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February 15, 2006

Devolved Policing Bill To Be Introduced

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News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 02/16/06 MPs To See Devolved Policing Bill Today
BN 02/15/06 Loyalist Killer 'Was Paid £50,000 A Year'
IP 02/15/06 Finucanes To Snub New Inquiry Into Killing
BB 02/15/06 Prime Minister 'Cancels NI Visit'
BB 02/15/06 Whislte Blowing Ex-Policeman Acquitted
IE 02/15/06 Adams Will Seek Fundraising Visa
SF 02/15/06 Raid’s 'Evidence Of Political Policing Agenda'
BN 02/15/06 Bertie Caved-In On All-Ireland Forum Plans - SF
IE 02/15/06 Hundreds Sign Up To ILIR In Boston
BN 02/15/06 Sellafield Warned Over Nuclear Material
SF 02/15/06 Govt's Back Tracking Is Reprehensible
DP 02/15/06 Bertie’s Stardust Shame
IT 02/16/06 Opin: Building Trust Only Way Forward In North
EW 02/16/06 Sinn Fein Leader To March In Holyoke Parade


MPs To See Devolved Policing Bill Today

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

The British government is today expected to publish a
Bill to enable the devolution of policing and justice
powers to the Assembly at Stormont.

Details of the proposals will be made known when the Bill
is presented to MPs at Westminster this afternoon. However,
The Irish Times understands the British government will
address up to 10 other policy areas in addition to policing
and justice.

Significantly, the legislation could contain proposals to
grant the Northern Secretary powers to call an Assembly
election ahead of the May 2007 deadline.

Such powers could prove useful if it is decided that a snap
Assembly poll is needed later this year to underpin any new
agreement to restore Stormont.

Other proposals will illustrate a commitment to enhanced
cross-Border co-operation in the fields of energy and the
environment, where all-island solutions are being

Many of the British government's plans have been signalled
in the joint declaration published with the Irish
Government in April 2003 following intensive negotiations
at Hillsborough.

Measures contained in the Bill, described by one well-
placed source as an "omnibus Bill", will cover a range of
issues which the governments believe will facilitate the
restoration of the institutions of the Belfast Agreement.

The governments hope these will "clear the ground for
restoration", as one source put it.

Today's Bill may include issues relating to electoral
registration and to the financing of political parties. The
amnesty available for paramilitary groups, mostly loyalist,
co-operating with Gen John de Chastelain's decommissioning
body could be extended.

Legislation may also grant additional borrowing powers to a
restored Executive. One suggestion estimated that a new
power-sharing Executive could borrow up to £3 billion (€4.4
billion), a 50 per cent rise on current limits.

Other proposals relate to health and safety conditions
within the PSNI, new powers available to police in the
fight against serious organised crime, and a requirement
for public vacancies to be filled.

All these provisions are intended to set a framework for
discussions among the parties in Northern Ireland.

Political development minister David Hanson begins a round
of discussions with party delegations later today at
Stormont. The provisions could be amended if the parties
push for changes during the round of talks.

The Bill envisages two new models for the devolution of
policing and justice powers.

The legislation will not be prescriptive but could empower
a future Assembly to appoint separate justice and policing
ministers or to do so on a rotational basis.

The two governments accept that it is up to the Assembly
parties to agree on a model, while insisting that
devolution cannot be gradual or piecemeal. All powers will
be devolved, except those relating to national security.

The Bill could complete its passage through the Commons by
early May and through the House of Lords by early summer.

© The Irish Times


Loyalist Killer 'Was Paid £50,000 A Year'

15/02/2006 - 15:26:49

A loyalist killer and suspected police agent was paid
£50,000 (€73,193) a year after being released from jail, it
was claimed today.

Cash was lodged in a bank account set up for sectarian mass
murderer Torrens Knight, informed sources said.

Staff at the branch were allegedly told Knight, responsible
for the pub massacre at Greysteel, Co Derry on Halloween
1993, was an engineer working for a Scottish-based firm.

He was on a £50,000 annual salary, it was claimed.

“The only engineering he ever did was constructing pipe
bombs,” a source said.

The mysterious arrangement at the branch ended after two
payments, when management started to ask questions, it has
been claimed.

Nuala O’Loan, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, is
examining allegations that special branch shielded Knight
before the horrific attack on the Rising Sun bar.

