News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

February 20, 2006

Brits Issue March 3rd Deadline for Assembly

(click to see pdf) Kerry mayor Toireasa Ní Fhearaíosa, and daughter of TD Martin Ferris, speaking at the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis in Dublin on Saturday. PHOTO: NIALL CARSON/PA

To February 2006 Index
To Index of Monthly Archives
To receive this news via email, click HERE.
No Message is necessary.
To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)

News About Ireland & The Irish

BN 02/20/06 Govt Issues Mar 3rd Deadline For Assembly
BB 02/20/06 Governments Host Political Talks
BT 02/20/06 No Deal? Then Scrap Assembly And Pay
BT 02/20/06 Bullied, Beaten And Left To Die By Loyalists
BT 02/20/06 Murder Victim's Wife 'Devastated'
BB 02/20/06 Arrests In Lisa Killing Inquiry
DR 02/20/06 Mad Dog Muzzled
BI 02/20/06 Irish Pack Hall For Immigration Reform Rally
DI 02/20/06 Presidential Visit To GAA Club For 50th Anniv
RT 02/20/06 Paisley Renews Attack On President
DI 02/20/06 ‘Critical Months Of Talks Ahead’ – Adams
RT 02/20/06 Ferris Survives Kerry Confidence Motion
SF 02/20/06 All Ireland Bird Flu Response Essential
BT 02/20/06 Sinn Fein Edges Closer On Support For Police
DI 02/20/06 Ard-Fheis Delegates Exhibiting Confidence
SF 02/19/06 McGuinness Rprt On Negotiations To Ard Fheis
SF 02/19/06 Kelly Rprt on Policing & Justice Ard Fheis 2006
SF 02/19/06 Ó Snodaigh: Policing,Justice&Community ArdFheis
SF 02/19/06 Seán Crowe TD Address On Education To Ard Fheis
SF 02/19/06 Micheal Ferguson On Education to Ard Fheis
IT 02/20/06 Opin: SF’s Hunger For Power
BT 02/20/06 Opin: Bruised-But-Not-Bowed SDLP’s Fighting
DI 02/20/06 Opin: 1916 Rising was opposed to sectarianism
DI 02/20/06 Opin: Three Nationalist Belfast Mayors
BB 02/20/06 Protesters Want Debate On Church
BT 02/20/06 Duck, Or I'll Shoot ... What A Good Joke
BT 02/20/06 Des Bishop: Stand-Up Who's Sending Up Ulster
II 02/20/06 Bloody Frenzy Of Mother Filled W/ Life&Laughter
BT 02/20/06 Honour For Brigadistas


British Govt Issues Deadline For Assembly

20/02/2006 - 12:27:13

The British government has given the political parties
until March 8 to agree any changes to the workings of the

Speaking at Stormont, Northern Secretary Peter Hain said he
was anxious to push for progress this spring.

Peter Hain and Dermot Ahern are meeting all the main
parties at Stormont today.


Governments Host Political Talks

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Irish Foreign
Minister Dermot Ahern are due to meet the local parties at
Stormont for more talks.

The governments will begin on Monday to step up pressure on
the parties to compromise and restore the assembly.

However, the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, said last week that
his party did not intend to have a meeting with the Irish
foreign minister.

Mr Paisley said further talks at this stage with Mr Ahern
"served no point".

This is the second time this month that the two ministers
have brought the parties together.

North-south relations will form part of the discussions.


The government last week unveiled legislation aimed at
lending momentum to the political process.

A bill introduced by Mr Hain would enable him to transfer
policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland

He would also be given the power to call a snap assembly

At present, it is fixed for the spring of 2007, but an
early poll could be used to endorse a new deal.

A visit to Northern Ireland this week by Prime Minister
Tony Blair was postponed.

Downing Street said that after meeting the DUP, UUP and
SDLP recently, Mr Blair was "developing an idea of the
direction in which the government should go".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/20 06:47:05 GMT

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will lead a party
delegation including Conor Murphy, Pat Doherty, Pearse
Doherty and Caitriona Ruane for talks with Peter Hain and
Dermot Ahern in Parliament Buildings Stormont this

The meeting will take place at 3pm and the Sinn Fein
delegation will be available to speak to the media in the
foyer in Stormont afterwards.


No Deal? Then Scrap Assembly And Pay

By Noel McAdam
20 February 2006

Sinn Fein has told the Government to scrap the Assembly and
axe members' pay if the full restoration of Stormont cannot
be achieved.

As the parties return to Hillsborough today for further
discussions with the British and Irish governments, the SF
ard fheis heard the indefinite continuation of the current
impasse is untenable.

To applause from delegates, senior negotiator Martin
McGuinness told delegates yesterday: "If it becomes clear
in the next few months that full restoration cannot be
achieved in the short term the Assembly should be
effectively scrapped and the salaries of MLAs withdrawn."

And until power-sharing is restored, the two Governments
could press ahead with joint decision-making, he said,
along with other elements of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McGuinness warned the Democratic Unionist Party plan for
a phased return of the Assembly and Executive was
essentially "a stepping stone approach to the return of
unionist majority rule".

The DUP blueprint, he argued, part of the focus of today's
separate meetings with Secretary of State Peter Hain and
Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, was a reworking of its
Corporate Assembly proposals from two years ago in which
authority resides in the entire membership.

The Mid-Ulster MP also made clear the issue of the On-The-
Runs (OTRs) - cancelled by the Government after Sinn Fein
said it would advise republicans not to take part in a
scheme which included British security forces personnel -
remains to be resolved.

Mr McGuinness accused Mr Hain of "attempted sleight of
hand" by including British Crown forces in the OTR
legislation, a shift from the position the Government
adopted at the Weston Park talks of 2001.


Bullied, Beaten And Left To Die

By Deborah McAleese
20 February 2006

Police launched a murder hunt last night after a 49-year-
old Co Antrim man was beaten and left to die in an alley.

Tommy Hollran, a former grave digger, died in hospital
yesterday afternoon from serious head injuries after his
badly beaten body was discovered in an alleyway in
Carrickfergus on Saturday night.

It is understood that loyalist paramilitaries warned Mr
Hollran last year to leave the Carrickfergus area.

Mr Hollran, originally from Barn Road in the town, was
found critically injured in the alleyway between Cherry
Walk and Woodburn Avenue at around 10pm on Saturday.

Detectives investigating the murder believe that Mr Hollran
had arrived in Carrickfergus just 30 minutes earlier, after
taking a train to the town from Belfast.

He is thought to have walked from Clipperstown Station to
visit a relative in the Woodburn area when he was attacked.

His badly beaten body was discovered a short time later by
local residents.

Local residents said they believe Mr Hollran may have been
beaten up because Loyalist paramilitaries had warned him to
leave the town, but he often returned to visit his family

Mr Hollran's wife was too distressed to talk about the
attack last night.

One neighbour said Mr Hollran had been asked to leave the
area last year.

"It's a horrible thing for his family. Tommy was asked to
leave last year as there was a bit of a falling out with
loyalist paramilitaries. I don't know if this attack is
related to that.

"Nobody deserves what happened to Tommy," he said.

Mr Hollran had been employed in Carrickfergus Borough
Council's Parks Department before leaving due to ill

Since quitting he had worked as a taxi driver and pizza
delivery man for short periods.

A police spokesman said: "Police wish to speak to anyone on
the Belfast to Larne train on Saturday evening who finished
their journey at Clipperstown or, indeed, anyone who may
have been at the station around 9.30pm. Police are also
keen to speak to two youths who were in the Cherry Walk and
Woodburn Avenue area and reported the incident to local

Carrickfergus Mayor David Hilditch called for help in
hunting down those responsible.

The Democratic Unionist MLA said: "The whole town is
shocked by what's happened. I would appeal for anybody who
knows anything about this despicable attack to please get
in touch with the police. It would also save the family
further pain if the perpetrators gave themselves up."

A special incident room has been set up and detectives can
be contacted on 02890 561840 or confidentially on
Crimestoppers number 0800 555 111.


Murder Victim's Wife 'Devastated'

By Michael McHugh

20 February 2006

The wife of a man beaten to death yards from his sister's
home today spoke of her grief at his death.

Doreen Hollran said she was "devastated" by the murder of
her husband Tommy, who was set upon as he walked to his
sister's home in Carrickfergus on Saturday night.

The former gravedigger (49), was attacked yards from Jill
Hollran's home in the Woodburn estate. He was discovered in
an alleyway between Cherry Walk and Woodburn Avenue.

Police have launched a murder inquiry after Mr Hollran died
later in hospital. It is understood that loyalist
paramilitaries warned the victim to leave his home in Barn
Road, Carrickfergus, last year.

Mrs Hollran said: "We are just devastated, that is all you
can say. I only heard that he had died on Saturday

Mr Hollran is believed to have travelled from Belfast to
the area by train, alighting at the Clipperstown station at
around 9.25pm.

The victim's brother Richard said the mood was very sad
within the family.

Speaking in the Irish News, Jill Hollran said she learned
the terrible news when she called her brother's mobile
phone to find out why he was late.

"A paramedic said, 'we are working on Tommy at the
moment'," she added.

She has blamed the UDA for the killing.

One neighbour said Mr Hollran had been asked to leave the
area last year.

"There was a bit of a falling out with loyalist
paramilitaries. I don't know if this attack is related to
that. Nobody deserves what happened to Tommy," he said.

Mr Hollran had been employed in Carrickfergus Borough
Council's Parks Department before leaving due to ill

Since quitting he had worked as a taxi driver and pizza
delivery man for short periods.


Arrests In Lisa Killing Inquiry

Three men have been arrested by detectives in connection
with the murder of a County Down woman.

Two of the men are aged 18 and one is 23. Lisa Dorrian, 25
was last seen at a party on a caravan a site in
Ballyhalbert, on 28 February 2005.

Despite extensive land and sea searches the body of the
Bangor shop assistant has never been found.

Her family have offered a £10,000 reward for information
leading to the recovery of her body.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/20 11:15:01 GMT


Mad Dog Muzzled

Former terror chief claims most of his new life in Scotland
is spent sleeping

By John Mceachran

ULSTER'S notorious Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair yesterday claimed
to have muzzled himself after setting up home in Scotland.

The loyalist hardman vowed to lead the quiet life in Troon,

He said: "I am no threat to anyone here. All I do is sleep
here. Most of my time is spent in other parts of Scotland.

"I'm not doing any harm here. I just want to get on with my

Adair, 42, moved to Troon from Bolton, Lancashire, after
splitting from his wife Gina and claiming to be tired of
constant surveillance by Greater Manchester Police.

The Adair family were run out of Northern Ireland in 2003
when Gina and her four children fled a loyalist feud over
the execution of UDA commander John "Grug" Gregg.

The family settled in Bolton and Adair joined them when he
was flown to England by Army helicopter after his release
from Maghaberry Prison, County Antrim, early last year.

He had been serving a 16-year sentence for directing
terrorism after running the UDA's violent C Company before
switching to the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

He is said to have amassed a £4.5million fortune from
drugs, money-lending and extortion.

Adair explained he had decided on Troon because: "It is the
next best thing to home."

But it is also the home of some of his old Loyalist
cronies, including former death squad leader Stewart Young
and convicted fraudster Mark Morrison.

He said: "I'm just relaxing now. A few weeks ago, I went up
to Glasgow to see UB40 - they're my favourite band. The
last time I saw UB40 in Belfast, I got shot in the head at
an open air concert. This time in Glasgow no one bothered

Adair said he had no regrets about the loss of life during
the 2002-3 loyalist feud which killed Gregg and several
other paramilitary leaders.

