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January 27, 2006

Irish Immigration Group To Meet Tonight

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News About Ireland & The Irish

JN 01/27/06 Irish Immigration Group Will Meet Tonight
BM 01/27/06 John Kerry Postpones Ulster Visit
DI 01/27/06 Ahern Seeks Restoration By End Of Year
BN 01/27/06 Bush Envoy To Hold Talks With Northern Parties
BM 01/27/06 Reiss: SF Will Sign Up To Police Reforms
DI 01/27/06 Inquiry Call After O’Loan Hears Blast Cover-Up
DJ 01/27/06 BS: ‘The Truth, And Nothing But The Truth'
DJ 01/27/06 BS: 3,500 Candles To Remember Our Dead
BB 01/27/06 Bomb Widower's Bloody Sunday Talk
EX 01/27/06 A Peace Process Or A Process In Pieces?
DI 01/26/06 Loyalist Graffiti By Catholic Church To Go
TC 01/27/06 Antrim Church Welcomes Removal Of Graffiti
DI 01/27/06 Fear Over Extension Of Nuclear Plant Life
BN 01/27/06 SF Selects Dublin West Election Contestant
BN 01/27/06 Berry's DUP Injunction Extended
BT 01/27/06 Victims' Chief 'No Political Football'
UT 01/27/06 Widow To Challenge Mcdougall Appointment
BT 01/27/06 Shot Dubliner's Sisters To Take Case To US
RT 01/27/06 Saudi Diplomat 'Gave Haughey £50,000'
NL 01/27/06 Ulster-Scots Aiming To Build Bridges
BT 01/27/06 Maiden City: What's The Big Deal In A Name?
DI 01/27/06 Opin: Straight Head Count On GFA & Then Move On
IT 01/27/06 Opin: All-Party Talks The Way Forward
IT 01/27/06 Opin: Blair And Ahern Try To Force Pace
IT 01/27/06 Opin: Brown's Vision Not For North
BB 01/27/06 'Organised Gang' Stealing Donkeys
BT 01/27/06 Paisley Like St Pat, Only With Sense Of Humour
DI 01/27/06 Ireland’s ‘Female Presidents Lead Way’


Irish Immigration Group Will Meet Tonight

By Ernie Garcia
The Journal News

7 p.m. meeting will be at Rory Dolan's

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform will hold a forum at
7 tonight on immigration reform. The meeting is at Rory
Dolan's Restaurant & Bar, 890 McLean Ave., Yonkers. For
more information, log onto

(Original publication: January 27, 2006)

YONKERS — The illegal-immigration debate often summons
images of Latin Americans, but the issue affects a wide
range of people.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform will hold a
community forum tonight in Yonkers to discuss how
immigration reform would affect the estimated 40,000
illegal Irish immigrants in the United States.

"We have to create a process whereby the undocumented who
are already here can earn a change of status and a path to
permanent residency," wrote the Irish Lobby's Executive
Director Kelly Fincham in an e-mail interview.

On McLean Avenue last week opinions were mixed.

"I think you should send them back home because they're
taking American jobs," said Mike Curtin, 43, a construction

Patrick O'Niell, 31, a sanitation worker, said, "If they
come here to work and become Americans, there is no


John Kerry Postpones Ulster Visit

27/01/2006 - 10:41:18

Former US presidential candidate John Kerry has been forced
to pull plans to visit the North this weekend.

The Democratic Massachusetts senator, who challenged
President George Bush unsuccessfully in the 2004 election,
was due to visit the University of Ulster in Derry to
deliver a prestigious lecture on security in the 21st

He was also expected to meet a number of the North's
politicians during his visit to the Magee Campus in Derry.

University authorities have been told to postpone his
lecture because of pressing business in the US Senate in

Mr Kerry would have joined a distinguished list of guest
speakers who have delivered lectures under a series
commemorating veteran Democratic politician Tip O’Neill.

They include former US president Bill Clinton, United
Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and ex-European
Commission president Romano Prodi.


February 6 date for start of talks

Ahern Seeks Restoration Of Executive By End Of Year


The Irish and British governments yesterday said the
devolved institutions in the North should be restored as
soon as possible.

Monday, February 6, was announced as the official date for
the beginning of talks between the Irish and British
governments and the North’s parties to be chaired by Irish
foreign minister Dermot Ahern and direct-rule secretary of
state Peter Hain.

“The talks have the aim of setting out the arrangements and
timetable for the restoration of the institutions, which of
course we want to see as soon as possible,” according to a
joint statement the two governments released yesterday.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime minister Tony
Blair held a joint press conference in Farmleigh House in
Dublin with both calling for the restoration of the
institutions as soon as possible.

This call implicitly goes against soundings from the DUP in
recent days which heard party sources reject the idea of
power sharing between them and Sinn Féin in the executive
this year.

“The stand of just continuing on, and ticking over time and
drifting on for the foreseeable future, that just won’t
hold. It never is that way in Northern Ireland. The comfort
zone where everyone just sits on their hands and drift on
out, would be a horrendous way in my view. Because it will
not work that way,” said Ahern.

“We have to focus on how we get what the people voted for.
They voted North and South for the Good Friday Agreement.
They voted for an assembly, they voted for an executive,
they voted for North-South bodies. What we are trying to do
is to remove the obstacles towards that.”

Neither man would set an absolute date for the restoration
for the institutions. However, both said they would like to
see progress “as soon as possible”.

The Taoiseach said that he would like to see devolved power
re-established before the end of this year.

Mr Blair stated that, as things stood, restoration of the
institutions could not take place.

“Would it be reasonable to say today that the institutions
should be back in place right now, that the unionists
should go back into government with the republicans? No.
And we know that’s not going to happen,” said Mr Blair.

However, he said the actions of the IRA last year were
historic and should be seen as such. “Last year's statement
and the actions from the IRA are hugely significant and
important,” he said.

“And my point is simple: these outstanding problems which
are clear and understandable are better resolved by seeing
these institutions back up and running again, so they can
deal with the problems of Northern Ireland and the issues
of Northern Ireland in a devolved way.”

Mr Blair also added: “The fact that the DUP is putting
forward proposals is a sign that that party is not happy
that things stay as they are.

“There are issues that I totally understand. The IRA
statement is significant. However, there are obviously a
lot of concerns with the situation in Northern Ireland the
situation in communities. The degree of lawlessness and

Mr Blair also paid a visit to Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday.


Bush Envoy To Hold Talks With Northern Parties

27/01/2006 - 08:07:23

The Bush administration's special envoy to the North is due
to hold talks with the local political parties today as
efforts continue to restore the power-sharing institutions.

Mitchell Reiss is expected to call on all sides in the
peace process to take more risk to break the current
deadlock and re-establish devolved government.

He is likely to press the DUP to take full part in
negotiations to restore the institutions, despite the
party's refusal to accept that IRA activity has ended.

Mr Reiss is also likely to call on Sinn Féin to support the
PSNI, despite its concerns that the police force still
contains powerful anti-republican elements with animosity
towards the peace process.


Reiss: SF Will Sign Up To Police Reforms

27/01/2006 - 14:09:28

It is only a matter of time before Sinn Féin joins other
Northern parties in signing up to policing reforms, a
senior United States government official claimed today.

Ambassador Mitchell Reiss told a police graduation ceremony
at Garneville College in east Belfast it was widely
believed the North had one of the best police services in

But US President George W Bush’s special envoy to the North
told graduates that, having come through considerable
reform, the Police Service of Northern Ireland faced more
challenges when all sides signed up to policing.

“Given the history of Northern Ireland, your decisions and
actions will be scrutinised and constantly weighed.

“It is a responsibility that you’re more than capable of
handling. I know, because I’ve seen your fellow constables
rise to this challenge repeatedly.

“And one day soon, you will have to face another challenge.
One day soon, all of Northern Ireland’s political parties
will move to fully support the PSNI.

“I believe it is only a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

“That’s what I’m working to bring about: that’s what my
colleagues in Belfast, London, and Dublin are all working
toward. When this happens, you will have to build trust and
confidence across the community.

