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April 11, 2006

Last Chance For NI Politicians

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News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 04/11/06
Last Chance For NI Politicians
BB 04/10/06 Bell Named New Assembly Speaker
SF 04/10/06 SF's Objective In Time Ahead Is Power-Sharing Government
SF 04/10/06 Sinn Féin Hold SDLP Talks
RT 04/11/06 DUP To End 20-Year BIIPB Boycott
SF 04/10/06 Serious Questions Re: SB Involvement In Donaldson Location
BT 04/10/06 Donaldson Should Have Lived Out His Life In Misery
BB 04/10/06 IRA Informer Hits Out At Police
BN 04/10/06 Ex-IRA Men Held After Vodka Hijack
IT 04/11/06 Sinn Féin Distances Itself From Lorry Hijacking
IT 04/11/06 Raid Raises Serious Questions, Say TDs
BB 04/11/06 Four New Unionist Peers Appointed
SF 04/11/06 DUP Focus On Peerages Absurd; Real Issues Need Dealt With
PG 04/11/06 More Than 100 March Downtown To Support Immigrants' Rights
IT 04/11/06 Opin: McDowell – Rec: Unfinished Business Of Easter Rising
IT 04/11/06 Opin: Millennium Forests Idea One Big Lie
SF 04/11/06 Celebrate 1916 And Work For Irish Unity - Ó Caoláin
SF 04/10/06 Doolan Tables Motion To Honour The Forgotten Hero Of 1916
IT 04/11/06 Talks On National Anthem Manuscript Sale Continue
IT 04/11/06 Large Crowds Expected To Attend 1916 Ceremony
BB 04/11/06 Horseback Patrols To Tackle Crime
BB 04/10/06 Lightning Victim Was A Soldier
IT 04/11/06 Dublin Libraries Acquire Rare Dracula Collection
IT 04/11/06 State Survey Of Bottlenose Dolphins In Shannon Estuary
HC 04/11/06 TV: West Wing Election Results Take Needed Shift


'Last Chance' For NI Politicians

Some of NI's leading politicians will not be involved in
the process again if an assembly is not in operation by 24
November, Dermot Ahern has said.

The Irish foreign minister made the comments during a
programme shown on Irish state television, RTE.

Last week the British and Irish governments gave MLAs until
24 November to set up a power-sharing executive.

Mr Ahern also said if they failed to achieve this, it would
be a long time before talks resumed again.

"One of the issues we are saying is that the governments
will move on and there is a deadline," he said.

"The two prime ministers are absolutely adamant about this.

"This is the year and I would hazard a guess that if it
doesn't happen this year the two people involved, plus a
couple of other leading figures in Northern Ireland
politics, will be gone by the time we come back again."

On 6 April, prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern
travelled to Northern Ireland to unveil their blueprint for
restoring devolution.

They confirmed the assembly would be recalled on 15 May
with parties being given six weeks to elect an executive.

If that fails, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to
try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that
attempt fails, salaries will stop.


:: Assembly recalled on 15 May: politicians given six weeks to
form executive
:: If this fails, further 12 weeks after summer recess to form
::If this is not achieved by 24 November deadline, assembly
members' salaries and allowances stopped
Governments would then work on partnership arrangements to
implement the Good Friday Agreement

The British and Irish governments would then work on
partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday

Mr Ahern has acknowledged the difficulties facing himself
and Mr Blair were compounded by the murder of ex-Sinn Fein
official and former British spy Denis Donaldson in County
Donegal two days earlier.

Despite denials of involvement in the murder, the
Democratic Unionist Party is blaming the IRA and that has
pushed the prospect of power-sharing even further away.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October
2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring.

Mr Donaldson was one of three men later acquitted of
charges linked to those allegations.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/11 06:32:08 GMT


Bell Named New Assembly Speaker

Former Alliance party deputy leader Eileen Bell will be the
speaker at the Northern Ireland Assembly when it is

Mrs Bell was named as presiding officer by the NIO on

The North Down MLA announced in December she would not
stand in the next assembly election

It is thought the appointment is for the first session of
the assembly on 15 May when members can decide to keep Mrs
Bell as speaker or choose someone else.

Alliance leader David Ford said it would have been
"appropriate and good manners" for him to have been
informed in advance of the decision.

Previously Mrs Bell took part in the Stormont Commission
which managed the Stormont Estates in the last assembly.

Mrs Bell, the first Catholic and the first woman to hold
the post, said she was looking forward to her new role.

"I was delighted to be asked by the secretary of state to
take up the post of presiding officer of the assembly.

"I am honoured to accept this post and I look forward to
the challenges when the assembly meets on 15 May," she said

'Hugely respected'

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said he thought she
would prove to be a good choice as speaker.

"Eileen is hugely respected across the political and
community divide in Northern Ireland," he said.

"She gets on with everyone and brings a wealth of
experience to the post.

"I am very pleased that she has agreed to take up this very
important post of presiding officer. I am sure she will do
a good job."

Lord Alderdice, the assembly's last speaker, retired from
the post in February 2004 citing the demands of his role on
the Independent Monitoring Commission as the main reason
for his decision.

He was appointed to the position in July 1998.

The assembly has been suspended since October 2002
following allegations of a republican spy ring at the
Northern Ireland Office.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/10 17:41:01 GMT


Sinn Féin's Objective In Time Ahead Is Power-Sharing Government

Published: 10 April, 2006

Speaking at an event in Belfast City Hall as part of the
Sinn Féin campaign to see a Green Paper on Irish unity
brought forward, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that
on the eighth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement it
remained the only basis for moving forward.

Mr Adams said:

"Today marks the 8th anniversary of the Good Friday
Agreement. I said at the time that I expected it would be a
battle a day to ensure its implementation. And there have
been difficulties. But despite these, significant progress
has taken place in that time and we should be proud of that

"And more can take place. Why should unelected British
Ministers, who don't know one end of the north from the
other, be allowed to take decisions on education and
health, and the environment, and on water rates and council
rates, which will have major consequences for every

"Local politicians should be taking these decisions. The
basis for doing that is the Good Friday Agreement. It
remains the only show in town. There is no other way

"That is accepted by the governments and all of the other
parties, except the DUP. The big challenge is therefore for
the DUP. If the DUP refuses to participate then the onus
will be on the two governments to deliver on their
commitment to jointly implement all other elements of the
Good Friday Agreement. And Sinn Fein will also be meeting
with the two governments to seek clarity and detail on the
accelerated all-Ireland co-operation and action that will
replace the Assembly if the DUP is not prepared to share

"However, Sinn Fein's focus is the full implementation of
the Agreement. On Saturday the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle
met, following detailed consultation with our Assembly
team, and after careful consideration, we decided to attend
the reconvened Assembly on May 15th.

