News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

September 09, 2006

Controversy Over Falls Road Gaeltacht

News About Ireland & The Irish

RT 09/09/06 Controversy Over Falls Road Gaeltacht
IN 09/09/06 Leniency Called For In Case Of Rioter
IN 09/09/06 Opin: Nightmarish Time Lies Ahead At No 10 Bunker
IN 09/09/06 Opin: Sentences Raise Valid Concerns
BT 09/08/06 Opin: September 11: The Price We've Paid
BT 09/09/06 Saddam Had No Link With Al-Qa'ida, US Senate Concludes
IT 09/09/06 How America Changed Forever
IT 09/09/06 Profile: Gordon Brown - The Man Who Would Be King
NT 09/09/06 Festival Offers Taste Of Irish Culture
IN 09/09/06 Easter Rising Fighters Are Remembered In Memorial
BN 09/09/06 Ireland To Become Leader In Alzheimer’s Research

(Poster’s Note: The Sept 11: The Price We’ve Paid has not specific
Irish content, but I thought the analysis from the Belfast
Telegraph was worth reading. Jay)


Controversy Over Falls Road Gaeltacht

09 September 2006 12:02

A decision by Belfast City Council to officially designate
part of the largely nationalist Falls Road as a Gaeltacht
area has caused controversy.

Unionists have strongly criticised the scheme, describing
it as a political vehicle for republicans.

Official council maps show Belfast's Gaeltacht running
along the Falls Road as far as Milltown Cemetery.

Supporters of the idea, like Sinn Féin Councillor Paul
Maskey said it will attract visitors and help improve the
area's image.

Unionists though have criticised the idea. Nelson
McCausland of the DUP said it was another attempt to
promote a republican agenda in the city.


Leniency Called For In Case Of Rioter

By Barry McCaffrey

A FORMER Belfast mayor and a prominent Catholic priest have
backed calls for leniency to be shown to a youth worker
jailed this week for his part in a riot.

Former mayor Martin Morgan and Holy Cross priest Fr Aidan
Troy have appealed for a reduction in the two-year prison
sentence imposed against Ardoyne youth worker Fernando

On Tuesday the 29-year-old was jailed for two years after
pleading guilty to attempted GBH, riotous behaviour and
possession of a hammer during rioting in Ardoyne on July 12

Judge Tom Burgess described the father-of-two’s
imprisonment as “inevitable although regrettable”.

Mr Burgess said he was satisfied Mr Murphy’s actions had
not been typical of his normal behaviour and that he had
been involved in “constructive work” with young people in
Ardoyne in recent years.

Holy Cross priest Fr Aidan Troy said Mr Murphy accepted
that he had to be punished but felt the jail sentence was

“I have seen the excellent work which Fernando has done
with the young people in Ardoyne since I first arrived in
2001,” he said.

“He has been involved in bringing young people away from
the interfaces to places like Medjugorje and has taken part
in courses to help with the problem of young people in
north Belfast taking their own lives.

“Fernando accepts what he did was wrong and that it was a
moment of madness for which he has to be punished.

“But we feel that sending this young man to prison is
depriving his two sons of a father and Ardoyne of a much
needed youth worker.

“He has never been in trouble with the police before and
has no criminal record.

“We are appealing for the courts to look at this case again
and to allow for some other form of justice.”

Fr Troy said that the father-of-two had continued to be
involved in cross-community work despite receiving loyalist
death threats in the past.

“In 2002 he had to leave his job in the Post Office after
receiving deaths threats from loyalist paramilitaries after
the murder of Danny McColgan.

“Despite this Fernando continued his cross-community work.”

Former Belfast mayor Martin Morgan backed calls for a
review of the 29-year-old’s sentence.

“Everyone accepts that Fernando needs to be punished but it
is hugely excessive that he received a two-year jail term,”
he said.

“When I was mayor I wrote to Lord Chief Justice Brian Kerr
to complain that a known loyalist was given 200 hours
community service after he claimed that a gun found hidden
in his bedroom had been dug up by his dog.

“Fernando is not asking for special treatment – he just
wants to be treated fairly.”


Opin: Nightmarish Time Lies Ahead At No 10 Bunker

By James Kelly

Is political instability contagious? We all know that the
political situation in poor old Neverneverland has been in
a mess for years since a certain misbegotten election.

But surprise, surprise, suddenly it seems that the disease
has spread across the Irish Sea to the very top of
Britain’s political powerhouse. Tony Blair, the most
popular Labour prime minister in years, winning election
after election, suddenly finds himself assailed by a
mutinous mob of disgruntled back-benchers. A disloyal whip
and junior ministers, demanding that he step down in favour
of the pushful Chancellor of the Exchequer, Scots-born
Gordon Brown, long-time rival for the leadership but
generally considered as dour and lacking charisma. Blair
made the mistake earlier by announcing that he would resign
before the next election, allowing time for a successor to
take over the reins of government as prime minister.
Political experts warned of the danger that, in the eyes of
aspiring cabinet ministers for the new regime, Blair might
find himself increasingly, as the time for his departure
loomed, becoming a political ‘dead duck’.

Now it seems the warning has become a reality with the
naming of a rebel group determined to oust Blair as quickly
as possible and with dark hints that a plot has been
orchestrated by an impatient Chancellor of the Exchequer.

As if to head off the conspiracy the pro Labour tabloid The
Sun claimed in a front-page scoop that Blair has already
decided to resign the party leadership on May 31 next and
hand over the premiership to his successor in July. By that
time he will have recorded 10 years and 12 weeks as the
longest-serving Labour prime minister.

Careless of the danger of splitting the Labour government
wide open by trying to emulate the Tory power-brokers who
dispatched Margaret Thatcher in tears from 10 Downing
Street, the prime minister’s back-bench critics hope to be
joined by, among others, a few incompetent Labour ex-
cabinet ministers who have never forgiven Blair for their
sacking by pressing for his immediate departure.

If they succeed – and the Tories can’t believe their luck
with Blair out of the reckoning at the next election –
there will be no tears from Blair as he walks out from No
10. Banking on his popularity in the US there is likelihood
of a lucrative speaking tour of America and a bestseller,
telling in one or two volumes the secret history of his 10
years at the top in world politics.

