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January 18, 2006

Govt Will Fight Sellafield Closure

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News About Ireland & The Irish

BN 01/18/06 Govt Will Continue Fight For Sellafield Closure
DI 01/18/06 Spicer Firm Is Accused Of Iraq Attacks: Update
BT 01/18/06 US Congressmen For Talks With Local Parties
NL 01/18/06 End Bluff And Recall Stormont - UUP
BB 01/18/06 Unionist Anger Over 'IRA Crime'
DU 01/18/06 Foster - Troop Withdrawal Premature
IN 01/18/06 Scappaticci ‘Involved In My Father’s Murder’
IT 01/18/06 Leadership Not Damaged By Spy Claims - Adams
BT 01/18/06 Sinn Féin And SDLP Trade Taunts
IN 01/18/06 Meeting On Interface Violence
IN 01/18/06 Shankill Victim And Republican To Share Stage
BB 01/18/06 Mixed Schools 'Not As Sectarian'
BT 01/18/06 UUP Told: Reach Out To Catholics
IN 01/18/06 Opin: Catholicism In America In Varying Shades
BN 01/18/06 Chomsky To Speak On Terror War
BT 01/18/06 'Cool' Rosary Beads Taken Off Shelves


Dermot Ahern: Govt Will Continue Fight For Sellafield

18/01/2006 - 12:07:39

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has promised that the
Government will continue to fight for the closure of the
Sellafield nuclear plant in Britain.

The pledge follows an opinion issued by an advisor to the
European Court of Justice this morning stating that Ireland
was wrong to bring Britain before a UN tribunal in an
effort to have the facility shut down.

The Advocate General, whose opinion is usually adopted by
the court, said Ireland would be in breach of EU rules if
it continued with the case it instigated under the UN
Convention on the Laws of the Sea in 2001.

He said Ireland should instead have pursued its case within
the EU institutions.

Asked about the setback this morning, Mr Ahern promised it
would not deter the Government's quest against Sellafield.

"Today's event isn't the end of the situation," he said.
"We don't get any economic benefits from Sellafield and
yet, at the same time, we have to put up with the pollution
and the danger that it causes.

"I can assure people that we will continue to use every
avenue, both legal and otherwise, to state our case in
relation to a dirty plant on our doorstep."


View the video clip

Spicer Firm Is Accused Of Iraq Attacks: Video Update

by Tom Griffin

A former British army officer is facing new allegations
that men under his leadership have been involved in attacks
on civilians

Tim Spicer, who commanded the Scots Guards in Belfast when
Mark Wright and James Fisher shot dead 18-year-old Peter
McBride in 1992, is now facing claims that mercenaries
working for his firm Aegis Defence Services are behind
attacks on Iraqi civilians revealed in footage posted on
the internet.

The video, which emerged on an unofficial website
maintained by a former Aegis employee, shows a series of
clips of private contractors shooting at Iraqi cars from
the back of a utility vehicle, set to a soundtrack of the
Elvis Presley song Mystery Train. In one clip, Iraqi
civilians are seen fleeing after a targeted car swerves and
crashes into another vehicle.

The footage has since been taken down from the site, found
at , but has re-emerged elsewhere after
its existence was highlighted by the Sunday Telegraph at
the weekend.

The unofficial site was apparently known initially only to
employees of Aegis and other private security contractors
in Iraq.

In one post on the site’s forum, the administrator states:
“This site has not been submitted to any search engines and
so is not accessible willy-nilly on the Internet, you need
to know the URL and at present that is only known by Aegis

Other posts record concern about the contents of the video.
One states: “Respectively that footage is the most damning
footage of trigger happy body count hunters that I have
witnessed, it has done nothing but show the company and the
lads it employs in a bad light, and if I was looking to
employ a company that would certainly ensure that Aegis
didn’t get the contract.”

The British Foreign Office said yesterday that it had
looked into the origins of the footage.

“We’ve seen the clips on this video and it seems to be
pieced together from a variety of different clips that have
been cut together,” a spokesman said.

“There’s no indication of exactly where it’s come from and
there’s certainly nothing to suggest that the vehicle or
staff involved are Aegis contractors.”

“Aegis have a contact with the American Defence Department
in Iraq, and anything further to do with their contract
would be a matter for them.”