“When this day comes, I know you will meet this challenge,
just as you have met so many other challenges that have
brought you to this day.”

All parties except Sinn Féin have signed up to police
reforms in the North which transformed the Royal Ulster
Constabulary into the PSNI.

The reforms were aimed at redressing the religious
imbalance by persuading more Catholics to join the PSNI
after the demise of the overwhelmingly Protestant RUC .

They also led to the creation of a Police Ombudsman, a
Policing Board and District Policing Partnership boards
which are designed to hold PSNI officers and their
leadership to account for their actions.

However despite the nationalist SDLP, Irish Government and
the Catholic Church backing the reforms, Sinn Féin claims
the reforms have not gone far enough and do not have the
support of the majority of nationalists.

The party has been pressing for the transfer of policing
and justice powers out of the hands of ministers from
Westminster to a devolved government at Stormont.

The British government is expected to introduce legislation
later next month addressing Sinn Féin’s demand.

Sinn Féin, which met Ambassador Reiss in Belfast earlier
today, has come under considerable pressure from the US
government to sign up to policing.

Ambassador Reiss’s comments echoed claims last week by New
York Congressman Jim Walsh, when he met political parties
in Belfast, that he believed it was a matter of when and
not if over Sinn Fein’s participation in the Policing

Ambassador Reiss told an audience which included Chief
Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Policing Board member Sam
Foster that policing was the outstanding success story of
the North’s peace process.

“Many individuals, including new constables such as
yourselves, have taken courageous steps to launch the new
beginning to policing,” he told the graduates.

“And make no mistake: with sweeping structural reforms,
accountability mechanisms, and local oversight, many people
think you have one of the best police services in all of

“I think everyone in Northern Ireland knows this, as the
figures of increasing public support for the PSNI in
unionist, nationalist, loyalist and republican communities


Inquiry Call After O’Loan Hears Of Bar Blast Cover-Up

Scottish MP whose relative was killed in blast to write to
Hain about new evidence

by Andrea McKernon

Relatives of 15 people killed in a bomb attack on a Belfast
bar have demanded a full public disclosure about events
surrounding the attack after a groundbreaking meeting with
the North’s Police Ombudsman.

Nuala O’Loan was told at the gathering of relatives of
those killed in the 1971 attack on McGurk’s Bar that the
security forces in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries,
had intended to bomb an Official IRA bar close to McGurk’s
to create a rift between republican factions in 1971.

However, the bomb gang targeted McGurk’s Bar after the
killers failed to get near their target at the Gem Bar on
North Queen Street.

Mrs O’Loan this week met with relatives of those killed.

The meeting was described as “very positive” by the
families and is the latest development as part of an
ongoing investigation by officers from the Police
Ombudsman’s office into the conduct of the RUC in the
aftermath of the bomb.

Pat Irvine, whose mother Kathleen (53) was murdered in
McGurk’s, said relatives’ demanded “transparency and full
and public accountability into the investigation at the

“We believe no proper investigation was carried out after
the bombing. When the Ombudsman’s investigation is
completed we want the truth to be made public and that’s
what Nuala O’Loan promised us at the meeting,” she said.

“We also want a full retraction of the statements of
misinformation that were fed to the media in 1971 and in
subsequent years after.”

Mrs Irvine said the relatives were finally confident that
the official branding of their loved ones at the time that
they were culpable in the bombing after officials said it
went off inside the premises, would be dismissed outright
in the Ombudsman’s high-level probe.

It has also emerged that a Scottish MP – whose 73-year-old
relative Philip Garry was killed in the explosion – has
also taken up the case of McGurk’s and has directly quizzed
the Secretary of State in the Commons about the names of
the accomplices in the bombing.

Michael Connarty MP said he would be writing to Peter Hain
and passing on to him all the evidence in his possession
gathered and passed onto him by the families.

“My grandmother’s brother, who we knew as uncle Philly, was
a merchant seaman and was always visiting us in Scotland. I
was about 14 at the time he was killed and I know from my
grandmother that they [the security forces] tried to say
the bomb was inside the bar when it went off. It was always
said in the family folklore that it was a cover-up by the
security forces,” he said.

In a statement yesterday, Nuala O’Loan described her
meeting with the families as “very useful” to her

“The issues raised were noted and will be considered as
part of the Police Ombudsman’s investigation into this
case,” she added.


'The Truth, And Nothing But The Truth'

By Julieann Campbell
Friday 27th January 2006

As the 34th anniversary of Bloody Sunday killings
approaches, Kay Duddy, whose younger brother Jackie was the
first to be murdered on that fateful day, spoke to the
'Journal' about justice, her family life since that fateful
day, and her hopes for the forthcoming Saville Inquiry

Having lost their mother to Leukaemia just a few years
previously the close knit, good natured family of fifteen
children then living in the Central Driver area of Creggan
were not to know then that the events of Sunday, January
30, 1972 were to dominate the rest of their lives.

As January 30, 2006 fast approaches the same family are
still awaiting an explanation for why their 17-years-old
brother was shot dead in the Bogside whilst attending a
march for Civil Rights.

Kay has since dedicated her adult life to the Bloody Sunday
Justice Campaign, intent on achieving what many thought
impossible --justice.

But how has the years of dedication affected Kay's personal
life? She told the 'Journal': "Has the campaign interfered
with my life? Very much so, because my life wasn't my own,
I had to make time for family as much as I could, in
between the group trying to get support and getting the
petition signed, encouraging people to listen to us and
back us up."

This Sunday sees the 34th annual Bloody Sunday
Commemorative march, chaired by Kay herself. But what
message does she hope to give the thousands in attendance
during her speech this Sunday?

Kay said yesterday: "In my speech, I'm hoping to get the
message across that after this enquiry, after all the
walking the feet of ourselves, knocking on doors,
travelling all over the world, meeting Senators and going
to the Whitehouse, that FINALLY we are going to get the
truth and justice we've always been looking for."

Does Kay believe that public perception of the events of
Bloody Sunday has changed over the decades?

"Yes, I think people perceptions have changed," she said,
"It gave people the chance to talk about their thoughts and
feelings about the day for the first time, the campaign
made people more aware.

"The deceased were at first classed as nailbombers and
gunmen, so people had that perception for years afterwards,
but then they realised that this was just young men and
boys. Six of those killed were actually only 17-yearsold,
and so people began to realised that this was a terrible
event, not just an event that happened that day."

Kay wasn't actually on the march herself.

She explained what happened: "I was at home, and at
sometime during the day, an aunt and uncle came to the door
to tell us that Jackie had been 'hurt down the town,' I
think that was the way it was put to us. "We didn't have a
phone in the house and so I went to the local community
centre to phone the hospital. I asked was a Jackie Duddy
admitted to casualty and they asked who was making the
enquiry, I said it was his sister. And the person - I think
it was a female --came back and said that Jackie Duddy was
dead on admission to hospital, that's how we found out he
was dead. And I just remember screaming, I think I threw
the phone in the air, and then we had to go and tell my
Daddy. He had been on nightshift at the local hospital and
we has to go and waken him to tell him what had happened."
"After that, everything is fuzzy, I lost about three
days... I don't remember the wake in our house. I thought I
was at the funerals, but the same aunt that had told us
Jackie was hurt told me later that I'd collapsed on the
chapel steps and had to be taken home."

The news made a dreadful impact on the Duddy family. Kay
recalls: "It broke our family, destroyed our family. One of
the links in our chain was broken. Jackie was a 17-years-
old brother of mine, interested in his amateur boxing, a
laidback, happy-go-lucky kindof young fella, and that part
of our life was suddenly taken away.

"It just wasn't a member of the family," she went on, "it
was a whole generation. We don't know if he would've gone
on to marry, I'd have had another sister-in-law, if I would
had more nieces and nephews? If he'd have gone on to fight
at the Olympics? How his life would have panned out. That
chance was all taken away from him in a single day."

But Kay is thankful the family remained strong: "We were
very unfortunate in that we'd lost our mammy before
Jackie's death to Leukaemia, and we've since lost our
daddy, so I feel we're very, very fortunate that, as a
family, we've stuck together through thick and thin - I'm
very proud of that fact."

