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March 21, 2006

Ahern: Finucane Probe To Go Ahead

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News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 03/21/06 Finucane Probe To Go Ahead: Ahern
IT 03/21/06 Taoiseach Says British Colluded In Finucane Murder
SF 03/21/06 Expected US Resolution Welcomed On Finucane Killing
SF 03/21/06 DUP Already Have Relationship With Unionist Paramilitaries
BN 03/21/06 Bias Warning Over Northern Public Housing
BB 03/21/06 Faith Or Folly - Building The Future
BN 03/21/06 McDowell Forced To Make Second Apology In 24 Hours
BN 03/21/06 Ahern: 'Ireland’s Low Crime Rate Is Envy Of Europe'
IT 03/22/06 85% Concerned About Crime & Public Disorder, Survey Shows
IT 03/22/06 Lawyer Shocked By Institutional Racism Findings
IT 03/22/06 President Calls For Social Inclusion
FN 03/21/06 Pols Urge Removal Of Sinn Fein Leader From U.S. Watch List
IT 03/22/06 Opin: McDowell - Conduct Unbecoming
IT 03/22/06 Opin: Dáil Hath No Fury Like Michael McDowell's
BN 03/21/06 Cabinet To Hold Historic Meeting In Co Wicklow


Finucane Probe To Go Ahead: Ahern

The UK government is to go ahead with a restricted inquiry
into Pat Finucane's murder, despite the Irish government's
opposition, Bertie Ahern has said.

The taoiseach told the Dail that Northern Ireland Secretary
Peter Hain is seeking a judge to head the inquiry.

However, Mr Ahern said this was proving difficult as the
international legal community has advised its members
against accepting the position.

Mr Finucane, a Belfast solicitor, was shot dead by the UDA
in 1989.

Earlier this month, the Dail - the Irish parliament -
called for a full public inquiry into the murder.

The all-party motion called for the British government to
hold "a full, independent, public judicial inquiry".

Judge Peter Cory, the retired Canadian judge who
investigated several controversial NI murders, also
recommended a full, public inquiry.

The British government is to carry out the inquiry under
the Inquiries act, which the Finucane family argues cannot
establish the truth.

However, the British government has said the inquiry will
be public to "the extent possible" and will have full
powers to require the production of all the relevant
documents and to compel witnesses to attend.


Mr Ahern told the Dail: "Secretary of State Peter Hain told
me on Thursday that he was going ahead with his inquiry and
that they are seeking a venue.

"I am told they have a venue for the autumn.

"They are also seeking a judge. I understand from
international connections that they are having great
difficulty getting a judge."

Mr Ahern said he did not believe the inquiry would satisfy

"It will take five years to do it and it will cost 50m
euro, nobody will ever believe it, at least none of the
people we must try to represent," he said.

"Perhaps some people in the United Kingdom will believe it,
although I have my doubts about that too, especially where
the legal profession is concerned."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/03/21 20:44:58 GMT


Taoiseach Says British Colluded In Finucane Murder

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he has always believed that
there was collusion between British security forces and
loyalist paramilitaries in the planning of Belfast
solicitor Pat Finucane's murder.

Mr Ahern made the claim in response to Dáil questions this
afternoon, when he was pressed on the hold-up into a full
public inquiry in the circumstances surrounding the death
of the human right's lawyer in 1989.

Bertie Ahern: believes security forces and loyalist
paramilitarie colluded

Mr Ahern said: "I have always believed there was collusion
in the case of Pat Finucane."

Mr Ahern added that if the day came when headlines declared
that there was collusion, nobody would be surprised. The
question, he said, was how deep the collusion ran.

"We would find it interesting to know what the level of the
collusion was, how high it went up and how it operated. But
the headline, nobody would be surprised with."

The Taoiseach added when pressed by Independent TD Tony
Gregory to "end the cap in hand approach" to demanding a
public inquiry from the British, that an internal British
inquiry which would restrict the publication of a judge's
findings is of "no use".

However, he added that London is "under a lot of pressure"
and has indicated that it wished to proceed with an
internal investigation.

Mr Ahern added that he told Mr Blair in Washington last
week that without the agreement of the parties in the
Oireachtas, human rights groups and all those involved in
the Finucane case, such a situation would not be

Mr Ahern said the British intention to press ahead despite
nationalist concerns shared by the Government was confirmed
to him by the Northern Secretary Peter Hain last week.

