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October 03, 2006

Adams: Doing Business With the DUP

News About Ireland & The Irish

BT 10/03/06 Adams: Doing Business With The DUP
BB 10/03/06 Executive Undemocratic: Robinson
BT 10/03/06 Final Paper To Be Put To Parties
BT 10/03/06 Talks Could Mark New Relations Between DUP & RC Church
BT 10/03/06 Paisley Keen On Historic Meeting
AP 10/03/06 Britain, Ireland Receive Report On IRA
BT 10/03/06 Omagh: Top Officer 'Sorry' For Destroyed Evidence
BN 10/03/06 SF: 'Why Is Govt So Anxious To Enforce Wishes Of Shell?'
TO 10/03/06 Special Branch Absorbed Into Counter-Terror Unit
DR 10/03/06 Scotland: Sectarian Knife Thug Found Dead
BB 10/03/06 Firework Laws 'Must Be Changed'
BT 10/03/06 Bertie's Blunder Sees Odds On Plan B Lengthen
BT 10/03/06 Opin: Paisley Due Credit For Landmark Talks
BT 10/03/06 Opin: Shaping The Future Of Public Services In N Ireland
NH 10/03/06 Opin: Police Have Paid A Heavy Price In Our Times
NH 10/03/06 Opin: Full Public Inquiries Way Forward Survivors Insist
BT 10/03/06 Ireland's First Bilingual Film Shoots In City
BT 10/03/06 Bertie Ahern: The Operator

(Oct 3, 1981, IRA prisoners at Maze Prison in Belfast,
Northern Ireland, ended a 7-month hunger strike in which 10
men died.)


Adams: Doing Business With The DUP

It's not a question of 'if' the DUP shares power with Sinn
Fein, but 'when'. They cannot block progress, Gerry Adams
tells Political Correspondent Noel McAdam

03 October 2006

Some of the people Gerry Adams meets who are most convinced
of the inevitability of a united Ireland are unionists.

"That's been my experience," the president of Sinn Fein
says. "It is quite ironic that that would be the case.

"None of them has been converted to republicanism, but they
realise unless we can sort issues out we will be sucked
into being a backwater on the edge of the British exchequer
and neglected for ever and a day."

Adams is being driven back to Belfast after a "very wet"
but worthwhile day at the International Ploughing
Championships in Carlow, where he is a regular visitor.

Although focused on next week's Scottish summit, the party
is already also concentrating on the next Irish election
which may be only months away.

Adams doesn't view the political vista ahead as an 'either-
or' situation. Should negotiations founder, he insists
implementation of the Good Friday Agreement will continue -
and not go back on the table if talks resume.

"What they (the DUP) need to know is that when they do come
back at some point in the future any of the changes which
have been brought about in between times will stand," he

In between, he says, will include the "deepening" of
north/south issues, the harmonisation of issues "plainly in
the interests of people in the northern part of the
island", the work of the implementation bodies and
"whatever accords or partnership agreements the Governments
have brought in".

He says: "That's where we start off again. We won't start
off from this point, we will start from whatever point when
the DUP decide they want to do business. So they cannot
have a veto and they cannot have a brake."

Therefore, in Adams' terms, the primary issue for St
Andrews - where Sinn Fein will push for a round-table
session of all parties - is whether the DUP wants to
participate in power-sharing within the terms of the 1998

"Because that is the one thing for certain - that there is
going to be a continuum of change and no one can stop
that," Adams insists.

"The only veto the DUP can have is whether they are part of
it. I like to think that they will participate in the
institutions. And that, incidentally, is a big thing for me
to say ... that is me respecting Ian Paisley's mandate."

It is why Adams proposed Paisley for First Minister in the
Assembly - to send a signal to republicans about respecting
mandates and to unionists that things have changed - and is
prepared to do so again, as long as Martin McGuinness is
accepted as 'Siamese Twin' Deputy First Minister.

Ian Paisley doesn't treat Adams personally any differently
these days - he has yet to even acknowledge him in the
Stormont corridors of non-power or even a TV studio green
room - but Adams argues they don't need to get on to be
able to work together.

"The question is not if we get to work with the DUP, it's
when we get to work with the DUP and we have plenty of
experience of that," he says. "It isn't all that very long
since Belfast City Council was a bear pit and now, despite
many difficulties, at least it works

"The pattern is that where the DUP has to do business, they
do so. I am not expecting that DUP and Sinn Fein Ministers
will walk out of the lobbies into the bar or even the
coffee lounge."

Adams also cites Ian Paisley's record as chairman of the
former Assembly agriculture scrutiny committee.

"He did a good job and treated members fairly, including
the Sinn Fein representatives," he says.

"Let's not be too naive or dewy-eyed. This is about people
settling down to do the business they were elected to do.
All the more normal political practice will come in time."

Adams naturally declines to show any negotiating wriggle
room ahead of St Andrews but argues he has gone as far as
he can on the crucial issue of policing - promising a
special ard fheis if the institutions and promised British
legislation are in place.

Apart from the post-Patten Peter Mandelson experience on
policing, which helps fuel republican caution, Adams also
believes the DUP is exploiting it as a distraction from
other issues including the mechanics of how Ian Paisley
wants the next Assembly to work.

Adams again rehearses how far his party has come, including
the ard fheis which changed the party constitution to allow
it to take its seats and agreeing to the venue of the
Assembly being Stormont, as evidence of its commitment to
six-county devolution.

"That is part of our strategic compromise and part of us
trying to reach out to unionism, that is part of us
reaching out to the other side," he says.

"And what Ian Paisley has to ask himself - and there's an
echo of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in what I am
going to say - is he prepared to cross to the other side?

"We can all stay where we are. It's relatively easy to
engage in the politics of the lowest common denominator.
Have no doubt that our focus is on trying to get the
political institutions back in place."

Adams rarely bumps into David Trimble these days but
recalls a summer of conversations with the former Ulster
Unionist leader and First Minister from which Adams says he
learned a lot, not least that pro-active listening includes
the possibility of minds being changed.

"You have to open up your mind to the possibility that the
person you are speaking to can actually change your mind,"
he says.

"A lot of us going into converstation are trying to get the
others to accept we're right but somewhere in part of the
interaction you tease this out and you have to be open to
suggestions from people who are your political opponents.

"I think one of the big challenges facing republicans is to
understand unionism and to try in so far as we can while
being true to our own broad principles to be part of
shaping out the future."

He says he wants to remind readers, including republican
readers of the Belfast Telegraph, that Sinn Fein wants to
see the Orange and Green united.

"It isn't that we want to see them united on the basis of
our propositions but somewhere in the middle of the
conversation comes agreement and ability to come to
compromises," he adds.


Executive Undemocratic: Robinson

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson has told the assembly that
the requirement for all major parties to be included in a
Stormont executive must be temporary.

Mr Robinson said that the government system designed by the
Good Friday Agreement was "fundamentally undemocratic".