He was part of an Ulster Freedom Fighters unit that walked
into the packed pub, shouted “trick or treat” and opened

By the time they had finished 19 people were wounded. Eight
died from their injuries, seven of them Catholics.

Knight was jailed for life for those murders and the
killing of four Catholic workmen in Castlerock, Co Derry,
seven months earlier.

Mrs O’Loan’s probe is centred on allegations that a gun
later used at Greysteel was moved before police could
recover it.

Her investigators have been told high powered UFF rifles
were discovered by anglers following the Castlerock

Police were alerted and carried out a failed search for the
guns along the banks of Agivey River at Hunter’s Mill, near
Aghadowey, Co Derry, it is claimed.

The Ombudsman’s office has received information that the
weapons were moved by a special branch man to protect the
identity of Knight, an alleged double agent.

The loyalist was released from jail in July 2000 under the
terms of the Good Friday Agreement, supposedly having found
God from his cell at the Maze Prison.

It was during this period that payments were allegedly made
to him.

Since then Knight is believed to have left Northern Ireland
and moved to England.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has refused to
comment on the claims.

“Any allegation of wrongdoing on the part of an individual
officer should be reported to the Police Ombudsman so a
proper investigation can be carried out," a spokeswoman

“We never comment on whether someone has been or is an


Finucane Family To Snub New Inquiry Into Killing

THE SON of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has
vowed his family will refuse to participate in a new
British Government inquiry into the killing.

Dublin-based lawyer Michael Finucane branded the inquiry a
sham and warned its outcome would be controlled by
government Ministers.

His comments came as it was confirmed new legislation
introduced to facilitate the inquiry would give the right
for the British Government to determine what evidence and
witnesses could and could not be made available to the

Northern Secretary Peter Hain has said publicly the British
Government would have the powers to restrict the evidence
available to the inquiry or decide that evidence be heard
in camera.

But Mr Finucane said this meant the British government
would retain ultimate control over the proceedings.

He said: “It will be a governmentcontrolled intelligence
services inquiry.

“It could be the only people in the room talking to each
other are the people who created the collusion monster in
the first place.

“We will not participate in such a sham.”

And Mr Finucane’s late father’s legal partner Peter Madden
also criticised the inquiry’s remit.

Mr Madden said the main issue was whether the families
would be given a full independent inquiry into Mr
Finucane’s murder He said: “The position is that is not
going to be the case after meeting with Peter Hain.”

Pat Finucane was murdered by Loyalist gunmen outside his
north Belfast home in 1989.

There has since been compelling evidence of collusion
between the paramilitaries and the security services in the
39-year-old’s death.

Michael Finucane said: “The case has been particularly
controversial because it has reached the stage where
concrete evidence of collusion between British security
services and Loyalists has gone beyond the point of doubt.”

The Finucane family have received support from across the
political spectrum for a full independent inquiry into the


Prime Minister 'Cancels NI Visit'

A planned visit to Northern Ireland next week by Prime
Minister Tony Blair will not go ahead, according to Downing
Street sources.

The sources said after meeting the DUP, UUP and SDLP on
Wednesday, "Mr Blair was developing an idea of the
direction in which the government should go".

It is understood Mr Blair wants to meet Sinn Fein and
reflect on the views of all the parties before making a

The DUP's Ian Paisley said he was "pessimistic" about any
further talks.

"There is no agreement, there is a great gulf fixed, the
prime minister must do something," he said after meeting Mr
Blair at Downing Street.

"He must either say, I am going to keep to my promise and
my promise was that crime would go, terrorism would go and
then we would go forward."


"Now if he doesn't keep to that we have said that as far as
we are concerned there is no use talking."

Speaking after meeting Mr Blair, SDLP leader Mark Durkan
said he believed the prime minister remained focussed on
the political process.

"Certainly he didn't give us a sense that he is on a count
down to his exit, he seemed to be more interested in our
ideas for a countdown to restoration of the institutions,"
he said.

"I think he did show a sense of urgency and a sense of
purpose and certainly he had a lot of sympathy with the
points that we were making, that parties wouldn't get real
until the governments were very clear that we had a real
date with democratic responsibility."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said his party were
broadly in favour of government plans to enable a quick
assembly election in the autumn.