The footage has come to light only days after the Pat
Finucane Centre in Derry lobbied the US Congress to cancel
the Aegis contract, because of Spicer’s role in the McBride

“A number of members of Congress expressed concern and
indeed shock at the circumstances surrounding the
contract,” PFC spokeman Paul O’ Connor said.

“The latest allegations will certainly increase the fears
that this contract has been awarded to the wrong person and
the wrong firm.”

“Though it is important to discover whether Aegis employees
were directly involved in these incidents, we should also
remember that Aegis is responsible for directing all
private security movements in Iraq.

“Were these incidents reported to Aegis? If not, then they
are unaware of massive human rights violations occurring on
the ground. If they were reported on the other hand, why
was nothing done about it?”

A spokeswoman for the public relations company which
represents Aegis said the company had no comment.


US Congressmen In Belfast For Talks With Local Parties

By Chris Thornton
18 January 2006

A delegation of American congressmen were due to begin
meetings with Northern Ireland's main political parties
today as London and Dublin attempt to pave the way for a
new round of talks.

Representatives Jim Walsh, who chairs the Congressional
Committee on Ireland, Tim Murphy and Brian Higgins will
meet the SDLP, UUP and Sinn Fein in Belfast today.

They are due to meet DUP MPs in London tomorrow for another
briefing on the prospects for progress next month, when the
governments hope to begin talks.

Last night, the congressmen met Secretary of State Peter
Hain, who said Northern Ireland owes the US a huge debt of
gratitude for its support for the peace process.

Mr Hain said: "The United States has been a good and loyal
friend to Northern Ireland and the peace process.

"Through its support and encouragement, the American
administration has helped to move Northern Ireland forward.
Over the past decade, much has been achieved.

"Yet there is still more to be done and this is an
important year for everyone who supports devolution.

"Both the British and Irish governments value the continued
support from politicians on Capitol Hill who want to see
the return of the Assembly, all party support for policing,
the full implementation of the Agreement and a better
future for all in Northern Ireland."


End Bluff And Recall Stormont - UUP

Tuesday 17th January 2006

The Ulster Unionist Party said yesterday that it was time
to "end the political bluff over devolution" and for the
Government to recall the Assembly.

Party leader Sir Reg Empey said the public was fed up with
the political vacuum and years of stagnation.

MLAs salaries, he admitted, were hard to justify and it was
time to get Stormont back up and running.

The SDLP echoed this view and demanded that a full
legislative Assembly be put back in place.

Sir Reg said that the UUP did not support a rush back to
power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

The Assembly should be reconvened for six weeks to see if
it could strike a deal on devolved government, he said.

If, as he suspected, the Executive could not be re-
established, then everyone would know where they stood in
2006 and this would clear the decks to explore other

Sir Reg said: "We have had something like a decade where we
have been considering what is best to do with the
government of this place.

"We have had eight years since the Belfast Agreement came
into operation and this Assembly has been in on-off mode,
mostly off mode since that time.

"Now, we don't produce a council of despair.

"We don't believe that nothing can be achieved.

"We don't believe that everything has to be put off and
off. "People are fed up with that. "I think the time has
come to call everybody's bluff and to reconvene this place
as soon as possible and let the clock run."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan called on the Government to set a
date for the restoration of devolution and not let the DUP
dictate the terms.

The Foyle MP said: "The DUP can keep ordering more process
and keep ordering more talks.

"If the Government pursue the prospects this year in the
way in which they have managed things for the last three-
and-half years, we are going to see a further odyssey of
side deals, we are going to see more preconditions
borrowing another, we are going to see posture and pose and
people pretending to be really willing to do things at some
point in the future but not letting it happen now.

"The one way to cut through all that posture and posing and
all that messing is for the governments to say there is a
date in which the institutions are going to be restored,
come what may, and parties are going to find themselves in
restored institutions and are going to have to take


Unionist Anger Over 'IRA Crime'

Unionists have reacted angrily to a police assessment that
the IRA is still involved in organised crime.

The comments by Sam Kinkaid, the PSNI's most senior
detective, contradicted Security Minister Shaun Woodward
who last month said the IRA was not active.

The DUP has called for Mr Woodward to resign, while the UUP
has said the police view was a "damning assessment" of his

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams described the briefing as "a
political intervention".

Mr Kinkaid, the PSNI's assistant chief constable in charge
of crime operations, gave his assessment of the IRA's
activities during a private briefing to the Policing Board
on Tuesday.