Assembly members are debating potential changes recommended
by the cross-party Preparation for Government Committee.

These include reducing the number of assembly members.

It also recommends a phasing out of the "dual mandate"
under which some assembly members also serve as MPs or

Under the Good Friday Agreement any power-sharing executive
must include all the major parties.


However, Mr Robinson told the debate the so-called
mandatory coalition was undemocratic and insisted the
system should not be imposed on future generations.

UK Unionist leader Bob McCartney contrasted that statement
with the DUP's last Westminster election manifesto which
described such a mandatory coalition including Sinn Fein as
being "out of the question".

Mr McCartney asked whether the DUP could be slightly in
favour for a limited period of time of a coalition it
regards as undemocratic.

Before the debate, the DUP said that further changes to the
Stormont rules will be necessary if there is to be a deal
on power sharing.

Devolved government was suspended over allegations of a
republican spy ring.

The court case that followed collapsed and one of those
involved, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a
British agent.

Direct rule from London was restored in October 2002 and
has been in place since.

The Preparation for Government Committee was set up to
identify obstacles to the return of devolution. It met over
the summer months.

Published: 2006/10/03 12:13:40 GMT


Final Paper To Be Put To Parties

Before Scotland 'summit', Governments will spell out issues
that need resolved

By Noel McAdam
03 October 2006

The British and Irish Governments are preparing a paper to
put to the political parties, probably ahead of the
Scotland 'summit' a week from today.

It is believed the final paper will spell out what issues
remain to be resolved - and what has been agreed by the
Preparation for Government committee over the summer. As
pressure mounted on the DUP ahead of tomorrow's expected
Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report, Ulster
Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said he anticipated a paper
from the Governments ahead of St Andrews next week.

With the DUP setting out six essential points which could
lead towards a devolution deal, Sir Reg said he did not
expect the paper would amount to a 'heads of agreement'.

"I think there will be a paper circulated certainly no
later than next week, before we go. I think it's going to
be a summary of where we had got to over the summer in the
Preparation for Government committee," he said.

"It's going to be what has been agreed and what is still
outstanding, but a lot of it is soluble."

The 12th report of the IMC will give its most positive
assessment yet of IRA activity, including criminality,
which the Governments view as the key issue preventing the
DUP entering into power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

Visiting Belfast yesterday, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot
Ahern said: "I think you see fairly clearly that the
Provisional movement has done exactly what they undertook
to do and they have, for all intents and purposes, moved to
a position where they are now exclusively dealing with
politics and not as they were doing previously."

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, however, spelt out a six-
point blueprint which, apart from an end to IRA
paramilitary and criminal activity, included support for
the Rule of Law from all those who are to be in government.

It also demanded fundamental changes to the institutions
and structures of the Good Friday Agreement, a peace
dividend "to aid the transition from conflict to stability"
and a raft of what he termed "fairness and equality"
confidence-building measures.

The DUP demands list also included a timetable and a
'programme of work' leading to devolution and again
insisted the party will not be bound by the November 24
deadline. But after meeting the parties at Stormont, Mr
Ahern said: "I do not think people should be putting in
conditions at this stage because we all know what the net
issues are.

"Even if we come to them on November 24, 2006, or 2007 they
will still be the same issues."

Gerry Adams: it's not 'if' but 'when' we work with the DU


Talks Could Mark New Relations Between DUP And Catholic Church

By Alf McCreary
03 October 2006

The historic meeting between the Reverend Ian Paisley and
Archbishop Sean Brady and their colleagues next week could
mark a turning point in the history of relationships
between the DUP leader and the Catholic Church.

Ian Paisley, the founder and lifelong Moderator of the Free
Presbyterian Church, built his early career as a unionist
politician on his attacks on the Catholic Church and its

He scathingly referred to various popes as "old red socks",
and in 1963, he organised a march to protest against the
lowering of the Union flag on Belfast's City Hall,
following the death of Pope John XXIII.

Mr Paisley's opposition to Catholicism in general and to
individual popes in particular has continued throughout his
political life.

In 1988, he made international headlines in the European
Parliament by interrupting a speech by Pope John Paul II by
claiming that the Pontiff was "the anti-Christ".

He greatly offended a number of his European parliamentary
colleagues by doing so and was physically removed from the
council chamber while the Pope looked on quietly, and then
continued his keynote address.

Despite the opposition of other European politicians, Mr
Paisley had made his point in a forum and on an occasion
that was guaranteed to provide the maximum international

Europeans and others who would not have known much, or
anything, about Paisley's career in UK politics were
bemused by the emergence of a firebrand cleric who seemed
to belong more to Reformation Europe than the modern
continent of religious pluralism.

Nearer to home, Ian Paisley continued his resolute
opposition to Catholicism. When the incoming Moderator of
the Presbyterian Church Dr Ken Newell invited Archbishop
Brady as his personal guest to the opening night of the
Presbyterian Assembly a couple of years ago, Mr Paisley led
a protest of Free Presbyterian Church members outside the
Assembly's building in Fisherwick Place.

Though Paisley appeared to have mellowed with age in recent
years, this was seen as a throw-back to the anti-Catholic
street politician of earlier decades.

Ian Paisley's anti-Catholicism remains complex. While he
has been a fierce opponent of Catholic doctrine and of the
worldwide power and position of the Catholic Church, he has
also been a dutiful MP for many of his Catholic

It is a matter of speculation as to whether or not the
meeting between the DUP and representatives of the Catholic
Church on Monday at Stormont marks a change of heart by Mr
Paisley or merely political expediency at a time when
political leaders are trying desperately to achieve a
breakthrough to save the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It's expected that the DUP will ask the Catholic delegation
to try to influence Sinn Fein in giving support and formal
recognition to the PSNI.


Paisley Keen On Historic Meeting

By Mark Hookham
03 October 2006

DUP leader Ian Paisley yesterday declared he was "looking
forward" to a historic meeting with Catholic Primate Sean

Dr Paisley, long a fierce critic of the Catholic Church,
said the landmark meeting in Stormont on Monday would be
"forthright" - although he stressed that discussions on
religion are off the agenda.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party
conference in Bournemouth, he said the meeting had been
requested by Dr Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh.

He told delegates: "I was requested by the archbishop to
meet him.

"I said I would be very happy to meet him.

"I wasn't going to have an ecumenical dialogue with him.

"I am sure he wouldn't expect me to.

"We are going to talk of matters that he wants to talk
about relevant to the political situation."

"We will meet him as we have met all representatives of the
various churches and we will talk with him and I look
forward to that meeting.

"We will have, I am sure, a most forthright meeting."

Earlier, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson dismissed the
chances of a political deal in Scotland later this month.

He stated: "I expect that St Andrews will not be the end of

But he revealed the DUP would go to the negotiations with a
list of conditions which they believe must be satisfied.

