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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 17, 2006
Paisley Boycotts Talks with Adams
News About Ireland & The Irish
BB 10/17/06 Paisley 'Unlikely' To Meet Adams
BN 10/17/06 DUP’s Allister Voices Fears On IRA Army Council
GU 10/17/06 What Is The St Andrews Agreement?
BT 10/17/06 Testing Time Ahead For Selection
BT 10/17/06 Scap Denied Brief In IRA Collusion Investigation
IN 10/17/06 Gunmen Seal Street While Gang Beats Man
IN 10/17/06 Calls For PSNI To Destroy DNA Records Of Young
BT 10/17/06 Ministers Water Down Freedom Of Information Act
IN 10/17/06 Opin: Deal Marks Death Knell Of Militant Creeds
IN 10/17/06 Opin: MI5’s Arrival Prolongs The Era Of Dirty Secrets
BG 10/17/06 Opin: Opposites Attract In Ulster
BT 10/17/06 Opin: Gail Walker: St Andrews Progress In The Extreme?
BN 10/17/06 Equality Tribunal Awards €15,000 To Large-Breasted Woman
RT 10/17/06 Government Launches Flood Information Website
BT 10/17/06 Another Fine Treat In Store For Fans Of Laurel And Hardy
BN 10/17/06 Taoiseach Leads Tributes To Andrews
SF 10/14/06 Comment on the death of former MEP & TD Niall Andrews
Paisley 'Unlikely' To Meet Adams
DUP leader Ian Paisley is unlikely to attend a meeting
alongside Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in a row over the
ministerial pledge of office.
Mr Paisley and SF's Martin McGuinness are due to become
shadow first and deputy first ministers on 24 November.
But the DUP is insisting that a pledge of support for
policing and for law and order is in place before then.
It was seen as significant that Mr Paisley and Mr Adams
were to sit at the same round table for talks at Stormont.
Both the DUP and Sinn Fein were meant to be represented at
a leadership level at the new Programme for Government
Committee at Stormont on Tuesday.
The committee is trying to agree priorities for the
executive scheduled to take power next March.
However, Mr Paisley is accusing the government of
backtracking on assurances over the pledge ministers must
swear before taking office.
BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said:
"The DUP want Martin McGuinness to swear to support law and
order and the PSNI when he is nominated as deputy first
minister on November 24th.
"But republicans are resisting that, not least because that
will be before they hold a special party conference to
decide their policing policy.
"Both sides are meeting the secretary of state today to
discuss the matter, but the DUP says, as things stand, Ian
Paisley is unlikely to attend this afternoon's committee
Last week's St Andrews Agreement stated that before the
government legislated on the pledge of office, "it will
consider the outcome of further Preparation for Government
Committee discussions on policing and the rule of law".
Mr Paisley's son, DUP assemblyman Ian Paisley Jr, warned
the government "would have a lot to answer for" if the
pledge issue was not resolved.
"If there's not delivery, I do not believe today's meeting
will be attended by Dr Paisley," he said.
On Monday, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said it
would be the first of regular Programme for Government
Committee meetings to agree priorities for the executive.
"Crucially, parties will for the first time together be
represented at leadership level on that committee," Mr Hain
The Northern Ireland parties have been given until 10
November to respond to what the governments are calling the
St Andrews Agreement.
It was published after intensive three-day talks between
the parties at St Andrews in Scotland.
If all goes to plan, a first and deputy first minister will
be nominated on 24 November and the devolved institutions
will be up and running by 26 March.
Published: 2006/10/17 11:09:07 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Allister Voices Fears On IRA Army Council
17/10/2006 - 09:00:32
A senior member of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists today
expressed concern that the IRA is not obliged to disband
its Army Council under the St Andrews Agreement.
MEP Jim Allister raised concerns about the agreement today
in a bid to encourage a full and rational debate within the
While he stressed he was not rejecting the package, he
wanted to see healthy debate within the party.
And whilst he also acknowledged that there had been some
advances on the Good Friday Agreement in last Friday’s
package of proposals, he also highlighted a number of areas
“There are demerits, including the lack of an adequate
testing period for republicans to meet the standards we
expect,” he said.
“I certainly think this timeframe is too suppressed – it is
too short, even though it could be argued the shorter the
timeframe, the more severe the test is.
“Certainly there is less time than there should be. We
cannot go into government with Sinn Féin in a situation
where the party still has an Army Council at its beck and
call and where there is a lack of delivery through the
courts for convictions by allowing people to give evidence.
“The lack of a default mechanism to exclude someone if they
default on their responsibilities in government and pledges
is a weakness.
“It also delivers a system where parties are in government
for all time and doesn’t allow the electorate to evict them
if their performance in government is not up to scratch.
“That is an absurd artificial system which has been put
upon us and which does not exist anywhere else in the
What Is The St Andrews Agreement?
Tuesday October 17, 2006
The St Andrews agreement - which has yet to be agreed by
the Democratic Unionists or Sinn Féin, the largest parties
in Northern Irish politics - contains two basic elements.