"We have been in touch with all of the other parties in the
Assembly seeking meetings with them to discuss how the
process of forming a power sharing government can proceed.
This afternoon we will be meeting with the SDLP.

"Sinn Féin's objective on May 15th is to see the
reestablishment of the political institutions on the basis
set out in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS


Sinn Féin Hold SDLP Talks

Published: 10 April, 2006

A Sinn Féin delegation consisting of South Down Assembly
member Caitriona Ruane and the Assembly Group leader John
O'Dowd today held talks with an SDLP delegation in

Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin Assembly member
Caitriona Ruane said:

"Today's meeting with the SDLP focused primarily on the
proposals from the two governments to re-establish the
political institutions. Both parties agreed that our shared
objective in the time ahead was to see a fully functioning
Executive and fully functioning All-Ireland Bodies.

"Neither party was interested in a talking shop or shadow
assembly. We agreed to remain in close contact and to meet
regularly to discuss this and other issues in the time
ahead." ENDS


DUP To End 20-Year BIIPB Boycott

11 April 2006 11:16

It has been announced that the Democratic Unionist Party is
to end a 20-year boycott of the British-Irish Inter-
Parliamentary Body.

It will send a delegation to the organisation's meeting in
Killarney, Co Kerry, later this month.

The BIIPB comprises parliamentarians from all parts of
Britain and Ireland and was set up after the Anglo Irish
Agreement. However, unionists have consistently shunned the

The DUP decision to send a delegation, headed by Deputy
Leader Peter Robinson, will be seen as evidence of a
further thaw in the party's attitude in advance of next
month's meeting of the reconvened Stormont Assembly.


Article Raises Serious Questions Concerning Special Branch Involvement In Donaldson Location

Published: 10 April, 2006

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly today said that a
report in yesterdays Sunday Business Post newspaper
alleging that a former PSNI detective was involved along
with a Sunday World journalist in the location and outing
of Denis Donaldson's whereabouts in Donegal raised very
serious issues for the PSNI to address.

Mr Kelly said:

"We are told in yesterdays Sunday Business Post newspaper
that the man who led the Sunday World to Denis Donaldson's
home in Donegal and who secretly filmed him there was a
former RUC member called Colin Breen. Shortly after the
Sunday World exposure, Denis Donaldson was killed.

"Given the role played by Special Branch in Denis
Donaldson's life over the course of many years the
revelation of the involvement of Colin Breen in this story
is extremely sinister. It is clear that the PSNI Special
Branch now have very serious questions to answer about
their role in publicising Denis Donaldson‚s whereabouts."


Donaldson Should Have Lived Out His Life In Misery, Says
Former US Leader Of IRA

By Sean O'Driscoll
10 April 2006

The former US leader of the IRA, Gabriel Megahey, one of
Denis Donaldson's most bitter enemies, said that he the
self-confessed British spy's death was "too easy" and that
he should have been forced to life out the rest of his life
in isolation.

"He should have been allowed to live out his misery for the
rest of his natural days, living like a hermit in Donegal.
Whacking him just ended it all," he said.

Megahey, who blamed Donaldson for deliberately trying to
derail the IRA in the US in the late 80s and early 90s,
said that Donaldson must either have been killed by his
British handlers or by a renegade republican whose life had
been ruined by information he passed on to the British.

"This was not sanctioned and it has given our enemies
absolutely everything they want," he said.

Donaldson lived in New York in the late 1980s and had
frequent trips to the US since then to sort out dissent
among republican ranks.

Megahey and others blamed him for trying to destroy a pro-
republican film starring Mickey Rourke that centered on the
life of 1981 hunger striker, Patsy O'Hara.

Megahey also claimed that Donaldson set him up to work with
two "undesirables" who had moved from Belfast to New York
and had then reported Megahey to the republican leadership.

Megahey, who was jailed in the US in the 1980s for trying
to buy surface to air missiles in Florida, said that
"touts" are only killed by the IRA to deter future
informants or to protect an IRA operation, neither of which
applied after the IRA ceasefire.

"It's all over, there are no more operations so there is
absolutely no reason to kill him," he said.

Megahey's sister-in-law, Irene Cahill, said that she felt
great sympathy for Mr Donaldson's family, especially his
in-laws, the Kearneys, and said she believed British
intelligence were responsible for the killing. "It was done
in such an underhanded way, I don't doubt British
involvement," she said.

Cahill said that she found Donaldson to be evasive and
unhelpful while working for the republican movement in the
US and said that he snubbed her when she visited Stormont
two years ago.

"I was shocked to see that he was running the Sinn Fein
office in Stormont. I remember turning to my husband and
saying that. When Donaldson saw me, he cleared out of the
office and never came back that day," she said.

Martin Galvin, the former leader of the US republican
fundraising group, Noraid, was also a long term enemy of
Donaldson and yesterday said that Donaldson's death was a
result of his own treachery.

"It's sad to see anyone killed at any time but he was an
admitted informer who betrayed the Irish struggle," he

"It's impossible to know how many volunteers were killed or
captured as a result of his treachery, or how much he
helped the British undermine the republican negotiation
position. In those circumstances, the announcement of this
death, while sad for his family, is not surprising."

However, Maureen McCullough, a Tyrone-born republican
activist and a close friend of Donaldson when he was in New
York, said that she was deeply saddened to hear of his

"He had more friends than enemies. I never met anyone who
didn't like him. I just feel sorrow," she said.


IRA Informer Hits Out At Police

Security forces could have prevented an attack in which a
policewoman was killed, a former "IRA bomb-maker and
Special Branch informer" has claimed.

Colleen McMurray died when the IRA launched a mortar attack
on a police patrol in Newry in March, 1992.

Her colleague, Paul Slane, lost his legs in the attack.

The man, who now calls himself Kevin Fulton, told the BBC
Hardtalk programme that Special Branch "knew enough to be
able to prevent the attack".

They should have had that person under surveillance

Kevin Fulton

Mr Fulton, who admitted making the fatal explosive device,
said his police "handlers" knew its destination but he did

Asked if he felt responsible for Ms McMurray's death, he
said he "did not" and "would not" have pressed the button.

Mr Fulton said Special Branch officers knew who had the

"They knew the car. They knew how it was going to be
triggered," he said.

"They should have had that person under surveillance."

Mr Fullton also said he was "not surprised" when Sinn Fein
official and British agent Denis Donaldson was murdered
last week.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/10 21:09:02 GMT


Ex-IRA Men Held After Vodka Hijack

10/04/2006 - 19:30:09

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell tonight warned
trust was being eroded after two former IRA men were
arrested with another man following the hijacking of a
lorry load of vodka in Co Meath.