He said: "John Gregg boasted that he had four graves dug
for all the leaders of C Company, including myself. But
it's John Gregg who is in the grave today.

"Talk is cheap and Gregg shouldn't have threatened C
Company because they were dangerous men and women."

He added: "This is my launching pad. I have supporters in
Scotland, I have friends here.

"I have always said I shall return to Ulster, maybe not in
a few weeks, maybe a few months or even years."

But he added: "I believe the IRA and their statement last
July. Their armed struggle is over. I hate them but I
believe them when they say they are sincere.

"It is time for politics. The IRA decommissioned, so the
Protestant people should accept that."

In Troon, Adair has his own flat but sometimes stays at the
home of his girlfriend, divorced 42-year-old shopkeeper
Linda McIlroy.

His son Jonathan, 20, dubbed Mad Pup, has also been spotted
in Troon.

But Adair has found his social life seriously hampered by
local police who have circulated his picture to bars and


Undocumented Irish Pack Florian Hall For Immigration Reform Rally

By Ed Forry

Members of the local Irish immigrant community filled
Dorchester's Florian Hall Thursday night, February 9, as
organizers sought to ramp up support for immigration reform
legislation now pending in Congress.

The public meeting, convened by a New York-based group
called the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR,) saw a
turnout of about 500 persons, many of them evidently
"undocumented" Irish who live and work in Dorchester and
surrounding communities. Later, the organizers claimed the
turnout numbered some 1015.

The group was headed by Niall O'Dowd, publisher of the
weekly Irish newspaper the Irish Voice, who was joined by
his brother-in-law, Kieran Staunton, a onetime owner of
Cucculainn's, a now-defunct Irish pub once located in
Fields Corner. The two were joined by several other New
York immigrant activists in making a roadtrip to Boston in
an attempt to engage local Irish in supporting federal
legislation sponsored by senators John McCain (R-Arizona)
and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA.) The McCain/Kennedy proposal
would legislate a way for immigrants who resided illegally
in the United States prior to May, 2005 to obtain a "green
card," a document which would allow them to live in this
country indefinitely.

"Many of you walked in here undocumented, and you will
leave here as activists," O'Dowd told his audience. Both he
and Staunton pointed to the success of the Irish
Immigration Reform Movement (IIRM,) a lobbying effort in
the 1980s which resulted in more than 15,000 new visas
being made available for emigrants from Ireland.

The new push for Irish visas was begun two months ago by
the New York visitors, who said they have now held similar
meetings in Yonkers, NY and Philadelphia, PA, and plan two
more in San Francisco and in Queens, New York.

Also speaking at the event was Joseph Hackett, currently
the first secretary at the Irish Ambassador to the US in
Washington DC, and a former vice consul in Ireland's Boston
consulate office.

Several local Irish advocacy groups helped organized last
week's meeting, including the Irish Pastoral Center, the
Irish Immigration Center and the Coalition of Irish
Immigration Centers

Sister Lena Deevy, head of Boston's Irish Immigration
Center, said of the meeting:

"Tonight we saw the Irish community coming together in a
way we haven't seen since the early days of the IIRM. The
buzz and energy and optimism reminds me of the days when we
pulled together and delivered reform that people said was
impossible." "Tonight provided a real sense of hope that we
can make something happen for the new generation of Irish
immigrants. But with the buzz of the meeting over we must
now keep the momentum going and start the hard work."

O'Dowd said his group plans a "lobbying day" in Washington
on March 8. He asked supporters to sign-up for buses for a
one day round trip to the nation's capitol to buttonhole
members of Congress for their support.

Local organizers hosted a second Boston meeting onThursday,
Feb. 16 at the Stadium restaurant on Old Colony Blvd. in
South Boston to make plans for the Washington DC trip..


Presidential Visit To Club

GAA club celebrates 50th anniversary

By Connla Young

President Mary McAleese will today help one of the North’s
best known GAA clubs celebrate a special milestone in its

The president will join members of St Enda’s Gaelic
Athletic Club to celebrate its 50th anniversary at a
special event to be held later today. Former and current
club members are expected to turn up for the anniversary
event at Glengormley, on the outskirts of Belfast.

Current St Enda’s chairman Sean Hughes said it was a great
honour for his club to play host to the President. “It’s a
absolute privilege to welcome the president to our club.
The club has taken a lot over the years and now it has come
out the other side. It’s important for us to remember our
members who were murdered down the years as well. We will
have a few guests who have a long standing with the club as
well as current members in attendance,” he said.

Established in a loyalist heartland by local curate, Father
Richard O’Hare in 1956, St Enda’s has undergone a traumatic
journey to stay in existence over the last half century.
During the conflict, five club members – Sean Fox, Colin
Lundy, Liam Canning, Gerry Devlin and, most recently,
Gerard Lawlor – lost their lives to loyalists.

The club’s facilities have been attacked on numerous
occasions over the past 35 years. In 1972 the club bought
its first field at a price of £5,000 (€7,308). Later that
year, club premises were destroyed by fire. Premises
belonging to the club were again attacked and badly damaged
in 1983.

The club moved into its current state-of-the-art premises
in 1998. Then president of the GAA Seosamh Mac Donncha
travelled to Glengormley to open the new facility which now
plays a central part in local community life.

In recent years the club has seen a massive 400 per cent
increase in the numbers of juveniles playing both football
and hurling.

St Enda’s has also shown itself to be progressive in the
promotion of cultural activities. The club currently runs a
highly successful school of music and manages an Irish
language nursery school. During her visit, the President
will hear the club outline its plans to establish an Irish
language primary school in the area next year.

It is expected that President McAleese will travel to St
Enda’s with her husband Martin, himself a keen GAA
supporter who won a Sigerson Cup medal with Queen’s
University in 1971.


Paisley Renews Attack On President

20 February 2006 13:40

The DUP leader, Ian Paisley, has again launched an attack
on the President, Mary McAleese, accusing her of having a
deep hatred of Northern Ireland.

The North Belfast MP, Nigel Dodds, also said that the
President's attitude toward protocols and her ability to
cast them aside when visiting Northern Ireland was

This morning, President McAleese was on a visit to Mr
Dodd's constituency.

As part of a one-day visit to Northern Ireland, she helped
launch a new programme for the 174 Trust, a cross community
project in north Belfast.

During her visit the President made no reference to the
attack on her by Dr Paisley.

The President is also due to meet members of the Community
relations Council this afternoon.


‘Critical Months Of Talks Ahead’ – Adams


No Irish republicans can harbour the notion that there can
be a return to violence to further their objectives, Sinn
Féin leader Gerry Adams said at the weekend.

In his presidential address to his party’s Ard-Fheis in
Dublin on Saturday, Mr Adams acknowledged that some
republicans believed that the IRA’s decision last July to
end its armed campaign had been a mistake.

The Belfast West MP said those people were entitled to
their view but the Sinn Féin leadership was firmly opposed
to any move away from the IRA’s declaration.

“The decision by the IRA to move into a new peaceful mode
places an enormous responsibility on all of us to seize the
moment and to make Irish freedom a reality. I believe that
this generation of republicans can make good the promises
of the 1916 Proclamation,” he said

“But the decisions by the IRA were undoubtedly deeply
difficult for many. There are republicans still trying to
come to terms with it many months later. Indeed,
undoubtedly there are some who believe the IRA has made a

“They are entitled to their opinion but to no more than

“No one should harbour the notion that the republican
struggle can be advanced any further by an armed campaign.
This leadership is firmly opposed to such a departure.”

Mr Adams said the IRA’s decision challenged other political
parties and governments involved in the peace process.

With the next round of negotiations to revive the Northern
assembly due to take place at Stormont today, he insisted
that the months ahead would be critical for the process.

Failure would set back by decades all the progress that
could be achieved, he said.

He raised concerns about how the British and Irish
governments were handling the current round of talks.

As speculation mounted that British prime minister Tony
Blair was considering reconvening the assembly ahead of a
deadline for full-blown devolution, Mr Adams accused London
and Dublin of pandering to the Democratic Unionist Party.

“The Sinn Féin leadership has told both governments, and I
have told both Mr [Bertie] Ahern and Mr Blair directly,
that there can be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement
to allow for a two-tier or two-stages approach or British-
appointed commissioners to run the North. British direct
rule is also not an option,” he said.


Ferris Survives Kerry Confidence Motion

20 February 2006 12:23

The Sinn Féin Mayor of Kerry, Toireasa Ferris, has survived
a vote of no confidence following her failure to condemn
the killing of Det Garda Jerry McCabe.

Kerry County Council earlier passed motions put down by
both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil condemning the killing of
Det Garda McCabe.

However Fine Gael tabled a motion of no confidence in Ms
Ferris after she voted against these motions.

The no confidence motion was defeated by 12 votes to 8 with
5 abstentions. Eight Fianna Fáil councillors voted against
the no confidence motion.

It follows an appearance by Ms Ferris on RTÉ One's Late
Late Show on 11 February in which she said she did not
think she had the authority to condemn the killing.

She subsequently said she had immense sympathy for his
widow, Anne McCabe.


All Ireland Bird Flu Response Now Essential - Bairbre De

Published: 20 February, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today called for an
urgent All Ireland taskforce to combat the growing threat
of bird flu in the EU, ensuring that the public has clear
and precise information. She said that it seemed to be a
case of 'if and not when' bird flu reached Ireland. Bairbre
de Brún made her comments after a new outbreak of bird flu
was identified in France. Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"New avian flu cases are springing up regularly from Africa
to South East Asia to the European Union and now in both
France and Germany. Given the frequency and geographical
spread of the outbreak, it would be over optimistic to
believe that Ireland could not be affected at some stage by
the disease.

"A coordinated response from both Departments of
Agriculture, Departments of Health and all- Ireland and
cross border working groups is essential. In this context,
the need for some level of all-island response has been
accepted by governments. However, Sinn Féin believes that
from a public health and animal health perspective, it is
imperative that there is an all Ireland and cross
departmental working group to implement a working strategy
to prevent and combat a bird flu outbreak in Ireland and to
ensure that the public has clear and precise information.

"At EU level a number of safeguards have been put in place,
including a ban on the import of livestock from affected
regions. However MEPs seek tougher measures including
improved early warning systems so that the EU is
immediately informed about the virus, regardless of whether
it is the lethal H5N1 strain or not.

"It is essential that all of these departments from Europe
right through to state level inform the public as
individual and collective departments as to their plans to
combat a bird flu outbreak in Ireland." ENDS


Sinn Fein Edges Closer On Support For Police

Leadership defeats critical motions

By Noel McAdam
20 February 2006

Sinn Fein has clearly signalled it is moving closer towards
participation in the police, although agreement may yet be
a long way off.

Tensions within the party over joining up to policing - a
key component of any deal to restore devolution - were,
however, yesterday laid bare at its ard fheis in Dublin.

But, on several card votes, the party leadership defeated a
number of motions critical of its stance, including one
from Cork and Dublin arguing there was a contradiction
between its boycott of the House of Commons and
participating in policing structures answerable to

Other motions, tying a policing deal into a timetable for
British withdrawal and insisting the party only engage in
policing in the context of a 32-county republic,
automatically fell when the party executive's motion was

In the end there were relatively few speakers against party

Barry McColgan, of the party's youth wing executive, said
it had agreed republicans should never be part of six-
county policing arrangements - but only in a 32-county

"Transfer of powers is a red herring because we would only
be transferring a flawed state police force," he said.