"I am told they have a venue for the autumn. They are also
seeking a judge. I understand from international
connections that they are having great difficulty getting a

"The legal world has been quite active in putting out
reasons a judge should not take up the position. I have
been trying to help in doing that too. That is the

The Finucane family fear crucial evidence may be withheld
on the grounds of national security under the Inquiries

"It will take five years to do it and it will cost €50
million, nobody will ever believe it, at least none of the
people we must try to represent," Mr Ahern said.

"Perhaps some people in the United Kingdom will believe it,
although I have my doubts about that too, especially where
the legal profession is concerned."

© The Irish Times/


Welcome For Expected US Congress Resolution On Pat Finucane

Published: 21 March, 2006

Commenting in advance of an expected resolution from the US
Congress demanding an independent inquiry into the murder
of Pat Finucane, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North
Belfast and the party spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry
Kelly said that the British government stalling and evasion
would have to end.

Mr Kelly said:

"Since the murder of Pat Finucane in 1989 British
government agencies have actively conspired to cover-up the
truth of their involvement in this killing. The latest
mechanism being adopted is the legislation passed last year
which will in the opinion of the Finucane family only serve
to frustrate the search for truth and justice further.

"The expected resolution from the US Congress demanding
that the British government act to bring forward an
independent inquiry into the murder is yet another pressure
point which can be brought to bear on Tony Blair and his

"Sinn Féin will continue to support the Finucane family and
other families bereaved and injured through collusion in
their campaign for the truth and will continue to raise
this issue with both governments in the time ahead. The
British government need to realise that the issue of the
involvement of their state agencies in the murder of Irish
citizens will not simply go away." ENDS


DUP Already Have Relationship With Unionist Paramilitaries

Published: 21 March, 2006

Commenting after the meeting today between the DUP and the
IMC and the comments from Peter Robinson that he may be
prepared to talk directly to unionist paramilitaries, Sinn
Féin Assembly member for North Antrim Philip McGuigan said
that the DUP were living in a fantasy land if they were
trying to pretend that a relationship does not already
exist between his party and loyalist paramilitary gangs.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Over the past number of years unionist paramilitaries have
been engaged in a widespread anti-Catholic campaign much of
it centred in Ian Paisley's own constituency. Nationalists
and republicans have been rightly critical of the DUP
failure to address these attacks.

"This morning after meeting with the IMC in Belfast Peter
Robinson indicated that he was preparing to talk directly
to unionist paramilitaries. Many people will find this
ironic given the fact that the DUP still refuse to talk to
the largest nationalist party Sinn Féin.

"Many people will also find it strange that Peter Robinson
is seriously attempting to convince nationalists and
republicans that a relationship does not already exist
between the DUP and unionist paramilitaries, a relationship
which has endured for decades.

The DUP currently sit on the North and West parades forum
with the UVF and UDA

Senior DUP MPs have lent their support to the 'Love Ulster'
campaign which the UDA were involved in publicly launching

In the 1970s Ian Paisley formed the Third Force

In the 1980s the DUP formed Ulster Resistance which went on
to import tonnes of weapons from South Africa to kill

In the late 1990s Willie McCrea stood on a platform with
LVF leader Billy Wright

The man convicted of killing Sinn Féin member Malachy
Carey, released from prison under the Good Friday
Agreement, currently holds a senior position within the DUP
organisation in North Antrim

"So it is time the DUP faced up to reality and stopped
hiding behind rhetoric. People know and accept that they
have a relationship with violent unionism. What people want
to hear from the DUP is that they are going to begin to
exercise their political responsibilities not just with
regard to unionist paramilitaries but across the political
spectrum and in particular with regard to sitting down with
nationalists and republicans in the power sharing executive
laid out in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS


Bias Warning Over Northern Public Housing

21/03/2006 - 14:53:43

The British government was warned today that its long-term
aim of transferring responsibility for public housing in
Northern Ireland to seven local ‘super councils’ was
fraught with political danger.

There was no way of ensuring no sectarian bias in housing
allocation among councils that would be either under
nationalist or unionist domination, ministers were told.

Announcing a cull of unelected quangos and public bodies,
Northern Secretary Peter Hain signalled he was keen on
transferring housing responsibility to local councils at
some time in the future.

But he said the Housing Executive would remain with only
some of its non-core functions transferred to councils
after local government reorganisation in 2009.

