determination. But who really
was Seán Sabhat?

Hopefully, by this time next year Ireland will have a
clearer view of Seán Sabhat. I want to know what he
thought of Limerick in the ‘50s, what he did around
the city, who his friends were, what he thought of
them and what they thought of him. What depressed him,
and who did he let down. Hed must have let someone
down, because he was a person. And I want to know why
he decided to risk everything with the IRA in
Operation Harvest.

I wonder what kind of Limerick did Seán Sabhat live
in, indeed what kind of Ireland did he grow up in
during the ‘40s and ‘50s? Did the city itself
contribute to his decision to join the IRA?

What about Limerick today? Celtic Tiger Limerick.
Okay, the republicans – of various hues and colours –
remember him, but what about the building workers?
What about the Latvians and the Poles? What about the
high-tech and software wizards, the shoppers in
Dunnes, the kids in school and the Nigerians in
Supermacs. All of Limerick should know who was Seán
Sabhat. All of Ireland needs to know.

As well as Scannáin Aisling Ghéar’s television
programme I have heard of a forthcoming new biography
– in English – that will supplement Mainchin Seoighe’s
magnificent Maraíodh Seán Sabhat Aréir.

In the meantime, if anyone feels they could help me in
making a short tv biography about Seán Sabhat I would
be more than grateful for all the assistance I can


Opin: EDITORIAL: State Killers Still Being Protected


It was heartening to hear the family of murdered human
rights solicitor Pat Finucance describe as “very
positive” a series of meetings with political leaders
in Dublin this week.

Pat Finucane’s widow Geraldine was joined by other
family members at the meetings with Fine Gael and the
PDs – who in the past have not been noted for their
outspoken condemnation of British state violence – and
the Green Party. Mrs Finucane said she was happy with
the meetings which were attended by all three party
leaders: Enda Kenny, Mary Harney and Trevor Sargent.

The real test, of course, comes now that the meetings
are over and the time for action has come. We share
the contention of the Finucane family that the
prospects of getting to the truth are negligible if
any inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane is held
under the aegis of the Inquiries Act, a cynical and
flagrant piece of legislation the sole purpose of
which is to allow the British government to decide
which information enters the public domain.

The three parties are agreed that what is required is
not some half-baked and ultimately powerless publicity
stunt of an inquiry, but a real and meaningful one
that will get to the heart of the matter though the
heavens fall. Which means that there now exists a
nationalist consensus across the island on the issue;
which means that the Finucane question is perhaps the
single most important test of the British government’s
repeated assertion that the bad old days must be put
behind us and the primacy of politics reasserted.

For if the government of Ireland and all the
nationalist and republican parties, North and South,
are united in a steely determination not to allow the
British government to cover up the full extent of its
dirty war, then surely the British would not be so
arrogant as to continue to insist on hobbling any
inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Experience
tells us, however, that that is exactly what they will
do unless all parties are united not just in rhetoric,
but in action.

The cold, hard fact is that the British state colluded
in the murder of Pat Finucane – that much we know,
that much has been acknowledged by Stevens.

What we do not know is the identity and seniority of
others involved in plotting a murder that – perhaps
more than any other single killing in the last century
– destabilised the very state that the killers were
purporting to protect and uphold. What we do not know
either is whether these people continue to hold
positions of power and influence.

While questions like this continue to swirl around
unanswered, then the viability of the state is thrown
into question – not by republicans whose raison d’etre
is to deny its validity, but by the British
themselves, who believed that its best interests were
served by murdering its people, and who continue to
believe that that is a matter that the people should
not be told about.


Opin: Implement The Democratic Outcome

Laurence McKeown


It was by chance early this week that I learned of the
death of Matt Devlin. The irony was that I had been in
Tuam over the New Year and had passed close to where
Matt lived, oblivious to what had happened.

I had been in contact with Matt last year – the first
time in 24 years. A journalist from the Guardian
newspaper asked if I could help put her in contact
with those who had been on the 1981 hunger strike. I
was able to get a contact number for Matt and when we
spoke I learned he had been ill and regularly
frequented Belfast for medical treatment. We agreed we
should get together the next time he was in the city.
Several weeks later he phoned me when he was there but
I was elsewhere on the day. We left it that we’d try
again but made no definite date or time.

We never did get to meet – a lesson that things just
don’t happen by chance. You need to make them happen.
You need to plan for them and then implement the plan.

As another New Year begins – the 12th one from the
initial IRA cessation in 1994 - the question for both
governments and the DUP is what plan they have to move
us forward politically. Or will things be left to
chance? If so it’s now time to get impatient; time to
raise voices louder. Last year Óglaigh na hÉireann
dealt effectively and conclusively with any
outstanding matters concerning them. The crutch that
unionists leaned on for years has been withdrawn; the
argument that they could not sit down with
‘terrorists’ no longer exists.

