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January 14, 2006

SF Angry at Republic's Fugitive Move

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News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 01/14/06 SF Angry At Irish Fugitives Move
SF 01/14/06 Remarks Gerry Kelly On Policing & Justice
SF 01/14/06 State ID Cards Will Be Strongly Opposed
BT 01/14/06 UVF Man Elected To Brits Legion Committee
BB 01/14/06 Opin: Ministers Cut Slack In 'Murky NI'
UT 01/14/06 Clinton Backs Blair As UN Chief
BT 01/14/06 Pope's 'Gay Union' Message Welcomed


SF Angry At Irish Fugitives Move

Sinn Fein has criticised the Irish government for
putting on hold its plans to pardon IRA fugitives.

It comes after the British government scrapped its
controversial on-the-run proposals.

Irish President Mary McAleese had been expected to
pardon around six IRA members wanted for crimes south
of the border.

However, the plan has been suspended by the Irish
Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern.

Speaking on Inside Politics, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly,
who was himself on the run in the 1980s, said Dublin
had no requirement to follow the example set by

"The fact was that in the south there is a much
smaller number that would be involved," he said.

"But it was still an anomaly which came from the Good
Friday Agreement and could have been sorted out."

"The fact that the British have acted in bad faith
should be no reason for the Irish government to join
them in terms of them refusing to go ahead with this

'Restoring devolution'

On Wednesday, NI Secretary Peter Hain said the British
government was withdrawing the controversial proposals
on paramilitary fugitives.

The legislation would have seen those accused of
paramilitary crimes before 1998 appear in front of a
special tribunal, then be freed on licence.

Mr Hain told Parliament the legislation was necessary
but Sinn Fein's rejection of it made it unworkable.

He also said he wanted to hold talks on restoring
devolution in February.

But he said the issue of dealing with those accused of
paramilitary crime who were "on-the-run" would not go

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/14 09:55:52 GMT


Remarks By Gerry Kelly To All-Ireland Conference On
Policing And Justice

Published: 14 January, 2006

Ba mhaith liom failte a chur roimh gach duine anseo

I would like to welcome everyone here today to this
conference, hosted by Cuige na Se Chondae and
supported by our European Department.

Let me begin by thanking the speakers who have come
along here to address this conference on the subject
of ‘Developing an All-Ireland vision for Policing and
Justice’. Sinn Fein has invited those speakers to
engage with us as practitioners or experts in their
own fields.

Republicans don’t pretend to have a monopoly on ideas
in relation to justice and policing. Neither can we
ignore the experience of the community from which we
come and whom we serve. As an Irish republican party
with a national and democratic agenda, Sinn Fein
welcomes new ideas and is eager for new challenges.
Ours is the battle of ideas and the politics of

Ultimately, as a political party, Sinn Fein will form
its own view on these matters. As party members, you
will be the people upon whom that responsibility will
finally rest.

And it is of course important that you do that on the
basis of the maximum information, a full discussion
and in the context of overall strategy considerations.

Leading the all-Ireland agenda

Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis last year agreed that party
policy in relation to justice and policing should be
developed. The purpose of this event today is to
discuss this and build on the work done since. It is
about envisioning the kind of agenda, in relation to
justice, which will better serve communities
throughout the 32 counties. And the reason we need to
do that is very simple:

No other political party on this island is an all-
Ireland party.

No other party has an agenda to build an Ireland of

No other political party will champion the rights of
the poor and the oppressed better than Sinn Fein.

No other party will confront the inefficiency and
corruption of aspects of the justice and policing
systems on this island, better than Sinn Fein.

No other party will agitate and articulate at
grassroots level in every part of this country for
accountable, representative, community-based, civic
policing and justice programmes better than Sinn Fein.

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of
nationalists in the north and people throughout this
island are looking to this party for leadership on
policing and justice. They expect us to do our best to
secure acceptable civic policing. Today’s event is
evidence of our determination to give leadership and
achieve acceptable arrangements for policing and

A truly new beginning

Republicans will not be badgered or forced into
accepting less than the new beginning to policing
promised in the Good Friday Agreement. This is a
fundamental requirement. This Agreement addressed the
issue of policing for a very good reason.

