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March 29, 2006

TDs To Lobby For Irish In US

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News About Ireland & The Irish

RT 03/29/06 TDs To Lobby For Irish Illegals In US
BT 03/29/06 Sinn Fein On Policing Board Within Months?
IN 03/29/06 Bradley Warns Against New North Role For MI5
IP 03/29/06 Former IRA Leaders Play Key Role In ETA Talks
IN 03/29/06 Ex-Prisoners Remember ’81 Hunger Strike
DI 03/29/06 SF Warning To Governments Not To Concede Ground To DUP
IN 03/29/06 ‘Piling Pressure On May Suit DUP’
IN 03/29/06 British Troops Out, Watchtowers Down Within Year
DI 03/29/06 Nationalist Parties Welcome Troop Reductions
DI 03/29/06 Book: British Strategy In ‘70s Parallel To Tan War
DI 03/29/06 Opin: British Guns Still Pointed One Way
IN 03/29/06 Opin: Illegals Debate Enters Realms Of Theology
BN 03/29/06 Ireland Pioneering Anti-Smoking Laws
BN 03/29/06 Ahern Urged To Give 1916 Leader's Son Place Of Honour
IN 03/29/06 Expat Centenarians Earn A €2,500 Birthday Bounty
IN 03/29/06 Tributes Paid To Donegal Climber


TDs To Lobby For Irish Illegals In US

29 March 2006 10:36

Members of the Dáil Select Committee on Foreign Affairs are
in Washington to lobby on behalf of the estimated 20,000
undocumented Irish in the United States.

They arrive as the full US Senate debates proposals on
immigration reform.

The legislation tabled by the Senate Judiciary Committee
and currently being debated on the floor of the Senate
broadly mirrors the proposals set out by Ted Kennedy and
John McCain.

Both the Irish Government and the Irish Lobby for
Immigration Reform in the US have welcomed the proposals.
Over the next two days, five members of the Dáil committee,
led by Chairman Michael Woods, will meet key Senators and

One of the people they will be meeting is the House
Judiciary Committee Chairman, James Sensenbrenner.

He is co-sponsor of a House Bill that makes no provision
for a guest worker programme and includes a clause making
illegal immigration a criminal offence.

Even if the more lenient Senate Bill is passed, a
compromise must be found with the House Bill.


Sinn Fein On Policing Board Within Months?

By Deborah McAleese
29 March 2006

Republicans will join the Northern Ireland Policing Board
within months, it was claimed last night.

The body's outgoing vice chairman Denis Bradley said he
believes that Sinn Fein will take up their seats on the
board by the autumn.

However, Sinn Fein last night hit back at the comments and
said that Mr Bradley has "no understanding" of the views of
the republican community when it comes to the issue of

Speaking after the current board's final meeting yesterday
Mr Bradley told the Belfast Telegraph: "I do think Sinn
Fein will join the board by the autumn. I have been more
hopeful recently than I have been for quite some time.

"That is where our politics are going, it is becoming
clearer by the day. There are no political reasons anymore
why Sinn Fein should not join."

However, a Sinn Fein spokesman said: "Denis Bradley has
said this sort of thing before. He has no understanding of
where the republican community is with regard to policing.
Republicans have made their position very clear in terms of
transfer of power and policing."

Mr Bradley also said that the next chairman of the Policing
Board should be a nationalist, but added that he is looking
forward to the day when that would become a "non-issue".

He also expressed concerns about MI5 taking control of
intelligence gathering, fearing it would become "a force
within a force".

Current board chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea said there
is still work to be done.

"We are entering a new era, and the next Policing Board
will be responsible for building on the firm foundations
laid and establishing policing on an even wider community
basis," he said.

"Sinn Fein have not yet supported policing, but I hope that
once the politics are sorted, they will soon join with
those who have been committed to the future of policing
since day one."

The first public session of the new Policing Board will be
held on May 3.

However, members will meet in private to elect a new
chairman and vice chairman next week.


Bradley Warns Against New North Role For MI5

By Sharon O’Neill Chief Reporter

A GREATER role for MI5 in the north would make it a “force
without a force”, it was warned last night. Outgoing
Policing Board vice-chairman Denis Bradley made the
comments on his last day with the body.

