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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 25, 2006
Death of Sinn Fein Michael Ferguson
SF Michael Ferguson MLA had been suffering from cancer
News About Ireland & The Irish
BB 09/25/06 Death Of Sinn Fein Assembly Man
IN 09/25/06 Cancer Is Adversity, Not Tragedy Says MLA
IT 09/25/06 Cleric Says IRA Has Lived Up To Its Pledge On Arms
IT 09/25/06 Empathy Is Key To Peace, Says Bruton
IN 09/25/06 ‘Plan B’ Offer To Parties If Talks Fail
BT 09/25/06 Churchmen United On Devolution
BT 09/25/06 SF Can't 'Trade Off' Backing For Police
BB 09/25/06 Parties (SF & SDLP) Clash Angrily On Policing
BT 09/25/06 'Bloodbath' Could Hit Plans For Devolution, Warns Sir Reg
BT 09/25/06 PM's Supporters Back 'Dream Ticket' Of Johnson And Reid
BT 09/25/06 Ulster Not A Priority For Brown Warns Hain
IT 09/25/06 Orange Protest At Drumcree Attracts Small Crowd
IN 09/25/06 Calls For Action After Mocking Murdered Catholic Teen
BT 09/25/06 MLA Fears For His Family After Thugs Launch 15th Attack
UT 09/25/06 Rioters Clash With Police In Derry
BT 09/25/06 Delayed Omagh Trial Due To Start
TC 09/25/06 President's Praise For Catholic Lawyers Killed in NIreland
IT 09/25/06 Inquiry Into Ahern Funding Goes Beyond Legal Bill
IN 09/25/06 Two Sinn Fein Councillors Leave The Party
BT 09/25/06 Adams Visit to Mid-East: A Voice In The Desert?
NH 09/25/06 Opin: Learning From Past Mistakes
BT 09/25/06 Opin: Open Ltr UUP To Peter Hain
BT 09/25/06 Opin: Put Hain Back In The Tardis
IN 09/25/06 Opin: Religion Without Conflict A Dilemma For Paisley
IT 09/25/06 Release Of Irish Red Cross Worker Welcomed
Death Of Sinn Fein Assembly Man
West Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Michael Ferguson has
died suddenly, the party has said.
Mr Ferguson, 53, who was also a councillor in Lisburn, had
been treated for testicular cancer.
The father-of-four was diagnosed with the disease two
months ago and had undergone a course of chemotherapy.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "No one who met
Michael could fail to see his passion for life and
Mr Adams extended his sympathies to Mr Ferguson's family
adding: "Despite his illness, Michael's death will come as
a great shock to the many people who knew and respected
Mr Ferguson died on Sunday night.
He had spoken about his illness to the Irish News newspaper
last week. The article was published in Monday's edition.
He told the paper: "Men are neglectful of their own health
and do not visit their doctors.
"I was squeamish, embarrassed and shy about going to the
doctor and asking him to examine my testicles."
Mr Ferguson, who was elected to the assembly in 2003, said
he became aware he was unwell last September.
"I went to my GP and was told I was OK. It would take
another nine months and a return visit to the doctor before
the cancer was found," he said.
Mr Ferguson had been a councillor for the last 18 years.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/09/25 09:59:05 GMT
© BBC MMVI
SF Assembly member dies
The father of four was preparing for a second round of more
Despite his illness, he told the newspaper: "I realise,
though, that I am one of the lucky ones. My cancer is
Mr Ferguson had been active in republican politics for most
of his adult life in the Poleglass community on the
outskirts of west Belfast, campaigning on housing, traffic-
calming measures and the siting of mobile phone masts.
A Queens University graduate, he was elected to Lisburn
Council in 1999.
He was a founder member of the West Belfast Safer Streets
The MLA also had a personal interest in environmental and
horticultural issues and won a number of awards for
environmental improvement schemes.
In 1998, he missed out on an Assembly seat in West Belfast
but won it five years later.
As the party`s education spokesperson, he had in recent
months campaigned against cuts by the Northern Ireland
Office, the publication of school league tables and for the
Irish language school sector.
Cancer Is Adversity, Not Tragedy Says MLA
By Seanin Graham
Strength: Sinn Fein assembly member for West Belfast
Michael Ferguson said the support of his wife and children
helped him to cope during his treatment for cancer
Sinn Fein representative Michael Ferguson has played a high
profile role in the party but in an interview with health
correspondent Seanin Graham he talks publicly for the first
time about his private battle against cancer
TWO hours after carrying the coffin of a friend who died
from cancer West Belfast assembly member Michael Ferguson
was told that there was a 70 per cent chance he also had
At 53 the Sinn Fein representative believed he was well
beyond the ‘at risk’ group for testicular cancer and had
ruled out the possibility, thinking it was the ‘young man’s
Three months on, Mr Ferguson has already undergone surgery
and had one of his testicles removed.
Tomorrow he will receive chemo-therapy ‘top-up’ drugs at
Belfast City Hospital marking the end of his first cycle of
The father-of-four is keen to tell his story in a bid to
raise awareness about the disease that is now the most
common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 45 in
If caught early it is also the most treatable form of
cancer. If not it can spread to the stomach, chest and
eventually the brain.
“I can understand why so many men feel uncomfortable about
going to the doctor and having their testicles examined. I
was exactly the same,” he said.
“I felt very embarrassed and shy but I realise now if I
hadn’t gone that cancer could have spread through my body.
I have a lot to be thankful for.’’
It is almost a year since Mr Ferguson first noticed that
something “wasn’t right”.
“I got into the bath one day last September and I got a
sensation. There was no swelling or lump but I knew there
was something wrong,” he said.
“I have a friend who had gone through bowel cancer and he
was always on at me to check myself. His voice was in my
head and I decided to make an appointment with my doctor.
“It wasn’t an easy matter. He examined me, took my blood
pressure and cholesterol. My cholesterol was high but other
than that I was given the OK.’’
Months later Mr Ferguson was asked to attend a men’s health
promotion day at the ex-prisoners’ support group Tar Anall.
“They were highlighting testicular and prostate cancer and
we were given a rubber ball to squeeze to test for lumps,”
“I still had a doubt in the back of my head and examined
myself at home. I couldn’t find any lumps but I knew the
texture was different and there was discomfort. I also had
inflammation in my shoulder.’’
In June this year Mr Ferguson booked a second appointment
with his GP.
“I was working on the basis that if my blood tests were
fine then I was OK. I felt awkward asking for another
examination of my testicles, so I didn’t,” he said.
However, on being referred to a male nurse for blood tests
Mr Ferguson was advised about the importance of
“I decided to change doctors. I was given a woman doctor
and I felt even more uncomfortable,” he said.
“She was unbelievably thorough in examining me, to the
point of being painful. She referred me to have an
After attending the funeral of Sinn Fein councillor and
friend Sean Keenan in July, Mr Ferguson went to the Royal
Victoria Hospital for an ultrasound.
“The consultant told me I had an abnormality. I already
knew that and was beginning to get frustrated. I asked him
to be straight with me. He said he was 70 per cent sure it
was testicular cancer,” he said.
“I walked outside and was in a state of shock. All I could
think was, I’ve got cancer and everybody dies from it. When
I was growing up, it was whispered as the ‘big C’ and
people didn’t talk about it very much.
“The most important thing for me was the impact it would
have on my family. My youngest is only nine.’’
Mr Ferguson had to break the news to his wife Louise by
telephone outside the Royal as she was in England nursing
her father who also has cancer.
“There was a sense of powerlessness but I knew I had to
take control and work out the extent of the cancer and what
implications it would have for my family and my work,’’ he
Mr Ferguson is one of Sinn Fein’s most high-profile
assembly members and the party’s education spokesman.
“Following my diagnosis and surgery I only missed one week
out of five in politics,” he said.
“I was part of the Preparation for Government Committee at
the time. All the meetings were at Stormont. I was lucky in
that physically I recovered very quickly.’’
The surgery was carried out in mid-August.
“I had never had an operation in my life and was nervous
but the theatre nurses were great,” Mr Ferguson said.
