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January 22, 2006

SF: Steps Necessary To End Stalemate

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News About Ireland & The Irish

SF 01/22/06
SF Sets Out Steps Necessary To End Stalemate
II 01/22/06 Police Chief Denies Bertie Claim On IRA
SB 01/22/06 Monitoring Body Report To Detail IRA Crime
II 01/22/06 McGuinness To Face Grilling In Murder Case
SF 01/22/06 SF Activist Target Of Coleraine Attack
BG 01/22/06 Hume Seeks To Raise Moderates' Profile
BB 01/22/06 Police Prevent Parade 'Disorder'
SL 01/22/06 Cokehead Robb's Nazi Past
IN 01/22/06 Opin: Paisley Says Backward Is Only Way Forward
SL 01/22/06 Opin: Borders On The Abuse
SL 01/22/06 Opin: AMaz(e)ing
II 01/22/06 Opin: Row Not Getting Anyone Down
RT 01/22/06 Swiss Guards Celebrate 500 Years
ML 01/22/06 Irishman Leaves Populous Legacy
IT 01/22/06 Bishop Of Galway Says Casey Should Apologise


Sinn Féin Leadership Sets Out Steps Necessary To End The Stalemate

Published: 22 January, 2006

Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy today repeated his party's demand for the British and Irish governments to act now to end the stalemate in the political process.

Speaking after a meeting of the Sinn Féin leadership in Dublin over the weekend Mr Murphy said:

"Our weekend discussion provided an opportunity for activists from across the island to come together and chart out a course for the coming 12 months. It is very clear that 2006 is the year that the two governments have to finally act and ensure the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Continuing with a suspended Assembly and the farce of Direct Rule Ministers in the North is simply not sustainable.

"The Good Friday Agreement is the democratic option. The two governments have been mandated by the people of Ireland to implement it. This reality cannot be subverted by rejectionist unionism in the DUP or anti peace process securocrats in the PSNI or IMC.

"The initiatives taken last year by the IRA have cleared the decks of excuses not to move forward. What we need now is the speedy restoration of the political institutions and this has to be the focus of the discussions in early February.

"We have been in contact with both governments at the highest levels and made it clear that the onus is now on them to advance the process and re-establish the political institutions.

"What this requires in real terms is an end to the suspension of the political institutions and the d'honte mechanism for electing the Executive should be triggered. This in itself has the potential to inject badly needed momentum into the political process.

"We are going into the next short period determined to make progress and determined to see the promise of the Good Friday Agreement delivered including on the other range of outstanding matters not directly linked to the restoration of power sharing. Others also must display the same political will" ENDS


Police Chief Denies Bertie Claim On IRA

Jim Cusack

THE North's Chief Constable has denied he told the Taoiseach that the IRA is no longer involved in crime, though Bertie Ahern indicated that he did.

Sir Hugh Orde yesterday bluntly denied Mr Ahern's claim that he had briefed him at their meeting in Government Buildings on December 22, that the IRA was no longer involved in organised crime.

The Taoiseach said on Thursday, during his visit to New Delhi, that Sir Hugh had given him a "different view" to that given by the head of crime investigation in the PSNI, Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid.

Mr Kincaid had briefed the Northern Ireland Police Board on Wednesday, and told them the IRA was still involved in organised crime.

Asked by a reporter on Thursday, Mr Ahern replied that Sir Hugh, "the most senior police officer" in the North, had given him a different view.

He went on to say: "I think we will see in the IMC [Independent Monitoring Commission] report . . . whether there are others who are creating difficulties perhaps on the fringes of the republican movement."

However, yesterday Sir Hugh issued a statement through his press office saying: "He is mistaken to say that the Chief Constable gave a different view. He did not discuss the issue with the Taoiseach."

A spokeswoman for the Chief Constable said that Sir Hugh "stands 100 per cent" behind the view expressed by Assistant Chief Constable Kincaid.

The Taoiseach is understood to be hopeful that the IMC's latest report on the IRA will give it a clean bill of health, and that this might encourage unionists to go into talks with Sinn Fein about reinstating the Stormont Assembly. Both governments are also expected to release details of the arms decommissioned by the IRA last July, as part of the campaign to encourage unionists into talks with Sinn Fein.

Despite the Taoiseach's apparent belief that the IRA is no longer involved in crime, senior Garda sources say the organisation is very much involved in smuggling, protection, tax fraud and extortion.

The IRA's multimillion euro cigarette smuggling racket is, according to reliable sources, still run by a Co Tyrone man who last year replaced Martin McGuinness on the IRA Army Council.

He also runs a huge diesel smuggling and washing operation in south Armagh. Senior Garda sources say that, in the past year, the IRA has been salting away huge amounts of money into property.


Monitoring Body Report To Detail IRA Crime

22 January 2006 By Paul T Colgan

Crunch talks between the British and Irish governments will take place this week amid concerns that an upcoming report on IRA activity will say that republicans are involved in organised crime.