Mr Bradley also said it was with “regret” that he was
leaving without seeing republicans sign up to policing.

However, with a new round of political talks imminent in a
bid to break the impasse, he predicted that Sinn Fein would
join the board by autumn.

Mr Bradley also told of his hope that the next chairman of
the Policing Board, to be voted in when new members join
the body, would be from a nationalist background.

“Whether that will happen or not remains an open question.
We live in Northern Ireland under deep and engrained
symolism and I think it would be very healthy within our
society if someone who was as powerful as the chairman of
the Policing Board came from a nationalist/Catholic
background,” he said.

“Whether that is within or outside the votes, I cannot

He said plans for an enhanced role for MI5 in the north was
a “major political debate yet to be had”.

“The good work that has been done should not be undone by
the perceptions that could arise, and perhaps unwillingly
arise, and maybe not even arise out of lack of integrity,
but could arise that we could have a force without a force,
to reverse the Patten situation. That would be to undo
Patten concepts of what real and good policing is about,”
Mr Bradley warned.

He also welcomed the new appointments on the board,
including that of Dawn Purvis of the UVF-aligned PUP.

“I have the highest regard for her. The more people who
come from contentious backgrounds is a sign of this society
moving forward into peace.

“The new board is an interesting board. There is a fairly
broad range of people representing a fairly broad range of
interests. I welcome that. I think the structures have been
laid for any new board to advance the situation,” he said.

Mr Bradley paid tribute to outgoing chairman Professor Sir
Desmond Rea, who will stay on as an independent member of
the Policing Board.

“I worked with Desmond Rea for the last four years. I found
him one of the most honourable people I have ever worked
with,” Mr Bradley said.

He added that “the inevitable outcome of Sinn Fein taking
its seats on the board will have nothing to do with me or
Desmond Rea or any other member of the board; they will do
it for their own political expediency”.

Meanwhile, the Policing Board yesterday extended the
consultation period over the introduction of 50,000-volt
Taser guns following intense pressure from human rights

After a private session, Sir Desmond said the body had
decided to ask the chief constable to seek further opinion
on his plans to buy the weapon.


Former IRA Leaders Play Key Role In ETA Talks

TWO FORMER leaders of the IRA may have played a major role
in secret talks that led to the Basque terrorist movement
ETA’s announcing a permanent ceasefire in Spain.

Sinn Féin MP Alex Maskey and former IRA bomber Gerry Kelly
are said to have both worked alongside Catholic priest
Father Alec Reid to bring about the end of a 38-year-long
terror campaign in which led to the deaths of 851 people.

Mr Maskey and Mr Kelly are believed to have both travelled
to the Basque country of northern Spain regularly over the
past year to work with politicians in an effort to persuade
ETA to declare a ceasefire.

Fr Reid has lived in the Basque port city of Bilbao for the
past four years.

Mr Maskey was quoted as telling the Spanish daily newspaper
El Mundo: “We worked as two groups with Fr Reid.

“He on the spiritual front as a person who has spent 40
years struggling for peace in Northern Ireland and us
explaining how we fought with the Unionists and with the
British and Irish governments and including among

“We have travelled a dozen times to the Basque country, and
they have also come here to Northern Ireland on numerous


Ex-Prisoners Remember ’81 Hunger Strike

By Barry McCaffrey and Ronan McManus

Loyalist and republicans came together yesterday to share
experiences of the 1981 Hunger Strike.

UDA and IRA ex-prisoners joined community workers from the
Falls and Shankill at the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast
to discuss the repercussions felt in their communities
during the traumatic events inside the H-blocks 25 years

Former UDA prisoner Billy McQuiston said the hunger strikes
created a sense of confusion within loyalist communities.

“On the one hand some in the loyalist community were happy
to see IRA men die but for others like myself who had been
in jail and had fought for segregation, we regarded the
hunger strikers as soldiers,” he said.

Former IRA prison leader Seanna Walsh, a close friend of
Bobby Sands, said republican prisoners had not fully
recognised the effect that the hunger strikes had had on
the wider community.

“We were in the H-blocks and were caught up with what we
were doing,” he said.

“We may have thought of the impact that the hunger strikes
were having on Bobby Sands’ family and the families of the
other nine lads but we didn’t have much knowledge of the
wider effect on the outside.