After it is obvious no more progress can be made, either at
St Andrews or in subsequent talks, they will launch a
"comprehensive consultation" on whatever package is on the


Britain, Ireland Receive Report On IRA

Staff and agencies
03 October, 2006
By Shawn Pogatchnik,
Associated Press Writer
Mon Oct 2, 4:03 PM ET

DUBLIN, Ireland - The British and Irish governments
received a long-awaited report Monday widely expected to
confirm that the Irish Republican Army is no longer a
threat to Northern Ireland, a finding they hope will help
revive a Catholic-Protestant administration.

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, Tony Blair and
Bertie Ahern, have repeatedly called on Protestant leaders
to forge a new administration alongside Sinn Fein, the IRA-
linked party that represents most of the Catholic minority
in Northern Ireland. An IRA spying scandal triggered the
collapse of a previous coalition four years ago.

The report by the four-member commission — which includes
former directors of the CIA and the anti-terrorist unit of
Scotland Yard — is widely expected to confirm that IRA
units have stopped a range of activities, including robbing
banks and maiming criminal rivals in so-called "punishment"

In London, Blair‘s official spokesman said the British
government wanted the report to "provide the definitive
answer to the question as to whether the IRA campaign in
all its forms is finally over, and whether Sinn Fein is
living up to the commitments it has made to pursue its ends
by solely political means."

Ahern said the Sinn Fein-IRA movement "has done exactly
what they undertook to do, and they have for all intents
and purposes moved to a position where they are now
exclusively dealing with politics."

Sinn Fein leaders they appear unwilling to commit
themselves before a power-sharing deal. The IRA, which has
a seven-man command and an estimated 500 to 1,000 members,
also has announced no plans to dissolve.


Top Officer 'Sorry' For Destroyed Evidence

By Jonathan McCambridge
03 October 2006

A senior detective yesterday apologised to the Omagh
bombing trial for ordering the destruction of parts of an
explosive device following a separate attack on an RUC

Det Supt Esmond Adair also told Belfast Crown Court that he
was aware of occasions where Special Branch intelligence on
crimes was not passed down to officers in individual cases.

Sean Hoey (37) from Molly Road, Jonesborough, denies 58
terrorist charges relating to a Real IRA campaign which
included the Omagh bomb atrocity which killed 29 people.

The prosecution case against him relies heavily on DNA and
fibre evidence.

The sixth day of his trial heard evidence about a mortar
bomb attack on Grosvenor Road RUC station in May 1998.

Hoey is not facing charges relating to this incident.

Mr Adair confirmed that he had given authority for the
destruction of a number of parts of the device in August
2000 after nobody was made amenable.

Defence barrister Ciaran Vaughan asked him if the storage
facilities for exhibits in Grosvenor Road at that time were

He said: "It was not good. The station sergeant kept good
records, but he did not have enough space.

"I made a mistake when I authorised disposal of the
exhibits and I apologise for that.

"If I had thought a suspect could have been identified I
would not have done it.

"I would never order any exhibits to be destroyed today."

Defence barrister Mr Vaughan asked Mr Adair if he was aware
of intelligence reports received by police shortly after
the mortar bomb attack which named two men as suspects for
the attack.

He said: "If I had known there were suspects in the case I
would not have ordered the destruction of exhibits."

Trial judge Mr Justice Weir asked if intelligence sometimes
came from Special Branch.

Mr Adair said the majority relating to terrorist matters
would have come from Special Branch.

The judge asked him if he was aware of cases where there
may have been intelligence but that it was not passed down
to the investigating officers.

The detective said he had seen intelligence which was
marked "no downwards dissemination".

He said the murder of William Stobie was one such case.

The former UDA quartermaster and Special Branch agent was
murdered in 2003, shortly after his trial in connection
with the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane had collapsed.

At hearing


SF: 'Why Is Govt So Anxious To Enforce Wishes Of Shell?'

03/10/2006 - 10:47:13

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris
has accused the Government of appearing "anxious to enforce
the wishes of Shell" in relation to the Corrib gas

Deputy Ferris also condemned the decision by the Department
of Justice to order gardaí to break up a picket at the
proposed site of the oil refinery at Bellanaboy.

Deputy Ferris said: “It is ironic that on the day that the
Dáil will question the Taoiseach on his personal finances,
that a Fianna Fáil Government is seen to be clearly
enforcing the wishes of a multi-national consortium against
the will of the local people and against the best interests
of the Irish people as a whole.

“Des Richardson is one of those who assisted the Taoiseach
in his time of need.

"He is also the person who was close to Enterprise Oil when
they secured the contract for the Corrib field and who
cleared the Fianna Fáil debt through undisclosed donations
from big business.

“Bertie Ahern’s personal finances are small beer compared
to the huge scandal of the giving away of our gas to
companies that pay almost nothing in return in the way of
tax or royalties.

"The question has often been posed as to why this was done
and the fact that Shell and others are terrified of
revealing the terms of the rotten deal raises suspicions of
the nature of the relationship between Fianna Fáil and the
oil companies.

"On the day that the gardaí are forcing protestors off the
road in Mayo at the behest of Shell the question needs to
be posed: Why is the Fianna Fáil piper so willing to do
their bidding?”


Special Branch Absorbed Into Counter-Terror Unit

By Sean O’Neill

Our correspondent reports on a new force created by
Scotland Yard in response to the vastly altered worldwide
threat since 9/11

Britain's policing response to the global terrorism of al-
Qaeda was unveiled yesterday, more than five years after
the September 11 atrocities.

Scotland Yard announced the merger of SO12, Special Branch,
with SO13, the Anti-Terrorist Branch, to form SO15, to be
called the Counter-Terrorism Command.

The new unit, which has 1,500 staff and officers in London
alone, will also have three regional branches and a number
of investigators based overseas. It has an existing
workload of more than 70 investigations and is dealing with
cases in which 90 people are awaiting trial for alleged
terrorist offences.

But the head of the new command, Deputy Assistant
Commissioner Peter Clarke, who also holds the title of
National Co-ordinator of Terrorism Investigations, said
that more resources would be needed.

Mr Clarke said: “We have been growing in Special Branch and
the Anti-Terrorist Branch and the number of resources
devoted to counter terrorism has doubled since 2001.

“That will continue to grow simply because of the nature
and the demands of the threat.”

When the Metropolitan Police first announced its plans for
a unified Counter- Terrorism Command a year ago, it said it
hoped to have a strength of 2,000 officers and staff. Mr
Clarke said that the new command was a bespoke unit
modelled to combat a worldwide terror threat.

The previous policing model, developed over 30 years and
designed to fight the IRA and other Irish terrorist groups,
was no longer appropriate.

Republican terrorism had posed an essentially domestic
threat with tightly structured groups, pursuing an
identifiable and negotiable agenda and using operatives who
wanted to resist capture. Although the IRA perpetrated
atrocities, it also employed a system of telephone warnings
that had some effect on restricting casualties.