Government sources said they expected the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) to report that members of the IRA had been involved in criminal activity since the group announced an end to its armed struggle last July.

Republicans have denied the claims and said that members of the British security forces are attempting to damage the political process through malicious briefings against the IRA.

The IMC report is due early next month and is deemed crucial to attempts to restore power sharing between Sinn Fe¤ in and the DUP in the North. Without such a report, neither British prime minister Tony Blair nor Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be able to convince unionists to engage in political discussions.

Sources said the governments would still seek to ‘‘kick-start’’ political movement and that a series of important meetings were planned towards the end of the week before the publication of the IMC report.

Ahern and Blair plan to make a joint keynote speech in the days after the report’s publication, while the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, will join Northern secretary Peter Hain in hosting exploratory talks with the parties.

One of the North’s highest-ranking policemen, Sam Kinkaid, told members of the Policing Board last week that the IRA was involved in organised crime. Ian Paisley’s DUP has seized on the remarks as justification for keeping Sinn Fein out of the political process.

Republicans have rejected Kinkaid’s claims, saying his briefing was a deliberate attempt by the PSNI to scupper political progress.


McGuinness Likely To Face Grilling In Army Agent Murder Case

Alan Murray

MARTIN McGuinness is likely to be grilled by detectives from the Historical Enquiries team when it investigates the murder of an army agent 20 years ago. Frank Hegarty from Derry was murdered by the IRA in May 1986 just months after the Garda raided a significant arms dump in Donegal. The seizure was designed to prove to the public that there was better cross border co-operation between the force and the RUC following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Hegarty's army handlers were shocked at the move to raid the dump because they knew that their agent, who had got close to Martin McGuinness, would be immediately suspected. The 45-year-old Catholic from the Shantallow area had been encouraged to get close to McGuinness who was then regarded as the IRA's number one military figure.

The failure of the RUC to interrogate McGuinness about Hegarty's last hours is an uncompleted line of enquiry which the Historical Enquiries Team is likely to follow up. It is also likely to interview Scappaticci, who worked for the army under the codename Stakeknife.


SF Activist Target Of Coleraine Attack - Leonard

Published: 22 January, 2006

Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard has said that one of their party activists was the target of an attacker brandishing a gun in the Ballysally area of Coleraine on Saturday morning. The person concerned was due to play in a football match in the area and the attacker walked on to the pitch wearing a balaclava and pointing the firearm.

Councillor Leonard said:

“It is hard to say from initial reports if this was an elaborate scare tactic or if a real attack was avoided by the quick thinking of our activist who fled the scene. The attacker definitely asked for the person by name and was approaching him across the pitch pointing the weapon.

Whatever the motivation, there are guns in loyalist areas and are being targeted at one of our activists. The message has got to be given loud and clear. There is no place for this in Coleraine. Republicans are entitled to their political aspirations, entitled to work for them and entitled to live a normal life. Loyalism must become mature enough to accept all of this.

And I must challenge all brands of loyalist and unionist politicians. You knock each other over to get to the microphones and cameras to heap scorn on republicans coming up to the IMC report.

You must now take responsibility to address the reality of Saturday morning’s incident. It is sinister and worrisome and for all we know it could have been a serious gun attack. You must surely speak out and then work to remove this sinister element from your political community.”

Leonard confirmed that Sinn Féin activists in the area were totally committed to continuing their work in the largely unionist and loyalist area.

“This and previous incidents will not deter us. We have an absolute right to work politically and that will not be taken from us by attacks or threats of attacks.”ENDS


N. Ireland Laureate Seeks To Raise Moderates' Profile

Nobelist Hume paying visits to US cities

By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff January 22, 2006

His health has been better, and he says his memory isn't what it used to be. But when called upon, John Hume, the Nobel laureate, can still rustle up a good story or a few verses of ''The Town I Loved So Well," the bittersweet lament for his beloved hometown of Derry.

In visiting Boston last week, Hume marked something of a triumphant if understated return to the place where he ventured some 30 years ago, looking for American help in resolving the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Ostensibly, Hume was in town to give a keynote speech at Boston University to commemorate the birthday of one of his heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout the Troubles, a portrait of King dominated Hume's office.

But Hume's first public visit to the United States in several years, which continues this week in New York and Washington, also represents an effort by moderate Irish nationalists to raise their profile in a country where they have been overshadowed for the past decade by Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. Among Hume's stops here was a fund-raiser for his Social Democratic and Labor Party, hosted Tuesday by Thomas P. O'Neill III, the former lieutenant governor and son of the late US speaker of the House.

The SDLP, which Hume helped found in 1970, has been one of the most notable casualties of the peace process, overtaken by Sinn Fein as the dominant voice for Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland. For a quarter-century, the SDLP was the undisputed leader of most nationalists who aspired to unity with the Irish Republic but opposed violence as a means of achieving it. But as the IRA gradually shrank from the scene and violence decreased, Sinn Fein has raced past the SDLP.

