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September 30, 2006

Report Into Loyalists Murders Delayed

News About Ireland & The Irish

IN 09/30/06 Ombudsman's Damaging Report Into Loyalist Murders Delayed
IN 09/30/06 Loyalists Blamed For Attack On Man
IN 09/30/06 Civil Servant Set Upon At Party Still In A Coma
IN 09/30/06 Political Deal Can Be Done: DUP Man
RT 09/30/06 US Senate Approves Mexican Border Fence
IN 09/30/06 Unionist's Concerns About Catholic School Closure
IN 09/30/06 Politicians Blamed For Failing Loyalist Community Volunteers
IN 09/30/06 Residents' Fury Over Low-Flying Copters
IN 09/30/06 Contentious March Heavily Restricted
NH 09/30/06 Opin: Irony Of DUP's Democratic View
BT 09/30/06 Opin: One In The Eye For Gerry Kelly?
IN 09/30/06 `Fitting Tribute' To Late MLA
TS 09/30/06 Ex-Political Prisoners Recount `The Troubles' During Tours


Ombudsman's Damaging Report Into Loyalist Murders Delayed

By Bimpe Fatogun

AN EXPECTED explosive report by the Police Ombudsman's
office into loyalist murders connected to the Mount Vernon
UVF is now not expected to be published until December or

Originally Nuala O'Loan's office had hoped to release the
findings of their investigation, which is expected to be
highly-damaging to the police and the British government,
sometime over the summer.

However, it is still to lodge supplementary material with
the Public Prosecution Service, which is currently
examining a preliminary version of the report and deciding
whether to press charges.

The report has always been expected to be released before
the end of 2006.

The ombudsman's investigation - which has been reported to
have covered large-scale collusion - was mounted following
a complaint by the father of UVF murder victim Raymond

The 22-year-old former RAF man was beaten to death and his
body dumped in a Co Antrim quarry.

Alleged Special Branch informer Mark Haddock, who was
yesterday found guilty of GBH for an attack on a
Newtownabbey doorman, is claimed to have sanctioned the

Outside the court, Mr McCord called on the UVF and their
political wing, the PUP, to hold an inquiry into Mr Haddock
and his activities.

"This has just confirmed what I said about my son's murder.
What are the UVF going to do about his murder? What is
David Ervine going to do about it?'' he asked.

"I told them eight and a half years ago and named them to
the UVF, so plain and simply I'm saying to them what do you
intend to do about it - either disband or call an inquiry."

The ombudsman's probe has broadened beyond the killing of
Mr McCord and is said to have uncovered "explosive and
damning" evidence implicating Mr Haddock in a string of
sectarian murders while operating as an RUC informer.

Six officers of the controversial unit, famously dubbed a
`force-within-a-force' are also expected to be linked to
the cover-up of at least 12 killings.

"A preliminary file has been sent to the PPS and we are
continuing to work on the investigation," an Ombudsman
spokesman said.

The PPS will decide whether or not those accused of
wrongdoing will be brought before the courts.

If the PPS directs no prosecution, officers under suspicion
who have since left the police will not face action.


Loyalists Blamed For Attack On Man

By Staff Reporter

LOYALISTS are being blamed for a paramilitary-style attack
in Co Derry in which a 30-year-old man was shot in both

He was found at the Crescent Playing Fields off Bushmills
Road in Coleraine shortly after 10pm on Thursday.

It is understood three men were involved in the attack
close to Harper's Hill estate and one is described as being
six feet tall and of slim build, wearing a white hooded
jacket, dark trousers and blue baseball cap.

A police spokesman said detectives wanted to speak to
anyone who saw a dark car in the area at the time of the
shooting and to two women who were in a nearby laneway.

They are described as being five feet nine inches tall, one
was of medium build with dark, shoulder-length hair and
wearing a short white jacket and jeans while the other was
of slim build, had a ponytail and was wearing a dark jacket
and jeans.

East Derry SDLP assembly member John Dallat said it was the
second incident in 10 days in which he believed loyalist
paramilitaries have been involved.

Coleraine Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard said the town
would be "last bastion of loyalism to see and react to the
changes all around them".

DUP councillor in Coleraine William McClure said nobody had
the right to be "judge, jury and executioner".


Civil Servant Set Upon At Party Still In A Coma

By Seamus McKinney

A Derry man has yet to emerge from a coma more than 10
weeks after being beaten up at a party in a suspected
sectarian attack.

Civil servant Paul McCauley (29) suffered horrific head
injuries when he was set upon by a gang in the early hours
of Sunday July 16 in Derry's Waterside area.

