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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
October 02, 2006
IMC Report Significant
BB 10/02/06 Paramilitary Report 'Significant'
BN 10/02/06 Ahern To Meet Northern Parties Ahead Of Scotland Talks
BB 10/02/06 DUP Unveils Plan For Devolution
SF 10/02/06 Adams - Unionism Will Not Stop Process Of Change
SF 10/02/06 Sinn Féin Welcome Demilitarisation Of Bessbrook Heliport
BB 10/02/06 UDA Group 'Wants £8m To Disband'
BB 10/02/06 Ahern Faces Dail Grilling On Cash
BB 10/02/06 Orde Criticised Over Memorial Day
BT 10/02/06 Nationalists Say Yes To Talks Between Brady And Paisley
NH 10/02/06 'Courage Of Prisoners & Support From Public Kept Us Going'
BT 10/02/06 Provos Writing Themselves Out Of Script For Lasting Deal
BT 10/02/06 D-Day: Decision Or Disaster?
IT 10/02/06 Opin: An Apology Is Not Enough
BT 10/02/06 Opin: Politicians Chatter While Ulster Fumes
BB 10/02/06 Visitor Funding For North Belfast
BN 10/02/06 Toll Road Opens Eight Months Ahead Of Schedule
BN 10/02/06 Ireland Enjoys Warmest September On Record
IT 10/02/06 Former Ceann Comhairle Tom Fitzpatrick Dies
IT 10/02/06 34% Gas Price Rise To Stand For At Least A Year
BB 10/02/06 Wedding Bells For Lord Of Dance Star
NY 10/02/06 Erin Go Bravo, Mets
(Poster's Note: I am not ready to contribute to the UDA fund, but I would be willing to spend twice as much for the similar fund for the DUP. Jay)*************************
Paramilitary Report 'Significant'
The latest report from the Independent Monitoring
Commission is expected to be "very significant", the prime
minister's official spokesman has said.
He said it will provide the "definitive answer" to
questions about the IRA campaign in all its forms being
The IMC, which monitors the IRA and loyalist ceasefires,
has given its 12th report to the UK and Irish governments.
The report will form the basis of talks in Scotland next
week for talks aimed at restoring devolution.
It is to be made public on Wednesday and Tony Blair's
spokesman said that the report will determine whether Sinn
Fein is living up to its commitment in word and deed to use
only political means.
BBC Northern Ireland's home affairs correspondent Vincent
Kearney said most of the attention will be focussed on what
the report says about the IRA.
"The commission is expected to expand on its comments last
month when it said the IRA's command and control structures
were still intact - but that this might be necessary to
manage the change from violence to politics," he said.
"The DUP has met the commission since that statement and is
demanding clarification about the current structure and
activities of the IRA.
"The party also wants to hear what the IMC has to say about
the murder of self-confessed British spy Denis Donaldson at
his holiday home in Donegal in April.
"The report will also contain an assessment of the
activities of loyalist paramilitary groups, and republican
"But with the governments stepping up the pressure for a
political deal, most attention will focus on what is said
about the IRA."
The Independent Monitoring Commission was set up by the
British and Irish governments in January 2004.
Most of its reports have concentrated on activity by
paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.
However, it also monitors the "normalisation" of security
measures in the province.
Its four commissioners come from Northern Ireland, the
Republic of Ireland, Britain and the US.
Published: 2006/10/02 11:28:01 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Ahern To Meet Northern Parties Ahead Of Scotland Talks
02/10/2006 - 08:53:37
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern is due to meet
the North's political parties at Stormont today as part of
preparations for high-level negotiations in Scotland later
The parties have been invited to attend talks in Scotland
between October 11th and 13th in a fresh push to find a
deal to restore the power-sharing institutions.
The talks will be overseen by the Taoiseach and the British
Prime Minister, who have set November 24th as the deadline
for restoring devolved government.
Most observers are pessimistic about the prospects for
progress, with the DUP still refusing to share power with
Sinn Féin or accept that the IRA is ending illegal
DUP Unveils Plan For Devolution
The DUP has unveiled a six-point plan they say they will be
taking to next week's talks in Scotland.
It includes an end to IRA paramilitary activity, republican
support for the rule of law and "fundamental changes to the
Good Friday Agreement".
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said the agenda was
"condition-led, rather than calendar-led".
"We want devolution restored as soon as possible, but the
possibility relies on whether conditions are met," he said.
Mr Robinson said his party "would not rush to anyone's
The British government has laid down 24 November as the
deadline for a deal to be reached over the restoration of
The main parties meet in the Scottish town of St Andrews
later this month.
Devolution was suspended in October 2002 over allegations
of a republican spy ring.
The court case that followed collapsed and one of those
charged, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a
Published: 2006/10/02 17:42:09 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Adams - Unionism Will Not Stop Process Of Change
Published: 2 October, 2006
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today addressed a rally
in Letterkenny to mark the end of the 1981 hunger strike.
Mr Adams spoke of the 10 hunger strikers but also of the
current political crisis in the process and the approach of
The hunger strike ended on October 3rd 25 years ago after
217 days. By that point 10 men had died inside the prison
and almost 50 more people had been killed on the streets.
This year Irish republicans have been commemorating the
events of that year but in particular the heroism and
generosity of the ten hunger strikers.
Mr Adams said:
"The huge generosity of spirit, self-sacrifice and
unselfishness has made Bobby Sands and his 9 comrades role
models for Irish republicans everywhere. Their titanic
battle against great odds and over five difficult,
harrowing years, caught the imagination and touched the
hearts of millions.
