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February 10, 2006

Sp Branch Removed Evidence in PSNI Killing

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News About Ireland & The Irish

IN 02/10/06 ‘Evidence Relating To Killing Was Removed’
BB 02/10/06 New Appeal Over Thomas Devlin Murder
BT 02/10/06 Christmas Party Snub By DUP May Cost £10,000
BT 02/10/06 Ulster Gets > 2,000 New Legal Guns Yearly
BT 02/10/06 Killer Turned Peacemaker Dies After Illness
BB 02/10/06 Suspended Berry Resigns From DUP
NH 02/10/06 Opin: FrDes-Trousers On, But Buttons Coming Off
EX 02/10/06 Opin: Garret’s 80, Generous & Ahead Of His Time
BT 02/10/06 US Plea Over Tragic Death Of Ulster Star
NY 02/10/06 New Ballgame In Ireland, And A Movie, Too
BB 02/10/06 Dig Reveals Belfast's Poor Past
IN 02/10/06 Workers Uncover Old Belfast Tram Lines
LT 02/10/06 Sean MacDiarmada's Last Letter Going To Auction

(Poster’s Note: News (from me) might be a little spotty
this weekend. Going to Beaumont to see Danny O’Flaherty.


‘Evidence Relating To Killing Was Removed’

By Barry McCaffrey

Potential evidence in the controversial killing of a Co
Armagh man was removed from Special Branch offices, a
Police Ombudsman report is ex-pected to conclude.

Neil McConville (21) pictured, from Bleary died in hospital
after police shot him when his car all-egedly crashed
through a checkpoint near Lisburn in April 2003.

He was the first person in the north to be shot dead by
police since the 1992 killing of Pearse Jordan (23) in west

It remains the only such case involving the PSNI.

However, a report due to be published by Police Ombudsman
Nuala O’Loan is expected to state that evidence relating to
the case had been removed from Special Branch offices
before her investigators could view it.

Some officers were reported

to have been “non-cooperative, obstructive and difficult”
when questioned by Mrs O’Loan’s detectives.

On the day Mr McConville was killed undercover officers and
a helicopter had monitored the movements of his car in
Belfast, where it was alleged that a gun was being picked

As the red Vauxhall Cavalier carrying Mr McConville and a
passenger left the city, seven cars carrying 21 undercover
police officers followed.

At 6.55pm police claimed that they ordered his car to stop.

It is alleged the Cavalier then swerved into a police
vehicle, spun and end-ed sideways on the road.

Police then smashed the driver and passenger windows and it
was claimed the 21-year-old reversed his car, hitting an

He was hit by three shots fired by a second officer, while
the second man in the vehicle was also hit. The passenger
was later charged with possession of a sawn-off shotgun.

Mrs O’Loan is expected to conclude that police withheld
evidence after all material relating to the killing,
including a computer hard drive, was removed from Special
Branch offices before investigators had arrived.

It is understood that police claimed the removal of
evidence was the result of “human error”.

Mrs O’Loan’s report is expected to state that officers
overseeing the security operation were “non-cooperative,
obstructive and difficult” when questioned.

Criticisms are expected to include a failure to issue clear
commands to special support units involved in the incident.

A senior officer in charge of the operation, identified as
Superintendent ‘B’, has been accused of failing to keep any
verifiable rec-ords of the operation in the control room.
There are also concerns over his accounts of events.

The Ombudsman is understood to have prepared files to be
delivered to the Public Prosecution Service.


New Appeal Over Schoolboy Murder

The police have issued a fresh appeal for information about
the murder of Thomas Devlin in north Belfast.

It is six months since the 15-year-old was stabbed to death
on the Somerton Road as he walked home with some friends.

Police have said there were a number of people passing
through the area at the time who have yet to come forward.

A number of people arrested since the murder have been
subsequently released without charge.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Gilchrist said the
investigation was making progress.

"I know that there are people with information, which could
help us. They may be people who are very close to the
suspects in this case and I imagine they must be really
struggling with their conscience," he said.

"We have here the absolutely wanton murder of an innocent
schoolboy, taken from his parents, his brother, sister and
his friends, denied his life.

"Those people who have knowledge of this murder must do the
right thing and contact us; their information is of great
importance to this inquiry."

Talented musician

The PSNI have previously said the prime suspects in the
inquiry were two young men with a black and white dog.

In January, officers searched empty flats in the Mount
Vernon esate in connection with the murder.