The new type of terrorism, pursued by Islamist groups under
the al-Qaeda banner, was entirely different in character.
Mr Clarke said: “If you take all those characteristics (of
the IRA campaign) and reverse them . . . you are not too
far from describing the nature of the threat we now face.

“Far from being domestic, it is global in origin, global in
ambition and global in reach. There is clearly no
determination to avoid capture because we have seen that
the use of suicide attacks is a frequent terrorist method.

“Far from there being any attempt, for political or other
reasons, to restrict casualties, what we see time and again
is an ambition to kill as many people as possible. There
are no warnings and we have seen efforts here and overseas
around unconventional weapons.”

The merger of SO12 and SO13 means the end of Special
Branch, which was established in 1883 to tackle Fenian
terrorism and was called the Metropolitan Police Special
Irish Branch. The key reform of the restructuring is to
combine the intelligence-gathering activities of Special
Branch with the investigatory functions of the Anti-
Terrorist Branch.

Mr Clarke said that it was often too dangerous to wait
until suspects were in possession of bombs or guns. To
minimise the risk to the public it was increasingly
necessary for police to make arrests earlier, often
disrupting planning, fundraising, communication or
indoctrination processes.

He added that the new command would continue to work
extremely closely with MI5, the intelligence agency, and
with the Crown Prosecution Service. Two regional units
based in the Midlands and the North West will come under
the new command and a third unit is to be established in
the North East.

The skills of the new unit will range from those of
traditional detectives to specialist financial
investigators and technicians trained in the recovery of
evidence from computers, mobile phones and other electronic
devices. It will also have officers whose task is to work
closely with Muslim communities.

In conjunction with the new command, the Association of
Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has advertised three vacancies
for senior posts in the emerging national anti-terrorist

They include a director at deputy chief constable level to
manage the day-to-day business of the Acpo terrorism
committee; a national co- ordinator for community
engagement; and a national co-ordinator of Special Branch.

The Forest Gate anti-terrorism raid, which failed to
unearth any evidence of terrorist activity, cost the police
more than £2.2 million, Scotland Yard said last night. The
cost includes £979,000 spent on officers’ salaries,
£864,000 on overtime and £120,000 on catering, erecting
barricades and repair work.


Scotland: Sectarian Knife Thug Found Dead

Cops launch probe

A THUG was found dead last night just yards from where he
slashed a Celtic fan's throat in a sectarian attack nine
years ago.

Thomas Longstaff was jailed for 10 years in 1998 for the
attack on Cambridge student Sean O'Connor.

Police were refusing to say whether they were treating Long
staff's death as suspicious.

Forensics experts were on the scene after police cordoned
off the lane leading to the close where the body was

Locals and relatives of the dead man gathered at the

Relatives at the scene were too distraught to speak about
his death.

A spokes man for Strathclyde Police said: "We can confirm
that the body of a 34-year-oldman was found at 7.45pm in
Landressy Street in the Bridgeton area.

"Inquiries are ongoing and a post mortem will be held in
due course to establish the cause of death."

In 1997, Long staff assaulted teenager Sean on London Road,
near Landressy Street.

He was found guilty of attempted murder after attacking
Sean, then 19, as he walked to a bus following a Celtic

The court heard at the time that Sean, of Donegal, Ireland,
heard someone call him a "Fenian b*****d".

He was confronted by a man who aimed what he thought was a
punch at him, then ran away.

When Sean put his hand up to his neck, his fingers
disappeared almost to the knuckles in a gaping wound just
under his jaw.

The attack scarred him for life.

Longstaff denied the attack and said he could not remember
where he was the day it happened.

He was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 10


Firework Laws 'Must Be Changed'

The current laws on fireworks in Northern Ireland have led
to a rise in illegal sales, the Northern Ireland Firework
Association has said.

The organisation which represents companies involved in the
legitimate sale of fireworks wants the legislation brought
in in 2002 to be changed.

It says the public are put off spending £30 to buy a
licence to use fireworks.

Chairman Paul Kelly says bringing the laws into line with
the rest of the UK would help curb the illegal trade.

"What we have argued for is a window of opportunity for
legal outlets to sell fireworks," Mr Kelly said. "Where you
have a two-week selling period where a licence is not

"That would help take away the illegal industry," he said.

"Instead the fireworks are being sold out of houses, out of
cars, car boot sales and markets."

A ban on fireworks in Northern Ireland was lifted in 1996
following the paramilitary ceasefires.

However, new restrictions on the use of garden fireworks
were brought in May 2002.

Published: 2006/10/03 08:46:24 GMT


Bertie's Blunder Sees Odds On Plan B Lengthen

By Barry White
03 October 2006

Now it's coming out. The Republic that has such an
influence over Northern Ireland affairs, and will probably
have more in future, is not as clear about rules
surrounding politicians and gifts or loans as it pretended
to be.

Bertie Ahern, who will shortly be trying to persuade our
politicians to accept the bona fides of one-time deadly
foes, could see nothing wrong in accepting money from
friends in 1993/4, when he was Finance Minister. He was
separating from his wife, and had no house and no money to
pay for his daughters' education.

(He wasn't a big spender, like his mentor Charlie Haughey -
the man who described him as "the best, the most skilful,
the most devious and the most cunning" - so why was he so
broke? Why didn't he talk to a bank manager? He didn't even
have a bank account, so where did he put the £35,000 from
friends and the £8,000 for talks to Manchester Irish

Strange goings-on indeed, which have only emerged because a
submission to the Mahon (cash for favours) tribunal leaked
to the Irish Times. Bertie wanted to suppress it, but it
was published and he was damned.

Whatever way you look at it, there is something wildly
implausible about a finance minister and professional
accountant looking for hand-outs. He was a politician on
the way up (current salary £176,000), a friend of Charlie
Haughey and an ex-mayor of Dublin. It shouldn't have been
difficult to get a loan.

After all, Charlie could have given him all the advice he
needed, both legal and illegal. When he was running short,
Ben Dunne delivered £1.3 million in person, for which he
got a heartfelt "Thanks, big fella!" Despite that, Haughey
merited a state funeral this year. Since Haughey's outing,
there have been revelations about backhanders for
politicians, including the late Liam Lawlor, laughingly
appointed chairman of the Dail's ethics committee, and
Foreign Minister Ray Burke, who, despite Ahern's tribute as
"honourable, loyal and true", was jailed for six months.

Oh yes, the Celtic Tiger has created rich pickings for
those in high places, and politicians of influence have
been tempted. Whether Ahern has or has not, and his
downmarket lifestyle is his best defence, his reputation as
a smooth operator has been holed irreparably. Sure it's all
in the past, and haven't we all done well under Bertie?
That appears to be the attitude of the Republic's voters
who, in a telephone poll, said they didn't believe the
Taoiseach, didn't approve of what he had done, but still
didn't want him to resign. More disapproval was shown of
Michael McDowell, his coalition partner, for first
defending Bertie and then U-turning.