However he said it was the British government’s belief that
housing was essentially a local issue and ministers would
consider the transfer of housing to local government at a
future date, once the new councils had been “bedded in”.

Nationalists have long expressed concerns that such a move
could recreate the sectarianism in housing allocation that
played a part in the creation of the civil unrest that
preceded the start of the Troubles in 1969.

SDLP local government spokesman Tommy Gallagher said Mr
Hain’s plans to transfer sensitive services to super-
councils were “fraught with political danger”.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member said: “It is
dangerous in the extreme to even suggest returning powers
of housing allocation at some point in the future, as we
all know that sectarianism is alive and well in certain

Talk of legislative guarantees flew in the face of facts,
he said.

“Nowhere in the world are there guarantees or safeguards
against a political majority which chooses to abuse
powers.” he added.

He said the super-council plan showed Mr Hain knew very
little about how the divided society in the North worked.
Proposals for transferring housing powers with undue haste
“shows he is prepared to risk our shared future for short-
term political convenience”.

Sinn Féin was equally concerned about any transfer of
housing to locally elected representatives.

South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said while there was a strong
argument for councils to have a greater role in housing it
would be “a long time before nationalists will trust
unionists with powers of housing provision or allocation”.

The chairman of the Housing Executive welcomed its retained
role in dealing with public housing.

Brian Rowntree said Mr Hain had acknowledged the political
sensitivities that still existed around housing.

“We agree with the analysis that housing functions should
only be considered for transfer once the new councils have
bedded in.

“The new arrangements need to protect the progress that has
been made in delivering fair housing.”


Faith Or Folly - Building The Future

By Gareth Gordon
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

The Housing Executive is widely regarded as one of the
success stories from the early days of the Troubles - a
body set up to address one of the major grievances of the
civil rights movement, discrimination in the allocation of
public housing.

Now, in a very different era, the government has begun to
wind it up - handing power back to the politicians.

"It is an act of faith in local government," said one
senior source. Either that or an act of folly, others will
no doubt think.

The move is no reflection on the job being done by the
Housing Executive.

Not a single case of discrimination has been found against
it in its 35 years.

Rather, it is more about an attempt to streamline
administration, reduce bureaucracy and hand control of
local affairs back to local politicians.

In this self-proclaimed "quango cull", the Housing
Executive was an obvious target. It is regarded as the
biggest quango of all.

Its annual budget of £600m accounts for more than half of
the £1bn spent each year by such public bodies in Northern

It will lose a sixth of that - and 300 of its 3,000 staff -
in 2009 on the establishment of the seven so-called super
councils being set up as part of the Review of Public

In his speech on Tuesday announcing the moves the Northern
Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, said: "We believe that
housing is essentially a local issue and, for that reason,
we will consider the transfer of housing to local
government at a future stage, once the new councils are in
place, fully operational and bedded in."

That is not likely to be before 2011 at the earliest.

But even though the executive chairman released a statement
saying: "The decision to retain the Housing Executive as
the strategic housing authority is undoubtedly good news,"
its days are surely numbered if the steamlining of local
government goes according to plan. In other words, unless
the politicians get it wrong.

That will surely be a cause of concern for many who
recognise the executive's role in eradicating
discrimination in housing by taking decisions out of the
political arena and into the hands of neutral

But officials point out that many more safeguards now exist
than in May 1971 when the executive was set up.

More than anything, it fits the government's agenda of
making our politicians more responsible by giving them more

They have even reneged on one of the most controversial
sections of the RPA announced back in November.

They have not gone back on the controversial decision to
cut the 26 councils to seven - a move opposed by all of the
major parties bar Sinn Fein.

But each council will now have 60 councillors - not 50 -
meaning the overall number will rise from the envisaged 350
to 420.

It may sweeten the pill for the political parties, though
they will still feel like spitting it out.

But no longer will councils be able to nominate members to
public bodies, as happens in one third of cases at present.

In future, all appointments will be made on merit.
According to Mr Hain: "No-one should be appointed to any
position solely because they hold a particular position in
another organisation." Overall, the number of public bodies
will fall from 154 to 75. The pain will mainly be felt by
chief executives and senior officers.

Some bodies like the Driver and Vehicle Licensing agency
will merge; A new Land and Property Agency will incorporate
Valuation and Lands, Rate Collection, Land Registers and
Ordnance Survey Agencies; a new Library Authority will be
created with responsibility for all libraries across
Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Housing Council, the Agricultural
Wages Board and Enterprise Ulster will disappear.