Thomas, a student at Belfast Royal Academy, was a talented
musician who played the horn at school.

He had just bought sweets from a nearby shop and was on his
way home when he was stabbed.

His 18-year-old friend was injured in the attack, but not
seriously. A 16-year-old boy managed to escape.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/10 07:24:50 GMT


Christmas Party Snub By DUP May Cost £10,000

By Lisa Smyth
10 February 2006

Coleraine ratepayers face a possible bill of over £10,000
after the DUP mayor refused to invite the council's only
Sinn Fein representative to a Christmas reception.

Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard initiated High Court
proceedings against mayor Timothy Deans and Coleraine
Borough Council following the snub last December.

However, the parties settled out of court earlier this week
when the council's legal advisors felt the High Court would
probably find in favour of the plaintiff.

Mr Deans agreed to write an open letter of apology to Mr
Leonard in which he admitted he had been ignorant of the
law regarding equality matters in local government, as well
as covering Sinn Fein's legal costs.

Prior to the settlement, Coleraine Borough Council voted
that the DUP should pay the impending legal bill - which is
expected to top £10,000.

But Mr Deans has explained his party is awaiting the
outcome of an investigation by the Local Government Auditor
into the matter before the DUP decides if it will foot the

"We are not ruling out the possibility of paying the bill
but that is something the party is still considering," said
the Coleraine mayor.

However, pressure is mounting that the DUP - and not the
ratepayers - should cover the costs of the legal argument.

UUP Assemblyman Norman Hillis said: "While I have no time
for Sinn Fein or Mr Leonard's politics, I don't see why the
ratepayers should end up with a bill which could be in the
tens of thousands.

"To be honest, the whole thing was silly anyway because Mr
Deans had already sent Mr Leonard the council Christmas
card and invited him to the council Christmas dinner.

"We have had two special council meetings to discuss the
issue, with 22 councillors and officers in attendance, and
then you have the chief executive travelling up and down to
Belfast with Mr Deans, so we have wasted an awful lot of
time and money."

The SDLP, which made the initial proposal that the DUP
should pay the legal costs, has contacted the Local
Government Auditor about the issue on the basis that rates
should not be "used for little party political stunts".


Ulster Gets More Than 2,000 New Guns Every Year ... And
They're All Perfectly Legal

By Brian Hutton
10 February 2006

Legal gun ownership in Northern Ireland is rocketing with
almost 2,000 new firearms being registered every year, this
newspaper has learned.

Startling figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph reveal
that police have authorised 7,174 new guns over the last
four years recorded.

There are presently more than 144,500 legally-held guns in
Northern Ireland - which amounts to more than one licensed
gun for every 12 people.

That is almost three times the number of legally-held guns
in England and Wales per head of population, and more than
twice the equivalent figure for Scotland.

Realistically, the actual total is even more stark when
security force personal protection weapons and illegal guns
are taken into account.

The sheer volume paints an alarming picture of a surging
gun culture in what was already one of Europe's most
tooled-up regions, despite recent developments in the peace

A geographic breakdown of where the firearms are held -
released to this newspaper after a request under the
Freedom of Information Act - reveals:

LISBURN has more legal guns than the entire city of

EAST BELFAST has almost five times as many licensed guns as
west Belfast.

BALLYMENA has more than ten times the amount of registered
weapons as west Belfast.

The total number of licensed guns in private hands
comprises 89,600 shotguns, 23,000 airguns, 16,600 rifles
and 14,200 handguns.

The remainder relates to miscellaneous types, including
collectors' and museum items, according to the PSNI.

High incidence of gun ownership in rural areas such as
Fermanagh (8,672) or Dungannon and South Tyrone (8,292)
may, in part, be explained by agricultural use.

But, according to the most recent census statistics, there
are 51,000 farmers in Northern Ireland and 27,000 farms.

If every farmer had a shotgun, that would leave a balance
of 38,600 shotguns for unexplained use.

Some of the more than 30,000 privately-owned rifles and
handguns would be used at Northern Ireland's 55 authorised
gun clubs and 39 legal gun ranges.

In Northern Ireland there are 132 registered gun dealers.

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde holds authority over who can
or cannot hold a gun.

Before granting a firearms licence, the regulations state
the Chief Constable must be satisfied that a person is not
a danger to the public, is not banned from owning a gun, is
not of "intemperate habits or unsound mind" and has good
reason for having a firearm.