The gang ambushed the driver near Dunshaughlin at 11am as
the truck, laden with €300,000 worth of drink, made its way
from Bailieboro to Dublin.

One of the men being quizzed over the attempted heist was
freed under the Good Friday Agreement after serving part of
a six-year jail term for possession of explosives.

“The real problem is that it’s very unhelpful to the
creation of trust on both sides of the border and in both
communities in Northern Ireland,” the minister said.

“As long as the IRA continues to exist, then all of these
problems arise. As long as the constitution of the IRA
remains treasonable and subversive to the authority of the
Irish state, all of these problems continue to arise.”

The hijacking and suspected involvement of former IRA men
could have serious implications for the peace process as
republicans come under increasing pressure to end

But Mr McDowell cautioned: “It does depend very much as to
whether this (the hijacking) was something done as part of
a paramilitary exercise or purely for private gain.”

The arrests come less than a week after a hitman murdered
shamed Sinn Féin spy Denis Donaldson at his hill-top
farmhouse, an isolated hideout in the wilds of west

Donaldson, 56, one of Sinn Féin’s top officials, turned
informer more than 20 years ago, betraying some of the
party’s top brass as it pushed to the fore in Northern
Ireland politics.

Today’s arrests also follow last week’s announcement by
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern that a deadline had been set for Northern parties to
share power in Stormont.

By November the Assembly must be fully up and running or
the the London and Dublin governments will pull the plug,
implementing a Plan B.

And with the finger of blame pointing squarely at
republicans for the Donaldson execution and today’s hijack,
Mr McDowell insisted trust was being damaged.

“Obviously I take that crime very seriously. I also have to
bear in mind what is being reported to me that some of the
participants in the events appear to have been members of
the IRA, and that one of them appears to have been released
under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr McDowell

“I don’t want to jump to any further conclusions at this
point but this kind of criminality, whoever carries it out,
or for whatever reason, is wholly unacceptable.”

And he went on: “Frankly, I’d much prefer to see the IRA
wound up or its constitution changed so that it’s no longer
an illegal organisation.

“I’d much prefer the provisional movement to say that
nobody who carries out actions of this kind can have
connections with their movement.”

Gardaí said the three-man gang set up an ambush on a busy
stretch of the Delvin to Athboy road hijacking the valuable
cargo of vodka.

The container was found around an hour later in the Delvin
area of Co Westmeath where the three men were arrested. A
4x4 vehicle was also apprehended by detectives.

It is understood gardaí in Delvin became suspicious
following a series of events in the area from early this

The trio are being detained under Section Four of the
Criminal Justice Act and are at Mullingar and Longford
garda stations. Two of the men, who have strong links to
the Provisional IRA, are believed to be from Westmeath and
the third man, who is also known to gardaí, is from Co

The truck driver, who was later found in Co Kildare, was
not injured in the hijack. A forensic examination of the
container will be carried out by detectives tomorrow.

Further questions will now be asked by unionist politicians
and the two governments over whether the IRA has gone out
of business. The Independent Monitoring Commission, which
assesses paramilitary activity, will also report on the IRA
in the coming months.

Security sources have suggested that former associates of a
feared IRA assassin killed by the SAS may have murdered Mr
Donaldson. Detectives believe the British spy was gunned
down to avenge the shooting of Tyrone IRA Jim Lynagh.

Lynagh, 32, was among eight Provisionals ambushed as they
tried to blow up a police station at Loughgall in Armagh in
May 1987.

But the IRA have denied any involvement in Mr Donaldson’s

Mr McDowell added that he would rather see an end to the
IRA than another denial.


Sinn Féin Distances Itself From Lorry Hijacking

Morning Ireland: Dermot Ahern, Minister for Foreign
Affairs, welcomes Sinn Féin's condemnation of the attempted

Morning Ireland: Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin says the
former IRA member has not been involved in the republican
movement since being released from prison

Sinn Féin has insisted the two former IRA members arrested
yesterday in connection with the armed hijacking of a lorry
in Co Meath were acting independently.

Three men are due to appear at Longford District Court this
morning in connection with the hijacking of the lorry,
which was carrying vodka worth €300,000 when it was stopped
by a gang on the Dublin side of Dunshaughlin, Co Meath,
yesterday morning.

The vehicle was later found at noon in Delvin, Co
Westmeath. Three men, at least one of whom was armed, were
arrested at the scene. The truck driver was found uninjured
in a field in Carberry, Co Kildare.

Two of the men arrested are brothers who have been members
of the Provisional IRA. One was sentenced to six years for
explosives charges in 1997. He was released within six
months under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said this
morning he "unreservedly" condemned the robbery.

He confirmed that one of the men arrested had been released
from Portlaoise Prison under the Belfast Agreement.
However, he insisted this man "has been in no way involved
in republican politics" since his release.

"The IRA had no hand, act or part in the raid," Mr
McGuinness told RTÉ radio. He said Sinn Féin was opposed to
all criminal activity and those responsible should face the
full rigours of the law.

"Republicans shouldn't be immune from prosecution, we are
just like everybody else. If we break the law then we
should be arrested, we should be charged, and we should be
brought before a judge and a jury.

"This is a purely criminal matter and should be dealt with
as such by the Guards and the court authorities in the

However, the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said Sinn Féin
condemnation "is one thing", but the IRA has to "divest
itself" from criminal activity before the public can have
confidence it is ready for political engagement.

"This does not inspire confidence at the political level,"
he said. "The best way the IRA can prove it is no longer
involved in . . . criminality is to formally stand down."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern welcomed Sinn
Féin's condemnation. "It's what is required from a fully
constitutional political party," he said.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said last night he
was also "concerned at the potential outfall" from the
robbery. "It is deeply disappointing that somebody who
availed of the Good Friday agreement, to be released from
prison on an explosives charge, is found apparently in
these circumstances," he said.

© The Irish Times/


Raid Raises Serious Questions, Say TDs

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

The alleged involvement of men who were recently members of
the IRA in yesterday's hijacking of a drinks lorry raises
very serious questions about the organisation's pledge to
end criminality, Fine Gael and Labour said last night.

One of the men detained by gardaí in connection with the
seizure of the articulated lorry outside Dunshaughlin, Co
Meath, was released under licence seven years ago under the
terms of the Belfast Agreement. The man had been serving a
six-year sentence for possession of explosives. One of the
other two men arrested following the €300,000 heist is a
known former member of the IRA, security sources have said.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said last night that the Meath hijack
was "a criminal matter that should be investigated by the
gardaí, and prosecuted in the courts. It should not be
turned into a wider issue. Hijacking is theft and it should
be pursued by the gardaí," said the spokesman, who rejected
criticism levelled by the main Opposition parties.