“One of my testicles was removed. My consultant asked me if
I wanted to have a replacement artificial testicle fitted
for cosmetic reasons.
“I decided not to as I was afraid of the risk of infection
but I also didn’t see the need for it. But I can understand
why a lot of younger men go for the replacement.”
The tumour, which was very severe, was removed and
analysed. It had not spread to the lymph nodes but had
spread to the blood vessels.
“I was told that I would need two hard cycles of chemo
because of the tumour’s severity,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Once I had my dates for surgery and chemotherapy I decided
to tell my party colleagues. Some of them were the same age
as myself and were stunned. I can remember taking one
person aside and telling him that it was adversity, not
tragedy, and he just shook my hand.’’
Earlier this month Mr Ferguson went through his first cycle
of chemotherapy which lasted for four days.
“I decided to set up my bed as a work station. All my life
I have been very disciplined and that began to kick in,” he
“I kept on taking calls from my constituents about welfare
rights and housing. There were three other guys on the
ward, also with cancer, and we kept each other going.
“Sinn Fein would have been happy enough to let me drop
everything but I wanted to maintain my work because I knew
I was going to make a full recovery.”
Mr Ferguson, who was in prison for eight years during the
1970s, believes his time in jail has helped him cope.
“The day after I was discharged from hospital I just felt
so sorry for myself and wanted to cry. But I got up at 6am
the next morning and went for a three mile jog up the Glen
Road,” he said.
“I would have done 500 press ups every day in jail. All of
the survival skills of not being a victim came back to me
“I did the Dublin marathon in 1983 but have not really ran
since then. It is tough because the side effects of the
chemo means you gets nose bleeds and your eyes stream when
you run but it is giving me control.’’
Mr Ferguson says his biggest strength has been his family.
“My wife Louise has always been strong. She is the talker,”
“My kids have been wonderful too. But cancer has made me
realise that you can get too wrapped up in your work life
and can neglect your family. I won’t allow this to happen
in the future.
“You also have to take the positives out of the negatives.
People think cancer and they think death.
“There are 39,000 people living with cancer in the north
“I am very fortunate. Mine was treatable. But it will be
something I will be living with for the rest of my life.”
Testicular cancer: what to look out for
• Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged
between 15 and 45. There are approximately 40 between 50
men diagnosed are with testicular cancer per year in
* testicular cancer is a growth or tumour which appears in
one of the testicles
* it is not yet known what causes testicular cancer but it
is thought that men who were born with a descended or
partly descended testicle are more likely to develop
• research also indicates that if you have a father or a
brother who has developed the disease you are at increased
• if diagnosed at an early stage, testicular cancer can be
easily treated and is nearly always curable. More than 50
per cent of men consult their doctors after the cancer has
started to spread making it more difficult to treat
• a simple regular check – testicular self examination
(TSE) – could help you to detect the early signs of the
What is TSE?
TSE involves the routine examination of the testicles. It
will help you to know what is normal for you and enable you
to detect any changes early on.
It should be performed regularly, at least once a month,
ideally in a bath or shower when the muscle in the scrotal
sac is more relaxed.
what to look and check for:
• small lumps or hardness
• swelling or Tenderness
• a sensation of dragging or heaviness in the scrotum
• a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
Most lumps are benign (non-cancerous) but a few will be
cancerous and should be treated immediately.
What if it is cancer?
If an abnormality is found, you may be referred for further
investigation. If these tests show that it is cancer, the
affected testicle may be removed or other treatments
recommended. Testicular cancer can be cured if detected at
an early stage.
Treatment should not affect a man’s fertility.
For further advice contact Action Cancer Northern Ireland
at 028 9080 3344
or email email@example.com
Cleric Says IRA Has Lived Up To Its Pledge On Arms
Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor
Methodist minister Rev Harold Good has said there is
growing confidence that the IRA has decommissioned its
arsenals, notwithstanding some suspicions about whether it
had fully disarmed.
A year ago tomorrow Mr Good, with Catholic priest Rev Alec
Reid, provided independent testimony to support the
statement of Gen John de Chastelain's decommissioning body
that the IRA had fully decommissioned.
Next week the Independent Monitoring Commission is due to
publish a report stating that the IRA is keeping to its
pledge to disavow paramilitarism and criminality.
This report is viewed by the British and Irish governments
as a key element in their efforts to persuade the DUP to
share power with Sinn Féin in a restored Northern
Executive. Talks are due to take place in Scotland in the
second week in October on restoring the Executive.
In an article for BBC News Online and the Sunday Life
newspaper, Rev Good said he was aware last year of those
who had "genuine doubts as well as those who, for their own
predictable and political reasons, sought to undermine the
validity of our statement".
But he said that the IRA had honoured its commitments.
"Since that time, not one IRA bullet has been fired and
there is growing confidence in what we declared to be a
fact, even by those who expressed misgivings at the time,"
He suggested that a positive move by Sinn Féin in endorsing
the PSNI could facilitate the completion of the peace
process. "The most obvious remaining obstacle to this
taking place is the issue of policing," added Mr Good.
Meanwhile, two Sinn Féin councillors who resigned from the
party have insisted they have no disagreement with the
republican leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
Mr Patsy Groogan and Mr Oliver Hughes, brother of hunger
striker Francis Hughes, said last night that "domestic and
political differences in south Derry" had compelled them to
resign from Sinn Féin, but that they were not quitting
their positions on Magherafelt Council.
Republican and security sources have referred to rumblings
in south Derry among some Sinn Féin and IRA members with
reports of a number of defections from Sinn Féin and the
Mr Groogan however said there was nothing "sinister" about
their resignations and that they would continue to support
Sinn Féin on the council.
"There is no disagreement with the leadership or with any
of the policies of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams," he
Mr McGuinness said the resignations were most unfortunate.
"Both Patsy and Oliver have made a valuable contribution to
the work of the party. I want to thank them both for their
work and dedication through the years and wish them both
well for the future," he said.
© The Irish Times
Empathy Is Key To Peace, Says Bruton
Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent in New
A lack of empathy between the two communities was the root
of the problem in Northern Ireland, EU Ambassador to the US
John Bruton said at the weekend. Nationalists and unionists
ought to put themselves in the other person's place, "to
actually try to feel as they feel, to fear as they fear, to
understand as they understand, to see as they see".
"Unless you do those things, you are not going to be able
to negotiate effectively, because the secret to a
successful negotiation, as I see it, is finding a way of
achieving what you want in a fashion that satisfies fully
the worries of the person with whom you are doing
business," said Mr Bruton.
The issue was complicated by violence. "At every stage in
Irish history, in the 19th century, the 20th century and
now in the 21st century, the use of violence in the cause
of Ireland has been entirely futile and self-defeating. The
difference between the Treaty and Home Rule did not justify
the major losses of life that occurred," he said.
The former taoiseach was taking part in a panel discussion
at the Park Avenue headquarters of the Mutual of America
life insurance company to mark the New York launch of
Britain and Ireland: Lives Entwined II, the second in a
series of essays on contemporary British-Irish relations
published by the British Council in Ireland. The event is
believed to be the first of its kind to be co-hosted in
this city by the British and Irish governments.
Former Northern Ireland secretary and current co-chairman
of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, Paul Murphy
MP, said there had been "enormously important improvements"
in the relations between the two governments over the last
10 to 15 years.
"And you can't really put, as they say in my part of the
world, a fag-packet between Bertie and Tony and how they've
dealt with issues over the last number of years since the
© The Irish Times
‘Plan B’ Offer To Parties If Talks Fail
By Staff Reporter
The Irish and British governments are drawing up a back-up
plan should there be a failure to restore the assembly.
It has been reported that the two governments are
formulating a ‘Plan B’ for the north in the event of the
political parties failing to agree terms for a power-
sharing assembly by the November 24 deadline.
The alternative plan, entitled ‘New Partnership,’ would see
a greater involvement in the north’s affairs for the
government in the Republic, with economic ties likely to be
It has been reported that the British and Irish governments
have had extensive talks at the highest level about the
post-deadline alternative for the north.