The RUC was never a police service. It was a unionist
paramilitary militia, which engaged in the most
disgraceful sectarianism and abuse of human rights,
including torture and murder.

Those who were at the heart of this malign force – the
RUC Special Branch – are still active within the PSNI.
Their planned overthrow of a democratically elected
Assembly three years ago is the evidence of this writ
large. They are opposed to change of all kinds and not
just the change in policing.

Because of this and as a means to confront and face it
down Sinn Féin is determined to achieve the
reconstruction of the power sharing Assembly and all
Ireland institutions required by the Good Friday
Agreement. The historic decisions taken by the IRA in
recent months, the ending of its armed campaign and
the putting of arms beyond use have removed any excuse
or pretext for further delay. Sinn Fein has made it
clear to the two governments that the institutions
need to be restored. The British and Irish Governments
have said that they intend making a serious effort to
resurrect the political institutions. We are also
committed to achieving and being part of the new
policing dispensation. No half measures or three
quarter measures will do.

Looking forward

In December 2004 – just over a year ago we had
agreement on a sequence of events including the
transfer of powers on policing and justice from London
to Belfast. But it fell apart because the DUP reneged
at the last moment.

Essentially we agreed that in the context of: -

Agreement between the parties on the departmental
model and the powers to be transferred;

The enactment by the British government of the
legislation to give full expression to this transfer
of powers; and

A DUP commitment to a short timeframe for the actual
transfer of powers on policing and justice.

Then the party president would propose to the Ard
Comhairle that it calls a special Ard Fheis to decide
Sinn Féins position on new policing arrangements.

That situation has not changed. It is not Sinn Féin
but others who are delaying progress.

Nationalists want a policing service

It has been opportunistically and cynically argued by
Sinn Féin’s opponents that our position on policing is
assisting criminality. Remember former SDLP Chief
Seamus Mallon? Last year he said, "The people of West
Belfast, West Tyrone and South Armagh do not want
policing because if you have policing, you don't have

What nonsense.

There is no "rampant crime" in nationalist or
republican communities. On the contrary the
nationalist and republican people are good, decent
people who despite not having had a proper police
service for generations have a deep sense of justice,
are civic-minded and are eager to embrace proper
policing and justice systems.

No one wants a new beginning to policing and justice
more than the nationalist and republican people of
West Belfast, West Tyrone and South Armagh. I commend
all of those who work on the ground to create safer
communities through anti-car crime schemes; youth
outreach programmes, and especially, Community
Restorative Justice projects. They are doing a great
service to working class areas.

On restorative justice, since it is being attacked in
the media let me make a few points:

1/ restorative justice as a concept is of a global
nature. It operates and is working in many societies.
Australia and New Zealand to name but two.

2/ republicans do not seek the ownership of the
restorative justice concept in an Irish context

3/ restorative justice is not an alternative nor has
it ever masqueraded as an alternative to acceptable
and accountable policing arrangements

That said, Sinn Fein has been and remains supportive
of efforts by the community to establish and operate
restorative projects across the north. Equally, there
are those in the unionist community who are striving
to develop a restorative vision within their own
community. Sinn Fein commends all those genuinely
working to promote restorative justice at community
level. The further development of the Irish model of
restorative justice is something which deserves
informed debate on a national basis.

Meanwhile, we must acknowledge that there is a real
anxiety about the extent and effects of criminality in
Irish society today which, we ignore at our peril. We
must continue discussions with our communities on how
to respond to the challenges and the harm associated
with criminality and anti-social activity.

Political policing

As I said earlier political policing continues apace
within the PSNI.