"The determination of the men in the H Blocks and the women
prisoners in Armagh ultimately defeated the British
government's criminalisation strategy. The enduring legacy
of the hunger strikers is to be found all around us. Like
the Easter Rising 65 years earlier it is a watershed in
modern Irish history. The political growth of Sinn Féin and
of Irish republicanism is in no small measure a result of
"But more importantly, their legacy is to be found in the
peace process and the positive transformation it has
wrought in Irish society in recent years. That process of
change continues. It is taking place every single day. For
many the twenty fifth anniversary of the deaths of the H
Block hunger strikers has been a personal as well as a
political time of remembrance. But for everyone interested
in freedom and justice and peace in Ireland it has been a
time to reflect on the lessons of the past and to commit to
continuing the struggle to achieve a free, democratic and
Speaking on the current situation Mr. Adams said:
"Republican remains firmly focused on building a nationwide
movement for change not only to end partition but for
social justice and equality across the island of Ireland.
The big challenge in the short term is to get the political
institutions of the Good Friday Agreement back in place.
Obviously this cannot be down without Ian Paisley's DUP
agreeing to share power with the rest of us.
"While most people are justifiably sceptical about the
DUP's intentions no one should be in any doubt about the
limits to the DUP's options in the time ahead.
"Of course, Ian Paisley may decide not to participate in
the power sharing government but what does that achieve in
the longer term for his party or their constituents?
"It condemns them to living in a second-class society with
second-class public services undermined by punitive fiscal
policies administered by unaccountable British Ministers.
"Not only is that counterproductive but it will have no
long term effect on Sinn Féin's efforts to develop our
vision for the future. So the DUP's approach is limited to
delaying tactics that may give the fundamentalists some
respite in the short term but it will not stop the process
"That process will continue including on an all-Ireland
basis and across a myriad of cross-border measures and
agreed partnership arrangements. If and when unionism
decides to come back to the negotiating table in the future
the progress that will have been made in those areas cannot
and will not be undone or wished away.
"Irish republicans will be generous and magnanimous in our
outreach to unionism because that has to be the mark of our
vision which includes a view that orange and green can be
united on the basis of equality. The demands of this time
need more than King Canute like tactics. Unionism also
needs to be generous and magnanimous." ENDS
Sinn Féin Welcome Demilitarisation Of Bessbrook Heliport
Published: 2 October, 2006
Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh and the Party's
spokesperson on Demilitarisation Davy Hyland has today
welcomed the news that the British Army has begun to
dismantle the Helipad at Bessbrook in South Armagh.
Speaking today Mr Hyland said:
"The news that the British Army has begun to dismantle the
Heliport in Bessbrook will undoubtedly be welcomed by the
local community across South Armagh. At its peak, this base
was the busiest in Western Europe and disrupted local life
immensely, through noise pollution, low flying and constant
intimidation and harassment.
"British Army bases in South Armagh are a blight on the
landscape and a long standing symbol of British oppression
in the area. It is welcome that another one is in the
process of being consigned to history." ENDS
UDA Group 'Wants £8m To Disband'
One of the UDA's most notorious units has said it wants to
disband, but it wants the government to give it £8.5m to
help the process.
The South East Antrim Brigade of the UDA has been
responsible for dozens of murders throughout the Troubles.
It said it now wants to become a community development
The leadership is backing a new group, Beyond Conflict, to
deal with drugs, paramilitary activity, race relations,
interface violence and unemployment.
The UDA leaders want the government to provide the funding
for these initiatives, which it claims would create 74
Tommy Kirkham, a spokesman for Beyond Conflict, said he
believed its plans could bring about an end to loyalist
paramilitary activity in the south Antrim area.
The group said it would cost about £8.5m to implement all
of its plans.
It will now present its plans to the government and ask for
However, it says this is not a prerequiste for ending
Published: 2006/10/02 16:19:16 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Ahern Faces Dail Grilling On Cash
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern faces one of the biggest
tests of his career when he answers questions in parliament
about cash he received in the 1990s.
Last week Mr Ahern admitted receiving loans worth 50,000
euros (£34,000) from businessmen friends, while he was
finance minister, in 1993 and 1994.
Questions are now also being asked about an £8,000 sum he
received after a speech in Manchester.
Mr Ahern says he did nothing wrong "in law, in ethics and
in relation to tax".
Details of the loans, which Mr Ahern used to pay for his
marital separation, were revealed in the Irish Times
newspaper last month, which asked why they had not been
The Irish people have to decide whether they want the
government to break up
Michael McDowell Progressive Democrat leader
Mr Ahern said the 12 lenders had refused repayment.
But his spokeswoman said at the weekend that he had now
sent them cheques, adding interest of 5% per year.
Ireland's opposition parties, Fine Gael and the Labour
Party, say the £8,000 payment Mr Ahern received from a
group of Irish businessmen after speaking in Manchester in
1994 broke the ministerial code, and could have tax
However, Mr Ahern says he broke no rules because it was not
an official dinner and he was not attending in his capacity
as finance minister.
Michael McDowell, the leader of the Progressive Democrats -
the junior partner in a coalition government with Mr
Ahern's Fianna Fail party - says he wants a "warts and all
account" from Mr Ahern when he answers questions in the
Dail on Tuesday.
The people who are pushing this story have one objective
in mind - they want to drive me from office
However, he has also signalled his support for the
Taioseach, describing him as an honest, decent man.
A general election is due in mid-2007.
"The Irish people have to decide whether they want the
government to break up and a person who achieved huge
things for Ireland to bow out on this," Mr McDowell has
been quoted as saying.
A poll in the Irish Mail on Sunday suggested that 61% of
voters thought Mr Ahern should not step down, but 60%
thought he should not have accepted cash while criticising
others for doing the same.
Mr Ahern provided information about his loans to the Mahon
Tribunal on planning corruption, which was then leaked to
In an emotional article published on Sunday in the Irish
News of the World, Mr Ahern described the last week as one
of the most traumatic in his life, and spoke about
"reliving the heartbreak" of his marriage break-up.
"The people who are pushing this story have one objective
in mind. They want to drive me from office. They will not
succeed," he said.
Published: 2006/10/02 23:27:44 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Orde Criticised Over Memorial Day
Northern Ireland's chief constable has been criticised for
not attending a service in Belfast to remember police
officers killed in the line of duty.
