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September 27, 2006

IMC: IRA Has Closed Down Terror Operations

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on RTÉ News last night, where he
acknowledged that he has not repaid any of a €50,000 loan
given to him by a group of businessmen in 1993 and 1994. -
Photograph: Photograph courtesy of RTÉ

News About Ireland & The Irish

BT 09/27/06 IRA Has Closed Down Terror Operations: IMC
BB 09/27/06 Irish PM Admits Receiving Loans
SF 09/27/06 SF: Taoiseach Has Been Let Off The Hook On Bigger Scandals
RT 09/27/06 Kenny Claims Ahern Situation Is 'Very Grave'
BN 09/27/06 Martin: Taoiseach 'Did Nothing Ethically Wrong'
IT 09/27/06 Four Of 12 Money Donors Have Served On Public Boards
IT 09/27/06 'Irish Times' Called Before Mahon Tribunal
IT 09/27/06 Dermot Ahern Pledges Support To Irish Illegals In US
IT 09/27/06 Showband Survivor Had No Doubt Checkpoint Officer British
BT 09/27/06 Blair Speaks Of 'Passion' For Peace In Conference Speech
IT 09/27/06 Assembly Outbursts Underline Obstacles To Progress
BN 09/27/06 Adams: Govnt Indifferent To Plight Of Rural Communities
IT 09/27/06 Adams Calls On British To Protect Irish Language
IT 09/27/06 Irishman In US Hospital As Wife Found Shot Dead
IT 09/27/06 Opin: Ahern: On Mature Reflection
IT 09/27/06 Opin: Ghosts Of Lowry & Haughey Haunt Taoiseach
BT 09/27/06 Opin: The UDA 'Reward'
NH 09/27/06 Opin: Slur So Symptomatic Of Problems Within UUP
FB 09/27/06 Irish Docs At Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival
OL 09/27/06 The First Night Feature: A Moon For The Misbegotten
IE 09/27/06 Interview : Scorsese, DiCaprio, Damon – The Departed


IRA Has Closed Down Terror Operations: IMC

By Brian Rowan
27 September 2006

A crucial report by the ceasefire watchdog body due to be
published next week is expected to confirm that the IRA has
"closed down" its terrorist operations.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) will finalise
its latest assessment this weekend with publication due
next Wednesday, exactly a week before the political 'hot
house' negotiations in Scotland begin.

The precise terms of the report could prove pivotal in
attempts to persuade the DUP as efforts to achieve a
devolution deal before the November 24 deadline intensify.

But the DUP has already said it will also require to see
the next IMC report, which is not due until spring of next

Apart from its structures and intentions, the DUP will also
want to hear what the Commission has to say about IRA
criminality. All four commissioners - Dick Kerr, Joe
Brosnan, John Grieve and Lord Alderdice - have been in
Belfast since the start of the week, and many of the key
meetings across the various security and intelligence
agencies have now been held.

On the IRA assessment, a senior source told the Belfast
Telegraph: "There's no doubt the kind of operations that
were there for conducting a terrorist campaign, they've
been closed down."

And on the issue of organised crime, the source continued:
"The best that can be said about that is pretty good.
Things are definitely going the right way."

In its last report, the IMC confirmed that the IRA still
has a "command and control" structure, but more information
is expected in the next assessment.

"We will be able to say in more detail the structural
changes there have been," the source said. "We will try to
spell out the changes there have been as best we can."

On the overall IRA assessment the source said it was
"remarkable how well things have gone".

"If you compare it to any international situation, I would
find it difficult to find one that would measure up," the
source said. "People need to reflect on what has changed."

The British and Irish Governments are hoping that the now
imminent IMC assessment will set a positive tone for the
political negotiations in Scotland scheduled for early next


Irish PM Admits Receiving Loans

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has confirmed reports
that he received thousands of dollars from friends when he
was finance minister in the 1990s.

Mr Ahern said he was lent the equivalent of $63,000
(£33,000) to pay costs during his marital separation.

"I have broken absolutely no codes - ethical, tax, legal or
otherwise," he said in a television interview.

Mr Ahern has come under pressure to explain the loans,
which he did not repay, following a newspaper article.

He said he had offered several times to repay the loans,
but his lenders had refused to take the money back.

'Debt of honour'

Speaking on Irish television, Mr Ahern confirmed he
received an IR£22,500 ($36,000; £19,000) loan from eight
friends in December 1993 and a further loan of IR£16,500 in
1994 from four others.

He said the money went towards paying school fees as part
of the settlement with his estranged wife, Miriam Kelly.

Mr Ahern said the payments were a "debt of honour" and
denied any wrongdoing.

A visibly emotional Taoiseach recalled the financial stress
of his marriage break-up, which he described as "a dark,
sad time" of his life.

"In the separation I agreed to provide IR£20,000 for my
children to an education account as part of the agreement
and I did that," he said.

"And, I also had to pay off other bills, so the money I had
saved was gone."

General election

News of the loans was leaked from confidential meetings
between Mr Ahern and a state inquiry investigating planning
irregularities in the Irish capital, Dublin, in the 1990s.

The BBC's James Helm in Dublin says Mr Ahern will be hoping
that by making public the details of the payments, for
which he insists no favours were offered nor given in
return, he can take the heat out of the matter and so limit
any political damage ahead of a general election next year.

But one opposition leader, Labour's Pat Rabitte, said Mr
Ahern's performance on national television had been "quite
unconvincing" and that it raised a whole lot of new

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/09/27 07:41:59 GMT


SF: Taoiseach Has Been Let Off The Hook On Bigger Scandals

Ó Caoláin
Published: 26 September, 2006

Commenting on the current controversy over the finances of
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó
Caoláin said the reality was that the Taoiseach had been
"let off the hook" on bigger scandals than those alleged in
the current controversy. He said the facts revealed today
about how developers were being allowed to "shred" Part V
of the Planning and Development Act and refuse to build
social and affordable housing showed the "hand-in-glove
relationship" between the FF/PD Government and unscrupulous

The Cavan/Monaghan TD said: "Most people will question why
the Taoiseach received large donations and/or loans from a
group of business people and why he did not address his
personal affairs, including legal bills, in the way most
people do. The only reason this is in the public domain is
because the Mahon Tribunal is investigating if the
Taoiseach received money from property developer Owen

"The reality is that the Taoiseach and his Government have
been let off the hook on bigger scandals than those alleged
in the current controversy. At the core of these scandals
is the close relationship between the Fianna Fáil/PD
government and property developers and the oil and gas
industry. These scandals include:

· The changing of Part V of the Planning and Development
Act after intensive lobbying from developers. The original
Part V required developers to provide 20% social and
affordable housing in all developments. This was changed by
the FF/PD Government at the developers' behest so that they
can buy their way out of their obligations by paying money
to local authorities. As a direct result lower income
families have been deprived of homes

· The granting of major tax concessions to developers of
private hospitals. Bertie Ahern's successor as Finance
Minister, Charlie McCreevy, admitted that he brought in
this concession after lobbying from a private hospital
developer in his constituency.

· The allocation of land at public hospital sites to
private developers to build private for-profit hospitals
while our public hospital system struggles from crisis to

· The ongoing robbery of our natural gas and oil supplies
by multinationals that have been handed these resources
free gratis by successive governments, including the
present administration.

"All of these measures are legal but totally unethical and
against the public interest. The Taoiseach and his
colleagues should be held accountable for them."