"It is a significant clear-out, " one source said. "It has
gone far further than I could ever have imagined."

But it won't have gone far enough for some.

The changes announced in November envisage an annual saving
of around £200m.

The "quango cull" will realise much less - between £10m and

But officials say the point is not saving cash - but
producing better, joined-up government.

Of course that will only really happen if the Assembly and
Executive return any time soon. That is what Mr Hain would
really have liked to announce.

The Review of Public Administration took almost four years.
Restoration of devolution is proving more difficult.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/03/21 13:45:59 GMT


McDowell Forced To Make Second Apology In 24 Hours

21/03/2006 - 18:26:20

The Minister for Justice was this evening been forced to
make his second apology in 24 hours.

This morning, he apologised for comparing Fine Gael's
Richard Bruton to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

This evening, a row broke out in the Dáil when the Green
Party called on the Minister to apologise for remarks made
in the House two weeks ago.

On that occasion, Michael McDowell had said that those who
smashed the windows of the PDs during the Dublin riots were
likely to be supporters of the Green Party.

Party leader Trevor Sargent angrily sought an apology and
in the end, Michael McDowell withdrew his remarks.


Ahern: 'Ireland’s Low Crime Rate Is Envy Of Europe'

21/03/2006 - 18:00:09

The Taoiseach told the Dáil this afternoon that rates of
crime in Ireland are down.

He was reacting to questions by opposition leader Enda
Kenny, arising out comments made yesterday by Minister for
Justice Michael McDowell, who compared Fine Gael's Richard
Bruton to a Nazi.

Bertie Ahern said the figures showed that Ireland has a
declining crime rate that's the envy of Europe.

“There's not more robbers,” Mr Ahern said. “Per thousand of
population, the crime rate is down.”

“Our crime against Irish standards is down on what it was,
and against international standards.

“Of course, as I've always said, any crime is a crime too

“A fact is across the records, these are the statistics.

Labour Leader Pat Rabbitte said the Taoiseach's figures
were all wrong.

“The fact of the matter is that the crime rates are
worsening, and more seriously the detection rates are
worsening, he said.

“If you take the Dublin area that has been the subject of
this controversy, Dublin homicides for example were up 53%
last year, and yet detection rates have fallen in Dublin to


85% Concerned About Crime And Public Disorder, Survey Shows

Conor Lally

A new official survey has revealed widespread public
anxiety relating to current levels of crime and public
disorder, with 85 per cent of those polled either "very" or
"fairly" concerned about the issue.

The poll also revealed strong support for the Garda reserve
initiative. But there were mixed responses to questions
relating to the level and standard of policing in

The survey on crime and law enforcement found that 75 per
cent of older people and of women aged over 55 years said
they were "very concerned" at crime and public disorder

Just 5 per cent of those surveyed believed crime had fallen
in the last 10 years, with 66 per cent believing it had
increased and 25 per cent saying crime levels remained the

People were most worried about drug crime, with 89 per cent
viewing it as a "very serious" or "fairly serious" problem.

This was followed by juvenile crime (84 per cent), violent
crime (82 per cent), burglary (81 per cent) and disorderly
conduct in public (79 per cent).

The responses were consistent across all ages and social

The poll was commissioned by the Department of Justice and
conducted by TNS mrbi in the last fortnight. A total of
1,090 people aged over 15 years were polled by telephone.

The main findings in this area were as follows:

:: 73 per cent either "strongly support" or "tend to
support" a "trained" and "properly vetted" Garda reserve
force run to international best practice.

:: 47 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the reserve
force would bring gardaí closer to the community, with 30
per cent slightly or strongly disagreeing.

:: 81 per cent "strongly support" or "tend to support" a
greater role for civilians in the force if it results in
more gardaí on the beat. Seventy- six per cent believed
there are too few uniformed gardaí on patrol.

:: 56 per cent of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed
that they are "generally more afraid of being attacked
these days compared to four or five years ago" while 31 per
cent strongly or slightly disagreed.

:: 66 per cent of those surveyed believed gardaí had
adequate local knowledge, 27 per cent said gardaí did not
have adequate knowledge and 7 per cent did not know.

Although most people supported the concept of a Garda
reserve, the majority were opposed to reservists playing a
full role in policing and believed their responsibilities
should be strictly limited.