The British and Irish government official line is that
their entire focus is on achieving an agreement by the
November deadline and no details of the alternative will be
given to the parties.
It is believed the new plan will involve an increased role
for the Irish government in the north beyond the provision
of the Good Friday Agreement.
The plan would most likely be unveiled at a British-Irish
summit if the November 24 deadline is passed without
Negotiations between the north’s political parties take
place in Scotland next month.
Churchmen United On Devolution
By Noel McAdam
25 September 2006
Two senior church leaders have appealed for politicians to
make progress towards the restoration of a power sharing
Executive and Assembly.
Catholic Primate Archbishop Sean Brady said where
reasonable assurances had been given on support for law and
order and confirmed, it was difficult to justify the
absence of devolved government.
And senior Methodist Rev Harold Good, one of the two
witnesses to the IRA's decommissioning event last year,
urged the DUP not to impose any more pre-conditions on
Archbishop Brady, speaking in Belfast on Saturday, said he
hoped all those who could make devolution happen "will
consider carefully their responsibility to the greater good
and the benefits of local accountability".
"It is accepted that the tolerance of subversive or
criminal activity is incompatible with responsibility for
the administration or law and order," he said.
"On the other hand, where reasonable assurances have been
given that there is a commitment to support just and
representative institutions of law and order ... it is
difficult to justify the absence of a system of devolved
government, especially of a system which does not have
responsibility for the administration of policing and
Former Methodist President Mr Good warned Republicans would
only accept policing if it paved the way for government by
the November 24 deadline.
"My plea to the parties would be that people need to help
each other, the parties need to move on," he said.
Sinn Fein need to help by dealing with policing and
resolving that issue but Unionists, and the DUP in
particular, need to help by giving good reason to believe
that when this is done there will be no other obstacles in
the way of evolution."
SF Can't 'Trade Off' Backing For Police
Ian Paisley jnr and republicans clash over concessions for
supporting the PSNI and board
By Noel McAdam
25 September 2006
Sinn Fein will not be able to trade support for policing
for new concessions, the DUP has stressed.
Ian Paisley jnr said republicans had to back the PSNI and
join the Policing Board "because it is the right thing to
do" - not as a trade off.
But Sinn Fein accused the DUP of failing the people it
represents - and insisted its terms for "proper policing
would have to be met".
The centrality of policing to any prospect of a political
deal to restore devolution was underlined by the weekend
Policing Board member Mr Paisley jnr insisted: "There is no
quid-pro-quo on policing, it is not a question of people
supporting something in exchange for something else.
"Unionist confidence has to be built up and everybody has
to accept the rule of law" and you could not trade-off
support for law and order against a threat of gangsterism
But Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin told the BBC's
Politics Show: "We have to have local control so that
people can be satisfied that the threshold for a new
beginning to policing has been achieved."
And on a policing deal, he added: "There is no mission -
absolutely none - if you are arguing on the basis of power
being retained at Westminster and MI5 in charge of
His colleague Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle
Gildernew said: "The DUP strategy, rather than undermining
the Good Friday Agreement, actually fails their own
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said, however, Sinn
Fein had to face up to the policing issue, which was now
firmly in its' court.
"They tried bowling short over the years in decommissioning
and they should not repeat this performance," he said.
"They should not delay anymore. Unionists lost faith the
last time because of delays over decommissioning and I am
urging them not to make the same mistake."
And SDLP South Down MP Eddie McGrady also said support for
policing should not be a pre-condition.
"If you accept democratic society you are duty bound to
support the police in the performance of their duties, it
should not be a pre-condition for anything at all," he
Parties Clash Angrily On Policing
Sinn Fein and SDLP politicians have clashed over policing
at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference.
SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell accused Sinn Fein of
orchestrating a campaign of attacks against members of
District Policing Partnerships.
Sinn Fein assembly member John O'Dowd angrily rejected
He said SDLP MLA PJ Bradley's claims at the meeting that he
had been personally threatened by a Sinn Fein politician
should be reported to the police.
The meeting, arranged by the Agreed Ireland Forum, was
otherwise without incident, with both parties agreeing on
the need for the restoration of devolution.
The keynote speaker, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain,
said if the politicians failed to reach a deal at next
month's intensive talks in Scotland, the British and Irish
governments would not go chasing after them.
"Do not believe for a moment that an incoming prime
minister to replace Tony Blair - probably and in my view it
ought to be Gordon Brown - is going to be able to give the
same concentrated, detailed, expert attention to Northern
Ireland as Tony Blair has done," he added.
Devolution was suspended in October 2002 over allegations
of a republican spy ring.
The court case that followed collapsed and one of those
charged, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a
The British government has laid down 24 November as the
deadline for a deal to be reached over the restoration of
The main parties meet in the Scottish town of St Andrews
next month for intensive talks.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/09/25 07:54:49 GMT
© BBC MMVI
'Bloodbath' Could Hit Plans For Devolution, Warns Sir Reg
By Mark Hookham and Noel McAdam
25 September 2006
A Labour Party "bloodbath" could jeopardise efforts to
restore devolution, Sir Reg Empey was due to warn today.
The UUP leader was expected to deliver a stark warning to
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that rows over the succession
of the Labour Party could "distract minds and attention"
ahead of the November 24 deadline.
Speaking at a fringe meeting, Sir Reg was due to urge Mr
Blair and Secretary of State Peter Hain to be "totally
focused" on efforts to forge an all-party agreement.
The Ulster Unionist boss is among a number of Northern
Ireland politicians due to attend the gathering in
Manchester this week, which will also include SDLP leader
Mark Durkan, Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty and a representative
from the DUP.
Northern Ireland and the November 24 deadline were also
expected to be mentioned in Tony Blair's last conference
speech tomorrow and also in an address by Secretary of
State Peter Hain.
Mr Durkan and Sinn Fein Assembly member John O'Dowd went
head-to-head at a fringe event last night and all the
parties are due to attend a champ breakfast tomorrow.
With Mr Hain is currently attempting to garner support
behind his deputy leadership bid, Sir Reg was due to say:
"An internal Labour Party bloodbath could distract minds
and attention from resolving once and for all the blockages
standing in the way of a return to devolution in Northern
"My party has been through this cycle before. It wasn't
good for us and it won't be good for you.
"I would ask that circumstances are created that ensure
that both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State are
able to be totally focused on the task ahead in October,
and we create the best possible atmosphere for a positive
His warning comes as Mr Blair risked reopening Labour's
wounds by declining to back Gordon Brown to succeed him.
In an eve-of-conference interview, the prime minister was
asked several times if he would endorse the chancellor -
the overwhelming favourite to take over at No 10 next year.
In the past, Mr Blair has predicted Mr Brown would make a
"brilliant prime minister" and the Chancellor is known to
have sought his endorsement.
But yesterday, Mr Blair declined to express a preference
about his successor, insisting it would distract from
attempts this week to ensure Labour "reconnected" with the
Mr Brown was due to today deliver what is widely being seen
as the most important speech of his career - one which
could make or break his leadership ambitions.
It is understood Mr Brown will say: "New Labour will never
retreat but positively entrench our position in the centre
ground - in the mainstream as
a party of reform."
Meanwhile, Sir Reg was due to also accuse Sinn Fein and the
DUP of "trying to dribble the ball for as long as possible
for internal party political reasons".
And he will say the Government has not done enough to hold
to account the commitments previously given by other
Northern Ireland parties.
"Because of this lack of holding to account, the Secretary
of State should understand the scepticism that has existed
about the 24th November deadline.
"Never before in this process has any deadline been kept;
look at decommissioning for example."
PM's Supporters Back 'Dream Ticket' Of Johnson And Reid
By Andrew Grice
25 September 2006
A dream ticket of Alan Johnson and John Reid is being
discussed by ultra-Blairites in an attempt to prevent
Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister.
Tony Blair declined to endorse Mr Brown as his favoured
successor yesterday but said he did not draw back from his
previous comments about his Chancellor - including a
statement that he would make a brilliant prime minister.