Killer Turned Peacemaker Dies After Long Illness

By Chris Thornton
10 February 2006

A loyalist who took part in a notorious sectarian murder
and kidnapped a priest - while serving in the RUC - has
died after an illness.

PUP member William McCaughey, who was also jailed for a UVF
gun and bomb attack on a pub and was linked to loyalist
protests outside a Catholic church in Ballymena, died at
his home in Lurgan on Wednesday.

McCaughey, who was the party's North Antrim representative
and a member of the PUP executive, was pictured during a
protest outside Harryville wearing an Orange Order sash.

He later turned against the protests and helped clean up
graffiti at the church. Shortly before his death he
complained that unionist politicians had been responsible
for luring young men into violence during the Troubles.

The 55-year-old is believed to have been diagnosed with
cancer just over a year ago.

McCaughey was a member of the UVF and the RUC's Special
Patrol Group at the same time in the mid-Seventies.

In 1978 he was jailed for the murder of William Strathearn,
a Catholic shopkeeper, in Ahoghill, Co Antrim, a year
earlier. Ahoghill was McCaughey's home village.

The killing became known as the 'Good Samaritan murder',
because the UVF gang lured Strathearn, a 39-year-old
shopkeeper and father-of-seven, to his front door at 2am by
claiming they were seeking aspirin for a sick child.
Strathearn was shot twice. He is believed to have been shot
by Robin Jackson, the notorious loyalist known as the

McCaughey admitted supplying the handgun used in the murder
and driving Jackson to the scene. He also admitted shooting
and wounding a customer leaving the Rock Bar near Keady, Co
Armagh in 1976. A bomb was also left at the door of the
pub, but it did not explode.

McCaughey carried out the attack with two other serving RUC
officers, one of whom was on duty at the time. The two
other policemen received suspended sentences.

It was later found that the guns used in the Rock Bar
attack had also been used to murder Co Armagh brothers
John, Brian and Anthony Reavey.

McCaughey was also jailed for kidnapping Ahoghill parish
priest Father Hugh Murphy in June 1978 with another RUC
officer. Fr Murphy, a former Royal Navy chaplain who held
an OBE, was kidnapped in response to the IRA abduction of
RUC Constable William Turbitt. Constable Turbitt was
killed, but Fr Murphy was released.

McCaughey carried out the kidnapping less than two weeks
before he went on trial on a bizarre theft charge.

Less than two months after murdering William Strathearn,
McCaughey was alleged to have stolen two tables while
acting as an RUC bodyguard for UUP MP John Taylor, now Lord
Kilclooney. McCaughey and another policeman were accused of
taking the tables from the home of Elsie Kelsey, the then
mayor of Lisburn, while waiting for Taylor to leave a

The trial heard accusations and counter-accusations of
drunkenness between the policemen and the partygoers. The
jury failed to reach a verdict.

McCaughey was released from prison in 1994. He later joined
the PUP, saying he supported the peace process and the Good
Friday Agreement.


Suspended Berry Resigns From DUP

DUP assembly member Paul Berry has resigned from the party,
the High Court in Belfast has been told.

An interim injunction which he was granted against the
party over its decision to suspend him has also been

Mr Berry is to pay £3,000 to the DUP to help meet its
defence costs.

The Newry and Armagh MLA was suspended from the party after
a Sunday newspaper reported an alleged encounter with a
masseur in a Belfast hotel.

Mr Berry went to the court to challenge the DUP's
disciplinary moves.

In a statement issued on Friday through his solicitors, Mr
Berry said: "Today I wish to publicly announce my
resignation from the Democratic Unionist Party.

"The past number of months has been a particularly
stressful time for my wife, family and myself and we want
closure on this matter.

"We have come to the conclusion that there is no future for
me within the DUP and on that basis we have decided that it
is best for me to resign."

He said he would remain an assembly member and a

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/10 10:05:04 GMT


Opin: Fr Des - Trousers On, But The Buttons Are Coming Off

(Des Wilson,

When you look at Londonesque political tactics, always look
for the evolution.

Now what on earth does that mean? It means you never look
at anything a London administration does without looking at
what goes before and what comes after – and being
realistically suspicious about both. The constant
repetition of the old saying 'They never give you a pair of
trousers without cutting off the buttons' is as true today
as it was when buttons held up trousers and London held up
everybody. To ransom.