First, the document includes a timetable leading towards
the restoration of devolution and power-sharing in the
province, which has been under direct rule since 2002.
By November 10, the parties must accept the document, and
they must meet to nominate the new first minister -
expected to be the Rev Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP - and
the deputy first minister, expected to be Martin McGuiness,
Sinn Féin's chief negotiator.
A referendum or election to the assembly would follow in
March next year, with party leaders nominating members of
the executive on March 14 and power returning to Stormont
on March 26.
If, however, there is no agreement by November 24, the
agreement makes clear that British and Irish governments
would work together to implement a "Plan B" over the heads
of the Northern Irish politicians.
The St Andrews agreement also details the difficult issues
which need to be agreed upon by both major parties in order
to fulfil this timetable.
These issues are:
· Policing, an issue most controversial for Sinn Féin. All
parties must agree to support the Police Service of
Northern Ireland - the successor to the Royal Ulster
Constabulary, which was seen as favouring unionists - with
a view to Stormont taking control of policing by May 2008.
· Acceptance of power-sharing, the most difficult issue for
the DUP, which has been unwilling to go into government
with Sinn Féin. The DUP has viewed the party's
transformation from political wing of an armed movement -
the IRA - to a peaceful, democratic political party as
· Changes to the Stormont institutions, including possible
changes to the roles of first minister and deputy first
minister, the implementation of a statutory ministerial
code, and other more technical matters.
· Human rights, covering rural and urban deprivation, a
possible bill of rights, an equality bill, an act to
"protect the development of the Irish language", a review
of parades policy, re-integration of former prisoners, and
· Finance, with promises held out to the parties of a
meeting with Gordon Brown to discuss the funding of
Northern Ireland, increased north/south economic co-
operation and a British promise to cap domestic rates, the
province's equivalent of council tax.
Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary, must now wait
for a response from the DUP and Sinn Féin.
The deal depends on these two parties - rather than the
more moderate Ulster Unionists and SDLP, who were involved
in negotiating the 1998 Good Friday agreement - because Mr
Paisley and Gerry Adams's parties emerged strongest from
the last round of Stormont elections, in 2003.
A Testing Time Ahead For Selection, No Matter What Happens With Stormont
Confusion surrounds the future of the 11-plus and academic
selection following the St Andrews Agreement. Education
Correspondent Kathryn Torney examines the options
17 October 2006
As celebrations continue following news of what appears to
be a new political agreement, many parents across Northern
Ireland remain confused.
How exactly will children transfer from primary to post-
primary schools? Is academic selection going to remain?
What about the 11-plus exam? Are we back to square one?
Parents of children currently in P4 could be particularly
concerned as their sons and daughters will be the first to
transfer to post-primary schools after the 11-plus is
scrapped in 2008.
Secretary of State Peter Hain has confirmed that plans to
outlaw the controversial test will go ahead if the St
Andrews Agreement is signed. However, beyond this, the ball
will rest firmly in the court of the recalled Northern
As cross-community support on banning academic selection is
highly unlikely, it appears that the selection of P7
children for grammar school places based on their academic
ability will continue for some time to come if power-
This is despite Mr Hain saying just last month that the
present system of academic testing judged two-thirds of the
province's primary school children to be failures at the
age of 10 or 11. And Education Minister Maria Eagle has
said she is convinced that banning academic selection is in
the best educational interests of young people.
The Government's plan had been to scrap the 11-plus and ban
any selection of pupils based on their academic ability
from 2008 and replace this with a system of 'informed
Ideally, this would mean parents choosing the best school
for their child from academic, vocational and specialist
options. In reality, there is no doubt that there would
have been a stampede into grammar schools.
Currently, the dramatic decline in the province's school
aged population has resulted in a widening grade intake at
our grammar schools, But Government plans to rationalise
the system are likely to increase competition once again
for grammar school places in the near future.
Both sides claim victory - the DUP applauding retention of
selection and Sinn Fein reinforcing the fact that the 11-
plus is definitely on its way out.
Research carried out by local academics Tony Gallagher and
Alan Smith, published in 2000, raised some worrying points
about our current system of academic selection that any
recalled Assembly will have to consider:
:: 1. Out-of-school coaching is widespread among families who
can afford it.
:: 2. Selection produces a long tail of low-achieving schools.
:: 3. The 11-plus places undue pressure on young children.
:: 4. Secondary schools are seen as lower status by many
:: 5. The intake to grammar schools is predominantly pupils
from non-manual backgrounds, while the intake to secondary
schools is mainly pupils from manual backgrounds.
Members of a restored Assembly would have to unearth a fair
alternative selection process and will be under pressure to
raise the status of secondary schools.