The lowest levels of support for reservists' involvement in
policing related to conducting warrant searches on the
Garda's centralised computer system and in arresting
suspects. However, levels of support still remained
relatively high in these areas.

Forty-seven per cent strongly agreed or agreed that
reservists should be allowed to carry out warrant searches
on the Garda computer. Fifty-two per cent agreed or
strongly agreed that reservists should have the power to
arrest suspected criminals.

Sixty-nine per cent of those surveyed either strongly
agreed or agreed that reservists should carry out station

© The Irish Times


Lawyer Shocked By Institutional Racism Findings

Alison Healy

International Day Against Racism: Ireland is still in the
"dark ages" in its treatment of racism, according to
leading British human rights solicitor Imran Khan.

Mr Khan, who acted in the case of Stephen Lawrence, the
black teenager murdered in a racist attack, warned that
similar murders would happen here if the Government did not
tackle the issue.

"I hope not, but I would have difficulty in imagining that
it's not going to happen," he said. "How many deaths before
we realise we have a problem?"

Mr Khan said he was "incredibly shocked" by the findings of
a new report on institutional racism in this State. The
Breaking Down Barriers report commissioned by Amnesty found
that the Government had failed to acknowledge the existence
of racial discrimination in its laws, policies and
practices and had failed to take meaningful steps to combat

The report was written by Dr Vinodh Jaichand and Louise
Beirne of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway.

Mr Khan said there had been "a flagrant failure to learn
from the UK experience" despite the geographic closeness of
both countries. "There appears to be a collective amnesia
by Irish society to recall the discrimination that its
members faced and continue to face in the UK and

He expressed shock at remarks quoted in the report from
Irish judges. One suggested that all Nigerians flouted
driving laws, while another one talked about "coloured
people" . If those comments were made in Britain today, the
judges would not be allowed to sit on the bench, Mr Khan

The report pointed out that only 1 per cent of non-EU
doctors became consultants, even though almost half of
junior doctors were from outside Europe. A claim from the
Health Service Employers Agency that not all doctors wanted
to become consultants "beggared belief", Mr Khan said.

"This is the most blatant example of institutional racism
that you are going to get."

The report found "a fatal tension" between the equality and
the justice remits of the Department of Justice, Equality
and Law Reform. It said the equality remit was "evidently
overborne" by the justice remit, and suggested that a
separate department of equality and human rights be

It said the department had "tended to minimise the extent
of the problem of racism". This was rejected by a spokesman
for the department of Justice last night. He said the core
of the department's remit was in protecting citizens'
rights. The spokesman said the report was notable for its
failure to acknowledge the Government's anti-racism work.

Kathleen Joyce, manager of Blanchardstown Traveller
Development Group, said Travellers were worse off now, in
terms of human rights, than in the past. The introduction
of trespass legislation meant that families living on the
side of the road could not integrate into the local
community as they could be evicted at any time, she said.

The transfer of equal status cases from the equality
tribunal to the district courts meant that Travellers were
being discouraged from reporting discrimination because of
the cost issues involved.

Kader Asmal, a former minister in the South African
government, condemned "unspeak" - the manipulative use of
language to sway public debate.

"For example, illegally deporting individuals to countries
where they would be tortured is now ennobled as rendition.
Prisoners of war are now enemy combatants and political
refugees are designated as asylum seekers," he said.

© The Irish Times


President Calls For Social Inclusion

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

President Mary McAleese has said Irish society had an
obligation under both the 1916 Proclamation and the
Constitution to bring about social inclusiveness in this
country so that everybody could enjoy the country's current
economic success.

She said both documents had set a comprehensive social
agenda that will not be achieved until there was "no-one on
the margins merely spectating at others' enjoyment of

Speaking at a conference on social investment in Dublin
yesterday, Mrs McAleese said there was admiration and
curiosity around the world about Ireland's "economic
miracle that has brought widespread prosperity, opportunity
and confidence".

"But just as these successful times did not appear
overnight or without considerable hardship on the way,
neither are they a comfort blanket which covers everyone."
There were many individuals and communities who were not
benefiting or prospering "as they would wish and we would
wish for them", she said.

She made her comments at the opening of a conference by
Clann Credo, the voluntary social investment fund that
provides start-up and seed funding to more than 130 groups
countrywide and currently has reserves of €11 million, and
is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

© The Irish Times


Pols Urge Removal Of Sinn Fein Leader From U.S. Watch List

Tuesday , March 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — Six congressman Tuesday urged the
Transportation Security Administration to remove Sinn Fein
leader Gerry Adams from its airport security watch list.