Sunday's event in the Waterfront Hall marked National
Police Memorial Day.
However, PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde was taking part
in the Great North Run on Tyneside in aid of the RUC George
Cross Widows Association.
Jimmy Spratt, DUP, said his absence was an "insult" to the
PSNI adding that Mr Orde "should hang his head in shame".
Mr Spratt, a former official of the Police Federation said:
"If anyone is telling me that a marathon is more important
than being with the folks there yesterday, I say it was
disgraceful and it was an insult to the Police Service of
Mr Spratt said the chief constable's place should have been
"at that memorial service... given that the police service
he now heads lost 302 police officers in the Royal Ulster
He added: "Sir Hugh should most certainly have been there.
I don't think a marathon is anything to be going to or has
more importance than the service that took place yesterday
"His place should have been with those widows yesterday and
the families of those who lost their loved ones, who paid
the supreme sacrifice over many years in British policing.
No only that, but also officers that he served with within
the Metropolitan police, who lost their lives."
The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed Sir Hugh
had been taking part in the Great North run.
About 4,000 UK officers have died on duty since the first
police was set up.
During Sunday's service, Northern Ireland Security Minister
Paul Goggins said it was a very important occasion for all
those in the policing community.
The chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board,
Professor Sir Desmond Rea, said it was particularly
significant that the service was taking place in Northern
Ireland as more than 300 officers had lost their lives
Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, read a
message from the Prince of Wales, who was unable to attend
because of a previously agreed engagement.
The service was attended by Noel Conroy, the Commissioner
of the Republic of Ireland's police force, the Garda.
The British government was represented by the Home
Secretary John Reid.
The first service was held in St Paul's and last year it
took place in Cardiff.
Published: 2006/10/02 12:23:07 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Nationalists Say Yes To Talks Between Brady And Paisley
By Noel McAdam
02 October 2006
A historic meeting between DUP leader Ian Paisley and
Catholic Primate Sean Brady was today welcomed by
The veteran DUP firebrand, long a critic of the Catholic
Church, meets Archbishop of Armagh Dr Brady for the first
time next Monday at Stormont.
The DUP leader, who once referred to Dr Brady's
predecessor, Cardinal Cahal Daly, as "a red-hatted weasel"
and denounced Pope John Paul ll as "the Anti-Christ" in the
European Parliament, is expected to urge Dr Brady to back
efforts to persuade Sinn Fein to sign up to the PSNI.
A week ago, in an address in Belfast, Dr Brady, the
Archbishop of Armagh, said he hoped all the parties would
commit themselves to an Assembly "which has full community
support for the institutions of law and order".
It is around 15 months since suggestions were made that a
ground-breaking meeting between Mr Paisley and the Catholic
Church leader could be on the cards.
Correspondence over a possible meeting began after
tentative moves by the DUP MPs Gregory Campbell and Jeffrey
Donaldson, who are also expected to attend next week's
Mr Campbell told the Sunday Times the meeting was one of a
series with church leaders.
"We will give him reassurance on our commitment to power
sharing if he requires it. We will ask him if he thinks any
stable government in Northern Ireland or anywhere else
could be established if one of the main partners in the
government of the day declined to support law and order or
the police service.
"We will make it clear that if he can do anything to ensure
his community are 100% behind the police then that would be
Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said he hoped
it marked "a new beginning" for the North Antrim MP.
"I hope it is the beginning of Dr Paisley saying 'yes'. He
has said 'no' for far too long."
SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said: "I hope it represents a
signal that the days of fiery anti-Roman tub-thumping are
over. I hope Dr Paisley is in fact prepared to cleanse the
DUP of the deeply-rooted sectarianism which infects that
organisation at all levels."
The North Belfast MLA said it was a useful and important
step with major symbolic importance. "At last the outer
reaches of unionism are prepared to show an attitude of
decency and civility towards those with whom they have
He said its political significance should not be over-
"What we really need him to do is stop preaching with the
megaphone and engage in real dialogue with the other
political parties on the basis of democratic power-sharing.
'Courage Of Prisoners And Support From The Public Kept Us Going'
(Oliver Hughes, Irish News)
As the 25th anniversary of the ending of the hunger Strike
approaches, Councillor Oliver Hughes, former Sinn Féin
member, reflects on the death of his brother Francis
I am 56-years-old, have seen a lot in my time and have lost
many friends and relatives. But there were no deaths which
had more impact on me much as the death of my brother
Francis and that of his fellow hunger strikers in 1981.
October 3 will be the 25th anniversary of the ending of the
hunger strike. But for the families directly involved the
sense of loss and pain is as powerful today as it was back
We came from a humble, rural farming background. We were in
the republican tradition like a lot of the people within
the small parish of Bellaghy and we were no strangers to
harassment, arrest and imprisonment.
Francis, the second youngest of our family of 10 children,
decided to join the IRA, became a very active member and
had to go 'on the run'.
In 1978, shortly before he was captured, he was named by
the RUC as one of the most wanted men in the north. He was
seriously wounded in a shoot-out and was charged with
killing SAS officer David Jones for which he was sentenced
to life imprisonment. Francis joined the blanket and dirty
On a visit in March 1981, he said to me that he was joining
Bobby Sands on hunger strike. It was a very frightening
comment. First, I knew Mrs Thatcher had been called the
'Iron Lady' and that she would not budge to grant political
status. Second, I knew my own brother was fiercely
determined to carry it through to the end, whatever the
consequences and I knew the outlook was certainly not going
to be good.
My family was thrown in at the deep end, as were the other
families which later included that of my cousin Thomas
McElwee from Bellaghy who would also die on hunger strike.
I was asked to do spokesman in the middle of this very
difficult time, facing the cameras and journalists and
explaining the prisoners' case.
Believe it or not, we felt relief at Francis's death on May
12 because it brought an end to his agony and suffering.