The Catholic father-of-one had been clearing up after a
party for a friend who was leaving the city to teach

Two other men at the party were also injured, one suffering
a broken jaw.

Police said they believed up to eight assailants attacked
the men who were in the back garden of a house at Chapel
Road at the time.

After treatment at Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital, Mr
McCauley was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in
Belfast with his condition listed as critical. He was later
moved back to Altnagelvin, where a spokeswoman said
yesterday he was "stable".

But Mr McCauley's father Jim said the situation was "quite

"He remains in a coma... I don't think he has deteriorated
but he remains in a coma,'' he said.

"It has been on a plateau for some weeks now.''

Mr McCauley revealed after the attack that his son suffered
injuries including a fractured skull.

A 15-year-old youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons,
has been charged in connection with the assault.

His bail conditions were recently relaxed to allow him to
attend school.


Political Deal Can Be Done: DUP Man

By Irish News Reporter

The DUP Lagan Valley MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, has said he
believes that an agreement between the two main political
traditions here will be achieved.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Peace People on
`Physical Force Traditions and State Violence', the DUP MP
acknowledged that there was a physical force tradition in
both communities.

He said that over the past 90 years, "the republican ideal
had failed to fully accommodate the Protestant tradition
just as the unionist ideal had failed to accommodate the
nationalist/Catholic tradition."

However, he said that it was possible to accommodate the
two main traditions in a new political framework.

"This means compromise in the context of Northern Ireland
and the totality of relations on the island and within the
British Isles. I believe that we have a basis to
accommodate the two traditions," he said.

But he stressed that this could only take place on the
basis of non-violent resolution of differences.

Mr Donaldson warned that fundamental differences would not
evaporate with a political agreement.


US Senate Approves Mexican Border Fence

30 September 2006 07:49

The US Senate has approved a bill to construct a 700 mile
fence along the Mexican border in an attempt to stop
illegal immigration.

The proposed fence will stretch along the border states of
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and is set to
cost $1.2billion.

This follows earlier attempts to combine border security
with a guest-worker programme for the 12 million immigrants
currently living illegally in the United States.

Mexico's President, Vicente Fox, has compared the fence to
the Berlin Wall.


Unionist's Concerns About Catholic School Closure

By Staff Reporter

A prominent unionist politician and QC has raised concerns
about the closure of a Catholic high school with fewer than
100 pupils. North Down assembly member Robert McCartney,
said the closing of St Joseph's High School in Plumbridge
was a "matter of grave concern" to parents.

NIO minister Maria Eagle this week approved a proposal by
the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to close the
school in September 2007.

The school had 309 pupils in 1994 but this has fallen to
86, with only 15 new pupils enrolling on September 1.

Ms Eagle said she was concerned about "the impact this is
having on its ability to deliver the full curriculum

In a letter to The Irish News, Mr McCartney said the basis
of the minister's decision "must be a matter of grave
concern to all parents".

"But, in this case, Catholic parents in particular, who are
entitled under the European Convention on Human Rights to
have their children educated in accordance with their
religious and philosophical conviction," Mr McCartney said.

He said there might be a case for a judicial review of the


Politicians Blamed For `Failing' Loyalist Community Volunteers

By Steven McCaffery

The NIO says Protestant working class communities are
broken and need to be fixed. But in meeting loyalist
community groups that previously avoided the media,

Steven McCaffery finds a vibrant network of volunteer
workers who say the problem does not lie with them, but
with the government

LOYALIST communities are inward looking, underprivileged,
locked in the past and happy to stay there. That's the
common stereotype.

It is an image that Secretary of State Peter Hain and his
NIO ministers say they want to consign to history.

But his decision to launch funding packages specifically
for Protestant areas has raised suspicions that government
is involved in a political exercise aimed at `buying off'
loyalist paramilitaries, rather than tackling poverty.

At a special meeting of community groups from loyalist
heartlands they welcomed any hope of new funding but there
were suspicions expressed about "mainstream politicians".

It was claimed "they have been happy to keep us where we
are". There were sharp criticisms of Ian Paisley's DUP but
above all there was a determination to take control of
their own future, free of stereotypes.

"The British are indifferent to us. They have no vested
interest in us," said one speaker.

"The `felt experience' in Protestant communities is one of
feeling lost and one of feeling displaced...."

Derek Poole of the Centre for Contemporary Christianity was
invited to the event as one of a group of `Critical
Friends' - individuals asked to challenge the conference
with alternative points of view. But the audience reacted
positively to his vision of the way forward.