Labour TD Brendan Howlin said it was always known that some
members of the IRA would continue to remain involved in
crime despite the IRA's declaration that it had ended its
campaign of violence.

"There was always a view that we would be faced with that
situation in the end-game, if that is what we are in. If
that is so, then we can deal with that," he told The Irish

However, Mr Howlin said it would be much more worrying if
an IRA unit acting with the express authority of the IRA
command had been involved in the hijacking as part of the
organisation's search for funds.

"We will have to wait and see if that is the case. People
are innocent until proven guilty, but we will watch this
situation with the gravest concern until we know for sure.

"However, if they were acting as an "attached" unit of the
IRA then this is a much more sinister situation that will
present the greatest challenges," said Mr Howlin, who was
appointed Labour's justice spokesman last week.

Fine Gael TD Jim O'Keeffe said the hijacking held the "most
serious implications" for the peace process and for hopes
that the Northern Ireland political institutions could be
brought back to life.

"I am very concerned about this robbery, but I am even more
concerned about its alleged background. The political
situation is such, and the lack of trust between the
parties is such, that this creates difficulties that could
well be done without," he said.

The Criminal Assets Bureau and the Northern Ireland
division of the Assets Recovery Agency have recently
targeted paramilitary-controlled diesel laundering
operations on both sides of the Border. Last July, the IRA
army council instructed "all IRA units" to dump arms and
"to assist the development of purely political and
democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means".

© The Irish Times


Four New Unionist Peers Appointed

Former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and DUP leader
Ian Paisley's wife Eileen are to be appointed to the House
of Lords on Tuesday.

They are to be joined by two other DUP politicians as
working peers.

In future, Mrs Paisley is expected to be known as Baroness
Paisley of St George's after the ward which elected her to
Belfast City Council in 1967.

The DUP Lord Mayor of Belfast, Wallace Browne, and the
party's chairman Maurice Morrow, also become life peers.

The three DUP peers will be the first from their party to
enter the House of Lords.

On Tuesday, Mr Morrow said he was pleased that the DUP had
been recognised and given its rightful place in the House
of Lords.

"The party has had representation at Westminster for well
over 30 years," he said.

"To date, it has been refused to be recognised in the way
that other parties have been recognised. I welcome the fact
this is now going to change and we will be allowed a voice
in the House of Lords."

The list of party political "working peers" had been
delayed after an independent appointments commission
blocked the appointment of four potential peers who had
donated or lent money to the Labour Party.

The four later withdrew their nominations. The new peers
were put forward by party leaders.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said his party colleagues
deserved the honour.

""On behalf of the party, I warmly welcome the announcement
that Eileen, Maurice and Wallace are to become life peers.

"They have worked tirelessly over many years for the good
of the people of Northern Ireland."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/11 08:22:15 GMT


DUP Focus On Peerages Absurd When Real Issues Need Dealt With

Published: 11 April, 2006

Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin today said
that it was absurd that the DUP had spent their time in the
lead position within unionism lobbying the British
Government for seats in the House of Lords instead of
working with the rest of the parties in re-establishing the
political institutions to tackle real issues of concern
such as Water Charges or Health and Education cuts.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The announcement that three of the DUPs top brass are to
be given seats in the British House of Lords comes at the
end of a long campaign by that party since it assumed the
lead position within unionism.

"It says much about the attitude of the DUP that they have
spent their time lobbying for what will be seen as
privileges for their own members rather than working with
the rest of the parties in re-establishing the political
institutions to tackle issues of real concern to
communities such as Water Charges or Health and Education

"It is my belief that many within unionism will be at a
loss to see how the DUP demands for seats in the British
House of Lords will impact positively on their lives. Yet
if the DUP finally move to accept power sharing
institutions in line with the Good Friday Agreement they
will have the opportunity to exercise real power and make
real decisions which will make a real difference to peoples

"That remains our focus in the time ahead. We will not
allow ourselves to become distracted from the real business
at hand. That is delivering the Agreement and the
institutions which people voted for eight years ago."ENDS


More Than 100 March Downtown To Support Immigrants' Rights

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
By Ryan Haggerty, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Liz Estrada had a reminder for the people hurrying to work
along Stanwix Street yesterday morning.

Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette

The rally and march for support of immigrants makes its way
up Liberty Avenue headed for the federal building yesterday

"Americans are immigrants," read the banner that Miss
Estrada, a Forest Hills resident, held with the help of her
daughter, Anna, while they prepared to march with slightly
more than 100 other protesters through Downtown in support
of comprehensive immigration reform.

"We're all immigrants," said Miss Estrada, 50, who is of
Irish descent. "I'm here for my grandparents. They
struggled and built this country."

Miss Estrada and other supporters of immigrants' rights
held a brief rally at 8 a.m. on the lawn across from Fifth
Avenue Place before proceeding to Mellon Square, with stops
at the federal building and the office of U.S. Sen. Arlen
Specter, R-Pa.

The march, organized by Pittsburgh Friends of Immigrants,
was held in conjunction with demonstrations yesterday and
Sunday in various U.S. cities, with protesters urging the
government to ease the immigration process and let illegal
immigrants earn their citizenship.

Bipartisan Senate legislation that would have reshaped U.S.
immigration policy by providing strengthened border
enforcement, a path to citizenship for some of the nation's
estimated 11 million illegal immigrants while while
deportating others collapsed Friday, just as lawmakers
began a two-week recess. The House earlier passed a
different bill aimed only at border security and tougher

Wearing everything from Steelers jackets to business suits,
the protesters wound their way through the city, drawing
curious glances from commuters stuck at traffic lights and
waiting at bus stops.

Chanting "The people united will never be divided" -- and
carrying signs with messages ranging from "Pittsburgh was
built by immigrants" to "Immigrants love the Steelers" --
the marchers encountered only a lone counterprotester, who
elicited a few angry comments but went largely unnoted.

Many protesters said the United States should view
immigrants as an asset, not a threat to jobs and security.
"I just don't buy into that," said Lisa DiGioia-Nutini, 44,
of Squirrel Hill. "I don't think they're taking any jobs.
Help-wanted signs in every low-income sector you can
imagine attest to that."

Although yesterday's march was dwarfed by the rallies that
attracted thousands of people in other cities -- 500,000
took to the streets in Dallas over the weekend -- the
protest's organizers were pleased with the turnout.

"We had a good turnout, compared to what we expected," said
Matt Richards, communications director for Local 504 of the
Service Employees International Union. "We wanted to do
something visible and get the message out, so that the
people walking to work would see the people who usually
work in the shadows."