It is believed Mr Kincaid said there had been significant
progress in terms of ending some activities on the part of
the IRA, such as paramilitary attacks and armed robberies.


However, he told board members that no paramilitary group,
including the IRA, has ceased involvement in organised

He said the police had seen no change in this for a year.

Speaking on Wednesday, the Sinn Fein president described
the police briefing as a political intervention which he
said posed a challenge to the government.

The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, said that the contrast
between the police assessment of IRA criminal activity and
last month's comments by the security minister raises
questions about the minister's credibility.

However, Mr Durkan said he was not looking for Mr Woodward
to withdraw his comments but thought it was better for
everyone to settle down and wait for the findings of the
forthcoming IMC report.

On Tuesday, BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said he
understood Mr Woodward was present during the briefing and
said he stood by his original comments.

I've absolutely no confidence in the judgement of the
security minister and when you lose confidence in a
person's judgement in such an important role I think
there's only one place for him to go

Ian Paisley Jnr

However, the DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr said he had "absolutely
no confidence in the judgement of the security minister".

"The material which we received leads to only one
conclusion, that the Provisional IRA are still involved in
serious and organised crime," he said.

"That briefing was the same that the security minister was
in receipt of and yet his conclusion is completely

"Now I've absolutely no confidence in the judgement of the
security minister and when you lose confidence in a
person's judgement in such an important role I think
there's only one place for him to go."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the fact that Mr
Woodward and the police had reached different conclusions
on IRA activity from the same evidence "undermined public

"It is now absolutely imperative that the secretary of
state immediately intervenes and delivers his own
assessment," he said.

Alliance leader David Ford said the public needed to know
the truth about IRA activity.

"I believe that the truth on current IRA activity, or lack
or activity, will emerge when the IMC report is published
in early February," he said.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reports on the
activity of all of Northern Ireland's paramilitaries.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/18 11:47:38 GMT


Foster - Troop Withdrawal Premature

DUP victims’ spokesperson Arlene Foster MLA has termed the
withdrawal of troops from South Armagh as being
“premature”. The Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA said,

“This move can only be termed as being premature. In a
border area which has the capacity to be rampant with
racketeering and smuggling, it is vitally important that
there is a security presence so as this illegal activity
can be nipped in the bud. Removing this security presence
only serves to give criminals a green light to expand their
empires and will no doubt assist paramilitaries in their

Following the DUP’s meeting with the Chief Constable some
days ago, I have not been instilled with confidence that
criminal activity, along the border, has ceased.
Paramilitaries may have turned-of the murdering and maiming
tap, for IMC purposes, but their criminally seems to be as
evident as ever.

Following this decision to withdraw troops from Bessbrook,
I have received a number of calls from victims in the South
Armagh area who have reinforced my fears about the extent
of criminality in the area.”


Scappaticci ‘Involved In My Father’s Murder’

By Sharon O’Neill Chief Reporter

THE family of an IRA man murdered as an informer have
challenged the republican movement to clear his name,
linking his death to an unmasked British agent.

Anthony McKiernan’s daughter Sharon Murtagh has revealed
that he was to meet Freddie Scappaticci – said to be
second-in-command of IRA internal security and a Special
Branch agent – hours be-fore he was shot in the head.

It has also emerged that people claiming to be from the IRA
visited the family in the last four years and pro-mised an
investigation but there has been no contact for two years.

The victim’s family last night challenged the Provisionals
to provide “proof” of his claimed double life.

Mr McKiernan, from the Markets area of south Belfast, was
last seen on January 18 1988 – 18 years ago today.

Less than 24 hours later the body of the 44-year-old, who
had been in the IRA for more than 15 years, was found
dumped in the Beechmount area of west Belfast.

The Provisionals claimed he had been on the payroll of
Special Branch – an alleged confession sealing his fate.

An inquest later heard that the amount of drink in his
system alone would have killed him but he was also shot
several times in the head.

His family have long maintained that he was not an informer
and that he was murdered as a scapegoat.

The revelation that Scappaticci – reported to be the Brit-
ish agent codenamed Stake-knife – had been due to meet Mr
McKiernan on the night he disappeared will lend weight to
that suspicion.

Scappaticci, who denied being an agent, fled his west
Belfast home after his exposure in 2003.