Since the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, he said, "our
old animosities" are of no interest to the outside world.
London and Dublin are at peace, "the Anglo-Irish war is

Multi-culturalism, he added, was changing Ireland north and
south and "in the economic imagination of the republic, the
border does not exist". He estimated "35 per cent of the
Shankill" has been bought-up by Dublin property investors.

He told delegates from Rathcoole, New Mossley, Larne,
Monkstown and Carrickfergus that he believed they could
create a new context for themselves that related to
"Northern Ireland in particular", but which was also "all-

His closing remarks ended the fourth conference of the East
Antrim Conflict Transformation Forum [EACTF] - a network of
community groups formed with the support of Billy Mitchell,
a former UVF prisoner who later dedicated his life to
community development.

Before his recent death, he encouraged cross-community
work. His funeral attracted leading loyalists but also
high-profile republicans and public sector groups who had
come to credit him with building bridges, despite his
violent past.

"When he left prison, Billy dedicated his time to paying
back his community. He felt it was a duty," Kelly Haggarty,
project manager for the Forum said.

The 29-year-old is one of a team of 250 community workers,
although she is the only one who is paid for her work.

The others take part in a wide range of programmes, calming
tensions at interface areas or organising clubs for the
elderly but with a minimum of financial support.

"It is unfair these people are out four or five nights a
week and giving over their weekends without pay,'' she

A member of the Irish government's department of foreign
affairs who had worked on cross-community groups with Billy
Mitchell attended the event, while the NIO, funding bodies
and police also attended.

Sharlene Anderson from Rathcoole Transformation told
delegates how parents were added to the group's mobile
phone network so they could help deal with teenage
behaviour that might otherwise have attracted the police.

She said a "big brother" approach to monitoring unruly
teenagers had been replaced with a "big momma'' strategy:
"We gave it back to the parents to deal with it in their
own homes and it worked."

Her group was also involved in successful efforts to ease
tension at Carnmoney cemetery where loyalists had staged
intimidating protests against the Catholic community's
annual Blessing of the Graves service.

Another community worker, Phil Hamilton, noted how
elsewhere volunteers had monitored flashpoint areas,
clocking up "500 man-hours in five months" in their efforts
to prevent sectarian violence. He complained that despite
such efforts it was often politicians who took the credit:
"But the people on the ground know who does the hard work."

"When it comes to mainstream politicians - and I will say
the DUP - every time something is brought along [by us],
the answer is no. It's always no. [But] we keep voting them
back in again...," a colleague added.

But the delegates concentrated on discussing their own

In Carrickfergus there was a successful sports project,
which now needed a pitch to train its growing football
club. Monkstown had youth groups and an employment skills
course, while in Larne delegates highlighted a significant
decrease in sectarian tension.

There was a strong focus on commemorating important
elements of loyalist culture, including the Battle of the
Somme and the marching tradition. But there were also
projects aimed at reducing the use of controversial
paramilitary flags and murals.

The conference discussed positive contacts with the Irish
government and detailed productive cross community trips to
Dublin. One speaker urged delegates to visit the city's
Kilmainham Gaol, where the 1916 rebels were executed,
explaining it had helped him understand Ireland's
nationalist history.

Forum chairman Bill Adamson is also a member of the
loyalist Progressive Unionist Party but he said the roles
were unconnected, arguing there was no party-political
agenda to the forum's work.

And while the government has highlighted the continuing
activity of loyalist paramilitaries, he said the Forum was
keen to rid communities of violence and build a new future.

Loyalists, he said, wanted to improve their own communities
but had the confidence to deal with nationalists and with
Dublin, without diluting firmly held beliefs.

"This is the 21st century," he said.

"The loyalist people I come in contact with would say we
are into a new era. People have to do things differently,
they have to engage and they have to have dialogue."


Residents' Fury Over Low-Flying Copters

By David Wilson

SINN Fein has claimed the residents of a Co Derry village
are being intimidated by low-flying British army

Councillor Billy Leonard said he had received a

number of complaints about four helicopters flying over
Glenullin, on the outskirts of Garvagh, on Thursday night.

He said three of the helicopters were operating without
lights and all were flying at "dangerously low" levels.

"This is yet again unacceptable behaviour and we need
action on this not more statements from the British that
all complaints are investigated," he said.

"What will happen when the accident waiting to

happen actually does happen?"

Mr Leonard said the latest reports were not isolated.