Mr Blair's refusal to give Mr Brown an immediate
endorsement will fuel speculation that a heavyweight
contender may emerge to challenge the Chancellor for the
leadership. The proposed Johnson-Reid double act is seen by
some Blairites as a combination that would enable Labour to
reforge the wide coalition of electoral support which
enabled it to win power in 1997.
Under the plan, either the Home Secretary or the Education
Secretary would run for the leadership and the other for
the deputy's post as his running mate. A decision on who
would stand for which post would depend on their level of
support among Labour MPs, party members and trade unions;
each group has a third of the votes in Labour's electoral
One prominent Blairite said: "Reid and Johnson would be a
powerful team. They would complement each other, with John
as the hard cop and Alan as the soft cop. As a duo, they
would appeal to all sections of the electorate."
Mr Reid and Mr Johnson kept their leadership options open
yesterday. But the Home Secretary hinted that Mr Brown
should not be seen as Mr Blair's automatic successor. He
told ITV1's The Sunday Edition: "People want to see that
there will be an open, transparent discussion on a wide
range of issues and not some smoke-filled room deal, like
the Labour Party used to engage in."
Allies of Mr Blair insist he has not decided whether to say
the election of a new leader is a matter for the party and
endorse no one or to give an eventual endorsement to one
He is said to believe that Mr Brown will win the leadership
election and some aides believe he will eventually support
the Chancellor. But they suggest he wants to be convinced
that Mr Brown would stick to a Blairite reform agenda and
run a "collegiate" cabinet which would include Blair
In a BBC interview, Mr Blair warned that his party would
risk losing power if it turned its back on his New Labour
He appeared to give only lukewarm support to a plan by Mr
Brown to set up an NHS board to take day-to-day decisions
on health out of ministers' hands. "We should debate it.
But the most important thing in my own view for the health
service is to keep the reform programme going," he said.
Blair advisers said the NHS was "not the same" as the Bank
of England, to which Mr Brown handed interest rate
decisions in 1997. One said: "The Bank takes only one
clear-cut decision. The NHS is much more complicated and it
may be difficult to draw the line between tactics and
strategy. There is already a large amount of devolution in
Asked if he wanted Mr Brown to succeed him, Mr Blair
refused to be drawn, saying Labour must use the conference
to "reconnect" with people after going "Awol from the
British public" during the recent outbreak of infighting.
"Gordon has been a fantastic chancellor," Mr Blair said.
"He's been a great servant of the country and the party - I
don't resile from anything I've said before." He added:
"Don't read anything into what I'm saying that is
disrespectful or contrary to the interests of anybody,
The Prime Minister denied any ideological split at the top
of the party and called for a "unified direction" to be
agreed on policy. He said it was important for him to "play
a role" in ensuring Labour had "the big answers to the big
questions" facing the country.
He denied trying to tie Mr Brown's hands. "After you go,
it's up to people to decide what to do, and that's for the
new people to take on."
* Public confidence in Gordon Brown as the next prime
minister fell from 36 per cent earlier in the year to 27
per cent, according to a YouGov poll in The Daily
Telegraph. The proportion thinking he would probably fail
as a prime minister has risen from 33 per cent to 44 per
Ulster Not A Priority For Brown Warns Hain
By Mark Hookham
25 September 2006
Gordon Brown will not place Northern Ireland high on his
priority list if devolution has not been restored by the
time he becomes Prime Minister, Peter Hain has warned.
The Secretary of State warned that Mr Brown - widely
expected to take over from Mr Blair within a year - will
not be able to give the same "concentrated, detailed,
expert attention" to Ulster politics as his predecessor.
Northern Ireland will have to take its place in a queue of
more pressing issues for the new incumbent of No 10.
Mr Hain's stark warning came at a fringe meeting of
Labour's annual conference in Manchester.
Mr Brown is known to be planning a dramatic first '100
days' of ambitious policy pledges and reforms.
But crucially, Mr Hain believes that, should efforts to
restore devolution collapse, Northern Ireland will not be
high on his priority list.
The secrtetary of state said: "Do not believe for a moment
that an incoming Prime Minister to replace Tony Blair,
probably and in my view it ought to be Gordon Brown, is
going to be able to give the same concentrated detailed
expert attention to Northern Ireland as Tony Blair has
"That's simply not going to happen.
"An incoming Prime Minister will have a range of issues on
the agenda to tackle and Northern Ireland will take its
place in the queue, but is not going to be very high up in
the queue for obvious reasons."
Orange Protest At Drumcree Attracts Small Crowd
Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor, at Drumcree
A parade and rally at Drumcree to mark the 3,000th day of
the Orange Order's Drumcree protest passed off peacefully
on Saturday night despite nationalist warnings that it
could trigger disturbances.
Portadown Orange Order leaders had urged thousands of
members and supporters to turn up for the parade from
Portadown town centre to the rally point at Drumcree
bridge. But just 500 Orangemen parading behind three bands,
comprising 75 members, attended.
Local Garvaghy Road residents succeeded in a legal
challenge on Friday to compel the Parades Commission to
review its decision not to impose any restrictions on the
parade and rally. It ruled that just 1,000 Orangemen and
100 supporters could participate. Yet just half that number
attended on Saturday evening.
Local Orange leaders put on a brave face about their
protest but privately others conceded that the turnout was
disappointing and that it reflected how Drumcree was no
longer a major issue.
The bowler-hatted, sober-suited Orangemen paraded past St
John's Catholic Church on the top of the Garvaghy Road
around 6.30pm on Saturday to the sound of a single
drumbeat. A small crowd of nationalists gathered to watch
the parade pass. A couple of younger nationalists in Celtic
jerseys taunted "two-nil", a reference to Celtic's defeat
of Rangers in a soccer game that afternoon.
A couple of supporters of the Orangemen made taunts about
"Mickybo", a reference to Catholic teenager Michael
McIlveen murdered in a sectarian attack in Ballymena during
the summer. These taunts were condemned later by
The Orangemen paraded past Drumcree Church of Ireland
church to the bridge where, since July 1998, their parades
have been prevented from going on to the Garvaghy Road.
DUP MP David Simpson told the subdued crowd - this "vast
audience", as he described them - that the Parades
Commission, was "part of the problem, not part of the
© The Irish Times
Calls For Action After Protesters Mock Murdered Catholic Teen
By Barry McCaffrey
Nationalists last night called for the Parades Commission
to take action after loyalists mocked the murder of a
Catholic teenager during a weekend march to Drumcree.
Sinn Fein, SDLP and Garvaghy Road residents’ spokesman
Breandan MacCionnaith all criticised taunts from loyalist
march supporters about the murder of Ballymena teenager
Michael McIlveen as an Orange Order parade passed St John
the Baptist Catholic Church en route to Drumcree on
In May the 15-year-old schoolboy was killed after being
attacked by a gang in Ballymena.
There was anger in July when a flag mocking the teenager’s
death was burned on a loyalist bonfire in Ballymena.
The insults were the only incident in an otherwise peaceful
Condemning the taunts, Sinn Fein assembly member John
O’Dowd said: “I think it was sick and sad but I am glad
that everything went off without incident otherwise.’’
Commenting on the fact that the parades commission had been
forced to review its original decision not to impose
restrictions on the parade following an eleventh hour legal
challenge by nationalist residents, he said: “I expect the
Parades Commission to make right the mistakes which they
made during the last fortnight.
“I also expect the Orange Order to finally realise that the
only way this issue can be resolved is by them sitting down
and talking to nationalist residents.”
SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly also criticised the
“There wouldn’t have been as many people turning up to
watch this march if the Parades Commission had issued the
right determination in the first place,” she said.
“Because of the way the commission acted over this parade
more nationalists turned out to watch it than were here on
“I am thankful that it went off without incident apart from
the disgraceful taunts about the death of Michael McIlveen.
“It is now time for the Orange Order to get into direct
dialogue with nationalists.”
Nationalist residents spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said
he believed there was no longer support for a parade along
the Garvaghy Road.
“I believe it is all over in terms of a major parades
issue,’’ he said.