After all the years of the Justice Group campaigning for a
new inquiry, the Saville Inquiry was established. But are
there any particularly vivid memories of that campaign that
Kay has?

"I remember a lot of it," she says, "especially travelling
to London, travelling to America, going to 10 Downing
Street to hand in a petition for a new inquiry that the
people of Derry had signed, going to Capitol Hill to talk
to a room full of senators, something I never thought I'd
be able to do! I didn't even talk through it - I cried the
whole way through it --which I think might have made more
impact than just talking about it." "It was very hard
work," Kay went on, "we spoke to anyone who would listen.
We knocked on their doors and knocked on their doors until
they must've been sick of the sight of us. Until they sat
up and took notice."

Shouted 'Up the Paras" The end of the Saville Inquiry was
held in the Methodist Hall in central London, so how did
Kay feel at having to travel to London to hear the evidence
of the soldiers themselves?

"It should have been held in Derry, because that's where it
happened," she said. "I think that the Inquiry being taken
to London was to maybe try and put us off, but if anything,
it strengthened our resolve. London was horrendous --like
going into the unknown because we didn't know whether
people would show animosity."

She remembered only one occasion of hostility towards the
group. "When we got there, we laid a wreath for all the
people killed in the Troubles outside Westminster Abbey,
and a man drove past in an open-back lorry, shouting "Up
the Paras" and actually did a second lap to shout it again.
But to my knowledge, that's the only time they even
acknowledged we were there."

Kay describes the 13 months travelling back and forth to
London as 'horrendous' and added: "The fact was, when I was
there - I wanted to be home, and when I was home, I wanted
to be there. I wasn't there all the time, but as much as
humanly possible, and as much as it disrupted my life, it
was something that had to be done."

The families have waited a long time for the truth, and
Saville's findings will no doubt be revealed in the next
few months. Kay describes the wait as "a great big void in
our life," and is understandably anxious about its

She went on: "Every day someone asks me "Any word of the
report yet?" The Widgery Report was a total whitewash, and
it was great to know that that was binned, and everyone
knowing it had been a whitewash. That was one of the first
victories through the campaigning, our second was achieving
the second inquiry. From then on, we just grew from
strength to strength."

When the Saville findings are eventually published, does
Kay believe they will achieve justice at long last? What
does she hope the report will show? "The truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth," she said.

Kay went on: " For us, personally, we've actually accused
Soldier V of murdering Jackie, which he denied, but
somebody murdered Jackie, its as simple as that, and we
want that acknowledged.

"They immediately labelled Jackie after that terrible
Sunday afternoon as a nailbomber, petrolbomber, a gunman,
and that has lived with us the past 34 years. That stain on
his character has to be taken away - that's very, very
important to us. We were never out for vengeance, we always
wanted truth and justice, but what that justice will be,
remains to be seen."

Does Kay have faith in Lord Saville, I asked her? She
replied: "I think Lord Saville set out to do a job, and I
feel he will do the job he set out to do. What we're really
hoping for is closure. Its been like a wake for the past 34
years for our loved ones, and I feel its time we lay them
to rest, once and for all, with the truth and dignity that
they all deserve."

"The wounded have lived with this legacy for the last 34
years, and I hope that this report will give them closure
and peace of mind so they can move on with their lives as
well," she added.

Kay also expressed her gratitude to everyone who has
supported her family and all the other families since
Bloody Sunday, and who "helped us achieve what we've
achieved up to now."

She added: "A heartfelt thanks from myself and from all the
family members and all the wounded to everybody that was
there for us, and still are, and I want them to pray like
they've never prayed before that we get the result we've
worked so hard for."


Bloody Sunday: 3,500 Candles To Remember Our Dead

Friday 27th January 2006

The organisers of this year's Bloody Sunday commemoration
will this Sunday invite those participating in the annual
march to light a candle in memory of each and every victim
of the Troubles.

More than 3,500 candles are set to light up the Bogside at
dusk at what Paul O'Connor, of the Pat Finucane Centre
described as a "memorial for every mother, son, father and
daughter" killed throughout 30 years of conflict.

The first candle will be lit by Barney O'Dowd who lost his
brother Joseph and sons Barry and Declan when Loyalist gun
men attacked their home in Co. Down in January 1976.

Mr. O'Dowd's candle will be lit by Kay Duddy, whose brother
Jackie was one of the 14 Derry men killed during the Bloody
Sunday massacre.

However, Mr. O'Connor is keen to point out that this
poignant service is, however, not limited to any one
section of the community.

"We want to remember everyone, no matter what their creed
or their persuasion or how they died. This is about healing
for the families and remembering that each death marked the
loss of a human being."

The candle lighting ceremony will take place as the annual
march draws to a close. The organisers ask that the crowd
does not disperse so that the event can be a success.


Bomb Widower's Bloody Sunday Talk

A man who lost his wife in the Shankill Road IRA bombing is
giving the annual Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture in
Londonderry's Guildhall.

Alan McBride is the first person from a unionist background
to do so.

His wife Sharon, and father-in-law John Frizell, were among
the nine people killed in the explosion in the fish shop in
October 1993.

He said he thought the time "was now right" to accept the
invitation and tell his story to people in the city.

"I've been on this journey now for 13 years, since Sharon
was killed," he said.

"I've come through a whole gamut of different experiences,
emotions and feelings, and yet through it all the only
thing that has really kept me going is my faith in the
peace process and the possibility that one day we will have
a country that is better than it was."

He said that while the bombers - Sean Kelly and Thomas
Begley - were "totally responsible" for the carnage, to
blame them, or people like them, for the entire Troubles
"doesn't fit".

"At the end of the day we had a sectarian climate in this
country for some time and I think that if people had been
born elsewhere they may not have committed the atrocities
that they committed," he said.

He said that he was not going to Derry on Friday to "just
say the right thing".

"I have a number of challenges for republicans," he said.

"It would be great if someone from the unionist community
would come along and just listen to what I'm saying, rather
than criticise me for giving the talk."

In the attack the two IRA men left a bomb in the Shankill
Road fish shop.

Begley was also killed in the bombing - one of the most
notorious atrocities of the Troubles.

Kelly was given nine life sentences but was released under
the Good Friday Agreement in 2000.

The Northern Ireland secretary then ordered his re-arrest
in June 2005 amid suspicions by security chiefs he had
again become involved in terrorism.

He was released on the eve of the of the IRA's ordering an
end to its armed campaign one month later.

On 30 January 1972, 13 Catholics were killed when soldiers
of a British paratroop regiment opened fire during a civil
rights march in Londonderry.

The day became known as Bloody Sunday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/27 09:19:08 GMT



A Peace Process Or A Process In Pieces?

What happens in the next four weeks will determine the rest
of the year in Northern Ireland, writes Political
Correspondent Shaun Connolly.

THE statue of Henry Cooke stands tall in Belfast city
centre as a totem of Protestant dominance, but the weather
has played a cruel trick on the Presbyterian hero by
turning him the colour Loyalists fear is now engulfing the
North - green.

Easing the unionist community out of this siege mentality
was the driving aim of yesterday’s Farmleigh summit, which
pushed symbolism rather than substance.

The sight of Tony Blair jetting into Dublin for the first
time in 20 months and the carefully choreographed
simultaneous squeeze of pressure Washington exerted on Sinn
Féin over civil policing was all intended to put some
momentum back into what was once called the peace process.
It has spent much of the past three years looking more like
a process in pieces.

Though even a British prime minister transfixed with
leaving a sunset legacy from his premiership would surely
never dare risk such a crude soundbite again, it looked
almost as if that fabled hand of history was once more on
his shoulder, pushing him forward, keeping hope alive
through the sheer power of his presence.

However, if the red hand of Loyalist Ulster is to be found
anywhere, it’s desperately trying to cling to the edge of
the Union it once assumed as birthright.

