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August 01, 2006

Father of UVF VIctim Holds Talks With Hain

News About Ireland & The Irish

BN 08/01/06 Father Of UVF Victim To Hold Talks With Hain Today
IT 08/02/06 H-Block Rally May Defy GAA Edict
BB 08/01/06 GAA Accused Over Rally At Ground
BB 08/01/06 Hundreds Attend UDA 'Discussion'
BT 08/01/06 UDA And Future Of Its Two 'Brigades'
BN 08/01/06 Loyalist Murder 'As Barbaric As Shankill Butchers'
DI 08/01/06 Tributes Pour In For Former SF Councillor
IN 08/01/06 Opin: Worth Crossing The Divide
IO 08/01/06 Passengers Stranded After Dublin Swift Ferry Hits Whale
IT 08/02/06 Death Of Claddagh Swan Being Investigated
IT 08/02/06 Féile Focus: What To See


Father Of UVF Victim To Hold Talks With Hain Today

01/08/2006 - 08:09:42

The father of a man murdered by the UVF nearly nine years
ago is due to meet Northern Secretary Peter Hain today to
discuss his ongoing campaign for a public inquiry.

Twenty-two-year-old Raymond McCord was beaten to death in
November 1997 and his body was dumped in a quarry on the
outskirts of north Belfast.

At least two police informers are believed to have been
involved in the murder, including the man who ordered the

Mr McCord's father, also called Raymond, believes the PSNI
did not properly investigating the case in order to protect
these informers and ensure that they continued to supply
information about the UVF.

An unpublished Police Ombudsman's report into the case is
believed to back these claims and is expected to strongly
criticise police management of the case.

Mr McCord, meanwhile, is accusing the British government of
putting the interests of paramilitaries before those of
their victims by effectively turning a blind eye to the


H-Block Rally May Defy GAA Edict

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

A GAA headquarters instruction that a H-Block commemoration
rally in Casement Park in west Belfast must not take place
at the ground later this month is likely to be ignored,
according to republican and GAA sources in Northern

The GAA's central committee and management committee
decided at the weekend that the rally on Sunday, August
13th, which is expected to draw a crowd of between 25,000
and 30,000 people, was in breach of regulations that the
organisation must not be seen to endorse party-political

Antrim County Board chairman Dr John McSparran acknowledged
the Croke Park decision but queried how "up to 30,000
people" could be forced away from the Casement Park rally,
which will be addressed by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

The central council, comprising members from all 32
counties including Antrim, which is responsible for running
Casement Park at county level, and the management
committee, ruled that the rally would be contrary to rule
44 (a) and rule 7 (a) of the organisation.

Rule 7 (a) states that the GAA is non-party political and
prohibits its committees, clubs and councils from
participating "in any party-political movement". County
board or individual members breaking this rule could face a
penalty of up to 24 weeks' suspension from the GAA.

Dr McSparran, who was at Saturday's central council
meeting, said he was disappointed that the organisation did
not take "cognisance of the particular difficulties and
sensitivities that operate in the Six Counties".

"I am also disappointed that they only took this decision
last Saturday when this issue was first highlighted in
October," he added.

Referring to the National Hunger Strike Committee, which is
organising the rally, Dr McSparran said the decision of the
central council and management committee would be relayed
to "the relevant body affected by this decision".

Asked would the Antrim County Board be taking specific
action to prevent the rally taking place, he said: "I won't
be standing at the gates of Casement Park on August 13th
directing the crowd of up to 30,000 where they should or
shouldn't go."

Peadar Whelan of the hunger strike committee could not be
contacted by The Irish Times yesterday evening but he
earlier told BBC Radio Ulster that the event was non party-
political, and therefore not in breach of GAA rules.

The rally is scheduled to be addressed by Mr Adams and
hosted by Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald. Also due to be
present is Toireasa Ferris of Sinn Féin in Kerry, and
relatives of the 10 hunger strikers who died in 1981.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the issue was between the hunger
strike committee and the GAA, although "we believe it
should go ahead".

© The Irish Times


GAA Accused Over Rally At Ground

The DUP has criticised the Gaelic Athletic Association over
a republican hunger strike commemoration to be held at a
GAA ground in west Belfast.

The rally is to be staged at Casement Park on 13 August.

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said the GAA had to decide
whether it was a sporting or a "quasi-political"

However, Peadar Whelan from the National Hunger Strike
Committee, which has organised the rally, said the event
was non-party political.

