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February 12, 2006

File On N Bank Raid Goes To DPP This Week

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News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 02/13/06 Flynn Not Included In Garda File On Bank Raid
EX 02/13/06 Northern Bank Raid: Withdrawal Symptoms
IT 02/13/06 Hundreds Mourn Victims Of Stardust Disco Fire
IT 02/13/06 Families Say Inquiry Should Be Reopened
ST 02/12/06 Stardust Drama Blames Butterly & Fire Brigade
ST 02/12/06 Ban On My Stardust Song A Victory .Says Moore
IT 02/13/06 Signs Of A Growing Gun Culture
SF 02/12/06 Events For 25th Annvrsry Of ‘81 Hunger Strike
SL 02/12/06 Search For Justice
ST 02/12/06 We'll Go Into Power With Labour . . . Ahern
IT 02/13/06 Opin: Scrap The Ridiculous Garda Reserve Idea
SB 02/12/06 Opin: Eamonn Casey Has Nothing To Apologise For
SL 02/12/06 Opin: Handouts 'Goldmine'
RT 02/12/06 Weather Affects Aer Lingus Flights To US
SB 02/12/06 Jeremy Irons Faces Unfair Dismissal Case
IT 02/13/06 Director Of Gate Theatre Receives Honour
IT 02/13/06 A New Direction For The North


Flynn Not Included In Garda File Into Bank Raid Proceeds

Conor Lally

The former chairman of the Bank of Scotland Phil Flynn
will not be included in the Garda file into the alleged
laundering of the proceeds of the Northern Bank raid when
the file is sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions
(DPP) this week, The Irish Times has learned.

Mr Flynn was a director of Chesterton Finance, the company
which found itself at the centre of the Garda investigation
into the discovery in Cork last February of some of the
proceeds of the £26.5 million from the Northern Bank raid.
Last February gardaí seized £2.3 million at a house in
Farran, Co Cork, owned by Ted Cunningham, the principal and
co-director of Chesterton Finance.

The alleged linking of Mr Flynn, confidante of Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern and a former president of Ictu, to IRA money-
laundering caused a sensation when the details emerged 12
months ago. Mr Flynn, a former vice-president of Sinn Féin,
travelled to Bulgaria the previous month with Mr
Cunningham. Mr Flynn said at the time that they had been
there to explore joint-venture business opportunities. He
said he had nothing to hide about his trips to Bulgaria. In
response to media reports in Ireland suggesting some of the
money from the Northern Bank raid was to be laundered in
Bulgaria, the authorities there insisted they had strong
legislation against such activity.

When contacted last night about the file to be sent to the
DPP, Mr Flynn said: "I don't have anything to say, I
couldn't possibly comment on speculation."

Hours after the controversy began on February 17th with a
series of Garda raids, seizures of cash and documents and
arrests, Mr Flynn stood down as chairman of Bank of
Scotland (Ireland), as chairman of the Government committee
on decentralisation and as a director of VHI.

The Irish Times understands that when the file on the IRA
Cork money-laundering operation linked to the Northern Bank
raid is sent to the DPP, it will recommend that money-
laundering prosecutions be pursued against a number of
people in the Munster area. Senior Garda sources said their
investigations into the discovery of the money in Cork, and
smaller amounts in other parts of the Republic, will

© The Irish Times


Withdrawal Symptoms

By Caroline O’Doherty and Noel Baker

CRIME capers don’t come much more sensational than the saga
of the Northern Bank robbery.

Painstakingly plotted and brazenly executed, it netted the
raiders one of the biggest cash hauls in history while the
suspected involvement of the IRA plunged the peace process
back into crisis mode.

Weeks later, however, it seemed the crime gang's grand plan
had come unravelled with almost comic consequences.

A stash of over £2 million (€2.93m) was found in a rural
bungalow overlooked by a grotto to the Virgin Mary and a
man was arrested at a train station in Dublin with a
washing powder box full of money.

Another was discovered allegedly burning wads of notes in a
wheelie bin and yet another although he disputes this
account reportedly walked in unannounced to his local garda
station and plopped a bag of money on the counter.

In another twist it was suggested that plans to buy a bank
in Bulgaria to provide a one-stop money laundering shop had
been foiled by the swoop.

Hailed as a major success for the gardaí and the Police
Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the operation, now
known as Operation Phoenix, was declared a breakthrough in
the Northern Bank robbery probe and proof the authorities
had the IRA racketeers on the run.

A year on, the excitement has died down and the gallop of
events has slowed to a shuffle.

Developments have been more pronounced in the North where,
12 people have been arrested and questioned about the
robbery and four have been charged with having roles in the

Dominic McEvoy, 23, a building contractor from Co Down, was
charged with the robbery, holding a bank employee and his
wife hostage, and possession of a firearm.

Martin McAliskey, 42, a salesman from Co Tyrone, was
charged with providing a vehicle for use in the robbery and
British Telecom worker Peter Kelly, 30, from Co Down was
charged with making and having records containing
information likely to be of use to terrorists.

The fourth man charged with the robbery turned out to be
Northern Bank official Chris Ward. The 24-year-old's family
had been held hostage while he was apparently forced to
assist with the robbery and he had recalled his ordeal in
detail in a BBC television programme.

In the Republic, just one person arrested as part of the
investigation has been charged with anything. Don Bullman,
a 31-year-old chef from Cork, faces trial in March for
membership of an illegal organisation, the IRA.

Bullman was arrested at Heuston Station and it was during
this operation that the washing powder box, containing over
€80,000 worth of sterling notes, was discovered.

The only other person to see the inside of a court room as
a result of Operation Phoenix was Phil Flynn.

Flynn's offices were searched and an antique pen gun found
in a drawer.

A charge of unlawful possession of a firearm was brought
but the judge accepted the item was only of curiosity value
to Flynn and he escaped a criminal conviction.

So what's been happening behind the scenes and when will it
translate into arrests, charges and convictions?

According to the gardaí, a lot of work has been going on.

The operation was put under the lead of Assistant
Commissioner Martin Callinan, who has pulled together the
strengths of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the
Criminal Assets Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal
Investigations, the Special Detective Unit, as well as
local uniform and detective units in many districts around
the country.

A dedicated liaison system is in place to ensure
communication and co-operation between the gardaí and the

Law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions have also
been consulted.

It has been one of the most successfully secretive
investigations in recent times, with a virtual media black-
out in effect that has prevented the usual leaks turning
scraps of information into speculative stories.

Even the fresh series of raids that took place on
businesses, offices and homes in a number of counties in
Leinster in the last week of January remained unpublicised
for some days.

