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August 16, 2006

GAA Bashed for Political Gain

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 08/16/06 GAA 'Bashed For Political Gain'
BB 08/16/06 Bomb Defused At UUP Peer's House
SW 08/16/06 Stalemate In N Ireland
BT 08/16/06 Opin: Gerry Laundering?
BT 08/16/06 Opin: The Questions Unasked
BT 08/16/06 Sammy Wilson: Policing The Twelfth
BT 08/16/06 Why Martin McGuinness Is Bowled Over By Cricket
UT 08/16/06 Fires At Separate Dublin Hotels


Bomb Defused At UUP Peer's House

Irish police are investigating the discovery of a bomb at a
house in County Louth being built by the Ulster Unionist
peer, Eddie Haughey.

Army bomb experts were called to Lord Ballyedmond's
property at Drumgooley and the device was made safe.

Gardai said it contained 70 pounds of homemade explosive
mix packed into a gas cylinder and would have destroyed the
house if it had gone off.

Security sources said dissident republicans were behind the

The device, found by a farm labourer just after 1230 BST on
Tuesday, had been packed into a cylinder and hidden in one
of the walls of the house.

BBC Northern Ireland Dublin correspondent Shane Harrison
said sources said the detonator had been set off, but it
failed to explode the bomb.

"Sources also said they believed dissident republicans, who
have been more active in the border area over the past
week, are responsible," he said.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy said the
incident was "extremely worrying".

"This is attempted murder apparently carried out by
republican dissidents in the north Louth area," he said.

It is believed Lord Ballyedmond was building the house,
which is near Hackballscross, to replace a previous
dwelling which had been on the site since the time of his

Lord Ballyedmond, who set up Norbrook Laboratories, is a
former senator in the Irish Republic.

The device has been taken away for further examination.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/16 07:39:46 GMT


GAA 'Bashed For Political Gain'

A senior GAA official has accused some politicians of
"bashing" them over a hunger strike commemoration rally
solely to boost their own image.

John McSparren is head of the County Antrim Board
responsible for Casement Park, where Sunday's rally was

Unionists and the SDLP criticised it, while the GAA's
Central Council in Dublin decided it would break rules
about staging political events.

Dr McSparren said the Croke Park body's decision came too
close to the rally.

"The decision was taken within two weeks of the rally going
to happen," he said.

"We raised this issue with Central Council as far back as
February and we are upset that it took so long for the
decision to come out."

He said political parties in the Irish Republic held events
on GAA premises, "yet an event which is described as non-
political by its organisers causes so much controversy on a
wider basis".

Hundreds of republican supporters and former prisoners
gathered at the rally, commemorating the deaths of 10 IRA
and INLA inmates in the 1981 protest over political status
at the Maze prison in County Antrim.

Dr McSparren said the hunger strike was a "fact of history"
and it was "important for a large proportion of our
population that they commemorate it".

"Whether or not you like it is another matter," he said.

"Members of the GAA are entitled to hold whatever political
affiliations they wish, as is the case with rugby, which in
this part of the world is deemed to be more predominantly
from the unionist community.

"I am quite certain that there are Orangemen who are
members of rugby clubs as well, but no-one is out branding
rugby as being sectarian.

"Therefore, if we happen to have republicans who are also
members of the association, I don't think that means the
GAA should be bashed because of that."

The DUP said the rally was an attempt to "politicise"
sport, while the SDLP said the GAA had been "used and
abused" by Sinn Fein.

However, Dr McSparren said he was tired of "certain
politicians trying to make political gain by bashing the
association again and again over this particular issue".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/16 09:52:41 GMT


Stalemate In N Ireland

With continued political stalemate in Northern Ireland, the
Irish and British governments are set to override local
institutions in a potentially destabilizing bilateral
maneuver designed to force political parties to cooperate.

By Simon Roughneen in Dublin for ISN Security Watch

One year after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced
the end to its almost-40 year armed campaign against
British rule in Northern Ireland, political progress
remains piecemeal in the long-divided region.

