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January 24, 2006

Paisley Shows Proposals To Blair

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BB 01/24/06
Paisley To Show Proposals To PM
BT 01/24/06 Government 'Happy' At Level Of IRA Criminality
IN 01/24/06 Man (24) On UDA Charges Denied Bail
DI 01/24/06 Republican Hits Out At Shankill Match Claim
RT 01/24/06 Hearing On Ludlow Report Begins
UT 01/24/06 Police Probe Invest NI Report
DI 01/24/06 Opin: Hain Hands Over Hostage To Fortune
IN 01/24/06 Opin: Reconciliation Needs To Include Everyone
IT 01/24/06 Opin: A Terrible Wrong Done To Parents
IN 01/24/06 Belfast Booming For All The Right Reasons
IN 01/24/06 Less Than Impressed By Donegal
IN 01/24/06 Bright Future For Limerick


Paisley To Show Proposals To PM

DUP leader Ian Paisley is to present his party's talks proposals to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He is expected to raise concerns about a confidential police assessment that the IRA, and others, remain involved in organised crime.

Facing Reality, the DUP's latest 16 page blueprint, has not been released.

However, it is understood to propose a two-stage process under which the Stormont assembly might be revived, without a power-sharing executive.

The meeting is to be held at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said that under the DUP plan, ministers would not be appointed until unionists were convinced republicans were committed to peaceful politics.

"In recent days, both the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have also been talking about their own Plan Bs," he said.

"But Sinn Fein is adamant that only a fully-fledged executive will do.

"The DUP leader is also expected to raise the allegations of continuing IRA criminality which stirred controversy at a confidential Policing Board meeting last week, as well as the question of payments to Royal Irish Regiment soldiers whose battalions are being disbanded."

Mr Blair will travel to Dublin later this week for talks with his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Both leaders are preparing for a fresh talks initiative after the publication of an Independent Monitoring Commission report on paramilitary activity at the end of the month.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/24 08:07:24 GMT


Government 'Happy' At Level Of IRA Criminality

By Noel McAdam
24 January 2006

The DUP today accused the Government of signalling to the IRA there is an "acceptable level of criminality".

As a party delegation met Tony Blair in Downing Street this afternoon, deputy leader Peter Robinson said the credibility of direct rule Ministers had been seriously damaged by attempts to spin the "high level" of criminality in which the Provisionals are still engaged.

The delegation led by Ian Paisley was also expected to demand evidence the Government intends to tackle a range of confidence building measures for unionists in the near future.

Apart from its 16-page paper outlining its views on the prospects for devolution, the party was also tabling a second document demanding Government action across loyalist areas.

As revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last month, the proposals - including pro-active recruitment policies for Protestants - form part of its price for participation in renewed negotiations.

But the party is said to have accepted an invitation to attend talks to be co- chaired by Secretary of State Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern in Hillsborough on February 6.

Mr Blair and his officials will want, however, to tease out how the DUP envisages the potential for full-blown Executive devolution developing.

Apart from talks on February 6, second follow-up round is anticipated around a fortnight later and Mr Blair is expected to deliver an address in Belfast.

But Mr Robinson asked today: "What trust could anyone have in a government which so blatantly dismisses the evidence provided to them by their most senior advisers?"

The East Belfast MP argued the Government knows it is disseminating a dishonest view of IRA criminal activity which he described as a "grossly irresponsible and perilous course".

"The Government is sending a message to the gangsters in the IRA that the present level of criminality is an acceptable level of illegality and is consistent with membership of an executive," he said.

The DUP was also expected to raise the anticipated redundancy package for Royal Irish Regiment soldiers and a revamp of parades legislation.


Man (24) On UDA Charges Denied Bail

By Staff Reporter

A MAN alleged to have been involved in an extortion and blackmail gang headed by north Belfast UDA leader Andre Shoukri has been denied bail in the High Court.