Kenny Claims Ahern Situation Is 'Very Grave'

26 September 2006 23:01

Opposition parties have said the Taoiseach's interview with
RTÉ News has raised more questions than it answered.

In the interview, Bertie Ahern revealed that a group of
friends made two separate payments to him in 1993 and 1994
totalling IR£39,000.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said it was a 'very grave'
situation for Mr Ahern, and that questions on ethics and
tax arose as a result of the interview.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said it was 'stretching
credulity' to describe the payment as a loan. He claimed
that that it in reality it was a gift which raises taxation

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said Mr Ahern had misled
the Irish people by saying the reported figure of €50,000
to €100,000 was 'off the wall', when in fact it was

Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe said the amount involved was very
large, and could have bought a house in 1993.

However, there has been no response to the interview from
the Progressive Democrats.


Martin: Taoiseach 'Did Nothing Ethically Wrong'

27/09/2006 - 10:55:47

Minister for Enterprise Micheál Martin has come out in
support of the Taoiseach as he prepares to face Dáil
questions about the payments he received from businessmen
in 1993 and 1994.

Mr Ahern admitted last night that he received a total of
£39,500 (€49,500) from several wealthy friends at a time
when he was struggling to meet costs associated with his
separation from his former wife.

However, Minister Martin said this morning that the
Taoiseach had nothing to answer for.

"He has broken no law and he has not in my view contravened
anything ethical," said Martin.

"He has been an outstanding successful Taoiseach for the
country and no-one can take that from him."

Mr Ahern has said the money was a loan, but he had yet to
pay it back because the donors had refused to accept it.

He also admitted that he had subsequently appointed a
number of the donors to state boards, but he said he did so
because they were friends, not because they had given him

The opposition has expressed dissatisfaction with the
explanation and is vowing to press the Taoiseach on the
matter when the Dáil resumes today.


Four Of 12 Money Donors Have Served On Public Boards

Colm Keena, Public Affairs Correspondent

Four of the 12 men identified as donors by Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern yesterday have served on public boards. Also, the
solicitor who acted for Mr Ahern in his separation in the
early 1990s, Gerry Brennan, was appointed to the board of
Eircom in November 1992. Mr Brennan had a solicitor's
practice on Mount Street, Dublin. He died in 1997.

A number of those identified have been appointed to public
boards by Mr Ahern's governments. Mr Ahern said he
appointed the men because they were friends and not because
they had given him money.

Padraic O'Connor

Padraic O'Connor, formerly of NCB Stockbrokers, sometimes
provided advice to Bertie Ahern when he was minister for
finance in the early 1990s.

The two men worked together during the currency crisis,
when Mr Ahern eventually devalued the punt.

He was managing director of NCB from February 1991 to March
1999. He was also a director of the Irish Stock Exchange
from May 1995 to March 1999. He formerly worked as an
economist in the Central Bank and the Department of

Mr O'Connor was appointed to the board of Eircom in March
2004. He was non-executive chairman of ACC from 1999 to
2002, when it was being prepared for privatisation.

Jim Nugent

Jim Nugent has been chairman of educational and corporate
training group Woodgrange Technology for more than 15

He is a former director of the Central Bank of Ireland and
of Cert, the State tourism training agency. He has also
been personnel director with Cadbury Schweppes, senior
specialist at the Irish Management Institute, and an
independent consultant on acquisitions and mergers for
clients in the transport sector.

Mr Nugent was the chairman of Cert for three terms, during
which he became the longest-serving chairman of a semi-
state body. He resigned in 1997.

Des Richardson

Des Richardson is a businessman and fundraiser who has been
a key associate of the Taoiseach since the 1970s. When he
was appointed party treasurer in 1993, Mr Ahern asked Mr
Richardson to take on the new position of full-time
fundraiser for Fianna Fáil. By the time of the 1997 general
election Mr Richardson had cleared the party's £3.5 million

Mr Richardson is credited with the success of the annual
Fianna Fáil fundraising event at the Galway Races as well
as the annual dinner to raise funds for Mr Ahern's
constituency operation.

He is also a member of the trust that bought and owns Mr
Ahern's constituency office, St Luke's, in Drumcondra,
where Mr Ahern is also understood to have lived for a time
in the early 1990s. He was at one stage executive chairman
of Marlborough International plc, the recruitment firm run
by businessman David McKenna which collapsed in 2002. Mr
Richardson is now involved in a technology venture with Mr
McKenna. He was director of Fás International Consulting
from November 1991 to November 1994, and a director of Aer
Lingus from November 1997 to November 2002.

David McKenna

David McKenna is a former plumber who during the 1990s grew
the recruitment firm Marlborough International to the
extent that he became a very wealthy man.

He bought the firm in 1992 for £7,500 and floated it on the
stock exchange in 1997. At one stage his shareholding in
the company was worth something in the region of €70
million. The sale of some of his shareholding netted him
several million pounds. In 2002 the company collapsed
spectacularly with huge debts.

Some time ago it emerged that Mr McKenna had, when his
company was still successful, on occasion given Mr Ahern
lifts in his private jet to the UK to watch Manchester
United fixtures.

Mr McKenna has regularly attended fundraising events for
Fianna Fáil and Mr Ahern, often events organised by Des
Richardson. He was on the board of Enterprise Ireland from
March 1999 to March 2001.

Fintan Gunne

The late Fintan Gunne was an auctioneer and businessman who
built the successful Gunne estate agency business.

Mr Gunne was a supporter of Fianna Fáil who attended the
party's annual fundraising tent at the Galway Races. He
died in 1997 and his funeral was attended by senior figures
from political, business and financial worlds, including Mr

Mr Gunne controlled one of the largest estate agencies in
the State, with 11 branches and a staff of 160. He also
operated three livestock sales marts. Mr Gunne, originally
from Dundalk, started as a cattle salesman in his father's
livestock mart in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, after
leaving school at the age of 17. He took over the business
when his father, Patrick, died at the age of 52.

He acted for a large number of business people including
Margaret Heffernan, Harry Dobson and Pino Harris. He sold
Carysfort College to the State in 1990, acting for Mr
Harris who had bought it several months earlier.

In 2005 the family sold its shareholdings in the commercial
company Mr Gunne had built up, CB Richard Ellis Gunne, for
approximately €25 million.

Earlier this year the Gunne family sold the residential
estate agency business for a price believed to be in the
region of €7 million.

Michael Collins

The Taoiseach also mentioned Mick Collins as one of his
donors. No one spoken to last night had any information on
who he might be.

Charlie Chawke

Charlie Chawke is a millionaire publican who owns a large
share in Sunderland football club.

In 2003 he had a leg amputated after he was shot during a
robbery outside his Goat Inn pub in Dublin.

The robber shot Mr Chawke in the leg as he lay on the
ground, and then reached into Mr Chawke's car and took a
bag with €48,652 in takings from the pub.

However, as the gunman and his accomplice made their
escape, they were spotted and pursued by gardaí. One of the
attackers was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment earlier
this year. Another man also apprehended by gardaí at the
time has yet to be tried.

As well as the Goat Inn, Mr Chawke also owns the Old
Orchard Inn in Rathfarnham, Dublin, the Dropping Well in
Milltown, Dublin, and The Bank in Dame Street, Dublin.

Paddy Reilly

Paddy Reilly is a friend of the Taoiseach of more than 30
years and a member of Mr Ahern's constituency team. He is a
plasterer by trade who is now a substantial landlord.