An army spokesman said the claims would be investigated
fully and that it was not army practice to fly erratically
or dangerously.


Contentious March Heavily Restricted

By Maeve Connolly

A CONTENTIOUS loyalist parade in Co Antrim has been heavily
restricted in an effort to protect community relations.

The march next Saturday night has being organised by
Crumlin Young Loyalists Flute Band, which applied for 17
other bands and 450 supporters to parade in the town.

However, the Parades Commission has ruled that only the
Crumlin band can march and has imposed route restrictions
which will see bandsmen walk just a 100-yard stretch and
disperse within 30 minutes.

"The parade shall assemble as notified at Mill Brae. It
shall proceed from the assembly point to Mill Road Garage
where it shall turn around, returning immediately to the
notified assembly point via Mill Road, where it shall
disperse," the determination said.

"No other notified bands may assemble or participate in
this parade."

SDLP assembly member Thomas Burns said he was pleased the
commission had "accepted the need to avoid a re-run of the
violent events of the past".

In the introduction to the commission's determination, it
noted there was concern about the impact of such a large
parade on community relations.

"The commission has a sense that community relations in
Crumlin would be greatly damaged by the passage of this
parade should it proceed without restriction.''

Sinn Fein Limavady councillor Anne Brolly has hit out at
the flying of a union flag outside council offices during a
remembrance parade last Sunday by the regimental
association of the UDR.

Ms Brolly said it was "an affront to the democratic wish of
the people".


Opin: Irony Of DUP's Democratic View

(Editorial, Irish News)

If a prominent Sinn F‚in representative had just admitted
that he was guilty of electoral fraud, we would now be in
the middle of a full-blown political crisis.

The DUP would probably be on the brink of withdrawing from
the forthcoming talks and Ian Paisley would undoubtedly
have highlighted his outrage during his appearance at an
event at the Labour Party conference in Manchester
yesterday (Thursday).

However, as the guilty plea was actually entered by a DUP
politician, the former mayor of Coleraine Dessie Stewart,
responses on all sides have been extremely low-key.

The DUP is carrying out an internal investigation but Mr
Stewart, who is due to be sentenced next month, remains a
sitting councillor for the party in Coleraine.

Mr Stewart admitted a total of six charges relating to the
general and local government elections of May 2005, when he
appeared at Antrim Crown Court earlier this week.

They included pretending to be someone else in order to
cast postal votes at both district council and
parliamentary level and fraudulently preventing the use of
proxy votes.

By any standards, these were serious offences which could
only have been intended to influence the outcome of the
most recent elections to be staged in Northern Ireland.
Mr Stewart is hardly a political newcomer, having
represented the DUP on Coleraine Borough Council for more
than 17 years.

He has also been active in the Orange Order, the Royal
Black Institution and the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

The day before Mr Stewart was in court, his party
colleague, the Rev William McCrea, spoke passionately
during a Stormont debate about his opposition to sharing
power with republicans.

Mr McCrea concluded that, in all the circumstances, Sinn
F‚in had a very long way to go before it could be accepted
into government.

This may all be understandable, at a certain level, but the
great problem is that it is not only Sinn F‚in politicians
who have a past.

As John Dallat of the SDLP immediately pointed out during
the same Stormont debate, Mr McCrea himself had no
difficulty in sharing a Portadown platform with the
sectarian mass murderer Billy Wright in 1996.

In the light of Mr Stewart's conviction for electoral
fraud, it was particularly ironic to hear Mr Paisley tell
the Labour conference less than 24 hours later that Sinn
F‚in will have to 'bow to the dawn of democracy'.

Mr Paisley should be prepared to acknowledge that respect
for the democratic process must extend in all directions.

September 30, 2006

This article appeared first in the September 29, 2006
edition of the Irish News.


Opin: One In The Eye For Gerry Kelly?

By Lindy McDowell

30 September 2006

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly has signalled that a republican
"biggie" is on the way as regards policing. Finally,
belatedly, the Shinners are rumoured to close to taking a
decision to back the police.

Of course, this will have to be sold to the party faithful
in tactful terms. What policing in Northern Ireland will
entail in future, they'll be told, is something completely
different from the old RUC.

Actually, it won't. Everybody knows that.

The PSNI is just a stage in the development of policing
here - in the same way the RUC was the next stage on from
the RIC.

They are all bound together in overlapping membership,
shared history and a long and honourable tradition.

The launch this week of an impressive little publication,
This Brave and Resolute Stand by the RUC George Cross
Foundation, gives some insight into what life was like for
those involved in policing here in the bloodiest years of
that history.