The rally will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the
hunger strikes at the Maze prison in which 10 IRA and INLA
prisoners died.

The main speaker at the event will be Sinn Fein president
Gerry Adams and it will be jointly compered by Sinn Fein
MEP Mary Lou McDonald and fellow party member Toireasa
Ferris, the mayor of Kerry.

Casement Park comes under the jurisdiction of the GAA's
Antrim County Board and it is understood it has not
objected to the rally.

However, the GAA's Central Council in Dublin discussed the
matter on Saturday and agreed that the Casement Park rally
would break the organisation's rules about staging
political events.

They have to decide, do they want to play sport or do they
want to play at politics. They can't do both and maintain
that they are purely a sporting organisation

Gregory Campbell, DUP

"People have to decide within the Gaelic sporting
fraternity: are they a sporting organisation or are they a
quasi-political organisation," the DUP's Mr Campbell said.

"It's very clear the direction they appear to be going in
in the past few weeks and some would say over the past few

"They have to decide, do they want to play sport or do they
want to play at politics. They can't do both and maintain
that they are purely a sporting organisation."

Mr Campbell added that there would be an uproar from
nationalists if an event commemorating loyalist terrorists
was staged at a cricket or rugby ground.


However, Mr Whelan said: "The commemoration is non-party

"It was organised by the National H-block Hunger Strike
Commemoration Committee, not organised by any political

"Anyone, regardless of their party political affiliation is
entitled to remember 10 brave men who died on hunger strike
in 1981."

He said he believed grounds such as Casement Park "belonged
to the people" as much as they belonged to the GAA.

The chairman of Antrim County Board, Dr John McSparran, was
invited by BBC Northern Ireland Radio Ulster to talk about
the matter, but he declined.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/01 12:51:14 GMT


Hundreds Attend UDA 'Discussion'

About 200 people have attended a meeting in north Belfast
to discuss a row within the ranks of the Ulster Defence
Association (UDA).

A panel of four put forward the views of the outlawed
group's leadership.

However, they faced angry questions from an audience made
up largely of local women.

The meeting was held in response to a stand-off between
rival UDA factions in the area and talk of a possible
loyalist feud breaking out.

Pastor Jack McKee, who has been involved in the
negotiations, said it had been a useful meeting.

On Monday, members of the UDA's so-called ruling inner
council held talks with representatives of the break-away
faction in north Belfast.

Tensions within the UDA are high following a weekend stand-
off between rival factions and a public show of strength by
its leadership.

Senior figures held talks with members of the organisation
in north Belfast, loyal to Ihab and Andre Shoukri.

They were expelled from the organisation last month.

On Friday night in north Belfast, police seized a shotgun,
ammunition and petrol bombs following a stand-off between
up to 80 members of rival UDA factions.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/01 20:12:39 GMT


UDA And Future Of Its Two 'Brigades'

01 August 2006

As two rival brigade leaderships battle for supremacy in
north Belfast, security writer Brain Rowan assesses the
state of the UDA

The UDA is just one bullet, one attack, away from all of
the danger and all of the turmoil of that type of situation

THE UDA is in one of those paramilitary periods of plotting
and finger pointing.

In its pubs and its clubs, it seems to have talked itself
to the point of being one bullet away from another feud - a
bullet that could kill all of its recent talk of politics
and peace.

A meeting in the Shankill yesterday - in Heather Street -
appears to have achieved very little other than to confirm
the widening gap between the organisation's Inner Council
leadership and a significant chunk of its North Belfast

The two sides spoke in the company of two pastors - Brian
Madden and Jack McKee, and the police watched them come and

Yesterday they were talking, but who knows what they will
do tomorrow.

The Inner Council had its "brigadiers" in Heather Street -
to talk into the eyes of those who have stayed loyal to the
Shoukri brothers - Andre and Ihab – after their expulsion
from the paramilitary leadership.

The only significant figure missing was Alan McClean - a
close associate of the Shoukris and one of the UDA's two
brigadiers in the north of the city.

The Inner Council does not recognise McClean and refuses to
meet him.

And, so, in North Belfast, there are now two leaderships -
the McClean leadership and "a new interim brigade staff"
which has been "approved" by the Inner Council.

The paramilitary talk is that McClean's men have "the gear"
- the UDA's guns in that area - while, if needed, the
"interim brigade staff" has the numbers and the weapons of
the wider UDA organisation behind it.