Since last summer alone, the evidence of political
policing has been irrefutable. This includes the
political policing of loyalist marches; the
revelations about former RUC members stealing
information and thwarting murder investigations; the
discovery that files on dozens of republicans
including Sinn Fein elected representatives are kept
in the PSNI’s Castlereagh barracks; the fact that
these files had been passed onto unionist
paramilitaries; politically motivated houseraids in
Tyrone, Belfast and Down; trumped up charges and media
misinformation orchestrated by sections of the PSNI;
the high-profile arrest and false accusations against
Sinn Fein MLA Francie Brolly; and the PSNI raid on the
Casement Park home of the County Antrim GAA.

Let’s be clear about their agenda. Our political
enemies, in the institutions of this state, do not
want a Shinner about the place. They don’t want the
Good Friday Agreement. They don’t want change. They
don’t want acceptable policing institutions and
practices which would see Sinn Féin in there policing
the police; all of this is anathema to our political
enemies. This is the objective of political policing;
the self-perpetuation of their power and their

Our political opponents who accepted too little,
jumped too soon and endorsed the existing policing
arrangements must carry some of the blame. In four
years on the Policing Board, they have failed to hold
the political detectives publicly to account and
failed to end collusion and political policing.
Instead, SDLP MPs have gone to Westminster and voted
to reintroduce 28-day detention orders, taking us back
to the days of the old Special Powers Act so opposed
by the Civil Rights Movement.

In reality, they are now part of the police
establishment. In that role and in an effort to save
political face, they also stand against further change
on policing and justice because they believe it will
further compromise the positions they took up.

In the poisoned atmosphere created by political
policing which I have just listed; the question is; is
it possible to achieve a new policing dispensation.
The answer to that is yes.

Let me repeat what I said at last years Ard Fheis. The
job given to the negotiations team is to achieve a new
beginning to policing and justice. We won the argument
that the status quo on policing and justice had

We have made significant progress especially through
new legislation. Even when the SDLP and Irish
government jumped ship, Sinn Féin was able to achieve
more necessary change.

We won the argument for further amending legislation.

Next steps

It is not an impossible task and republicans need to
be acutely aware that if and when the Sinn Fein
Leadership achieves the objectives set in this area
then this in turn will present further challenges for
all activists. There is a public commitment if we
reach that point to then put proposals to our
membership and nationalism as a whole. While we are
not at that point yet, activists need to realise that
we can achieve it and with achievement there comes
further responsibility.

I make no apologises for fighting for an all Ireland
justice system as I make no apologises in continuing
the struggle for a United Ireland. Equally, in the
interim, we need to achieve a new beginning to
policing and justice in the North, in the present,
which will impact on the everyday lives of people and
also impact on the all Ireland policing and justice

Negotiations herald change. Change brings turmoil and
soul searching. It also means breaking moulds. If we
accept that the political changes over the last decade
have caused massive upheaval for the Unionist and
British system which has misruled the North for so
many years let us also accept that Republicans have
had to face and deal with the challenges the political
and emotional rollercoaster of change brings.

Nobody said it would be easy. Here is the challenge
facing us. As political activists we must think
strategically, debate strategically and decide what is
best for our party, for the cause we represent and
most importantly for the people we represent. We must
do that in partnership and in dialogue with our

Policing and justice cannot be viewed in isolation
from other key issues such as the stability of the
interdependent institutions, equality and human
rights, demilitarisation, the ending of
discrimination, collusion and so on. But we will
pursue proper policing and justice with all our

Last December in theory at least, we were within
months of having a decisive debate on this issue.
Delegates were encouraged to go back to their areas
and open up the debate within Sinn Fein and their
communities. I repeat that call today. Keep that
discussion going.

Our opposition to the present policing arrangements is
not a matter of timing. It is not merely a question of
tactics. It is a matter of integrity, entitlements and
our inalienable rights. At the core of our position is
the establishment of a threshold which enables the
creation of democratically accountable representative
civic policing and the consignment of political
policing to the dustbin of history along with the
other failures of the past.