Legislators who have made immigration reform a priority
must be prepared to create a new policy that does not
overly simplify a complicated issue, said James Caldwell,
political education chairman of the Irish American Unity
Conference's Western Pennsylvania chapter.

"You can't reduce this to a sound bite," Mr. Caldwell said.
"The reality of the situation is that you have to accept
the people who are here. It's not a black-and-white issue;
it's an issue with a lot of gray."

(Ryan Haggerty can be reached at
or 412-263-1563. )


Opin: McDowell - Reconciliation - The Unfinished Business Of The Easter Rising


For modern Ireland to turn its back on Easter 1916 - or to
relinquish it to the political necrophiliacs of
provisionalism - would be absurd, writes Michael McDowell

It is a simple, undeniable truth that the 1916 Rising was
one of a handful of events which led to the independence of
the Irish people. It was a coup by the revolutionaries of
the IRB and the Citizens Army. The rebels believed that
such a violent coup was essential if the cause of Irish
independence was to be advanced in the aftermath of the
first World War then raging.

Huge amounts of paper and thought have been expended in the
intervening 90 years on the issue of the morality or
justification of the use of revolutionary violence by those
who plotted the Rising. There are very strong and
passionate arguments both ways.

For my part, such arguments are rather unattractive. Once
events move from the realm of contemporary politics into
the realm of history, they have to be viewed from a
different perspective.

I fully accept that using historical events as a
justification for contemporary political choices has tended
to merge some peoples' attitudes to the Provisionals' 30-
year campaign of terror with attitudes to the 1916 Rising.
But those two matters are profoundly different and they
should not be confused.

As the youngest grandson of Eoin MacNeill, I obviously have
more than a passing interest in how he is viewed and
treated by history. But I do not allow that personal
interest to distort my objective view of the significance
of the Rising. He was a courageous, devout and thoughtful
Catholic nationalist who had well-developed views on the
moral issue as to when the use of violence by the Irish
Volunteers would have been justified. His beliefs on that
issue were not shared by Pearse or Connolly. They too were
brave and idealistic men.

It is hard to fault the beliefs MacNeill held or the
actions he took on foot of them. He was deceived by those
planning the Rising, who generally regarded him as an
obstacle to their project. He countermanded the orders for
the Rising, He was arrested and tried by general court
martial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. But by late
1917, in the aftermath of the executions and despite the
bitter hostility of some few, he attended the Sinn Féin
convention, and he headed the poll in the election of its
national executive body.

He did not walk away from those who had participated in the
Rising. And they did not walk away from him. They all
worked on for the cause of Irish freedom. And none of them
believed it either necessary or appropriate to divide on
the question as to whether the Rising was justified. They
could live with differences on that issue. They all knew
that the Rising and its repression had been catalytic
events in the struggle for Irish freedom.

MacNeill played a significant personal part in later events
in that struggle. His three oldest sons joined the IRA.
Subsequently two of them fought on the Treaty side in the
Civil War; one was shot down by Free Staters on Ben Bulben
fighting against the government in which MacNeill was a

By the way, I have never seen a convincing case made out
that a more general Rising in 1916 would have led the cause
of Irish independence more speedily or more satisfactorily
to a very different outcome.

At this remove, railing against the respective positions in
1916 of Redmond, or of Pearse and Connolly, or of MacNeill
is futile and, I think, faintly ridiculous. Each had his
courage, his beliefs and his own integrity and fidelity to
Ireland. To acknowledge that in respect of each of them is
not to diminish any of them. To rubbish their patriotism or
sacrifices is self-indulgent. Their times were complex. The
sequence and out-turn of events was neither inevitable nor

Revolutionary acts throughout history, whether successful
or not, always hang by their own boot-straps to await the
judgment of history.

Which is not to say that politics, as distinct from
history, is amoral. I merely point out that history is a
rich storehouse as much for error as it is for inspiration.
In a liberal democratic society such as ours, there are no
mandates from history. Republican mandates come from the
ballot box - not the Armalite or ideology.

For modern Ireland to turn its back on Easter 1916 - or to
relinquish it to the political necrophiliacs of
Provisionalism - would be as absurd as the French
abandoning Bastille day in a rictus of self doubt about the
actions of the revolutionary mob which stormed the Paris

We are who we are. And we have come from where we have
come. As a 21st century Irish republican, I believe that
recent events more than ever set us the challenge of
reconciling green and orange - a challenge which has never
been taken up successfully by Irish republicans since the
1790s. That aspiration of the 1916 Proclamation remains
unfinished business. And the 90th anniversary celebration
of Easter 1916 should not blind us - even momentarily - to
our challenging republican vocation of reconciliation.

Michael McDowell is Minister for Justice

© The Irish Times


Opin: Millennium Forests Idea One Big Lie

Fintan O'Toole

Do you remember your tree? Your own unique Irish native
broadleaf tree? The one that the Government planted for you
to mark the millennium? You must remember it: Séamus
Brennan sent you out a certificate with a scientific-
looking number on it and a statement of where your family's
very own tree was to be found.

Bertie Ahern launched the project at Avondale in December
1999. The official propaganda described it as "a visionary
millennium project to help rescue and restore a number of
the country's native forests and woodlands. A unique
element of the People's Millennium Forests is that each of
the 1.2 million households will be able to identify the
exact location of their tree, obtain a certificate of
identification and will be encouraged to chart its growth
well into the new millennium."

The Taoiseach hailed the idea as "a unique project that
will stop the decline of native forests and create a
tremendous environmental, educational and cultural resource
all over the country for Irish people to enjoy and
appreciate for hundreds of years to come."

It was a lovely notion. It recognised that one of the
nastiest aspects of the degradation of the Irish
environment was the abysmal state of our forests. On
average, over 30 per cent of the EU at the time was
forestry. In Ireland, the figure was less than 9 per cent.
Most of that, moreover, was made up of cheap, nasty
evergreens that sustain little in the way of natural
diversity and actively harm the environment.

So here was a Government plan that caught the public
imagination. Kids in schools all over the country collected
the seeds of native tree species to be planted and,
according to the official website, "set up small nurseries
on their classroom windowsills . . . in this way each
school helped to increase the forests of Ireland".

The Government told us: "The trees will be planted using a
grid system. A central database will record the precise
location of each tree and will allow for households to
identify their tree."

It was, of course, a lie. Last month, when Valerie Cox of
Today with Pat Kenny on RTÉ radio went with a local
resident to look for his tree in Camolin Wood in Co
Wexford, they found an area overgrown with furze and
brambles. Gerry Egan, company secretary of Coillte, which
was given the job of managing the people's forests,
explained that the unique, numbered tree they were looking
for wasn't, after all, a unique numbered tree. The number
referred to a block. No individual tree was identifiable
because the vast majority of the trees that had been
planted would be "thinned out" - in other words dumped.