"We welcomed the news that the secretary of state is to get
power to call a snap assembly election if he chooses," he

"This will give an impetus to the process provided that,
again, it is done with maximum transparency and openness in
order to achieve the necessary public confidence."

Assembly elections

It is expected that Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain
will be given powers to call a snap assembly election later
this year.

The move would allow Mr Hain to call a poll as early as the
autumn, rather than wait until the spring of 2007.

It is believed it will be included in new legislation to be
unveiled on Thursday.

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

Mr Hain, in the past, has said he is not interested in
calling an election to another suspended assembly.

The new bill is expected to make new provisions for the
devolution of policing and justice power so that a speedy
transition could be made once the assembly reaches
agreement on the matter.

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internet sites

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/15 18:55:48 GMT


Ex-Policeman Acquitted Of Charge

A judge has condemned the prosecution of an ex-special
branch officer accused of having 25 more bullets than he
was entitled to under his firearms licence.

A jury took just six minutes to acquit retired Detective
Constable Peter Adamson, 50, formerly of Ferndale Avenue,

Mr Adamson said he was picked on after he was cleared of
passing on secret conversations at an earlier trial.

The Crown Court judge said bringing the case to court was a
"waste of money".

During the three day trial in Ballymena, Mr Adamson said
the extra bullets were in a box which he had never opened.

He said he believed he had been picked on because of an
earlier trial when he was cleared of passing on secret
phone conversations involving former Secretary of State Mo
Mowlam to a journalist.


The court was told that the extra bullets were found during
a search of Mr Adamson's house conducted under the Official
Secrets Act which had led to the earlier court case last
year, where he was acquitted of breaching the act after the
Public Prosecution Service offered no evidence.

Mr Justice McLaughlin told the court that even if Mr
Adamson had known he had the extra bullets, the case could
have been dealt with by way of a warning, or a caution by
police or a firearms licensing officer.

Speaking outside the court, defence barrister Laurence
McCrudden QC said that in his many years involved with
courts it was the fastest ever acquittal he had witnessed.

Mr McCrudden said his client had been unaware he had 50
bullets in his possession as opposed to the 25 he was
licensed to have because he had never opened the box of
bullets which was sent from an authorised gun dealer.

The defence said that in order to be convicted of being in
possession of unlicensed bullets Mr Adamson had to know he
had them.

They also said the authorised dealer had made a mistake by
sending out 50 instead of 25.

Mr Adamson said he felt he had been "vindicated" by the
court's decision.

"I believe I was picked on because sensitive material had
been published which had embarrassed senior political
figures," he said.

"For three years we have been under an intolerable strain
which saw us having to leave our family home of 18 years in

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/15 17:57:57 GMT


Adams Will Seek Fundraising Visa

By Ray O'Hanlon

Gerry Adams has applied for fundraising visa as part of his
anticipated St. Patrick's Day visit to the U.S.

The formal application was made Tuesday as the Echo went to

Such a visa would cover the Sinn Féin leader's attendance
at a Friends of Sinn Féin fundraising breakfast at the
Hilton Hotel in Washington on the morning of March 16.
Adams was able to attend the Hilton event last year.

But the likelihood of Adams being granted a fundraising
visa for this year's equivalent would appear to be remote.

Adams stayed away from a major fundraiser for his party in
New York City last fall because a fundraising visa was

He instead spoke to the Manhattan gathering via a satellite

Adams and his party are locked in a standoff with the Bush
administration over Sinn Féin's refusal to participate in
policing as it is currently constituted in the North, or to
issue a statement in support of the PSNI.

Adams and Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, the Bush
administration's envoy to the peace process, have publicly
clashed on policing in recent months.

Friends of Sinn Féin President Larry Downes told the Echo
Tuesday that the "current plan" was to go ahead with the
Hilton event.

The Belfast-published newspaper, Daily Ireland, in breaking
the story on the fundraising application last week, said
that there was no chance of Sinn Féin backing away from its
position on policing

"This means it will be up to the U.S. envoy Mitchell Reiss
to decide whether or not to once more try to face down Mr.
Adams," the paper stated in a front-page report that
presented the impasse as a "showdown" between Reiss and

"Before a meeting with Mr. Reiss last week, Sinn Féin
called on President George W Bush to rein in 'anti-Sinn
Féin' elements within the administration, a reference to
the envoy," the Daily Ireland report added.