For instance, when they were forced to grant us one vote
for each person what did they do? They unwillingly granted
the vote and then took away most of the powers of the
councils for which the people voted. Neat, what? So, back
where you started.

And when they set up a body to protect human rights? Gave
it offices but not enough money to run anything but a
skeleton service. Not a human rights body then – a human
rights skeleton.

So what now? Well, they told us we could vote for an
Assembly of our own. We did. The Man From London came over
and said the Assembly's departments would have to be
disbanded. Why? Because his Irish supporters said so.
Right. Trousers on. Buttons off.

But at least the Assembly is still around. So it is put on
half pay. Why? Because it can make no decisions. Why?
Because London secret services said so. So we are told that
until we can recreate the Assembly ourselves it will stay
shut. But we did not close it – London closed it using the
excuses and demands of the Paisley party and the secret
services. No matter.

London wants to make sure you only use your hands to keep
your trousers up and your head to make excuses if you
can't. So if we who have no power in the matter do not make
arrangements to reopen the Assembly with its departments –
which is closed at the nod of our political opponents who
hate us – then what will happen? Now comes the really good

Well, you see, since the Assembly is not reopening, then it
would be, ah, rather useless, ahem, to have elections to
it, now wouldn't it? So having nullified our vote by
refusing to fulfil their obligations under an international
agreement London says it is we who have to be penalised for
this by having no vote which is useful for anything.

That is to say, we are back to a position worse than 1960.
We have a vote but it is neutralised by a word, nod and
wink from the lodges, church houses, respectabilised
drawing rooms and the Indefensible Monitoring Commission.

And all the nice people agree, sure begob, why give them
votes when they can't agree to an Assembly and government?
(By the way, the word begob is inserted here to show that
it is not only London speaking but Dublin as well.)

The evolution therefore is: From no vote at all to a vote
without power but the promise of power, then to an Assembly
with no permanency, from this to no Assembly at all and,
since there is no use in the vote any more, Stop the Vote.

This brings us back to where we were before, the classic
position of the slave forced to submit to laws which we
have no function in making. No matter how good the laws
might be they are not ours. The best we can hope for, then,
is a more comfortable state of servitude.

Do you know, if it were not for the fact that all this is
being engineered through a man who has such a fine record
of working for oppressed people in South Africa and had
such an enlightened view of what should be done in Ireland,
I would think all pretence of honesty had departed at last
from London's politics. Thank goodness he was made British
secretary in Ireland, only for that I would think the whole
process was the greatest malignancy ever.

Poor Mr Hain. How painful it must be for him to have to
bring all this about against all his better... well,
better... let's see now, well, yes, instincts, that's the
word, instincts. Perhaps one day we will all be infected
with his optimism, believing a police force of the same
people and the same principles and ruled by the same
administration as before can became a force for good,
believing he is doing the right thing reducing the
effectiveness of the people's vote, going against the hard-
won democratic principles which took hundreds of years to

Ah well, perhaps good will come of it. Can't see how,
though. Unless, of course, every democrat gets behind those
patient and intelligent politicians who are determined to
make real change happen rather than just be talked about.
To force agreements to be kept. By London? Well, that's a
thought too, rather a remote possibility, though, unless we
all get behind the push to make them.

Incidentally, when will the Dublin administration tell
London to stop its agents in Ireland insulting people? They
have insulted an Irish President, a United States
President, the Pope, Dublin government ministers, Irish
elected representatives, they have beaten Dublin-based
politicians over the heads with sticks; remember that
meeting in the Europa Hotel, or is that one of a thousand
incidents we are told we have to forget?

Dammit, if you are not allowed a vote that works, how on
earth can you expect to be allowed a memory?

Down, Jim Crow, down.

February 10, 2006



Opin: Garret Is 80 Years Young, Generous To A Fault And
Still Ahead Of His Time

By Noel Whelan

WE had a very small library in my old secondary school.
Among the collection of books which students were allowed
to borrow was a handful on history and politics.

The first I read was the Earl of Longford’s and TP O
Neill’s official biography of Eamon de Valera. It was a
heavy tome, but very acceptable reading for a young fellow
from a strongly Fianna Fáil house.

The other book I remember borrowing from the library was
riskier. Indeed I never dared take it out of my schoolbag
at home. It was ‘Towards a New Ireland,’ a book written in
1972 by Garret FitzGerald, who by this time in the early
1980s was the leader of Fine Gael.