The main casualty, apart from Ahern, is the public's faith
in its politicians - and, thus, in any deal that emerges
from the St Andrews summit. They come low enough in public
esteem as it is. If it weren't for the chance to stop some
of the more unpopular decisions of direct rule ministers,
there would be few takers for returning to an acrimonious
Stormont Assembly.

Assuming that Bertie is still around for the talks, how
well qualified are he and Tony - still wrestling with the
loans for honours scandal - to read the riot act to our
politicians? As Taoiseach, in 1997, Ahern told the Dail
that "public representatives must not be under a personal
financial obligation to anyone" and that it was "quite
unacceptable" that a Dail member and particularly a
minister should be supported in his lifestyle by personal

The fact that four of his friends were later appointed to
state bodies stands against him, but Bertie's unpolished
charm has got him out of many a scrape. Interview him once,
as I did, and he'll greet you like a long-lost friend the
next time.

Here, politicians are far removed from monetary
temptations, but if they ever do the longed-for deal, they
must have better safeguards in place, to avoid our own
Mahon tribunals. Otherwise, at the first hint of
corruption, the whole Assembly edifice would tumble down.

At best, there will be an outline of an outline agreement
by November 24, with mountains of conditions on both sides.
Then the real talking, and trading for concessions, will
begin. The significance of the Bertie blunder is that Plan
B - joint stewardship - is fading fast.

÷SAD last day at the Ulster Museum where they tell me, but
I'm not wholly convinced, that when it re-opens for
business in 2009 the exhibits will be even more attractive.
If there are more hands-on displays, like W5, maybe the
wait will be worth it, but the evidence of our heavy
industry past could be stored and lost forever.


Opin: Paisley Due Credit For Landmark Talks

03 October 2006

Slowly but surely barriers are being broken down in
Northern Ireland, and the announcement that the Rev Ian
Paisley and Archbishop Sean Brady are to meet is a further
sign of the improving atmosphere. The trenchant DUP leader
and the Catholic Primate are unlikely to see eye-to-eye on
everything, but the fact that they can talk face-to-face is
hugely encouraging.

The meeting is historic in that Mr Paisley has been a noted
critic over many years of the Catholic Church. The
theological differences have not diminished but instead of
protesting from outside, the DUP leader is going into

This is a scenario which would have been unthinkable 30
years ago but it shows how much times are changing in
Northern Ireland. As Mr Paisley is demonstrating, engaging
with people who think differently does not involve the
sacrifice of any principle.

Meeting and talking does not mean, to coin a vintage
Paisley phrase, that Ulster is being "sold down the river".
Hopefully that is a message which Mr Paisley's followers
will take to heart.

The only pity is that this meeting has taken so long to
arrange. It was in May last year that the meeting was first
mooted, when Dr Brady declared his interest in talks to
ensure that the "religious convictions and political
aspirations" of Catholics would be treated with respect.

The weeks have turned into months but the timing of the
meeting, to take place next Monday, now takes on an added
significance. It comes at the start of a week which will be
dominated by the Government's all-party talks in Scotland.

For his part, Mr Paisley sees the discussions with Dr Brady
as an opportunity to urge the Catholic hierarchy to use its
influence to persuade Sinn Fein to endorse the PSNI.

How far that influence extends remains to be seen, but the
bishops could play a useful role in paving the way for
change. Given the extent of police reform on foot of the
Patten Report, there is no justification for the Sinn Fein

The wider implication of the meeting between Mr Paisley and
Dr Brady is that it suggests the DUP is intent on pushing
Sinn Fein to a position where it can strike a deal. This
turns on its head the republican movement's perception that
the DUP is more interested in finding excuses not to share
power than in reaching an accommodation.

Mr Paisley is taking a risk, and deserves credit for that.
But the fact that this meeting can take place should also
help condition the DUP's grassroots supporters for changed
circumstances as the peace process evolves.

Next Monday's meeting represents a further step forward
along a long road. As Mr Paisley's actions make clear,
Northern Ireland must look to the future, not the past.


Opin: Shaping The Future Of Public Services In N Ireland

By David Hanson MP
03 October 2006

Over the next two years, red tape will be slashed as
Northern Ireland's public sector is radically transformed
for the benefit of citizens. The public will no longer be
faced with a confusing range of organisations but a smaller
public sector that is focused on the needs of modern

As the minister with responsibility tted to delivering a
reform package which will cut the number of public bodies
by 50% while bringing services closer to the people who use

Through the Review of Public Administration, instead of 26
district councils we will have seven. We will also reduce
18 health trusts to five. Bureaucracy in education will
also be cut.

We are laying the foundations to transform Northern Ireland
into the world class place it deserves to be, with a modern
economy that can compete globally.

However, this is a crucial time for Northern Ireland. There
is just under two months in which to restore devolution. We
have 108 elected MLAs who should be taking the decisions
that I and my ministerial colleagues are currently taking.
Decisions that impact on the lives of everyone in Northern

If MLAs continue to refuse to accept their obligations by
November 24 and the Assembly does not re-start, the best
opportunity for Northern Ireland to progress - politically
and economically - will have been lost for a long time. I
am, however, optimistic that MLAs will recognise the real
advantages devolution can deliver.

In Northern Ireland, the public sector is
disproportionately large compared to the private sector.
While government works hard to encourage the growth of the
private sector, this situation is unsustainable in the long

The full implementation of the RPA can lead to substantial
savings and the key point here is that all savings stay in
Northern Ireland for reinvestment in front line services.

The RPA will touch on all sectors of the public service,
including local government, health and education.

At the local government level, the new councils system will
carry out functions, such as planning, local road
maintenance, urban and rural regeneration and some housing

In health, the new arrangements will reduce bureaucracy and
deliver more effective and integrated services .

The new Health And Social Services Trusts are already
operating in shadow form, and we are in the process of
appointing senior management teams and planning for them to
become fully operational by next April.

In education, we are also cutting down on bureaucracy, to
help deliver value for money. An Education and Skills
Authority will be established to support the operational
delivery of education across Northern Ireland and across
all sectors of education.

The current education system is failing too many children
and its reorganisation will provide a more unified approach
to the delivery of education services.

The number of non-departmental public bodies will also be
reduced from more than 80 to around 50.

So, how can we implement these changes to the public sector
and leave 11 civil service departments intact? Obviously we

The RPA will see some key functions transfer from
departments to the new organisations. As a result, a number
of departments will be unsustainable in their current form.
A detailed review will be necessary to determine the
optimum number and structure of departments.

In the meantime, however, the civil service is undertaking
a programme of reform to ensure it is fit for purpose.
These reforms will streamline how functions are carried out
and will deliver savings.