It seems likely that, at least initially, the planned Pupil
Profile reports would be adapted to include some form of
academic information which could be used by grammars to
While the academic ethos of our prestigious grammar schools
will continue to suit some children, secondary schools in
all areas must also be seen as an attractive and valued
Remember, that it has taken over eight years of debate to
get to here. How realistic is it to think that a new system
of academic selection can be tried, tested and in place by
Scap Denied Brief In IRA Collusion Investigation
By Brian Hutton
17 October 2006
Alleged British agent Freddie 'Stakeknife' Scappaticci was
yesterday refused legal representation at a tribunal
investigating claims Irish police colluded with the IRA in
murder of two senior RUC officers.
Double agent Kevin Fulton was, however, granted
representation for the judicial inquiry into the fatal
shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and
Superintendent Robert Buchanan by the IRA, on March 20,
Judge Peter Smithwick is the sole member of the Dublin-
based tribunal which will probe allegations of Garda
collusion in the killings in south Armagh, just north of
the Co Louth border.
The officers were returning from a meeting in Dundalk Garda
Station at the time.
They were the two most senior RUC officers to be killed by
the IRA during the troubles.
Judge Smithwick said lawyers for Mr Scappaticci, one time
head of the IRA's internal security unit, had applied for
legal representation on the basis of media reports that one
or more individuals may prejudice him at the hearings.
"As no such comment has been made to date I do not propose
to grant legal representation to Freddie Scappaticci," said
He added that a renewed application could be submitted in
the event of a change of those circumstances.
Kevin Fulton, who claimed he worked in the IRA for MI5, has
alleged in a statement the IRA was told by a Garda officer
that both RUC men were at Dundalk Garda Station on the day
of the ambush.
The claims were included in a report by retired Canadian
judge Peter Cory to the Irish and British governments as
possible evidence of collusion.
After the ruling, the tribunal went into private session
following an application to deal with the constitutional
right of a person or persons to have their name protected.
Gunmen Seal Street While Gang Beats Man
By Seamus McKinney.
DISSIDENT republicans armed with rifles blocked off a
street to allow other members of their gang to carry out a
paramilitary attack, it has emerged.
In scenes reminiscent of the 1970s witnesses said up to
four members of the gang closed off the street outside the
house where the attack took place, openly wielding rifles,
including what appeared to be assault weapons.
A 26-year-old man had a gun held to his head and was beaten
with the leg of a table in the attack which occurred at
Rosskeen Park in Derry’s Hazelbank area.
Police said five masked men forced their way into the house
and assaulted the man, who sustained severe bruising to his
head and body.
The incident came as a group connected to the Continuity
IRA threatened to “execute” 11 named men and teenagers if
they did not leave Belfast.
The victim of the assault, who asked not to be identified,
said he had been singled out for attack because he stood up
to young thugs in the Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank
Speaking from his girlfriend’s home, the man said he now
intended to leave the area.
He said he did not know which organisation was responsible.
“There was a lot of shouting and I just wanted it to be
over,” he said.
The man’s mother said her son had been asleep on a sofa in
his girlfriend’s home when the attack occurred. She said
the gang burst in and one put a gun to his head.
“Another man used his feet, kicked him in the face and
battered him with the stick and said that if he did
anything about it that he would get worse,” the victim’s
It is understood the attack is linked to an incident in the
Hazelbank area last Wednesday when the victim confronted up
to 70 young people who were creating a disturbance.
A spokeswoman for the Ballymagroarty/Hazelbank community
safety forum said anti-social behaviour had become so bad
that the forum was issuing a letter to all homes in the
area asking parents to take responsibility for their
She said the letter would also be issued through schools.
“There is real fear in the area,” Ballymagroarty Sinn Fein
councillor, Billy Page said.
“If this was about young people it should never have come
Meanwhile, DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that in light of
the St Andrews deal Sinn Fein should call on anyone with
information about the attack to contact police.
“Sinn Fein’s response to this incident... will be an early
litmus test as to their intentions over the next few
weeks,” Mr Campbell said last night.
Calls For PSNI To Destroy DNA Records Of Young
By Seamus McKinney
POLICE hold DNA profiles of more than 1,100 young people
who have never been cautioned or charged with any offence.
Responding to a request under the Freedom of Information
Act to Derry human rights’ group the Pat Finucane Centre,
the PSNI revealed that its database contained profiles on a
total of 3,065 people under the age of 18.
Some have faced charges or been found guilty of offences,
but 1,119 have never faced criminal proceedings.
The figures come just days after a Derry father was allowed
to personally destroy a DNA profile, fingerprint record and
photographs of his 11-year-old daughter Sarah Leigh Millar.
Patrick Millar was accompanied by representatives from the
Pat Finucane Centre and SDLP last Friday.
His daughter was arrested after she was found writing her
name on Derry’s walls with a marker.
Pat Finucane Centre spokes-man Paul O’Connor de-scribed the
holding of DNA profiles on children never charged with an
offence as “a serious infringement of the rights of these
“We do not question the need to retain the DNA of serious
violent and/or sexual offenders but to maintain records on
children who have not been convicted or any offence is
bizarre,” he said.