The suspicious, untrusting and victim mentality gripping
the unionist community is tangible on the Shankill Road
where fresh graffiti underscores the perceived, and
profoundly felt, latest loss to their once impregnable
power base, that of the police force - PSNI now standing
for Politically Sponsored Nationalist Initiative on the
rain drizzled walls.

Loyalists feel out-manoeuvred, out-played and out of the
game as resentment steadily grows at what is now sneeringly
referred as Blair-Adams agenda to deliver the North
somewhere outside the Union, but not quite into the

The outpouring of hate that engulfed Belfast in September
may in many ways have been a paramilitary-orchestrated show
of strength following a security force clamp down on
Loyalist gangster activity, and the Orangemen whose parade
was re-routed may have been used as pawns, but the violence
unleashed, organised and vicious, was in large part a
genuine howl of rage from the Unionist underclass.

The worrying lack of civil leadership on display underlined
the community’s deep disillusionment with its own political
elite and ingrained feelings of marginalisation and
betrayal at the hands of the Good Friday Agreement.

The nationalists are better led, better prepared and better
able to articulate their future, and London, Washington and
Dublin are seen to bend to their will in turn, according to
this battered mindset.

The mountains that surround Belfast give a welcome break on
the skyline from the desolation and defensive looking
propaganda murals along the Shankill, but the brooding
natural barrier also adds, strangely, to the sense of
enclosure that pervades the area.

For Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mr Blair the only show in
town seems to be about how to create enough space for the
DUP leader Rev Ian Paisley, now 80 and in dubious health,
to be tempted into a power-sharing executive.

At the same time Republicans must be persuaded to accept
civil policing, but the DUP is adamant it will not tolerate
devolution of crime and justice powers if it means the
involvement of Sinn Féin in their administration.

It is a rich irony that after being branded a unionist-
controlled Apartheid statelet for its first 50 years,
perhaps the best longer term hope of moving the North
forward seems to be in the emergence of a “separate but
equal” executive which divides power between the hardline
wings of Republicanism and Loyalism, but does not share it
in the positive sense.

This is the preferred option of Rev Paisley’s DUP as it
quietly floats the underlying idea of de-coupling the posts
of first and second ministers to allow a form of power
sharing to emerge after a suitable “quarantine period” for
Republicans, and thus be able to claim they have not given
in to the IRA.

In a clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement, the
executive would be run on sectarian lines with complete
demarcation between the two top posts.

An intriguingly timed spat between the PSNI and Northern
Ireland Office over whether IRA members are still involved
in criminality has given the DUP cover to manoeuvre ahead
of the Independent Monitoring Commission’s report early
next week which is expect to give Republicans a mainly
clean bill of health.

Mr Ahern and Mr Blair expect the IMC report will indicate
that the IRA, with a number of qualifications and
reservations, is generally living up to its pledge to end
paramilitary and criminal activity.

The next four weeks will determine the course of the next
year as the political focus burns into the North with an
intensity not seen for nearly half a decade.

In the wake of the IMC judgement, Mr Blair will ratchet-up
the rhetorical pressure with a major address in Belfast
early next month demanding both sides take risks for peace,
with Sinn Féin signing up to policing and the DUP agreeing
to share power in the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Intensive talks will then begin between the two Governments
and individual parties against the backdrop of the DUP’s
annual conference and Sinn Féin’s Dublin Ard Feis in the
first half of the month.

For the unionists, the North is everything, for Sinn Féin,
it’s just the north-eastern front of their emerging all-
island political strategy.

Sinn Féin is already exerting its own creative tension into
the process with a carefully calculated hint it may indeed
by ready to move on policing in return for genuine power
sharing. A move intended to expose the weakness in a
unionist leadership that often seems incapable of moving
forward for fear of unravelling.

Both leaders made it clear at Farmleigh they expected
little substantial movement before 2007, by which time
we’ll know whether the pieces of the peace process can be
put back together.


Loyalist Graffiti By Catholic Church To Go

Connla Young

Loyalist graffiti and flags erected around a Catholic
church in Co Antrim are set to be removed in the coming

Our Lady’s Catholic Church in Ballymena, Co Antrim, has
been at the centre of a loyalist campaign of intimidation
since 1996.

In September of that year there was a loyalist blockade of
the tiny church which is situated in a loyalist area. The
picket, which at times turned violent, was put back in
place in May 1998.

It emerged this week that an initiative, spearheaded by the
Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), which is aligned to
the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), will remove a UDA
mural, graffiti and flags from walls and lamp posts around
Our Lady’s Church.

Ballymena curate Fr Paul Symonds welcomed the clean up.

“This is something that has to be welcomed. It is a
wonderful step in the direction of building trust and
community relations.

“I now hope there will be a positive response from others
and that a number of tricolours erected at Cushendall Road
will now come down.

“The decision to remove flags and graffiti by the UPRG is
welcome and I hope the people responsible for putting up
the tricolours will respond in kind.”

In recent years the church has been targeted on numerous
occasion by loyalist paint bombers while around the church
kerbstones and pathways have been daubed with sectarian

The church was just one of a number targeted by loyalists
last summer. In September the PSNI were forced to put armed
guards on Catholic schools and churches in the area.

Daily Ireland understands a number of cross-community
meetings involving republicans, loyalists, members of the
clergy and businessmen have been held in recent months to
help to develop a strategy for dealing with contentious
issues in the bitterly divided town.

Ballymena Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said the clean-up
move would help local relations.

“We would welcome any move that would help build a peaceful
environment for people to live in. Last summer Ballymena
was a picture of sectarianism and intolerance.

“It’s great if work can be done to ensure that there is no
repeat. Republicans are willing to play their part in

The Cushendall Road flag issue was discussed at a meeting
of Dunclug residents last night and an initiative to
resolve the controversial issue may take shape in the
coming weeks.


Antrim Church Welcomes Removal Of Sectarian Graffiti

Posted on January 27, 2006

A Catholic church in Northern Ireland has expressed its
happiness that Loyalist graffiti and flags put in place to
intimidate its parishioners are to be removed. Our Lady’s
Catholic Church, Co Antrim, which is situated in a heavily
Loyalist area of Ballymena, has been caught in the middle
of sectarian intimidation since 1996. But this week a
report in the Daily Ireland newspaper said that all
Loyalist paraphernalia will be removed as part of an
initiative, spearheaded by the Ulster Political Research
Group (UPRG), a group aligned to the Ulster Defence
Association (UDA). “This is something that has to be
welcomed. It is a wonderful step in the direction of
building trust and community relations," said parish
priest, Fr Paul Symonds. “I now hope there will be a
positive response from others and that a number of
tricolours erected at Cushendall Road will now come down.
The decision to remove flags and graffiti by the UPRG is
welcome and I hope the people responsible for putting up
the tricolours will respond in kind.”


Fear Over Extension Of Nuclear Plant Life

Minister wants to keep open power station due for closure
in 2010

Ciarán Barnes

Irish anti-nuclear campaigners have expressed concern at
plans by the British government to extend the life of a
power station in Wales.

The Wylfa plant on the isle of Anglesey, is less than 75
miles from the Dublin, Louth and Co Down coasts.

The station was due to close in 2010, however Britain’s
economic development minister, Andrew Davies, wants it to
stay open longer.

Opened in 1970, a series of faults have been discovered at
Wylfa in recent years. In 2000 the plant was closed down
for more than a year for repairs after faults were
discovered on welds holding pipes in place where they enter
a reactor.

Any disaster at Wylfa could have huge consequences for the
east coast of Ireland.

Nuclear plants rely on the mining of uranium which is
extremely damaging to health and the environment and no
safe solution exists for the disposal of waste, which is
active for at least one million years.

With Britain’s Sellafield nuclear station also posing a
threat to Ireland, local campaigners are keen to see the
closure of Wylfa.

SDLP politician Margaret Ritchie, a member of the All-
Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum (NFLAF),
called on the British government to stick to its plan and
close Wylfa on time.

She said: “This power plant doesn’t seem to adhere to
safety standards. It’s high time Wylfa along with all the
others were made redundant. There is no need for nuclear
power, or its extension and enhancement.