“Looking back now I can see that the hunger strikers have
had an iconic effect of the younger generation of
nationalists. It is important that we share the various
experiences that we all went through in our own

Minah Wardell, who has been a community worker on the
Shankill Road for more than 30 years, said there was
confusion in the loyalist community.

“We didn’t think they would be allowed to die,” she said.

“It was a time of confusion and sadness.”

Liz Groves, a community worker in west Belfast at the time
of the hunger strikes, said the they had made her community

“If Margaret Thatcher was allowed to criminalise the
prisoners the whole nationalist community would be next,”
she said.

“I could not understand how Thatcher, as a mother, could
allow another mother’s son to die. People called her the
Iron Lady – we just called her a monster.

“I think the hunger strikes made our community much
stronger and united.”


SF Warning To Governments Not To Concede Ground To DUP

SDLP launches new lobby group to spearhead campaigns and
events run by its MPs in London

By Jarlath Kearney

Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin has strongly
attacked any political proposals from the British and Irish
governments that would “concede ground” to the Democratic
Unionist Party (DUP).

Mr McLaughlin was speaking after leading a senior Sinn Féin
delegation to demand a multibillion-pound peace dividend
from secretary of state Peter Hain.

British prime minster Tony Blair and Taosieach Bertie Ahern
are expected in Belfast next month to unveil their
proposals for political progress.

However, speculation persists that the proposals will fall
short of nationalist demands for the immediate restoration
of all the Good Friday Agreement’s political institutions.

Mr McLaughlin warned against proposals that would undermine
the Agreement.

“If their proposals are about easing the DUP into a full
executive, then we will give them due consideration,” said
the Foyle assembly member.

“If we get a proposition which simply supports or concedes
ground to the DUP and opponents of the Good Friday
Agreement, then we are not interested. We would not touch
it with a bargepole, not even a 40-foot one,” Mr McLaughlin

Also yesterday, SDLP efforts to raise the party’s profile
in London received a boost when leader Mark Durkan launched
a new lobby group.

The launch of the SDLP London Group is intended to
spearhead a series of campaign and events in the English
capital in support of the party’s three MPs.

Last night’s SDLP event in Westminster was supported by
British government minister Ruth Kelly and former direct-
rule minister John McFall, as well as other invited guests.

Mr Durkan used the launch to restate his party’s position
that the British and Irish governments should follow SDLP
proposals for restarting the North’s assembly.

The SDLP proposals are believed to include the appointment
of unelected commissioners to run the North’s government
departments if a multiparty executive cannot be

Mr Durkan said yesterday: “We are warning the government
again now about its proposed way forward. They believe that
the DUP will take fright at the thought of the assembly
being shut down in the autumn. That is a miscalculation.
Winding the assembly up might suit the DUP well enough
because it would allow them to declare the Good Friday
Agreement dead. And with nine MPs, they may feel that they
have the resources to weather the storm.

“That is why the DUP are welcoming the direction the
governments are going in. They see it as helping their
strategy to park the process and hold up progress.”

Mr Durkan said the solution was for both governments to
“get as much of the agreement going as we can now”.

“Instead of threatening the abolition of the assembly and
the putting of the agreement on ice, the governments should
follow our positive proposals for ending suspension now and
getting the Agreement moving.

“The secretary of state… needs to realise that, in fact, it
is his refusal to restore all the institutions and run with
a policy of maximising the Agreement that is preventing
MLAs doing their job.

“If the secretary of state is serious about MLAs working,
he needs to get more serious about plans for achieving just
that,” the SDLP leader said.


‘Piling Pressure On May Suit DUP’

By William Graham Political Correspondent

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has warned the British and Irish
governments that a strategy for putting pressure on the DUP
in the coming months may actually suit Ian Paisley’s party.

Mr Durkan said they appeared to believe the DUP would take
fright at the thought of the assembly being shut down in
the autumn.

“This is a miscalculation,” he said.

“Winding the assembly up might suit the DUP well enough –
because it would allow them to declare the Good Friday
Agreement dead.

“And with nine MPs they may feel that they have the
resources to weather the storm.

“That is why the DUP are welcoming the direction the
governments are going in. They see it as helping their
strategy to park the process and hold up progress.