That is why Sinn Fein has made this issue a core part
of negotiations. In those negotiations, the key
outstanding matter is the transfer of powers on
policing and justice away from London and out of the
hands of British securocrats, into restored local
Assembly and all-Ireland institutions. Next month, the
British government is pledged to publish enabling
legislation and a detailed consultation paper on
transfer of powers. Both governments know that this
will not be enough on its own to honour the
commitments given. The devil as they say is in the
detail. That will be where the battle will become most
fierce. Because this is not some sham fight or
academic debate about the number of clauses in a piece
of legislation or the sequence in which they run. This
is about giving expression in law to the transfer of
powers – taking powers – away from London and out of
the hands of the British securocrats. It is about
sovereignty, accountability and political change.

All-Ireland issues

It is perhaps inevitable that the key focus publicly
is on policing in the North. However, our work today
is about developing an all Ireland vision for the
future. In that respect, there are many questions to
be answered.

Are the people of Ireland North and South well-served
by those in government today, those with
responsibility for policing and justice?

Is the huge industry created by the policing and
justice system meeting the needs of local communities?
What are the social and economic benefits of this
system for those in deprived and marginalised

How do we ensure that the price for safety and
security is not our liberty and rights? In whose
interest are these decisions made? And with European
directives on some of these areas affecting our laws
too, how can we influence such decisions?

Is there justice in the courts? Or is there inherent
chauvinism, racism and sectarianism in the
administration of justice on this island?

What about those who are imprisoned? Is it right to
imprison people seeking asylum? Is it just to keep men
and women locked up for 23 hours a day?

Has the more humane regime in jails won by the
sacrifice of republican POW’s been replaced by
oppressive regimes.

And who polices the Gardai? Why has the police
ombudsman in the South not got equal powers to that of
the ombudsman in the North?

What lessons have been learned from the McBrearty
family and others.

There are questions about the future development of
policing and justice on this island which we must
consider as a party, and as a society. These questions
are not limited to the negotiations for transfer of
powers on policing and justice.

This is a critical year in the peace process and
political process.

Whatever happens in negotiations, key issues such as
policing and justice cannot be put on the shelf to be
dusted down when we achieve a united Ireland. People
want us to deal with the everyday issues as well as
the big picture. Today is about developing an all
Ireland vision for justice and policing let us look at
this nationally and locally in the big picture and the
small picture.

Have a good conference.

Go raibh maith agaibh


State ID Cards Will Be Strongly Opposed - Ó Caoláin

Published: 14 January, 2006

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has
described as "outrageous" plans by the British
government to impose compulsory State identity cards
on all residents of the Six Counties and for the Irish
Government to follow suit in its jurisdiction.
Commenting on news that the Minister for Justice,
Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell is to meet
his British counterpart on this issue, Ó Caoláin said:

"The Irish Government must stand up to Britain on the
outrageous proposal by the British government to
impose compulsory identity cards in the Six Counties.
Minister McDowell is due to meet his British
counterpart Charles Clarke on this issue soon.

"Unbelievably, Minister McDowell has said that if the
British introduce this card then the Irish Government
will bring in a similar card in its own jurisdiction.

"Given the common travel area, the information on any
26-County data base would end up being shared with the
British authorities. The British must be told that it
is totally unacceptable for their state to impose
these cards in any part of Ireland. Given the record
of British state forces in passing information to
loyalist murder gangs we can only imagine how they
would misuse such a massive data base on all residents
not only in the Six Counties but throughout Ireland.
Sinn Féin will strongly oppose this effort to impose,
at massive cost in public money, compulsory police-
state style identity cards in this country, North or


UVF Terrorist Is Elected To British Legion Committee

By Lisa Smyth
14 January 2006

There was uproar last night after it emerged that a
convicted UVF terrorist has been elected as a
committee member of a Co Londonderry branch of the
Royal British Legion.

An enraged member of the legion - the UK's leading
charity providing financial, social and emotional
support to the millions who have served and are
currently serving in the armed forces - contacted the
Belfast Telegraph to complain that Russell Watton had
been elected to the position of assistant secretary of
the Coleraine branch.