The 2,500 trees that had been planted on each hectare would
be reduced to about 50. So well over 99 per cent of us were
simply lied to.

We didn't get a unique tree. We can't "chart its growth
well into the new millennium" because it will be thinned
out soon. The central database that we were told would
identify each of our trees doesn't exist. And all of this
was known from the start. Once the trees were planted in
the way they were, it was always impossible for each family
to have its own tree whose development it could monitor.
This matters at a number of levels. Firstly, governments
shouldn't get away with large-scale deception of their
citizens for the sake of a PR stunt. Secondly, the cynicism
involved in getting primary school children all worked up
about a big environmental project under false pretences is
as corrosive as it is sickening, teaching them the lesson
that public ideals are for suckers. And thirdly, the whole
episode highlights the unholy mess that continues to be
made of forestry policy.

One of the reasons for the millennium forests debacle is
the bizarre status of Coillte. When, in late 2000,
environmental activist Tony Lowes wrote to Coillte seeking
information of the environmental aspects of the millennium
project, Coillte replied that it was a private limited
company which operated on a commercial basis. It argued it
had no public administration functions or responsibilities,
and was not obliged to provide any information.

This is an astonishing position for a company whose only
shareholders are the Ministers for Finance and Agriculture,
and it has been repeatedly rejected by the European Court.

Coillte sees itself as a purely private, commercial
operation, with no public responsibilities. So, while the
Taoiseach could blather about stopping the decline of
native forests and the Heritage Council could demand that
50 per cent of all new planting be native species,
Coillte's then chief executive, Martin Lowery, could state
baldly that "hardwoods are not commercial, do not produce a
return and require good agricultural land" and that the
company therefore has no interest in planting them in large
numbers. This same logic underlies the company's practice
of selling off public forests to private developers in
deals that involve very little public scrutiny. The big lie
in the whole millennium forests spin was that "we" own our
trees. Public ownership of one of our most important
environmental and tourism assets is about as real as the
teddy bears' picnic.

© The Irish Times


Celebrate 1916 And Work For Irish Unity - Ó Caoláin

Published: 11 April, 2006

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has urged
people to attend and support the events throughout the
country in the coming week commemorating the 90th
anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. He said people were
“celebrating the spirit of 1916” and the best way to do
this was for all who are committed to Irish reunification
to work together for that goal. He called on the Irish
Government to publish a strategy for Irish unity in the
form of a Green Paper and to provide for Six-County
representation in the Dáil.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "The coming weeks will see hundreds
of events, large and small, throughout the country to mark
the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Events
under the auspices of Sinn Féin’s National Commemoration
Committee will take place in all 32 Counties – from all our
major cities to small towns and villages and many rural
locations. It is a very positive development that the Irish
Government has also decided to mark the anniversary with a
commemorative event in our capital city. People are
celebrating the spirit of 1916 and paying tribute to all of
those brave men and women who gave their lives in the cause
of Irish freedom.

"I would urge everyone to attend and support these events.
By attending your local commemoration you are not only
honouring the patriots of the past but also showing the
relevance of the Proclamation to the Ireland of today. This
should be an occasion to renew our commitment to Irish
unity and national sovereignty and to reconciliation
between all the people who share this island.

"The best way to celebrate the spirit of Easter 1916 is for
all of those who are committed to Irish reunification,
regardless of party political affiliation, to work together
for that worthy and achievable goal. This places a special
responsibility on the Irish Government to set out its
strategy for Irish reunification and to seek maximum
support for a process of national unity and reconciliation.
This should include a Green Paper on Irish Unity and
representation in the Dáil for elected representatives from
the Six Counties." ENDS


Doolan Tables Motion To Honour The Forgotten Hero Of 1916

Published: 10 April, 2006

Sinn Féin Dublin South East Representative Councillor
Daithí Doolan, today called on Dublin City Council to
honour one of their forgotten women of 1916.

Speaking ahead of today's Council meeting, Cllr. Doolan

"I have tabled a motion today calling on Dublin City
Council to honour Elizabeth O'Farrell in a fitting &
honourable manner here in Dublin's south inner city. To
many Elizabeth O'Farrell will be known as Nurse O'Farrell,
who while accompanying Padraig Pearse, handed over the
official surrender to the British forces at Moore Lane in
Easter 1916.

Elizabeth, a member of Cumman na mBan, played a full and
active role in the Rising of 1916, but unfortunately
Elizabeth O'Farrell was immediately written out of Irish
history. Revisionists have attempted to air brush her out
of our history. A brush was literally taken to the picture
of the historic event and she was vanished from history in
a manner Stalin would have been proud of.

"I feel it only fitting that we remember this great woman
and recognise the full role she played during those
historic events of 1916. In this the 90th anniversary of
the Easter Rising of 1916 I firmly believe that we should
honour her with a statue where she lived in the City Quay
area of Pearse Street."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, said, "I hope we can use the
event to reflect on her role in 1916 and ensure that women
take their rightful place in the records of Irish history."


Talks On National Anthem Manuscript Sale Continue

Alison Healy

Talks continued yesterday over the sale of a manuscript of
the national anthem, following its withdrawal from auction
on Sunday.

The signed and dated manuscript of A Soldier's Song (Amhrán
na bhFiann) was part of the Peadar Kearney archive which
was withdrawn when bidding failed to exceed €460,000. The
seller was seeking about €500,000 in the "Irish history
sale" auction, held by Whyte's in the RDS.

Yesterday, Ian Whyte, managing director of Whyte's, said he
was still talking to a couple of buyers about the Peadar
Kearney archive.

Peadar Kearney composed A Soldier's Song in 1909-1910. His
archive includes personal mementos, manuscripts, documents,
photographs and personal ephemera relating to his service
as an Irish Volunteer, as well as his poetry, plays and

Some €700,000 was spent at Whyte's auction, with only eight
items remaining out of 285 lots.

An archive of newsreel shot between 1916 and 1922 was sold
for €96,000 to a private buyer in Dublin. A rare Cumann na
mBan gold badge was expected to make about €3,000-€4,000
but was sold for €15,000.

The ceasefire order in the War of Independence, signed by
Gen Richard Mulcahy, was sold for €49,000 while documents
relating to the execution of Erskine Childers in 1922 went
for €11,500.

A set of medals awarded to a 1916 Volunteer was sold for
€15,000 while a uniform worn in the Rising went for

An Abbey Theatre poster advertising plays to be performed
during Easter week 1916 was sold for €7,500.

Disappointed bidders for the national anthem document will
have a second chance tomorrow when a major sale of
historical documents and artefacts is held in the James
Adam salesrooms in Dublin.