It is a mess. Yesterday, in Heather Street "a cooling off
period" was agreed, but there is nothing cool about this

In it there is all of the heat of a potential paramilitary
confrontation, and it could so easily have come to that
last Saturday, when the Inner Council reacted to attacks by
McClean's faction by staging a show-of-strength on the

Among the crowd, there was a mood to go into north Belfast,
as a few years ago the UDA went into the lower Shankill to
drive out Johnny Adair's so-called 'C' Company.

It didn't happen on Saturday - but that does not mean it
won't happen.

As I mentioned earlier, the UDA is just one bullet, one
attack, away from all of the danger and all of the turmoil
of that type of situation.

There is now an alternative to McClean and the Shoukris
inside the UDA in North Belfast - an alternative that has
been "approved" by the Inner Council.

A kind of rallying flag has been raised.

This "new interim brigade staff" emerged after a meeting in
the east of the city last Thursday night, when North
Belfast UDA men met with some of the most senior figures in
the organisation.

But the paramilitary talk is that McClean had a "spy" in
the meeting - someone who reported its detail back to him.

He would have been told the names of the men on the "new
interim brigade staff" - the names of those siding with the
Inner Council, the names of those plotting against him and
the Shoukris, and it was out of this that a series of
attacks developed last Friday night.

The UDA of old would have responded immediately and in
kind, but the UDA of today is telling those who will listen
that it now wants to be different and that it is capable of

It is this that made possible the recent meetings with the
Secretary of State Peter Hain and the Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern, and it is the credibility of this political project
that is on the line if this organisation allows itself to
be sucked into another feud.

In what it is saying, there is almost a cockiness about the
McClean faction - possibly because it has the guns in North
Belfast, or is it because it believes it has wider backing
within the UDA?

The organisation's "brigadier" in South East Antrim has
removed himself from the Inner Council to be supposedly
neutral in this paramilitary power struggle.

But sources - both inside and outside the UDA - are saying
that McClean's faction is confident it will have South East
Antrim's backing if loyalist push comes to shove or if
words turn to war.

The UDA's Rathcoole-based brigadier has not clarified his
position, and the political voice of the organisation in
that area has become very silent - indeed almost unheard -
in recent times.

What is going on inside the UDA is now down to who has
authority within the organisation. It is about who is in

A protest of some kind is planned in the Ballysillan area
later this evening - and what is said and what is not said
- in these coming hours and days will determine the next
steps in this paramilitary power play.

A year after the IRA left the stage it is still being
occupied and fought over by the loyalists.

The UDA, having almost talked itself into an internal war,
now has to find a way of talking itself back out of it.


Loyalist Murder 'As Barbaric As Shankill Butchers'

01/08/2006 - 13:06:08

The murder of a top loyalist paramilitary was as barbaric
as anything inflicted by the notorious Shankill Butchers
gang 30 years ago, a Belfast inquest heard today.

Geordie Legge, 37, who was found with his throat cut and
multiple stab wounds, is believed to have been killed in a
bar owned by a close associate Jim Gray, who was shot dead
in the city last October, it was claimed.

Legge’s body was found dumped at Carryduff on the eastern
outskirts of Belfast in January 2001. At the time he was a
senior member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) who had
fallen out with the organisation’s so-called brigadiers.

Gray, another leader, owned the Bunch of Grapes pub where
Legge was believed to have been murdered, Detective
Inspector Michael McErlane told senior coroner John Leckey.

Gray was one of five men later questioned about the murder,
but never charged.

The Shankill Butchers was a ruthless gang of loyalists who
in the mid-70s toured the streets of north and west
Belfast, kidnapping innocent Catholics walking home late at
night and driving them off to be tortured and stabbed with
butchers’ knives.

Legge was a business partner of Gray, who headed an
extensive racketeering empire, and today’s inquest heard
how the killers disposed of evidence of the murder by
removing a carpet from Gray’s pub, which police believe
would have been covered in blood.

Mr Leckey, who heard the victim’s throat had been slit with
a six inch knife, said it was the worst case he had seen
since the Shankill Butchers’ reign of terror during the

He said: “I have been acting as Coroner long enough to
remember the Shankill Butchers and looking at this brings
back memories of how their victims were treated.