He had previously lived in the Markets and married a woman
from the area.

“I think Scappaticci was in-volved in my father’s murder
because my father told my mother he was going to meet him
that night and was never seen again,” Ms Murtagh said.

Ex-Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson from the Short
Strand, which along with the Markets would have come under
the same Provisional ‘battalion’ command, was also active
at the time.

The republican movement is still reeling from his admission
that he was a security force agent for more than two

“They got it wrong with Denis Donaldson and Scappaticci.
They got off scot-free. I wouldn’t wish murder on anyone,”
Ms Murtagh said.

“It is his 18th anniversary and we want answers.

“The IRA alleged he was a police informer. My mother asked
for tapes and proof. They [the IRA] told her that they
stopped making tapes.”

Just over a year later an-other suspected informer, west
Belfast estate agent Joe Fenton, was shot dead. His father
received a tape recording of his IRA interrogation.

“I will speak to any member of the IRA or Sinn Fein. I
challenge them to either confirm it or deny my father was
an informer,” Ms Murtagh said.

“I have had people claiming to be from the IRA asking for
our side of the story, saying they would investigate.

“I heard from them two years ago. They told us not to lose
heart, that they would be back. All we want is my father’s
name cleared.”


Leadership Not Damaged By Spy Claims - Adams

Last updated: 18-01-06, 11:58

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams denied today that his
leadership was damaged by revelations before Christmas that
a trusted aide was a British spy.

After meeting a delegation of US Congressmen, Mr Adams
dismissed as tittle-tattle speculation that other senior
republicans would be unmasked as British spies following
the revelation that Sinn Féin's head of administration
Denis Donaldson was working for British military

He did not rule out the possibility that there would be
more unsettling allegations to come. The West Belfast MP
said: "No (the Sinn Fein leadership has not been damaged).

"There is tittle-tattle in all of the papers. I am all the
time in my gentle way lecturing ye on responsibilities of
the media.

"All of this is a nonsense. It is part of what happens in a
process where society is in transition and our job is to
take that society collectively through that process."

Denis Donaldson was one of three republicans accused in
October 2002 of operating a spy ring at Stormont which went
into the heart of the then Northern Ireland Secretary John
Reid's office.

With his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant
William Mackessy, he was caught in a three-year legal
battle to clear their names. However, last month the Public
Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland dramatically
withdrew the charges at Belfast Crown Court, saying it was
no longer in the public interest to pursue the case.

In a further sensational twist, Mr Adams within a week
announced that Mr Donaldson was expelled from the party
after admitting to colleagues that he had been spying on
them for two decades.

Mr Adams today insisted the only turbulence in the
republican ranks had been caused not by the spy scandal but
by the IRA's dramatic moves last July to end its armed
campaign and destroy its weapons.

Thinking republicans, he said, were resigned to the fact
that there were always spies in struggles such as the one
in Northern Ireland. The Sinn Fin leader said he had every
confidence in his party's negotiating team despite the
revelation that Mr Donaldson was a spy.

"Anyway what more is there to negotiate about?" the West
Belfast MP asked.

"The negotiations are done. What more is there to negotiate

"We have had seven years, eight years, nine years, 10 years
of negotiations. What we now need to see is delivery of all
of the agreements that were reached, crystallised in the
Good Friday Agreement.

"All of these other issues are very much a distraction. By
the way, you are going to hear more of this.

"You are going to get more alleged agents or real agents
being trotted out in the time ahead.

"You are going to get more efforts by dissident elements
within the British system to stop progress.

"You are going to get this seized upon by the DUP and
others who are afraid of a future based on equality. What
we have to be is tenacious, resilient and patient about
moving all of this forward."

© 2006


Sinn Féin And SDLP Trade Taunts

By Noel McAdam
18 January 2006

Sinn Fein and the SDLP swapped blows last night over claims
new political negotiations could dilute the Good Friday

Sinn Fein urged SDLP leader Mark Durkan to "come clean"
over a potential downgrade of the power-sharing model
worked under the Agreement.

But the SDLP accused Sinn Fein of handing the DUP an
effective veto over the restoration of an Assembly and

The parties exchanged the taunts as speculation continued
over attempts to reach a new consensus over administrative
arrangements which would fall short of a full Executive.