“Instead of threatening the abolition of the assembly and
the putting of the agreement on ice, the governments should
be working to get as much of the agreement going as we can

Mr Durkan was speaking at a meeting of an SDLP London
group, which was launched last night at an event in


British Troops Out, Watchtowers Down Within Year

By William Graham Political Correspondent

Demilitarisation moves over the next 12 months will involve
withdrawing British troops from Crossmaglen police station
and demolishing the remaining army watchtowers in south

Armed forces minister Adam Ingram yesterday ann-ounced a
‘route-map' to full normalisation of the military
infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

There are just over 9,000 troops in the north and this
number is to be reduced to no more than 5,000 by August
2007. The number of sites where troops are stationed will
be reduced to 14 from about 40 in the next year.

Over the next 12 months troops with be withdrawn from
Crossmaglen, Newtown-hamilton, Newtownbutler, Middletown
and Keady police stations in Co Armagh.

Hilltop observation bases at Croslieve, Camlough Mountain
and Jonesborough Hill are to be demolished.

In the final normalisation move (from April to July 2007)
it is planned to close Drumadd barracks, Lisanaelly
barracks in Omagh, Rose-mount observation post in Derry,
Moscow Camp in Belfast, Harmony House in Lisburn and
Masonic Base in Derry.

It is also planned within this period to close Bessbrook
Mill, which was once des-cribed as the busiest helicopter
base in Europe.

Some 3,000 Ministry of Defence (MoD) civilians currently
work alongside the military in Northern Ireland.

The British army said that detailed work was continuing to
establish the future requirement for civilian staff to
support a peacetime garrision.

Last August, following the IRA's statement that it was
ending its armed campaign, the British government set out a
two-year plan to reduce the army's presence in Northern

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP welcomed the demilitarisation
move but it was opposed by the DUP.

Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy said that his
party had welcomed the start that the British government
made last year to the demilitarisation process and he hoped
the latest moves would advance that process further.

He said that Sinn Fein

has consistently demanded that the British government
“remove its war apparatus from the north.”

SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley said that for far too
long unsightly watchtowers had blighted the countryside,
heavy machinery and armoury have disrupted towns and
villages while people had had to live with constant
helicopter flights and patrols by British soldiers.

DUP assembly member Ian Paisley jnr said the announ-cement
to drastically reduce the number of troops stationed here
was dangerously premature.

He said report after report from the Independent

Monitoring Commission has clearly showed how paramilitaries
of all kinds were still embroiled in all manner of
terrorist and criminal activity.


Nationalist Parties Welcome Troop Reductions

by Jarlath Kearney

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have given a guarded welcome to
yesterday’s announcement that British army personnel in the
North will be reduced to 5,000 by July 2007.

There are currently more British soldiers stationed in the
North than in Iraq. British armed forces minister Adam
Ingram said the number of British bases in the North would
be reduced to 14, in line with the same timetable.

He said the plan for a phased reduction of troop numbers
assumed “continuing maintenance of an enabling

Over the next 16 months, the five remaining watchtowers in
south Armagh will be demolished, and the British army will
withdraw from most remaining bases where they are locate
alongside the PSNI, Mr Ingram said.

Moves will be made to consolidate British forces in key
bases, such as Thiepval barracks in Lisburn.

Detailed work was continuing to establish the future
requirements for 3,000 Ministry of Defence civilian staff,
and trade unions would be fully consulted once the full
impact on them of the programme had been established, Mr
Ingram said.

Conor Murphy, the Sinn Féín Newry and Armagh MP, said
republicans had consistently “demanded that the British
government remove its war apparatus from the North”. “It
has always been a key element of our discussions with the
British government. I have met both the British and Irish
governments on this issue over a period of years,” he said.

“I welcomed the start that the British government made last
year to the demilitarisation process, and I hope that these
moves advance that process further. I now want to see the
job completed as quickly as possible.”

SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley said: “For far too
long, unsightly watchtowers have blighted our country. A
truly normal way of life is needed in south Armagh, and I
welcome moves to dismantle the watchtowers and to reduce
the levels of British troops.”