Though they were carried out as part of Operation Phoenix,
it is not clear if they were linked to the Northern Bank
robbery and subsequent money laundering.

That's not the only question that remains unanswered.

Superintendent Kevin Donohoe of the Garda Press Office
confirmed that one file in relation to those offences has
been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions and
that "it is expected that file on the substantive part of
the investigation will be submitted to the DPP within the
next few weeks".

Whether any of these files finger the Mr or Messrs Big in
the whole scam is not at all certain. A massive gap exists
between those ordinary joes in the North suspected of
carrying out the aid and handymen in the South believed to
have provided the money-laundering outlets.

Who was responsible for the planning and co-ordinating of
the heist and subsequent cash dispersal is so far a
mystery. One thing is clear though they needed to have
significant standing and experience in the
criminal/subversive world to have the clout and contacts to
pull off such a scheme.

Sinn Féin have spent the last year feeling aggrieved at the
suspicion that party members or associates in some way fill
that gap, or at least have knowledge of who does.

Sinn Féin MPs in Westminster only last week had their
allowances restored after they were withdrawn as a sanction
for alleged party involvement in the raid.

Louth TD Arthur Morgan claims the robbery has been used for
political motivations by those opposed to the peace process
and opposed to Sinn Féin.

"Last February we had a number of people rush to judgement.
Twelve months on there is not one iota of any evidence
being produced so far to support those judgments," he said.

He said he wanted those responsible for the raid and
subsequent laundering attempts brought to justice but
questioned the pace of progress in the investigation.

"It seems to be taking an inordinately long time. I just
want those involved to get on with the job."

That may be easier said than done. Sources have said that
the prosecutions sought by gardai rely on evidence that is
notoriously difficult to procure and prove, and every bank
note seized during Operation Phoenix has been subjected to
tests and retests to try to determine beyond doubt that it
came from the Northern Bank raid.

The fact that little of the haul was recovered is of
concern to Fine Gael justice spokesman Jim O'Keeffe. It was
weeks after the raid before the Northern Bank began
withdrawing notes in circulation and reissuing a new design
of notes in a bid to render the remaining stolen money

Said O'Keefe: "The vast bulk of money is unaccounted for. I
would want the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Assets
Recovery Agency (the Northern version of CAB) to ensure
that money is not and can not be laundered. Essentially I
want to see early results in this investigation."

Labour justice spokesman Joe Costello is also concerned at
the lack of visible progress and dearth of information
relating to the investigation.

"What happens too often in these cases is that there is a
big hullabaloo and then everything dies down and nobody
knows what the true story is. Considering the political
implications, it would be very useful if a public statement
was made.

"The Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable in the
North had a joint meeting and press conference this time
last year to outline what was going on. It would be no harm
if they had another meeting and informed the public as to
what is happening."


Hundreds Mourn Victims Of 1981 Stardust Disco Fire

Olivia Kelly

The Stardust disaster, in which 48 young people lost
their lives 25 years ago today, "should never have
happened", Fr Kevin Moore told his congregation at St
Joseph's Church, Coolock.

Hundreds gathered in the small parish church yesterday to
mourn those who died in the fire that engulfed the Stardust
disco on St Valentine's eve, 1981.

The fire, with the deaths of people who were mostly in
their teens and early 20s, and the injury and maiming of
more than 100 others was still "awful and frightening" to
contemplate today, Fr Moore said.

"Awful because of the loss of so many young lives . . .
frightening because it happened."

The anniversary Mass brought the families and communities
who had suffered such tragedy together to remember those
who had died. "There can't be anybody in this country, and
indeed in other countries, who was alive in 1981 who will
every forget the tragedy of the Stardust fire," he said.

Most of those who died came from the largely working-class
areas of Coolock, Bonnybrook, Artane and Donnycarney on
Dublin's northside. There was not a family in the area that
was not affected by the disaster, Fr Moore said. Some
people had lost neighbours and friends, others had
sustained appalling injuries, but other families had been
"torn apart" by the deaths of one, two and in one case
three children.

"The collective loss and injury is of a scale so deep as to
be beyond the imagination."

For those who were injured, the scars and pain and
consequences of their injuries, lived with them as a
"lifelong burden" and many suffered ongoing nightmares from
the trauma which would never leave them.

For the parents and friends who were not at the disco and
who faced the searches of hospitals and the anxious wait
for news after the fire - "the dread felt on that night
will always be etched on their hearts", he said.

Fr Moore asked the congregation to also remember the
emergency services, fire brigade, the ambulance personnel,
the gardaí, the doctors and nurses, who were faced with
such an "overwhelming task" that night.

"This was a terrible, awful and frightening tragedy. It
should never have happened."

The memorial Mass was a time to remember the space that had
been occupied by those who were lost, to remember all that
their parents would have wished for them, that they were
unique and special treasures who meant more than words
could describe to those who loved them.

Fr Moore said he was conscious of the sadness, sorrow and
pain that was still felt by so many, but he said he hoped
that the celebration of the Mass would be a support and
help to them at this difficult time.

"We believe that the victims of the Stardust tragedy we
remember today will continue to live with God in heaven."

Fr Moore asked for a special prayer for Bridie Coyne, who
died from a heart attack on the morning after the fire on
being told her children had perished. They were
subsequently found to have survived the event.

© The Irish Times


Families Say Inquiry Should Be Reopened

Olivia Kelly

The investigation into the Stardust fire must be reopened,
victims' families and survivors of the disaster said

The families of the 48 young people who died and those who
had survived, some with disfiguring injuries, had received
"no justice" in the 25 years since the fire, said Christine
Keegan, whose daughters Martina and Mary were killed in the

"We are still looking for justice and we are going to get
it," she said.

Mrs Keegan said she would wait for the Minister for Justice
Michael McDowell to come back to the families with the
results of forensic tests, but if a inquiry was not opened
on that basis, the families were willing to go to the
European Court of Justice.

"If we have to go to the European courts, if that far to
get the justice we've been denied for 25 years, we will."

Mrs Keegan was speaking following the Stardust Memorial
Mass and wreath-laying ceremony where 48 candles were lit
and 48 white pigeons released to represent the lives lost.

Survivors of the tragedy said they had felt let down by the
original inquiry chaired by Mr Justice Ronan Keane in
November 1981.

"It is only the older you get that you realise how young
and how innocent we were.

"We were very exposed and we were used and afterwards we
were told to go home and just forget about it," Sharon
O'Hanlon said.

Survivors, then mostly in their teens, felt their evidence
to the inquiry was used only to secure compensation for the
Stardust owner Eamon Butterly, one survivor, Catherine
Darling, said.