The most frightening time in my life was when Francis's
remains were being taken from Forster Green hospital. RUC
men acted hysterically, were abusive, drew batons and
attacked the undertakers, the McCusker brothers. If it
hadn't been for the presence of an American crew I believe
we would have been badly beaten. What had kept us going was
the courage of the prisoners and the massive daily support
from ordinary people.
Shortly after Francis's death I was asked by Father Sean
McManus to come to the USA. I was still very emotional and
didn't want to go.
Anyway, a passport and visa were quickly arranged. However,
when I landed in Kennedy Airport my name was called out
over the tannoy and two policemen singled me out and put me
in a car. I thought I was being arrested but they smiled
and told me they were there care of the Mayor and were
going to get me through heavy traffic. The major TV and
radio stations interviewed me. The meetings I addressed
were packed with hundreds of people.
I remember coming through New York and seeing a crowd of
I got out of the car and could hear them chanting 'Bobby
Sands/Francis Hughes', the two who were then dead.
They were picketing the British embassy. I felt very proud
and burst into tears as memories of seeing both men on
their death beds flooded my mind.
Francis was a son, a brother, a victim of circumstances
growing up in a community that was treated as second-class,
a victim of harassment which he decided to physically
My father is 98 and my mother 93. My mother sits with
Rosary beads in her hand, saying her prayers.
I say to her, who are you praying to today and she says
she's praying for Francis. During his hunger strike she
went regularly to the monastery in Portglenone. She told me
one day that she had a great chat with Fr Martin who said:
"Whatever happens, it's God's will."
I said: "It's got nothing to do with God, it's that b****
But Fr Martin's comments made her very comfortable. Maybe
it was God's will. I don't know. I do know that my parents'
health has been very great so maybe Francis is looking
The hunger strike of 1981 was unique and awe-inspiring.
Such a thing was unheard of in the western world. Ten
wonderful, young, good-looking, healthy men, intelligent
men, one after the other dying a long, painful death for
If that's not a test of courage I don't know what is.
I don't think the Irish people will ever forget them.
We visited the prison hospital in the H-Blocks earlier this
year for Mass said by Fr Toner and Fr Murray. I looked down
the cold corridor to the cells on either side where from
March to October 10 men died and other men were on hunger
strike. It was very difficult, very emotional.
There was this tremendous sound of silence. But also the
sound of peace.
This article was submitted before Oliver Hughes resigned
from Sinn Féin.
October 2, 2006
This article appeared first in the September 30, 2006
edition of the Irish News.
Provos Writing Themselves Out Of The Script For Lasting Deal
War machine being dismantled as republicans build political
By Brian Rowan
02 October 2006
Ask what is the significant structural difference between
the IRA of October 2006 and the IRA of a little over a year
ago, and the answer is clear and delivered without having
to pause to think.
"A shift from the structures of the war machine to the
political machine," is the response that is given.
"The threat to Northern Ireland is not PIRA. It's
The Independent Monitoring Commission will let us all read
its latest report on Wednesday at lunchtime.
But before then, it is possible to outline other thinking.
That two-sentence assessment given above, comes from the
highest levels of security in Northern Ireland.
"If one steps back and looks at the whole structure and
direction (of the IRA), it's going in the right way," a
source told the Belfast Telegraph.
Indeed, some of the bogeymen of the IRA - including the man
whose name has been linked to everything from the
Castlereagh break-in, to Stormontgate, to the Northern Bank
robbery - are now being seen in different roles.
"They are using ------ (name withheld) to do more political
stuff," a source said.
The political stuff that is most relevant to the period
between now and November 24 is the business of deal making
– and that work begins in earnest in Scotland in a little
over a week's time.
At the weekend, and on the question of the IRA and its
activities - paramilitary and criminal - the DUP said it
would look to more than the now-imminent IMC report. It
would seek other security and intelligence assessments.
It is like asking me for a second opinion on myself.
The IMC knits into its reports the thinking of the police
and special branches on both sides of the border as well as
the British security services.
As a commission it does not run sources or have an
The meat of its assessment - in terms of what the IRA is
doing and not doing - is so obviously shaped by what it is
told by those it speaks to in the worlds of intelligence –
those who are watching and listening and monitoring the
changing habits and practices of the republican
When the DUP asks the police, and whoever else, what they
think after Wednesday's publication of the IMC report, when
they ask them to describe the IRA organisation of October
2006, the DUP can expect to be told what it will already
have read in the commission's assessment.
Increasingly the IRA is becoming a side issue. More and
more, in the assessments of the IMC - informed by the
thinking of the police and the security services - the
republican organisation is being written out of the script.
Yes, of course, it is important that the DUP is convinced
that paramilitary and criminal activities have ceased.
But it is also important that political republicans - that
Adams and McGuinness and Kelly - can be convinced that the
DUP is serious about power-sharing.
In all of this, no one is asking Paisley to like the Provos
- republicans don't particularly like him or his politics -
but like him or not, they accept the political
circumstances that will make him First Minister if he wants
And, no one is realistically expecting a working Executive
at Stormont by November 24. It is too soon, there is too
much to be done by then.
That said, there is some quiet thinking within the DUP on
the possibility of getting the outline of a deal by then -
a deal that would then be implemented over a period of
"That's more realistic," one source suggested.
But what does that mean? That is a question that will only
be answered at St Andrews and in whatever other
negotiations take place between now and November 24.
The thinking, the approach, has precedent in the nearly-
deal of 2004 - the one that failed on the DUP demand for
What you do is get the deal in principle and, having worked
it out, you then work it in over an agreed period of time.
It might be the best that can be hoped for.
There has been another suggestion from Peter Robinson -
that one possible way of quickening things up could be for
the IRA to issue another statement on future intentions - a
statement confirming that it is going away.
But he asked for it publicly and immediately that will
It may not have been intended as a pre-condition, it may
only have been a suggestion, but some will read his
comments as creating another excuse for not doing business.
It is far too early to say what is possible and what is not
possible. What more republicans may be prepared to do will
depend very much on what the DUP brings to the table.