However, some observers are of the view that Amb. Reiss is
not the only source in the administration of opposition to
a fundraising visa under current circumstances.

The White House-based National Security Council is being
mentioned in some quarters as a source of significant
opposition to Sinn Féin's position.

Amb. Reiss was attached to the State Department but has
recently returned to academic life. He has, however,
retained his envoy position and is very much the public
face of the administration's policy on Ireland.

Tuesday's visa application and Washington's response will,
it is expected, play a defining role in just how Adams
draws up his U.S. itinerary.

Last year's U.S. visit came on the heels of the Northern
Bank robbery in Belfast, the Robert McCartney murder and
mounting pressure on the IRA to declare its war over and

The IRA did both before the year was out but that was only
after Adams and his party, along with the other North
parties, were shut out of a St. Patrick's Day reception for
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and other Irish visitors.

Sen. Edward Kennedy also refused to meet Adams although the
relationship between Adams and Kennedy stabilized again
following the IRA's subsequent historic moves.

Adams is so far the only member of the Sinn Féin leadership
to indicate his intentions to visit the U.S. for St.
Patrick's Day festivities.

A well-placed Washington source said this week that the
precise form and invitation list for this year's White
House St. Patrick's Day reception had not yet been made
clear by the administration.

This story appeared in the issue of February 15 - 21, 2005

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Raid On Home Of Former Sinn Féin Councillor 'Evidence Of
Political Policing Agenda'

Published: 15 February, 2006

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Willie Clarke has described the
PSNI raid on the home of former Sinn Féin councillor
Francie Braniff in Ballynahinch as both farcical and
further evidence of the political policing agenda.

Mr Clarke said:

"The PSNI raid on the home of Francie Braniff this morning
on the pretence of looking for materials related to the
Northern Bank Robbery was motivated by a political policing
agenda. It was a total farce. The PSNI were there for less
than 15 minutes.

"The targeting of Sinn Féin elected representatives and
political activists is further evidence of the political
policing agenda. Activities such as this validate Sinn
Féin‚s position on policing and prove beyond any doubt the
negative role being played by elements of the RUC old guard
within the PSNI in directing and formulating policy and

"Those securocrats behind this mornings raid on the Braniff
family home are the same people who collapsed the political
institutions, the same people who provide the nonsense
which makes up IMC reports and the same people who have for
decades controlled unionist murder gangs in their campaign
against the nationalist and republican community. The
British government need to bring these dissident elements
to heel.

"From Tony Blair to Peter Hain and Hugh Orde, the SDLP and
the Policing Board these people cannot avoid the reality of
political policing and their responsibility in overseeing
it. Clearly they now have a big job of work in trying to
convince nationalists and republicans that the PSNI is
capable of operating in an accountable, non-politically
partisan and acceptable fashion." ENDS


Taoiseach Caved-In On All-Ireland Forum Plans - Sinn Féin

15/02/2006 - 17:45:10

The Taoiseach has caved in to Opposition pressure and
abandoned plans for an All-Ireland Oireachtas forum
involving Northern Ireland MPs, it was claimed today.

Sinn Féin had called for the North’s 18 Westminster
representatives to be allowed to participate in all-party
debates on specific issues relevant to their

But the party’s Dáil leader Caoimhghin O Caolain today
claimed Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had capitulated on the issue
due to pressure from Fine Gael and Labour to shelve the

“This is a capitulation of the highest order and it
undermines Mr Ahern’s ability to adequately stand up for
the rights of all citizens on the island of Ireland,” he

Mr O Caolain said Mr Ahern now wanted to water down his
proposals to allow MPs to appear at Oireachtas committees
which limited them to the same billing as dozens of lobby

Mr Ahern earlier told the Dáil that several political
parties had difficulties with the original proposals, which
had been recommended by the All-Party Committee on the
Constitution in 2003.

But he denied that he was abandoning plans to allow
Northern Ireland MPs to have a role in Oireachtas debates.

He said: “I’ve listened to what everybody has said and I’ve
taken account of the views of all the parties.

“I accept that several parties have reservations about the
proposal so I’m currently considering those responses and
have an opportunity to come back with a different proposal.

“It’s obvious that the House will not agree to anything
other than Northern parties coming to the committee to make
normal presentations and discuss issues in committee. That
seems to be what the end point is so I will come back with
that suggestion.”

