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February 09, 2006

SDLP Slams Call For End To Finucane Investigation

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BM 02/09/06 SDLP Slams Call For End To Finucane Inquiry
TC 02/09/06 Family Anger Over Refusal To Hold Ind Inquiry
IN 02/09/06 Stevens Probe Into Finucane
BT 02/09/06 Adams In New Bid For Visa
IN 02/09/06 Pres’s Husband Meets Loyalists For Secret Talks
BN 02/09/06 UDA Talks 'Will Not Lead To Disarmament'
IN 02/09/06 Don’t Reward Loyalists: McGrady
BT 02/09/06 Local Elections Could Be Cancelled In 2007
SF 02/09/06 Unionists Use Of Parl Priv Sect, Dish &Cowardly
BT 02/09/06 MPs Restore Sinn Fein Funds
UT 02/09/06 Govt Warned Over 'Quick-Fix' End To Direct Rule
II 02/09/06 Gardai Probe Terror Links With Dublin Bomb
PR 02/09/06 Irish Leaders: IMC Undermines Peace Process
IN 02/09/06 New Language Legislation Proposed
SF 02/09/06 SF Attacks Govt Attempts To Devalue Irish
BB 02/09/06 Woman Escapes Petrol Bomb Attack
IT 02/09/06 Two More Charged With Ballymurphy Murder
BT 02/09/06 Call For Ludlow Murder Inquiry
TA 02/09/06 FormerTD Admits IRA Not Blame For Ludlow Murder
SF 02/09/06 SF 'Flag Up' Inequality At Ballymena Council
BT 02/09/06 Ex-UDR Man Calls On Hain To Issue Jail Apology
IM 02/09/06 Bizarre Incident In Finglas
IN 02/09/06 Sinn Fein And NIO Clash Over Staffing Numbers
BT 02/09/06 Rpt Highlights Conflict Of Interests In Trust
IN 02/09/06 Slugger O’Toole: Time For Political Podcast
IN 02/09/06 Opin: IMC: Unaccountable And Largely Unwanted
DI 02/09/06 Opin: Time To Deal With Under-Investment
IN 02/09/06 Opin: Billy & Liam To Lose In NIO’s Tombola
BT 02/09/06 Bush Appointee At NASA Resigns Over Censorship
MA 02/09/06 Boston Meeting Of Irish Lobby For Immig Reform
BN 02/09/06 McAleese To Give Notre Dame Speech
BT 02/09/06 Ryanair Is 'Dirty' Airline, Claims TV Exposé
IT 02/09/06 U2 Sweep The Board With Five Grammy 'Gongs'
IT 02/09/06 Responsible Drinker Diageo’s Mid-Strength Stout
BT 02/09/06 Terror Threat To Ireland 'Still Low'
BT 02/09/06 Mummer's Word As Dancers Perform In Bulgaria
TK 02/09/06 Altan Looking Forw To Music & Food In Killarney


SDLP Slams Paisley Call For End To Finucane Investigation

09/02/2006 - 08:39:10

The SDLP has slammed Ian Paisley Jr's call for an end to
the ongoing police investigation into the murder of Belfast
solicitor Pat Finucane.

Mr Paisley made the call yesterday after the PSNI disclosed
that the investigation had cost almost £9m (€13.1m) so far.

The cost is mainly due to three separate independent
inquiries carried out by former Metropolitan Police chief
John Stevens.

The SDLP has responded to Mr Paisley's call for the case to
be abandoned by accusing him of living in a moral fog.

Party spokesman Alban Maginness said serious questions
still remained about whether the RUC and British Army
colluded with the loyalists who shot Mr Finucane dead in
front of his family in February 1989.

He said the blame for the cost of the investigation into
the murder rested with the British government, which, he
said, had spent years delaying a badly needed public
inquiry into the case.


Family Anger Over Hain's Refusal To Hold Independent
Inquiry Into Solicitor's Murder

Posted on February 09, 2006

The family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane have reacted
angrily after meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary,
Peter Hain, to discuss their concerns over any inquiry into
the 17 year-old murder case under the 2005 Inquiries Act.
In a 35 minute briefing, attended by members of the
Finucane family, headed by Geraldine and Michael Finucane,
the wife and son of the murdered solicitor, accompanied by
British Irish Rights Watch director, Jane Winter, Mr Hain
refused to sanction any enquiry other than one carried out
under the auspices of the Inquiries Act. “Mr Hain
consistently underlined the government’s intention to hold
the inquiry under the Inquiries Act. It renders the panel
devoid of independence and retains control with the
government minister, therefore we doubt its capacity to get
at the truth,” Michael Finucane said. The family have long
expressed grave concerns over independence and the details
of any enquiry carried out under the auspices of the
Inquiries Act and have issued a statement expressing their
belief that the only way to get to the truth is a full
public and independent inquiry. “The truth of what happened
and why is located in the secret corridors of Whitehall.

The family cannot get involved in any inquiry in which the
ministers in charge of those very same corridors will be in
charge of Pat’s inquiry. “The family have received
widespread international support for their current stance.
They will continue and step up their campaign for an
independent public judicial inquiry.”


Stevens Probe Into Finucane

By Staff Reporter

Almost £9 million has been spent on the latest police
inquiry into Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s murder.

The cost of former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens’s third
probe into a loyalist assassination shrouded by allegations
of security force collaboration was branded a waste of
money by the lawyer’s family.

Unionists have called for the seven-year investigation to
be brought to an immediate halt.

Ian Paisley jnr, a DUP representative on the Policing
Board, said: “There’s been absolutely no public benefit
from the inquiry or the money spent on it.”

Stevens III was launched in 1999 to reexamine claims that
special branch and military intelligence assisted the UDA
unit who shot Mr Finucane at his north Belfast home 10
years earlier.

It confirmed in April 2003 that there was collusion between
the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the
Finucane killing.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde – who once ran the probe – has
disclosed how much has been spent on it so far.

Sir Hugh confirmed that it was being scaled back and taken
over by a unit given a £30m budget to examine more than
3,000 unsolv-ed killings during the Troubles.

He said: “The cost of the Stevens III Inquiry to date is

“However, it is anticipated that the cost of the inquiry
will significantly reduce as the investigative capacity of
the Stevens Team is being reduced from 30 to 11.

“The current status of the inquiry is that as of February
2006 all outstanding matters are being handed back to C8,
the Historical Enquiries Team.”


Adams In New Bid For Visa

By Chris Thornton
09 February 2006

Gerry Adams has confirmed that he will seek a fundraising
visa from the US so he can seek donations while in
Washington for St Patrick's Day.

His announcement could herald another row with US
authorities, who refused to give him a similar visa in
November, prompting the Sinn Fein president to abandon a
trip to America.

That refusal came as the State Department increased
pressure on Sinn Fein to support the PSNI.

Mr Adams ended up addressing the November fundraiser by a
satellite link.

Friends of Sinn Fein, the party's American fundraising arm,
say they will hold a cash-generating event in Washington on
March 16 which Mr Adams would be expected to attend


President’s Husband Meets Top Loyalists For Secret Talks

By Barry McCaffrey

Martin McAleese held secret talks with the UDA in Belfast
yesterday, amid growing speculation about an imminent
announcement by loyalist paramilitaries on UFF disbandment.

President Mary McAleese’s husband met up to 10 senior
figures from the UDA and its associated Ulster Political
Research Group (UPRG), in-cluding Ihab Shoukri, Jackie
McDonald, Billy McFarlane, Tommy Kirkham and Frankie
Gallagher, at the Wellington Park Hotel in south Belfast
yesterday afternoon.

Unusually Mr McAleese had no police bodyguards during his
meeting with the loyalists.

Mr McAleese has been a key figure in efforts to encourage
an end to loyalist paramilitary violence.

The private talks are understood to have centered on a
package which both governments are offering to loyalist
communities in exchange for UDA movement on disbandment and

It was understood to be the first time that Mr McAleese had
met Ihab Shoukri, who is awaiting trial on UFF membership

In a sign of a potential ann-ouncement from the UDA in the
near future, UPRG leader Tommy Kirkham met Secretary of
State Peter Hain in private on Tuesday.

After yesterday’s meeting with Mr McAleese UDA south
Belfast ‘brigadier’ Jackie McDonald said: “Martin Mc-Aleese
was there to hear what we had to say and we were there to
listen to him.

“We are meeting a range of people, including the
governments, to try and find a way forward.

“Republicans are having problems, as witnessed in the IMC
report, and loyalists are having the same problems.

“It is unrealistic for anyone to expect loyalists to move
forward without help for working-class communities.”

Mr McDonald confirmed that he was aware of a possible
announcement that the UFF was being disbanded but ruled out
any imminent move on decommissioning.

“I can see that situation [UFF disbandment] coming about in
certain circumstances,” he said

“From what I understand, it is being discussed.

“But decommissioning isn’t on the radar. It hasn’t been
discussed at this stage.”

While Mr McDonald would not be drawn on any imminent UDA
announcement, it is understood that the paramilitary
leadership was briefing its members last night on the
possible deal with the two governments.

No-one from Mr McAleese’s office was available for comment
last night.

Yesterday’s talks between Mr McAleese and the senior
loyalists took place as SDLP MP Eddie McGrady was warning
Prime Minister Tony Blair of the danger of rewarding
loyalist paramilitaries.

“The recent IMC report shows that loyalist paramilitaries
are not serious about winding down their operations,” he

“Instead loyalists, and in particular the UDA, are trying
to pose themselves as saviours of their communities,
linking any moves away from crime to social and economic
funding. They are trying to present themselves as holding
trump cards for their communities. That is wrong.”

Claiming that deprivation in working-class communities was
a result of paramilitary violence, Mr McGrady said: “Their
bloody wars have strangled economic growth, their ongoing
threats have pushed way international in-vestment and their
intimidatory tactics have destroyed their own communities.