As I write, the Labour party and government is in turmoil
and Blair is forced to make a public statement apologising
to the public for the hare-brained party revolt which he
admits has treated the electorate as if it was irrelevant.

He promises to resume responsibility as prime minister but
confirms that he will resign as head of the government in
12 months’ time. So, hounded by an unfriendly British
media, Blair faces nightmarish last months in the bunker at
No 10.

Meantime, over here on this side of the Irish Sea the
almost forgotten Norn Iron political parties are back from
holidays and, commenting on the antics at Westminster,
affect to be unconcerned who takes over as prime minister –
Blair, dedicated to the Good Friday Agreement, or the
unknown quantity, Scots Presbyterian Gordon Brown, who has
studiously kept clear of involvement in the Ulster
political jungle. The unionists have clearly been
investigating his ancestry and discovered that he had an
Orange grandfather from Donegal!

On the other hand, Brown is suspect of tightening the screw
on the high cost of the sick counties. Is he responsible
for the outlandish NI rates bills which threaten to produce
a middle-class uprising with threats to go to jail rather
than pay up?

But are they naive not to be concerned about the future of
their master at the very moment when Secretary of State
Hain (up to his neck in the Westminster power struggle) has
announced that the last ditch negotiations to restore the
Stormont power-sharing executive will take place in
October. Hain suggests that the negotiators should meet at
a venue in Scotland, far away from the madding crowds
yelling all the age-old slogans.

St Andrew’s and Gleneagles are among the places considered
as the location for the final show. Blair and Bertie Ahern
say this is their last chance. If the talks fail once again
by the November deadline the unfortunate 108 assembly
members elected to a ghost Stormont assembly will be sacked
and plan B announced.

History repeating itself?

Secretary of State Hain emulating Oliver Cromwell in 1653
standing on the top of the stairs at Stormont telling the
members of the rump ‘assembly’ – “In the name of

God Go.”


Opin: Sentences Raise Valid Concerns


In the judicial system it has to be accepted that
sentencing is not an exact science.

Judges have a list of guidelines and parameters but no two
cases are precisely the same and a range of factors must be
taken into account.

These can include the age of the defendant, previous
record, guilty plea and family background. Evidence about
the character of an accused person is permitted and judges
can request reports from probation and health professionals
to help them determine the appropriate sentence.

However, judges have no jurisdiction over maximum terms,
which are set by Parliament.

In general, the public understands there are restrictions
in place but people are entitled to express frustration if
they feel the legal system – which includes the police,
lawyers, judges and legislature – has let them down.

The media is also entitled to reflect public concern and to
hold the legal system to account. Those within the system
who believe they have been portrayed unfairly are also
entitled to speak out.

Two recent cases illustrate why there is sometimes public
disquiet over sentencing.

Earlier this week nationalist politicians were critical of
the suspended terms and fines handed down to five loyalists
who had been caught with metal bars, balaclavas and plastic
gloves in 2003.

The men, including a former Royal Irish Ranger, had
originally been charged with UVF membership and possession
of equipment for carrying out acts of terrorism but these
counts were later dropped.

There are a number of disturbing elements to this case and
questions remain about the intentions of those involved.

Interestingly, the defendants arrived in court with packed
bags and clearly expected to be going to jail.

The judge said imprisonment would be merited but, taking
into account the length of time since the offence, believed
it was right to impose suspended terms.

The second case, which has caused dismay for different
reasons, involves Fernando Murphy, a former footballer who
was jailed for two years after admitting having a claw
hammer during rioting in Ardoyne in July 2004.

His family are questioning why he lost his liberty while
the five loyalists walked free, particularly as evidence
was given about his good character and constructive work he
had carried out in the community, a point acknowledged by
the judge.

It is accepted that the charges in both cases were serious
and deserved to be treated as such by the courts.

However, it is difficult to understand why one case merited
a significant custodial term and the other did not.

These are just two examples of cases which have caused
disquiet but it is appropriate that sentencing policy and
the workings of the legal system are subject to scrutiny
and legitimate concerns raised.


Opin: September 11: The Price We've Paid

The blow inflicted on America by September 11 was
unprecedented in its scale and horror. But is it really the
date to remember? Five years on, it's clear that the true
turning point for the world came seven days later.

By Jonathan Raban
08 September 2006

Woken by the jarring peal of the phone at 5.58am, Pacific
time, I heard a friend's voice say, "Turn on your TV! Turn
on your TV!" Then she hung up. Groggy with sleep, I clicked
the remote, and the screen bloomed into a scene of aghast
confusion. I was still dopily figuring out the what and
where when, at 6.03, the second plane, arrowing at a tilt
through a sky of flawless blue, penetrated the strangely
pliant flesh of the south tower like a whaler's barbed
harpoon. At the very moment of impact, one could see the
plane's nose-cone simultaneously protruding slightly from
the far side of the skyscraper. Was it a bystander, or the
cameraman, who shouted "Ho-ly shit!"?--words, inadequate as
they were, that now seem so inseparably glued to that
astounding instant that I've never been able to speak them

For the next few hours, with the BBC on the computer
screen, CNN on the TV, and the phone ringing off the hook,
I felt the world shrinking around me. By mid-afternoon, New
York, London, Honolulu, Paris, Seattle, had contracted into
one neighbourhood, and when, next morning, Le Monde ran its
famous banner headline, WE ARE ALL AMERICANS NOW, the
sentiment seemed so obvious as to be hardly worth stating.
Now, of course, that headline is remembered only because it
is a bitterly sarcastic marker of the enormous distance
we've all travelled in the five years since that day.

"Since September 11..." we say, as if the attacks were what
changed everything. The month is right but the day wrong,
because the real metamorphosis has arisen not so much from
what Mohamed Atta and his co-conspirators did to us on
September 11 as what we've subsequently done to ourselves -
and continue to do, today, tomorrow, and in the foreseeable
future (incredibly foreshortened though that has become).
On September 12, still in shock at the extraordinary injury
inflicted on the US, we woke to essentially the same world
we'd been living in before the phones began to ring. The
death toll - then estimated at 10,000-plus - was
horrifying, on the scale of a major earthquake or tsunami,
but the globe continued to revolve on its accustomed axis,
as it does after even the most devastating seismic killers.