2006 is the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger
strike. During that fast the people of Fermanagh and
South Tyrone voted Bobby Sands their MP – the
constituency of Cavan/Monaghan elected his comrade and
fellow hunger striker, Kieran Doherty, their TD. The
outcome of both elections was ignored. Bobby, Kieran
and eight others died in the prison and dozens of
others on the outside as a direct result of that. Matt
Devlin may have survived a little longer but the fast
no doubt contributed to his early death.

Twenty five years on from that eventful year we no
longer tolerate our vote being ignored, downplayed or
discounted. We’ve come too long a journey for that.
What we demand is a plan of action followed swiftly by
its implementation.

Laurence McKeown was a republican prisoner for 16
years in Long Kesh and spent 70 days on the 1981
hunger strike. He is the author of a doctoral thesis,
co-author of the feature film H3 and plays The
Laughter of Our Children and A Cold House.


E-Panel Invite To BBC News Viewers

BBC television news viewers in Northern Ireland are
being invited to have their say about the stories that
are covered locally.

The BBC Newsline team is currently signing up people
to its "e-panel" which will also give them the
opportunity to raise issues they would like to see
investigated by the team of reporters and

The programme editor, Angelina Fusco, said they wanted
to recruit hundreds more people across Northern
Ireland to participate in the project.

"BBC Newsline is committed to listening to our
audience and we are always eager to hear what they
think about the programme and about any local stories
they think we should be investigating.

"Also, with our telephone comment line, the e-panel is
giving BBC Newsline viewers more opportunities to make
a real difference to what they see in their homes each

"Participation in the e-panel gives people a chance to
make a real difference in what they will see on BBC
Newsline - and it will only take a few minutes of
their time each month," she said.

If you want to be involved in the "e-panel" you can
log on to the BBC Newsline website and follow the
instructions on how to register.

The programme will then contact you to hear your views
on a number of different subjects.

The first survey is expected to be carried out in the
next couple of weeks.

Those taking part in the project must be more than 15
years of age and live in Northern Ireland.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/13 15:47:53 GMT


When The Axe Falls Within The Law

By Mike McKimm
BBC Northern Ireland environment correspondent

It is one of those curious bits of the law.

When the bulldozers and men with chainsaws move into
the field beside your house early on a Sunday morning
and start cutting down all the trees, you know it has
been sold to a property developer.

And it can only happen legally in Northern Ireland.

In the rest of the UK and most European states a
special felling licence is required.

In the late 1960s, a decision was made in Northern
Ireland to abandon the need for licences.

It seems that the law fell prey to pressure from some
developers of the day.

By getting rid of the need for a licence they could
move onto private land they had bought and cut down
any tree not protected by law.

And in this corner of the UK, that usually meant most

For that reason alone, for years, news programmes have
been peppered with stories of angry locals protesting
over the felling of their favourite woodland.

Often police would look on, powerless to intervene.

Unless there were birds nesting in the trees or they
had legal protection by being part of a reserve or
were designated in some way, they were fair game for
those who had reason to fell them.

In some cases, hundreds of trees were felled across
land that then lay dormant.

It was just developers making sure they couldn't be
outflanked by environmental groups managing to obtain
a tree preservation order or some form of control. And
in most cases, this was all but impossible anyway,
giving those who wish to fell the trees a free hand.

It is all perfectly legal and above board and can only
happen in Northern Ireland.

In the rest of the UK, any tree over about six feet
requiring the chop needs a felling licence.

If a developer buys a site covered in trees, a licence
must be obtained before they can be cut down.

Only people cutting trees down in their own private
garden, clearing up orchards or similar situations can
do so without the ubiquitous bit of paper.

But there is a glimmer of light ahead for trees in
Northern Ireland.

Their champions, the Woodland Trust, have been
lobbying the Agriculture Minister, Lord Rooker, to
change the law as part of a forestry review being
carried out later this year.

Patrick Cregg of the Woodland Trust said: "The
unfortunate thing is that Northern Ireland is bottom
of the league when it comes to tree cover.

"We have only 6% and we feel that there is a need for
some kind of control to ensure that what little tree
cover remains will remain for future generations."

But will it actually happen?

Well, the Department of Agriculture told the BBC that
indeed, "felling licences are part of the current
forest policy review".

So it could soon be good news for trees.

It could also mean that developers now get a lie in on
Sunday mornings.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/12 08:43:28 GMT

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