“Loyalist paramilitaries are no saviours – they are the
evil force that has crippled Northern Ireland for decades.”


UDA Talks 'Will Not Lead To Disarmament'

09/02/2006 - 10:00:27

Political representatives of the loyalist Ulster Defence
Association today ruled out any imminent moves on

This followed talks in Belfast between President Mary
McAleese’s husband and senior members of the paramilitary

Martin McAleese met Jackie McDonald, Ihab Shoukri and Billy
McFarland at a hotel in the south of the city yesterday.

The meeting has heightened speculation that the UDA, the
North’s biggest loyalist paramilitary organisation, may be
set to make a major decommissioning gesture or even
consider disbandment.

Both the Irish and British governments are thought to be
putting together a package of proposals that could entice
its leadership into making such significant moves on the
back of the IRA’s decision last year to put all its arms
beyond use and end its campaign of violence.

But Tommy Kirkham of the Ulster Political Research Group,
which advises the UDA, insisted the meeting with Mr
McAleese was not the prelude to an imminent announcement.

Mr Kirkham, who was at the talks, said: “Its just part of
our ongoing process and wasn’t a big deal.

“The guy was here in Belfast and asked us over for a cup of
coffee. It certainly wasn’t a clandestine meeting. If it
had been, we would have met in a back room somewhere.”

Mr McAleese has met senior UDA representatives in the past,
and Mr Kirkham claimed their latest encounter was just
about building on that relationship.

But he added: “The organisation has entered into a process
of engagement.

“As to who that is with is confidential until we decide to
disclose it.”


Don’t Reward Loyalists: McGrady

By William Graham

THE British government should not reward loyalist
paramilitaries for crippling Northern Ireland socially and
economically, SDLP South Down MP Eddie McGrady said

During question time at Westminster Mr McGrady said the
recent Independent Monitoring Commission report showed that
loyalist paramilitaries were not serious about winding down
their operations.

“Instead loyalists, and in particular the UDA, are trying
to pose themselves as saviours of their communities,
linking any moves away from crime to social and economic
funding,” Mr McGrady said.

“We must be very clear: paramilitaries over the years have
caused deprivation.

“Their bloody wars have strangled economic growth, their
ongoing threats have pushed away international investment
and their intimidatory tactics have destroyed their own

“Loyalist paramilitaries are no saviours – they are the
evil force that has crippled Northern Ireland for decades.

He urged the government not to make the mistake again of
rewarding paramilitaries for depriving and controlling
their communities.

Mr McGrady said deprivation must be tackled and that
regeneration of communities was essential. But this should
not happen as a reward for the long-suffering people of
Northern Ireland, he said, not for paramilitaries.


Local Elections Could Be Cancelled In 2007

By Andy McSmith
09 February 2006

Next year's local council elections could be cancelled
because a reform of local government is on the way.
Whitehall officials have argued privately that there is no
point in holding elections for councils that could have
only a year left to run.

The proposal has enraged the Conservatives, who suspect a
political move to avoid elections at a time when Tony Blair
could be in the process of handing over office to Gordon

About 300 English councils are due to hold elections in May
2007. By that time, the Government hopes to have passed
legislation reorganising local government, which would mean
electing the new councils in 2008, so that they could take
over in 2009. A White Paper on local council reform is due
in November.

It is expected to end the patchwork of borough and county
councils in England, in which some people live with three
tiers of local government - a parish, district and county
council - while others have just one.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, has long been
pushing for single-tier councils and regional assemblies.
The plan to scrap next year's elections was revealed in
minutes of a meeting between council leaders and officials
from John Prescott's department, which was leaked to the

The shadow Local Government minister, Eric Pickles, said:
"The cat is out of the bag on John Prescott's costly plans
to scrap borough and county councils to make way for his
unelected regional pen-pushers. Now Labour are preparing to
deprive local people of their vote in May 2007 so this can
go ahead.

"Mr Blair is running scared. The unpopular council tax
revaluation has already been postponed, but that wasn't
enough. He knows cancelling these mid-term elections is the
only way for Labour to avoid a painful drubbing at the
polls. This is Blair's Government treating the constitution
like Labour's personal Lego set."

David Miliband, the Local Government minister, who is
expected to begin consultations with council leaders soon,
denied the elections would be cancelled.

He said: "We expect and intend the 2007 elections to go
ahead. We are having a mature discussion and we will make
our position clear in the middle of this year."


Unionists Use Of Parliamentary Privilege Sectarian,
Dishonest And Cowardly

Published: 9 February, 2006

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has said that unionist
politicians use of parliamentary privilege ‘is sectarian,
dishonest and cowardly’. Ms Gildernew comments come after
various unionist politicians have used the archaic practice
in recent days to try and smear various individuals.

Ms Gildernew said:

“Over many years various unionist politicians have time and
again used the archaic practice of parliamentary privilege
to smear people who may hold differing political view
points from themselves. These smears have then been
reported by unionist friendly sections of the media.

“This practice has went into overdrive this week with a
variety of unionist politicians in both the British House
of Commons and also in the Lords standing up and hiding
behind this cloak to try and damage peoples’ reputations.

“This is a nakedly sectarian, dishonest and cowardly
approach to politics. When challenged to repeat these
allegations by those smeared in order to allow some legal
redress unionist politicians inevitably opt for political
cowardice and refuse to emerge from behind the shadow of
parliamentary privilege.” ENDS


MPs Restore Sinn Fein Funds

By Brian Walker
09 February 2006

Thirteen Northern Ireland MPs joined the Conservatives last
night to resist a Government move to restore House of
Commons' funding to Sinn Fein MPs as a further reward for
the IRA putting its arms beyond use.

The payment was a surprise bonus to Sinn Fein members, who
will now enjoy Westminster allowances totalling over
£500,000 a year, backdated to last November, without taking
their seats.

In an ill-tempered debate, the payment, described by Shadow
Secretary of State David Lidington as "a corruption of the
system", provoked fury among MPs.

Sinn Fein fails to qualify for the "Short" money paid to
Opposition parties for parliamentary research, so the
Government created a scheme of making the same payments by
another name to the Sinn Fein abstentionists.

The other parties were informed of the new payment proposal
only last week.

In the debate, they failed to elicit an answer from
ministers to the key question of why the Government wanted
to award it.

But SDLP leader Mark Durkan thought he had the answer.

It was yet another "pub crawl side-deal" between the
Government and Sinn Fein, he said, adding: "I will not be
able to spend Short money in my constituency. Sinn Fein
will be able to spend representative money in my

Mr Durkan won wide support for asking the Government to
withdraw the payment plan and devise a new scheme for all
parties to spend the money on parliamentary work or
constituency work or both.

Most shared the verdict of Northern Ireland Committee
chairman Sir Patrick Cormack: "It is giving preferential
treatment to a party that does not take their seats," and
discriminated particularly against the SDLP.

Leader of the Commons Geoff Hoon only managed to pour oil
on troubled waters when he invoked the recommendations of
last week's IMC report to restore the allowances.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds pointed out the Government's
inconsistency in invoking the latest IMC report when it had
ignored its earlier recommendation to suspend Stormont
allowances to the PUP.

Rejecting all allowances for Sinn Fein, Ian Paisley said
incidents such as the Northern Bank robbery had led to Sinn
Fein's allowances being stopped but they still had the

Peter Hain said the new representative money payments
amounted to a little over £84,000-a-year, plus £2,000 in
travel allowances.

He said the party can only claim for money against
receipted applications exclusively for research.

MPs backed by 315 to 215, a majority of 100, the new
representative payment.

An even more comfortable majority of 150 supported the
restoration of the existing allowances.

The two unionist parties joined the Conservatives in voting
against, with the three SDLP MPs abstaining.


Govt Warned Over 'Quick-Fix' End To Direct Rule

The British and Irish governments were today warned about
plumping for a quick-fix solution to end direct rule in
Northern Ireland.

Cross-community Alliance Party leader David Ford cautioned
the governments that the current round of talks must
produce a stable Assembly which would not collapse like the
previous one.

He was commenting after Northern Ireland Secretary Peter
Hain set an initial target date of April for progress in
the talks to revive the Stormont Assembly.

The South Antrim Assembly member said: "There are no quick
fixes to get the institutions established under the (Good
Friday) Agreement and now suspended, back up and running.

"Those who argue that its structures must be left intact
are ignoring the simple fact that there are no structures
to leave intact.

"The past eight years have exposed flaws in the structures
of the Agreement and mistakes with its implementation.

"Institutions that are based on assumptions about who will
hold the balance of power, and upon mutual trust that is
simply not there, cannot survive."

Earlier this week Mr Hain and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot
Ahern hosted talks at Hillsborough Castle with the Northern
Ireland Assembly parties to try to find a way of bringing
back devolution.

The province`s largest party, the Reverend Ian Paisley`s
Democratic Unionist, insist that they cannot share power
with Sinn Fein while the IRA continues to carry out
intelligence gathering, criminal acts and its members are
involved in assaults.

The party has in recent days pointed to the eighth report
by the Independent Monitoring Commission as justifying this

However the Government has insisted that the report also
showed considerable progress was being made by the IRA in
honouring its historic pledge last July to end its armed
campaign and pursue a political path.

The DUP has proposed a system of phased devolution, giving
the Assembly a role short of forming a devolved government
until there is sufficient trust for full-blown devolution.

Sinn Fein and the nationalist SDLP, however, insist that
the Government should recall the Northern Ireland Assembly
and start the six-week time frame for the province`s 108
MLAs to form a power-sharing executive.