But, like the photographs of 2004, there is an issue that
could trip it all up – the vexed question of republican
involvement in policing.
For republicans this is a "sea change" issue, and
everything they have said so far suggests that a firm time-
frame on the transfer of policing and justice powers is
essential to any agreement.
The talk from inside the DUP is that such a time-frame is
"not on the radar".
And the thinking inside the republican community is that it
would be "pointless" to call a special Sinn Fein Ard Fheis
on involvement in policing without agreement on the above.
What has been heard inside policing are the recent comments
of Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly - the latter in an interview
with this newspaper.
The talk, in the right conditions, of "full-bodied"
participation in policing, of a decision being made within
weeks of agreement on the detail and time-frame for the
transfer of powers, of "massive changes" since the days of
the RUC is "a different language" that has made people
But this is an issue on which republicans could lose
people, and that too is accepted inside the world of
"The big question is what will those people do," one source
asked. "Do they walk away, or do they make trouble?"
Inside the negotiation process, this issue - the business
of republican involvement in policing - is bigger now than
the question of the status of the IRA, bigger because it is
seen from many angles as the possible deal breaker.
In terms of what has happened on his watch, Ian Paisley can
claim a lot; the most significant IRA statement yet - the
one that ended the armed campaign - the most significant
acts of decommissioning, and now there is the possibility,
in the talks that are due, to bring republicans inside the
That would be a huge achievement.
It is a massive prize in terms of consolidating the peace
and ending the war, but can it be done.
The weeks ahead will answer that question, and will tell us
if we are getting closer to that once unthinkable Paisley-
Provo deal or whatever else people decide to call it.
D-Day: Decision Or Disaster?
In the first of a major new series, Political Correspondent
Noel McAdam outlines the prospects for progress at the St
Andrews talks next week.
02 October 2006
So is a deal on the cards? At this distance, even allowing
for the collective digging in of heels that pre-negotiation
periods produce, the likelihood has to be "no".
And yet there are increasing signs that perhaps enough of a
package, falling short of full agreement, heavily
conditional and tied to a timetable, is within the bounds
So St Andrews, where the DUP and Sinn Fein will do battle
next week, without actually meeting, watched over by the
British and Irish Governments and the other parties, begins
to look more like a staging post than destination.
Papers that could lead to some form of heads of agreement
are said to be transferring between government officials in
London, Dublin and Belfast and the parties.
There are now 53 days left until November 24, when the
Assembly will become a 'no-go' area for politicians and
their office staff. Even when they take the high road or
the low road back to Northern Ireland, there will still be
a 42-day countdown to D-day: for decision, denouement,
disaster - take your pick.
But Secretary of State Peter Hain insists an assessment
must be made in Scotland on whether a deal can be achieved.
That judgement, which will be a fine one, must be made
public, he says, probably by the close of next Friday week.
Despite concerns over the cost and the efficacy of the
Scottish sojourn, Hain believes it is the only way of
"concentrating attention and getting people really
But it would appear that by the end of November, Sinn Fein
will not have held its special ardfheis to debate signing
up to policing arrangements and the DUP will not have
completed its promised consultations beyond its own base
including so-called civic unionism.
Last week, as DUP leader Ian Paisley breakfasted with Peter
Hain at the Labour Party conference, Gerry Adams was just
back from a long day away at the ploughing championships in
Carlow. This seemed somehow symbolic of more than simply
their different directions.
The change was with Ian Paisley paying his first visit to
Labour's annual gathering, while Gerry Adams has had the
ploughmen on his agenda now for several years.
There was no apparent imperative for the DUP chief to dine
in Manchester but, eight months or less before the next
Irish election, Adams was not going to kick Carlow into
For all the attractions of having its hands back on the
reins of real power, there are distinct advantages for the
DUP in busting November 24, which it insists is an
arbitrary date and not a factor for which the party can be
Electorally the DUP is not going to lose out by being able
to argue it shunned the temptations of office and kept
republicans at bay.
But Assembly shutdown will also financially hit the Ulster
Unionist Party hardest, leaving it in an even weaker
position to fight an election that could form part of the
choreography towards devolution next year.
The DUP would be expected to further increase its Assembly
strength, enabling it - if the D'Hondt mathematics work out
- to perhaps secure a one-seat unionist majority along with
the UUP on an executive.
The potential election leads on to a further reason why it
might work for the DUP for Hain to close the current
Assembly and formally dissolve the still suspended Assembly
of November 2002. It could be portrayed as a political
clean break. The DUP would argue that the death knell for
the Good Friday Agreement had been sounded.
Bertie Ahern talked last week about his reluctance to "move
away from the full implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement", although he was referring to the proposed "step
change" in the Irish and British partnership arrangements
if a deal were to come unstuck. It becomes possible to see
how the DUP could convince at least its own supporters that
the Agreement has effectively gone.
But Sinn Fein insists it will have none of this and any
accommodation must be within the over-arching embrace of
the Agreement, which will continue to be implemented even
without a deal. In terms of strategy, however, persuading
the Big Man to say "yes" could amount to making it as
difficult as possible to say "no".
Republicans have their five-star issues also. They wonder
how a party whose members refuse to even acknowledge their
existence when they pass in the corridors of Stormont could
be some time soon sitting with them together in a room to
do the business of government.
But they know that the DUP can do the business, if it
decides to - it will simply shift from shunning Sinn Fein
to standing up to Sinn Fein. Republicans point to Ian
Paisley's record as chairman of the agriculture scrutiny
committee of the last Assembly, saying he was scrupulously
fair even to Sinn Fein's members. And Belfast City Council,
once a bearpit of sectarianism, is now a very model of
If the DUP can be brought towards agreement, Sinn Fein also
realises there will be little or no opposition within
unionism - that Ian Paisley, Sinn Fein's most savage
opponent, could become the best guarantor.
Though now the dominant force in unionism, the DUP also has
more limited experience of the "white heat" of
negotiations, notwithstanding the Leeds Castle talks of two
years ago and the protracted process that drew up the
finally abortive Comprehensive Agreement in late 2004. It
is another element the DUP's opponents underline.