The booklet also provides illuminating facts and statistics
about the RUC that any policing spokesman (or indeed
aspiring chief constable) might wish to have at his

Between 1922 and 2001, over 32,000 people from all
backgrounds served in the RUC. Over 300 policemen and women
were murdered during the Troubles. More than 10,000 were

In 1983, Interpol found that, at that time, Northern
Ireland was the most dangerous place in the world to serve
as a police officer.

This booklet gives some indication of the ordeal faced not
just by police personnel but by their families.

Attacks on police homes were common. Understandably, many
policemen and women were reluctant to let outsiders know
what they did for a living.

But one former RUC officer recalls: "You could always tell
if someone was police. They'd be the ones who'd drop their
keys every morning to give them an excuse for looking under
the car for explosives."

Another cop recalls being issued with two flak jackets -
one for use at work, the other to wear when going out

Gerry Kelly will doubtless be interested to note that a
study into community attitudes in the '90s found that 70%
of Catholics said fear of attack from within the community
was the main reason why they were deterred from joining the

As for the old republican allegation that the RUC was
biased in favour of loyalists, that one is demolished
somewhat by the revelation that the RUC solved 50% of
murders committed by loyalists, compared to 30% committed
by republicans.

The aim of the booklet is not just to redress
misperceptions about the RUC but to respond to a growing
interest in the history of the force. And it's not just a
local interest.

In three years alone, the Garden of Remembrance at police
headquarters in Knock (above) has attracted over 13,000
visitors. Serving officers from around the world are among
the most frequent visitors, as are journalists and

The garden itself is a poignant reminder of sacrifice, with
the names of policemen and women killed from 1922 until the
present day inscribed on marble plaques.

Throughout the garden are reminders of the complex links in
this place - between past and present and between different

Two historic photographs illustrate this well.

One, notable because it is the first known photograph of
any Irish policeman, is of RIC constable Abraham Matchett
in 1824. Mr Machett's details were traced from records held
in Drumcree Parish Church.

Also from the 19th century is a picture of another RIC man,
Detective Inspector McCarthy. DI McCarthy's claim to fame
was that he was one of the founding fathers of the GAA.

A peeler who helped found the GAA? Now that, Gerry, really
was a "biggie".


`Fitting Tribute' To Late MLA

By Seanin Graham Health Correspondent

FAMILY and friends of Sinn Fein assembly member Michael
Ferguson attended a cancer charity fundraiser yesterday,
which he had organised shortly before his death.

Mr Ferguson (53) died suddenly last Monday after a heart
attack. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer two months
ago and was about to undergo his second cycle of
chemotherapy treatment.

He was looking forward to taking part in the Macmillan
`world's biggest coffee morning' at the West Belfast
Partnership Board offices on Falls Road, and had sent
letters to schools and community groups urging them to host
their own events.

Just a day after burying their brother, Richard Ferguson
and Marie Toman attended the fundraiser and said: "Michael
would have been chuffed by the turn-out."

"We didn't expect so many people to be here and we are
delighted that even in his death Michael's work is being
carried on," said Mr Ferguson.

"The support we have received has been so touching and to
be honest it has got us through the last few days.

"We would hope that this coffee morning is not the last one
and it would be great if it could be an annual event."

Macmillan Cancer Relief is hoping to raise the final monies
for Northern Ireland's first support and information centre
for people with cancer, which will be located close to
Belfast City Hospital's new cancer centre.

Due to open in November, the œ1.2 million building will
house a cancer information zone, complementary therapies,
hairdressing and wig fitting, financial and benefits
advice, carer support and counselling.

Gerry McConville, chairman of the West Belfast Partnership
Board, said the fundraiser had taken on a greater
significance since Mr Ferguson's death.

"Michael phoned me the Friday before his death and he was
so enthusiastic about this event," she said.

"He really wanted to raise awareness about Macmillan and
they support they provided.

Mr McConville said Mr Ferguson was a "great family man" who
also "saw the value of working for others".

"It will be impossible to ignore the work he has carried
out, even in his death, and it is fitting that his efforts
are continuing today," he said.