It was a shortish book (by Garrett’s standards anyway)
which traced the causes of political divisions in Ireland
and gave his perspective on how those divisions might
ultimately be resolved. It was a challenging piece of
writing and it certainly challenged many of the crude
perspectives on the ‘national’ question to which I had been

In hindsight, along with John Hume, Garret FitzGerald can
claim much of the credit for reconfiguring the debate about
Northern Ireland in the Republic and bringing a more
realistic and rational assessment of the conflict there to
a wider audience south of the Border.

Since then, although from the other gene pool, I have found
myself having much admiration for Garret FitzGerald and his
contribution to public life and public debate.

He came relatively late to full-time politics after careers
with Aer Lingus as an economics lecturer, and as a
journalist and commentator. When he finally got around to
it, Garret flourished in the Oireachtas and quickly made up
for lost time.

Within a decade he was Minister for Foreign Affairs. The
department expanded dramatically under his stewardship and
he also oversaw Ireland’s successful first presidency of
what was then the EEC in 1972.

Then, on the resignation of Liam Cosgrave in 1977, he was
the obvious choice for leadership of Fine Gael. This was
another role in which he flourished.

Garret FitzGerald was the most popular and most populist
leader Fine Gael has ever had. He transformed the party,
turning it around from its disastrous election performance
in 1977, bringing it into government in 1981 and again from
1982-’85, and indeed to within 10 seats of Fianna Fáil.

His two terms as Taoiseach were not in the main, even by
his own admission, enjoyable. He attributes much of this to
the fact that his government had inherited a desperate set
of national accounts.

Whatever about the accuracy of that observation, it is
clear that his open and at times disorganised political
style was not necessarily best suited to dealing with the
external pressures and internal tensions to which his two
Fine Gael-Labour coalitions were subjected. That said, the
Anglo-Irish Agreement, signed with Margaret Thatcher in
1985, still stands as Garret’s most significant political
achievement. He also deserves credit for being out front on
most social issues, thereby contributing much to shaking
Ireland out of a time-warp on issues like divorce and

Having retired from politics in 1992, he then took the
novel step of writing his autobiography. It was unusual
because, until then, Ireland had no tradition of
politicians publishing their memoirs, and certainly no
previous example existed of a publication so soon after the
writer left office. It was a trail-blazing insight into how
government worked, or how it often didn’t work.

It was, however, a premature undertaking because it was
clear Garret still had a lot to do. When one considers how
much he has done in the years since his autobiography was
published, one realises that any future student of history,
politics or biography who was to rely solely on this text
as his account of his life would be left with only a
partial picture.

The extent to which he has continued to contribute to
political debate has been awesome. While he has avoided the
Thatcherite habit of telling his successors as leader of
Fine Gael what to do, he has been generous about offering
us all his views and analysis more generally on both the
issues of the day and the strategic challenges our
politicians face.

ONE of his most significant contributions has been to make
economics, and in particular the significance of
demographic change, relatively penetrable for a wider
audience. He is undoubtedly Ireland’s leading public
intellectual, still exerting a pertinent influence on
public discourse here as well as making a considerable
contribution internationally in a number of fields.

I met him for the first time almost 20 years ago when he,
politely, edged his way into a late-night session and
debate involving young political activists from parties in
both Britain and Ireland.

Over the years since I have met him at conferences, summer
schools and political events where of course he is
frequently a contributor, as often on a roving mike from
the floor as from the main podium.

At these gatherings I have been struck by how generous he
is with his time. The older he gets, the more he seems to
thrive on discussion and debate with students and young
people in particular. It is always immaterial to him who
you are; he cares only about what you have to say or your
reaction to what he has to say. There are hundreds of
stories - some recorded, some in the realm of folklore -
about Garret’s love of numbers and his, at times,
professor-like personal disorganisation.

My favourite Garret story is one he once told himself. If I
recall the details correctly, it involved an occasion when
he found himself having to stay overnight in a hotel in
Rosslare either because he had just missed a ferry
departure or because his ferry was delayed until the
following morning.

Unusually, he found himself in the hotel room with no
reading material. Intellectually frustrated he searched the
bedside locker where, apart from the usual Gideon bible, he
could only find two telephone books.

This was in the days when the entire country’s telephone
numbers were encompassed in two volumes.