He called on all parents who believed their children’s DNA
profile was being kept by police to “assert their right to
oversee the destruction of such records”.
Police said that there are no plans to destroy the DNA
profiles of young people who have never been charged.
Ministers Water Down Freedom Of Information Act
By Robert Verkaik
17 October 2006
Ministers have been accused of blocking the public's access
to sensitive information by proposing new rules to restrict
the release of government reports, memos and letters.
The reform package outlined by the Government yesterday
represented a draconian intervention that was not in the
public interest, MPs and freedom of speech campaigners
But ministers say action is needed to reduce the annual
£35m bill for handling 34,000 requests made under the
Freedom of Information Act, which came into force in
Under the current financial regime, public bodies do not
make a charge for considering requests if the work involved
does not exceed £600 of a civil servant's time.
Now ministers want to set new criteria for making that
assessment by including "reading time, consideration time
and consultation time". They are also in favour of limiting
the number of requests made by individual pressure groups
and media outlets who the Government claims
disproportionately add to the costs of the legislation.
A report published by the Government yesterday, looking at
the economic impact of the legislation, found that
journalists make up 10 per cent of the volume of central
government requests and 21 per cent of the cost.
Alan Beith MP, chairman of the Constitutional Affairs
Committee, said he was concerned the proposals had the
"potential to have an undue restriction on the working of
the Act ... and stop requests being made in the public
He added: "There's no need to introduce fees or greatly
change the arrangements under which the Government
introduced a costs regime. We would not want to see
anything that damaged the freedom of information culture
which, as we have already said, has already been put to
very important use."
Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of
Information, said: "These proposals would make it harder
for requesters to ask penetrating questions and easier for
authorities to avoid scrutiny." One of the biggest costs in
considering requests is when it triggers a referral to a
But Mr Frankel said the new rules would mean more
interventions by ministers and therefore more requests
declined for reasons of costs. "It means ministers will be
deciding requests on whether the release makes headlines or
not - and that's not what the legislation is about.
Ministers should leave these decisions to the experienced
Oliver Heald, shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional
Affairs, said: "I fear the Government may be attempting to
close down public scrutiny by curtailing the public's right
to know with this more restrictive regime. The introduction
of the Freedom of Information Act has clearly become too
embarrassing for this disaster-prone Labour Government."
Yesterday, the Government rejected the idea of a flat-rate
fee to submit an FOI request.
Responding to the Constitutional Affairs Committee's
report, Freedom of Information - one year on, Lord
Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and
Lord Chancellor, said: "I welcome and share the overall
assessment of the committee that the implementation of the
FoI Act has been a 'significant success'. Freedom of
information has benefited the people - that's what it was
intended for, and we need to continue to build on its
success. But it has to be balanced with good government. It
would be wrong not to make adjustments in light of
Information being withheld
• Full advice on the war in Iraq. A leak to the media
prompted the Government to partially release details about
the formulation of the Attorney General's advice but
ministers are fighting attempts for further disclosure.
• The public cost of security for Camilla, right, Harry and
William. The Government says that the Royal Family are
exempted from the Freedom of Information Act.
• Documents relating to the discussions leading up to the
reclassification of cannabis. The Home Office says
disclosure would prevent the formulation of future policy.
• The impact on the economy of policies aimed at reducing
carbon emissions - on grounds of cost.
• Communications between the US and UK governments on
obsolete vessels which need dismantling. Ministers have
refused to disclose information to environmental
campaigners despite an order by the Information
• ID cards. The Information Commissioner has ordered the
Government to disclose documents on feasibility and impact
of ID cards but the Home Office has instructed lawyers to
resist the order.
• Trident - The Ministry of Defence refused to confirm or
deny whether the Government has any information for the
consideration of the replacement of Britain's nuclear
• Papers concerning the role of the Government in the
arrest and detention of UK citizens and residents in
Guantanamo Bay have been held back. One of the arguments
used is that disclosure will harm international relations.
• Information about doctors' appraisal dates and training
has been refused by the Department of Work and Pensions on
grounds of costs.
• Data relied on for yesterday's consultants' report on the
impact of the FOI Act has been declined as it would curtail
free and frank discussion between ministers.
Opin: Deal Marks Death Knell Of Militant Creeds
By Roy Garland
Bob McCartney described the St Andrews Agreement as an
agreement between liars and gunmen brokered by
hypocrites.There is some substance to this as there was in
McCartney’s contention in the 1980s that the DUP displayed
many traits associated with Fascism. A former DUP officer
once also suggested Paisley was a moral coward who could
not take unpopular decisions. In 1975 he apparently changed
his mind on Bill Craig’s minimal proposals on a voluntary
coalition because he could not resist pressure from
Now a much more far reaching deal with Sinn Fein appears
about to be clinched. This has been in the offing for a
long time and Paisley seems destined to follow in the paths
of previous unionist leaders he has castigated. It is said
that in rivalry we become like our opponents. Paisley
bitterly condemned a whole line of unionist leaders for
betrayal and now, at the final hurdle, he goes much further
to share power with arch enemies after graciously meeting
the Catholic Archbishop. Yet three months ago Paisley
insisted from an Orange platform that, compromise,
accommodation and the least surrender are the road to final
and irreversible disaster.