Delegate Declan Kearney warned the party's opponents could
interpret the debate that Sinn Fein was long-fingering an
issue which was too big for it.

"Let us not send out mixed signals. We must send a signal
to the 'securocrats'; 'we are going to decommission and
disband you'," he said.

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty addressed rank-and-file fears
that republicans will be reduced to helping to manage
British rule in Ireland while ultimate responsibility for
policing and justice remained with the British Prime

He asked if the party was on local councils and the
Assembly to administer partition.

"We are in these institutions to end partition and that is
what we will continue to do so," he said.

The hour-long debate revealed some of the internal
difficulties which will have to be resolved as a specially-
convened ard fheis, possibly later on this year.

But in an attempt to quell growing disquiet in party ranks,
the ard comhairle (executive) has made clear it will only
support a policing deal when the DUP has signed up to a
timetable for the transfer of policing and justice powers
to Stormont and there has been discussion at all levels of
the party.

The executive said it would also prepare a "position paper"
to help inform a comprehensive internal debate.

Gerry Kelly said the Government's devolution of policing
and justice legislation, published last week, was a first
step but would not be enough on its own.

"The devil, as they say, is in the detail," he told

Francie Molloy - the Sinn Fein Assembly member suspended
for opposing the party policy supporting reduction of
Northern Ireland's 26 councils to seven - scored a personal
victory at the weekend gathering by being re-elected to the
party executive.


Ard-Fheis Delegates Exhibiting Confident Swaggers

Palpable feeling of achievement and expectation of future
political success evident at sweaty RDS conference

Colin O’Carroll

Lunch time on Saturday at the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis at the
RDS in Dublin and the atmosphere was electric — well, not
really, but there was an air of quiet confidence.

While not quite a swagger in the steps of delegates, there
was a palpable feeling of achievement, of being on the
right road and of seeing an end to this stage of the

Besides that, the atmosphere in the hall was more of a fug
as the RDS had decided for some reason to leave the heating

Now it is the middle of February and all that, and Dublin
was not having an early spring day on Saturday but, when
you put a couple of thousand people into a hall, plus video
screens, TV lights and cameras and enough broacasting
electronics to furnish the set of a Bond movie, it does
tend to get a mite close.

The shared air did not bother the faithful though and it
was difficult to regain a seat if you were foolish enough
to make a dash to either take on board or jettison fluids.

Delegates concentrated on the debate with seriousness and
insight although there were few, if any surprises in the
outcome of any vote observed. These were issues that were
long ago thrashed out in groups and committees, then put to
the wider caucus to keep them informed.

This was a summit of assurance, a look over what has been
achieved and how, and a confirmation that what has been
done is being successful and should continue to be worked

There was humour too though. One delegate speaker got a
roar of laughter and applause when he derided the current
Fianna Fáil regime over its record in government.

In a swipe at the call for a period of “decontamination”
for Sinn Féin, he demanded that his party take its time
before jumping into coalition with Fianna Fáil, perhaps
until after the election following the upcoming poll.

In a good farming metaphor, he said Bertie Ahern’s crowd
“should be put out to grass” for a lengthy period, a view
obviously shared by many as an emotion. Once the laughter
died down, there again was the feeliing that this is
pragmatic politics, and the deal is to get into power and
get the rest of the job done.

Outside in the equally packed and busy restaurant, large
video screens and speakers kept informed those taking on
board sustenance. There were souvenirs, books and
information on other conflicts around the world on display
well worth a browse.

Overseas visitors and observers were particularly evident
at these stalls and seemed to be the best customers if the
number of carrier bags was reliable evidence.

A display of hunger strike history, artefacts and
photographs also drew a constant stream of people, all
thoughtful as they read of the sacrifice of the ten men,
their families and those on the outside. Everyone walked
away from the display with a sombre expression and there
was a hush around that end of the room, as there was in the
hall every time the events of 1981 were mentioned.

To break the reflective mood, Fr Aidan Troy of Holy Cross
church in north Belfast made an unannounced appearance at
the venue as he was attending a Divine Mercy Apostolate
conference in the hall next door.

This was an event that had already confused many on
arrival. People had followed a crowd and wandered into the
wrong venue, wondering whether the huge “Divine Mercy”
banner was some kind of new party slogan, and why there
were lines of confessional boxes in the hall. Was it a new
directive from Gerry and Martin to make the Shinners
acceptable to the Democratic Unionists? Had the “sackcloth
and ashes” speech worked?

Then the penny dropped as they realised that even that
would not be enough for the DUP. They would have to be born
again at the very least.

Fr Troy’s dropping by to have a word with Gerry Kelly was
so unexpected that he could not past get Ard-Fheis

In a scene straight out of a Spike Milligan novel, he was
told: “Sorry, Farder, ya can’t go in dere.”

Stating that he wanted a word with Gerry Kelly, he was
asked: “What d’ya want ta speak ta him for?”

Fr Troy’s rejoinder was: “He’s a parishioner of mine.” He
joked that he had already told the crowd next door in his
speech that there were probably more of his parishioners at
the Ard-Fheis than at the Divine Mercy conference.

“Ah, that’s all roigh. G’wan on in.”

Of course, the anticipated highlight of the day was party
president Gerry Adams’ speech, which was televised live on
RTÉ — a sea change in itself and an indicator of the way
things are starting to look in the electoral landscape.

Because of this, timing was down to the last second,
providing a moment for some more levity as Kerry mayor
Toireasa Ní Fhearaíosa joked that she had had to wait for
the man down the front to tell her when to start her
introduction and, as she couldn’t sing and hadn’t brought
her short skirt, they were just going to have to amuse
themselves for a minute.

Mr Adams, of course, got a standing ovation after an
introduction from Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle
Gildernew. She again reflected on the sacrifice of the
hunger strikers, saying that the hunger strike had
influenced her entire political life.

She also revealed she was just ten years old at the time.
She may just regret that one day, as we can all count.

Mr Adams’ speech touched on all the issues, foreign and
domestic. He got a particularly raucous round of applause
for his call for an end to the use of Shannon airport for
transporting US troops to Iraq.

On the whole, there was nothing that any political observer
would have found new or startling in his speech but it was
the overall package that was the message and the demeanour
with which it was delivered.

Make no mistake, this is a party that knows it is on its
way to government. From the attitude of those on the
outside looking in, the media, the lobbyists and the
political horse traders know it too and some of them look a
little bit concerned that the tide is about to turn… on


Martin McGuinness Report On Negotiations To Ard Fheis 2006

Published: 19 February, 2006

For the past few years at this point of our Ard Fheis there
has been a presentation of the detail of the what is
happening in the negotiations and an assessment of the
progress we have made.

But negotiations are just one part of what we need to do.
Our negotiating position will be strengthened by building
political strength, by campaigning, by getting more people
to support the peace process and our political objectives.

One of the most important lessons that we learned from the
ANC was that the most important thing that happens in
negotiations is what is happening outside the door.

The last twelve months have been momentous. The leadership
shown by republicans contrasts sharply with that of

In the run-up to the last year's Ard Fheis and in the weeks
that followed it the political impasse deepened. The peace
process threatened to go into freefall.

At that critical point, in April last, Gerry Adams, once
again leading from the front , made his appeal to the IRA.

And again not for the first time the IRA leadership filled
the political vacuum with a substantive and courageous

In July last year the IRA responded in dramatic and
definitive terms. They called an end to their campaign.
They committed to putting all their arms beyond use. This
was a unilateral decision and a deeply courageous one. And
one they have delivered in equally definitive terms.

The IRA acted to rescue the peace process and to re-
energise the political process.

In the 7 months since then and given the evident lack of
energy in political talks you could be forgiven for asking
or wondering occasionally why we in Sinn Féin persist with
our negotiations with the two governments.

The response to all of has been covered in some of the
contributions on Friday night and again yesterday. We don't
judge the value of negotiations solely on the detail of
change on specific issues that negotiations might deliver.
Negotiations are about more than that.

When we embarked upon our peace strategy we did so in the
full knowledge that were bringing the battle to our
opponents. Correctly we anticipated a battle a day.

We knew when we signed up for the Good Friday Agreement
that there would be a long and frustrating battle to
realise its promise, to fulfil its potential. We knew that
we would immediately be faced with attempts to frustrate,
delay and dilute the scale of the transformation it
demanded. And we knew that we would return time and again
to negotiations to defend the efficacy of our peace
strategy as the template for change. And in that important
respect our approach has been a success.

But this success has not been as a result of compelling
argument put by our negotiators. No! It has come about
because we have managed to maximise popular support for
this demand,. It has come about as result of our collective
efforts as a party

Today we are entering another important phase of
discussions with the governments and other political
parties, a critical phase of our peace strategy. The future
of the Good Friday Agreement is on the line. But we are not
unnerved by that. Rather we are emboldened by it, because
even if it falls we are confident that, as Declan Kearney
pointed out on Friday night, its substance has been secured
as the minimal threshold for anything that might replace or
supersede it.

And that is why in each and every negotiation over the past
number of years we have time and time again brought the
governments and the other political parties back onto Good
Friday Agreement ground in any discussions designed to map
out a future direction for the political process.

So, we are confident that whatever about delays, stalling
and whatever other tactics are deployed to hold back the
tide of change we will eventually move forward on the basis
mapped out on the Agreement, on the basis of equality,
mutual respect and on an all-Ireland basis.

And we are confident also that we will be able to build on
that. But we will only do so if we can popularise and build
support for our demands.

In our discussions with the governments over the past year
we have of course repeatedly brought them back to their
commitments arising from the Agreement and from
negotiations subsequent to that.

National and Democratic rights, peace and prosperity have
been the unshakeable focus of our endeavours.

In line with that we have pressed consistently on a number
of issues - most of which are situated in what the
Governments were prepared to do in the context of the
December 04 negotiations. And we continue to press on these
same issues as we go into this new round of discussions

These include:

:: the restoration of the political institutions
:: northern representation in the Oireachtas
:: demilitarisation
:: advancing the equality agenda
:: additional powers for the Human Rights Commission
:: the establishment of a Bill of Rights in the north and
an all-Ireland Charter of Rights
:: an economic peace dividend from both governments
:: measures to restore the electoral register in the north
:: legislation to transfer powers on policing and justice
:: the repeal of repressive legislation
:: the removal of British Government sanctions against Sinn
:: the release of republican prisoners and a resolution of
the issue of OTRs

There has been limited progress on some of these issues.

The British Government has begun its programme of
demilitarisation. They have also initiated separate
consultation processes to enable the repair of the
electoral register and the provision of additional powers
to the Human Rights Commission. And they have removed their
illegal sanctions against Sinn Féin.

And there has been evidence of increasing recognition and
practical expression of the benefits of all-Ireland
economic activity.

There has also been regression - just last week the
Taoiseach announced that he is not proceeding with the
proposal to facilitate northern representation in the
Oireachtas on the basis set out in the All-Party Oireachtas
Committee. He cites trenchant opposition from his coalition
partners, the PDs, from Fine Gael and from the SDLP's
sister party, the Labour Party led by Pat Rabbitte, as the
cause of this..

And a few months ago we had the attempted political sleight
of hand by Peter Hain by his inclusion of British Crown
forces in the OTRs Bill.

Let me dwell on this for a moment - so that there is no
confusion about what Sinn Féin sought, negotiated for or
agreed to on OTRs.

The issue of OTRs has been on the table many years now.

At Weston Park in 2001 the two governments publicly
committed to resolve the issue on the basis that it was an
anomaly arising from the Good Friday Agreement.