Terence Harbinson (24), of Tyndale Gardens in the Ballysillan area, is accused of blackmail, making threats to kill, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of a fire-arm with intent to commit and offence.

Crown lawyer David Reid told the court that due to a police investigation into loyalist

paramilitaries in north Belfast, officers carried out a covert

operation between June 2004 and September 2005 involving two people who were allegedly being blackmailed by the UDA.

They were identified only as witness A and witness B and Mr Reid said they were now on a police witness protection programme.

Mr Reid said that on May 31 last year, witness B was summoned to a meeting in the Ballysillan Arms Public House in north Belfast by John Boreland, a co-accused.

When she arrived she was ordered to go to an upstairs room where she alleges that Mr Harbinson put a gun to her head and said: “If you want to leave here alive tell the f****** truth.”

Mr Reid said Witness B alleges she was quizzed about finances of a business run with Witness A before she was ordered to hand over keys, cheque books and £4,000.

The Crown lawyer added these were all handed over the next day by Witness B after the threat had been relayed to Witness A.

Mr Reid said police then started a covert operation against persons considered to be leading members of the UDA in north Belfast.

He told that there were some recordings of conversations with Andre Shoukri and Mr Boreland.

Objecting to bail, Mr Reid said there was too great a risk of interference with witnesses and concern that the applicant would not turn up for his trial. He said that despite Witness A and B being on a protection programme, their details had already been jeopardised by a third party.

He also alleged that potential witnesses had told police they would not make formal statements because they had been warned by individuals not to cooperate with the investigation.

Detective Constable William Thompson told the court that he had spoken to two people who claimed they had been warned not to speak to police.

Defence lawyer Joe Brolly said that as Witness A and B were on a police protection programme, it would not make any difference if Mr Harbinson was granted bail.

Refusing bail, judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart said the case was of a “grave nature which gave rise to considerable concern that it would result in further offences being committed and an attempt to intimidate witnesses”.


Republican Hits Out At Shankill Match Claim

Belfast man says reports designed to cause unease in loyalist area

Connla Young

A well-known Belfast republican has hit out at media reports claiming that he attended a soccer match on the city’s Shankill Road last week.

Ardoyne republican Eddie Copeland described as “rubbish” the press reports that he and his close friend Seán Kelly had travelled to watch Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club take on the ’66 Old Boys from the Shankill Road.

Mr Kelly was released from prison in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. He had been serving a sentence in connection with the 1993 Shankill Road bombing.

He was rearrested last June 18 after it was claimed he had breached his early-release conditions. The north Belfast man was held in Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim but was released on July 27.

Since the beginning of last December, Mr Copeland has received five warnings that his life is under threat.

A recent threat has linked the Belfast man to Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club.

Mr Copeland told Daily Ireland yesterday that he believed that the latest reports were designed to cause unease in the loyalist community.

“I think it was an attempt to wind people up. The people who were at that match know I wasn’t there and neither was Seán Kelly.

“I’m told there were about six people from Ardoyne at the game and, if myself or Seán had turned up, we’d have been noticed.

“This was meant to try and wind up people from that area. I think it was also meant to wind up the local loyalist leaders because a reference was made to them.

“There may also have been an element of putting the spotlight on Seán so that, at some stage down the line, they could use this as justification for lifting him again.

“There is another aspect to this. I have received a death threat that has linked me in with Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club.

“I have nothing to do with the team, and attempting to link them to me is not good for them and may put them under risk in the future,” he said.

Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club manager Stephen Mailey said the club had sought legal advice about press articles relating to what happened at the match.

“We have been to see a solicitor and will finalise details next week. This club works hard to keep young people off street corners and away from politics.

“The lives of 35 kids have been put in danger and we have parents ringing us to tell us they are worried,” said Mr Mailey.


Hearing On Ludlow Report Begins

24 January 2006 11:42

An Oireachtas sub-committee considering the Barron Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow began public hearings this morning.

Mr Ludlow, a 47-year-old single man from Dundalk, was shot dead as he walked home from a pub on 2 May 1976.