“The British government gave commitments 17 years ago on
the reduction of nuclear energy. They should stick to these

Louth Fine Gael councillor, Michael O’Dowd, who chairs the
NFLAF group, has called on the Irish government to push
Britain for answers on Wylfa’s future.

He said: “I am very concerned by proposals to keep this
plant open beyond 2010.

“These plants were designed to have short lifespans. The
fact that Wylfa has been closed down before because of
safety concerns shows the urgent need for the complete
closure of this plant.”

Meanwhile, direct-rule secretary of state, Peter Hain, is
expected to give a definitive answer next week on whether
the British government intends opening a power plant in the

Green campaigners wrote to the minster last month amid
fears a site could be developed in the Down or Newry and
Mourne district council areas. Mr Hain’s is due to reply
next week.


SF Selects Dublin West Election Contestant

27/01/2006 - 11:46:59

Fingal county councillor Felix Gallagher has been selected
as the Sinn Féin candidate to contest the next general
election for the constituency of Dublin West.

Speaking after the event, cllr Gallagher said: "Dublin West
is one of the fastest-growing areas in the State. It has a
young, vibrant population, yet because of years of bad
planning and misrepresentation, the quality of life for
many of the constituents is relatively poor.

Among the specific issues targeted by cllr Gallagher were
traffic gridlock and delays on the M50 motorway.


Berry's DUP Injunction Extended

27/01/2006 - 11:12:22

A legal move preventing the Revd Ian Paisley’s Democratic
Unionist party from taking further disciplinary action
against a Northern Assembly member was today extended by
another fortnight.

During a hearing at Belfast High Court, Mr Justice Weir was
told by the DUP’s lawyers that new evidence had come to
light with regards Newry and Armagh Assembly member Paul
Berry and it could take two weeks to attain it.

Mr Berry was suspended by the DUP in July 2005 following
newspaper claims that he met a male masseur at a Belfast
hotel during the last British general election campaign.

Lawyers acting for the DUP and Mr Berry were ordered to
spend the next fortnight obtaining the necessary material
for the case.

The hearing was adjourned until February 10.


Victims' Chief 'No Political Football'

Bertha McDougall: 'I will be my own harshest critic'

By Noel McAdam
27 January 2006

Victims' Commissioner Bertha McDougall has bluntly warned:
"I do not want treated as a political football."

In her first full interview since taking up the position,
the interim commissioner insisted: "I don't want this job
to be knocked around from pillar to post".

Mrs McDougall is determined to ensure her independence, not
least from the Government. "I intend to be my own harshest
critic," she said.

And as she prepares to meet the province's political
parties, the RUC reservist's widow also made clear she is
not affiliated to any of them.

But the controversy over her appointment will not go away,
although court action prevents Mrs McDougall from making
any comment.

The widow of a man who died after being hit by a plastic
bullet fired by a police officer has initiated a High Court
judicial review on the grounds that the post does not
command cross-community support and was a concession to the
DUP which has said it "supported" the appointment.

The SDLP has also lodged a formal complaint, arguing the
appointment did not follow normal procedures.

But, for Mrs McDougall, the work has to go on. Newly-
ensconced in offices in central Belfast, she has already
met a total of 26 groups - including former loyalist and
republican prisoners - since taking up the position on
December 5.

Already, one widely-supported proposal for a one-stop-shop
for victims - "which could at least signpost people
properly" - is emerging from the discussions.

The Commissioner said she has declined to become involved
in arguments over any hierarchy of victims, with some being
regarded as perpetrators.

"My role is to reflect the views of all victims, including
their different views, and it is not for me to make
judgments," she said.

Mrs McDougall hopes her recommendations - to be published
at the end of the year - will be building blocks to develop
better co-ordinated services, including pain management,
counselling, practical help, associated financial resources
as well as the idea for some form of victims' forum.

"Victims want acknowledgement and recognition of the pain
they have suffered. They also want to get to the truth of
what happened in particular circumstances. They want
justice and they want practical help," she said.

"I would challenge any Government against not listening to
the voices of the victims. There is desperate hurt out
there and society cannot pretend it is not there."

Mrs McDougall said official figures estimate there are
around 120,000 immediate family members sharing a sense of
victimhood in Northern Ireland.

"It is very humbling to look at a figure like that (which)
doesn't even include the communities around them," she

In meeting with the victims' groups, she wants to ensure
all victims are aware of help which is available.


Widow To Challenge Mcdougall Appointment

The widow of a man killed by a plastic bullet fired by a
policeman is to challenge the appointment of Victims
Commissioner Bertha McDougall whose policeman husband was
murdered by terrorists.

Brenda Downes, whose husband Sean, 22, was killed at an
internment anniversary rally in 1984, is applying for a
High Court judicial review on the grounds that Mrs
McDougall does not command cross-community support and her

appointment was a sop to the Rev Ian Paisley`s Democratic
Unionist Party.

Papers were lodged in the High Court by Mrs Downes`
solicitors, Kevin Winters and Co., but before the case can
be heard a judge has to grant leave.

Solicitor Paul Pierce said: "This is an extremely important
and sensitive issue for the families of victims and to that
end it is a significant challenge which needs to be heard
as soon as possible."

Mrs McDougall, 59, a former school teacher, was appointed
Commissioner for Vicims and Survivors last October.

Her husband Lindsay, 36, was murdered by the INLA at Great
Victoria Street, Belfast, in 1981.

She helped set up the victims group, Forgotten Families,
and in her new post she will look at key areas relating to
services for victims, funding arrangements in relation to
services and grants paid to survivor groups and

In 1986 an RUC reservist was cleared of the manslaughter of
Mr Downes.

Mrs Downes is seeking an order quashing Mrs McDougall`s
appointment and an immediate halt to the work she is doing
pending the outcome of the case.

She is also seeking a declaration that the appointment was
illegal because there was no legal basis for it as the
Secretary of State failed to give adequate weight to three

The need for consultation.

The need for the commissioner to command cross-community
support and credibility.

The need for actual and perceived independence.

The court papers stated that the lack of transparency in
Mrs McDougall`s appointment had been the subject of much
criticism as well as fuelling allegations that it was made
for ulterior, political motives in response to a demand by
the DUP for "confidence building measures."

"Support for the post and the postholder will be severely
undermined by the manner in which this appointment has been
made," the papers stated.

The preliminary stage of granting or refusing leave to
proceed can be done by a judge sitting in chambers but it
is expected that the matter will be dealt with in open


Shot Dubliner's Sisters To Take Case To US

By Sean O'Driscoll in New York
27 January 2006

Two sisters of a Dublin man allegedly killed by the IRA are
to take their case to US politicians, following the example
set last year by the McCartney sisters.

Esther Uzell, whose brother Joseph Rafferty was murdered
last April, is hoping to attract some of the worldwide
publicity raised at the White House last St Patrick's Day
by the sisters of Robert McCartney, who was murdered by the
IRA in a Belfast bar.

Uzell is to travel to New York and Washington with her
sister, Sandra, and her brother-in-law, Bart Little, to
meet with Senators Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John
McCain as well as the US envoy to Northern Ireland,
Mitchell Reiss.

The family have not yet heard a response to their request
to meet with President Bush.

As with the McCartney sisters, the Raffertys want to put
pressure on the IRA and Sinn Fein to co-operate with police
investigations into their brother's murder.

In this case, they argue that there is no internal ban on
republicans co-operating with the Garda, as there is with
the PSNI.

The Rafferty families say that the McCartney sisters would
never get justice unless they had taken their campaign to
the media and they hoped to do the same.

Rafferty, a 29-year-old father of one, was shot dead last
April in west Dublin. He had been involved in a dispute
with a Dublin family and had allegedly been threatened with
a IRA shooting during arguments.

The family say they are also preparing a lawsuit against
the alleged IRA gunman responsible.


Saudi Diplomat 'Gave Haughey £50,000'

27 January 2006 12:31

A Saudi Arabian diplomat whose six relatives received Irish
citizenship has said he gave former Taoiseach Charles
Haughey £50,000 in a horse deal.