Since 1998, when the SDLP won the largest number of votes in elections for the then-new Northern Ireland Assembly, following the approval of the Good Friday Agreement that encoded Hume's vision of mutual tolerance and equality, the political fortunes of Sinn Fein and the SDLP have flip-flopped. In last year's British parliamentary elections, Sinn Fein got 24 percent of the vote, while the SDLP received about 17 percent. The reversal of fortunes is especially ironic because no one helped Sinn Fein come in from the cold more than Hume, who remained a pacifist throughout the conflict.

Part of the SDLP's decline has been attributed to Hume's 2001 retirement as party leader. But it is part of a wider trend in which moderate parties from both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland have lost ground to Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party led by the Rev. Ian Paisley.

Still, the SDLP's slide has been less precipitous than that of the moderate Ulster Unionist Party which was led by David Trimble, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Hume in 1998. In last year's parliamentary elections, reflecting Protestant unionist disenchantment over the Good Friday Agreement and the IRA's continued activity, the DUP took nearly 34 percent of the vote, twice that of the Ulster Unionists. The drubbing led to Trimble's resignation. In contrast, Hume's successor as party leader, Mark Durkan, surprised many by holding on to Hume's seat in Parliament.

Hume, who will be joined in New York and Washington by Durkan and deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell, said he isn't surprised by the SDLP's resiliency. Borrowing a phrase that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams once infamously uttered about the IRA, Hume had this to say to those who have consigned moderate nationalists to the dustbin of history: ''We haven't gone away, you know."

Hume, who retired from politics in 2004, has been less visible in recent years because of health problems. But he believes moderate nationalists will remain relevant because the Good Friday Agreement, on which the future of Northern Ireland is based, ''is really what the SDLP has argued for 35 years."

He said it was poignant returning to Boston, ''because this is where I first came, years ago, looking for help." He became friendly with Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Tip O'Neill, then speaker, who in turn got President Reagan to persuade Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain to work more closely with the Irish government to end the Troubles.

Hume said the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, giving the Dublin government a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland in return for agreeing that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom until a majority living there voted otherwise, was a landmark because it cemented the Irish-British partnership that ended the conflict and showed that US diplomacy could help. Hume and then-mayor Raymond L. Flynn formed a trade partnership between Boston and Derry that Hume said has generated more than $40 million in sales.

Adams and other charismatic Irish republican leaders get most of the attention in the United States these days, but it was Hume's opinion that mattered most when it came to getting Washington power brokers to put ending the Troubles on the US policy agenda. President Clinton made it a central part of his foreign policy. Hume convinced Kennedy, who convinced Clinton, that giving Adams a visa to visit the United States in 1994, over British objections, would show the benefits of entering the political mainstream. An IRA cease-fire followed, ushering in a period of relative peace and stability.

Hume, who turned 69 on Wednesday, can still riff a good story. He has great ones about Paisley, the fundamentalist preacher-politician whose ''Ulster Says No" mantra has been widely viewed as obstructionist.

''I once told Paisley that if the word no was taken from the English language, he'd be speechless. And Paisley said back to me, 'No, I wouldn't.' "

Hume's wife, Patricia, tells a more revealing story, hinting at her husband's conciliatory powers. She said that for years, when Hume, Paisley and John Taylor of the Ulster Unionists were the three Northern Ireland representatives elected to the European Parliament, Paisley and Taylor were not on speaking terms.

''John was the intermediary," she recalled. ''The two unionists wouldn't talk to each other, but they'd talk to John, and he would relay what they said to each other."

Elizabeth Shannon, director of BU's international visitors program and wife of a former US ambassador to Ireland, said Hume's role as a moral force in Northern Ireland -- making tolerance and nonviolence part of a political culture that once regarded such values with derision -- was underappreciated as many rushed to welcome Sinn Fein into the mainstream.

''I think what you're seeing unfold in Northern Ireland today is largely John's vision," she said.

Still, Hume's American friends and supporters are not under any illusions when it comes to upstaging Sinn Fein.

''We'll be lucky if we raise $6,000 or $7,000 tonight," Tom O'Neill said Tuesday, standing in his downtown public relations office as about 30 people nibbled on snacks and chatted with John and Pat Hume. ''Sinn Fein can hold a fund-raiser at Florian Hall and take in $30,000."

O'Neill, whose sister, Rosemary, is hosting an SDLP fund-raiser in Washington on Wednesday, said he will continue to raise money for the SDLP, chiefly out of loyalty to Hume. O'Neill said his father had three heroes: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Hume.

''This guy is a giant," O'Neill said, pointing to Hume across the room. ''He's the Martin Luther King Jr. of Ireland."


Police Prevent Parade 'Disorder'

Only a heavy police presence prevented violent clashes at a Republican parade in Glasgow, a senior officer has said.

About 1,000 marchers took part in the Bloody Sunday commemoration as 400 protesters jeered and threw bottles at the procession.

Police said 11 people were arrested for offences including breach of the peace, assault and possession of a knife.

Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Smith said officers had managed to prevent "serious disorder".