On Monday Mr Hain set a deadline of April for progress in
the multi-party talks, claiming that if there were to be
meaningful Stormont elections in 2007 then any legislative
changes to the system of devolved government would have to
be introduced when a new Northern Ireland Bill comes before
the House of Commons Committee stage.

Mr Ford said both governments had conceded that changes to
the system of devolved government could be made when they
negotiated the 2004 Comprehensive Agreement.

But he said: "There are no quick fixes.

"Public opinion will not tolerate another revolving door

"Perhaps, however, we need to consider that our entire
sectarian political system is to blame.

"If the parties presented with power in 1998 could not
deliver, what are the prospects now?"


Gardai Probe Terror Links With Latest Dublin Bomb

North city explosion could have had a 'devastating' impact

Tom Brady and Kathy Donaghy

GARDAI suspect dissident republicans manufactured a pipe
bomb used in an attack on the home of a Dublin secondhand
car dealer yesterday.

The motive for the attack at a house on the northside was
being investigated by Gardai last night.

But the sinister device, which exploded after it fell from
the boot of a car, was described as potentially lethal and
the blast could have had devastating consequences.

Last night gardai were trying to establish if the
improvised device was linked to a lunchbox bomb intercepted
by detectives at the West Link toll bridge on the M50 in
December and a pipe bomb found earlier in the year in

Both of those devices were believed to have been made by
renegade republicans but at least one of them had been sold
on to Dublin criminals for use in a feud.

Yesterday's sophisticated device, which had been fitted
inside a Thermos flask, was left on a car in the front
garden of the home of dealer John Ward at Glin Road in

The Toyota Corolla car was being moved out of the garden
when the device fell off and the flask shattered when it
hit the ground.

The device had been packed with nails and shotgun pellets
as well as a small quantity of explosive.

Ticking noise

Locals ran from the garden after they heard a ticking noise
and nobody was injured when the device exploded.

Part of the device became embedded in the radiator of a
parked car and blew it apart.

But the nails and pellets had fallen onto the ground before
the blast.

One garda source said last night: "Luckily, part of the
device had fallen out before it blew up and local people
had moved well away.

"Otherwise, there could well have been a fatality.

"If the nails and pellets had been projected at speed, the
consequences could have been very serious," he added.

Mr Ward is a car dealer and the damaged vehicle, which had
one of its windows blown out, was for sale.

Gardai said last night they did not believe Mr Ward, who is
a settled Traveller and has been living there for more than
15 years, was the intended target for the attack.

But they admitted they did not know the reason why the
house had been singled out and were examining a number of

An Army bomb disposal unit was called out to deal with the
device shortly after 4.30pm and the area was sealed off
overnight by local gardai.

A team from the Garda technical bureau will carry out a
detailed examination of the scene this morning.

A large number of local residents gathered in the open
space across the road from the house to see what was going

In December Special Branch detectives seized a lunchbox-
type device after stopping a car at the West Link toll
bridge on the M50 toll bridge.

Gardai believe the bomb was to have been used as part of an
extortion racket waged by the Continuity IRA.

Two weeks earlier the Garda's emergency response unit
stopped a vehicle on the M1 near Cloghran and seized an
under-car bomb which had been fitted with an anti handling

That bomb was thought to have been handed over by
republican dissidents to Dublin criminals in Drogheda and
to have been manufactured by a former Provisional IRA
bombmaker based in Dundalk.

Michael Campbell, who lives on Ferrycarrig Drive adjacent
to Glin Road, said he was inside having tea with his wife
when he heard a loud bang.

The ex-Army officer said he knew it was an explosion of
some description.

But when he came outside he couldn't see anything to
indicate what had happened.

He said he could also feel the vibration from the sitting

"It's a very quiet area around here - we have no problems,"
he said.

His six year-old grandson Owen was playing outside at the
time. He said he was nearly knocked off a wall with the
fright of the blast.

Gardai are seriously concerned at the involvement of
renegade republicans in selling off their "terrorist
expertise" to criminals.

Associates of the dissidents have also been involved in
campaigns against traffickers while extorting profits.


Irish Political Leaders: Report Undermines Irish Peace

Irish political leaders called for disbandment of the so-
called Independent Monitoring Committee after its release
of a report the leaders called inaccurate and anti-

New York, NY (PRWEB) February 9, 2006 -- Irish political
leaders called for disbandment of the so-called Independent
Monitoring Committee after its release of a report the
leaders called inaccurate and anti-republican. The report
alleges the IRA has held on to weapons, a finding also
disputed by the man chosen to oversee last years
destruction of IRA weapons, General De Chastelain, head of
the Independent International Commission on

“For years the British government has attempted to
criminalize republican communities. It is a throwback to
their arrogant colonial past,” said O’Dowd.

Irish leaders, calling the IMC an obstacle to the peace
process, have moved to have the entity disbanded. Sinn Fein
representatives have introduced a Bill into the Dáil
calling for the Irish Government to end its political
backing and funding for the discredited IMC and to have the
legislation, which saw the implementation of the IMC,

“The IMC has no place in the political process,” said
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator. “It is not
part of the Good Friday Agreement. It subverts the
democratic mandate of all the political parties but
specifically targeted at Sinn Féin. The individuals who
make up the IMC and the group collectively are hostile to
Irish Republicanism and are a proxy for Irish policing.”

Irish leaders in the U.S. have sent out a call to action.

“Defending the peace process is critical if there is to be
real and lasting peace for the Irish people,” said Paul
Doris, Chairperson of Irish Northern Aid (INA). “The IMC is
an obstacle to the process, and now is the time for its

INA urged supporters in the U.S. to take action. Tell the
Irish, British and U.S. governments you oppose the
obstruction of the peace process by clicking on:


New Language Legislation Proposed

By Chris Barnes

Dr Maurice Hayes, a former head of the Northern Ireland
civil service, has launched proposals for a new Irish
language act.

The act proposed by Pobal, an organisation representing the
Irish language community, aims to achieve legislative
recognition from the British government for the Irish
language in Northern Ireland.

The north is the only region that does not have domestic
legal protections for the native language.

“We believe that the Irish language act for the north is
the next logical step for government in relation to the
Irish language,” Janet Muller, chief executive of Pobal,

Launching the propsals, Dr Hayes said that the development
of an act would be indicative of the growth of the Irish
language in the north.

“Over recent years, there has been a remarkable renewal of
interest in the Irish language which has seen the growth of
its use as a medium of conversation and an expression of
cultural identity,” he said.

The proposed recomendations in the act aims to strengthen
the rights of Irish speakers in the north.

.Supporting the draft legislation, Sinn Fein’s Bairbre de
Brun said: “Pobal will ensure that Irish will have a place
in the future, [and] that Irish language speakers have
clear rights.”


Sinn Fein Attacks British Government Over Attempts To
Devalue Irish Language

Sinn Féin 'flag up' inequality at Ballymena Council

Published: 9 February, 2006

Sinn Féin's Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson MLA has
expressed dismay at the devaluing of the Irish Language in
the British Government's Education (NI) Order 2006 and
claimed that it will be detrimental to the future
development of the language.

Commenting today at a meeting of the Party's Education
Advisory Forum Mr Ferguson said:

"Sinn Féin have been to the forefront of defending the new
post primary transfer procedures because the system will
offer a quality education through equality of access. We
have also defended the new curriculum because it widens
entitlement by offering every young person a choice of 24
subjects at the age of 14.

"However, Article 18D of the Education Order 2006 coving
choice of languages which states, 'At least one shall be a
course in an 'official language of the EC' (other than
English and Irish)' undermines the teaching of Irish in our

"While all other sectors are experiencing falling rolls the
Irish Medium sector, which is the most dynamic growth
sector in education, has ever increasing rolls. In a
society that has a growing Irish-medium sector and an ever-
increasing number of Irish speakers this curriculum change
will act as a barrier to children taking Irish as a subject
in the English-speaking sector.

"The devaluing the Irish language in English medium schools
will be detrimental to the future development of the
language. It will undermine the efforts of the Irish
speaking community to promote Irish among children in
English-medium schools and further alienate those who would
want their children to have some knowledge of their native

"A school must be about more than preparing children for
the work place. Those parts of the curriculum that help
develop their social well-being, sporting endeavours and
inter-personal relationships, their sense of their own
history and identity will be lost in the pursuit of
delivering work ready young adults.

"The Irish language is an integral part of our identity and
we need to ensure that it is at least recognized as such by
our children in our own schools with it's place secured as
a part of the curriculum dealing with equality of access.
If we do not do this then we may perhaps prepare children
for the workplace but we will not promote the personal
development of complete persons with an understanding of
their past and an appreciation of their worth."ENDS


Woman Escapes Petrol Bomb Attack

A woman has escaped injury in a petrol bomb attack in west

The device was thrown at a house in New Barnsley Crescent,
in the Ballymurphy area, at about 2100 GMT on Wednesday.

A downstairs window in the house was smashed and the petrol
bomb was thrown inside. There was minor scorch damage to
the building.

The police said one line of inquiry was that the attack may
be linked to trouble in the area since the death of father
of six Gerard Devlin last week.

Mr Devlin, 39, was fatally stabbed in Whitecliff Parade,
Ballymurphy, on Friday.

Police have appealed for anyone with information about the
petrol bomb to contact them.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/09 09:17:11 GMT


Two More Charged With Ballymurphy Murder

By Patrick Logue Last updated: 09-02-06, 08:27

Two west Belfast men are due in court this morning charged
with the murder of a man in the Ballymurphy estate on

The 18-year-old and 23-year-old are due in Belfast
Magistrates court charged with the murder of Gerard Devlin
and with affray. The 18-year-old is also charged with
attempted murder.