Putting the bible to one side, he sat and read one of the
telephone books. There was, however, an objective to his
reading. He was anxious to prove to himself a theory he had
that once people from the counties of Leinster gravitated
to college or work in Dublin, very many of them stayed

By cross-referencing his own detailed knowledge of the
concentration of particular surnames in particular counties
with a reading of the 01 phone book, he apparently
confirmed his theory. It’s the kind of story which, if told
to you by somebody about Garret, you would suspect to have
been made up.

Today is Dr FitzGerald’s 80th birthday. I’m sure I speak
for many when I say ‘Happy birthday, Garret!’


US Plea Over Tragic Death Of Ulster Star

By Linda McKee
10 February 2006

The family of a young Ulster athletics star found hanged in
New York four years ago is waiting to learn whether
detectives will reopen the probe into his death.

Patrick Guiney's mother Philomena has described how he had
been in high spirits on the day of his death because he had
just been offered a job.

The 19-year-old had amassed a catalogue of sporting
successes and had been looking forward to his next race in
Ireland, she said.

Last night, Newry mayor Pat McGinn was due to meet police
in New York to argue for a re-examination of the case,
which was officially recorded as suicide.

Mr Guiney was found on the morning of Friday September 20
2002 hanged in a cul-de-sac in the strongly Irish suburb of
Pearl River, close to where his friend was mugged the same

Mrs Guiney described her son as a very kind-hearted person
who had represented Northern Ireland in cross-country

"He was a very loving boy. He never gave us any bother in
his life," she said.

She said Patrick had been a pupil at St Patrick's in
Banbridge before training as a painter and decorator. He
was offered a job as a painter the day he died.

"We had a lovely letter from the man he painted for, saying
that he was in very good form that day," she said.

Mrs Guiney said it seemed unbelievable that Patrick would
take his life 100 yards from where his friend was mugged.

"It was an area that was virtually free of crime and that
the two things happened in the same area should have been
investigated. For a fellow that was going out to enjoy
himself - it just doesn't add up."


February 10, 2006

It's A Whole New Ballgame In Ireland, And A Movie, Too


The plucky crusade to introduce baseball to Ireland ignited
because of a bumper sticker. Mike Kindle, an American who
moved to Ireland in 1990, saw an Irish Softball Association
sticker on a car and begged the driver to tell him where he
could find the group. He prayed it was no joke.

Kindle found the co-ed softball players tossing high-arc
pitches on a mushy field. Softball was obviously a
recreational activity, like flipping a Frisbee. The
discovery still motivated Kindle, who preferred the more
serious style of hardball that he had left behind in San

So Kindle persistently pushed the sport of baseball on a
country without a single baseball diamond at the time.
Eventually, there were about 30 regulars, some taking
awkward swings, some making tortured throws and most, they
said, falling in love with baseball and the notion of
possibly playing it for Ireland.

"We decided we should try and form an international team,"
Kindle said. "We said, 'Let's get some uniforms and funding
and go play.' We were sitting in the boozer over a couple
of pints. Over a couple of pints, it sounded good."

The story of the recent birth of baseball in Ireland, its
growth and its baby steps in international competition is
told in "The Emerald Diamond," a film by John J.
Fitzgerald. The film will be shown in 20 cities and towns
throughout the United States, starting Feb. 25 at the Jacob
Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y.

Fitzgerald's movie is a charming look at how baseball
captivated some dedicated Irishmen. Those young men,
supplemented by American-born players who had a parent or
grandparent born in Ireland, transformed themselves from
bumbling weekend warriors into respected competitors. Think
of Rudy, the Notre Dame walk-on, and multiply it by about a

"I found out about them and I said, 'This is amazing,' "
Fitzgerald said. "I had no idea Ireland had a national

The Irish are still minor players on the international
scene and are not one of the 16 federations competing in
the inaugural World Baseball Classic next month. While
Ireland won the bronze in the B Pool of the 2004 European
Championships, the 10-year-old Irish team remains a

But Fitzgerald said some players dreamily speak about
qualifying for the next classic. The team has playfully
wondered if Derek Jeter, who has Irish roots on his
mother's side, could be coaxed into playing for Ireland.
That dream of Jeter wearing green would be impossible,
since Jeter's grandmother was born in New Jersey.

Before Fitzgerald decided to do a documentary, he wanted to
be on the team. Fitzgerald played college baseball and
thought he was eligible because his grandmother is a dual
citizen. After four months of workouts, Fitzgerald found
out that he was ineligible because his grandmother was born
in New York, not Ireland.