“[Orange Order spokesman] David Jones made a public call
for people from across the six counties to come and support
Portadown district but no Orangemen answered the call.
“They must finally realise now that the only way forward is
through direct dialogue.’’
An estimated 500 people took part in Saturday’s parade.
Earlier that day the Parades Commission had been forced to
carry out a review of the numbers allowed to take part
after a successful legal challenge by nationalist
There was a visibly low key security presence at Drumcree
itself with none of the barriers or barbed wire seen in
There was no British army presence and only two police land
rovers watching the rally from the ‘nationalist’ side of
On Ballyoran Park overlooking Drumcree the traditional
sound of a helicopter overhead was replaced by a man on a
small tractor cutting his lawn.
Inside Drumcree field, which in the late 1990s looked more
like a battlefield with miles of barbed wire and trenches,
a dozen cows looked on in bemusement at the unexpected
The only barrier to Orangemen entering Garvaghy Road on
Saturday was an articulated lorry used to address the
Portadown district master Darryl Hewitt criticised
nationalist residents and the commission.
“We have seen the work of the Garavghy Road Residents’
Coalition over the past two weeks,’’ he said.
“They are very happy when the Parades Commission make a
determination in their favour but appeal to the UK court
system when it doesn’t.
“We will be consistent and state that we call, once again,
for the abolition of the Parades Commission.
“I am sure that a large number of people, including the UK
government and the security forces would have believed,
‘let them stay there, they’re Protestants and they will
soon forget about it and go home’.
“However we didn’t go home, we haven’t forgotten about it
and our resolve is as strong as ever.
“We will, with your help and support, parade our
traditional route back into Portadown via the Garvaghy
Upper Bann Democratic Unionist MP David Simpson accused
republicans of exploiting the parades issue.
“Sinn Fein personnel at the head of protest organisations
have used their position to poison community relations and
demonise their Protestant neighbours,’’ he said.
“The failure of government and bias of the Parades
Commission has allowed them to block progress for years.
“This must end and basic human rights be granted again to
the Portadown brethren!”
Urging nationalists to allow a parade along Garvaghy Road,
he said: “Isn’t it time for you to leave behind those who
have sought to use you to prevent progress, isn’t it time
to bring down the curtain on those who seek to keep
“Isn’t it time to say live and let live?
“We believe it so and we would urge you to throw-off the
shackles of Breandan MacCionnaith and the other outriders
of Sinn Fein/IRA’s vision of sectarian conflict and
MLA Fears For His Family After Thugs Launch 15th Attack
Petrol bombers aim to kill, says SDLP man
By Deborah McAleese
25 September 2006
Persecuted SDLP councillor Pat Ramsey last night said he
was having to "reconsider his options" in a bid to keep his
family safe after the latest in a series of sinister
attacks on his home.
The Londonderry councillor's Meenan Drive home came under
attack for the 15th time in two-and-a-half years after it
was petrol bombed on Saturday evening.
Mr Ramsey said he was certain that those behind the
campaign of intimidation are determined to kill somebody
and added that he feared for the safety of his family.
"I do feel that someone is ultimately determined to cause
"I am just sick, sore and tired of these endless attacks on
our home and our family," he said.
"First and foremost I am a father and a husband. My number
one priority is my children and my wife.
"But I feel completely helpless because I cannot protect my
family from these dangerous and nasty people.
"I feel sick when I see how badly traumatised my family is.
I need to be doing something. I can't allow my family to
continue going through this.
"We do not feel safe any longer in our home. Those
responsible for ongoing attacks have ensured that our house
is a place of fear.
"My children and my wife have fear of going to sleep at
night, in case someone comes to target the house while they
The device was thrown at the back wall of Councillor
Ramsey's home just before 10pm on Saturday. Mr Ramsey was
not at home at the time of the attack but his daughter was
and, he said, she was left badly shaken.
"I am very thankful for the quick actions of two of my
neighbours who put out the flames last night," he added.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said: "We are all thankful that no-
one was injured or killed, but the people who threw this
petrol bomb at Pat's house had no regard for the safety of
anyone inside. The whole community in Derry is angered at
the ongoing campaign being waged against the Ramseys."
Rioters Clash With Police In Derry
Distrubances in Derry broke out involving a crowd of up to
The violence erupted in the Bann Drive area of the city
Police arrested one person for disorderly behaviour.
Bottles and other missiles were hurled at police vehicles
but there have been no injuries reported to officers or
The stand-off between the police and rioters centred on the
interface between the mainly loyalist Irish Street estate
and the Top-of-the-Hill area in the city`s Waterside.
Sinn Fein councillor Lynn Fleming said: "The trouble
started earlier in the evening and involved young people
who were throwing stones at police Land Rovers.
"It quietened down for a while but there are still people
A community worker from the Irish Street area, Michelle
Hayden, said the trouble started when youths began throwing
stones at the estate.
"It escalated when youths from the Top-of-the-Hill went to
charge into the area and at the time the stones and bottles
were flying over," she said.
"It ended up with local politicians moving into the Top-of-
the-Hill and pushing people back.
"It is fairly quiet now but there was some damage to the
police vehicles and there are huge boulders lying in the
middle of the road."
She added it was fortunate that nobody had been hurt and
appealed for calm.
Sinn Fein councillor Lynn Fleming said that those who took
part in the riots are “enemies of this community and if
they are not disrupting their own community, they are up
trying to disrupt the community in Irish Street."
She added that she intends to speak to the parents of some
of those involved and hopefully come about bringing an end
to this type of trouble in the future.
DUP councillor Drew Thompson said some of those involved in
the riots were "no older than nine years of age."
Delayed Omagh Trial Due To Start
Relatives' families get their day in court after eight
By Jonathan McCambridge
25 September 2006
Relatives of the Omagh bombing victims were gathering today
for the start of the trial of the man accused of carrying
out the biggest act of mass murder during The Troubles.
The case against Sean Hoey (37) - who denies 29 murders and
multiple terrorist offences - had been due to begin earlier
this month but was dramatically postponed after his lawyer
Families of some of the victims, who have waited more than
eight years for justice, will be travelling to Belfast
Crown Court while others will watch the proceedings on a
unique live video link which has been set up at Omagh
The trial is expected to be one of the most expensive ever
in Northern Ireland.
Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph reveal that more
than £80,000 of legal aid payments have already been made
before the case opens.
A spokesman for the Legal Services Commission confirmed to
this newspaper that Hoey, of Molly Road, Jonesborough in Co
Armagh, was in receipt of legal aid and that interim
payments had been made to expert witnesses.
He added: "To date £81,952.20 has been paid in this case.
"This figure will be subject to scrutiny and assessment and
may well be changed following the Taxing Masters review at
the end of the case.
"This total incorporates seven separate interim
disbursement payments to expert witnesses."
The no-warning 500lb bomb ripped through the Tyrone town in
August 1998, killing 29 people, including the mother of
unborn twins, and injuring hundreds.
Michael Gallagher, who lost his son in the atrocity, said
he hoped that today would mark the beginning of the road to
justice for the families.
"We are ready.
"I did not sleep too well last night. We have waited eight
years for this day.
"The least that we expect is that the process of justice
Mr Gallagher said he would be travelling to Belfast for the
beginning of the trial.
Other members of the community would be watching the trial
Last week the Court Service confirmed that a video link had
been set up between the court and Omagh College.
The unprecedented link will run for the duration of the
trial and will include a 42-inch plasma TV and a projector
The trial, which will be presided over by Mr Justice Weir,
is expected to take in excess of four months. It is one of
the last major non-jury trials in Northern Ireland.
The prosecution case will be opened by senior counsel
Gordon Kerr QC. The prosecution case is largely built
around forensic evidence allegedly uncovered from low copy
number DNA testing.
Hoey will be defended by Orlando Pownall QC. It was Mr
Pownall's viral infection which delayed the beginning of
the trial. It also emerged that he had appeared in court in
Belfast without a practising certificate for this
jurisdiction but that has since been resolved.