The "Independence" sale will be jointly hosted by James
Adam and Sons and Mealy's Auctioneers. Its most significant
lot is one of the earliest drafts of the words and music to
the national anthem, expected to fetch between €800,000 and
€1.2 million.

Other lots include:

An archive of papers from 1880-1916, written by and about
Thomas Clarke, the first signatory of the Proclamation.

A telegram from the Duke of Devonshire, informing the Irish
secretary of state, WT Cosgrave, that the king has just
agreed to give Ireland independence.

The Tricolour believed to have flown over the GPO during
the 1916 Rising.

© The Irish Times


Large Crowds Expected To Attend 1916 Ceremony

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend next
Sunday's commemoration in Dublin to mark the 90th
anniversary of the Easter Rising.

The commemoration ceremonies, which will begin at noon at
the GPO in O'Connell Street, will be led by President Mary
McAleese and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Shortly before noon, the parade, which will include 2,500
members of the Defence Forces, will leave from Dublin
Castle and proceed via Dame Street and College Green to
Westmoreland Street, where it will pause.

The ceremony at the GPO will start at noon, with the
lowering of the national flag to half-mast. A military
officer will read the Easter Rising Proclamation. The
Taoiseach will then invite the President to lay a wreath.

A minute's silence will be observed for the 1,200 people
who were killed or injured in the Rising, including 80
members of the Irish Volunteers.

This figure includes the 16 who were executed by the
British in the aftermath of the Rising.

The British army suffered 140 fatalities and 318 members
were wounded, while the Royal Irish Constabulary and the
Dublin Metropolitan Police lost 17 men.

More than 220 civilians were killed and 600 wounded,
although a significant number of other civilian casualties
are believed never to have been reported at the time.

At the end of the ceremony the national flag will be
returned to full mast and the parade will resume up
O'Connell Street to Parnell Square.

Taking part in the parade will be some 2,500 people
representing the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps,
as well as members of the Irish UN Veterans Association and
the Organisation of Ex-Servicemen and Ex-Servicewomen.

It will include a display of the Defence Forces' newest
military equipment, such as the Mowag troop carriers.

Members of the Garda will also participate, representing
the force's role in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

While full details will only be released later this week,
it is understood that the public will be allowed to gather
along the route. Video screens are to be erected so that
people along the route can watch the ceremony at the GPO.

Some 900 invited guests will observe the parade from the
reviewing stands in front of the GPO. About half of those
will be representatives of the families of volunteers who
died in 1916.

The Garda will have a significant presence to try to ensure
there is no repeat of the disturbances that stopped the
recent Love Ulster parade.

Earlier on Easter Sunday, at 10.30am, the Taoiseach will
lay a wreath in Kilmainham Gaol. Only a small number of
invited guests will attend.The laurel and floral wreaths to
be laid at the GPO and at Kilmainham will symbolise
military and civilian victims.

© The Irish Times


Horseback Patrols To Tackle Crime

Police are planning to put their officers on horseback to
fight crime in east Belfast.

The move is aimed at tackling an increase in burglaries in
the Castlereagh area.

Two horses, on loan from the Irish police, are to be used
over two days to patrol Belvoir estate and Dundonald in an
effort to curb a rise in crime.

However, the chairman of the local district policing
partnership, Jimmy Spratt, said it was "a stunt".

Mr Spratt, a DUP councillor, described it as a "ridiculous

"It is a two-day stunt. I cannot describe it as other than
that," he said.

"I was absolutely appalled and, indeed, other members of
the district police partnership were also appalled at the
police even suggesting such a stunt."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/11 07:36:47 GMT


Lightning Victim Was A Soldier

The man believed killed by lightning in the Mourne
Mountains was a sergeant in the Royal Signals, the army has

The body was discovered at the top of Slieve Donard on
Saturday by a group of walkers.

The man's identity has not yet been revealed but an army
spokesperson said he was aged 29 and was from north

Police said that a post mortem examination on the body had
found there were "no suspicious circumstances".

An Irish coastguard helicopter from Dublin brought police
and a doctor to the summit where he was recovered.

Ed Kilgore from the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team said the
death was very unusual.

"There is lightning in the mountains at times and storms,
as anywhere, and the danger simply being because you are
that bit higher up, the chances of strikes are possibly a
little more risky.

"I have been in the team for more than 25 years and this is
the first possible occurrence I am aware of, of someone
actually being killed by a lightning strike."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/10 14:48:01 GMT


Dublin Libraries Acquire Rare Dracula Collection

Alison Healy

A rare collection of books about Dracula and its author
Bram Stoker will be presented to Dublin's public libraries

The Leslie Shepard Bram Stoker collection contains more
than 200 books and materials relating to the Dublin-born
writer and his most famous character.

Bram Stoker expert Leslie Shepard, who died in 2004,
amassed the collection over several decades. He was a
British writer and editor who produced collections of
vampire stories.

His library includes first editions of Stoker's work, books
about Transylvanian history and geography, and Russian,
Polish and Irish translations of Dracula.

It contains the 1887 Karl Baedeker handbook for travellers
in Transylvania which includes maps consulted by Bram
Stoker when he wrote Dracula. The book was published in

Dr Albert Power, registrar of the Bram Stoker Society, said
the collection had "an enormous research value" and was "an
important and valuable bequest to the city of Dublin" .

He said Mr Shepard had led the way in getting recognition
for Bram Stoker after he set up the Bram Stoker Society in
1980 and succeeded in getting a name plate put on one of
Stoker's childhood homes on Dublin's Kildare Street. Bram
Stoker was born in Clontarf in 1847 and moved to London
when aged 31.

Dr Power said there was now a greater appreciation of Bram
Stoker, particularly since a Francis Ford Coppola film
version of Dracula in 1992.

© The Irish Times


State Survey Of Bottlenose Dolphins In Shannon Estuary

Andrew Bushe

A special survey is to be undertaken on the world-famous
group of bottlenose dolphins in the lower Shannon estuary,
which it is now believed, may have inhabited the area for

The Government's heritage department is seeking a count of
the mammals as part of the designation of the area as a
special area of conservation - the only one of its kind in
the country.

The dolphins are constantly seen by passengers on the
Tarbet-Killimer ferry. It is estimated that they attract up
to 20,000 tourists.

The count will involve identifying the dolphins by
transient markings such as bites or scrapes and permanent
identifying marks such as nicks on their dorsal fins.

Dr Simon Berrow of the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife
Foundation said that he estimated there were about 120 to
140 bottlenose dolphins living permanently in the estuary.
The fact that the dolphins lived there permanently was only
scientifically established in the early 1990s. However,
references back in history indicate that they have been
there for generations and may even have been residents as
far back as the sixth century.