Alongside the Joint Declaration in 2003 they published
proposals on how they would address it - this included
legislation brought forward by the British Government.

These proposals did not relate to or include British State
forces - there are no British state forces on the run.

In the negotiations previous to, at, or since Weston Park
Sinn Féin did not support, propose, discuss or accept that
members of the British state forces should be included in
this scheme.

On the contrary we were mindful to ensure that any scheme
proposed to address the issue of OTRs would not provide an
amnesty for British State forces who carried out or were
responsible for state killings or collusion.

The British Government unilaterally took the decision to
attach provisions in the Bill which would allow Crown
forces to benefit from the OTR Scheme.

We opposed this - we pressed them to remove these
provisions from the Bill or to withdraw the Bill

They withdrew the draft legislation in January and the
Irish Government followed suit with the particular scheme
they were proposing to address the same issue.

We continue to press both governments to resolve the issue
on the basis agreed at Weston Park.

And unlike some other political parties who have ignored
their plight for many years we have emphasised repeatedly
to the British Government our support for the families of
the victims of state violence and collusion in their
pursuit of justice.

And just as we will continue to hold both governments to
their commitments with respect to OTRs we will continue to
hold the Irish Government to its commitment on northern
representation in the Oireachtas and the release of
political prisoners.

I want now to comment briefly on the Independent Monitoring

What we predicted when the IMC was established in 2003 has
come true. We said then that it would be a tool of the
securocrats, an instrument to be used by the opponents of
change. And we said of course that it was outside the terms
of the Agreement and would be used to undermine the
Agreement's democratic mandate.

Over the last year we have challenged the IMC in every
possible way. Our activists took to the streets to oppose
them. We put in place a legal team to challenge their very

We did meet with the IMC - not as part of any recognition
of their role - but for the purpose of examining their
procedures and, consequently, exposing their political
bias, their lack of independence and their failure to
employ any of the normal standards of proof required of
other tribunals or similar bodies.

Last November we challenged them to clarify allegations
they made about IRA involvement in incidents in July and
August of last year. We also challenged both governments to
clarify these allegations.

To date they have failed to do so. It is my view that the
incidents in question did not even happen.

The IMC's latest report of a few weeks ago was more of the
same - unsubstantiated allegation, fantasy and fiction
presented as fact.

In one particular bizarre line they report six unreported
assaults - just think about that for a minute - they say
they considered six unreported assaults!

We have told both governments that the IMC is a problem
they created and it is one which they must resolve - that
unless the issue of the IMC is addressed this latest round
of political discussions which began at Hillsborough two
weeks ago will run aground.

The IMC can be summed in one word. Balderdice. It is time
they were decommissioned.

When Sinn Féin met with the Irish and British governments
at the beginning of these discussions at Hillsborough two
weeks ago we proposed to them that they set a timescale for
moving the political process forward.

In a further meeting at Stormont 3 days ago we set out for
them how to create momentum and focus the minds of those
political parties who seek to hold up progress.

This included:

the lifting of suspension now the setting of a date for the
running of d'Hondt, which is the process for appointing
Ministers to the Executive the repeal of the legislation
which gives the British Secretary of State the power to
suspend the political institutions amendments to
legislation which would enhance the working of the
Agreement and prevent the abuses of procedures employed by
both the UUP and the DUP in the last Executive, and
Convening the Bill of Rights Forum

Other parties have put forward proposals which fall short
of full restoration.

The DUP argue for a phased return of the institutions - an
Assembly without an Executive. This is a reworking of their
proposal of two years ago for a Corporate Assembly which is
essentially about a stepping stone approach to the return
of unionist majority rule.

The SDLP have put forward proposals for the British
appointment of unelected Commissioners instead of Ministers
to run the various departments - in effect an abdication of

We are opposed to these approaches. We are pressing for a
full restoration of the political institutions, for the
full implementation of the Agreement in all its aspects.

We have told both governments that a continuation
indefinitely of what exists at present is untenable and
that if it becomes clear in the next few months that full
restoration cannot be achieved in the short term the
Assembly should be scrapped and the salaries of MLAs

We have emphasised that our priority for movement forward
is on the basis of the Agreement and this is our plan A.
But we have also reminded them of what needs to be done if
unionist leaders continue their rejectionism. Rights and
entitlements cannot be subject to a veto and there are
commitments the governments can deliver on without the
institutions, without agreement from unionist political
leaders. And that without and until we have power sharing
the governments need to press ahead with joint government
decision making, alongside all other elements of the Good
Friday Agreement.

We have already entered a new phase of discussions. Sinn
Féin's objective is to defend and consolidate the advances
already made. To open up new arenas of negotiations and
struggle and to continue to build the bridge to our
ultimate objective - a united democratic and socialist


Address By Gerry Kelly, MLA Policing & Justice Section -
Ard Fheis 2006

Published: 19 February, 2006

Go raibh maith agaibh. Ta me sasta le bheith ag labhairt
libh ar maidin. It has been an extraordinary year since I
last stood here. The historic decisions taken by the IRA
last July, the ending of its armed campaign and the putting
of arms beyond use have removed any excuse or pretext for
the unionists, the British or the Irish government to hold
up progress. On the issue of policing and justice these
events have made it all the more imperative to make
progress. We must continue to drive that agenda. No-one
else will.

No-one here needs a lesson on the history of policing in
the North Eastern corner of our country. The police force
has been a partisan, political, protestant and paramilitary
force, which has been used in the main against Catholics,
Nationalists and republicans. All that has to change so
radically that the old regime will be unrecognisable in the
new beginning to policing that republicans are striving

Our opposition to the present policing arrangements is not
just a matter of timing. It is a matter of integrity,
entitlements and our inalienable rights. Republicans will
not be badgered or forced into accepting less than the new
beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday
Agreement. 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

Those opposed to us are pulling out all the stops to
prevent the changes inevitable in the growth of Sinn Féin
North and South.

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
house raids; 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; the PSNI raid on the Casement Park home of the
County Antrim GAA; only this week we learn that a loyalist
who has murdered at least 12 Catholics was being paid £50k
a year by Special Branch. These are some of the
manifestations of political policing.

We also know now that the institutions voted for by 2 _
million Irish people and set up under the Good Friday
Agreement were collapsed by Special Branch in a political
coup d'etat.

Let's be clear about their agenda. Our political opponents,
in the institutions of 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 democratically
elected politicians policing the police. This is the
objective of political policing; the self-perpetuation of
the securocrats. Deirtear go minic go dtiocfaidh ar la. Ta
la s'acu imithe go deo - ach nil a fhios acu go foill.

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 right back to the days of the old Special
Powers Act so opposed by the Civil Rights Movement.

Last year in my speech to the Ard Fheis I pointed out that
the British government had plans to enhance the role of MI5
in relation to aspects of policing in the 6 counties. The
PSNI Chief Constable this week said that MI5 would have the
covert fight against republicanism under its control while
the PSNI would deal with loyalism because - wait for it -
"loyalism was not a threat to British national security".
May I remind him, emphatically, that they were no threat,
precisely because they worked for the British state as
agents of Special Branch and MI5 and some 1500 people were
killed at their hands.

Having stated all of that in the poisoned atmosphere
created by political policing, the question is: Is it
actually possible to achieve a new policing dispensation?

The answer to that is yes. Not only is it possible. It is
necessary. Campaigns to expose the truth about collusion
and end political policing are vital. These are integral to
our strategy on policing. We must continue to assert our
right to an accountable, civic policing service in the face
of those who only want political policing. We must put the
Political Detectives out of business.

At the core of achieving a new beginning to policing is the
issue of accountability through transferring power over
policing and justice away from the political masters of
London and MI5 to Ireland under locally elected
institutions in the North and on an all Ireland basis
through the North South Ministerial Council and all Ireland
implementation bodies.

In the upcoming negotiations that is what Sinn Féin will be
pushing for. The British have this week published enabling
or framework legislation to allow for transfer in the
future. Sinn Féin have been pressing for, this first step
for a considerable time. Both governments know that the
publishing of enabling legislation will not be enough on
its own to honour the commitments given. The devil as they
say is in the detail. 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 accountability and fundamental political change.
Sinn Féin have already set out our stall for the maximum
powers to be moved out of London and into an all Ireland

It is important for delegates to be reminded that Sinn
Féin's position on policing has been consistent and is also
very public and open. Any major change in Sinn Féin policy
will only be as a result of a special Ard Fheis on this
subject, it will be up to delegates at such an Ard Fheis to
debate and vote on this important issue.

There is a great hunger for information to feed this
important debate. If and when we return to a special Ard
Fheis it should be with the maximum amount of information
for delegate, members and indeed the community. The
policing sub-committee have a presentation of facts around
this issue. It was given at a well attended conference in
Belfast in January on an all Ireland vision of Justice and
Policing. We are committed to roll this out into the areas
immediately after this Ard Fheis for information and as an
aid to debate.

It is incumbent upon me also to repeat what I have said at,
at least 3 successive Ard Fheisanna: We have made
significant progress on the issues involved. It is my
strong belief that we can achieve our goals on policing and
justice in the context of an overall comprehensive

Like all comrades I am fighting for an all Ireland justice
system just as we are 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

It is perhaps inevitable that the key focus publicly is on
policing in the North. However, the debate must also be
about developing our all Ireland vision for the future. I
am commending a 3 page document entitled 'Core principles
and values on All-Ireland Justice Policy' to the Ard Fheis
as an aid to that debate. Other delegates will speak to
this. In that debate, there are many questions to be

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. The more effective we are, the more rash our
opponents become. That is no reason to abandon our agenda,
as some motions in this section propose. In the face of the
challenges ahead, we must hold our nerve. Keep on course

Let me finish by saying this, 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. We must develop
further our all Ireland vision for justice and policing.
Let us look at this nationally as well as locally in the
big picture and the small picture. Get involved in this
debate comrades. It affects every single person living in

Support Ard Comhairle motions 394 and 395. Go raibh maith


Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD - 2006 Ard Fheis Speech On Policing,
Justice And Community

Published: 19 February, 2006

I am urging this Ard Fheis to support the Ard Comhairle
motions 425, 426 and 427 all of which are underpinned by
the principles detailed in the document 'Core Principles
and Values for an All-Ireland Justice Policy' which is also
before the Ard Fheis for approval today.

A key difference between Sinn Fein and the other parties is
our emphasis on prevention as the best and only sustainable
approach to tackling issues of community safety. We
recognise that what is required is: intensive and
systematic social investment in marginalized areas; early
intervention and support services for those at risk of
offending; accountable community policing; effective
rehabilitation programmes and post-release supervision and;
community restorative justice alternatives for most non-
violent offenders. What we are proposing here are real
solutions that also make economic sense - reducing both the
incidence of crime and the high cost of incarceration.

McDowell and the Dublin government by contrast are hell
bent on expanding and privatising the prison estate and
inflating prison spending thereby reducing the finances
available for investment in communities. McDowell's plan to
turn the prison system into a massive money-making
opportunity for his profiteering buddies is advancing
unhindered by his coalition partner Fianna Fail. Last
Friday evening tendor documents were published for a
private superprison at Thorton Hall, North Dublin. The
proposal would bind the state into a financially wasteful
Public Private Partnership for 35 years. It doesn't take a
sixth sense to see how this will pan out - you only have to
look to the sham of the original tendering process for the
site. Last year, I told the government that the purchase of
Thornton hall stinks to high heaven and indeed may even be
corrupt. I stand by my conclusions.