Book Shows British Army Strategy In ‘70s Bears An Uncanny
Parallel To Tan War Propaganda

Danny Morrison

In the early days of the conflict letters would frequently
pop up in the local papers from ‘Catholic Mother of Ten,
Bogside’, ‘Disillusioned Republican’ and ‘True Patriot,
Crossmaglen’ attacking the republican movement and overtly
or implicitly praising the ‘peace-keeping’ efforts of the
RUC/British army. The letters were so gauche and written in
such a strange idiom that they fooled few republicans who
correctly assumed that they came from the British army
propaganda unit based at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.

Other stories appeared in the media alleging that IRA
explosives officers could get cancer from handling nitro-
benzine (a major component of home-made explosives) and
that the nylon underwear worn by women IRA Volunteers was
prematurely setting off detonators. A Sunday Mirror in 1973
headline read, ‘Danger in those frilly panties’.

Colin Wallace, a full-time public relations officer based
at Lisburn, later admitted conjuring up most of the black
propaganda stories of this period.

Another of his stories was one about Czechoslovakian
snipers whom the IRA hired at £1,000 a hit. The subtext, of
course, was that an IRA volunteer was not really a
guerrilla because he/she couldn’t fire straight; that there
was a connection between the IRA and east European
communism; and wasn’t it both ironic and a disgrace that
the money raised by republican/Catholic sympathisers in the
USA was financing communists/atheists.

My favourite story was the one about those topless women in
west Belfast’s Turf Lodge housing estate. The British army
would be out on patrol when an upstairs bedroom curtain
would suddenly be drawn back and there would stand at the
window a naked woman baring her voluptuous breasts. The
young, courageous squaddie (it would either be his first
day of duty or his last – never in between) would
understandably feast his sore eyes on this comely maiden.
Having temporarily dropped his guard, the wicked plan had
fallen into place and an IRA sniper’s bullet would ring out
and strike down the young soldier (undoubtedly, this
represented a tragic reversal of that old saying, he died
and went to heaven).

Yes, the nonsense and lies and black propaganda we had to
listen to was incredible. This shite, to which we were
subjected throughout the conflict, actually bears an
uncanny parallel to the propaganda offensive by the British
during the Tan War.

A new book, written by historian Brian Murphy, titled The
Origins and Organisation of British Propaganda in Ireland
1920, was launched last Friday in Dublin. It focuses on
Basil Clarke, a former English journalist with the Daily
Mail, and a number of his colleagues, who came to Dublin
Castle to streamline the propaganda offensive against Sinn
Féin and the IRA which the British felt were winning the
publicity war. Furthermore, the author demonstrates how
British lies and distortions of that period have been
treated as credible primary sources by some contemporary
historians for what he states are anti-republican purposes.

The press relied heavily on Dublin Castle’s Summaries of
Official Reports of Outrages which accentuated the alleged
successes of the Crown Forces against the IRA, whilst
omitting British crimes against civilians and civilian
property, and blackened the IRA at every opportunity
through inventions, distortion and lies.

Journalists – long before the term ‘embedded’ was invented
– were invited to visit and meet with Auxiliary Companies.

One story had an IRA Volunteer shoving a revolver down the
blouse of an innocent woman in the seat in front of him
when the omnibus is being searched by auxiliaries. He
retrieves it from her cleavage after the search and
commuters are either so intimidated or supportive that they
say nothing.

On a more serious level, Murphy details the planting of
false stories (that Terence MacSwiney, for example, had
planned to kill the Bishop of Cork); the Brit use of
sympathetic journalists; and the recruitment of the
Catholic hierarchy to the British side.

It is impossible not to see the resonances with the recent

What happened in 1920 was repeated in the ‘70s. The British
claimed that prisoners were inflicting injuries on
themselves to denigrate their interrogators. They claimed
that the IRA was “a bloody-minded coterie of criminals’
that intimidated the community for support. The British
abolished jury courts, denied inquests, suppressed
evidence, and if you think Public Interest Immunity
Certificates are something new, think again. It had its
precursor in the powers of the Restoration of Order in
Ireland Act. Divisional Inspector Colonel Smyth of the RIC
correctly boasted that no “policeman will ever be held up
to public odium by being pilloried before a Coroner’s Jury
or other such inquiry”.

Hunger strikers were impugned: their families encouraged to
induce their loved ones to end the strike.