"We sat there and we were made to go through the
reconstruction and sit through that and made to feel it was
our fault, nobody asked us how we were."

The cause of the fire was never identified, she said, and
for this reason alone a new inquiry needed to be opened.

"Things were covered up, I believe. I would like to see the
investigation reopened because we have never known the
cause of the fire.

"Families ... everyone around this area lost someone,
surely they deserve some closure in their lives," she

Reports that Mr Butterly had apologised to the victims
"meant nothing", survivor Susan Byrne said.

"I don't know anyone he has apologised to, I wouldn't
believe it anyway."

© The Irish Times


Review: 'Stardust' Drama Blames Butterly And Fire Brigade

Gavin Corbett

LORD knows what it was like for the victims' families
sitting through the preview screening of Stardust. I have
no connection to the disaster, and I found the film
enervatingly harrowing to watch. Yet undoubtedly the right
decision was made in showing the events of the tragedy in
such a manner.

With the greatest respect to the families, the only way to
have made this programme was with an uncompromising
presentation of the damning facts of the fire and a vivid
depiction of the catastrophic consequences that they led

The horror begins with the waiting. We see some teenagers
prepare for their night at the disco, watch them fret over
who got a Valentine's card from who, or talk about who
might be lucky enough to hit it off with a certain boy or

From the ironic perspective of the viewer, the banality and
innocence of this section seems pitiful.

And when the tragedy is recreated, it is terrifying. It
begins, about halfway through episode one, with the smoke
creeping into the dance area, then the flames licking
across the ceiling.

Towards the end of the episode, we witness numb parents
waiting in the city morgue, observe awful knowledge
breaking on their faces.

In between, the most desperate image is of blackened
figures trying to squeeze through a gap between padlocked

None of this seems gratuitous or sensational. It never
feels like entertainment. The production is very sober,
exemplified by the absence of camera trickery and musical

Although the tone is not strident, naturally the film is
polemical; there would have been no reason to make it if it
did not have a cause to champion.

Stardust makes it clear those who were culpable in causing
the deaths of so many people: the fire prevention
department of Dublin Fire Brigade, and, most damningly of
all, Eamonn Butterly, the club's owner, who, the tribunal
of inquiry admitted, was "guilty of a recklessly dangerous
practice" in chaining the fire exits.

The film also identifies those who failed to serve justice
to survivors and victims' families: the tribunal itself,
and the government and its qualified victim compensation

Episode two, to be aired tomorrow night, is effective in
showing how an unbidden, disastrous event can come to
utterly dominate so many lives. It depicts ordinary
families having to quickly grapple with the complexities
and added traumas of the legal system, and the sensation of
futility that such people have when faced with the
pomposity of the law and the unfairness of a system which
privileges the wealthy.

The film reminded me a lot of other docudramas based on
real tragedies, such as the ones about the Hillsborough
disaster and Bloody Sunday of recent years. I remember the
feeling of rage the Hillsborough programme incited in me
towards the South Yorkshire police.

I felt the same about Eamonn Butterly after Stardust. I'm
not sure if it was right that I felt that way . . .
Butterly was never even accused of manslaughter . . . but
that's the way I felt all the same.

Stardust brought me from pathos to terror to anger and back
to pathos again. I felt I was in the hands of gifted and
responsible filmmakers.


Ban On My Stardust Song A Victory . . .Says Moore

Fiona Looney

MORE than 20 years after the High Court banned his song
about the Stardust tragedy, Christy Moore has claimed that
the judgement was a victory for the relatives of the people
who died in the fire.

"I think that it probably was a good thing from the point
of view of what went on at the time, " he told the Sunday
Tribune. "I think it did re-focus, in some oblique way, on
the injustice that the families faced."

Recordings of Moore's song, 'They Never Came Home', were
ordered to be withdrawn in August 1985. "I came away with
very little regard for the process, " he says. "Children
were dead, families were torn apart and nobody was giving
them answers. You'd have imagined that these people would
have had better things to concern themselves with."


Signs Of A Growing Gun Culture

Firearms are increasingly being used to settle even minor
disputes, writes Conor Lally.

Within hours of the shooting dead of Dara McCormack in
Blanchardstown, Dublin, on Saturday night, gardaí
established he had been murdered because he owed a small
sum of money to drug dealers known to him.

The murder of somebody over an unpaid debt as low as
several hundred euro is not unprecedented. If those
involved in the drugs trade cede ground over such debts
they lose face and their position within the underworld is

But when examined against the background of similar murders
and violent incidents, where the stakes have been very
small, there is little doubt that a gun culture has emerged
in the Republic. Gone are the days when the victims of
high-profile shootings were well known to both the media
and gardaí.

The proliferation of gun crime in many Dublin communities
has accelerated to such an extent that those doing the
shooting and those being shot have often never registered
on the Garda's radar in any significant way.

Some officers in west Dublin with deep knowledge of the
gang scene had not even heard of the latest victim before
he was shot on Saturday. This marks a seamless continuation
of the state of play at the end of last year.

Of the 18 people shot dead last year in gangland-style
attacks, two were not criminals. A further seven of last
year's victims were involved in petty crime or on the
periphery of the drugs trade. They were killed after minor
disputes with armed criminals or because it was feared they
were low-level informers.

One of the two pipe bombs which exploded in Dublin last
week was linked to a personal dispute between families.

The sheer availability of weapons is evidenced by the
frequency with which they are being used. The possession of
firearms increased by 16 per cent last year, to 424 cases.
Discharging of firearms increased by 7 per cent, to 313

When announcing the 2005 crime figures last month, Minister
for Justice Michael McDowell conceded 2005 had been a "bad
year" in the fight against gangland crime. However, it
would be wrong to say that gardaí were not enjoying some
success against armed gangs. The killers of Dara McCormack
have already been identified and, although the
investigation is at a very early stage, prosecutions look

Gardaí in Limerick have managed to quell the city's gangs
to a great extent in the last two years. In Dublin,
Operation Anvil, which is targeting armed gangs, has
yielded results. There have been 17 arrests for murder and
almost 2,000 arrests in total under Operation Anvil in the
last eight months. The total number of firearms seized is
347, and property to the value of more than €5.5 million
has been recovered. Despite this, the rise in gun crime is
a real worry.

In 1922 the then Garda commissioner Michael Staines said:
"The Civic Guard will succeed not by force of arms, or
numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the
people." If last year's trends on gun crime continue, those
words on the unarmed status of the Garda will look
increasingly aspirational.