Mr Reilly owns a number of residential and commercial
properties around the inner city area of Dublin. He lives
in Drumcondra.

Joe Burke

Joe Burke is a builder and a very close and long-time
associate of the Taoiseach. He was appointed to the
position of chairman of the Dublin Port Company in April
2002, just before the general election of that year, and
remains in the position. The appointment was made by the
then Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey.

It emerged afterwards that Mr Burke had requested the
position from the Taoiseach, and that the then Tánaiste,
Mary Harney, was not informed until after the event.

Mr Burke is a director of East Link Ltd, having joined the
board in September 2004 and having previously been on the
board between 1994 and 1998.

Between 1985 and 1991, Mr Burke was vice-chairman of the
city council's planning committee and also a member of the
old Dublin Port and Docks Board.

His own firm, J & H Burke & Son Builders Ltd, specialises
in pub refurbishments.

In 1989, after developer Tom Gilmartin complained to Mr
Ahern (who was then minister for labour) about his
difficulties in progressing plans for a huge motorway
shopping centre at Quarryvale, west Dublin, it was Mr Burke
who was sent to meet Mr Gilmartin.

Mr Burke became embroiled in the Sheedy controversy in 1999
when it emerged he had employed the jailed architect Philip
Sheedy, and visited him in Shelton Abbey after his
conviction and sentencing for dangerous driving causing the
death of Anne Ryan.

Mr Ahern told the Dáil that Mr Burke had made
representations to him about securing Mr Sheedy's early
release. He described the former councillor as a "good
personal friend . . . When I meet him we usually talk about
sport, sometimes about building and politics".

Dermot Carew

Dermot Carew is owner of the Beaumont House pub in north
Dublin and is a long-time associate of the Taoiseach. Mr
Carew is understood to be member of the social group which
regularly enjoys pints with Mr Ahern in Fagan's pub in

Mr Ahern also frequents Mr Carew's pub.

Barry English

Barry English is a businessman from Clonmel, Co Tipperary,
who is a long-term friend of the Taoiseach.

He runs a business that specialises in plumbing and

Paddy Reilly

The second Paddy Reilly mentioned by the Taoiseach
yesterday is a former friend of Mr Ahern's who is now

© The Irish Times


'Irish Times' Called Before Mahon Tribunal


Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy and public affairs
correspondent Colm Keena have been summonsed to appear
before a public sitting of the Mahon (planning) tribunal on
Friday to answer questions on this newspaper's report that
disclosed details of the investigation into payments to
Bertie Ahern while he was minister for finance.

Tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon has ordered that copies
of all documents quoted in the article, which appeared in
last Thursday's Irish Times, be handed over at the sitting.

He has also ordered that Ms Kennedy and Mr Keena attend to
answer questions on the source and whereabouts of the

Judge Mahon also ordered that the witnesses answer
questions about correspondence between the tribunal and
this newspaper since the report was published.

The tribunal wrote to The Irish Times on Thursday
maintaining that the article it published was in breach of
an interlocutory injunction of the Supreme Court, and
sought an explanation. An explanation was provided.

The tribunal also wrote last week to all national print and
broadcast media, reminding them of restrictions on the
publication of matters being inquired into by the tribunal.

These restrictions exist by way of the interlocutory
injunction, which was granted by the Supreme Court last
year after a High Court hearing in which the court ruled
against the tribunal.

The tribunal appealed to the Supreme Court and the appeal
has yet to be heard.

The case involves the tribunal and the Sunday Business

© The Irish Times


Ahern Pledges Support To Irish Illegals In US

Last updated: 27-09-06, 12:05

The plight of undocumented Irish immigrants in the US is
getting "harder by the day", Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dermot Ahern said today before adding that the Government
would remain "actively involved" in representing their

Mr Ahern was speaking after he met officials from the Irish
Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) and Irish Immigration
Centres in New York last night.

Mr Ahern described the ILIR campaign as having a "strong
impact in Congress and beyond" and went on to reiterate the
Government's "strong support" for the campaign.

Last July the Government announced nearly €1 million in
grants to Irish community organisations in the US.

Mr Ahern said the services offered by these centres are
"critical", especially for older Irish people living in the

"The work that the centers undertake to respond to the
particular difficulties encountered by the undocumented in
their communities is also of key importance," he said.

© 2006


Showband Survivor Had No Doubt Checkpoint Officer British

John Downes

A member of the Miami showband who was injured in an attack
which killed three of his bandmates in 1975 yesterday said
it is his belief that the checkpoint at which his band's
minibus was stopped was commanded by a British army

Stephen Travers was speaking at a subcommittee of the
Oireachtas Justice Committee, which is holding public
hearings into loyalist bombings during the 1970s. Among the
other murders about which the subcommittee heard evidence
yesterday were bombings in Dundalk, Dublin airport and the
O'Dowd and Reavey shootings.

It heard claims by relatives of many of those killed that
the Government had let them down by failing to properly
investigate and, in at least one instance, prevent the

Mr Travers said that, having previously worked as a trainee
broker with Lloyds in London, he knew the difference
between a mock and a real British accent. He had "no doubt"
that the checkpoint was not bogus. He added that "somebody
was issuing orders" to the British officer in question, and
that this went "all the way to the top".

The Miami showband were returning from Banbridge, Co Down,
when their minibus was stopped by the men dressed in army
uniforms on the road to the Border town of Newry.

Band members were told to line up in a ditch as the gang
loaded the bomb. But this exploded prematurely, killing two
of the men involved in the planting of the bomb. After the
explosion, the gang opened fire, killing Mr Travers'
bandmates Francis O'Toole, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy.
Mr Travers and Des Lee survived.

"I heard them [Francis and Tony] being killed. I heard them
begging for their lives," he told the subcommittee
yesterday. "I always felt that we were let down by our own
State . . . I do feel that recent Irish history is being
airbrushed out."

The subcommittee heard harrowing testimony from relatives
of several of those murdered, as well as strong criticism
of the actions of the authorities on both sides of the
Border before, during and after the attacks.

The fourth and final report of Mr Justice Henry Barron into
the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk in December 1975, in
which two people died, found that allegations of collusion
were impossible to prove or disprove. It concluded that it
was carried out by loyalist extremists but was unable to
identify those involved.

© The Irish Times


Blair Speaks Of His 'Passion' For Peace In Conference Speech

By Noel McAdam
27 September 2006

Tony Blair yesterday spoke of his "passion" for pursuing
peace in Northern Ireland in his last Labour Conference
speech as Prime Minister.

In a barn-storming performance, which roused conference
delegates, Mr Blair said he would be pursuing peace between
Israel and Palestine with the same passion as in Northern

Mr Ahern also paid tribute to Mr Blair's involvement in the
peace process in a pre-speech video shown to the

It was unclear last night whether Mr Blair will attend the
breakfast function tomorrow at which Ian Paisley is due to
be present in his first visit to a Labour conference.

Mr Paisley is likely to be accompanied by his deputy leader
Peter Robinson to set out his party's position in advance
of the negotiations in St Andrews.

Earlier yesterday, DUP party secretary Nigel Dodds said
that Mr Blair had given "far too much latitude" to Sinn

"While many of us have serious doubts about his judgment on
occasions, no-one could question his commitment to the
political process in the province.

"His single greatest mistake however that the prime
minister has made has been to give far too much latitude to
Sinn Fein.