Mr O Caolain told the Dáil the revelation by Mr Ahern
alarmed him.

“I am disquieted, to say the least, that you are now
considering something which is much less than the thrust of
the committee’s recommendation, namely an accommodation
involving existing committees outside the Dáil chamber
which amounts to the same access that any lobby or interest
group can avail of,” he said.

Mr O Caolain said several communities – not just
nationalists and republicans - in Northern Ireland had been
given the false hope that the proposal would become a

“It is absolutely reprehensible that the Taoiseach now
appears to have caved in to the partitionist demands of
Fine Gael and Labour.

“This is an appalling capitulation by the Taoiseach and
raises serious questions about his integrity on this very
important issue.”

But Mr Ahern said he hoped his amended proposals would be
in line with the All-Party Committee report and consistent
with the Good Friday Agreement.

“I’m trying to frame a proposal that sticks with those
principals,” he told the Dáil.

“I’m not abandoning it and I don’t intend to. I have to
take into account the views of the parties. I don’t intend
to abandon it.”

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte had earlier queried the status
of the proposals for Northern Ireland representation in the
Oireachtas "and whether the actual proposals have now been
sidelined or shelved?"

Speaking at a small protest outside the Dáil after the
Taoiseach’s remarks, Mr O’Caolain said the matter will be
raised at the Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis in Dublin this weekend.


Hundreds Sign Up To ILIR In Boston

By Jim Smith

DORCHESTER, Mass. -- The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform
recruited hundreds more grassroots activists last Thursday
night at Florian Hall in Dorchester after a series of
speakers urged them to follow the example of those who
brought about immigration reform nearly two decades ago.

Nearly a thousand people listened to veteran activists
hearken back to the successful struggles of the Irish
Immigration Reform Movement in the late 1980s and the
issuance of the Donnelly and Morrison Visas, which paved
the way for permanent legal status for thousands of Irish
men and women.

Acknowledging that coming out of the shadows these days may
be more daunting than it was 20 years ago because of the
anti-illegal immigration fervor that has swept the country
since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, ILIR vice-chairman
Ciaran Staunton told a receptive audience that keeping a
low profile is not an option.

"The only creatures I know of that continually go around
with their heads down are sheep, and they end up in the
slaughterhouse," he said to laughter and a rousing ovation.

Staunton and ILIR chairman Niall O'Dowd exhorted the crowd
to sign up and leave the hall as political activists, with
an eye on the all-important lobbying day in Washington,
D.C., on March 8.

"This isn't a Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative
issue. Conservatives actually support our position, and
Republicans actually support our position ... You've been
on the back burner long enough ... We're getting on buses,
we're going to Washington, and we're going to plead our
case," Staunton said.

Kelly Fincham, executive director of the ILIR, told the
crowd of old-timers and fledgling activists that
immigration reform runs in cycles, requiring periodic
infusions of experience and youthful enthusiasm.

"It seems like every 20 years the Irish have to battle for
legal acceptance in the U.S. This is the year to win the
battle once and for all," she said.

Referring to the 1965 immigration reform act which largely
restricted Irish immigration to those seeking family
reunification, Fincham told the audience that it would be a
mistake for Irish immigrants to sit idly by while power
brokers in Washington and Dublin formulate new immigration
laws. "This is not the time to stay quiet ... We can't
afford to be left behind again."

At the end of the meeting, representatives of the GAA, AOH,
Irish Cultural Center, and Irish Immigration Center
gathered together to share ideas about mobilizing and
offering support.

Thomas Keown, spokesman for the IIC, said after the rally
that there are about 10,000 undocumented Irish immigrants
in the Boston area, the vast majority of whom have
overstayed tourist or work visas. The ILIR puts the
national number for Irish people living in illegal status
at about 40,000.

Sr. Lena Deevy, executive director of the IIC, said that
the energy and enthusiasm in Florian Hall Thursday night
reminded her of the early days of the IIRM.

"Back then, people working together brought about the kind
of reform that many said was impossible," she said. "The
presence of the GAA, AOH and other groups at the rally
delivered a powerful message to the immigrants of today
that they have reason to be hopeful."