Hoey faces a total of 58 charges relating not only to the
Omagh bomb atrocity, but to six other murder conspiracies,
five bombings, four bomb conspiracies, and the possession
of explosives including timer power units, mortar bombs and
The six murder conspiracies against members of the security
forces were allegedly planned for Blackwaterstown Road,
Armagh, Altmore Forest, Dungannon, The G30 Military Base,
Crossmaglen and Forkhill RUC/Army Base, Belleek RUC Station
and Newry RUC Station.
Hoey also denies and is charged with possessing bomb timer
power units and causing mortar bomb explosions at
Crossmaglen, Forkhill, Belleek and Newry RUC Station.
President's Praise For Catholic Lawyers Killed In Northern Ireland
Posted on September 25, 2006
By The Universe's Northern Ireland Correspondent Carmel
Irish President Mary McAleese has praised two
Catholic lawyers murdered during the Northern Ireland
troubles as "believing passionately in the rule of law."
At the opening of a conference in London - on defending the
rule of law against the background of international
terrorism - organised by the Law Society of England and
Wales, she highlighted "respect for the human person" as a
key value and key test of the credentials of the rule of
"Terrorism does exactly the opposite," she stated.
Lawyers' independence, professionalism and courage, she
argued, were crucial if the rule of law were to "flourish
Referring to the brutal murders of Pat Finucane and
Rosemary Nelson "in circumstances yet to be fully
clarified," she said.
"You can be sure that what stuck in their murderers’ craw
was not some skewed or conveniently-invented belief that
the solicitors were the mouthpieces of the alleged
terrorsts they defended - but rather that they were
awesomely, miraculously, stunningly independent and
The British Irish Rights Watch welcomed the President’s
praise for the two lawyers "who were often maligned for
simply doing their work." A spokesperson said the President
has set the record straight and praised them as courageous
lawyers who defended each and every one of their clients to
the best of their ability."
The President also pointed to the cases of the Guildford
Four, the Maguire family and the Birmingham Six as examples
of the "tragic consequences" when the rights of individuals
Inquiry Into Ahern Funding Goes Beyond Legal Bill
Friends of Bertie Ahern are said to have given €30,000 for
legal fees, but tribunal inquiries go beyond this, writes
There is no necessary conflict between the amount of money
this newspaper has said the Mahon tribunal is investigating
in relation to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the amounts
which have been quoted by sources close to Mr Ahern.
The Irish Times reported that the tribunal is investigating
payments to Mr Ahern totalling €50,000 to €100,000, some of
which was paid in cash. Mr Ahern has stated that the figure
is "off the wall" but has not given a figure himself.
Sources close to Mr Ahern have said something in the region
of €30,000 was collected, to settle legal fees Mr Ahern
himself has said were connected with his marital
Friends and associates of Mr Ahern may well have
collectively contributed approximately €30,000 to Mr Ahern
so that he could settle a legal bill. However, it has been
established from sources outside the tribunal that it is
also inquiring into other money over and above the money
used to settle the legal bill.
Mr Ahern said last week: "I would say nobody, nobody has
given as much detail and co-operation to the tribunals over
several years . . . I gave them all the information about
my separation case and all the information about my legal
fees and how I funded everything, but they're personal
In fact, there is information the tribunal is seeking but
which Mr Ahern is contesting its right to have.
As reported in The Irish Times last week, matters to do
with the inquiry into Mr Ahern's finances are to be the
subject of a High Court hearing next month. The tribunal
wants information on payments and assets associated with Mr
Ahern's separation but Mr Ahern is contesting the
tribunal's right to inquire into family law areas that are
usually privileged and highly confidential.
Another issue which has arisen is whether the money given
to Mr Ahern was by way of donations or loans.
When asked last Thursday if he had paid tax on the monies
he had received, Mr Ahern said that he had "dealt properly"
with the payments.
As reported on Saturday, sources have said that the monies
given to Mr Ahern to help him settle his legal bills were
given in the form of loans. Sources also said that not all
of the money loaned in 1993 had been returned. Mr Ahern has
not commented on this aspect of the matter.
Loans do not give rise to a tax liability. However,
donations from non-family members give rise to capital
acquisitions or gift tax. In 1993, the situation was that a
person could receive up to £11,450 without incurring a gift
tax liability. This allowance was not an annual but a
cumulative one, i.e. it was for all gifts received up to
Above £11,450, a person paid 20 per cent tax on the next
£10,000, 30 per cent on the next £40,000, and 35 per cent
thereafter. However, if the money received was by way of
gifts, rather than inheritance, the total tax due was
reduced by 25 per cent.
So gifts totalling £25,000 would lead to a £2,298 tax bill
while gifts totalling £60,000 would lead to a £13,565 tax
In separation cases, the funds received by one spouse from
another do not give rise to a tax liability.
A final issue which has arisen has to do with the work of
tribunals. Tribunals investigate and report on issues set
out and defined in their terms of reference. A tribunal may
not call evidence on matters that are not relevant to its
terms of reference and it can only make findings on matters
that have been heard in evidence.
The tribunal's private inquiries into the payments to Mr
Ahern are so that it can satisfy itself that none of the
money he received came from the property developer Owen
O'Callaghan. In the early 1990s, Mr O'Callaghan had a very
strong interest in the decisions that were made or not made
by Mr Ahern, as minister for finance, concerning locations
that would be designated for special tax treatment. This
related to his Quarryvale project, which later became the
Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.
If, in its private inquiries, the tribunal finds that Mr
Ahern's finances reveal no links going back to Mr
O'Callaghan, there will be no reason why it should call
public evidence on the matter. It may simply state that Mr
Ahern's finances have been trawled through, with no
evidence found to support an allegation of a payment from
Mr O'Callaghan. For this reason, the often stated position
that these matters are best left to the tribunals and
should not be explained or pursued in public does not
apply. If Mr Ahern does not explain who paid what in 1993,
and why, then most likely the matter never will be
Weekend comments: what Ahern said
SATURDAY: statement - "Like all of the newspapers and
everyone else involved with the tribunal, I cannot disclose
or discuss confidential matters relating to the tribunal. I
responded to the leak on Thursday, having notified the
tribunal of that leak and in order to prevent the truth
from being distorted. I have never received a bribe in my
life. Everybody knows and sees that my lifestyle is as
simple as it is honest. I have broken no law or violated
any code of ethics."
SUNDAY: K Club - At the Ryder Cup to present the trophy
yesterday, Mr Ahern had his lunch in the prestigious Boyne
Suite overlooking the 18th green as a guest of Fáilte
Ireland, along with a number of Ministers, including John
O'Donoghue, Mary Harney and Dick Roche. Mr Ahern said he
was enjoying the Ryder Cup.
"In spite of the weather it's been perfect, it's great to
be here," he said. "It's been really well done, superbly
organised." Asked whether he would make a statement on the
payments issue, he said "I'm not going to talk about that
© The Irish Times
Two Sinn Fein Councillors Leave The Party
By Bimpe Fatogun
TWO Sinn Fein councillors have left the party over an
apparent split within its south Derry branch.
Oliver Hughes and Patsy Groogan, members of Magherafelt
District Council, have left the party over “major domestic
political differences in south Derry”.
Speaking yesterday Mr Hughes, a brother of hunger striker
Francis Hughes, said neither he nor Mr Groogan were willing
to make their problems public.
“Myself and councillor Groogan have left the party,” he
“We will still hold out seats on Magherafelt District
Council and support the Sinn Fein group on the council
whenever we see fit.”
“I would also like to make the point that we do not have
any disagreement with the leadership of the republican
“Our reasons for resigning are the result of major domestic
political difficulties within the republican movement in
“All sides have agreed that we would not debate our
difficulties in public.”
Last month a meeting was due to take place in Co Antrim to
discuss growing disillusionment among some republicans
about the Sinn Fein leadership.
However, the meeting was cancelled at short notice.
Real IRA and Continuity IRA members were due to attend,
along with 40 Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein members who had
Meanwhile, a Sinn Fein Magherafelt councillor has been
appointed president of the Northern Ireland Local
Sean McPeake replaces DUP councillor Peter Weir of North
Down Borough Council.