Republicans will not exploit the victims of crime and
beleaguered communities for electoral gain as others are
attempting. We will not sell gimmicks as solutions to the
public as the current FF/PD government are attempting
through McDowell's Criminal Justice Bill, as Fianna Gael
and Labour are attempting on the doorsteps and through the
media; and as New Labour attempted when they introduced
ASBOs to the 6 counties. Our communities deserve real
solutions and we will deliver them. The motions themselves
are self explanatory and I urge delegates to vote in favour
of them.

I am also urging this Ard Fheis to support the Ard
Comhairle amendment to motion 423. The amendment mandates
the party to consider views on the sentencing of sex
offenders. I believe the amendment is preferable because
the motion as submitted is too general as to be practical.
It does not take cognisance of the full range of sexual
offences for which people can be convicted. For example it
does not differentiate between convictions for violent rape
and a statutory rape that might have involved consentual
sex between a 17 year old boy and 15 year old girl, for


Seán Crowe TD Address On Education

Published: 19 February, 2006

In the short time I have I want to focus primarily on the
issues of special needs, class sizes, and disadvantage.

When it comes to educating the children of Ireland the
British and Irish Government are failing Irish children

Particularly they are failing children from low-income and
deprived households and children with special needs.

Not a day goes by where a parent with a special needs child
doesn't contact a Sinn Fein representative looking for help
and support.

So why are the two governments failing us all on the core
education issues, especially when education more than
anyone other factor can transform a person's life, giving
them the ability not just to work and live with dignity but
also to become proactive and contribute positively to the
society around them.

Maybe the British and Irish governments don't want all the
people educated. Why? The answer could can be found in the
words of Nelson Mandela who described education as 'the
most powerful weapon in the world.'

It is indeed a weapon and the only weapon that I as an
active Irish republican want to see, readily available, to
every man woman and child in this country.

How is it that one of the richest states in the world lets
children still go to school hungry, where they are supposed
to learn in drafty and overcrowded classrooms

In Donegal, in one school, children with special needs are
being taught in a toilet because of overcrowding again in
one of the richest states in the world.

I support the concept of children with special needs
receiving their education in mainstream education but
teachers have to be skilled and trained to deal with
children with learning difficulties. Research points to a
worrying trend in which children with intellectual
disabilities tend to drop out when they hit Secondary

Educationalists and parents want to see a seamless transfer
of resources and support for children with special needs
from primary to second level.

This state also has the unenviable record of having second
largest class size in Western Europe, with over 80% of the
under nine age group, that's 170,000 children, in classes
of greater than 20.

It is not difficult to tackle these problems, it should
start with a significant increase in school funding,
particularly for disadvantaged areas. We support the INTO
proposal that at least 10% of the overall education budget
be devoted to tackling disadvantage.

Expenditure on education lags far behind the rest of
Europe, with a recent development report placing Ireland
33rd of the top 50 nations.

Large classes hamper the teacher's ability to teach as well
as they would like to. No Primary school teacher should
have to stand at the top of a classroom teaching to 30 or
more pupils.

Sinn Fein strives for a Primary level pupil/teacher ratio
of 15:1. Secondary level spending in Ireland is dangerously
close to the bottom of OECD countries.

We also have a double standard of government, awash with
tax returns, wasting 52 million euro on e-voting, and yet
they cannot cough up the required 48 million euro to
implement the McIver Report, which is crucial in that it
would provide appropriate resource, staffing, structuring
and development of the PLC sector which caters for 30,000
students, the bulk of who come from disadvantaged areas.

Sinn Fein's policy outlined in our Educate that you may be
free document highlights our goal to educate all our
children in well-resourced and funded schools, schools that
can cater for those with special needs, schools that are
adequately staffed, schools in which our children are not
cold and overcrowded.

The onus on Sinn Fein activists is to challenge government
failures at local level by getting involved in the fight
for proper schools in your community, and to present an
alternative vision of education as something liberating,
radical and vital to students not just to turn them into
useful employees, but to make them valuable, and valued,


Micheal Ferguson MLA West Belfast

Published: 19 February, 2006

I am speaking in support of Ard Chomhairle motions 254 to

Educate that you may be free. These were the words of
inspiration chosen by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness during
his time as Minister for Education and they remain at the
heart of this party's determination.

The education systems we have inherited, north and south
remain an anathema to that vision. For too long education
has been a mechanism for transferring privilege rather than
creating equality. For too long education has been about
marginalizing and disqualifying the majority to the
advantage of a minority.

This must change.

Education is a fundamental human right and at the heart of
Sinn Fein's equality agenda. Education should be about
enlightenment and empowerment. And my message to the
hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of
inquisitive, imaginative, inquiring children the present
system is turning into silent, angry teenagers is "Sapere
aude!"- "Dare to know".

In the north historic under-funding of the education system
is now being compounded by Direct Rule ministers intent on
withdrawing 80 to 100 million pounds from the budget within
three years.

The impact of this financial vandalism has been immediate
and wide ranging.Over 500 teachers and support staff have
been cut in two years. Over 80 have been lost in West
Belfast in the last three months. At a time when schools
are facing increased responsibilities to meet the
requirements of special needs, the number of classroom
assistants is being slashed. Rural areas have lost their
school transport. Music tuition, sports coaching and youth
provision have been virtually abandoned.When the cuts hit,
Sinn Fein was policy ready and campaign hungry.

When British ministers denied there had been any loss of
services we swiftly nailed that lie. We refused to police
British budgetary cuts, challenging decisions by Education
and Library Boards and challenging any compliance by

our political rivals. We utilised our political strength in
local councils, challenged NIO departments through our MLAs
and raised policy issues within the media. But most
importantly we used our political expertise to mobilise and

people to challenge the system themselves.

We reached out and found common ground with ethnic children
being denied access to English language teachers. We
reached out and found common ground with Protestant, as
well as Catholic teachers, parents and pupils fighting

to protect school transport and staffing levels.

Together we confronted British ministers on the streets of
Armagh and when Angela Smith ran away we followed her to

Falling rolls should not impact negatively on the needs of
those within the education system. It should not be used as
an excuse to impose cuts. Rather it should be viewed as an
opportunity to improve the quality of service and

enhance best practice. Almost a quarter of our children
left school last year without any qualifications, many left
barely able to read, write or count.

Falling rolls offers us the opportunity of addressing that
literacy and numeracy deficit. It offers us the opportunity
to improve the teacher-pupil ratio in our classrooms. It
should allow us to improve support for special


While British ministers have sought to justify budget cuts
on falling rolls within mainstream education, rising rolls
in the Irish Medium sector has not been accompanied by
increased funding and greater provision. Irish language

schools are still being denied quality estates, equitable
resources and services from early years to further and
higher provision.

When Bobby Sands wrote "the rhythm of time" he was being
forced to live naked in a ten by six foot cell. Like many
of us here, he was self-taught. But through his knowledge
of the world and its history, he was able to place his
immediate experience within the wider context of centuries
of human endeavour. He dared to know. And in knowing, he
knew he was right.

Bhí Bobby ina Ghael agus is comhartha í an Ghaeilge don áit
a bhfuil na hÉireannaigh sa am i láthair. Tá bagairt an
bháis ar theanga dhúchais na tíre seo. Teanga ar tugadh
teanga na cosmhuintire uirthi agus ar nós chosmhuintir na
tíre, nach bhfuair aitheantas ariamh, thuas ná thíos tír.
Ach tá an chosmhuintir ag teacht i réim anois.

Oil go raibh tú saor.


Opin: Sinn Féin Gives Clear Illustration Of Hunger For

It seems Bertie would say 'yes' to coalition quicker than
Paisley, writes Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor.

On Friday night at the opening of the Sinn Féin Ardfheis in
the RDS in Dublin, Martin McGuinness set the tone for the
weekend. He and his chief comrade Gerry Adams have very big
ambitions for Sinn Féin. So don't "wobble", McGuinness
effectively instructed delegates. There were media types in
the hall looking for divisions but they were going to be
sorely disappointed, he predicted.

The dominant theme was powersharing North and South, and
policing. Delegates over the three days played mostly to
the script written for them by the Sinn Féin leadership -
but not totally, there were a few rumbles.

It had been a shaky enough year: what with the long-running
fallout from the Robert McCartney murder and the Northern
Bank robbery, the bombshell of the exposing of Denis
Donaldson as a British agent (never mentioned at the
conference), and Ian Paisley indicating that by about the
time the ice cap fully melts he just might enter into a
Northern executive with Sinn Féin.

It was important therefore to hold the line, to keep any
differences or tensions within the family. Republicans are
a tight outfit; for most of the conference they did the top
table's bidding. But to use a fairly recent comment of
Gerry Adams, republicans are not sheep, and on Saturday,
unusually, we witnessed ordinary Sinn Féiners displaying
some wolfish tendencies. At moments it seemed as if Sinn
Féin was a normal party.

The most difficult debates for the leadership were on
coalition in the South, on Saturday afternoon, and to a
lesser extent on policing in the North, yesterday.

On coalition, the ardchomhairle wanted to have a free hand,
not to tie itself to any proscriptive motion ruling out
entering into government with one of the main parties, most
likely Fianna Fáil. It supported safe motion 241, calling
for a special ardfheis to decide the matter - post general
election. But there were other motions insisting that Sinn
Féin should not go into a coalition arrangement, ever,
ever, ever.

One went so far as demanding that Sinn Féin stay out of
government until Ireland was united - abstentionism once

Several speakers made it clear that, no matter how many
seats Sinn Féin wins in the next general election in the
South, it should be opposed to coalition.

Jackie Whelan from Waterford roused the crowd when,
invoking all the names of the hunger strikers, he thundered
that Fianna Fáil should be "put out to grass" and Sinn Féin
should have nothing to do with them.

The leaders got the message; they saw the danger. Martin
McGuinness, Gerry Kelly, Arthur Morgan and other senior
party figures were wheeled out to warn against "never,
never, never" motions.

So, motion 241 was called and passed. All the other
contrary motions therefore failed and were not voted upon,
leaving many members frustrated, cheated. But they enjoyed
a little revenge.

Motion 253 committed the party to insist upon repeal of the
Offences Against the State Act as a condition to entering

The leadership again opposed this motion, which must have
been embarrassing for Martin McGuinness who was twice
jailed in the South under the Act.

But for once the conference rebelled: the motion was
narrowly passed and, notwithstanding Martin McGuinness's
Friday night prediction, there was indeed a little
"wobble", a little "division".

On policing it was important for the leadership that
motions insisting that Sinn Féin would only support
policing in the North when Ireland was united were
sidelined in favour of the party's holding position: that
it would take a special ardfheis to decide the issue, and
only in the context of the devolution of policing and
criminal justice to the assembly and the DUP agreeing to
share power.

Here some of the younger delegates demanded Sinn Féin have
nothing to do with the PSNI, ever, or at least until there
is a united Ireland. But again wiser, older counsels
prevailed and the ardfheis agreed with Gerry Kelly and Pat
Doherty that the noncommittal party policy on policing was
the best course.

So at the end of the tricky three days, even if
Adams/McGuinness felt rather uncomfortable at times, they
nonetheless got their way. It illustrated the extent of
their appetite for power. It revealed just how determined
they are to wield power in Dublin and Belfast, and as
quickly as possible.

But listening to Ian Paisley these days makes you wonder if
it will be easier for Sinn Féin to enter into government in
the Dáil rather than Stormont.