In another episode British forces murdered John Lynch, a
solicitor’s clerk (and Sinn Féin supporter), having
previously attempted to kill his employer, John J Power,
because he legally defended IRA volunteers.

Commenting on the propaganda work of Basil Clarke, author
Brian Murphy says: “By shaping and refining the news in the
British interest, Clarke not only produced a propaganda
message for his time, but also laid the foundations for an
historical narrative for all time.”

In particular, Murphy challenges two historians, Roy Foster
and Peter Hart. He upbraids Foster for appearing to be
unwilling to accept that Michael Collins (who was acting on
inside information) got the right men when volunteers wiped
out the ‘Cairo Squad’ – the foremost undercover British
spies in Dublin – in November 1920. He also gives an
example where Foster omits to use a damning quote by a
brigade major about the burning of civilian homes. He takes
Hart to task over his presentation of the IRA attack at
Kilmichael when 16 auxiliaries and two volunteers were

The British falsely alleged that their soldiers had been
wounded, surrendered and then shot multiple times, and that
their bodies had been hacked and mutilated and then rifled
for personal valuables, including clothes. While Hart does
not support the accusations of mutilation he, according to
Murphy, places his confidence in the ‘official report’ in
order to query IRA Commandant Tom Barry’s account of events
(“lies and evasions”) and to claim that the attack “turned
into a massacre”.

British and newspaper reports deceived many people at the
time, not just the British public or people abroad but some
people in Ireland also. However, to have modern historians
and journalists regurgitate these lies – in my opinion, for
contemporary political motives – is something to which we
need to be alert. Murphy – one of a regrettably small
number of historians who vigilantly scrutinise the way
revisionists use or abuse historical documents and sources
– has done us all a valuable service by publishing this

The Origins and Organisation of British Propaganda in
Ireland 1920 by Brian P Murphy can be ordered through


Opin: British Guns Still Pointed One Way

Editor: Colin O’Carroll

Any timetable for troop withdrawals published by the
British army is welcome although this latest one is – as
usual – a case of not enough and much too slow.

Currently, more than 9,000 British soldiers are garrisoned
in the North of Ireland. What they’re doing there from a
military point of view is anybody’s guess. What they’re
doing there from an ordinary person’s point of view is
disturbing the quality of life of far too many people as
the British army continues the noisy and disruptive
business of servicing and supplying troops and bases which
simply aren’t needed any more, if indeed they ever were.

Those 9,000 troops are contained in some 40 military
installations – the vast majority of them located near
nationalist areas, the vast majority of them designed to
observe and marshall nationalist districts. The best-known
and most controversial bases and spy posts are located in
nationalist border areas of Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

Less well-known are the large state of the art
installations in the city of Belfast which loom balefully
over Catholic districts. A trip around the city of Belfast
would prove instructive for those outside the city not
familiar with its military geography.

While loyalists have been engaged in bitter and bloody
internecine feuding for years, no barracks or bases or spy
towers exist to watch the districts in which they operate.
The entire military apparatus of the city was designed with
the republican community in mind. That’s hardly surprising
as not only were the British not interested in tackling
loyalist sectarian violence, we now know that they were
controlling and directing it.

Right across the North nationalists are still living with
the legacy of that warped policy, even though the IRA has
stood down its units and the armed state nexus of the
British army, the PSNI and the loyalist paramilitaries
remains the only side still on the field.

Today in South Armagh and west Belfast young nationalists
are constantly reminded by the huge and ludicrously
expensive military and paramilitary infrastructure that the
British state regards them as the enemy. The moves will be
significant if far from comprehensive. The number of
British army troop bases will be reduced in the next year
from around 40 to 14; the number of troops will drop from
9,000 to 5,000; and the five remaining watchtowers in South
Armagh will be removed.

The British government feels itself in need of 14 bases and
5,000 soldiers – none of this being deployed against still
active loyalists – not because they make one iota of
difference to the security environment, but because to do
the right thing and remove the British army completely
would upset unionist politicians.

Those bases will continue to be deployed against the
republican community and those guns will continue to be
pointed at nationalists.


Opin: Illegals Debate Enters Realms Of Theology

By Ray O'Hanlon

The Senate judiciary committee has been handling a red-hot
coal. But you would never think it when checking its space
on the US Senate website.