The 39-year-old father of six was beaten and stabbed to
death in an attack in Whitecliff Parade, Ballymurphy on
Friday as he arrived at his partner's home to collect his
children for the weekend. The killing is understood to have
been the culmination of a six-year feud between the two

Serious disturbances in Ballymurphy followed the murder.
Last night was relatively quiet, but a house in the
neighbouring New Barnsley Crescent was damaged by a petrol
bomb. Police believe this attack was connected to a serious
of arson attacks in the area since Mr Devlin's killing.

The PSNI drafted in extra officers to deal with continuing
nightly trouble since last Friday. There have been more
than a dozen arson attacks and a number of people have also

On Tuesday a father and son appeared in court charged with
the Mr Devlin's murder. Christopher Notarantonio (53) and
his son, William (21) both of the same address at
Whitecliff Parade in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, were
remanded to appear by video link in Belfast Magistrates
court on March 7th next.

© 2006


Call For Ludlow Murder Inquiry

International experts should be used, says journalist

By Michael McHugh
09 February 2006

A panel of international experts should be set up to
conduct a public inquiry into the loyalist murder of a Co
Louth man 30 years ago, an investigative journalist has

Former Sunday Tribune reporter Ed Moloney yesterday
described the circumstances surrounding the murder of
Seamus Ludlow (47) in May 1976 as "scandalous" and called
for a full inquiry.

He was speaking before an Irish parliamentary committee
which is probing alleged failings by the gardai
investigation into the shooting by four Red Hand Commando

Questions which would be addressed by an inquiry include
why gardai failed to interview the suspects despite their
details being passed on by the RUC in 1979 and why files
were lost by gardai at the time.

There has already been a gardai review of the original
investigation as well as an inquiry by Judge Henry Barron,
whose report the committee is considering.

Mr Moloney, who lives in New York but spent 30 years in
Northern Ireland, said: "I firmly believe that an outside
police force, not the gardai, should have been put in
charge of the (re)investigation of the killing.

"An international judge should have performed the work (of
Henry Barron).

"A public inquiry should include independent European
members. We have nothing to lose but everything to gain."

Mr Moloney admitted that he didn't know if there was
collusion between the security forces north or south of the
border and the gunmen.

He added that the family had been treated in the "most
abominable way" because they were not in a position to
influence people.

Mr Moloney's solicitor, Frances Keenan, was also present at
the hearing and said he had been contacted by another
client who would give evidence on the Ludlow affair at a
public inquiry.

Earlier, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell told the
committee that there could be "constitutional issues" in
holding a public inquiry based upon the criminal evidence
surrounding the case when the Department of Public
Prosecutions in Northern Ireland has already decided not to
prosecute the four suspects in the case.


Former TD Admits IRA Not To Blame For Ludlow Murder

Former TD, Brendan McGahon

Former Co Louth TD Brendan McGahon admitted he was wrong to
blame the IRA for the murder of Seamus Ludlow during a
radio interview with RTÉ broadcaster Pat Kenny in 1993.

“I was wrong but only hindsight has proven me wrong,” he
told the Oireachtas sub-committee inquiry into the Barron

The ex-Fine Gael TD said he was given the information at
the time by a garda, but he couldn’t remember his name.

He recalled that the time of the murder was a dreadful
period in the Border area.

“There was fear all around,” he said. “There was economic
depression in Dundalk because of the level of crime in the

“There were many instances of bodies found lying on the
roadsides. So when Seamus was killed and his body found
lying on the roadside a couple of hundred yards from his
home, it was in my opinion, reasonable to assume that the
IRA had done it because the IRA was the only firm operating
in that business of slaughter, murder in the Border area at
that time.

“There was no other rational view.”

Mr McGahon added: “At that time, there was no evidence at
all of any forays across the Border by UVF personnel.”

His admission has been welcomed by Sinn Fein TD Arthur
Morgan who said that “While I would like to welcome the
fact that former Fine Gael TD Brendan McGahon has finally
admitted that he was wrong to blame the IRA for the killing
of Seamus Ludlow by loyalists, I find it hard to believe
that he can’t remember what member of the Gardai gave him
the information.”

“More disturbing, however, was Brendan McGahon's suggestion
at the hearing that loyalists couldn’t have been suspected
of the killing at the time because he says they weren’t
active in the area at the time. This is an incredible
statement given the fact that loyalists had been involved
in the bombing of Dundalk in December 1975, Castleblayney
in March 1976 and in other bombings in Counties Monaghan
and Cavan in the preceding years. The reality is that
Brendan McGahon tried to use the killing of Seamus Ludlow
to advance his own particular anti-republican agenda
regardless of the hurt and pain it caused the Ludlow


Sinn Féin 'Flag Up' Inequality At Ballymena Council

Published: 9 February, 2006

Ballymena Sinn Féin Councillor, Monica Digney, has said
that she is determined to bring the Equality Agenda into
play at Ballymena Council. Her comments come as the Council
prepares to complete an EQIA (Equality Impact Assessment)
into the display of 2 flags and a portrait of the British
Monarch in the Council Chambers.

Cllr Digney said:

"After my appointment to Council last year I immediately
raised with the Council the issue of inequality within the
Council Chamber. The display of a portrait of the British
Queen alongside both the Union Jack and the Unionist state
flag reflects the identity of the Unionist community but
there is nothing in the Chamber to reflect ratepayers of a
nationalist/republican persuasion.

"This Council is run using the money of ratepayers from
across the entire community, not just one particular
political or religious persuasion, and Council must take
steps to address this. The Council must subscribe to either
Equality or Neutrality when it comes to issues like this
and I would expect the Council's EQIA to reflect that.

"The Council must take steps to improve its image in terms
of equality and tackling the issues of flags and symbols
would be an all-important first step. I was elected on the
commitment that I would combat inequality whenever or
wherever I come across it and I have already opened a case
with the Equality Commission regarding this. If Unionist
Councillors are in any way found wanting in terms of
resolving this issue that Sinn Féin will not hesitate in
taking this case all the way." ENDS

Note to Editors

The Equality Impact Assessment on Flags and Emblems is due
to be completed by the end of March. The consultation
documentation was issued by Ballymena Borough Council on
6th February and the closing date for responses is 24th


Ex-UDR Man Calls On Hain To Issue Jail Term Apology

Cleared soldier also seeking inquiry

By Deborah McAleese
09 February 2006

The Government has refused to publicly apologise to a
former UDR soldier who was acquitted of the murder of a
Catholic man after spending two-and-a-half years in jail.

Colin Worton has also been denied compensation for his time
in prison charged with the 1983 murder of Adrian Carroll.

He has now repeated his call for an independent inquiry
into the murder so that he can finally gain closure after
20 years of campaigning.

There has been confusion over Mr Worton's right to
compensation after Secretary of State Peter Hain wrote to
him advising him that he is not entitled to compensation,
an apology or an independent inquiry, despite telling
Parliament a few weeks later that he may be entitled to a
cash award.

Calls have now been made for Mr Hain to clarify his
position and to explain his final decision.

The DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr said: "There is definitely some
confusion here and I think Mr Worton is owed an explanation
as to why Mr Hain does not feel he is entitled to

"Those besmirched by this investigation have the right to
compensation and an apology."

Mr Worton has received widespread support across the
political divide, with the SDLP, UUP and DUP offering their
support, along with the Human Rights Commission and British
Irish Rights Watch.

"I don't want compensation. I have gone for more than 20
years without it. I want an affirmation of innocence from
the Government. I want an independent inquiry into the
murder as I have nothing to fear. This has been going on
for almost 23 years and it has taken over our lives," said
Mr Worton.

"This case has to be re-opened. Those really responsible
are still out there."

Mr Worton was arrested after Adrian Carroll was shot in the
head, neck and shoulder in an alleyway outside his Armagh
home in November 1983.

A UDR private at the time, he was held in custody for 30
months awaiting trial but walked free in May 1986 after the
judge threw out his alleged confession, ruling that the
statements were inadmissible and the Crown offered no
further evidence.


Bizarre Incident In Finglas

Thursday February 09, 2006 09:44
by John O'Neill - ISN (personal capacity)

Unauthorised filming of schoolchildren

Yesterday an incident occured in St Canices Boys School
between 10.45 and 11.00am when the boys were in the school
playground during their break

A number of men were observed on the foothpath along the
school railing filming pupils. The Principal of the school,
Brendan Kelly was immediately contacted by staff and
alerted to the situation and confronted the 'film crew'
telling them that they were breaking the law as they had no
parental consent to film the children and to stop

The men ignored the demand of the Principal and continued
filming and refused to explain who they were or why they
were filming. They were throwing children in the play area
chocolate bars to encourage them over to the railings where
they could film them close up. Two of the men were dressed
in Panto clothing to intice the children over to the

The Gardai arrived two of the men sped away and were
chased. The remainder were questioned. The Gardai
confiscated the film and the bars advising the principal
that they were "treating the incident seriously".

I can only assume it was an attempt to promote a new
chocolate bar by some group in advertising trying to 'cut
corners' hopefully nothing more sinister. It is totally
unacceptable for children to be filmed or photographed
without parential/guardian consent.


Sinn Fein And NIO Clash Over Staffing Numbers

By Barry McCaffrey

Sinn Fein and the NIO clashed yesterday over claims that
less than two per cent of government staff are based in
nationalist constituencies.

On Tuesday NIO minister Shaun Woodward disclosed that more
than 94 per cent of staff are based in the unionist
constituencies of Strangford, North Down, East Derry, Lagan
Valley, East Antrim and Belfast.

However, Sinn Fein assembly member Caitriona Ruane claimed
the figures show that less than two per cent of NIO staff
(33) are based in the nationalist constituencies of West
Tyrone, South Down, Newry and Armagh and Fermanagh and
South Tyrone.

Only three NIO staff are based in West Belfast, while in
the east of the city there are 690 staff, with a further
672 people based in South Belfast and 690 in the north of

the city.