Now it seems his desire to go down in history alongside
Tony Blair is overwhelming. Paisley was a street preacher
and mission hall speaker who my dad once asked to speak in
our mission hall. When Paisley queried the size of the
congregation before declining the invitation, my dad
dismissed him as only interested in numbers.
Paisley became notorious with his early forays onto the
margins of politics claiming he was being faithful to the
infallible Word of God while other Protestant churches were
betraying the gospel. His most trenchant denunciations were
reserved for Protestants clergy and politicians, who he
claimed, sought reconciliation with the Whore of Babylon.
The Roman Catholic Church was and remains depicted as
unchristian and its central act of worship, a blasphemous
fable. Particular scorn was reserved for Catholic priests
in the words of the psalmist David, ‘I hate them with
perfect hatred’ (Psalm 139:2).
The inspired word seemed to make hatred OK. Catholic
priests were after all misleading their people and keeping
them in spiritual darkness. Yet Paisley never seemed to
encourage his own people to apply their critical faculties
to their politics or faith. He is still seen by many as
Ulster’s saviour but others worry about where his politics
In the 1960s graffiti in loyalist areas proclaimed Paisley
for Pope and Paisley for Prime Minister and one political
scientist working closely with a leading unionist
politician suggested that if Paisley were prime minister he
would become compliant and initiate the necessary
These words are turning out to be prophetic.
Paisley was once pictured on the front cover of Fortnight
Magazine dressed in a deerstalker hat and walking an Afghan
hound through a wooded estate. This picture of aspiring
gentility convinced me that Paisley would do whatever was
necessary to gain a leadership position in unionism
provided he could be assured of victory. Old enemies in the
UUP would have to be annihilated. Strangely though, when
things got tough for Paisley in the past they sometimes
threw life-jackets in the shape of various coalitions that
gave the DUP a leg up. However, whereas in the early days
it was Paisleyites who infiltrated the UUP moving it to the
right, more recently we had the spectacle of Ulster
Unionists joining the DUP apparently aiming to cajole them
into a deal with Sinn Fein.
Their efforts have perhaps been successful and Paisley and
Martin McGuinness now seem to hold our destiny in their
But Paisley as unionist top dog is not all bad. While
initially it may be hard to stomach it is a further step
along to road to making old style tribal rhetoric
redundant. Paisleyism is slowly being neutered and the DUP
has entered the road to supposed respectability.
The remnants of glamour associated with a supposedly heroic
conflict are being blown away with the winds of change.
Hopefully we are being freed to confront more mundane
issues of everyday living. The St Andrews deal marks the
ultimate death-knell of Paisleyism and militant
republicanism and, whatever our reservations, should be
Opin: MI5’s Arrival Prolongs The Era Of Dirty Secrets
By Susan McKay
The British establishment is, at heart, rather disdainful
of demands for justice emanating from this tiresome place.
Peter Hain was full of self-congratulation in Parliament
yesterday but in truth he has been careless of his
responsibilities here and is clearly keen to be shot of
The secretary of state didn’t deign to give evidence at the
recent judicial review of his appointment of the victim’s
commissioner, merely indicating through lawyers that what
he had done was done under Royal Prerogative. So that’s
Never mind the Good Friday Agreement with its palaver about
Never mind fair employment legislation to outlaw
Never mind ministerial codes of conduct and all that jazz
about accountability and transparency.
Hain appointed Bertha McDougall after Ian Paisley sent him
her CV and told him she was the one for the job.
He did it to please unionists, knowing nationalists
wouldn’t be happy and would probably protest about the way
he had gone about it.
He did it without consulting Sinn Fein or the SDLP.
There was no requirement to consult, his counsel told the
court, because this was an interim appointment.
He did it because he could.
Or thought he could. The appointment was appealed and we
await the outcome of a judicial review. Whatever Mr Justice
Girvan’s decision, the evidence given in court revealed a
high- handed indifference to doing things in such a way as
to instill public confidence in the way Northern Ireland is
being governed. The judge was moved to remark that the head
of the Northern Ireland civil service had produced a
statement which was “shrouded in careful terminology”.
The DUP has been boasting that the St Andrews agreement
means that “no significant decisions can be taken without
unionist approval”, although the agreement, if it proves to
be such, actually provides that in this case at least, the
approval of unionists alone will not be sufficient – a new
law is to ensure that the next victims commissioner will be
Bertha McDougall has, as it turns out, worked well with
many victims who didn’t expect she would listen to them.
She has won affection from people who have been surprised
by her apparent openness to their concerns.
However, her position was seriously undermined by the
manner of her appointment.