On the evening of the 11th, the President of the United
States - last seen in a second-grade class at a Florida
elementary school, staring numbly at The Pet Goat in
Reading Mastery II: Storybook I - read haltingly to camera
from a script: "These acts of mass murder were intended to
frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they have
failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been
moved to defend a great nation." On the 14th, he found a
voice and a persona when, dressed in a clerical-grey
anorak, he visited the firefighters and rescue workers at
the ruins of the World Trade Center. As The Dallas Morning
News reported the next day: "When he climbed onto the
wreckage of a fire truck to speak through the bullhorn, the
workers began complaining: 'George, we can't hear you!'

"'I can hear you,' Bush responded. 'I can hear you. The
rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked
these buildings down will hear all of us soon!' The crowd
whooped and then the chant began: 'U-S-A, U-S-A.' Bush
grabbed a small American flag and waved it high."

On the 16th, when Bush spoke of "this crusade, this war on
terrorism", the alarming and foolishly inflated language
chilled much of the listening world even as, perhaps, it
stirred his electoral base of fundamentalist Christians to
heroic thoughts of sword and cross, liberating the holy
places from Muslim occupation. Presumably unintentionally
(unless a Swiftian ironist was at work in some back room in
the White House), the phrase echoed Osama bin Laden, who
had been calling Americans "Crusaders" in repeated fatwas
and speeches since 1998.

But September 18 is the real date to circle. That day,
Congress rushed through its Authorisation For Use of
Military Force (AUMF), entitling the President, as the
nation's commander in chief, to "use all necessary and
appropriate force" against "those nations, organisations,
or persons" that "he determines" were responsible for the
September 11 atrocities, " order to prevent any future
acts of international terrorism against the United States
by such nations, organisations, or persons." It's the
"such" that's the key, the inclusion of nations,
organisations, or persons "of that sort", which nicely
covers, for instance, the invasion of Iraq, the arrest and
detention of most of the prisoners now languishing in
Guantanamo Bay, possible future military action against
Iran, or Syria, or both, and heaven knows what else, since
"such" is a term of potentially limitless capacity to make
hitherto unguessed-at likenesses and connections.

The sloppily-worded AUMF endowed the administration with
unique and wide-ranging powers. It has become the licence
for the executive branch to wave at Congress and the
judiciary whenever its actions are questioned or censured.
On September 18 2001, the delicate balance between the
three branches of government, as laid out in the American
constitution, was thrown severely out of whack; since that
day, one branch, the presidency, has enjoyed an
unprecedented primacy over the others, and we've been
living with the consequences of AUMF ever since.

On the same day that Bush talked of the coming "crusade",
Vice-President Dick Cheney told the host of Meet The Press
how the new war was going to function. "We... have to work
sort of the dark side... We're going to spend time in the
shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to
be done here will have to be done quietly, without any
discussions... It is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty
business out there, and we have to operate in that arena."
So it was to be cloak and dagger stuff, top secret, with
the administration "working the dark side", out of view of
the people. Secrecy has its own romantic allure, and in the
shaken and frightened mood of America that September, there
was reassurance in the idea of the White House going
undercover, stealthily prowling on our behalf in Cheney's
arena of shadows. Barely a voice was raised to suggest that
a secret presidency might not be entirely compatible with
the basic principles of American democracy. On the "You're
either with us or against us" principle, enunciated by Bush
in November 2001, the few liberals who spoke out against
the new-style covert administration were condemned out of
hand as siding with terrorists.

The threat of terrorism yet to come gave the White House an
unimpeded freedom to act on its own discretion that most US
presidents have probably dreamed of, but is more often
exercised by dictators, benevolent and otherwise. Such
extravagant presidential liberty can only be maintained in
a democracy so long as the threat is not just real, but
immediately palpable to the electorate. The enormous
quantity of ugly hardware that has shown up on the streets
of American cities in the last five years serves a dual
purpose: it supposedly protects us from acts of terrorism
and daily reminds us of the danger we are in.

Some time in early 2002, a nondescript rectangular grey
box, with a tall vented pipe and a radio antenna, appeared
on a telephone pole in my neighbourhood in Seattle, and I
drove past it several times before I figured what it was -
a device for sniffing pathogens in the air, like anthrax or
ricin, and reporting back to headquarters, wherever they
might be. The conspicuous presence of the box alarmed me a
lot more than any of my previous thoughts of chemical and
biological attack, and I was glad to see it gone a few days
later - no doubt moved to another neighbourhood to put a
small shiver down their spines (apparently these boxes cost
$25,000 apiece and are consequently in rather short
supply). So it is with all the blast shields and concrete
barriers, security checkpoints, metal detectors, X-ray
machines, and the new generation of "smart" video
surveillance cameras, described, in rather too wide-eyed
prose, by a reporter for The New York Times a couple of
years ago: "Sophisticated new computer programs will
immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any
of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures
considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles,
lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the
shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away
from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in
colour at the city's central monitoring station, allowing
dispatchers to send police officers to the scene

So, too, the TopOff (short for "top officials") exercises,
which are mounted by the Department of Homeland Security in
order to prepare "first responders" to deal with a
terrorist attack. These multi-million-dollar pieces of
experimental street-theatre travel from city to city and
involve actors, dripping stage blood, stumbling around
among overturned vehicles, corpses wearing "Role Player"
sashes, blazing tyres, broken glass, severed water mains
and the rest of the horror-show scenery.

Such measures are here, we're told, to keep us safe--and
also to scare our socks off. For the unique power of this
administration depends on Americans staying frightened of
another September 11 - or worse. Every actual terrorist
event - the Bali bombing, the Madrid train bombings, the
London Tube and bus bombings, the Mumbai train bombings,
the 10 August revelation of the alleged London-and-High-
Wycombe plot to down transatlantic airliners - strengthens
the presidency's hand against the other two government
branches. The first American consequence of the news from
London last month was the announcement by Alberto Gonzales,
the US Attorney General, that the administration would
stand firm on military tribunals - otherwise, kangaroo
courts - at Guantanamo, in the face of the latest Supreme
Court ruling in its disfavour.