Claiming the SDLP has been involved in discussions with
unionists about structures outside the Agreement, Sinn Fein
MP Conor Murphy said: "Settling for less than power-sharing
will reopen the prospect of a return to unionist party rule
in the North. The SDLP must clarify where they stand.

"Any dilution of the power-sharing arrangements which
underpin the Agreement will undermine efforts to bring
about full restoration of the political institutions."

But former SDLP Executive Minister Sean Farren said: "The
very manner in which Sinn Fein have conducted negotiations
has effectively conceded a unionist veto on the restoration
of the institutions.

"So long as they insist that an agreement between Sinn Fein
and the DUP is a pre-requisite for restoration they will
give the DUP a veto on the re-establishment of the
Agreement's institutions.

"For the SDLP the goal is the full implementation and
working of the Agreement. We have never put forward
proposals as an alternative to the Agreement, only as an
alternative to stalemate, suspension and Direct Rule."


Meeting On Interface Violence

By Staff Reporter

RESIDENTS of Derry’s Bishop Street and Long Tower areas
have been invited to a public meeting to discuss recurring
violence along the Fountain interface.

The meeting – tomorrow night at 7.30pm at Bishop Street
youth club – has been organised by the Bogside and
Brandywell Initiative (BBI) and River View Residents’
Association (RRA).

Following discussions last year, it was agreed that
residents would monitor the situation after residents of
Alexander House old people’s home expressed concern about

Tomorrow night’s meeting has been organised to discuss
possible solutions to the ongoing violence.


Shankill Victim And Republican To Share Stage

By Barry McCaffrey

A Shankill bomb victim is to share a stage with a former
IRA hunger striker to debate proposals for a museum at the
site of the Maze prison.

Alan McBride’s wife Sharon (29) was among 10 people killed
when an IRA bomb exploded prematurely at a fish shop on
Belfast’s Shankill Road in October 1993.

During the 1990s he followed Sinn Fein president Gerry
Adams around the world demanding an explanation for the

But tomorrow he will appear alongside former IRA man
Raymond McCartney to discuss plans for a museum and
conflict resolution centre on the grounds of the Maze site.

A cross-party panel published plans last year for the
development of the former prison complex.

Mr McBride, pictured, and Mr McCartney, now a Derry Sinn
Fein assembly member, will join academics at a south
Belfast hotel for a seminar organised by republican ex-
prisoners’ group Coiste na n-Iarchimi.

Giving a guarded welcome to the museum plans, Mr McBride
said: “I would not support this if it is going to glorify
republicans or anyone else.

“When the idea was first discussed when the prisoners were
released in 2000 I was absolutely horrified.

“But since then I have seen the proposals and have been
part of the debate surrounding this issue. I think there is
merit in future generations learning about what happened
inside and outside the Maze during the Troubles.

“It has to be inclusive and should tell everyone’s
experiences – prisoners, prison officers and victims.”

Former IRA hunger striker Lawrence McKeown said: “It is
vital that we remember Long Kesh because so much of what
went on within those walls impacted on what happened
outside the prison.”

“It was a very dark period of our history and we must learn
from our mistakes.”


Mixed Schools 'Not As Sectarian'

People who attend integrated schools in NI could create a
new political common ground, researchers have said.

Academics at Queen's University in Belfast said educating
Catholics and Protestants together shows young people end
up with less sectarian views.

Their report follows six years of research into the
political attitudes and identities of young people.

It suggested those at integrated schools were more likely
to reject traditional identities and allegiances.

Professor Bernadette Hayes, Professor Ian McAllister and
Lizanne Dowds used a range of surveys to study if the
attitudes of people who had an integrated education
differed from those who went to a segregated school.

Their report, published on Wednesday, is entitled: "In
search of the middle ground: Integrated education and
Northern Ireland politics."

Professor Hayes said: "These results, tentative as they
are, add weight to the studies which have shown that
integrated schools can and do have an impact on the
outlooks of the pupils who attend them.

"Moreover, our study - based on a large sample of the adult
population - suggests that the positive effects of
integrated schooling extend into later life.

"As the numbers experiencing integrated schooling grows,
these individuals have the potential to create a new common
ground in Northern Ireland politics."

The report suggests:

Protestants who attended an integrated school were less
likely to say that they were British or unionist; however,
they were not willing to adopt an Irish or nationalist

Catholics who attended an integrated school were less
likely to endorse an Irish identity, but were more likely
to say they were neither unionist nor nationalist.