But, through all the reforms, there is one key element that
can make or break the project. That is how staff are kept
informed and treated.

The RPA and civil service reforms have the potential to
impact on 180,000 public servants. That is over 10% of the
population. For some, the reforms may have major career
implications. For many it will mean working for a new
organisation and having to learn new skills.

Key external stakeholders, such as elected representatives
and the business community, also have a keen interest in
these reforms. They need to be reassured that we are using
their money wisely.

The overall aim of our reform programme is to put Northern
Ireland onto a more sustainable economic platform that will
help us to deliver quality, responsive services. There are
many challenges ahead, but equally, the opportunities
available can make an immense difference to the lives of


Opin: Police Have Paid A Heavy Price In Our Times

(Irish News)

Yesterday's (Sunday) National Police Memorial Day was
marked by a service in Belfast's Waterfront Hall for
policemen and women killed or who died in service
throughout the United Kingdom including Ireland when the
whole island was part of the UK.

Our image of the police is shaped by community experiences,
by direct contact and through the media.

My earliest memories suggest that police officers were
feared rather than respected. No police lived in our area
but two B Specials lived nearby. One of their sons resented
me calling his dad a B Special and insisted that he was a

The other B man was an officer and considered a cut above
the rest of us because his home had a bathroom and he was a
local councillor. The B men were sometimes seen as a kind
of Dad's Army but in other parts as effective protectors of
the community.

Once when some of us were in the lower Falls a scuffle took
place involving a policeman. A woman tried to restrain a
man from attacking the policeman and was heard shouting,
"He's not a B Special, he's a policeman".

This taught me that differences existed between the two

After my dad's death I discovered his C Special membership
card dated July 4 1922 but he had never talked much about

'Saved' policemen gave their testimonies at our mission
hall but they seemed different from other policemen for
whom my feelings of unease remained.

This was reinforced when I read about an English born-again
prisoner whose experiences made it impossible for him to
believe that any policeman could be straight.

After Paisley and others were released from prison in the
1960s one Church minister at a rally near Dundonald
referred to the RUC as "Devils".

Rumours circulated about the police planting false evidence
in loyalist homes to bolster chances of conviction. Friends
from the lower Shankill said the police had always been
unpopular. In the 1970s a loyalist friend told of his
hatred for the police who, when he was a boy, beat him in
custody for an offence he did not commit.

Later a respected evangelical preacher told us we should
never tell the police we were on holiday lest they steal
our possessions.

In the 1980s direct contact convinced me that corruption
existed within the RUC.

However by the mid 1990s I had reason to be grateful to the
police. Local lads had stolen my car from Clonard
Monastery. The RUC quickly found it and collected me at a
very late hour. As I hesitantly got into the back of the
Landrover a cheery voice said: "Hello Mr Garland". It was a
former student. He drove me through the dark streets to
where my damaged car sat tightly against a wall. Local kids
stood uneasily nearby and I expected stone throwing at any
moment but a policeman showed me how to start the engine
despite the damaged ignition. Later at Springfield Road RUC
Station I made out the shadowy forms of a troop of young
soldiers in the darkness and my heart went out to them
knowing the dangers they faced.

I have listened to stories of former policemen who suffered
horribly at the hands of terrorists and last week I visited
the RUC George Cross Memorial Garden at Knock and walked
around the quiet memorial garden. Others pointed to names
of relatives and friends among the hundreds indelibly
recorded in hearts and in stone. A friend's dad remains
angry that the RUC have been so badly misrepresented. Three
hundred plus lives were lost and thousands have been
terribly scarred both mentally and physically.

A heavy price was paid for policing this divided community
and reforms seemed to demoralise and damage while nothing
seemed to satisfy some of the critics. But it was factors
beyond the control of the police that made their job so
difficult. The divided nature of this society ensured that
policing would be particularly contentious. It is now vital
that we welcome and foster, while also constructively
criticising, the new-style policing service. We need
policing and yet we resent the police when they take
unpopular measures. They will remain our scapegoats as long
as we are divided and until we can move on as one community
united in our diversity.

October 3, 2006

This article appeared first in the October 2, 2006 edition
of the Irish News.


Opin: Full Public Inquiries The Only Way Forward Survivors Insist

(Valerie Robinson, Irish News)

For 30 years people in the Republic who were injured or
bereaved as a result of the Troubles lived with their
trauma hidden in the shadows – their plight was ignored by
the state and forgotten by the public. But Irish News
southern correspondent Valerie Robinson reports on how the
survivors are no longer prepared to be forced to the

The 1970s was one of the most turbulent times in Irish
history with the Dublin government faced with economic
uncertainty and a conflict in Northern Ireland that was
casting a terrifying shadow over the Republic.

The events surrounding the Arms Trial that famously saw
government minister Charlie Haughey in the dock, accused of
importing arms for northern republicans, raised the
question of how the south should react to violence in the

Taoiseach Jack Lynch's decision that the Fianna Fail
government should not become directly involved in efforts
to protect the Catholic community from loyalist violence
set the tone for later years.

Successive governments were willing to enter political
talks aimed at bringing about peace in Northern Ireland but
the Republic's own victims were forgotten as the government
distanced itself from the violence.

More than 130 people died in the south in violence linked
to paramilitary violence; more than half of those victims
(71) were killed between 1969 and 1976.

Many of those murdered were victims of loyalists but the
list of the dead also includes those killed during internal
republican feuds, 13 gardai and the 'accidental' victims
like Brigid Carr, a waitress killed in the cross-fire
between the IRA and British soldiers.

It was not until July 1993, when Yorkshire Television made
a documentary on the conspiracy behind the loyalist car-
bomb attacks on Dublin and Monaghan on May 1974 that
survivors and the bereaved began to find a voice.

The bombings had claimed 33 lives, including that of a
heavily pregnant woman – the greatest loss of life in a
single attack throughout the Troubles. Even so, the Garda
investigation was wound up within three months, no arrests
were made and no convictions secured.

A year after the carnage Jack Lynch voiced his suspicion
that the British had been involved. It was widely known
that loyalists in the mid-seventies did not have the
expertise to "put together such an operation on their own".

During the decade and a half that followed the attacks a
number of articles were written voicing concerns about
alleged collusion between the British security forces and
loyalist paramilitaries but no action was taken by the

A small group of people also managed to secure partial
funding for legal fees from a "wealthy individual", holding
their first public meeting in a Dublin hotel in January

They called themselves Justice For the Forgotten, believing
that there had been an active effort on the part of
authorities to 'forget' southern victims of the Troubles.

"It was a good name at the time because we faced a long
hard struggle," the group's spokeswoman, Margaret Urwin,

The group called for a full public inquiry into the 1974
bombings, armed with a detailed dossier which included
information supplied by ex-RUC officer John Weir, jailed
for paramilitary offences, who insisted that widespread
collusion between loyalists and the security forces had

The group eventually brought on board other survivors,
including the Monaghan families and those affected by bomb
attacks in Castleblayney in 1976, Dublin in 1972/73, as
well as Dublin Airport and Dundalk, both in 1975.