The figures come less than a week after it was revealed
that less than a quarter of the NIO’s core staff (657) are

The South Down representative raised concerns about the
apparent imbalance of constituency-based NIO employees.

“If East Antrim, Lagan Valley, East Derry, North Down and
Strangford and Belfast are looked at together, over 94 per
cent, or 1,723 staff, are based in these constituencies,”
Ms Ruane said.

“This means that only 105 NIO staff are based within the
other nine constituencies.

“Many people would ask if it is any wonder that when key
decisions are taken by the NIO, nationalist constituencies
and areas west of the Bann can be seen to lose out time and
time again,” she said.

However an NIO spokeswoman defended its geographical
distribution of posts.

“Most NIO offices are currently based in the greater
Belfast area but we would strongly dispute the claim that
there is a geographic bias in our decision making,”

she said.

The spokeswoman said that in the near future Public
Prosecu-tion Service offices are to be opened at locations
in Omagh, Newry, Derry, Ballymena and Lisburn.

“The community background of NIO staff is 31.4 per cent
Roman Catholic and 68.6 per cent Protestant and includes
all staff based in Northern Ireland,” she said,

“The NIO is fully committed to developing and encouraging a
culture of diversity in all aspects of our business and to
fulfilling all its responsibilities as an equal
opportunities employer.”


Report Highlights 'Conflict Of Interests' In Trust

In an explosive report today, a public spending watchdog
castigates 'significant' conflicts of interest at an Ulster
company set up to boost disadvantaged districts. We report
on the damning findings from a long-running investigation

David Gordon
09 February 2006

Taxpayers' money was pumped into an Ulster business body
despite major conflicts of interest at the heart of its

That's the hard-hitting judgment in a report released today
by the watchdog Northern Ireland Audit Office.

The highly critical study, which will be examined by MPs
next week, stemmed from an investigation into Belfast-based
loans and investment company Emerging Business Trust.

The conflict of interest accusations centre on the various
roles held in the publicly-financed body by businesswoman
Teresa Townsley. She has strongly disputed the
investigation findings.

Mrs Townsley was deputy chair of small business agency
LEDU, when it was funding Emerging Business Trust (EBT).

She was also a member of EBT's board, and her accountancy
practice MTF was paid to manage the Trust's affairs.

MTF twice retained this management contract without any
public tendering - a breach of Government and European
rules, today's report said. Its fees from the contract
added up to around £1.4m over some eight years.

In addition, EBT invested in two companies linked to Mrs
Townsley's husband Michael, who was also a partner in her
accountancy firm.

Today's Audit Office report said roles held by Mrs Townsley
within the Emerging Business Trust project were "inherently

It was particularly scathing on the awarding of the
contracts to her accountancy practice without tendering.

"This, in particular, has left the former LEDU not well
placed to defend itself against allegations of favouritism
towards a firm jointly owned by a LEDU board member and her
husband," it stated.

Arguing that LEDU should not have permitted structures that
involved "significant" conflicts of interest, the Audit
Office commented:

"It could be perceived that an opportunity was created
through EBT to use public resources to enhance Mrs
Townsley's private financial interest in MTF."

The watchdog further stated that the performance of the EBT
loan fund had been poor in a number of areas and there were
doubts over whether loan management fees paid to MTF
represented value for money.

EBT was set up in 1996 to provide finance to new companies
in disadvantaged districts. It ceased its operations last

Today's Audit Office report has drawn heavily on the
findings of a lengthy investigation by Invest NI, the jobs
agency that took over LEDU's functions in 2002.

Invest NI's probe was commissioned three years ago and was
carried out by a team from accountancy company
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Mrs Townsley was on the board of Invest NI at the time the
EBT investigation was launched and was also a member of the
audit committee of the Department of Enterprise, Invest
NI's parent body. She has been honorary treasurer of
Queen's University for a number of years.

The businesswoman recently complained that she has been
denied "natural justice".

She has offered to give evidence on the report at a hearing
of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster next

Today's report includes a submission to the Audit Office
from Mrs Townsley, responding in detail to a string of

She said she had compiled a "comprehensive rebuttal" of
allegations made in the original PwC report, and alleged
that her replies were not properly considered by the

Mrs Townsley also claimed that information provided to the
Audit Office had been "misleading and in many instances

She stated that she had made appropriate declarations on
all potential conflicts of interest and also stressed that
she had no decision making powers within EBT on the
allocation of loans and investments.

"EBT Board commissioned an independent consultant in 2004
to carry out a review of potential conflicts. This review
covered past and potential future conflicts. In the main
the consultants reported that controls and disclosures
mitigated against the potential for conflicts," Mrs
Townsley stated.

The businesswoman's submission to the Audit Office said
that EBT's board had never once complained about the
quality of MTF's work or queried whether it represented
value for money.

She also stated that her accountancy firm had covered EBTs
staffing and other office costs.

"The average net annual 'profit' from the contract was less
than £20,000 and being a partnership my salary was paid
from any profit," she added.

Failure to learn from the De Lorean affair

The Emerging Business Trust case exposed a failure to learn
an important lesson from the De Lorean car plant debacle,
it was asserted today.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office made the point while
commenting on the role of senior LEDU official Dr Alan
Neville on the EBT board.

Dr Neville was LEDU's nominated director with the loans and
investment company up to 2003.

He told the EBT investigators that there had been a lack of
clarity over his role within the firm's subsidiary venture
fund scheme, today's report stated.

The Audit Office pointed out that the need for clarity on
nominee directors had been underlined in a Public Accounts
Committee report on the 1982 collapse of the heavily
subsidised De Lorean project in Belfast.

Voicing its concern that the clarity issue had arisen again
some 20 years after the Public Accounts Committee study,
today's report also stated: "The LEDU nominee directorship
had the potential to contribute to more effective handling
of the many problems identified in this report."

LEDU operations castigated

A Blistering verdict on the management of LEDU was
delivered in today's Audit Office report on Emerging
Business Trust.

The watchdog said the now defunct small business agency had
been guilty of "extraordinarily lax" oversight of EBT and
should have acted to prevent conflicts of interest.

The report placed the blame for "profound" failings with
LEDU's senior management and board of directors, as well as
its parent body, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and
Investment (DETI).

This criticism is likely to form a central theme of next
week's Public Accounts Committee hearing at Westminster.

MPs will also be aware from the Audit Office report of
other past problems at LEDU.

Investigations into EBT were triggered in 2003 by Invest
NI, LEDU's successor organisation.

Concerns about the loans firm emerged during an Invest NI
review of funding relationships it had inherited from the
small business agency.

This review followed criticism of another LEDU-backed
organisation, Into the West, over spending controls on
overseas promotional trips.

Today's Audit Office report revealed that Invest NI is
currently investigating three other bodies established in
the 1990s "where there are points in common with EBT and
concerns about the proper use of public funds".

Invest NI announced last month that two members of staff
had been suspended as a result of new inquiries into other

It also stated that police had been asked to look into
matters arising from these latest probes.

In its report today, the Audit Office said there was a
close parallel between the EBT and Into the West cases.

"In the Northern Ireland Audit Office's view, these two
cases point to a profound failure of governance within LEDU
over the relevant period," the report stated.

"Responsibility for this must lie with LEDU's senior
management and its Board, and also with the Department for
deficiencies in their oversight of the former LEDU."

The Audit Office noted past criticism of LEDU over fraud
committed by staff members in the 1990s.

It also cited the controversy which DETI faced in recent
years over a conflict of interest issue at the Northern
Ireland Tourist Board.

DETI has told the Audit Office that it was "deeply
concerned" at the findings of the EBT probe.

"The Department has made the point that, as the events
referred to in Invest NI's investigation report occurred a
number of years ago, they do not reflect the corporate
governance arrangements now in place at the Department and
its sponsored bodies," today's report added.

Concern at transaction of shares

Investigators registered concern at a share transaction
involving the husband of an Emerging Business Trust board
member, it was revealed today.

The newly published Audit Office report highlighted EBT
investments in companies linked to businessman Michael
Townsley - husband of EBT director Teresa Townsley.

It also quoted from an investigation report on differing
prices paid by Mr Townsley and Emerging Business Trust for
shares in one of the firms.

The Audit Office stated that when EBT set up a subsidiary
Venture Fund in 2000, two of its first 10 investments
involved companies called Fusion Antibodies and Arcom.

Michael Townsley was a director and a shareholder in both
Fusion and Arcom.

Today's report stated: "The investigation noted that in
both instances Mr Townsley's share holdings were acquired
in the period between the date the Venture Fund investment
was approved and the date the investment was completed."

The Audit Office continued: "Mr Townsley purchased 10% of
Arcom for £2,500 in November 2000, each share costing

"Previously in April 2000, the board of the EBT Venture
Fund had approved in principle the purchase of a 10% share
in the company for £50,000, each share costing £19.49; this
transaction was actually completed in March 2001."

The Audit Office said the investigation report on EBT
comsaid: "The fact that Mr Townsley invested in shares in
Arcom when he was aware of the potential investment by EBT
Venture Fund at a substantially higher value gives cause
for concern."

Today's Audit Office study also stated that Arcom went into
liquidation in 2003, despite getting an additional EBT loan
of £25,000 that year.

Fusion has proved more successful and has also attracted
backing from other organisations.

Mrs Townsley said the EBT directors were aware of her
husband's involvement with Arcom and Fusion when they
decided to support the two companies.

She also emphasised that she had "no vote or decision
making powers" on EBT's board in relation to loans and

Liquidator to assess board's role

The role of Emerging Business Trust's board will be
assessed by the company's liquidator, the Audit Office said

EBT was placed into voluntary liquidation last year.

Today's Audit Office report said board members - prominent
figures from the business world - had undertaken their
roles with the company as a "public service".