Relatives of Mr Ludlow are before the committee today.

This afternoon, two public interest groups, Justice for the Forgotten and British Irish Rights Watch, will make their views known to the committee.

The Barron Report into Mr Ludlow's murder sharply criticised a garda investigation into his death.

The RUC told the gardaí in 1979 that it believed four named loyalists were involved in the killing but it seems this information was not pursued by the gardaí at the time.

The report also concluded that Mr Ludlow had nothing to connect him with any subversive organisations.


Police Probe Invest NI Report

Police were today studying a critical report into the workings of Invest NI - the Government's economic development agency - which has led to the suspension of two members of staff.

By:Press Association

The report`s findings have also been passed to the Northern Ireland Audit Office because the spending of public funds was involved, said Invest NI.

It said a wide-ranging review and inspection programme into the operation and management of a number of third party organisations inherited from legacy agencies had "identified some areas of concern regarding governance, administrative control and potential conflicts of interest."

The 28 third party organisations delivered specific services on behalf of Invest NI and the organisations it replaced - The Industrial Development Board, Local Enterprise Development Unit and Industrial Research and Technology Unit.

"The initial findings of these investigations have now been received and, as they involve the use of public funds, advised to the Northern Ireland Audit Office," said Invest NI.

It added: "In addition, the nature of some of the findings has resulted in a report being referred to the PSNI for their consideration and the suspension of two members of staff."

The suspensions, last Friday, implied no improper action on the part of the individuals concerned and were "precautionary," said a statement.

The decision to suspend had been taken to "ensure the integrity of our processes and any subsequent investigations," it added.

Because the matter was now in the hands of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), no further details could be given at present, it said.


Opin: Hain Hands Over Hostage To Fortune

Editor: Colin O’Carroll

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says Hugh Orde told him the IRA, as it promised, had put its operations to bed — contrary to what top cop and old RUC hand Sam Kincaid told the North’s Policing Board last week.

All of which would place the Irish and British Governments on course to announce a new era in Irish politics after this week’s International Monitoring Commission report.

Except, except… Hugh Orde’s spokesman says the Taoiseach picked him up wrong. Interestingly the North’s security minister Shaun Woodward also mis-heard the PSNI, British army and assorted spooks who brief him as before Mr Kincaid’s pronouncement he too believed the IRA as an active organisation was a thing of the past. One wonders will the IMC have a similar hearing problem? To date, they have managed to produce reports which could have been scripted by Messrs Ahern and Blair though, of course, they were the result of arduous research and rigorously independent detective work.

Could the IMC turn out to be Frankenstein’s Monster by producing a report this week which is more Kincaid than Woodward?

Certainly, that’s what their trusted spook sources are telling the scribblers in the Sunday papers. However, one suspects that Mr Ahern might demand more evidence than some elements of the fourth estate when it comes to judging the intentions of the IRA.

British Secretary of State Peter Hain will surely rue his suggestion yesterday that the outcome of these negotiations can be anything short of the Good Friday powersharing and cross-Border arrangements. Already, like a new boy trying to ingratiate himself with the upper sixths, Mr Hain has told journalists that he likes Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson. In doing so, he scored a first for British diplomacy but despite the show of sycophancy, the DUP leaders have yet to speak of their ‘friendship’ with Mr Hain. By stating that the DUP proposals for a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People — albeit with a new tradesman’s entrance wing for the SDLP — “could lead to a good result”, Mr Hain has given a hostage to fortune. He must tell the DUP that it’s the Good Friday deal or nothing. History tells us that the DUP will oppose all change. After all, in the ‘60s the Paisleyites railed against one-man-one-vote and fair housing allocations never mind the release of prisoners under the Good Friday Agreement, reform of the RUC and revamped equality legislation. For decades, when told changes were being implemented, they swiftly adapted. The DUP is ready for the powersharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and Hain must make them play their part.