"At the beginning, our whole focus was on the bereaved but
later we also began to work with the survivors, who should
never be forgotten. We've been in contact with about 250
people who were injured in attacks, and that's only about
15 per cent of the total," Ms Urwin said.

"I think the problem was that those affected were ordinary
people. In many cases they were working class and they had
no common purpose. In Bloody Sunday there had been a common
purpose. People had been taking part in a political march.

"But the people in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings didn't
know each other; they were anonymous in a way. They had
been shopping, or coming from work or visiting. They had
no-one to lead them and the politicians chose not to.

"By the beginning of June [1974] the story was gone out of
the media, no questions were being asked in the Dail. It
was as though the whole thing had never happened. It was
just gone for years."

By the late 1990s Justice For the Forgotten had begun to
win the support of a number of politicians and the Garda
had set up an internal inquiry, while former tanaiste John
Wilson was appointed to chair the Victims Commission in the
wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

The government fell short of setting up a full public
inquiry when they appointed a judge to investigate a series
of bombings and murders in the Republic.

Unfortunately, Mr Justice Henry Barron's investigations
were hampered by two key facts – he could not subpoena
witnesses or documents and the British authorities refused
to cooperate fully.

Since October 2003 four Barron reports have been published.
None have led to the government establishing a public
tribunal of inquiry.

In many cases, including the 1976 murder of Co Louth
forestry worker Seamus Ludlow, the judge was highly
critical of the original Garda investigators.

He complained that Garda and Department of Justice files
had gone missing, also admitting that a lack of support by
the British had tied his hands in many cases.

In all of the cases he investigated the judge fell just
short of stating that collusion had taken place.

The findings of his investigation into the Dundalk attack,
made public last month, echoed previous reports, in which
he found that while allegations of collusion were
impossible to prove "by [the security forces'] attitudes
towards loyalist violence and towards violent members of
their own forces, some senior members allowed a climate to
develop in which loyalist subversives could believe that
they could attack with impunity".

Judge Barron also repeated his belief that the farm of RUC
reservist James Mitchell, in Glennane, near
Newtownhamilton, had been a centre of operations for the
UVF gang which carried out bomb attacks on both sides of
the border in the mid-seventies.

An Oireachtas committee began public hearings on the fourth
and final Barron report last week.

In the meantime, the families are hopeful that criminal
lawyer Patrick MacEntee, due to report to the government in
October, could expose more evidence concerning collusion as
it is believed he has spoken with members of Britain's
secret services.

The police Historical Enquiries Team in Northern Ireland,
which has been given the task of investigating unsolved
murders linked to the conflict, has also met Justice for
the Forgotten.

"For 30 years all of these people were just forgotten.

"We will continue to seek full public inquiries and we
believe that's the only way forward. We cannot see any
other way," Mrs Urwin said.

"It is up to this state to call for a public inquiry.

"If Britain chose not to cooperate, well then let them be
seen before the world that they refused to cooperate with
an official inquiry. That is what has to be done.

"It just seems to me so obvious that I can't see why the
government cannot see that."

October 3, 2006

This article appeared first in the October 2, 2006 edition
of the Irish News.


Ireland's First Bilingual Film Shoots In City

By Maureen Coleman
03 October 2006

Shooting has begun in Belfast on the first bilingual
feature film to come out of Ireland.

Kings, starring Colm Meaney and Donal O'Kelly, features
cast members speaking both in English and Irish and is set
to hit the big screen next year.

Although other ventures have included parts spoken in
Irish, this is the first full -length movie to be bilingual
and to be produced and fully financed from within the
island of Ireland.

Funding has come from the Irish Film Board, the
Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, TG4, the Northern
Ireland Film and Television Commission and the Irish
Language Broadcast Fund.

The film tells the story of a group of Irish emigrants who
reunite for a day for the funeral of one of their friends.

The friends had moved to England in the late 70s promising
to return to Ireland rich and successful.

Now, 25 years on, only one is going home, Jackie, whose
body was found on a railway line, crushed by a train.

It is when the friends are forced to confront the
possibility it was no accident, but suicide, that they must
face up to the bitter chill of truth.

Kings is adapted for the screen by the director Tom Collins
(Bogwoman, Dead Long Enough and Teenage Kicks) from Jimmy
Murphy's critically acclaimed play The Kings of the Kilburn
High Road.

Kings is set to shoot for five weeks in Belfast, Dublin and

It also stars Brendan Conroy, Donncha Crowley, Barry Barnes
and Sean O Tarpaigh.


Bertie Ahern: The Operator

His lifestyle is not one of yachts and champagne: it is one
of Friday night pints of Bass in north Dublin pubs

By David McKittrick
02 October 2006

Bertie Ahern does not look or sound like the Republic of
Ireland's cleverest and most capable politician: he is not
a forceful speaker, would never describe himself as an
intellectual, and is not an inspirational figure. Yet he is
the most formidable operator on the Dublin political scene,
which he has dominated for years. He has the antennae to
sense looming crises, the expertise to manage the economy,
and the savvy to remain Prime Minister for almost a decade.

The mystery is how someone who has weathered so many crises
with such skill should suddenly find himself mired in one
which, he admits, has tarnished his stature. This one could
yet bring him down. Even if that does not happen, it will
inevitably harm his chances of leading his Fianna Fail
party to a third victory in the general election, due next

It is not as if he lacks experience in coping with the
issue of surreptitious payments to politicians, for many of
his crises have arisen from this issue. Not only did two
senior Fianna Fail men go to jail but his own one-time
leader and former mentor, Charles Haughey, was disgraced
after it was proved he had taken millions.

As part of coping with these events, Ahern said repeatedly
ministers should be under no financial obligations and
should not be taking money: "We must draw a line under bad
habits that may have grown up," he intoned. Yet before
making these public declarations he had himself benefited
from monies quietly donated by 12 business figures, in 1993
and 1994, amounting to nearly fifty thousand euros.

For years, he acted as if the payments were not a potential
smoking gun that could do him great damage. This was
despite the fact that powerful anti-corruption tribunals
have been investigating deeply into the financial affairs
of politicians. Nobody is saying that the Prime Minister
has done something illegal. He is widely regarded as being,
if not actually a pretty straight kind of guy, then at
least one having higher-than-average personal standards.

Some of the donors were appointed to public boards, but
they were mates of Bertie's, and he would probably have
appointed them anyway. Such is the Irish way: such things
may be widely regarded as cronyism, but that is legal
whereas corruption is not. A mystery is why Ahern's fabled
antennae did not transmit warnings that the payments might
be uncovered, and could be highly injurious to him.