"No-one can dispute how far things have moved in Northern
Ireland and no-one will be more pleased than me if the
final steps can be taken in the coming months, but we
cannot and will not compromise the long term interests of
Northern Ireland to satisfy the agenda of others."

Meanwhile, Gerry Adams is today heading a Sinn Fein
delegation to the 2006 Ploughing Championships in Carlow.

The party said it intends to set out its pre-election
priorities for rural development and agriculture during the
four-day event.


Assembly Outbursts Underline Obstacles To Progress


Bitter exchanges in the Assembly highlight the gulf in
Northern politics, writes Gerry Moriarty

In the Assembly yesterday DUP MP the Rev William McCrea
thundered against the IRA's "bloodthirsty, sectarian
campaign of genocide" against Protestants while SDLP MLA
John Dallat challenged him about standing in solidarity in
Portadown with Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy

The Assembly has heard similar arguments many times before
but the depth and raw bitterness of the exchanges, which
speak for themselves, captured just how daunting a task it
will be for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime
minister Tony Blair in Scotland in a fortnight's time to
persuade the DUP to do business with Sinn Féin.

Mid-Ulster MLA Mr MCrea, during a debate on an Assembly
report on "rights, safeguards, equality issues and
victims", said the IRA had conducted a genocidal campaign
over 35 years against Protestants and Sinn Féin/IRA leaders
should be brought before the International Court of Justice
for these crimes.

In a passionately delivered speech he said unionists were
not "taking second place any more". The unionist community,
he added, must be congratulated for withstanding "one of
the most bloodthirsty, vicious, sectarian campaigns that
were initiated against them over the past 35 years".

"Right across this province and especially to those who
were residing and living in isolated Protestant areas along
the Border there was a deliberate genocide - planned and
purposed genocide - and the wiping out of that community,
with the desire to push the Border back," said Mr McCrea.

He paid tribute to the B-Specials who "patrolled the roads
for nothing" and didn't even get the money to pay for the
"buttons on their own tunics".

He said many people were "butchered" by the IRA simply
because they were Protestants, and that police officers and
soldiers were killed "because they wore the uniform of the

Mr McCrea said Sinn Féin/IRA leaders responsible for this
genocide should be brought before the International Court
of Justice, just as the alleged war criminals of the
Balkans conflict faced such judgment.

He recalled how DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley was
criticised for saying the IRA should repent and wear
"sackcloth and ashes" but he asked what about the murdered
innocent people the IRA had "left in ashes and in

Earlier in the debate Mr McCrea's DUP Assembly colleague
Lord Morrow said "Sinn Féin may be ready for government but
is not fit for government" and would not be ready by the
British and Irish governments' deadline of November 24th.

Mr McCrea endorsed these views, adding that Sinn Féin had a
long way to go before it could be accepted into government
in Northern Ireland.

"We want a shared future but let's at least be honest.
Let's have an honesty about the situation and let's learn
the lessons from the past because God forbid if we ever,
ever repeat or replicate what our community has endured for
the past 30 years," concluded Mr McCrea.

The SDLP MLA for East Derry, John Dallat, referred to Mr
McCrea speaking at a rally in Portadown in 1996 in support
of Billy Wright when the LVF leader, who was responsible
for numerous sectarian murders in Mid-Ulster, was under
threat from the UVF. At the time Mr McCrea said he was
demonstrating his opposition to the threat and that no
charges had been made against Wright.

Said Mr Dallat yesterday: "In relation to Rev McCrea's
impassioned speech, it certainly would have conveyed
greater meaning to me if he never had appeared on that
platform with Billy Wright. That one incident demolishes
everything he says.

"And in years gone past as a young person listening to news
bulletins day by day reporting the deaths of nationalists
in Mid-Ulster, I wished Rev McCrea had put the same passion
into his condemnation."

Mr McCrea said he had "unreservedly condemned the murder of
the Roman Catholic community, not only in Mid-Ulster, but
in this province, not half-heartedly but unreservedly".

© The Irish Times


Adams: Government Indifferent To Plight Of Rural Communities

27/09/2006 - 11:09:42

Government inactivity has let to the decline of rural
Ireland, according to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Speaking at the opening of the 75th Annual Ploughing
Championships in Tullow, Co Carlow this morning, Mr Adams
called for a wide-ranging change in policy to rejuvenate
rural areas.

“Government indifference to the plight of rural
communities, combined with an urban-centric economic
development policy, has led to a massive demographic shift
in Ireland’s population over the last four decades,” said

“Communities have been forced to wage decades long
campaigns for access to healthcare, as at Monaghan
Hospital, or access to public transport, as with the West-
on-Track campaign.

“Sinn Féin believes we need a more even distribution of
economic growth and investment, and real decentralisation,
not just of civil servants, but of power and resources. We
need to maximise the potential that exists in the bio-
energy sector for farmers to tackle energy poverty, reduce
our dependence on fossil fuels, and to ensure security of
energy supply.

“But we also need to listen. Too often the people furthest
from the corridors of power in Dublin are ignored,
misunderstood and misrepresented by an urban political and
media establishment.

Mr Adams also paid tribute to the visitors to the National
Ploughing Championships.

“The number of organisations, businesses and groups that
have taken stalls at the Championships this year is
indicative of the strength and vibrancy that remains in
rural communities,” he said.

“This is all the more creditable when we appreciate the
decline in family farming and the lack of substantial
investment in rural areas.

“Events like this are an opportunity for that ignorance to
be confronted.”


Adams Calls On British To Protect Irish Language

The British government today faced demands to introduce
legislation to promote and protect the Irish language.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams issued the call at the
launch of a new pamphlet on language rights published by
his party's culture department, roinn an chultúir.

At the launch of the document at Belfast City Hall, Mr
Adams said while the language had made great strides in
recent years, it's promotion should not be left entirely to
the voluntary and community sector.

"Governments have an important role and indeed a duty to
support indigenous languages. Indeed the Good Friday
Agreement makes clear commitments to Irish," the West
Belfast MP said.

"It is past the time when the British government should
honour its commitments. The pursuit of comprehensive
legislation to protect and promote the Irish language is,
therefore, a logical part of Sinn Féin's core work

He said the government had failed to honour a committment
made in 2001 when it signed the European Charter for
Regional or Minority Languages. Legislation was now
required as a consequence, Mr Adams said.

According to the 2001 Census in Northern Ireland, 167,487
people (10.4 per cent of the population) had "some
knowledge of Irish". Of those over the age of three, 75,125
spoke, read, wrote and understood Irish.

Mr Adams noted the Belfast-based Irish language
organisation, POBAL had proposed it should become an
official language and that a language commissioner should
be appointed.

He said: "Councillors have a clear role to play to raise
awareness in council and in their communities about it and
to ensure that the campaign receives as much support as

"Language rights are human rights."

© The Irish Times/


Irishman In US Hospital As Wife Found Shot Dead

By David Labanyi Last updated: 27-09-06, 13:02

An Irishman is in intensive care in Florida suffering from
a gunshot wound to the head after his wife was found shot
dead in their home.

Detectives investigating the shooting believe Dermot Reid
(52) is suffering from a self-inflicted wound.

Mr Reid, originally from Duleek, Co Meath and his American
wife Stacey Plumber (43) were discovered by their 12-year-
old adopted daughter shortly after 9am on Sunday last.