“It really is dreadful, dreadful injuries,” Mr Leckey said.
“It’s a sobering thought that the person or persons
responsible for this horrific murder are still walking the

Mr Leckey said: "The deceased had loyalist paramilitary
connections and was a senior figure in the UFF… It is
believed that loyalist paramilitaries within the UFF were
responsible for his death.

“Police are satisfied hat he was murdered in the Bunch of
Grapes… there’s been no claim of responsibility.”

Mr Leckey said the fact the victim was stabbed 15 times in
the back and had his throat cut indicated a level of
personal animosity.

During the hearing, he asked police why Mr Legge had not
been shot.

Detective Inspector McErlane explained: “There was a
reluctance by many organisations at that time to use
firearms to try to demonstrate their move towards accepting
a peace process where weapons were no longer needed.

“There is a deep-seated grudge or difference between
paramilitaries within paramilitary organisations.”

The father-of-three’s mother, Margaret, told the coroner’s
court she blamed Gray for the killing.

"I know they had had a few rows… I heard him threatening to
burn us out of the flat," she said, adding her son had
reluctantly gone to Gray’s bar on the night he was killed
after being summoned o the telephone.

Mrs Legge confirmed her son had been stabbed before in May
2000 and had taken a long time to recover.

The victim was dumped on the Clontonacally Road in
Carryduff and was found the next day.

Police later raided the Bunch of Grapes and confiscated two
knives, neither yielding any forensic evidence.

DI McErlane said: “The case is one of many which is treated
as an unsolved murder and will be reviewed in due course.

“Whether that is done by one of the existing review teams
or whether it’s done by some other part of the police
organisation I am not sure.

“I don’t think that decision has yet been made. The case
will remain open. The case is definitely not closed.”

He added the deceased was a “senior figure” within the UFF.

Mr Legge’s blood was found on the street outside the Bunch
of Grapes and fibres from a carpet discovered in the
target’s hair.

A short time later the bar was set alight with petrol in an
apparent attempt to destroy evidence.

Forensic pathologist Allistair Bentley said the stabbing
would have killed Mr Legge almost instantly and added there
was no evidence of any attempt to defend himself.


Tributes Pour In For Former SF Councillor

Dedicated republican Sean Keenan survived two loyalist
murder bids

Ciarán Barnes

Republicans throughout Belfast have paid tribute to former
Sinn Féin councillor Sean Keenan who died yesterday after a
long battle with cancer.

The Derry city native, who made Belfast his home, served on
the city council for four years between 1985 and 1989.

He survived two loyalist murder bids – the first in 1984
when a car he was travelling in with Sinn Féin leader Gerry
Adams was fired upon. Mr Keenan was hit in the face and

Several years later he was shot in the chest when a
loyalist gang attacked his home in the Andersonstown area
of west Belfast.

During his time on the council, the father of three served
as Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson. He spearheaded the
campaigns to have slum housing in nationalist districts of
the city transformed into modern homes.

Paying tribute to Mr Keenan yesterday, Gerry Adams said
thousands of people live in better housing because of his
friend’s efforts on their behalf.

“He was a gifted elected representative and worked hard and
diligently on behalf of the people of west Belfast,” said
Mr Adams.

“He was particularly active around the housing issue and
played a key role in the various housing campaigns which
succeeded in achieving the demolition of Unity Flats, Divis
Flats, Moyard, Turf Lodge and Springhill. Thousands of
people live today in better housing because of Sean’s
conscientious efforts on their behalf.

“Throughout it all, and including his long battle against
cancer, Sean never lost his sense of humour or his
commitment and dedication to republicanism,” he added.

“It was through the efforts of Sean and the other Sinn Féin
councillors elected in the 1980s and ‘90s that much of the
bigotry and sectarianism in Belfast City Hall was
successfully challenged.”

Belfast’s first Sinn Féin mayor, Alex Maskey, spoke of how
Mr Keenan took massive personal risks to represent his

“I spent many hours over recent weeks with Sean and his
family and he faced his illness with typical courage and
fortitude,” said the south Belfast MLA.

“Sean Keenan will be remembered with great pride and
fondness by the people of Belfast and in particular by the
people of west Belfast who elected him as one the first
Sinn Féin councillors to the City Hall,” said Mr Maskey.

“Republicans will remember him as a friend, comrade and
activist and I would wish to offer my condolences to Sean’s
family at this sad time.”