Hours after meeting President Bush at the White House on
St. Patrick's Day, Adams was delayed at the airport on his
way to Buffalo, N.Y., because of security concerns, said
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.

The lawmakers wrote to TSA Director Kip Hawley to protest
Adams' treatment and to seek answers for why he was
detained. Sinn Fein has accused the Bush administration of
harassing Adams and other officials of the IRA-linked party
at U.S. airports.

Because he was convicted for an Irish Republican Army-
related crime in the early 1970s, Adams requires a special
travel waiver when he travels to the U.S.

Other congressmen signing the letter, all from New York,
were Republicans Peter King, James Walsh and John Sweeney,
and Democrats Brian Higgins and Joe Crowley.


Opin: McDowell - Conduct Unbecoming


The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell overstepped the
mark by engaging in vulgar personal abuse, arrogant
behaviour and downright misrepresentation in seeking to
deflect attention from the inadequacies of the policing
system for which he is responsible. It was a tawdry episode
that will damage his image and raise questions over the
credibility of his future pronouncements.

The only saving aspect of the contretemps was the
comprehensive apology he tendered to Richard Bruton, the
Fine Gael finance spokesman whom he likened to the Nazi
propagandist, Dr Goebbels.

The facts of the matter are simply stated. Mr Bruton quoted
figures supplied by the Department of Justice to show that
Garda numbers in Dublin had increased by only two between
December 2004 and December 2005. More challengingly, he
linked this information with official statistics from 2000
to 2005, showing large increases in the number of murders,
assaults and burglaries across the city, while detection
rates had fallen.

The Minister chose to ignore the crime statistics and, in
what appeared to be a furious outburst, he portrayed Mr
Bruton as "the Dr Goebbels of propaganda". He described the
Garda figures used as "rubbish", even though he must have
suspected they came from his own department. And he went on
to provide his own, more favourable, official figures.

The sensitivity of the Minister in relation to Garda
Síochána numbers is understandable because the Government
will not meet its target of 14,000 full-time members by
2007. By including student gardaí, however, the Minister
and the Taoiseach have massaged those figures upwards to
accord with Government commitments.

Serious challenges face the Garda Síochána. These include a
shortage of manpower to deal with urban crime and a rapidly
growing population; the need to introduce impartial
promotional mechanisms, greater accountability and
effective discipline within the force, along with outside
expertise and the use of best policing practices. Some
progress has been made. And new structures have been
created under the Garda Síochána Act. But much remains to
be done.

In such circumstances and with an election approaching, Mr
McDowell reacted with particular aggression to criticism.
Following what he described as a sleepless night, he took
the only honourable course yesterday and apologised,
offering Mr Bruton a handshake in the Dáil chamber, which
was accepted. He also apologised for other recent remarks
that implied the Green Party was somehow associated with a
violent attack on the Progressive Democrats offices.

The Minister is no stranger to controversy. He has taken on
the prison officers and the Garda representative body; he
has challenged the bona fides of the Sinn Féin leadership.
He is an articulate and intelligent politician but he must
recognise certain conduct is inappropriate at ministerial

© The Irish Times


Opin: Dáil Hath No Fury Like Michael McDowell's


Politicians should never appear to be out of control,
writes Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Few images from the world of politics live long in the
memory of the public, which usually has its attention
directed elsewhere. However, there are exceptions.

In 2002, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform,
Michael McDowell, seized control of the election in the
last week when he climbed a pole in Ranelagh to secure his
"Single Party Government. No Thanks!" poster.

The action defined McDowell's brilliance - imaginative,
radical, gutsy, ever prepared to take the other side by
surprise. But there is another side to the Minister, a
deeply unattractive one that he displayed in his emotional
rant on Monday against Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton.

His decision to compare the gentlemanly Mr Bruton to Nazi
leader Joseph Goebbels was not only highly offensive but
also ludicrous, and would have resulted in his demanding
the resignation of the man who uttered such a charge if he
was now sitting on the Opposition benches.

It was also bad politics. Mr Bruton's allegation that Garda
numbers had remained practically static over the past year
would have amounted to a 24-hour story - regardless of the
accuracy of the maths used - if he had left it alone.

However, Mr McDowell has a Shakespearean weakness.