80% of Protestants who attended a fairly mixed or
segregated school favoured the union with Britain, compared
to 65% of those who went to an integrated school.

51% of Catholics who attended a segregated school supported
Irish re-unification, compared to 35% of those who had
experienced integrated education.

BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent Maggie Taggart
said: "There is an argument that parents who choose
integrated education are more likely to be liberal minded
and that is transmitted to their children.

"However, recent research suggests the type of school a
child attends has a bigger influence on attitudes than

"Researchers say long term research is needed to find the
truth of the matter."

Integrated education has been promoted as a way to break
down Northern Ireland's sectarian divisions.

The first integrated school in Northern Ireland was Lagan
College which opened near Belfast in 1981 and there are now
57 integrated schools with more than 17,000 pupils on the
roll books.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/18 07:18:52 GMT


UUP Told: Reach Out To Catholics

By Noel McAdam
18 January 2006

A senior Ulster Unionist has called on the party to "reach
out" to pro-Union Roman Catholics in a bid to move away
from old political battlegrounds.

Recently-elected officer Johnny Andrews said it was
important the UU deliver the message that the party has
changed and continues to change.

The political unknown, who has been appointed to head up
the UU's election strategy, also admitted that "too many"
branches of the party are not functioning properly.

Mr Andrews, great-grandson of former Northern Ireland Prime
Minister John Millar Andrews, said: "We must demonstrate we
have moved on from the confrontational politics of the past
... and become a tolerant, inclusive Unionist party uniting
a pluralist and progressive Northern Ireland.

"We must reach out to pro-Union Roman Catholics who are
increasingly recognizing the benefits of the Union."

Mr Andrews argued all Unionists now recognized the Union is
safe for the foreseeable future and a united Ireland is not
a practical reality.

Nationalism had broadly accepted the principle of consent,
he said and more people are prepared to remain in the Union
- as evidenced in a recent Northern Ireland Life and Times
survey showing that as many as 25% of Catholics would vote
in favour of retaining the Union in a border poll.

"We must make Northern Ireland work," Mr Andrews added. "It
is the responsibility and, indeed, raison d'etre of this
party to provide a political home for all pro-union
citizens of Northern Ireland. We have always been a broad
church; however, we must become broader.

"We have a duty to identify the factors that prevent a
section of our target electorate from voting Unionist, and
counter them. We need to create an identity that is more
tolerant, inclusive and pluralist that will broaden our
electoral support."

He added. "There are too many branches not functioning
properly and it is important that branches re-group and re-
organize into proper working units."


Opin: Catholicism In America Comes In Varying Shades

By Ray O'Hanlon

The United States was never officially dubbed a ‘Protestant
state for a Protestant people’.

But it looked like one for much of its history.

Catholicism did leave its footprint from the early
beginnings of the nation, of course.

And most of the early explorers of the new world owed their
religious allegiance to Rome.

By the foundation of the United States, however, the
religious make-up and tenor of the new nation, while
something of a mish-mash, was predominantly Protestant.

That began to change with the mass migration of the Irish
in the mid-19th century. It changed with the migration of
huge numbers of German Catholics.

It changed with the arrival of Italians, Poles and other
Europeans at the end of that century and the dawn of the
20th century.

Today, Catholics make up the largest single denomination on
a polyglot religious landscape dotted with dozens of
faiths, their branches and offshoots.

The second largest grouping is the combination of more than
a dozen Baptist churches, although the gap between
Catholics and combined Baptists is not insignificant.

But if America is one thing, it is not a Catholic state for
a Catholic people.

That’s as it should be. Separation of state and all
churches is a cornerstone of American democracy, though the
lines of demarcation can be blurred at times, especially in
election years.

Still, with such numbers – more than 66 million Americans
are Catholics – it is a little surprising that to date
there has still just been one Catholic president.

Sure, a Catholic candidate for the White House does not
raise the same kind of red flags that John F Kennedy did.

John Kerry was not swift-boated because he grew up saying
his prayers in Latin.

It was his politics that attracted the ire of critics, not
a few of whom shared his Catholic faith.

Still, Kerry’s Catholicism did prompt some debate in the
context of his positions versus, or in tandem, with his
more liberal version of Catholicism.