A Voice In The Desert?
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams travelled to the Middle East a
few weeks ago in the role of peace-maker - UTV's Fearghal
McKinney, who followed him there with the Insight current
affairs team, asks: was anybody listening?
25 September 2006
Gerry Adams travelled to Israel a few weeks ago. His
message? That Israelis and Palestinians had an option other
than war. They must talk, he told them.
At Adams's press conferencein the American Colony Hotel in
downtown Jerusalem, who should be there but Nobel laureate
Mairead Corrigan Maguire - who for years has been telling
republicans and loyalists they must talk peace. Rich irony
It was entirely coincidental - she was there championing
the cause of Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordachai
Vanunu, who spent 18 years in jail.
It was fascinating to meet this woman, whose story
dominated the headlines two decades ago, and which I had
read so voraciously just a few years into my journalistic
Republicans have for years claimed solidarity with the PLO
- citing a common cause with a perceived aggressor.
Despite the longstanding relationship, and although he had
been invited many times before, this was Adams' first visit
to the Middle East.
The American Colony Hotel is aptly named. With echoes of
the past, its sheer opulence is an oasis after the dusty
heat of Jerusalem.
Cool breezes blow through the courtyard restaurant, where
Mr Adams based himself during his two-day stay. What a
contrast to the next day's itinerary.
It was overwhelming to see the scale of the wall being
built by Israel - ostensibly as a security measure against
suicide bombers - but seen as a land-grab device by
Many people have had their lands cut in two as this
enormous 24ft high and over 400 mile long concrete
structure marches into the West Bank.
Adams was taken there by Irish consular car. He was asked
if republicans were well placed to criticise such a
structure, but he dismissed that question, adding that it
was his job as an internationalist to, "shine a light".
We travelled to Bethlehem to see the impact of this
From where we stood outside the town you could almost see
it marching closer - with its planned route through strips
of land already carved out by Israeli soldiers.
You could only feel sympathy for the old man, whose olive
trees date back through generations of his family.
Every day he watches the wall coming closer, ultimately
denying him access to half his land.
However you view the wall, it has strangled Bethlehem.
There is no one on the roads. Taxis, permanently empty, are
parked up on both sides of the street.
At the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Christ,
one would normally be jostled by tourists.
Now you're harangued by beggars and those eager to tell you
the story of His birth - for a fee.
Bethlehem is the holy city its inhabitants now call hell.
It's a wall that may protect on one side - but it is
building up sullen resistance on the other.
And that resistance is reflected in the growing support for
the extremist group Hamas.
Internationally, the message to Palestinians is to embrace
They did - but voted in extremists as the majority party.
The Israelis have imprisoned half of them for supporting
In the end, we managed to talk to one of Hamas's senior
politicians who is based in Bethlehem. He'd just been
released from jail after four and a half years.
It wasn't a matter of meeting him at his office. Securing
the interview involved waiting on a street in Bethlehem
before being led by a man to a building nearby. It was only
then that Sheikh Khalid Ibrahim Tafesh was brought in to
speak to us.
Sheikh Tafesh's view is that Hamas is not against
negotiating, as long as Palestinians are granted their
But, in truth, there is not a peace process in the Middle
East. They're still some way off talks about talks. And the
wall is a stark reminder of the divide.
In that sense, Gerry Adams got to deliver a message that
was, in effect, little heard. Middle East commentators
interpret his trip as being more about a 'back home' photo
opportunity ahead of the southern election.
They see him using the trip to paint himself as an
international statesman - justifying struggle in the Middle
East and elsewhere in an attempt to give it legitimacy in
Leaving Israel, we experienced its long goodbye.
Essentially, the message was: don't come back.
Standing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv at five in the
morning, the equipment we carried clearly marked us out as
journalists. And that ensured us each a lengthy grilling
from several security personnel who then took further time
to cross-reference our stories.
And mention of our visit to the Palestinian Presidential
compound at Ramallah in the West Bank - home to Israel's
enemies - didn't do anything to speed up the unpleasant
Insight: War and Peace, Tonight, 8pm, UTV
Opin: Learning From Past Mistakes
(Editorial, Irish News)
A report released yesterday (Friday) by the British
government dealt with the aftermath of the suicide bombings
that claimed 52 lives in London on July 7 last year,
recounting the many stories of human suffering.
The Home Office reviewed the response of the emergency
services to the bombings and while it commended the hard
work of rescuers and medical teams, it quite rightly
highlighted ways in which systems could be improved.
There were distressing accounts of how relatives struggled
to find information on the whereabouts of missing loved
ones, while walking wounded had made their own way home
from the scenes of the blasts without receiving medical
It is vital the authorities take note of the mistakes which
occurred on that dreadful day and ensure they are not
But as governments around the world struggle to cope with
the changing international climate, President Mary McAleese
this week recommended that as we move to protect society,
we should also protect the legal rights of the individual.
Addressing the Law Society of England and Wales in London,
the president cited miscarriages of justice which occurred
during the Troubles.
She recalled the treatment of the Maguire family, the
Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, while also
applauding what she described as the 'stunning'
independence of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary
The president offered valuable advice to all those
interested in meeting the threats facing the modern world
when she told her audience: "Consistency in showing respect
for the human person is a key value and a key test of the
credentials of the rule of law. Terrorism does exactly the
President McAleese was reminding us all of the wisdom of
learning the lessons of the past.
September 25, 2006
Opin: An Open Letter From Dermot Nesbitt Of The Ulster Unionist Party To The Secretary Of State, Peter Hain
25 September 2006
Dear secretary of state,
You recently spoke at the British Irish Association,
focusing on unionism. I feel I must respond.
I am sure your words were all carefully chosen, but they do
not reflect my view of unionism.
You said it was not easy to understand "the lingering sense
of insecurity which runs deep in the unionist community".
You mentioned some things that should relieve this
insecurity such as: the "principle of consent" and "the
physical force tradition in mainstream republicanism has,
belatedly, come to an end".
You admitted that assurances "from British Secretaries of
State have a tendency to be counter productive".
You're right and I'll tell you why: I am not insecure about
my own unionist position within modern liberal democratic
values, but I do have a concern that you, on behalf of the
Government, lack a clear moral and political compass when
it comes to Northern Ireland, since you do not follow
At this stage - using your words - you'll probably dismiss
me as "trapped in old hatreds nor up to new challenges". If
that's the case then I need to explain further.
You believe unionism has misread "Northern Ireland's place
in the modern world" and that we cannot proceed if we
remain insulated from that development.
You add we are "not immune from global events" and
"Northern Ireland is not unique, as some like to think". (I
presume 'some' refers to unionism?) You mentioned other
conflicts such as the Basque region and the Middle East.
What a turnaround in Government's attitude. Mr Hain, until
this recent speech of yours, the Government's attitude was
that Northern Ireland was indeed unique and, as a
consequence, needed a unique solution.
You're right. We're not alone, there are many other
countries which wrestle with conflicting national
Unlike Government, I have never viewed our problem as
unique - I have stated this publicly many times.
I note that Sinn Fein's position is the same as yours.
Gerry Adams, while visiting the Middle East recently and
comparing it with Northern Ireland, stated "there are key
conflict resolution principles" and these include "respect
for human rights and international law".
What's new, Mr Hain? Sinn Fein and the Government singing
from the same hymn sheet. Unionism isn't fooled.
By bringing up global politics and a rights agenda, Sinn
Fein gives the impression of being both modern and
Yet at the very core of its policy is a form of aggressive
nationalism that has long been rejected by modern
And you, Mr Hain, by accepting Sinn Fein's refusal to
recognise the policing institutions, are ignoring
democratic standards, to which you are supposedly
committed, while contributing significantly to the lack of
political progress here.
The right of Sinn Fein to be in government carries with it,
by way of international standards, the responsibility to
demonstrate absolute commitment to democratic values.
This requires acceptance of the legitimacy and authority of
the state, including its police. Acceptance now, not at
some vague future date, and not at the price of sacrifice
of principle and betrayal of promise.