There are deeper problems anyway in relation to the victims
of the conflict, problems which were excluded from the
brief of the commissioner.
Provision of services is important but while some stressed
and neglected people will welcome access to counselling and
neck massages, there are many others with different needs.
People whose relatives were murdered by the security
forces, for example, whose questions are being disregarded,
even though eminent figures like Sir John Stevens, Judges
Cory and Barron and several crown coroners have found
evidence to support their concerns.
They cannot find out the truth about what happened to their
loved ones because the British authorities simply refuse to
disclose the relevant information.
Things are set to get worse when MI5 takes over
intelligence gathering on terrorism, separating it from
criminality, as if the two are not linked. This is an
organisation which acts as if transparency and
accountability are contemptible nonsenses. The SDLP has
taken a lead in warning us of the dangers in this. Its
attempts even to get basic information such as, how many
Catholics does MI5 employ, were rebuffed. None of your
business, was the answer.
No 50/50 policy here then.
The Police Ombudsman’s office will only have power over
police officers within MI5.
The human rights lawyer attached to the Policing Board will
be similarly restricted in his ability to scrutinise its
behaviour. There is no proper complaints procedure. This is
the organisation that took eight years to pass on
information to the PSNI about the Omagh bomb. Asked by
families of some of the Omagh victims for a meeting, the
head of MI5 said such a meeting would serve no purpose. Nor
can there be any justice for victims while the Public
Prosecution Service continues to have the unchallengeable
power to decline to prosecute which it enjoys.
This new agreement is to be welcomed if it brings the
political parties together, with the DUP accepting Sinn
Fein’s right to share power and Sinn Fein recognising that
parties to government need to support the police force.
However, the British government must accept the critical
importance of transparency and accountability here. No more
private sops. No more dirty secrets.
Opin: Opposites Attract In Ulster
October 17, 2006
THE SIGHT of Gerry Adams across the table from Ian Paisley
would have been unthinkable in Northern Ireland a few years
ago. Yet a delegation from Paisley's Democratic Unionist
Party and Adams's Sinn Fein, with their leaders at the
head, will be meeting today thanks to the efforts of the
British and Irish governments and the people of Northern
Ireland themselves, who have embraced the decade-long peace
process, albeit grudgingly at times. Now Sinn Fein needs to
endorse the policing apparatus established in 2001 to make
sure that Northern Ireland is never again riven by
Paisley, Adams, and the others will gather today to discuss
the implementation of changes in the 1998 Good Friday
agreement that would enable Paisley to become first
minister of Northern Ireland, with Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinness as his deputy. The British and Irish governments
presented these amendments to the Northern Ireland
political parties last weekend.
Paisley's seeming acceptance of the amendments was made
easier by a monitoring commission's report earlier this
month that the Irish Republican Army had continued to
dismantle its war-making apparatus. Sinn Fein is the IRA's
political arm, and its commitment to nonviolence is in
doubt so long as Sinn Fein refuses to join the oversight
bodies intended to legitimize the Police Service of
Northern Ireland in communities where the IRA has dealt out
The British and Irish governments, in their statement,
insisted that all parties endorse the police service and
encourage their supporters to join. Adams refused yesterday
to commit Sinn Fein, but the party leadership knows it has
to come around on policing soon if it wants to be a force
in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
The Democratic Unionists haven't approved the amendments
yet, but the anti-Catholic Paisley signaled that change was
coming when he met with the leading Catholic prelate in
Ireland last week. Paisley has already gained the support
of Britain and Ireland for revisions to the Good Friday
agreement that would enhance the power of the leading
party. And once Sinn Fein backs the police, the Democratic
Unionists will lose their rationale to keep saying ``no."
DUP and Sinn Fein acceptance are made easier by a British
and Irish commitment of significant economic aid. The
United States won't be giving any, but it did help by
assigning as special envoy Mitchell Reiss, who applied
pressure on Sinn Fein to support the police. Almost
everyone in Northern Ireland knows that the old days of
sectarian violence are over. The DUP and Sin Fein now need
to form a government that will build on peace to create
Opin: Gail Walker: St Andrews Progress In The Extreme?
17 October 2006
Imagine if, instead of the good doctor and his noble
spouse, it had been Mr and Mrs McGuinness who had been
celebrating a multi-annual wedding anniversary at St
Andrews last week.
Given that Bertie presented Dr Paisley with a wooden bowl
carved from a tree growing at the Boyne - yip, it's true -
what little dish would have been served up for the boul
Maybe it's just me, but I reckon the happy event would have
been discreetly ignored.
Because there's something about Paisley that prompts such a
desperate, sentimental gesture from both governments.
Neither of them have reasons to like Paisley. They have -
one would think - even fewer reasons to like McGuinness.
But they do seem to have a strange desire to be liked by
Paisley. In spite of all the extraordinary activities of
the Big Man's very long career and his strident views,
which many have found unpalatable, there is a peculiar
affection for him, even among his fiercest - and deadliest
In a funny way, it always really had to come down to
Dealing with the Doctor. That was Trimble's real downfall.