Arguably, the key indication that the DUP will oppose a
deal now is the party's total failure so far to prepare its
support base for any move. But at the back of everyone's
mind is Ian Paisley's remarks when he left a meeting with
Tony Blair in early December 2004.
Standing in Downing Street, the DUP leader was obviously
addressing the party core when he said he might have to
swallow hard and even bite his lip but, if republicans were
to end their campaign and decommission, he was prepared to
work with them.
Opin: An Apology Is Not Enough
What a breathtaking exposition of the culture of Fianna
Fáil we have witnessed in recent days. Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern received some €50,000 in payments from 12 businessmen
friends while he was minister for finance in 1993 and 1994.
The purpose to which they were put is his own business. The
whip-around, we were led to believe, was mostly in cash.
It subsequently turns out that the biggest of those
payments - €5,000 - was drawn on a company cheque from NCB.
And to cap it all, Mr Ahern, acting as the private man
rather than the holder of the third-highest office in
government, is the recipient of another whip-around -
£8,000 sterling - from friends in Manchester for being the
guest speaker at a function or, maybe, not speaking at all.
And current Minister for Finance Brian Cowen , who is
purported to be Mr Ahern's chosen successor, says that it
is "not incorrect". What beggars belief is that senior
ministers like Mr Cowen, Dermot Ahern, Mary Hanafin, Seamus
Brennan and Micheál Martin see nothing wrong in this whole
episode at all. The incredulity experienced by the public
at large that Fianna Fáil has learned nothing from the past
10 years of tribunals is palpable. The country is convulsed
by the revelations.
The Taoiseach has not just let himself down, compromised
the highest political office in the land, but those people
outside of Fianna Fáil who had come to believe in him. He
has been a good Taoiseach over the last nine years; warts
and all, he has won the affection of the public; he has
done significant service for this State in negotiating the
Belfast Agreement, social partnership between employers and
trade unions, the development of the economy and, for the
first time in our history, the achievement of full
employment. He has served this State well at home and
abroad. Nobody wants to have his head on a plate.
But the public at large, especially those loyal Fianna Fáil
people who have had to swallow more than they deserve in
recent years, want accountability and standards in public
life. Mr Ahern is a million miles away from where they -
never mind the Progressive Democrats - want their leader to
be. In an article in an English newspaper, the News of the
World, yesterday, the Taoiseach wrote: "I am happy to
answer them [the Opposition and the PDs, presumably]
because I have done nothing wrong. In the law, in ethics
and in relation to tax".
What Mr Ahern did, as minister for finance, is wrong. It
may not have been outside the law at the time but it is
morally wrong and ethically wrong. There is an important
principle involved. There can be no separation between the
private and the public actions of an individual when one is
a public office-holder. There can be no whip-arounds from
businessmen to sustain a personal lifestyle. And it is the
failure of the Taoiseach, his Ministers and his advisers to
grasp this principle that could lead to his downfall
tomorrow. What he did was wrong and he must say so. An
apology is not enough.
© The Irish Times
Opin: Politicians Chatter While Ulster Fumes
02 October 2006
It is somehow fitting that Northern Ireland's political
leaders will next week cloister themselves in a Scottish
hotel set on a coastal cliff to see if they can agree to
share power. Once again the future of meaningful politics
in this province hangs on a precipice. On every occasion in
the past the politicians have sheered away from the drop
into oblivion. The big question is whether they will do so
If Secretary of State Peter Hain is not bluffing, and
November 24 is indeed the ultimate deadline for agreement,
then the DUP and Sinn Fein are going to have to change tack
considerably from their public utterances for the Scottish
talks to have any chance of success.
And even if some sort of tacit agreement is brokered, will
the Rev Ian Paisley stick to his stated position that it
will have to be endorsed by the electorate before it
becomes effective. By the time another election is held,
the NI Assembly will have been wound up and bringing it
back into existence would require new legislation. This is
all very dangerous brinkmanship.
The politicians, predictably, complain that they are being
unduly pressurised by the November 24 deadline set by the
British and Irish governments. It is an argument that finds
little sympathy with the governments or, indeed, the
Northern Ireland public. The Assembly first met in July
1998 after the historic Good Friday Agreement and worked in
a fashion until October 2002, since when it has been
For all those years the politicians have enjoyed the
salaries, trappings and privileges of office but with
precious little return for the public. The politicians seem
frozen in an historic argument over constitutional
nicities, while the harsh realities of modern life under
direct rule continue unchecked and unchallenged.
Rising rates, the introduction of water charges, the ending
of rate relief for manufacturing businesses keep the
household and business bills on the up. The Treasury is
determined to make Northern Ireland pay its way in a manner
not seen before. While the politicians say these fiscal
measures are simply a crude blackmail to force them back to
Stormont, many of their constituents feel increasingly that
they are simply not doing their job. They regard the
politicians as fiddling while Ulster fumes.
Of course constitutional issues matter and unionists are
duty bound to secure the future of the province within the
UK. But their influence is greatly reduced outside
Stormont. In the real world economic and political co-
operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic has
never been stronger and the border little matters any more.
What really matters is that political instability is
damaging Northern Ireland's economy. That instability
should not continue.
Visitor Funding For North Belfast
A 'visitor servicing project' for the Shankill area and
north Belfast has been launched by the Northern Ireland
Tourism Minister Maria Eagle said the centre, which has a
£200,000 budget would help visitors explore the areas.
The money will be used for tourism signage, interpretation
panels and developing maps and cultural trails.
Ms Eagle said the project was an exciting and innovative
opportunity for the Shankill and north Belfast.
Staff retained in bookmaker sale
One of the best known bookmakers in Londonderry has been
North West Bookmakers, which is owned by the Duffy family,
has sold its 16 shops to Ladbrokes in a multi-million pound
It brings to an end 40 years in the bookmaking business for
the Duffy family.