The IRA’s ongoing reticence to disarm was a key
constraining factor in Northern Ireland’s slow-moving
peace-building process. But now despite the organizations’
disarmament, ongoing wrangles have prevented the revival of
the regional political institutions, which give Northern
Ireland significant devolved authority from London. These
institutions remain core aspects of the 1998 ‘Good Friday’
peace agreement.

The British and Irish governments have stated their
intention to put some of the institutions into ‘cold
storage’ if a 24 November deadline for restarting
devolution is not met by the political parties. Both prime
ministers have described the deadline is the last chance
for politicians to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved
government, suspended since November 2002 amid allegations
of IRA espionage at the government headquarters in Belfast.
Blair said “This is the last chance for this generation to
make this process work.” However, looming behind this is an
apparent willingness by the governments to impose an
undefined form of ‘joint authority’ over Northern Ireland –
effectively governed by both London and Dublin.

If this does come to pass, it will represent a fundamental
change to peace-building in Northern Ireland. The 1998
peace agreement sought to institutionalize compromises on
national affiliation, whereby Northern Ireland would remain
part of the UK so long as the majority of its people
remained in favor, but would attain significant autonomy
based on nationalist-unionist co-operation in an elected
assembly and executive body. Six areas of formal co-
operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of
Ireland, the independent Irish state which covers most of
the island of Ireland, and to which Northern Ireland’s
nationalists seek to unite with, were also part of the
agreement. However, the imposition of some form of joint
Anglo-Irish governance in Northern Ireland would represent
a new departure.

Both aspects - the stated intention to put the institutions
into cold storage and the unstated threat of joint
authority - remain controversial. Increased Anglo-Irish co-
operation will be fiercely resisted by unionists – the
largely Protestant majority in Northern Ireland that favors
retention of the ‘Union’ with Great Britain. At the same
time, it remains unclear how dedicated unionist support for
the devolved institutions is. Certainly support for the
peace process declined sharply among unionists in the years
after 1998 – as the IRAs slowness to disarm and
continuation of its criminal network alienated Protestants.

Distrust of the general nature of the post-agreement
Northern Ireland is exacerbated by a distrust of the London
government intentions vis-à-vis Northern Ireland. Unionists
do not feel that the British government is as dedicated to
upholding the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
as they are, and this is the key existential fear
underlying unionist politics.

Meanwhile, of the nationalist parties, Sinn Féin’s public
support for devolution is contingent on perceived electoral
gains, particularly with a general election looming in the
Republic of Ireland in 2007. As things stand, Sinn Féin -
which is linked to the IRA- is the sole party to contest
elections in both Northern Ireland/UK and the Irish
Republic. With a current opinion poll rating of 10-11
percent, Sinn Féin could end up holding the balance-of-
power in Dublin by this time next year. The current
governing coalition in Dublin is looking increasingly
unlikely to retain power, and the lead party Fianna Fáil –
historically an offshoot of the old Sinn Féin organization
that won independence for the Irish Republic in 1921 – will
be looking around for potential coalition partners. Sinn
Féin could well fit the bill come May 2007.

Polarization of political opinion in the region since the
1998 agreement lies behind the current stasis. At the time
of the 1998 agreement, the two lead political parties were
the so-called ‘moderates’ on both the nationalist and
unionist sides – the Social, Democratic and Labour Party
(SDLP) and the Ulster Unionist Party. Now, both have been
overtaken by Sinn Féin and the DUP respectively, ostensibly
realizing a hardening of attitudes on both sides of
Northern Ireland’s communal divide.