A spokesman for Pinellas County Sherrif's Office said Mr
Reid was on a life support machine in the Bayfront Medical

He said there were no witnesses to the incident at the
property in Tierra Verda. A .38 handgun was found near Mr
Reid when he was found.

Ms Plumber was a lawyer and had three adopted children. The
couple are understood to have been married for a relatively
short period of time.

Mr Reid is understood to have previously lived in Duleek
for 20 years with his now ex-wife. He has two grown-up

The Pinellas County Sherrif's Office said he was unemployed
at the time of the shooting.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed
it was providing consular assistance to the family of an
Irishman shot in Florida. It refused to comment on his

© 2006


Opin: Ahern: On Mature Reflection

It was the performance of a political lifetime. The
Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, got a dig-out from the Drumcondra
set when he was in a spot of personal trouble as minister
for finance in 1993 and 1994. Unsolicited by him, they did
a whip-around to pay off his loan to AIB initially and some
others smoothed his financial path later.

He named them all, including Paddy Reilly, who is known as
the plasterer, as distinct from Paddy Reilly in the first
tranche of payments. He always intended to pay the money
back but they would not let him. It was, as it would be for
anyone else, a stressful time. He took money from friends.
He might have appointed some of them to State boards but he
appointed them "because they were friends". Charles J
Haughey got millions, Ray Burke and Liam Lawlor,
presumably, got thousands. He did not say that Ivor Callely
only got a paint job. But, he, Bertie Ahern, got
"relatively small contributions".

Let's get back to basics. The Irish Times received an
unsolicited and anonymous communication early last week
relating to an investigation by the Mahon tribunal into
payments of money to Mr Ahern - now Taoiseach - while he
was minister for finance in 1993. The tribunal, as Colm
Keena's story said last Thursday, was seeking assistance in
reconciling certain receipts of funds by Mr Ahern in this

The Irish Times knew that sums of between €50,000-€100,000,
including cash payments, were being investigated and that
the tribunal had been told that the money was being used to
pay legal bills at that time. It was Mr Ahern - not The
Irish Times - who brought the question of his separation
into the public domain.

This story was brought to publication because The Irish
Times took the view that the fact that the Taoiseach, when
minister for finance, had been paid money to finance his
personal life was a matter of public interest. There was a
public duty to publish.

On mature reflection this morning, there is an important
principle involved. Should a serving minister receive
payments from anyone? The alternative government is
terrified by the "Teflon Taoiseach".

Enda Kenny has never been accused of anything before a
tribunal and Pat Rabbitte received a payment from Frank
Dunlop which, after the hiatus of an election campaign, he
gave back.

Mr Ahern told the Dáil on September 10th, 1997, during the
debate on the McCracken tribunal: "It is quite unacceptable
that a member of Dáil Éireann, and in particular a cabinet
minister and taoiseach, should be supported in his personal
lifestyle by gifts made to him personally." Mr Ahern was
supported in his personal lifestyle.

The leader of Fine Gael, Mr Kenny, set out his tests
yesterday before the Taoiseach made his statement.

Many politicians have relied, in recent years, on the fact
that they did nothing illegal. But there is always the
point of moral principle. Where stands the new Tánaiste,
Michael McDowell, on this issue?

© The Irish Times


Opin: Ghosts Of Lowry And Haughey Come Back To Haunt Taoiseach

After Bertie Ahern's emotional performance, the question
remains: was it proper for a minister for finance to accept
money for personal use? writes Stephen Collins, Political

The Taoiseach threw himself on the mercy of the electorate
in his long and emotional interview on television last
night. His political future now rests on whether the
natural sympathy of the Irish public for Mr Ahern's
personal difficulties will outweigh continuing questions
about the propriety of accepting almost €50,000 from a
group of business friends.

In the shorter-term the political focus will be on the
Progressive Democrats. The attitude taken by the junior
Coalition party to the central issue that Mr Ahern was
given the money in 1993 and 1994 for his personal use by a
group of businessmen will dictate the course of politics
over the coming months.

It will be no surprise that the Opposition parties have
made it clear that they will continue to pursue the issue
when the Dáil resumes today, after the summer recess, but
it is the attitude of the PDs that will determine whether
the Government suffers real strain.

While the detail provided by the Taoiseach in his interview
went some way to meet the demands of his critics, there are
still a number of outstanding concerns. For a start, the
propriety of the minister for finance of the day accepting
such a substantial sum for his personal use from a group of
business people, even if they were his close friends, is an
issue that will not go away.

Over the past few days the Opposition parties and the media
have thrown the Taoiseach's own remarks on this subject in
relation to Michael Lowry and Charles Haughey back in his

However, Mr Ahern last night refused to accept that taking
the money had placed him under any financial obligation.

"The difference of talking about somebody taking millions
and somebody taking hundreds of thousands in exchange for
contracts and other matters, and taking what is a
relatively small contribution from friends who had a clear
understanding they would be paid back. I do not equate
those. If I was to take several hundreds of thousands of
pounds or several million from people where I had no
association with, or people that were totally business
interests, that would be totally, totally wrong."

The Taoiseach's contention that what was involved was "a
relatively small contribution" raised a few eyebrows, as
€50,000 was a substantial sum of money as far as the vast
majority of hard-pressed and highly-taxed Irish workers
were concerned in 1993. The fact that those who gave him
the money were personal friends was clearly an important
point for Mr Ahern, as he saw that as a factor that did not
place him under any obligation to them.

Aside from the principle of someone in his position
accepting money, there is the issue of what constitutes a
loan as distinct from a gift. Mr Ahern maintained that all
the money he had received was in the form of loans that
amounted to "a debt of honour". The problem is that 13
years later, neither the principal nor the interest had
been repaid to any of those who gave him the money. So can
the money be legitimately described as a loan or was it a
gift? "If money given to Mr Ahern remains unpaid after 13
years and in respect of which no interest was ever paid
either, then it can only be regarded as a gift, and a gift
that in all probability would have been liable to tax," the
Labour leader, Pat Rabbitte, maintained last night. He
quoted the Taoiseach's response to the suggestion in 1996
that the money paid to Michael Lowry might have been a

Mr Ahern told the Dáil that "there would have to be
incontrovertible written evidence of that at the time and
arrangements having been made for its repayment . . . The
making of such a personal loan on more favourable
conditions than would be available from any lending
institution would clearly represent a personal favour that
ought to be declared."

The Opposition will certainly be raising questions about
how some of the coterie of Mr Ahern's 12 friends, who
provided money to him in 1993, have ended up in positions
of influence courtesy of the Government. Curiously, Mr
Ahern said that he had appointed the people to State boards
precisely because they were his friends and for no other

David McKenna was appointed to the board of Enterprise
Ireland while Des Richardson, who was the Fianna Fáil
fundraiser in 1993, was appointed to the board of Aer
Lingus on which he still continues to serve. The perk of
free air travel which applies to Aer Lingus board members
is a highly-prized one which made it the most sought after
board in the semi-State sector. Another of the
contributors, the former Dublin city councillor, Joe Burke,
was appointed by the Government as the chairman of the
Dublin Port Company.

The Taoiseach takes a very different attitude to those
appointments than the Opposition.

"I've checked that and I repeat my advice is I've broken no
codes, ethical, tax, legal or otherwise, and I've checked
that to the best of my ability. These were close friends,
they were not big business interests that were removed from
me, they were people that I saw, if not on a weekly basis,
on a very, very regular basis, most of them would be known
to be very, very close to me."