He was never more than Unionist Lite. The Liter he got, the
less his enemies respected or trusted him, let alone his
Paisley had moral force. Whether it seemed misguided,
principled or malevolent, according to your stance, it did
have undoubted authority. And people - on this side of the
Irish Sea, at any rate - are at home with that kind of big
talk. Seeing Paisley with Archbishop Brady was so strange
partly because there was a time when the Big Moral Talk
used to come from cardinals - no divorce, no abortion, no
contraception. Scandals put an end to that stridency among
But Paisley is still there, still putting his very clear
full-stops at the end of every sentence.
The biggest advantage of what we have to call now The St
Andrews Agreement is that it has Paisley selling it. It's
both a novelty and its best chance of success. Finally,
Sinn Fein have really made it.
They're on the verge of sitting down with 'Ulster' in its
oldest and purest form.
Paisley brings to the table not just his impressive self,
but James Craig and Edward Carson and the Titanic (and the
iceberg) and Roaring Hugh Hanna and Henry Cooke and Dolly's
Brae and the 1859 Revival and Dan Winter's Cottage and King
Billy himself and his white horse, and the last Saturday in
The theory that ran the two governments' policy here for
decades was that it was the Middle Ground which would
deliver peace, and that meant finding ways to side-line
what were considered the extremes.
Now there's not a liberal in sight. It's the 'extremists'
who have cut the deal and may have guaranteed the kind of
law-abiding, police-forced society we have always wanted.
And even the monstrous prospect Shinners face, of having to
endorse the PSNI after years of abusing them, will be a
little easier to swallow, because even die-hard republicans
will not be able to resist the historic curiosity of seeing
that most spectacular of things.
A joint Paisley and McGuinness press conference to discuss,
er, water rates.
Equality Tribunal Awards €15,000 To Large-Breasted Woman
17/10/2006 - 09:42:17
The Equality Tribunal has awarded €15,000 to a large-
breasted woman whom it says was sacked by her employer on
grounds of disability.
The woman was dismissed shortly after getting the job in
February 2000 after telling a training instructor that she
had difficulty sitting up straight because she was heavy-
chested and naturally slouches.
The instructor had told her several times to sit up
straight to avoid damaging her back.
Her employer said the woman had breached trust by not
revealing the back problem on a medical questionnaire, but
she argued that she had no back problem and was fit to
The Equality Tribunal has ruled that her employer
attributed a disability to her without making adequate
inquiries in relation to her actual fitness.
It says this was a significant factor in her dismissal and
amounted to discrimination.
The tribunal has ordered that the woman be paid €10,000 for
lost income and €5,000 for the distress suffered.
Government Launches Flood Information Website
17 October 2006 10:34
The Government is launching a new website which will allow
users to check if any area around the country is at risk
The website, www.floodmap.ie, has been set up for the
Office of Public Works.
Visitors to the website will be able to check any street or
townland around the country to check if it has been flooded
in the past.
It gives information including newspaper clippings, reports
and photos of previous floods in each area.
It can be used as a tool by developers and by planners who
can either refuse planning permission or make it
conditional on the developer building flood defences.
But it will be of little consolation to people who already
live in areas which have a history of flooding.
Flooding has increased as more houses are built and it is
expected that climate change will also put more areas at
Another Fine Treat In Store For Fans Of Laurel And Hardy
Curly Locks stars at Co Down 'tent'
By Matthew McCreary
17 October 2006
Fans of classic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy will be in for
a treat this weekend as one of their former co-stars pays a
visit to Northern Ireland.
Jean Darling (84), who starred alongside the hapless pair
as Curly Locks in their 1934 film Babes in Toyland, will be
the guest of honour this Saturday at the Co Down 'tent' of
the Sons of the Desert, the worldwide Laurel and Hardy
The former star of the American stage and screen will be
dropping by to regale guests with tales of a long and
successful career, which began as a child star in the Our
Gang series of films during the 'golden age' of Hollywood
in the 20s and 30s.
'Grand Sheik' of the Co Down group, Keith Davidson, said
members were very excited.
"This will be an opportunity for us to ask questions about
her life. She knew Stan and Ollie quite well. She used to
sneak off from the set of Our Gang to watch the Laurel and
Hardy films being made and became quite friendly with them,
especially Stan Laurel.
"She has some lovely stories to tell, such as when he
taught her how to skip stones across the water on a little
artificial lake they had in the studio," he said.
After starring in 34 Our Gang films, Jean later went on to
pursue a career in vaudeville and on Broadway, where she
appeared in the musical Carousel.
Jean entertained wounded troops in Italy during the Second
World War, before returning to America where she hosted
radio and television shows featuring guests such as Frank
Sinatra and Bing Crosby.