On the nationalist side, John Hume, the then-leader of the
SDLP, was closely identified with the 1998 agreement, to
such an extent that once the agreement was delivered, it
was not always clear to nationalist voters outside the SDLP
core, just what the SDLP could deliver in terms of moving
Northern Ireland towards closer alignment with the Republic
of Ireland. Sinn Féin has been a more cohesive and focused
unit, at least up until 2005, with constant references to
its ‘all-Ireland’ profile and an implicit message that it
will deliver a unified Irish state more quickly than the

However Sinn Féin has had negative publicity as well. In
January 2005 the murder of a Robert McCartney, a Belfast
Catholic, by drunken ‘off-duty’ IRA men was widely reviled,
winning the deceased family an audience with US president
George W Bush. Meanwhile, one of Europe’s largest-ever bank
robberies was carried out in late 2004, where the theft of
€33million (US$42 million) was widely blamed on the IRA.
And in late 2005, despite the IRA statement that its war
had ended, 3 IRA men accused of training FARC rebels in
Colombia escaped from custody in that country, resurfacing
on Irish television news 3 months later.

The SDLP made a mini-revival in 2005, with a surprisingly
strong performance at the Westminster elections seeing the
party hold 3 seats, including a morale-boosting win for
leader Mark Durkan.

On the unionist side, the UUP endured a slow decline after
1998. As the IRA refused to disarm and Sinn Féin became
embroiled in a series of controversies related to political
espionage, the UUP under David Trimble became cast as
quasi-appeasers in the eyes of Protestant voters.
Concomitantly, the DUP - which opposed the 1998 agreement -
began its rise to predominance in unionism, a victory
completed in the 2005 UK general election when it won nine
of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats at Westminster, while the
UUP won just one. Trimble, a joint Nobel peace laureate in
1998 alongside John Hume, lost both his Westminster seat
and the leadership of the bedraggled UUP.

Since then the DUP has sought to make reforming the
devolved government institutions contingent on IRA (and
hence Sinn Féin) distancing from criminality. In the
aftermath of IRA disarmament, unionists voiced the
disapproval with the technicalities of the procedure,
questioning the legitimacy of the Catholic witness to the
destruction of IRA weaponry and demanding photographic
evidence of disarmament.

Most Northern Ireland watchers believe the IRA to be
disarmed – most notably the special monitoring body set up
to report on paramilitary activity. Unionist paramilitary
groups (known as ‘loyalists’ to distinguish them from
mainstream unionist politics) are regarded as less
disciplined than the IRA, prone to faction fighting, and
more devoted to drug-trafficking than defending Northern
Ireland’s place in the UK. However, unlike Sinn Féin and
the IRA, the 2 main unionist political parties have no
paramilitary affiliation, and the parties linked to
unionist paramilitary groups are inconsequential.

The DUP in particular has disputed the veracity of the
British governments’ belief that the IRA has fully
disarmed, and more recently, is not engaged in centrally-
directed criminal activity. Regarding Sinn Féin and the IRA
as synonymous, the DUP refuses to work with Sinn Féin in a
devolved executive, rendering the elected legislature
meaningless and prompting the governments in Dublin and
London to intervene. Thus the DUP overlooks a recent report
sponsored by both governments stating that the IRA has
disarmed and is no longer a threat to peace in Northern
Ireland – an assessment that makes cogent political sense
given Sinn Féin’s sensitivities to public opinion in the
Irish Republic, which could potentially drift away from
Sinn Féin should the IRA remain active.

Just as the DUP remains strident in its opposition to
forming a government with what it regards as barely-
reformed IRA terrorists, the British and Irish governments
are running out of patience with the ongoing political
stalemate in Northern Ireland. With Afghanistan, Iraq and
the Israel-Hizbollah conflict occupying Tony Blair’s
embattled final years of office, Northern Ireland – once a
political success story for Blair, will hardly be allowed
occupy too much of his time with pressing global problems
at the heart of a controversial British foreign policy.
Bertie Ahern, his Irish counterpart, is presiding over
Europe’s most dynamic economy, with decade-old growth rates
of 6 percent per annum set to continue. Ahern, who gained
international prominence for his negotiating agreement on
the now-defunct EU Constitution in 2005 during Ireland’s EU
presidency, is struggling in the opinion polls leading up
to a 2007 general election. Northern Ireland’s drip-feed
political progress has long-since alienated a prosperous
and economically-oriented Irish electorate. Thus,
protracted negotiations with Northern Ireland’s parties
will not represent a good public relations move on Ahern’s
part between now and May 2007, the scheduled election date.