While Tony Blair, rather in line with the DUP strategy, may
be considering a phased return of a fully-functioning
assembly, Adams insisted he would not work with a two-stage
return of the Northern executive.

He said from "the republican perspective, the war is over",
and asked the DUP leader, "Ian, is your war over?"

And that, from the republican standpoint, is what was most
infuriating about the weekend for Sinn Féin. Despite the
differences over coalition and policing, Sinn Féin is in
rude good health.

If Sinn Féin has the seats and if Bertie Ahern bites,
Adams/McGuinness in all probability - notwithstanding
linking repeal of the Offences Against the State Act to
coalition - would be able to persuade delegates at a
special ardfheis to go into government.

Equally on policing, if a deal was doable, then Adams and
McGuinness probably would have the clout to persuade the
party to sign up to the Policing Board, however

But what can they do about Paisley? At the moment it seems
Bertie would say "yes" to coalition quicker than the Doc
would. And there, despite all the power that they exert, is
the rub for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Bruised-But-Not-Bowed SDLP Comes Out Fighting

Pól Ó Muirí
20 February 2006

Hands up everyone who rushed out to get a copy of the
SDLP's latest policy document, North South Make Sense? Just
as I thought. Very few. That's why we have journalists, you
say, to do our "ecker" for us. I have earned my crust this
week - attending not only the launch of the document but,
gulp, even reading it.

North South Makes Sense is the SDLP at its managerial,
teacherly best. There is a lot reading in it and it is full
of sense on how to better our lives in areas such as
education; health and social services, environment and
transport. It is, to use a cliché, a manifesto about bread
and butter issues.

Not surprisingly, the media emphasis was on the financial
and policing aspects. However, what was more noticeable was
the slick way the SDLP set out their stall, with the party
launching in Belfast and Dublin on the same day, thus
ticking the all-Ireland box, and even remembering to put in
a couple of words of Irish to cover their cultural flank.

Certainly, there seemed to be some surprise among the SDLP
members present at how well attended the Belfast and Dublin
events were and how well received, for the most part, the
proposals have been across the board.

Equally significant was the form of party leader, Mark
Durkan; his deputy, Sean Farren, and Margaret Richie,
regional development spokesperson, who chaired both
launches. All spoke well and had the air of confident,
capable politicians about them.

For long enough, the SDLP was regarded as being little more
than a vehicle for John Hume and suffered two serious
setbacks at European and Stormont elections. Now, against
the odds, the party is projecting a confident, can-do image
and, most surprisingly of all, have gained some sense of
their importance and ability.

Durkan was at pains to point out that the proposals in
their document threatened no one. He was just as happy to
take money from Gordon Brown as Brian Cowen. It was a
cynical enough statement but delivered in such a matter-of-
fact way that it raised no hackles. His emphasis was on
finding common ground for the common good of everyone in
Northern Ireland; the party was not interested in a
north/south link for its own sake.

Mutual benefit was the message; generating efficiency and
forging partnerships across a range of issues that offered
opportunities for all. In short, practical, tangible

Are there any votes in that?

News that MI5 are to set-up shop in Palace Barracks, Co
Down, is disgraceful. Holywood is miles from the Falls
Road. Those poor spooks are going to have fight cross-city
traffic to meet with their spies and things will only get
worse when the Westlink upgrade begins.

Couldn't Tony Blair just ask his friends in Sinn Fein to
clear a couple of desks in their Falls Road headquarters
and let the spooks stay there? After all, MI5 obviously
have a few mates up there already and Tony has just given
the Shinners the guts of a million quid for being good
little revolutionaries.

The Shinners could save the taxpayer a penny or two if they
showed willing and the spooks could meet the spies in
Dunville Park and save on mileage expenses.

A new book by James Lovelock is much in the news. Lovelock,
an expert in environmental issues, reckons that the end of
the world is nigh.

Global warming is too far gone for us to have any chance of
saving the world; the planet is surely dying.

Rising sea levels will mean the destruction of cities such
as New York and London.

What do you want to bet that our own "dreary steeples"
survive the melting ice-caps? I'm giving even money.

Ian Paisley wants the GAA to co-operate with the PSNI.
Shock, horror! Tyrone GAA followers agree after their
county suffers a second defeat in the National League -
does the PSNI have anyone who could play in place of Brian
Dooher while he is injured?


Opin: 1916 Rising was opposed to sectarianism

Damien Kiberd

Tony Blair’s minister for higher education opined last week
that it is “not necessarily a bad thing” that there has
been a sharp decline in the number of students applying to
study history and classics at university. His remarks echo
those of Blair’s former education secretary Charles Clarke
who said that certain history departments at British
universities did not merit state funding.

The decline in the study of history in British schools is
matched by a similar decline in this country, with only a
handful of pupils taking papers in Latin and Greek and
greatly reduced numbers asking to sit papers in history.

All of this will scarcely lead us back into the Dark Ages,
as some academics are claiming. But it certainly opens up
enhanced possibilities for revisionist historians further
to distort the reality of the past. If young people don’t
study their history then it is open to revisionists to tell
them literally anything about what happened in previous
decades or centuries. And that may help to explain why
President Mary McAleese felt obliged in recent weeks to
reject suggestions that the 1916 was in any sense a
sectarian or exclusive enterprise.

She said: “There is a tendency of powerful and pitiless
elite to dismiss with damning labels those who oppose them.
This was probably the source of the accusation that 1916
was an exclusive or sectarian enterprise. It was never
that, though ironically it was an accurate description of
what the Rising opposed”.

McAleese is correct and it is important that she should
state this clearly as the 90th anniversary of the Rising
approaches. Her observations made at UCC have already drawn
intemperate responses in parts of the media, including
claims that Major John McBride was a paedophile and that
Constance Markiewitz was a whinging coward.

Now the life of Markiewitz (née Gore Booth) should perhaps
be studied by those who still blithely state that the
Rising was sectarian. She had fought in the 1916 Rising,
after which her death sentence was commuted.

Markiewitz was a former student of the Slade School of Art
in London. She was not a Catholic, of course, and she was a

She was the first woman elected to the House of Commons and
served as minister for labour in the first Dáil. She ran
soup kitchens during the 1913 lock-out and subsequently
became involved with the Irish Citizen Army.

Her leftist views persisted after she helped Eamon de
Valera to found the Fianna Fáil party in May 1926.

Less than a year later she died: during her final illness
she insisted on being treated in a general ward at Sir
Patrick Dun’s Hospital, and rejected any suggestion of
private treatment. She had rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty
as being “in the capitalist interests of England and

Some of the weapons used by Madame Markiewitz and her
commanding officer Michael Mallin at St Stephen’s Green in
1916 may have been imported into Ireland during the Howth
gun-running of July, 1914.

Now this operation was organised by a committee which
included Sir Roger Casement, (Robert) Erskine Childers,
Darrel Figgis, Bulmer Hobson and Eoin MacNeill.

Now in religious terms MacNeill, an academic expert on
Celtic Studies, may have been a bit of an odd man out in
this group.

Figgis, who bought the guns imported at Howth in Germany,
spent much of his youth on a tea plantation in Ceylon,
before becoming a tea broker in London and then a publisher
(he worked for Dent & Son).

He served as secretary of Sinn Féin between 1917 and 1919.

Childers was born in London, graduated from Cambridge
University, worked for 16 years in the House of Commons and
served in the British army during the Boer War and in the
British Navy during the early part of World War One.

He was executed by the Free State on November 22, 1922
having taken the anti-Treaty side .

Sir Roger Casement was born in south Dublin but educated in
Co Antrim. He was not a Catholic. A career civil servant
with the British Foreign Office he was knighted in 1911. He
had involved himself in humanitarian investigations in both
Central Africa and South America. After the Rising he was
hanged in Pentonville Jail in August 1916, having earlier
been accused of high treason.

Bulmer Hobson had been born at Holywood in Co Down and was
educated at the Friends’ School in Lisburn. He was a
founder of the Protestant Nationalist Society and served
for a time as secretary of the county board of the Antrim
GAA. Once described in British intelligence reports as “the
most dangerous man in Ireland”, having served for a time on
the Supreme Council of the IRB, Hobson subsequently opposed
the Rising.

History does not tell us a great deal about the hopes for a
future Ireland held by these four men. But it seems
unlikely that they were hell-bent on overthrowing British
rule in order to create a Catholic theocracy in Ireland.
The Pope at the time of the Howth gun running, for example,
was Pius X, who had actually penned an encyclical which
contained vulgar attacks on German Protestants.

Large numbers of Protestant men and women (as well as
people of other faiths or no faith at all) became involved
in the battle to win self-determination for Ireland.
Because of this. it is difficult to see how even
revisionist writers and historians could advance, let alone
sustain, any claim that the 1916 Rising was sectarian.

To be sure, the state which grew out of the events of 1921
and 1922 exhibited an unhealthy desire to incorporate into
law the teachings of not just the Catholic church but of
Christian churches generally.

In 1925, some 12 years before de Valera’s allegedly
theocratic constitution was created, the political
executive was led by William T Cosgrave (then known as
President Cosgrave).

In that year Cosgrave was pre-occupied with rebuilding the
GPO, but found time to introduce a new law prohibiting

At about the same time Cosgrave also introduced laws that
prohibited any form of artificial contraception. The
obsessive “need” to stamp out contraception was underlined
later when Cosgrave created the Censorship of Publications
Board, which made all books and newspapers subject to
censorship. The censorship laws made special provision for
the suppression of any book, paper or document which
advocated artificial contraception. It is a remarkable fact
that Sir James Craig, who represented Trinity College in
Dáil Éireann supported the new censorship laws, which were
seen by many subsequent critics as one of the hallmarks of
a sectarian state.


Opin: Three Nationalist Mayors Out Of 400 Shows The Dome Of
Delight’s ‘Equality’ For All To See

Martin Morgan

I may no longer be a member of Belfast City Council due to
a bit of skullduggery. You may know that Caesar said “et tu
Brute” when his ally stabbed him, well I got a bit of that
medicine from wannabes.

However, that does not stop me from keeping my ear to the
ground and my eyes open for interesting tasty bits from the
dome of delight that is Belfast’s City Hall.

At the moment the word on the rumour mill is that north
Belfast’s very own Carál Ní Chuilín of Sinn Féin will be
the next lord mayor of Belfast. That would make it a third
for people who originate from the New Lodge area, the
previous two being myself and Alex Maskey. Not bad going
for the north.

On the other hand, the reason the story of Carál, a
relative newcomer to politics, possibly becoming the next
lord mayor, was news, is due to the fact that Carál has
been a convicted terrorist.

Interesting as it may well be, what has that got to do with
her becoming a future lord mayor? She served her time and
is a democratically elected member of the city council.

Carál doesn’t need me to write anything about her on these
pages. In my time around the dome and the streets of north
Belfast, I have a sense that she is a well respected
community representative and a worthy replacement for the
retired Gerard Brophy.

However, there is a point of principle at stake here. Over
the years, the unionists in this city operated a policy of
exclusion against a nationalist and republican holding the
most senior offices of the city.

If we take the Alliance party out of the equation for a
moment, no unionist has supported a nationalist or
republican for the office of lord mayor. I should know as I
was there when the three of us were elected.

Some will argue that unionists did support nationalists.
Yes they did, when not too many years ago Alisdair
McDonnell broke the SDLP whip and was made deputy lord
mayor by the unionists.

His whip was suspended by the SDLP council group for three
months, and recently my old colleague Pat Convery has
become deputy lord mayor with the votes of unionists.