The reality of terrorism and the manufactured illusion of
terrorism now bleed seamlessly into one another. The
sporadic attacks launched by real terrorists have so far
been insufficient to keep the attention-deficit-prone
electorate in lockstep with the presidency, so phantoms
have to be continually summoned from the deep in order to
juice-up the fear level and justify administration
policies. When facts fail, fiction is always at hand to
fill the breach, and White House speechwriters appear to
believe that no story is as good as an old story retold,
however slender its basis. Just last week President Bush,
speaking to a captive audience of veterans at an American
Legion convention in Salt Lake City, said once again that
Iraq "is the central front in our fight against
terrorism... If we give up the fight in the streets of
Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our
own cities."

"The terrorists" used once to mean the dubious entity of
al-Qa'ida. Now it's an umbrella term, spread ever wider to
shelter an astonishing variety of administration-designated
bad guys: Hamas, Hizbollah, Kashmiri separatists, the
Taliban, Ba'athist insurgents, Sunni jihadists, the Mahdi
Army, the governments of Iran, Syria, North Korea. It's
like Falstaff conjuring ever greater numbers of enemies
heroically fought off: two, four, seven, 11 men in
buckram... So Bush multiplies terrorists, and counts them
by the million. Now they surround us on every flank and
quarter, and if we don't fight them abroad (the traditional
resort of domestically weak presidencies), we'll find
ourselves combating them, hand to hand, on Walnut and
Jackson in our own home town.

Nowhere is the ambition of this administration so
eloquently displayed as in the peculiar institution of
Guantanamo Bay, which is the very model (to loosely quote
WS Gilbert) of a modern military dictatorship. Bush, who,
in the 2000 presidential debates denounced the idea of
"nation building", has, at Guantanamo, constructed a tiny
offshore statelet, answerable to no laws except those
dictated by the White House and its military and
intelligence agencies. Here is detention without charge,
trial, or access to lawyers. Here - by all accounts - the
line between legitimate interrogation and torture has
repeatedly been crossed. Here is one small world that, in
every ascertainable particular, is the polar opposite of
the United States as the founders conceived the nation: no
checks or balances, no Bill of Rights, nothing except the
unbridled exercise of executive-branch power.

The administration has treated Guantanamo as an exceedingly
precious possession, tigerishly protecting it from the
intrusions of the judiciary. Time and again, the Supreme
Court has ruled, or tried to rule, that the camp's
detainees have rights under American law. Time and again,
the Attorney General and his crew of adminstration lawyers
have managed to find an escape route in the small print of
the ruling. On each occasion, Bush loyalists, in Congress
and elsewhere, have angrily denounced both the judgment and
the judges who formed the "liberal" majority in the court.
In March this year, the recently retired Supreme Court
justice, Sandra Day O'Connor (herself a Republican and a
Reagan appointee to the court) warned that such attacks
could be seen as the first signs of a slide into
dictatorship. As Nina Totenberg, the legal correspondent of
National Public Radio reported: "Pointing to the
experiences of developing countries and former Communist
countries where interference with an independent judiciary
has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must
be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the
judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes
a lot of degeneration before a country falls into
dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by
avoiding these beginnings."

Coming from a middle-of-the-road Supreme Court justice,
this was a remarkable measure of the extremity of these
times, articulating as it did the fear of many Americans
that the United States under the Bush administration is
inching towards the kind of regime on view at Guantanamo

Warrantless wiretapping, detention without trial, the most
secretive presidency on record, rupture between the
branches of government... Terrorism has supplied the
pretext for all of this, but none of it has flowed
inevitably from the events of September 11. "Mass murder"
was the President's first call on that appalling day, and
had the jihadists continued to be treated as mass
murderers, the United States would have retained the warm
sympathy and enthusiastic cooperation of the rest of the
civilised world. But the administration, supported by a
loyal Republican majority in Congress, and armed with the
carte blanche of AUMF, chose another far more dangerous,
lonely and audacious route.

Five years on, we're mired in the bloody wreckage of Iraq
(and the rising chaos of Afghanistan). The US is
increasingly isolated from its traditional allies. At home,
Americans are more bitterly divided than at any time since
the Civil War. A small but growing minority of Muslims are
telling British pollsters that they admire the jihadists.
Osama bin Laden is still free, making regular broadcasts to
his followers. As the "global war on terror" has proceeded,
governments - in Britain as in America - have erected
around us all the necessary machinery of the security-and-
surveillance state.

This is an anniversary so cheerless that any straw is worth
clutching at. Here's a straw: in the most recent polls, the
number of Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein was
personally involved in the September 11 plot, which stood
at 80 per cent in 2002, and 64 per cent early in 2005, has
now slipped to the high twenties - roughly the same
numbers, give or take a percentage point, as those of the
conspiracy theorists who believe that the Bush
administration planned the atrocities, or at least allowed
them to happen, in order to further its imperial ambitions
in the Middle East. Bush's presidential rhetoric has never
been so widely disbelieved. The fiction that in Iraq we're
fighting terrorists abroad to stop them attacking us at
home is increasingly being recognised for what it is. The
administration's renewed efforts to conflate every militant
Islamic organisation across the globe into a single
homogeneous force, the terrifying equal of Nazism, fascism,
and Soviet Communism, is at last beginning to ring hollow
in the ears of a distinct majority of Americans. The
President's approval-ratings (between 36 per cent and 38
per cent last week) suggest that he is now very nearly down
to his unshakeably faithful core base.

Were the Democrats to gain control of the House of
Representatives and/or the Senate in the November mid-term
elections (not very likely but certainly possible), that
would at least restore the separation of powers, allowing a
Democratic legislative branch to check and balance the
Republican executive. Unless and until that happens, the
Bush administration is likely to go on using the images and
memories of September 11 to reinforce and justify the
enormous boost of power it received on September 18. What
further discord this turbocharged presidency may engineer
here and in the larger world between now and January 2009
is the stuff of international bad dreams.