Cold storage may be the most viable option for the Dublin
and London governments. However it is not clear what
signals an indefinite proroguement of the peace agreement
institutions will have in Northern Ireland. Irrespective of
whether or not Dublin and London work out any formalized
joint control to replace or supplement the absent
devolution, the perception will be that Dublin has an
increased say in Northern Ireland, which will only harden
the unionist-DUP resolve to resist co-operation with Sinn
Féin, and undermine the ‘moderate’ nationalist SDLP which
seeks to prove its policy credentials in the devolved
government setting.

On the other hand, it may be that unionists will drift back
toward the UUP, seeing the DUP as the obstinate cause of
the increased Dublin-London cooperation over Northern
Ireland and recognizing a need for moderation and
compromise with nationalists. However, opinion polls since
1998 show Protestants in Northern Ireland to be
increasingly averse to the peace agreement and indifferent
to the promise of devolution. Most likely the ‘cold
storage’ option will be seen as undemocratic Anglo-Irish
co-operation over control of Northern Ireland, led by a
London government keen to ensure the IRA stays out of


Simon Roughneen is a senior ISN Security Watch
correspondent based in across Africa. He was Northern
Ireland correspondent for SecurityWatch until November


Opin: Gerry Laundering?

By Lindy McDowell
16 August 2006

Why in the media coverage of the hunger strike
anniversaries has there been so very little mention of what
those men were in prison for?

Speaking at a rally in a west Belfast GAA ground to
commemorate a group of convicted IRA murderers and bombers,
Gerry Adams called on his audience to "face up to the
challenge of making peace with the unionist section of our

This is just so very Gerry.

Claiming that he's reaching out the hand of peace to
unionists - while simultaneously applauding the sectarian
monsters who butchered men, women and children in that

It's on a par with the UDA holding a rally in Windsor Park
to commemorate an assortment of its own sectarian butchers
and bombers - with Johnny Adair making a plea to the
loyalist crowd to "face up to the challenge of making peace
with the nationalist section of our people".

Can you imagine the field day the media would have with
that one? Not to mention Sinn Fein. And Gerry himself, of

On just about every count - from the venue, to the
murderous record of the convicts being commemorated - there
would, quite rightly, be outrage expressed.

When it comes to Sinn Fein and the hunger strikers,
however, the outrage is muted and the murderous record is
conveniently hushed up. (Why in media coverage of the
hunger strike anniversaries has there been so very little
mention of what those men were in prison for? Do the
victims of republican violence not matter any more?)

The way Sinn Fein spins it, you'd be forgiven for thinking
that Bobby Sands and the rest of them had been banged up in
the Maze for tree hugging and writing poetry.

The Sinn Fein spin is (as Sunday's 25th anniversary
extravaganza vividly illustrates) as farcical as the street

Whose bright idea was it, for example, for all those, shall
we say, rotund middle-aged men to dress up in their brown
blanket robes? It looked like a march past by monks. What
it brought to mind was not so much a hunger strike, but a
Friar Tuck convention.

And the twee symbolic launch of white doves? It was like a
scene from Jordan's wedding.

I can't imagine, though, that the GAA found much in this to
smile about.

For the blanket outfit wasn't the only fancy dress on
display on Sunday.

Other marchers wore specially made commemorative 'GAA'

These were not official GAA merchandise. But like the use
of the grounds (

against the express wishes of the GAA ruling council) they
are flaunted to imply close links between that sporting
body and the terrorist outfit that claimed so many innocent
lives in Northern Ireland.

True, Co Antrim GAA clubs took part in the rally. But like
"the unionist section of our people", the episode will have
given many decent GAA members throughout Ireland a clearer
picture of the cynical manipulation of the Sinn Fein spin

And its apologists for killers making overtures of peace.