Parade organiser Jim Slaven said he was happy the rights of the Irish community in Scotland had been upheld.

Trouble had flared at the same event last year, when marchers and protesters were involved in violent clashes in the city's George Square.

Many police officers kept the two sides apart in the same area on Saturday.

Mr Smith said there was racist and sectarian abuse at the event and that without the presence of so many officers the consequences would have been unimaginable.

"If we hadn't been there in the numbers in which we were there would have been serious, serious disorder on the streets of Glasgow," he said.

"We had to deploy a significant number of officers to ensure that a group of 300 or 400 did not attack a procession of 1,000 or more.

"You can only imagine what could have happened if that had occurred."

'Peaceful march'

He said officers dealt with incidents such as missile throwing but said there were no reported injuries.

He added: "Many of those taking part in the procession clearly antagonised the protesters.

"Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, racist and sectarian abuse was present."

The senior police officer also revealed the start of the parade was held up as some of those taking part were dressed in paramilitary-style clothing.

He said: "Unfortunately the start of the march was delayed by almost 30 minutes as, contrary to permission conditions, there were groups dressed in paramilitary-style clothing.

"There were further problems with aspects of the organisation of the parade that we will now take forward with the organisers and Glasgow City Council."

Mr Smith added that officers would now begin studying CCTV footage from the march to see if there was evidence for more arrests.

Mr Slaven, organiser of the parade by Cairde na hEireann (Friends of Ireland), said he was happy marchers' rights had been protected.

New legislation

"That's what we would expect. People on the parade behaved with great dignity and respect. It was a peaceful march from our point of view," he added.

BBC Scotland's Gillian Sharpe said the atmosphere in George Square during the parade was "tense".

She said the square was full of Unionist protesters who were waving placards and Union flags while shouting at the marchers.

Before the march, senior officers said troublemakers would be firmly dealt with, including anyone using offensive chants or expressing support for paramilitary organisations.

New legislation currently being drafted would give the police greater powers to block problem parades.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/21 16:04:51 GMT


Cokehead Robb's Nazi Past

Stephen Breen
22 January 2006

Cocaine-snorting former loyalist gun-runner Lindsay Robb established close links with neo-Nazis in Glasgow shortly before his killing, it has emerged.

A senior security source told Sunday Life how Robb - murdered in a frenzied knife attack on New Year's Eve - had formed an alliance with leading members of Combat 18 in the city.

Sources also revealed that leading up to his death, Robb was snorting a gram of cocaine every morning before starting his day's work, as a building labourer.

It is understood he linked up with the group for protection after he was warned members of a well-known Glaswegian crime family were targeting him.

Robb had established the links with the right-wingers in the Coatbridge and Airdrie areas.

The source claimed the ex-UVF and LVF man, who was jailed in 1996 for importing weapons into Northern Ireland, was placed on a hit-list by gangsters because of his failure to pay debts.

Sunday Life knows the name of the well-known family but cannot publish it for legal reasons.

Said the source: "Robb was running about with the neo-Nazis because the various loyalist groupings in Glasgow didn't want to know him.

"He thought that by befriending them they could offer him protection - how wrong was he? They don't have the same support in Glasgow compared to other cities in the UK.

"Robb owed a lot of money to the crime family and he hated them because they were Catholics, but he had no other option but to deal with them.

"He thought he could get away with paying his debts back, but the family probably gave some heroin addict drugs and some cash to take him out.

"Robb was struggling to make money working as a labourer and that's why he was borrowing cash all over the place."

Added the source: "He was hooked on the cocaine. Every morning before going to work he would have taken at least a gram of coke.

"The boys he was working with couldn't believe it and he was even at it during work. He turned to drugs because of his money problems.

"But he made a lot of enemies through the drugs and he became very paranoid, especially in the weeks before his death.

"He always maintained that he was a true loyalist but he would have taken drugs off anyone because that's the only thing he was concerned about."

This latest revelation about Robb's lifestyle comes after we revealed earlier this month he was once a British Intelligence agent.


Opin: Paisley Says Backward Is Only Way Forward


Dressed to kill for a photo opportunity, four well-known members of Ulster’s legendary bigotsborough marched into our parliamentary museum at Stormont the other day. It was an important occasion in their eyes. They wore snazzy looking dark lounge suits with white shirts and democratic red ties. Grinning hugely, bossman Paisley carried a 16 page document earlier touted as ‘the way forward’. He was flanked by grim looking Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds but lurking behind, grinning like the boss and, like him, devoid of their dual identity dog collars – for this was an important meeting with Peter Hain, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland and Wales.

They came to tell him the ‘sad’ news for the long suffering population of the wee north that there is no way forward in the forseeable future. That’s a direct Paisley quote. So what’s all that rubbish on 16 pages about?

My advice to Mr Hain is ‘chuck it in the wastepaper basket’ and I have had a long experience of the fulminations, political and religious, from that quarter since the old menace fulfilled Terence O’Neill’s dire prophecy that one day he would end up squatting on top of the Ulster ‘dunghill’.