Hugh Duffy says Ladbrokes will take over on Wednesday and
they have been given assurances that their staff will be
No concern over flu vaccine supplies
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has said there is
no problem with supplies of the flu vaccine.
Dr Michael McBride says all the vaccines have already been
delivered to Northern Ireland.
In England, the Department of Health has warned GPs that
there could be some delay in getting supplies.
Published: 2006/10/02 15:37:50 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Toll Road Opens Eight Months Ahead Of Schedule
02/10/2006 - 13:34:52
The country’s latest toll road opened in Co Cork today
eight months ahead of schedule designed to take 17,000
vehicles a day out of Fermoy town centre.
The M8 Rathcormac/Fermoy bypass will shave 30 minutes off
the journey time between Cork and Dublin but at a cost of
€1.60 for car users.
Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said it would be of
great benefit to local people and businesses.
“This new bypass will make a major difference to everyone
who uses the Dublin to Cork Route and will change the
transport experience in a positive way for thousands of
people every day,” he said.
The 33km dual carriageway runs from the Dunkettle
roundabout outside Cork city to north of Fermoy.
But amid fears locals would be hit hardest by the toll, the
National Roads Authority assured motorists they will have
an alternative, free route.
Motorists travelling from Cork to Dublin and not willing to
pay for using the motorway can use the existing
Watergrasshill bypass and leave the main road before
reaching the toll barriers. Those driving in the opposite
direction can use the old route through Fermoy and
Rathcormac and rejoin the M8 before the Watergrasshill
Mr Cullen added: “The significant reduction of through
traffic in both towns will also have a beneficial impact on
the quality of life for many people, who will be able to go
about their daily business in a more efficient way.
“Improved access will encourage industrial, tourist and
commercial activity in the locality, and the improvement of
journey times between Cork and Dublin will have positive
implications for the overall regional development.”
The tolls for the new motorway are €1.60 for a car and
€2.90 for a coach, rising to €4.90 for large trucks.
It is the third of the new wave of Public Private
Partnerships (PPPs) to be completed after the M4
Kilcock/Kinnegad route and the Dundalk Western Bypass
opened last year.
The National Roads Authority estimate private investment on
road works is worth around €1bn to date reaching €2bn by
Ireland Enjoys Warmest September On Record
02/10/2006 - 12:53:57
September was the warmest on record in most parts of
Ireland, Met Éireann revealed today.
The above average temperatures over the past four weeks
were higher than those for a typical August, according to
the meteorological records.
It was the warmest September for around 50 years in most
places, while long term weather stations reported their
highest temperatures for more than a century.
Malin Head’s weather station, at the most northerly point
of Ireland, recorded its warmest September since 1895,
while at Dublin’s Phoenix Park it was the hottest since
Shannon Airport reported the country’s highest temperature
last month, at 23.1 degrees Celsius on the 11th.
Rosslare in Co Wexford was the country’s warmest spot
throughout the month with an average (mean) high of 16
degrees Celsius, its warmest since records began there in
It also had the highest monthly total of sunshine (153
hours) and the most daily sunshine recorded, at 12.2 hours
on September 7.
Average monthly temperatures – of between 15 and 16 degrees
Celsius – across the country were around three degrees
higher than is usual.
According to the Met Éireann, deep Atlantic depressions
close to the west coast were the dominant influence during
The depressions brought in former tropical storms and
hurricanes – including the tail end of Hurricane Gordon
which wreaked havoc at the Ryder Cup - particularly between
September 20 and 23, while a tornado was reported near
Aclare, Co Sligo on the September 23.
Rainfall totals were also above normal, with the west and
south of the country worst hit, with some localised
flooding. It was the wettest September for six or seven
years in most places, but Belmullet, Co Mayo, recorded its
highest rainfall since 1985.
Shannon Airport had its highest daily rainfall for
September (48mm) since the weather station opened there in
Sunshine totals were a little higher than is usual and a
number of stations had their sunniest September day for
more than two decades on the September 7 and 8.
Former Ceann Comhairle Tom Fitzpatrick Dies
Former minister and Dáil ceann comhairle Tom Fitpzatrick
has died aged 88.
The native of Clones, Co Monaghan, was Fine Gael's last
ceann comhairle serving between 1982 and 1987. He had
previously held three ministerial portfolios: lands from
1973 1976; transport and power from 1976 to 1977; and
fisheries and forestry from 1981 to 1982.
Mr Fitzpatrick was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1965
and was re-elected on every subsequent occasion in Cavan
(later Cavan/Monaghan) until his retirement in 1989.
He considered running for leadership of Fine Gael in the
election that saw Garret Fitzgerald appointed leader in
1977 but decided that, at 60, age was against him.
He later became a trusted adviser to the Mr Fitzgerald, who
later went on to become taoiseach.
The Head of the European Commission Delegation in
Washington and former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach John
Bruton hailed Mr FitzPatrick's deep sense of public
"On numerous occasions he sacrificed his personal interests
for the greater good of his country and party. He was both
a commanding platform orator and wise judge of politics. He
was a great personal friend to me throughout my political
life," Mr Bruton said.
Fine Gael TD for Cavan/Monaghan Seymour Crawford said: "Tom
was an absolute gentleman and friend to all who knew him
regardless of background."
Mr Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife Carmel and children
Geraldine and Tom.
© The Irish Times/ireland.com
34% Gas Price Rise To Stand For At Least A Year
The 34 per cent increase in gas prices which came into
effect yesterday will remain in force for at least a year,
despite recent reductions in the cost of oil, the Minister
for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel
Dempsey said yesterday.
Mr Dempsey said the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER)
had opted for a system of deciding on price levels on an
He said the price increases were determined by a number of
factors and would stay in place for 12 months. He said that
if the energy regulator was to drop the system of annual
price assessments that "we could end up with a situation as
in the UK, where there have been 13 gas price rises since
the first of January this year".