Mr Keenan came from a prominent republican family in Derry
city. His father, Sean Keenan Sr spent 15 years in prison
as an internee spanning four decades. Mr Keenan Sr was also
a leader of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and was
chair of the Derry Citizens Defence Association.

Mr Keenan’s mother Nancy was a member of Cumann na mBan who
had been interned in the early 1940s. His brother Colm
Keenan was shot dead by the British army in 1972 while on
active service for the IRA.

Sean Keenan was also prominent in the IRA in Derry during
the early 1970s. He was among the IRA members asked to
provide statements to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.


Opin: Worth Crossing The Divide

By Susan McKay

The only thing the Protestant people need to be protected
from is the UDA.

That’s a line from Gary Mitchell’s new play Remnants of
Fear which opens on Thursday night in the Rock Theatre on
the Whiterock Road – not a million miles from the road the
Orange Order needed to walk down so badly last year.

Paisley said if they weren’t let it could be the spark to a
fire that couldn’t be put out and when they weren’t let
loyalists ran amok.

So it is to be hoped that the DUP and the Orange Order and
the loyalists who rioted for them will exercise their right
to walk the Queen’s highway and go to see this powerful

Chances are they won’t, for all the DUP trumpets about its
opposition to paramilitarism.

Instead Mitchell’s decision to give his play to a theatre
group associated with republicanism, for production as part
of Feile, the West Belfast festival, will be seen as
further proof that he is a traitor.

When Alan McBride – whose wife Sharon was one of those
murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bomb – accepted the
invitation to deliver the Bloody Sunday lecture earlier
this year in Derry, the city’s Protestants mostly stayed

It is a terrible pity that this Lundy reflex comes into
play as soon as someone from a Protestant background steps
beyond the old certainties of no surrender and not an inch.
McBride spoke well.

Mitchell points out that he wrote his play for Dubbeljoint
because the company invited him to do so and that he would
be happy to write a play for a theatre company based in a
loyalist part of Belfast.

He would love to open a North Belfast Festival in the heart
of Rathcoole, with concerts and theatre and debates about
politics and culture. But there is no such company, no such

Mitchell was invited to launch Feile and commented that it
was too bad that, as a north Belfast Protestant, he felt
safer on the Falls Road than in his own area.

He was forced out of north Belfast last year, shortly after
saying on the BBC’s Culture Show that if a play of his
stopped one young man from throwing a petrol bomb he would
consider it worthwhile.

The UDA sent two dozen young men and boys round to petrol
bomb his car. It wasn’t the first time he’d angered them.

The new play explores the corruption of a new generation of
young minds.

In Remnants of Fear one man taunts his brother that when
IRA men went to jail they went to the library, while UDA
men went to the gym.

There is much truth in this but there are exceptions.

Billy Mitchell, who died last month, read an eclectic mix
that included Wordsworth, Emma Goldman and Keir Hardy
during 14 years in jail as a UVF man convicted of two
murders during a loyalist feud in the 1970s.

He read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein too and commented that
she might have written it about loyalists.

Unionists had created a monster, set it loose and then
denounced it, he told me.

Billy and Gary Mitchell are not related but they have much
in common in their analysis of loyalism and also in their
deep commitment to their own community.

Billy Mitchell spoke about his work in north Belfast after
the ceasefires, including organising ex-prisoners on
construction programmes in blighted areas along the

“The idea is to transform the idea of patriotism, so that
it can include things like rebuilding your community after
years of war,” he said.

It was about redefining what it means to be manly,
demolishing the ideal of the hard man, all muscle and no

Gary Mitchell’s work explores that too. “It isn’t manly to
send out a gang of teenagers to terrify someone you have a
grudge against,” he told me.

Billy Mitchell was ashamed of his past, of being part of a
sectarian killing machine which, influenced by the rhetoric
of Paisley, knew what it was against but not what it was
for. He was latterly dedicated to cross-community work. The
Progressive Unionist Party, to which he belonged, failed to
flourish, not least because of the sneering hypocrisy of
the DUP. It has been seriously undermined by ongoing UVF

Nonetheless, it has done some good.

Gary Mitchell keeps writing plays that appeal to his people
to use their imagination and move on.

These are people to be celebrated, not shunned.


Passengers Stranded After Dublin Swift Ferry Hits Whale

01/08/2006 - 17:25:09

Hundreds of travellers were stranded at a port today after
their vessel struck a whale.