© The Irish Times


Republicans To Launch Programme Of Events To Commemorate
25th Anniversary Of 1981 Hunger Strike

Published: 12 February, 2006

Tomorrow, Monday 13th, at 11am in the Edinburgh Suite in
the Europa Hotel in Belfast , Sinn Féin President Gerry
Adams will be joined by other Sinn Fein leaders along with
former Hunger Strikers from Long Kesh, Armagh and English
Jails to launch the programme of events to commemorate the
25th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike when 10
republican PoWs lost their lives.

A exhibition will be on display and the media are invited
to attend.


Search For Justice

Stephanie Bell
12 February 2006

Determined Ulster families are launching their own
"manhunts" - in a desperate bid to catch their loved ones'

Grieving relatives are using the internet to run their own
investigations, in tandem with official police probes.

One of the first families to take the initiative of going
online was that of UVF murder victim Craig McCausland.

Since then, other frantic relatives have followed,
including the family of murdered Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian.

The parents of murdered Belfast schoolboy Thomas Devlin are
also working on the launch of a website, which they hope
will encourage new witnesses to come forward.

Craig McCausland's heartbroken cousin, Nichola McIlvenny
decided to take action to help catch her nephew's killers
with the launch last August of the website

Since then she has been overwhelmed by the interest, with
more than 195,000 people visiting the site.

But crucially for Nichola, her appeal for evidence has led
to a number of new witnesses coming forward.

She said: "My main reason for setting up the website is
because I realised that there would be certain people,
because of the areas they live in, who would feel reluctant
to talk to the PSNI.

"The internet offered them a chance to do it anonymously
and while there has been no major breakthrough, I have been
given new bits of information we would otherwise not have

Nichola has also been comforted and encouraged during these
difficult days by the messages of support posted on the

"Some of the messages have been really heartfelt, quite
beautiful in fact," she said.

"It helps to know that people care and the site has also
helped ensure people don't forget Craig, or what happened
to him."

The family of Lisa Dorrian have campaigned relentlessly for
information, since the young woman vanished from a caravan
park where she was partying with friends in Ballyhalbert
last February.

Since the launch of the site - - last
month, a staggering 10m people worldwide have logged on.

In addition to countless messages of support, the family
have been given information about the murder suspects and
the possible location of Lisa's body.

Fresh searches have been carried out as a result of the

Lisa's sister Joanne said: "The support has been

"We had difficulty getting Lisa's case heard across the
water in England and this has allowed us to bring it to
people all over the world.

"We are just waiting on that one hit that tells us where
Lisa's body is. That's all we want.

"We hope that with her first anniversary coming up,
somebody will search their conscience and tell us where she

The police meanwhile said it would encourage people to come
direct to their officers.

A spokesperson said: "We would urge anyone with information
that could assist a police inquiry to bring it to the
attention of the investigating team or phone the
confidential police line on 0800 555111."


We'll Go Into Power With Labour . . . Ahern

Kevin Rafter

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has gone over the head of Pat
Rabbitte and appealed to the trade union movement to keep
open the option of a Fianna Fail-Labour government after
the next general election.

With all the main parties finalising their plans for the
contest in just over a year's time, Ahern has chosen to
stress his links with the trade unions in a direct
challenge to Rabbitte's decision to rule out any post-
election deal with Fianna Fail.

"Sure Pat doesn't believe it himself, " the Taoiseach says
in an exclusive interview in today's Sunday Tribune. "They
know trade unionists vote for us. If it falls that way, Pat
Rabbitte will listen to his trade union membership."

The strident tone of Ahern's remarks about the Fine Gael-
Labour alternative clearly signals that the next election
will be more politically charged than recent contests. In a
scathing attack on the main opposition parties, Ahern
claimed the alternative lacked coherent policies.

This message is set to become a Fianna Fail theme in the
months ahead, as is the Taoiseach's warning that Ireland's
economic success would be threatened by a return to power
of parties who when "they had the chance at running the
economy showed gross incompetence".

"I don't see coherence any day on issues from the
opposition, " said the Taoiseach.

"Look at this week . . . Pat Rabbitte was going ga-ga over
the Great Southern Hotels while Fianna Fail was issuing a
statement welcoming the sale. We haven't seen one
substantial document yet that's jointly theirs and jointly
costed. They have one policy, to replace the current

With Fine Gael and Labour about to publish a joint-position
paper on waste in public spending, Ahern claimed their
decision to focus on expenditure over-runs was copied from
advisers to the British Conservative party.

He said the current government would "vociferously fight"
its record on spending, despite opposition claims of waste
and mismanagement.

"It's easy to sit back on the sidelines and say, 'Oh
there's a cheaper way'."

In today's interview, the Taoiseach also accuses Enda Kenny
and Pat Rabbitte of being irresponsible in their comments
on immigration.

He questioned recent opposition claims that lower-paid
migrant workers were taking jobs from Irish employees.

Research for all the main parties is showing that
immigration has emerged as a real voter concern alongside
traditional areas such as health, transport and childcare.
"It's an issue because a high proportion of the people in
this country now are non-Irish.

We've come from figures where immigration was little or
nothing, and now it's quite a fear. So how that is handled
into the future is hugely important, " Ahern said.

The Taoiseach again firmly ruled out sharing power with
Sinn Fein, and said a continuation of the current coalition
with the Progressive Democrats was his favoured option. But
if it failed to get a working majority in the Dail he would
look at the possibility of a coalition with Labour,
irrespective of the anti-Fianna Fail stance being pursued
by that party's current leader.


Opin: Scrap The Ridiculous Garda Reserve Idea

The proposed Garda Reserve is a mad scheme, and someone
must shout "stop", writes Joe Dirwan.

I have described the proposal to form a Garda Reserve as a
"mad hatter" scheme because I sincerely believe that is
what it is.

How else could you describe the proposal to hand full
police powers to unprofessional, virtually untrained,
unpaid volunteers?

And yet that is what Minister for Justice, Equality and Law
Reform Michael McDowell has paved the way for in the Garda
Síochána Act, 2005.

He has done so in the total absence of any public demand or
debate and, in spite of some publicity in December and
January, there still has been no substantive public debate
on this issue.

While the Minister has attempted to fudge the issue, and
attempted to point the finger at the Garda Commissioner in
relation to the proposal on full police powers, the Act -
originated, driven and brought through the Dáil by the
Minister - clearly opens the way for part-time volunteers
to be able to arrest their neighbours and, unless some
clear thinking penetrates this mad idea and shouts "stop",
that is exactly what is likely to happen.

In making his case the Minister has referred to the alleged
success of reserves and special constables in other
jurisdictions, and he has emphasised the need to reconnect
with communities that have been starved of a Garda
presence. I will return to the latter argument later.