Had he been elected, his presidency would have for certain
resulted in sparks flying between his White House and a US
Catholic hierarchy where conservatives hold sway.

This is less so the case for President Bush, who is a born-
again Christian with Episcopalian (American Anglican)
family roots and who worships not infrequently in a
Methodist church.

Bill Clinton, whose religious background was predominantly
Baptist, also spread his church presence around on Sundays.

Ask most Americans what specific faith their various
presidents adhered to and you would get a jumble of
answers, or blank stares.

This is not surprising. But just about all would be able to
say that Kennedy was a Catholic. Not surprising either.

Okay, so how many Catholics are there on the nine-judge
United States Supreme Court? More pertinently, how many
will there be once Judge Samuel Alito is presumably
confirmed to a bench that so often reflects and determines
the course of American legal, political and social life?

The answer is five.

When Alito gets the nod from a majority in the US Senate,
the Supreme Court will have a Catholic majority for the
first time in its history.

As religious big deals go, this will be right up there with
the election of JFK.

For the record, the current Catholics on the court bench
are Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonia Scalia,
Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, the court’s sole

The Protestant members of the court are justices David
Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, currently
the only woman among the nine, are Jewish.

With five Catholics there will be considerable scrutiny
with regard to several key issues facing the court, not the
least of these being abortion as encapsulated in Roe v
Wade, the case which has defined the legal parameters for
the reproductive rights debate in the US for more than
three decades.

Other highly-charged issues that will throw particular
spotlights on the Catholic justices include the death
penalty, gay rights and stem cell research.

But just as it would be a mistake to read too much into the
legal thinking of any of the justices by virtue of
religious faith, it would be a mistake to think that all
five Catholics will see the issues the same way.

That’s because American Catholicism, like its Protestant
counterpart, comes today in varying shades, an all too
American mish-mash.


Chomsky To Speak On Terror War

18/01/2006 - 06:58:15

The controversial US academic Noam Chomsky is due to speak
in Dublin today on the ‘War on Terror’.

The 77-year old is a persistent critic of US foreign policy
and has written more than 30 political books. He has also
attacked the Irish Government for allowing US aircraft to
refuel at Shannon airport.

The venue for his Amnesty International Lecture, which
begins at 7pm, has been changed from Trinity College Dublin
to the Shelbourne Hall at the RDS due to the demand for

Dr Chomsky, who has a cult-like following among left-wing
activists and students, was dubbed ‘the Elvis of Academia’
by U2 singer Bono.

In a recent interview about the refuelling of US military
aircraft at Shannon, Dr Chomsky asked: “Is Mr Ahern
following the will of the Irish people or is he following
orders from Washington?

“It can only be justified if the goal of the Government is
to be the obedient servant of the global superpower.”

The professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology received an honorary fellowship from UCD’s
Literary and Historical Society in 2002.


'Cool' Rosary Beads Taken Off Shelves

By Debra Douglas
18 January 2006

Retailer Dunnes Stores has taken rosary beads, which were
being sold as a fashion accessory, off the shelves in
Ulster following complaints from Catholic customers, it
emerged last night.

Dunnes Stores was selling rosary necklaces for £7 in shops
across the province but decided to remove them following a
series of complaints.

A spokeswoman for the company explained: "A number of
customers from Northern Ireland complained that we were
selling the beads so we decided to remove them.

"They were being sold as a fashion trend with no religious
connotation but we did not want to cause offence to anyone
or upset anyone and took the decision to stop selling

Criticising the store for selling them in the first place,
a spokesman for the Catholic Church said it was worrying
that rosary beads were being viewed as a fashion item.

"If rosary beads are seen in this way, they could lose
their sacredness," he said.

"It shows a complete lack of understanding of what they
symbolise. If these things are being worn purely as fashion
accessories, it shows a lack of respect also."

In recent years a host of stars have donned the religious
beads in the name of fashion.

Footballer David Beckham appeared on the front of magazine
Vanity Fair wearing rosary beads and pop princess Britney
Spears was snapped wearing all-white rosary beads during a
trip to Dublin.

Fashion house Dolce and Gabbana has also released a
'saintly' range, including dog tag style crosses on leather
necklaces and rosary beads.

The celebrity factor is believed to have led to the surge
in sales. But fearing the beads were being trivialised, the
Catholic Church in England and Wales issued a special
leaflet that gives guidance on their use as prayer aids.

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