In the Dail this week he insisted he had never taken a
bribe and had done nothing wrong, though he admitted with
rueful hindsight that his actions "could be made to look
wrong". It has been a rare lapse of judgement on the part
of a man steeped in politics since he joined Fianna Fail at
the tender age of 14, winning election to the Dail when he
was 26. His long career has had few serious reverses.

His Fianna Fail pedigree is impeccable, both his parents
having been active in the republican campaign to drive out
the British. His father fought in the 3rd Cork brigade of
the IRA, while at his mother's knee the young Bertie heard
tales of how the Black and Tans ransacked their farm and
shot their turkeys.

All that got him off to a good start in Fianna Fail, but it
was his fascination with politics, coupled with striking
organisational ability and a legendary work-rate, that
ensured his steady rise through the party ranks. Only 55
today, he became Lord Mayor of Dublin at an early age, and
reached the Dail in his twenties. There he was spotted by
Charles Haughey and others as a coming man, performing well
as minister for labour and finance minister.

His relationship with the corrupt Haughey was not a natural
pairing: Charlie affected a patrician air, exuding grandeur
and power, while Bertie was a man of modest habits,
concentrating on getting the job done. Where Charlie wore
fabulous suits and lived the high life, Bertie's standard
garb was a dishevelled anorak; he was always being
photographed with his tie loosened and shirt-sleeves rolled
up. Where Charlie was elegantly groomed, Bertie's hair was
long and untidy. Where Charlie spoke in an affected drawl,
Bertie never sought to shed his working-class north Dublin

But Fianna Fail is a famously broad church, and the two had
in common bursting ambition and huge drive. Both lived for
politics: a partnership was born.

Two of the strongest themes of the Haughey years were the
whiff of corruption and recurring bouts of absolutely
vicious infighting, as Charlie's allies and opponents
within the party repeatedly joined battle. Ahern was at
Haughey's side through these turbulent years, loyally
helping fend off the repeated party "heavies" against him.

The vehemence of these struggles was unprecedented: some in
the Haughey camp were particularly nasty bits of work who
did not scruple to employ low tactics. Yet Ahern, although
always in the thick of things, did not descend into the
mire as some others did. In many ways, it is still a
mystery how he achieved it, yet he emerged with his
reputation for decency and civilised behaviour intact.

He did so despite working closely with crooked colleagues,
who were later to be disgraced and in some cases jailed. It
is true that one of his Fianna Fail tasks was, literally,
to sign blank cheques for Haughey to do with as he chose.
But, he explained, he never knew what the boss did with
them and did not regard it as his business to inquire.

His nine years as Prime Minister have been studded with
damaging revelations, mostly dating back to the Haughey
era. Ahern's achievement has been to present these as these
as historical matters rather than the stuff of current

He carried this off in large part because, unlike Haughey,
he manifestly does not care about personal enrichment. His
lifestyle is not one of yachts, champagne and racehorses:
it is one of supporting Manchester United and Friday night
pints of Bass in north Dublin pubs. He said once: "I have
no big houses or mansions or yachts or studs. All I've got
is a mortgage." The money he received in the early 1990s
was not to set him up in luxury but to meet the costs of
his marital separation, which had left him in debt.

The separation from his wife Miriam, which many attribute
in large part to Ahern's workaholic addiction to politics,
was a low point in his life. There has never been a
divorce, and he later had a long-running relationship with
a one-time party worker, Celia Larkin. He made no secret of
this and, although there were some clerical rumbles about
an Irish prime minister living with a woman who was not his
wife, Ahern paid no attention to them, nor did the Irish

His relationship with Celia ended several years ago, but he
remains on friendly terms with her and Miriam. He is also
known to be close to his daughters Georgina and Cecilia.

The huge irony is that, in part, his financial difficulties
arose from the fact that he had to make provision for the
girls. Yet, though both are still in their twenties, they
have since become independently wealthy - far wealthier
than their father. Georgina married Nicky Byrne of the
internationally successful group Westlife, while Cecilia
has become a multimillionaire through the worldwide sales
of her "chick-lit" novels, such as PS, I Love You.

Ahern's ability to maintain relationships through fraught
times can also be seen in the political sphere. His years
as Prime Minister have been at the head of coalitions with
a party, the Progressive Democrats, which is by no means a
natural governmental partner. The PDs are the people he is
watching most anxiously, since they are pressing for more
information on the early 1990s money and on fees he
received for speaking engagements in Manchester. If they
were to pull out, the Ahern government would fall. The PDs
do not want to trigger a premature election, but since one
of the party's principal purposes is to curb Fianna Fail
excesses they say all ambiguities must be cleared up.

In his time in office, Ahern has maintained a most valuable
understanding with Tony Blair, their closeness helping
bring Anglo-Irish relations to an unprecedentedly cordial
level after decades often marked by turmoil. In 1998, they
signed the pivotal Good Friday Agreement together in
Belfast after intense negotiations in which Ahern impressed
Ulster Unionists with his commitment to reaching a new

The day of his mother's funeral coincided with a crucial
phase of the talks, but Ahern insisted on carrying out both
his family and political duties. On the day of the funeral
he left Dublin before dawn to meet Blair in Belfast, then
returned to Dublin for the funeral at noon before
immediately travelling back to Belfast again. The former US
senator George Mitchell said of him: "I don't recall ever
having seen a person as totally exhausted. I also had never
seen a person more determined."

Since then he has established reasonably amicable contact
with the Rev Ian Paisley. While this has yet to help
produce a breakthrough, Ahern's efforts in the peace
process will go down as a major achievement on his part.

Back home, he has been working towards the next general
election. Hugely popular on a personal level, his party has
of late been trailing in the polls, but his premiership has
had slumps and surges and he has in the past shown his
powers of recovery.

With the Irish economy remaining remarkably buoyant, the
expectation had been that a December giveaway budget would
give him a fighting chance of a third term. But suddenly he
is fighting not for victory but for survival. He will need
all his formidable talents, as well as much luck, to get
through all this.

A Life in Brief

BORN: 12 September 1951, in Dublin , to Cornelius and Julia

FAMILY: Married to Miriam Kelly, a bank official, 1975;
separated, 1992; two daughters, Georgina and Cecilia.

EDUCATION: Rathmines College of Commerce; University
College, Dublin.

CAREER: Member of the Dail, for Fianna Fail, since 1977.
Assistant chief whip, 1980-81; Government chief whip, 1982;
Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1986-87; Minister for Labour, 1987-
91; Minister for Finance, 1991-94; Leader of the
Opposition, 1994-97; Prime Minister, 1977 - ).

HE SAYS: "If I can go on my annual holidays to Kerry, get a
few days sometimes, if I can get now and again to Old
Trafford, if I have enough money for a few pints and if I
can look after Miriam and the kids, I don't care a damn."

THEY SAY: "He's the man. He's the best, the most skilful,
the most devious and the most cunning of them all." -
Charles Haughey, former Prime Minister of Ireland

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