It also stated that the directors had been "entitled to
take comfort" from LEDU's involvement in shaping EBT's
structures and from the fact that LEDU had a representative
on the firm's board.

However, the report said the Department of Enterprise had
pointed out that company law gave each of the directors "a
duty of skill and care" to EBT.

"The extent to which some or all of the directors may have
failed to exercise their duties to the company will be
addressed by the liquidator," the Audit Office added.

Today's report said the EBT's board had some measures in
place to deal with conflicts of interest but these were

EBT's chairman was economist John Simpson while the other
directors included: accountant Teresa Townsley; Julian
Crozier, a former senior civil servant; Professor Ken
O'Neill from the University of Ulster; Bob Downes, the head
of BT in Scotland; Mike Mills, the former chief executive
of Ulster Carpet Mills; Patsy McShane, a rural development
specialist; and Brian Slowey, the former chairman of
Guinness Ireland.

LEDU was represented on the board for a number of years by
senior official Dr Alan Neville while the International
Fund for Ireland was represented by board member Victor

Mr Simpson today noted the positive comments by the Audit
Office on the board members.

"My former colleagues and I are happy and reassured that,
after a scrutiny of these concerns, it is clear that there
is no basis to impugn their integrity as non-executive
directors," he said.

The economist accused Invest NI of a lack of "meaningful
engagement" with the EBT board over the investigation.

"Whilst I accept that Invest NI was acting responsibly in
commissioning the review, I would criticise both the manner
of, and protracted time taken for, the review," he said.

Mr Simpson said the EBT board required any conflicts of
interest to be declared and any director with such an
interest took no part in decision making.

"For my part I can vouch that this was implemented," he

Mr Simpson added: "The detailed issues raised by the Audit
Office on the question of conflicts of interest set out a
level of detail relating to certain potential conflicts of
which I was not previously fully aware.

"With the advantage of hindsight, these matters would have
benefited from a more critical procedure."

He also said: "The review has not cast doubt on the
positive value of the role played by EBT assisting, at low
cost per job created, the financing and development of some
300 small businesses."


Slugger O’Toole: Time For Party Political Podcast

By Claire Simpson

Political website Slugger O’Toole has become the latest
website to join the podcasting revolution.

The site posted its first podcast yesterday, featuring
journalist Malachi O’Doherty on Belfast cuisine and Richard
Delevan on blogging.

Podcasting allows users to subscribe to a particular audio
programme which is delivered straight to a personal

The podcast file can then easily be transferred to an MP3

Administrator Mick Fealty, who set up the site in 2003,
said he hoped the podcast would be the first of many.

“I’m hoping it will become a regular feature,” he said.

“I’d like to have a podcast every two weeks and possibly
every week.”

Mr Fealty said he thinks more media outlets will provide

“One of the things I think is going to happen is people
like the BBC are going to offer more of their content as
podcasts,” he said.

“Browsers like iTunes enable you to track things
automatically so when you’re taking the dog for a walk you
can listen to Talkback or something from Slugger.

“I think when the market segment of people who download
these things will grow, that’s when podcasts will become
more significant.”

He admitted the site’s move to podcasting was something of
a step in the dark.

“You don’t know what new technologies are going to be like
until you use them.

“I bought a Minidisc player about three months ago with the
intention of trying out some podcasts.

“Then Malachi sent me an MP3 file three weeks ago and asked
me if I could put it on the site.

“That’s one of the things that forced my hand to get the
podcast software.”

Although he said he was looking forward to the challenge,
he agreed the podcast had made his job more difficult.

“People can skim over blogs but with a podcast you have to
sustain the reader’s interest,” he said.


Opin: IMC: Unaccountable And Largely Unwanted

The Thursday Column
By Jim Gibney

What do a failed politician, a former CIA man, a former
British policeman and a former government official have in

They have joined the ranks of people and organisations
hell-bent on wrecking the peace process.

What is even more galling about these ‘formers’ is they are
being paid huge sums of taxpayers’ money.

Newspaper reports suggest they are paid £600 a day – a day
that is, not a week. That is an incredible £3,000 a week;
£144,000 a year.

And what are the hard-pressed taxpayers getting for the
British government's largesse? Two reports a year that
amount to little more than a few thousand words each.

The latest band of peace wreckers is the misnamed
‘Independent Monitoring Commission’ (IMC) – there is
nothing independent about them.

After last week they should be renamed the ‘Balderdice’
Commission after its chairperson Lord Alderdice. He
produced balderdash in their report.

Like so much else about this body we are not told who
writes the report, who researches its facts, who exactly
provides the information which shapes the report.

We do know that the ‘Balderdice’ Commission relies
primarily on British intelligence agencies and sources
therein or thereabouts.

So we can rest easy because after all, the intelligence
agencies are bursting at the seams with devotees of the
peace process.

Incredible though it seems, the British and Irish
governments have handed over the future well-being of an
already besieged peace process to this quango.

It is an unelected, unaccountable and largely unwanted body
which has become the willing tool for every securocrat,
spook and spy who has an axe to grind against the peace

All they have to do is communicate to the IMC in some vague
way a juicy piece of baseless information such as that
which has caused the latest crisis in the peace process.
Then just leave it to the IMC. They will do the rest.

You will find out how on page 20, paragraph 3.23 of their
report: “We have since received reports not all PIRA’s
weapons and ammunition were handed over for decommissioning
in September. These reports are not able to indicate
precisely what is the nature or volume of any remaining

Riveting stuff. What intellectual rigour was at work to
produce those two sentences? What test of accuracy did the
IMC collective apply to the ‘received reports’?

What does it all mean? What does a ‘received report’ amount
to? Was the message ‘received’ by phone, email, text,
letter, in person? Did the IMC squad rendezvous at a secret
midnight location in a smoked-filled room to ‘receive’?
They are not revealing.

Maybe it is one of life’s mysteries. It just happens.
Someone plants an idea in a commissioner’s head and before
you know it is in the report. No questions asked. Well,
none needed.

Contrast this vague, imprecise assertion with what actually
occurred last September.

Under the careful scrutiny of five individuals, General de
Chastelain, two of his team and two independent eye
witnesses, Fr Alex Reid and Rev Harold Good, the IRA put
all their weapons beyond use.

De Chastellain meticulously recorded as it happened what
the five pairs of eyes witnessed.

He faced the world’s press and was cross-examined.

The British, Irish and US governments accepted de
Chastelain’s report, confirming the IRA had put all their
weapons beyond use.

By the way, de Chastelain heard the same report as the
‘Balderdice’ Commission which led them to claim the IRA
withheld weapons. Didn't amount to much, he concluded.
Found that out after asking a few relevant questions.

But then if you have spent most of your life trying to
defeat republicans and failing, you will find it hard to
pass up an opportunity to put the boot into them.

That might just explain the motivation of the one-time
leader of the Alliance Party, the one-time head of London’s
anti-terrorist Special Branch and a man who was in the CIA
for over 30 years.

For the British and Irish governments and other fans of the
IMC, hoisted by your own petard comes to mind.


Opin: Time To Deal With Under-Investment


I attended Monday’s talks at Hillsborough Castle as part of
a Sinn Féin delegation to meet both the British and Irish
governments and our message to both governments was very
clear. We told them very clearly that the present impasse
is not only unacceptable, but that British direct rule is
fundamentally damaging to our health sector, our children’s
education and our public services.

It is now time to get down to business. It is not the time
for grandstanding or rhetoric. That time has long passed.
We need a publicly stated timeframe for ending suspension
of the political institutions and clear movement on the
outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement, in
particular we need the transfer of justice and policing
powers, the implementation of strong equality legislation
and demilitarisation.

Sinn Féin is ready to do business and we have been for some
time. No one can be expected to wait endlessly for the DUP
to realise that there is no alternative to political
progress and accommodation with republicans and
nationalists. Ordinary people are losing out because of
this “never, never, never” approach.

Whilst much of the focus of the talks was on the need for a
publicly stated timeframe for ending suspension we also
discussed with both the British and Irish governments the
delivery of a peace dividend. I raised the issue
specifically with Peter Hain at Monday’s talks. Both
governments could significantly add to political progress
through a practical commitment to building the peace. Sinn
Féin has long argued for a comprehensive package to address
decades of British government neglect and under-investment
in the North. Years of underfunding have damaged every part
of our infrastructure — our roads, schools, hospitals,
railways and sewerage. There is also a damming legacy of
discrimination, inequality and disadvantage that must be
tackled. The solution is not to increase the tax burden on
people here through water charges and rates increases but
for the British government to accept its responsibility to
compensate for this historic under-investment.

I will continue to press for this in the time ahead.


Opin: Billy And Liam To Lose Out In NIO’s ‘Rigged Tombola’

By Newton Emerson

The National Lottery was a classic piece of Tory joined-up

They spent 15 years running down the education system then
introduced a tax on stupidity.

It looks like the NIO’s education lottery will work in much
the same way – except that the corresponding tax is on
bigotry, payable in advance.

Last week Peter Hain announced that delivering sufficient
educational choice from the “critical age of 14” onwards
will require “a new model of schooling, shared across

Everyone in Northern Ireland then obediently began
scratching away at the word ‘shared’ to see if their number
had come up.

Was Hain hinting at the end of segregation? What about the
‘ethos’ of us and them?

Will Billy be forced to learn Irish while Liam joins the
Officer Training Corps?

So, once again, the masses are distracted with colourful

In fact the key word in Mr Hain’s speech was not ‘shared’ –
taking vocational subjects in mixed further education
colleges has been a fact of life here for decades.

The key word was ‘14’. That is the number that has come up
for every punter from the NIO’s rigged tombola.

Mr Hain has quietly conceded the need for academic
selection, albeit three years later than under the present

He did not call it academic selection of course. He called
it “key life decisions that young people must take at that
age about their future careers”.