It has been a long trail awinding for the Ballymena bully boy and hot gospeller and here he is at last laying down the law announcing that he is a converted devolutionist but it will only come when the time is right, perhaps 10 years time, when the IRA has become a distant memory.

Meantime, he and his party members are to present their proposals to prime minister Tony Blair in London next week. The document is entitled ‘The Best Way Forward’, when we all know that it is the best way backward. No talks with Sinn Fein this time. Last time it was no talks with teagues or fenians. So be warned Mr Blair, give this gang of disruptionists short shrift. Their message is a quick descent from an uneasy peace to political turmoil. Send them packing!

Sir Reg Empey, the Ulster Unionist leader has at least admitted that the public here are fed up with the political vacuum and years of stagnation. He says it is time to end the political bluff over devolution and recall the assembly. We know who has been playing blind man’s bluff and we are heartily tired of his clap-trap. Is there no-one around big enough to shut him up? Why are the business and industrial chiefs so silent about the menace of a Paisleyite disaster sequence? Under his disguised apartheid regime the economy will remain in the doldrums. South Africa’s apartheid regime is no more and now the last remnant of religious apartheid is to be found with a false face hiding in the sick counties of Ulster. Let Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern be advised and not fall for Paisley’s new posturing as a devolutionist. He was the sworn enemy of the Good Friday Agreement and remains a determined and unscrupulous wrecker of this international treaty, backed by majorities north and south. Aided by the election bungling between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, he has used every trick in the book to attempt to dismantle the agreement bit-by-bit and set up a restored Protestant parliament for a Protestant people akin to the Craigavon-Brookeborough one which amazingly lasted for half a century. Southern indifference, stupid nationalist and republican abstentionist policies and blinkered Tory and Labour regimes in Britain helped to prolong this life of that bigoted Orange dictatorship until its collapse in the wake of Derry’s Bloody Sunday. Those conditions no longer prevail so there is no future for Paisley’s nightmare scenario of a 21st century ‘Barbones Parliament’. There was a time when the unionists used to boast with a huge sign outside their Glengall St, Belfast, headquarters ‘Ulster Is British’. That cuts no ice any longer.

In an article in The Sunday Times by Minette Marrin, commenting on Gordon Brown’s recent avowal of his ‘Britishness’ in contrast to surveys reporting that Scots feel more Scottish and less British than at any time since 1707, she said:

“So he has to persuade us somehow that he is not all that Scottish at all. No, he’s British. We are all British [though this leaves out the Northern Irish who aren’t exactly British]”. Ouch!

Miss Marrin says a feeling of English separatism is growing: “The English hardly need Scotland and Wales and would be much freer and richer without them.” She adds that slowly England’s voters are beginning to wake up to all this.

So we are left to wonder what they will do with the “not exactly British” Northern Irish? Does nobody give a damn about that sad old sod across the Irish sea?


Opin: Borders On The Abuse

Lynda Gilby, straight talking
22 January 2006

Whine, whine, whine! That's all you hear in this country. People with a political profile stamping their foot and crying to the heavens: "It's not fair".

The latest in a long line of whingers who does not appear to have thought the subject through, is Lord Laird, who complains that roughly twice as many Catholics as Protestants are employed working for cross-border bodies in Northern Ireland.

He is quoted as saying: "I, and many other Unionists, did not sign up to the Belfast Agreement for full-scale discrimination against my community.

"This is all part of a grand Republican agenda - a pro-Irish agenda.

"Republicans and nationalists would have the world believe they are non-sectarian guardians of equality.

"Well, here is the evidence in black and white of the real, cloak and dagger nationalist agenda."

I have quoted the good lord at length because I want you to get the full measure of the amount of steam that must have been pouring from his ears when he said these words in the House of Lords last week.

He had been provided with the employment figures by the Government in answer to a Parliamentary question.

So let's just examine the cause of his ire.

Who, do you think, in our community, are most opposed to the North-South bodies?

Why, I hear you cry, Protestants, of course.

So who, then, do you reckon, are the most unlikely people on earth to apply for jobs working for the North-South bodies? Correct!

So if Lord Laird really wants equality of numbers in the workforce of these bodies, should he not be ardently encouraging Protestants to overcome their abhorrence and go and work for them rather than bemoan the fact that they are not already there?

Silence is deafening

Pardon me while I pause to look at that herd of porkers flying across the horizon.

Last week, the Drumcree Orange march was once again banned by the Parades Commission and there hasn't been so much as a peep of protest from the Orange Order or from Unionist politicians connected with them.

Just pinch me. Even stranger, when you consider that the Commission now contains two members who are prominent Orangemen - Donald McKay and David Burrows.

Even Portadown spokesman, David Jones remarked mildly that he was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling. "We are looking towards developing trust to achieve a just and lasting solution, not a quick fix," he added.

Make of that what you may. What I make of it is to wonder just what secret deal has been struck behind the scenes.