Jonathan Raban's books include My Holy War: Dispatches from
the Home Front, a collection of post-September 11 essays,
Picador, £9.99. His latest novel, Surveillance, is
published by Picador next Friday, £16.99


Saddam Had No Link With Al-Qa'ida, US Senate Concludes

By Andrew Gumbel
09 September 2006

A US Senate report yesterday squashed any lingering
concerns that Saddam Hussein might have had a hand in the
September 11 attacks, concluding from evidence gathered
before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq that Saddam had
no relationship with al-Qa'ida and viewed the organisation
as a threat to his regime.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which
produced the bipartisan report, quickly seized on its
findings to lambast the Bush administration for its
repeated attempts to link the deposed Iraqi dictator with
Osama bin Laden's radical Islamic network.

Carl Levin, a Democratic Senator from Michigan, called the
report "a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney
administration's unrelenting, misleading and deceptive
attempts" to make such a link.

The White House spokesman Tony Snow responded simply by
saying the report offered nothing new.

Over the past couple of years President Bush has
acknowledged, with varying degrees of forthrightness, that
Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.

In the run-up to the invasion, however, senior
administration officials - notably Vice-President Dick
Cheney - played up supposed links between Saddam and Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qa'ida associate killed earlier
this year, and suggested Iraqi intelligence agents had met
the 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta in Prague shortly before
the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre.

The Senate committee report found no credible evidence of
any contact between al-Qa'ida and the Iraqi government
other than a 1995 meeting between an Iraqi intelligence
officer and Bin Laden in Sudan, at which nothing was
offered or promised.

It found evidence of at least two occasions, meanwhile,
when Saddam specifically rebuffed overtures from al-Qa'ida.

"Post-war findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was
distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a
threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida
for material or operational support," it concluded.

The report confirmed that Zarqawi was in Baghdad between
May and November 2002 - a fact much played up by Mr Cheney
in the invasion's immediate aftermath - but said he was
very far from welcome there. Instead, Saddam attempted,
unsuccessfully, to track him down and capture him. Until
the US invasion, Zarqawi was affiliated with Ansar al-
Islam, a radical group in Kurdish-controlled territory in
northern Iraq and unconnected to Saddam.

The report sifted through much of the pre-war intelligence
on Iraq and al-Qa'ida as well as post-war findings, and
found scant evidence even there - despite what it called
the "forward-leaning" analysis of the CIA and other
agencies who were "purposely aggressive" in their efforts
to find any links and play them up.

Over and above its significance in tracing the US path to
war in Iraq, the report is also likely to become fodder for
the mid-term election campaign, now in full swing. The
intelligence committee's senior Democrat, John Rockefeller
of West Virginia, accused the Bush administration of
playing on popular fear in the wake of 9/11 to justify
America's invasion of Iraq.

His Republican counterpart, Pat Roberts of Kansas,
preferred to characterise the path to war as "a tragic
intelligence failure" and said attacks by Democrats were
"little more than a vehicle to advance election-year
political charges".

The report was the Senate intelligence committee's second
look at the run-up to the Iraq war. The first, issued more
than two years ago, looked at the CIA's failings in
assessing Iraq's - ultimately non-existent - weapons of
mass destruction.

Publication of the second report has been held up
repeatedly by arguments over how much of it to keep
classified and how much to make public.

National security and the so-called war on terror was a big
factor in President Bush's re-election in 2004. His loss of
credibility in Iraq may sink his Republican Party in the
congressional elections on 7 November.


How America Changed Forever


It was the day the world was united behind the US, but the
five years since 9/11 have seen division and hostility.
Denis Staunton looks at the personal and political legacy

Theresa Mullan always carries two prayer cards - one for
her husband Pat, who died last year, and the other for her
son Michael, a firefighter who was killed when the South
Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on September
11th, 2001.

Michael, who lived with his parents, died trying to rescue
another firefighter who was trapped on an upper floor after
the emergency workers' walkie-talkies failed.

"Michael loved life. He hugged it, he kissed it, he
breathed it. He loved concerts and the theatre. He loved
Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra. He loved good food, good
restaurants, a good bottle of wine and a Guinness. He had a
million girlfriends. Michael was the bearer of all the
merriment in the house. He called that morning from his
truck to say goodbye to us and to tell us he loved us. So I
think in his heart of hearts, he knew he may not come
home," she says.

Theresa Mullan blames 9/11 for her husband's death too,
convinced that he lost the will to live after Michael's
death and the events of five years ago haunt her every day.

"It's a part of my existence now. I go to Mass every
morning and my communion is the same every morning - for
all those who died so tragically on 9/11 and for all those
who mourn their loss," she says.

Marianne Barry's husband Maurice was a port authority
police officer who had been on duty at the World Trade
Center when it was bombed in 1993 and was there again on
9/11. Their son John had started college and just moved
into student accommodation and the Barrys planned to visit
him that evening.

"I was in work and someone came in with the TV and showed
the towers collapsing. It was going on and on, you know,
just repeating that same vision all day. I knew my husband
was over there but it really didn't sink in that anything
was going to happen to him because he was there also in '93
and he came home. So I had no doubt that he was going to
come home. But he didn't," Marianne says.

Maurice had rescued three groups of workers and was going
up for the fourth time when the tower collapsed. His gun
was recovered, but the family received no remains to bury
and for Marianne, Ground Zero is a cemetery.

"There's not a day goes by that I don't think of him and
what happened. He was 47. He would have been 48 two weeks
after the attack. He loved the children. He couldn't have
done enough for them. Both of my sons have gone back to
school. One has gotten a degree. He's in the US army also
and he was almost called over to Iraq which was a terrible
thought for me. But so far we're trying to get our life
back. It's been a struggle but we're trying," she says.

When Americans mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11
attacks on Monday, they will mourn those who died on one of
the most terrible and significant days in their country's
history. The anniversary will raise questions, however,
about how safe the US is today, the balance between
security and civil liberties and how America is viewed
throughout the world.