Opin: The Questions Unasked

16 August 2006

The Police Ombudsman's report into the gruesome murder of
Jean McConville establishes that there was no police
investigation into her disappearance for 20 years.

Actually there was no investigation. Full stop.

Social services, the Church, the children's school
authorities and their school teachers, their neighbours ...

None of these parties appears to have asked questions about
this poor woman's disappearance.

And yet most of them would have been much closer to the
family than the local RUC station.

What did the neighbours, for example, know or suspect?

The terrible conclusion is that while some people may have
genuinely believed that this loving mother would suddenly
up and leave her young family at the mouth of Christmas,
others would have known full well what had happened - that
she had been abducted and murdered by the IRA.

Why did they not speak out? Maybe they thought she was good
for it. Or was it that many decent people knew of Jean's
fate but were just too scared about what could happen to
their own families to speak out?

Slowly, down through the years, the sand that covered Jean
McConville's bleak grave on Shelling Hill beach was blown

You can't help feeling that so too, at last, is the long
silence that has covered the full story of her brutal
abduction and murder.


Policing The Twelfth

Sammy Wilson MP MLA and former RUC Reservist reports on his
first two days of 'duty' as part of the Parliamentary
Police Scheme - bonfire trouble on the Eleventh Night and
the policing of a contentious Orange parade.

16 August 2006

For many years the Twelfth of July and the police have,
unfortunately, been synonymous in my life.

I have been working with them, and people at a local level,
to try and defuse some of the tensions and disorder which
often erupt in the interface with Short Strand in my east
Belfast council constituency.

This year was no different in that the Eleventh and Twelfth
of July were fully taken up with the police - but for a
totally different reason.

These two days were the first of my engagement of 40 days
with the police as part of the Parliamentary Police Scheme
- a programme set up to give MPs a better understanding of
the work of the police and the issues facing policing

When I was offered the opportunity, I jumped at it, even
though it did entail quite a time commitment.

I have seen policing from many perspectives over my
lifetime. As a public representative working with the
police, complaining about the police at times, and dealing
with many constituency issues which involve the police, I
had an insight from one perspective.

In the 1970s, I spent six years tramping the streets as a
Reserve in the RUC and had seen policing from the point of
view of a constable - and have many happy memories of the
comradeship, and the worthwhile job that a police officer

I was also a member of the Policing Board and the chairman
of the finance committee of the board for its first four
years, experiencing the role of holding the police to
account and seeking to ensure the efficiency and
effectiveness of the police.

The Parliamentary Police Scheme was designed to give me a
greater experience of operational issues, and so I signed
up for it. My first session was with the Gold Command team
of the police on the Eleventh and Twelfth of July.

For such a massive operation, the police structure of
control is divided into Gold, Silver and Bronze command
units. Gold Command, under the control of an assistant
chief constable, determines policy, overall strategy,
resources and high level liaison with other services.

Below that is Silver Command, responsible for directing
operations at specific incidents or in particular areas, eg
north Belfast. This commander will normally hold the rank
of chief superintendent and is responsible for directing
resources and designing the tactics in the area under his

Both he and Gold Command will have sight of what is
happening at all locations around an incident from radio
reports and CCTV pictures from fixed cameras and helicopter
pictures, provided both by the police and Army helicopters
if necessary.

The Bronze Commander is the person on the ground with the
officers and will obviously be involved in delivering the
tactics on the ground using the people at his/her disposal
at an incident and feeding back what is happening by radio,
working with local people and facing the brunt of attacks.

If the Bronze Commander requires the use of water cannon or
the firing of AEPs they must seek permission from Silver
and Gold Command.

So much for the background ... but what was it all like as
an experience?

At 9.30 on the Eleventh night I set out with Deputy Chief
Constable Paul Leighton to visit some of the stations
outside Belfast and look at some of the bonfires which were
causing concern.