"I think it's an absolute disgrace. I've been a member
for years, but I'll not be back," said the man, who
did not want to be identified.

In June 1977, Watton was sentenced to life
imprisonment after pleading guilty to wounding three
men with intent during a gun attack on a bar in

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion refused to
say whether Watton was a member of the organisation,
and added: "We do not comment on anonymous claims. If
anyone is unhappy about membership, they should be
coming to us and not the Press."

But when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Watton
confirmed his position as assistant secretary of the
Coleraine branch.

He said: "Whoever complained has little to do with
their time. I was in trouble 30 years ago, and there
are other ex-prisoners in the legion.

"I have been a member for 12 or 13 years and this year
I was asked to stand, and I won a democratic vote, 36
votes to 24.

"I am married with a child and a mortgage like
everyone else and I'm trying to move on, but I'm never
going to get away from it."

However, East Londonderry MLA John Dallat has called
for Watton to be immediately ousted from the

"He should never have been allowed in the door, never
mind be allowed to take up a high-profile position,"
said Mr Dallat.

"This type of disclosure runs totally against the
efforts of people who want to develop the British
Legion as unconnected to elements which badly
tarnished its image in the past, in particular, I am
thinking of when UFF killer Torrens Knight wore a
poppy when coming out of court.

"To find a high-profile terrorist of this kind is not
only a member of the legion, but occupies a position
on the committee, is something that needs to be
addressed as it certainly makes it difficult for
Catholics to embrace the efforts of the legion to
portray itself as politically neutral."

Passing sentence on Watton in 1977, Judge Higgins
described his UVF group as a "nest of terrorists" who
had been responsible for grave and wicked crimes
during 1975 and 1976, including the burning of
Catholic-owned premises, the armed robbery of two post
offices and bomb attacks on three bars.

The judge also said that Watton was responsible for
planning the offences and involving others in them.


Opin: Ministers Are Cut Slack In 'Murky NI'

By Mark Devenport
BBC NI political editor

A cabinet minister makes an embarrassing climbdown. It
is the second U-turn he has performed within the space
of six months.

Surely he is under pressure to resign? Wrong, because
the minister concerned is Peter Hain and the U-turn
did not concern a key aspect of the Labour manifesto.

Indeed, when the question of resignation was raised
with the secretary of state by the BBC's Good Morning
Ulster presenter Seamus McKee, Mr Hain scoffed.

The prime minister had not discussed the possibility
with him - "not for a nanosecond".

Of course, Tony Blair would have had a bit of cheek
raising such a question with Mr Hain given that this
latest debacle is the result of a deal hatched by
Downing Street back at Weston Park in 2001 and then
again at Hillsborough in 2003.

The belated opposition from Sinn Fein was crucial to
the scheme's withdrawal

Successive secretaries of state have merely been the
poor unfortunates charged with piloting what many MPs
regarded as a repugnant measure through parliament.

But the other reason the withdrawal of the Northern
Ireland Offences Bill is not a resignation issue is
that, unlike the Education Department's decision to
allow a handful of sex offenders to work in schools,
it was not a big deal, so far as Fleet Street was

The belated opposition from Sinn Fein was crucial to
the scheme's withdrawal.

But ministers would also have been aware that if the
measure had gone to the Lords, the government could
have suffered a high profile defeat in the Upper

Any U-turn at this stage might have provoked greater
attention in London and therefore greater ministerial

So now Peter Hain can breathe a sigh of relief.

The other point here is that a Northern Ireland
controversy has to be pretty big and pretty
exceptional to make waves in London.

Right now, the DUP is pursuing Tony Blair about what
they believe was a piece of sleight of hand in mid-
December which left MPs with the impression that the
prime minister had nothing whatsoever to do with the
controversial Stormontgate case.