For its part, the SDLP is just plain silly to enter into discussions with the unionists about a deal short of what the people voted for in 1998. They should wise up and get down to making John Hume’s dream a reality.


Opin: Reconciliation Needs To Include Everyone

The Tuesday Column
By Breidge Gadd

Even though there will be groans at the very idea, I want to suggest a new form of reconciliation. I know we have been at it for 30-plus years now and if research and surveys are to be believed we are less reconciled than ever. It is hard work getting people who have nothing much in common and who are suspicious of each other to bridge and bond.

It all started in Corrymeela and places like that. Well meaning people scared at the intensity, the anger and hatred behind the growing conflict came together and agreed that it might help to talk about and understand the difference in expectation between Catholics and Protestants here. Talking and listening to each other’s stories would help to build bridges of friendship and it is much harder to kill your new friend than your unknown enemy. It wasn’t long before these good, but largely middle-class, people arrived at the conclusion that it was indeed great to talk. But perhaps the people who needed to be in the room were those doing or prepared to do the fighting and the killing. So, the concept of reconciliation shifted in focus to the most troubled areas; to those who never met through work or play. Money poured in to aid us in our search for peace and reconciliation. The vast bulk of this money was deliberately targeted at the areas of greatest social need, areas of high unemployment and areas that also bore the brunt of the civil unrest. So it should be. There have been a myriad of schemes focussing on either a broad or narrow definition of reconciliation. There have been single identity programmes for those people who it was felt didn’t have the confidence (yet) to meet the other side and there have been sophisticated multifaceted reconciliation projects leaving participants in the level of experience and skill acquired unrivalled in conflict resolution field anywhere in the world.

My concern is not about assessing effectiveness or whether money was well spent. What is clear is that only people from poor areas are expected to deliver on reconciliation outcomes. If you are middle-class with a good job, nice house and reasonable expendable income, either it is assumed you have bonded already with the other side or else it is believed that you don’t need to.

This ignoring of a large section of the population in the reconciliation agenda was a mistake. Reconciliation needs to be not just between Catholic and Protestant working-class people. I believe that we need to turn our attention now to reconciliation work, single identity if necessary, between middle and working-class people in Northern Ireland. We need to get far away from the simplistic notion that the Troubles were the fault of people from deprived areas and that they and only they must redeem themselves and bond in friendship together in order to bring about a peaceful future. Because one of the unintended consequences of all the peace money being predicated on disadvantage is that those parts of our communities who are considered to be better off are not required to be reconciled and therefore it is too easy for them to opt out of responsibility for solving current problems.

A society that tries to design a future where the most advantaged are excluded or exclude themselves is not a healthy society. We need to start work at once to reconcile those with education, skills, jobs, much success and positive futures with those without such self-esteeming characteristics. Many working-class communities, struggling to rid themselves of the grip of sectarianism and racism feel particularly ignored and neglected by their better-off fellow believers. The old adage that the middle-class went off to play golf in 1970 and haven’t come back yet still rankles. Perhaps the Community Relations Council or a similar body could try a pilot project focussing on how people from these different social strata of society might enjoin in reconciliation and find ways to help their less well off neighbours.

One thing for sure is that the poorest, least resourced areas cannot deliver reconciliation all on their own.

All layers of society need to be involved.


Opin: A Terrible Wrong Done To Parents

Watching last Friday's BBC television documentary about the discovery of two preserved human bodies in Irish bogs, Fintan O'Toole was struck by the words of one of the scientists involved.

Prof Valerie Hall stressed that this work was not like handling a shard of ancient pottery or a stone axe-head. A human body, however old, was not just an object of cold scientific interest: "One treats a person like that with great respect and genuine tenderness."

Her words struck me because I had just been reading the report by Dr Deirdre Madden into the handling of the bodies of dead children in Irish hospitals between 1970 and 2000.

The respect and tenderness shown by scientists towards the remains of Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man were left outside the room when the church-run and State-funded institutions disposed of those human remains. And the arrogance and insensitivity which characterised this disgraceful saga continues.