The first visit was to Ballymena, where the local
commander, Chief Superintendent Terry Shevlin, was trying
to sort out an incident in Ahoghill, where a flag had been
erected on the bonfire mocking murdered teenager Michael

Local councillors and community representatives had been
contacted, but as Terry told us with anger and
disappointment, the flag had not been removed from the
bonfire. He was clearly annoyed that the hard work police
were doing to reduce tensions in the town could be undone
by such blatant provocation.

From Ballymena, it was on to Antrim, where once again the
station was deserted. Every officer was needed out on the
streets. From my contacts with my own party colleagues, I
knew of concerns around one bonfire, which was located near
houses and trees with a preservation order. It contained a
considerable number of tyres and was built so high that a
crane was brought in to finish it.

We raised this with the DCU commander Bill Woodside. It was
clear that the police were frustrated with the statutory
authorities for their inability to regulate the fire, and
the lack of co-operation from those who built it.

In the middle of all the activity around the bonfires,
normal policing goes on ... two travellers are arrested for
stealing; a boy and his girlfriend are in custody after a
domestic dispute and end up spending the night in the
cells, a romantic end to their night.

As we approached Belfast, to go to the Gold Command centre
at Castlereagh, the bonfires were ablaze across
Newtownabbey and north Belfast; huge plumes of black smoke
could be seen on the skyline - evidence that thousands of
tyres were being burnt.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, the public
face of policing in Urban Region, wasn't facing TV cameras
this time, but looking at live pictures from cameras across
the city.

By 2.30am it was time to go home and get some sleep, before
reporting next morning to observe the feeder Orange parades
into the main Belfast demonstration.

The early morning parade past Ardoyne passed off without
incident. Roger Poole, chairman of the Parades Commission,
and ACC Duncan McCausland, were more than happy with the
way in which the Orangemen and the protestors marshalled
their own groups. It augured well for the return in the

With the feeder parades out of the way, it was time for the
traditional Belfast Region breakfast - a massive Ulster fry
for all those involved in the Gold Command centre.

The Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, claimed he would have to
run another marathon to work it off!

The chief constable and myself then went out to observe the
parade as it passed through the city centre. It gave us a
chance to talk to police officers on the ground and meet
the public, which he is very good at.

We got to speak to a wide diversity of people. The first
was a top civil servant whom I have regular dealings with -
he was in his role as a reserve constable for the day. Then
there were tourists from Scotland, Dublin and New Zealand,
and two young members of the SDLP who were observing the
parade as part of a BBC documentary. Then there were people
who just wanted to say hello.

The real concern was the return parade past the Ardoyne.
The police were taking a risk by only holding the Army in
barracks on a standby basis and reducing policing along the
Ardoyne shop fronts to a single line of officers.

Obviously, if serious violence did occur, then getting
additional resources into the area could be quite
difficult. The police were taking a calculated risk on the
basis of all the groundwork which they, the Parades
Commission and various community groups had done with both
the Orange Order and republicans over the previous six

There was real tension in the command centre as the parade
made its way up the Woodvale Road. The real worry was that
if it didn't work out, many people and officers would be
injured and there could be nights of disorder and
destruction to follow.

The plan was simple: the police were gathered on the
Woodvale Road and the Crumlin Road. As soon as it was
clear, and the stewards at Ardoyne had the protestors
contained off the main Crumlin Road, the police would march
in single file across the Ardoyne shop fronts to police the
situation as the bands, lodges and the buses containing the
supporters passed through the contentious area.

Trust in the arrangements agreed to by both sides was
paramount ... and it worked. The parade passed, the
protestors stayed back, and the mayhem of previous years
was avoided.

For the six minutes that it took there was not a sound in
the crowded Gold Command centre - then there was a sigh of
relief when it became clear that the parade had passed off
without serious incident.