The travel plans of 4,000 ferry passengers have been
disrupted after Irish Ferries confirmed its Dublin Swift
service would be grounded for two days.

The incident happened as the vessel approached Holyhead at

The collision comes just days after a wildlife show
studying whales and dolphins in the Irish Sea was broadcast
live from an Irish Ferries crossing.

The Dublin Swift left Ireland at 12.30pm today carrying 490
passengers, plus staff, on board. No-one was injured during
the incident, with all travellers arriving at the
destination safely.

A spokesman for Irish Ferries said today's return journey -
which was due to depart Holyhead at 3.15pm - and tomorrow's
sailings have been cancelled indefinitely.

He said the 4,000 passengers booked on the sailings will be
accommodated on the company's car ferry.

“As the vessel was approaching Holyhead it suffered some
sort of soft impact and we believe it may have hit a whale
or another underwater mammal,” he said.

“As a consequence of that impact, and for precautionary
operational measures, we have had to take the vessel out of

“Divers will be sent down to access how much damage, if
any, has been done and we expect that will take around two
days to complete.

“Depending on the outcome of that investigation, and
whether or not repair works have to be carried out, that
time scale could be shorter or longer.”

Passengers due to sail can call information lines in
Ireland on 0818 300400 and UK 08705 171717.


Death Of Claddagh Swan Being Investigated

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent

Gardaí in Galway are investigating the apparent
dismemberment of one of the swans from the Claddagh - home
to the State's largest flock of the birds at the mouth of
the Corrib.

The swan's remains were discovered by a walker on the
shoreside in the area known as "the Swamp", close to the
Claddagh, late last week. The carcase and entrails were
located near a group of tents which were pitched without
authorisation on local authority land.

The finding was reported to the Garda and to Galway and
Claddagh Swan Rescue and several of its volunteers
identified a trail of blood from the tent back to the
Claddagh slipway. The 200 swans in the flock are very tame
and congregate at the slipway to be fed and admired by the
public, including young children.

Gardaí subsequently visited the campsite and it is
understood that one man was questioned. The man
subsequently said that he had found a dead swan and had
decided to cook it and eat it.

Suzanne Divilly of Galway and Claddagh Swan Rescue said the
dead bird was a cob or male bird, who would have had a
partner. "This was horrific, as these birds are protected
under the Wildlife Act," she said. "The Claddagh swans are
so tame and trusting that all someone had to do was to put
out their hand - which makes it even worse."

Ms Divilly said it was the worst incident the voluntary
organisation had come across in some time. However, she
said that the body of a swan wrapped in muslin was dug up
by an animal - probably a fox or dog - in Rusheen Bay
between Salthill and Barna two years ago. The organisation
had also received reports of angling boats taking birds on
Lough Corrib.

Galway city councillor Donal Lyons (Progressive Democrats)
described the incident as a "new low" and said he hoped
that the "full rigour of the law" would be applied to the
culprit. Galway City Council said that camping was not
authorised at the Swamp area, but the matter of bird
protection would be one for the Garda.

© The Irish Times


Féile Focus: What To See


Féile an Phobail West Belfast was launched in 1988 and,
despite resistance from unionists because of the
involvement of Sinn Féin, has been given substantial public
funding in recent years.

Last year, British government grants amounted to £200,000
(€292,000), but funding for five jobs, including that of
children's art co-ordinator, was withdrawn. This summer,
the grant was slashed by £100,000. Following protests and
an investigation by British secretary of state, Peter Hain,
much of the funding was restored.

For several years, unionist politicians have taken part in
the West Belfast Talks Back debate, which attracts
considerable media attention. The North's Police Ombudsman,
Nuala O'Loan, will join Ulster Scots champion Lord Laird on
the panel, with BBC NI political correspondent Martina
Purdy in the chair.

The ambitious programme includes music, theatre, readings,
debates and events for children. Highlights this year
include Echo and the Bunnymen, Afrobeat band Femi Kuti and
the Positive Force with Emanuel Jal, readings by Hugo
Hamilton and Medbh McGuckian, talks by Brian Kennaway (on
the Orange Order), Peter Taylor (on journalism in conflict)
and Mohammed Almadhoun, head of the office of the
Palestinian prime minister (on Palestine today.) There is a
carnival parade, and more unusual events include five-hour
guided tour of local graveyards. Details from or phone 02890-284028

© The Irish Times

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