Mahmoud Fustok told the Moriarty Tribunal by letter that
the money was paid to Mr Haughey in the early 1980s to buy
either a horse or a share in a stallion.

The tribunal has heard that Department of Justice officials
raised questions when a total of 16 citizenship
applications were received from Palestinian and Lebanese
persons between 1981 and 1982.


The officials were concerned that many had not fulfilled
residency and notice requirements, but all applications
were granted.


Ulster-Scots Aiming To Build Bridges

By Elinor Glynn
Wednesday 25th January 2006

An Ulster-Scots community group has come up with an "off-
the-wall" idea to bridge the gap between Protestants and
Catholics in Ballymena.

The recently formed Harryville Ulster-Scots project is
seeking to remove the long-standing UDA mural on a gable
wall at St George's Park and replace it with a "non-
military" cultural image.

A spokesman for the group said their main objectives were
"to build bridges inside the borough of Ballymena" - the
scene of a series of sectarian attacks last summer.

He said a first step in that process will be the removal of
the mural "so the parishioners of the Catholic church in
Harryville feel more at ease going to their place of

The plan was revealed at the official opening of the
Harryville Ulster-Scots office, which was attended by the
parish priest of the frequently-targeted Church of Our
Lady, the Rev Paul Symonds, and Ballymena police Chief Supt
Terry Shevlin.

Loyalist representatives from the Ulster Political Research
Group (UPRG) from throughout Co Antrim were also at the

It was made clear by members that they would like to see
the positive steps being taken by them in the south of the
town at Harryville being reflected by the removal of
tricolours at Cushendall Road in the north.

The Ulster-Scots project will also encompass other
community initiatives in the coming months, including
housing, education and drugs problems and will provide a
drop-in facility from its office providing information and
support on drugs-related issues.


Maiden City: What's The Big Deal In A Name?

27 January 2006

Derry, Londonderry, Stroke City, Maiden City ... the debate
on what to call the second city has raged for centuries.
Claire Weir reports on how a new map has re-ignited the row
and on a compromise by the area's two MPs, while Brendan
McDaid outlines how any name change could create a
bureaucratic headache ...

The first street map of Londonderry in ten years has
sparked anger among unionists as a new row erupted over the
city's name.

Next Monday a new street map of Northern Ireland's second
city will go on view to the public - but unlike anywhere
else in the country, the name on the cover and the title
used inside will be different.

The controversial move is the latest result of the decades-
old fight to have Londonderry officially re-named Derry.

Last month, attempts by unionists to have 'Londonderry'
printed on the cover of the new map were thwarted by Derry
City Council's nationalist majority.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein both backed a move to have 'Derry'
used on the front of the first city street map in over a

As a result, the cover will use the term 'Derry', but
Ordinance Survey Northern Ireland has confirmed that the
title on the actual map will still be Londonderry, pending
the outcome of a legal challenge to have the name
officially confirmed as Derry.

Ulster Unionist deputy mayor Mary Hamilton said: "They have
already changed the name of the council so why can't there
be a compromise over the name of the city? The problem for
the people who want it changed is that it is a British city
but a lot of the residents are happy to have British

"How can they have such double standards? British benefit
puts bread on their tables."

But nationalists and republicans are adamant that the
city's names are causing confusion.

In March of last year, the council voted in favour of
mounting a legal challenge to determine if the city's name
was changed when the district's name changed to Derry in

Sinn Fein leader on Derry City Council, Maeve McLaughlin,
said: "We need to deal with the name of the city so we can
properly market it as it is confusing to the rest of the
world when there are two different names to the city."

The DUP's William Hay said that those proposing the name
change had not found it as easy as they had first thought.

"Some councillors thought they could table a motion, get it
through, petition the Department and that would be it ...
but it isn't that easy."

An oak that grew out of tiny acorns

A decisive legally-binding outcome over whether Northern
Ireland's second city really is called Derry could have
major implications for the title of some organisations in
the city.

In 2004, as the city council first prepared to mount its
legal challenge to have the name of the city officially
recognised as Derry, officers wrote to all the various
bodies with Londonderry in their title asking them to
change it.

A handful of organisations including the Londonderry Sports
Council have agreed to the request, using Derry instead.

Others, however, such as the Londonderry Road Safety
Committee and the Londonderry Home Accident group, have
since dropped Londonderry and replaced it with the
inoffensive title of Foyle.

The Londonderry Port and Harbour Commission are among
various bodies currently assessing whether or not to change
their name.

The preference of the nationalist majority for the name
Derry derives from the city's ancient Celtic name of Doire,
or Daire, meaning oak grove.

This name was changed, however, when the London Corporation
arrived in 1613 during the plantation of Ulster.

Yesterday the DUP said changing the name would only
heighten "unionist alienation".


Opin: Let’s Have A Straight Head Count Vote On The Good
Friday Agreement – And Then Move On

Gearóid Ó Cairealláin

We should be waiting with baited breath for the next report
of the IMC, the committee cobbled together by the British
government as a sop to unionism and charged with
pronouncing on the state of the IRA ceasefire. It also
pronounces on loyalist ceasefires, but whether the
loyalists are shooting themselves or shooting Catholics is
largely irrelevant to the main business of the IMC.

Following the IRA’s ‘dump arms’ statement of last
September, the focus quickly shifted to the IMC. They had a
report imminent, but we were told that the next report due
in January 2006 would be crucial. If the IMC – no friends
of the Republican movement – were forced to admit that the
IRA had stuck to its word and that all paramilitary
activity period had ceased during that six months then
Paisley would be forced to admit that we are truly in a new

We were also given the nod that the British government
would soon be bringing legislation forward to enable the
powers of justice and policing to be devolved to Stormont.
This would enable Sinn Féin to be up for the Ministry of
Justice following the next D’Hondt divvy, thereby allowing
the party to take its place on the policing boards, and
Gerry Adams recommend a career in policing in the six
counties as a worthwhile and attractive career for young

Eventually we would get to see Fáinne wearing, hurley
playing, ceilí dancing PSNI and women helping old ladies
across the street on the Falls Road.

Before that, however, the two governments would succeed in
banging heads together and pulling the relevant strings and
bows in order to have the political institutions

And it all sounded wonderful until Paisley said No. No, not
this year. Maybe next year. Maybe not even next year. Maybe

Mr Hain, the Secretary of State, huffed a bit and thumped
the table and said: “Anymore of that kind of talk and there
will be no elections in 07. I’ll just cancel the lot.”

“Oh dear,” thought the DUP to themselves, “that would be
terrible. No powersharing with Sinn Féin. What a disaster!”

The DUP are out to scupper the Good Friday Agreement
because under the terms of that agreement they would have
to share power with Sinn Féin. And they are damned if they
do. Do they want to have devolved government back in their
precious Northern Ireland – of course they do.

But they would rather sit on their hands and go without any
kind of power and let the six counties of this country be
ruled by governmental, executive diktat. Better have no
power than to share power with Sinn Féin.

And I understand why. Sinn Féin was part of a movement that
fought a shooting and bombing war against the DUP’s
precious state of Northern Ireland. Protestants and
unionists held onto that state for grim death. They had
their police, they had their UDR, they had their business
sector, they had their determination not to give in, not to
be defeated. They had their British government.

Republicans pounded those police, that UDR, that business
sector. They shot and bombed and rained and rallied against
that unionist determination. They took their massive,
Semtex-powered, lorry-bombs right into the heartland of the
British government’s capital city.

Now I happen to believe that Sinn Féin and the IRA were
right in their approach to opposing the Northern Ireland
state. I understand why ordinary men and women resorted to
war in order to oppose injustice. But I can also understand
why many Unionists take a less benign view.

Nationalists and republicans, as well as ordinary
Catholics, of course, were pounded too – and by forces much
greater than all the boatloads of Kalashnikovs and Semtex
that the Provos could get from Libya. The culminated might
of the British military and political war machine is quite
awesome. The net result of the political logjam, the
military stalemate and the years of frustration was the
Good Friday Agreement. Which meant that nationalists and
unionists would share power while various arrangements were
made to address all the issues arising out of the
historical problems of the North.