This story appeared in the issue of February 15 - 21, 2005


Sellafield Operators Warned Over Checks On Nuclear Material

15/02/2006 - 14:57:52

The British Nuclear Group, which runs the controversial
Sellafield plant, was today formally warned over the way it
records and reports on radioactive material held at the

The European Commission revealed a number of serious
breaches had occurred in accounting and administration
procedures designed to ensure nuclear material is not
diverted from declared peaceful uses.

Operators of Sellafield have been given four months to sort
the problems.

Ciaran Cuffe, Green Party environment spokesman who
travelled to the plant with an Oireachtas committee two
months ago, said he was not surprised by the findings.

“It’s a slap on the wrist for BNG, and certainly having
been to Sellafield I felt that they should be tightening up
security and I’m not surprised by the Commission’s
statement,” he said.

“I don’t think enough has been done post 9/11.”

The Dun Laoghaire TD said he was considering a second visit
to Sellafield and called on Environment Minister Dick Roche
to go to the plant to see its operations first hand.

Under the Euratom Treaty, the EC inspects nuclear companies
to ensure they have safeguards in place to prevent
radioactive material being diverted from peaceful purposes.

Inspectors insisted today’s warning referred only to the
accounting and reporting standards at Sellafield.

The report added that it had no evidence that nuclear
material was actually lost or diverted from its intended
purpose or that nuclear safety was being compromised.

Inspectors will examine accounting and reporting procedures
at Sellafield in several months time to see if standards
have been met.

Sellafield, around 100 miles from the Irish coast, is one
of the largest nuclear engineering centres in the world,
hosting a large array of installations managed by BNG
(formerly British Nuclear Fuels Limited).

The controversial mixed oxide plant (MOX) recycles
plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, with ships from all over
the world travelling up the Irish Sea to Cumbria.


Government's Back Tracking On Northern Representation

Published: 15 February, 2006

Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has
described as "absolutely reprehensible" the Taoiseach's
decision, announced in the Dáil today, that he would not be
progressing the issue of Northern Representation in the
Dáil as he had previously proposed. During exchanges in the
Dáil Deputy Ó Caoláin said the remarks were alarming.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "I am deeply alarmed by the
Taoiseach's response to the question regarding his proposal
to establish a committee of the whole Dáil to accommodate
the participation of Northern MPs in specific debates with
elected colleagues on this part of the island to address
issues of common concern.

"This is the first indication of the Taoiseach's intent not
to proceed with this proposition. As somebody who had
welcomed his endeavour to meet the recommendations of the
All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in that
regard I am, to say the least, disquieted that he is now
considering not an alternative but something which is much
less than the thrust of the committee's recommendation,
namely an accommodation involving existing committees
outside the Dáil chamber which amounts to the same access
that any lobby or interest group can avail of.

"That falls far short of the reasonable expectation that
has been created within swathes of opinion north of the
border, not confined to nationalism and republicanism but
among many of another tradition and background who also
viewed the proposition positively.

"It is absolutely reprehensible that the Taoiseach appears
to have caved in to the partitionist demands of Fine Gael
and Labour, who despite being signatories to the original
All-Party recommendations, have decided, now the
proposition could become a reality, to actively work
against it. This is an appalling capitulation by the
Taoiseach and raises serious questions about his integrity
on this very important issue." ENDS


Bertie’s Stardust Shame

THE Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been accused of marking
the 25th anniversary of the Stardust tragedy by insulting
the victims and survivors of the fire. In a Dail exchange
with Green Party leader, Trevor Sargent, last week, Mr
Ahern claimed that the emergency response to the 1981
nightclub disaster had been “one of the best ever seen”.

Deputy Sargent had been questioning the Taoiseach on the
“unresolved issues” following the 1982 Stardust inquiry
report. He also called on the Government to double the fire
brigade ambulance numbers and increase the district office
fire prevention posts.

The Taoiseach confirmed that the Stardust Victims'
Committee had forwarded a report prepared on its behalf to
the Garda Commissioner and the Garda forensic science

“I know the Commissioner and the laboratory responded that
the report contained no new evidence,” Mr Ahern told the
Dail. “I can confirm to the House that the Garda concluded
that no new evidence was forthcoming which would warrant it
revisiting the investigation and it was considered that all
the matters raised were adequately addressed at the time.”

However, it was the Taoiseach's reply to Deputy Sargent in
relation to the need for more ambulances in Dublin that has
caused the most outrage.