Unlike Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who cares little whether
people think he has won or lost so long as he knows he has
won, Mr McDowell must not only win, but be seen to have won
- and to be regarded by all as the cleverest boy in the
class for having done so.

It is but the second time in little more than a week when
McDowell has gone beyond the bounds of acceptability,
following his charge that Green Party TD John Gormley's
"type of people" had been responsible for attacking the
Progressive Democrats' headquarters during last month's
Dublin riot. Yesterday the Minister withdrew his charge
against Mr Gormley, apologised to Mr Bruton live on RTÉ's
Morning Ireland and followed this up with a handshake in
the Dáil chamber.

The acts may have been gracious in the case of Mr Bruton,
but graciousness is not enough, particularly from a man who
is one of the most thin-skinned in Leinster House when
criticism heads his way.

For years, Mr McDowell has traded on his considerable
intellect, one that can be used to argue every side of
every argument with ease, and one that is too rarely
challenged inside the PD ranks for his own good, and for
the good of the party.

Mr McDowell's intellectual skill, like the best circus
tricks too often put on display, is wearing thin,
particularly when he never admits to being anything other
than the sole possessor of the truth.

Repeatedly, the Minister will point to the legislation that
he has put through the Oireachtas as if it is a mark of
some form of political virility. However, the Opposition
have more than a point when they complain about the often-
chaotic handling of those same Bills - which can change
almost in their entirety because of amendments.

Yesterday he produced 340 pages of amendments to the 2004
Criminal Justice Bill, which was less than 40 pages long
when first published. Since then, anti-social behaviour
orders have been added to it, so too have mandatory
sentences for gun possession, and many other changes.

Though Fianna Fáil TDs are not his biggest fans, most have
learned to keep their own counsel about him over the last
few years, while a few of them have developed a grudging
respect for him following his strong attacks on the Sinn
Féin leadership and the IRA.

However, he sorely tested their patience with a speech last
month in Waterford when he told party supporters that it
did not matter who the PDs go into government with after
the next election. Known already as the "meat in the
sandwich" speech, the argument that the PDs would be the
core of any future coalition has been made better, and more
politely, by others in the party ranks, most particularly
Tánaiste Mary Harney. The fall-out from this speech has yet
to be seen publicly but it has caused a significant, and
not to be underestimated, degree of resentment among Fianna
Fáil backbenchers.

Too often McDowell behaves as if he does not need his
Cabinet colleagues, let alone the Fianna Fáil backbenchers
- though he should have learned his lesson following the
drubbing he received over the cafe bars legislation. Now he
is driving forward with plans to begin the formation of a
Garda Reserve later this year - though none of his Cabinet
fellows realised that he intended to act so quickly when
they agreed to the Garda Bill two years ago.

Given the controversial nature of this reserve, McDowell is
going to need Fianna Fáil TDs to stand up to lobbying from
the Garda Representative Association and the Association of
Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.Already there are the
earliest of signs that some in Fianna Fáil are less
enamoured of the idea than he may have realised - though
most of the public appear to be in favour.

Just one year out from an election, the PDs are highly
exposed, given that Mary Harney is in charge of Health and
McDowell in Justice. He may yet find out that neither he,
nor the Progressive Democrats, are a political island.

© The Irish Times


Cabinet To Hold Historic Meeting In Co Wicklow

21/03/2006 - 18:53:20

The Government is to meet in Charles Stewart Parnell’s
former home in Co Wicklow as part of the county’s 400th
birthday celebrations.

The Cabinet only moves out of Dublin for rare special
occasions like for last year’s European City of Culture in

But a Government spokesperson confirmed tonight: “The
Cabinet will meet in Avondale House, Rathdrum on June 7 as
part of the ’Wicklow 400th’ celebrations.”

Ireland’s youngest county, the ‘Garden of Ireland’ formed
part of Co Dublin until it gained official status as a
separate county in 1606.

Wicklow Tourism has organised several special events to
mark the quad centenary after a three-month public
consultation period last year.

Local Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins, who first suggested the
idea of hosting the Government meeting to the Taoiseach in
the Dail, said it will raise the profile of the county’s

“I welcome the decision for the Cabinet to meet in this
great historic house in a very historic country,” he said.

The 130-year-old Avondale House is the birthplace of Irish
nationalist leader, Parnell who was dubbed the ’Uncrowned
King of Ireland’.

Wicklow comes from the Viking word Vikinglow, meaning
‘meadow of the Vikings’.

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