In the days that followed the attacks, the world rallied
round America, offering sympathy and support, with Le Monde
famously declaring "Nous sommes tous américains" ("We are
all Americans").

Governments in Europe and elsewhere offered unprecedented
security co-operation and worked closely with Washington to
apprehend suspected Islamist terrorists. When the US moved
to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had
harboured Osama bin Laden and his followers, a broad
international coalition provided troops and other support.

At the end of the invasion, Iran was among the countries
that worked most closely with the US to broker a deal
between Afghan factions that led to the formation of Hamid
Karzai's government.

At home, as New Yorkers united around the leadership of
former mayor Rudy Giuliani, dubbed "Churchill in a baseball
cap", politicians in Washington overcame the bitterness of
the disputed presidential election a few months earlier and
the country fell in behind President George W Bush.

After a faltering start, Bush found a voice that chimed
with Americans' yearning for a sense of common purpose in
the face of the attacks, at once defiant and compassionate.

"There was a magical time after that when people came
together in this country in ways we had almost forgotten.
It was a golden time and terrorists everywhere were
suddenly in trouble and they knew it," says David Gergen,
who runs the Centre for Public Leadership at Harvard's John
F Kennedy School of Government and served as an adviser to
four US presidents.

Five years on, anti-Americanism has reached unprecedented
levels in Europe, Latin America and, above all, in the
Middle East. For critics, Guantánamo has become an emblem
of the deformation of American justice, Abu Ghraib of the
corruption of American values and the war in Iraq of the
arrogance of its foreign policy.

Within the US, the unity of the days following 9/11 has
given way to bitter polarisation and deep divisions,
particularly over Iraq, a war that most Americans now
believe has made their country less secure.

"The president and his administration failed to bring the
country together on Iraq and they didn't seem to care. Iraq
has become the most divisive issue since Vietnam and it
could have the same tragic ending," says Gergen.

During the months before 9/11, Europeans complained that
Bush, who had come to power declaring he had no interest in
nation-building, was leading the US into a new period of
isolationism. Bush abandoned his predecessor's efforts to
achieve a deal between Israel and the Palestinians and
signalled that the US was no longer in the business of
rescuing failed states or intervening in civil wars as in

Within the administration, however, a group around the
vice-president Dick Cheney, the assistant secretary of
defence Paul Wolfowitz and defence policy adviser Richard
Perle were pressing for a more assertive foreign policy.
This neoconservative group argued that America's status as
the sole superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union
offered a unique opportunity to reshape the world order,
promoting the emergence of pro-US democracies to create a
Pax Americana.

"That was dangerous nonsense . . . Our forces of deterrence
are overwhelming but we do not have the power, acting
alone, to force others to do our bidding," says Gergen.

In the months that followed 9/11, however, the
neoconservatives became dominant within the administration,
drowning out more cautious voices from the state department
and the CIA. Within weeks of the attacks, they had
persuaded Bush that toppling Saddam Hussein would eliminate
the most powerful sponsor of international terrorism,
liberate the Iraqi people and create a pro-American
democracy pumping out millions of barrels of oil every day.

The neoconservatives believed that Saudi Arabia would react
to the emergence of a democratic Iraq by itself embracing
reform and that Iranians would be inspired to rise up and
overthrow the mullahs.

As the neoconservatives shaped US policy abroad, Cheney
promoted a concept of presidential authority that was
unprecedented in its expansiveness. According to this
doctrine, the declaration of a "war on terror" gave Bush
authority to bypass Congress and suspend civil liberties in
the pursuit of terrorists.

A number of Bush's post-9/11 moves, including the
interception of domestic phone calls without a warrant and
the suspension of Geneva Convention rights for Guantánamo
inmates, have been struck down by US courts. Bush admitted
this week that, in the days after the attacks, he
authorised a network of secret prisons overseas, where the
CIA held and interrogated almost 100 suspected terrorists.

Lee Hamilton, a Democratic congressman for 34 years and co-
chairman of the commission that investigated the 9/11
attacks, identifies the expansion of presidential power as
one of the most disturbing developments of the past five

"What I don't want to see is power put anywhere unchecked.
It's time that the Congress of the United States started
acting like a separate but equal branch of government," he

Hamilton is also concerned that new powers of surveillance
given to the government under the Patriot Act could
permanently change the balance between security and civil

"These powers ought to be reviewed and, if need be, checked
by an independent authority. There is no reason why we
shouldn't safeguard our liberties as vigorously as we
safeguard our security," he says.

With the Iraq war costing $1 billion (€781 million)a week
and the Bush administration resisting calls to rescind tax
cuts for the richest Americans, resources for homeland
security are limited. Cities such as New York and
Washington complain that homeland security funds are not
allocated according to the risk of attack but are spread
across the country for political reasons.

Newark, New Jersey, admitted last year that it had used
homeland security funds to pay for 10 brand-new, air-
conditioned garbage trucks and grants have been channelled
to remote, rural areas that are unlikely terrorist targets.

"What depresses me is that, five years after 9/11, there
are still clear and common-sense things the US should be
doing to counter terrorism that we are not doing," says

Among the unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11
commission are emergency response plans for every major
city and town in the country, the allocation of part of the
broadcast spectrum to emergency communications and the
checking of all airline passengers' names against a central

Despite predictions that nothing would ever be the same
after 9/11, life in America has in many ways returned to
normal and the economy recovered from the shock with
remarkable speed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average returned
to pre-9/11 levels just 40 days after the attacks and even
the tourist and construction industries bounced back

The quagmire in Iraq has weakened the neoconservatives, who
now complain bitterly that the state department and the CIA
have regained control of US foreign policy. Secretary of
state Condoleezza Rice, about whom the neoconservatives are
privately venomous, has steered US policy back towards
multilateralism and cold-hearted realism.

If the Democrats take control of the House of
Representatives or the Senate in November, the
administration will face more intense congressional
oversight. Court rulings have already forced Bush to roll
back his expansion of presidential authority and to seek
congressional approval for the domestic spying programme
and for military tribunals to try Guantánamo inmates.