Mr Ahern stated: “I remember well the night of the Stardust
disaster and the issues surrounding it. As the Deputy
knows, it was not a matter of ambulances. It was one of the
best co-ordinated efforts by the emergency services of this
city and one of the best ever seen.”

These remarks have been described by one of the survivors
of the blaze, Antoinette Keegan, as “wildly inaccurate” and
“insensitive in the extreme”.

Ms Keegan, who lost her two sisters, Mary (19) and Martina
(16), in the nightclub fire, was herself badly injured in
the Stardust. She described the emergency response to the
Artane fire as “a shambles”.

“In my own case I was crammed into the back of an ambulance
with at least 12 other seriously injured people,” she
recalled. “Our ambulance was turned away from four
different hospitals because they couldn't cope with the
numbers of injured. I remember staff at each hospital
frantically waving their arms telling the driver to turn

“We were all screaming with pain and fear in the back. We
were finally accepted by Dr Steeven's Hospital.

“How can the Taoiseach say that the emergency response was
one of the best ever seen if our ambulance driver didn't
even know which hospital was going to accept us? It is an
entirely hurtful and inappropriate comment for him to make,
especially so close to the 25th anniversary of the

The Taoiseach's extraordinary remarks are completely at
odds with Justice Ronan Keane's findings on the emergency
response to the Stardust disaster in his inquiry report.
While the report commended the firemen who had fought the
Stardust blaze for their bravery, it was unrestrained in
its criticisms of the fire services in general.

l According to the tribunal report, the lack of proper
training from senior management down to the firemen,
contributed significantly to the shortcomings in the rescue
operation at the Stardust.

l Although the initial alarm call from the Stardust was
received at 1.43am, the first unit did not arrive until
1.51am. This was described by the tribunal as “unduly

l There was an insufficient number of breathing apparatuses
to go around; some firemen had to simply take huge gulps of
air before they ran inside the burning building. Other
firemen didn't even have protective gloves.

l The firemen were seriously hampered by their lack of
knowledge of the immediate area. They were unable to find
fire hydrants for a period and were unaware of the
existence of a static water tank, which led to an
interruption in the water supply at a crucial stage in the
rescue operation.

l Some of the injured had to be ferried to hospital in
taxis and private cars.

l The tribunal also found that that the Garda Siochana
should have ensured that all officers manning the Central
Control room in Dublin Castle had an adequate working
knowledge of the Major Accident Plan. When an officer in
Garda Control was informed that Phase 1 of this plan was to
be implemented, he famously responded: “What does that mean
in our language?”

These were just some of the shortcomings identified in the
Stardust rescue operation described last week by the
Taoiseach as “one of the best ever seen”.

Trevor Sargent said he was “shocked” at the Taoiseach's
response to his questions.

“I am outraged that a Northside TD such as Mr Ahern could
be so badly informed,” said Deputy Sargent. “He was trying
to paint a picture of efficiency when this was clearly not
the case during the emergency response to the Stardust
disaster. He is simply compounding the hurt felt by the

Labour TD Tommy Broughan agreed that Mr Ahern's remarks had
been “insensitive” and called on him to apologise to the
Stardust families in person.

“Obviously the Taoiseach has not read the Stardust tribunal
report in recent times,” Deputy Broughan said.

The Dublin North East TD has called on Mr Ahern to initiate
a fresh Garda investigation into the cause of the Stardust

“If this initial investigation were to show up new
evidence, it could then pave the way for a commission of
inquiry into the Stardust. This would be the best way for
the Taoiseach to show that he is sorry for his insensitive

The Government Press Office had not responded to our
request for an explanation from the Taoiseach for his
remarks at the time of going to press.


Opin: Building Trust Is The Only Way Forward In The North

It is time that Sinn Féin ended its refusal to take its
place on the new policing board, writes Jim Dougal

There is a crucial period ahead for political movement in
Northern Ireland. Agreement on the operation of law and
order, policing and justice is essential to the restoration
of a devolved power-sharing Assembly at Stormont.

Today, the North's minister for security David Hanson is
due to publish proposals on how justice and policing could
become the responsibility of local ministers in a renewed
devolved governmental dispensation. At the weekend, the
Sinn Féin Ardfheis will also examine this issue.

On April 1st, a new Northern Ireland Policing Board will
take office.

The board, which will comprise 10 members nominated by the
North's political parties and nine independents, is
presently being assembled.