Ex-Political Prisoners Recount `The Troubles' During Tours

Bullet holes, murals paint part of the picture
But meeting locals helps foster understanding

Sep. 30, 2006. 01:00 AM
Michael Baginski
Special To The Star

BELFAST, IRELAND-Oh The Troubles they've seen. And that's
exactly why a select group of ex-political prisoners from
Northern Ireland now qualify as Belfast's most unusual tour

Coiste Falls Road Walking Tours offers tourists a true
insider's view of the notorious Falls Road and Clonard
areas of West Belfast through the eyes of some of its most
passionate inhabitants. At the same time, it's helping the
Republican community foster understanding of decades of
factional fighting and creating jobs in one of Belfast's
poorest neighbourhoods.

Caoimhin (pronounced Keeving) Mac Giolla Mhin is manager of
the fledgling tour company and quick to point out that the
guides aren't criminals. "They are not muggers," he says,
calling them victims of a political struggle with the
British to take control of a country that they believe is
their own, a fight that has gone on for centuries and that
erupted most recently in 1969 in civil unrest known as "The

Mac Giolla Mhin estimates that one in 10 of West Belfast's
60,000 inhabitants is an ex-political prisoner and that
"there's not a family here that wasn't affected by

"Our goal," he says of the organization, "is a social
enterprise to break down some of the barriers and show that
these people don't have horns coming out of their heads or
tails coming out of their pants."

An "activist" and member of Sinn Fein, but not an ex-
political prisoner himself, Mac Giolla Mihn points to
Coiste's broad social agenda, which is funded in part by
the European Union. It includes youth programs, job
training, and cross-cultural dialogue with historic
adversaries on the other side of the so-called "Peace Line"
barrier with Shankill.

The latest endeavour is promoting tourism. Tourists have
been sightseeing in West Belfast for several years now by
taxi, and an unofficial tourism trail has evolved around
the area's intriguing wall murals, some of which honour
local heroes and martyrs, satirize world figures such as
George Bush or depict balaclava-clad, machine-gun toting

Recently, open-top double-decker tour buses have started
venturing into the neighbouring Republican and Loyalist
areas - still socially and religiously divided from each
other - in much the same way that armoured police and
military vehicles used to.

Coiste guides travel by foot, starting off at the Divis
Tower at the bottom of Falls Rd., until recently a
controversial British army post. Heading up Falls Rd., tour
participants are shown wall murals, the Peace Line barrier
and sites key to the struggle, such as Sinn Fein's office
and the graves of the 1981 Belfast hunger strikers,
including Bobby Sands.

Guides are only too eager to talk about the history and the
stories behind the sites, and their emotion is evident.
"It's a shame," Mac Giolla Mhin says, looking at the
overgrown and unkempt Milltown Cemetery where Sands is

And there's humour. "People don't come here for the
fishing," he cracks while pointing out bullet holes in
walls along Falls Rd. and a windowless house which faces
the route of an annual Orange march out of Shankill and has
had so many panes of glass broken, the owners no longer
replace them.

There are also lots of introductions to locals passing by.

In fine Irish style, there's no sugar-coating here.
Pressing social issues, from unemployment to drugs and
alcoholism, suicide and teen pregnancy are all part of the

But the unabashedly Republican 39-year-old, who until just
a couple of years ago has known nothing but conflict in his
neighbourhood, stresses that the tours "are not about
getting your political message out."

In fact, Coiste is starting to work with similar tour
groups in Shankill, where visitors are "handed off" to
Loyalist tour guides halfway through the tour to get the
other side of the story.

The company also works with a variety of local and
international groups, including university students, and
will customize programs as needed.

Lisa McMurray of the Belfast Visitors & Convention Bureau,
which promotes the tours, emphasizes that they are
completely legitimate and safe. Indeed, Mac Giolla Mhin
bristles at the competition - the ubiquitous Black cab,
taxi tours and open-top buses.

"Not a taxi man can tell you the true history, unless he
did a lot of research," he blasts in full Irish brogue.
Even his counterparts in the Shankill agree, he claims,
noting that he talks to them regularly about their common
cause. "They're pissed off about people coming in these
buses and never getting off."

As recently as eight years ago, these types of tours
couldn't have existed, says Mac Giolla Mhin, who cites the
Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998, as the harbinger
of peace in the city that enabled the Irish Republican Army
(IRA) to begin de-commissioning its weapons in 2001 - a
task recognized as being "finally accomplished" in
September, 2005.

"As far as people in this area are concerned, the military
struggle against the British is over," says Mac Giolla

Mary McConville, who spent three years in prison, says the
tours are good for the overall peace process in Northern
Ireland. "It's great that (people) are coming and learning
a wee bit about history," she says.

Most Falls residents still want the British out. But, Mac
Giolla Mhin is quick to add: "Now it's a struggle of
political means."

And tourists are invited to watch.

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