This week Ian Paisley said again that the people of Ulster
have rejected the Good Friday Agreement. God, I hate it
when Paisley talks about the people of Ulster. What he
really means is the Protestants of the six counties. They
are the only ones Paisley ever meant when he referred to
the People of Ulster.

But why not take him up on it? Why not have a referendum,
strictly within the six counties on the Good Friday
Agreement? All those in favour of the Good Friday Agreement
write ‘Tá’ on the ballot box, all those against the GFA
write ‘Níl’.

By my reckoning there were about 50,000 votes between the
accumulated nationalist votes in the North at the last
election, and the total vote on the unionist side. Now,
let’s say that virtually all of the nationalists vote for
the GFA, and all of the DUP voters go against it. That
gives a strong majority in favour. But what about
supporters of Reg Empey’s UUP. The party are officially in
favour of the GFA, but let us say that even 50 per cent of
the voters are actually against it. Let’s say 60 per cent,
or 65 per cent.

That still would leave a majority of the people of the Six
Counties in favour of the Good Friday Agreement – and the
good doctor with no argument.

Okay, I know, he would get some other excuse, but sooner or
later the British government will have to tell even Ian
Paisley that democracy must prevail.

Why not go for it? We have had so many elections,
referendums, votes and everything else here, why not have
one more. Head to head, a straight count on the Good Friday
Agreement – and then we move on.


Opin: All-Party Talks The Way Forward

The Irish and British governments have rebuffed efforts
by the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist
Party to circumvent key elements of the Belfast Agreement
and provide for Assembly oversight powers in the absence of
a power-sharing executive. That is as it should be. The
adoption of an a la carte approach to the agreement at this
stage would inevitably lead to its dissolution and shatter
the progress that was so painstakingly made during the past

Serious problems persist. The unionist community has lost
faith in the ability of the Belfast Agreement to deliver on
its initial promise. Sinn Féin has yet to acknowledge the
need for republicans to participate in a normal policing
system, though the IRA has decommissioned its weapons. Fear
and distrust, facilitated by the conflicting aims and
aspirations of the two communities, have grown in the
absence of decisive political leadership.

These issues - and the potential for political progress -
were explored during a meeting in Dublin yesterday
involving the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and the British prime
minister, Tony Blair. But, in the shadow of a report from
the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) that is
expected to find members of the IRA have been engaged in
criminal activity, the outlook was grey. The IMC report is
said to be generally positive. But questions raised about
IRA involvement in money-laundering and criminal activity
will provide some justification for the DUP leader, Ian
Paisley, to avoid talks with Sinn Féin.

In spite of that, a joint statement from Mr Ahern and Mr
Blair identified the restoration of devolved institutions
and the establishment of new policing arrangements as the
main focus of talks that will begin in Northern Ireland on
February 6th. It looked forward to a more positive report
from the IMC concerning IRA activity next April. And it
offered support for those people seeking an end to loyalist
paramilitary and criminal activity and the decommissioning
of weapons.

There is a long way to go in the "normalisation" of society
in Northern Ireland. But, as the two leaders emphasised, a
prolonged stalemate could damage the agreement which has
provided the basis for unprecedented peace, prosperity and
economic growth. Difficulties were recognised. Not least in
relation to contentious Orange parades and loyalist
paramilitary activity. But slow progress is being made.
Last year, the Taoiseach publicly declared the
constitutional question had been settled in relation to
Northern Ireland and there was no workable alternative to
the Belfast Agreement. That statement, along with carefully
balanced safeguards built into the agreement, should
provide a useful antidote to loyalist fears. In the nature
of things, however, government reassurances are rarely
sufficient. It is likely to take face-to-face negotiations
between the DUP and Sinn Féin, along with the involvement
of the SDLP, the UUP and Alliance parties, to build trust
and establish the foundations for a new departure.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Blair And Ahern Try To Force Pace

Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair want progress on Northern
Ireland, but there is no sign yet of what they plan to do
in the event of deadlock, writes Stephen Collins, Political

Yesterday's meeting be- tween Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair
at Farmleigh was clearly designed to force the pace in the
forthcoming political talks on the North but it posed,
rather than answered, the big question about what will
happen if the political parties again fail to reach
agreement on the restoration of the institutions
established under the Belfast Agreement.

At their joint press conference after the meeting the
Taoiseach and prime minister caused no surprise when they
pleaded for real progress by the summer but they raised
some eyebrows by giving a strong hint that they will not
wait indefinitely for agreement to be reached by consensus.

"The Taoiseach and I are saying that we can't just wait on
everyone to make up their minds," said Mr Blair. What
exactly they will do in the event of the expected deadlock
is the real imponderable.

The two men were accompanied by just one official each for
most of their hour-long meeting after a quick lunch at
Farmleigh. That indicates that some real decisions were
made about how to proceed in the face of all the obstacles
confronting them but what those decisions were will only
become apparent in the months ahead.

What the governments would like to see happening in an
ideal world is that the DUP would respond to the
forthcoming report of the Independent Monitoring Commission
(IMC) in a positive fashion, even if the report contains
some negative information about continuing low-level IRA
activity. This would tee-up the next IMC report in April as
a really important event.

If the April report gave the IRA a totally clean bill of
health the governments would like to see the DUP begin
direct negotiations with Sinn Féin for the first time. The
outcome of those negotiations could then form the basis for
the establishment of a power-sharing executive on the basis
of real trust.

In parallel, the governments would like to see Sinn Féin
confront the issue of policing once and for all. By the
summer they would like to see Sinn Féin give full
recognition to the PSNI for the first time and join the
policing boards. That would clear the way for the devolving
of policing powers to a restored Northern executive.

The problem with this scenario is that nobody really
believes it is going to happen. All the indications are
that the DUP will refuse to engage in direct talks with
Sinn Féin, even if the IMC report next week gives the IRA a
clean bill of health. As the IMC is expected to come up
with something short of that, the DUP will feel fully
justified in saying that it will not talk to Sinn Féin
until the evidence about the ending of IRA activity is much
more clear-cut.

Even if the IMC is able to issue a stronger report in
April, the DUP will seek a decontamination period before
opening direct talks with Sinn Féin, with the autumn
probably being the earliest date. As direct talks between
the two parties will only be the first step towards the re-
establishment of a power sharing executive, it is very
difficult to see agreement on the issue this year.

On the other side of the coin there is as yet no indication
that Sinn Féin is prepared to go all the way on policing,
although the party's growing desperation to get involved in
real political activity at government level would indicate
a willingness to jump the fence if the DUP was prepared to
make the move on the other side.

In spite of all the hurdles both the Taoiseach and prime
minister were adamant yesterday that they wanted the
institutions up and running again by the summer. The
implication is that they have a plan to cut through the
niceties and force the pace if the parties will not get
down to business.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, and the
Northern Secretary, Peter Hain, will meet next Wednesday in
London to prepare a strategy for the talks and they will
begin meeting the parties on an individual basis the
following Monday. It should become clearer once that
process is under way what the real position of all the
parties is.

The publication of the IMC report next week will allow all
sides to see in advance of the talks just how important the
issue of IRA activity will continue to be. The report is
expected to be positive about the commitment of the IRA
leadership to the winding up of all operations and if this
can be reinforced with a more positive report in April, it
could help the talks. However, another IMC report in the
autumn will probably be demanded by the DUP before it will

In the meantime, the DUP has presented the British
government with a 16-page document entitled "Facing
Reality" setting out a compromise proposal which would
involve the Northern Assembly meeting but not appointing an
executive. Sinn Féin and the SDLP have expressed opposition
to this and the governments would accept it only if it was
clearly a half-way house to the full restoration of the

There have been some strong hints that the DUP will not
make any substantial move as long as Tony Blair is prime
minister. There is a belief in the DUP that Gordon Brown
would be more sympathetic to the party's position and that
the departure of Blair's entourage would change the
political atmosphere.