The Minister appears to be harking back to an earlier era
when volunteer workers were the backbone of communities, to
a time when neighbour assisted neighbour in bringing in the
hay, ploughing the fields and doing other essential tasks
in farm, home and community.

In line with this way of life the first policemen were
volunteers - watchmen - who went abroad in the cities of
Britain, raising a hue and cry when wrongdoing was detected
and bringing out their neighbours to assist in the chase
and possible capture. It was the very rag, tag and bobtail
effect of this type of unsatisfactory policing, and the
growing public unrest at their lawless society, that led
Sir Robert Peel to establish the first trained, paid and
professional police force in the early 1800s.

Perhaps while McDowell is contemplating the de-
professionalising and demoralisation of the police and
returning to an earlier, cheaper, age of volunteer
watchmen, he could persuade his party colleague, Tánaiste
and Minister for Health Mary Harney, to return to the time
when surgeons were also barbers and carried out their
amputations on a part-time, possibly volunteer basis? Of
course, and quite rightly, the surgeons gradually
established their rights to professional status and
eventually the Company of Barber-Surgeons split and the
College of Surgeons was formed.

Similarly the legal profession, to which McDowell himself
belongs, grew out of clergymen who were attached to royalty
and who found themselves obliged to plead their masters'
cases in courts. No doubt many were unpaid originally, but,
boy, how things have changed to today's highly organised
and hugely expensive profession. Why does McDowell not try
to introduce voluntary lawyers and save the State billions?

Surgeons and lawyers in Ireland are not likely to return to
their unprofessional origins. Why therefore does the
Minister expect police people to do so?

In Britain they still retain an element of the old
volunteer system in their special constables. They also
have Community Service Officers (CSOs) and a range of other
part-timers. The numbers in the former are in steady
decline overall and many British forces have been compelled
to introduce payments to try to retain the numbers.

Most professional police officers at best dislike the
latter and they have been the subject of some extremely
unflattering press publicity, in spite of the fact that
they are paid up to £19,000 per year.

Another reason why Britain continues to need "specials" is
the fact that the police have found it extremely difficult
to recruit full-time officers, in spite of having very low
educational requirements - unlike the Garda Síochána. Most
recruitment campaigns for the Garda are vastly over-
subscribed and the force is in the excellent position of
being able to select the best.

Going back to the Minister's point about the withdrawal of
gardaí from the communities and his statement that the
reserve would be the "eyes and ears" of the gardaí in those
communities. It is not the fault of the gardaí that they
have been pulled out, but the continuing failure of the
Government to properly resource the force. Garda management
has moved to bring most of the force into the bigger towns
and cities - in spite of the objections of my association -
to mount what is in fact a fire brigade service as they
struggle to cope with the myriad of police tasks in Celtic
Tiger Ireland. To replace those gardaí in the smaller towns
by volunteers who will be their "eyes and ears" - is that
really the way we want to go, having neighbour spying on

To assist them in their policy of centralising gardaí, the
Government established the Strategic Management Initiative
that hired consultant firm Deloitte and Touche (of PPARS
fame), which came up with proposals to limit the opening
hours of some stations and move gardaí away from their
communities into their district headquarters.

It has already started to happen with the sale of Harcourt
Terrace Garda station in one of the busiest areas of
Dublin. Other communities would be well advised to keep a
watchful eye on their local Garda station.

My association has told the Minister to scrap his
ridiculous Garda Reserve idea. We have told him to resource
the existing force properly and to ensure that members of
An Garda Síochána, who fill the role of community officers,
have a valued place in our police service.

Joe Dirwan is president, Association of Garda Sergeants and

© The Irish Times


Opin: Eamonn Casey Has Nothing To Apologise For

12 February 2006 By Vincent Browne

What was the logic behind this demand that Eamonn Casey,
the former Bishop of Galway, apologise for the hurt he
caused before he settled back here in Ireland? He
previously apologised profusely, at least once. He did so
in a series of interviews with Veronica Guerin - and my
recollection is that he did so on a few other occasions as

Casey behaved badly towards his former partner, Annie
Murphy, and towards their son, Peter. His conduct also
caused hurt to some members of the Catholic Church in
Galway and elsewhere, although this was almost certainly
wildly exaggerated.

But whatever his faults and misdeeds, they were trivial
when compared with the misdeeds of most of us - and
certainly trivial when compared with the misdeeds of his
fellow bishops and the religious orders, who were so
indignant over the revelations concerning him when he fled
the country in 1992.

First, the bishops. We now know that many of them had
covered up grievous criminality for years. The damning
proof of this is that they took out insurance on behalf of
their dioceses in case they were sued for sexual abuse of
children by their clerics between 1987 and 1991.

Since then, they have protested that they were unaware of
the issue of clerical child abuse until some time around
1995,and had no idea until then that there was even such a
thing as clerical child abuse.

So they were insuring their dioceses against a hazard
which, according to themselves, they knew nothing about.

I don’t recall the bishops who took out insurance between
1987 and 1991 - and who subsequently failed to take action
against clerical child abusers - ever apologising
individually for the harm they allowed to be caused. And I
don’t recall any of them personally apologising for not
going to the Gardai with evidence of grave criminality.

What they did, or rather didn’t do, was far worse than
anything Casey did. Yet he is hounded into apologising once
again for actions that caused no harm to anybody, other
than his former partner and son.

Desmond Connell, the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin up to a
few years ago, was fully aware that a priest in his
diocese, Fr Ivan Payne, had abused a boy. He knew because
he allowed diocesan funds to be used to compensate the boy
and get him to shut up about his abuse.

Connell failed to go to the Gardai with the information he
had of Payne’s criminality.

By the way, Payne was subsequently convicted of child abuse
and served a term of imprisonment, and it is not my
intention to reopen matters concerning him personally.

Connell also went on national radio and said erroneously
that diocesan funds had not been used to pay off any abused
victim. He was not interviewed by Gardai for the crime of
misprision of felony (ie concealing a crime), which was
then an offence.

But the religious orders take the biscuit - and the apple
tart, and the currant cake.

In June 2002, they did a deal with Michael Woods, the
outgoing Minister for Education, which indemnified them
against compensation claims for the abuse of children in
their care, on the payment of - supposedly - €128 million.

While the state was grievously negligent in the negotiation
of that deal, there is evidence that the religious orders
were disingenuous.

The state had made it clear all along that it was
proceeding on the understanding that the religious orders
would pay half the estimated compensation of abused
victims. By the time of the deal, there was an acceptance
that the cost of compensation would be in the order of €300
million. The religious orders refused to come up with half
of that - €150million.