There were some other curious remarks by the Taoiseach
towards the end of his interview, which may be explained by
the strain he was under, but which beg further elaboration
nonetheless. At one stage he referred to a fundraising
event in Manchester from which he got £8,000. He later
referred to paying gift tax, but it was not at all clear
why that tax bill had been incurred.

Mr Ahern also referred to a bank account of his own into
which he lodged money after his separation in 1993. "I
think people are perhaps looking at my own money that I'd
saved and put back into, I didn't have an account in my own
name during the separation years.

"I opened an account after the separation work was over.
And I put back in my own money and then paid out, perhaps
that's what people are talking about. But the impression
that I got between £50,000 and £100,000 and maybe far more
from just a few people wasn't correct."

Over the years the Taoiseach's apparently confused account
of certain events has got him into trouble, and also got
him out of it.

For most of last night's interview he was clear about the
message he wanted to convey, but he did leave a certain
confusion in his wake as always. All the ambiguities will
be teased out in the coming days.

© The Irish Times


Opin: The UDA 'Reward'

By Linda McDowell
27 September 2006

Who's to say that the UDA was wrong to murder, to maim, to
extort, to terrorise, to brutalise and to deal in drugs?
Put it like this, in purely financial terms, the
organisation has profited handsomely from all of the above.

Not a week now passes without news of yet another major
Government bung to the UDA. Latest figures suggest sums
ranging from £100,000 to £1 million to be paid out in the
near future.

This money is a bribe, pure and simple. It's no different
from the 'protection' extorted from countless businesses by
the UDA in the past.

"You pay us and we make sure your windaes don't get broke.
Or worse."

Except, of course, that this time round it's the Government
coughing up. And the crucial point we have to remember is
this:The Government isn't paying the UDA these vast sums
DESPITE the fact that its members murdered people. The
Government is paying the UDA these vast sums precisely
BECAUSE its members murdered people. The Government is
giving this money - this public money - to an illegal
terrorist organisation which brought misery and suffering
to thousands in order to buy its future co-operation. Think
of the message that sends. To so many parties.

So back then to that big question ...

Given that's its past behaviour has turned out to be such
an impressive earner, who's to say that the UDA was wrong
to do the things it did?

Of course, to go along with that argument you have to turn
a blind eye to certain things. You have to overlook the
human suffering the UDA inflicted. You have to dismiss
brutal sectarian massacre. You have to shrug your shoulders
to things like drug dealing, criminality, extortion and
terror. You have to trivialise evil and forget about any
concept of right and wrong.

Most of us, old fashioned fools that we are, cannot
overlook these things. But here's the thing: THE GOVERNMENT

The Government will do anything, no matter how perverse,
immoral or shameful to keep the lid on local terror gangs.
We all know that. We all know that this is how the
Government has moved its so-called peace process along -
with a series of sops, bungs and bribes to paramilitary
organisations on both sides here. It is telling that such
is the level of cynicism among large swathes of the
electorate that when the Northern Bank was robbed by the
IRA, many, many people quite sincerely believed that the
heist had actually been sanctioned by Government as a pay-
off to the Provies.

So how is its current courtship of the UDA playing to the

You do not have to be particularly sensitive to imagine the
salt the present Government policy is rubbing into the
wounds of those whose lives were devastated by that

It's not just the knowledge that the UDA is profiting from
its bloodshed. But that its leading lights are now welcomed
and feted in the corridors of power where they rub
shoulders with presidents and prime ministers.

You can imagine, too, how this looks to the young within
the loyalist community. Get an ordinary job and slog to
make a living? Or sign up for UDA criminality and be fast-
tracked into a Government-sponsored easy life? Tough
choice, eh?

The most fascinating question, though, is how all this
might appear to interested parties outside Northern
Ireland. Interested terrorist parties that is. From the
Taliban to would-be bomber cells in Britain, it's more than
likely that they've already clocked the Government's
largesse to terrorist organisations here and have copped
that a few years down the line this might well be a
strategy they will want to capitalise on themselves. It's
like a paramilitary pension plan.

Here's the thing, though: Can you imagine a future British
government forking out finance to the representatives of
those responsible for 7/7?

Or writing a cheque to the Taliban?

Yet they've done the equivalent here. And every
paramilitary organisation in the place is still intact and
showing no sign of winding up.

It's hardly a great return for so much money.



Opin: Slur So Symptomatic Of Problems Within UUP

(Susan McKay, Irish News)

Nice unionists from the professional classes are appalled
by sectarianism.

They shake their heads and murmur sadly about the dreadful
things that go on in rough housing estates. They dissociate
themselves from loyalist atrocities. Nothing to do with us.
Everyone gets on fine at the golf club and the atmosphere
in Dublin during rugby weekends is simply marvellous.

Last week the deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party,
Danny Kennedy, said the position of the Police Ombudsman,
Nuala O'Loan, was "slightly compromised by family
relationships which link her to the SDLP". This was during
a debate on law and order at the pretend assembly.

He added that "in the perception of the wider unionist
community" this fact "remains a significant chill factor".

It was a "significant problem" and one that her office
"will have to address at some stage".

O'Loan is in one of the most sensitive, powerful and tough
jobs in the north. She has a high public profile and she is
a Catholic. She is not in the SDLP and served on the Police
Authority when that party opposed it. As it happens, she is
married to SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan. He is not a
senior party figure, though he is frequently in the public
eye, appealing for an end to sectarian attitudes in
Ballymena's council chamber and to sectarian attacks on the
streets of that troubled town, the capital of Paisley's

We don't know the political affiliations of the wives of
UUP representatives.

Sylvia Hermon is Lady Hermon because her husband was
knighted for his years serving as chief constable of the

Eileen Paisley is a peer (nominated by her husband).
Kennedy would most probably be outraged if questions were
raised over the ability of a person in high office to do
their job impartially, on the grounds that their spouse was
in the UUP.

Kennedy claimed O'Loan was widely perceived to be "anti-
police and most especially anti-RUC".

Look. Her job is to investigate complaints about the police
and to scrutinise how the police do their job.

Obviously, she is going to criticise them and sometimes
even arrest them and have them prosecuted. However, it is a
fact that in most of the cases she has investigated to date
O'Loan has recommended that there should be no prosecution
because police officers had acted properly.

Would Kennedy suggest that a man in a big job (and let's
face it, most of the big jobs in this place are still held
by men) was compromised because his wife was in the SDLP? I
don't think so.

No wonder O'Loan's office resorted to a little sarcasm. A
spokesman commented that it might surprise some politicians
that "women can have independent views from their
husbands". It may not happen much in the notoriously male-
dominated UUP.

But if the higher echelons of the UUP have difficulties
with O'Loan, the 'wider unionist community' would appear,
in fact, not to share them. She gets consistently high
ratings from both Catholics and Protestants. The most
recent survey showed that 74% of Protestants believed
complaints against the police would be dealt with
impartially by her office and, asked if the ombudsman's
office would help the police do a good job, 77% of
Protestants said yes.

Unionists don't like to be reminded of old Lord
Brookeborough's infamous boast that he wouldn't have
Catholic workers about the place because most of them were

That is all in the past now, they say. Some say the shoe is
on the other foot now, that Protestants are the new

Last week's fine report from the Committee for the
Administration of Justice gives the lie to that.