The fact that the DUP, with its nine MPs, is now the
fourth-largest party at Westminster also gives it leverage
with a Labour government increasingly on the back foot on
issues like education which have provoked internal revolt.
The DUP believes that it is now in a stronger position than
ever before to get its way. If Mr Blair and Mr Ahern have a
plan to circumvent Dr Paisley's entrenched position it will
need to be a good one.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Brown's Vision Not For North

The London political village may be enjoying the notion
that the next election will pitch Gordon Brown against New
Conservative "saviour" David Cameron. It will be a little
longer before Northerners focus as sharply on what comes
after Blair, writes Fionnuala O'Connor

Politics north of the Border is short on energy, drained by
stalemate and dazed by spies and skulduggery. Scanning the
horizon and assessing unknown quantities needs more
curiosity than most can muster.

To date, what registers is that the next head of
government, on all available indicators, will have no known
interest in Northern Ireland or its peace process. Blair -
the less popular, less credible Blair smiling and waving as
the chill Dublin breeze riffles now-thinning hair - is
still labouring over the big project of his first months in

If Blair is out of ideas on the North, what of Brown? A
fortnight ago the chancellor made a much-trailed speech
about reviving a sense of Britishness, among other things;
a speech crafted with almost embarrassing obviousness to
make him seem prime ministerial. As David Adams noted in
this space last week, though from a very different
standpoint, it had the merit of confronting issues for
multicultural democracies.

It also let Brown in for mockery at home, in Scotland and
in London. Many commentators - in Great Britain - scoffed
at Brown's suggestion of a "Britain Day" and the
reclamation of the Union flag from far-right nationalists,
by ordinary people with flagpoles "in every garden". Close
behind derision for this American-style patriotism came
guffaws at the very Scottish Brown's invocation of

An acid Daily Telegraph editorial headlined "Our Scottish
PM in waiting goes British" said he was clearly attempting
to defuse the objections to powerful Scots in Westminster.
Voters hearing "Mr Brown's Fifeshire accent on the news
every evening might reflect that they were being governed
and taxed by a man immune to their votes. They might become
miffed. Mr Brown knows that he will be regarded as a
legitimate prime minister only to the extent that the
peoples of the home nations feel a community of identity."

Brown speech-writer Michael Wills had another try the day
after his employer, this time at great length in the Sunday
Times. "There are no obvious or easy answers about how best
to strike the balance between a formulation of core British
values to which all citizens must subscribe and over which
there can be no compromise, and the permission and
celebration of difference. . . We can be comfortably
Cornish and British or Scottish and British or Bengali and
British." Not a mention of those who are Irish, and will
never consider themselves British.

In the north of this island, it might be fair to sum up
nationalist reactions as gunked; bamboozled. Here was the
PM in waiting, without a qualm, recommending a symbol and
practice that has caused ructions for centuries in one
corner of his realm-to-be.

There was some shock at the contrast between Brown's ideas
and the hard-won recognition Blair signed up to in 1998 -
of two major identities in the North, Irish and British, to
be given equal status. For one reporter, still young but
facing into his second decade of covering disturbances at
disputed celebrations of identity, it confirmed the feeling
that on Northern Ireland, Brown is a blank page. "Flags in
every garden! Places like Portadown and Larne in July must
be his idea of Nirvana." Brown's flag-waving and Britain
Day had no flavour of the real Northern Ireland. Some who
treasure their Britishness and love the Union flag best,
who hate to see its colours trampled on footpaths or as
bedraggled summer leftovers still flying in December, must
have been nearly as dismayed as nationalists that the
chancellor's prescription could be so shallow.

He told the Fabian Society "We should assert that the Union
flag is, by definition, a flag for tolerance and
inclusion." How to do that, Gordon, in a place where
"inclusion" for many unionists is a dirty word, synonymous
with legislation on equality, part of the much-loathed
programme of "concessions" to republicans? The Brown big
idea has no resonance with the most determined Union flag-
wavers: the DUP, for example, pursuing through the courts
the right to fly it every day over Lisburn council chambers
because why would anybody object to flying the flag of the

Another Scot was bleak about Brown's flag. Ian Bell wrote
last weekend in the Sunday Herald: "How many are happy
still to associate it with the queen and the monarchy? How
many care to share an emblem with Northern Ireland's
loyalists?" If your ancestors sprang from the colonies the
meaning of the banner was likely to seem darker than Brown,
"with his selective history, would like". The anticipatory
prime minister may have to reimagine his vision. As always
when there are shifts in British politics, Northerners must
cross their fingers about the outcome.

© The Irish Times


'Organised Gang' Stealing Donkeys

Donkey thieves have struck again after four mares were
stolen from a field in County Down.

The owner said police had told him that an organised gang
was behind the thefts.

The animals were taken from a field in Banbridge owned by
Patrick McDermott's family.

He said the donkeys were bought after his mother was
involved in a serious car crash and had helped speed her

The theft was discovered on Thursday morning after Mr
McDermott had left his children to school.

"I drove down the lane and noticed the gate open," he said.

The youngest would be darker in colour compared to the
others - the approximate value for these animals are £1,200
in foal and £800 each

PSNI spokesman

"The bales of hay were pulled back and I immediately
thought that something was up.

"I walked around the fields for a little while and then
called the police."

He said the police were very helpful and had provided him
with advice on trying to recover the animals.

"They believe it is an organised thing and the donkeys
always seem to go missing towards the end of the month.

"With the police advice, we have issued a press release and
we are just appealing to the general public and people who
are involved in horse fairs to be on the look-out."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Two of the animals were in foal and
one was wearing a red and blue collar.

"The youngest would be darker in colour compared to the
others. The approximate value for these animals are £1,200
(in foal) and £800 each.

"Police are concerned for the welfare of the donkeys."

Last November, four donkeys in foal were stolen from
Tandragee in County Armagh.

Earlier this month, they were discovered in County Limerick
and returned to their owners.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/27 09:33:21 GMT


Paisley Like St Pat, Only With Sense Of Humour

By Alf McCreary
27 January 2006

Free Presbyterian Moderator Ian Paisley displays many
similarities to Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, but
has a better sense of humour, according to a leading
academic from the Ulster Museum.

Dr Richard Warner, an archaeologist, delivered a lecture at
the museum on St Patrick - The Man and The Myth. Later,
during a question and answer session, he claimed that Mr
Paisley and St Patrick had certain characteristics in

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "From my reading of St
Patrick's writings and what I observe about Dr Paisley,
both had something in common, including very great strength
of purpose and an unshakeable belief in the Word of God.

"I can almost hear Ian Paisley's voice coming through when
I read the writings of Patrick.

"There is one major difference, however. Dr Paisley has a
good sense of humour - something which Patrick did not
possess. I believe he comes across in his writings as a
very pompous person."

Dr Warner also claimed St Patrick had spent his slavery in
the area west of Coleraine and not, as believed, at Slemish
in Co Antrim which is part of the DUP leader's Westminster


Ireland’s ‘Female Presidents Lead Way’


Ireland is leading the way in electing female presidents,
Tánaiste Mary Harney told the Dáil yesterday.

Ms Harney congratulated the president-elect of Chile,
Michelle Bachelet, who won the presidential contest in the
south American country on January 15.

“She now becomes the sixth woman head of state in the
world, which is fantastic and I’m delighted to say Ireland
is leading the way in that regard,” Ms Harney told TDs.

Ms Harney was responding to comments during the order of
business by Greens’ leader Trevor Sargent, who claimed Ms
Bachelet owed some of her success to her achievement in
eradicating waiting lists in the health ministry.

“She explains some of her popularity to the fact that she
was to do away with waiting lists in three months,” Mr
Sargent told the Dáil.

Addressing Ms Harney, he added: “Perhaps, in congratulating
her, you might ask her for some advice in that regard.”

The Tánaiste added: “The president-elect of Chile is a very
formidable woman, after her stint in the Department of
Health, she went to the Department of Defence so I wish her

A single mother-of-three, Ms Bachelet was a political
prisoner during General Augusto Pinochet’s military

After living in exile in Europe and Australia, she later
became health minister in 2000 and defence minister in

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