Dr Berrow said Co Clare-born St Senan, who established a
monastery on Scattery Island, described what might have
been the ancestors of the present dolphins. Supposedly
before St Senan arrived, a legendary monster called "The
Cathach" inhabited the island, terrorising local people.
Legend has it that when he arrived on the island the
austere saint faced the monster and ordered it, in the name
of the Trinity, to depart from the island. The Cathach was
supposed to have obeyed immediately. The sea serpent
"neither stopped nor stayed" until it reached the waters of
Doolough Lake . "There is a description of this monster and
the smoke from the fire of its belly that sound just like a
dolphin's blow," Dr Berrow said.

© The Irish Times


April 10, 2006, 7:26PM

Sometimes, art imitates life (and death)

TV: West Wing Election Results Take Needed Shift

By Jacques Steinberg
New York Times News Service

Like many political campaigns, the presidential election
depicted Sunday night on The West Wing on NBC would have
had a different ending had it been held four months

But the reversal of fortune for Matt Santos — the
Democratic nominee and Houston congressman, played by Jimmy
Smits, who was the victor — had nothing to do with any
shift in opinion among voters.

Instead, Lawrence O'Donnell, an executive producer of the
show, said he and his fellow writers had declared Santos
the winner only after the death, in mid-December, of actor
John Spencer, who portrayed Santos' running mate, Leo
McGarry. At the time of Spencer's death, the plot for
Sunday night's episode had been set: The election was to be
won by Alan Alda's Arnold Vinick, a maverick Republican
(modeled a bit on Sen. John McCain), whom many Democrats
(including the Democrats who write the show) could learn to

But after Spencer died, O'Donnell and his colleagues began
to confront a creative dilemma: Would viewers be saddened
to see Smits' character lose both his running mate and the
election? The writers decided that such an outcome would
prove too lopsided, in terms of taxing viewers' emotions,
so a script with the new, bittersweet ending — including
the election-night death of Spencer's character — was
undertaken by John Wells, executive producer of The West
Wing and ER.

The loss of Spencer, who had been on The West Wing since
its inception seven years ago, imposed a layer of grief on
the sadness and nostalgia the cast would feel in the weeks
leading to the final day of production. NBC announced in
January that primarily because of falling ratings, it was
not renewing the series for next season.

The final episode of The West Wing will not be broadcast
until May 14, but the show effectively ended for Martin
Sheen, who plays President Bartlet, and for his fellow cast
members on March 31, when they filmed their last scene
together. Appropriately, it shows the president striding
around the White House for final goodbyes to the applause
of his staff members, in a scene filmed on the Warner Bros.
lot in Burbank, Calif.

An impromptu cast party followed shortly thereafter in and
around the trailer of Allison Janney, who plays Bartlet's
chief of staff, C.J. Cregg, said Bradley Whitford, who
portrays Josh Lyman, most recently manager of the Santos

"This show is probably the first line in my obituary,"
Whitford said. "Everyone knows they got lucky with this

No candidate

For a series that sought to provide a backstage glimpse of
White House politics, however stylized and idealized, it
seems appropriate to assess its legacy, political and
otherwise, as its conclusion nears.

On that score, Sheen was offered an opportunity to see how
his character's appeal would play in a real-life campaign.
Not long ago, he said, he was approached by Democratic
Party representatives from his native state, Ohio, to see
if he would be interested in running for the U.S. Senate
after he left the show. Though he would have had little
trouble drafting a campaign platform — he is a fierce
opponent of nuclear power and the war in Iraq, and a
champion of human rights — he turned them down.

"I'm just not qualified," he said. "You're mistaking
celebrity for credibility."

Nonetheless, O'Donnell, a onetime adviser to Sen. Daniel
Patrick Moynihan of New York, said he was especially proud
of the show's response to the increasingly shrill political
debate in the real world, particularly on cable news. As it
became tougher to learn much of any substance from programs
like Crossfire on CNN, now defunct, The West Wing seemed to
delve deeper into real issues like health care and
education, as exemplified by the raw, one-hour live debate
last fall between Matt Santos and Arnold Vinick.

"Political talk on TV has degenerated so much," said
O'Donnell, who is also a political analyst on MSNBC. "You
can say something complex on The West Wing and you will not
suffer a screaming interruption by three other panelists."

It may not come as any surprise to viewers, given that
President Bartlet was a Democrat, but there were no
registered Republicans in the most recent incarnation of
the West Wing writers' room, which included Eli Attie, a
former speechwriter for Al Gore. Though the show began at
the end of the Clinton administration, it soon found its
creative niche by evoking a parallel reality, one that
imagined how the White House might have been different if
George W. Bush had not been elected to two terms.

Escaping reality

As the war in Iraq escalated, Sheen said, he came to liken
the show's role to that of good, escapist fiction.

"In order to sometimes get a different perspective on
what's going down in the world, to reach back to your
humanity, you read novels," Sheen said. "We're like the
reading of a novel."

Which is not to say that Bartlet escaped making some of the
hard decisions that Bush faced in real life. This year,
Bartlet was shown agonizing over whether to commit 10,000
American troops to an escalating fictional conflict on the
border shared by Russia, Kazakhstan and China.

In deciding to put flesh on a Republican like Alda's Arnold
Vinick and committing, at least initially, to having him
win, O'Donnell said he and the other writers had delighted
in playing against type.

And then Spencer died.

Other than a coming episode that will linger at the funeral
for Spencer's character — and include, as mourners, a
parade of former cast members, including Rob Lowe — the
show's final episodes will be devoted to the transition
from the Bartlet administration to that of Santos.

The actors and producers are embarking on a similar
transition. Whitford has signed on to star in Studio 60, a
one-hour drama expected to be on the NBC schedule next
fall, about life backstage at a live variety show. It was
created by Aaron Sorkin, who created The West Wing.

What the future holds

O'Donnell has deliberately put off finding his next
project, to savor the last days of editing The West Wing,
though he can currently be seen in a rare acting role, as a
lawyer for the polygamist main character on the HBO drama
Big Love.

And Sheen?

At 65, he has decided to make good on a promise he made to
himself long ago: to enroll, for the first time, in
college. A graduate, though just barely, of Chaminade High
School in Dayton, Ohio, nearly five decades ago, he will
began taking classes next fall — in English literature,
philosophy and, he hopes, oceanography — at National
University of Ireland in Galway, in the country where his
mother was born.

In describing how much he relished retreating to an ivory
tower, Sheen sounded a lot like a former president after
two terms in office, even if he was a former president
whose biggest challenge was commuting to a fictional White

"I'd be up at 4 in the morning, and out of the house by 5
to get on the freeway, all so we could start at 7 o'clock,"
he said. "That's a lot of wear and tear on your body."

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