Could it be, do you think, that the Orange contingent have been told that if they keep the noise down and bide their time, Orange feet will tramp the road to Drumcree next year or the year after?

The other possibility, of course, is that Orangeism is finally acquiring a large measure of political nous?

Go figure.

Paws for thought

I have sobbed my way through the last four days. I can't sleep, can't eat. I'm not worth a tap.

My beautiful rescue cat, Jasper is missing. I've always been owned by a cat and I've had my share of heartaches like any pet-lover, but to me, this one is really special.

He was my shadow, rarely out for more than 15 minutes at a time before bouncing back in.

And when 12lbs of wet cat launches himself on your lap demanding affection, it's hard to say no!

I'd never had a used cat before (one careful owner) and from the moment I brought him home from the Assisi Shelter in Conlig three years ago, it was clear we were meant for each other.

He is the biggest, soppiest, most affectionate creature, brimming over with more personality than you could shake a stick at. His usual response to strangers is to collapse in a heap on his side proffering a blatant invitation to a belly-rub.

Regular Life readers will know of Jasper. When I'm stopped in the street, I'm as likely to be asked about him as I am about some issue I've raised in the paper.

So I'm quite shamelessly using this column to ask you to keep an eye out for him.

Last seen Wednesday teatime in the Cregagh Road area, Jasper is a big cat. He is white with a series of black patches either side of his backbone, black tail, black cap and a small black patch above one eye.

He was wearing a blue collar with a medallion. He is micro-chipped so can be taken to the nearest vet or animal shelter where they will scan him and re-unite us. Or please leave a message on 90 452852.

Those of you who have been in a similar situation will have experienced the agony of not knowing and of bursting into tears afresh every time it's cold and raining.



Alan McBride, at the heart of the matter
22 January 2006

Who thinks it would be a good idea to turn part of the Maze prison into a museum?

I first heard this question posed not long after the last prisoner was released in July, 2000.

I have to say, at first I was horrified at the prospect. Imagine, people going to see the cell that once housed Gerry Kelly, Michael Stone or other infamous terrorists, maybe even glorifying them by buying loyalist or republican merchandise. Any takers for a pack of Bik McFarlane playing cards, or what about a Johnny Adair book mark?

Okay, so I am stretching it a bit, but in my mind at the time I just couldn't see any other reason for turning the jail into a museum, other than to use it to glorify those that under no circumstances should be glorified.

I mean, unlike the Crumlin Road Jail, the Maze could hardly be described as having any architectural significance, so what other reason could there be?

I guess time can change a person or at least allow them to see things from another perspective.

This week I had the opportunity to address the issue of a museum at the Maze in a meeting in Belfast, but rather than attack the proposals I found myself giving them a guarded welcome.

Whether one likes it or not the Maze is synonymous with one of the darkest periods in Northern Irish history, and as such it should be retained in order for the story to be told with some meaning.

For me this is no longer about the personalities that were incarcerated there, but more about the period of history that the jail was very much a part of.

For example, internment, detention without trial, blanket and no wash protests, hunger strikes, the ceasefires and Mo Mowlam's controversial visit to loyalist inmates, to mention a few.

Of course these stories would be told even if the Maze was bulldozed to the ground, but there is something extra special about standing in the actual location where so much of what we read and heard took place.

No doubt, the significance of each event will be interpreted differently by those who take the time to visit - but that's okay, there are after all various understandings of history in this society.

That said, one challenge that confronts us all is to hear the "other's" history. Perhaps the "Maze Museum" could be utilised to play a part in this regard.

Imagine, visits by school children, community groups, church groups, historical societies and the like, all with their own particular political and cultural baggage, passed on to them through generations of mistrust and fear, but coming nonetheless to engage in fresh learning and dialogue.

Surely, this could be one contribution to the development of a shared understanding of the past. However, whether this is realised or not depends on a number of factors, one of which is the way that the idea is put into practice.

The process must be inclusive; it must facilitate numerous stories, of course from the prisoners and their families but also from the prison staff, families of victims, Governor of the jail, etc.

Any attempt at a glorification of the conflict from any side must be resisted.

The overarching aim of the museum should be simply to tell the story of the Maze prison in all its various dimensions.

I know there are many who will find it difficult to visit, and perhaps never will. While I understand and have some sympathy with those who would oppose the idea, I feel it would be wrong to deprive this and future generations of this important historic site.

I'm hooked

Horror of all horrors but guess what, yer man has succumb to watching Celebrity Big Brother - that's right this very columnist, who over the past few editions has slated reality TV, is now regularly tuning-in.

I can't help myself - I have never seen such a bunch of interesting, (dare I say freakish) people all living under one roof.

I have to say I was most surprised that George Galloway agreed to take part, although initially being shocked that a politician (and Member of Parliament at that) would lower himself to do the show, I now think it might be a good idea to let others follow suit.

Just think, Adams, McGuiness, Hermon, Paisley and Robinson etc, all in the Big Brother House - would they speak to each other - who would flirt with who, who would nominate who and more importantly which one would the public vote off?