In fairness to Pat, there is nothing wrong in getting
unionist votes as long as the SDLP keeps its eye on the
ball (Sinn Féin can’t really whinge as they would have
taken the votes of the DUP and UUP – in fact they would
love nothing better than the endorsement of the unionists)
and I know that Pat and company will do this. Just because
they don’t “do as Sinn Féin always wants” doesn’t mean that
they don’t operate fairly.

In my time in the dome, the SDLP were pulled this way and
that by both Sinn Féin and the unionists, each group
requiring at least the endorsement of the SDLP, if not that
party’s full support for various issues. I didn’t often
hear too many commitments from SF or the unionists for SDLP
initiatives (not that there were many).

Long before a nationalist or republican was elected as lord
mayor of Belfast; the unionists had elected mayors and
deputy mayors from the north’s two main loyalist
paramilitary parties. The PUP has held both positions and a
member of the UDP, then political representatives of the
UDA, has been deputy lord mayor.

It gets better. Before ceasefires – that is if the
loyalists ever honestly intended for ceasefires – and when
Catholics were being murdered (they still are) by loyalist
paramilitaries, the unionists were giving them high office,
and defending it with a bullish sense of bigotry. Naturally
of course the unionist parties would never want to be
referred to as bigots but they were and for many of them
they remain bigots.

How dare they question the credentials of a republican who
has served her time? The credentials of any candidate are a
matter for that individual’s own political party.

On the other hand, on the day that I became lord mayor, a
British national newspaper ran a “world exclusive” about
one of my brothers who served time for the usual
paramilitary crimes.

The interesting fact about this is that some of the very
people sniffing about my family and neighbourhood for this
story were either well known republicans or related to well
known republicans.

Sad isn’t it that the source for an attempt to sabotage my
becoming the lord mayor came from the
nationalist/republican community. In fact, no doubt, of
great surprise to the Provo supporters was that the
unionists for a change weren’t interested.

If a person is to be excluded from holding a position it
should be provided for legislatively. If the law allows
Carál and anyone else in her position to hold a
democratically elected role and subsequent
responsibilities, then so be it.

It is also fair enough, if some people find it distasteful
that a person with a terrorist conviction may hold such an
office, but there you have it, it is allowed, and you have
to get used to it. Nationalists had to stomach a lot over
the years in the dome and beyond in the face of
discrimination and bigotry.

The history of the council in whatever form dates back to
the 1600s. For the record the first nationalist to become
first citizen was in 1997, the first republican in 2002 and
the second nationalist in 2003. That makes a grand total of
three out of nearly 400.

Times are changing in this city, but not changing quickly
enough. Unionists have to move with the times and there is
some sense of this in that they are now attempting
community development initiatives, 15 years after the rest
of us – but then better late than never. If people, and
especially our councillors, are committed to making this
city better for all of its inhabitants then they have to
work together for our common good and that includes the
position of lord mayor.


Protesters Want Debate On Church

Protesters who broke into St Joseph's Church in the docks
area of Belfast are challenging Catholic leaders to debate
the future of the building with them.

They have been occupying the grade B listed church since
Sunday and say they intend to stay for three days.

Fr John McManus of Down and Connor diocese said he was
"saddened and disappointed by the irresponsible act".

The Catholic Church closed St Joseph's in 2001 because the
"congregation was too small to justify keeping it open".

As a listed building, the church comes under the protection
of the Department of the Environment.

Campaigners said urgent repairs were needed if the building
was to survive.

It's deeply regrettable that the initiatives of those who
worked so hard to find a sustainable and suitable future
for the building were lost

Fr John McManus Down and Connor spokesman

Paul McLaughlin of the Save St Joseph's Campaign said the
DoE should enforce the regulations and compel the Catholic
Church to make the necessary repairs.

"But today is also about highlighting the fact that a
complete faith community of 150 people has been neglected
by the Catholic Church for five years," he said.

"We have been forced to do this because no-one will speak
to us, so what we are saying is, we are taking back our

Fr McManus said the church was mindful of its
responsibility as a historic building owner. He said the
situation would be kept under review.

"It's deeply regrettable that the initiatives of those who
worked so hard to find a sustainable and suitable future
for the building were lost," he said.

The DoE's Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) said it
had been working with Down and Connor Diocese to encourage
the protection of the building.

A Heritage Service spokesperson said: "There are proposals
to have the building taken over and refurbished by a
preservation trust.

"EHS would welcome any such proposals (which) might attract
grant aid."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/20 06:52:44 GMT


Duck, Or I'll Shoot ... What A Good Joke

Billy Simpson
20 February 2006

Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had
an important meeting to attend and couldn't find a parking

Looking up to heaven, he said, "Lord, take pity on me. If
you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday
for the rest of my life and give up drinking whiskey."

Miraculously, a parking place appeared.

Paddy looked up again and said, "Never mind, I've found

I have relayed the above joke as it would have been told
back in the olden days when all the best Irish jokes were
invented and told unashamedly by Irish comedians like Dave
Allen and Frank Carson.

To tell that same joke in today's politically correct,
ultra sensitive, litigious world, you would have to tell it
either about an Englishman or an American, who are still
free game for ridicule provided they are white and
preferably of a conservative bent.

Which may be why comedians and the media took such delight
in last week's shooting incident in Texas when the American
Vice-President, Dick Cheney, peppered his 78-year-old
hunting companion with buckshot when he mistook him for a

I suspect the media felt safe in their amusement because
the victim, a Mr Harry Whittington, was a rich lawyer and
not some harmless water fowl.

Sadly, lawyers are not an endangered species so shooting
one occasionally doesn't necessarily make you a bad person.

TV comedian Jay Leno said that the incident proved that
"Cheney now has the worst aim of anyone in the White House
since Bill Clinton".

T-shirts bearing the vice-President's face and signifying
membership of Deadeye Dick's Gun Club, were being run off
before the cordite had cleared.

There was a time every country enjoyed jokes about stupid
people, usually their near neighbours, identified by
nationality or region.

The Canadians told them about Nuffies (folk from
Newfoundland); the Americans told them about the Polish;
the Mexicans about gringos - and everybody told them about
the Irish.

Now we have to substitute Dick Cheney's name in all these
jokes just to avoid a charge of racism. And it works
surprisingly well.

For example - Dick Cheney opened the morning newspaper and
was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had

He quickly telephoned President Bush and asked "Did you see
the paper? They say I died."

"Yes, I saw it," replied the President. "Where are you
calling from?"


"Say what you like about the Ten Commandments, you must
always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only
ten of them." - H L Mencken.


The tobacco weed has been successfully demonised as the
font of all evil by today's political evangelicals who, a
century and a half ago, would have been out in the jungles
of Africa telling semi-naked indigenous folk to put some
clothes on.

Apparently the only people who will be allowed to smoke in
public buildings are criminals in prisons and MPs at

And at a time when smokers are being hounded out of decent
society, dope addicts are being offered clean needles on
the NHS and there is a move to provide clean razor blades
to young people who are into self-mutilation.

Is it me?

The thing to remember about tobacco is that, while smoking
may well kill you, there are an awful lot of really
annoying people alive today who would have been strangled
if someone they'd pissed off hadn't lit a calming cigarette
instead of grabbing them by the throat.


"Ours is an age of substitutes; instead of language we have
jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and, instead of
genuine ideas, bright ideas." - Eric Bentley.


Des Bishop: The Stand-Up Who's Sending Up Ulster

Joy in the hood, a reality comedy show, has taken RTE by
storm. In it, Irish-American comedian Des Bishop and his
production team discover new comedians in some of the most
notorious neighbourhoods in ireland. In just a couple of
weeks, they help them create a routine and put on a
rollicking gig in a local venue. The last episode of the
show - filmed in the Bogside in Derry - airs tonight at
9.30 on RTETWO. Deborah Dundas spoke to Bishop about the
show, living in the 'hood and Northern Ireland humour

20 February 2006

Have you heard the one about the Irishman, the loyalist,
the republican and the comedian? They all got together,
made people laugh, and saved the world with jokes. Okay,
maybe they didn't save the world. Broke down a few
barriers, built a few bridges, is more like it. But that's
not a bad start.

It goes like this. Des Bishop, a middle class Irish-
American now living in Dublin, has a certain fascination
for working class neighbourhoods. He goes to live in some
of the most notorious places in Ireland, north and south.

Each time, for a couple of weeks, he becomes part of the
community. But he's got an agenda: his real aim is to put
on a comedy show. He puts out a call for auditions, chooses
four local people he thinks can do stand-up, sets up a
bunch of workshops to help them develop a routine, and then
puts on a show.

To make it even more exciting, he tapes the whole process,
and develops a six-part series to air on television. It's
part reality show, part documentary - a way to showcase the
area and to show how issues on the street work their way
into comedy.

In his private life, Bishop has done a lot of voluntary
work over the years, including working with addicts in
Mountjoy prison. He has also often lived in "really bad
neighbourhoods" and been attracted to them.

So is his show about giving working class people a voice?

"I don't think it's about 'hear us'," says Bishop. "These
days comedy has become a middle class enclave. It was
originally a working class enclave, but then middle class
comedians became mainstream. I'm one of them, but on the
flip side I wanted to go back to working class. I wanted
people to use a more modern, alternative storytelling
style. I wanted them to make people laugh with anecdotes
about their life. It's more real."

Alternative storytelling is tough to do. Just ask Paddy
Taylor, one of the four comedians picked for their promise
in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

"You look at everything and you analyse it and break it
down, asking why, why, why. It's something I do all the
time now, looking at different scenarios, and how to work
them into a sketch. I thought stand-up was standing and
telling jokes, but it's alternative comedy. It's more
interesting and more dangerous. It can go one way or
another; go down a storm or like a lead balloon."

The 29-year-old bus driver answered the call for auditions
after he saw an ad in the newspaper. "It's changed me a
bit," he says of the whole experience.

He thought the workshops were difficult, and that the
initial experience of building trust was hard. Not because
Bishop was an outsider (Bishop himself points out he's an
Irish-American with strong ties to the nationalist/Catholic
community) but in order to work together and feel
comfortable in the group.

Bishop also found it hard building trust - within the
community. "Some people in the community got the impression
we were trying to make a sectarian documentary," says
Bishop. "We spent a week-and-a-half trying to gain trust."
He also says that, because the Bogside is so small, the
call for auditions went beyond the strict borders of his
chosen community.

As a result, says Bishop, "It became about looking at Derry
and the people's identification with a history of what they
feel was serious discrimination, violence and intimidation
by the British Army. They're proud of their history and I
learned a lot about Derry, but I didn't get as connected to
that community as some others."

But the payoff was there for Taylor. The gig Bishop and
gang set up at St Eugene's Parish Hall in the Bogside
boasted an audience of 300 - and Taylor left them crying
for more. Bishop has since continued to support Taylor in
his burgeoning comedy career.

"He has a lot of faith in me," Taylor says. "It's great
encouragement; it makes me feel like there must something
there. He's given me the confidence to do this."

Doing stand-up is edgy, says Bishop, like living in a
rougher part of town. You never know what's going to
happen, but there are strong characters and issues that are
ripe for the picking by comedic brains - drug addiction,
alcoholism, unemployment, deprivation, neglect, bad
planning, single mothers, lack of support networks ...

And he believes there's a widespread audience for it.
"Everybody's curious about the bad neighbourhood in their
town, but they don't know anything about it," he says.

He also points out that there tends to be a strong sense of
community in working class neighbourhoods; something the
middle class has lost.