But as these decisions will involve a choice between
academic subjects at one school or vocational subjects at
another, only ideological squeamishness can explain his
flowery rhetoric.

As a graduate of Craigavon’s Dickson Plan system, this is a
postcode lottery that I have played already.

Uniquely in Northern Ireland, Craigavon has had universal
academic selection at the age of 14 since the early 1970s.

The system operates in precisely the same way as Mr Hain
apparently now envisages for everywhere else.

Children attend primary school, then move to a
comprehensive junior high school at 11. There they are
streamed by subject and regularly tested, with different
courses offered to different children according to emergent
aptitude and ability.

After a final set of subject-based exams at 14, the
academic children go to grammar school while everyone else
goes to high school, which leads, if they wish, to advanced
vocational subjects at a further education institute.

Because this is a lot of choice for a small region to
sustain, facilities are inevitably shared.

In Portadown the high school and the further education
institute are on the same campus and take day-release
pupils from the grammar school.

The further education institute has other sites offering
other subjects in Lurgan and Banbridge. All are mixed
because the parallel Catholic system can’t justify
duplicate facilities.

This system has worked well for two generations and is
enormously popular – in what must be the ultimate
endorsement, estate agents even put ‘Inside Dickson Plan
catchment area’ on ads for new housing developments.

So why won’t the NIO say that it is effectively extending
this model across the whole of Northern Ireland?

Once again, ideological squeamishness is the only

As the SDLP noted rather sniffily in its submission to the
Costello consultation, the Dickson Plan is “still
selection” – although at least the SDLP considered the
option, unlike the Costello Working Group itself, which
managed to completely ignore the existence of a functioning
comprehensive system in the heart of Northern Ireland.

Perhaps this is because the Dickson Plan requires an
additional tier of junior high schools, although why these
can’t be a ‘shared’ part of existing institutions has never
been explained. Or perhaps the Dickson Plan’s truly
unforgivable sin is to call its key set of exams the 14-
plus, which sounds far too much like the 11-plus for our
crusading educationalists to stomach.

So instead the NIO will quietly impose a pseudo-Dickson
Plan, piecemeal and half-heartedly, lacking the vision and
cohesion of the original.

In the ultimate irony, Craigavon will be ordered to
dismantle the Dickson Plan and replace it with a system
that is essentially the same, only mired in needless
confusion and disguised behind ludicrous Blairite jargon.
Mr Hain got a rousing cheer at last year’s Labour Party
conference when he promised to end academic selection – so
creating that appearance is now all that really counts.

Yet we will overlook the resulting farce amid fears that
Billy and Liam might lose their ‘ethos’.

When it comes to the direct-rule lottery, stupid Northern
Ireland can always be relied on for a roll-over.


Bush Appointee At NASA Resigns Over Censorship

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
09 February 2006

A Bush administration appointee at Nasa has been forced to
resign after accusations that he tried to censor scientists
who took issue with the White House line on global warming
and the origins of the universe.

George Deutsch, a public relations officer at Nasa who
previously worked on President George Bush's re-election
campaign, was accused of trying to keep the media away from
the agency's chief climate change scientist, James Hansen,
after Dr Hansen called publicly for reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions.

According to an e-mail shown to The New York Times, he also
told a Nasa web designer to add the word "theory" to every
reference of the Big Bang - the most prevalent scientific
explanation of the origins of the universe, which is hotly
contested by creationists, including many right-wing
Christian supporters of the President.

Mr Deutsch's resignation appeared to have as much to do
with the fact that he lied on his job application - he said
he had a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas A&M
University, when in fact he never graduated - as with the
way he did his job.

Nasa officials refused to be drawn on the reasons for his
resignation, but its chief administrator recently sent an
e-mail to all his staff assuring them it was not the job of
public affairs officers "to alter, filter or adjust
engineering or scientific material produced by Nasa's
technical staff".

Dr Hansen and others have argued that Mr Deutsch was only
part of a much broader problem of political interference at
the agency. Dr Hansen, who directs Nasa's Goddard Institute
for Space Studies in New York, said the Bush administration
appointee had demanded to review his lectures and
publications in advance.

After he gave a speech highly critical of the
administration's global warming policies last year, he told
The New York Times, he was warned that there would be "dire
consequences" if he continued to make similar criticisms.

His complaints have drawn sympathy from Republicans as well
as Democrats. The chairman of the House of Representatives'
Science Committee, the New York Republican Sherwood
Boehlert, wrote a letter to Nasa last week denouncing what
he called "an atmosphere of intimidation". "Political
figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to
make sure they are consistent with the best available
science," the letter read. "Scientists should not be
reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent
with the current political orthodoxy."


We Would Like To Invite You To The Boston Town Hall Meeting
Of The Newly Formed Irish Lobby For Immigration Reform

Submitted by massjwj on Tue, 2006-02-07 09:38.

Start: 2006-02-09 19:00
End: 2006-02-09 21:00
Timezone: Etc/GMT+5


Thursday February 9th, 2006

We would like to invite you to the Boston Town Hall Meeting
of the newly formed Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. The
Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) is bringing
together the Irish and Irish-American communities to change
the outdated and unfair policies that deny immigrants a
fair path to citizenship. We believe that organized labor
has an important role to play in this struggle. Unions have
immigrant roots and a long history of bringing people
together to fight for respect, dignity, and good jobs. But
some employers use the current immigration system to divide
workers, exploit the undocumented, drive down wages, and
attack unions. Legalizing undocumented immigrants will
strengthen the labor movement by making it possible to
organize millions of immigrant workers. We invite
representatives from your local’s leadership to come to
this meeting and we also ask you to publicize it to your
members. For more information or to RSVP, contact the
Boston Irish Immigration Center on 617.542.7654, ext 24.
7:00 pm at Florian Hall in Dorchester.


McAleese To Give Notre Dame Speech

09/02/2006 - 07:14:01

President Mary McAleese will give the commencement address
at the US University of Notre Dame in the spring.

McAleese, a former law professor and vice-chancellor of
Queen’s University in Belfast, will receive an honorary
doctor of laws degree during the ceremony on May 21 in
South Bend, Indiana.

“As an attorney, journalist, scholar and now president,
Mary McAleese is an inspiring role model for women, a
fierce champion for peace, and a passionate voice within
the Catholic Church,” said the Reverend John Jenkins, Notre
Dame’s president.

President McAleese, a Belfast-raised Catholic elected in
1997, has made building relations with the Protestant
community a top priority. She is Ireland’s first president
to come from the North.

She is married to Dr Martin McAleese, who in 2004 received
an honorary degree from Notre Dame during the dedication of
Dublin’s historic O’Connell House as a base for the
university’s programmes in Ireland.


Ryanair Is 'Dirty' Airline, Claims TV Exposé

09 February 2006

A behind-the-scenes look at Ryanair is set to make claims
about dirty planes and exhausted pilots and crew.

It will also feature pilots complaining about the numbers
of hours they have to fly.

The new television documentary, 'Ryanair Caught Napping',
is based on footage shot by two undercover reporters who
infiltrated the Irish budget airline over a five-month

The expose is set to be aired in Channel Four's
'Dispatches' slot next week.

Reporters Charlotte Smith and Mary Nash secretely filmed
their training with the low-fares airline as well as
members of the cabin crew on board flights.

The hour-long programme, which will be transmitted next
Monday at 8pm, is expected to also feature a contribution
from Ryanair.

However, a spokesperson for the airline said last night:
"We have not seen the documentary and therefore are not in
a position to comment on it."

It is also claimed that the show, which has not yet been
edited, will reveal a cynical attitude by staff towards
passengers and their welfare.

"'Dispatches' undercover reporters spent five months
secretly filming Ryanair's training programme and onboard
flights as members of the cabin crew," a Channel 4
spokesperson said yesterday. "The reporters reveal what
really takes place behind the scenes: dirty planes,
exhausted cabin crew and pilots complaining about the
number of hours they have to fly.

"Ryanair staff speak frankly about their experiences and
attitudes towards passengers," the spokesperson said.

The expose comes weeks after it was revealed that a Ryanair
captain suffered a temporary breakdown in the cockpit on a
flight to Rome. The captain in question had buried one of
his children just days before.

In that case, the co-pilot was forced to intervene when the
pilot failed to react on approach to the city's Fiumicino
Airport and didn't correct a dangerous descent. The first
officer took over control of the aircraft and diverted the
plane instead to Pescara.


U2 Sweep The Board With Five Grammy 'Gongs'

Last updated: 09-02-06, 06:46

Bono performing 'One' with Mary J Blige last night

U2 swept the board at the Grammy awards last night,
scooping five gongs including album of the year for How to
Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

The record also earned the band the best rock album title,
while they won song of the year and best rock performance
for Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own. Their track
City Of Blinding Lights triumphed in the best rock song

U2's success upstaged Mariah Carey, who with eight
nominations had been billed of the comeback star of the
night, but only picked up three awards in the end. "I don't
know what to say; this is really a big, big night for our
band," Bono told the 48th annual awards in Los Angeles.

The Chemical Brothers picked up the best dance recording
award for Galvanize and best electronic/dance album for
Push The Button.

Cartoon band Gorillaz, headed by Damon Albarn, won best
vocal pop collaboration for their single Feel Good Inc,
featuring De La Soul. But Sir Paul McCartney, who had been
nominated in three categories, went home empty-handed
despite a rousing rendition of the Beatles' Helter Skelter,
his first at the Grammys.

Gorillaz, who kicked off the 48th annual awards in Los
Angeles with a "performance" with Madonna, lost out in
three categories.

The leotard-clad 47-year-old joined the characters on stage
for Feel Good Inc, which was mixed into her hit Hung Up.

U2's Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own is a tribute
Bono wrote for his late father.