Although the figure in the public mind is that they agreed
to pay €128 million, this was a lie in which the state
shamefully colluded.

The religious orders did not come up with €128 million.

They gave €41.14 million in cash and €36.54 million in
property to be transferred. That comes to €77.68 million.
Both sides decided to dress this up to mislead the public -
what other possibly motivation could there have been? They
included property supposedly worth €40.32 million and the
laughable provision of €10 million for ‘‘counselling’’,
part of which had already been provided.

The involvement in this was itself dishonourable. But it
gets worse.

The religious orders had no legal entitlement to transfer
the property in question. The properties were held, in the
main, in legal trusts, established for charitable purposes
such as the promotion of religion, the education of
children or the care of sick people.

These trusts were not established to compensate sex abuse
victims of members of these religious orders.

The assets of a trust can be used only for the purposes of
the trust or, where such purposes are exhausted, for
kindred purposes. All this raises obvious legal questions
about the transfer of this €36.54 million worth of

Nobody will talk about this because they all know now that
its legality is highly questionable.

Nevertheless, some property has been transferred to the
state, presumably on the condition that the state uses the
property for purposes similar to the purposes of the trusts

Even if this is legal, it means that the value of such
property is far less than the market value and, we are led
to believe, it is the market value that was used in this
transaction. That, again, is entirely bogus.

The likely contribution of the religious orders to the
compensation is probably more like €60 million, and we now
know that the total cost of the scheme is going to be of
the order of €1.35 billion. The religious orders will have
paid, not 50 per cent of the compensation, but more likely
something in the region of 5 per cent.

I am sure they are proud of themselves. All the more so
since some of the religious orders would have known when
the deal was done that the scale of abuse - and therefore
the scale of the compensation - was likely to be a multiple
of what was then being discussed.

For instance, the Christian Brothers knew that members of
its organisation had abused children in one school; and had
then been moved on to another school where they abused
other children; and then to another school; and yet another
school. Only they had specific knowledge of the
opportunities these brothers had to abuse, or an idea of
the scale of the abuse they inflicted.

It has also emerged that there were copious files at the
Christian Brothers’ offices in Rome that related to abuse.

Strangely, nobody knew of these files until two years ago.

This has all come out recently at the Child Abuse

When one thinks of the scale of abuse that members of
religious orders and other clergy inflicted on children for
so long, the scale of the cover-up of those abuses, and now
the scandalous deal done by the religious orders with the
state on the compensation issue, you wonder, what on earth
does Eamonn Casey have to apologise for?

Compared with so many in the Irish Catholic clergy, he is a
veritable saint.


Opin: Handouts 'Goldmine'

Lynda Gilby, straight talking
12 February 2006

Look on the map. Northern Ireland is the size of an English
county and contains less than half the population of
Birmingham. Over 35 years of internecine warfare, more than
three-and-a-half thousand people have been killed - a
violent death rate that many American inner-city jungles
would reckon to be quite moderate.

Our war may be squalid, hateful and nasty but it is a very
little war, and it has attracted world wide attention on a
scale quite disproportionate to its size or importance in
the international scheme of things.

It's not as if, for example, our war could have a
disastrous domino effect on countries surrounding us,
unlike the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Northern Ireland is a tiny, fly-blown spec on the asshole
of Europe but it is, almost literally, worth its weight in

Let's take the £163m spent on the Saville Inquiry. Let's
take the £9m paid, so far, to lawyers involved in the Pat
Finucane case. Add to this the money spent on all the other
various official inquires and tribunals held in this
province from Widgery onwards.

Then take the cost of security measures from the moment
British troops came in 1969.

Add this sum to the profligate millions spent by various
quangos trying to attract industry to the province, gaily
handing out enormous grants and tax advantages to firms who
set up here, only to fold, take the money and run a couple
of years down the line.

Then calculate how much it has cost us to fund the various
attempts at devolution over the past three decades.

Most recently, we have all been shocked by how much we are
paying to keep an Assembly and its members ticking over to
do sweet FA.

And what about the billions of European money that has
poured like honey into the province in an attempt to help
disadvantaged communities to prosper, and to stop tearing
the tripe out of each other?

My powers of accountancy are precisely zilch. I need all my
fingers to calculate the coal bill.

But even someone as enumerate as I can see that if you took
all these billions and distributed them evenly among every
man, woman and child in Northern Ireland, none of us would
ever have to work again.

We would all be jetting off to our holiday homes in Antigua
several times a year and, more over, I guarantee you that
civil strife would be a thing of the past in Northern

The sickest joke of all is that a mere £20m in compensation
has been paid to victims of terrorist violence in Northern
Ireland - which doesn't even constitute a drop in the vast

Placards at the ready

I'm just warning you now. Later this month, the play,
Trainspotting, opens at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

Anyone who has seen or knows of the film of the same name
knows that there are scenes of nudity and bad language.

The play is not only shocking but funny, and explores the
darker corners of Edinburgh's drug-fuelled low-life.

The "C word" is used no fewer than 147 times if anybody's

So, if you are thinking of buying a ticket, be prepared to
get two shows for the price of one.

Doubtless numerous squads of protesters are, even as we
speak, constructing placards and practising their hymn-

An inside job for jailbirds

Home Secretary, Charles Clarke is busy floating his latest
idea to cure over-crowding in prisons to see how it will
sit with the electorate, namely you and me.

Instead of prison, many convicted criminals will be set to
work building the Olympic site in London or renovating

Well I can tell you how this sits with me. I know how
difficult it is to get good, reliable tradesmen to renovate
one's house, even if you pay them a fortune.

So, who are the most likely candidates to benefit from
Clarke's criminal renovation services?

Why, the poor, the elderly and the disabled.

All of whom, quite frankly, already have enough to contend

End the cashflow

I do hope that one tabloid headline, last week, which
claimed an exclusive story is absolutely correct. If so, it
seems that later this month, the Prime Minister will inform
our politicians that unless they sort out the business of
devolution, pronto, their MLAs salaries will be withdrawn
and they will be out of a job.

Well, they are out of a job already, of course, the
difference being that at the moment, they are being paid
for not doing it, and it has cost us £55m since 2002 to pay
them and to keep Stormont in mothballs.

Even when they were "in the job", they were not actually
doing it. At a time when everybody knew that the Assembly
was heading for a fall (Stormontgate merely made it happen
sooner) this elected, legislative body was not legislating,
MLAs deigning to grace the chamber with their presence only
one day a week.

You would think, with the writing so clearly on the wall,
they would have indulged in all-night sittings to rush
through as much legislation as they possibly could before
the whole thing went belly-up.