America's return to something like normality could come to
an abrupt halt, however, if terrorists succeed in attacking
again, a prospect Hamilton says Americans believe is

"America has not been attacked again at home but Americans
feel more insecure than they did on September 10th, 2001.
Most believe, as I do, that another attack is coming."

© The Irish Times


Profile: Gordon Brown - The Man Who Would Be King


Profile: Gordon Brown has long believed that his destiny is
to become British prime minister, but has his moment come
too late, asks Deaglán de Bréadún

Picture this: Britain's chancellor of the exchequer is
standing in front of the mirror, preparing his next career
move. He's rehearsing an imaginary television interview:
"As prime minister, I have to say . . . Oh come on, Jeremy,
you don't expect me as Prime Minister to respond to that .
. . Well, speaking as head of her majesty's government, I
must tell you . . . " Suddenly an all-too-familiar face
peers out of the glass before him and Tony Blair inquires
belligerently: "You talking to me?"

Alternatively, the face in this little fantasy might be
that of John Reid, the "safe pair of fists" whose wall-to-
wall TV appearances during the Heathrow crisis aroused
speculation that he might be one man - the other is
education secretary Alan Johnson - with a slim chance of
beating Brown at this stage.

Future students of political science may be required to
analyse Tony Blair's current behaviour as a perfect example
of how not to leave political office. His extraordinary
achievements in restoring a moribund Labour party to power
and winning three general elections are being overshadowed
by the undignified spectacle of a man determined to stay in
the driving seat even though the wheels are falling off the

Skilful manipulation of the media eased Labour's path to
power, but no amount of spin-doctoring could control the
feeding frenzy this week. There were all the elements of
political soap opera with allegations and rumours of
plotting, treachery and betrayal.

It still looks as if Gordon Brown will get the top job, but
will the game be worth the candle? Labour resembles a
fractious married couple who have their crockery-throwing
sessions in the street. There are fresh doubts that the
party can win a fourth term in office, especially with
cool, clean hero David Cameron, the Steve Silvermint of
British politics, waiting in the wings.

"Part of the problem with Brown is that he's Scottish and
has very little appeal for English voters," said an
observer with Conservative leanings. "The Labour party is
only listening to itself and not to the public."

But for the moment at least, the future looks Brown. What
manner of man is this, who has waited so long and without
much obvious patience for the laurel wreath to be placed on
his brow?

BORN ON FEBRUARY 20th, 1951, Gordon Brown was the son of a
Presbyterian minister and showed early signs of academic
brilliance. He entered the University of Edinburgh at 16
where he read history and graduated with first-class
honours. An accident playing rugby left him blind in the
left eye and this was replaced by a prosthetic eye. The son
of the manse worked as a lecturer and later as a TV
journalist before winning the Commons seat for Dunfermline
East in 1983.

After the untimely death of Labour leader John Smith in
1994, Brown was tipped to succeed him but made way instead
for Tony Blair. It is part of British political folklore
that the two men struck a deal at the Granita Restaurant in
Islington, north London, with Blair ceding control over
economic policy in a future Labour government and making
other concessions to Brown in return for staying out of the
leadership race.

Despite constant reports of tensions and rows, the double-
act has worked remarkably well. Past experience convinced
the business and professional classes that Labour in
government was a recipe for high inflation and
unemployment, but the cautious and sure-footed Brown has
reversed that image, presiding over the longest period of
continuous economic growth in British history.

As well as reassuring the moneyed classes - some critics
say he was excessively frugal and prudent - the canny Scot
has protected his left flank through his leading role in
efforts to reduce Third World debt and by cultivating a
reputation as being essentially "Old Labour" with a
commitment to traditional socialist values that the ultra-
pragmatic Blairites could not match. (He has used the term
"Real Labour" rather than "New Labour".) Brown is also seen
as less Europhile than Blair, as evidenced in his fancy
footwork over joining the single-currency zone where he
tiptoed around the issue but never got his feet wet. "He
created a veto for himself and then he used it," says one

EVER SINCE THAT night in the Granita (now a Mexican
restaurant), commentators have speculated about the terms
of the alleged deal which, according to some versions,
included a commitment from Blair to step aside in favour of
Brown during the second term of a future Labour government.

The Granita dinner à deux took place on May 31st, 1994, or
exactly 13 years prior to the date when, according to the
Sun newspaper this week, Tony Blair will step down as
Labour leader. The way things are going, Blair may be
forced out before then but, sooner or later and assuming he
wins any leadership vote, Brown should be moving from No 11
to a new office in No 10 Downing Street (he already has the
use of a flat in No 10). What kind of prime minister will
he make and how will he respond to the many challenges
ahead of him?

The dour scot is a different personality on both the social
and political levels from Tony Blair. The more amiable
Blair comes across as someone willing to ditch decades of
dogma in pursuit of his aims, whereas Brown has managed to
preserve the aura of an old-style social democrat but
without allowing his hands to be tied by doctrinaire
policies. Brown sees himself as a reformer and a moderniser
but less inclined to go to extremes than the Blairites.

PERHAPS THE BIGGEST challenge Brown faces is the Middle
East, particularly Britain's military involvement in Iraq
and Afghanistan and its perceived role as chief lieutenant
and cheerleader to George W Bush in the region generally.
Labour left-wingers will want Brown to withdraw troops from
these trouble-spots and put clear blue water between
himself and the White House on foreign-policy issues, but
his public pronouncements so far have given little
indication that he would jump in that direction. Brown is a
keen student of US politics and history and has holidayed
at Cape Cod for many years. He supported British
intervention in Iraq but managed to look as if he was
taking little pleasure in it.