You just never know - it could be a good way of addressing voting apathy.


Opin: Row Not Getting Anyone Down

THOSE who like a good row should look at the Down Democrat, where Caitriona Ruane is having a tough time. Who she? Come now you remember Caitriona - the red-headed ex-tennis champ from Mayo who had nothing to do with Sinn Fein, no sirree, until after some years of running the (I-can't-believe-it's-not-Sinn-Fein) West Belfast Feile an Phobail and a period mothering the (I-can't-believe-they're-not-Provos) Columbia Three - and who was eventually parachuted into South Down at a local candidate's expense, elected to the Assembly and became Sinn Fein's Human Rights spokeswoman. I cherish an article in which she gushed of how the late Franz Fannon (who believed that peasants must destroy the bourgeoisie) would have walked the Falls Road on St Patrick's Day with James Connolly: "And wouldn't I have been a proud woman walking along James and Franz."

Heady stuff compared to the Down Democrat, where she is a focus for paranoia about what Denis Donaldson was up to as de facto controller of the local party.

In the New Year issue, where Caitriona regurgitated a stock message from HQ, anonymous disillusioned Sinn Fein activists made riveting accusations. Donaldson allegedly had handpicked candidates (including Caitriona), protected a convicted drug dealer, "rated as diseased dogs" those who questioned the party line, forced out locals who would not be muzzled, replaced them by party apparatchiks from South Armagh and planted a network of spies throughout South Down.

Ruane was a "divisive figure who was always too quick to follow the Donaldson line". An SDLP councillor weighed in the allegation that Ruane was still "following the advice of the self-confessed British spy - by "playing footsie" with British ministers.

Ruane's counter-attack the next week was pure computer-composed blather and addressed none of the accusations. Scenting blood, an Ulster Unionist councillor helpfully explained that such was the breakdown in trust within Sinn Fein that "he would hate to be a member of that party now".

No wonder local papers are enduringly popular.

Ruth Dudley Edwards


Swiss Guards Celebrate 500 Years

22 January 2006 12:54

One of the world's smallest professional armies, the Pope's Swiss Guard, has begun celebrations marking its 500th anniversary.

The celebrations began this morning with masses in Rome's Sistine Chapel and in the cathedral of Fribourg, in Switzerland, and an address to the full corps, assembled in St Peter's Square, by the Pope.

Pope Benedict recalled the historic arrival of the first guards and thanked the Swiss, speaking in French and German.

More celebration events will take place during the coming months, culminating with a contingent of ex-guards who will re-enact the march of the first group, beginning in April.

They are expected to arrive in time for the annual swearing-in ceremony presided over by Benedict XVI.

The parade on that day usually takes place in the San Damasco Courtyard, but this year it will be in St Peter's Square for the first time.

History of the Swiss Guard

In the 15th and 16th centuries, thousands of young Swiss mercenaries enrolled in the armies of the fiefdoms, kingdoms and city states that were constantly at war in France, Italy and Germany during the early Renaissance.

During the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, about 250 to 450 soldiers from Switzerland were hired to guard the Hofburg, the winter palace in Vienna. They replaced previous military units that had performed that duty, and were later replaced by others. The oldest courtyard of the palace is still called the 'Schweizerhof'.

Francis I of France used some 120,000 Swiss levies in his wars, and in the battle of Pavia in 1525 his personal guard, the Hundred Swiss, were slain before Francis was captured by the Spanish.

Under Louis XIV, the Swiss troops were organized in two categories, with the Swiss Guard forming part of the King's military household, separate from twelve ordinary Swiss regiments of the line.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Swiss Guards maintained a reputation for discipline and steadiness. Their officers were all Swiss and their rate of pay substantially higher than that of the regular French soldiers. The Swiss Guards were brigaded with the Regiment of French Guards and were in peace time stationed in barracks on the outskirts of Paris.

The most famous episode in the history of those Swiss Guards was their defense of the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution. Of the nine hundred 'Gardes Suisse' defending the Palace on 10 August 1792 more than six hundred were killed during the fighting or massacred after surrender. An estimated two hundred more died in prison of their wounds or during the September Massacres that followed. The only survivors were a 300 strong detachment which had been sent to Normandy to escort grain convoys a few days before.

The French Revolution abolished mercenary troops in its citizen army, but Napoleon I and the Restoration Monarchy both used them. When the Tuileries were stormed again, in the July Revolution of 1830, the Swiss Guards melted into the crowd. They were not used again.

The Swiss constitution, as amended in 1874, forbade all military capitulations and recruitment of Swiss by foreign powers, although volunteering in foreign armies continued until prohibited outright, in 1927.

The Swiss Guard in the Vatican

Pope Julius II in 1505 asked the Swiss Federal Tagsatzung to provide him with a constant corps of 200 Swiss mercenaries.

In September of that year, a first contingent of 150 soldiers started their march towards Rome, under the command of Kaspar von Silenen, and entered the Vatican on 22 January 1506.