High time for a reality check, boys.


Weather Affects Aer Lingus Flights To US

12 February 2006 20:49

Aer Lingus has said three of its flights to the US were
delayed today due to adverse weather conditions on the east
coast of the country.

Two flights to New York and Boston were delayed by up to
five hours out of Dublin and a knock-on effect is expected
on inbound flights tomorrow morning, which are expected to
be delayed by two hours.

A flight from Shannon to New York was delayed by two hours
but that return flight is expected to arrive on time.


Boston's Logan Airport, Newark Airport in New Jersey and La
Guardia Airport in New York were closed for a time today
due to the heavy snowfalls.

More than 100,000 people from Virginia to Connecticut were
without electricity, power companies said, as up to 18
inches of snow coated the region.


Jeremy Irons Faces Unfair Dismissal Case

12 February 2006 By Ian Kehoe

Actor Jeremy Irons is facing legal proceedings from a
former worker on his Co Cork estate.

Tiernan Roe, who worked on the multimillion euro
restoration of Irons’ Kilcoe Castle, has lodged documents
with the Employment Appeals Tribunal in Cork. The case is
due to be heard at the Quality Hotel in Clonakilty tomorrow

It is understood that Roe stopped working at Kilcoe Castle
a number of months ago in acrimonious circumstances and he
lodged his claim for unfair dismissal shortly after. Roe is
suing Irons in a personal capacity.

Irons and his wife, actor Sinead Cusack, paid €2 million
for Kilcoe Castle near Ballydehob in west Cork in the late

They have spent millions restoring the 15th century castle,
but upset locals when they painted the castle a shade of
terracotta peach.

Irons insisted the colour was in keeping with the castle’s
history, while locals said it was an eyesore. In 2003,
Irons told a national newspaper that he returned from a
work sabbatical earlier than planned to help cover the cost
of the restoration.

‘‘Renovating a castle is worse than directing a movie,” he
said. ‘‘Your life becomes consumed by this project. I took
two years off for the refurbishing.

“Finally, I went back to work because I couldn’t afford not
to – I’ve 40 people working on it.”


Director Of Gate Theatre Receives Honour

Patsy McGarry

A Special Tribute Award was presented to Gate Theatre
director Michael Colgan at last night's Irish Times theatre

It follows the Gate's extraordinary success over recent
years with productions of plays by Harold Pinter, the
Samuel Beckett canon and a current production of Faith
Healer which sold out its complete run before its opening

The Judges Special Award presented in Dublin last night
went to the Druid Theatre company for their "compelling
presentation of the complete stage works of J M Synge".

The production, premiered in Galway on July 16th last
during the Galway Arts Festival, was the first time that
the six Synge works have been performed back to back. It
was directed by Garry Hynes, and actors involved in this
ambitious undertaking included Marie Mullen, Mick Lally,
Eamon Morrissey and Catherine Walsh. There were also
remarkable performances from young actors Aaron Monaghan
and Gemma Reeves.

Other winners announced at last night's event, which was
compered by Pauline McLynn, included Christopher Meloni who
won the Best Actor award for his performance as Eddie
Carbone in the Gate Theatre production of A View from the
Bridge by Arthur Miller.

The Best Actress Award went to Catherine Walker for her
performance as Bridgie Cleary in the Abbey Theatre
production of What Happened Bridgie Cleary by Tom Mac

The Best Supporting Actor award winner was Nick Dunning for
his performance as Robert in the Gate Theatre production of
Betrayal by Harold Pinter and the Best Supporting Actress
award went to Ruth Negga for her performance as Lavinia in
the Siren production of Titus Andronicus by William

Selina Cartmell won Best Director Award for Titus
Andronicus. The Best Designer:Set award went to Andre Barbe
for the Wexford Festival Opera production of Pénélope by
Gabriel Fauré, with the Best Designer: Lighting award going
to Paul Keogan for the b*spoke production of Fermín Cabal's
Tejas Verdes, translated by Robert Shaw and the Siren
production of Titus Andronicus.

The Best Designer: Costume award went to Sinéad Cuthbert
for the Second Age production of How Many Miles to Babylon
by Jennifer Johnston, adapted for the stage by Alan
Stanford, and the Ouroboros production of Making History by
Brian Friel. The Best Production Award was won by Siren for
Titus Andronicus, with the Best Opera Production award
going to Wexford Festival Opera for Susannah by Floyd,
directed by John Fulljames.

Best New Play award went to Tom Mac Intyre for What
Happened Bridgie Cleary, produced by the Abbey Theatre.

Highlights of last night's awards ceremony can be seen on
RTÉ I television at 11.35 tonight in The View Presents....
with detailed coverage of the event in The Irish Times

© The Irish Times


A New Direction For The North

Northern Ireland is attracting big-budget international
movies and major film stars. But does this mean an end to
political films about the Troubles? Una Bradley reports.

Despite all the talk of the "peace dividend", few could
have scripted just how successful the North's film industry
would become in such a short space of time. From
involvement in Breakfast On Pluto, to upcoming releases
with Tim Robbins, Nicholas Roeg, and Pedro Almodovar
attached, the sector is radiating good health.

It's not only the mounting tally of titles, however, that's
being celebrated. The fact that many of these new films
steer clear of referencing the Troubles has been viewed as
evidence of a burgeoning cultural confidence. Who wants The
Crying Game when you can have Closing The Ring, an epic
World War Two love story straddling Belfast and North
Carolina? Even the most cursory of glances at the latest
crop of features filmed north of the border reinforces the
trend: a nail-biting slasher movie (Wilderness); a
supernatural thriller based on a Fay Weldon novel, re-
uniting Donald Sutherland and his Don't Look Now director
Nicholas Roeg (Puffball); a feelgood comedy about a wannabe
country 'n' western star (In Like Flynn). The big political
film that made such headway in the 1990s - In The Name of
the Father, say, or Some Mother's Son - is nowhere to be
seen. Sectarianism, it would seem, is so last century.

Speak with hip young film-makers and many will tell you the
time has come and gone for the cinematic lexicon of bombs,
bullets and bad Ulster accents.

"We've seen quite enough of films that explore the darker
side of the Northern Irish psyche," says Patrick
FitzSimons, a producer with Belfast company Borderline
Films, whose latest picture stars Vinnie Jones and Samantha
Mumba and is set in London. "The time is right to move on;
we're on the cusp of a bright new future, but still need to
shed some of the old clothing." Others feel similarly bound
to reflect the new values of a post-conflict generation.