As it has juggled starkly competing proposals for
immigration law reform in recent weeks, the committee has
masked its doings behind a cheekily bland announcement.

Each meeting has been announced thus: “Business meeting to
consider pending calendar business.”

This is rather like stating: “A gathering will convene at
dawn to consider

pending moves.” And then invading Normandy.

But the senators, God between them and all harm, are a
cool-handed lot.

They belong to what is arguably the most exclusive
political club on the planet and if they are going to have
to eat political soup with a fork they are not going to
make a holy show of it in advance.

Quite the contrary.

So off they started with their calendar business Monday
morning, just hours after hundreds of thousands took to
American streets calling for the nation’s doors to be
opened more, not less.

The pro-immigration demonstrations in Los Angeles and
elsewhere were not a surprise, because the latest calendar
business will affect the lives of millions and go a long
way towards charting the course of US immigration law for
years to come.

The senators have been juggling a bundle of bills of late,
none of them especially compatible with its fellows.

They come with varied names – McCain/Kennedy, Cornyn/Kyl,
Specter and Frist.

But the overall aim is that at the culmination of the
debating process there will be an agreed Senate bill that
will then face off with the already approved House bill
crafted by congressmen James Sensenbrenner and Peter King.

King – who once secured most of his ink and air time for
being Sinn Fein’s best pal on Capitol Hill – is in growing
media demand as the immigration issue has steadily pushed
its way to the forefront.

For one thing, King had to defend his bill against Hillary
Clinton’s contention that Jesus Christ would be treated as
a criminal under its provisions because, naturally, Christ
would have extended a helping hand to even the illegal and

The Sensenbrenner/King bill makes it a felony to be in the
US illegally and strongly suggests that those who aid
illegals risk being tarred with the same brush.

Generally speaking, illegals are people who cross borders
into the US without being checked, while the undocumented
are checked but then overstay their allotted time.

Virtually all the Irish fall into the latter category but
Sensenbreen/King doesn’t distinguish. All would be viewed
as felons.

King, meanwhile, has had to fight wars on two fronts, not
just against critics such as Hillary Clinton but also
leading Catholic Church figures such as the Cardinal of Los
Angeles, Roger Mahoney.

Mahoney has described as inhumane the proposals to make
criminals of illegal immigrants – Irish included – and has
urged priests to defy the law if Sensenbrenner/King wins
the day in Congress.

King has countered that he doesn’t believe that Christ
would endorse, or the Church should tolerate, a situation
in which illegal immigrants are dying in the desert as they
attempt the border crossing from Mexico while others are
being exploited by ruthless people smugglers.

When a political argument enters the realm of theology it
is a pretty strong indicator that the debate is not going
to be quick or clean. And when the debate is focused on
literally millions of souls, well, don’t make plans to
leave town in a hurry.

The current number of illegal and undocumented living
within US borders is described in most press reports as
being 11 million.

Some estimates rise as high as 15 million.

The number of undocumented Irish is about 40,000 according
to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, a group which
was been campaigning specifically for the Irish, many of
whom have lived a shadowy existence for years without legal

In so doing, ILIR has been a throwback to the Irish
Immigration Reform Movement which battled successfully for
Irish visas in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Observers are hoping that whatever comes out of the Senate
fray, there will be room for an earned legalisation
proposal in the McCain/Kennedy bill.

This would be good news for the Irish and all others

Reform backers would then hope for a House/Senate
reconciliation of each chamber’s respective bill – again
with earned legalization on board – before the Senate
adjourns for Easter and some further, less contentious,
reflections on Christ.


Ireland Pioneering Anti-Smoking Laws

29/03/2006 - 07:02:49

Five European countries have adopted smoking bans since
Ireland first pioneered the move two years ago today.

Last weekend, Scotland became the latest to stub out the
weed, following Italy, Malta, Norway and Sweden.

Anti-smoking groups marking the second anniversary today
have boasted that the number of smokers in Ireland have
plummeted from 31% of the population in 1998 to 23% last

The Health Department now plans to outlaw packs of ten
cigarettes to target the 20% of 15-18 year-olds who
currently smoke.

The Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) found that 95% of the
35,043 premises it inspected in 2005 were in compliance
with the legislation.

A total of 38 pubs were prosecuted for breaches.