The Madden report is itself an act of hurried disposal, burying a gross injustice in obscure ground with a muttered, indifferent ceremony. The mourners - hundreds of Irish parents whose loss of a child has been compounded by the casual mishandling of the dead body - have been told, in effect, to get their awkward grief out of our sight.

From early 1999, after revelations about the retention of the organs of dead children by English hospitals, it became clear that similar practices had been par for the course in Ireland. In England, serious public inquiries were held, and detailed, damning reports have been issued.

In April 2000, the then minister for health, Micheál Martin, announced that there would be a two-stage inquiry here. First, a senior counsel, Anne Dunne, would carry out a private investigation without statutory powers. Her report would be completed in six months and would then go to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, which would use its full powers to discover documents and compel witnesses. Almost six years later, there has been no Dunne report, and there will be no statutory investigation.

The Madden report will go to the Oireachtas committee, but since the Supreme Court has found that such committees cannot make adverse findings about anyone, the exercise will be largely pointless. A terrible wrong has been done to hundreds of Irish parents and the State has decided that no one has to answer for it.

The Government decided to wind up the Dunne inquiry without publishing the 3,500-page report on practices in three Dublin hospitals which Anne Dunne had submitted to Mary Harney. Dr Deirdre Madden was then given all of the Dunne documentation to read in a period of less than seven months. Her brief effectively precluded her from blaming anyone for what happened. As she puts it herself: "The purpose of this inquiry is to be a fact-finding exercise, not a method of apportioning guilt or blame for what happened in the past."

What happened is, in general terms, plain enough. Hospitals carried out invasive postmortems on the bodies of dead children without getting the informed consent of their parents. In some cases, no consent was sought. In others, parents were approached in the aftermath of a death by a nun, or even a garda, and asked to give verbal consent. At best, a doctor sought verbal consent or presented parents with an extremely minimal form to sign. Parents were not told that they could object to a postmortem or limit it to specific organs.

Even this woefully limited form of consent did not apply, however, to the removal and retention of organs. Brains and hearts were removed and kept on shelves, in a few cases for years, before being thrown in with the rest of the hospital waste and burned. Pituitary glands were removed and sold to pharmaceutical companies. Parents who asked questions were deliberately fobbed off by being told that some "tissue" had been retained. One mother and father, noticing how light the body of their dead baby felt, were told that "babies lose fluid".

When the story began to break in 1999, and parents asked for information, some were told, for example, that "slivers" of tissue had been retained, when in fact the hospital had held on to their baby's major organs. But none of this was anyone's fault. The Madden report simply finds that postmortems were "carried out in Ireland according to best professional and international standards and that no intentional disrespect was shown to the child's body". Dr Madden tells us that it did not occur to doctors that a dead child's heart or brain might have any "emotional significance" for its parents - an astonishing lapse considering that these doctors were both human beings and worked in hospitals owned by churches who practise elaborate rituals of funeral and burial. It was all, apparently, an unfortunate misunderstanding, rooted in a "lack of communication".

So, in the end, how has the State responded to parents whose grief was deepened by an arrogant refusal to tell them what happened to their dead children? By an arrogant refusal to tell them what happened to their dead children.

© The Irish Times


Belfast Booming For All The Right Reasons

By Catherine Morrison

BELFAST, a city that was as popular with tourists as Beirut during the Troubles, has been named as one of the best places to visit in Ireland.

In the latest edition of influential Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland, released next week, the city receives a glowing review as a “boom town”, thanks to “massive investment”.

However, Ireland’s holiest pilgrimage site at Knock gets a sacrilegious slating for its “tacky” stalls hawking fluorescent Virgin Marys and “genuine” holy water.

The guide’s author, Fionn Davenport, criticises the religious memorabilia sellers at the Co Mayo shrine to Our Lady, which attracts around

1.5 million visitors every year.

“Be warned: religion is big business here and the village is crammed with hawkers looking to cash in on the fervent, almost medieval piety of pilgrims,” he writes.