The force has varied greatly in size and has even been disbanded.

The Vatican guard's greatest moment of glory was probably on 6 May 1527, when all but 42 of 189 soldiers died fighting off the armies of Charles V, which attacked and overran the Vatican.

The surviving guardsmen ushered Pope Clement VII to safety via a hidden passageway.

Today, the Swiss Guard in Vatican City is an exception to the Swiss rulings of 1874 and 1927.

It is a small force responsible for the security of the Apostolic Palace, the entrances to the Vatican City and the safety of the Pope.

Would-be Guards must be Swiss citizens, faithful Roman Catholics with a 'good moral and ethical background,' unmarried, aged between 19 and 30 and at least 1.74m tall.

They must also have have completed high school or an apprenticeship, plus basic military service in the Swiss army, and be prepared to sign up at the Vatican for at least two years.

Famous for their colorful uniforms and medieval weapons, Guards don civilian clothes as part of the Pope's security detail when he travels.

They have also, especially since 1981, had extended training in unarmed combat and with issue SIG P 75 pistols and Heckler & Koch submachine-guns. Naturally, they continue to receive instruction in using the sword and halberd.

The force is specifically limited to one hundred soldiers and currently consists of four officers, 23 NCOs, 70 halberdiers, two drummers, and a chaplain, all with an equivalent Italian army rank.

The Swiss guards work side-by-side with another security force, the pontifical police.

Recent events

Two events have marred the recent history of this elite unit.

On 13 May 1981 an attempt was made to assassinate Pope John Paul II by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish criminal who shot at the Pope in St Peter's Square.

During the incident, Alois Estermann, who joined the Swiss Guard in 1980, jumped onto the moving Popemobile, shielding the pope with his own body.

Appointed Captain Commander of the Guard 17 years later, Colonel Estermann, his wife and a Guard, Cédric Tornay, were found dead less than a day later.

The Vatican's official report blamed Tornay for the killings, his motive being that he was upset about a reprimand for not returning to the barracks on time, and that he was not one of the guardsmen honoured by the pope.


Irishman Leaves Populous Legacy

The Flint Journal First Edition
Sunday, January 22, 2006
By Chad Swiatecki • 810.766.6237

With apparently nothing better to do, scientists at Trinity College Dublin have used DNA evidence and geneaology to find what they believe to be Ireland's most fertile man, responsible for more than 3 million offspring.

The honor - and a nod of accomplishment from Hugh Hefner - goes to fifth century provincial warlord Niall of the Nine Hostages, who sired 12 sons and apparently was REALLY serious about that whole raping and pillaging thing.

Impressive as that is, Niall's family tree is dwarfed by the estimated 16 million descendents of Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan, so his children's children's children's children's children have got some, ahem, "work" to do if they want to catch up.

And for those moved to wager on this type of thing, don't make the mistake of counting out former NBA forward and baby daddy extraordinaire Shawn Kemp.


Bishop Of Galway Says Casey Should Apologise

Last updated: 22-01-06, 16:11

The Bishop of Galway today called on Dr Eamonn Casey to apologise for his affair with an American divorcee before returning to the diocese.

Dr Martin Drennan said the exiled cleric recognised he had made a huge mistake and he urged him to publicly admit his guilt.

"I think in some way he has let the church down and that requires some admission of guilt. Yes, I think a public apology would be very welcome in that sense," Dr Drennan said.

The Bishop denied that there had been a concerted effort to force Dr Casey out of Ireland after the revelation he had a teenage son broke 14 years ago.

"All of the rumours round that he was blocked from coming back that was not true. He was never actually forbidden from returning to Ireland," the Bishop told RTE Radio. "As far as I know every Bishop is happy that he [Bishop Casey] is coming back."

Dr Drennan said he would have preferred if Dr Casey had stayed in Galway at the time and faced up to his responsibilities. "I suppose my own preference at the time would have been had he stayed put and faced the situation as it was, possibly because of the pressure at the time he felt it wiser to get out of the environment," he said.

"I think in today's climate we'd be more inclined to encourage a person to take responsibility for their actions and then see what consequences they needed to look at.

"He knows that he made a huge mistake and he knows it himself and he has said it to me as well."

But Bishop Drennan praised people's ability to forgive Dr Casey.

"What impresses me most is the quality of forgiveness of the people I have met," the Bishop said. "Everyone agrees what happened was traumatic. It disturbed people's faith and caused a lot of anger. Everyone agrees, they say time has moved on, we have all moved on, we'd like to bring this to a closure through forgiveness."

Dr Drennan insisted that Dr Casey would be welcome back in the diocese and that he could expect a sympathetic reception from the public.

Dr Casey was ordained as a priest in 1951. He worked in Britain for a period where he was active in social housing and Irish emigrant circles, and was appointed bishop of Kerry in 1969. During his tenure in Kerry, he developed a relationship with Annie Murphy, but the affair and birth of a baby son, Peter, was unknown when he was appointed bishop of Galway in 1976.


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