"I want to thank my father Bob for giving me voice and a
bit of attitude," he said as he accepted the song of the
year trophy. He added: "If you think this is going to go to
our head, it's too late."

Picking up the best album title, Bono also paid tribute to
those they had beaten to the award - Carey, McCartney,
Kanye West and Gwen Stefani.

"Mariah, you sing like an angel, you're really something
else," he said.

Earlier he explained that the title How To Dismantle An
Atomic Bomb had been inspired by his relationship with his
father. "When he died it set off a kind of chain reaction
in me," he said.

"I've been shouting about him and giving off about him and
complaining about him and screaming about him for the last
few years and maybe tonight is the time to stop." "It's
really a great, great moment for me personally."

U2 performed their hit Vertigo, and collaborated with R&B
queen Mary J Blige for their classic, One.

© 2006


Responsible Drinker Diageo Launches Mid-Strength Stout

Frank McNally and Siobhán Creaton

It promises the same taste and the same colour. It even
promises the same distinctive head (except the morning
after). But it will be for the drinkers of Limerick to
decide whether a reduced-alcohol version of Guinness goes
on sale across Ireland later this year.

Two years in the making, the new "mid-strength" brew is not
to be confused with Guinness Light, the HMS Titanic of
stout products that had its ill-fated launch in 1979.

At 2.8 per cent proof, the mid-strength product is lower in
alcohol than Guinness Light was (3.6 per cent). The crucial
difference is that mid-strength Guinness is designed to
look and taste as close as possible to the regular 4.2 per
cent brew.

At a private tasting in St James's Gate yesterday, The
Irish Times was hard put to tell the difference. It thought
the new product was slightly thinner than the old one, but
it didn't like to swear.

Finally, under the watchful eyes of a group of company
executives, the man from Del Monte copped out and said

The ultimate verdict now rests with Guinness customers in
80 Limerick bars, who will test-market the drink for six
months from March 9th. Limerick was chosen for the honour
as the most demographically representative part of Ireland.
Depending on reaction there, "potential for a national
roll-out will be assessed".

Announcing the product, Diageo Ireland said it aimed to
offer drinkers a chance to reduce their alcohol intake
while continuing to enjoy the beer.

Marketing manager Paul Norris said its consumer research so
far showed that most people were unable to distinguish
between regular draught Guinness and the mid-strength
drink, thanks to a technique that allowed brewers to take
out some of the alcohol, while preserving the colour, taste
and texture.

"This investment furthers Diageo Ireland's commitment to
promoting responsible drinking," he said. Drinks companies
have been responding to the strategic taskforce on alcohol
that they should develop lower alcohol content products.
Diageo has invested more than €5 million promoting
responsible enjoyment of its products.

Calling the product a "great breakthrough by the master
brewers", Mr Norris said the "proprietary technology" would
remain a secret. But the new stout attracted criticism from
rivals Beamish & Crawford, which suggested it could
"undermine and damage" a stout market already "in fairly
sharp decline".

"We are not quite sure what Diageo are up to in launching a
half-strength stout," the company said. "It seems to fly in
the face of the concept of a true pint of stout, and it
seems to suggest that they are not happy with their own
product, which is ludicrous in the light of previous
attempts to launch lighter versions, colder versions and
bigger versions."

© The Irish Times


Terror Threat To Ireland 'Still Low'

Tom Brady
09 February 2006

The threat to Ireland from international terrorism is
currently assessed as low, according to the latest briefing
given to the Government.

The assessment has been carried out by the Garda security
section on the basis of intelligence reports provided by
the Middle Eastern desk operating within the Special

Its up to date account of the activities here of groups
suspected of providing logistical support to the al-Qa'ida
terror network is included in the confidential annual
report compiled by the Government's task force on emergency

The report has now been presented to the Government by the
task force chairman, Defence Minister Willie O'Dea who
warned that the assessment was not cause for complacency as
the scenario could change very quickly.

He said terrorist acts such as the London bombings as well
as the spread of avian flu and natural disasters such as
the tsunami in Asia, Hurricane Katrina in the US and the
Pakistan earthquake, were further reminders of the
importance of emergency planning.

Some of the issues tackled by the task force in the past
year also included the Navan bus crash last May and the
potential threat of a human flu pandemic.


Mummer's The Word As Ulster Dancers Perform In Bulgaria

By Linda McKee
09 February 2006

Straw-clad mummers from both sides of the Irish border have
performed with 5,000 of their devil-masked counterparts in
Eastern Europe's biggest masquerade festival.

Mummers from Belcoo and Aughakillymaude in Co Fermanagh and
the Ards Rhymers in Co Down joined a troupe from Sligo and
Wrenboys from Co Leitrim to showcase their medieval hero
combat drama in front of thousands in the city of Pernik in

The Belcoo troupe demonstrated clap, set, brush,
traditional and sean-nos dance routines in front of
fascinated Eastern European crowds, as well as staging a
fight to the death of two heroes, followed by the
resurrection of the fallen warrior with the aid of arcane

The fight and resurrection dates back to pagan traditions
and symbolises the cycle of life, death and rebirth, as
well as winter and the return of spring.

The White Horse, an Irish mumming fertility icon, and cross
dresser Biddy Funny terrorised audiences, particularly
picking on young women.

For three days, up to 800 troupes of masked performers
paraded through Pernik's city-centre to a backdrop of
clanging cowbells, horns and cannonfire designed to scare
off the evil spirits and diseases of mid winter.

Mumming groups gathered from all over Bulgaria, performing
alongside troupes from the Czech Republic, Macedonia and

The Mummers Foundation, which has just been set up in Co
Fermanagh, announced that Bulgarian kukeri (mummers) may be
returning the favour by joining Dublin's St Patrick's Day
parade in 2007.

A team of Bulgarian kukeri travelled to Fermanagh in
December and will soon be returning, international
programmes manager Jim Ledwith said.

"On Saturday evening, an opportunity was also afforded to
travel to a remote Bulgaria village to witness the sinister
dark Sardinian mummers from the mountainous village of
Mamoiada performing round a bonfire," he added.

"The north Sardinian village is where more Fermanagh
mummers are destined to appear this summer because of its
Mummers Museum project and its associated village industry
of craftwork masks."


Altan Looking Forward To The Music And Food In Killarney

By: Eve Kelliher

TRAD musicians and fans alike are putting the final touches
to plans to revel in some toe-tapping entertainment in
Killarney next week.

The Gathering Traditional Music Festival, the seventh such
event to take place in the town, was launched recently at
the Gleneagle Hotel and the programme will unfold both in
that venue and the INEC, from Wednesday, February 15, until
Sunday, February 19.

Headlining the festival are Altan, Sharon Shannon and Teada
and Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan is among the world-famous
performers eagerly awaiting the entertainment extravaganza.

“We’ve played twice before at The Gathering and it’s always
a great event. I’m also very much looking forward to
heading to Killarney. Its restaurants are so nice and we
always have such good fun there,” Mairead told The Kingdom.

“We’ve also performed at the Rose of Tralee a few times and
it’s always been good fun.”

Mairead and the group were last in the county in summer of
last year, when they took centre stage in Kenmare to play a
fundraising gig in support of their friend Richard Lucey
who was travelling to Africa on a charity mission to build

Born and raised in the Donegal Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair,
Mairead found herself surrounded by music from her infancy.

Now one of the leading exponents of Donegal fiddle music,
she received her start on the instrument from her father,
Francie, a fiddle teacher of great renown with a wealth of
unusual local tunes, many learnt in turn from his mother,

She also received tuition from fiddler Dinny McLaughlin,
who was a frequent visitor to the home when she was young.
Mairead is also a talented vocalist and learnt many songs
from neighbours and friends in Gaoth Dobhair.

As well as her work with Altan, Mairead over the years has
presented traditional music programmes on radio and
television, including the classic radio show, The Long Note
and the television series, The Pure Drop.

She set up Altan with her late husband, Belfast flautist
Frankie Kennedy, in the early 1980s and the band has gone
on to influence Irish trad throughout the world.

No Irish traditional band in the last dozen years has had a
wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the
world than Altan, which took its name from a lake behind
Errigal Mountain in Doneal.

Famous for their mesmerising live performances, they have
won fans across Europe, the United States, Australia, New
Zealand and Japan.

In the early 90s, Altan was dealt a devastating blow, when
band leader and manager, Frankie Kennedy, was diagnosed
with cancer.

Through a long illness, the band, at Frankie’s insistence,
continued to tour and perform with Frankie’s participation
whenever possible.

Altan were signed to Virgin Records in 1996, the first
Irish band of their kind to be signed by a major label.

This year, they are marking the band’s 20th birthday.

“We had a big celebration in Glasgow recently where we were
joined by Mary Black and Paul Brady,” said Mairead.

And, two decades since she first hit the road, Mairead
continues to thrive on a busy touring schedule.

“I love touring, it’s great to bring the music to different
places. America has been very good to us over the years and
in Japan they love Irish music, they really do, so we have
great times there. We were in Australia two weeks ago and
played the Sydney Opera House. Afterwards the Irish
ambassador brought us out to a party and wined and dined
us, it was just fantastic,” said Mairead.

They join fellow performers in Killarney in coming weeks
for a weekend jampacked with entertainment by some of the
finest trad musicians, dancers and singers in the world.

“We’re looking forward to people coming out to see us and
to meeting old friends and making new ones!” said Mairead.

The Gathering Traditional Music Festival has fast
established itself as the best traditional festival in
Ireland. The first event took place in 2000 and since then
the festival has grown from strength to strength
celebrating the best in the trad community.

The line-up for this year’s festival includes concerts,
ceilis, sessions, set-dance and instrument workshops,
guided walks, a tour of Sliabh Luachra and a schools
outreach programme.

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