"Personally I don't think that that is a great system
either," Mr Dempsey said. The 34 per cent gas price rise is
expected to add around €25 to monthly household bills. The
increases are likely to see the average annual gas bill
climb to €1,208 from €902.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) last week called on the
energy regulator to rescind its decision to allow Bord Gáis
to impose the price increase. It also called for a proposed
20 per cent increase in electricity prices - expected to
come into effect in January - to be withdrawn.
The NCA urged that both Bord Gáis and the ESB should submit
new proposals to the CER in the light of developments in
international energy markets.
Ann Fitzgerald, executive chairwoman of the NCA and
director of Consumer Affairs, stated: "In relation to the
proposed electricity price increases, the main drivers seem
to be the recovery of higher-than-expected fuel costs in
2005 and 2006 and an expectation that oil/gas prices would
continue at a high level. CER's decision in relation to a
34 per cent increase in gas is also predicated on
continuing high wholesale prices of fuel.
"It is now generally accepted, however, that oil prices
have peaked in July 2006 and have subsequently dropped by
approximately 20 per cent. Bearing this context in mind the
proposed increases should be shelved without delay. The
impact of unnecessarily high increases on both consumers
and businesses alike should not be underestimated", she
Mr Dempsey said one of the best ways of seeking to have
some control over gas prices would be to obtain an
indigenous supply of gas such as bringing the Corrib field
into the system as fast as possible.
"At the moment we are very much price-takers. There will
always be a global price that we will be paying. But we
would be paying an awful lot less for the transmission of
gas if we had our own supply and the Corrib field is
capable of supplying up to 60 per cent of our needs over
five or six years," Mr Dempsey said.
The new 34 per cent increase in the price of gas follows a
rise of 25 per cent last year.
© The Irish Times
Wedding Bells For Lord Of Dance Star
When Michael Flatley walks up the aisle later this month, a
Belfast priest will be conducting the nupitals.
Father Aidan Troy, a priest in Ardoyne, is to officiate at
the wedding ceremony for the former Riverdance star and his
Irish fiance Niamh O'Brien.
The setting will be Flatley's plush castle in Fermoy,
County Cork on 14 October.
Father Troy, who came to media attention during a loyalist
protest at a Catholic primary school in Ardoyne in 2001,
has been an acquaintance of the Lord of the Dance star for
"At the beginning of the summer when he announced his
engagement, he sent word and asked me would I meet him and
his bride to be," Father Troy told BBC Radio Ulster.
"We met in a Dublin hotel and asked me would I do the
"I immediately suggested that he would have to approach the
local priest to see what his view was.
"To cut a long story short, he said he wanted me, and his
bride Niamh O'Brien said that that would be great with
So why was the Belfast priest chosen?
Father Troy joked that it was certainly "not for my
"We struck up an acquaintanceship that we kept," he added.
"We weren't in contact every day obviously, but we did keep
in contact on occasion" he said.
Father Troy described Flatley's wife-to-be as a "shy, very
lovely girl", who had also danced with Riverdance.
He said he spent the day with Niamh, who is from County
Meath, at the wedding venue.
"She's a very, very delightful person, very focussed on
what she's going to do and I found that she was the one who
is doing so much of the work with regard to the... Mass. I
have had a number of conversations with her on the
telephone," he said.
"We had to make sure that we'd remember that this is a
church wedding. There is a lot of talk about it and I
"But it is about two people getting married. That's where
my involvement genuinely comes in."
Flatley, now 48, helped launch the legend of the Irish
dancing spectacle, Riverdance, after performing at the 1994
Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin.
He was a multi-millionaire by the time he left Riverdance
after a concert in London on 25 July 1998.
He carried on dancing, taking his Lord of the Dance and
Feet of Flames tours around the world.
Father Troy said the global superstar was a "terribly,
terribly nice person", who had asked him to bless his
But he also revealed that Flatley was suffered from pre-
"He hasn't, he said, attended that many weddings and it
seemed strange for me when I was down in Cork doing the
rehearsal with him and Niamh O'Brien.
"He said: 'Where do I stand, do I look up towards the
altar, do I look back down?' And really in ways it was
almost hilarious. Here was somebody who is world famous and
when it came to his own wedding genuinely, I would say he
is so nervous."
Published: 2006/10/02 11:14:45 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Erin Go Bravo, Mets
Couple delayed return to Ireland,
sensing this was Amazin's year
By Richard Weir
Daily News Staff Writer
Life's a ball for Queens Irish Met fans
The way Lizzie and Paul Gibbons see it, the Mets cost the
Irish couple $50,000.
Lizzie, a bartender in Manhattan, and her construction
worker husband were set to move back to their native Dublin
last year after saving enough to buy a home.
But the couple, who belong to a small but passionate band
of Irish Mets fans in Queens, delayed their return because
they believed the boys from Flushing were on the verge of
"Every year the price of houses in Ireland goes up $50,000.
That's another $50,000 the [Wilpon family] owe us," said
Paul (Gibbo) Gibbons, tongue firmly in cheek. "I'm not
looking for $50,000 for a house, but a few playoff tickets
Gibbo and Lizzie, both 36, said rooting for the home team
is in their blood. So, seven years ago, when they moved
from Ireland to Woodside they naturally chose the Amazin's
over the Bronx Bombers.
The fact that the Mets had been also-rans since 2000 have
made them more appealing.
"The Irish love a loser," Gibbo declared between sips of a
Guinness. "That's the mentality we have, you know. Always
up for the underdog."
Now the couple watches the Mets on TV, and heads to Shea at
least once per home stand, including their National League
Conor O'Sullivan, 32, one of the couple's Mets-obsessed
Irish pals, said he loves the psychological duel between
pitcher and hitter.
But now he's afraid he'll be watching the World Series on
television because he and Gibbons have come up losers so
far in the Mets' postseason ticket lottery.
"It's easier to get a green card than a ticket for the
playoffs," O'Sullivan quipped. "Who do I have to marry to
get a playoff ticket?"
Originally published on October 2, 2006
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