On 14 December, Mr Blair told SDLP MP Alasdair
McDonnell that "we were not consulted about this

But then just before Christmas, Attorney General Lord
Goldsmith confirmed he had consulted cabinet
colleagues on the case in January 2005 in what he
described as a "Shawcross exercise".

The government insists this decision was taken
independently by the PPS on the basis of information
provided by the police in November 2005

Taking its name from a former attorney general, this
is a legal exercise in which the government's
principal law officer finds out from colleagues any
information relevant to a case, but makes his decision
about its progress regardless of political

This week, Solicitor General Mike O'Brien confirmed
that the cabinet members consulted were Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw - who has responsibility for MI6
- Home Secretary Charles Clarke - who is responsible
for MI5 - the then Northern Ireland Secretary Paul
Murphy and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds believes there is an
inconsistency here and is demanding more clarity from
Downing Street.

The government's version is that Tony Blair was not
denying ever being consulted about the case.

Instead, he was saying he had not been consulted about
last month's decision by the Public Prosecution
Service to drop charges against three men, including
the Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson, who
subsequently admitted being a British agent.

The government insists this decision was taken
independently by the PPS on the basis of information
provided by the police in November 2005.

Maybe so, but if this was Tony Blair on Iraq or Ruth
Kelly on sex offenders, legions of commentators would
be picking over the grammar and syntax to determine
whether a cabinet minister had misled parliament.

But Stormontgate is complex and, as with Sir Patrick
Mayhew's secret contacts, there is a readiness to cut
ministers wrestling with the murky world of Northern
Ireland a bit of slack.

Will Tony Blair consider resigning over Stormontgate?
Not even for a nanosecond.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/14 12:00:50 GMT


Clinton Backs Blair As UN Chief

Former US president Bill Clinton has given Prime
Minister Tony Blair his backing as a future secretary
general of the United Nations.

Mr Clinton said Mr Blair would make a "good" head for
the international organisation when he stepped down as
Prime Minister, as he has promised he will before the
next general election.

Current secretary general Kofi Annan`s term in office
ends on December 31 this year. While most Westminster
watchers believe Mr Blair hopes to stay in 10 Downing
Street until 2008 at least, he is thought to be
ambitious to move on to another leading role on the
world stage and few would be as tempting as the top UN

Speaking on last night`s Newsnight on BBC2, Mr Clinton
revealed that he had discussed the future with Mr
Blair and told him there was "a lot of good you can do
in the world" after leaving Number 10.

He also hinted at he millions of pounds Mr Blair could
expect to earn from speaking engagements, books and
directorships following his retirement as PM,
predicting he would find "immense rewards" awaiting
him when he steps down.

Asked if the Prime Minister should run for UN
secretary general, Clinton responded: "That would suit
me. He would be a good one."

After leaving office in 2000, Mr Clinton set up a
foundation through which he has campaigned on issues
such as the fight against HIV/Aids and the promotion
of racial and religious harmony.

He suggested that Mr Blair might wish to follow a
similar path if he did not take a position in a multi-
national organisation like the UN.

"What I would say to him and what I have said to him -
I saw him actually last month - is that, when he does
go, he`s still got a lot he can do, a lot of good you
can do in the world and that`s the most important
thing," said Clinton.

"I think there are lots of things you can do. You
can... take a position, or you can do what I do - just
create your own operation and try to find some public
good you can do as a private citizen.

"This has been an immensely rewarding phase of my life
and I think he will find immense rewards when his
service is done."

He added: "When he steps down and under what
circumstances, that`s for him to decide. I don`t have
an opinion."

Mr Clinton called for a "delicate" approach to Iran in
the current row over its nuclear ambitions.

But he said there was "probably no choice" but to go
the UN Security Council to seek sanctions against the
Tehran regime, which is suspected of seeking to
construct nuclear weapons.

He said he doubted his successor George Bush would go
to war with Iran, saying that the president had shown
"a lot of restraint" on the issue and would also face
difficulties fielding enough troops given current
commitments in Iraq.