Former Health Minister Micheál Martin pushed in the ban in
March 2004 despite stringent opposition from publicans and
tobacco firms.

Over a dozen delegations from countries like Australia,
Hong Kong and Malaysia visited Ireland during 2005 to study
the law in operation.


Ahern Urged To Give 1916 Leader's Son Place Of Honour

29/03/2006 - 12:59:40

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was today urged to ensure the last
surviving child of an executed 1916 leader is given a place
of honour at the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of
the Easter Rising.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan said Fr Joseph Mallin, the son of
Commandant Michael Mallin, had not yet received an
invitation to the Easter Monday ceremonies.

The Dublin North East TD said Fr Mallin’s relatives have
called for urgent action as it is less than three weeks
until the event and all Oireachtas members received their
invitations nearly a month ago.

“I contacted the Taoiseach’s office and have now been
informed that an invitation is at last being sent to Fr
Mallin,” he said.

“Fr Mallin SJ has worked in Hong Kong since 1948. He is now
92 years old and corresponds with his Dublin relatives
every fortnight.

“He is in good health and on his visits home stays with the
Dublin Jesuit community.

“He was an honoured guest of the Taoiseach and Government
at the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966.

“His relatives believe that Fr Joseph is the last surviving
child of the executed 1916 patriots.

“They are grateful for the Taoiseach’s interest but hope
that he will now ensure that Fr Joseph is enabled to return
home in good time for the commemoration.”

Commandant Michael Mallin was Chief of Staff of the Irish
Citizen Army and commander of the St Stephen’s Green
garrison during the Rising.

He left behind a wife and five young children, including
two-year-old Joseph, when he was executed on May 8, 1916.


Expat Centenarians Earn A €2,500 Birthday Bounty

By Staff Reporter

IRISH pensioners who emigrated and live to be 100 will be
given €2,500, the Republic’s government announced

The Centenarians’ Bounty, which had been payable to
citizens of the state still living at home, will be
extended to cover all those who moved abroad.

But it is unclear whether centenarians living in the north
will qualify for the windfall.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the gift was not just a
practical gesture but also a token of regard for the
contribution hundreds of thousands of people made to
Ireland’s success.

“Over the past decades, hundreds of thousands of our people
emigrated out of economic necessity,” he said.

“They made a huge contribution not only to their adopted
country but very many of them continued to contribute to
their family in Ireland by sending home remittances.

“The Centenarians’ Bounty is not just a practical gesture,
it is also a token of regard.

“It is appropriate therefore that this regard should be
extended equally to Irish people where ever they are in the
world,” he said.

“At a time in life for older emigrants when friends and
family in Ireland may no longer be as numerous as they once
were it is a fitting gesture that the state should
acknowledge their 100th birthday.”

Under new arrangements the bonus will be paid to any Irish
citizen who was born in the state and who reaches 100 years
of age, regardless of where he or she may be living.

It is understood the government will examine whether those
denied the cash in the past can be given retrospective

A working group is also being set up to consider how the
new arrangements will work.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach’s office said the working
group would consider whether centenarians who were born in
1906 in what became Northern Ireland after partition in
1921 would be eligible for the pay-out.

A spokesman for President Mary McAleese said she welcomed
the decision.


Tributes Paid To Donegal Climber

By Seamus McKinney

ONE of Ireland’s most respected mountain climbers, Co
Donegal man Hugh Sharkey, has died after falling from rocks
in Jordan.

The 55-year-old, from Kincasslagh in west Donegal, died
while being rushed to hospital after a fall from the Wadi
Rum mountain in the south of the country.

Mr Sharkey – who had been living in Dublin in recent years
– had written widely on mountain climbing and hill walking
in Co Donegal.

Having spent St Patrick’s Day at home in his native county,
he travelled to Jordan last week with climbing partner
Gerry Moss.

Mr Moss was with Mr Sharkey when he fell.

Paying tribute, Kevin Byrne, president of the Irish
Mountaineering Club, said Mr Sharkey was one of the safest
people to climb with.

Mr Byrne said that the Kincasslagh man was well liked in
Irish climbing circles and had trained younger members of
the mountaineering club.

Mr Sharkey’s body is expected to be returned to Ireland
this weekend.

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