Let me be positive. Our problem is solvable but what
threatens to make it unsolvable is for you to still believe
that Northern Ireland is unique (though you imply
otherwise) and that the problem can be tackled only by
advocating a fudge concerning international democratic
I fully understand people's deep disillusionment with
politics reflected by issues like rates and water charges.
But these issues reflect symptoms and are not the cause of
our problem - the lack of local democratic accountability.
Returning to your global dimension, the Prime Minister has
stated that what the people in the Middle East want "is
progress towards democracy, liberty, human rights, the same
as the rest of us". He added: "It's important that the will
of the international community is obeyed."
My question is simple. Since commitments to international
standards of human rights and democracy are clearly at the
heart of the Government's foreign policy, how much greater
is its responsibility to ensure that these are honoured
within the United Kingdom itself?
You said recently about MLAs: "It will be them that walk
away, not us." Who is it that is walking away from their
obligations? I invite you to consider fully the
international community's standards for resolving our
problem, to which the Government is committed to
implementing, and then consider, is it unionism that will
cause Northern Ireland to become a political failure?
Opin: Put Hain Back In The Tardis
By Pól Ó Muirí
25 September 2006
Peter Hain has revealed plan B - it is business, show
business. Hain suggests the North needs a Doctor Who-style
series to buck us up.
"I have seen the electrifying impact on Wales of the
production of the excellent Doctor Who series. I want
something similar for Northern Ireland," he said.
Mr Hain is going to fix all our troubles with a sonic
screwdriver. Hain's statement just shows how little he
knows about us. We have been living the Doctor Who
experience for 30 years. We might not have Doctor Who
himself but we do have the Doc. He has been around a lot
longer than any time lord and has regenerated himself any
number of times.
The Tardis - Time and Relative Dimensions in Space - is a
good description of Northern Ireland. Time and almost every
thing else is relative - one man's freedom fighter being
another man's terrorist and all that.
We think we are living in the present but every time we
walk out the door, any number of symbols take us back to
And let us not forget just how many people - soldiers,
revolutionary tourists, conflict-studying academics and
journalists - manage to squeeze into this tiny space in a
feat the Tardis would be hard pressed to match.
Exterminate! We have had that far too often and what was K9
but an army bomb-disposal robot? And then there are
countless aliens whom Doctor Who meets on his travels.
Luckily, his universal translator would have no difficulty
with Irish or Ulster Scots and the word "alien" is just a
nice scientific word for "them ones". "Passed through yon
place the other day and it was full of aliens."
Opin: Religion Without Conflict A Dilemma For Paisley
By Roy Garland
Sociology Professor Steve Bruce speaking at the University
of Ulster said religion was central to the Ulster conflict
hence Ian Paisley’s electoral success.
He admitted the conflict was not about doctrines but
Paisley was a religious figure who took unpopular courses
and at times lost votes because God told him to do so. This
gave him strength and many looked to him for comfort and
deliverance at times of tension. Had Paisley been in power
his dogmatism might have hindered but in opposition it gave
his DUP strength and cohesion. Core membership remains Free
Presbyterian together with a smaller number of separatist
However the DUP receive significant non-evangelical support
at the polls and Bruce puts this down to Paisley’s
constancy and certainty, reflecting his religious stance.
His politics are anti-cosmopolitan and derived from Ulster
soil but his attraction actually derives from his ability
to single out scapegoats for approbation and sooth Ulster
Protestant nerves. The scapegoats are mainly compromising
unionists. At the Twelfth, confusingly – in view of his
involvement in negotiations aimed at mutual accommodation –
Paisley insisted that “accommodation” was “the road to
final and irreversible disaster”.
All who compromise are Judases, Lundys and traitors.
The word ‘scapegoat’ is an Old Testament word. Driving out
scapegoats is intimately linked with ancient sacrificial
religions. But that kind of religion reflects reversion to
the worst features of ancient religion that Christianity
should have brought to an end. At the Twelfth Paisley
hailed the horrific “sacrifice” at the Somme and linked it
with “the supreme sacrifice itself” claiming we must pay
the same price, “the blood of dedication and sacrifice
alone can maintain and retain for us and liberty”.
But even Old Testament prophets railed against religious
sacrifice. God was sick of sacrificial burnt offerings and
preferred justice and liberty for the oppressed.
Paisley’s more recent political breakthrough, according to
Bruce, reflects a secular calculation by voters that too
much was lost under David Trimble.
But religion remains embedded and so at times of crisis
people need a Goliath champion hence Paisley’s nomination.
But we must bear in mind that all Goliath’s shouting and
raving did not save him from young David’s seemingly puny
sling and stone.
Steve Bruce’s analysis can be turned on its head. During
the early 70s masses of people flocked to hear Paisley
during times of heightened political tension. He would hold
“political interludes” during church services to slate
political and religious opponents in colourful language
before preaching the “old time religion”. Today in contrast
politics is apparently missing from his preaching and
smaller numbers attend Martyrs Memorial. The 1991 Census
recorded almost 12,500 Free Presbyterians but by 2001 this
figure had fallen to less than 12,000. The figures may be
contested but they hardly reflect glowing success and
religious decline is it seems, the price of political
Paisley now eats humble pie and greedily consumes the
apparently more secular policies of his opponents with less
than a fig leaf to cover embarrassment. Perhaps he will
accommodate opponents but in seeking to retain his position
as tribal leader he has only a limited pool of potential
support on which to draw. With an overall decline in
interest let alone support for all unionist parties,
reversal necessitates appealing to those who share neither
his religious stance nor his tribal assumptions. Political
success could bring further religious decline and he
appears to lack the moral courage to nail his colours
firmly to his mast.
Changes have taken place but at a frustratingly slow pace.
In 1963 Paisley led an impromptu protest at Belfast City
Hall against the lowering of the Union Flag on the death of
Pope John XXIII.
In contrast more than 40 years later on the death of Pope
John Paul II, while implying the latter might be in Hell,
he said, “We can understand how Roman Catholics feel at the
death of the Pope and we would want in no way to interfere
with their expression of sorrow and grief at this time.”
But Paisley’s dilemma remains. To maintain success he must
accommodate more people and abandon dogmatism. But this
would imply he had been wrong a sign of weakness in his
As a result we face an ongoing circus of smoke and mirrors
with furrowed brows on the faces of the DUP Taliban.
Release Of Irish Red Cross Worker Welcomed
Ruadhán MacCormaic, and Max McGuinness in Addis Ababa
Irish Red Cross engineer Donal Ó Súilleabháin is expected
to return to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa today after
being released from captivity on Saturday.
Mr Ó Súilleabháin (41) from Sligo and his Ethiopian
colleague, Hadiis Ahmed Samatar, who was also released
unharmed, had been held since last Monday when they were
seized by an armed group near the southern town of Godé.
He was with seven Ethiopian Red Cross staff when he and his
colleague were taken away on foot by the kidnappers.
Patrick Mégevand of the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC), told The Irish Times that the two men, who
were handed over to ICRC officials north of Godé, were in
good health and unharmed. Their release was negotiated by
Mr Ó Súilleabháin was in Godé yesterday, where he was
joined by his brother Eoin, an aid worker for the charity
Goal in Kenya.
Noel Wardick, head of the international department of the
Irish Red Cross, said his organisation was "extremely
relieved". He denied that a ransom had been paid and said
the men's release had been "unconditional".
Plans for Mr Ó Súilleabháin's return to Ireland have not
yet been made, with Mr Wardick saying yesterday that it was
important for released hostages to undergo a "decompression
process" before returning home.
Last Friday, a group calling itself the United Western
Somali Liberation Front admitted kidnapping the two men.
The statement said they had mistaken Mr Ó Súilleabháin and
Ahmed Samatar for oil workers, and promised their release
within 48 hours.
Mr Ó Súilleabháin, an experienced hydrogeologist, had just
arrived in Ethiopia, having spent the previous year working
in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Mr Ó Súilleabháin's father Brian said the family were
celebrating at their Sligo home. "He phoned us as soon as
he got out and he seems to be fine," he said.
© The Irish Times
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