Two of the seats on the board are available to members of
Sinn Féin. Will they take them or will they simply refuse

Will they agree to the positions but not attend meetings to
ensure that the seats are not redistributed to other
parties or to people deemed to be representative of the
nationalist or republican community?

Surely the time for abstentionism has passed?

Unfortunately, the DUP members have said that they will
withdraw if Sinn Féin begins to attend the board.

However, for politicians to abandon public bodies in
Northern Ireland, to which they are committed, means that
later on they have to find a reason, an excuse or a device
to allow them to return.

While the future relationship between the policing board
and any new justice and policing ministry or department
needs to be explained and examined, prospects for the
establishment of an Executive before the end of this year
are remote.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin will have to move a considerable

The DUP has, to its credit, published proposals for low-
level structures, which could progress towards full-blown
devolution when trust has been built.

This is not acceptable to nationalists and republicans, who
remember that Northern Secretary Jim Prior's "rolling
devolution" plan of 1982 ended in tears in 1986. But it has
to be accepted as movement on the part of the DUP.

The governments are examining the kinds of developmental
structures which would be acceptable and there is some
pressure on nationalists to return to an Assembly with the
prospect of full devolution at a later stage.

After the Belfast Agreement, an Assembly was formed in
shadow form. This could be revisited. There should,
however, be no doubt that the one ingredient lacking in
Northern Ireland is trust.

The report of the International Monitoring Commission may
have thrown a spanner in the works, with its contention
that the IRA is engaged in criminal activity and political
intelligence-gathering and has kept some weapons. It will
take at least two more IMC reports giving the IRA a clean
bill of health before unionists will enter serious
negotiations with Sinn Féin.

So, in the shorter term, republicans have a choice to make.

As a party, Sinn Féin makes much of its mandate and the
representation of its people. Holding the police to account
is part of that.

Joining the policing board now does not mean that the party
must end its demands for further change.

But 25 per cent of voters - those who made Sinn Féin the
second-biggest party in Northern Ireland - are not
represented in an organisation whose job is to hold the
PSNI to account and ensure an effective, efficient and
impartial police service.

Members of Sinn Féin could join the body without denying
their principles.

Therefore, their refusal must be tactical and a matter of
timing. But they should take their seats and devise ways of
building trust with other parts of the community.

While restorative justice schemes may have some legitimate
local role, as long as they are not linked to
paramilitaries, there must be some oversight of them. They
are not a substitute for joined-up policing.

By joining the district policing partnerships, representing
local communities in the 26 Northern Ireland council areas,
the board would give republicans an input to day-to-day
policing and enable younger republicans to join the
service. In this they have nothing to lose and everything
to gain.

Northern Ireland must have a police service based in the
community which is conscious of the needs of the community.

The board has so far done a good job in exercising its
responsibilities. Its establishment was an outworking of
the Belfast Agreement, which is cherished by Sinn Féin.
Only by working the available institutions can trust
ultimately be achieved.

This involves bringing your community with you. In Northern
Ireland, it demands proving that terrorism and
paramilitaries are things of the past.

Sinn Féin has moved some distance in this direction.

On the loyalist side, why does it require the husband of
the Irish head of state to talk to the Ulster Defence
Association about scrapping its paramilitary and criminal

That Martin McAleese can stroll into a public place in
Belfast to meet representatives of an organisation feared
by nationalists, and many in the Protestant community,
demonstrates how far we have come in Northern Ireland in
the search for some accommodation between the traditions on
this island.

But how many unionist politicians and Protestant clergymen
are involved in intensive negotiations to end the
activities of loyalist paramilitaries as well?

Jim Dougal is a political journalist and broadcaster,
former Northern editor of RTÉ and former Northern Ireland
political editor of the BBC

© The Irish Times


Sinn Fein Leader To March In Holyoke Parade

HOLYOKE, Mass. The leader of the Irish Republican Army-
linked Sinn (SHIN) Fein (FANE) party is slated to march in
Holyoke's Saint Patrick's Day Parade next month.

Gerry Adams has helped guide his party into Ireland's
political mainstream by negotiating a peace between Britain
and Ireland. He was invited to walk the three-mile parade
route by Springfield Congressman Richard Neal.

The I-R-A announced an end to its armed campaign in
Northern Ireland last year.

An international panel says the group has disposed of its
entire arsenal.

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