It sets out statistical evidence that shows the persistence
of inequality in both employment and housing.

It also shows that the government has ignored this evidence
and suggests this is in itself symptomatic of underlying

Can Kennedy seriously be suggesting that O'Loan is
incapable of impartiality towards the police because of her
husband's politics? He produced no evidence to support the
slur and he ignored evidence that she is held in high

Why did he do this?

It is hard not to conclude that what he was expressing was
prejudice against O'Loan, a Catholic and a woman.

If that is so, it is a significant problem and one that he
and his party will have to address at some stage.

September 27, 2006

This article appeared first in the September 26, 2006
edition of the Irish News.


Irish Documentaries At The Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival


The Stranger than Fiction Documentary Festival and Market
is screening this week from Thursday 28th October to Sunday
1st November. Irish Film Board funded documentaries in the
festival include Children of Allah, Bloody Sunday - A Derry
Diary and Here to Stay.

Directed by new Irish directors Keith Walsh and Jill

Children of Allah, is a courageous documentary portraying
daily life at an Indian orphanage, getting to know some of
the boys who live there and revealing how this orphanage
provides a home for them, something their own homes could
not do. Children of Allah screens at 2pm on Friday 29th
September at the Irish Film Institute.

Bloody Sunday - A Derry Diary is directed by Margo Harkin
and follows the course of the Tribunal of Inquiry, into the
incident on January 30th 1972, when the British Army shot
dead thirteen unarmed civilians on a civil rights march in
Derry, Northern Ireland. This documentary explores the
subject matter from the point of view of the families of
the victims, as they travelled between Derry and London
over a five year period. The Inquiry report is expected in
early 2007. Bloody Sunday - A Derry Diary will screen on
Sunday 1st October at 1pm in the Irish Film Institute.

Here to Stay is directed by A. O’Brien & A. Grossman tells
a timely story about the human side of labour migration
into Ireland. Shot in observational and interactive style,
the filmmakers follow Filipino nurse, Fidel Taguinod, over
a two-year period wherein he flowingly enacts the roles of
nurse, migrant activist and bakla (gay) performer. Here to
Stay will screen in the Irish Film Institute at 6.15 on
Friday 29 September.

The Irish Film Board has also organised a public panel to
discuss ‘Documentaries and the International Audience’
inviting audience discussion on how recent theatrical
documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth, One Day in
September, Etre et Avoir, March of the Penguins have helped
to create a newfound commercial confidence in theatrical
documentary. The panel will explore how Irish filmmakers
can capitalise on these increased market opportunities and
growing international audiences; and the role of the Irish
Film Board in financing documentary.

The Stranger than Fiction Documentary Festival and Market
takes place in the Irish Film Institute from Thursday 28th
Oct to Sunday 1st November and the market is sponsored by
Bord Scannanna hEireann / the Irish Film Board.

Further Information

For more information visit the Stranger than Fiction
Documentary Market visit


The First Night Feature: A Moon For The Misbegotten

Howard Davies and Kevin Spacey had a critical success with
their last joint effort – Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman
Cometh. Now they have reunited for another O’Neill play, in
which Spacey reprises the character he first portrayed 20
years ago in the playwright’s Long Day’s Journey Into
Night, Jamie Tyrone. They are joined by Eve Best, who
featured in the National’s 2004 Laurence Olivier Award
winning production of O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra.
Caroline Bishop attended the press night to see the result…

Eugene O’Neill’s 1942 play is an emotional battering ram
which pounds its characters at varying strengths for its
three-hour length. But there is much humour too,
interjected within the soul-searching, and Howard Davies’s
production makes the most of this delicate balance as its
three protagonists go through a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Set in 1923, the play opens onto a rundown old farmhouse,
atmospherically lit (by Laurence Olivier Award winner Paule
Constable) to evoke the morning sun over rural Connecticut.
It’s occupied by Phil and Josie Hogan, a father and
daughter who spend their time farming the land and using
each other as verbal sparring partners. It’s a mutually
reliant relationship but each covers up the affection they
feel for the other with insults born out of pride. Eve
Best’s Josie is a stubborn, feisty girl whose strops verge
on childish and who disguises her emotional longing by
encouraging her reputation as a slut. Her father, played by
Colm Meaney, is an Irish-American who loves drinking in the
local inn to the detriment of his pig pen.

They are joined in this setting by Jim Tyrone (Spacey), his
light suit conspicuous in this workman’s setting, and his
all-American accent contrasting with the Hogans’ Irish-
American hybrid. He’s a rich, alcoholic, out of work actor
and their landlord, who drops in on his tenants to relate
stories of Broadway and help himself to Phil’s whiskey.

Each character has its own demons, which are gradually
uncovered after Jim’s supposed betrayal of his friends.
Josie and Jim’s feelings for each other are at first
suppressed, as neither is able to admit the failures and
past deeds that make them unable to form a relationship;
but their night-time rendez-vous provokes an emotional
outpouring as their feelings come crashing through the dam.
Best is achingly real as the insecure and lonely girl whose
pride gets in the way, while Spacey flips schizophrenically
between emotional wreck and drunken cad in his portrayal of
a man trapped by himself in a past that disgusts him. Both
Spacey and Meaney are talented drunks, with nice comic
touches that provide the audience with some light relief
from the raw emotion.

As the drama reaches its conclusion, all three characters
have made some sort of peace with themselves and each
other, in this tragic, touching and very human play.



Interview : Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon
– The Departed

Written by Clint Morris / Kara Warner
Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Its either because he’s sick of pasta, or maybe he’s simply
discovered Guinness, but one thing’s for sure, director
Martin Scorsese, known for his Italian-centric pieces,
definitely seems to be more interested in making Irish
films at the moment.

“I've always felt a close affinity with the Irish”, says
Scorsese, whose 2004 hit Gangs of New York and latest film,
The Departed are concerned with the Irish. “Particularly
coming out of the same area of New York City - although by
the time the Italians had moved in, by the 1920's and
1930's, most of the Irish had moved out of that
neighborhood that I came from. And it goes back to Gangs of
New York; stories about the way Irish helped create New
York and America, the city itself…. I’m very interested in
all that”.

The New York-born director is also quick to point out that
some of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers are Irishmen - John
Ford for instance “How Green Was My Valley was about Welsh
miners, and it was directed by an Irishman. He made films
with good family structure – films that demonstrated the
warmth and closeness of the Irish.

“Irish literature is very important to me - the poetry in
particular. I’m also intrigued by the Irish sense of
Catholicism – it’s a very interesting contrast to the
Italian sense of Catholicism”, Scorsese says. “So there you
have it. They’re my personal reasons [for doing films about
the Irish].”

Not that his new thriller The Departed is an Irish film at
its root. The movie is, in fact, a remake of a Hong Kong
thriller called Infernal Affairs – which has not only gone
on to spawn a couple of successful sequels, but evoked much
critical acclaim - which tells of a mole in the police
department and an undercover cop whose objectives are the
same: to find out who is the mole, and who is the cop.

“I didn't think of it [the story] as Hong Kong – I just
like the idea. Hong Kong Cinema is something you can’t
duplicate anyway – you couldn’t go near John Woo’s The
Killer, for example. My skills as a filmmaker just can’t
compete with that. What I liked was the underlying story –
the way of life, the way of thinking, an attitude, and a
cultural look at the world in a very enclosed society. The
original film, by Andrew Lau, is great – the plot, the
idea, the concept of the two informers. The underlying
story of trust and betrayal keep me coming back to his
one”, he says. “The elements remained the same [as the
other film], but, well, ours became something else”.