That's certainly true of Belfast's Mount Vernon, a
staunchly loyalist area recently highlighted in newspaper
headlines about crime, riots and racism, not about how the
community is getting together - with an Irish-American in
their midst - to laugh at themselves.

Bishop says: "We wanted to do something in a loyalist
community more than anything. You never see them on RTE
unless they're throwing s***. Nobody ever saw them
laughing. I wanted to learn about them; I was curious."

That unfortunate perception is something of which the Mount
Vernon community is well aware, so they jumped at the
chance to be a part of Bishop's series.

"We're not the community the papers are making us out to
be," says Heather Rafferty, a voluntary worker at Community
House in Mount Vernon and one of the key organisers of
Bishop's stay. "We had been classed as the kids of Mount
Vernon doing racial things."

Alan Quail (51) is a reluctant comedian who answered the
call for auditions as a favour and ended up being one of
the chosen four, and going through the whole process.

"It was unbelievably hard trying to get a concept and
elaborate on it and make people laugh," he says. "There are
lots of subjects but you need something that relates to the
people you're talking to. Because I come from Mount Vernon
and we get lots of negative publicity, I picked the idea of
people being angry about the papers and took it from

Quail gives a sample of some of the jokes he came up with -
black, as Bishop suggested, but very funny. "Did you hear
the reports about the bomb-making factory down the road?
Bomb-making factory! They didn't offer me a job."

The gig was at The Grove - a notorious loyalist drinking

"We gave Des and the crew an insight into the people in the
estate," says Quail, "that we're everyday people, just like
in Catholic areas. We're all in the same boat.

"If we want to move forward at all in this culture, that's
the way we've got to go ... making people laugh."

Both Quail and Taylor point out that the experience
increased their confidence: if a professional like Bishop
thought they were talented, then they must be.

Confidence building was, indeed, part of the point of the
whole exercise, not just for individuals, but for
communities as a whole.

"The main problem in these areas is a lack of confidence
and belief. People don't believe they're worth s*** so they
never even want to achieve anything. It doesn't even enter
their minds," says Bishop.

But when a show goes on television and they're "doing their
thing and getting a bit of pride that it was done", that's
what it's all about.

So did Bishop find comedy different in the north? He thinks
that people are into sectarian comedy, particularly the
middle class.

He says: "There's a new belief that the middle class is
above sectarianism, but they're not. They need to stop
being worried about that fact. Sectarian comedy will stop
when there's no more need to joke about it."

And what's Bishop's favourite Ulster joke? The one about
Ian Paisley being in a coma for 20 years. When he wakes up,
there's a crowd around him.

One of the people says: "Doc, we've got good news and bad

"What's the good news?" (said in an Ian Paisley voice).

"The good news is Linfield won the All-Ireland Trophy."

"And the bad news?" (that voice again).

"The score was 114 to 110."

Knock, knock, who's there?

Name: Bishop, Des Bishop.

Profession: Stand-up comedian, filmmaker.

Age: Thirty. Born in America, but has lived in the Republic
of Ireland since he was 14. Came to Ireland to go to
boarding school in Co Wexford after being kicked out of
school in the United States.

Education: Boarding school at St Peter's College, Wexford,
followed by studying English and History at Uuniversity
College Cork.

Professional Highlights: Founded the International Comedy
Club in 1998; 2003 - released his DVD, Des Bishop Live at
Vicar Street; invited to perform at all of the world's most
prestigious comedy festivals in 2005 - Kilkenny, Aspen,
Edinburgh and Montreal.

Current Project: Joy in the Hood, a television series which
looks at making comedy in six notorious communities in
Ireland, north and south. The two Northern Ireland
communities were Mount Vernon in Belfast and the Bogside in

Concept: Go into the communities, where Bishop and his
production crew audition for four potential comedians. The
winners participate in workshops to develop and refine
their comedy routines, culminating in a live stand-up show
in a local venue.


Bloody Frenzy Of A Mother Filled With Life And Laughter

Lara Bradley

DESPITE whatever cruel twist caused Mary Keegan to stab to
death the sons she loved so much - and then take her own
life - the tragic mother is being described by her family
and close friends as a warm and funny person who was so
full of life.

Her father John Flynn, speaking the night before the
funeral of his daughter and grandsons - 10-year-old Glenn
and six-year-old Andrew - gave a glimpse of the raw grief
and shock suffered by his family.

The retired builder said: "She was a picture of health and
always laughing. My wife is in bits. None of us can talk
about it at the minute."

The gardai have made it clear that they are not seeking
anyone else in connection with the murders.

But the manner of the triple killing was so unthinkable
that friends of the Keegan family are having enormous
difficulty in coming to terms with it.

One close friend, who asked not to be named, said: "Mary
had up days and down days, just the same as anyone else.
But she was such a caring person and had such a great sense
of humour that it is hard to imagine her ever getting

"None of us have slept this week for worrying that we may
have missed some sign that she was suffering.

"We are clinging to the hope that the Garda investigation
might throw up some evidence that someone else broke in and
did this. We just can't believe that Mary did it."

Just three days before her death, Mary tidied her desk and
bid the usual cheery farewell to her workmates at GE Money
in Dublin.

The 41-year-old administrator left the precious framed
photographs of her beautiful boys where they always were -
in pride of place around her desk.

Less than a week later, workmates in the consumer finance
office were gathered together and told that Mrs Keegan, who
had worked there for more than 15 years, and her two boys,
were dead. Shocked, most left the open-plan office in a
daze, leaving the day's tasks untouched.

It was only later that day, after news reports, that the
full horror of the tragedy filtered through.

One workmate said: "We all knew each other really well, so
when Mary's death, and the death of her children was
announced, it was like the whole world went into slow

"Monday afternoon is a blur and things just got worse as
time went on. Those who were closest to her are unlikely to
be back at work for months."

The part-time beautician left her job-share at GE Money as
usual last Tuesday week, and her last week was filled with
the normal chores.

On Friday, the bubbly brunette called to visit her boys'
childminder Mary Russell, who lives nearby in the middle-
class suburb of Firhouse, to drop off a present for Mrs
Russell's newly-married daughter.

Mrs Russell said: "She was happy and laughing. I never
noticed anything was wrong. The Mary that did this is not
the Mary that I know and love."

She described Mr and Mrs Keegan as a loving couple who had
"nothing but respect and love for each other".

The next morning Mrs Keegan was cheering from the sidelines
as her eldest son Glenn lined out with his teammates for a
10am football match in Cherryfield. With six-year-old
Andrew by her side, she whooped with joy when Glenn's team

The trio looked the very picture of joy as they made their
way home from the victorious match. It was the last time
any of them were seen alive.

Just hours later, Mrs Keegan, described by all who knew her
as "so normal", appears to have done something
extraordinarily abnormal.

Gardai believe, at some stage that night, or in the early
hours of last Sunday morning, she barricaded herself and
her two sons in the kitchen of her suburban semi-detached
home and slaughtered the boys in a frenzied knife attack
before stabbing and slashing herself to death.

Contrary to reports published last week, gardai say Mrs
Keegan had not bolted the doors from the inside.

Her husband, engineer Brian Keegan, assuming his wife would
be home as usual when he returned from a business trip to
America, had travelled without his house keys.

His flight had been delayed due to snowstorms in New York,
and when he finally returned on Monday morning, and got no
answer at his home, he called on childminder Mrs Russell,
assuming his wife had left their children there to go off
on some errand.

He then called on a neighbour, a garda who was off duty,
and asked for help to break into his semi-detached home. It
was this garda who gained access to the house first, and
made the grim discovery.

Mercifully, he managed to shield Mr Keegan from the bloody
horror in his kitchen.

Mr Keegan was taken quickly from the area and comforted by
relatives in the following days.

He gave a statement to gardai on Wednesday, and the same
day post-mortem examinations were completed on his wife and

The boys had suffered multiple stab wounds to their backs,
faces and necks, and their mother bled to death after
stabbing herself and cutting her wrists.

There was no suicide note.

It is rare for a woman to kill her children and even more
unusual for her to do it in such a violent manner. In a
desperate attempt to explain the inexplicable, locals in
the Firhouse area last week struggled to come up with their
own explanations for the killings.

One woman reiterated newspaper reports that Mrs Keegan had
been treated for depression, another said this was

The tragedy has shocked and bewildered the nation, leading
to a number of theories, none of which has yet been proven.

Some say Mrs Keegan had been on medication for a skin
complaint which triggered a rare form of psychosis, but
friends say this is unlikely.

A close friend said: "The reports this week have made it
look like Mary was obsessed with her kids, but she was just
a normal mum and she always talked about her family as a

"How can we have any peace when we just cannot understand
why this happened?"

No one yet knows for sure what drove Mrs Keegan to kill
herself and her sons.

Perhaps no one ever will.


Honour For Brigadistas

Man About Town: Ian Hill
20 February 2006

They're still to be found, 70 years on, by the ditches of
the country roads of Andalusia and the Asturias.

Awaiting the gravediggers, pathologists and DNA
specialists, they're the descendants of the 'disappeared',
who died defending Spain's democratically elected
government, murdered by the death squads of Franco's
fascists in a revolt supported by Hitler and the Catholic

But it wasn't only the Spanish who died in the Spanish
Civil War. Hundreds from Ireland fought on both sides.
Those on the left joined the International Brigade. The
Blueshirts of the right were led by the Free State's
popinjay chief of police, the man Franco dubbed 'that
Operetta General, Eoin O'Duffy'.

Now the 77 Brigadistas of the North are to be honoured by a
committee chaired by Pol Mac Adaim, secretary Kevin
Doherty, treasurer Joseph Palmer, researcher Ciaran
Crossey, designer Carol Osburn and archivist Sean Quinn.
Chris McGimpsey attended some of their meetings.

Yet, launching the details on his own premises, Linenhall
librarian and IBCC member John Gray asked that Duffy's men
should not be forgotten. For many of them, unlike the
equally poor but committed volunteers of the left, had been
unable to resist the pressures of priest and politician.

PainterGerry Gleason's actress daughter Victoria read of
the death of Dungannon poet Charles Donnelly, wounded at
Jarama. Donnelly is also to be remembered by a Winter
School in Coalisland's Craic Theatre this weekend.

There's a pub quiz in the Spaniard tomorrow, meetings in
the John Hewitt through March and April, leading to Gerry's
Ghost On The March in the Linenhall in May. There'll also
be a sculpture at the Custom House where Brigadistas first
tasted anti-fascism. Devised by Gerry, it will be carved by
Mark Anthony Grimley, there with his wife Doire who
describes herself as a psychic.

Widow Betty Boyd recalled her ambulance driver husband,
taken at Toledo, Betty Boe, her uncle Thomas Kerr from
Belmont, dead from typhus at Barcelona. Freddy and Tommy
McGrath spoke of their uncle Henry McGrath from the
Shankill, dead in the last hour of the last day of the war.
Norman Kennedy's East Belfast Historical Society's Journal
notes two Brigade soldiers, Liam Tumilson, a Protestant
communist from Ballymacarrett, and Jim Stranney, an IRA man
from the Short Strand, both killed in action, defending

Some argued over which had been the most memorable words at
the meeting. Were they Basque heroine La Pasionaria's as
read by Victoria about how 'it is better to be the widows
of heroes than the husbands of cowards'? Or Charles
Donnelly's, of his Spanish battlefield, where 'even the
olives are bleeding'?

More details at

To receive this news via email, click HERE.
No Message is necessary.
To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)
To February 2006 Index
To Index of Monthly Archives

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?