By then, Fitzgerald had communicated with the coaches of
Baseball Ireland and heard about their humble start, their
endless obstacles and their snippets of success. If
Fitzgerald, a 28-year old from Valhalla, N.Y., could not
play for Ireland, he wanted to follow the team with a
camera and recount an intriguing, and mostly unknown, tale.

"Even now, when I talk to people from Ireland about the
baseball team, they think I'm talking about hurling or an
Irish-American team from the U.S.," Fitzgerald said.
"Outside of Dublin, no one has ever heard of it."

Cormac Eklof, a pitcher who has a tattoo of Nomar
Garciaparra, added, "Nobody knows who we are."

When Kindle, Eklof, Sean Mitchell, John Dillon, Darran
O'Connor and some other originals initially played in
Ireland, they trudged across rugby or soccer fields. There
were no mounds, so the pitchers dug foot holes, and no
backstops, so they hammered beams into the ground and
attached netting. Rain was almost as predictable as the
ball being white. They did have bases, which Eklof said
were swiped from the softball team.

The film shows scenes of players with choppy swings and
players fielding balls as if they were catching shot-puts.
The Irish were learning on the fly. Dillon, a strong rugby
player, was 25 when he made his baseball debut, an age when
many Americans have stopped playing. He has now been the
starting center fielder for a decade, combining grit with

Ireland debuted in the 1996 European Championships and lost
to the Czech Republic, 23-2, but the proud players were
content because they had succeeded in at least competing.
Losses to Norway (19-1), Poland (20-10) and Lithuania (15-
5) followed, and exasperation bubbled. Could they be that
terrible? The answer was no. Ireland stopped Yugoslavia, 8-
6, in the final game, and the team was ecstatic and

Still, to continue growing, the Irish needed a real place
to play. Peter O'Malley, the former owner of the Dodgers,
donated $140,000 to build adult and youth fields that sit
side by side in West Dublin. Some locals who did not know a
double from a double play had to be told not to tear up the
infield while practicing golf shots.

The diamond gave Irish baseball a home and an identity.
Ireland won two games in the 1998 European Championships
and one in the 2000 tournament. By 2002, the Irish, who had
followed the practice of other European teams by adding a
few American-born college players who possessed dual
citizenship, thought they were threats to win the title.
They finished fourth.

But, in 2004, with the additions of Joe Kealty, who hit
.337 at Boston College; Chris Gannon, who was 11-4 for the
same university; and Brendan Bergerson, an intimidating
left-hander from the University of West Virginia, Ireland
beat Serbia-Montenegro to win a bronze medal.

"It feels like we've been on a good trip," said Chris Foy,
who is from Seaford, N.Y., and moved to Dublin and joined
the team in 2000. "It took guts for the guys who were
playing softball to pick up baseballs and say, 'Let's give
this a try.' "

One of the challenges has been developing pitchers because
the popular sports, like hurling, soccer, rugby and Gaelic
football, do not involve throwing. When Ireland adds talent
from America, the focus is on pitchers.

The Irish are also wary of keeping their team from becoming
what Eklof called "a bunch of ringers" who could ruin team
chemistry. So the roster is limited to one-third American-
born players.

As important as the national team is to the future, the
current players are also concerned about having successors.
Rory Murphy, a sturdy catcher, hit .538 as a 16-year old in
the 2004 championships and is considered the premier
prospect in Ireland. In a country where 300 children play
baseball, that Murphy favors the new sport over rugby is a

"We need to keep the kids coming," said Will Beglane, the
youth director. "If we don't do that, the national team
will end."

Several players will be in New York to see "The Emerald
Diamond" before returning to prepare for the European
Championships in August. The two top teams from the B Pool
advance to A, and keener competition in 2007 against the
likes of Italy and the Netherlands.

If Ireland can rumble into the A Pool, Kindle, who spied
the softball bumper sticker, thinks Fitzgerald should plan
a sequel.

"Even if I wasn't involved, I'd think it was a great
story," Kindle said. "You've got a bunch of knuckleheads
running around playing in the rain because they love
baseball. It's a writer's dream."


Dig Reveals Belfast's Poor Past

A bit of old Belfast has come to light with archaeologists
excavating in the Cathedral quarter before development
begins on a former industrial site.

Part of the old 17th and 18th century town was exposed.