She later settled in Dublin where she began writing stories
and plays and, in 1980, became familiar to many as 'Aunt
Poppy', reading more than 450 of her tales on RTE radio and
Keith said: "She's a fascinating lady. She's very sprightly
for her age and has a mind as sharp as a razor. She is very
excited about coming up to Northern Ireland and is looking
forward to seeing the Giant's Causeway."
Saturday's event will be held at the Maynard Sinclair
Pavilion on the Stormont estate at 7.30pm. Tickets priced
£3/£2 are available from www.anotherfinesite.com or by
calling Keith Davidson on 9751 9425.
Taoiseach Leads Tributes To Andrews
17/10/2006 - 12:03:07
The Taoiseach today led tributes to former Fianna Fáil TD
and MEP Niall Andrews.
Mr Andrews, 68, died overnight at St Vincent’s Hospital,
Dublin. He had become ill earlier this year.
Mr Andrews was a member of the Dáil from 1977 to 1987,
representing the Dublin South constituency.
He was Minister of State in 1982, appointed Junior Minister
at the Department of the Environment, and was a member of
the European Parliament from 1984 to 2004.
A brother of former Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews,
their father Todd was one of the founders of Fianna Fáil.
“Niall Andrews not only inherited a long and illustrious
tradition of public service, he also enhanced it through
his own contribution over 30 years,” said Mr Ahern.
“He had a passionate commitment to human rights around the
world. He highlighted the cause of the oppressed and was a
passionate advocate for those who had few if any advocates
“His very strong support in successive European Elections
across the city and county of Dublin was proof of the
regard in which he was held and of the success he had in
convincing people of the importance and usefulness of
Ireland’s place in Europe and of the European institutions,
including the European Parliament.”
Mr Ahern expressed his deep sympathy to Mr Andrews’ widow
Bernadette, their three children, including Chris Andrews,
a Fianna Fáil Councillor, his brother David and their wider
After 20 years in the European Parliament, Mr Andrews was
succeeded by party colleague Eoin Ryan.
Mr Ryan described Mr Andrews as a larger-than-life
character who will be remembered with great affection and
“He was somebody who was absolutely generous to a fault,”
he said. “Anybody who knew him socially would all say that.
“Politically, he will be remembered as somebody who was
never afraid to champion a cause that he believed in. If he
believed in an issue he would fight tooth and nail on that
“He was a very important figure within the party.”
Mr Ryan said his colleague never forgot his home roots.
“He always loved coming back to Dublin, he always loved
people in Dublin,” he continued.
“He had a huge affection for the people of Dublin and he
was always very proud they had continuously elected him to
the European Parliament.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said Mr Andrews’
death was particularly sad news.
“I knew Niall from the day I went in to Leinster House in
1987, he was a very good colleague,” he added.
“I just want to pass on my sympathy to his wife and three
Former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna said: “I am deeply
saddened to hear of Niall's death.
“It is tragic that he had so little time to enjoy his
retirement. I considered him a good friend and a true
humanitarian, who was the most outspoken of all Irish MEPs
on exploitation and human rights abuses perpetrated on the
suppressed peoples of this world.
“During my 10 years in the European Parliament I worked
closely with him on many human rights issues and could
always depend on his support for human rights cases,
regardless of the fact that on some occasions these cases
were considered controversial and lacked the support of the
“He was a true champion of justice for all peoples
regardless of their race, religious or political beliefs.”
Sinn Féin representatives comment on the death of former MEP and TD Niall Andrews
Published: 17 October, 2006
Sinn Féin’s Seán Crowe TD and Caitríona Ruane MLA have
expressed their condolences on behalf of the party to the
family and friends of Niall Andrews on his passing. Both
highlighted Mr Andrews’ life-long commitment to human
rights in Ireland and around the world.
Deputy Crowe said: “Many republicans will remember Niall
Andrews as a man who did not let party political
affiliations stand in the way of a genuine commitment to
human rights in Ireland, and further afield. His attendance
25 years ago at the funeral of Bobby Sands after his death
on hunger-strike was a sign of respect and solidarity with
a beleaguered community ignored by so many in the South.
“Throughout the 1980s he was active in the Irish Anti-
Apartheid movement and in CND, and opposed the Saddam
Hussein regime in Iraq at a time when few others in the
West were willing to do so, going on to be a prominent
campaigner against Iraqi sanctions that cost so many tens
of thousands of lives. He will be sorely missed and our
thoughts are with his loved ones at this time as they
struggle with his loss.”
South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane, formerly spokesperson for
the Bring Them Home campaign, said: “I first met Niall many
years ago in Nicaragua and was struck not just by his
passion to assist the spread of human rights in central and
south America, but also his real love for the people of
“He gave the Bring Them Home campaign great support when
there was little credit to be gained for it and visited
Colombia a number of times with Deputy Crowe and I to
report on the trial and the conditions the men were kept
in. He went on to help us to take our case to the European
Parliament. But as well as his political support and his
invaluable assistance, I will remember him as a warm and
engaging man whose company was always great fun and whose
sense of humour lifted our spirits on many an occasion.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this
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