Mr Clinton said he expected a "not insubstantial"
withdrawal of US troops from Iraq during 2007, but
predicted that special forces would remain in the
country for some time beyond that.


Pope's 'Gay Union' Message Welcomed

By Alf McCreary
14 January 2006

The latest condemnation of gay unions by Pope Benedict
XVI has been welcomed by those opposed to such
developments in Northern Ireland, but it is felt that
his comments may have little practical effects in the

Speaking this week to Italian officials from Rome and
Lazio he again underlined that it was "wrong to give
legal recognition to gay unions," and reaffirmed the
Church's teaching on the sanctity of marriage.

His comments were welcomed by local councillors in
Northern Ireland as giving moral support to those
opposing the concept of same-sex civil partnerships as
"gay marriages", but it is believed that the practical
outcome will not change.

Danny O'Connor, an SDLP councillor with Larne Borough
Council, told the Belfast Telegraph: "I believe that
Christian marriage should be applied to the union of a
man and a woman for life and that the term 'marriage'
should not be applied to civil partnerships.

"I also feel strongly that if the decision on civil
partnerships had come before a Stormont
administration, the legislation would not have been
accepted - such is the opposition to it from many
quarters in Northern Ireland."

He he welcomed the Pope's latest comments "as a clear
lead on the issue".

Seamus Close, an Alliance MLA and a member of Lisburn
City Council, also welcomed the comments, saying they
might have little practical effect but they they would
give moral support "to those who are endeavouring to
ensure that council staff will not be penalised if
they decide, on grounds of conscience, not to carry
out their duties in respect of the legalisation of
same sex civil partnerships".

A motion to this effect will be debated by the council
in the near future.

Earlier, Mr Close had opposed the use of the council's
"wedding room" for such ceremonies. He said: "I am in
no way homophobic but it is misguided to connect the
idea of civil partnerships with the concept of
marriage. To do so is to threaten the institute of
marriage itself and it is also an attack on basic
family values."

A number of civil partnership ceremonies have taken
place in Northern Ireland since the UK legislation was
introduced at the end of last year. A Belfast City
Council spokesman said: "The council has to adhere to
the legislation, and we do not have an official
position on the issue. The details were not discussed
when the matter went through the committee and
council." Registrars who preside over civil
partnership ceremonies were not employed by the

A spokesman for the Department of Finance and
Personnel, which includes the General Register Office,
said: "If a member of staff has objections on
religious grounds to being involved in a civil
partnership ceremony, arrangements are in place to
allow another member of staff to carry out the duties

"UK legislation is enacted by Parliament, which is
itself a secular institution working on behalf of all
the people of the UK, regardless of race, gender,
religious belief, or political opinion."

It is understood a small number of staff expressed
reservations about taking part in an actual ceremony
but were willing to undertake preparatory and other
paperwork work necessary to enable it to take place.


Irish-Born NYPD Officer, 35, Dies

By Irish Echo staff

An Irish-born New York City police officer died on
Tuesday after being rushed to hospital from his
Brooklyn beat.

County Longford man Frank Hennessy, who was 35, was
assigned to the city's 70th precinct in Brooklyn. He
was responding to a call on Farragut Rd. and Flatbush
Ave. in the Flatbush section at about 8:30 p.m. Monday
night when he suffered what appears to have been a
heart attack.

Colleagues rushed Hennessy to Kings County Hospital,
where family members gathered and doctors battled to
keep him alive through the night.

On Tuesday morning, he was transferred to Downstate
Medical Center, across the street
from the hospital. He died just after 12 noon.

Officer Hennessy joined the NYPD in 1987 and lived in
the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn.

He is mourned by his wife Regina, two daughters
Deirdre, 5, and Shannon, 2, his eight brothers and
sisters, other family members, distraught colleagues
and many friends.

The viewing will be in M.J. Smith Funeral Home, 248
Prospect Park West, on Thursday 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. night
and Friday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A
funeral Mass will take place on Saturday morning in
the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 2805 Fort
Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, at 9:45 a.m.

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