The Twelfth celebrations passed off without the violence
and disorder common for many years. It was clear from my
observations that this was due to several factors. To
months of talking with protestors and marchers, with the
marshals on both sides prepared to put themselves between
those who might have caused trouble. To a more pragmatic,
common sense and conciliatory approach to the situation by
the Parades Commission. To meticulous planning and great
skill from the police. And, most importantly of all, to a
general desire by the community to step away from the
madness of past years.

As I left Castlereagh, the TSG officers who had stood on
the Crumlin Road had arrived back at base, their heavy
protective gear removed, eating sandwiches and waiting to
be stood down.

I engaged some in conversation, congratulating them on the
job they had done, and remarking how different it was from
last year, when 120 people were injured.

One officer summed up the day well when he said: "It was a
good day. There was peace and all those involved got back
in one piece." That's what made my Twelfth with the Gold
Command team a golden day.


Why Martin McGuinness Is Bowled Over By Cricket

By Claire McNeilly
16 August 2006

Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness has
confessed to his secret love - cricket.

The Mid-Ulster MP, who was recently embroiled in a well-
publicised 'is he, isn't he?' British spy controversy, is
certainly no stranger to sticky wickets.

Mr McGuinness (56), a father of four, grandfather of five
and an avid fisherman, admits to having a keen interest in
the quintessential British colonial game.

And lately he has been bowled over by the calibre of
English players like Ashes-winning series star performer
Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff.

"What I found really interesting about the Ashes series
last year is how Flintoff and (Kevin) Pietersen came to the
fore as world-class players," said the Assembly member.

"Flintoff is a brilliant sportsman and I was delighted to
see him in Belfast a few months ago, practising his skills
with the Antrim hurlers."

Flintoff, currently injured but arguably the world's most
famous cricketer, tried his hand at hurling when he came to
open a call centre in west Belfast back in April.

To his chagrin, however, Mr McGuinness missed his chance to
meet the renowned batsman at Stormont when a prior business
engagement dragged him off to the Basque country.

That commitment also bowled him out of an opportunity to
see his first live - and in this case, historic - cricket

For the first time, his beloved Ireland and the Ashes-
winning England did battle in a one-day encounter in the
grounds of the suspended Assembly, watched by over 7,000
ardent supporters.

"I would like to have gone to the match," he said.

"I was looking forward to meeting the Ireland and England
players at Stormont and I had been really looking forward
to meeting Flintoff.

"But in the end, he wasn't there ... and neither was I."

But, just in case anyone thinks for a second that the
hardline nationalist has slipped into all-rounder
territory, he bowls a timely googly to confirm his

"Last year, I was very interested in the Ashes because it
appeared that, at long last, England had got themselves a
decent team.

"But, given that I'm an Irish republican, my approach to
foreign games is simple: I don't mind them, as long as the
foreign teams win."

No guesses then for assuming that, in the absence of an
Irish team in the ICU Test arena, he's keen to slate the

"I like Sri Lanka, having been there, but I'm also a fan of
both New Zealand and Australia, although my favourite team
now is South Africa," he admitted.

"If Ireland weren't playing, I would like to see the South
Africans win.

"It's a society moving away from conflict and that means
more opportunities are available."


Fires At Separate Dublin Hotels

More than 800 people were evacuated from two separate
hotels in Dublin following separate fires last night.

Blazes in the Gresham Hotel and the Regency Hotel have both
been brought under control by the fire brigade and there
are no reports of injuries.

At 1.30am this morning, six fire units were called to the
Regency Hotel in Drumcondra after smoke was seen pouring
from a lift-shaft in a new section of the hotel.

More than 400 guests were evacuated.

No one was injured in the blaze and the guests were later
allowed to return to their rooms.

A spokesperson for the hotel says no damage has been done.

At 2.50am this morning, 400 guests were evacuated from the

Gresham Hotel on O`Connell Street, after a fire started in
a disused store at the back of the hotel.

Four units of the fire brigade brought the fire under
control and it is believed that some fire damage has been
done to the building.

There were also no injuries in that blaze.

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