He will also be faced with the need to restore unity in a
fractured and demoralised party in time for the inevitable
general election, which must take place by 2010 at the
latest (there is speculation he could go for an early
election to give himself a personal mandate as prime
minister). As for Northern Ireland, Blair has been one of
the driving-forces in the peace process and it could be a
major test for Brown to show that he has the same level of
commitment and zeal in pursuit of a settlement as well as a
similar ability to be nice to people he doesn't necessarily
like, in the republican and unionist camps. Some insiders
say that Brown sees Blair as spending too much time on the
North with little result, but others insist the DUP would
be naive to place too much faith in their fellow-

A Brown premiership will be very different in style to the
Blair years. It will be less flashy and not so obviously
media-oriented, with far more helpings of sober purpose and
dogged if unspectacular pursuit of policy objectives. The
Tories under David Cameron are re-inventing themselves in
all sorts of clever ways and it may be that the electorate
is ready for a change. Gordon Brown has now been waiting 12
years for the top job and he still must wait a little
longer but the question is, when he finally makes it, will
it be too late?


Who is he? Gordon Brown, Britain's chancellor of the
exchequer and wannabe prime minister

Why is he in the news? Tony Blair won't give him the job -
at least not yet

Most appealing characteristic Steady hand at the tiller

Least appealing characteristic Not much of a laugh - in

Most likely to say "Och, Tony, will ye no' gie's a chance?"

Least likely to say "I'm happy to stay in this job another
12 years"

© The Irish Times


Festival Offers Taste Of Irish Culture

By Robin DeMerell
The News-Times

Jack Farrell of Newtown brought his collection of bottle
cappers from the early 1920s to the Irish Festival at the
Ives Center last night.

DANBURY -- You certainly don't have to be Irish to enjoy
the Irish Festival, but -- from the traditional music and
dancing, the corned beef sandwiches and the displays on
everything from Celtic soldiers to old bottle cappers --
you'll leave immersed in Irish culture.

The 12th annual Greater Danbury Irish Festival opened
Friday night at the Ives Center on the westside campus of
Western Connecticut State University.

Sponsored by the local Ancient Order of Hibernians, the
festival runs through Sunday.

Under the cultural tent, a host of groups is scheduled to
play traditional Irish music. On Friday, Nora Hadley played
her fiddle with four other musicians, including a flutist
and an accordion player.

"I love it because it's traditional Irish music. It goes
back centuries," said Julie Gallagher, a Bethel resident
who has volunteered at the festival since it began. "You
have a variety of instruments and they're playing jigs and

There will also be lots of Irish dancing -- from step-
dancing, which is like "Riverdance," to Ceili dancing with
couples. There will be instruction as well as performances.

Also in the cultural tent are exhibits, including one by
Ralph Langham of New Fairfield, who was dressed in a 79th
N.Y. Cameron Highlanders uniform -- the same one the Celtic
group wore during the Civil War with a glengarry and kilt.

"It shows how the Scottish and the Irish (descendants)
worked together in the Civil War," he said.

Several people stopped to look at John Farrell's collection
of bottle cappers. More than 100 of the devices were
displayed on five bleacher rows near the food tent.

Farrell, 80, of Newtown, said he remembers the 1920s, when
his parents made moonshine and capped the bottles. He
started collecting the cappers 10 years ago and his oldest
is 150 years old.

Thirteen-year-old Shannon Nolan of Danbury and several
friends stopped to look at the collection.

"I love the Irish festival," said Shannon. "Being Irish is
so special -- I can express my culture here."

For those wanting to shop, there's the Irish Village. There
are Irish coats-of-arms, tartan plaid vests and kilts,
jewelry, candles and pillows with Irish sayings.


Easter Rising Fighters Are Remembered In Memorial

Southern News
By Valerie Robinson

A memorial has been placed in the grounds of a Dublin city
centre hospital commemorating those who fought during the
1916 Easter Rising.

The tribute, organised by the National Graves Association,
has been officially unveiled in the forecourt area of the
Rotunda Hospital, where men who had fought in the GPO and
Four Courts spent the night after their surrender to
British forces.

The Rotunda board of governors, relatives of the men and
women of Easter week and members of the National Graves
Association attended the ceremony.

The memorial design consists of four lilies in bronze
mounted on a granite base, representing the four provinces.

NGA spokesman Paddy Lennon said it was proud to pay tribute
to those who fought during Easter 1916 on the 90th
anniversary of the rising.

“This is also the year that our association celebrates its
80th anniversary” he said.

“Our aim back then was to mark the graves of those who died
for Irish freedom, to erect monuments and memorials to
those of every generation who fought or devoted their lives
to the cause of Irish freedom and to celebrate and
commemorate the lives of such men and women who were
criminalised for seeking this nation’s sovereignty and


Ireland To Become Leader In Alzheimer’s Research

09/09/2006 - 09:42:03

Ireland is set to become a world leader in Alzheimer’s
disease research following the annoucement of a new
scientific study yesterday.

Trinity College Dublin has formed a partnership with the
renowned Florida-based Roskamp Institute to examine whether
or not the blood pressure drug, Nilvadipine, can be used to
treat Alzheimer's.

A key element to the success of the clinical study is the
formation of a new umbrella group of clinicians in Dublin
hospitals, the Dublin Ageing Research Network (DARN).
Doctors of Geriatrics and Old Age Psychiatry from St James’
Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, James Connolly Memorial
Hospital, Loughlinstown, Mater Hospital, Saint Vincent’s
Hospital, the Adelaide and Meath Hospital and St Patrick’s
Hospital will all collaborate on the scheme.

Welcoming the new partnership with the Roskamp Institute
and the establishment of DARN, Professor Brian Lawlor MD
said that the new collaboration would enable TCIN to carry
out very important research studies in coming years.

“This is a significant development not just for Trinity
College but for brain aging research in Ireland," he said.

"Already it has enabled us to form the Dublin Ageing
Research Network comprising doctors in geriatrics and old
age psychiatry from the major Dublin hospitals to work on
this important clinical study, which could lead to an
innovative approach to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Our colleagues in all of these hospitals will play a vital
role in carrying out this important clinical study.”

If the two year trial is successful it could change the
direction of other studies of dementia.

To Subscribe to Irish Aires News List, click HERE.
To Unsub from Irish Aires News List, click Here
No Message is necessary.

Or get full news from Irish Aires Yahoo Group, Click here
Or get full news from IrishAiresNews Google Group, Click here

To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)

To September Index
To Index of Monthly Archives
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?