Although it is little more than the outline of brick walls,
it has given an insight into the city's past.

It is thought about 1,000 people lived in what was a
squalid area, most of them with just a room and a small
yard to their name.

Office buildings and a printing press used to cover the lot
at Talbot Street.

The site has thrown up few artifacts. One of them was a
well preserved shoe found stuck in the mud.

Also uncovered was a 17th century toilet - little more than
a barrel buried in the ground.

Archaeologist Colin Dunlop said that little of the very old
part of Belfast has been excavated because buildings have
been put up on top of the sites.

"Basically we're looking at old Belfast. Sort of the 18th
century - whenever this area was a very poor part of the

"There were several thousand people living in this very
small area, in small terraced housing," he said.

The excavation had to be done quickly before building on
the site gets under way.

The developer who is funding the archaeologists is
enthusiastic about the find and wants to ensure something
remains when the new buildings go up.

Mark Finlay of Barnabas Ventures said: "We found a lot of
the old cobbles, floors and streets and so forth.

"It would be nice if we could create a carpet entrance into
the building using some of those old materials."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/02/09 07:22:31 GMT


Workers Uncover Old Tram Lines

By Claire Simpson

Workers helping to replace Belfast’s crumbling Victorian
sewerage system have uncovered sections of old tram line
just under the surface of the road.

The workers were digging up a road in Duncairn Gardens in
the north of the city in preparation for a new sewage pipe
when they found the tram lines. A worker from the Water
Service said the discovery had created a few problems.

“They’re made of cast iron and we have to cut them up with
a saw,” he said.

He confirmed the find will not be preserved for future

“We just dig them up and chuck them away,” he said.

The lines were part of a 100 mile tram system which zig-
zagged across Belfast. The track at Duncairn Gardens ran up
the Antrim Road towards Belfast Zoo.

Horse-drawn trams were first introduced to Belfast in 1872.
In 1929, 341 trams operated in the city but during the
1930s the trams were slowly replaced by trolley buses and
diesel buses.

The last tram ran in Belfast in 1954.


Sean MacDiarmada's Last Letter Going To Auction

Leitrim County Council has been asked to purchase the last
letter written by Kiltyclogher's 1916 Proclamation
signatory Sean MacDiarmada on May 11, 1916, the day before
his execution.

The letter, written in his cell in Kilmainham Jail, is due
to be auctioned in April as part of the Adams/Mealy sale of
historical documents, letters and memorabilia from the
1916-1922 period.

The auction is scheduled to take place during Easter week
in conjunction with events marking the 90th anniversary of
the 1916 Rising.

Sean MacDiarmada's one page letter, which should be sold
for a €15,000-€20,000 sum was in the possession, for many
years, of a well known Donegal member of Fine Gael, who was
a friend of Michael Collins.

At last Monday's meeting of Leitrim County Council, Cllr
Michael Colreavy called on the Council to purchase the
letter on behalf of the people of Co Leitrim.

He said it would be a disgrace if the letter was allowed to
fall into private hands and asked for the Council's support
to secure it for the county. He suggested it could be
displayed in the Library in Kiltyclogher.

His proposal was seconded by Cllr Damian Brennan.

Cathaoirleach, Cllr Gerry Reynolds admitted it would be
something very good for the county to have and it was
agreed that the Council executive will look into the

MacDiarmada's letter was written to the father of Edward
Daly, who was a commandant in the Irish Volunteers and was
executed some days prior to MacDiarmada himself.

In the letter MacDiarmada stated, "I expect in a few hours
to join Tom and the other heroes in a better world."

He also wrote, "I have been sentenced to a soldier's death
to be shot tomorrow morning. I have nothing to say about
this only that I look on it as part of the day's work."

MacDiarmada probably hoped in his last letter to console
the Daly family on the loss of their son as it referred to
a "little temporary and natural grief" arising from his

The letter also adds, "We die that the Irish nation may
live; our blood will baptise and reinvigorate the red

"Knowing this (it) is superfluous to say how happy I
feel…Let present day place hunters condemn our actions as
they will, posterity will judge us alright."

MacDiarmada and James Connolly were the last of the 1916
leaders to be executed, three weeks after the Rising.

The delay in their executions may have been due to the fact
that both men suffered illness. James Connolly was wounded
in the GPO and was executed as he sat in a chair while Sean
MacDiarmada, who suffered from polio, went before the
firing squad carrying a walking stick.

09 February 2006

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