Pat Lavelle, who manages the shrine, said the same religious material could be found at other sites of pilgrimage across Europe.

“It is the same in Lourdes and Fatima. You find these stalls selling souvenirs and trinkets,” he said.

But Belfast is singled out for praise, and the author applauds its transition from troubled times to a prosperous peace.

He calls it “designer Belfast” and namedrops some of the hip hotels, elegant restaurants and trendy boutiques that now line the streets.

Ruth Burns, of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, welcomed the comments made about Belfast.

“It is great to see that they recognise the city as going through a period of regeneration and that we have come along way in terms of the tourism experience over the past decade,” she said.


Less Than Impressed By Donegal

By Catherine Morrison and Nevin Farrell

DONEGAL – traditionally a tourist hot-spot – received a mixed review in the guide, with the author less than impressed with some corners.

The west coast resort of Bundoran – popular with Northern Ireland visitors – comes in for criticism as one of Ireland’s “tackiest” holiday resorts.

Guide author Fionn Davenport describes it as a “kitsch” assortment of fairground rides, arcades, fast-food diners and “overpriced” B&Bs.

However, he adds: “The town has nonetheless been riding a new wave of popularity as one of Europe’s premier surfing spots.”

Local hotelier and Fianna Fail councillor, Sean McEniff, was incensed at the description.

“Bundoran is not tacky and I think the fairground is absolutely magnificent,” he said in its defence.

“It is not some small resort it is like a mini Blackpool and tourism is booming. I am adding an extra 40 bedrooms to my hotel because of the demand and all the other hotels are the same.”

He insisted accommodation was of a high standard and the town so clean “you could eat your breakfast on the streets of Bundoran”.

Warming to his defence he said: “A lot of people don’t like the success of Bundoran.”

“We have one of the finest promenades in Ireland, all pedestrianised and beautifully lit,” he added.

Deep in the Donegal Gaeltacht, Gweedore is usually hailed as a wonderful example of Irish tradition at its very best, with its picture postcard views and thatched cottages.

But according to Lonely Planet, the modern blight of the holiday homes has all but obscured the loveliness of this village.

“Its rugged coast, dotted with white, sandy beaches, was once an attraction in itself, though is has since been overrun by holiday-home mania.”

The guide reserves special praise for Glenveagh National Park.

“Lakes cluster like dew in the mountainous valleys of Glenveagh National Park, one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland,” the guide says.


Bright Future For Limerick

By Catherine Morrison and Nevin Farrell

MUCH-maligned Limerick gets a better than expected write-up with the guide suggesting a bright future is in store for the city.

The city, which once earned the derogatory nickname Stab City because of its high murder rate, has emerged from the past “with some spirit”, Lonely Planet says.

“Limerick has suffered too long from its hard-edged image as a bit of a rough old place,” the author writes.

“It is an image characterised by an uneasy reputation for crime and violence and by traditions of painful squalor.”

That’s not to say that the city hasn’t had some unexpected spin-offs from such a reputation.

A walking tour visiting places mentioned in Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes has become something of a hit in recent years.

The guide, however, focuses on the city’s “cosmopolitan” side.

“Its central streets buzz with life and a busy shopping scene.

“Fine museums and galleries and a thriving restaurant and pub-club culture, have enhanced Limerick’s already warm heart.”

Dundalk – and Co Louth in general – gets a less favourable review.

“Tough, uncompromising Dun-dalk is a reminder of a bygone age, when Irish towns couldn’t care less about looking pretty for the nice tourists and just went about the hard business of eking out a living,” the guide’s author writes.

“Louth’s dour county town is a charmless place with few historic sites and not much else to see or do.”

Now that the Dundalk bypass has been completed, the town may find itself with less visitors than ever.

However, the Republic’s foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern defended his home town of Dundalk.

“This lazy depiction of Dundalk belongs to an era long ago when the Troubles were at their height,” he said.

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