Matt Damon and Leonard DiCaprio play mirrored characters in
the film. Damon is the Irish-American crook hiding out in
the police force, and DiCaprio is the Irish-American copper
that goes undercover with the mob.

”We actually flipped a coin to see who plays what role”,
says Damon, whose hits include The Bourne Identity and
Ocean’s Eleven. “I think we would have been happy to play
either one [though]. We're happy that that's the way it
turned out though because now, after all is said and done,
I can't imagine playing the other one.

DiCaprio, now on his third film with Scorsese, adds, “These
characters are two sides of the same coin in a lot of ways.
They come from different backgrounds but they could have
easily made choices the other character made, but depending
on the circumstances.”

The star of hits like Titanic and Romeo + Juliet says his
character is quite a violent fellow – and it was
interesting to play against type for a change.

“It's not really familiar to me, that form of immediate
violence, but that's what you do as an actor – you adapt”,
he says. “And if you can't draw upon anything in your real
life, you go meet people that have done these sorts of
things. Part of the process for me was going to Boston [and
meeting these types]. I had never spent any time in Boston
before. I learnt about the Boston subculture, met some of
the real people who were around during the late '80s, sort
of the whitey era, we may call it, and most notably, met
some guys from south Boston”.

DiCaprio become engrossed with the history of Boston and
its inhabitants – and wished he could’ve spent just a
little more time there.

“Boston's a really interesting place because everyone knows
each other's business. It's like a little microcosm there
and everyone waves to each other on the street and they all
have overlapping stories. We shot a lot of it [the film] in
New York – I think we should have shot some of it in
Boston, because I would’ve gotten to know more of the real
characters and get to know them and hear some stories. You
can read books and I read a few books, but to be able to
you know, penetrate, some of these guys, you have to get
inside their minds, and really get deep into what they were
thinking was important.”

Damon did a lot of research into his role too – in what he
likes to call the ‘Michael J.Fox’ approach.

“Have you ever seen the movie The Hard Way with Michael J.
Fox?” he asks, referring to the 1991 action/comedy about a
spoilt-brat actor who tags along with a police officer to
research a role. “That was me. 'Hey guys, can I get a gun?'
They're like 'absolutely not, shut up.'

DiCaprio had met a lot of contacts, says Damon, so he got
to meet some real-life folks through him.

“It was really fascinating”, he says, “And you know, for
me, I had a real advantage because I'm from Boston, so I
didn't have to learn an accent or do anything like that, I
got to get straight to investigating this sort of
subculture of state police and what I knew of the state
police was from the times that I got pulled over for
speeding on the Pike. And so to get in there and really see
what these guys do was great and any time you get access
like that, it's really the most amazing thing. You don’t
have to do all this research, but if you do, it makes it a
lot easier on you when you step onto the set. “

Damon was also on the scene for a real-life raid on a crack

“I'm sure I was in no real danger - they brought twice as
many cops as they usually do with one of those raids and I
was in the back of the line so I had my bullet-proof vest
on standing there going, ‘Well, what am I doing here’? And
I didn't go in until they cleared the house - but I got to
see them do it. I told Marty and Bill [Monahan, the
scribe], ‘You know, that this would be a good way to
establish Colin [my character] rising up?’. So we put it
in. The guys who are in that shot with me are the guys who
were really in the house with me that night when it

Scorsese is pretty insistent on his actors looking as
bonafide in the parts as possible, says Damon – so he was
never going to slack off.

“In all of his film's there an authenticity that you just
can't fake and it's because his actors have access to these
real people and get as much understanding of the people
that they're playing. Ultimately it's a giant magic trick,
we're just trying to be believable, but if you're taken out
of the movie at all, then we haven't done our job right –
and researched well”

Both actors also watched the original film, Infernal
Affairs, but didn’t examine it too closely – after all,
this was to be a completely different beast.

“Yeah, we all watched it. And we all enjoyed the film, but
I think we had to separate ourselves from it to a certain
extent”, says DiCaprio, who previously worked with Scorsese
on Gangs of New York and The Aviator. “Certainly, the
construct and the skeleton of the story is pretty much the
same in this version, but it's dealing with an entirely
different underworld. It's dealing with Irish-Americans in
Boston and we watched it very early on but we also had to
forget a lot of those elements because we knew that we had
to invent an entirely different film.”

“I loved the Hong Kong film”, gushes Damon. “I thought it
was fantastic. And I loved those Hong Kong actors. But, you
know, it's about such a different culture, Boston is
different even from any city here in America so although
the structure was used from the Hong Kong version we then
built that world around it that was very specific to

Jack Nicholson plays gangland chief Frank Costello in the
film. Costello is a character that “evolved” over the
process, says Scorsese.

”It evolved and it evolved over a long process”, he says,
“a very long process. The character was a little different
on paper – we had decided the date, the age, and the power
of this man, but when Jack came onboard we collaborated on
making the role his.”

The younger actors – who also include Mark Wahlberg and
rising newcomer Vera Farmiga– loved working with the screen

“We have a lot of Jack stories”, says Damon. “The first day
I worked with him, he had been working with Leo for about a
week, and so I had the week off and I came back, and it's
Sunday night and I'm looking over the script and I get a
phone call. ‘Hi, Matt? Marty’. ‘Jack had some ideas for
your scene tomorrow’. We were shooting a scene in a movie
theatre. And he goes ‘ok, I'll just get to it - Jack's
going to wear a dildo’. And so I thought, uh, ok, so I'll
see you at seven? So we went in the next day and rehearsed
it, you know, and Jack's idea was like, ‘Here’s the deal,
I'm gonna come in, I'm gonna sit there, in the overcoat,
and I'm gonna pull out the big dildo and we're gonna
laugh’. And I thought, ok, you know, that's a really good
way to get into the scene. Obscene sure, but Jack really
brought this incredible new element, this new layer, to
that character. In a way that felt authentic. It felt,
like, you know, these guys really would sublimate sex into
violence and violence into sex, and it really is how a lot
of those things did occur.

“I don't know how much research he did or how much he just
intuited or what his process was exactly, but I found him
really committed to making the thing as believable and
pushing the envelope as much as he could.”

“And then that scene with [co-star] Alec Baldwin where he
says, ‘We're at the golf course’, where he says ‘A woman
sees a ring on a guy's finger and she knows he's got a
certain amount of money and his cock works’”, laughs
DiCaprio. “It really did seem to thematically fit with what
Jack was doing.”

Both Damon and DiCaprio say it’s not only a pleasure to
work with Nicholson, but also Scorsese, whose worked
they’ve both admired for many years.

”I’d been wanting to work with him doing This Boy's Life
with Robert DeNiro and getting sort of familiar with Robert
DeNiro's work and obviously that means Martin Scorsese's
work as well. So I became a fan of his work at a very early
age”, says DiCaprio. “If you asked me who I wanted to work
with starting out in the business, it would have Scorsese,
and I got fortunate enough to work with him on Gangs of New
York in 2000. And I think we have a good time working
together and we have similar tastes as far as the films we
like. He certainly has broadened my spectrum as far as
films that are out there in the history of cinema and the
importance of cinema. And it really brought me to different
levels as an actor. I look at him as a mentor.”

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