"When I started writing, the last thing I wanted to write
was a Troubles drama," admits Armagh-born Daragh Carville,
who penned the screenplay for the soon-to-be released
Middletown, boasting Matthew McFadyen in the lead role.
"The iconography of some Troubles fiction was so over-
familiar. I'm not talking so much about the big films like
In The Name of the Father; probably more the bad TV dramas
like Harry's Game. I found it boring."

The quango which funds and promotes the sector, the
Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission (NIFTC), is
only too happy to talk up the bubbling stew of new ideas
among the North's film community - after all, it's good for
business. In today's ultra-competitive market, the North is
both competing against, as well as co-operating with, the
south of Ireland, Britain, and beyond, in a bid to keep
cameras rolling. It helps, when marketing such a small
region, if you can also present your creative talent as
forward-looking, progressive, and capable of teaming up
with professionals from all over the world.

Patrick FitzSimons stresses the point: "We can't afford to
be hemmed in by the past. We are competing in a global
market for a very small pool of funding. We've got to think
outside the box, cliche as that may be."

FEW PERSONIFY the trend from inward to outward-looking more
neatly than a writer such as Terry George. A native of
Belfast who had close-up experience of the political
situation - he was interned in the early 1970s - his output
used to be exclusively Troubles-related, from In The Name
of the Father to The Boxer. Now based in the US, his last
film was the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda.

Given the new emphasis on building international
relationships, it's no wonder the NIFTC was cock-a-hoop
when a Belfast production company, Hot Shot Films, recently
teamed up with Pedro Almodovar's El Deseo studio to make
The Secret Life of Words, an intense psychological drama
with Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley.

The decision to set the drama in Ireland was purely
practical - an oil rig was needed, and Belfast could
provide one in dry dock - yet the knock-on effect was a
feast of work for the North's film crew across the whole
range of disciplines, from wardrobe to set design to

The payback of such a deal is always good - for every pound
the NIFTC allocates in funding, it requires a production to
spend four times that amount locally; the bigger the
project, the better the return.

While some commentators argue that tax breaks lure foreign
film-makers to use the North as a cheap outdoor studio at
the expense of indigenous projects, Richard Williams says
it's a balancing act - the more big productions that shoot
in the North, the more the industry can support less
commercially viable movies from its own community. Over the
past three years, film-makers have injected £5.6 million
(€8.3 million) into the North's economy.

An even bigger boost to the bank balance is in store once
Closing The Ring begins filming. The $20 million flick will
not only be one of the biggest studio films ever to shoot
in the North, it will also bring a cast of Hollywood
royalty: Richard Attenborough directing Shirley MacLaine,
Peter O'Toole and Dennis Hopper. "It's a genuine Irish-
American story," trumpets Richard Williams, chief executive
of the NIFTC. "It's big and bold, it has a wonderful
script. It's the perfect example of what's possible."

WITH ALL the big bucks and celebrities jetting in, it's
easy to forget what used to attract film-makers to the
North - the ready-made dramatic brew of civil conflict,
conspiracy theories and shady government goings-on. Bearing
in mind the still-shaky nature of the peace process, have
those stories really gone for good? "There is definitely a
new generation with a new voice," says Richard Williams.
"But it's an evolution rather than a revolution. I'm very
keen to see it. At the same time, I wouldn't be advocating
the airbrushing of history. I think what's happening in
many instances is a change of focus.

"If you take a recent film like Mickybo & Me, it was a
universal, coming-of-age story, but the Troubles were there
in the background. I didn't think it was a Troubles drama,
but someone else could watch that and think, 'another
Troubles film'. People here are very sensitive about the
Troubles; there's an anxiety about how we present

Even the low-budget, "arty" pictures emanating from the
North betray a certain ambivalence toward recent history.
Although Daragh Carville's Middletown is set in a border
town in the 1960s, there's not so much as a hint of the
violent turmoil about to unleash.

Carville, who is mostly known for his theatre work, says
the question of whether or not to address the Troubles
head-on has been an ongoing dilemma. "I have really
wrestled with this. Most of what I write is set in the
North. My writing is steeped in the language and landscape
of the North. I'm a dramatist, so I'm writing about
conflict and history and division. But I never wanted to
write something with an agenda, and there is so much else
to politics than what passed for it here for so long. I
have mixed feelings. To say all the dark stuff is in the
past, and we're bounding off into this bright, new future .
. . I'm not sure. Of course, as we move out of conflict,
writing will open up more.

"But, as someone who's trying to be creative at this point
in history, you're in a bind. Do you tackle what's been
happening head-on, and run the risk of being exploitative
and slipping into cliche, or do you just bury your head in
the sand and pretend it hasn't happened?"

Former Hollywood scriptwriter and Belfast native Brendan
Foley concedes his perspective may be coloured by the ex-
pat experience, but he considers himself to be more "old
school" when it comes to the Troubles debate. He's putting
the finishing touches on his film, Johnny Was, which at
first sight is a world away from screen depictions of "Norn

Beneath the upbeat reggae soundtrack and the multi-cultural
Brixton setting, however, is an investigation into the
nature of cultural identity, particularly that of the main
character Johnny (played by Vinnie Jones), a London-Irish
man who's running away from some unspecified paramilitary
involvement in the Troubles.

With typical Belfast humour, Foley describes it as "Guess
Who's Coming To Dinner - with firearms". So the Irish
question isn't out of bounds for him? "I can understand
that for younger film-makers, they want to get away from
Troubles cliches, but the way I see it, it's part of our
history. If you look at Vietnam, it was only when the
active phase of the conflict ended, the films started
coming out."

Interestingly, the next project Foley hopes to get off the
ground is much closer to home. With a working title of
Soldiers, his script involves an SAS captain and an IRA
sniper, in 1970s rural Northern Ireland, who get hooked on
trying to understand each other's point of view.

Producer Brendan Byrne, of Hot Shot, concurs with Foley
that some of the best Troubles dramas may be yet to emerge.
Although Byrne welcomes the opening up of film to embrace
new genres such as horror and romantic comedies, he warns
of trying to run before we can walk.

"The current slate of films may not be about the Troubles,
but you've got to be careful not to believe the hype too
much either. Some of this talk of leaving the Troubles
behind is the stuff of press releases and marketing-speak.
The truth is somewhere in between. Some of our best films
were Troubles films. You can't throw the baby out with the

Daragh Carville agrees it might be premature to give the
political storyline the last rites. "The ironic thing is
that, despite everything I've said, the best film to come
out of the North in recent years, as far as I'm concerned -
possibly the best film to ever come out of the North - is
Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday. So where does that leave

Una Bradley is a journalist at the Belfast Telegraph

© The Irish Times

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